Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, by Saul D. Alinsky (New York: Vintage Books, 1989). Please see the link below.
Reviewed By James Booker
Saul D. Alinsky’s book, Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, is a hands on approach to upset civil society and to strong arm companies, government, and the people to give into Alinsky’s or any organizer’s demands. Alinsky’s thesis or aim is to instruct organizations and the Have-nots to take power from the Haves (3). The book was first published in 1971 – as the United States took a sharp turn towards the radical left. Alinsky, with others, helped influence this turn. Rules for Radicals is an accumulation of his ideas and his influences, and that later affected leaders, such as President Barack Hussein Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Alinsky’s book, however, is full of anecdotal stories and unfounded assumptions.
There were several unfounded assumptions that I will briefly mention. The first is his notion of the economic class structure in the West. According to Alinsky, there are the Haves, the Have-littles, and the Have-nots. This is true, but he assumes the Haves have what they have by ill-gain. Moreover, the Haves hoard what they have, making most live in squalor. But Alinsky makes the claim when the Have-nots will gain what the Haves have, and they too will do the same – starting the process all over again. So what is the point of his revolution? The Have-little is the middle class and the Have-nots are the vast majority of people. His greatest mistake here is that he assumes this class structure is stagnate and the Haves control the laws and everything in society. He failed to realize, like most Communistic followers, in a free economic society that structure is always changing. Some that were wealthy years ago have lost their wealth. And many that were poor have become wealthy. This can be easily proven by a quick study of the rich and poor over the years. In the West, where there has been a free economic system, many have worked hard and are living far more comfortably than most in the world. His whole book really stands and falls on this assumption – without it, the rest of his arguments fall like a house of cards.
Assumption two, for Alinsky, words such as – justice and freedom – are constructs to cover self-interest. Alinsky believed power was the only real motive behind words. Alinsky’s idea of power is just rehashed notions found in the writings of Fredrick Nietzsche. Plato partly fought against it in his book the Republic. Raw power is welded by all totalitarian regimes and dictators – past and present. The old adage, (Might Makes Right). This is what Alinsky believes. Power is what the Haves have and it is that power the Have-nots must take.
He also assumes that all “American corporations are spiritual slums,” (183). To the extent, it is the corporations that put America’s liberty at risk. Alinsky failed to realize it is government that really puts American’s liberties at risk. Corporations alone cannot do this. It has to have an alliance with government to cripple competitors and others. Throughout history, it has been government that has abused and taken people’s Natural Rights away from them. But Alinsky is a Marxist. Marxist views and ideas are replete throughout his book.
Alinsky also equates his cause with the America’s Revolutionary War. Revolution for the sake of revolution is what it is all about. He used history to support his many claims, but he used history very loosely. The founding generation did not fight for more government, but for less and the right form of government. Indeed, they fought for Natural Rights, not equal rights. He assumes all revolutions are alike. He confesses his revolution must cause conflict and chaos. But Samuel Adams – the fire brand of the American Revolution, believed in Natural Rights (life, liberty, and property), and that people, “By entering into society he agrees to an arbiter or indifferent judge between him and his neighbors . . . . He should be willing to pay his just quota for the support of the government, the law, and the Constitution . . . or military,” (The Rights of the Colonists. November 20, 1772.). Indeed, Alinsky mentions Samuel Adams several times to justify his cause. But in reality, Adams believed in a society founded on just laws and not on majoritarian rule (mob) which Alinsky wants. Adams, unlike Alinsky, believed government was to protect Natural Rights, not confer them or take them away, but at the same token live within the bounds of a civil society.
Liberty is not liberty if it is arbitrary and built on false notions of equality. The only equality there should be is equality under the law. This is a far cry from what we have today: special laws for the elderly, for the homosexuals, for women, and transgender. The law should be the same, for example, if someone took the wallet of a twenty year old man or an eighty year old man. But since American society has left Natural Right theory, rights become arbitrary and skewed. One right favors one group while it discriminates against another. In the name of equality, law is structured to harm others. This is Alinsky’s world and the world of Marxism.
In conclusion, there is much I left out because this is just a book review and my interpretations. But which I have endeavored to write is the brief philosophical underpinnings of Alinsky’s book. He confessed organizers are radicals and they must be. They must use irrational means to further their cause. He elevates the organizer to god-like stature. The organizer must go into the poor communities and organize them (use them) to further the “revolution.” Instead of teaching the poor how others have achieved success, he teaches the organizer to show them they must take “power” from those who have achieved. Thievery and blackmail are Alinsky’s real tools of the trade. I would only recommend this book to others who have a good grasp of history and how history is often used to mislead and misinform. In addition, I recommended this book to those who wish to understand President Obama and how the left functions and where they are taking the country.