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Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky

Rules for Radicals (1971)

by Saul Alinsky

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Interesting to say the least.
I approached this book with a bit of trepidation wondering what in here was so amazing that people are clamoring to it. When you read this it is important to keep two things in mind. 1 - much of what is in here was extremely effective in the past. 2 - since many of these tactics are out of popular use today they can be used again and have the same impact.
There is much to learn here on how to create and how to defend from radicals. Mr. Alinsky points out how to do much of this from the liberal side of the political spectrum but there is nothing that could not be adapted to any other political faction. ( )
  gopfolk | Nov 15, 2013 |
This book was unsettling, but educational. Looking at how to institute real change, not just talk about it, needs a single-mindedness that may be beyond me. Glad I read it, though. ( )
  Jessica_Olin | Apr 1, 2013 |
So this is the infamous Rules for Radicals. Believed by some on the far right as the Gospel according to St. Stalin of the Church of Satanic-Marxism-Leninism.

To be fair, it does hold interesting discussions of community organization, communication, across class and racial bounds to demand reform. Something which will upset conservatives, naturally, as they prefer for things to stay the same, or changed more slowly. There is much valuable to be learned here, for both left and right.

The big gripe is his discussion of ends and means, and his ultra-pragmatic view of them, and avocation of any tactic necessary. If one is in a position of lesser monetary power or political connections, you may well fight like this. It is perhaps the only way to win.

Of course, any good little boy or girl who has read their Robert Caro (or god forbid, entered the system) knows that power and power struggles are everything in politics. Everybody uses these ugly tactics, from socialists to reactionaries. The moral element in politics is either a covering, a fools errand, or a reserved for visionaries and prophets, whether deranged or true. But even Christ said, "I come not to bring peace, but a sword". I accept it, but I do not pretend to love it.

And what happens to the radical or the organizer once they gain power? Shall the revolutionary become the tyrant? Of course, power struggles are always an ugly thing. If I ever decide to go into politics for good, I will refer to this book almost biblically, and then delete this review. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
Hope and Change, man! Hope and Change! Here is my favorite quote, typical of the work in content and in level of language and analysis:

p. 103: "The organizer's job is to inseminate an invitation for himself, to agitate, introduce ideas, get people pregnant with hope and a desire for change and to identify you as the person most qualified for this purpose."

-from the sixth chapter, "In the Beginning."

And to understand why what's in the papers is in the papers, we have the Thirteenth Rule of Tactics, from the chapter "Tactics:"

"Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." (p.130)

The University of Chicago, which allowed Saul Alinsky to matriculate - twice - has a lot for which to apologize.
2 vote jzdro | Mar 23, 2011 |
Saul Alinsky devoted his life to creating power and fear; taking from the “haves” to give to the “have-nots”. He called this “community organizing”. A child of Russian immigrants, he grew up in Chicago which became the base for his radical activist activities. He was closely associated with the Communist party, was a union organizer, an honorary member of the Chicago mob run by Al Capone, and eventually found his niche in organizing communities in the ghetto stockyards of Chicago to petition for various causes. He wrote several books and opened a school, The Industrial Areas Foundation Training Institute. Chicago became the hotbed for radical thinkers. President Obama studied at the Institute and eventually taught several classes. Hillary was both a student and a personal friend of Saul Alinsky. In fact, Hillary’s Wellesley College Thesis was an analysis of the Alinsky model, sealed from the public during the Clinton Administration years. Alinsky offered Hillary a job at the IAF but she turned it down expressing her belief that she could accomplish more by working within the system. Other liberal thinkers who were influenced by Alinsky were Bill Ayers, head of the communist revolutionary group called the Weather Underground, and Wade Rathke, the founder of ACORN.

"Rules for Radicals" is a controversial instruction manual on how to be an effective and radical organizer. Included are chapters on the desirable personality traits necessary to agitate and organize. Alinsky provides examples of how to teach, organize, communicate, and offers a specific list of tactics for success. A great deal of time (24 pages) is spent convincing the reader that the ends truly do justify the means. And even thought Alinsky generally supported any “underdog”…for a nice fee, he boasted that the cause itself meant nothing to him. He admits never concerned himself with moral judgments or analyzing the given situation to determine if the group hiring him, or learning from him, earned the right to make its claim. His primary concern was engineering the strategy to take something forcibly from someone else. The most disturbing thing about the book is that Alinsky professed he was not a communist, but having recently read "The Communist Manifesto" written by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, I found frightening correlations between Marx’s revolutionary “call to action” and Alinsky’s teachings.

The stated goal in "The Communist Manifesto" is the abolition of private property and the redistribution of wealth; “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” The technique: never to openly oppose the existing political parties. Never admit to radical beliefs. Simply unite a group of people for a common cause, create tension, and eventually spawn a national struggle between the classes. Use the middle class to achieve power for the lower class.

Alinsky professes all the same dogma. He states “there is no such thing as give, only take”, “Rules for Radicals is written for the have-nots on how to take it from the haves”, and “these proposed changes are aimed at the roots of political problems within Marxian terms…..” Hillary summarizes in her thesis. “If the ideas Alinsky espouses were actualized, the result would be social revolution.” By denying his alliance with communism he was merely following the Marx/Engels code of concealment. He mimicked Marx in saying, “the power of the have-nots rests only in their numbers…rub raw the resentments of the people…fan hostilities….search for controversy and issues….stir up discontent….breed conflict and build a power structure…center upon America’s white middle class. That is where the power is.” “Remember that even if you cannot win over the lower middle class, at least parts of them must be persuaded to where there is at least communication, then to a series of partial agreements and a willingness to abstain from hard opposition as the changes take place.” “The secret, as in any organizing is that such goals must be perceived as paralleling self-interest.” In Hillary’s thesis she muses over the ends justifying the means, “The depression demonstrated the feasibility of federally controlled planning and a massive war effort convinced us of its necessity.”

Anyone who has serious concerns about the direction this country is headed should read this book. Alinsky has been dead for almost 40 years but his legacy lives on in his students and disciples. Alinsky’s philosophy rests on these cryptic words, “optimism, hope, and change.” (pg.21). Hope and change? Where did I hear that slogan???? Is it any wonder why President Obama has already announced that he will be departing from customary procedure and closing the campaign office in DC to conduct his 2012 election from his home town, Chicago?

Alinsky was a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothes. He spewed communist doctrine and passed it off as charitable altruistic organizing. Some of his “good works” did help a select few in some black ghetto neighborhoods, but even Hillary admitted that in areas where Alinsky “orchestrated change” it could not be maintained and resulted in a stagnant status quo where the locals only considered their own self-interest.

In addition I suggest reading Hillary’s 92 page Thesis “There is Only the Fight….An analysis of the Alinsky model” and "The Communist Manifesto" ( )
1 vote LadyLo | Feb 15, 2011 |
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What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be.
To pander to those who have no stomach for straight language, and insist upon bland, non controversial sauces, is a waste of time... I do not propose to be trapped by tact at the expense of truth.

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679721134, Paperback)

First published in 1971, Rules for Radicals is Saul Alinsky's impassioned counsel to young radicals on how to effect constructive social change and know “the difference between being a realistic radical and being a rhetorical one.” Written in the midst of radical political developments whose direction Alinsky was one of the first to question, this volume exhibits his style at its best. Like Thomas Paine before him, Alinsky was able to combine, both in his person and his writing, the intensity of political engagement with an absolute insistence on rational political discourse and adherence to the American democratic tradition.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:41 -0400)

Guides young revolutionaries in the art of human communication and explains the tactics of organizing others to work within the system for social change.

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