Saul Alinsky

Saul Alinsky (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Radical, A Portrait of Saul Alinsky by Nicholas von Hoffman who worked with and for Alinsky as a community organizer in Chicago. Alinsky was a self-proclaimed radical because he believed that liberals were too willing to compromise or give up. This is how Alinsky saw himself:

“For him a radical was not a devotee of an ideology. For him a radical was someone who was mentally tough, who could keep his fears to himself, who did not panic, who did not dither, who did not use the finer points of morality to evade action, who did not come down with the blues or misgivings or a sudden need to split hairs and think up reasons for delay.”

Like de Tocqueville, Alinsky believed that Americans could and should form associations to solve problems. Alinsky believed that government should provide solutions only as a last resort. In that, he was a true conservative. Alinsky never met Barack Obama because he died in 1972 when Barack was only 11 years old. Alinsky did meet Barry Goldwater at least once in 1964 when Goldwater was preparing to run for president. The two men discussed civil rights and the pending civil rights legislation. Alinsky supported the law reluctantly while Goldwater was opposed.


Community organizer


Saul_Alinsky (Photo credit: Floyd Brown)

Rules for Radicals, A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals by Saul D. Alinsky. This is Alinsky’s second book and I recommend it highly. Only 196 pages, I have just finished reading it for the first time. Now I plan to re-read it at a slower pace to more fully absorb what he had to say. I can think of no other profession that better trains a future president. Being an executive at a firm like Bain is probably one of the worst ways to prepare a person to be president of the US. Mitt does have his four years as governor of a liberal state as preparation, but he refuses to talk about it.

Sarah Palin criticized Barack Obama in 2008 as a community organizer. After reading Alinsky’s book, I would say that the title of community organizer should be worn proudly, not as a badge of shame as Palin intended. Good community organizers are hated by conservatives, those who defend the status quo, because community organizers bring change by helping those in our society who most need help. They help those who are not heard to find a voice and those who are forgotten to become visible.

Saul Alinsky died in 1972 when Barack was 11; they never met.

These are some notable quotations from the book:

“A free and open society is an on-going conflict, interrupted periodically by compromises–which then become the start for the continuation of conflict, compromise, and on ad infinitum. Control of power is based on compromise in our Congress and among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. A society devoid of compromise is totalitarian. If I had to define a free and open society in one word, the word would be ‘compromise.'”

“As Finley Peter Dunne’s Mr. Dooley put it, Don’t ask f’r rights. Take thim. An’ don’t let anny wan give thim to ye. A right that is handed to ye fer nawthin has somethin the matter with it. It’s more thin likely it’s only a wrrong turned inside out.”