Saul Alinsky book provides perspective

Friday, August 28, 2009

Reading can enlighten and inform you way beyond your own experiences, although your own experiences help you keep perspective on what you read.

I generally read a minimum of one book a week plus numerous newspapers, trade publications, 100-plus nonfiltered e-mails (I receive more than 300 e-mails daily) and listen to CDs and talk radio in the car.

One of the more intriguing books I've read this summer is "Rules for Radicals" by Saul Alinsky, written in 1971. Reportedly, Alinsky met Hillary Clinton through a church group. She then wrote some of her senior thesis at Wellesley College on his principles based on an earlier book.

President Barack Obama is also considered an Alinskyite and taught some of his techniques as a community organizer in Chicago.

This is a clever book about achieving ones goals using methods beyond the thought process of most Americans.

"True revolutionaries do not flaunt their radicalism," Alinsky taught. They cut their hair, put on suits and infiltrate the system from within. Alinsky viewed revolution as a slow, patient process. The trick was to penetrate existing institutions such as churches, unions and political parties.

This book will enlighten a reader about many of the political tactics currently being used in state and national political circles.

Alinsky wrote that "Change comes from power, and power comes from organization."

"From the moment the organizer enters a community he lives, dreams ... only one thing and that is to build the mass power base of what he calls the army. Until he has developed that mass power base, he confronts no major issues. ... Until he has those means and power instruments, his 'tactics' are very different from power tactics. Therefore, every move revolves around one central point: how many recruits will this bring into the organization, whether by means of local organizations, churches, service groups, labor Unions, corner gangs, or as individuals."

"The first step in community organization is community disorganization. The disruption of the present organization is the first step toward community organization. Present arrangements must be disorganized if they are to be displaced by new patterns. ... All change means disorganization of the old and organization of the new."

"An organizer must stir up dissatisfaction and discontent. ... He must create a mechanism that can drain off the underlying guilt for having accepted the previous situation for so long a time. Out of this mechanism, a new community organization arises. ...

"The job then is getting the people to move, to act, to participate; in short, to develop and harness the necessary power to effectively conflict with the prevailing patterns and change them. When those prominent in the status quo turn and label you an 'agitator' they are completely correct, for that is, in one word, your function -- to agitate to the point of conflict."

"Process tells us how. Purpose tells us why. But in reality, it is academic to draw a line between them, they are part of a continuum. ... Process is really purpose."

Tactics: "Tactics are those conscious deliberate acts by which human beings live with each other and deal with the world around them. ... Here our concern is with the tactic of taking; how the Have-Nots can take power away from the Haves."

Always remember the first rule of power tactics:

1. "Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have."

2. "Never go outside the expertise of your people. When an action or tactic is outside the experience of the people, the result is confusion, fear and retreat ... [and] the collapse of communication.

3. "Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy. Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)

4. "Make the enemy live up to its 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."

5. "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage."

6. "A good tactic is one your people enjoy."

7. "A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag. Man can sustain militant interest in any issue for only a limited time ... ."

8. "Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose."

9. "The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself."

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 and deep enough, it will break through into its counterside. ... [E]very positive has its negative."

12. "The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative."

13. "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. In conflict tactics there are certain rules that [should be regarded] as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and 'frozen' ... . [A]ny target can always say, 'Why do you center on me when there are others to blame as well?' When you 'freeze the target,' you disregard these [rational but distracting] arguments. ... Then, as you zero in and freeze your target and carry out your attack, all the 'others' come out of the woodwork very soon. They become visible by their support of the target. ...'

"One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other."

An interesting read in today's political environment.

I look forward to reading the new book "Power Ambition Glory" by Steve Forbes and John Prevas. I heard Forbes speak about the contents while at the Freedomfest I recently attended.

The book provides intriguing comparisons between six great leaders of the ancient world and contemporary business leaders. The result is reportedly an invaluable and fascinating look at how the past can guide our present and future success.

"Nobody has ever bet enough on the winning horse." -- Overheard at a track

"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I have ever met." -- Abraham Lincoln

Gary Rust is chairman of Rust Communications.

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