Tag Archives: community organizing


Continuing with the chapter by chapter series on Rules for Radicals, today we add our Comments about the chapter called The Education of an Organizer.

Synopsis of the chapter entitled The Education of an Organizer
“The building of many mass power organizations to merge into a national popular power source cannot come without may organizers”.  Training organizers is a daunting task.  Candidates come from every corner, from students to priests to union leaders and minority groups.  Many trainees start but few go on to great accomplishment.  The failure rate is high.”

“Certain qualities mark a candidate as more likely for success.  A good candidate is curious; of every issue, he asks why?  A good candidate is irreverent.  “He is challenging, insulting, agitating. discrediting.  He stirs unrest”.  He has imagination, a good sense of humor and “a bit blurred vision of a better world”.

Alinsky explains that the best organizer is “a well integrated political schizoid.  The organizer must become schizoid, politically, in order not to slip into becoming a true believer.  Before men can act an issue must be polarized.  Men will act when they are convinced that their cause is 100 percent on the side of the angels and that the opposition are 100 percent on the side of the devil.  He knows that there can be no action until the issues are polarized to this degree”.

Commentary (Revised)
When Alinsky wrote “The building of many mass power organizations to merge into a national popular power source” there can be little doubt that ACORN was in the professor’s mind.   However he never addressed the need for a grand leader, a Commander in Chief to preside over the Lieutenants and Generals who were the focus of his teachings.  Barack Obama will be ideally positioned to fill that role after his term in office.  Don’t be surprised if that’s the route he takes.  Martin Luther King is dead, Jessie Jackson has run his course and Al Sharpton is… Al Sharpton.  The door is open.

Good middle managers are the key to success in any business.  That’s just as true for building a political power base as it is for building a chain of shoe stores.  It is particularly difficult however, to find good candidates within a political movement that is populated by members more interested in achievement by taking that in achievement by producing.

Union leaders are unreliable because they can get better pay for leading unions.  Among priests, only the disgruntled are likely to apply.  And students grow up.  So it’s no mystery why the failure rate is high.

The author says the best candidate is a “schizoid” with “blurred vision”.  Level headed clear thinkers need not apply.

Why “schizoid’ and why is a “blurred vision” helpful?  Ethics Rule 11 says in part, the organizer’s mission must be phrased in terms like “Equality, Fraternity or the Common Welfare”.  Thus we see the goal of taking property from those who earned it and redistributing it to those who have no right to it expressed as Equal Justice.  We see the goal of expanding central power over another 16% of the economy and increasing the Party’s constituency of dedicated voters phrased as providing healthcare to 30 million hard working Americans presumed to be denied any medical treatment otherwise.

The organizer must preach these causes with a deep fervor that only a true believer can muster.  But he must not become a true believer because the causes are not the goal, they are just vehicles.   Power is the goal.

When Alinsky says blurred vision, I take him to mean vague vision.  When the 2012 Republican primary campaigns were in full swing each contender and his or her followers were comprised of true believers with their own clear vision and the result hurt the Party’s chances to win the general election. It’s an age old dilemma; do you stand unwavering on your principles, possibly in vain, or do you yield to compromise for the greater probability of gaining half of what you seek?  Alinsky taught continual new demand followed by compromise, gaining a little each time until you reach the final goal.

As an aside, you may have noticed the synopsis of this chapter is almost entirely in quotes, which means the text is reproduced exactly as it was written in the book.  You may have noticed the grammatical errors many of which occur throughout the book.  We noticed them but for the sake of simplicity didn’t point them out with the customary sic notation.


Continuing with the chapter by chapter series on Rules for Radicals, today we add Comments about the chapter called A word About Words.

Synopsis of the chapter entitled A Word About Words
Words that are soft-sounding and peaceful are soporific and ineffective. Such words are inappropriate for our purposes because “In the politics of life we are concerned with the slaves and the Caesars, not the vestal virgins”. The word “power” is often maligned but fear not to use it. “To know power and not fear it is essential to its constructive use and control. In short, life without power is death; a world without power would be a ghostly wasteland, a dead planet!”.

Self Interest
“The myth of altruism as a motivating factor in our behavior could arrive and survive only in a society bundled in the sterile gauze of New England puritanism and Protestant morality …. It is one of the classic American fairy tales”.

“To the organizer, compromise is a key and beautiful word…. If you start with nothing, demand 100 percent, then compromise for 30 percent, you’re 30 percent ahead.”

Ego is self confidence. The community organizer’s “ego must be so all-pervading that the personality of the organizer is contagious, that it converts the people from despair to defiance, creating a mass ego”.

The word “conflict” is much maligned in the media and by Madison Avenue [the advertising industry]. However, “Conflict is the central core of a free and open society”.

A Word About Words, the title is intriguing but the content is very disappointing. Judging by the title one would expect to read about some clever and devious ways in which various words could be employed by a community organizer to further the activist’s agenda.  However, the chapter is little more than a revelation of the depth of the sullen author’s cynicism and obsession with power.

Thankfully the chapter is a short one.


Continuing with the chapter by chapter series on Rules for Radicals, today we add our Comments about the chapter called Of Means and Ends.

Synopsis of the chapter entitled Of Means and Ends
The author begins a discussion of political action ethics by saying “The practical revolutionary will understand Goethe’s statement that “conscience is the virtue of observers and not agents of action; in action, one does not always enjoy the luxury of a decision that is consistent both with one’s individual conscience and the good of mankind. The choice must always be for the latter”.  Alinsky puts this in his own words as “He who sacrifices the mass good for his own personal conscience… doesn’t care enough for people to be corrupted for them.

The community organizer is given eleven rules for guidance with respect to ethics.

(1) The first rule is “One’s concern with the ethics of means and ends varies inversely with ones personal interest in the issue.”  That is to say, the more you care about the issue the less you should care about the methods you use to fight for it.

(2) “judgment of the ethics of means and ends is dependant on the political position of those making the judgment.”

(3) “in war the end justifies almost any means.”

(4) “judgment must be mad in the context of the times…” “ethical standards must be elastic to stretch in the times.”

(5) “concern with ethics increases with the number of means available…”

(6) “the less important the end…the more one can afford to engage in ethical evaluation of means

(7) “success or failure is a mighty determinate of ethics.”

(8) the “morality of means depends on whether the means is being deployed at the time of imminent defeat or imminent victory.”

(9) “any effective means is automatically judged by the opposition as unethical.”

(10) “do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral arguments.”

(11) Whatever your mission “goals must be phrased in terms like Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Of the Common Welfare or Pursuit of Happiness or Bread and Peace”.

The perennial question of whether ends justify means is a discussion for those who stand on the sides as observers accomplishing nothing themselves.  Ethical considerations should not be allowed to interfere with success.

It is glaringly obvious that Saul Alinsky teaches that the ends justify the means.  The theme throughout the chapter is that ethics are an impediment to accomplishment and thereby, in the final sense, not ethical at all.  Implied in this line of reasoning is the notion that achievement of the goal, which for Alinsky is revolution, will be a great benefit to the society and that there is no uncertainty about it.

The professor cites Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to support his rationalization.  Goethe was a highly esteemed German writer, poet and philosopher whose life spanned the 18th and 19th centuries.  A writer, poet and philosopher, his genius was in culture.  Politically Goethe was pragmatic.  He argued against a unified Germany, favoring instead the retention of the existing system of principalitarian dictatorships.  His famous premise that virtue lies in the intended result, not in the method employed to achieve the result is often quoted by radicals to justify their actions.  Howard Zinn, the noted Harvard historian was another proponent of this line of thought.  If lying about the facts of history would lead to a better world than telling the truth, then according to Zinn the historian is honor bound to lie about the facts.  Vice is turned into virtue and virtue into vice.

Alinsky’s 11 rules of ethics can be boiled down to 3 basic tenets.  An organizer’s ethics must be flexible, the more important the goal the less the organizer should be concerned about ethics and third, if a tactic was successful it was ethical.

Dictionary.com defines ethics as “rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.”  It is sad to say that Alinsky’s rules define the Left and much of the Democratic Party as  it is today.


This Post begins a series on the book Rules for Radicals by Professor Saul Alinsky.  During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama proudly proclaimed his experience as a community organizer.  The professor is known as the Godfather of community organizing.  Hillary Clinton wrote her Wellesley College thesis on the life and work of Saul Alinsky.  Chris Matthews stated on his MSNBC Hardball program that Saul Alinsky is one of his heroes.  Who is this man Alinsky and what did he teach?  Let’s go to the book and find out.

At the front of the book, even before the Prologue, Alinsky writes a brief tribute to Lucifer the devil.  Alinsky admires the devil, holding him in high regard because he succeeded in winning a kingdom for himself.

The author’s prologue is a litany of misery. In his view, the world is a thoroughly miserable place. The prologue is replete with phrases like these — “the outcome of hopelessness and despair is morbidity” and “there is a feeling of death overhanging the nation”.

Alinsky correctly cites Leftist radicals as completely rejecting the common “goals of a well paid job, suburban home, automobile … and everything else that means success” to others.

Young radicals are unhappy because they see only the faults in the world, and no purpose in life. They are in a constant search for themselves. The middle class and affluent are mired in the likes of divorce and disillusionment. The whole world is such a discouraging place that anyone who is happy in it must be blind.

Alinsky seldom speaks about changing America. He talks mostly about changing the World.  His vision of ubiquitous despondency transcends domestic locus.

Revolution with some violence is likely to be required in order to wrest the power of government from those now in control. But revolution must come at the end of the process, not at the beginning. A successful transition of government must be directed like a three act play –  first set the stage, then develop the plot, and finally conclude with the main event. The function and duty of a community organizer is to direct this process.

Act I is join the crowd, gain respect, acceptance and legitimacy.
Act II development, spread discontent, build support for Act III
Act III is the revolution itself, which of necessity will be violent.

Alinsky encourages radicals to fight but discourages those who are impatient and want to go directly to Act III.  Starting at the conclusion is ineffective and it will never bring success.

Commentary on the Prologue
There can be no doubt about the fact that we are dealing with a very morose individual.  Midway through the Prologue it would seem to be a great waste of time to read any further.  Just then he puts forth the analogy of the Three Act Play and suddenly begins to make sense.

Act I.  Join the crowd, gain respect, acceptance and legitimacy.  Of course!  We live in a democracy with a prosperous and sizable middle class.  Such a large segment of people are not going to surrender the fruits of their labor voluntarily.  The goal of complete transformation with redistribution of wealth must begin with stealth.

“The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism, but under the name of liberalism they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation without ever knowing how it happened.”  A statement generally accredited to Norman Thomas, six time candidate for president on the Socialist Party ticket.

Obama completed Act I with his election.

Act II is development, spread discontent, build support for Act III.  Contented people do not cry for change.  Therefore discontent must be sown and spread across as wide a spectrum of the population as possible.  We see this today in class warfare by which Obama pits American against American.  The rich, the banks, the oil companies are all made out to be enemies of the people, every one, without exception.  Even riling up the Catholic Church has its advantages providing it does not cost Obama the election.  To solve that, the whole contraception issue is laid on the opposition.

Act II is where we are now.  Understanding what Act II is all about answers a lot of questions.  For one, harmony is not an objective, quite the opposite.  Later in the book, Alinsky tells the community organizer that the establishment will label him an agitator and they will be correct.  That is the job of a community organizer.  Act II is about fomenting unrest and building passion for change.  It is not possible to completely transform a democratic government when most of the people are content and united.

Act III is the revolution itself and Alinksy says violence is inevitable because both power and possessions will need to be wrested from those who have them and they will fight violently to keep it.  There is now general agreement among Socialist leaders today on Acts I and II but they are split on Act III.  Francis Scott Piven argues for the violent revolution option and the sooner the better.  The other school argues that attempts to overthrow the standing government by militant violence are destined to fail.  But with stealth and patience working within the democratic process America can be led to succumb into a socialist state at the ballot box.

Alinsky is basically in the non-militant camp but with the caveat that some violence will be unavoidable at the very end to complete the transformation.


If you hire a demolition expert you should not be surprised when the building collapses.

A community organizer knows nothing about building the wealth of a nation, only about how to appropriate wealth that has already been created.  The process is a destructive one.  That’s obvious.

In 2007 there was an economic meltdown due to excessive issuance of sub-prime mortgages.  ACORN was in the forefront of the activist community pressuring banks and regulators to make more and more of these loans until the inevitable collapse.  To fix it we hired an ACORN trainer.

You can hire an arsonist to put out a fire if you wish.  But don’t expect his heart to be in it.


The scene is the Wisconsin legislature after the vote. What you see here is an appalling glimpse of classic community organizing in action. There is nothing spontaneous or grass roots about what you see in the video. The shirts, the chants, the epithets hurled at members of the legislature, the obnoxious behavior, the obvious presence of leaders steering the angry crowd, all this has organized written all over it. It’s a frightening thing. It’s Chicago in Wisconsin. It is our president’s way but it is not, …I say IT IS NOT the American way.


The Washington Post:  Friday, February 18, 2011

MADISON, WIS. – President Obama thrust himself and his political operation this week into Wisconsin’s broiling budget battle, mobilizing opposition on Thursday to a Republican bill that would curb public-worker benefits and planning similar protests in other state capitals.

Obama accused Scott Walker, the state’s new Republican governor, of unleashing an “assault” on unions in pushing emergency legislation that would change future collective-bargaining agreements that affect most public employees, including teachers.

The president’s political machine worked in close coordination Thursday with state and national union officials to get thousands of protesters to gather in Madison and to plan similar demonstrations in other state capitals.

The emphasis is ours. The President did not just favor on side; he joined the fight. “Wisconsin” is not an external threat. It’s a legitimate domestic dispute within a sovereign state. The federal government has no business taking sides. If the President has any role at all it is to bring calm, to mediate. But Obama comes to agitate. It’s a crisis not to waste.

To this day, and to the discredit of all media the art of community organizing is not well known. Look at WaPo’s third paragraph again. “political machine worked…close coordination…with union officials…get [organize] protesters to gather…plan similar demonstrations.” This is not the work of resolving disputes. It’s the work of feeding disputes. It’s the prime function of a community organizer.

Barack comes home.

“Hello! Michelle! I’m home. Where are you? I have something exciting to tell you.”

“I’m right here, in the den, honey.”

“Ahh, Michelle. What an exciting day I had. This Wisconsin thing. It’s like the good old days, only on a grander scale. Easier, too. We didn’t even have to create an issue. This one just fell in our laps, Michelle.”

“Peter was right, Barack.”

Now who would Peter be in this imaginary tale? Barack would know. It’s Peter Dreier, the author of “Socialist Incubators” (community organizatations) and of “The Case for Transitional Reform” (advancing socialism through the electoral system). Dreier convened a panel on community organizations at the Socialist Scholars Conference held at Cooper Union hall in honor of the 100th year of Karl Marx’s death. Obama attended that conference and went into community organizing immediately thereafter.

We quote from Stanley Kurtz’ book “Radical-In-Chief”:

Dreier’s overall strategy was to first establish quasi-socialist institutions at the heart of capitalist society – ACORN’s role in the banking system very much fit the bill. In the short run, these de facto socialist groups would push society toward gradual “democratic” change. In the long run, perhaps, they’d serve as the vanguard of a revolution.

The second part of Dreier’s strategy was to inject “unmanageable strains into the capitalist system, strains that precipitate an economic and/or political crisis,” by which Dreier meant a “revolution of rising entitlements” that “cannot be abandoned without undermining the legitimacy of the capitalist class.” In the short run, Dreier said, “the process leads to expansion of state activity and budgets, and… to fiscal crisis in the public sector. In the long run, it may give socialist norms an opportunity for extension or at least visibility.”

Peter Dreier was a professor of urban affairs at Occidental College when Obama attended Occidental. Peter served on Barack’s urban policy task force during the 2008 campaign. Barack knew exactly who Peter was when Michelle said “Peter was right.”