Paul Robeson was a great singer and a passionate activist for human rights.
But Robeson naively believed that Stalin – the murderous tyrant who killed millions of Russians and imposed tyranny on the Soviet Union – was a great man.
For example, when Robeson met with an old friend in a hotel room in Russia, the friend tried to tell Robeson that he was under arrest, was being persecuted, and might be killed by Stalin. But – the story goes – Robeson was so full of naive admiration for the communist leader that Robeson didn’t notice what his friend (who disappeared shortly thereafter) was trying to tell him.
Robeson even wrote a poem called “To You Beloved Comrade” to honor Stalin.
Robeson and other Americans who were duped by the communist leaders – like playwright George Bernard Shaw – were called “useful idiots” by Lenin and Stalin. “Idiots” because they couldn’t see the communists for the tyrants they were, “useful” because those tyrants could use them to spread propaganda to the West.
Useful Idiots in Modern America
Idiots were not just useful for the USSR.
Today, in modern America, there are useful idiots on the right who blindly support anyone who attacks Obama because Obama is a so-called “liberal”.
Equally, there are useful idiots on the left who blindly support Obama and try to defend his bailouts of the financial giants, his escalation of the Afghanistan war, his defense of Bush administration torturers and war criminals, and other indefensible acts because they think he is the great liberal savior.
Stalin’s useful idiots – like Robeson – were blind to the reality of what the communist tyrants were actually doing. They were too caught up in ideas about what was happening, instead of looking at the effect of the actual policies being carried out.
Those on both the left and the right who fall for the rhetoric of the Democratic and Republican party leaders are useful idiots who are failing to look at the effect that those parties’ policies are actually having.
Indeed, the Republican and Democratic parties have been promoting virtually identical economic policies, which is why economists from the left and the right have slammed both Bush/Paulson and Obama/Geithner’s actions.
Failing to see that the financial elite are controlling the agenda of both parties is a form of useful idiocy.