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Saul Alinsky was known for his work in helping poor, underserved communities, specifically in Chicago and Rochester back in the 1930’s and 1940’s, gaining the attention of corporate and government leaders to address their economic and social issues.  By the 1960’s and 1970’s, Alinsky’s attention turned to the middle class.  The middle class is where the majority of “We the People” reside in American society.  Alinsky left a legacy through his Training Institute and primer for radicals in training community organizers to rally the masses so their voices could be clearly heard by the powers infringing on their human rights.

Alinsky’s book “Rules for Radicals” was published the year before he died in 1972 at the age of 63.  I expected to read this book to learn about the left’s tactics in radicalizing society especially since Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama view Alinsky as one of their significant mentors.  Instead, I was intrigued with Alinsky’s insights on the human experience and shedding light on the ways American citizens lose their rights against the big powers of government and corporation, especially the silent majority of the middle class.

One of his final statements of wisdom framed it well at the end of the book – “The Great American Dream that reached out to the stars has been lost to the stripes.”  It would be interesting to read an op-ed from Alinsky today on how the unraveling of the American dream is at an all-time crescendo.  What would he think about citizens disgusted with their elected representatives in not representing their views or reneging on their responsibilities as laid out in the Constitution.  How about the censorship by corporations with broad swaths of those silent majority whose conservative views don’t adhere to their leftist ideology?  Then there is the infamous two-tiered justice system that for the same crime gives one jail time or excessive fines and for others are let go with no consequences or possible promotions.

As a member of that middle class, I am looking for ways to have my voice heard.  The traditional ways of sending letters to your congresswoman or writing letters to the editor or even partaking in local activist groups seems to be largely ineffective.  So, I am intrigued with people like Alinsky who found success in building the voice of those lacking the power and belief to safeguard their freedom and rights as American citizens.  It is also a way to understand how the left approach their activist goals as so much of what we are experiencing today was put into place with the Clintons and Obamas.

So, I thought I would share some of the snippets of Alinsky’s ideology and concepts for what he calls “mass organization for power” and how “We the People” may want to consider how it can help us regain our stripes.  Consider these twelve poignant statements excerpted just from the Prologue of the book.

  • The establishment in many ways is as suicidal as some of the far left, except that they are infinitely more destructive than the far left can ever be.
  • What the present generation wants is what all generations have always wanted … a chance to strive for some sort of order.
  • It is most important for those of us who want revolutionary change to understand that revolution must be preceded by reformation. To assume that a political revolution can survive without the supporting base of a popular reformation is to ask for the impossible in politics.
  • A reformation means the masses of our people have reached the point of disillusionment with past ways and values.
  • It is not enough just to elect your candidates. You must keep the pressure on. Citizen participation is the animating spirit and force in a society predicated on voluntarism.
  • The spirit of democracy is the idea of importance and worth in the individual, and faith in the kind of world where the individual can achieve as much of his potential as possible.
  • From the beginning, the weakness as well as the strength of the democratic ideal has been the people. People cannot be free unless they are willing to sacrifice some of their interests to guarantee the freedom of others.
  • Here we are desperately concerned with the vast mass of our people, who, thwarted through lack of interest or opportunity, do not participate in the endless responsibilities of citizenship, and are resigned to lives determined by others.
  • We must first see the world as it is and not as we would like it to be. It is a world not of angels but of angles, where men speak of moral principles but act on power principles.
  • The grasp of the duality of all phenomena is vital to our understanding of politics. One man’s positive is another man’s negative.
  • Mankind has been and is divided into three parts: the Haves, the Have-Nots, and the Have-a-Little, Want Mores (the middle class).
  • I believe that man is about to learn that the most practical life is the moral life, and the moral life is the only road to survival. Concern for our private, material well-being with disregard for the well-being of others is immoral.

This book is such a provocative yet realistic read on American society.  Written fifty years ago, the themes still resonate loudly as the trends Alinsky witnessed then, continue today.  With the upcoming Presidential election, I see this blog as the first in a series in sharing the wisdom of this pragmatic radical who embraced and taught rational political discourse as an intrinsic way to adhere to the American democratic tradition.

While Alinsky is viewed by many on the right as a Marxist who advocates for mob rule, I didn’t see that in this book.  What I did learn is that you need to understand the reality on the ground and take sufficient time to help people understand the power of their voice and participation before you can affect any type of change or revolution.  Maybe it is good to learn from the other side especially if your side isn’t doing as well as it needs to in countering the left and their Marxist ideology.  We seem to be at the tipping point for a reformation.

Stay tuned!!!