The Cloward and Piven Strategy – Coming to Fruition?

I am amazed by the number of people who do not know about Columbia University sociologists Richard Andrew Cloward and Frances Fox Piven.  Let’s take some time to learn who they are and what they believe, and how their beliefs and plans affect our lives.  It is important to understand how ANY administration’s departure from constitutional policy plays into their hands.

The Cloward-Piven Strategy seeks to hasten the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands, thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse.  The August 1965 riots in the black district of Watts in Los Angeles inspired Cloward and Piven to publish an article in the May 2, 1966, issue of The Nation entitled, “The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty.

In their 1966 article, Cloward and Piven charged that the ruling classes used welfare to weaken the poor, and that by providing a social safety net, the rich doused the fires of rebellion.  Poor people can advance only when “the rest of society is afraid of them,” Cloward told The New York Times on September 27, 1970.  They wrote that activists should sabotage and destroy the welfare system, rather than placating the poor with government programs.  The resulting collapse of the welfare state would then ignite a financial and political crisis that would shake the nation; the poor would revolt and only then would society accept their demands.


Another stalwart player of the communist movement of the day would become a central figure in the strategy, Saul Alinsky. The basis for starting the rebellion would be the exposure of the inadequacy of the welfare state. “Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules,” Alinsky wrote in his 1971 book Rules for Radicals.

When pressed to honor every word, of every law and statute, every Judeo-Christian moral tenet, and every implicit promise of the liberal social contract, human agencies inevitably fall short. The system’s failure to “live up” to its rule book can then be used to discredit it altogether, and to replace the capitalist “rule book” with a socialist one.  Note that Alinsky’s issues are related to the government doing the Judeo-Christian work intended for individuals, and our society has played along.


The expectation was that the number of Americans subsisting on welfare could easily be doubled.  They pushed for a “massive drive to recruit the poor onto the welfare rolls.”  Cloward and Piven calculated that increasing the number of people receiving entitlements- even a small percentage would bankrupt the system.  The result, they predicted, would be “a profound financial and political crisis” that would unleash “powerful forces for major economic reform at the national level.”

They called for “cadres of aggressive organizers” to use “demonstrations to create a climate of militancy.”  Politicians would be intimidatedby threats of black violence, and appeal to the federal government for assistance.  A complicit media would cooperate with carefully orchestrated campaigns floating the idea of “a federal program of income redistribution,” in the form of a guaranteed living income for all — working and non-working people alike.  One only need look at how the “Black Lives Matter” is being used today to further this idea.

It was expected that local officials would jump at this idea applying pressure on Washington to implement the plan.  With every major city in the nation erupting into chaos, Washington would have no option but to act.  This was a true Trojan Horse movement, one with an apparent goal of helping the downtrodden, but whose real purpose was to draft the unsuspecting poor as revolutionaries, overwhelming government agencies with demands beyond their capacity.  It was the goal to break the budget and jam the system into gridlock and bring the system down.  They predicted that fear, turmoil and economic collapse would follow the breakdown, creating the perfect conditions to bring about their radical changes, at least in theory.

welfare-rights-organization_march_wcaptionThey recruited a militant black organizer named George Wiley to lead their new movement.  Wiley founded the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO) in the summer of 1967.  His tactics closely followed Cloward and Piven’s plans, invading welfare offices across the country, often violently.  They bullied social workers demanding every penny they were “entitled” to. By 1969, NWRO claimed a dues-paying membership of 22,500 families, with 523 chapters across the nation.

Regarding Wiley’s tactics, The New York Times commented on September 27, 1970, “There have been sit-ins in legislative chambers, including a United States Senate committee hearing, mass demonstrations of several thousand welfare recipients, school boycotts, picket lines, mounted police, tear gas, arrests – and, on occasion, rock-throwing, smashed glass doors, overturned desks, scattered papers and ripped-out phones.”

The methods were effective.

“The flooding succeeded beyond Wiley’s wildest dreams,” writes Sol Stern in the City Journal.  “From 1965 to 1974, the number of single-parent households on welfare soared from 4.3 million to 10.8 million, despite mostly flush economic times.  By the early 1970s, one person was on the welfare rolls in New York City for every two working in the city’s private economy.”  The resulting welfare spending forced New York City to declare bankruptcy in 1975, the entire state of New York nearly went with it.

The Cloward-Piven Strategy was a success.

The strategy required surprise.  After the initial shock, there was a backlash. New York’s crisis scared cities across America and gave rise to “the end of welfare as we know it” — the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act.  The Act imposed limits on welfare, eligibility, and work requirements.  In an odd display of cooperation, both Cloward and Piven attended the White House signing ceremony as guests of President Bill Clinton.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani exposed Cloward and Piven in the late 1990s. As he pressed his drive for welfare reform, Giuliani accused them by name, citing their 1966 writings as evidence of deliberate economic sabotage.  “This wasn’t an accident,” Giuliani charged in a 1997 speech.  “It wasn’t an atmospheric thing; it wasn’t supernatural.  This is the result of policies and programs designed to have the maximum number of people get on welfare.

After being publicly called out and tied to the New York City events, they are no longer as candid as in their 1966 article.  However, their activism never waned, and they continued to rely on the tactic of overloading the system.  Once in the public eye, they simply switched to the application of pressure to other sectors of the bureaucracy – any place they could find a weakness.

Devotees of the strategy founded a new “voting rights movement” in 1982 which claimed to complete the unfinished work of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  The organization that spearheaded this campaign?  ACORN.  This new movement was led by veterans of the George Wiley welfare rights crusade.  Its flagship organizations were Project Vote and Human SERVE, both founded in 1982.  Project Vote is an ACORN front group, launched by former NWRO organizer and ACORN co-founder Zach Polett.  Human SERVE was founded by Richard A. Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, along with a former NWRO organizer named Hulbert James.

ACORN, Project Vote, and Human SERVE all set to work lobbying energetically for the so-called Motor-Voter law, which Bill Clinton fraudultimately signed in 1993.  Motor-Voter is largely responsible for inundating the voter rolls with invalid registrations of deceased, ineligible or non-existent people, opening the door for unprecedented levels of voter fraud and “voter disenfranchisement” claims that followed in subsequent elections.

Mass voter registration drives typically featuring high levels of fraud, combined with systematic election official intimidation in the form of lawsuits, charges of racism, disenfranchisement and direct action (street protests) make up the new “voting rights.”  Rather than swamping the welfare offices in the 1960s, Cloward-Piven acolytes now seek to overwhelm the nation’s electoral system.  Their tactics help set the stage for the Florida recount crisis in 2000, in addition to introducing a level of fear and tension normally reserved for third world countries.

Our republic has been hijacked by progressives, socialists and communists wielding a sword of political correctness.

Both the Living Wage, and Voting Rights movements rely heavily on support from George Soros’s Open Society Institute and his Shadow Party. The Cloward-Piven strategy remains the blueprint for much of the left’s most ambitious campaigns.


Cop: Photo credit: Oakland 2010 via photopin (license)


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