Saul Alinsky — Rules for Radicals — Videos

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“I’d Organize Hell” – Saul Alinsky TV interview 1966

William F Buckley Jr & Saul Alinsky – Mobilizing The Poor

Rules for Radicals: What Constitutional Conservatives Should Know About Saul Alinsky

Alinsky for Dummies (Mr. Joseph A. Morris – Acton Institute)

Alinsky’s Power Tactics (Rules for Radicals Excerpt)

Saul Alinsky and the IAF

Rules for Radicals: An Analysis

Barack Obama/Saul Alinsky Connection

Saul Alinsky’s 12 Rules for Radicals

The Truth About Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals

Ben Shapiro 1st Alinsky Rule give the impression of power

Ben Shapiro 2nd Alinsky Rule never go outside the expertise of your people

Saul Alinsky speaking at UCLA 1/17/1969

The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinksy & His Legacy – Part 1

The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinksy & His Legacy – Part 2

The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinsky & His Legacy – Part 3

The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinsky & His Legacy – Part 4

The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinksy & His Legacy – Part 5

The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinksy & His Legacy – Part 6

O’Reilly: ‘The Anti-Trump Press’ Is Using Saul Alinsky Tactics to Take Him Down

Our Warrior Andrew Breitbart: “Barack Obama is a Saul Alinsky Radical”

Andrew Breitbart why the left hated him

Rush Limbaugh remembers Andrew Breitbart (1969-2012)

Beck with David Horowitz discuss conservatives using Saul Alinsky tactics

Mind blowing speech by Robert Welch in 1958 predicting Insiders plans to destroy America

Rules for Radicals

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Rules for Radicals
Rules for Radicals.png
Author Saul Alinsky
Country U.S.A.
Language English
Subject Grassroots, community organizing
Publisher Random House
Publication date
Pages 196 pp
ISBN 0-394-44341-1
OCLC 140535
LC Class HN65 .A675

Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals is the last book published in 1971 by activist and writer Saul D. Alinsky shortly before his death. His goal for theRules for Radicals was to create a guide for future community organizers to use in uniting low-income communities, or “Have-Nots”, in order for them to gain social, political, legal andeconomic power.[1] Within it, Alinsky compiled the lessons he had learned throughout his experiences of community organizing from 1939–1971 and targeted these lessons at the current, new generation of radicals.[2]

Divided into ten chapters, Rules for Radicals provides 10 lessons on how a community organizer can accomplish the goal of successfully uniting people into an active organization with the power to effect change on a variety of issues. Though targeted at community organization, these chapters also touch on other issues that range from ethics, education,communication, and symbol construction to nonviolence and political philosophy.[3]

Though published for the new generation of counterculture-era organizers in 1971, Alinsky’s principles have been successfully applied by numerous government, labor, community, and congregation-based organizations, and the main themes of his organizational methods that were elucidated upon in Rules for Radicals have been recurring elements in political campaigns in recent years.

Inspiration for Rules for Radicals

The inspiration for Rules for Radicals was drawn from Alinsky’s personal experience as a community organizer.[1] It was also taken from the lessons he learned from his University of Chicago professor, Robert Park, who saw communities as “reflections of the larger processes of an urban society”.[3] The methods Alinsky developed and practiced were described in his book as a guide on future community organizing for the new generation of radicals emerging from the 1960s.[3][4]

Alinsky believed in collective action as a result of the work he did with the C.I.O and the Institute for Juvenile Research in Chicago where he first began to develop his own, distinct method of community organizing. Additionally, his late work with the Citizens Action Program (CAP) provided some of his most whole and conclusive practices in organizing through the empowerment of the poor, though not well-known. Alinsky saw community structure and the impoverished and the importance of their empowerment as elements of community activism and used both as tools to create powerful, active organizations.[5] He also used shared social problems as external antagonists to “heighten local awareness of similarities among residents and their shared differences with outsiders”.[3] Ironically, this was one of Alinsky’s most powerful tools in community organizing; to bring a collective together, he would bring to light an issue that would stir up conflict with some agency to unite the group. This provided an organization with a specific “villain” to confront and made direct action easier to implement. These tactics as a result of decades of organizing efforts, along with many other lessons, were poured into Rules for Radicals to create the guidebook for community organization.[2]


Rules for Radicals has various themes. Among them is his use of symbol construction to strengthen the unity within an organization.[3] He would draw on loyalty to a particular church or religious affiliation to create a structured organization with which to operate. The reason being that symbols by which communities could identify themselves created structured organizations that were easier to mobilize in implementing direct action. Once the community was united behind a common symbol, Alinsky would find a common enemy for the community to be united against.

The use of common enemy against a community was another theme of Rules for Radicals, with nonviolent conflict as a uniting element in communities.[6]

Alinsky would find an external antagonist to turn into a “common enemy” for the community within which he was operating. Often, this would be a local politician or agency that had some involvement with activity concerning the community. Once the enemy was established, the community would come together in opposition of it. This management of conflict heightened awareness within the community as to the similarities its members shared as well as what differentiated them from those outside of their organization.[3] The use of conflict also allowed for the goal of the group to be clearly defined. With an established external antagonist, the community’s goal would be to defeat that enemy.[3]

Symbol construction helped to promote structured organization, which allowed for nonviolent conflict through another element in Alinsky’s teaching, direct action. Direct action created conflict situations that further established the unity of the community and promoted the accomplishment of achieving the community’s goal of defeating their common enemy.[2] It also brought issues the community was battling to the public eye. Alinsky encouraged over-the-top public demonstrations throughout Rules for Radicals that could not be ignored, and these tactics enabled his organization to progress their goals faster than through normal bureaucratic processes.[3]

Lastly, the main theme throughout Rules for Radicals and Alinsky’s work was empowerment of the poor.[5] Alinsky used symbol construction and nonviolent conflict to create a structured organization with a clearly defined goal that could take direct action against a common enemy. At this point, Alinsky would withdraw from the organization to allow their progress to be powered by the community itself.[3] This empowered the organizations to create change.[2]

The rules[1]
  1. “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood.
  2. “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.
  3. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.
  4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules.
  5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.
  6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones.
  7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news.
  8. “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new.
  9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist.
  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 enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog.
  12. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem.
  13. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.


Alinsky received criticism for the methods and ideas he presented. Robert Pruger and Harry Specht noted that much of his instruction has only been effective in urban, low-income areas.[7] Pruger and Specht also criticized his broad statement that Rules for Radicals is a tool for organizing all low-income people. Further, Alinsky’s use of artificially stimulated conflict has been criticized for its ineffectiveness in areas that thrive on unity.[7] According to Judith Ann Trolander, in several Chicago areas in which he worked, his use of conflict backfired and the community was unable to achieve the policy adjustments they were seeking.[2]

Much of the philosophy of community organization found in Rules for Radicals has also come under question as being overly ideological. Alinsky believed in allowing the community to determine its exact goal. He would produce an enemy for them to conflict with, but the purpose of the conflict was ultimately left up to the community. This idea has been criticized due to the conflicting opinions that can often be present within a group.[7] Alinsky’s belief that an organization can create a goal to accomplish is viewed as highly optimistic and contradictory to his creation of an external antagonist. By producing a common enemy, Alinsky is creating a goal for the community, the defeat of that enemy. To say that the community will create their own goal seems backwards considering Alinsky creates the goal of defeating the enemy. Thus, his belief can be seen as too ideological and contradictory because the organization may turn the goal of defeating the common enemy he produced into their main purpose.[7]


The scope of influence for Rules for Radicals is a far-reaching one as it is a compilation of the tactics of Alinsky. It has been influential for policymaking and organization for various communities and agency groups, and has influenced politicians and activists educated by Alinsky and the IAF, and other grassroots movements.

Direct impact

After Alinsky died in California in 1972, his influence helped spawn other organizations and policy changes. Rules for Radicals was a direct influence that helped to form the United Neighborhood Organization in the early 1980s.[3] Its founders Greg Galluzzo, Mary Gonzales, and Pater Martinez were all students of Alinsky.[3] The work of UNO helped to improve the hygiene, sanitation, and education in southeastern Chicago.[3] Additionally, the founders of Organization of the North East in Chicago during the 1970s applied Alinsky’s principles to organize multiethnic neighborhoods in order to gain greater political representation.[3]

Rules for Radicals have been dispersed by Alinsky’s students who undertook their own community organizing endeavors. Students of Alinsky’s such as Edward T. Chambers used Rules for Radicals to help form the Industrial Areas Foundation, the Queens Citizens Organization, and the Communities Organized for Public Service. Another student of Alinsky’s, Ernest Cortez, rose to prominence in the late 1970s in San Antonio while organizingHispanic neighborhoods. His use of congregation-based organizing received much acclaim as a popular method of Alinsky’s by utilizing “preexisting solidary neighborhood elements, especially church groups, so that the constituent units are organizations, not individuals.”[5] This congregation-based organizing and symbol construction was taught to him by Edward Chambers and the IAF during his time studying under both.

The methods and teachings of Rules for Radicals have also been linked to the Mid-America Institute, the National People’s Action, the National Training and Information Center, the Pacific Institute for Community Organizations, and the Community Service Organization.[5]

Later influence

The methods from Rules for Radicals have been seen in modern American politics. The use of congregation-based organizing has been linked to Jesse Jackson when he was organizing his own political campaign.[8] The book was praised and used as an organizational guide by the Tea Party conservative group FreedomWorks during Dick Armey‘s tenure as chairman.[9][10]

Publication data


  1. ^ Jump up to:a b c Rules for Radicals, by Saul Alinsky
  2. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e Trolander, Judith Ann (1982). “Social Change: Settlement Houses and Saul Alinsky, 1939–1965”. Social Service Review. University of Chicago Press. 56 (3): 346–65. ISSN 1537-5404. JSTOR 30011558 – viaJSTOR. (registration required (help)).
  3. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e f g h i j k l m Reitzes, Donald C.; Reitzes, Dietrich C. (1987). “Alinsky in the 1980s: Two Contemporary Chicago Community Organizations”. The Sociological Quarterly. Midwest Sociological Society.28 (2): 265–83. doi:10.1111/j.1533-8525.1987.tb00294.x. ISSN 1533-8525. JSTOR 4121434 – via JSTOR. (registration required (help)).
  4. Jump up^ “Playboy Interview: Saul Alinsky”. Playboy Magazine. March 1972.
  5. ^ Jump up to:a b c d McCarthy, John D. (1989). “The Alinsky Legacy: Alive and Donald C. Reitzes, Dietrich C. Reitzes”. Contemporary Sociology.American Sociological Association. 18 (1): 46–7. ISSN 1939-8638.JSTOR 2071926 – via JSTOR. (registration required (help)).
  6. Jump up^ Marshall, Dale Rogers (1976). “Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals by Saul D. Alinsky; How People Get Power: Organizing Oppressed Communities for Action by Si Kahn; Action for a Change: A Student’s Manual for Public Interest Organizing by Ralph Nader, Donald Ross; Winning Elections: A Handbook in Participatory Politics by Dick Simpson; Political Action: A Practical Guide to Movement Politics by Michael Walzer”. The American Political Science Review. American Political Science Association. 70 (2): 620–3. doi:10.2307/1959680. ISSN 1537-5943.JSTOR 1959680 – via JSTOR. (registration required (help)).
  7. ^ Jump up to:a b c d Pruger, Robert; Harry Specht (June 1969). “Assessing Theoretical Models of Community Organization Practice: Alinsky as a Case in Point”.Social Service Review. 43 (2): 123. doi:10.1086/642363.JSTOR 30020552.
  8. Jump up^ Swarts, Heidi (2011). “Drawing New Symbolic Boundaries Over Old Social Boundaries: Forging Social Movement Unity in Congregation-Based Community Organizing”. Sociological Perspectives. Sage Publications. 54(3): 453–77. doi:10.1525/sop.2011.54.3.453. ISSN 1533-8673.JSTOR 10.1525/sop.2011.54.3.453 – via JSTOR. (registration required (help)).
  9. Jump up^ Knickerbocker, Brad (January 28, 2012). “Who is Saul Alinsky, and why is Newt Gingrich so obsessed with him?”. Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved July 22, 2016.
  10. Jump up^ Vogel, Kenneth P. (October 22, 2010). “Right loves to hate, imitate Alinsky”. Politico. Retrieved September 11, 2016.

Further reading

External links

Saul Alinsky

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Saul Alinsky
Saul Alinsky.jpg
Born Saul David Alinsky
January 30, 1909
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died June 12, 1972 (aged 63)
Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, U.S.
Cause of death Heart attack
Nationality American
Ethnicity Ashkenazi Jewish
Education University of Chicago, Ph.B.1930
U. of Chicago Graduate School, criminology, 1930–1932
Occupation Community organizer, writer,political activist
Known for Political activism, writing,community organization
Notable work Rules for Radicals (1971)
  • Helene Simon (m. 1932; d. ?)
  • Jean Graham (m. 1952;div. 1970)
  • Irene McInnis Alinsky (m. 1971)
Children Katherine and David (by Helene)
Awards Pacem in Terris Award, 1969

Saul David Alinsky (January 30, 1909 – June 12, 1972) was an American community organizer and writer. He is generally considered to be the founder of modern community organizing. He is often noted for his 1971 book Rules for Radicals.

In the course of nearly four decades of political organizing, Alinsky received much criticism, but also gained praise from many public figures. His organizing skills were focused on improving the living conditions of poor communities across America. In the 1950s, he began turning his attention to improving conditions in the African-American ghettos, beginning with Chicago’s and later traveling to other ghettos in California, Michigan, New York City, and a dozen other “trouble spots”.

His ideas were adapted in the 1960s by some U.S. college students and other young counterculture-era organizers, who used them as part of their strategies for organizing on campus and beyond.[5] Time magazine wrote in 1970 that “It is not too much to argue that American democracy is being altered by Alinsky’s ideas.”[6] Conservative author William F. Buckley Jr. said in 1966 that Alinsky was “very close to being an organizational genius”.[7]


Early life

Saul David Alinsky was born in 1909 in Chicago, Illinois, to Russian Jewish immigrant parents, the only surviving son of Benjamin Alinsky’s marriage to his second wife, Sarah Tannenbaum Alinsky.[8] Alinsky stated during an interview that his parents never became involved in the “new socialist movement.” He added that they were “strict Orthodox, their whole life revolved around work and synagogue … I remember as a kid being told how important it was to study.”[4] He attended Marshall High School in Chicago until his parents divorced and then went to live with his father who moved to California, graduating from Hollywood High School[9] in 1926.

Because of his strict Jewish upbringing, he was asked whether he ever encountered antisemitism while growing up in Chicago. He replied, “it was so pervasive you didn’t really even think about it; you just accepted it as a fact of life.”[4] He considered himself to be a devout Jew until the age of 12, after which time he began to fear that his parents would force him to become a rabbi.

I went through some pretty rapid withdrawal symptoms and kicked the habit … But I’ll tell you one thing about religious identity…Whenever anyone asks me my religion, I always say—and always will say—Jewish.[4]

At the same time, he was also an agnostic.[10][11][12]

University of Chicago

In 1930, Alinsky graduated with a Bachelor of Philosophy from the University of Chicago, where he majored in archaeology, a subject that fascinated him.[4] His plans to become a professional archaeologist were changed due to the ongoing economic Depression. He later stated, “Archaeologists were in about as much demand as horses and buggies. All the guys who funded the field trips were being scraped off Wall Street sidewalks.”[4]


After attending two years of graduate school at the University of Chicago, he accepted work for the state of Illinois as a criminologist. On a part-time basis, he also began working as an organizer with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). By 1939, he became less active in the labor movement and became more active in general community organizing, starting with the Back of the Yards and other poor areas on the South Side of Chicago. His early efforts to “turn scattered, voiceless discontent into a united protest” earned the admiration of Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson, who said Alinsky’s aims “most faithfully reflect our ideals of brotherhood, tolerance, charity and dignity of the individual.”[4]

As a result of his efforts and success at helping slum communities, Alinsky spent the next 10 years repeating his organization work across the nation, “from Kansas City and Detroit to the barrios of Southern California.” By 1950 he turned his attention to the black ghettos of Chicago. His actions aroused the ire of Mayor Richard J. Daley, who also acknowledged that “Alinsky loves Chicago the same as I do.”[4] He traveled to California at the request of the San Francisco Bay Area Presbyterian Churches to help organize the black ghetto in Oakland. Hearing of his plans, “the panic-stricken Oakland City Council promptly introduced a resolution banning him from the city.”[4]

Community organizing and politics

In the 1930s, Alinsky organized the Back of the Yards neighborhood in Chicago (made infamous by Upton Sinclair‘s 1906 novel, The Jungle, which described the horrific working conditions in the Union Stock Yards). He went on to found the Industrial Areas Foundation while organizing the Woodlawn neighborhood; IAF trained organizers and assisted in the founding of community organizations around the country.

In Rules for Radicals (his final work, published in 1971 one year before his death), Alinsky wrote at the end of his personal acknowledgements:

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.[13]

In the book, he addressed the 1960s generation of radicals, outlining his views on organizing for mass power. In the opening paragraph Alinsky writes,

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.[13]

Alinsky did not join political parties. When asked during an interview whether he ever considered becoming a Communist Party member, he replied:

Not at any time. I’ve never joined any organization—not even the ones I’ve organized myself. I prize my own independence too much. And philosophically, I could never accept any rigid dogma or ideology, whether it’s Christianity or Marxism. One of the most important things in life is what Judge Learned Hand described as ‘that ever-gnawing inner doubt as to whether you’re right.’ If you don’t have that, if you think you’ve got an inside track to absolute truth, you become doctrinaire, humorless and intellectually constipated. The greatest crimes in history have been perpetrated by such religious and political and racial fanatics, from the persecutions of the Inquisition on down to Communist purges and Nazi genocide.[4]

He did not have much respect for mainstream political leaders who tried to interfere with growing black–white unity during the difficult years of the Great Depression. In Alinsky’s view, new voices and new values were being heard in the U.S., and “people began citing John Donne‘s ‘No man is an island.'”[4] He observed that the hardship affecting all classes of the population was causing them to start “banding together to improve their lives,” and discovering how much in common they really had with their fellow man.[4]

Alinsky once explained that his reasons for organizing in black communities included:

Negroes were being lynched regularly in the South as the first stirrings of black opposition began to be felt, and many of the white civil rights organizers and labor agitators who had started to work with them were tarred and feathered, castrated—or killed. Most Southern politicians were members of the Ku Klux Klan and had no compunction about boasting of it.[4]

Alinsky’s tactics were often unorthodox. In Rules for Radicals he wrote,

[t]he job of the organizer is to maneuver and bait the establishment so that it will publicly attack him as a ‘dangerous enemy.’ [According to Alinsky], the hysterical instant reaction of the establishment [will] not only validate [the organizer’s] credentials of competency but also ensure automatic popular invitation.[14]

As an example, after organizing FIGHT (an acronym for Freedom, Independence [subsequently Integration], God, Honor, Today) in Rochester, New York,[15] Alinsky once threatened to stage a “fart in” to disrupt the sensibilities of the city’s establishment at a Rochester Philharmonic concert. FIGHT members were to consume large quantities of baked beans after which, according to author Nicholas von Hoffman, “FIGHT’s increasingly gaseous music-loving members would tie themselves to the concert hall where they would sit expelling gaseous vapors with such noisy velocity as to compete with the woodwinds.”[16] Satisfied with his threat yielding action, Alinsky later threatened a “piss in” at Chicago O’Hare Airport. Alinsky planned to arrange for large numbers of well-dressed African Americans to occupy the urinals and toilets at O’Hare for as long as it took to bring the city to the bargaining table. According to Alinsky, once again the threat alone was sufficient to produce results.[16] In Rules for Radicals, he notes that this tactic fell under two of his rules: Rule #3: Wherever possible, go outside the experience of the enemy; and Rule #4: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.

Alinsky described his plans for 1972 to begin to organize the white middle class across the United States, and the necessity of that project. He believed that many Americans were living in frustration and despair, worried about their future, and ripe for a turn to radical social change, to become politically active citizens. He feared the middle class could be driven to a right-wing viewpoint, “making them ripe for the plucking by some guy on horseback promising a return to the vanished verities of yesterday.”[4] His stated motive: “I love this goddamn country, and we’re going to take it back.”[4]


Alinsky died at the age of 63 from a heart attack near his home in Carmel, California, on June 12, 1972. He was cremated in Carmel and his ashes were interred at Mt. Mayriv Cemetery (the cemetery is now included in Zion Gardens Cemetery) in Chicago.[17][18] Shortly before his death he had discussed life after death in Playboy:[4]

ALINSKY: … if there is an afterlife, and I have anything to say about it, I will unreservedly choose to go to hell.
ALINSKY: Hell would be heaven for me. All my life I’ve been with the have-nots. Over here, if you’re a have-not, you’re short of dough. If you’re a have-not in hell, you’re short of virtue. Once I get into hell, I’ll start organizing the have-nots over there.
PLAYBOY: Why them?
ALINSKY: They’re my kind of people.

Legacy and honors

The documentary, The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinsky and His Legacy, states that “Alinsky championed new ways to organize the poor and powerless that created a backyard revolution in cities across America.”[19] Based on his organizing in Chicago, Alinsky formed the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) in 1940. After he died, Edward T. Chambers became its Executive Director. Hundreds of professional community and labor organizers, and thousands of community and labor leaders have been trained at its workshops. Fred Ross, who worked for Alinsky, was the principal mentor for Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. Other organizations following in the tradition of the Congregation-based Community Organizing pioneered by IAF include PICO National Network, Gamaliel Foundation, Brooklyn Ecumenical Cooperatives, founded by former IAF trainer, Richard Harmon and Direct Action and Research Training Center (DART).[20][21][22]

Several prominent American leaders have been influenced by Alinsky’s teachings,[21] including Ed Chambers,[19] Tom Gaudette, Ernesto Cortes, Michael Gecan, Wade Rathke, and Patrick Crowley.[23][24] Alinsky is often credited with laying the foundation for the grassroots political organizing that dominated the 1960s.[19] Jack Newfield, writing in New York magazine, included Alinsky among “the purest Avatars of the populist movement”, along with Ralph Nader, Cesar Chavez, and Jesse Jackson.[25]

Although Alinsky held little respect for elected officials,[26] he has been described as an influence on several notable politicians in both the Democratic and Republican parties.

In 1969, while a political science major at Wellesley College, Hillary Rodham chose to write her senior thesis on Alinsky’s work, with Alinsky himself contributing his own time to help her.[27][28] Although Rodham defended Alinksy’s intentions in her thesis, she was critical of his methods and dogmatism.[27][29] (Years later when she became First Lady, the thesis was not made publicly available by the school based upon a White House request.[30])

According to biographer Sanford Horwitt, U.S. President Barack Obama was influenced by Alinsky and followed in his footsteps as a Chicago-based community organizer. Horwitt asserted that Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was influenced by Alinsky’s teachings.[31] Alinksy’s influence on Obama has been heavily emphasized by some of his detractors, such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Thomas Sugrue of writes, “as with all conspiracy theories, the Alinsky-Obama link rests on a kernel of truth”.[26] For three years in the mid 80s, Obama worked for the Developing Communities Project, which was influenced by Alinsky’s work, and he wrote an essay that was collected in a book memorializing Alinsky.[26][32] Newt Gingrich repeatedly stated his opinion that Alinsky was a major influence on Obama during his 2012 presidential campaign, equating Alinsky with “European Socialism”, although Alinsky was U.S.-born and was not a Socialist.[33] Gingrich’s campaign itself used tactics described by Alinsky’s writing.[34]

Adam Brandon, a spokesman for the conservative non-profit organization FreedomWorks, one of several groups involved in organizing Tea Party protests, says the group gives Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals to its top leadership members. A shortened guide called Rules for Patriots is distributed to its entire network. In a January 2012 story that appeared in The Wall Street Journal, citing the organization’s tactic of sending activists to town-hall meetings, Brandon explained, “[Alinsky’s] tactics when it comes to grass-roots organizing are incredibly effective.” Former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey also gives copies of Alinsky’s book Rules for Radicals to Tea Party leaders.[35]

In 1969, Alinsky was awarded the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award, an annual award given by the Diocese of Davenport to commemorate an encyclical by Pope John XXIII.[36]

See also


  • Reveille for Radicals, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1946.
  • John L. Lewis: An Unauthorized Biography. New York: Putnam, 1949.
  • Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals. New York: Random House, 1971.
  • The Philosopher and the Provocateur: The Correspondence of Jacques Maritain and Saul Alinsky. Bernard E Doering (ed.). Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994.

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