How Marxists Take Over (and What to Do About it)

Essay, Government, Lee Harding

The fall of the Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics did not end the threat of Communism. Yuri Bezmenov, an ex-KGB agent who defected from Russia to Canada in 1970, told us so more than 35 years ago. Even while the USSR was a strong empire, Bezmenov said it was “the world Communist system,” and not the USSR leader “Comrade Andropov” that waged an “undeclared, total war against the basic principles and foundations of American ideals”. He knew first-hand how operatives trained and educated abroad could be brought to power in other lands. He also believed that leftist education and the advancement of the welfare state softened the West for overthrow. Given that those conditions remain, Bezmenov’s warnings and solutions must be taken seriously today. 

Bezmenov was trained as a public relations officer for the Novosti Press Agency, a KGB propaganda outlet. He welcomed delegations of the press and academics on visits to the Soviet Union. For a few years, he was in India helping Soviet-backed commercial ventures and establishing relationships to advance the Soviet cause. 

In an interview with G. Edward Griffin, Bezmenov explained the KGB approach at Novosti this way.

Most of the activity of the department was to compile [a] huge amount (volume) of information on individuals who were instrumental in creating public opinion: publishers, editors, journalists, actors, educationalists, professors of political science, members of parliament, [and] representatives of business circles. Most of these people were divided roughly [into] two groups. Those who would toe the Soviet foreign policy, they would be promoted to the positions of power through media and public opinion manipulation. Those who refused the Soviet influence in their own country would be character-assassinated or executed physically, con-revolution.1

This strategy was leveraged out of the Russian embassy in Hanoi to great effect prior to the Vietnam war, according to Bezmenov. “Long before [the] Communists occupied the city, there was [an] extensive network of informers, local Vietnamese citizens who knew absolutely everything about people who were instrumental in public opinion, including barbers and taxi drivers. Everyone who was sympathetic to [the] United States was executed.”2

Bezmenov said he mustered the courage to defect when he realized how actively the Soviets were working to foment a revolution in East Pakistan. He first became aware of the plot when a colleague at the Soviet consulate in Calcutta told him he found big boxes labelled “Printed Matter to Dhaka University,” but “discovered Kalashnikov guns and ammunition in there.”3 

History lends credence to this account. Dhaka University became such a hotbed of revolt that in 1971, the Pakistani army cracked down severely against many Dhaka University students and massacred many. The event was filmed by an Islamic professor who lived across the street. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, head of the Awami League, declared the independence of East Pakistan as Bangladesh before the end of the month. In time this declaration was backed by the Indian government.4 

The common perception of the event as a grassroots Islamic revolution was false, according to Bezmenov.5 

In Bangladesh, it was nothing [to do] with grassroots. Most of the Awami League party members—Awami League means ‘People’s Party’—were trained in Moscow in the high party school. Most of the Mukti Fauj leaders—Mukti Fauj in Bengali means ‘People’s Army.’ [It’s the] same as SWAPO and all kind[s] of ‘liberation’ armies all over the world, the same bunch of useful idiots. They were trained at Lumumba University and various centres of the KGB in Simferopol and in Crimea and in Tashkent.6

Just what was this revolution school and what did students learn there? The Soviets founded Lumumba University under the pretext of educating the poor from the developing world. The school, which began classes in 1965,7 was named for Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo after its independence from Belgium.8

“This is a huge school under the direct control of the KGB and [the] Central Committee, where future leaders of the so-called ‘National Liberation Movements’ are being educated and selected carefully,” Bezmenov said. “They were dispatched back to their countries to be . . . leaders of international terrorist groups.”9 

Strong evidence for Bezmenov’s claim can be found in the impressive list of alumni from Lumumba University, whose influence remains to this day.10

  • Rohana Wijeweera, Marxist revolutionary and founder of Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, which he led from 1965 to 1989;
  • Daniel Ortega, leader of Nicaragua from 1979-85 and President of Nicaragua from 1985-90 and from 2007 to today;
  • Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei, President of Iran from 1981-1989 and named Supreme Leader in 1989;
  • Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (Carlos the Jackal), Venezuelan terrorist and assassin (expelled);
  • Timoleón Jiménez, part of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia since 1982 and leader since 2011;
  • Bharrat Jagdeo, President of Guyana from 1999-2011 and current Vice President;
  • Hifikepunye Pohamba, President of Namibia from 2005 to 2015;
  • Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine and Palestinian National Authority since 2005;
  • Porfirio Lobo Sosa, President of Honduras from 2010-14; and
  • Michel Djotodia, the first Muslim to be President of the Central African Republic (2013-14).

It is remarkable, and somewhat disturbing, that chosen students could be intentionally and successfully groomed for power by those in a foreign country. None of this surprised Bezmenov who said that “there are no grassroots revolutions, period. Any revolution is a by-product of a highly-organized group of conscientious and professional organizers, but has nothing to do with grassroot[s].”


Bezmenov said that Marxist overthrow begins by undermining the values of the targeted society. “Ideological subversion is the process, which is legitimate, overt, and open; you can see it with your own eyes. All you have to do, all American mass media has to do, is to unplug their bananas from their ears, open up their eyes, and they can see it. There is no mystery.”11

When it came to KGB efforts, Bezmenov said: 

[O]nly about 15% of the time, money, and manpower [are] spent on espionage as such. The other 85% is a slow process, which we call either ‘ideological subversion,’ or ‘active measures’—in the language of the KGB—or ‘psychological warfare.’ What it basically means is, to change the perception of reality, of every American, to such an extent that despite of the abundance of information, no one is able to come to sensible conclusions in the interests of defending themselves, their families, their community and their country.12

The ex-KGB agent said the “great brainwashing process” begins with a “demoralization” process that takes “15-20 years . . . the minimum number of years which [is required] to educate one generation of students in the country of your enemy, exposed to the ideology of the enemy.”13 

From there, “it takes only from two to five years to destabilize a nation—what matters [are] essentials: economy, foreign relations, defense systems.” Next, “It may take only up to six weeks to bring a country to the verge of crisis.” Finally, “with a violent change of power, structure, and economy, you have a period of normalization. It may last indefinitely.” At that point, Marxism reigns unimpeded.


Bezmenov said the demoralization stage was already “over-fulfilled” by the 1980s. “Most of it is done by Americans to Americans, thanks to [a] lack of moral standards,” he said. He had no hope for those educated in the increasingly Marxist universities of the West who were now in positions of power and influence across America. “You cannot change their mind, even if you expose them to authentic information. Even if you prove that white is white and black is black, you still cannot change the basic perception and the logic of behavior…. the process of demoralization is complete and irreversible.”14

Bezmenov claimed Soviet pressure led to his dismissal from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in the 1970s.15 This almost certainly contributed to his view of the United States as “the last country of freedom and possibility” in the world,16 but for how long?

“The time bomb is ticking: with every second, the disaster is coming closer and closer. Unlike [me], you will have nowhere to defect to,” he said. Yet, Bezmenov was far from complacent and claimed that the “United States is in a state of war: undeclared, total war against the basic principles and foundations of this system;” perpetrated, not by the head of the USSR but by “the world Communist system.”

In his 1984 book, “Love Letter to America,” Bezmenov explained,

We rarely use guns to kill people and take their country. The cleanest way is to blackmail, pervert, bribe, lie and intimidate the POLITICIANS and the MEDIA, and they will destabilize and disunify their own country for us. Then all we have left to do is to arm the procommunist or simply criminal factions and we have a coup and another “liberated” country. As neat as that.17

Bezmenov told Griffin, “This is what will happen in [the] United States if you allow all these schmucks to bring the country to crisis, to promise people all kind[s] of goodies and the paradise on earth, to destabilize your economy, to eliminate the principle of free market competition, and to put [a] Big Brother government in Washington, D.C. with benevolent dictators like Walter Mondale,” said Bezmenov regarding the Democratic candidate for president in 1984.


“[E]ducate yourself, [and] understand what’s going on around you,” Bezmenov told Griffin. “You are not living at [a] time of peace. You are in a state of war and you have precious little time to save yourself… especially if you are talking about [the] young generation.”18

Bezmenov believed a turnaround required “another twenty or fifteen years to educate a new generation of patriotically-minded and common sense people, who would be acting in favor and in the interests of United States society.”19 This initiative would rely on “a very strong national effort to educate people in the spirit of real patriotism” and reveal “the real danger of socialist, communist, whatever, welfare state, Big Brother government. If people will fail to grasp the impending danger of that development, nothing ever can help [the] United States. You may kiss goodbye to your freedom.”

Second, Bezmenov urged U.S. citizens to “force” their government to “stop aiding Communism” and the “Soviet military-industrial complex.” This would mean “no credits, no technology, no money, no political or diplomatic recognition, and of course no such idiocy as grain deals to [the] USSR.” He also chastised “wealthy businessmen…selling the rope from which they will hang…if they keep on trading with the monster of the Soviet Communism.”

When Bezmenov wrote, “No Novosti is Good News” in 1985, he lamented that “more than 15 countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America had been infiltrated, demoralized, destabilized, subverted and some—INVADED by military force and kept occupied”20 during his years in the “free” West. Either that generation was unaware of Bezmenov’s warnings or ignored them completely. Today’s generation can do better.



Lee Harding is a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. 

Photo by Ant Rozetsky on Unsplash.