Be radical. A pragmatic manual for radical realists.

This is the French translation of Rules for radicals by Saul Alinsky, a book often presented as the classic of the social animator, originally published in 1971. Alinsky was, in his own words, an « organizer » of communities, let us add: of the first category. The author explains that he wrote this book to give young people keys to understanding and action because  » there are certain rules for the radical who wants to change the world. The slope is therefore that of the science of revolution, the kind of science that has not worked too well… It was another time, and time has passed on the book, logically enough, as well as on a certain number of the rules set out in great detail by the man who inspired part of the action of B. Obama and H. Clinton. Over the past 40 years, the power of the establishment, which this book forcefully denounces, has grown even more powerful, and many of the pro-posing tactics no longer seem practicable. However, this reading is very instructive, especially because Alinsky goes straight to the point, which he identifies at the same time:  » In this book, what we are interested in is how to create mass organizations capable of taking power and giving it to the people. And he insists on the need for a political reading without prevarication, which our time needs so much. Considering the world as it is and not as we would like it to be, aiming for goals at the right height — attainable — understanding the dual nature of action and intentions, identifying the forces at play, thinking without evasion about key terms such as power, self-interest, compromise, ego, conflict. So many analyses and reflections that are essential for those who want to act to defend their values, which we hope are decent. Alinsky’s analysis nevertheless finds its limit in the question of means and ends, which is treated in depth. The organizer exposes the difference of vision between the position « the end justifies the means » used to justify the most ignoble behaviors and that of  » the end is in the means  » which he explores in the light of Gandhi’s action, a radical if there is one. Alinsky formulates his position as:  » Does this end justify this means? « , arguing that ethics is indispensable but that ultimately it fades before personal interest and particular situations. Yet Alinsky exposes his own contradiction by observing himself that when Orwell goes off to fight in the Spanish War, he puts his life on the line and his self-interest on the back burner.  » These are exceptions to the rule, and there have been enough of them to cast their lights into the dark past of history to indicate to us that these epi-sodic transformations of the human mind are more than the uncertain glow of fireflies, » he points out. Rather than this intermediate, not to say lame, ethical posture, we will subscribe more to the call for a spiritual revolution that animates the very end of the book’s conclusions and these last two sentences that synthesize:  » Hopefully, this darkness will precede the dawn of a beautiful new world. We will only see it when we believe it « .

JBG

Be radical. A Pragmatic Handbook for Radical Realists, Saul Alinsky, Editions Aden, Brussels, 2012

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