Political Education

Saul Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals

Under the current administration, we have seen large and sustained marches for movements such as women’s rights and the Black Lives Matter.

To keep the public aware and involved in these causes activists for social justice may want to expand beyond marches to boycotts, strikes, picketing, sit-downs, or other creative public actions.

Unlike traditional labor union protest tactics, such actions could serve to organize an entire community, not just a workplace.

Speaking to disadvantaged minorities and the disillusioned middle class, the late Chicago social justice activist Saul Alinsky said;
“Look, you don’t have to put up with all this shit. There’s something concrete you can do about it. But to accomplish anything you’ve got to have power, and you’ll only get it through organization. Now, power comes in two forms — money and people. You haven’t got any money, but you do have people, and here’s what you can do with them.”

In 1971 Alinsky drew on his lifetime of social justice organization activities to write his ‘rules for radicals’ :

* Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.

* Never go outside the expertise of your people.

* Whenever possible go outside the expertise of the enemy.

* Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.

* 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.

* A good tactic is one your people enjoy.

* A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.

* Keep the pressure on.

* The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself. Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist.

* The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.

* If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counter side. Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog.

* The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.

* 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.

In a 1972 interview, Alinsky seemed to predict the nature of our time.
Regarding the middle class, Alinsky said, “…they see the almost unbelievable hypocrisy and deceit and even outright idiocy of our national leaders and the corruption and disintegration of all our institutions, from the police and courts to the White House itself. Their society appears to be crumbling and they see themselves as no more than small failures within the larger failure. All their old values seem to have deserted them, leaving them rudderless in a sea of social chaos. Believe me, this is good organizational material.”
“Pragmatically, the only hope for genuine minority progress is to seek out allies within the majority and to organize that majority itself as part of a national movement for change.”

Keep the public involved and keep the pressure on.

Thanks and a tip of the hat to Pierre869856 for the image.

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