The Cloward-Piven Strategy to Implement Socialist Revolution
Cloward-Piven is a strategy for forcing political change through orchestrated crisis.
The strategy was first proposed in 1966 by Columbia University political scientists Richard Andrew Cloward and Frances Fox Piven as a plan to bankrupt the welfare system and produce radical change. Sometimes known as the “crisis strategy” or the the “flood-the-rolls bankrupt-the-cities strategy,” the Cloward-Piven approach called for swamping the welfare rolls with new applicants – more than the system could bear. It was hoped that the resulting economic collapse would lead to political turmoil and ultimately socialism.
The National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO), founded by African-American militant George Alvin Wiley, put the Cloward-Piven strategy to work in the streets. Its activities led directly to the welfare crisis that bankrupted New York City in 1975.
Veterans of NWRO went on to found the Living Wage Movement and the Voting Rights Movement, both of which rely on the Cloward-Piven strategy and both of which are spear-headed by the radical cult ACORN.Both the Living Wage and Voting Rights movements depend heavily on financial support from George Soros’s Open Society Institute.
On August 11, 1965, the black district of Watts in Los Angeles exploded into violence, after police used batons to subdue a man suspected of drunk driving. Riots raged for six days, spilling over into other parts of the city and leaving 34 dead. Two Columbia University sociologists, Richard Andrew Cloward and Frances Fox Piven were inspired by the riots to develop a new strategy for social change. In November 1965 – barely three months after the fires of Watts had subsided – Cloward and Piven began privately circulating copies of an article they had written called “Mobilizing the Poor: How it Could Be Done.” Six months later (on May 2, 1966), it was published in The Nation, under the title, “The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty.”
The article electrified the Left. Following its May 2, 1966 publication, The Nation sold an unprecedented 30,000 reprints. Activists were abuzz over the so-called “crisis strategy” or “Cloward-Piven strategy,” as it came to be called. Many were eager to put it into effect.
Richard A. Cloward was then a professor of social work at Columbia University. He died in 2001. His co-author Frances Fox Piven was a research associate at Columbia’s School of Social Work. She now holds a Distinguished Professorship of Political Science and Sociology at the City University of New York.
In their 1966 article, Cloward and Piven charged that the ruling classes used welfare to weaken the poor. By providing a social safety net, the rich doused the fires of rebellion. Cloward and Piven wanted to fan those flames. Poor people can advance only when “the rest of society is afraid of them,” Cloward told The New York Times on September 27, 1970. Rather than placating the poor with government hand-outs, activists should work to sabotage and destroy the welfare system. The collapse of the welfare state would ignite a political and financial crisis that would rock the nation. Poor people would rise in revolt. Only then would “the rest of society” accept their demands. So wrote Cloward and Piven in 1966