Strategies for Change: How to Make the American Political Dream Work

By Dick Simpson; George Beam | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
How to Win Issue Campaigns

Chicago is a tightly-run city. Every study of power in Chicago has concluded that big business, political party machines, and a few leaders of major institutions run the city. Chicago is an outstanding example of old-fashioned, benevolent tryranny. Yet Chicago is also the city of social experimentation par excellence. Dr. King came to Chicago to bring the civil rights movement north and Operation Breadbasket (later PUSH -- People United to Save Humanity) grew from these seeds. Saul Alinsky and the organizers he trained created numerous peoples' organizations in Chicago such as the Back of the Yards Council, The Woodlawn Organization (TWO), Northwest Community Organization (NCO), and the Organization for a Better Austin (OBA). These citizen organizations have had remarkable success in fighting the power structure in Chicago, and the movement for change continues vigorously.

Chicago spawns such organizations largely because its power structure is tightly closed and will not assimilate critics. Anyone who presses for even minor changes must operate outside the established institutions. Because the dominant political, social, and economic institutions in Chicago will not assimilate their critics, they create their own opposition. As a result of the rigidity and blindness of the present power structure, many problems in Chicago are not ameliorated. They fester. They become dramatic in their extreme stages and such issues then spawn new organi-

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