Who was he: Saul Alinsky is considered by many on the left – and the right – as the founder of modern-day community organizing. Alinsky's focus was on helping the poor to advance what the left describes as "social action." Alinsky's ideas were also used by the antiwar movement during the 1960s and early 1970s. William F. Buckley once wrote that Alinsky was "very close to being an organizational genius."
There are some important parallels between Saul Alinsky and President Barack Obama's earlier organizing methods in the poor areas of Chicago. Alinsky is well known abroad and once even traveled to Venezuela where he was feted and honored as an inspiration to the "Hugo Chavez Revolution."
Background: Saul David Alinsky was born on January 30, 1909 in Chicago to a Russian, Jewish immigrant family. Alinsky's parents were not leftwing socialists, but rather strict Orthodox Jews with their lives revolving around work and the synagogue. Alinsky appears to have given up on religious activity during his early teenage years, but he always considered himself Jewish.
Alinsky worked and attended the University of Chicago majoring in archaeology. But he dropped out of graduate school and began working as a criminologist for the State of Illinois, while also working part-time as a labor organizer for the Congress of Industrial Organizations (C.I.O.). Later Alinsky became more interested in community organizing for the poor and attempted to shape and lead this voiceless discontent into an organized protest movement.
Starting around 1950, Saul Alinsky turned his substantial organizational, leadership and writing skills to the African-American ghettos – first in Chicago and later in California. Alinsky founded the Industrial Areas Foundation, which promoted the growth of community organizations across the United States.
In 1971, Alinsky published Rules for Radicals, a how-to manual for organizing the left. The opening paragraph is telling. "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."
Alinsky died on June 12, 1972, but his influence and perceptions live on. His legacy is an ugly one. What follows is an excerpt from an article on Alinsky that aptly summates his tactics and strategy for implementing change. The passage, from an article entitled, "Neocons, Teabaggers And Chickenhawks – Saul Alinsky And The Demonization Of Political Opponents," says it all:
"Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." The left constantly looks for the latest "boogeyman/boogey-woman". The viciousness of the attacks on Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and many others all fall into this category. In this tactic, the left doesn't seek to find truth — they seek to create a living caricature of evil, incompetence and cruelty and they don't care how cruel they are in slandering people who have families and loved ones as long as it serves the purpose of mitigating an effective voice of the right."