Useful idiots

By Professor Mwine Lubemba

Apart from a little English literature and History lessons at secondary school, my next interaction with the liberal arts was at University when as a stream of possible engineering students, we were required to undergo courses in the Use of English and African Studies, the latter course was given by a flamboyant Professor Ndemu from whom I first heard the use of the term “Useful Idiots”. Many years later on our graduation day, the last address as Vice Chancellor of the University of Zambia, Professor Lamecki Goma was to use a similar heading for his provoking address he titled “The usefulness of useless disciplines” but we’ll leave this for latter thought.

Perhaps it would have assisted Hon. Kennedy Sakeni to look up, on the internet he now wants bugged, the origins of the use of the term “useful idiot” before he went on to tell us his own and somewhat illiterate interpretation of the term. The honorable Minister would have found that in political jargon, useful idiot is a pejorative term for people perceived as propagandists for a cause whose goals they do not understand. These are persons who are used cynically by the leaders of the cause.

That said, he would also have found out that perhaps the term is not as he tries to put it a direct insult to Zambians per se but an expression of the type of Zambian who fall in the category of propagandists like the Honorable Minister of Information himself. Men like him who are supposedly think of themselves as intelligent yet are easily manipulated by others of even lesser intelligence such as those found along Bwinjimfumu   Road. But I must put a disclaimer here; I have used the road at night when taking a patient to a Hospital along the same road and I must say was amazed at the skimpy dressing of the beautiful ladies found roaming the road. I am sure Hon. Sakwiba Sikota, as an honorable member of the bar, did not mean the Judiciary will eventually come to be administered by these beautiful ladies.

But let’s not digress—

The case for Comrade Given Lubinda is a show case of the goings on in the PF as a political party in Government. These events have made us to strongly believe that although Hon. Sakeni naïvely thinks himself as a strong ally of ruling the PF, he is actually held in contempt and he is being cynically used by what we have come to know as a curtail holding the President captive. So we see that when Mr. Robert Amsterdam used the term in Zambian political discourse and he was merely referring to propagandists, especially those who think are more PF than the majority voters, who are seen to unwittingly support a malignant cause which they naïvely believe to be a force for good.

Further perusal on the internet also shows that A New York Times article in 1948, on contemporary Italian politics, documented usage of the term in an article from the social-democratic Italian paper L’Umanita. The French equivalent, “idiot’s utiles”, was used in a newspaper article title as early as 1946.

A similar term, useful innocents, appears in Austrian-American economist Ludwig von Mises’ work “Planned Chaos” as far back as 1947. Mises claims the term was used by communists for liberals that von Mises describes as “confused and misguided sympathizers”. The term useful innocents also appears in a Readers Digest article (1946) titled “Yugoslavia’s Tragic Lesson to the World”.

As early as 2010, a year before the PF were voted into office, a BBC radio documentary titled Useful Idiots listed among “useful idiots” of Joseph Stalin several prominent British writers including H. G. Wells and Doris Lessing, the Irish writer George Bernard Shaw, the American journalist Walter Duranty, Bono and the singer Paul Robeson.

For Hon. Kennedy Sakeni’s own good, we wish to advise that becoming a Cabinet Minister cannot replace all those wasted years of poor primary and secondary school education he so far relies upon for commonsense. To him and many others who may be misled will find More Useful Idiots on the following references I have relied on.

1.0 “Useful Idiots”, an audio documentary, BBC World Service, Last updated: 7 July, 2010 (Retrieved March 22, 2011). This audio is found on the following link

2.0 Mona Charen, Useful Idiots: How Liberals Got It Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First, 2003, ISBN 0895261391

3.0 Paul Kengor, Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century, 2010, ISBN 1-935191-75-6

4.0 Boller, Jr., Paul F.; George, John (1989). They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions. New York: OxfordUniversity Press. ISBN 0-19-505541-1.

5.0 “COMMUNIST SHIFT IS SEEN IN EUROPE; Tour of Two Italian Leaders Behind Iron Curtain Held to Doom Popular Fronts”, Arnold Cortesi, New York Times, June 21, 1948 p. 14

6.0 PLANNED CHAOS” p.17 in electronic document; Ludwig von Mises; http

Sincerely, Mwine Lubemba

Source : Zambian Watchdog


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