Index of this Section Front page of Site
Donate to Sovereignty Join e-mail List Subscribe to Printed Journal


Alistair McConnachie published Sovereignty from July 1999 to its 120th consecutive monthly issue in June 2009, and he continues to maintain this website.
Alistair McConnachie also publishes Prosperity - Freedom from Debt Slavery which explains how our debt-based money system works and A Force For Good which makes a positive case for the United Kingdom.
To find out more go to the about who is Alistair McConnachie page.
Buy the Complete 10-Year, 120 Back Issue Set of Sovereignty - worth £162.50 - for only £89 inc p+p, a 45% discount. Cheques to Sovereignty, at 268 Bath St, Glasgow, G2 4JR or go to the Sovereignty home page and click "Buy Now".

The following item by Alistair McConnachiefirst appeared in a Special SOVEREIGNTY Report distributed free with the July 2001 issue.

Moral dilemmas are powerful inhibitors to success. They are often introduced by the opposition in order to confuse, frustrate and consequently paralyse your attempt to accomplish your goal.

Therefore, if you are going to get involved in any kind of direct political action, you need to have your morality straightened out, otherwise you will be undone.

You need to have your internal moral compass set for success, or you will crash on the rocks of your moral doubt and drown in the sea of your moral confusion.

In 1971, the professional agitator, Saul Alinsky wrote Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals. His book is a clear and helpful guide to direct action. His chapter "Of Means and Ends" is worth studying in depth because it clarifies the proper moral psychology necessary for political success.

As Alinsky states at the outset: "The man of action views the issue of means and ends in pragmatic and strategic terms. He has no other problem; he thinks only of his actual resources and the possibilities of various choices of action. He asks of ends only whether they are achievable and worth the cost; of means, only whether they will work. To say that corrupt means corrupt the ends is to believe in the immaculate conception of ends and principles. The real arena is corrupt and bloody ... The practical revolutionary will understand Goethe's 'conscience is the virtue of observers and not of agents of action'; in action, one does not always enjoy the luxury of a decision that is consistent both with one's individual conscience and the good of mankind. The choice must always be for the latter. Action is for mass salvation and not for the individual's personal salvation. He who sacrifices the mass good for his personal conscience has a peculiar conception of 'personal salvation'; he doesn't care enough for people to be 'corrupted' for them."

Alinsky presents a set of "rules" on the ethics of means and ends.

1) One's concern with the ethics of means and ends varies inversely with one's personal interest in the issue, and one's distance from the scene of conflict.
When we are not directly concerned, our morality overflows: as La Rochefoucauld put it, "We all have strength enough to endure the misfortunes of others". The further away we are from the conflict, the more we fuss over the moral delicacies.

2) The judgement of the ethics of means is dependent upon the political position of those sitting in judgment.
He uses the example of the American Declaration of Independence to elaborate: To the Colonists who drafted it, the Declaration was a glorious document. To the British, it was a deceit, which deliberately ignored the benefits of the British presence. However, if the Colonists had listed the benefits of the British Empire, then they would have constructed a document which was 60% on the side of the Colonists, and 40% on the side of the British. The Declaration was intended to be a call to war. It would be unrealistic to expect a man to join the Revolutionary Army for a 20 per cent difference in the balance of human justice. Therefore, the Declaration had to be 100 per cent on the side of the Colonists and had to 100 per cent denounce the British.

"Our cause had to be all shining justice, allied with the angels; theirs had to be all evil, tied to the Devil; in no war has the enemy or the cause ever been gray. Therefore, from one point of view the omission was justified; from the other, it was deliberate deceit ... The opposition's means, used against us, are always immoral and our means are always ethical and rooted in the highest of human values."

3) In war, the end justifies almost any means.
For example, Churchill was asked how he could reconcile himself to siding with the communists, with all the ethical dilemmas this may have created. He responded, "I have only one purpose, the destruction of Hitler, and my life is much simplified thereby."

4) The judgement of the ethics of means must be made in the context of the times in which the action occurred and not from any other chronological vantage point.
He uses the example of the Boston Massacre. Patrick Carr, one of the townspeople shot dead by the British, stated on his deathbed that the townspeople had been the aggressors and that the British fired in self defence. This admission threatened to destroy the martyrdom that the Revolutionary Leader, Sam Adams, had invested in the townspeople. Adams thereby set about attempting to discredit Patrick Carr as "an Irish papist who had died in the confession of the Roman Catholic Church." To the British this was an immoral deception and deliberate bigotry.

As Alinsky writes: "Today we may look back and regard Adam's action in the same light as the British did, but remember that we are not today involved in a revolution against the British Empire."

5) Concern with ethics increases with the number of means available.
Moral questions may enter when one chooses among equally effective alternate means. But if one lacks the luxury of a choice and is possessed of only one means, then the ethical question will never arise.

6) The less important the end, the more one can afford to engage in ethical evaluations of means.

7) Success or failure is a mighty determinant of ethics.
Yesterday's immoral terrorist is today's moral and dignified statesman of high standing -- because he was successful. Yesterday's moral statesman is sitting in front of a "war crimes tribunal" today -- because he lost.

8) The morality of a means depends upon whether the means is being employed at a time of imminent defeat or imminent victory.
In short, ethics are determined by whether one is losing or winning.

9) Any effective means is automatically judged by the opposition as being unethical.

10) You do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral garments.
What means are available? What are our strengths and our resources? How much time have we? Who, and how many will support the action?

Alinsky examines Mahatma Gandhi's legacy of "passive resistance" and points out that, "it is blasphemous to question whether this entire procedure of passive resistance was not simply the only intelligent, realistic, expedient program which Gandhi had at his disposal; and that the 'morality' which surrounded this policy of passive resistance was to a large degree a rationale to cloak a pragmatic program with a desired and essential moral cover...

"Confronted with the issue of what means he could employ against the British, we come to the other criteria previously mentioned; that the kind of means selected and how they can be used is significantly dependent upon the face of the enemy, or the character of his opposition. Gandhi's opposition not only made the effective use of passive resistance possible but practically invited it. His enemy was a British administration characterized by an old, aristocratic, liberal tradition, one which granted a good deal of freedom to its colonials and which always had operated on a pattern of using, absorbing, seducing, or destroying, through flattery or corruption, the revolutionary leaders who arose from the colonial ranks. This was the kind of opposition that would have tolerated and ultimately capitulated before the tactic of passive resistance."

Gandhi's passive resistance would never have stood a chance against a totalitarian state. Indeed, as Alinsky points out, eight months after securing independence, the Indian National Congress outlawed passive resistance and made it a crime.

As Alinsky writes: "The mental shadow boxing on the subject of means and ends is typical of those who are the observers and not the actors in the battlefields of life ... The kind of personal safety and security sought by the advocates of the sanctity of means and ends lies only in the womb of Yogism or the monastery, and even there it is darkened by the repudiation of that moral principle that they are their brothers' keepers...

"Means and ends are so qualitatively interrelated that the true question has never been the proverbial one, 'Does the End justify the Means?' but always has been 'Does this particular end justify this particular means?'"

Donate to Sovereignty Join e-mail List Subscribe to Printed Journal
Index of this Section Front page of Site