The Cloward-Piven Strategy
In 1966, two Columbia University political scientists, Richard Andrew Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, penned an article in The Nation magazine titled, “The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty.” The purpose of the article was to inform Marxist radicals of the most prolific method for hastening a socialist revolution. What became known as the Cloward-Piven Strategy instructed anti-capitalists to overload welfare bureaucracies with impossible obligations, thereby causing civil unrest and economic collapse. The political turmoil, it was predicted, would lead to the rejection of capitalism and the embrace of the quick fixes promised by redistributive policies.
David Horowitz’s DiscoverTheNetworks.org describes the Cloward-Piven Strategy simply as a “strategy for forcing political change through orchestrated crisis.”
At the time, Cloward was a professor of social work at Columbia, and Piven was a research associate at Columbia’s School of Social Work. Both realized that only about half of those Americans eligible for welfare benefits were actually enrolling to receive them, so they advocated for a “massive drive to recruit the poor onto the welfare rolls.” Resulting would be a “profound financial and political crisis” that would unleash “powerful forces…for major economic reform at the national level.” Politicians across the nation would try to quell the angry mobs by appealing to the federal government for monetary assistance (income redistribution).
A key component to the Cloward-Piven Strategy was racial warfare. Cloward and Piven understood well the power of race politics. In fact, inspiration for their scheme came from the riots of 1965 in the black district of Watts in Los Angeles. They consciously planned to use the threat of “black violence” to springboard their Marxist takeover by instructing progressives to focus on the inner cities first. Needed were “cadres of aggressive organizers” to “create a climate of militancy.” With the racial component front-and-center, any voices of opposition would be handcuffed by political correctness.
Progressives delivered as much socialism to the inner cities as they could. Trillions of dollars in the forms of welfare payments, racial quotas, and various government programs drastically altered the landscape of America’s urban neighborhoods. As black syndicated columnist Star Parker writes, “Instead of solving economic problems, government welfare socialism created monstrous moral and spiritual problems. The kind of problems that are inevitable when individuals turn responsibility for their lives over to others. The legacy of American socialism is our blighted inner cities, dysfunctional inner city schools, and broken black families.”
The Cloward-Piven Strategy never achieved its ultimate goal of national socialism, but it built devastating Marxist inroads. It became the playbook for leftist agitators throughout the country, instituting a progressive culture of upheaval, phony moral outrage, and political excess. Radicalism – the willingness to abandon morality for the sake of political ends – became the ethic of the leftist mainstream.
Radicals Among Us
The Cloward-Piven Strategy is alive-and-well here in Rhode Island. “Cadres of aggressive organizers” creating a “climate of militancy” is often an apt description of our state’s most active leftists.
The RI Left’s most potent weapon, however, is their intimate knowledge of the wirings of government bureaucracies and public procedure. Over the past several years the RI Poverty Institute began an aggressive campaign aimed at getting more Rhode Islanders signed up for the food-stamp program. The Poverty Institute’s policy director Linda Katz said, “For the food stamps it’s been a complicated process [to sign up], but Rhode Island has been making strides in terms of streamlining access to the program, improving outreach and making some administrative changes that simplify the process for people to come onto the program…It’s helping to open the doors to the benefits to which people are entitled.”
Prominent food-stamp advertisements represented a high-octane effort to swell the welfare rolls, precisely as instructed by the Cloward-Piven Strategy.
“Ignorance of welfare rights can be attacked through a massive educational campaign. Brochures describing benefits in simple, clear language, and urging people to seek their full entitlements, should be distributed door to door in tenements and public housing projects, and deposited in stores, schools, churches and civic centers. Advertisements should be placed in newspapers; spot announcements should be made on radio. Leaders of social, religious, fraternal and political groups in the slums should also be enlisted to recruit the eligible to the rolls. The fact that the campaign is intended to inform people of their legal rights under a government program, that it is a civic education drive, will lend it legitimacy.”
- Cloward / Piven, 1966
Normal Americans would view an under-utilized welfare program as good news. The program could be cut or minimized, and tax relief could be provided to the public. But progressives affiliated with the Poverty Institute think otherwise.
Is the Poverty Institute consciously conspiring to destroy the capitalist system? Maybe, maybe not. But a vast plot isn’t necessary anymore to satisfy the Marxist appetite. Progressives have done such a fine job at portraying themselves as ethical elites, that all motions now made by members of the Left are thought of as moral gestures made by moral people, who are just trying to deliver “social and economic justice” to the poor. A progressive conspirator or a co-opted liberal, both are agents of the utopian revolution.
The George Wiley Center
In December 2009, volunteers for the George Wiley Center stormed the State House to demand that Governor Carcieri “beef up the State’s food stamp program by hiring 40 more workers, opening up offices on Saturdays, and switching to a shorter application form.” They also wanted the Governor to “switch to debit-style cards for the 35,000 Rhode Islanders who rely on the federal Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.” The Center’s “antipoverty advocates” claimed that the welfare recipients currently enrolled were burdened by “cumbersome coupons.”
Yea, coupons are a real pain in the ass.
But any measure that makes it easier to access public funds is supported by the George Wiley Center. Their members said in 2009, “We’re in the midst of a major battle…to get 60,000 more Rhode Islanders signed up for Food Stamps” and “the governor needs to go on the radio…and appeal for more applicants. Push for people to sign up.”
“Spot announcements should be made on radio.” – Cloward / Piven, 1966
While legislators were struggling to find cost savings for the state, George Wiley Center volunteer Maggi Rogers “rapped on [the Governor's] door,” demanding with her co-advocates the creation of a “public jobs program,” support for a “legislative proposal to help renters struggling to pay utility bills,” and “more breakfasts in schools.”
Observing this absurd laundry list of demands makes it difficult not to suspect that, since its inception in 1981, the George Wiley Center has been running a purposeful campaign to bankrupt the state. Especially when we consider that its namesake was a 1960s African-American militant best known for pioneering the Cloward-Piven Strategy across the United States. DiscoverTheNetworks.org informs, “Cloward and Piven believed that their plan could spark a nationwide movement. To lead the movement, they sought an experienced organizer with vision, charisma and – most important of all – street credibility with inner-city blacks. That organizer turned out to be George Alvin Wiley.”
George Wiley led a life of radical activism, another Ivy Leaguer who became a college professor himself, then adopted the cloak of black militancy and took to the streets. Widely known as the “father of the welfare rights movement,” Wiley founded the National Welfare Reform Organization, and became a mentor of Wade Rathke, the founder of the notoriously corrupt ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now).
Wiley was raised by his community-organizing parents in Warwick, Rhode Island.
Parents for Progress for Representative Steven Costantino (D)
The George Wiley Center has eight chapters located throughout the state. The coordinator for the George Wiley Center is Henry Shelton, who was “trained by a Chicago organizer” and is revered as a “hell-raiser” by his admirers. According to Providence Journal reports, the 79 year-old Shelton “started or joined nearly every antipoverty and social justice group in the state, including the Coalition for Consumer Justice, People Acting through Community Effort, Parents for Progress, and the Campaign to End Childhood Poverty.”
The George Wiley Center describes itself as a “statewide group actively committed to local community organizing for the purpose of creating social and economic justice.” Oh, God help us.
In 2004, Parents for Progress gave House Finance Committee Chairman Steven Costantino (D) the Legislative Leadership Award for “work[ing] hard to protect funding for programs that help low-income families.” Parents for Progress especially recognized Costantino’s “reinstatement of a $50 monthly payment made to parents on welfare who have been awarded child support, which had been eliminated under Gov. Donald L. Carcieri’s fiscal year 2005 budget proposal. The bill reinstating the payments withstood a veto from the governor, overridden by the House and the Senate.”
The alliance between elected Democrats and progressive street activists, in this instance, was revealed by Costantino receiving an award for giving away millions of dollars of taxpayer money each year. Parents for Progress director Heidi Collins thanked Costantino for his “continued support,” and gushed, “If it weren’t for leaders like Chairman Costantino taking a stance on issues affecting low-income families, this state would not be where it is today.”
That’s for sure.