In 1971, I suddenly found myself back in Urbana, Illinois, pretty much penniless, and the town had sure changed in the two years I’d been away. There wasn’t much work listed in the paper, although my former employer, The News-Gazette, had an ad for distributors. You had to have your own vehicle and several minor routes were up for grabs. I set-up an interview, but when I showed up, I found myself talking to Frank Sowers, the same guy who’d hit my buddy Doug Blair with a baseball bat, and been one of the toughest dudes in my class (although he was a greaser and I was a longhair). If Frank recognized me, he certainly didn’t say so, and I knew he was never going to offer me a job.
The only other option was working as a community organizer for a new group that was canvassing the area. They welcomed me with open arms and gave me a just-published book to read: Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky. It was their bible. I really enjoyed this book immensely and it was the first time I’d ever heard of the Dutch Provo movement that had been a wild success in the Netherlands. One of the first things I’d do after becoming editor of High Times was to commission the first history of the Provos written in English.
This community group was a bit strange, however. We were traveling around to targeted communities and squeezing small donations by going door-to-door. The main pitch involved lowering the electric bill, something the group had already managed to do in other areas. I remember hearing the names “Ralph Nader” and “Mark Green” a lot from our supervisor. Mark arrived one day and gave a scheduled pep talk, before retiring to a private corner to have a long, whispered conversation with our supervisor.
I instantly became the star fundraiser, which meant I was also making the most money since everything was based off commissions. The easiest touches were widows who lived alone and who were obviously starved for human companionship. For them, an hour of conversation was worth a $20 donation. The photo on the left was taken during this period and shows the outfit I wore, so you can see what I looked like while I was shaking loose change off these ladies.
There was a strange, predatory vibe to this operation and I soon began to feel like a Moonie. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I decided to bail after two or three weeks, despite the easy pay, which really upset the supervisor. He had some higher-ups to answer to, and without me on board, I guess he didn’t think he was going to make his monthly quota. He even tracked me down at my parent’s house and begged me to come back, which made his operation seem all that more creepy to me. I had a strong feeling the “green” movement was being hijacked by the FBI or CIA.
There was one thing about Alinsky that really bothered me: he preached the ends justified the means. In a way, he was the Ayn Rand of the socialist movement. When I saw Obama and Hillary both track back to Alinksy organizations, it really makes me wonder if he wasn’t operating on another level, dancing through raindrops, just another spook on a secret mission with a hidden agenda.
Alinksy was a poor Russian Jew in Chicago when he unexpectedly got offered a fellowship at the University of Chicago to study criminology, and since he had zero background in that field, one wonders how he landed such a cushy deal? I guess you know the University of Chicago was created by the Rockefeller Trust, and also birthed the warmongering neo-conservative movement that fomented wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that bankrupted the nation.
Right after getting that fellowship, Alinksy spent two years hanging out with the Al Capone gang, then being run by Frank Nitti, as Al had income tax problems to deal with. Alinksy was allowed complete access to the gang, including its financial secrets. “Once, when I was looking over their records,” he told Playboy. “I noticed an item listing a $7,500 payment for an out-of-town killer. I called Nitti over and I said, ‘Look, Mr. Nitti, I don’t understand this. You’ve got at least 20 killers on your payroll. Why waste that much money to bring somebody in from St. Louis?’ Frank was really shocked at my ignorance. ‘Look, kid,’ he said patiently, ‘sometimes our guys might know the guy they’re hitting, they may have been to his house for dinner, taken his kids to the ball game, been the best man at his wedding, gotten drunk together. But you call in a guy from out of town, all you’ve got to do is tell him, ‘Look, there’s this guy in a dark coat on State and Randolph; our boy in the car will point him out; just go up and give him three in the belly and fade into the crowd.'”
I don’t know about you, but I find it odd Alinsky, a criminology student at the University of Chicago, was given this sort of access to information, not to mention his lack of morality, even to the point of not understanding the morals of the Sicilian brotherhood of death he was studying.
I’d have to do a lot more research on Alinsky and his organization before I could come to any conclusions, but I do find him to be a somewhat mysterious character.