The term “useful idiot” is attributed to Vladimir Lenin, and refers to those in the West who were overly sympathetic to the Soviet cause—often to the detriment of their own country. Of late, there has been some scholarship to suggest that Lenin did not originate the term. Still, there is no doubt that useful idiots existed in his era, and persist to the present time, even if there is no more Soviet Union. Sadly, socialism and communism are still with us.
With the fall of the Soviet Union and its Eastern bloc, and the transformation of China from a hard-line Communist country to a sort of semi-Capitalist bureaucratized state with perhaps a Communist-style government, there are no more major powers that can realistically be considered Communist, at least as Lenin and company would have intended. On the other hand, less predatory socialism, in the style of Western Europe, seems to be on the rise almost everywhere.
Today’s useful idiots, then, are not so much in favor of a Communist country (although sympathy toward Cuba does occur with this group) as they are biased toward what can be called a “Leftist” philosophy. Unfortunately, the terms “Left” and “Right” themselves provide much confusion.
This terminology has been used since the early French Revolutionary era, and originally referred to the seating arrangements used in the French Legislative Assembly of 1791, when the moderate royalist Feuillants sat on the right side of the chamber, while the radical Montagnards sat on the left.
Thus, the defining point was how an individual felt towards the so-called ancien régime (“old order”). Those on “The Right” supported aristocratic, royal, or clerical interests, while those on “The Left” implied opposition to the same. Note that in this time frame, it was the Left that supported laissez-faire capitalism and free markets. Nowadays, of course, these views would be considered as being on the Right. Moreover, during the French Revolution an extreme left wing called for government intervention in the economy on behalf of the poor.
A further confusion ensued in the 1930’s, when Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party rose to power, essentially by co-opting popular support for Communist causes, and by being officially anti-Communist. Yet, there was little to distinguish his regime with Stalin’s beyond the Nazis being far more overt with their militarism, imperialism, racism, and brutality. By being so overt and obvious, Hitler had far fewer useful idiots.
As such, and stupidly so, the Nazis symbolized the Right for many. I am purposely avoiding Mussolini’s Fascism, since that word now has virtually no meaning anymore, other than being a term of general derision. Although the Soviet Union was hardly friendly to Jews, the Nazis will forever be known as the supreme Jew haters. Not surprisingly, most Jews tend to line up on the Left.
But there’s more. Some people are genuinely humanitarian, and have become convinced—usually via their Left-leaning teachers—that some form of socialism is the only way to effect social reform and improve conditions for the downtrodden. Often, these “created” Leftists have but a superficial knowledge of socialism’s record in the real world, and cling—sometimes for their entire lives—to notions of politics that exist only in the classroom.
Finally, there are the truly downtrodden, who view Leftist politics as their way out. Now, add to this various “victim” groups and any number of causes. Classical Communists used civil rights, gay rights (to a lesser extent), immigrant rights, environmental issues, and anti-clerical and anti-war sentiments as hobbyhorses to advance their true agenda of oligarchic control and world domination. Traditionally, the staunchest foes of Communist expansionism have been the United States and the Catholic Church.
That’s why the positions of hard-Left groups such as the ACLU (founded by Communist Roger Baldwin in 1917) and International ANSWER have no consistency other than they favor whatever is bad for America and bad for the Church.
While many useful idiots are aware—deep down—that their positions are wrong, simple pride keeps them from publicly admitting it. Yet, by their actions, in how they live their own lives, it is usually apparent what they really believe. Whether it is lip service for public education and eschewing vouchers while sending their own kids to private school, or the anything but egalitarian means by which the Sulzberger family retains control of the New York Times, despite only a minority ownership, as Jesus would say (Matthew 7:16), “By their fruits, you will know them.”