Last updated on May 3rd, 2021 at 10:29 pm
In his 1971 book Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realist Radicals, Saul Alinksy put together the bible for leftwing activists on how to gain power and overthrow the old regime. (Tellingly, Alinsky dedicated this book to the “first radical”: Lucifier.) Disciples of Alinsky’s book include such notables as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, among others. Judging by the success of his followers these past fifty years in winning over the culture to radical ideas, Alinsky’s rules have proven extremely effective. To counter Alinsky’s rules, authors Timothy J. Gordon and David R. Gordon have put together their own rules in their 2019 book Rules for Retrogrades: Forty Tactics to Defeat the Radical Left.
What exactly is a retrograde? The Gordons write:
“A retrograde calculates, day and night, how to return to the Old World Order of moral and sexual decency, familial patriarchy, local rule and subsidiarity, classical masculinity and femininity, Christian liberty, republican sovereignty, national borders, faith and hope and charity, goodness and beauty and truth, and most importantly, the social kingship of Christ.” (xi)
In essence, a conservative.
Why are these rules necessary? Because “our civilization is dying: spiritually, culturally, and physically of old age. Each year the problem worsens. The only way forward is back…The retrograde takes a step back, not to relive some dead moment, but to recover something that has been lost.” (viii) Quoting the great C.S. Lewis, they write: “’We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.’” (vii) Examining some of these rules reveals gems of wisdom that are needed to win the battle against the radicals.
In the first of the forty rules, Always be on offense, the Gordons advise conservatives to be and stay on the offensive: “Generals know it; chess grandmasters know it; leftwing tacticians know it: to win a war, you need to be on offense…When you’re on offense, you set the pace. If you remain on offense, you will (given sufficient time) accomplish your objectives.” (1-2) For far too long over the past several decades conservatives have been playing defense and, as a result, losing most cultural battles. An example of using this tactic can be seen in how to respond to radicals when they clamor for more gun control after the next mass shooting. What should a conservative due in this situation? The authors write:
“Don’t passively defend against the leftist media’s mechanical, choreographed calls for ‘common-sense gun control legislation’ by pointing out that the proposed laws would do little to curb violence. Instead, put leftists on their heels by organizing a coordinated media blitz wherein commentators are instructed to hammer home the point that crime rates are comparatively lower in regions where gun-ownership is higher. Go on the offensive by challenging network hosts with questions like “Why are you against gun ownership when all the data suggest that it deters mass shootings?’ and “Why do you promote feminism and single-motherhood when you know that the overwhelming majority of mass-shooters are carried out by bitter fatherless young men?” (3)
In Rule 3, No truth is “off-limits”; we must never be ashamed to be candid, the Gordons argue that truth must be our top priority. “In order to win the culture, we must boldly and loudly speak the truth so our fellow men can first recognize what is verily good and, subsequently, firmly set their wills on achieving it. If something is true, then we have a duty to say it so that society will be built on a foundation of rock instead of a foundation of sand.” (10) Significantly, if we shy away from proclaiming “sensitive truths (e.g, that contemporary American black fatherlessness is linked with their disproportionately high crime rates; that single-motherhood is ruinous for children; that unchecked immigration is undermining the fabric of American culture;…. that men can’t actually become women and vice versa), we short-change our fellow man, since we deprive him of the opportunity to reform his life to bring it into harmony with right order.” (10-11)
Since radical elites in the media, the corporate world, and elsewhere will attempt to punish conservatives for speaking the truth, the authors argue that conservatives need to band together to make our numbers too formidable to silence: “[I]f retrogrades band together and resolve to be undeterred in our vocalization of unpopular truths, it will be impossible for big media and big business to ostracize us. The corporate goons in human resources won’t be able to fire all of us. It’s impossible to effectively silence such a significant segment of the population.”(11)
In Rule 7, Never let radical mischief go unpunished. (Make a stink about everything), the Gordons advise us not to just ignore radical craziness. They write:
“Retrogrades need to reassert our fighting spirit. When we witness an injustice, when we see a serious breach of decorum or decency, when marketing departments choose to make us the butt of their jokes, we need to get mad, and we need to actualize the potential energy of our initial anger into hot, messy kinetic energy by protesting, writing letters, making phone calls, and organizing non-monolithic boycotts.” (28)
The authors tell us in Rule 11, Never trust a man who is unwilling to have enemies, that those who avoid making enemies cannot be our allies because they fail to stand for the truth. “Acquiring adversaries and opposition is the unavoidable price of principle,” they write. “Speaking the truth will earn a man enemies: it is a matter of when, not if, and the louder one speaks, the quicker the adversaries will gather…And the man unwilling to have enemies cannot, by definition, commit himself to the truth.” (42)
Conservatives need to be realistic rather than optimistic argues Rule 15, There is no room for optimists in the retrograde camp: “Optimism mollifies and reassures; however, one would have to be borderline schizophrenic to assess the present cultural milieu and come away reassured.” (58) Instead, conservatives need to look at our situation with a strong dose of realism, for only then can we begin to put together a realistic strategy for tackling our problems.
In Rules 17 (Never, ever ‘frag’ a fellow retrograde) and 18 (Circle the wagons around fellow retrogrades; come readily to their defense when they’re in trouble), we are urged to stand with our fellow conservatives. “Radicals categorically refuse to cannibalize their allies. And retrogrades should take a leaf out of their book in this regard,” the Gordons write. (71) In particular, conservatives should avoid attacking their allies over manners, style, or breaches of etiquette. However, if it does become necessary to disagree with an ally, we should do so privately rather than in the media.
The authors in Rule 25, The root of cultural decay is feminism: end feminism to end radicalism, state that feminism is the true enemy of our families and civilization. The Gordons write:
“As the family goes, so goes society. It is precisely for this reason that the family has found itself under full-fledged radical assault in the past half-century. If radicals succeed in rending asunder the family, in reeducating our kids, they will have won the culture…The primary vehicle that the radicals have used to undermine the family is feminism.” (101)
The legacy of feminism has been disastrous: broken and never-formed families and the resultant negative social consequences for children, a denigration of motherhood and home life, hostility between the sexes, and abortion on demand, among other things. If retrogrades are to save our culture from the machinations of the radicals, we will have to revitalize the family and “discredit and decisively reject the saccharine hemlock of feminism….” (106)
In Rule 31, Don’t allow radicals to personalize the general, we are told to force radicals to stick to the issue at hand. By “personalizing the general,” radicals take an argument against an idea and turn it into an argument against a person. For example, when arguing against abortion, a conservative may be met with the response that the radical’s mother had an abortion; are we calling the mother an “evil” person? In this situation, the conservative “should simply pivot, saying something to the effect of, ‘I’ve never met your mother and she’s totally irrelevant to this debate. Whether or not she’s had an abortion has no bearing on whether murdering a baby in utero is evil, so let’s stick to the material points.” (130) The conservative could also respond by appealing to a higher authority: “What I think is neither here nor there; what matters is what the Church teaches about abortion: that it’s murder. Radicals are more circumspect to attack powerful collectives than they are to attack individuals. It would be politically disastrous to insult billions of Christians worldwide by publicly denigrating the Church.” (131)
Rule 32, The monolithic, private right-wing “boycott” of leftist companies is a sham; gutsier approaches to commercial confrontation are superior, provides that while private boycotts are ineffective, public boycotts that target a company’s present and future bottom lines can work. When a person privately boycotts a left-wing company (say, by refusing to frequent Starbucks), he is not acting effectively. Such person is affecting neither the current profits of the company (a lost cup of coffee is hardly noticed on the bottom line of a billion dollar company) nor the company’s future profits (because the company’s brand has not been damaged). More effective are public campaigns “like old-fashioned picketing, aggressive contra articles or commercials, or celebrity interventions; for example, ‘Starbucks supports the following monstrous causes: [list them].’ Damaging ads and published attacks frequently work because global companies prize their ‘brand’—which equates to future profits—as highly as they value current profits.” (134-35) The Gordons then make a key point that conservatives must never forget: “the watchword is not just principle but efficacious principle.” (135)
In Rule 37, You don’t need to be a member of a certain class of people to address an issue related to or stemming from said class of people, the authors shoot down a common debating tactic of leftists. In an attempt to shut down debate, leftists argue that a certain person cannot “understand” or “talk about” an issue related to women, minorities, homosexuals, etc., because such person is not a woman, a minority, a homosexual, etc. Such argument is pure bunk the Gordons argue. The premise underlying this argument is that truth can be known only from experience, as opposed to reasoning. However, the Gordons write:
“No one, not even the most obtuse radicals, actually believes this though. If it were the case that only someone in a class directly affected by a law should be able to lend his voice to a public debate thereon, then only suicide victims could lobby for or against anti-suicide laws. If it were the case, then only people who had previously jumped off a cliff could warn their friends not to jump off a cliff. The nature of human intellect is such that we don’t need to have experienced the effects of an idea as precondition for saying that the idea is good or bad.” (150-1)
Finally, in Rule 40, Victory loves preparation, the Gordons urge us to never enter the fight without being fully prepared: We need to be intellectually and organizationally prepared and must especially know the strategies and arguments of our radical adversaries. We need to “understand [the radicals’] meta-strategy and its sine qua nons and sketch out a way to sabotage it, like the Star Wars Rebel Alliance analyzing the death star plans to find and exploit a weakness.” (164)
In their 2019 book Rules for Retrogrades, authors Timothy J. Gordon and David R. Gordon provide conservatives with forty rules to defeat leftists and their radical ideas. While the battle with radicals will not be an easy one, these rules give us the tools to prevail. To strengthen our resolve to enter the fight for our civilization and use these rules, the authors resoundingly conclude their book by quoting Aragorn’s words before a defining battle against the forces of evil in The Lord of the Rings:
“My brothers, I see in your eyes the same fear that would take heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the Age of Men comes crashing down. But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!” (165)