Rules for radicals


  1. “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.”
  2. “Never go outside the expertise of your people.”
  3. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.”
  4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
  5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
  6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”
  7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.”
  8. “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.”
  9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”
  10. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.”
  11. “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”
  12. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.”
  13. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

Saul Alinsky was a 1960s activist who used non-violent action to make change. He made clever use of humour to disarm and out manoeuvre.

After organizing FIGHT (an acronym for Freedom, Independence [subsequently Integration], God, Honor, Today) Saul Alinsky once threatened to stage a “fart in” to disrupt the sensibilities of the city’s establishment at a Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra concert.

FIGHT members were to consume large quantities of baked beans after which, according to author Nicholas von Hoffman “FIGHT’s increasingly gaseous music-loving members would hide themselves to the concert hall where they would sit expelling gaseous vapors with such noisy velocity as to compete with the woodwinds.

Satisfied with the reaction to his threat, Alinsky would later threaten a “piss in” at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.
Alinsky planned to arrange for large numbers of well dressed African Americans to occupy the urinals and toilets at O’Hare for as long as it took to bring the city to the bargaining table. According to Alinsky, once again the threat alone was sufficient to produce results.

This tactic fell under two of his rules (Rule #3: Wherever possible, go outside the experience of the enemy and Rule #4: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon).


I love manuals, guidelines, manifestos and top-ten-tips. There’s something very reassuring about a bullet pointed recipe of staccato do’s and dont’s. Like a Haynes car manual, or anything ring-bound with diagrams, the simple list makes it all much less cloudy.


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1 Response to Rules for radicals

  1. Interesting and useful knowledge! Thanks!!!


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