Saul Alinsky was born to Russian-Jewish parents in Chicago on January 30, 1909, but was personally agnostic regarding religion. Author and political commentator David Horowitz writes that Alinsky “came of age in the 1930s as a Communist fellow-traveler (as his biographer Sanford Horwitt tells us in Let Them Call Me Rebel).” Indeed, Horwitt wrote that Alinsky was “broadly sympathetic” with the politics of his friend Herb March, who worked as an organizer for the Young Communist League. Chicago alderman Leon Despres, a Communist Party member and a college classmate of Alinsky, once said: “I don’t think he [Alinsky] ever remotely thought of joining the Communist Party, [but] emotionally he aligned very strongly with it.” Philosopher and podcaster Stefan Molyneux says that Alinsky, for his part, described himself as a “small-c communist,” meaning that he embraced the principles of communism but never formally joined the Communist Party.
Alinsky helped establish the tactics of infiltration — coupled with a measure of confrontation — that have been central to revolutionary political movements in the United States in recent decades. Though Alinsky is rightfully understood to have been a leftist, his legacy is more methodological than ideological. He identified a set of very specific rules that ordinary citizens could follow, and tactics that ordinary citizens could employ, as a means of gaining public power. His motto was, “The most effective means are whatever will achieve the desired results.”