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org an injury to one is an injury to all Winter 2006

Rules for Radicals

Alinsky’s Rules for Power


From Rules for Radicals The fourth rule carries opposition must be singled out as the
by Saul Alinsky within it the fifth rule: target and “frozen.” By this I mean that
Ridicule is man’s most in a complex, interrelated, urban society,
Tactics mean doing potent weapon. It is almost it becomes increasingly difficult to single
what you can with what impossible to counterattack out who is to blame for any particular
you have. ridicule. Also it infuriates evil. There is a constant, and somewhat
Tactics are those the opposition, who then legitimate, passing of the buck. The
conscious deliberate acts react to your advantage. target is always trying to shift
by which human beings Sixth rule: A good responsibility to get out of being the
live with each other and tactic is one that your target.
deal with the world people enjoy. If your One of the criteria in picking your
around them. In the world people are not having a ball target is the target’s vulnerability – where
of give and take, tactics doing it, there is something do you have the power to start?
is the art of how to take and how to give. very wrong with the tactic. Furthermore, the target can always say,
Here our concern is with the tactic of A tactic that drags on too long “Why do you center on me when there
taking; how the Have-Nots can take becomes a drag. Man can sustain are others to blame as well?” When you
power away from the Haves. militant interest in any issue for only a “freeze the target,” you disregard these
For an elementary illustration of limited time, after which it becomes a arguments and, for the moment, all others
tactics, take parts of your face as the ritualistic commitment. to blame.
point of reference; your eyes, your ears, Then, as you zero in and freeze your
and your nose. First the eyes; if you have Power goes to two poles: target and carry out your attack, all of
organized a vast, mass-based people’s the “others” come out of the woodwork
organization, you can parade it visibly
to those who've got money
very soon. They become visible by their
before the enemy and openly show your and those who've got people. support of the target.
power. Second the ears; if your The other important point in the
organization is small in numbers, Keep the pressure on, with different choosing of a target is that it must be a
then...conceal the members in the dark tactics and actions, and utilize all events personification, not something general
but raise a din and clamor that will make of the period for your purpose. and abstract such as a community’s
the listener believe that your organization The threat is usually more terrifying segregated practices or a major
numbers many more than it does. Third, than the thing itself. corporation or City Hall. It is not possible
the nose; if your organization is too tiny The major premise for tactics is the to develop the necessary hostility
even for noise, stink up the place. development of operations that will against, say, City Hall, which after all is a
maintain a constant pressure upon the concrete, physical, inanimate structure,
Always remember the first rule of opposition. or against a corporation, which has no
power tactics: Power is not only what If you push a negative hard and soul or identity, or a public school
you have but what the enemy thinks you deep enough it will break through into administration, which again is an
have. its counterside; this is based on the inanimate system.
Second: Never go outside the principle that every positive has its
experience of your people. When an negative.
Born in 1909 Saul Alinsky was a
action is outside the experience of the The price of a successful attack is a community organizer and
people, the result is confusion, fear, and constructive alternative. you cannot risk organizer trainer in Chicago. He
retreat. being trapped by the enemy in his was a champion of confronta-
Wherever possible go outside of the suddenly agreeing with your demand and tional tackics. Alinsky wrote two
experience of the enemy. Here you want saying “You’re right – we don’t know books on tactics and a biogra-
to cause confusion, fear, and retreat. what to do about this issue. Now you phy of Mineworker president
The fourth rule is: Make the enemy tell us.” John L. Lewis.
live up to their own book of rules. You Pick the target, freeze it,
Fred Ross, a student of Alinsky,
can kill them with this, for they can no personalize it, and polarize it.
was a major influence on Cesar
more obey their own rules than the In conflict tactics there are certain Chavez, founder of the United
Christian church can live up to rules that the organizer should always Farm Workers union.
Christianity. regard as universalities. One is that the
an injury to one is an injury to all