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There are no rules for revolution any more than there are rules for love or rules

 for happiness, but there are rules for radicals who want to change their world

 

 

Books by Saul Alinsky

 

Reveille for Radicals John L. Lewis: An Uuauthorized Biography

 

Rules for Radicals

A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals

By Saul D. Alinsky 

 

Prologue

(excerpts)

 

Opening Statement

THE REVOLUTIONARY FORCE today has two targets, moral as well as material. Its young protagonists are one moment reminiscent of the idealistic early Christians, yet they also urge violence and cry, “Burn the system down!” They have no illusions about the system, but plenty of illusions about the way to change our world. It is to this point that I have written this book. These are written in desperation, partly because it is what they do and will do that will give meaning to what I and the radicals of my generation have done with our lives.

They are now the vanguard, and they had to start almost from scratch. Few of us survived the Joe McCarthy holocaust of the early 1950s and those there were even fewer whose understanding the insights had developed beyond the dialectical materialism of orthodox Marxism. My fellow radicals who were supposed to pass on the torch of experience and insights to a new generation just were not there. As the young looked at the society around them, it was all, in their words “materialistic, decadent, bourgeois in the values, bankrupt and violent.” Is it any wonder that they rejected us in toto.

Today's Generation

Today’s generation is desperately trying to make some sense out of their lives and out of the world. Most of them are products of the middle class. They have rejected their materialistic backgrounds, the goal of a well-paid job, suburban home, automobile, country club membership, first-class travel, status, security, and everything that meant success to their parents. They have had it. They watched it lead to their parents to tranquilizers, alcohol, long-term-endurance marriages, or divorces, high blood pressure, ulcers, frustration, and the disillusionment of “the good life.”

They have seen the almost unbelievable idiocy of our political leadership—in the past political leaders, ranging from the mayors to governors to the White House, were regarded with respect and almost reverence; today they are viewed with contempt. This negativism now extends to all institutions, from the police and the courts to “the system: itself. We are living in a world of mass media with daily exposes society’s innate hypocrisy, its contradictions and the apparent failure of almost every facet of our social and political life.

The young have seen their “activist” participatory democracy turn into its antithesis—nihilistic bombing and murder. The political panaceas of the past, such as the revolutions in Russia and China, have become the same old stuff under a different name. The search for freedom does not seem to have any road or destination. The young are inundated with a barrage of information and facts so overwhelming that the world has come to seem an utter bedlam, which has them spinning in a frenzy, looking for what man has always looked for from the beginning of time, a way of life that has some meaning or sense.

A way of life means a certain degree of order where things have some relationship and can be pieced together into a system that at least provides some clues to what life is about. Men have always yearned for and sought direction by setting up religions, inventing political philosophies, creating scientific systems like Newton’s, or formulating ideologies of various kinds. This is what is behind the common cliché, “getting it together”—despite the realization that all values and factors are relative, fluid, and changing, and that it will be possible to “get it all together” only relatively. The elements will shift and move together just like the changing pattern in a turning kaleidoscope.

In the past the “world,” whether in its physical or intellectual terms, was much smaller, simpler, and more orderly. It inspired credibility. Today everything is to complex as to be incomprehensible. What sense does it make for men to walk on the moon while other mean are waiting on welfare lines, or in Vietnam killing and dying for a corrupt dictatorship in the name of freedom? These are the days when man has his hands on the sublime while he is up to his hips in the muck of madness. The establishment in many ways is as suicidal as some of the far left, except that they are infinitely more destructive than the far left can ever be. The outcome of the hopelessness and despair is morbidity. There are a feeling of death hanging over the nation. 

Today’s generation faces all this and says, “I don’t want to spend my life the way my family and their friends have. I want to do something, to create, to be men, to ‘do my own thing,’ to live. The older generation doesn’t understand and worse doesn’t want to. I don’t want to be just a piece of data to be fed into a computer or a statistic in a public opinion poll, just a voter carrying a credit card.” To the younger the world seems insane and falling apart.

Older Generation—The Generational Gap

On the other side is the older generation, whose members are no less confused. If they are not as vocal or conscious, it may be because they can escape to a past when the world was simpler. They can still cling to the old values in the simple hope that everything will work out somehow, some way. That the younger generation will “straighten out” with the passing of time. Unable to come to grips with the world as it is, they retreat in any confrontation with the younger generation with that infuriating cliché, “when you get older you’ll understand.”

One wonders at their reaction if some youngster were to reply, “When you get younger which will never be then you’ll understand, so of course you’ll never understand. Those of the older generation who claim a desire to understand say, “When I talk to my kids or their friends I’ll say to them, ‘Look, I believe what you have to tell me is important and I respect it. You call me a square and say that ‘I’m not with it’ or ‘I don’t know where it at’ or ‘I don’t know where the scene is’ and all the rest of the words you use. Well, I’m going to agree with you.

So suppose you tell me. What do you want? What do you want? What do you mean when you say ‘I want to do my thing.’ What the hell is your thing? You say you want a better world. Like what? And don’t tell me a world of peace and love and all the rest of that stuff because people are people, as you will find out when you get older—I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say anything about ‘when you get older.’ I really do respect what you have to say. Now why don’t you answer me? Do you know what you want? Do you know what you’re talking about? Why can’t we get together?’ ”

And that is what we call the generation gap.

What the Young Generation Wants

What the present generation wants is what all generations have always wanted—a meaning, a sense of what the world and life are—a chance to strive for some sort of order.

If the young were now writing our Declaration of Independence they would begin, “When the course of inhuman events …” and their bill of particulars would range from Vietnam to our black, Chicano, and Puerto Rican ghettos, to the migrant workers, to Appalachia, to the hate, ignorance, disease, and starvation in the world. Such a bill of particulars would emphasize the absurdity of human affairs and the forlornness and emptiness, the fearful loneliness that comes from not knowing if there is any meaning to our lives.

When they talk of values they’re asking for a reason. They are searching for an answer, at least for a time, man’s greatest question, “Why am I here?”

The young react to their chaotic world in different ways. Some panic and run, rationalizing that the system is going to collapse anyway of its own rot and corruption and so they’re copping out, going hippie or yippie, taking drugs, trying communes, anything to escape. Others went for pointless sure-loser confrontations so they could fortify their rationalization and say, “Well, we tried and did our part” and then they copped out too. Others sick with guilt and not knowing where to turn or what to do went berserk. These were the Weathermen and their like: they took the grand cop-out, suicide. To these I have nothing to say or give but pity—and in some cases contempt, for such as those who leave their dead comrades and take off for Algeria or other points.

Rules for Radicals

What I have to say in this book is not the arrogance of unsolicited advice. It is the experience and counsel that so many young people have questioned me about through all-night sessions on hundreds of campuses in America. It is for those young radicals who are committed to fight, committed to life.

Remember we are talking about revolution, not revelation; you can miss the target by shooting too high as well as too low. First, there are no rules for revolution any more than there are rules for love or rules for happiness, but there are rules for radicals who want to change their world; there are certain central concepts of action in human politics that operate regardless of the scene or the time. To know these is basic to a pragmatic attack on the system. These rules make the difference between being a realistic radical and being a rhetorical one who uses the tired old words and slogans, calls the police “pig” or “white fascist racist” or “motherfucker” and has so stereotyped himself than others react by saying, “Oh, he’s one of those,” and then promptly turn off.

This failure of many of our younger activists to understand the art of communication has been disastrous. Even the most elementary grasp of the fundamental idea that one communicates within the experience of his audience—and gives full respect to the other’s values—would have ruled out attacks on the American flag. The responsible organizer would have known that it is the establishment that has betrayed the flag while the flag, itself, remains the glorious symbol of America’s hopes to his audience. On another level of communication, humor is essential, for through humor much is accepted that would have been rejected if presented seriously. This is a sad and lonely generation. It laughs too little, and this, too, is tragic.

For the real radical, doing “his thing” is to do the social thing, for and with people. In a world where everything is so interrelated that one feels helpless to know where or how to grab hold and act, defeat set in; for years there have been people who’ve found society too overwhelming and have withdrawn, concentrated on “doing their own thin.” Generally we have put them into mental hospitals and diagnosed them as schizophrenics.

If the real radicals finds that having long hair sets up psychological barriers to communication and organization, he cuts his hair. If I were organizing in an orthodox Jewish community I would not walk in their eating a ham sandwich, unless I wanted to be rejected so I could have an excuse to cop out. My “thing,” if I want to organize, is solid communication with the people in the community. Lacking communication I am in reality silent; throughout history silence has been regarded as assent—in this case assent to the system.

Accepting the World As It IsWorking in the System

As an organizer I start from where the world is, as it is, not as I would like it to be. That we accept the world as it is does not in any sense weaken our desire to change it into what we believe it should be—it is necessary to begin where the world is if we are going to change it to what we think it should be. That means working in the system.

There’s another reason for working inside the system. Dostoevski said that taking a new step is what people fear most. Any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people. They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go the past and chance the future. This acceptance is the reformation essential to any revolution. To bring on this reformation requires that the organizer work inside the system, among not only the middle class but the 40 per cent of American families—more than seventy million people—whose income range from $5,000 to $10,000 a year. They cannot be dismissed by labeling them blue collar or hard hat. They will not continue to be relatively passive and slightly challenging. If we fail to communicate with them, if we don’t encourage them to form alliances with us, they will move to the right. Maybe they will anyway, but lets it happen by default.

Our youth are impatient with the preliminaries that are essential to purposeful action. Effective organization is thwarted by the desire for instant and dramatic change, or as I have phrased it elsewhere the demand for revelation rather than revolution. It’s the kind of thing we see in play writing; the first act introduces the characters and the plot, in the second act the plot and characters are developed as the play strives to hold the audience’s attention. In the final act good and evil have their dramatic confrontation and resolution. The present generation wants to go right into the third act, skipping the first two, in which case there is no play, nothing but confrontation for confrontation’s sake—a fare-up and back to darkness. To build a powerful organization takes time. It is tedious, but that’s the way the game is played—if you want to play and not just yell, “Kill the umpire.”

What is the alternative to working “inside” the system? A mass of rhetorical garbage about “Burn the system down!” Yippie yells of “Do it!” or “Do your thing.” What else? Bombs? Sniping? Silence when police are killed and screams of “murdering fascist pigs” when other are killed? Attacking and baiting the police? Public suicide? “Power comes out of the barrel of a gun!” is an absurd rallying cry when the other side has all the guns. Lenin was pragmatist; when he returned to what was then Petrograd from exile, he said that the Bolsheviks stood for getting power through the ballot but would reconsider after they got the guns! Militant mouthing? Spouting quotes from Mao, Castro, and Che Guevara, which are as germane to our highly technological, computerized, cybernetic, nuclear-powered, mass media society as a stagecoach on a jet runaway at Kennedy airport?

Let us in the name of radical pragmatism not forget that in our system with all its repressions we can still speak out and denounce the administration, attack its policies, work to build an opposition political base. True, there is government harassment, but there still is that relative freedom to fight. I can attack my government, try to organize to change it. That’s more than I can do in Moscow, Peking, or Havana. Remember the reaction of the Red Guard to the “cultural revolution” and the fate of the Chinese college students. Just a few of the violent episodes of bombings or a courtroom shootout that we have experienced here would have resulted in sweeping purge and mass executions in Russia, China, or Cuba. Let’s keep some perspective.

Revolution by Reformation

We will start with the system, because there is no other place to start from except political lunacy. It is most important for those of us who want revolutionary change to understand that revolution must be preceded by reformation. To assume that a political revolution can survive without the supporting base of a popular reformation is to ask for the impossible politics.

Men don’t like to step abruptly out of the security of familiar experience; they need a bridge to cross from their own experience to a new way. A revolutionary organizer must shake up the prevailing patterns of their lives—agitate, create disenchantment and discontent with the current values, to produce, if not a passion for change, at least a passive, affirmative, non-challenging climate.

“The Revolution was effected before the war commenced,” John Adams wrote. “The Revolution was in the hearts and minds of the people … This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments and affections of the people was the real American Revolution.” A revolution without a prior reformation would collapse or become a totalitarian tyranny.

A reformation means that masses of our people have reached the point of disillusionment with past ways and values. They don’t know what will work but they do know that the prevailing system is self-defeating, frustrating, and hopeless. They won’t act for change but won’t strongly oppose those who do. The time is then ripe for revolution.

Those who, for whatever combination of reasons, encourage the opposite of reformation, become the unwitting allies of the far political right. Parts of the far left have gone so far in the political circle that they are now all but indistinguishable from the extreme right. It reminds me of the days when Hitler, new on the scene, was excused for his actions by “humanitarians” on the grounds of a paternal rejection and childhood trauma. When there are people who espouse the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy or the Tate murders or the Marin County Courthouse kidnapping and killings or the University of Wisconsin bombing and killing as “revolutionary acts,” then we are dealing with people who are merely hiding psychosis behind a political mask. The masses of people recoil with horror and say, “Our way is bad and we were willing to let it change, but certainly not for this murderous madness—no matter how bad things are now, they are better than that.” So they begin to turn back. They regress into acceptance of a coming massive repression in the name of “law and order.”

In the midst of the gassing and violence by the Chicago Police and National Guard during the 1968 Democratic Convention many students asked me, “Do you still believe we should try to work inside our system?”

Learning a Lesson

These were students who had been with Eugene McCarthy in New Hampshire and followed him across the country. Some had been with Robert Kennedy when he was killed in Los Angeles. Many of the tears that were shed in Chicago were not from gas. “Mr. Alinsky, we fought in primary after primary and the people voted no on Vietnam. Look at that convention. They’re not paying any attention to the vote. Look at your police and the army. You still want us to work in the system?”

It hurt me to see the American army with drawn bayonets advancing on American boys and girls. But the answer I gave the young radicals seemed to me the only realistic one: “Do one of three things. One, go find a wailing wall and feel sorry for yourselves. Two, go psycho and start bombing—but this will only swing people to the right. Three, learn a lesson. Go home., organize, build power and at the next convention, you be the delegates.”

Remember: once you organize people around something as commonly agreed upon as pollution., then an organized people is on the move. From there it’s a short and natural step to political pollution, to Pentagon pollution.

It is not enough just to elect your candidates. You must keep the pressure on. Radicals should keep in mind Franklin D. Roosevelt’s response to a reform delegation, “Okay, you’re convinced me. Now go on out and bring pressure on me!” Action comes from keeping the heat on. No politician can sit on a hot issue if you make it hot enough.

As for Vietnam, I would like to see our nation be the first in history of man to publicly say, “We were wrong! What we did was horrible . We got in and kept getting in deeper and deeper and at every step we invented new reasons for staying. We have paid part of the price in 44,000 dead Americans. There is nothing we can ever do to make it up to the people of Indo-China—or to our people—but w will try. We believe that our world has come of age so that it is no longer a sign of weakness or defeat to abandon a childish pride and vanity, to admit we were wrong.” Such an admission would shake up the foreign policy concepts of all nations and open the door to a new international order. This our alternative to Vietnam—anything else is the old makeshift patchwork. If this were to happen, Vietnam may even have been somewhat worth it.

A Final Word on the System

A final word on our system. The democratic ideal springs from the idea of liberty, equality, majority rule through free elections, protections of the rights of minorities, and freedom to subscribe to multiple loyalties in matters of religion, economics, and politics rather than to a total loyalty to the state. The spirit of democracy is the idea of importance and worth in the individual, and faith in the kind of world where the individual can achieve as much of his potential as possible.

Great dangers always accompany great opportunities. The possibility of destruction is always implicit in the act of creation. Thus the greatest enemy of individual freedom is the individual himself.

From the beginning the weakness as well as the strength of the democratic ideal has been the people. People cannot be free unless they are willing to sacrifice some of their interests to guarantee the freedom of others. The price of democracy is the ongoing pursuit of the common good by all the people. One hundred and thirty-five years ago Tocqueville* gravely warned that unless individual citizens were regularly involved in the action of governing themselves, self-government would pass from the scene. Citizen participation is the animating spirit and force in a society predicated on voluntarism.

We are not here concerned with people who profess the democratic faith but yearn for the dark security of dependency where they can be spared the burden of decisions. Reluctant to grow up, or incapable of doing so, they want to remain children and be cared for by others. Those who can, should be encouraged to grow; for the others, the fault lies not in the system but in themselves.

Here we are desperately concerned with the vast mass of our people who, thwarted through lack of interest or opportunity, or both, do not participate in the endless responsibilities of citizenship and are resigned to lives determined by others. To lose your “identity” as a citizen of democracy is but a step from losing your identity as a person. People react to this frustration by not acting at all. The separation of the people from the routine daily functions of citizenship is heartbreak in a democracy.

It is a grave situation when a people resign their citizenship or when a resident of a great city, though he may desire to take a hand, lacks the means to participate. That citizen sinks further into apathy, anonymity, and depersonalization. The result is that he comes to depend on public authority and state of civic-sclerosis sets in.

From time to time there have been external enemies at our gates; there has always been the enemy within, the hidden and malignant inertia that foreshadows more certain destruction to our life and future than any nuclear warhead. There can be no darker or more devastating tragedy than the death of man’s faith in himself and in his power to direct his future.

I salute the present generation. Hang on to one of your most precious parts of youth, laughter—don’t lose it as many of you seem to have done, you need it. Together we may find some of what we’re looking for—laughter, beauty, love, and the chance to create.

Notes

* “It must not be forgotten that it is especially dangerous to enslave men in the minor details of life. For my own part, I should be inclined to think freedom less necessary in great things than in little ones, if it were possible to be secure of the one without possessing the other.

“Subjection in minor affairs breaks out every day, and is felt by the whole community indiscriminately. It does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their will. Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated; whereas the obedience, which is exacted on a few important but rare occasions, only exhibits servitude at certain intervals, and throws the burden of it upon a small number of men. It is vain to summon a people, which has been rendered so dependent on the central power, to choose from time to time the representatives of that power; this rare and brief exercise of their free choice, however, important it may be, will not prevent them from gradually losing the faculties of thinking, feeling, and acting for themselves, and thus gradually falling below the level of humanity.”Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Source: Saul D.Alinsky. Rules For Radicals  New York: Random House, Inc., 1971

*   *  *   *   *

The Way Ahead (excerpts)

The Significance of the Middle Class

ORGANIZATION FOR ACTION will now and in the decade ahead center upon America’s white middle class. That is where the power is. When more than three-fourths of our people from both the point of view of economics and of their self-identification are middle class, it is obvious that their action or inaction will determine the direction of change. Large parts of the middle class, the “silent majority,” must be activated; action and articulation are one, as are silence and surrender.

We are belatedly beginning to understand this, to know that even if all the low-income parts of our population were organized—all the blacks, Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Appalachian poor whites—if through some genius of organization they were all united in a coalition, it would not be powerful enough to get significant, basic, needed changes. It would have to do what all minority organizations, small nations, labor unions, political parties or anything small, must do—seek our allies. The pragmatics of power will not allow any alternative.

The only potential allies for America’s poor would be in various organized sectors of the middle class. We have seen Cesar Chavez’ migrant farm workers turn to the middle class with their grape boycott. In the fight against Eastman Kodak, the blacks of Rochester, New York, turned to the middle class and their proxies.

Attitudes of Radicals Toward Middle Class

Activists and radicals, on and off our college campuses—people who are committed to change—must make a complete turnabout. With rare exceptions, our activists and radicals are products of and rebels against our middle-class society.

Our rebels have contemptuously rejected the values and way of life of the middle class. They have stigmatized it as materialistic, decadent, bourgeois, degenerate, imperialistic, war-mongering, brutalized, and corrupt. They are right; but we must begin from where we are if we are to build power for change, and the power are if we are to build power for change, and the power and the people are in the big middle-class majority. Therefore, it is useless self-indulgence for an activist to put his past behind him. Instead, he should realize the priceless value of his middle-class experience.

His middle-class identity, his familiarity with the values and problems, are invaluable for organization of his “own people.” He has the background to go back, examine, and try to understand the middle-class way; now he has a compelling reason to know, for he must know if he is to organize. He must know so he can be effective in communication, tactics, creating issues and organization. He will look very differently upon his parents, their friends, and their way of life.

Instead of the infantile dramatics of rejection, he will now begin to dissect and examine the way of life as he never has before. He will know that a “square” is no longer to be dismissed as such—instead, his own approach must be “square” enough to get the action started.

Turning back to the middle class as an organizer, he will find that everything now has a different meaning and purpose. He learns to view actions outside of the experience of people as serving only to confuse and antagonize them. He begins to understand the differences in value definition of the older generation regarding “the privilege of college experience,” and their current reaction to the tactics a sizeable minority of students uses in campus rebellions. He discovers what their definition of the police is, and their language—he discards the rhetoric that always says “pig.”

Opening Lines of Communication

Instead of hostile rejection he is seeking bridges of communication and unity over the gaps, generation, value, or others. He will view with strategic sensitivity the nature of middle-class behavior with its hang-ups over rudeness or aggressive, insulting, profane actions. All this and more must be grasped and used to radicalize parts of the middle class.

Activists and radicals, on and off our college campuses—people who are committed to change—must make a complete turnabout. With rare exceptions, our activists and radicals are products of and rebels against our middle-class society.

Our rebels have contemptuously rejected the values and way of life of the middle class. They have stigmatized it as materialistic, decadent, bourgeois, degenerate, imperialistic, war-mongering, brutalized, and corrupt. They are right; but we must begin from where we are if we are to build power for change, and the power are if we are to build power for change, and the power and the people are in the big middle-class majority. Therefore, it is useless self-indulgence for an activist to put his past behind him. Instead, he should realize the priceless value of his middle-class experience.

His middle-class identity, his familiarity with the values and problems, are invaluable for organization of his “own people.” He has the background to go back, examine, and try to understand the middle-class way; now he has a compelling reason to know, for he must know if he is to organize. He must know so he can be effective in communication, tactics, creating issues and organization. He will look very differently upon his parents, their friends, and their way of life.

Instead of the infantile dramatics of rejection, he will now begin to dissect and examine the way of life as he never has before. He will know that a “square” is no longer to be dismissed as such—instead, his own approach must be “square” enough to get the action started.

Turning back to the middle class as an organizer, he will find that everything now has a different meaning and purpose. He learns to view actions outside of the experience of people as serving only to confuse and antagonize them. He begins to understand the differences in value definition of the older generation regarding “the privilege of college experience,” and their current reaction to the tactics a sizeable minority of students uses in campus rebellions. He discovers what their definition of the police is, and their language—he discards the rhetoric that always says “pig.”

 Instead of hostile rejection he is seeking bridges of communication and unity over the gaps, generation, value, or others. He will view with strategic sensitivity the nature of middle-class behavior with its hang-ups over rudeness or aggressive, insulting, profane actions. All this and more must be grasped and used to radicalize parts of the middle class.

Cultural Differences of the Middle Classes

The rough category “middle class” can be broken down into three groups: lower middle class, with incomes from $6,000 to $11,000; middle middle class, $12,000 to $20,000; and upper middle class, $20,000 to $35,000. There are marked cultural differences between the lower middle class and the rest of the middle class.

In the lower middle class we encounter people who have struggled all their lives for what relatively little they have.

With a few exceptions, such as teachers, they have never gone beyond high school. They have been committed to the values of success, getting ahead, security, having their “own” home, auto, color TV, and friends. Their lives have been 90 per cent unfulfilled dreams. To escape their frustration they grasp at a last hope that their children will get that college education and realize those unfulfilled dream.

They are a fearful people, who feel threatened from all sides: the nightmare of pending retirement and old age with a Social Security decimated by inflation; the shadow of unemployment from a slumping economy, with blacks, already fearsome because the cultures conflict, threatening job competition; the high cost of long-term illness; and finally with mortgages outstanding, they dread the possibility of property devaluation from non-whites moving into their neighborhood.

They are beset by taxes on incomes, food, real estate, and automobiles, at all levels—city, state, and national. Seduced by their values into installment buying, they find themselves barely able to meet long-term payments, let along the current cost of living. Victimized by TV commercials with their fraudulent claims for food and medical products, they watch the news between the commercial with Senate committee hearings showing that the purchase of these products is largely a waste of their hard-earned money.

Repeated financial crises result from accidents that they thought they were insured against only to experience the fine-print evasions of one of our most shocking confidence rackets of today, the insurance racket. Their pleasures are bungalow, or ticky-tacky, in a monotonous subdivision on the fringe of suburbs; going on a Sunday drive out to the country, having a once-a-week dinner out at some place like a Howard Johnson’s. Many of the so-called hard hats, police, fire, sanitation workers, schoolteachers, and much of civil service, mechanics, electricians, janitors, and semiskilled workers are in this class.

Attitudes Toward the Poor

They look at the unemployed poor as parasitical dependents, recipients of a vast variety of massive public programs all paid for by them, “the public.” They see the poor going to colleges with the waiving of admission requirements and given special financial aid. In many cases the lower middle class were denied the opportunity of college by these very circumstances. Their bitterness is compounded by their also paying taxes for these colleges, for increased public services, fire, police, public health, and welfare. They hear the poor demanding welfare as “right.” To them this is i8nsult on top of injury.

Seeking some meaning in life, they turn to an extreme chauvinism and become defenders of the “American” faith. Now they even develop rationalizations for a life of futility and frustration. “It’s the Red menace!” Now they are not only the most vociferous in their espousal of law and order but ripe victims for such as demagogic George Wallace, the John Birch Society, and the Red-menace perennials.

Insecure in this fast-changing world, they cling to illusory fixed points—which are very real to them. Even conversation is charted toward fixing your position in the world: “I don’t want to argue with you, just tell me what our flags means to you?” or “What do you thin of those college punks who never worked a day in their lives?” They use revealing adjectives such as “outside agitators” or “troublemakers” and other “When did you last beat your wife?” questions.

Attitudes Toward the Liberal Suburban Middle Classes

On the other side they see the middle middle class and the upper middle class assuming a liberal, democratic, holier-than-thou position, and attacking the bigotry of the employed poor. They see that through all kinds of tax-evasion devices the middle middle and upper middle can elude their share of the tax burdens—so that most of it comes back (as they see it) upon themselves, the lower middle class.

They see a United States Senate in which approximately one-third are millionaires and the rest with rare exception very wealthy. The bill requiring full public disclosure of senators’ financial interests and prophetically titled Senate Bill 1993 (which is probably the year it will finally passed) is “in committee,” they see, and then they say to themselves, “The government represents the upper class but not us.”

Many of the lower middle class are members of labor unions, churches, bowling clubs, fraternal, service, and nationality organizations. They are organizations and people that must be worked with as one would work with any other part of our population—with respect, understanding, and sympathy.

Reforming the Lower Middle Class

To reject them is to lose them by default. They will not shrivel and disappear. You can’t switch channels and get rid of them. This is what you have been doing in your radicalized dream world but they are here and will be. If we don’t win them Wallace or Spiro T. Nixon will. Never doubt it that the voice may be Agnew’s but the words, the vindictive smearing, is Nixon’s. There never was a vice-president who didn’t either faithfully serve as his superior’s faithful sounding board or else be silent.

Remember that even if you cannot win over the lower middle-class, at least parts of them must be persuaded to where there is at least communication, then to a series of partial agreements and a willingness to abstain from hard opposition as changes take place. They have their role to pay in the essential prelude of reformation, in their acceptance that the ways of the past with its promises for the future no longer work and we must move ahead—where we move to may be definite or certain, but move we must.

People must be “reformed”—so they cannot be deformed into dependency and driven through desperation to dictatorship and the death of freedom. The “silent majority,” now, are hurt, bitter, suspicious, feeling rejected and at bay. This sick condition in many ways is as explosive as the current race crisis. Their fears and frustrations at their helplessness are mounting to a point of a political paranoia which can demonize people to turn to the law of survival in the narrowest sense. These emotions can go either to the far right of totalitarianism or forward to Act II of the American Revolution.

The issues of 1972 would be those of 1776, “No Taxation Without Representation.” To have real representation would involve public funds being available for campaign costs so that the members of the lower middle class can campaign for political office. This can be an issue for mobilization among the lower middle class and substantial sectors of the middle middle class.

The Suburban Middle Classes & Its Issues

The rest of the middle class, with few exceptions, reside in suburbia, living in illusions of partial escape. Being more literate, they are even more lost. Nothing seems to make sense. They thought that a split-level house in the suburbs, two cars, two color TVs, country club membership, a bank account, children in good prep schools and then in college, and they had it made. They got it—only to discover that they didn’t have it.

Many have lost their children—they dropped out of sight into something called the generation gap. They have seen values they held sacred or relics of the dead world. The frenetic scene around them is so bewildering as to induce them to either drop out into a private world, the nonexistent past, sick with its own form of social schizophrenia—or to face it and move into action. If one wants to act, the dilemma is how and where; there is no “when?” with time running out, the time is obviously now.

There are enormous basic changes ahead. We cannot continue or last in the nihilistic absurdities of our time where nothing we do makes sense. The scene around us compels us to look away quickly, if we are to cling to any sanity. We are the age of pollution, progressively burying ourselves in our own waste. We announce that our water is contaminated by our own excrement, insecticides, and detergents, and then do nothing.

Even a half-witted people, if sane, would long since have done the simple and obvious—ban all detergents, develop new non-polluting insecticides, and immediately build waste-disposal units. Apparently we would rather be corpses in clean shirts. We prefer a strangling ring of dirty air to a “ring around the collar.” Until the last, we’ll be buried in bright white shirts. Our persistent of our present insecticides may well ensure that the insects shall inherit the world.

The Pentagon & Weapons of Mass Destruction

Of all the pollution around us, none compares to the political pollution of the Pentagon. From a Vietnam war simultaneously suicidal and murderous to a policy of getting out by getting deeper and wider, to the Pentagon reports that strained even a moron’s intelligence that within the six months the war would be “won,” to destroying more bridges in North Vietnam than there are in the world, to counting and reporting the enemy dead from helicopters, Okay, Joe, we’ve been here for fifteen minutes; let’s go back and call it 150 dead,” to brutalizing our younger generation with My Lais but ignoring our own principles of the Nuremberg trials, to putting our soldiers in conditions so conducive to drugs that we stand forth as freedom’s liberating force of pot.

This Pentagon, whose economic waste and corruption is bankrupting our nation morally as well as economically, allows Lockheed Aircraft to put one-fourth of its production in the small Georgia country town of the late Senator Russell (a powerful man in military appropriation decisions), and then transmits its appeals for federal millions to save it from its financial fiascos. . . .

This the Pentagon that has manufactured nearly 16,000 tons of nerve gas, why and what for being unclear except to overkill the overkill. No one has raised the questions, who got the contracts? what it cost? where the pay-offs went? Now the big question is how to dispose of it as it deteriorates and threatens to get loose among us. The Pentagon announces that the sinking of the nerve gas is safe but from now on they will find a safe way!

The obvious American way of assuming personal responsibility for one’s action is utterly ignored—otherwise, since the Pentagon made it, it should keep it, and have it all stored in the basements of the Pentagon; or, since the President as Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces believed that the sinking in the ocean of the 67 tons of nerve gas was so safe, why didn’t he attest to his belief by having it dumped into the waters off San Clemente, California? Either action would at least have given some hope for the nation’s future.

The record goes on without any deviations toward sanity. The army chose the final day of hearings of the President’s Commission investigating the National Guard killings at Kent State, to announce that M-16 rifles would now be issued to the National Guard. The President’s Commission report is doomed not to be read until after the bowl games on New Year’s Day by a President who watches football on TV the afternoon of the biggest march in history on Washington, Moratorium Day.

There are our generals and their “scientific” gremlins who after assurance of no radioactive menace from the atomic tests in Nevada now more than a dozen years later have sealed off 250 squares miles as “contaminated with poisonous and radioactive plutonium 239.” (New York Times, August 21, 1970.) This from the explosions in 1958! Will the “safe” disposition in 1970 of the nerve gas still be as “safe” a dozen or less years from now?

One can only wonder how they will seal off some 250 miles in the Atlantic Ocean. We can assume that these same “scientific” gremlins will be assigned to the disposition of the thousands of tons of additional stockpiled nerve gas of which approximately 15,000 tons are on Okinawa and to be moved to some other island. . .  .

The Fears of the Suburban Middle Classes

The middle classes are numb, bewildered, scared into silence. They don’t know what, if anything, they can do. This is the job for today’s radical—to fan the embers of hopelessness into a flame to fight. To say, “You cannot turn away—look at it—let us change it together!” “Look at us. We are your children. Let us not abandon each other for then we all lost. Together we can change it for what we want. Let’s start here and there—let’s go!”

It is a job first of bringing hope and doing what every organizer must do with all people, all classes, places, and times—communicate the means of tactics whereby the people can feel that they have the power to do this and that and on. To a great extent the middle class of today feels more defeated and lost than do our poor.

So you return to the suburban scene of your middle class with its variety of organizations from PTAs to League of Women Voters, consumer groups, churches, and clubs. The job is to search out the leaders in these various activities, identify their major issues, find areas of common agreement, and excite their imagination with tactics that can introduce drama and adventure into the tedium of middle-class life.

Tactics must begin with the experience of the middle class, accepting their aversion to rudeness, vulgarity, and conflict. Start them easy, don’t scare them off. The opposition’s reactions will provide the “education” or radicalization of the middle class. It does it every time. Tactics here, as already described, will develop in the flow of action and reaction. The chance for organization for action on pollution, inflation, Vietnam, violence, race, taxes, and other issues, is all about us. Tactics such as stock proxies and others are waiting to be hurled into the attack.

Corporate Sector's Realistic Appraisal

The revolution must manifest itself in the corporate sector by the corporations’ realistic appraisal of conditions in the nation. The corporations must forget their nonsense about “private sectors.” It is not just that government contracts and subsidies have long since blurred the line between public and private sectors, but that every American individual or corporation is public as well as private; public in that we are Americans and concerned about our national welfare. We have double commitment and corporations had better recognize this for the sake of their own survival.

Poverty, discrimination, disease, crime—everything is as much a concern of the corporation as is profits. The days when corporate public relations worked to keep the corporation out of controversy, days of playing it safe, of not offending Democratic or Republican customers, advertisers or associates—those days are done. If the same predatory drives for profits can partially transmuted for progress, then we will have opened a whole new ball game. I suggest here that this new policy will give its executives a reason for what they are doing—a chance for a meaningful life.

A major battle will be pitched on quality and prices of consumer goods, targeting particularly on the massive misleading advertising campaigns, the costs of which are passed on the consumer. It will be the people against Madison Avenue or “The Battle of Bunkum Hill.”

Any timetable would be speculation but the writing of middle-class organization had better be on the walls by 1972.

The human cry of the second revolution is one for a meaning, a purpose for life—a cause to live for and if need be die for. Tom Paine’s words, “These are the times that try men’s souls,” are more relevant to Part II of the American Revolution than the beginning. This is literally the revolution of the soul.

The great American dream that reached out to the stars has been lost to the stripes. We have forgotten where we came from, we don’t know where we are, and we fear where we may be going. Afraid, we turn from the glorious adventure of the pursuit of happiness to a pursuit of an illusionary security in an ordered, stratified, striped society.

Our way of life is symbolized to the world by the stripes of military force. At home we have made a mockery of being our brother’s keeper by being his jail keeper. When American can no longer see the stars, the times are tragic. We must believe that is the darkness before the dawn of a beautiful new world; we will see it when we believe it.

Source: Saul D.Alinsky. Rules For RadicalsNew York: Random House, Inc., 1971/ Other Alinsky Books: Reveille for Radicals / John L. Lews

posted 18 December 2005

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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So Rich, So Poor: Why It's So Hard to End Poverty in America

By Peter Edelman

If the nation’s gross national income—over $14 trillion—were divided evenly across the entire U.S. population, every household could call itself middle class. Yet the income-level disparity in this country is now wider than at any point since the Great Depression. In 2010 the average salary for CEOs on the S&P 500 was over $1 million—climbing to over $11 million when all forms of compensation are accounted for—while the current median household income for African Americans is just over $32,000. How can some be so rich, while others are so poor? In this provocative book, Peter Edelman, a former top aide to Senator Robert F. Kennedy and a lifelong antipoverty advocate, offers an informed analysis of how this country can be so wealthy yet have a steadily growing number of unemployed and working poor. According to Edelman, we have taken important positive steps without which 25 to 30 million more people would be poor, but poverty fluctuates with the business cycle.

The structure of today’s economy has stultified wage growth for half of America’s workers—with even worse results at the bottom and for people of color—while bestowing billions on those at the top. So Rich, So Poor delves into what is happening to the people behind the statistics and takes a particular look at the continuing crisis of young people of color, whose possibility of a productive life too often is lost on their way to adulthood.DemocracyNow

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.”

Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance

Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity—and What We Can Do About It

By Les Leopold

How could the best and brightest (and most highly paid) in finance crash the global economy and then get us to bail them out as well? What caused this mess in the first place? Housing? Greed? Dumb politicians? What can Main Street do about it? In The Looting of America, Leopold debunks the prevailing media myths that blame low-income home buyers who got in over their heads, people who ran up too much credit-card debt, and government interference with free markets. Instead, readers will discover how Wall Street undermined itself and the rest of the economy by playing and losing at a highly lucrative and dangerous game of fantasy finance. He also asks some tough questions:  Why did Americans let the gap between workers' wages and executive compensation grow so large? Why did we fail to realize that the excess money in those executives' pockets was fueling casino-style investment schemes? Why did we buy the notion that too-good-to-be-true financial products that no one could even understand would somehow form the backbone of America's new, postindustrial economy? How do we make sure we never give our wages away to gamblers again?

And what can we do to get our money back? In this page-turning narrative (no background in finance required) Leopold tells the story of how we fell victim to Wall Street's exotic financial products. Readers learn how even school districts were taken in by "innovative" products like collateralized debt obligations, better known as CDOs, and how they sucked trillions of dollars from the global economy when they failed. They'll also learn what average Americans can do to ensure that fantasy finance never rules our economy again. The Economy

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A Nation within a Nation

Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Black Power Politics

By Komozi Woodard

Woodard examines the role of poet Amiri Baraka's "cultural politics" on Black Power and black nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s. After a brief overview of the evolution of black nationalism since slavery, he focuses on activities in Northeastern urban centers (Baraka's milieus were Newark, N.J., and, to a lesser extent, New York City). Taking issue with scholars who see cultural nationalism as self-destructive, Woodard finds it "fundamental to the endurance of the Black Revolt from the 1960s into the 1970s." The 1965 assassination of Malcolm X catalyzed LeRoi Jones's metamorphosis into Amiri Baraka and his later "ideological enchantment" with Castro's revolution. After attracting national attention following the 1966 Detroit Black Arts Convention, Baraka shifted his emphasis to electoral politics. He galvanized black support for Kenneth Gibson, who was elected mayor of Newark in 1970. Woodard pays scant attention, however, to the fact that "Baraka's models for political organization had nothing revolutionary to contribute in terms of women's leadership" or the roots of "Baraka's insistence on psychological separation" from whites.

Woodard's conclusion descends into rhetoric as he urges support for a school system to "develop oppressed groups into self-conscious agents of their own liberation," while offering no specific, practical suggestions. Woodard's need to be both scholar and prophet are in conflict, and the prophet's voice undermines the scholar's.—Publishers Weekly

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To the Mountaintop

My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement

By Charlayne Hunter-Gault

A personal history of the civil rights movement from activist and acclaimed journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault. On January 20, 2009, 1.8 million people crowded the grounds of the Capitol to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama. Among the masses was Charlayne Hunter-Gault. She had flown from South Africa for the occasion, to witness what was for many the culmination of the long struggle for civil rights in the United States. In this compelling personal history, she uses the event to look back on her own involvement in the civil rights movement, as one of two black students who forced the University of Georgia to integrate, and to relate the pivotal events that swept the South as the movement gathered momentum through the early 1960s. With poignant black-and-white photos, original articles from the New York Times, and a unique personal viewpoint, this is a moving tribute to the men and women on whose shoulders Obama stood.

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Sonata Mulattica: Poems

By Rita Dove

This 12th collection from the former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize recipient is her third book-length narrative poem: it follows the real career of the violin prodigy George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1780–1860), a former pupil of Haydn, as well as the grandson/ of an African prince, or so his promoters and teachers in England said. Moving to Vienna during the Napoleonic Wars, the violinist met and befriended the famously moody Beethoven, who was prepared to dedicate his famously difficult Kreutzer Sonata to Bridgetower until a rivalry for the same woman drove them apart. Dove tells Bridgetower's story, and some of Beethoven's and Haydn's, in a heterogenous profusion of short poems, some almost prosy, some glittering in their technique. In quatrains, a double villanelle, what looks like found text, short lines splayed all over a page and attractive description, Dove renders Bridgetower's frustrated genius: Music played for the soul is sheer pleasure;/ to play merely for pleasure is nothing/ but work. Dove does not always achieve such subtleties—those who loved her early work may think this book too long: few, though, will doubt the seriousness of her effort, her interest at once in the history of classical music and the changing meanings of race.—Publishers Weekly

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Season of Adventure

By George Lamming

First published in 1960, Season of Adventure details the story of Fola, a light-skinned middle-class girl who has been tipped out of her easy hammock of social privilege into the complex political and cultural world of her recently independent homeland, the Caribbean island of San Cristobal. After attending a ceremony of the souls to raise the dead, she is carried off by the unrelenting accompaniment of steel drums onto a mysterious journey in search of her past and of her identity. Gradually, she is caught in the crossfire of a struggle between people who have "pawned their future to possessions" and those "condemned by lack of learning to a deeper truth." The music of the drums sounds throughout the novel, "loud as gospel to a believer's ears," and at the end stands alone as witness to the tradition which is slowly being destroyed in the name of European values. Whether through literary production or public pronouncements, George Lamming has explored the phenomena of colonialism and imperialism and their impact on the psyche of Caribbean people.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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