There has been much attention paid lately to the book Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky.
The Right has been bombasting its followers with quotes from the book which it claims are negative, immoral and even evil. The Right claims, rightfully so it seems, that the principles espoused in Rules for Radicals have been embraced by some on the Left and have been used to advance their agendas. The most common culprit named is Barack Obama although Hillary Clinton and Rahm Emanuel have also been cited. Interestingly, all three have connections with Chicago, Illinois.
Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals was the last book written by Saul Alinsky shortly before his death in 1972. In it he lays out his rules for organizing the masses to achieve ones ends. His “rules” can be seen as being pragmatic at best or just plain downright malevolent.
Alinsky (January 30, 1909 – June 12, 1972) was born in Chicago, the only surviving son of Russian-Jewish immigrants. Although schooled in archeology he found his calling as a community organizer beginning with part-time work with the CIO before turning his attention to the African-American ghettos of Chicago. As a result of his success there he spent the next ten years repeating and refining his methods in other ghettos in Michigan and New York City and to the barrios in California.
In his first book Reveille for Radicals (1946) Alinsky specified his methods to achieve “[a] People’s Organization…dedicated to an eternal war. It is a war against poverty, misery, delinquency, disease, injustice, hopelessness, despair, and unhappiness. They are basically the same issues for which nations have gone to war in almost every generation. . . . War is not an intellectual debate, and in the war against social evils there are no rules of fair play. [Emphasis mine]”
Rules for Radicals,his final book, begins with a disconcerting opening page dedication. “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.”
As if that is not enough the very first paragraph of the body of the book reads: “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-Nots on how to take it away.”
Alinsky ends this book with a call for “Part II of the American Revolution…literally the revolution of the soul.” In between he lays out his rules of how to do so. We will explore these next with a look at The Prince and the Art of War as well.
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Alinsky (1946). Reveille for Radicals. pp. 133-135