Quote: useful idiot (antedating attrib Vladimir Lenin 1961)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Aug 11 04:19:57 UTC 2010

The term "useful idiot" has been attributed to Vladimir Lenin and
Joseph Stalin. The earliest citation in the Yale Book of Quotations is
dated 1981. YBQ also says "Like many other putative Leninisms, it
seems to be a myth."

Wikipedia has an entry for "Useful idiot":

William Safire investigated the term in an "On Language" column dated
1987 April 12:

Barry Popik has an entry for the term:

I have located a variety of citations containing the term "useful
idiot" and "useful idiots" in the 1940s and 1950s. Lenin died in 1924.
This post just presents the earliest citation I found in which the
term is attributed to Lenin:

Cite: 1961 (Copyright 1960), The Khrushchev Pattern by Frank Gibney,
Page 8, Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York. (Google Books snippet view;
Verified on paper)

Historically, the hard core of Communist believers have always
needed a spongelike mass support around them, to swell their tri-
umphs 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 humani-
tarian like Jean-Paul Sartre, or an idealistic student from Guinea
who plans to organize a new chapter of the World Federation of
Democratic Youth.


The obituary of the author of "The Khrushchev Pattern" appeared in the
New York Times on 2006 April 14.

Frank Gibney, 81, Writer and Authority on Asia, Dies


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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