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”.
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.