Whitewashing Alinsky

David Horowitz was one of the founders of the New Left in the 1960s and an editor of its largest magazine, Ramparts. He is the author, with Peter Collier, of three best selling dynastic biographies: The Rockefellers: An American Dynasty (1976); The Kennedys: An American Dream (1984); and The Fords: An American Epic (1987). Looking back in anger at their days in the New Left, he and Collier wrote Destructive Generation (1989), a chronicle of their second thoughts about the 60s that has been compared to Whittaker Chambers’ Witness and other classic works documenting a break from totalitarianism. Horowitz examined this subject more closely in Radical Son (1996), a memoir tracing his odyssey from “red-diaper baby” to conservative activist that George Gilder described as “the first great autobiography of his generation.” He is author of the newly published book The Great Betrayal (Regnery 2014), which is a chronicle of the Democrats treachery in the war on terror before 9/11 to the death of Osama bin Laden.


Yesterday at National Review my friend Ron Radosh has a review of Nation-writer Nicholas von Hoffman’s Radical: A Portrait of Saul Alinsky. Although Ron takes me to task a bit I don’t really see this as a challenge to anything I wrote.

Von Hoffman is an apologist friend of Alinsky’s and this is his spin. Alinksy was not a principled libertarian on civil rights issues as von Hoffman suggests but was always a Machiavellian opportunist. He may have begun with a disposition for certain principles but he was ready to sacrifice them for his political ends, and he made a principle of such trade-offs. He compromised principles he pretended to have on innumerable occasions to keep his power base — whether it was with criminals or whites or the Catholic church in Chicago.

Von Hoffman’s book starts with an Alinsky quote: “If the ends don’t justify the means what does?” That is the voice of the devil himself. The answer is — except in the extraordinary circumstances of war, which is a form of barbarism — the means are ends themselves and their own justification. But of course Alinsky is by his own account engaged in a permanent war.

This is the problem with the von Hoffman piece. It portrays Alinsky as though he was a man of principle whereas everything he said and did showed that his only principle was the war he had declared on what he called the Haves — anything that advanced the war was good. Everything else was flexible. So it’s absurd to make him look like someone who opposed taking government money, for example, on principle. The fact that he didn’t create ACORN or didn’t like Billy Ayers is irrelevant. ACORN is run by people who are following Alinsky’s manual.

Also what von Hoffman and Ron overlook is that Alinsky’s tactics were always changing according to the situation (and he was indeed an extortionist as the infamous “fart in” incident shows, even though von Hoffman and Radosh won’t concede it). In the years when Alinsky was operating the Left was fragmented, and outside the political system . All that changed over the next forty years, and those changes would have had an impact on Alinsky’s tactics. In other words, he would have accommodated his principles to the facts of power, since he always insisted that the primary goal of community organizers was power. Alinsky would have loved the Obama Administration.

[Editor’s Note: Read David Horowitz’s “Alinsky, Beck, Satan, and Me” series here.]

  • max power

    I guess that makes Radish a "useful idiot"

    David give them no quarter, as they will not give one either.

    thanks David

  • Underzog

    Ann Coulter warned about Radosh. How, after his book on the Rosenbergs, he is always making excuses for the Commies. Ann sugests that Radosh does this because he is trying to get back in the graces of the leftists so he can get a job with the leftys in the universities.

  • Paardestaart

    Hm – maybe. But an enduring trait among former leftists is nostalgia. They just cannot believe that their newfound insights have put them among the people they and all their friends and acquaintances have always despised.
    And it is hard to not belong with the cool kids anymore – to have to stand with the hicks and the reactionaries; even having to defend their opinions.
    But most of all it is feeling obliged to to go somewhere else for a latte..To find new haunts – it is the clothes, the music, and the food. And then there is the sense of not automatically belonging anymore to the group that rules the roost; the knowledge that you are undoubtedly with the incrowd, that you are good people

  • Indioviejo

    David, You do a great service to all Americans by staying in tune with the constant leftist indoctrination by all means, which they continuously put out over the media. Thank god for your Blog and your postings, which are eye openers, to say the least. How can you count Radosh among your friends?

    • The_Inquisitor

      Radosh tipped his hand when he smeared M. Stanton Evans' book "Blacklisted by History" without reading it or even looking at the pictures. We would be better off if he had remained in the Communist circle.

      • http://education-research.org Mark LaRochelle

        Good point. Radosh accused Evans of plagiarism, claiming “Evans takes virtually all of his material” on the Amerasia cover-up from a book co-written by Radosh, “which he does not acknowledge."

        Evans responded: “This vicious statement is an astounding, and outrageous, lie… at no point in my career has anyone to my knowledge ever accused me of plagiarism…”

        In his rebuttal, Radosh engaged in a little revisionism: “I never wrote anywhere that Evans plagiarized our book.” (See http://www.takimag.com/site/print/1014/)

        The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/plagiarize), defines "plagiarize" as “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own: use (another's production) without crediting the source: to commit literary theft: present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.”

        In short, taking virtually all of one's material on a given subject from the work of another without acknowledgment is about as close to a dictionary definition of plagiarism as one is likely to get. It's hard to believe Radosh, who writes for a living, didn't know he had accused Evans of plagiarism.

        Radosh should be ashamed.

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