A popular but apocryphal legend tells us that Lenin cynically coined the term “useful idiots” to denote Western sympathizers of the Soviet regime. A BBC radio documentary of the same name appeared last summer, outlining the history of such individuals, from Walter Duranty’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Stalinist propaganda in the 1930s to those who defend the authoritarian government of Iran today. Useful idiots are also prevalent in Canada’s far left milieu, acting in support of such diverse causes as anti-democratic Islamism in the Middle East, Communism in Cuba, Bolivarian socialism in Venezuela, and even the re-establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. An overview of the far left scene shows us how each group specializes in the defence of a particular autocracy. Like their Stalinist predecessors, these modern useful idiots are attracted to the ideological prestige and recruiting potential that come with such efforts.
The Canadian far left’s current direction on foreign issues began with the Iraq War in 2003. Socialist Voice, an online magazine, emerged out of a 2003-2004 debate within the Communist League, a Trotskyist sect, over the nature of the Iraq War. The theorists of the League posited that it was an “interimperialist” conflict between the capitalist West and the oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein, but a small group of Canadian cadres wanted to support the Iraqi resistance. The latter group split from the Communist League to form Socialist Voiceand organize within the anti-war movement. Those associated with the publication are particularly prominent in Vancouver, where they are now leaders in the Vancouver StopWar Coalition, which was organized in the lead-up to the Iraq War in late 2002 and early 2003.