Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Saul Alinsky: A Libertarian?

John Hanlon writes:

I have an objection to this comment by you:

The action handbook of the left, Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals tells the left;
The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the have-nots to take it away.
And they have no qualms about using any method necessary to gain power. From Rules for Radicals again;
In war the end justifies almost any means.
And In action one does not always enjoy the luxury of a decision that is both with one’s individual conscience and the good of mankind... He who sacrifices the mass good for his personal conscience has a peculiar perception of “personal salvation’;he doesn’t care enough for people to be ‘corrupted’ for them”
It took me sometime to realize how different the current day left is from libertarians and the right. They are truly about gaining power and will say and do pretty much anything to gain it.
My comment is that Alinsky was a libertarian - he advocated ‘community organizers’ organize a community to express its particular communal interests through private, non-partisan neighborhood associations, based on a workers’ union model.  His texts, his schools, everything about Saul Alinsky, is very opposed to government and politics as usual — usually his neighborhood groups fought against ‘city hall’.  Alinsky aimed to organize citizens into action groups like unions or neighborhood associations to accomplish community goals agreed to by consensus.  This is precisely the Right’s much-touted civic association, social club, or religious club - a non-statist civil society that should be an alternative to partisan political activity.  The independent neighborhood association opposes the power of the state, government, or administration.  Alinsky developed his ideas for organizing in the crucible of machine party politics in Daley’s Chicago in the 50’s and 60’s; Alinsky saw a need for ordinary citizens to fight for their rights against City Hall’s partisan neglect.

You and David Horowitz have it 100% wrong about Saul Alinsky.  Thank you for your consideration.

Joe Hanlon

Tampa, FL

RW  response:

Thank you for your thoughtful letter.

I do not view "community action" as libertarian and I reject the idea of rights, I wrote a book highlighting my rejection of these views: Foundations of Private Property Society Theory: Anarchism for the Civilized Person.

Show me where Alinsky hails the individual on his own property? he does not.


  1. Alinsky seems not to have been an advocate for government. This is probably why the likes of HR Clinton and Obummer went their own ways from Alinsky. Clinton and Obummer admire his tactics more than his politics.

    I think Mr. Hanlon touched on pretty much all of where Alinsky had intersections with libertarians. What he leave out are Alinsky’s craven violations of the NAP.

  2. After reading that it's pretty clear that's nothing but Cook County and Illinois politics, not libertarianism. Unions, community groups, etc and so on trade their support for money, goods, and services at a cost to their neighbors. That is if we consider the political system part of 'any means'. The reason the City of Chicago, Cook county, and the state of Illinois are in the financial situations they are in is because people organized to take from their neighbors, to achieve their goals.

  3. I read an interview with Alinski later in his life where he said he was fed up with socialism. He talked about the lack of incentive to work. I've not been able to find it again though.

  4. Alinsky may have been a Libertairan but the power structure has flipped 180 degrees since he wrote. The Left have become The Establishment, The System, The Man, so to speak. Maybe it is time to Stick It To The Man. That is what many of us hoped Trump would do. But The Man does not go down without a fight. Trump may only have made The Man stronger.