A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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“I had a shepherd’s pie for lunch. He was furious” (5/22)
“Average gumbo is only medi-okra” (5/21)
“The job requires me to get a potato clock” (up at eight o’clock) (5/21)
“The past is your lesson. The present is your gift. The future is your motivation” (5/21)
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Entry from September 10, 2009
Useful Idiot

Entry in progress—B.P.

Wikipedia: Useful idiot
In political jargon, the term useful idiot was used to describe Soviet sympathizers in western countries and the attitude of the Soviet government towards them. The implication was that though the person in question naïvely thought themselves an ally of the Soviets or other Communists, they were actually held in contempt by them, and being cynically used.

The term is now used more broadly to describe someone who is perceived to be manipulated by a political movement, terrorist group, hostile government, or business, whether or not the group is Communist in nature.

Origins
Lenin

The term is commonly attributed to Vladimir Lenin, sometimes in the form “useful idiots of the West”, to describe those Western reporters and travelers who would endorse the Soviet Union and its policies in the West. However, no reference to a communist sympathizer or political leftist as a “useful idiot” was made in the USA until 1948, and not until decades later would the use of the phrase by Lenin be commented on in the west. In 1948, the phrase was used in a New York Times article in relation to Italian politics; it was mentioned again in 1961. Critics of the term assert that the expression “useful idiot” has never been discovered in any published document of Lenin’s, nor that anyone has claimed to have heard him say it. In the spring of 1987, Grant Harris, senior reference librarian at the Library of Congress, said “We have not been able to identify this phrase [useful idiots of the West] among [Lenin’s] published works.”.

Modern usage
In the United States, the term is sometimes used as a pejorative to imply that a person is ignorant and thus easily swayed (made ‘useful’ ) toward causes that are against their own interest, or what they would consider to be the greater good, were they better-educated.

The term is also sometimes used by anarchists and other radicals to describe groups and individuals whose ideology is alleged to be excessively deferential to a government or authoritarian political movement.

The Yale Book of Quotations
Edited by Fred R. Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
2006
Pg. 452:
Nikolai Lenin (Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov)
Russian revolutionary and political leader. 1870-1924
[Of left-liberals in the West:] “Useful idiots.”
Attributed in N.Y. Times, 24 Mar. 1981, Anti-Communists have often used this to attack those thought to be Soviet sympathizers, but the Library of Congress has never been able to trace the phrase in Lenin’s writings. Like many other putative Leninisms, it seems to be a myth.

Google Books
Congressional Record
By United States. Congress
v. 80, pt. 1
1936 (The Google Books date is dubious and will be checked—ed.)
All these people are the kind that Stalin once vегу aptly ‘described as “useful idiots” — not Communists, but pursuing the Communist line.

21 June 1948, New York (NY) Times “Communist Shift Is Seen in Europe: Tour of Two Italian Leaders Behind Iron Curtain Held to Doom Popular Fronts” by Arnold Cortesi, pg. 14:
L’Umanita said the Communists would give the “useful idiots” of the left-wing Socialist party the choice of merging with the Communist party or getting out.

28 June 1948, Miami (OK) News-Record, “Useful Idiots,” pg. 6, col. 1:
Such fellow-traveling allies are called “useful idiots” by an Italian publication. Like the Wallace followers in the United States, they have ignored the record of the last 12 years. Wherever the Communists have had the power, from Madrid in the Spanish civil war to Czechoslovakia today, they have persecuted or killed the useful idiots who refused to accept absolute dictation.

But there are fewer useful idiots in Europe than there were. That is why the Communists have so far failed in Italy and France. And that is why they are now considering a change of strategy.

30 June 1959, Congressional Record, “Useful Idiots: Extension of Remarks of Hon. Edward J. Derwinski of Illinoisin the House of Representatives, Tuesday, June 30, 1959” (LexisNexis Congressional Record Permanent Digital Collection), Appendix, pg. A5653, col. 2:
This is the cold war. The leaders of the states and of the nations, instead of going in droves to Moscow and becoming what Lenin calls useful idiots in the Communist game, should go to Mackinac Island, Mich., to the moral rearmament ideological war college where thousands of our friends from the free world are coming to plan global strategyto answer communism.

Google Books
The Khrushchev pattern
By Frank Gibney
New York, NY: Duell, Sloan and Pearce
1961, ©1960
Pg. 8:
Historically, the hard core of Communist believers have always needed a spongelike mass support around them, to swell their triumphs and to cushion their adverse moments.

Lenin first coined the term “useful idiots” for them. First applied specifically to the Socialists, it is a good phrase for describing the Communist follower, whether he is a left-wing Socialist in Japan, a member of the Chilean Popular Front, a professional humanitarian like Jean-Paul Sartre, or an idealistic student from Guinea who plans to organize a new chapter of the World Federation of Democratic Youth.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Thursday, September 10, 2009 • Permalink