By Carson Babich
In my hometown of Windsor, Ontario, Canada you can find the grave of a man named Tomas Schuman. The gravestone is simple: ‘Tomas Schuman; Aug. 14, 1941 – Jan. 5, 1993; In loving memory of Tania, Jonathon, and Tessie’. The obituary of Tomas Shuman states that he was a gifted educator – especially during his time at the University of Windsor teaching public relations. At first glance, you may think here is a former educator who was passionate about his work and lived a quiet life. However, his life was far from quiet – especially when you realize the man named Tomas Schuman was not Tomas Schuman at all.
His real name was Yuri Bezmenov – who was a former Soviet journalist, a state informant for the Soviet First Directorate, and former KGB officer who defected to Canada in the 1970’s. Bezmenov is famously known for his lectures on Soviet-Communist subversion tactics used to influence western society through institutions such as media, universities, and government. In his lectures, he describes the act of subversion being the most common and widely used tactic by the Soviet Government to influence their power within western society; furthermore, outlining four steps of subversion that were used by the Soviets – based off Sun-Tsu’s Art of War – into distinct characteristics:
- Demoralization: Done through 15-20 years to subvert a generation through moral influence of propaganda inside areas where public opinion is shaped (i.e., religion, education, social life, labor, and employment relations etc.).
- Destabilization: Done through severing ties to national or internal characteristics of a society. Produced through individuals influencing economy, media, and law and order. Essentially the fractionating of a society based on demoralization (e.g., radicalization).
- Crisis: Comes from an impactful or disastrous situation that divides a nation or society based on fault lines creating panic.
- Normalization: Is an acceptance of individuals – predominantly through soft power, but can be done through hard power (e.g., violence) – to submit to the ideals of government as a protector and to accept the changes of law for a collective understanding.
Bezmenov drives home the fallacy of equality standard that the Soviet Union used to demoralize a nation through either its history or democratic characteristics against them to prove a negative point. What this means is the generation of demoralization enters the professional sphere to use the subversion tactics towards destabilization – from there a cataclysmic event triggers the fault line through fear, terror, and psychological control. Lastly, ideological rulers of society attempt to stabilize the country with exploitation in victory. In an interview with G. Edward Griffin, Bezmenov attempts to compare the ethos of communist ideology of the east and liberal ideology of the west through the oppression of human rights and moral indignation of the Soviets. One of the most important points that Bezmenov makes of communism is to develop an illusion of Soviet greatness through subversive tactics of influence which are similar processes in today’s institutions.
Why was Tomas Shuman’s or Yuri Bezmenov’s ideas important in relation to today? The rise of identitarianism within media through bias, government through partisanship, and universities through ideology are common in the twenty-first century. Bezmenov outlines the loss of certain liberties for certain groups in society to demoralize, destabilize, and cause crisis; one example relates to racialized animosity on college campuses in the west. In my last piece: The Grift That Keeps on Grifting: the Troubling Issue on Campus, this animosity was outlined and being accepted by industry through a form of systemic knowledge oppression. Perhaps, this is what Bezmenov was discussing through dangerous precedent of subversion using economy, media, institutions, and government to push identitarianism as a goal for national subversion. Today, our society is fractionated through identitarianism suggesting we are well into destabilization. This leads to the question: where is this crisis? Some may argue 9/11 was the crisis, others may have felt that the 2008 Wall Street collapse is what did it, another group may say COVID-19 is the current. One might argue all three may be one giant twenty-first century crisis that brought in mass surveillance of citizens, bank bailouts, a foreclosure crisis, and the removal of civil liberties in the name of public health. Time will tell if we are in this destabilization stage, a crisis stage, or exiting out of a crisis stage into a sort of normalization. What is certain, Bezmenov’s words are extremely salient in todays social landscape.
Accepting Bezmenov’s theory, the main question is how do we exit this downward spiral of identitarian subversion tactics? First, it will take a willingness from institutional leaders to self-actualize their role in these tactics. For example, some professors suffer from a fallacy of benevolent despotism saying things such as ‘true communism has not been practiced’ or ‘if I was leader, I would do communism and socialism differently, if only we can remove western liberalism’. However, communism or socialism done differently is simply not communism considering the role – according to Bezmenov – relies on the subversion tactics of unwavering control and power making benevolent despotism a logical fallacy. The negative outlook towards western ideology in areas such as the university or in media outlets does reflect a subversion tactic that has been prevalent in the western countries for some time now.
One explanation for this is seeing nations like the United States and Canada being subverted by China using political contributions, influence buying, theft of patented technology, and in some cases espionage to influence decision and policy beneficial to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Furthermore, the recent and unhinged actions of Xi Jinping have been a cause for concern such as the recent aggressive tactics with India, Australia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan raise alarms about the upcoming actions of the CCP in the future. In addition, one cannot forget the human rights atrocities taking place in the western province of Xinjiang with the oppression of Uyghur Muslims inside internment camps as a prime global issue that needs to be addressed. On the note of oppression, China subverts their own human rights atrocities through the method I call The Western Guilt Mirror presenting a mirror to historical problems in westernized countries such as racial inequities in the United States or indigenous reconciliation in Canada. Although there is a discussion on these topics of our own western historical problems, they should not be used as a subversion tool from a country and society with its own historical problems of ethnic and racial inequities.
It would be irresponsible for me to undoubtedly confirm that the Schuman/Bezmenov Theory of subversion tactics are being used within western society with full certainty. However, considering his lectures from the 1980’s is drawing deep similarities today makes you ask the question, are we being subverted by a power structure towards crisis and collapse? Firstly, it might be reasonable to accept that there is a strong possibility that subversion tactics are being used by nations – such as China – to gain influence in our democratic systems. Second, to answer how we exit this downward spiral is to continuously have a discussion on the topic of subversion and how it may be more prevalent in our society than previous. We can use a broad methodology and interconnected approach to understanding subversion in institutions such as government, media, and education that allows knowledge to be multiplied in many different areas. This will allow for a better conception on the troubling precedent of subversive discourse and how to stop it through democratized and active influence. It was because of Tomas Schuman or Yuri Bezmenov that we have this information as a tool of reflection to see subversive acts within our society and to call them out in the name of free, autonomous, and liberal ideology.
Carson Babich is a researcher at the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada, and recently released his first book The Interdisciplinarity Reformation: A Reflection of Learning, Life and Society available on Amazon. Carson holds a Master of Education from the University of Windsor.