I had never heard of Saul Alinsky until I heard Glenn Beck mention him as a radical in a long line of socialists trying to change our country. Who was this man? Mr. Alinsky was born in 1909 and died in 1972; no wonder I hadn’t heard of him. He started as a criminologist, then shifted into working in the labor movement and community organizing in Chicago during the 1930s. His goal was to unite people living in ghettos to fight for better living and working conditions. Later, he became involved in the civil rights movement. He wrote two books, “Reveille For Radicals” in 1946, and “Rules For Radicals” in 1971.
Glenn Beck was fond of saying, “Don’t take my word for it; do your own research.” So I got “Rules For Radicals” from the local library and read it. The beginning of the book seemed logical and well thought out. Some of the observations he made resonated with me, as I volunteered in my neighborhood association years ago and ran into similar issues. But as the book went on, it was obvious that he wanted more than just good living/working conditions for poor folks. Mr. Alinsky manipulated people into anger and conflict; he wanted the “Have-Nots” to rise up and take from the “Haves”.
That is the point at which I could not agree with the Alinsky approach. We can work toward better neighborhoods and work/living conditions without stirring up discontent and hatred. Manipulating people like a stupid herd of sheep into doing what you want them to do is not what I would want to be remembered for.
from pages 116-117:
The organizer dedicated to changing the life of a particular community must first rub raw the resentments of the people of the community: fan the latent hostilities of many of the people to the point of overt expression. He must search out controversy and issues, rather than avoid them, for unless there is controversy people are not concerned enough to act… An organizer must stir up dissatisfaction and discontent; provide a channel into which the people can angrily pour their frustrations. He must create a mechanism that can drain off the underlying guilt for having accepted the previous situation for so long a time. Out of this mechanism, a new community organization arises.
From page 161:
There is a way to keep the action going and to prevent it from being a drag, but this means constantly cutting new issues as the action continues, so that by the time the enthusiasm and the emotions for one issue have started to de-escalate, a new issue has come into the scene with a consequent revival. With a constant introduction of new issues, it will go on and on. This is the case with many prolonged fights; in the end the negotiations don’t even involve the issues around which the conflict originally began.