Viral images on social media are circulating quotes allegedly attributed to the late American community activist Saul Alinsky.
The images make the claim that Alinsky’s work, in particular the books Rules for Radicals and Reveille for Radicals, laid out eight fundamental rules for creating a “social state”. The text in the images seems to equate these with the socialism or communism seen in the Soviet Union under Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin ( here , here ). The claims attributing these rules to Alinsky are false.
The text in the image was allegedly written in 2015 during Barack Obama’s second presidential term. The images imply that liberal politicians like Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reserved praise for Alinsky, noting that his writings influenced “those in political control of our nation today”.
The quotes attributed to Alinsky are not found in his writings. In Rules for Radicals, Alinsky lays out a list of “power tactics” for a “mass-based people’s organization” ( here ), but these are not the same as the ones attributed to him on social media.
Alinsky was an American community organizer and a self-professed rebel ( here ) but he reserved skepticism for the means and ends of communism, making the claim about his alleged formulations on the creation of a “social state” as a pathway to socialism or communism, uncharacteristic.
Alinsky himself said: “So as far as the Communists went, there were several special things that kept me out. Partly it was philosophic…I hate dogma. People who believed they owned the truth have been responsible for the most terrible things that have happened in our world, whether they were Communist purges or the Spanish Inquisition or the Salem witch hunts.” ( here )
The thought that Alinsky would recommend increasing “the poverty level as high as possible” to facilitate their control is also unlikely, given that it would counter the political message that he advanced for decades of giving “the poor a future and power to control the future” ( here ).
Reuters was unable to find any list in Alinsky’s works on how to create a “social state”.
It is perhaps true that Alinsky influenced Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, a connection that has provided fodder for right-wing political speculation and conspiracy, including the spread of the same image by a Trump senior campaign advisor in 2017 ( here ).
It is well documented that while studying at Wellesley College, Hillary Clinton wrote her senior thesis on the ideas of Alinsky and interviewed him ( here ). Clinton’s thesis advisor Alan Schechter, however, claims that she “approached it pragmatically and not from a pro-Alinsky perspective,” the Washington Post reported.
In the 1980s, Barack Obama was a community organizer in Chicago where he received training from the Industrial Areas Foundation, an organization founded by Alinsky in the 1940s ( here ; bit.ly/2VumcpS ). In 1990, an essay by Obama on community organizing was compiled into a collection called “After Alinsky: Community Organizing in Illinois”. ( here ).
Alex Cohen, Alinsky’s biographer, has argued that Obama’s grass-roots campaign strategy during the 2008 presidential election drew greatly from Alinsky’s teachings ( here ).
It is improbable that Obama and Alinsky ever met. Alinsky died on June 12, 1972, when Obama was 10 years old and living in Hawaii with his grandparents ( here ).
Saul Alinsky was an American activist known for his role in the foundation of numerous citizen groups and community organizations. In his book, Rules for Radicals, Alinsky proposed a list of “power tactics” for creating effective mass movements. Quotes regarding the creation of a “social state” attributed to him on social media, however, are not of his authorship.
False: Saul Alinsky did not draft an eight-step plan for world conquest, or the creation of a “social state”. These quotes attributed to him on social media are false.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact checking work here .