Right wingers get panties in twist over Saul Alinsky again


A “documentary” about Saul Alinsky cheerfully twists the facts, saying Alinsky was inspired by the devil and Hillary Clinton and Obama were influenced by him. Bzzt. Not even close. Maybe someone should tell them that right wing videographer James O’Keefe cites Alinsky as a major influence? Does that make O’Keefe a follower of Beelzebub? Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals has nothing to do with ideology and is about organizing to gain power. But one would need to have actually read the book to know that.

The dedication to Rules for Radicals is apparently what got the documentary film makers in a snit. It reads:

“Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history… the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.”

Only the terminally humor-impaired or manically partisan could view this tongue-in-cheek dedication as supporting Lucifer, but the “documentary” tries to anyway.

As for their assertion that Hillary and Obama were Alinsky disciples, if only… Obama was a community organizer in name only and while Hillary wrote a thesis about Alinsky, nothing in her political life indicates she is even slightly interested in organizing for change, except for how it can benefit her personally.

Also, Alinksy wasn’t socialist and had no use for them, saying “Quotes from Mao, Castro, and Che Guevara are as germane to our highly technological, computerized society as a stagecoach on a jet runway at Kennedy airport”

From Front Page magazine on James O’Keeke:

Ironically, the book that primarily inspired O’Keefe’s work is Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, the Bible of the radical left. As other influences, he lists Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers by Tom Wolfe, the last half of which is about hustlers fleecing the corrupt, hapless bureaucrats of San Francisco anti-poverty programs, and everything by British conservative G.K. Chesterton

Here are Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. As you can see, they are not ideological, Satanic, or communist. They can be used by anyone.

Rule 1: Power is not only what you have, but what an opponent thinks you have. If your organization is small, hide your numbers in the dark and raise a din that will make everyone think you have many more people than you do.

Rule 2: Never go outside the experience of your people.
The result is confusion, fear, and retreat.

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

Rule 4: Make opponents live up to their 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.”

Rule 5: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It’s hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.

Rule 6: A good tactic is one your people enjoy. “If your people aren’t having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.”

Rule 7: A tactic that drags on for too long becomes a drag. Commitment may become ritualistic as people turn to other issues.

Rule 8: Keep the pressure on. Use different tactics and actions and use all events of the period for your purpose. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this that will cause the opposition to react to your advantage.”

Rule 9: The threat is more terrifying than the thing itself. When Alinsky leaked word that large numbers of poor people were going to tie up the washrooms of O’Hare Airport, Chicago city authorities quickly agreed to act on a longstanding commitment to a ghetto organization. They imagined the mayhem as thousands of passengers poured off airplanes to discover every washroom occupied. Then they imagined the international embarrassment and the damage to the city’s reputation.

Rule 10: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. Avoid being trapped by an opponent or an interviewer who says, “Okay, what would you do?”

Rule 11: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual. Ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame.

Saul Alinsky & Back of the Yards: A pivotal labor strike

Credit: public domain

Saul Alinsky invented community organizing in Chicago in the 1930’s. Eastern European immigrants in the Back of the Yards area organized and went on strike against meatpacking plants. After pitched battles, both political and physical, the workers forced concessions and unionized the plants. This was the first time organizing had been done in a geographical area and it changed organizing forever.

Generations of organizers both on the left and the right have studied and learned from what Alinsky did. This includes right-wing videographer James O’Keefe who took down ACORN. He cites Alinsky as a major influence, as do countless others.

But first, let’s get rid of a major misconception.

Saul Alinsky. Organizing in the Depression. And you thought things were turbulent now


From the Playboy interview with Saul Alinsky in 1972.

PLAYBOY: How close was the country to revolution during the Depression?

ALINSKY: A lot closer than some people think. It was really Roosevelt’s reforms that saved the system from itself and averted total catastrophe. You’ve got to remember, it wasn’t only people’s money that went down the drain in 1929; it was also their whole traditional system of values. Americans had learned to celebrate their society as an earthly way station to paradise, with all the cherished virtues of hard work and thrift as their tickets to security, success and happiness. Then suddenly, in just a few days, those tickets were canceled and apparently unredeemable, and the bottom fell out of everything.

But then people began to come together, to join forces, to help each other.

Now, in America, new voices and new values began to be heard, people began citing John Donne’s “No man is an island,” and as they started banding together to improve their lives, they found how much in common they had with their fellow man. It was the first time since the abolitionist movement, for example, that there was any significant black-white unity, as elements of both races began to move together to confront the common enemies of unemployment and starvation wages. This was one of the most important aspects of the Thirties: not just the political struggles and reforms but the sudden discovery of a common destiny and a common bond of humanity among millions of people. It was a very moving experience to witness and be part of it.

PLAYBOY: You sound a little nostalgic.

ALINSKY: Yeah, those were exciting days to be alive in. And goddamn violent days, too. Whenever people wail to me about all the violence and disorder in American life today, I tell them to take a hard look back at the Thirties. At one time, you had thousands of American veterans encamped along the Anacostia petitioning the Government for a subsistence bonus until they were driven out at bayonet point by the Army, led by “I shall return” MacArthur. Negroes were being lynched regularly in the South as the first stirrings of black opposition began to be felt, and many of the white civil rights organizers and labor agitators who had started to work with them were tarred, feathered, castrated — or killed. Most Southern politicians were members of the Ku Klux Klan and had no compunction about boasting of it.

The giant corporations were unbelievably arrogant and oppressive and would go to any lengths to protect their freedom — the freedom to exploit and the freedom to crush any obstacle blocking the golden road to mammon. Not one American corporation — oil, steel, auto, rubber, meat packing — would allow its workers to organize; labor unions were branded subversive and communistic and any worker who didn’t toe the line was summarily fired and then blacklisted throughout the industry. When they defied their bosses, they were beaten up or murdered by company strikebreakers or gunned down by the police of corrupt big-city bosses allied with the corporations, like in the infamous Memorial Day Massacre in Chicago when dozens of peaceful pickets were shot in the back.

Those who kept their jobs were hired and fired with complete indifference, and they worked as dehumanized servomechanisms of the assembly line. There were no pensions, no unemployment insurance, no Social Security, no Medicare, nothing to provide even minimal security for the worker. When radicals fought back against these conditions by word or deed, they were hounded and persecuted by city police and by the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover, who back in those days was already paranoid, while in Washington the House Un-American Activities Committee hysterically sounded the alarm against the gathering Bolshevik hordes. As bloody strikes and civic disorder swept the nation, the big cry was for law and order. Nobody talked about pollution then; yet the workers in coal and steel towns were shrouded in a perpetual pall of soot and black dust, while in cities like Chicago, people in the meatpacking areas grew up amid a stench so overpowering that if they ever ventured out into the country, the fresh air made them sick. Yeah, those were the good old days, all right. Shit, the country was far more polarized and bitter then than it is today.

This is crucial. The 30’s (and the 60’s) were far more violent and turbulent than anything going on now. Not only did the country survive those eras, much needed social change came out of them too; union and community organizing in the 30’s and the civil rights, environmental, feminist, and antiwar movements of the 60’s. And they all went mainstream.

We can do the same now.

Saul Alinsky. Rules for Radicals. Means vs. ends

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

From Rules for Radicals.

He says the eternal question of does the end justify the means is meaningless and the real and only question is, “Does this particular end justify this particular means?”

He has little use for those who sit on the sidelines and moralize.

They are passionately committed to a mystical objectivity where passions are suspect… They can be recognized by one of two verbals brands. “We agree with the ends but not the means” or “This is not the time.” The means-and-end moralists or non-doers always end up on their ends without any means.

Also, by constantly urging no action, they are actually siding with the Haves, not the Have-Nots. Plus, sometimes doing nothing is the height of immorality and shows a total lack of ethics. And cowardice as well.

Alinsky’s rules about the ethics of ends and means. (9 is my favorite.)

1. One’s concern with the ethics of means and ends varies inversely with one’s personal interest in the issue.

2. The judgment of the ethics of means is dependent upon the political position of those sitting in judgment.

3. In war the end justifies almost any means.

4. Judgment must be made in the context of the times in which the action occurred and not from any other chronological vantage point.

5. Concern with ethics increases with the number of means available and vice versa.

6. The less important the end to be desired, the more one can afford to engage in ethical evaluations of means.

7. Generally, success or failure is a mighty determinant of ethics.

8. The morality of a means depends upon whether the means is being employed at a time of imminent defeat or imminent victory.

9. Any effective means is automatically judged by the opposition as being unethical.

10. You do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral garments.

11. Goals must be phrased in general terms like “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” “Of the Common Welfare,” “Pursuit of Happiness,” or “Bread and Peace.”

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