35 Famous Quotes by Saul Alinsky

Saul Alinsky was an American community organizer and writer who is best known for his book "Rules for Radicals." The work is a guide to political activism and social change, and it has become a key text for progressive organizers and activists. Alinsky's approach emphasized the importance of grassroots organizing and the use of creative tactics to achieve political and social goals. His legacy as an advocate for social justice and community empowerment continues to inspire activists and organizers today. (Saul Alinsky Biography).

Saul Alinsky Famous Quotes

1. "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it."

2. "As an organizer, I start from where the world is, as it is, not as I would like it to be. That we accept the world as it is does not in any sense weaken our desire to change it into what we believe it should be - it is necessary to begin where the world is if we are going to change it to what we think it should be. That means working in the system."

3. "Change means movement. Movement means friction. Only in the frictionless vacuum of a nonexistent abstract world can movement or change occur without that abrasive friction of conflict."

4. "History is a relay of revolutions."

5. "First rule of change is controversy. You can't get away from it for the simple reason all issues are controversial. Change means movement, and movement means friction, and friction means heat, and heat means controversy."

6. "There can be no darker or more devastating tragedy than the death of man's faith in himself and in his power to direct his future."

7. "Tactics mean doing what you can with what you have."

8. "If the real radical finds that having long hair sets up psychological barriers to communication and organization, he cuts his hair. If I were organizing in an orthodox Jewish community, I would not walk in there eating a ham sandwich unless I wanted to be rejected so I could have an excuse to cop out."

9. "We must believe that it is the darkest before the dawn of a beautiful new world. We will see it when we believe it."
10. "Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have."

11. "Once you accept your own death, all of a sudden you're free to live. You no longer care about your reputation. You no longer care except so far as your life can be used tactically to promote a cause you believe in."

12. "People cannot be free unless they are willing to sacrifice some of their interests to guarantee the freedom of others. The price of democracy is the ongoing pursuit of the common good by all of the people."

13. "Any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people. They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and chance the future."

14. "'The Prince' was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. 'Rules for Radicals' is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away."

15. "The greatest enemy of individual freedom is the individual himself."

16. "A racially integrated community is a chronological term timed from the entrance of the first black family to the exit of the last white family."

17. "Always remember the first rule of power tactics; power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have."
18. "Life is a corrupting process from the time a child learns to play his mother off against his father in the politics of when to go to bed; he who fears corruption fears life."

19. "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon."

20. "The job of the organizer is to maneuver and bait the establishment so that it will publicly attack him as a 'dangerous enemy.'"

21. "The organizer dedicated to changing the life of a particular community must first rub raw the resentments of the people of the community."

22. "No politician can sit on a hot issue if you make it hot enough."

23. "It does not matter what you know about anything if you cannot communicate to your people. In that event, you are not even a failure. You're just not there."

24. "If the ends don't justify the means, what does?"

25. "A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag."

26. "All change means disorganization of the old and organization of the new."

27. "Radicals must be resilient, adaptable to shifting political circumstances, and sensitive enough to the process of action and reaction to avoid being trapped by their own tactics and forced to travel a road not of their choosing. In short, radicals must have a degree of control over the flow of events."

28. "I've never joined any organization - not even the ones I've organized myself. I prize my own independence too much."
29. "The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself."

30. "The first step in community organization is community disorganization."

31. "The Capone gang was actually a public utility; it supplied what the people wanted and demanded."

32. "To the organizer, compromise is a key and beautiful word. It is always present in the pragmatics of operation... If you start with nothing, demand 100 percent, then compromise for 30 percent, you're 30 percent ahead."

33. "My only fixed truth is a belief in people: a conviction that if people have the opportunity to act freely and the power to control their own destinies, they'll generally reach the right decisions."

34. "Mankind has been and is divided into three parts: the Haves, the Have-Nots, and the Have-a-Little, Want Mores."

35. "Last guys don't finish nice."

― Saul Alinsky Quotes

* Want to explore more inspiring quotes and their meanings? Head over to this quotes page and discover a treasure trove of motivational phrases.

Chief Editor

Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.

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