American Radical Activist, Community Organizer and Writer
Saul Alinsky, fully Saul David Alinsky
American Radical Activist, Community Organizer and Writer
Where are the American Radicals? They were with Patrick Henry in the Virginia Hall of Burgesses; they were with Sam Adams in Boston; they were with that peer of all American Radicals, Tom Paine, from the distribution of Common Sense through those dark days of the American Revolution? The American Radicals were in the colonies grimly forcing the addition of the Bill of Rights to our Constitution. They stood at the side of Tom Jefferson in the first big battle between the Tories of Hamilton and the American people. They founded and fought in the LocoFocos. They were in the first union strike in America and they fought for the distribution of the western lands to the masses of people instead of the few?They were in the shadows of the underground railroad and they openly rode in the sunlight with John Brown to Harpers Ferry?They were with Horace Mann fighting for the extension of educational opportunities?They built the American Labor movement? Many of their deeds are not and never will be recorded in America?s history. They were among the grimy men in the dust bowl, they sweated with the share croppers. They were at the side of the Okies facing the California vigilantes. They stood and stand before the fury of lynching mobs. They were and are on the picket lines gazing unflinchingly at the threatening, flushed, angry faces of the police. American Radicals are to be found wherever and whenever America moves closer to the fulfillment of its democratic dream. Whenever America?s hearts are breaking, these American Radicals were and are. America was begun by its Radicals. The hope and future of America lies with its Radicals.
Where did I come from? Chicago. I can curse and hate the town but let anyone else do it and they?re in for a battle, There I?ve had the happiest and the worst times of my life. Every street has its personal joy and pain to me. On this street is the church of a Catholic Bishop who was a big part of my life; further down is another church where the pastor too has meant a lot to me; and a couple miles away is a cemetery?well, skip it. Many Chicago streets are pieces of my life and work. Things that happened here have rocked a lot of boats in a lot of cities. Nowadays I fly all over the country in the course of my work. But when those flaps go down over the Chicago skyline, I knew I?m home.
Wherever possible go outside the experience of the enemy. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.
Who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins ? or which is which
With as one would work with any other part of our populations ? with respect, understanding, and sympathy.
With very rare exceptions, the right things are done for the wrong reasons. It is futile to demand that men do the right thing for the right reason ? this is a fight with a windmill.
You can?t switch channels and get rid of them. This is what you have been doing in your radicalized dream world but they are here and will be.
You cannot meet today's crisis tomorrow.
You regard yourself as tolerant, and in that one adjective you most fittingly describe yourself. You really don?t like people you tolerate them. You are very tolerant, MR. BUT.
What does the Radical want? He wants a world in which the worth of the individual is recognized?a world based on the morality of mankind?The Radical believes that all peoples should have a high standard of food, housing, and health?The Radical places human rights far above property rights. He is for universal, free public education and recognizes this as fundamental to the democratic way of life?Democracy to him is working from the bottom up?The Radical believes completely in real equality of opportunity for all peoples regardless of race, color, or creed.
When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters - one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.
To say that corrupt means corrupt the ends is to believe in the immaculate conception of ends and principles. The real arena is corrupt and bloody. Life is a corrupting process from the time a child learns to play his mother off against his father in the politics of when to go to bed; he who fears corruption fears life.
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.
Today everything is so complex as to be incomprehensible. What sense does it make for men to walk on the moon while other men are waiting on welfare lines, or in Vietnam killing and dying for a corrupt dictatorship in the name of freedom?
Twelve Rules for Radicals - * RULE 1: ?Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.? Power is derived from 2 main sources ? money and people. ?Have-Nots? must build power from flesh and blood. (These are two things of which there is a plentiful supply. Government and corporations always have a difficult time appealing to people, and usually do so almost exclusively with economic arguments.) * RULE 2: ?Never go outside the expertise of your people.? It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone. (Organizations under attack wonder why radicals don?t address the ?real? issues. This is why. They avoid things with which they have no knowledge.) * RULE 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.) * RULE 4: ?Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.? If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules. (This is a serious rule. The besieged entity?s very credibility and reputation is at stake, because if activists catch it lying or not living up to its commitments, they can continue to chip away at the damage.) * RULE 5: ?Ridicule is man?s most potent weapon.? There is no defense. It?s irrational. It?s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions. (Pretty crude, rude and mean, huh? They want to create anger and fear.) * RULE 6: ?A good tactic is one your people enjoy.? They?ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They?re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones. (Radical activists, in this sense, are no different that any other human being. We all avoid ?un-fun? activities, and but we revel at and enjoy the ones that work and bring results.) * RULE 7: ?A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.? Don?t become old news. (Even radical activists get bored. So to keep them excited and involved, organizers are constantly coming up with new tactics.) * RULE 8: ?Keep the pressure on. Never let up.? Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new. (Attack, attack, attack from all sides, never giving the reeling organization a chance to rest, regroup, recover and re-strategize.) * RULE 9: ?The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.? Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist. (Perception is reality. Large organizations always prepare a worst-case scenario, something that may be furthest from the activists? minds. The upshot is that the organization will expend enormous time and energy, creating in its own collective mind the direst of conclusions. The possibilities can easily poison the mind and result in demoralization.) * RULE 10: ?If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.? Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog. (Unions used this tactic. Peaceful [albeit loud] demonstrations during the heyday of unions in the early to mid-20th Century incurred management?s wrath, often in the form of violence that eventually brought public sympathy to their side.) * RULE 11: ?The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.? Never let the enemy score points because you?re caught without a solution to the problem. (Old saw: If you?re not part of the solution, you?re part of the problem. Activist organizations have an agenda, and their strategy is to hold a place at the table, to be given a forum to wield their power. So, they have to have a compromise solution.) * RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.? Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)
We have become involved in bypaths of confusion or semantics? The word ?power? has through time acquired overtones of sinister corrupt evil, unhealthy immoral Machiavellianism, and a general phantasmagoria of the nether regions.
We must believe that it is the darkest before the dawn of a beautiful new world. We will see it when we believe it.
We must face the bitter fact that we have forsaken our great dream of a life of, for, and by the people; that the burning passions and ideals of the American dream lie congealed by cold cynicism. Great parts of the masses of our people no longer believe that they have a voice or a hand in shaping the destiny of this nation. They have not forsaken democracy because of any desire or positive action of their own; they have been driven down into the depths of a great despair born of frustration, hopelessness, and apathy. A democracy lacking in popular participation dies of paralysis.
We'll not only give them a cause, we'll make life goddamn exciting for them again -- life instead of existence. We'll turn them on.
We're talking about revolution, not revelation.
This failure of many of our younger activists to understand the art of communication has been disastrous. Even the most elementary grasp of the fundamental idea that one communicates within the experience of his audience ? and gives full respect to the other?s values ? would have ruled out attacks on the American flag.
This is the world as it is. This is where you start.
Those who are most moral are farthest from the problem.
Those who want change must be against sacred cows and not only innately irreverent but outwardly, purposefully irreverent in their actions. They must be iconoclastic bulldozers willing to be regarded as profane spoilers of the sacred myths.
The second rule of the ethics of the means and ends is that the judgment of the ethics of means is dependent on the political position of those sitting in judgment? then you adopted the means of assassination, terror, property destruction, the bombing of tunnels and trains, kidnapping, and the willingness to sacrifice innocent hostages to the end of defeating the Nazi's. Those who opposed the Nazi's conquerors regarded the Resistance as a secret army of selfless, patriotic idealists.