Main content

Episode 1

John Sweeney looks at Useful Idiots, Lenin's description of Western intellectuals who gave their blessing to tyrannies and tyrants.

The phrase 'useful idiots', supposedly Lenin’s, refers to Westerners duped into saying good things about bad regimes.

In political jargon it was used to describe Soviet sympathisers in Western countries and the attitude of the Soviet government towards them.

Useful idiots, in a broader sense, refers to Western journalists, travellers and intellectuals who gave their blessing – often with evangelistic fervour – to tyrannies and tyrants, thereby convincing politicians and public that utopias rather than Belsens thrived.

In part one John Sweeney looks at Stalin's Western apologists.

In part two he explores how present day stories of human rights abuses across the world are still rewritten.

Available now

25 minutes

Last on

Sun 8 Aug 2010 09:05GMT

More episodes


You are at the first episode

See all episodes from The Documentary


  • Wed 4 Aug 2010 08:05GMT
  • Wed 4 Aug 2010 11:05GMT
  • Wed 4 Aug 2010 14:05GMT
  • Wed 4 Aug 2010 19:05GMT
  • Thu 5 Aug 2010 00:05GMT
  • Sat 7 Aug 2010 01:05GMT
  • Sat 7 Aug 2010 18:05GMT
  • Sun 8 Aug 2010 09:05GMT