Saul Alinsky’s rules for radicals

Back when Barack Obama was first running for president, I was among those worried about his community organizing ties to the Marxist activist Saul Alinsky.  I admit that Obama has not set up a dictatorship of the proletariat, though this quotation from Alinsky does sort of describe what I’m hearing from many Democrats:  “A Marxist begins with his prime truth that all evils are caused by the exploitation of the proletariat by the capitalists.”

The Washington Post‘s Melinda Henneberger has written a column expressing disappointment that President Obama has not been following Alinsky’s notorious “Rules for Radicals.”  See  Saul Alinsky would be so disappointed: Obama breaks ‘Rules for Radicals’ – She the People: – The Washington Post.

But today conservatives are vying for the title of “radical.”  Newt Gingrich claims he is the most radical conservative running for president.  Ron Paul is being lauded for his “radical” proposals.

Consider Alinsky’s thirteen “Rules for Radicals“:

#1. Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have. 

#2. Never go outside the expertise of your people. When an action or tactic is outside the experience of the people, the result is confusion, fear and retreat…. [and] the collapse of communication.

#3. Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy. Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)

#4. Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.  You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.”

#5. Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.  It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.

#6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”

 #7. A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.  Man can sustain militant interest in any issue for only a limited time.

#8. Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.

#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. 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 and deep enough, it will break through into its counterside… every positive has its negative.
#12. The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.

#13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it. In conflict tactics there are certain rules that [should be regarded] as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and ‘frozen.’. . .any target can always say, ‘Why do you center on me when there are others to blame as well?’ When your ‘freeze the target,’ you disregard these [rational but distracting] arguments…. Then, as you zero in and freeze your target and carry out your attack, all the ‘others’ come out of the woodwork very soon. They become visible by their support of the target…’. . .One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other.

Where do you see these tactics at work?  Are conservatives as well as leftists using them?  Are there ways maybe that conservatives–for example, pro-life activists– should use them?

The Occupy ideology

I went into Washington yesterday and stumbled upon the Occupy D.C. folks.  They were in a little green space on Pennsylvania Avenue, which they have filled up with tents.  I was surprised to see how few of them there were.  Estimates have been a couple of hundred–which in itself is an unusually tiny demonstration by D.C. standards–but even that number seems high, based on the little tent village that I saw.  Also, they don’t really look like 99% of America!  I didn’t notice any working class folks–no truck drivers, factory workers, or farmers–despite the unions coming out in their favor.  (That’s always what’s frustrating to the American left:  the proletariat just never comes out for their causes!)  It was pretty much the usual cast of counter-culture radicals whom I remember so well from my college days back in the early 1970s.

The media has been fawning all over these folks, and Democrats–including the president–have declared their support.  That might come back to bite them, according to Michael Gerson, who describes the ideology at work in the seemingly unfocused protests:

But there is some ideological coherence within OWS. Its collectivist people’s councils seem to have two main inspirations: socialism (often Marxist socialism) and anarchism. The two are sometimes in tension. They share, however, a belief that the capitalist system is a form of “institutionalized violence,” and that normal, democratic political methods, dominated by monied interests, are inadequate. Direct action is necessary to provoke the crisis that ignites the struggle that achieves the revolution.

And we are beginning to see what direct action means. Occupy DC protesters recently assaulted a conservative gathering, then took over a public intersection to prevent the passage of luxury cars. Blocking the path of one driver and his 2-year-old son, an activist shouted, “Sorry, but you have no power right now.” That is the opposite of participatory democracy — the use of power to intimidate a fellow citizen on a public street. It is the method of British soccer thugs.

In Oakland, protesters have been playing at the Paris Commune — constructing barricades, setting fires, throwing concrete blocks and explosives, declaring a general strike to stop the “flow of capital” at the port. Here, OWS seems to be taking its cues from both “Rules for Radicals” and “A Clockwork Orange.”

Defenders of OWS dismiss this as the work of a few bad apples. But the transgressors would call themselves the vanguard. And they express, not betray, a significant ideological strain within the movement. Since the 1960s, some on the political left have sought liberal reform through the democratic process and nonviolent protest. Others have sought to hasten the crisis and collapse of fundamentally illegitimate social and economic systems. Both groups can be found within OWS, but the latter is ascendant.

OWS has, in fact, provoked a crisis of credibility for many American institutions. News coverage of the movement has been both disproportionate and fawning. The two encampments of Occupy DC, for example, have a couple of hundred inhabitants. If they moved to a nearby convention hotel, the group would probably be smaller than a meeting of the American Apparel and Footwear Association. During the Tea Party’s rise to national attention, the press scoured the country for any hint of rhetorical incitement to violence. OWS protesters smash windows, assault police officers and wear Guy Fawkes masks — a historical figure known for attempting to bomb the British Parliament.

City governments have also begun to look hapless for their accommodation of squalor, robberies, sexual attacks, drug use, vagrancy and vigilantism.

And what must Democratic leaders — who rushed to identify with a protean political force — now be thinking? OWS is not a seminar on income inequality — not the Center for American Progress on a camping trip. It is a leftist movement with a militant wing.

Will Americans, looking for jobs, turn in hope to the vandalization of small businesses and the promise of a general strike? Will citizens, disappointed by a dysfunctional government, be impressed by the endless arguments of anarchist collectives? Will people, disgusted by partisanship and rhetorical rock-throwing, be attracted to actual rock throwing?

This seems to be the desperate political calculation of the Democratic Party. Good luck with that.

via As radicalism creeps in, credibility retreats from OWS – The Washington Post.

OK, they have TWO encampments in D.C., so that explains how they might have 200 protesters, despite the mere handful that I saw.   Gerson’s point is a good one:  Radicals, whether Marxists or Anarchists, WANT the collapse of our economic system, which is understood as the prerequisite for the revolution.

What does Occupy Wall Street want?

Some of the demands of the Occupy Wall Street protesters:

Demands posted in OWS’s name include a “guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment”; a $20-an-hour minimum wage (above the $16 entry wage the United Auto Workers just negotiated with GM); ending “the fossil fuel economy”; “open borders” so “anyone can travel anywhere to work and live”; $1 trillion for infrastructure; $1 trillion for “ecological restoration” (e.g., re-establishing “the natural flow of river systems”); “free college education.”

And forgiveness of “all debt on the entire planet period.”

via Can Occupy Wall Street give liberals a lift? – The Washington Post.

A tea party of the left

Since the middle of September, some 1000 protesters have been demonstrating on Wall Street, denouncing big business and high finance, calling for more regulations on banks and corporations, an end to housing foreclosures, and more taxes on the rich. The protest movement is called Occupy Wall Street.

The protests have been growing.  This weekend 700 demonstrators were arrested on Brooklyn Bridge.  The movement has spread to Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and other cities.  Celebrities from Roseanne Barr to Michael Moore are supporting the cause.  So are intellectuals such as Salman Rushdie, Noam Chomsky,  and Cornell West.   Reportedly, some labor unions are considering getting involved.

Occupy Wall Street is claiming kinship with the Arab Spring.

See Occupy Wall Street – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Is this potentially the tea party of the left that liberals have been calling for?  Do you think this will bring new life to political liberalism?  Is there actually an underlying kinship between those who protest big government and those who protest big business?

Ordinary people

The media, the intellectual establishment of both the left and the right, and other members of our ruling class are just pouring contempt on figures like Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell.  They are portrayed as dangerous, extreme, and just plain weird.  The criticisms, though, don’t get much traction with the public  because these women are so much like the rest of the public.

A review of a new book about Sarah Palin concludes at just how normal she is:

Her beliefs make her what we once called normal, at least in flyover country. There are moms like her, and moms who strive to be like her without ever thinking of it that way and who might even scoff at the idea, on every street and in every neighborhood in America. They run our offices and schools, they run the local diners and band booster drives, and they get the family from Point A to Point B with military precision. Or they try their best to do all that, while trying to work out what they really believe about everything at the same time. Palin managed to do it, even to the point of running a state while going on oceanic fishing excursions with her husband while her political opponents buried her in expensive, frivolous accusations designed to drive her from office. She sent a son off to war. She’s dealt with a pregnant daughter, a worthless almost son-in-law, and a child with special needs. She’s us, pretty much, except that she also happens to have been nominated for the vice presidency and now commands a national following while also attracting a ferocious national opposition that includes most of the mainstream press.  Her faith and her values have carried her through all the very high highs and the very low lows that life has thrown at her. The rest of us could only hope that we would handle the extremes of being Sarah Palin with half her grace.

The Faith and Values of Sarah Palin: What She Believes and What It Means for America shows that Mrs. Palin is very much what-you-see-is-what-you-get: an authentically and uniquely American woman whose very ordinary beliefs have propelled her to do remarkable things.

via Pajamas Media » The Faith and Values of Sarah Palin: What She Believes and What It Means for America (Book Review).

As for Christine O’Donnell, she is being mocked for agreeing with the teachings about sex of her Roman Catholic Church, along with a big percentage of Americans and the world.  She is also unemployed, like 10% of Americans, and her house has been foreclosed.  It’s odd to hear Liberals mock her for those two things.

The Democratic party was strong when it was “the party of the people.”  The Left was strong when it  was a populist movement.  Think of the collectivism of the union movement, “Solidarity Forever,” “Power to the People.”  Today, leftists have become elitists and the Democrats are the party of the “professional class,” people who think they are experts.  They are so out of touch with ordinary Americans that they think they are scoring points when they make fun of much of the American populace whose votes they would like to have.

Now, astonishingly, the populists have become Republicans, much to the disdain of that party’s old guard, with its wealth and country club status.  This is why the Democrats are doomed.  The left will only revive if it can become a populist force like it used to be.

UPDATE: So far, just about everybody who has commented has missed the point of my post: That populists used to be Democrats, and that now they are Republicans. In the olden days, when I was young and a Democrat, the politicians of the party were full of rhetoric about democracy, equality, “the people,” the common man, etc. Republicans were more suspicious of the mob, wanting exceptional individuals rather than the common denominator. Now the rhetoric seems reversed.

I did not mean this to be an endorsement of Sarah Palin or Christine O’Donnell, or even Republicans. Rather, I am trying to give Democrats some advice that, if they want to win elections, they need to rediscover their populist roots, rather than following the strategy of making fun of ordinary Americans.

As for me, I tend to be like the old Republicans, looking for merit, and, again, vocation. I’m uneasy about some of the people I am seeing coming to the fore in the Republican party.

The leftist/Islamist alliance

Dennis Mitzner tries to explain the odd alliance between the hard-core left and Islamic jihadists (evident especially in Europe), despite the latter’s attitude towards women, homosexuality, etc., etc.  An excerpt:

Since the left views Muslims as part of their struggle against Western hegemony, they are given a pass on their religiosity. Islam does not threaten the left in the same fashion as Judaism and Christianity. They look at Christians and Jews and see wealth; they look at Muslims and see poverty. It is common knowledge that the left is comprised of Marxists or Marxist-sympathizers, so viewing the world through a prism of one’s economic status is perfectly logical. . . .

Perhaps it is the Marxism that draws the political left to the Islamists and the usefulness of the political left that draws Islamists to the Marxists. However, there must be something deeper behind their collective fury. Maybe it’s anti-Semitism or maybe it’s something else.Clarity is what is needed in order to analyze their respective motives. Both the left and the Islamists see the two religions that produced the Western liberal order, Judaism and Christianity, as malicious influences on the world.

via Pajamas Media » European Progressives, Islamists: More Alike Than We Think?.


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