Six types of ‘useful idiot’

Jun 14, 2018 by

by James Bloodworth, UnHerd:

The appalling scenes emerging from Venezuela – where the citizens of the most oil-rich country in the world have been reduced to scavenging in rubbish bins for food – should act as a cautionary tale to those inclined to project utopian aspirations onto societies they do not understand.

Just a handful of years ago the Venezuelan government was praised uncritically by much of the Western left. Today it is an embarrassment – every emaciated Venezuelan a testament to the credulity of those who once lauded Hugo Chavez as the leader of a “progressive, populist government that says no to neo-liberalism”.1

The silence that has descended upon these former revolutionary tourists has been described appositely by Jack Staples-Butler as the “great forgetting”.

It is more than mere stupidity that explains why citizens of relatively open societies are willing to offer up glowing appraisals of brutal political systems

The phrase ‘useful idiot’ has long been in circulation to describe naive revolutionary tourists and other ignorant dupes of foreign dictatorships. The term is commonly attributed to Lenin, though there is little evidence he ever actually used it. Instead the expression seems to have originated in the mid-twentieth century to describe social democrats who entered into popular fronts and electoral pacts with Stalinist communist parties.

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