A Must read for anyone interested in Politics
This book was first published in 1971 and was written by Saul D. Alinsky a Chicago resident and a “professional” Community Organizer on what he had learned about promoting his views. Alinsky like many back then was, at heart, if not in practice a Marxist. Meaning that he did not believe in the principles of Adam Smith and instead supported a government much like what the Russians thought they had with their “Central Committee” that would, in theory, take care of all the people of the state; with Karl Marx’s “… from each according to his ability to each according to his need.” This was, after all, a revolution of the Have Not’s against the Haves. Although Alinsky did not actually support the Russian form of Communism as practiced by Joseph Stalin he probably would have been a huge supporter of a pure Marxist system using Max’s views of the Labor Theory of Value and that the masses were held down by the rich and powerful.
Alinsky’s beliefs were very influential on both Hillary Rodham and soon to be Mrs. Clinton and Barack Husein Obama. Hillary who grew up in Chicago would have been 24 when Rules for Radicals was published and though she was in Yale Law school she could very well have meet Alinsky. Barack Husain Obama would have only been 10 when Rules for Radicals was published and it’s unlikely that he could ever have met Alinsky, however he was a Community Organizer in Chicago before earning his law degree at Harvard. Based on the known views of both Hillary and Barack it’s clear that that they were both influenced very heavily by Alinsky; which makes this book review very important as it gets to the motives of two of our most prominent politicians.
The first paragraph in the first Chapter titled “The Purpose” Begins with “WHAT FOLLOWS IS for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Not’s on how to take it away.” Alinsky then tells us that the book is not about “ideology” but about how to take power from the existing system, the Haves, by those that have none the Have-Not’s. This is pure Class Warfare and is based on the premise that the Haves did not acquire their Wealth or Status legitimately but that they acquired it by taking it from those that are now the Have-Not’s leaving some for the middle the Have-Little Want-Mores’. The result of Alinsky’s Change is never discussed in the book it is only about how to make the change.
This logic assumes a Zero Sum game where the “pot’ is fixed and we all fight over who has what percent of it. And further, a just as, legitimate argument can be made that the Have-Not’s are Have-Not’s not because the Haves took what they had but because they are not capable of being anything else but Have-Not’s. Like what happened in the 1917 Russian revolution most revolutions do not turn out well for the Have-Not’s. The American Experience being the one exception, up until now! Since Alinsky read Democracy in America written in 1835 by Alexis de Tocqueville it’s surprising that he had such a jaundiced view of America. But then Karl Marx’s works were very seductive to many intellectuals who did not understand the social dynamics of the period between the American Civil War and WW II. The rebellion of the Boomer generation for which Alinsky supported had little to do with the Have-Not’s and a lot to do with the Bombers’ quest for power and they are also known now as the “me generation.”
In the first few chapters Alinsky goes to great effort to justify what he does and to be honest no one can fault someone for trying to improve the conditions that many live in. Alinsky’s greatest fault was in not recognizing that the differences in American were much less than the rest of the world; so rather than trying to make a reasonable system better he and others like him want to tear it all down and rebuild from scratch. This process is very risky for just like those that wanted an end to the Russian involvement in WW I and to have a better life, in essence a workers protest that brought down the Czar in 1917 the end was quite different. Instead of freedom they got the Bolsheviks and then Joseph Stalin. Two Chapters stand out in this book “Of Means and Ends” and “Tactics” which need to be understood to appreciate Alinsky.
In the Chapter “Of Means and Ends”, Alinsky justifies the morals of his policies, which is very important to him as he was not an evil man. This is a key Chapter which contains the following eleven justifications which he calls rules pertaining to the ethics of means and ends these are his moral justifications:
One, that one’s concern with the ethics of means and ends varies inversely with one’s personal interest in the issue.
Two, is that the judgment of ethics of means and ends is dependent upon the political position of those sitting in judgment.
Three, is that in war the end justifies almost any means.
Four, is that judgment must be made in the context of the times in which the action occurred and not from any other chronological vantage point.
Five, is that concern with ethics increases with the number of means available and vice versa.
Six, is that the less important the end to be desired, the more one can engage in ethical evaluations of means.
Seven, is that generally success or failure is a mighty determinant of ethics.
Eight, is that the morality of a means depends upon whether the means is being employed at a time of immediate defeat or imminent victory.
Nine, is that any effective means is automatically judged by the opposition as being unethical.
Ten, is that you do what you can with what you have and clothe it with your moral garments.
Eleven, is that goals must be phrased in general terms like “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” or “Of the Common Welfare,” “Pursuit of Happiness,” or “Bread and Peace.”
Alinsky ends this chapter with the following observation which has never really been answered, “Means and ends are so qualitatively interrelated that true question has never been the proverbial one, “Does the Ends Justify the Means?” but always has been “Does this particular end justify this particular Means?”
Alinsky had more rules and in his Chapter “Tactics” he goes into great detail in explaining the how to achieve the “Ends” which are actually never properly identified other than as a “change,” much like our current president who also promised “Change.” This is a must read chapter if you want to understand Alinsky.
One, power in not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.
Two, never go outside the experience of your people.
Three, whenever possible go outside of the experience of the enemy.
Four, make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.
Five, ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.
Six, a good tactic in one your people enjoy.
Seven, a tactic that drags on too long become a drag.
Eight, keep the pressure on.
Nine, the threat us usually more terrifying than the thing itself.
Ten, the major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure on the opposition.
Eleven, if you push a negative hard and deep it will break through into its counter side.
Twelve, the price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.
Thirteen, pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.
Rule “Thirteen” is very important and should probably be number one as it has been used very successfully by the Progressive movement. In Rules for Radicals he also wrote, [t]he job of the organizer is to maneuver and bait the establishment so that it will publicly attack him as a ‘dangerous enemy.'” According to Alinsky, “the hysterical instant reaction of the establishment [will] not only validate [the organizer’s] credentials of competency but also ensure automatic popular invitation.”
There is little doubt that Alinsky’s methods have been hugely influential, since they can be used for any cause; but therein lies the Rub as these methods can be used for Good ends and well as Bad ends. In fact one of the main criticisms for him is that he has no clear Philosophy other than “change” though “conflict” used supposedly to better the lot of Have-Not’s. In practice this has led to the Have-Not’s being used as pawns in a power struggle between different factions of a society neither of which care a hoot about the Have-Not’s.
Social change can be achieved but only by discussion and debate to achieve a consensus that the change is good and needed. No society in all recorded history has yet found a way to achieve this.