Part 5: Postmodern Leftism
Alinsky’s gangster mentor Frank Nitti
Saul Alinsky came of age in the 1930s as a Communist fellow-traveler (as his biographer Sanford Horwitt tells us in Let Them Call Me Rebel), but his real social milieu was the world of the Chicago mobsters to whom he was drawn professionally as a sociologist. In particular he sought out and became a social intimate of the Capone gang and of Capone enforcer Frank Nitti who headed the gang when Capone was sent to prison in 1931. Later Alinsky said, “[Nitti] took me under his wing. I called him the Professor and I became his student.” (p. 20) While Alinsky was not oblivious to the fact that criminals were dangerous, like a good leftist he held “society” — and capitalist society in particular — responsible for creating them.
Alinsky never joined the Communist Party but instead became an avatar of the post-modern left. Like other post-modern leftists he understood that there was something deeply flawed in the Communist outlook, but like them he never really examined what those flaws might be — in particular never interrogated the Marxist view of society and human nature, or its connection to the epic crimes that Marxists had committed. Instead, Alinsky identified the problem as “dogmatism” and the solution as “political relativism.” The Alinsky radical has one principle — to take power from the so-called Haves and give it to the so-called Have-nots. What this amounts to, we shall see, is a political nihilism (Rules for Radicals, p. 110) — a destructive assault on the established order in the name of the “people,” which delivers power (and wealth) into the hands of a radical elite and makes them feel good about themselves in the process.