Saturday, September 17, 2005

Who WAS Saul Alinsky, Anyway?

This blog has been up for about three months, and the name "Saul Alinsky" has been just a name in the title section.

So who was Saul Alinsky?

He was an organizer of communities. He got people together to get things done, and usually was successful at it. He started in the Back of The Yards, worked to unite communities all over Chicago, and was invited to Rochester to break the color barrier there.

His philosophy was pragmatic, in that he believed you worked with what you had. Whatever you could do, you did. His favorite example was Ghandi, the "hero of nonviolence." Alinsky's view of Ghandi was that Ghandi used nonviolence because it was his only choice -- the Indians were very passive towards their masters, and the British Press was open enough to play on the British sense of fair play. Had he been in Nazi Germany, he would have become part of the resistance, with its works against the Germans.

But what the title of my blog refers to is a quote of his. It actually refers to a quote stated three times in Rules For Radicals, each time slightly different but saying the same thing:
All issues must be polarized if action is to follow. One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side, and all the devils are on the other.

In short, remove the center.

And that's what's happening in America: the death of the center. Whereas once the phrase "The center cannot hold" referred to a coming collapse, now the phrase "The center must not hold" is responded to with cheers.

And, as has been true the last thirty years, the right is better at this than the left. They've fitted into their pocket the Fundamentalist Christian Right, who have decided that self-righteousness and the joy of watching others lose their rights is worth the impoverishment of their own pocketbooks and of the nation they supposedly love. In this way the Corporatistas have been able to co-opt the middle class into their plans.

It is interesting that, towards the end of his life, Saul Alinsky saw the middle class drifting rightward, and saw the solution as bringing the middle and lower classes together. Sadly, he was unable to initiate actions towards uniting the lower and middle classes, as he died in 1972.

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