I’ve heard of this book for years, but I’ve never read it myself. Add it to the pile I guess.
Saul Alinsky, the Chicago activist and writer whose street-smart tactics influenced generations of community organizers, most famously the current president, could not have been more clear about which side he was on. In his 1971 text, “Rules for Radicals,” Mr. Alinsky, who died in 1972, explains his purpose: “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.”
It is an irony of the current skirmishing about health care that those who could be considered Mr. Alinsky’s sworn enemies — the groups, many industry sponsored, who are trying to shout down Congressional town hall meetings — have taken a page (chapters, really) from his handbook on community organizing. In an article in The Financial Times last week, Dick Armey, the former Republican House majority leader, now an organizer against the Democrats’ proposals on health care, offered his opinion: “What I think of Alinsky is that he was very good at what he did but what he did was not good.”
[Click to continue reading Word for Word – Saul Alinsky – Know Thine Enemy – NYTimes.com]
If you follow politics and political theatre at all, you’ve encountered organizations that have followed1 Mr. Alinsky’s suggestions. Tips such as:
Make yourself look as big and scary as possible:
For an elementary illustration of tactics, take parts of your face as the point of reference; your eyes, your ears, and your nose. First the eyes; if you have organized a vast, mass-based people’s organization, you can parade it visibly before the enemy and openly show your power. Second the ears; if your organization is small in numbers, then do what Gideon did: conceal the members in the dark but raise a din and clamor that will make the listener believe that your organization numbers many more than it does. Third, the nose; if your organization is too tiny even for noise, stink up the place.
from the book jacket:
Saul Alinsky was born in Chicago in 1909 and educated first in the streets of that city and then in its university. Graduate work at the University of Chicago in criminology introduced him to the Al Capone gang, and later to Joliet State Prison, where he studied prison life. He founded what is known today as the Alinsky ideology and Alinsky concepts of mass organization for power. His work in organizing the poor to fight for their rights as citizens has been internationally recognized. In the late 1930s he organized the Back of the Yards area in Chicago (the neighborhood made famous in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle). Subsequently, through the Industrial Areas Foundation which he began in 1940, Mr. Alinsky and his staff helped to organize communities not only in Chicago but throughout the country. He later turned his attentions to the middle class, creating a training institute for organizers. He died in 1972.
- knowingly or not [↩]