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Q: Lenin quote on "useful idiots" ( Answered,   2 Comments )
Subject: Lenin quote on "useful idiots"
Category: Reference, Education and News > General Reference
Asked by: ganglioside-ga
List Price: $40.00
Posted: 30 Dec 2002 14:39 PST
Expires: 29 Jan 2003 14:39 PST
Question ID: 135140
Where does Lenin refer to "useful idiots"? I am looking for as precise
a reference as possible, ideally with a date and text I can check in
his collected works in a library. Alternatively, who first attributed
the line to Lenin, and when?
Subject: Re: Lenin quote on "useful idiots"
Answered By: ragingacademic-ga on 30 Dec 2002 18:13 PST
Dear ganglioside,

Thanks for your question.  First, let me request that if any of the
following is unclear or if you require any further research – please
don’t hesitate to ask me for a clarification.

Here are some relevant Web-based references to the quote you mention -

“…Lenin, referring to Westerners who denied the existence of Lenin\'s
police-state terror, called ‘useful idiots.’”

“Lenin put it another way, often saying that capitalist dupes "will
sell us the rope with which to hang them." He called them "the useful

There seem to be thousands of such references.

However, one source claimed Lenin never uttered these words –

This comes from a book called “They Never Said It: A Book of Fake
Quotes, Misquotes and Misleading Attributions” (even available at
Amazon -)

(I now see that someone has already referred to this in the comments)

Searching the Lenin archives, as well as books by and about Lenin at
Questia and NetLibrary, have not elicited anything either.

I guess what we are all forgetting is that Lenin did not speak
English…he therefore likely said something else in Russian, which,
over the years – as in that famous children’s’ game – evolved into
“useful idiots.”

Having searched his writings for any possible similar reference (I
tried "useful" plus something, then tried various synonyms for
'idiot'), the best I could come up with was “utter simpleton” – this
phrase was used in reference to President Wilson’s naiveté regarding
the Treaty of Versailles.  The quote is from a speech delivered at a
meeting of activists of the Moscow  organization of the r.c.p.(b.)
December 6, 1920, from V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English
Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1966

The exact quote is – 

“Nowhere has the Versailles Treaty been analyzed so well as in the
book by Keynes, a British representative at Versailles. In his book
Keynes ridicules Wilson and the part he played in the Treaty of
Versailles. Here, Wilson proved to be an utter simpleton, whom
Clemenceau and Lloyd George twisted round their little fingers.”

And it appears on page 449.

It’s on the Web at –

The context implies something quite similar to what has evolved into
popular use.  I think it is not too far-fetched to imagine how “utter
simpletons,” likely used in reference to the Americans after the first
reference to Wilson cited above, mutated into “useful idiots” and was
applied to capitalists as a whole.  This also agrees with what seems
to be the prevailing opinion that he had never actually said “useful
idiots” himself at all.

I hope this response adequately addresses your request.  Please let me
know if you are in need of additional information concerning this


Request for Answer Clarification by ganglioside-ga on 31 Dec 2002 00:23 PST
I know there are thousands of references - it is that I am trying to
get to the bottom of!

The "They Never Said It..."/ Library of Congress reference is useful,
but doesn't really take us closer to knowing how this started.

The remark on Wilson is interesting, but of course entirely
speculative. It might be interesting to see if this speech was ever
used against Wilson by his critics to claim he was a Boleshevik

I guess getting further would mean figuring out which decade it first
became popular (it could be any from '20s to '80s). However, I suspect
tracking this to its source would be a very big undertaking.

Clarification of Answer by ragingacademic-ga on 31 Dec 2002 01:31 PST
Dear ganglioside -

I will make a best effort to nail down the first mention - obviously,
this will have to be a first mention in an electronic database. 
Please give me a couple of days to work through this.

Happy new year!

Clarification of Answer by ragingacademic-ga on 04 Jan 2003 03:15 PST
ganglioside -

Hi.  I continue to work on trying to identify the earliest occurence. 
I have found the following documented citation -

The History and Impact of Marxist-Leninist Organizational Theory:
Idiots," "Innocents' Clubs," and "Transmission Belts, " 
by John Pearson Roche
Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, Incorporated
Pub. Date: January  1984

The book is available from -

I believe this book may hold the original source for the quote, given
that it is used in the book's title!

This book is cited in a book by Gary North of the Institute for
Christian Economics, "The Sinai Strategy" (1986, ISBN 0-930464-07-9) -
the book is online at -

See p. 5, footnote #8.  North even has a chapter entitled "Useful

Alternativley, I have also found references that insinuate the remark
may have been made by Trotsky or Stalin...maybe this is why it is
impossible to find a Lenin reference?  I hope the book cited will
resolve this quandary.

Please let me know if there is anything else you need as regards this
Subject: Re: Lenin quote on "useful idiots"
From: juggler-ga on 30 Dec 2002 16:12 PST
A usenet message cites a published source claiming that the Library of
Congress has been unable to locate the phrase "useful idiots" in
Lenin's published works.

The book cited is "They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes,
Misquotes, and Mis-Leading Attributions"by Paul F. Boller, John
George. See

Locating a first attribution will be difficult since Lenin has
apparently been widely credited with the phrase for decades.

Perhaps one of the other researchers will be able track it down,

Good luck.
Subject: Re: Lenin quote on "useful idiots"
From: tehuti-ga on 30 Dec 2002 16:56 PST
I searched the Lenin and the Stalin archives on, using useful and idiots as separate search
terms, but was unable to find anything relevant. If either Lenin or
Stalin did express this sentiment, it was probably in other words.

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