Editor’s Note: This popular post was first published on January 5 here.
If at first you don’t succeed in murdering America’s constitutional legacy of limited government, try, try again. This sums up the approach of Marxist academic and activist Frances Fox Piven. The strategy of orchestrated crisis she pioneered with her late husband Richard Cloward helped generate chaos in American society throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The so-called Cloward-Piven Strategy inflicted a lot of damage on the nation but it didn’t quite succeed in bringing America to its knees, as its authors intended. So now Piven is calling for a new strategic attack on the American system of government.
But first some background is needed. Cloward and Piven wrote a 1966 Nation article, “The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty,” in which they called for “a massive drive to recruit the poor onto the welfare rolls” in an effort to overwhelm the system. [Italics in original.] The idea was that the crisis generated would serve as the catalyst for a radical transformation of American society. The strategy helped to bankrupt New York City in 1975. Years later, the Big Apple’s mayor, Rudy Giuliani, denounced the academic activists by name.
In the Nation article, Cloward and Piven made it clear that they were irritated that plenty of Americans legally eligible to receive forcibly redistributed wealth hadn’t bothered to ask for handouts. “The discrepancy is not an accident stemming from bureaucratic inefficiency; rather, it is an integral feature of the welfare system which, if challenged, would precipitate a profound financial and political crisis.”
As Ron Radosh writes at Pajamas Media, with the U.S. economy and state and city budgets everywhere under tremendous strain, Piven
has issued a new call to repeat and build upon the ruinous strategies that she and her late husband advanced decades ago. And as in 1966, her vehicle is The Nation, the flagship magazine of the Left which today has a huge circulation and much greater influence than it had in the 1960s.
In the Jan. 10/17, 2011 edition of the Nation (hidden behind a capitalist paywall), Piven is outraged that Wall Street bankers aren’t being dragged from their homes and led to the guillotine given high unemployment and an anemic economy.
So where are the angry crowds, the demonstrations, sit-ins and unruly mobs? After all, the injustice is apparent. Working people are losing their homes and their pensions while robber baron CEOs report renewed profits and windfall bonuses. Shouldn’t the unemployed be on the march? Why aren’t they demanding enhanced safety net protections and big initiatives to generate jobs?
To not see that the American people are already angry, mad as hell at the Obama administration’s profligate spending, Piven must have slept through the Tea Party movement and the congressional town hall meetings of 2009, but I digress.