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Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals by Saul D. Alinsky

Many of you have already heard of it. If you haven’t here it is. This is a book that contains information that I consider to be evil. I say that because it has been put to evil use. Still, that being said, I recommend to all of you that you read it at once!

When you read the summary of this book you get, “First published in 1971, Rules for Radicals is Saul Alinsky’s impassioned counsel to young radicals on how to effect constructive social change and know “the difference between being a realistic radical and being a rhetorical one.” Written in the midst of radical political developments whose direction Alinsky was one of the first to question, this volume exhibits his style at its best. Like Thomas Paine before him, Alinsky was able to combine, both in his person and his writing, the intensity of political engagement with an absolute insistence on rational political discourse and adherence to the American democratic tradition.” Which ignores and belies what the message, or at least how it has been used.

First, understand what Alinsky understood. It’s been famously quoted many times that he dedicated the book to Lucifer. Some will point out, that’s not true, he didn’t “dedicate” the book to him. That much is true, he didn’t. Not in the traditional, “this book is dedicated to” sense. However, he did introduce the book this way:

“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.”

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This is not to say that Alinsky worshiped the devil. He just appreciated his abilities which included taking one-third of the host of heaven with him and winning the earth. The religious know of course that this is a temporary thing and the devil didn’t actually win. But that’s not the point Alinsky is making. He sets forth the goal – getting your own kingdom.

The reason I recommend this book is simple – it is the handbook of the left. If you know their tactics, then you become immune to them. The more people who know how they operate the less effectively they become.

For Alinsky, activism is a war. You are fighting in that war, even if you don’t know it. Either on the side of the tacticians or as the one they are using their tactics on. In any war you can weaken your enemy by knowing their plans. There is no Enigma Machine encrypting the plans of today’s radicals. Their plans are there for all to see. The only thing they need to keep you from knowing their plans is your own ignorance.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Not taking the time to read this book leaves you at a disadvantage. You may not want to because doing so will make you angry or you might feel that doing so will somehow taint your own mind and break you. Or you simply may not want to read it because you think paying money for it will be supporting it. As always, you know you and I would never push someone to read something their mind isn’t ready for. Books are powerful things, that’s why I share them and have the library section on this blog.

However, let me suggest, that if you aren’t ready mentally to read this, work at least to get ready and in time pick up a copy. I’m sure you can find one for free, or even for download somewhere that won’t cost you a dime if you are concerned about your hard-earned money supporting radicals.

Here’s a primer I found on the web.

  1. “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood.
  2. “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.
  3. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.
  4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules.
  5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.
  6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones.
  7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news.
  8. “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new.
  9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist.
  10. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.” It is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign.
  11. “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog.
  12. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem.
  13. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

Just reading those summaries I think you can see how these things are being used, how they function, and just how insidious they are. Alinsky was right to mention Lucifer I think.

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