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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Nihilism of Saul Alinsky: Rules for Radicals

Rules for Radicals
Saul Alinsky
Vintage

“What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.”

~ Saul Alinsky in Rules for Radicals (chapter: "The Purpose")

Saul Alinsky was inspired by communism, but unlike the communists he was not intent on replacing capitalism with a dictatorship of the proletariat, or even with a dictatorship of the have-nots. He was not motivated by the dream of building a socialist or communist empire. In Rules for Radicals he does not promise to build an utopia. His only motivation was to shake the foundations of capitalism by waging an unrelenting war of attrition.

He has no higher goal when he exhorts his radicals to rouse the backward communities by propagating all kinds of false grievances. He has no intention of helping the backward communities (the have-nots); he only wants to organize them into groups through which destructive assaults can be launched on the life and livelihood of those who get perceived as the haves.

It is noteworthy that in the 224-page book, Alinsky has not cared to explain why people must take power away from the haves and hand it over to the have-nots. What makes the have-nots eligible to exercise political power over the haves? Alinsky wants to smash capitalism, but what will he replace it with? Will the economic condition of the have-nots improve if they are granted political power?

Alinsky completely evades the moral implications of his political ideas. He wants agitation for the sake of agitation, destruction for the sake of destruction, protests for the sake of bringing society to a standstill. He wants to project an unending list of imaginary grievances to instigate suspicion and hatred between groups. This is nihilism of the worst kind.

Even though Alinsky was an atheist, he mentions Lucifer in the book’s dedication page:

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.

He calls Lucifer, or the mythical Satan, the first radical which in the context of his book means the first Alinsky radical, or the first Alinsky community organizer. He praises Lucifer for rebelling against the establishment to win his own kingdom. But what was the kingdom that Lucifer won: It was the mythological hell! One is justified to ask why should anyone aim to win a hell?

Alinsky's intention is to create a crop of radicals who, like the acolytes of Satan, will propagate evil ideas, and create on earth a new hell in which both the haves and the have-nots will suffer. In his book, he has not even tried to defend his ideas—he does not claim that his ideas will lead to better social, political, and economic outcomes. He must have known that his ideas are absurd and useless. But he continued to propagate his ideas because he was a nihilist.

It doesn't matter to Alinsky that the communists have slaughtered more than 140 million people in the last 100 years. He is inspired by communism and he holds the communist leaders in high esteem. Lenin, Mao, and Castro are his heroes. He fondly refers them as the great world leaders of change. He uses Mao’s famous saying, “Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun,” to make a case for a Leninist political strategy. Here’s an excerpt:

‘Power comes out of the barrel of a gun!’ is an absurd rallying cry when the other side has all the guns. Lenin was a pragmatist; when he returned to what was then Petrograd from exile, he said that the Bolsheviks stood for getting power through the ballot but would reconsider after they got the guns! Militant mouthings? Spouting quotes from Mao, Castro, and Che Guevara, which are as germane to our highly technological, computerized, cybernetic, nuclear-powered, mass media society as a stagecoach on a jet runway at Kennedy airport?

In the typical Marxist fashion, Alinsky insists that people must seize power. “In this book we are concerned with how to create mass organizations to seize power and give it to the people.” But who are the people? It is clear that for Alinsky, the people who deserve to gain power are those who have discarded their individualism and joined his collectivist groups.

The communists used to believe that mankind is divided into two-parts: the bourgeoise and the proletariat. But Alinsky proposes a three-part division: the Haves, the Have-Nots, and the Have-a- Little, Want Mores. By the Have-a- Little, Want Mores, he is referring to the middle class in a rather contemptuous way. He also describes the middle class as do-nothings, and as “social, economic, and political schizoids.”

He exhorts his radicals to overlook the ethical or legal issues in their quest for power. He is of the view that when the goal is to overthrow capitalism, it is justified to use any kind of means, even the most criminal and immoral ones. He justifies all kinds of corrupt practices:

To say that corrupt means corrupt the ends is to believe in the immaculate conception of ends and principles. The real arena is corrupt and bloody. Life is a corrupting process from the time a child learns to play his mother off against his father in the politics of when to go to bed; he who fears corruption fears life.

The community organizer has a central role to play in Alinsky’s overall political strategy, but he also seems to be highly contemptuous of the community organizers. He compares the role of the community organizers with that of a septic tank. He writes: “He [The community organizer] acts as the septic tank in the early stages—he gets all the shit. Later, as power increases, the risks diminish, and gradually the people step out front to take the risks.”

Alinsky’s methods are being extensively applied by the modern leftists (progressives) to mobilize the backward communities into groups whose agenda is to create chaos and lawlessness. His nihilistic political strategy enables the leftists to jump from one divisive issue to the next and put immense pressure on citizens, businesses and the government. Many leading leftist (progressive) politicians are Alinsky’s followers—their political campaigns are full of Alinsky trademarks.

Rules for Radicals is a useful book for those who wish to understand why the leftist (progressive) politicians speak or act in ways that they do.

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