Paul Kengor: Marxists Always Said if They Can Infiltrate 1% of Society, They Can Control the Other 99%


In a recent exclusive for The Western Journal, Gen. Michael Flynn expressed a keen observation and frustration.

“I was once told if we’re not careful, 2 percent of the passionate will control 98 percent of the indifferent 100 percent of the time,” wrote Flynn. “The more I’ve thought about this phrase, the more I believe it.”

I believe it, too, because I’ve seen it.

It’s not a new phenomenon. It’s a trenchant reflection on politics and human nature, and on the revolutionary left’s longtime ability to organize and manipulate what it likes to call “the masses” or a “united front” or a “popular front.”

That assessment by Flynn has caught fire. It has been brought up to me several times in conversations I’ve had on talk shows promoting a new book that I just wrote titled “The Devil and Karl Marx,” particularly in relation to the book’s focus on how communists sought to infiltrate churches, especially the mainline denominations (most notably, the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church and Presbyterian Church USA) and also the Roman Catholic Church.

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One conservative journalist reading the book emailed me last week because he was struck by how similar Flynn’s assessment was to that of Manning Johnson.

Johnson is a man forgotten but worth remembering today.

He was a brilliant and courageous man, well-known as a leading African-American Marxist who left the Communist Party. He had served on the National Negro Commission, an important subcommittee of the National Committee of the Communist Party.

The commission was important because of the vigorous push by Communist Party USA and the Soviet Comintern to attempt to organize black Americans into a segregated “Negro Republic” in the South (yes, seriously).

The commission, noted Johnson, was created “on direct orders from Moscow to facilitate the subversion of the Negroes.” Johnson there discovered not only the extent to which black Americans were targeted “by the Kremlin hierarchy,” but how the “white overseers” in Communist Party USA mistreated their African-American brothers, especially with a demeaning attitude of subservience.

White American communist officials spied on black communists, treated them as “their Negro lickspittles” and used “white women communists … as political prostitutes,” said Johnson.

Johnson left the party in disgust not only over this but because of his comrades’ war on religion and diabolical attempt to deceive and infiltrate and manipulate churches. Johnson had refused to part with the faith of his youth, even as the party demanded that he “liquidate” his Christian faith and help communists to penetrate churches.

And above all — and this relates to Gen. Michael Flynn’s observation — he marveled at how a tiny minority was able to control a large majority.

“It is an axiom in Communist organization strategy that if an infiltrated body has 1 percent Communist Party members and 9 percent Communist Party sympathizers, with well-rehearsed plans of action, they can effectively control the remaining 90 percent,” Johnson told the U.S. Congress in sworn testimony in July 1953.

“In the large sections of the religious field, due to the ideological poison which has been filtered in by Communists and pro-Communists through seminaries, the backlog of sympathizers and mental prisoners of socialistic ideology is greater than the 10 percent necessary for effective control.”

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All it took was a mere 1 percent Communist Party members and 9 percent sympathizers. How sad. Manning Johnson learned this regrettably too well.

A trusting flock could, in the deceitful hands of a few bad shepherds, be led to spiritual slaughter: “The Communists learned that the clergyman under their control served as a useful ‘respectable face’ for most of their front activities. … Thus one professor of divinity, lecturing to future clergymen, who in turn will preach to thousands of churchgoers, is, in the long run, more dangerous than 20 Red preachers singing the praises of communism from the pulpit.”

One really skilled pro-Marxist professor of divinity, smart and cautious with the language he used, could be far more influential than a couple dozen big-mouthed and less polished preachers.

Johnson spoke of a particularly shameless communist front that operated under the name of the American League Against War and Fascism.

Why did it work so well? For starters, the name/slogan was brilliant.

As the name says, “Against War and Fascism.” Who could be against war and fascism? Just as no one would say that black lives do not matter.

According to Johnson, this was “the key Communist Party front. There was no other Communist Party front in all of the solar system of organizations of the Communist Party that involved so many ministers, churches, and religious organizations.”

In fact, warned Johnson, this organization was “the key to the infiltration of the church, and as a result of the successful infiltration and penetration they were able to involve these ministers in every other Communist front through the years, even down to the present time.”

Here again, Johnson paused to underscore the significance of the numbers: “I know from my own experience in working in labor organizations, for example, that we had an organization with 10,000 members, and there were only about 60 or 70 Communists, and we controlled the organization. So with small minority of ministers who work in an organized manner, they can always win over and subvert and dupe the majority who are disorganized and are individualistic.”

With merely a small group of, say, 60 to 70, communists could redirect an organization of 10,000. Impressive but sad.

Johnson’s testimony is far from the only case.

In “The Devil and Karl Marx,” I give many such illustrations, likewise quoting congressional testimony from prominent ex-communists like Ben Gitlow and Bella Dodd, who repeatedly awed at how they as communist ringleaders could take over an organization or hijack a cause or movement with just a handful of trained Marxist organizers.

Ben Gitlow, the highest-level official ever to leave the American Communist Party, spoke of the alarming success of the Rev. Harry Ward, infamously known as the “red dean” among American clergymen, and a founder of the ACLU.

His group was the Methodist Federation for Social Action. Again, note the importance of a slick title: Who could be against Methodists pursuing “social action” or (in today’s parlance) “social justice?”

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According to Gitlow, “The Methodist Federation for Social Action operated, though it was an unofficial organization, as if it had the official sanction of the Methodist Church. Its limited, small membership, fluctuating between 2,000 and 10,000, is dominated by a handful of Communists who never officially avowed their Communist affiliations. The Communists in the organization maintained an alliance with militant, revolutionary Socialists, who were not under Communist discipline, but who nevertheless went along with the Communists. The Communists operated within the Methodist Federation for Social Action on the premise that it was important to keep within the Methodist Federation for Social Action all the Socialist, leftist, pacifist, and the so-called liberal and progressive elements just so long as they went together with the Communists on specific issues.”

Through a “limited, small membership” they could control a much larger array of sympathizers on the left. This was a left-wing big tent, an organization assembled and dominated by a handful of concealed communists who misled everyone else.

Another prominent ex-communist who spoke to such organizing abilities was Bella Dodd.

She testified many times to Congress and to audiences on how she organized everyone from teachers in the state of New York to striking seamen against shipowners to (one of her most sensational claims) placing “over a thousand communist men” in Catholic seminaries.

Bella’s primary work for the party was to organize teachers. She wrote about it candidly in her memoirs, “School of Darkness,” noting her success as a communist organizer for teachers’ unions in New York from 1936 to 1938: “At its peak the Union boasted ten thousand members, and in it the Communist Party had a fraction of close to a thousand.”

That’s a huge degree of penetration: 10 percent. Emboldened, Bella and comrades looked to apply that tactic to Catholic seminaries, where they would happily accept even a mere one percent placement. That was all they needed to sow discord and chaos. They believed they could do it.

And why not? The Communist Party already had staggering success with Protestant seminaries:

“You may be interested in knowing that we have preachers, preachers active in churches, who are members of the Communist Party,” candidly admitted Earl Browder, general secretary of Communist Party USA, to students at the progressive Union Theological Seminary on Feb. 15, 1935.

He and his party initiated an aggressive push to create a “united front” led by communists and socialists attracting a broader coalition of liberals and fellow travelers. The goal was to expand the party’s support, its membership base and above all its agenda. The wolves would dress in sheep’s clothing and mingle among the masses.

This included recruitment among the religious and flat-out infiltration of churches. As for Catholics, Browder (a fierce atheist) warmly — albeit deceptively — offered: “We extend the hand of fellowship to our Catholic brothers.”

Browder and his CPUSA thus orchestrated what the party called an “outstretched hand” effort to appeal to the nation’s Roman Catholics in the 1930s. Communists who organized in New York in particular were fired up.

They salivated like Pavlov’s dogs over the numbers they laid out in a secret 1937 memo (now on file at the Hoover Institution archives): 18 million Catholics in America, and 80,000 simply between New York’s 110 St. and 59th St.

Consider the numbers again: Communist Party USA, even here in the 1930s, its heyday, never exceeded 100,000 members nationwide. Well, 18 million Catholics obviously overwhelmed 100,000 commies. For communists, they figured that if they could pick up even one percent of American Catholics, they would explode their membership rolls and could dramatically undermine parishes from within.

All they wanted was 1 percent. Such a modest goal, such a tiny number, but that’s all they felt they needed. Very cynical, and very shrewd.

One of Browder’s erstwhile buddies, J. B. Matthews, another prominent ex-communist, who became Congress’s chief expert on the subject, had spearheaded the party’s “united front” strategy.

Matthews explained: “It is not surprising to find the Communist Party in the United States engaged in a systematic effort to lure the churches into the net of the party’s united fronts.”

The goal was to find a single issue that would unite a wider movement: for instance, opposing war and violence. Communist organizers had to be extremely cautious, however, to keep their Marxist sympathies and ambitions concealed.

And as for those who suspected those sympathies, and publicly called out the communist organizers, they were denounced for their unseemly anti-communism or told they were being paranoid. They were most vociferously denounced by the communists’ liberal-progressive friends.

This kind of manipulation has gone on in America for literally over a hundred years.

I could give example after example, with victims that would startle conservatives, such as a young actor named Ronald Reagan (and the recently deceased Hollywood legend Olivia de Havilland) being duped by a handful of concealed Marxist organizers running Hollywood front groups like HICCASP and the Progressive Citizens of America.

Such manipulative organizing continues to this day. It may not be as extensive as it once was, but we can see how a handful of self-avowed trained Marxists in an organization can rally huge numbers of people by picking the right cause.

“We actually do have an ideological frame,” says Patrisse Cullors of herself and Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza. “Myself and Alicia in particular are trained organizers. We are trained Marxists. We are super-versed on, sort of, ideological theories.”

And yet, when we note that someone like Patrisse Cullors frankly concedes that she and her co-founder are trained Marxist organizers “super-versed” in ideological theories, we’re reprimanded by liberals for even bringing it up.

The only thing that matters, after all, is that black lives matter. Everything else is irrelevant and even impolite to mention. It’s deemed off-limits, insensitive, even “racist” to express concerns over what Patrisse openly admits is their “ideological framework.”

But of course, that framework and training is utterly essential to the bigger picture and deeper motivations. (Just as being a Christian, for example, influences one’s actions.)

It reflects the long, sordid history of this kind of clever Marxist organizing. This is exactly what trained Marxist organizers do. They take a genuinely just cause like stopping police violence against people of color (which, of course, has nothing to do with Marxism, and appeals to any non-Marxist), and they use it to draw support to an organization that at its website seeks to rally “comrades” (yes, the BLM website uses that word more than once) to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure.”

That’s a BLM call that has nothing to do with police and long predates George Floyd.

I’ve written elsewhere about the striking parallel between Black Lives Matter and George Floyd and another great racial injustice from the 1930s, the Scottsboro boys. That was a racial tragedy that Communist Party USA sought to hijack. In so doing, communists badly hurt the boys’ case, to the outrage of groups like the NAACP.

Again, example after example could be given. I wish not to belabor the point but to convince readers that this has gone on for a long time.

Alas, returning to Gen. Flynn’s observation, it’s striking how merely 2 percent can influence so many. And few are skilled at this like trained Marxist organizers.

As Flynn says, we need to be careful. We need to be smart.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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Dr. Paul Kengor is a New York Times best-selling author. He has authored many books, including "Dupes: How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century," and his latest, "The Devil and Karl Marx." Headshot photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr.