Strategies & Tactics

Socialism has been described as the mother of progressive ideology. This is especially true regarding political strategies formulated by socialists in America, beginning in the late 1970s.

The socialists developed many of the political strategies that progressives implemented to expand their base and boost political power in America. The strategies have proven to be very highly effective. As a measure of their success, progressives now dominate many local and state jurisdictions. Progressives have taken control of the Democratic Party. And nearly a half of all Democrats (many of whom are progressives) view socialism as favorable, compared to just 37% for capitalism, according to a 2015 poll.

Below are the key political strategies implemented by socialists/progressives to change the political landscape of America:

Gradualist Strategy – In the 1960s, radical leftists viewed government and corporate America as enemies. Militants waged violent attacks on the police, military, and government targets, hoping to ignite a revolution. When the strategy failed, socialists plotted an alternative, long-term plan to advance their agenda. Taking a cue from socialist community organizer Saul Alinsky, socialists urged activists to transform America from within, to infiltrate government and businesses, and step-by-step gain control of the entities. Once inside and in power, they would be in a position to promote their agenda to change America.1

Community Organizing – The key to future success, the socialist strategists proclaimed, was community organizing. By building grassroots organizations, socialist/progressive activists could create a powerful network to implement their agenda. A handful of community organizations in the 1970s provided a working model for the activists. This included the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), founded in 1970, and the Midwest Academy, established a short time afterward by former members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).

Democratic Party – Socialist organizations in the early 1970s avoided electoral politics for the most part, believing the effort required to participate successfully would divert limited resources needed to organize a mass movement. But strategists argued if socialists/progressives were ever to achieve real power in shaping American politics, they would have to work from within the nation’s political structures. By getting inside the Democratic Party, they would have an opportunity to expand government entitlement programs, channel funds to community organizations to expand their base, and enact other pro-socialist/progressive policies.2 Over time, they would be able to create a socialist/progressive movement in America that could gain control of the government and establish a new society.

Party-Within-A-Party-Plan – Socialist strategists urged activists to get inside the Democratic Party and operate as a party-within-a-party, a fifth column, to shift the Democratic Party leftward. The strategists believed they could produce a class-based realignment of the Democratic and Republican Parties. This polarization, they believed, would eventually convince Democrats to embrace a socialist/progressive agenda as their natural ideology. Shifting the party to the left, they asserted, would also help Democrats win more elections.

Coalition Campaign – The socialist strategists urged activists to bring together disparate community organizing groups to form a powerful political coalition to support the election of local and statewide leftist candidates. The strategy was first put into motion in the Chicago mayoral election in 1983. Activist black churches and other minority groups registered more than 100,000 new voters. Together with the help of labor unions and progressive voters, they successfully elected Harold Washington, a progressive, and the city’s first black mayor.3

Crisis Strategy – Strategists crafted a plan to gradually increase government spending to a crisis point, at which time they believed the public would turn toward socialism as a solution rather than accept deep cuts in entitlement spending to restore fiscal balance. The crisis strategy – “injecting unmanageable strains into the capitalist system” – was formulated by socialist academics Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven. They proposed to implement the strategy in New York by “recruiting the poor onto the welfare rolls” as a way to “break the bank,” and this, in turn, would lead to reforms in welfare entitlements. Activists complied. Over several years, community organizers boosted the number of single-parent households on welfare from 4.3 million to over 10.8 million. The city could not afford to pay the additional costs and was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1975.3

Stealth – One of the most important strategies employed by socialists/progressives was formulated by socialists Steve Max and Harry Boyte. They urged community organizers to downplay their radical socialist agenda. Openly discussing their political ambitions, they warned, would dissuade people from joining socialist organizations.The better option was to lead unsuspecting followers down the socialist/progressive pathway and, over time, through patient organizing, they would gradually become amenable to their political agenda. The strategists said stealth should be utilized not only in community organizing, but in all efforts when promoting socialism in America.

Saul Alinsky is known by many as the godfather of community organizing. He’s also been dubbed an “evil genius” and a “hardline power politics tactician.”

Alinsky divided the world into three parts: the Halves, the Have-Nots, and the Have-a-Little, Want Mores. Alinsky’s book, Rules for Radicals, is a guidebook for activists/organizers on how the Have-Nots can take power from the Haves. It lists guerilla tactics and rules to organize for power and how to use power. Among the rules developed by Alinsky are:

  • Change comes from power, and power comes from organization.
  • Organize for power.
  • Organizations need action as an individual needs oxygen.
  • Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.
  • Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions.
  • Pick a target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.


Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter (BLM) is classic Saul Alinsky. He famously said about community organizing that the issue is never the issue. The issue is always about power. How to get it and how to use it.

For Black Lives Matter, the issue is not saving black lives. The issue is building black power. It’s about challenging white privilege and about rebuilding the black liberation movement. BLM is also about money. More than $100 million has been pledged to the organization since its founding in 2013.

When a black American is killed by a white police officer, BLM activists charge racism rather than wait for authorities to gather facts and adjudicate the incident. For BLM, white police officers (and “white Hispanic” George Zimmerman) are guilty even if later proven innocent in a court of law.

When black and white police officers are involved in the death of a black American, BLM still alleges racism. Three of the six police officers indicted in the second-degree murder of Freddie Gray in Baltimore are black Americans. Rather than wait for justice to take its course, BLM progressives spread racial hatred, inflaming emotions in black communities. The ensuing protests and riots led to the injury of some 20 police officers, 250 people were arrested, and more than 300 businesses were damaged. The six officers were subsequently acquitted or charges were dropped.

What BLM is doing is implementing a well-known Alinksky tactic: “Pick a target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

For BLM, the target is white police officers. Protesting each death of a black American at the hands of a white police officer freezes the issue. By definition, the death of a black American is personal. BLM martyrs the “victim” and blames racism, polarizing black Americans against white Americans.

The BLM protests are not all spontaneous events, but choreographed mob violence:

  • More than 80 people and organizations were paid by Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE), a social justice activist organization, to travel to Ferguson, Missouri, to participate in protests, following the death of Michael Brown. Some of the activists received as much as $5,000 a month to generate unrest in the city.4
  • Charlotte police said activists from outside the city were responsible for much of the trouble during the protests, following the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. Of those arrested, about 70% had out-of-state IDs. “We’ve got the instigators that are coming in from outside,” a police spokesman said. “They were coming in on buses from out of state.”

The founders of BLM – Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi – are progressive activists. When BLM announced policies it wanted enacted in response to the killing of black Americans, not surprisingly there were no demands to improve policing methods that could reduce the deaths of black Americans. Instead, they listed a broad progressive agenda:

  • An end to zero-tolerance school policies and arrests of students.
  • The removal of police from schools.
  • An end to capital punishment.
  • A cut in military expenditures and the reallocation of funds for domestic infrastructure.
  • Retroactive de-criminalization, the immediate release, and record expungement of all drug related offenses and prostitution.
  • An end to the use of past criminal history to determine eligibility for housing, education, licenses, voting, loans, employment, and other services and needs.
  • The payment of reparations to black people for past injustices.
  • An end to the exploitative privatization of natural resources.
  • A progressive restructuring of tax codes at the local, state, and federal levels to ensure a racial and sustainable redistribution of wealth.
  • An end to the privatization of education.
  • Full access, guarantees, and protections of the right to vote for all people through universal voter registration, voting day holidays, online voter registration, enfranchisement of formerly and presently incarcerated people, and local and state resident voting for undocumented people.
  • The release of political prisoners held in the US and removal of legitimate freedom fighters from the International Terrorists list.

Among the non-profit organizations providing funds to BLM are The Ford Foundation, Borealia Philanthropy, Open Society Foundations (George Soros), Hill-Snowden Foundation, Solidaire, Novo Foundation, Association of Black Foundation Executives, and Neighborhood Funders Group.


1) Alinsky viewed revolution as a slow process. He said activists should cut their hair, put on suits, then penetrate America’s institutions to change the system from within. The strategy echoes the plan advanced by the British Fabian Society, which supported the principle of gradualist socialism rather than by revolution overthrow.
2) This strategy was evident when ACTION, a government “domestic volunteer agency” improperly directed VISTA funds to ACORN and the Midwest Academy, according to a congressional investigation.
3) Barack Obama discussed this strategy in 2003: “As you combine a strong African-American base with progressive white and Latino voters, I think it is a recipe for success in the primary and in the general election.”
4) “Who is Behind the Riots? Charlotte Police Says 70% of Arrested Protestors Had Out of State Ids,”, September 23, 2016.