Twenty five years ago, as the totalitarian regime in the Soviet Union was beginning to face internal crisis, G. Edward Griffin interviewed a Soviet defector and ex-KGB agent named Yuri Bezmenov. Bezmenov explained, in simple terms, the process by which the Soviet Union and the KGB attempted to subvert and topple governments. They called this process “ideological subversion.” Even though the Cold War is over, it is important to understand this process because the KGB was by no means the only organization to engage in it. We encounter one technique of ideological subversion in particular, demoralization, every day in schools and in the media, and the only way to effectively defend against this technique is to be aware of it and to identify and expose those who are actively engaged in promoting it.
According to Bezmenov, ideological subversion was so important to the KGB that most of their resources were allocated to it. “Only about 15 percent of time, money, and manpower is spent on espionage as such,” he explained. “The other 85 percent is a slow process which we call either ideological subversion or ‘active measures.’” Ideological subversion is a long-term process that involves four stages: 1) Demoralization, 2) Destabilization, 3) Crisis, and 4) “Normalization.” In this article, I will focus on the first step of the process, demoralization.
The purpose of demoralization, According to Bezmenov, is to “change the perception of reality of every American to such an extent that despite the abundance of information, no one is able to come to sensible conclusions in the interest of defending themselves, their families, their community, and their country.” Effectively, demoralization would render a large part of the population vulnerable to Marxist-Leninist ideology and confused as to its real intent. In any conflict, it is just as important to get as many of your opponents to sit on the sidelines as it is to neutralize them on the battlefield. Proper demoralization would ensure that a large percentage of the population would sit on the sidelines of any eventual revolution, or even actively work against their own interests in support of that revolution.
The benefit of demoralization is that the targeted population will not know it is being demoralized, and once demoralization sets in, a certain percentage of that population will actively pursue the goals of the enemy without even being aware of it. This is achieved by using what appear to be perfectly valid means, i.e. promoting the questioning of authority or of long-held assumptions, but which are aimed only in one direction: at the opposing ideology of the agents engaged in the process of ideological subversion. Once demoralized, exposure to true information does not matter anymore because a person who is demoralized is not able to assess true information. According to Bezmenov, “Even if I shower him with authentic information, with authentic truth, with documents and pictures. Even if I take him by force to the Soviet Union and show him concentration camp, he will refuse to believe it.”
With enough sympathizers in schools and in the media, the minimum time it would take to demoralize a population is 15 to 20 years, because that is the minimum number of years which it requires to educate one generation of students. In relation to the Soviet campaign in the United States, Bezmenov explained, “Marxist-Leninist ideology is being pumped into the heads of at least three generations of American students without being challenged or counterbalanced by the basic values of Americanism… Most of it is done by Americans to Americans, thanks to lack of moral standards.”
Recent revelations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation demonstrate that educators in the United States were actively involved throughout the 1960s and ‘70s in organizations with ties to communist front groups. Historian Howard Zinn, author of the influential book A People’s History of the United States, was one whose participation in and advocacy for Marxist groups was well documented by the FBI. His FBI file was recently released after his death, showing that, although he denied participation, several reliable informants in the Communist Party USA identified Zinn as a member who attended party meetings as many as five times a week. There are photographs of Zinn teaching a class on “Basic Marxism” at party headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, in 1951.
In light of this information, and what we know about the process of ideological subversion, it should be obvious that Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States was nothing more than a tool to promote demoralization among American students. A People’s History is often lauded as simply an effort to “turn traditional history books on their head,” and to add another voice to the historical narrative. Neither of those goals are necessarily bad, and it is true that Zinn was actively engaged in questioning the fundamental assumptions about the history of the United States, but to what end? Given the history of Zinn’s involvement with the CPUSA, his “leftist, multicultural, anti-imperialist historiography” can be seen for what it truly was.
Legitimate criticism, questioning, and dissent must never be confused as being part of an active demoralization campaign. It is the source of those efforts, and their ultimate aim, that indicates whether or not those efforts are being used to further the process of ideological subversion. Demoralization has only progressed as far as it has because most Americans have either been unwilling or unable to counteract it. To resist, we must spread awareness of how demoralization works. Then, we must develop the habit of investigating, questioning, and determining the motives behind all sources of information. Finally, we must work on strengthening the arguments in favor of our own beliefs. A truly informed and independently-minded public is our best defense against this insidious tactic.