The Radical Left’s (Alinsky) Playbook, Part 2: Challenges and Choices when Choosing Your Battles

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

Part 1

Part 3

In part 1 of this series, I discussed eight of Saul Alinsky’s points on how to fundamentally–and radically–transform a nation, the United States, as presented in his book Rules for Radicals (available here in its entirely under an open share license).

I believe it is easy to see real life illustrations of his advice in full operation today, several of which are also featured in Part 1. This makes it easier to understand what has been–and is still–pushing back against the rule of law and cultural values (works in progress) that have kept our nation strong and a beacon for the oppressed worldwide for over 240 years to date.

In Part 1, I also added one more (#9) of Alinsky’s rules, “They have the guns and therefore we are for peace and for reformation through the ballot. When we have the guns then it will be through the bullet” as a warning of worse yet to come if we don’t pay attention to his ideas on how he would overthrow the United States, if his ideology is, indeed, a catalyst for so much of what is going on–and coming to light–just now. And I agree with many who believe it is.

For this commentary I will further discuss one of the rules highlighted in Part 1 that Alinsky defines as follows, (emphasis added) focusing on why this one is so particularly frustrating for observers:

The organizers first job is to create the issues or problems, and organizations must be based on many issues. The organizer must first rub raw the resentments of the people of the community; fan the latent hostilities of many of the people to the point of overt expression. He must search out controversy and issues, rather than avoid them, for unless there is controversy people are not concerned enough to act. . . . An organizer must stir up dissatisfaction and discontent. Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals

The Challenges

Everybody has adversaries of one type or another, opposing us one way or another, starting from childhood. Through the socialization process most of us learn how to deal with such opposition and, if we learn well, we resolve such challenges in healthy  ways, even as we learn each our own lessons of getting along in a diverse world.

Of course, not all conflicts are resolved in healthy ways and for various reasons.

My focus, here,  is to point out that not only is Alinsky’s brand of conflict not meant to be resolved, it is purposefully encouraged, even ginned up, in many instances, in order to contribute to the radical and fundamental transformation of this nation from a free society to, as he puts it, the “paradise of communism”. Re-reading his rule, quoted above, underscores my point.

So, we have unique challenges when it comes to Alinsky and his devotees in the radical left political movement and their brand of conflict exploitation–which is quite the opposite of normal conflict resolution.

At first, of course, when confronted by the radical left, we think reason, patience, and ordinary conflict management will do the job. We highly value our “bloodless transitions of power,” here in the U.S., and our reasoned debates. They have served us well in our many national challenges and have helped us solve problems such as slavery, children’s and women’s rights, voting and educational rights, and other economic and social ills.

However, the challengers we face now, adversaries such as the ideal radical leftist Alinsky describes, reveal a completely different kind of opposition requiring very different strategies.

When a person such as Alinsky’s ideal revolutionary goes about his/her business of radical transformation, I believe it can be argued he/she displays not normal oppositional behavior that can be corrected with counseling and education, but a disorder called sociopathy–another behavioral pattern altogether.

Kara Mayer Robinson, who writes for WebMD, describes sociopaths thus, in her feature, “Sociopath vs. Psychopath: What’s the Difference?:

(Citing L. Michael Tompkins, EdD, a psychologist at the Sacramento County Mental Health Treatment Center, Robinson explains) “A key difference between a psychopath and a sociopath is whether he has a conscience, the little voice inside that lets us know when we’re doing something wrong”…

A sociopath typically has a conscience, but it’s weak (Robinson continues). He may know that taking your money is wrong, and he might feel some guilt or remorse, but that won’t stop his behavior…

Sociopaths are less able (than psychopaths) to play along. They make it plain that they’re not interested in anyone but themselves. They often blame others and have excuses for their behavior.

Some experts see sociopaths as “hot-headed.” They act without thinking how others will be affected.

I believe this definition, as applied to some of the political behavior observed everywhere, now, amid the ranks of the radical left, is a more apt descriptor.

Political Sociopaths

I would argue that Alinsky more closely aligns with the definition of sociopath in his advice to radicals due to his own admission, in another point of advice, that one must “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, [he adds] but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)” (emphasis added)

Alinsky–and likely his devotees and followers as well–know this is, then, as he notes, a cruel tactic, which, according to Tompkins, indicates this is not classic psychopathic behavior where a conscience appears to be missing, i.e., there would be no sense of the cruelty being wrong and hurtful.

Therefore, when we are dealing with possible sociopathic radical leftists, it is important to carefully consider the guidelines, below,  for dealing with that personality disorder in anyone. For their brand of opposition is not due to something missing, per se, in their personalities, but something chosen on purpose, not to resolve conflict but to further the revolution.

I say “possible sociopathic,” because some of his followers may not be aware of this dynamic, having not studied Alinsky’s ideology, or perhaps they are just caught up in some of the high-powered emotional content of the current radical left behavior, or perhaps because, for the very young, all they have known so far, particularly on college campuses, is this kind of immature approach to our Constitutional right “to petition the government for a redress of grievances”.

However, there is one more important thing to consider: those at the helm of the radical transformation of the United States of America, as opposed to likely most of their followers, know very well—and are well-versed in–this kind of Alinsky-esque behavior, as evidenced in his additional rule, “True revolutionaries do not flaunt their radicalism. They cut their hair, put on suits and infiltrate the system from within.”

They know very well how to appear as the proverbial angel of light, as most would reject outright the opposite. It’s an old tactic. As my mother used to say, “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

But hot-heads are useful to the cause for now and especially now as the radical left is being outed and the real push-back has begun, because their vitriol and violence more easily corral an unsuspecting population into submission via frustration (or “battle fatigue,” if you will) and by fear. They, however, and of course, if history proves this again, may need to be corralled, if not worse, themselves, once the revolution is successful and power has  been seized by the communists (the term Alinsky uses to describe his radicals).

So with respect to the kind of adversary who purposefully and continually stirs up strife, or as Alinsky writes, “rubs raw resentments…fans latent hostilities… searches out controversy and issues, rather than avoid them…and sirs up dissatisfaction and discontent,” I offer some advice for the rest of us with opposing viewpoints and wanting to counter the road to communism (and its related “isms”) all too apparent now in the radical left’s ideology–and increasingly sociopathic behavior.

I believe we will need all the counsel and encouragement we can get as the days wax on, which many believe are also waxing worse.

I  cite from military, counseling, and spiritual realms of engagement.

The Choices  

First and foremost, and advised across all realms, one must choose one’s battles carefully. This goes for any arena of conflict: personal, institutional, and/or political.

Reserving energy for the most effective counter measures and for a chance at the benefits of a clearer-mind in the midst of whatever fray one is engaged in is essential.

Some battles are meant to engage in now, others, not at the moment, and still others not at all, particularly if one’s opponent is of the radical left for whom remaining in battle is the purpose and intent of this strategy to succeed in acquiring and maintaining control.

From the Military Realm, citing Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War

With added comments in parentheses:

  • Know yourself and you will win all battles. (If you know you are given to fighting fire with fire, subdue this. Tap into wisdom and counsel as needed. Develop patience. Guard discernment.  Think for yourself after educating yourself.)
  • When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard. (Judge the age, maturity, level of anger or rage, condition of your opponent, and proceed cautiously and carefully.)
  • Who wishes to fight must first count the cost. (The personal, professional, familial, and/or political cost. Sometimes the battle must be engaged, but other times it’s wisest to walk away.)
  • (When you have to engage, be patient): He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.
  • (When you have to walk away, be cautious): The wise warrior avoids the battle because…There are roads which must not be followed, armies which must not be attacked, towns which must not be besieged, positions which must not be contested, commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed, (whether the “commands” emanate from without or within, and) He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
  • Move not unless you see an advantage…unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical.
  • If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete.
  • It is easy to love your friend, but sometimes the hardest lesson to learn is to love your enemy (Life is short. There are seasons for everything including conflict and peace. Love is the only force powerful enough to conquer all, although sometimes love must include “speaking the truth” which may be hard to hear in the heat of battle.)

From the Counseling Realm, Excerpted From “15 Rules on Dealing with Sociopaths,” at New Health Advisor for Daily Health Care*

The article cites rules that apply mainly to personal or professional relationships. I have excerpted the following eight that apply to political adversaries of the sort cited in this post, i.e.,  the radical left, and add my comments in parentheses:

  • Practice the ‘Rule of Threes’. Only give someone 3 chances. After that, it’s best to cut your losses and run. (If, as Alinsky writes in his rules for radicals, the object is to stir up conflict, feed it, and maintain it, and the person with whom one is trying to engage in a reasoned debate to diffuse anger and move forward seems to not want this, if may, indeed, be time to exit that skirmish)…
  • Avoid Them. When you realize you’re dealing with someone who could be a (political) sociopath, make a point of staying away from them. Do not try to cure them or beat them at their own game…
  • Don’t Try To Reform Them. With studies showing that efforts at curing (political) sociopaths…do not bear fruit, it is best to leave them alone (if just for the time being)…
  • Protect Yourself. A (political) sociopath will attempt to drain you (primarily of the mental and emotional stamina and the will to fight back however calmly and rationally you desire to approach your differences of opinion)…
  • Refrain from Accusations. Do not try to accuse them of any wrongdoing. They won’t respond well and it might turn into a fight. You will lose more than they will…
  • Hold Back Your Emotions. Avoid getting emotional whenever you are in a confrontation with them. (Psychologist Ross Rosenberg describes this strategy thus: “observe don’t absorb“)…
  • Avoid Ultimatums And Power Plays …
  • Avoid Intrigue. Do not play mind games with a (political) sociopath. Do not compete with them, don’t try to outsmart them or even psychoanalyze them. Your focus should be on protecting yourself…

From the Spiritual Realm

When it is time to engage with political sociopaths, let alone ordinary angry people, this added advice from the spiritual realm:

Above all, whether one engages physically, verbally, or not at all with those on the political radical left, or in any other “theater of war,” at any time it is of the utmost importance to keep the words of Jesus in mind, as quoted in Matthew 10:16 (NIV version quoted here):

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Shrewd: (phronimos–prudent, i.e., mindful of one’s interests).

Innocent: (akeraioswithout admixture [thus, pure] of evil, free from guile…).

It is also wise to remember who our real enemy is, as defined in Ephesians 6:12 (NASB version quoted here):

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

To fight this, our real and ever-present–albeit invisible–foe here is a description of our “weapons”  (NIV version):

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.**

As to a description of the armor we are advised to don prior to all engagements, anywhere, any time, and with any kind of enemy, see Ephesians 6:13-18.

Why such potent supernatural protection and ordnance when dealing with mere mortals?

Because in such battles and, specifically, in our current political battle in the United States, our enemy is not your average, human adversary experiencing normal growth and change, but seems more and more the kind of enemy out to destroy the very nature of our national identity and replace it with a communist form of government. And as history reveals, communism has failed wherever it has been tried. And a lot of people have died under its totalitarian control.

Our enemy is the kind of enemy, en masse, who seek to seize power by any sociopathic means to the end.

The kind that seems to be willing to destroy as much and as many people as is required in the process***.

Put another way, and by another Source, the Alinsky-inspired radical leftists as a group are the kind of enemies who could well be out to destroy all who resist, figuratively and/or literally, one way or another.

Therefore, we are well advised to “(be) alert and of sober mind,” because that enemy, the real and ancient enemy of freedom (aided and abetted by human agents), “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

Devour: not reason with, negotiate with, or haggle with.


In the white-hot heat of its vitriol and rage.

However, we, all of us, I mean, on both sides of the temporary earthly battle, who turn to that other Ancient One, Jesus Christ, can still have hope for a good outcome, at length. As He put it (quoted in John 16:33): 

(In) me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

How did He overcome it?

On that bloody cross, that day when He took all the evil from all time perpetrated of, by and against all people, for all people who turn to Him as Savior and follow Him as Lord and allow Him to replace (our) hearts of hate and guile and “stone” with His own heart of love and peace.

While there is yet time.


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2 Responses to The Radical Left’s (Alinsky) Playbook, Part 2: Challenges and Choices when Choosing Your Battles

  1. pb says:

    Hi, Cathy,

    You’re welcome. Good to hear from you, as always. And I agree: the Deceiver is at work, maybe overtime in this era, and we ALL need to maintain our focus on God–both sides of the aisle!

    Cheers and blessings,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cathy says:

    Thank you, in this Time Of Trouble!🙏🏻 Satan is at work Deceiving MANY!

    Liked by 1 person

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