Saturday, September 27, 2008

How the Right Wing has Helped the "Leftist" Cause

In 1969, Hillary Rodham, at Wellesley College, wrote an 'A' paper --a 92-page senior thesis entitled "'There Is Only The Fight…": An Analysis of the Alinsky Model". During the Presidency of Bill Clinton, the GOP --thinking that the paper contained evidence that Hilary had strong radical or socialist views --tried to get a copy that it could use against Clinton. In fact, the GOP is the biggest practitioner of Alinsky's 'rules for radicals'. I know because I had a GOP 'campaign manual' that was based upon Alinsky's campaign and organizational tactics.

By that time, at Hilary's request, Wellesley was denying access to the paper. What is in that paper that 'neo' and other 'conservatives were so massaged and outraged? A clue may be found in the terms: 'social revolution'.
If the ideals Alinsky espouses were actualized, the result would be social revolution. Ironically, this is not a disjunctive projection if considered in the tradition of Western democratic theory.

-- Hillary D. Rodham, There Is Only The Fight…": An Analysis of the Alinsky Model
Ninety-nine percent of America's total wealth is now owned by just one percent of its population. Social revolution, therefore, is a necessity if the nation is to survive. This increasingly tiny elite will not --of its own accord --release the strangle hold it exercises over the nation's means of production, its national defense, the government itself.

Put another way: about one percent of the nation is rich enough to have bought and paid for a 'government' that it utilizes to defend its interests, its wealth, and the 'transfer of its raw power' from this generation to the next. A top-heavy US increasingly resembles the pro-typical, militaristic banana republic. A top-heavy society is unstable; one that has nukes poses an imminent threat to the entire world as the rogue administration of George W. Bush has demonstrated.

Hilary's paper deals with the work of Saul Alinsky, a social activist and organizer born in Chicago in 1909. Hillary's thesis is touted as '...very revealing of Alinsky’s view of American life '.
…after graduating from the University of Chicago, Alinsky received a fellowship in criminology with a first assignment to get a look at crime from the inside of gangs. He attached himself to the Capone gang, attaining a perspective from which he viewed the gang as a huge quasi-public utility serving the people of Chicago.

--Quote, "There is Only the Fight, Hilary Rodham
Alinsky is described as an 'academic-turned-radical' which it is claimed was a 'personality type' found first among journalists covering the Russian Revolution of 1917 and --some 'five decades later --among journalists and students trying to make sense of US military involvement in Viet Nam.

What is interesting to me about Hilary's paper is the level of 'outrage' it inspires though very, very few have actually read it. Wellesley denied access to it. Later, when it was released, it was apparently available for a while on the internet. Now --even that access appears to have disappeared. I found but one link and that, interestingly, was on a 'neoconsertive' web site. Like 'neoconservative' ideology, it didn't work.

It would appear, then, that those who are most outraged by Hilary's paper have never read it. Secondly, Hilary's paper is inspired and thus based upon Alinsky's 'Rules for Radicals'. You can get a copy of that by mail at Amazon.com. Why does Hilary's paper continue to generate so much right wing teeth gnashing when its inspiration is available in paper back. That has to do with the fact that the right wing may get away with absurd characterizations of works that are not available. Lies about a work that is in print and available on Amazon.com are more difficult to support. The GOP is would be well-advised to confine its lies to things that cannot be so easily verified otherwise.

At last --the disingenuous nature of right wing outrage is obvious when it is the right wing, the GOP in particular, that cites Alinsky more often than does the 'left'. For years, I kept a 'Republican Campaign Handbook' carefully put together by "right wing" political consultants in Houston. The manual quoted Alinsky extensvely, primarily his 'Rules for Radicals', which include:
  • Rule 1: Power is not only what you have, but what an opponent thinks you have. If your organization is small, hide your numbers in the dark and raise a din that will make everyone think you have many more people than you do.

  • Rule 2: Never go outside the experience of your people. The result is confusion, fear, and retreat.

  • Rule 3: Whenever possible, go outside the experience of an opponent. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.

  • Rule 4: Make opponents live up to their 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.”

  • Rule 5: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It’s hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.

  • Rule 6: A good tactic is one your people enjoy. “If your people aren’t having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.”

  • Rule 7: A tactic that drags on for too long becomes a drag. Commitment may become ritualistic as people turn to other issues.

  • Rule 8: Keep the pressure on. Use different tactics and actions and use all events of the period for your purpose. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this that will cause the opposition to react to your advantage.”

  • Rule 9: The threat is more terrifying than the thing itself. When Alinsky leaked word that large numbers of poor people were going to tie up the washrooms of O’Hare Airport, Chicago city authorities quickly agreed to act on a longstanding commitment to a ghetto organization. They imagined the mayhem as thousands of passengers poured off airplanes to discover every washroom occupied. Then they imagined the international embarrassment and the damage to the city’s reputation.

  • Rule 10: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. Avoid being trapped by an opponent or an interviewer who says, “Okay, what would you do?”

  • Rule 11: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual. Ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame.
  • --Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals
For a complete online 'manual' for organizers, see: The Citizen's Handbook

I want to thank the right wing for having directed so much attention to the work of Saul Alinsky, a man whose work might have gone unnoticed. Clearly --he is not forgotten and, thanks to the press he still gets, millions of progressives and liberals will continue to be inspired by his 'rules' --as applicable to communities hoping to improve conditions in their neighborhoods block-by-block as well as those seeking to build a consensus, a movement, perhaps a much-needed social revolution.

Such campaigns, indeed, revolutions themselves are most effective when they are put together the Saul Alinsky way: block by block and neighborhood by neighborhood. By daring to call attention to Hilary's book and, by extension, Saul Alinsky, the right wing has done a much better job than her suppressed paper could ever do. The right wing has shown us HOW we can organize to defeat them and, in the process, build up a liberal, progressive consensus from the ground up, block by block, all over the nation.


The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinsky

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