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Remembering Saul Alinsky: Lessons for the National Land League

Saul Alinsky
Saul Alinsky, the son of Orthodox Russian Jewish emigrants to the United States, can be described as one of the most impressive community organisers in the history of the USA. Most won't remember him now, particularly in Europe, but Alinsky laid down a method of political and community organisation that transformed American and indeed global activism.


Do not be fooled by the fact that he has been and is praised by both the "right" and the "left" in the USA for his work in mobilising the African American communities, the Canadian-Indian communities and the poor in general. Alinsky's methods were both divisive and confrontational, indeed Alinsky believed that without conflict there can be no change as the old guard or those with "the power" will not give it up readily but rather only through demands and threats.

 

Alinsky's work and teachings go far beyond the rhetoric of change, encompassing a methodology that, it would appear, the National Land League of Ireland has engaged over the last six months. Alinsky's "method" involves the encouragement of community organisation through nurturing clusters of disatisfaction within the identified community, establishing who in the community displays an energetic revulsion of the injustice and bringing those people together to form a local committe or group ready to take action by highlighting the problem and agitating for change.

Alinsky understood the value of targetted acts of civil disobedience. He conveyed to communities that agitation by small groups of people with the purpose of highlighting the injustice to the victims and the perpetrators, attracted more to the cause through the publicity gained, and created discussion and the will for change. He held a disdain for what he often described as middle class, "Madison Avenue " public relations steeped in moral hygiene, a polite form of representation. Impotent and pointless excersises in which the oppressed talk about change with those who have the "power" but never agitate or threaten (Alinsky defined power as the ability to act) and never succeed. His experiences thought him that discussion without threat, interactions without conflict (non violent) only serves to maintain the status quo. Indeed, Alinsky also preached the value of dividing the upholders of the status quo against themselves.  Some have critiqued Alinsky for this tactic calling it Machiavellian in nature, but as Alinsky responded, as pure as one might feel oneself, if you want to make change you will have to accept that you may get a little dirty in the process.

Wherever Alinsky went you could be sure a Town Hall or other centre of local authority would be occuppied by groups of marginalised citizens. Equally, you could also be guaranteed that wherever Alinsky inspired community organisation, those inspired would win their causes.

The National Land League has been working tirelessly over the last six months establishing small groups throughout the counties to agitate for an end to evictions and an across the board write-down on home mortage debt. This write-down must be open to those in arrears and those not in arrears. We have identified in many areas some of the most energetic and passionate people desiring our goals. Step by step, through the establishment of community day centres and also acts of agitation, we are growing in each area.

Our strategic objective is to multiply those clusters of organised disatisfaction and to join those clusters into a force that is strong enough to threaten the entire banking system. Having forged the will and the threat, our simple and clear aims will be met. To achieve this will mean adding significantly to our numbers of community organisers and that means finding men and women with the passion, energy and most of all with an intuitive understanding of the value of community building, confontation and agitation.

We have posted below a number of films about and involving Saul Alinsky. These films will we hope educate you and inspire you to take a leading role in your community, a role that rejects the typical fluffy, non-confrontational forms of community representation of today. With up to half a million men, women and children facing the threat of eviction in Ireland, we do not have time to be nice, we must organise, build and agitate before it is too late.....

Saul Alinsky meeting with Canadian Indian Groups.... Suprisingly candid exchanges

Saul Alinsky Explains Community Organizing as an Outside Agitator

William F Buckley Jr & Saul Alinsky - Mobilizing The Poor

 

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