Funny!  Who would’ve thought it?  When my friend suggested that I should read Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and that I might even find it funny, I had my doubts.  It looked dry to me and I put it off, but finally decided to dip into it because I said I would.

True, I had read that Hillary Clinton had written a paper on Alinsky back in college, and Obama talked much about his three years as a community organizer in Chicago, something Alinsky is famous for promoting, but I didn’t expect it to be such an eye-opener.

According to Alinsky, mankind is divided into three parts, the Haves, the Have-Nots, and the Have-a-Little, Want Mores.   He says, “Our concern is with the tactic of taking; how the Have-Nots can take the power away from the Haves.”  In his mind, the purpose of an organizer is to create dissatisfaction and discontent with the present system.

Alinsky says he is talking about “revolution” and his book is a book of  “rules for radicals who want to change their world.”  He states quite clearly his aim is to suggest how to organize for power and to use it.

On page 113 Alinsky writes:

From the moment the organizer enters a community he
lives, dreams, eats, breathes, sleeps only one thing and that is to build the mass power base of what he calls the army.


Change comes from power, and power comes from organization.  In order to act, people must get together.  Power is the reason for being of organizations.

How is this all relevant?  In a letter to the Boston Globe, Saul Alinsky’s son, L. David Alinsky writes:

The Democratic National Convention had all the elements of the perfectly organized event,  Saul Alinsky style. Barack Obama’s training in Chicago by the great community organizers is showing its effectiveness.

It is an amazingly powerful format, and the method of my late father always works to get the message out and get the supporters on board. I am proud to see that my father’s model for organizing is being applied successfully beyond local community organizing to affect the Democratic campaign in 2008. It is a fine tribute to Saul Alinsky as we approach his 100th birthday.

Alinsky wrote:  “If you start with nothing, and demand 100 percent, then
compromise for 30 percent, then you are 30 percent ahead.”   Obama knows how to compromise.

According to Alinsky, radicals “…have contemptuously rejected the values and way of life of the middle class. They have stigmatized it as materialistic, decadent, bourgeois, degenerate, imperialistic, war-mongering, brutalized and corrupt. They are right … ”  Obama says:   “I will not accept the status quo.”  He keeps apologizing to others for the way we are.

In a seminal paragraph Alinsky writes:

The organizers job is to inseminate an invitation for himself, to agitate, introduce ideas, get the people pregnant with hope and a desire for change and to identify you as the person most qualified for this purpose.” [emphasis added].

Who has campaigned on those very words — hope and change?   Yep, that’s our boy, Obama.

I would find it easier to believe his bible is Rules for Radicals than the New Testament.

Rules for Radicals is easy reading, the language colloquial, and it is occasionally quite humorous.  If I were to characterize Alinsky with one word, it would be “clever.”  He says, “To me, ethics is doing what is best for the most.”   How do we take the power from the Haves and give it to the Have-Nots?   He does not mention whether it would be by vote or by fiat.

The  acknowledgment in the front of  Rules for Radicals reads:

Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins–or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom–-Lucifer.

Saul Alinsky

Here is a new video on Saul Alinsky’s book with Brannon Howse, 11/09.



Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just. —  Pascal

He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathers not with me scatters abroad.  — Matthew 12:30