Excerpts from- The War on Poverty-Political Pornography, Saul D. Alinsky

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Excerpts from- The War on Poverty-Political Pornography, Saul D. Alinsky

Date: Summer 2003
From: Social Policy(Vol. 33, Issue 4)
Publisher: Social Policy Magazine
by Saul D. Alinsky

March, 1965.

I heard a loud voice proclaiming from the White House, 'Now at last the Great Society has come to men. They shall dwell decently and with dignity.

The Great Society will wipe away poverty; there shall be an end to war, and to discrimination and lack of medical care and unemployment; for the old order has passed away.'

The New Democratic Testament, Book of [Lyndon] Johnson, Revelation 21:4

And so it came to pass the War on Poverty was declared; it began ... as the first war ever launched in history on a balanced budget. It began as a popular program, for who could be on the side of poverty ... It began as a plausible program for surely a great society as wealthy and powerful as ours could wage war and win over poverty. It began as a political program for history would not be able to record this era as that of The Great Society as long as its expensive clothing had ragged linings' of poverty ...

... Unless there are drastic changes in direction, rationale and administration, the anti-poverty program may well become the worst political blunder and boomerang of the present administration. If ever a program demanded an aggressive, partisan, unafraid-of-controversy administration it is the anti-poverty program ... Our slums are not foreign nations to be worked with in such manner as never to constitute a challenge to the status quo ... This is not the program for a silky smooth Madison Avenue approach with a major talent for the avoidance of controversy; which fails to understand that dissonance is the music of democracy.

Today the anti-poverty program is emerging as a huge political pork barrel, a wielding of antipoverty funds as a form of political patronage ...

... In city after city we find City Hall sitting on top of the pile of poverty funds ... They pursue a policy of identifying what they define as positive and negative programs and positive and negative community leaders. The distinction is simple. Positive means that you do what City Hall says ... Negative means that your primary loyalty is to the people of your community, that you are independent ... You are therefore negative and "irresponsible."

... Good potential (negative) leadership is seduced by payoffs, rentals of premises, jobs and specialized pressure such as money grants or projects to "company union" rivals ...

... They attempt to introduce an artificial nonexistent dichotomy between conflict and consensus ... [a]definition always held by the status quo ... if you agree with the status quo you represent consensus and if you disagree you represent conflict.

[P]ronouncements of policy or program by authority in a free society are always prefaced and closed with an acknowledgment of the primacy of the people. This political statement of grace before and after each pronouncement is cast in variations of the proposition of, by and for the people. While to many of the custodians of policy and authority this bow in the direction of the people constitutes a civic ritual, the pragmatics of practice do not long permit it to remain an empty gesture. No policy or program lacking popular agreement, support, or participation, can long survive. It may be unveiled as a high-powered locomotive rolling at full speed, but suddenly it runs out of track. Our national history has been replete with such ...

The poverty program as it stands today is a macabre masquerade and the mask is growing to fit the face and the face is one of political pornography.

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