Alinsky and Terkel, talking | Bleader

Alinsky and Terkel, talking


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Republicans from Newt Gingrich on down who have been trying to hang Saul Alinsky on Barack Obama are handicapped by their apparent failure to have any idea who it is they're talking about.

Alinsky was a community organizer born and raised in Chicago who worked closely with friends in high places in the Catholic Church. On what was probably his last visit to Chicago before he died in 1972, Alinsky appeared at the First Unitarian Church of Chicago, spoke sympathetically of the middle class and dismissively of demonstrators, and said the only way to change the system is from within it. He also spoke about demonizing the opposition. An organizer can't afford to grant that the enemy is 45 percent good and 55 percent bad, he said, because "people won't put themselves on the line for 10 percent."

Here's Alinsky in his own words, in a conversation with Studs Terkel. Studs asks him how he'd react to being called a "professional agitator." Alinsky corrects him. "Professional outside agitator," he says. "Agitators very rarely come up from the inside. Because if you come up from the inside one of two things happen to you—either you get knocked off or you get coopted."