Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book Review: Rules For Radicals

Rules For Radicals by Saul Alinsky is the primer many community voices have used in the 20th century as their guide to organize labor, industry, and education. Ironically, Alinsky claims some sense of Christian ethic yet uses a quote from Lucifer in the opening of Rules (though he seems to reject Christianity because he believes it is all part of the bourgeois class structure that got us where we are today--and he isn't praising it--so there is a bit of confusion from the get go).

Alinsky suggests that power is corrupt yet his goal is to teach the organizer how to gain more and more power (pg. 10). So, like Marx and Engels teach in The Communist Manifesto, he teaches against something he himself wishes to have because in his mind, having power is bad unless he gets it because he would use it the benevolently. As we know though, Marx was a contemptible person who abused his power. I doubt Alinsky would have used his power well. He admits several times his crimes and his frequency in jail.

Alinsky also speaks like a relativist and outright claims that the organizer begins without truth--because truth is relative and changing (pg. 11). A person of Scripture would disagree with this statement as Jesus and his disciples after him frequently made truth claims.

Another value Alinsky has is to eliminate freedom and the will of governing oneself. He speaks again from Karl Marx's playbook that "The greatest enemy of individual freedom is the individual himself...People cannot be free unless they are willing to sacrifice some of their interests...(pg. xxv from the Prologue)."

I found it quite interesting that much of what Alinsky writes has been, at least in part, directly used and quoted by President Barack Obama, confirming what many know is true--he is a Marxist, and he is very familiar with the tactics Marx, Engels, and Alinsky use to usher in political, social, and theological ideals that run counter to everything we hold to be true. "But those who know the interdependence of man to be his major strength in the struggle out of the muck have not been wise in their exhortations and moral pronouncements that man is his brother's keeper...He is beginning to learn that he will either share part of his material wealth or lose all of it; that he will respect and learn to live with other political ideologies if he wants civilization to go on (pg. 23)."

The problem with this thinking is the many political and theological ideologies are completely different and run counter to one another and cannot coexist in our world. Most ideologies hold the belief that their ideology is correct and cannot work with others. Other ideologies hold at their core belief the desire to destroy anyone who holds a different ideology. They then cannot "learn to live with" other ideologies, though the truly benevolent, loving, and tolerant do.

Yet civilization goes on. It goes on because of the worldview of justice and lawfulness and the civil society that only a few are willing to hold and maintain in our world. It is those that believe in freedom and justice who lead by example and prohibit this Marxist ideology and others like it from gaining ground. It is no wonder then that the Radicals ideology fails. Because if it were to become the majority ideology, we would all be in serious trouble. Because of successful societies (say the United States' for example) we prohibit people like Alinsky from stealing from his neighbor for the good of the many, though that is also becoming more prevalent.

In our society, many see Alinsky's as a viable ideology in part because of Alinsky's own tactics. Rule 13 is how the radical organizers have achieved this disheartening of the people: "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it (pg. 130)."

Instead of having a rational discussion about issues; instead of looking at reasonable data; instead of arguing principles we have name calling and smear campaigns. If you think President Obama was very even keeled and didn't resort to smearing opponents, then you were duped. Any disagreement with President Obama is immediately countered with "racist" smears even though most of those who disagree with him do so because of principle, not his race. He makes sure this happens while he sits back and says not a word.

We can see that this will be the meme when Hillary Clinton runs for President in 2016, only then it will be "sexist/war on women". Yet, we never heard this come from the Republican side when Clarence Thomas was smeared, Condoleezza Rice on Iraq, Herman Cain for President in 2008, Allen West from Florida, Sarah Palin in 2008, Michelle Bachmann, et al. I could go on all day and include Ben Carson who is currently getting attacked from all sides because of his opposition to the ideals of the President.

Alinsky is no Christian (and he would agree) but he is no scholar either. His cry of hypocrisy is steeped in hypocrisy and misuse of context throughout. It is the way of Alinsky to live and breathe his own ideology which lives in continual contradictions which actually runs counter to his own rule #4: "Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules (pg. 128)." We see this from many today who cry that the world, church, culture is unjust and recites out of context quotes which they do not understand.

I urge everyone to read Rules For Radicals in order to know and understand what we are up against. This ideology is now the vessel that the coming generations will be using to oppose any moral compass whether it be political or theological. I see much of Alinsky's thoughts in the church as well. Shane Claiborne, Brian McLaren, and Jim Wallis have used similar teaching and that should disturb any student of the Word of God.

I'm not going to give this a star rating. I think it is good information to have but I do not endorse any of what Saul Alinsky writes.

I realize there are dozens of printings of this book and no two are the same. The version I own and read is the Vintage Books edition from 1989 and the page numbers quoted reflect this printing. Your copy will likely have different page numbers depending on size of print and page.