Monday, February 1, 2010

Tactical Hits

"They studied leftist activism of years past as their prototype, looking to the tactics of Saul Alinsky, the Chicago community organizer who laid the framework for grass-roots activism..."

Jim Rutenberg and Campbell Robertson, "From High Jinks to Handcuffs: A Provocative Conservative Movement Born on Campus," The New York Times,January 31, 2010.

I guess the question is what gets included in "tactics." Is it manipulating facts and situations to cause embarrasment and make a point? If so, Saul Alinsky and his organizers, and many on the left, certainly have tread that ground at times. If "tactics" includes the strategy of building "peoples organizations" and negotiating victory, large or small, then the comparison between Alinsky and O'Keefe, et al., is off the mark. See: Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals. It's unclear how O'Keefe's gang is developing a grassroots democratic organization through these acts and what real world negotiation and benefits they are trying to influence.

Is breaking into a Senate office to out people not answering the phone a way to derail health-care reform? What does the "unmasking" of ACORN achieve, less representation for low-income people? Good government? A crack in the edifice of the liberal/community/labor complex?

These comments are not meant to deny any historic connections with left activism, just to question whether Alinksy and community organizing is a legit comparision. In the community organizing world, if tactics completely overshadow community leadership, what have you got in the long run?

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