Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky
Alinsky’s Rules for Power (Excerpts)
The First rule: Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.
The Second rule: Never go outside the experience of your people. When an action is outside the experience of the people, the result is confusion, fear, and retreat.
The Third rule: Wherever possible go outside of the experience of the enemy. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.
The Fourth rule: Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.
The Fifth rule: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.
The Sixth rule: A good tactic is one that your people enjoy. If your people are not having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.
A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag. Man can sustain militant interest in any issue for only a limited time, after which it becomes a ritualistic commitment.
Power goes to two poles: to those who’ve got money and those who’ve got people.
Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.
The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.
The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.
If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside; this is based on the principle that every positive has its negative.
The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.
You cannot risk being trapped by the enemy in his suddenly agreeing with your demand and saying “You’re right – we don’t know what to do about this issue. Now you tell us.”
Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.
In conflict tactics there are certain rules that the organizer should always regard as universalities.
One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and “frozen.” By this I mean that in a complex, interrelated, urban society, it becomes increasingly difficult to single out who is to blame for any particular evil. There is a constant, and somewhat legitimate, passing of the buck. The target is always trying to shift responsibility to get out of being the target.
One of the criteria in picking your target is the target’s vulnerability – where do you have the power to start?
Furthermore, the target can always say, “Why do you center on me when there are others to blame as well?” When you “freeze the target,” you disregard these arguments and, for the moment, all others to blame.
Then, as you zero in and freeze your target and carry out your attack, all of the “others” come out of the woodwork very soon. They become visible by their support of the target.
The other important point in the choosing of a target is that it must be a personification, not something general and abstract such as a community’s segregated practices or a major corporation or City Hall. It is not possible to develop the necessary hostility against, say, City Hall, which after all is a concrete, physical, inanimate structure, or against a corporation, which has no soul or identity, or a public school administration, which again is an inanimate system.