“They fear that the development and building of People’s (community) Organizations is the building of a vast power group which may fall prey to a fascistic demagogue who will seize leadership and control and turn an organization into a Frankenstein’s monster against democracy.”
– Saul Alinsky responding to his critics, Reveille for Radicals; p. 199
When Saul Alinsky began building his community-organization movement in 1930s Chicago, observers were watching Alinsky with one eye, while with the other eye observing the building of communist and fascist movements in Europe. It wasn’t hard then to see in Alinsky’s programs at home, elements of the people’s revolution from Russia, as well as some of the same “in your face” tactics being employed by Hitler’s Brownshirts.
What Alinsky’s critics saw was the burgeoning of a national movement, the carefully manipulated construction of people’s organizations, which all had two elements in common: (1) a collectivist creed, which denied the existence of personal responsibility; and (2) an amoral dogma, in which all means were justified by an imaginary utopian end.
While most modern Americans remember well Hitler’s Holocaust and the Cold War waged by a solid U.S.S.R., many of these same Americans have swallowed some false history regarding the movements that spawned such widespread, horrendous results. In what may be regarded as the most triumphant propaganda victory of our time, fascism has been scrubbed of all its Marxist roots, while communism has been scrubbed of its millions of callous murders.
This post-WWII propaganda coup undeniably set the stage for the early Alinsky critics’ most feared eventuality, that the massive organizations could be shrewdly adopted by a fascist demagogue, someone who could “seize leadership and control” and turn them into a “Frankenstein’s monster against democracy.”
But perhaps the most cunning propaganda feat in history has been undertaken for the past 8 years. As Jonah Goldberg expertly expounds in his book, Liberal Fascism, American left-wing ideologues have managed to dissociate themselves from all the horrors of fascism with a “brilliant rhetorical maneuver.” They’ve done it by “claiming that their opponents are the fascists.”
Alinsky himself employed this method, quite deviously. Alinsky biographer, Sanford D. Horwitt provides an anecdote using precisely this diabolical tactic to deceive the people. From Horwitt’s Let Them Call Me Rebel:
“…in the spring of 1972, at Tulane University…students asked Alinsky to help plan a protest of a scheduled speech by George H. W. Bush, then U.S. representative to the United Nations – a speech likely to include a defense of the Nixon administration’s Vietnam War policies. The students told Alinsky they were thinking about picketing or disrupting Bush’s address. That’s the wrong approach, he rejoined, not very creative – and besides causing a disruption might get them thrown out of school. He told them, instead, to go to hear the speech dressed as members of the Ku Klux Klan, and whenever Bush said something in defense of the Vietnam War, they should cheer and wave placards reading, ‘The KKK supports Bush.’ And that is what they did, with very successful, attention-getting results.”
In what may eventually prove to be a devious rhetorical feat of monstrous proportions, while the left has been indulging and fostering the “Bush Is Hitler” meme, they may have just put a genuine ideological fascist heir in the White House.
There is inherent danger in making scurrilous comparisons (as were perpetrated unceasingly against George W. Bush), but there seem to be some very worrisome signs in the rise of Barack Obama that we Americans would be foolish to ignore.
Obama, the Closer
As I put forth last year in “Obama, the Closer”
, Barack Obama, did not start his movement; Alinsky did.
Nor did Obama amass the organizations that propelled him. As detailed by Heidi J. Swarts, in her book, Organizing Urban America,
the movement begun by Saul Alinsky in the 1930s has morphed into thousands of secular and faith-based leftist political organizations. ACORN
(Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) has perhaps the highest public profile, is most reputed for radicalism, and is the organization with which Barack Obama was first aligned. But ACORN is the mere tip of a veritable iceberg of Alinsky-styled community organizations that sweep across the entire United States and make up the backbone of faith-based progressive movements as well.
These euphemistically called “community” organizations have next to nothing to do with improving the communities and everything to do with politics, primarily strong-arming government money to advance their political aims. Prior to Reagan’s election, these groups worked independently for the most part, each seeking to effect local change towards leftist ends.
But with Reagan’s victory, ACORN founding member Wade Rathke sent out a memo (published by Swarts; Organizing Urban America; p. 29) that would reverberate all the way to Barack Obama’s moment. ACORN had been behaving as a sort of “Lone Ranger of the Left” for too long, wrote Rathke. Ronald Reagan had formed a coalition among the middle-class that threatened to bring greater prosperity without left-wing Statists calling the shots. Rathke put out the call to the ACORN troops to stop antagonizing those who would be allies, especially unions and church organizations, once shunned by ACORN as too placid for the real fight for power. For the next 25 years, the community organization network built, proliferated and formed a solid, nation-wide base of political strength, purely according to Alinsky’s original vision, and all just waiting for the right candidate to tap into it and lead it.
When folks from all corners of America proclaimed, seemingly with one voice, Barack is the “One we’ve been waiting for,” they were speaking out of the vast Alinsky-originated network.
Neither did Barack Obama invent the political “ideology of change,” nor design its carefully crafted propaganda. While media folks talked of the tingles up their legs and the brilliant rhetoric of Barack Obama, they were heralding the speaker only, not the creator of the movement and its slogans. That would have been Saul Alinsky, the man who took fascism and cunningly made it appear to casual observers every bit as American as apple pie.
Barack Obama is merely the movement’s closer, the quintessential liberal fascist with a teleprompter.
Alinsky’s Ideology of Change: The Third Way
Goldberg fastidiously notes the comparison between Alinsky’s “in your face” rules for radicals, studied and perfected by Barack Obama, and shows them to have profoundly fascist roots:
“…there’s no disputing that vast swaths of his (Alinsky’s) writings are indistinguishable from the fascist rhetoric of the 1920s and 1930s…His worldview is distinctly fascistic. Life is defined by war, contests of power, the imposition of will. Moreover, Alinsky shares with the fascists and pragmatists of yore a bedrock hostility to dogma. All he believes in are the desired ends of the movement, which he regards as the source of life’s meaning…But what comes through most is his unbridled love of power. Power is a good in its own right for Alinsky. Ours ‘is a world not of angels but of angles,’ he proclaims in Rules for Radicals, ‘where men speak of moral principles but act on power principles.”
Saul Alinsky was the man who transformed politics in America into all-out war mode. Alinsky’s tenth rule of the ethics of means: “You do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral garments.” All’s fair in love and war, and politics, to Alinsky, was war.
“A People’s (community) Organization is not a philanthropic plaything or a social service’s ameliorative gesture. It is a deep, hard-driving force, striking and cutting at the very roots of all the evils which beset the people. It thinks and acts in terms of social surgery and not cosmetic cover-ups.
A People’s Organization is dedicated to an eternal war. A war is not an intellectual debate, and in the war against social evils there are no rules of fair play.”
Saul Alinsky; Reveille for Radicals; p. 133
Alinsky includes an entire section in Rules for Radicals on “The Ideology of Change.” The watchword of the Obama campaign was “change.” Just as Hitler mobilized the masses with a calculatingly undefined demand for “change,” so did Alinsky disciple, Barack Obama.
“Everything must be different!” or “Alles muss anders sein!,”
Hitler’s own campaign slogan, morphed into “Unite for Change,” and the Obama transition team’s change.gov. Even the idea of a vast “movement” was borrowed from Hitler. As Goldberg states, Hitler used the phrase, “the Movement,” more than 200 times in Mein Kampf.
The word ‘movement’ itself is instructive. Movement, unlike progress, doesn’t imply a fixed destination. Rather, it takes it as a given that any change is better.
(Goldberg; Liberal Fascism; p. 176)
Perhaps the most intoxicating allure to the fascist demagogue and his movement for undefined change is its misleadingly conciliatory flavor. Barack Obama continually, throughout his campaign and even now, portrays himself as the Third Way between the cantankerous factions that have polarized America for the past 80 years, since liberal fascism took root as the Progressive Movement.
Obama claimed that Bush was too much the ideologue, that his policies were driven by the Christian right, involved “false choices” between all-out war on the one hand and diplomacy on the other, between the welfare state and cold-hearted, do-nothing conservatism, between absolute sovereignty and cowardly submission to the global community, between doing all and doing nothing. And if any of this gibberish were a true reflection of our political disagreements, Obama would be somewhat correct. But as any sentient person knows, this radical presentation of Obama’s is absolutely false. That gets lost, though, in the leader’s conciliatory tone.
What must not get lost, however, is the very real fact that this Third Way movement for change is as fascist as anything we have ever seen in the USA. As Alinsky described his own “Ideology of Change,” the lure is in the claim that the leader has no ideology that would confine his outlook to hard choices between what is moral or immoral, that there are no boundaries set by either religion or politics, that everything can change and the only thing that matters is one’s end intention to do something good.
As Hitler, before Alinsky, proclaimed, “Our program is to govern,” not delve into theory and dogma. This is in itself very appealing, especially to an electorate sick of the contentiousness of the past decade. This undefined “ideology of change” for the sake of change, for some action that will break through the roadblocks of polarization, has tremendous allure.
But Goldberg bursts that bubble:
The ‘middle way’ sounds moderate and un-radical. Its appeal is that it sounds unideological and freethinking. But philosophically the Third Way is not mere difference splitting; it is utopian and authoritarian. Its utopian aspect becomes manifest in its antagonism to the idea that politics is about trade-offs. The Third Wayer says that there are no false choices -‘I refuse to accept that X should come at the expense of Y.’ The Third Way holds that we can have capitalism and socialism, individual liberty and absolute unity. Fascist movements are implicitly utopian because they – like communist and heretical Christian movements — assume that with just the right arrangement of policies, all contradictions can be rectified.
(Goldberg; Liberal Fascism; p. 130)
Of course, thinking people — when they are indeed thinking
— know this is an utterly false promise. Life will never be made perfect because all human beings are imperfect.
Unity, the Diabolical Lure
What of this longed-for unity then? Barack Obama proclaimed he was leading a movement of people “united for change.” What is the appeal of unity?
The modern liberal fascist seeks that state between mother and child which exists early on before the child seeks his own independence, before mother must set herself at odds with him. It is the perfectly secure state of childhood where all is lovely and peaceful and nurturing, but cannot continue indefinitely if the child is to be prepared to face a world of difficulty and hard choices. Nevertheless, the yearning continues. It is this primordial yearning which sets itself in the crosshairs of the fascist demagogue.
But in adult life, this type of unity is anything but desirable, anything but virtuous. As Goldberg states, however, “elevation of unity as the highest social value is a core tenet of fascism and all leftist ideologies.”
The allure of this mystical unity is so great that its demand to sacrifice reason and thought on the false altar of infantile security is seemingly lost to many. But as Goldberg also reminds us, “unity is, at best, morally neutral and often a source of irrationality and groupthink.”
Rampaging mobs are unified. The Mafia is unified. Marauding barbarians bent on rape and pillage are unified. Meanwhile, civilized people have disagreements, and small-d democrats have arguments. Classical liberalism is based on this fundamental insight, which is why fascism was always anti-liberal.
Liberalism rejected the idea that unity is more valuable than individuality. For fascists and other leftists, meaning and authenticity are found in collective enterprises – of class, nation, or race – and the state is there to enforce that meaning on everyone without the hindrance of debate.
(Goldberg; Liberal Fascism; p. 172)
Just as the healthy relationship between parent and developing child demands friction, so does the healthy relationship between truly liberal citizens. Unity is the siren song of tyranny, not the call to genuine progress.
Fascism: The Two Birds with One Stone Approach
I think of Obama’s liberal fascism as a cancer that attempts to kill the two birds of American exceptionalism with one stone. It is a deviously appealing Third Way that in the end, if allowed to triumph completely, kills both individual liberty and Judeo/Christian religion with its single stone.
And, indeed this was the precise goal of Adolph Hitler. Unlike the outspoken hatred of private property and religion espoused by communists under Lenin and Stalin, Hitler preferred the more moderate-seeming incremental takeover of private enterprise in the interest of the “common good,” and the slow-death of Judeo/Christian religion by chipping away at it and replacing the people’s dependence upon God gradually with reliance on the state (Hitler).
[Note: Hitler’s Holocaust was based on the Progressive Eugenics principles set forth by Social Darwinist scientists and social engineers of the 1920s, widely accepted both in Europe and in the United States. Religion was not at the core of the Holocaust; race was. However, Hitler’s other chief aim was to destroy the Judeo/Christian religions, which he believed had ruined the Germanic race’s world predominance.]
Of course, as the German people were duped into giving Hitler totalitarian powers to work his magic “change,” he took off the kid gloves and accelerated the program.
In the end, however slow the process, however seemingly benign the growth of the state may seem, liberal fascism has the same result of all tyrannies before it: hell on earth for most and a self-indulgent feast for the Statists in power.
As Barack Obama speaks, thinking Americans ought to hear the echoes of past fascist demagogues and remember. Remember.
When Barack Obama promises “collective redemption” through his profligate spending programs and vast overtures to a new world order built on love for our fellow man, we ought to shudder not swoon.
We ought to remember that healthy global relationships are built upon respect, not all-encompassing love, and that redemption for one’s soul is a commodity the state is not empowered to offer.
As Pope Benedict XVI has so presciently warned:
Wherever politics tries to be redemptive, it is promising too much. Where it wishes to do the work of God, it becomes, not divine, but demonic.
Be not fooled, America. The movement, which appears most benign is instead the most malignant growth ever seen on our soil. It’s a cancer that will kill, and however slowly it grows or however nice it may look on the surface, doesn’t change a thing.