Objective History > Articles
By Thomas Sowell
[CapitalismMagazine.com] Lenin is supposed to have referred to blind defenders
and apologists for the Soviet Union in the Western democracies as "useful
idiots." Yet even Lenin might have been surprised at how far these useful
idiots would carry their partisanship in later years -- including our own times.
Stalin's man-made famine in the Soviet Union during the 1930s killed more
millions of people than Hitler killed in the Holocaust -- and Mao's man-made
famine in China killed more millions than died in the USSR. Yet we not only hear
little or nothing about either of these staggering catastrophes in the Communist
world today, very little was said about them in the Western democracies while
they were going on. Indeed, many useful idiots denied that there were famines in
the Soviet Union or in Communist China.
The most famous of these was the New York Times' Moscow
correspondent, Walter Duranty, who won a Pulitzer prize for telling people what
they wanted to hear, rather than what was actually happening. Duranty assured
his readers that "there is no famine or actual starvation, nor is there
likely to be." Moreover, he blamed reports to the contrary on "rumor
factories" with anti-Soviet bias.
It was decades later before the first serious scholarly
study of that famine was written, by Robert Conquest of the Hoover Institution,
always identified in politically correct circles as "right-wing." Yet
when the Soviets' own statistics on the deaths during the famine were finally
released, under Mikhail Gorbachev, they showed that the actual deaths exceeded
even the millions estimated by Dr. Conquest.
Official statistics on the famine deaths in China under
Mao have never been released, but knowledgeable estimates run upwards of 20
million people. Yet, even here, there were the same bland denials by
sympathizers and fellow travellers in the West as during the earlier Soviet
famine. One celebrated "expert" on China wrote: "I saw no
starving people in China, nothing that looked like old-time famines."
Horrifying as the pre-Communist famines were, they never killed as many people
as Mao's famine did.
Today, even after the evidence of massive man-made
famines in the Communist world, after Solzhenitsyn's revelations about the
gulags and after the horrors of the killing fields of Cambodia, the useful
idiots continue to deny or downplay staggering human tragedies under Communist
dictatorships. Or else they engage in moral equivalence, as Newsweek editor and
TV pundit Eleanor Clift did during the Elian Gonzalez controversy, when she
said: "To be a poor child in Cuba may in many instances be better than
being a poor child in Miami and I'm not going to condemn their lifestyle so
Apparently totalitarian dictatorship is just a
lifestyle, like wearing sandals and beads and using herbal medicine. It
apparently has not occurred to Eleanor Clift to ask why poor people in Miami do
not put themselves and their children on flimsy boats, in a desperate effort to
Elian Gonzalez and his mother were only the latest of
millions of people to flee Communist dictatorships at the risk of their lives.
Some were shot trying to get past the Berlin wall and hundreds of thousands of
"boat people" were drowned trying to escape a Communist Vietnam that
many useful idiots were celebrating from inside free democracies. Many who
escaped from the Soviet Union to the West during the Second World War were sent
back by American authorities, except for those who committed suicide rather than
Yet none of this has really registered on a very large
segment of the intelligentsia in the West. Nor are Western capitalists immune to
the same blindness. The owner of the Baltimore Orioles announced that he would
not hire baseball players who defect from Cuba, because this would be an
"insult" to Castro. TV magnate Ted Turner has sponsored a TV
mini-series on the Cold War that has often taken the moral equivalence line.
Turner's instructions to the historian who put this
series together was that he wanted no "triumphalism," meaning
apparently no depiction of the triumph of democracy over Communism. Various
scholars who have specialized in the study of Communist countries have
criticized the distortions in this mini-series in a recently published book
titled "CNN's Cold War Documentary: Issues and Controversy," edited by
Meanwhile, that moral-equivalence mini-series is being
spread through American schools from coast to coast, as if to turn our children
into the useful idiots of the future.
Copyright Creators Syndicate. All rights reserved.