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Blogging Rules for Radicals: Chapter One

Alinsky attempts to define a meaningful life. (Read part one of this series here, and part two here.)

by
Barbara Curtis

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November 4, 2009 - 12:02 am
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(All page references: Rules for Radicals, Vintage Books, 1989)

Reading Alinsky in the age of Obama, we need to remember that in 1971 LBJ’s War on Poverty was only five years into its deconstruction of the urban family and transfer of millions of citizens from self-determination to government dependence.

So while Alinsky’s narrative has some glimmers of truth, after nearly 40 years of his ideas being stirred into the political melting pot — and now on parade in the White House — we can see the underlying flaw: that those claiming most passionately to be “for the people” use them as pawns for their own angst-driven ideology. And worse, that those driven to redistribute wealth to the “have-nots” end up as blind and selfish “haves” themselves, worse than the ones who came before (as Animal Farm describes in parable form.)

In chapter one, Alinsky says he has written Rules for Radicals to show how the have-nots can take from the haves. The book will show how to create mass organizations to seize power and give it to the people. For nearly forty years, Alinsky’s radicals have been building those organizations, which today loom large as ACORN, SEIU, and Organizing for America.

I wonder what Alinsky would make of the fact that rather than giving power to the people, these organizations have become political juggernauts exploiting people to build political power for one political party. The Democrat Party has for decades built a solid voting block of citizens dependent on government, even as they continued to foment a “never enough” mentality and racial hostility to keep that block at their disposal.

Alinsky describes this strategy as “charitable handouts dressed up in ribbons of moral principle and ‘freedom,’ but with the price tag of unqualified political loyalty to us.” (p. 9)

The way the Democrat Party has treated blacks is shameful, denying their individual personhood by laying waste to black conservatives. They’ve replaced segregated water fountains with an even more sinister form of segregation: robbing blacks of individuality and intellectual freedom.

Alinsky’s goals churn with noble abstractions:

To realize the democratic dream of equality, justice, peace, cooperation, equal and full opportunities for education, full and useful employment [?], health and the creation of those circumstances in which man can have the chance to live by values that give meaning to life.

But the underlying premise is far from noble: a man or group presuming to create “those circumstances in which man can have the chance to live by values that give meaning to life”? How to determine the circumstances? Who decides? And is our freedom to live meaningful lives a gift of the state or a gift of God?

America’s founders stated clearly that our rights were inalienable, endowed by our Creator. But Alinsky and his heirs have examined those rights and found them wanting. Only they have the requisite knowledge to lead the have-nots through a revolution — which Alinsky describes as never-ending — which will bring them to a state of meaningfulness that presumably he and those like him will approve.

In the politics of dialectical materialism, there is no room for individuals to judge for themselves whether their lives have meaning or value. It’s about dehumanizing people so they can be exploited as a group — Alinsky’s have-nots — to crusade for against the evil status quo.

So after decades of crusading, we now have a White House full of Alinskyites who represent, as Alinsky predicted — that’s right, the status quo. And Alinsky’s descriptions apply more to O and Co. now than those who are out of power:

In this world laws are written for the lofty aim of “the common good” and then acted out in life on the basis of the common greed. In this world irrationality clings to man like his shadow so that the right things are done for the wrong reason [Obama’s flight to Dover AFB? -- BC]  — afterwards we dredge up the right reasons for justification. It is a world not of angels but of angles, where men speak of moral principles but act on power principles; a world where we are always moral and our enemies immoral [Town Hall protesters, FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck -- BC]; a world where “reconciliation” means that one side gets the power and the other side gets reconciled to it, then we have reconciliation. (p. 13) [Boy, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it? -- BC]

More Alinsky observations:

“I detest and fear dogma.” (p. 4) Huh?

“All of life is partisan.” (p. 10)

” … today organized religion is materially solvent and spiritually bankrupt.” (p. 14)

“In the world as it is there are no permanent happy or sad endings.” (p. 14) Well, duh.

“It is not a world of peace and beauty and dispassionate rationality, but as Henry James once wrote, ‘Life is, in fact a battle. Evil is insolent and strong.’”  (p. 14)

For Alinsky, there is really only one way to make sense of the world:

Life seems to lack rhyme or reason or even a shadow of order unless we approach it with the key of converses. Seeing everything in its duality, we begin to get some dim clues to direction and what it’s all about.

While Alinsky refers in a footnote to the Chinese yin/yang complementarianism, his own philosophical view is through the prism of antagonism. While the yin/yang approach is a spiritual way of understanding the harmony of the universe, Alinsky’s model is a political template for the disharmony of the world — filtered down from Hegel through Marx — and refined for American radicals’ taste by a man who understood the importance of not letting a good crisis go to waste.

Alinsky bemoans the missteps of the radical leftists of the Chicago Seven/Weather Underground days, but hopes to harness their dissatisfaction to accomplish the goals his own generation of organizers did not finish. And according to his worldview, even a success breeds failure: the clean-up of the sordid Chicago described in Upton Sinclair’s Jungle led to a shift from poverty to middle class — but Alinsky claims the individuals so rescued by the noble hearts like his now contribute to the problem themselves as “part of our racist, discriminatory culture.”

The CIO fought the corporate power structure and won, but even in 1971, Alinsky saw that it had become “an entrenched member of the establishment.” Wonder what he would think now, with union thugs bussed to town hall meetings to create the illusion of more support for the current administration than there is.

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