Sunday, July 15, 2018

Jacques Maritain on Saul Alinsky

"among those of my contemporaries still living as I write these lines, I see in the Western world no more than three revolutionaries worthy of the name—Eduardo Frei in Chile, Saul Alinsky in America, . . . and myself in France, who am not worth beans, since my call as a philosopher has obliterated my possibilities as an agitator. . . ."

     Jacques Maritain, The peasant of the Garonne:  an old layman questions himself about the present time (New York:  Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1968), 23.  Footnote:  "Saul Alinsky, who is a great friend of mine, is a courageous and admirably staunch organizer of 'people's communities' and an anti-racist leader whose methods are as effective as they are unorthodox.  Cf. 'The Professional Radical, Conversations with Saul Alinksy,' Harper's Magazine, June, July, 1965" (23n16).
     But things look completely spoiled when, at certain moments of deep trouble, the political formations of left and right, instead of being each a more or less high-spirited team held in check by a more or less firm political reason, have become nothing more than exasperated affective complexes carried away by their myth-ideal; from that point on, political intelligence can do nothing but practice ruses in the service of passion.  Under those conditions, to be neither right nor left means simply that one intends to keep his sanity.     This is what I [(Maritain)] tried my best to do, at a time when things were already quite spoiled ('I am neither left nor right,' even though by temperament [(as distinguished from politics)] I am what people call a man of the left)" (22)
i.e. one who, if taken to an extreme, would detest "being, always preferring, in principle, in the words of Rousseau, what is not to what is" (21).

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