Saul Alinsky

Does David Cameron know that one of the inspirations for his "Big Society" was a Marxist who wanted to overthrow Western society?

When David Cameron announced in his Big Society speech last spring that he intended to create a “neighbourhood army” of 5,000 full-time, professional community organisers, most people probably imagined that he was talking about mobilising the kind of worthy folk who habitually volunteer for good deeds.

He spoke glowingly of training such organisers with the skills needed to identify local community leaders, help people start their own neighbourhood groups and assist communities to tackle their problems.

What could possibly be wrong with that? Well, to those with tuned-in antennae the word “army” was one clue that something was very wrong with it. For what Cameron almost certainly didn’t realise was that the inspirational leader he credited with creating the concept of the community organiser, Saul Alinsky, was a man who did believe in the creation of an army — a revolutionary army, no less, to overthrow Western society. And the community organiser was its designated recruiting-sergeant. 

It’s a fair bet that hardly anyone in Britain has heard of Alinsky, a radical Marxist Chicago activist who died in 1972. A master of infiltration, Alinsky wooed Chicago mobsters and Wall Street financiers alike. Successive Democratic politicians fell under his spell — including one Barack Obama, who worked as an Alinskyite community organiser before entering politics. 

Mesmerised by Obama’s stunning political trajectory and hoping that some of the glitter of America’s First Community Organiser would settle upon the Big Society idea, Cameron was only too keen to extol Alinsky as his own inspiration. 

Astonishing as this may seem, Britain’s new Conservative Prime Minister thus effectively declared himself a follower of a left-wing radical who set out to undermine Western society through subterfuge. 

For Alinsky was a “transformational Marxist” in the mould of Antonio Gramsci. He promoted the strategy of a “long march through the institutions” by capturing the culture and turning it inside out as the most effective means of starting the revolution. 

His creed was set out in Rules for Radicals, which he dedicated to Lucifer, whom he called the “first radical”. For Alinsky, “change” was his mantra. Sound familiar? It was the slogan repeated incessantly by both Cameron and Obama. But what Alinsky meant was a Marxist revolution achieved by slow, incremental, Machiavellian means. 

This had to be done through systematic deception, winning the trust of the naively idealistic middle-class by using the language of morality to conceal an agenda designed to destroy it. And the way to do this, he said, was through “people’s organisations” set up by community organisers.

These would mobilise direct action by the oppressed masses against their capitalist oppressors. They would be staffed by those with axes to grind against society’s perceived injustices. And the trained community organisers would help them set their agendas.

For Alinsky, the organiser was of supreme importance as the master manipulator. His role was to “first rub raw the resentments of the people; fan the latent hostilities to the point of overt expression”. The organiser needed to “agitate to the point of conflict” and “to manoeuvre and bait the establishment so that it will publicly attack him as a ‘dangerous enemy'”. The word “enemy” would be sufficient to put the organiser on the people’s side, by convincing them that his commitment to them was opening himself up to condemnation and derision.

Using local people thus was also crucial for concealing the strategy’s true character by giving these “people’s organisations” credibility. It was modelled upon the old Communist Party trick of creating apparently mainstream front organisations that were actually puppets of the party.

In similar vein, Alinsky condemned the New Left for alienating the general public, saying that the revolution had to be carried out stealthily by cultivating an image of pragmatism in order not to frighten the horses. 

The strategy has worked so well that an Alinskyite radical now sits in the White House. When Obama was elected, Alinsky’s son David wrote to the Boston Globe, crowing about this apotheosis of his father’s influence. 

He wrote of Obama’s campaign: “All the elements were present: the individual stories told by real people of their situation and hardships, the packed-to-the rafters crowd, the crowd’s chanting of key phrases and names, the action on the spot of texting and phoning to show instant support and commitment to jump into the political battle, the rallying selections of music, the setting of the agenda by the power people.

“Obama’s training…by the great community organisers is showing its effectiveness. It is an amazingly powerful format, and the method of my late father always works to get the message out and get the supporters on board. When executed meticulously and thoughtfully, it is a powerful strategy for initiating change and making it really happen.”

But the British Tories don’t even understand what they have so witlessly endorsed.

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