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Reading Saul Alinksy



Hi all. Ryan Rauzon here at Summit Strategy Group. We like to say around here that “if it’s controversial, we want in”—and that’s held true for all sorts of ideas, but especially the ones involving grassroots organizing and field work. We feel a reverence for the way certain debates can become so polarizing that hardly any communication can occur at all. Our feeling is that nothing is so intense that productive dialogue should not result—a teaching straight from Dr. King and his Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Too much monologue these days. Not enough dialogue. (It’s why there’s a comments section down below I hope you’ll use!)


And so today with this small post, I can’t help but think of this great story filed by Andrew Marantz of The New Yorker when he wrote of Glenn Beck and Cass Sunstein, Edward Bernays and Al Gore, George Soros and Saul Alinsky. Ah, Saul Alinsky.


Alinsky’s writing should be read; that’s my position. I’m grateful to mentors who told me to go read him when I was starting my career.


Alinsky should be read. Especially 1971’s Rules for Radicals: a practical primer for realistic radicals. I mean, listen to him! (Go to 0:48 second mark here or to 1:38 when he speaks of Los Angeles). If the conversation is about Alinsky, then it’s going to have really rich language. I’ve always loved how he describes the opening moments of conversation with an organizer (and, yep, we’re mindful of the pronouns):


“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. Any stranger is suspect. ‘Who’s the cat?’ ‘What’s he asking all those questions for?’ ‘Is he really the cops or the F.B.I.?’ ‘What’s his bag?’ ‘What’s he really after?’ ‘What’s in it for him?’ ‘Who’s he working for?’”


Here we are online. We just all showed up here—and we probably need to write posts and establish ourselves with the same modesty of earning a reason acceptable to be here. That’s what we’re hoping to do with these sorts of posts. Answer the questions and see if they’re acceptable to those of you with whom we hope to do work together.