Rules for Radicals

Motivating a group of people to do anything is undoubtedly one of the very hardest things to perform, right alongside raising children. Organizing typical Americans to act cooperatively with each other in order to collectively oppose the Establishment is often romanticized while ignoring the harsh realities of life. When all else fails, Machiavellian techniques of manipulation are seriously considered.



The philosophical foundation provided by the author is little else other than moral relativism. He seems to think that ethics are little more than temporary arbitrary whims that are given some level of validity only by the faith of those who believe in them. With this sort of reasoning then, it is hard for me to see whether Alinksy thinks there are such acts that can be designated as good or evil, since he believes that everything is essentially some shade of gray.

Alinksy claims that contradictions are a normal part of the human experience, and instead of trying the resolve the cognitive dissonance (one way or another), he simple asserts that we should all accept it just like good Orwellian drones who practice doublethink (that is, the practice of fully and completely believing in two diametrically opposed concepts simultaneously). While it is one thing to consider the pros and cons and any situation or phenomenon (and then make decisions accordingly), Alinksy seems to be perfectly fine living a life that lacks any sort of intellectual integrity at all. Just as long as he can convince you that he has no agenda (other than organizing the masses of the “Have-Nots” against the “Haves”), then he has accomplished the confidence trick of having you accept the notion that he is some hippie-dippy well-meaning populist and nothing more nefarious.

Other philosophical musings can also be gleaned. Alinksy postulates that the standard question, “Do the ends justify the means?” is incorrect, and should be instead, “Does this particular end justify this particular means?” Verbicide, at least in a partial sense, appears to occupy the political terminology, as does Alinksy’s notion that organizers are distinct from leaders in the context of creating “powers for others to use,” instead of building “power to fulfill [one’s own] desires.” He also stresses the importance of communicating problems as single issues so focused as to be uniquely particular to a specific scenario, while generalizing problems is to be assiduously avoided.

Similar to military strategists, Alinksy stresses that the principles that “revolutionary” organizers must abide by, instead of overly relying on a specific collection of methodologies. The 13 rules for radicals are as follows:


  1. Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.
  2. Never go outside the experience of your people.
  3. Whenever possible, go outside the experience of the enemy.
  4. Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.
  5. Ridicule is a man’s most potent weapon.
  6. A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.
  7. A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.
  8. Keep the pressure on.
  9. The threat is usually more terrifying that 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 and deep enough, it will break through into its counter-side.
  12. The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.
  13. Pick a target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.


His techniques of manipulation are not only ingenious, but also quite cunning. Alinksy is very media-savvy, and he uses the mainstream press as a platform to laugh at his enemies (to be fair, in a very limited sense, I completely agree with him on this technique; we all need to ridicule the Establishment much more often). The suggestion to surreptitiously use suburbanite “middle-class” Americans to dump their stock in whatever corporation that is the designated target seemed just as devious as it was effective; this was described by him as an example of the “tactic proxy.” As an example of synthesizing his own rules by applying them to a particular tactic, Alinksy described one action that involved ruining a symphony concert in Rochester, NY as part of an overall effort to conduct push back against Kodak:


“I suggested that we might buy one hundred seats for one of Rochester’s symphony concerts. We would select a concert in which the music was relatively quiet. The hundred blacks who would be given the tickets would first be treated to a three-hour pre-concert dinner in the community, in which they would be fed nothing but baked beans, and lots of them; then the people go to the symphony hall – with obvious consequences. Imagine the scene when the action began! The concert would be over before the first movement! (If this be a Freudian slip – so be it!)”


So, by literally having a whole slew of people farting during a concert, Alinksy was hoping to flex their power to disrupt it, thereby demonstrating how a culture jamming technique could be used to ridicule his opponents and eventually pressure them to cave in and do whatever he wanted them to perform.

Saul Alinksy’s Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals is a rambling treatise of sorts about how the poor can conduct class warfare without guns. It reveals the attitude of how one views the world in such as way as to be perfectly comfortable manufacturing conditions to the point where each side to a conflict are guided like pawns on a chessboard according to however the “organizer” wants them to move. This dialectical manipulation of both the “proletariat” and the “bourgeoise” alike is emblematic of how balkanizing people against each other is easily accomplished.

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One Response to Rules for Radicals

  1. Pingback: Chilling Dissent: How Government Demonizes Americans | From the Trenches World Report

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