It’s amazing that some of us can believe Barack Obama is not radical enough, and cannot be radical enough, and that this dialogue (of whether a reformist can bring “real change”) is effectively meaningless and dead-ended, when there are people like this YouTube user who believe “community organizing” is euphemism for “radical activism.”
I wish the Industrial Areas Foundation was a radically leftist organization. I wish Saul Alinsky, Barack Obama, and Hilary Clinton, etc. were truly radical. But they are not radical. The word “radical” has undergone a certain amount of recuperation and the book, Rules For Radicals, written by Saul Alinsky (alluded to by the YouTube user as “the Bible for radical organizers”), is not so much for radicals as it is for just plain activists. To activist leftists there is something fantastic about calling what you do “radical.” It suggests an appetite for “change”.
Hilary Clinton wrote her political science thesis on the Alinsky model for community organizing. It’s a very sober analysis of the Alinksy-IAF style and method, even though “the Clinton thesis” has an odd reputation among conservatives for being this outlandish artifact of the radical left. This is all bluff. Most Democrats have studied the community organizing models because they are, of course, useful to them. Community organizing strategies help them in their campaigns, help them build “grassroots movements,” and since they are undeniably trying to build mass movements for the Party, community organizing is a key piece of Party politics. The bottom line is they need community organizing strategies to be successful, as every politician does. But reformism is not radicalism, and that is the difference I would emphasize.
Just because something has a “grassroots” element to it does warrant it the status of a “revolution” (Ron Paul), and just because some neighborhood councils get behind a political campaign does not make it a “movement.” You hear these catchphrases all the time, and it bugs the fuck out of me. If someone like Hilary Clinton can be considered a “radical,” then what do we call someone like Ulrike Meinhof, whom should be considered genuinely radical, in fact, revolutionary.
A revolutionary has different qualities entirely. My point is I don’t think you should be considered a radical if what you truly are is a reformist. Is there such thing as a “radical reformist”? I have not heard of any. I do not think they exist. (Maybe Barack Obama is one of them.) A revolutionary has to be radical too — and a radically anti-reformist at that — but a revolutionary also has to be dedicated to a much greater extent, ready to give up all their possessions and devote their life to the realization of a freedom. A revolutionary does not attempt to achieve that goal by jumping through the reigning political processes, but by other means – usually (but not limited to) armed struggle.
But back to the beginning, if you cannot talk sense into the discourse on “radicalism” and “activism,” then what is the point in talking at all? If the words people use are indicators of where they’d rather be, then the debate becomes a little more interesting. But as it stands the discourse is nothing but recuperation of the ideas further to the left. I wouldn’t know where to start with the YouTube user, because his choice of words and hyperbole is evidence of a deeply reactionary politics. His choice of words advertise that. There is possibly no good way to communicate anything, because the discourse — the language itself — is the battlefield. Since when is community organizing a euphemism for radical activism? Puh!