Saul Alinsky. Rules for Radicals

Saul Alinsky

(Part 3 of a 5-part series this week about Alinsky)

From Rules for Radicals, Alinsky’s now-famous rules for organizing.

Rule 1: Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have. Power has always derived from two main sources, people and money. Lacking money, the Have-Nots must always build power from their own flesh and blood. A mass movement expresses itself with mass tactics. Against the finesse and sophistication of the status quo, the Have-Nots have always had to club their way.

Rule 2: Never go outside the expertise of your people. It results in confusion, fear and retreat. It also leads to a collapse in communications.

Rule 3: Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy. Here you want to cause, fear, confusion, and retreat.

Rule 4: Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian Church can live up to Christianity.

This is precisely what that videographer did to ACORN. Rush Limbaugh specifically cited this rule as a reason why he did it. There’s a reason Alinsky’s rules are classics. They work. And can be used by anyone. Except the Left lately, apparently.

Rule 5: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. It also infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.

Hey, Sarah Palin says something outrageous and liberal blogs get infuriated, foam at the mouth, and run the story constantly. I’d say she has them well-trained.

Rule 6: A good tactic is one your people enjoy. If your people are not having a ball doing it, then there is something very wrong with the tactic.

I once saw a flyer from a Marxist group wanting to recruit people that said “Join us in the struggle.” Golly that sure sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Rule 7: A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag. Man can sustain militant interest in any issue for only a limited time, after that it becomes a ritualistic commitment, like going to church on Sunday mornings.

Rule 8: Keep the pressure on. Never let up, with different tactics and actions.

Rule 9: The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.

Rule 10. The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.

Rule 11: If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.

Sounds positively zen-like, doesn’t it? But it’s what Gandi did.

Rule 12: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. You can not risk being trapped by the enemy by his sudden agreement with your demand and saying “You’re right, we don’t know what to do about this issue, now you tell us.”

Rule 13: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. As soon as you zero in and freeze your target and carry out your attack, all of the “others” come out of the woodwork very soon. They become visible by their support of the target.

Also, the target must be personalized, not an abstraction. Because once you personalize it, then you get to see who the real enemy is.

Coming posts

Thu. Saul Alinsky. Back of the Yards organizing
Fri. Saul Alinsky. Rules for Radicals. Means vs. ends