"IN THE BEGINNING the incoming organizer must establish his identity or, putting it another way, get his license to operate. He must have a reason for being there— a reason acceptable to the people."This is solid advice, and it needs to be said that formal credentials ("I have a Bachelor's in Community Organization!") gets you nowhere and fast. This isn't about proving your credentials, but demonstrating (take a moment to really mull over that word, demonstrating) your value.
The rest is after the jump, and I'mma warn you right now, this is a long one.
"If the organizer begins with an affirmation of his love for people, he promptly turns everyone off. If, on the other hand, he begins with a denunciation of exploiting employers, slum landlords, police shakedowns, gouging merchants, he is inside their experience and they accept him. People can make judgments only on the basis of their own experiences. And the question in their minds is, “If we were in the organizer’s position, would we do what he is doing and if so, why?”Pace and lead, pace and lead. Take over the narrative, as it exists at that moment, not as you assume it exists ("Hello Fellow Young People Nowadays"), then steer it where you want it to go.
"First, that he is on their side, and second, that he has ideas, and knows how to fight to change things; that he’s not one of these guys “doing his thing,” that he’s a winner. Otherwise who needs him? All his presence means is that the census changes from 225,000 to 225,001."
If you take any advice from Alinsky, let it be this: live your life in such a way that your presence means more than increasing the census by one.
But seriously,this is why we're demonstrating value along with demonstrating moral compatibility. Moral compatibility gets you in the door to the clubhouse, but who cares? The clubhouse already has people in it!
"The Have-Nots have a limited faith in the worth of their own judgments. They still look to the judgments of the Haves. They respect the strength of the upper class and they believe that the Haves are more intelligent, more competent, and endowed with “something special.”In a sense, the Haves are more intelligent, etc. More specifically, some of the Haves are more intelligent yada yada than most of the Have-Nots and (most of the Haves for that matter). What all the Haves have is the aura, the image of specialness, which often turns out to be a paper tiger - it's the Haves that also have intelligence yada yada that are truly fearsome.
Most C-level people (CEO, CFO, etc.) are banking on image as much as actual value. But then, the ability to project image is its own value.
"Power means strength, whereas love is a human frailty the people mistrust. It is a sad fact of life that power and fear are the fountainheads of faith. The job of the organizer is to maneuver and bait the establishment so that it will publicly attack him as a “dangerous enemy.”For the dangerous have power by definition. The greatest value you can give a pundit is to attack them.
Does the Alt-Right need the Ctrl-Left? This is a dumb question. But if you want to build power on either side of the equation, the fastest step forward is to provoke attack from the other side.
Note that this does not apply to internecine piss fests, which is the fastest way to fracture potential power.
Note that this does not apply to internecine piss fests, which is the fastest way to fracture potential power.
"This need is met by the establishment’s use of the brand “dangerous,” for in that one word the establishment reveals its fear of the organizer, its fear that he represents a threat to its omnipotence. Now the organizer has his “birth certificate” and can begin."The key is 'dangerous enough to give free publicity, not dangerous enough to assassinate.'
“The way the fat-cat white newspapers are ripping hell out of Alinsky—he must be all right!”Being hated by the same people is the fastest way to build rapport. The enemy of my enemy is worth looking into.
"In both cases, the black communities were treated to the spectacle of seeing the establishment react with unusually severe fear and hysteria."You want the other side reacting with fear and hysteria and shooting wildly, not calmly picking its shots.
"He needs other credentials to begin— credentials that enable him to meet the question, “Who asked you to come in here?” with the answer, “You did.” He must be invited by a significant sector of the local population, their churches, street organizations, social clubs, or other groups."This is where credentials do come into play: being credentialed by people/organizations that the community already respects. Your college degree means nothing if the community don't truck with fancy book-learning - it is, in fact, a detriment.
"This advantage is the dividend of reputation, but the important issue here is how the organizer without a reputation gets the invitation....Here the tool of the organizer, in the agitation leading to the invitation as well as actual organization and education of local leadership, is the use of the question, the Socratic method:"Alinksy follows this with an extended sample dialogue, which we'll dive into next. This chapter has some excellent 'Socratic' dialogues, which may be my favorite parts of the book.
ORGANIZER: Do you live over in that slummy building?Now obviously every conversation is not going to go this smoothly. It's a model conversation, after all. But notice what he's doing. He's moving into the other person's experience, not yelling about fascists and the workers and Marx and shit. Ideology comes later.
ANSWER: Yeah. What about it?
ORGANIZER: What the hell do you live there for?
ANSWER: What do you mean, what do I live there for? Where else am I going to live? I’m on welfare.
ORGANIZER: Oh, you mean you pay rent in that place?
ANSWER: Come on, is this a put-on? Very funny! You know where you can live for free? ORGANIZER: Hmm. That place looks like it’s crawling with rats and bugs.
ANSWER: It sure is.
ORGANIZER: Did you ever try to get that landlord to do anything about it?
ANSWER: Try to get him to do anything about anything! If you don’t like it, get out. That’s all he has to say. There are plenty more waiting.
ORGANIZER: What if you didn’t pay your rent?
ANSWER: They’d throw us out in ten minutes.
ORGANIZER: Hmm What if nobody in that building paid their rent?
ANSWER: Well, they’d start to throw … Hey, you know, they’d have trouble throwing everybody out, wouldn’t they?
ORGANIZER: Yeah, I guess they would.
ANSWER: Hey, you know, maybe you got something— say, I’d like you to meet some of my friends. How about a drink?
"POLICY AFTER POWER One of the great problems in the beginning of an organization is, often, that the people do not know what they want."'Policy after power' is both an organizational reality (people often don't know what they want) and a tactic. Get the people on board with something that benefits them (pace) and then use their power to accomplish your actual goals (lead).
"Many times, contact with low-income groups does not fire one with enthusiasm for the political gospel of democracy. This disillusionment comes partly because we romanticize the poor in a way we romanticize other sectors of society, and partly because when you talk with any people you find yourselves confronted with clichés, a variety of superficial, stereotyped responses, and a general lack of information."
"In a black ghetto if you ask, “What’s wrong?” you are told, “Well, the schools are segregated." "What do you think should be done to make better schools?" "Well, they should be desegregated." "How?" "Well, you know." And if you say you don't know, then a lack of knowledge or an inability on the part of the one you are talking to may show itself in a defensive, hostile reaction: "You whites were responsible for the segregation in the first place. We didn't do it. So it's your problem, not ours. You started it, you finish it." If you pursue the point by asking, "Well, what else is wrong with the schools right now?" you get the answer, "The buildings are old; the teachers are bad. We've got to have change." "Well,what kind of change?" "Well, everybody knows things have to beLOL.
"If people feel they don't have the power to change a bad situation, then they do not think about it."
This is true, to an extent. It's important to show people that change is possible - that there's a winning horse.
This leads into my absolute 100% favorite part of this book: Alinksy tearing into some Indians (feather).
"Remember, too, that a powerless people will not be purposefully curious about life, and that they then cease being alive."
Remember too, that people who have been given a new reason to live are extremely driven to protect that reason. They do not want to think about the underpinnings of their new reason for living too much, lest it fall away.
"You begin to build power for a particular program—then the program changes when some power has been built."And here is the Prestige of Alinskyism. Power is built among the powerless, who have no reason to live. The power is built and the circus performed to link the Have-not's self-value, their reason to live, with the program of the organization. And then, only then, does the program change and the real purpose of the organization revealed.
"Here the organizer serves as a protective shield: if anything goes wrong it is all his fault, he has the responsibility. If they are successful all credit goes to the local people. He acts as the septic tank in the early stages—he gets all the shit."Solid advice. You have to tank the damage until your people find their feet.
"With this going on in their minds they throw up a whole series of arguments against various organizational procedures, but they are not real arguments, simply attempts to justify the fact that they have not moved or organized in the past. Most people find this necessary, not only to justify themselves to the organizer, but also to themselves."
Anyone who's ever tried to improve an organization has run into this. Oh, the egos who need to justify not having had every possible good idea!
Indians: Well, we can't organize.
Me: Why not?
Indians: Because that's a white man's way of doing things.
Me (I decided to let that one pass though it obviously was untrue, since mankind from time immemorial has always organized, regardless of what race or color they were, whenever they wanted to bring about change): I don't understand.
Indians: Well, you see, if we organize, that means getting out and fighting the way you are telling us to do and that would mean that we would be corrupted by the white man's culture and lose our own values.
Me: What are these values that you would lose?
Indians: Well, there are all kinds of values.
Me: Like what?
Indians: Well, there's creative fishing.
Me: What do you mean, creative fishing?
Indians: Creative fishing.
Me: I heard you the first time. What is this creative fishing?
Indians: Well, you see, when you whites go out and fish, you just go out and fish, don't you?
Me: Yeah, I guess so.
Indians: Well, you see, when we go out and fish, we fish creatively.
Me: Yeah. That's the third time you've come around with that. What is this creative fishing?
Indians: Well, to begin with, when we go out fishing, we get away from everything. We get way out in the woods.
Me: Well, we whites don't exactly go fishing in Times Square, you know.
Indians: Yes, but it's different with us. When we go out, we're out on the water and you can hear the lap of the waves on the bottom of the canoe, and the birds in the trees and the leaves rustling, and—you know what I mean?
Me: No, I don't know what you mean. Furthermore, I think that that's just a pile of shit. Do you believe it yourself?
This brought a shocked silence. It should be noted that I was not being profane purely for the sake of being profane, I was doing this purposefully. If I had responded in a tactful way, saying, "Well, I don't quite understand what you mean, "we would have been off for a ride around the rhetorical ranch for the next thirty days. Here profanity became literally an up-against-the-wall bulldozer.
From there we went off to creative welfare. "Creative welfare" seemed to have to do with "since whites stole Indians' lands, all Indians' welfare payments are really installment payments due to them and it's not really welfare or charity." Well, that took us another five or ten minutes, and we kept breaking through one "creative" rationalization after another until finally we got down to the issue of organization.
An interesting aftermath is that some of this was filmed by the National Film Board of Canada, which was doing a series of documentaries on my work, and a film with part of this episode was shown at a meeting of Canadian development workers, with a number of these Indians present. The white Canadian community development workers kept looking at the floor, very embarrassed, during the unreeling of that scene, and giving sidelong looks at the Indians.
After it was over one of the Indians stood up and said, "When Mr. Alinsky told us we were full of shit, that was the first time a white man has really talked to us as equals—you would never say that to us. You would always say 'Well, I can see your point of view but I'm a little confused,' and stuff like that. In other words you treat us as children."
Best part of the entire book. The bullshitting Indians, the uncomfortable Canadian Whites, the Realtalking Jew - perfect.
"Learn to search out the rationalizations, treat them as rationalizations, and break through. Do not make the mistake of locking yourself up in conflict with them as though they were the issues or problems with which you are trying to engage the local people."And this is part of why you never engage with internecine pissfests. Rationalizations, little hair-splittings of meanings, these are not the reasons we have organized and come together. I did not come to this meeting to hear about Creative Fishing, I did not come to this organization to hear about your One True Politics. Contribute to the cause, or STFU.
"THE PROCESS OF POWER: From the moment the organizer enters a community he lives, dreams, eats, breathes, sleeps only one thing and that is to build the mass power base of what he calls the army...The only issue is, how will this increase the strength of the organization. If by losing in a certain action he can get more members than by winning, then victory lies in losing and he will lose."The only thing that matters is power, and its increase.
"Power and organization are one and the same."Why do we organize? To gain power.
"Therefore, if your function is to attack apathy and get people to participate it is necessary to attack the prevailing patterns of organized living in the community. The first step in community organization is community disorganization. The disruption of the present organization is the first step toward community organization. Present arrangements must be disorganized if they are to be displaced by new patterns that provide the opportunities and means for citizen participation. All change means disorganization of the old and organization of the new."There's a Bible verse about wolves only entering the sheep fold to kill and destroy that may be appropriate. Disruption leads to change, which leads to power, which leads to the true goal. These psychotics cannot live in peace, because disrupting community function is their MO,
"This is why the organizer is immediately confronted with conflict. The organizer dedicated to changing the life of a particular community must first rub raw the resentments of the people of the community; fan the latent hostilities of many of the people to the point of overt expression. He must search out controversy and issues, rather than avoid them, for unless there is controversy people are not concerned enough to act."
Again, there are pages and pages of Bible verses about slanderers, gossips, schismatics, and all others who disrupt a community for personal gain.
"An organizer must stir up dissatisfaction and discontent; provide a channel into which the people can angrily pour their frustrations. He must create a mechanism that can drain off the underlying guilt for having accepted the previous situation for so long a time....And so the labor organizer simultaneously breeds conflict and builds a power structure"
Breed conflict, build power.
"No one can negotiate without the power to compel negotiation."Again, truisms like this are why Alinsky is not wrong. He's a psychopath, not an idiot.
"It is difficult for people to believe that you really respect their dignity. After all, they know very few people, including their own neighbors, who do. But it is equally difficult for you to surrender that little image of God created in our own likeness, which lurks in all of us and tells us that we secretly believe that we know what's best for the people."For all his Bible references, Alinsky's god is the god of self and the god of power.
"To give people help, while denying them a significant part in the action, contributes nothing to the development of the individual. In the deepest sense it is not giving but taking—taking their dignity. Denial of the opportunity for participation is the denial of human dignity and democracy. It will not work"'I am GamerGate and so are you." This is something all autocrats forget. You have to give people a sense of participation and of making their own dignity, not of transferring their power to another.
"As Finley Peter Dunne's Mr. Dooley put it, 'Don't ask f'r rights. Take thim. An' don't let anny wan give thim to ye. A right that is handed to ye fer nawthin has somethin the mather with it. It's more thin likely it's only a wrrong turned inside out.'"The problem with a right given instead of taken, is that rights merely given can be taken back. Which is the thing about power - you always need enough to maintain your rights.