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Alinsky: Rules for Radicals

Saul D. Alinsky

Rules for Radicals


The great American dream that reached out to the “stars” has been lost to the “stripes”. First published in 1971, Rules for Radicals is Saul Alinksy'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 book 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.

“This country's leading hell-raiser...has set down some of the rules of the game. No one has had more experience or has been more successful at it than Alinsky,” wrote The Nation in 1971. “Alinsky's techniques and teachings influenced generations of community and labor organizers, including the church-based group hiring a young Barack Hussein Obama to work on Chicago's South Side in the 1980s... Alinsky impressed a young Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was growing up in Park Ridge at the time Alinsky was the director of the Industrial Areas Foundation in Chicago,” wrote the Chicago Sun-Times.

“Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins - or which is which), the first radical known to mankind who rebelled against the Establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom - Lucifer,” proclaimed Saul Alinsky (Anton LaVey probably agreed).

Chapter 1: What follows is [an instruction book] for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Niccolò Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away. In this book we are concerned with how to create mass organizations to seize power and give it to the people; to realize the democratic dream of equality, justice, peace, co-operation, equal and full opportunities for education, full and useful employment, health, and the creation of those circumstances in which humans can have the chance to live by values that give meaning to life. We are talking about a mass power organization which will change the world into a place where all men and women walk erect, in the spirit of that credo of the Spanish Civil War, “Better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.” This means revolution.

The significant changes in history have been made by revolutions. There are people who say that it is not revolution, but evolution, that brings about change - but evolution is simply the term used by non-participants to denote a particular sequence of revolutions as they synthesized into a specific major social change. In this book I (Alinsky) propose certain general observations, propositions, and concepts of the mechanics of mass movements and the various stages of the cycle of action and reaction in revolution. This is not an ideological book except... Evolution becomes revolution, agreed the movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes.