Thursday, January 30, 2014

Happy birthday, organizer Saul Alinsky

It is the birthday of political organizer Saul Alinsky (1909), whose book Rules for Radicals (1971) served as a guide for organizing low-income communities and empowering them to seek change for their economic and political gain. Alinsky first worked with labor organizations, then with black communities around the country.

 In his book, he laid out 13 rules designed for the have-nots to take power from the haves. The rules:

1. “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have."
2. “Never go outside the expertise of your people.”
3.“Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.”
4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”
7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.”
8. “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.”
9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”
10. The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition."
11. “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”
12. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.”
13. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

Though his initial efforts were somewhat left-leaning politically, he is said to have influenced activists on both the left and right.

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