With all the discussion about Barak Obama, Chicago community organizer, it would be helpful to understand more about what he was doing.
First, here’s his work history: for two years, fresh out of college, Obama directed the Developing Communities Project, which operated under the Gamaliel Foundation network. His mentor was the ex-Jesuit, Greg Galuzzo, lead organizer for Gamaliel, who received his training under a fellow named Saul Alinsky. Remember that name – Alinsky.
Another of Obama’s mentors was organizer Jerry Kellman, whose Calumet Community Religious Conference founded the Developing Communities Project. Alinsky, who built the original Alinskyian network of community organizations – the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) – also trained Kellman. Not too surprisingly, the Chicago IAF affiliate worked with Obama on legislative issues and supported him in his bid for Senator. Are you following all this?
After Obama went to Harvard Law School, he returned to Chicago and taught Alinskyian organizing to yet another network - ACORN. Although ACORN has a unique structure among the Alinskyian networks, its tactical philosophy and worldview fit the profile, and for a good reason. ACORN’s founder, Wade Rathke, trained under George Wiley, who trained under Alinsky – a sort of second generation Alinskyite, if you will. Obama ran ACORN’s 1992 voter-registration drive, Project Vote, and in turn received ACORN’s endorsement for Illinois senator.
Here are three community-organizing networks, each marked with the philosophy of Saul Alinsky. Who the hell was this guy?
The Premier “Community Organizer”, Saul Alinsky
No, I’m not just being profane. Alinsky begins one of his books on organizing, Rules for Radicals, with a sort of dedication:
Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical; from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins - or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom - Lucifer. Saul Alinsky, dedication of Rules for Radicals
Tongue in check though this may have been, there’s an ironic truth to what Alinsky was saying. Organizing, as he conceived it, is a rebellious, self-serving business. If you wanted a little crash-course in the most egregious ideas Alinsky teaches, they would be:
- Class warfare: The world, as Alinsky sees it, is looked in a perpetual struggle between the “Haves” and “Have-nots.” Alinsky sees his work as giving tools to the “Have-nots” so they can take from the “Haves.”
- The ends justify the means: This is a war, baby.
- “An organizer working for change...does not have a fixed truth - truth to him is relative and changing.” Rules for Radicals (pg. 10-11): Morality isn’t a set of fixed principles but changes as popular consensus changes. (If you’re worried that this gives someone like Hitler moral credibility, you’d be right…that is, if Hitler wins the war. But since he didn’t, he’s the devil.)
- The organizer (unencumbered by “truth) must gain the trust of people by looking and sounding just like them. “All effective actions,” Alinsky writes in his Rules, “require the passport of morality.” If the “people” are church-goers, the organizer had better go to church, too.
- Popular education: The people – that is, the poor – need to be awakened to their own self-interest and trained to take political action, under the direction of their organizers.
There’s a good deal more, but the above five, foundational concepts of Alinsky’s work are enough to give the reader pause. These are ideas straight from hell.
What Alinsky Founded
Many activists hear the term “community organizing” and understand it to mean grassroots people, working together, exercising their civic rights to improve neighborhoods and schools. It can work that way and when it does, it can be a good thing.
The Alinskyian organizers, however, use this optimistic energy to their own advantage. While “leading” with the people’s immediate concerns, they have pursued their own agenda. In other words, while organizing around neighborhood concerns, the action taken to address local concerns belongs to the Alinskyites:
[The organizer's] issue gets dealt with last. If you want your issue to be dealt with first, you'll never build anything. So you lead with other people’s issues, and you teach them how to act on their issues. Then you model what is to be reciprocal, you model what it is to have a long-term vision. [Ernesto Cortes, Southwestern Regional Director of the Industrial Areas Foundation, “Organizing the Community: The Industrial Areas Foundation Organizer speaks to farmers and farm activists,” The Texas Observer, 7/11/86.]
OK, so what’s the agenda?
The People’s Platform
Alinsky founded something called the Industrial Areas Foundation, which, over the years, has become a network of affiliate groups around the country. Each affiliate operates under a different name but pays dues to the national Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), is run by IAF organizers, and sends its hand-picked leadership to national IAF centers for training.
Several IAF-trained organizers went on to found their own Alinskyian networks, all having similar worldviews, similar structures, and similar agendas.
Most of the time, one has to follow a network for a decade or so to ferret out the agenda because it isn’t something they talk about – not when they’re trying to walk and talk like the typical Americans.
ACORN, on the other hand, has always been a little different. It began in Little Rock, Arkansas, rising from the financial and managerial ashes of George Wiley’s National Welfare Rights Organization. That was 1970. By 1978, ACORN had local chapters around the US and wrote a People’s Platform, which was ratified the following year at its national convention. The document was revised and re-approved in 1990 and remains in effect. In its own way, the People’s Platform is rather refreshing, because it forthrightly demands what the other networks merely labor to achieve, without naming. Among other things, it demands that the United States:
• “create a national health-care system” in which “all medical costs are covered” and in which doctors are provided a medical “education subsidized by the federal government.” [section on Health Care, # I & II]
• “create more housing” by setting a “goal of a million new units of federally subsidized housing per year.” [section on Housing, #I]
• “charge government and big business with the final responsibility for full employment.” [section on Work and Workers’ Rights, #II]
• “guarantee a minimum annual family income…” [section on Work and Workers’ Rights, #III]
• develop schools that are “available for community needs, like adult education” and “job training that is linked to specific employment,” and which “can provide all support and services that a child cannot receive at home.” [section on Education, #II & IV]
Plans that expansively place a country’s housing, healthcare, employment, income, childcare, job training, business, and education under the control of government are essentially socialist.
In fact, ACORN’s socialist political activities went so far as to create a political party, called the New Party, with several of the other Alinskyian networks and the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) during the 90s. The New Party is defunct, but it and corrupt “Get Out the Vote” drives, riddled with indictments, lawsuits and complaints around the country (for details, check rottenacorn.com), paint a clear picture of what ACORN seeks.
Community Reinvestment Act
“Social restructuring” – it sounds so…benign. A tweak here, a bit of regulation there and we’ll sculpt Utopia.
For instance, there’s been a tremendous amount of discussion about the country’s financial crisis recently, with some people tracing its roots as far back as to the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) of 1977, which required banks to provide sub-prime loans – that is, loans to people who lacked the economic resources to adequately support them – to anyone living three to five miles from a branch office.
CRA was passed, in no small part, thanks to the efforts of one of the most powerful Alinskyian locals, the Chicago-based Northwest Community Organization. Its lead organizer went on to cofound yet another network – National People’s Action (NPA) – which made banking “reform” its core cause, both in supporting passage of the CRA and afterwards, as its watchdog. Insufficient federal enforcement of the Act “forced” community groups, the NPA believed, to be its enforcers and regulators…and ACORN came along to assist.
So long as the CRA applied only to lending and was adequately supported by the federal government, the arrangement “worked.” Poor people were able to buy homes, banks lost very little, and the government “invested” in low-income neighborhoods, on the premise that home ownership would make them more livable. ACORN got in the housing business through its ACORN Housing Corporation, charging fees to hook lenders up with low-income borrowers. The goose might be a little thin, but she was laying gold.
The 1990s brought new CRA regulations that expanded both the number and poor quality of sub-prime loans. Financial analysts will argue, for some time to come, how this has contributed to the collapse of several major banking institutions, but the central position of Alinskyian organizations in the fiasco is disturbing. It’s not by accident that the first bailout package proposed (and rejected) to remedy the present crisis contained millions of dollars “reserved to the Housing Trust Fund” – ostensibly to help defaulting homeowners. The reality, however, was that its housing grants could, and no doubt would, be targeted by ACORN and other liberal housing activists.
Educating for the Future
Much has been made of Obama’s association with the notorious radical of the 60s, William (Bill) Ayers. Ayers is today a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, specializing in education theory.
In 1995, philanthropist Walter H. Annenberg pledged the largest private donation to Chicago public schools in their history - nearly $50 million dollars. The money was a challenge grant, designed to match equal funding from public and private sources.. Other cities received similar grants.
The Annenberg Foundation’s intention was to affect substantive “change” in education, as defined by William Ayers, who had begun the work for the Annenberg grant proposal together with other local educators, foundation officials and community activists two years earlier. In fact, Ayers helped found the Chicago Annenberg Challenge Fund and Obama was its first Chairman of the Board.
What were Annenberg and Ayers, dubbed the “architect” of the progressive Chicago school “reform”, creating?
One can find an excellent example in the NY-ACORN alternative “New Visions Schools” – part of the public school system and also supported by Annenberg money. New Visions Schools hire “progressively-minded” teachers and principals and each have an on-site, full-time, paid ACORN organizer. Standardized testing is eliminated. Rather, “…students analyze public health issues, the organization of community groups, the development of public policy and the international labor movement. Students are involved in hands-on activities in order to relate classroom learning to community service. These activities range from participation in labor and community organization movements to service as interns at local health care facilities.”
This isn’t education – it’s ideological propaganda.
It’s impossible to know with certainty how deeply Obama’s Alinskyian training runs in his soul. There are organizers who never look beneath the surface of their activity to understand that the Platform’s goals have consequences – that the best thing you can say for government controlled housing and education (never mind health care and job training and anything else you can regulate to death) is that it’s inferior.
The trouble is, whatever else he may be, Barak Obama isn’t a stupid man.
Stephanie Block is editor of Los Pequenos Pepper, a newspaper based in New Mexico.