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Nicholas Von Hoffman Lies for Alinsky

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Posted on November 15 2010 1:00 pm
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Retired radical agitator and journalist Nicholas von Hoffman is doing what he can to help rehabilitate the image of the late Saul Alinsky.

Von Hoffman portrays his former employer as some kind of a moderate, maybe even a libertarian. “Although Alinsky is described as some kind of liberal left-winger in actuality big government worried him,” writes von Hoffman in his memoir, Radical: A Portrait of Saul Alinsky.

He feared the gigantism of government, corporation and even labor union.

Von Hoffman is trying to recast Alinsky in order to make his communistic beliefs more marketable. It’s a project doomed to failure.

Note that I spell communism (and its variants) here with a lower-case “c.” That’s because there is no evidence I’m aware of that shows Alinsky joined the Communist Party USA. But just because he was too independent to submit to party discipline doesn’t change the fact he fundamentally agreed with Communists.

‘Radicals want to advance from the jungle of laissez-faire capitalism to a world worthy of the name of human civilization,’ Alinsky wrote. ‘They hope for a future where the means of economic production will be owned by all of the people instead of just a comparative handful.’ (Emphasis added.)

Alinsky’s defenders on the left somehow missed this textbook definition of socialism and instead play up his enthusiasm for “democracy,” an elastic term that means very little in extremist circles.

(Is socialism that different from communism? It’s a never-ending debate in academic circles, one that is too involved to get into here. Suffice it to say that socialists and communists, whether they are pro-democracy or authoritarian, all want government to be master while the people assume the role of servants. They all subscribe to bad, un-American ideas, and are all, more or less, in the same ideological camp, and they tend to believe that the ends justify the means. )

Alinsky‘s right-hand man 50 years ago, von Hoffman paints an almost unrecognizable portrait of the Industrial Areas Foundation founder, depicting him as an idealistic fighter for the little guy, a champion of American democracy. This is a Sisyphean task because Alinsky’s thuggish tactics, which Americans rightly regard as outside the legitimate political process, are evidence of his small-c communism. Nonetheless, von Hoffman deems it necessary to downplay Alinsky’s ugly real-life views because they call into question the legitimacy of community organizing and today’s political leaders who emerged from that radical, un-American tradition. Today’s most famous community organizer, of course, and the reason for the recent surge in interest in Alinsky, lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Alinsky’s biographer also closes his eyes to his subject’s ideological infatuations. Sanford D. Horwitt claims Alinsky disavowed Marxist-style “class analysis.”

In Rules for Radicals Alinsky lays out his communistic catechism, which happens to include the precise Marxist-style class analysis Horwitt claimed Alinsky rejected. Alinsky’s trinity consists of what he calls the “Haves,” the “Have-Nots,” and the “Have-a-Little, Want Mores.” Madison Avenue couldn’t have done a better job putting an American gloss on the ruling class, the working class, and the middle class, or bourgeoisie. It’s the Communist Manifesto American-style.

(This is a modified, shorter version of a book review that ran in the October 2010 issue of the American Spectator.)

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