Tuesday, October 5, 2010


As I have been saying, I have finally gotten around in my life to reading Saul Alinsky’s 1971 book “Rule for Radicals”. (He was born in 1909 and died in 1972.)

I have to tell you now: it’s been a huge revelation. I say this especially with reference to my abiding interest in connecting-dots in American affairs.

It’s a shortish-book (196 pages in my copy)*, but well-worth the read.

I am doing the master-Posts on my other site, and for each of those Posts I will put up an SO-specific Post on this site. If you wish you can read, for example, the first Master Post (of which this is an SO-specific distillation) here.

Let me preface all this by saying that it has always been my thought that the SO Mania regime was never simply an honest-response to an accurately-perceived emergency. Rather, I have always felt that it was fueled by deep streams and truly toxic as well as highly flammable fuels. I recall Alinsky’s book from back in the day – and he had been working his Technique in the 1960s, before he wrote the book in 1971 (dying then in 1972). But I never read it back then; it seemed just one more in a great moosh of ‘ideas’ that were floating around back then.

I see now that I was mistaken. If you read Alinsky, and reflect simultaneously on what was happening to politics in the country, and especially if you recall the massive significance of the sudden and deep changes made by the Democratic Party, brought to first full light in the 1972 Convention**, you may suddenly realize that – alongside French Deconstruction theory imported from French university humanities classrooms – Alinsky was available to ‘creative’ and ‘cutting edge’ elite thinkers, offering a ‘home-grown’ American theory of ‘revolution’, drawn from his own experience as a Marxist-trained labor organizer and then general community ‘organizer’ in the Old Left era of his youth, the 1920s and early 1930s.

So I have been going through Alinsky’s book now not simply as a historical artifact but rather looking at it as a Shaper of events, and on the deepest and widest levels. This is also true of reading the book with an eye to the SO Mania Regime. Although that didn’t really get started until the early or mid-1980s, a decade after Alinsky’s death, his ideas by that time had quietly been embraced by all manner of elites – especially on the putatively ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ Left (which had never been popularly imagined as the direction from which great threats to the Constitutional ethos would ever come; Identity Politics had matured and pride of place given to its mutant or perhaps quintessential variant, Gender Politics. The National Nanny Regulatory State was now assuming proportions as ominous as the traditionally-feared National Security State of the post-1945 era.

Well, let’s get to it. I will be distilling Alinsky’s ideas; if there aren’t as many page-references as you usually find in my Posts, that’s simply because everything is up with references in the Master Post on the other site.

This Post will cover Alinsky’s ‘Prologue’, the first 30 or so pages of his book (200 pages long at most).

All of history and politics, he says, can be reduced to one eternal element: the extortion by the Haves of the Have-Nots, and consequently the eternal need for the Have-Nots to be organized to wrest Power from the Haves.

You can see in this Alinsky’s Marxist-Leninist vision, born in contemplation of both an Industrial Capitalism that was growing in an unregulated way and creating tremendous damage to human lives (while also providing increased material benefit and resource) and – especially in the Leninist aspect – the frustration of a working-class who saw their economic status remain stifled not only by Wealth but by the inherited political power and authority of Aristocracy and one of the last Divine Right Monarchies among the great powers of the West.

You can also see in this Alinsky’s Marxist-Leninist training: the presumption that so large a human phenomenon can be ‘reduced to’ one core element; the presumptiveness that one’s own group (the Marxist-Leninists) can accurately do the ‘reducing’; and the actual assertion – offered as a belief rather than as a proven fact – that ‘war’ is the primary and most basic dynamic of politics.

And then, of course, ‘war’ brings in its train all sorts of awful sub-dynamics: the absolute primacy of Outcome over Process; the absolute primacy of Ends over Means; the absolute primacy of Winning over any question as to what Higher Law or Principle might limit the options you may exercise in order to achieve your victory; and in that case the functional rejection of any Higher Law that might limit your options at all – so that, when the flag is unfurled and the trumpet sounds, it’s merely a matter of ‘doing whatever it takes’ (and after you Win you can write the History so as to take the dark edges away).

You can see immediately why the Framers were verrrrry nervous about War: when you turn all this stuff loose in a democratic constitutional republic, then all of the dynamics of a deliberative politics, anchored in a laboriously-achieved majority consensus bounded but not minutely determined by the general vision of the Constitution, fueled by accurate information provided by an objective and detached ‘free press’ … all of these and more are swept away, subordinated to the overriding Necessity for Victory.

Worse, as the Framers saw, you never come back to your original Constitutional ethos after a war, especially a big one or a long one: like growing bones or trees, your conception of the Constitutional ethos and its principles and its vision will have been bent into such shapes for so long that they don’t ever spring back precisely into the pre-war position and with the same suppleness and vitality.

So to introduce ‘War’ as the governing dynamic of politics, especially in the American setting, is a recipe for possible ‘political’ catastrophe in the most profound and serious sense of that term.

If for no other reason, such a vision – as it did for the Russian people – called for what had to be not just an ongoing ‘war’ but indeed an ongoing ‘civil war’, Citizens against Citizens. Of course the Soviet revolutionaries did not look upon their fellow Russians who had doubts about the ‘revolution’ as ‘fellow citizens’: they were, in war-thinking, ‘the enemy’ and had to be ‘defeated’. For this purpose Lenin was perfectly prepared to use Terror, and there exist written directives he sent out to judges insisting that “Our revolutionary courts must shoot!” (exclamation point Lenin’s). For the same reason, the Cheka, great-grand-daddy of the KGB, “does not investigate – it strikes”; meaning that the police power existed not so much to investigate whether a crime was committed but rather merely to strike-down the perceived ‘enemies of the revolution’. (And in this comment of the 1920s Soviet leadership, you can get an inkling of the SO Mania Regime.)

In its Identity Politics setting, embraced for 1970s America as noted above, this Marxist economic division of the entire population into Haves and Have-Nots is expanded along fresh axes of division: race, immigrant status, and – under the aegis of the most ‘organized’ of the Identities – gender.

And in the feminist and Victimist variants of Identity Politics, both of which interacted in a lethal synergy, this Haves/Have-Nots conception became blended with the anti-colonialist thought of such French thinkers as Franz Fanon to produce Oppressors/Oppressed. And then the particular radical-feminist twist was to further specifiy that a major component of that ‘oppression’ was Male Sexual Violence, exercised – as I’ve noted in other Posts on this site – in both the public and the private/family/home venues, as well as in ANY interpersonal relationship interactions.

So if you roll that around in your mind for a bit you can start to get a sense of what sort of Imperfect Storm was being brewed up here. An Alinskyite vision in this setting would therefore not only describe but insist upon a permanent ‘civil war’ between genders, reaching into the most private elements of the Citizens’ lives.

And, in good Alinskyite fashion, ‘governance feminism’ took the route not of violent demonstrations (such as burning down the college ROTC building to protest the Vietnam War) but rather of “wresting political power” from the Haves and taking what Power it could get for the Have-Nots.Alinsky was not a ‘revolutionary’ in the usual sense of relying on physical violence; he did not approve of the Weathermen faction’s reliance on bombs and so forth. Rather, his ‘violence’ was his eternal political ‘war’, the struggle to “wrest Power” by one group (of Citizens) against another group (of Citizens).

And all of this, of course, made much easier by the Democrats’ formal and sweeping and urgent embrace of Identity Politics in the very early 1970s. The outcome of which was an increasingly Regulatory State that was passing laws specifically to redistribute Power and ALSO to broadly and deeply re-Shape – on the level of Star-Trek type ‘terraforming’ – the entire world-and-life conception of the Citizenry, and quickly.

This being the America, of course, the whole thing was spun largely as Constitutional ‘reform’ and ‘progress’, although it was not until – from the Right – Alberto Gonzalez publicly let the cat out of the bag in 2005 or 2006 by claiming that the Constitution was “quaint”. Although even Thurgood Marshall had long before opined that the Constitution of 1787 was “defective”, referring to matters of race, and his idea was simply taken-over by another Identity as well, such that the ‘defects’ of the Constitution were extended to include the category of gender as well.

Naturally then, the good Alinskyite – like the good Marxist and Leninist – must eternally ‘suspect’ the existence the Haves’ trying to extort (and oppress) the Have-Nots. This is not only a ‘war politics’ and a ‘civil-war politics’ but also a ‘politics of suspicion’. And THIS is what was embraced, whether the pols and political ‘strategists’ had realized it or not, in 1972.

Alinksy claims that he is merely offering a Techinique here, and not a ‘dogma’. But he has already asserted what he believes to be the core dynamics of how life, and the world, and history, and societies works: Nothing Is On The Level; the Haves will always be trying to extort (and oppress) the Have-Nots; and there is no more primary motive for retaining political Power than the motive of Greed. And from all this flows the fact that the ‘status quo’ (if you are of a certain age, you may well recall this mantra-phrase of the day) is nothing more than ‘hypocrisy’ and so there must also be an eternal ‘war’ by ‘organizers’ against the ‘status quo’.

And in light of all that, the Alinskite vision holds, there are no ‘Ideals’ in politics; Ideals (called ‘abstractions’ in current Correct dogma) are merely sheeps-clothing and hypocritical covers to lull the Have-Nots into passive acceptance of their being extorted (and ‘oppressed’) by the Haves.

There is in politics, he says, only “the low-road”; there is no high-road because Ideals are nothing more than hypocritical illusions deployed like an “opiate” (recalling the Marxist assertion that ‘religion is merely an ‘opium of the people’) to lull the Have-Nots into a passively accepting stupor.

And since folks won’t even realize that they have been ‘drugged’, then the first job of an organizer (having schooled him/herself in the Stance of Eternal Suspicion) is to raise the consciousness of the Have-Nots to the reality that they are being Extorted and don’t even realize it.

If that last sentence rings some vague bell with you, recall the Father-Daughter Incest phase of the Mania (about which I Posted recently as one such ‘Daughter’ admitted she was all wrong): numerous writers, ‘experts’, and just plain folks who were ‘concerned’ began writing all sorts of self-help books that were actually a form of Alinsky-ite ‘consciousness-raising’ books: their ‘revelation’ was that You, daughter, have been being ‘abused’ by your Father all these years and you never even knew it!

The term ‘abused’ could be substituted with any number of equally vague or far more lurid terms – feel free. The last phrase of the sentence could be done up more vividly (‘AND YOU NEVER EVEN KNEW IT!!!!’).

All of which were elements of necessary ‘consciousness-raising’: after all, you can’t ‘organize’ people if they don’t even know what’s being done to them that requires them to get organized. Although one would have to be careful: Alinsky’s point seem uncomfortably close to A) professional advertising’s objective of ‘creating a need’ and ‘creating a desire’ and B) the Goebbelsian gambit of ‘creating an emergency’ (‘to which the Regime must and will respond!’, and so forth).

In addition to which Alinsky added in 1971 a thought to which every Boomer adolescent could relate, BUT which also ominously mirrored revolutionary impatience with opposition or even simply doubt, hesitation, and further questioning: “The older generation doesn’t understand and, worse, doesn’t want to”. Now in the revolutionary scenario, as it played out in Russia and in Fascist Germany, no ‘opposition’ could be entertained or tolerated since the Revolution (Russia) or the Reich (Germany) already was in full possession of all the truth that the country and the people needed to know. Thus anybody who objected or even doubted was an ‘enemy’ of the Revolution or the Reich (or both) and, come to think of it, of the Leader too (Lenin or Stalin, Hitler or Mussolini).

While you couldn’t say that adolescent authority issues with parents is at core a political issue (more of a human psychology and family dynamics issue), yet it is the genius (so to speak) of Alinsky that he ties the two in together for the Boomer generation: the grownups don’t know and they don’t want to know. At which point – almost in a whackulous imitation of a John Wayne character – the Boomer must say ‘Well, then, it’s up to me’ (or, more accurately, the Boomers as a group must say ‘Well, then, it’s up to us’).

Now put this dynamic into the ‘gender revolution’ and ‘gender war’ context and you’re calling for all ‘women’ to tolerate absolutely NONE of whatever the Male says because it’s just a form of Have/Patriarchy extortion hiding under the sleazy illusions of Tradition, Common-good, Prudence, or whatever.

Now refine that tactically into some ‘issue’ which you can make a sure-fire ‘emergency’ and you will soon realize that a problem that Males can be plausibly claimed to create that Females are always ‘the victim of’ is Sex. Or – more usefully – Sexual Violence (which to some radical-feminists meant any sexual contact or relationship whatsoever, anywhere, anytime).

Now put ‘pressure’ on the politicians (already desperately eager to please) to DO SOMETHING and you quickly get to the Mania Regimes (Domestic Violence and Sex Offense) and all the stunningly frakkulent laws passed to ‘control’ the out-of-control Males.

Alinsky will also say that a good organizer “must always keep the pressure on” (since Haves of any sort will always try to take back whatever Power has been taken from them by the former Have-Nots). And you get ‘emergency’ and ‘outrage’ in steady and apparently endless succession, each requiring a ratcheting up of the applicable laws and regulations, law upon law, ‘emergency’ upon ‘emergency’, phase after phase.

And here you are.***

Also, naturally, Alinskyite thought holds that “all values and factors are relative, fluid, ever-changing”. And, consequently, that everything is “fluid” and ‘totally changeable’ (as is said nowadays). So good ‘organizing’ must not allow itself to be limited – let alone ‘judged’ – by any appeals to an illusory Higher Law: what the revolution imposes is its own Law and cannot be judged by any ‘status quo’ authority because such authority is illegitimate and hypocritical in the first place. The revolution justifies itself and needs no further ‘validation’ by illusions such as Tradition or Higher Law or Prudence or anything else.

Which dovetails nicely with the 19th-century European development of the theory of Legal Positivism: that whatever laws are made by a government in power are in and of themselves justified merely by virtue of having been enacted. There is no appeal from them, there is no Authority to whom appeal can be made, and – in the Revolutionary scheme – there is no other earthly Authority that is not ‘hypocritical’, is not merely a tool of the Haves in the ongoing extortion of the Have-Nots, and therefore has no legitimacy anyway in the first place.

All very nice and neat: caught up in the toils of such ‘revolutionary law’ you are indeed stuck between a rock and a hard place. So very similar, you might already be thinking, to the situation purposely built into the SO Mania Regime laws: once targeted, there is almost no defense and precious little appeal, especially since American courts and the legal system are now staffed by generations of law-students raised not only in this ‘theory’ of Law but also in the shrewdly spun illusion that such thinking is ‘reform’ and ‘progressive’ and that there can be no Bad Consequences when you are busily doing whatever it takes to Achieve A Good Thing (and can you say ‘Iraq War’?).

And - if you recall the megafilm ‘Waterworld’ of some years ago – it becomes clear just how impossible it is to keep a society and a civilization going if you are working in a totally fluid environment. If there is no reliably ‘solid ground’ then anything goes, anything can happen, and it can happen whenever, with no warning. But of course, in the Alinskyite vision, whatever is ‘solid’ is merely a Greed-hardened hypocritical illusion deployed by the Haves against the Have-Nots.

And all of this may also help provide a ‘deep’ explanation as to why nowadays, even with the profusion of reliable and genuinely scientific studies demonstrating clearly the wrong-headedness of the SO Mania as well as of its laws, the pols often behave like revolutionary ‘true-believers’, refusing to be confused by ‘facts’ because they are so certain that they are Achieving A Good Thing.

Alinsky, I am saying, reigns and has reigned for quite some time, in the national political consciousness, even though few might recall his name.

(Naturally, at this point, having made such a mess, there are also many in authority who cannot afford to admit what they have done or supported. Much like the war in Afghanistan, the elite leadership now can’t figure how to back away, let alone dare to admit that it needs to because its policies have gotten the country into a foreign version of the Little Big Horn – which is my take on all of that. In this way, Afghanistan and the SO Mania Regime are two fruits of the same poisonous tree, watered and nurtured by Alinsky’s dark visions and ‘techniques’.)

Well, that’s the SO-relevant material in Alinsky’s ‘Prologue’. He will draw those thoughts out in subsequent chapters and so will I in subsequent Posts.

I think that under all of this, from a legal point of view, there lies the huge question: is it within the scope of a democratic government in a Constitutional republic to deliberately pass and impose laws (regulatory, administrative, civil, criminal) that are designed to ‘change’ the most fundamental and profound habits and attitudes of the Citizenry?

OR must the path be, in a democratic government in a Constitutional republic, only that the government can pass laws based on the expressed Consensus reached by The People as to their most profound lifeways and folkways?

In the Alinsky-ite vision (adapted from Marxist and Leninist models) and in the Identity Politics vision (adapted from Alinsky) ‘The People’ is itself merely an illusion, an abstraction, and a sinister abstraction in the service of the Haves continuing to Extort the Have-Nots.

Hence the Alinsky-ite vision treats the Citizenry and The People as part of the problem, so to speak. And as a sinister and illegitimate illusion. Which may be one big reason why 30 years after his thought was forcefully injected into the bloodstream of the nation’s politics, the democratic and Constitutional ethos and its politics seems indeed to have become insubstantial, a thing of fantasy or memory more than vital, robust, efficacious real-ness.

And I think the SO community sensed all of this from the get-go of the SO Mania Regime.

And, I believe current events now demonstrate, the SO community has been right all along.


*My copy is the paperback Vintage Books/Random House edition that reprints the original 1971 edition. The ISBN is 0-679-72113-4. All my quotations and page references will be taken from this edition.

**It is not often recalled that when the Democrats unveiled their new and still-nascent Identity Politics approach in the Party platform of 1972, their presidential campaign of that year was utterly trounced by the Citizenry: they only carried one State, Massachusetts.

I hold no large respect for Richard Nixon, but reflecting now on the deep skullduggeries of LBJ and on the breath-taking war-making of Bush-Cheney, ‘Watergate’ seems a very inflated matter in comparison. But it was essential, I think, that the Democrats of the era recover some semblance of ‘credibility’ for their new Identity Politics approach, even though it had been so utterly rejected at the polls. Hence there was a great deal of subterranean – truly tectonic – pressure to somehow discredit Nixon as awesomely as could be managed … and thereby create a little more ‘space’ for the Identity Politics to which the Dems of the day had so quickly and sweepingly (and desperately) committed their Party.

***Notice also, and it’s always a happy thing in pork-barrel politics, that Alinsky has provided the underpinning for what the Pentagoons like to call “the self-licking ice cream cone”: a program or situation that keeps creating the need for its own continuation and expansion. You have created ‘constituencies’ who will now accuse you of treachery or insensitivity if you try to correct your legislative mistakes and pull back from the abyss (as the Chief Judge of the Salem Witch Trials accused the Governor (although not the Crown – he didn’t dare go that far) of reining him in just as he was in the process of “clearing the land of witches” by hanging as many as he could get close enough to Find Guilty); you have also funded any and every ‘cottage industry’ that springs up to nurse itself on the government dime; and you have made a Faustian pact with influential media outlets that are happy to have ‘real’ melodramas and soap-operas on which they can luridly ‘report’.

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