Get to know your enemy. Text and tweet no more – read and read, and read some more.
Why is it so important to learn more about Saul David Alinsky’s enumerated ethics and power rules for radicals? Because these 1971 ethics and power rules are to modernist Catholics and left-wing politicians (i.e. progressive, reformist, social democrats) what the biblical Ten Commandments are to God fearing traditional Catholics and right-wing politicians (i.e., conservative, traditionalist).
What do we know about Alinsky’s relationship with Pope Paul VI (born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini)? It is reported (by an online source last edited on 3 May 2022, at 02:44 UTC) that:
“On 20 June 1958, Saul Alinsky recalled meeting with Montini: "I had three wonderful meetings with Montini and I am sure that you have heard from him since". Alinsky also wrote as follows to George Shuster, two days before the papal conclave that elected John XXIII: "No, I don’t know who the next Pope will be, but if it’s to be Montini, the drinks will be on me for years to come."
You have to wonder what effect Saul David Alinsky had on the Traditional Catholic Church. You also have to wonder what effect Alinsky had on the decline of the once great United States of America – but that is another story. Moving on.
By design, Alinsky’s ethics and power rules for radicals promote social democracy. By definition, social democracy is a political, social and economic ideology that “aims at putting all government in the hands of the masses, reducing all ranks to the same level, abolishing all distinction of class, and finally introducing community of goods. Hence, the right to own private property is to be abrogated, and whatever property a man possesses, or whatever means of livelihood he has, is to be common to all.” [Graves De Communi Re, On Christian Democracy, Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on January 18, 1901, paragraph 5]De Communi Re, On Christian Democracy, Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on January 18, 1901, paragraph 5]
The hell you say? Before enumerating Saul David Alinsky’s ethics and power rules for radicals it behooves us to put these rules in perspective – by quoting Alinsky:
- “Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgement to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins – or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom – Lucifer.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback unnumbered page following dedication of book and preceding contents]
- “The central question that the church of today and tomorrow must face is no longer, “Is there life after death?” but rather, “Is there life after birth?” [Saul Alinsky, Reveille for Radicals, paperback page 223]
- “This brings me to the question I have been confronted with everywhere: “What, if anything, is your ideology?” Here we come to grips with a basic issue. What kind of ideology, if any, can an organizer have in a free society, working for a free society? The prerequisite for an ideology is possession of a basic truth. For example, a Marxist begins with his prime truth that all evils are caused by the exploitation of the proletariat by the capitalists. From this evolves the idea of the revolution to end capitalism, then the premise of reorganization into a new social order or the dictatorship of the proletariat, and finally the last stage—the political paradise of communism. The Christians also have a prime truth: the divinity of Christ and the tripartite nature of God. Once these concepts are accepted, a formula for a way of life follows step by step.” [Saul Alinsky, Reveille for Radicals, paperback edition, Introduction to the Vintage Edition, page xii]
- “WHAT FOLLOWS IS for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback unnumbered page 3, opening paragraph of first chapter]
- "There can be no such thing as a successful traitor, for if one succeeds he becomes a founding father." [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 34]
- "THAT PERENNIAL QUESTION, "Does the end justify the means?" is meaningless as it stands; the real and only question regarding the ethics of means and ends is, and always has been, “Does this particular end justify this particular means?”" [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 24]
- “Ethical standards must be elastic to stretch with the times.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback pages 30-31]
That being said (“Ethical standards must be elastic to stretch with the times.”) it behooves us to familiarize ourselves with Alinsky’s radical rules for ethics and means before considering Alinsky’s power rules for radicals. A compilation of Alinsky’s eleven (arguably twelve) radical rules for ethics and means follows:
- Saul David Alinsky’s first rule of ethics of means and ends is that “one’s concern with the ethics of means and ends varies inversely with one’s personal interest in the issue.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 26]
Accompanying the first rule of ethics of means is the statement that “one’s concern with the ethics of means and ends varies inversely with one’s distance from the scene of conflict.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 26]
- “The second rule of ethics of means and ends is that the judgment of the ethics of means is dependent upon the political position of those sitting in judgment.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 26]
- “The third rule of ethics and means is that in war the end justifies almost any means.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 29]
- “The fourth rule of ethics and means is that judgment must be made in the context of the times in which the action occurred and not from any other chronological vantage point.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 30]
- “The fifth rule of ethics and means is that concern with ethics increases with the number of means available and vice versa.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 32]
- “The sixth rule of ethics and means is that the less important the end to be desired, the more one can afford to engage in ethical evaluations of means.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 34]
- “The seventh rule of ethics and means is that generally success or failure is a mighty determinant of ethics.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 34]
- “The eighth rule of ethics and means is that the morality of a means depends upon whether the means is being employed at a time of imminent defeat or imminent victory.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 34]
- “The ninth rule of ethics and means is that any effective means is automatically judged by the opposition as being unethical.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 35]
- “The tenth rule of ethics and means is that you do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral garments.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 36]
- “The eleventh rule of ethics and means is that goals must be phrased in general terms like ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,’ ‘Of the Common Welfare,’ ‘Pursuit of Happiness,’ or ‘Bread and Peace.’” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 45]
The preceding radical rules for ethics and means provide us with much needed perspective for Saul David Alinsky’s power rules for radicals. That being said, what follows is a compilation of Saul David Alinsky’s thirteen enumerated power rules for radicals:
- “Always remember the first rule of power tactics: Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback pages 126-127]
In a note at the bottom of the page, Alinsky explains: “Power has always derived from two main sources, money and people. Lacking money, the Have-Nots must build power from their own flesh and blood. A mass movement expresses itself with mass tactics. Against the finesse and sophistication of the status quo, the Have-Nots have always had to club their way. In early Renaissance Italy the playing cards showed swords for the nobility (the word spade is a corruption of the Italian word for sword), chalices (which became hearts) for the clergy, diamonds for the merchants, and clubs as the symbol of the peasants.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 127]
- “The second rule is: Never go outside the experience of your people. When an action or tactic is outside the experience of the people, the result is confusion, fear, and retreat. It also means a collapse of communication, as we have noted.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 127]
- “The third rule is: Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 127]
- “The fourth rule is: 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.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 128]
- “The fourth rule carries within it the fifth rule: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 128]
- “The sixth rule is: A good tactic is one your people enjoy. If your people are not having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 128]
- “The seventh rule: A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag. Man can sustain militant interest in any issue for only a limited time, after which it becomes a ritualistic commitment, like going to church on Sunday mornings. New issues and crises are always developing, and one’s reaction becomes, “Well, my heart bleeds for those people and I’m all for the boycott, but after all there are other important things in life”— and there it goes.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 128]
- “The eighth rule: Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 128]
- "The ninth rule: The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 129]
- “The tenth rule: 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. It should be remembered not only that the action is in the reaction but that action is itself the consequence of reaction and of reaction to the reaction, ad infinitum. The pressure produces the reaction, and constant pressure sustains action.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 129]
- “The eleventh rule is: If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside; this is based on the principle that every positive has its negative. We have already seen the conversion of the negative into the positive, in Mahatma Gandhi’s development of the tactic of passive resistance.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 129]
- “The twelfth rule: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. You cannot risk being trapped by the enemy in his sudden agreement with your demand and saying “You’re right – we don’t know what to do about this issue. Now you tell us.”” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 130]
- “The thirteenth rule: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” [Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, paperback page 130]
In this context Alinsky explains:
“In conflict tactics there are certain rules that the organizer should always regard as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and 'frozen'. By this I mean that in a complex, interrelated, urban society, it becomes increasingly difficult to single out who is to blame for any particular evil. There is a constant, and somewhat legitimate, passing of the buck. In these times of urbanization, complex metropolitan governments, the complexities of major interlocked corporations, and the interlocking of political life between cities and counties and metropolitan authorities, the problem that looms more and more is that of identifying the enemy. Obviously there is no point to tactics unless one has a target upon which to center the attacks. One big problem is a constant shifting of responsibility from one jurisdiction to another— individuals and bureaus one after another disclaim responsibility for particular conditions, attributing the authority for any change to some other force.”
The application of Alinsky’s power rules for radicals is evidenced by both contemporary Catholicism and contemporary American politics.
That being said, left-wing social democrats (i.e., Barrack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, etc.) routinely use Alinsky’s ethics and power rules when facing off against traditional Catholics and contemporary right-wing politicians – but that is another online story (that was endorsed and reposted by a respected and well known retired Catholic Bishop).
It is also very important to note and understand that Saul David Alinsky’s enumerated ethics and power rules for radicals are consistent with current goals for both communism (45 goals originally published in 1958) and socialism (46 published goals LISTED HERE). Reading these lists of goals is like reading about our current events – like reading about what is happening this day in history. This is also another story – scattered throughout many other online stories.
In closing, it behooves us to revisit our opening definition of Socialism:
“Socialism is a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.” (Essentially Verbatim: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, Definition sense number 3, page 1183)
At the risk of being redundant: Get to know your enemy. Text and tweet no more – read and read, and read some more.
Alinsky, Saul D., Reveille for Radicals, Paperback (ISBN 978-0-679-72112-3), copyright Ó 1946, 1969 by Saul D. Alinsky, copyright renewed Ó 1974 by Mrs. Irene M. Alinsky, in 1969 this edition was originally published in hardcover by Random House Inc., on October 23, 1989 this edition was reissued as a Vintage Books Edition, 236 pages. Also available as an Amazon Kindle eBook (eISBN 978-0-307-75688-6).
Alinsky, Saul D., Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, Paperback (ISBN 978-0-679-72113-0), copyright 1971 by Saul D. Alinsky, Vintage Books Edition (October 23, 1989), New York, 224 pages. Also available as an Amazon Kindle eBook (Amazon Stock Index Number (ASIN) B003T0G9GM).
Skousen, W. Cleon, The Naked Communist: Exposing Communism and Restoring Freedom, Hardcover (used), Copyright © 1958, 1960, 1961 by Ensign Publishing Company, eighth edition published March 1961, 408 pages (including 6 page Bibliography and 23 page Index). [reference Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) B0006AVBT8]. Also available as an Amazon Kindle eBook (eBook ISBN: 978-0910558723).
Skousen, Paul B.. The Naked Socialist: The Story of Socialism from its Ancient Roots to Modern Times, The Naked Series Book 3, Paperback Edition (ISBN 978-1-478273-48-6), Copyright © 2012, 2014 by Paul B. Skousen, published by Ensign Publishing Company, Riverton Utah, 584 pages. Also available as an Amazon Kindle eBook (eBook ISBN: 978-0-910558-72-3).