Urban Confrontation; 25; Power to the People Saul Alinsky
From Northeastern University the National Information Network presents urban confrontation. You're scared to death to talk to blacks as you would to whites. You have an inverse prejudice stop reading and you know this fear of being tagged with anything that even may border on race. Some. This is the one place where you should be yourselves. This goes both ways it goes black to white as well as white to black. This tremendous breakdown in communication. This week on urban confrontation Saul Alinsky a nationally known social critic. Today's program Power to the people. Saul Alinsky a noted community organizer and head of fight an organization devoted to social changes on the grassroots level. Begins his speech to a college audience by pointing out that people working for social
change must be aware of the connotations of words which are common in today's rhetoric. Alinsky notes that the middle class is where the power for change lies by the double revolution. I mean that we are now undergoing. A simultaneous twin targeted revolution one as worldwide among the have nots of the water old and among the have nots sectors in our society. Here we are as far as I know probably the first example and history of a nation which has emerged predominantly and heavily middle class economically speaking. The figures vary from a minimum of 75 percent to a maximum of 81 percent of a middle class and bracket
of the middle class breaks down into a number of classifications. Your lower middle class middle upper depending upon income but generally the R-value are young Tyson and identification. Follows certain basic patterns. Now what I'm saying here. As that the power for a revolutionary change or basic change. Let's get some of our words together. All words unfortunately in the arena of conflict carry different meanings. They're loaded and what the emotion you mention revolution you conjure up pictures of barricades and blood explosions and stuff like that. Not necessarily. Almost every word even the word power is so stained with
emotions depending upon which side you're on. Now the fact is that the power is in the middle classes. And that's why we have to turn to no one I'm saying to you is if we get the black ghettos of America organized into black power which is desperately needed and you get all the Mexican-American body I was to the southwest some of the organized and the Puerto Rican communities and the low income Appalachian white communities and through some genius a bargain a safe you're able to affect the collection of all the happy not groups. You still would be drastically insufficient in terms of having the power map laws and say whenever I use the word power I'm using it precisely as it is defined in Webster's on a bread which quotes the delegate to act unquote. If you haven't got the power all you've got is rhetoric.
The phrase the silent majority says Alinsky once referred to the dead. Will the middle class remain the dead he asks. Or can they be organized for social change through education and communication. This means that you have got to look around for allies assuming that the have nots get organized which is a big assumption I grant. And the places where you look around are in middle class society. Thus as where are going to say Sion Hastur began. And just remember this too. What this great philosopher in Washington refers to as the silent majority. And as I mentioned before another grope the phrase was first used by Homer in referring to the debt that if you do not move into these middle classes for organization action by default
you're going to have them turn to the Agnew's and the Wallace's and the misses much else. Forgetting her husband for the moment because they're not going to stay in one place they're going to move either our way or the other way. I want I'm saying to you is that instead of you're turning around and packing all of you come out of a middle class background. Those of you who are activists. That instead of just turning around and rejecting your middle class bow uses decadent degenerate materialistic bankrupt warmongering imperialistic the suspect etc. etc. etc. that you start to appraise those values. As an anonymous treasury of knowledge to you to use for purposes of both communication and organization
among the middle classes. That is where your battle grounds going to beit. And everything that you've started just looked down on. I suggest that you pick it up and hold it carefully because now it is important stream the important if you want to get change. If you want to get revolutionary action going. When we went into the battle against Eastman Kodak I this was not just the organized black community of Rochester New York. It was also an auxillary white liberal community we found as the proxy tactic developed and I'll talk about that later that we had to go to the middle classes because they were the ones who had the stocks and the proxies. And to their Harkness ations When
Cesar Chavez went into the great white top the great white count was a middle class operation. He had to turn to the middle classes and say Do this for me. This is where the power has again and again and again. If you have even an ounce of pragmatism what then you know. This is what you do. Saul Alinsky points to the absurdity of the situation in which we Americans who are taught responsibility and honesty must question the responsibility of our government. There is indeed according to Alinsky a credibility gap. All the confusion is all about us because you look around this country you know you just don't know whether you're coming or going it makes the theater of the absurd look like reason and logic. You get the army saying we're going to dump 15 or whatever it was 17 tons of nerve gas out you know which is perfectly safe. But from now on we're going to find a safe way.
Then you pick up the papers and you say that the same scientists who are always so sure about the Safeway who know that the 1958 test 1958 atomic tests in the Prado were absolutely safe. Now in 1970 one hundred and fifty square. Hundred sixty square miles have been cordoned off as so contaminated no human being should even walk on it. It's going to be very interesting to see how you're going to cordon off 160 miles of 260 miles of ocean wave the last our American sense of responsibility certainly because we were always taught that what we did we took the responsibility for and I was a little confused because I would have assumed that it's got Americans at the Pentagon having manufactured the nerve gas once they had to dispose of it but have taken the responsibility and stuck it in their basements at the Pentagon. I that the president our commander in chief when we announced that dumping it into the ocean was perfectly
safe would have said and approved to tell you and that I mean it and I don't want the country to be further divided it's going to be dumped off in the ocean off of San Clemente. Let's at least want to give us some hope for the future as well. Any organization must have power in order to effect change says Alinsky and he cautions where there is change there will always be conflict. We can talk about power we can talk about change and so on but unless you have an organization. You don't have either the power to do anything subset around rap and you do not have any issues not explaining to you what I mean by that because the two go together. If you're talking about really getting change done you'll have to start thinking in pragmatic terms as far as an organization. That's the reason for being a bargain ization is to have power and power to get the changes.
Now when you start talking about that one you have to begin with the world as of as and not as you would like it to be. You'll have to make up your mind whether you're talking revolution or revelation. There's no point in talking about the kind of world of love and brotherhood and cooperation and peace those words have been with us for centuries. Don't expect man to suddenly change overnight as though they had a divine revelation. You have to begin from where you are and if you begin from where you are you accept certain things. By accepting them that doesn't mean that you by them it doesn't mean that you don't want to change the world as a matter of fact the only way you can change it is to accept these things as they are and then go on from there. And these involve a whole series of
criteria and one of them being the fact that in this world a set as man move on the basis of a media realize about self interest and not on the basis of some mystical altruism. Secondly you'll have to accept conflict as a part of life because if you are going for change change means moving things around and you can't move things without countering friction or resistance to it. And that means heat and that means conflict in the only place you can have change without any friction as either an outer space armor and I graduate political science seminar. But in the world us today yes. That's why change occurs. The only time a fight goes into a community is in response to massive community support. Without power he explains there can be no
issues unless you have power you don't have issues. We have never gone into a community and whenever we've gone into a community it's always been on a base a mass invitation we have never gone in as a colonial power saying we're here to work and I assume you know it's only been in response I repeat to a mass across the board invitation. I want to the black community of Rochester It was only after every black church every civil rights group. Every are going to say she and that community including more than 13000 individual signatures on petitions out of 35000 population invited us on that basis we move. It was not on the basis of the white churches or anything else. But even then whenever any community we've ever gone into We've never really had issues. And I'll tell you what I mean by that because it may come as a surprise to you assume that wherever you look there are issues.
The fact is that an issue is something you can do something about and show us something that you approach saying do we fight it that's why. What that why. But if you do not have the power to fight it you do not have issues. What you will have is a sad rotten frustrating bad scene. The moment you start getting power the moment you start getting organized. So that you can begin to see that you can do something to change the situation change the sane then this bad scene begins to fracture itself into specific issues. Then you start saying I schools think that's as bad discrimination here. Test test test. Then you've got the issues but you've got to have the power. They go together. Communication is fundamental to organisations says Alinsky. He points
specifically to the black white communication gap. A radical organizer is also a person who knows how to communicate and communication is very important. It's really basic because it doesn't matter what you know what ideas you have if you cannot communicate them you might just as well of stayed in bad communication you can only be done within the experience of the people that you're trying to communicate with. I know that I'm communicating with someone when his or her eyes suddenly light up and the response says say I know what you mean. I have something just like that happen to me once let me tell you about it then I know I've gotten through. You'll have that advantage of familiarity with that experience that experience that you have
been rejecting to use but perhaps is of communication you know the middle class you know the many aspects of their culture and values their aversion tards rudeness Spierer bug arrogant for one thing you don't go up to moments like you peg your fascist or you're going to vote my way or not. That's real communication going on. You'll have this great we saw US understanding of the experiments of the middle class to be able to move and to communicate and start organizing which is what you do not have with many sectors of society that you have been committing yourself to whether it be blacks or any other low income growth. We have tremendous gaps and are almost unbelievably fractured society today because every place you look there are gaps. Everything is a gap generation gaps credibility gaps communication gaps you just name it and
you've got a so-called gap. The black and white communication gap we have very badly and it's a fundamental problem tonight. Very simply it cuts this way for a white person came up to you and made a statement that would could result in only one reaction from you. And that is a lot. I hope nobody else hurt you. If a black person comes up to you and says the same stapling word for word your reaction is when I that's a very interesting approach. You're scared to death to talk to blacks as you would to whites. You have an inverse prejudiced operating and you know this fair being tagged with anything that even may border on race says some. This is the one place where you should be yourselves. This goes both ways to
cause black to white as well as white to black. There's a tremendous breakdown in communication which has some tragic possibilities. Because it doesn't matter then what ideas come out of the black sector and what ideas come out of the white sector if we can't communicate with each other. If Why do you don't understand the black experience you don't know what the hell you're talking about. So on and off the whites are just saying anything you say goes. But they're going on from allies of self-flagellation what they're hung up Yeltsin and so on. And it's a screwed up bad scene. It's kind of a scene where neurotics from both sides have a field day. This has been happening. We are getting this breakdown in communications with just invectives coming on. Every time you question and the moment you stop questioning that's the end of every value that all of us are so concerned with the kind of
society we're trying to tell the very thing we're denouncing I go on with all of those attacks on anyone who's asking questions who is protesting his smearing with light bulbs and so on. There are certain basic cardinal concepts for organization that apply to all groups whether you're organizing Eskimo was Canadian and the answer we've been spending a good deal of time with any group in the United States any place in the world. There are certain basic concepts that apply to all people. There are these modifications with reference to certain cultural patterns. But that's all. And if they seem so silent they seem so. And ever if they seem to be in a state of what we have described as social schizophrenia where they just turn away because everything has gotten too much for them remember
that it is not any different from any other people when they do not see a mechanism. Our device our way to go ahead. If you can't see a way to get anything done then you just surrender and you'll rationalize. We see a concrete example of the way a good community organization works. As Alinsky relates fights successful battles against the discriminatory practices of Kodak in Rochester New York. He proves that the middle class does have the power to implement social change and progress. When I made the statement that the blacks of Rochester had absolutely no representation on any decision making on anything that that statement of mine was shared demagoguery because they had a negro Ph. They on their staff and they put him on every committee to represent the black community. And furthermore they wouldn't think of sitting down with the press and a fight organization who had been a
close associate of Malcolm X. They want to get in the same room with their dead after the fight was over. So the battle began and I won the battle began. We were faced with an interesting tactical situation. We had withdrawn from our chest or were called back in by the community because of the new sayn that presented itself. You couldn't go in for demonstrations against Kodak because what the hell their buildings were in Rochester but their world was the United States New York they had about 95 percent of the monopoly on the film negative market. So. Having him in Rochester wasn't going to be particularly meaningful economic boycotts were out of the picture. Are you going to do as the American people to stop taking pictures obviously they weren't. One thing led to another and the proxy operation began to develop
the proxy thing was developed originally simply as a way to harass Kodak. At the stockholders meeting I have some action going have some published Slate and keep some action going. One thing any organizer knows is that organizations need action like an individual needs oxygen and the moment you get a moment you know it's the point where you're having conferences and seminars and workshops. You are then in a period of Brecker mortis you've already died. You're just too damn busy and on the live organization of action and battle after battle after battle to take time out for a lot of the stuff while the proxies were originally thought up as part of the scene of just getting a piece of action going. While Then it moved out of my chest through an accident I found
myself addressing the Unitarian National Convention in Denver and the Unitarians voting their stock proxies behind fight and also recommending that all the ministers going back to their churches asked members of their churches who owned Kodak stock to send their proxies and to the fight organization. That night there were telegrams from a dozen senators in Washington or in the About three dozen Congressman. What can we do to help heal what had happened was at the moment the stop at the newswires instantly. Senators Congressman turned to their research directors and said how many Unitarians have I got my destiny. All of a sudden a political cast came up. Now we can see proxies being used on a political basis. So we're going along with that for a while. And then along
comes. The Los Angeles Times with a big front page story on the proxies for people at this point on and I've got mine as using the proxies in terms of getting political pressure being built up. We get inundated with mail from all over Southern California and mail and waiting to ways on them having stock proxies but having vests on them. Can you tell us a field heard from any other people in our suburb. If so could you send me their names and addresses so I can call a house meeting and organize a San Fernando Valley chapter of proxies for people. Are. Why should you go to the stockholders meeting and represent us why can't we and our organization go ourselves. Why can't we have people also in on the decisions as to which corporations will be the targets for and all of a sudden and start opening up.
You know you think to yourself This is a common experience. How stupid can I bake. I've been yakking to power the people for 25 years in a crisis this is that. This is the way you head them instead of their being able to have their nice fellow stockholders meetings as most of them stand on new jazz and Eastman Kodak and self I don't know to bet town called Fly me to New Jersey with all apologies if there is anyone here from Flemington New Jersey which has a little hotel that owns taken about 80 people in a motel room type 40 people. So these corporations bust down about a dozen buses of their faithful employees and they'll get a free lunch of the day off from work and going to the high school a lot of time they have their stockholders meeting they all say hi and everybody goes home that was that of that happening. Compel them to have their stockholders meeting in Yankee Stadium. Let's have a sane with the TV cameras and the mass media and
GM. Why the GM chairman of a motion is made and he says I was in favor and 80000 people get up and yell and then he looks at them and says representing 90 percent of the stockholders proxies which I have front of me I post and I and therefore it is so hard to deny sane you know. That's one saying that corporations don't want to get entail but the interesting thing and the reason I've gone into some detail on this as all of a sudden we have been just inundated with correspondence sac files a mail from proxies coming in from everywhere not corporations. Because for the first time what has been happening as and here is this these middle class people who are on and on. I'm lost. What the hell can we do about what he had down home to where I was going to help what can we do. And all of a sudden something comes up you can do something with these proxies.
Northeastern University has brought you Saul Alinsky nationally known social critic. Today's program Power to the people. That views and opinions expressed on the preceding program were not necessarily those of Northeastern University or at this station. This week's program was produced by David Brown in collaboration with Howard University directed by. He lost them. With technical supervision by Bill Cosby. Urban confrontation has been brought to you by the Department of radio production at Northeastern University under the direction of Joseph R. Bader. This program is one of the last in this series future productions have been suspended due to financial restrictions at Northeastern. We hope that has programs
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- Urban Confrontation
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- Urban Confrontation is an analysis of the continuing crises facing 20th century man in the American city, covering issues such as campus riots, assassinations, the internal disintegration of cities, and the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation. Produced for the Office of Educational Resources at the Communications Center of the nations largest private university, Northeastern University.
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