First proposed in 1966 and named after Richard Andrew Cloward and his wife Francis Piven. Both were longtime members of the Democratic Socialist of America. 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. In a 1966 article, the couple explained that poor people can advance only when the rest of society is afraid of them. 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, cause a depression that would encourage poor people to rise in revolt and overthrow the system. Only then would the rest of society accept their demands.
The key to the revolution is in exposing the inadequacy of the welfare state. Cloward-Piven’s early promoters cited radical organizer Saul Alinsky as their inspiration who often stated “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 Judaeo-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.
The authors noted that the number of Americans subsisting on welfare fell short of the number that a just society should support. They proposed a massive drive to recruit the poor onto the welfare rolls. Cloward and Piven calculated that persuading politicians to spend and borrow so much from the world bankers that the entitlements would bankrupt the system. The result, they predicted, would be a profound financial and political crisis that would unleash powerful forces dismantling the system and paving the way to new world order.
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