Quotes and Excerpts from
Rules for Radicals
By Saul Alinsky - 1971
See From Freedom to Servitude | Training an army of world servers | From Marx to Alinsky
Opening page - Dedication
“Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment tothe 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.”
"The Revolutionary force today has two targets, moral as well as material. Its young protagonists are one moment reminiscent of the idealistic early Christians, yet they also urge violence and cry, 'Burn the system down!' They have no illusions about the system, but plenty of illusions about the way to change our world. It is to this point that I have written this book."
1. The Purpose
In this book we are concerned with how to create mass organizations to seize power and give it to the people; to realize the democratic dream of equality, justice, peace.... "Better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.' This means revolution." p.3
"Radicals must be resilient, adaptable to shifting political circumstances, and sensitive enough to the process of action and reaction to avoid being trapped by their own tactics and forced to travel a road not of their choosing." p.6
"A Marxist begins with his prime truth that all evils are caused by the exploitation of the proletariat by the capitalists. From this he logically proceeds to the revolution to end capitalism, then into the third stage of reorganization into a new social order of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and finally the last stage -- the political paradise of communism." p.10
"An organizer working in and for an open society is in an ideological dilemma to begin with, he does not have a fixed truth -- truth to him is relative and changing; everything to him is relative and changing.... To the extent that he is free from the shackles of dogma, he can respond to the realities of the widely different situations...." pp.10-11
Notes on Saul Alinsky and Neo-Marxism:
Alinsky's tactics were based, not on Stalin's revolutionary violence, but on the Neo-Marxist strategies of Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Communist. Relying on gradualism, infiltration and the dialectic process rather than a bloody revolution, Gramsci's transformational Marxism was so subtle that few even noticed the deliberate changes.
Like Alinsky, Mikhail Gorbachev followed Gramsci, not Lenin. In fact, Gramsci aroused Stalins's wrath by suggesting that Lenin's revolutionary plan wouldn't work in the West. Instead the primary assault would be on Biblical absolutes and Christian values, which must be crushed as a social force before the new face of Communism could rise and flourish. Malachi Martin gave us a progress report:
"By 1985, the influence of traditional Christian philosophy in the West was weak and negligible.... Gramsci's master strategy was now feasible. Humanly speaking, it was no longer too tall an order to strip large majorities of men and women in the West of those last vestiges that remained to them of Christianity's transcendent God."
2. Of Means and Ends [Forget moral or ethical considerations]
"The end is what you want, the means is how you get it. Whenever we think about social change, the question of means and ends arises. The man of action views the issue of means and ends in pragmatic and strategic terms. He has no other problem; he thinks only of his actual resources and the possibilities of various choices of action. He asks of ends only whether they are achievable and worth the cost; of means, only whether they will work. ... The real arena is corrupt and bloody." p.24
"The means-and-ends moralists, constantly obsessed with the ethics of the means used by the Have-Nots against the Haves, should search themselves as to their real political position. In fact, they are passive — but real — allies of the Haves…. The most unethical of all means is the non-use of any means... The standards of judgment must be rooted in the whys and wherefores of life as it is lived, the world as it is, not our wished-for fantasy of the world as it should be...." pp.25-26
"The third rule of ethics of means and ends is that in war the end justifies almost any means...." p.29
"The seventh rule... is that generally success or failure is a mighty determinant of ethics...." p.34
"The tenth rule... is you do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral garments.... It involves sifting the multiple factors which combine in creating the circumstances at any given time... Who, and how many will support the action?... If weapons are needed, then are appropriate d weapons available? Availability of means determines whether you will be underground or above ground; whether you will move quickly or slowly..." p.36
Notes: Apparently, Michelle Obama referred to these words during her Democratic National Convention speech:
"She said, 'Barack stood up that day,' talking about a visit to Chicago neighborhoods, 'and spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about 'The world as it is' and 'The world as it should be…' And, 'All of us driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won't do – that we have an obligation to, fight for the world as it should be."
Do you wonder who -- or whose values -- should determine what "the world... should be?"
4. The Education of the Organizer
"To the organizer, imagination... is the dynamism that starts and sustains him in his whole life of action as an organizer. It ignites and feeds the force that drives him to organize for change....
"The organizer knows that the real action is in the reaction of the opposition. To realistically appraise and anticipate the probable reactions of the enemy, he must be able to identify with them, too, in his imagination, and foresee their reactions to his actions....
"The organizers searching with a free and open mind void of certainty, hating dogma, finds laughter not just a way to maintain his sanity but also a key to understanding life."pp.74-75
"...the organizer must be able to split himself into two parts -- one part in the arena of action where he polarizes the issue to 100 to nothing, and helps to lead his forces into conflict, while the other part knows that when the time comes for negotiations that it really is only a 10 percent difference." p.78
"...the organizer is constantly creating new out of the old. He knows that all new ideas arise from conflict; [See Dialectic Process] that every time man as had a new idea it has been a challenge to the sacred ideas of the past and the present and inevitably a conflict has raged." p.79
5. Communication [Notice the emphasis on conflict, dialogue, relationships, etc. Team "service" is essential to building strong relationships through "common involvements"]
"And so the guided questioning goes on without anyone losing face or being left out of the decision-making. Every weakness of every proposed tactic is probed by questions.... Is this manipulation? Certainly...." p.88
"One of the factors that changes what you can and can't communicate is relationships. There are sensitive areas that one does not touch until there is a strong personal relationship based on common involvements. Otherwise the other party turns off and literally does not hear....
"Conversely, if you have a good relationship, he is very receptive.... For example, I have always believed that birth control and abortion are personal rights to be exercised by the individual. If, in my early days when I organized... neighborhood in Chicago, which was 95 per cent Roman Catholic, I had tried to communicate this, even through the experience of the residents, whose economic plight was aggravated by large families, that would have been the end of my relationship with the community. That instant I would have been stamped as an enemy of the church and all communication would have ceased.
"Some years later, after establishing solid relationships, I was free to talk about anything.... By then the argument was no longer limited to such questions as, 'How much longer do you think the Catholic Church can hang on to this archaic notion and still survive?' ...the subject and nature of the discussion would have been unthinkable without that solid relationship."pp.93-94
6. In the Beginning: The Process of Power [Notice the compromise needed to build the power base. Yet, since pragmatism has eroded all values, it's simply a matter of ends justifying means. It's not unlike churches that attract members through the world's entertainment -- then continue to soften or hide Truth in order to keep them happy and lure more.]
"From the moment the organizer enters a community he lives, dreams... only one thing and that is to build the mass power base of what he calls the army. Until he has developed that mass power base, he confronts no major issues.... Until he has those means and power instruments, his 'tactics' are very different from power tactics. Therefore, every move revolves around one central point: how many recruits will this bring into the organization, whether by means of local organizations, churches, service groups, labor Unions, corner gangs, or as individuals."
"Change comes from power, and power comes from organization." p.113
"The first step in community organization is community disorganization. The disruption of the present organization is the first step toward community organization. Present arrangements must be disorganized if they are to be displace by new patterns.... All change means disorganization of the old and organization of the new." p.116
"An organizer must stir up dissatisfaction and discontent... He must create a mechanism that can drain off the underlying guilt for having accepted the previous situation for so long a time. Out of this mechanism, a new community organization arises....
"The job then is getting the people to move, to act, to participate; in short, to develop and harness the necessary power to effectively conflict with the prevailing patterns and change them. When those prominent in the status quo turn and label you an 'agitator' they are completely correct, for that is, in one word, your function—to agitate to the point of conflict." p.117
"Process tells us how. Purpose tells us why. But in reality, it is academic to draw a line between them, they are part of a continuum.... Process is really purpose." p.122
"Tactics are those conscious deliberate acts by which human beings live with each other and deal with the world around them. ... Here our concern is with the tactic of taking; how the Have-Nots can take power away from the Haves." p.126
Always remember the first rule of power tactics (pps.127-134):
1. "Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have."
2. "Never go outside the expertise of your people. When an action or tactic is outside the experience of the people, the result is confusion, fear and retreat.... [and] the collapse of communication.
3. "Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy. Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)
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."
5. "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage."
6. "A good tactic is one your people enjoy."
7. "A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag. Man can sustain militant interest in any issue for only a limited time...."
8. "Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose."
9. "The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself."
10. "The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign."
11. "If you push a negative hard and deep enough, it will break through into its counterside... every positive has its negative."
12. "The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative."
13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. In conflict tactics there are certain rules that [should be regarded] as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and 'frozen.'...
"...any target can always say, 'Why do you center on me when there are others to blame as well?' When your 'freeze the target,' you disregard these [rational but distracting] arguments.... Then, as you zero in and freeze your target and carry out your attack, all the 'others' come out of the woodwork very soon. They become visible by their support of the target...'
"One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other." (pps.127-134)
Saul Alinksky, Rules for Radicals, Vintage Books, New York, 1989.
Alinsky's Rules for Radicals: "Known as the 'father of modern American radicalism,' Saul D. Alinsky (1909-1972) developed strategies and tactics that take the enormous, unfocused emotional energy of grassroots groups and transform it into effective anti-government and anti-corporate activism. ... Some of these rules are ruthless, but they work."
Article by Phyllis Schalfly titled "Alinski's Rules: Must Reading In Obama Era," posted at www.ibdeditorials.com/IBDArticles.aspx?id=318470857908277 (2-2-09)
"Alinsky's second chapter, called Of Means and Ends, craftily poses many difficult moral dilemmas, and his 'tenth rule of the ethics of means and ends' is: 'you do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral arguments.' He doesn't ignore traditional moral standards or dismiss them as unnecessary. He is much more devious; he teaches his followers that 'Moral rationalization is indispensable at all times of action whether to justify the selection or the use of ends or means.'...
"The qualities Alinsky looked for in a good organizer were:
ego ("reaching for the highest level for which man can reach — to create, to be a 'great creator,' to play God"),
curiosity (raising "questions that agitate, that break through the accepted pattern"),
irreverence ("nothing is sacred"; the organizer "detests dogma, defies any finite definition of morality"),
imagination ("the fuel for the force that keeps an organizer organizing"),
a sense of humor ("the most potent weapons known to mankind are satire and ridicule"), and an
organized personality with confidence in presenting the right reason for his actions only "as a moral rationalization after the right end has been achieved.'...
"'The organizer's first job is to create the issues or problems,' and 'organizations must be based on many issues.' The organizer 'must first rub raw the resentments of the people of the community; fan the latent hostilities of many of the people to the point of overt expression. He must search out controversy and issues, rather than avoid them, for unless there is controversy people are not concerned enough to act. . . . An organizer must stir up dissatisfaction and discontent.'"
See also Obama: Training an army of world servers
Collectivism in churches and Trading Truth for a "Social Gospel"