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 here. 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.
Piven argues that in order for socialism to prevail in America, the unemployed will have to be radicalized through agitation. They have “to develop a proud and angry identity and a set of claims that go with that identity. They have to go from being hurt and ashamed to being angry and indignant.” In other words, they have to feel entitled to your money.
As Piven sees it, the unemployed have to be made to understand that individuals are never responsible for their own actions and that the capitalist system is by its nature oppressive. The jobless “have to stop blaming themselves for their hard times and turn their anger on the bosses, the bureaucrats or the politicians who are in fact responsible,” she writes.
Piven’s next words ought to send a chill down the spine of every good American.
Local protests have to accumulate and spread—and become more disruptive— to create serious pressures on national politicians. An effective movement of the unemployed will have to look something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece in response to the austerity measures forced on the Greek government by the European Union, or like the student protests that recently spread with lightning speed across England in response to the prospect of greatly increased school fees. [emphasis added]
Piven only likes one thing about America and she shares that enthusiasm with her late comrade-in-arms Saul Alinsky. As Alinsky wrote in Rules for Radicals:
Let us in the name of radical pragmatism not forget that in our system with all its repressions we can still speak out and denounce the administration, attack its policies, work to build an opposition political base.
Apart from that one redeeming quality America possesses, the nation is beyond saving, according to Piven. She wants to burn the country down to the ground.