Cloward-Piven A Dangerous Duo

Occupy Wall Street, Open Borders, Moter-Voter Law: where do these ideas come from and what is their purpose?  Understanding the Cloward and Piven Strategy will shed light on these otherwise senseless policies. 

Read our researched piece on The Cloward and Piven Strategy: A Plan to mobilize the poor to collapse the federal government and usher in an omnipotent welfare state.

Special Thanks to the Author: Ann Murphy


Do you remember New York City in the 1980s? The once thriving metropolis was deemed the “Rotten Apple” with an unprecedented wave of drugs and violence, resulting in residents fleeing the city in record numbers – all because the city was bankrupt. Many say that it was mismanagement by city officials; however, the true reason is because of the Cloward-Piven strategy.

Both Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven (his wife) were well educated, radical progressive activists; inspired by and linked to other well-known progressive activists such as Bill Ayers and Saul Alinsky. Cloward served in the U.S. Military, and received a B.A. from University of Rochester (’49), and later his Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia University (’58); starting as an assistant professor at Columbia’s School of Social Work in 1954, he taught for 47 years until his death in 2001. 

Piven, a naturalized citizen, attended the University of Chicago for her education tenure: B.A. in City Planning (’53), M.A. (’56), and a Ph.D. (’62). In the early 1960s, Piven worked for Mobilization for Youth, an early anti-povertry group organizing rent strikes. Through this position, Piven ultimately secured a professor position at Columbia University’s school of Social Work, and coupled with Cloward, whom also worked at both institutions. Later on, Piven taught at Boston University where she was part of the “B.U. Five” with Murray Levin and communist Howard Zinn (known for perpetuating the American Association of University Professors strike even after the 1979 settlement agreement). In 1982, Piven returned to New York City as a professor of political science and sociology at City University of New York, which is known for its legions of Marxists professors and close association with the New York Marxist School. Piven was a longtime board member of the Democrat Socialists of America, as well as other organizations such as the ACLU and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and its Transnational Institute, a radical Marxist-Leninist organization.

In 1966, Cloward and Piven co-authored an article, “Mobilizing the Poor: How it Could Be Done”, based upon their joint observations at Mobilization for Youth. Six months later, it was republished in the May 1966 issue of the Nation (the oldest ultra-left magazine in the US), newly entitled, “The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty.” At the 1966 Socialist Scholars Conference in New York City, Piven presented their theory and plan published in the aforementioned articles; thus, the “Cloward-Piven Strategy” was born. Cloward and Piven detailed this strategy in subsequent publications, such as the New York Times (September 27, 1970), where Cloward wrote, poor people can advance only when “the rest of society is afraid of them;” their books, “Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare” (’71) and Poor People’s Movement (’77); and, Piven’s December 2010 article in the Nation, “Mobilizing the Jobless.”

The Strategy advocates for wiping out poverty by increasing the enrollment in social welfare programs. The intended result is the bankruptcy of local and state governments through overspending on social welfare programs; thus, forcing aid from the federal government. The federal government would likewise be vastly overextended and a collapse of the welfare system would cause “a profound financial and political crisis,” allowing it to be easier to organize welfare recipients and the unemployed into street agitation and protests for still more government programs. Ultimately, the federal government would require complete reform of all social programs, including, e.g., guaranteed minimum annual income for all (now referred to as Universal Basic Income (“UBI”)). – in other words, economic sabotage to implement a socialist society. 

To further their goals, in 1966, Cloward and Piven partnered with radical black activist George Wiley, and, together, they co-founded the National Welfare Reform Organization (NWRO) to implement the strategy. Wiley hired militant foot soldiers to storm welfare offices around the country, violently demanding their “rights.” From 1966 through 1974, the total welfare recipients more than doubled from 4.3 million to 10.8 million. During this time, Cloward and Piven almost got their wish. In 1969, the Nixon Administration proposed the Family Assistance Plan to reform the welfare program and included guaranteed income, albeit the recipients would have to meet work requirements to receive the benefit; it was ultimately defeated by 1972 by both opposition from liberals (work requirements) and conservatives (guaranteed income).

However, in New York City, the strategy was particularly successful. By 1975, welfare recipients neared 1 million (i.e., one person was on the welfare rolls for every two working in the city’s private economy). That year, New York City declared bankruptcy and delved into the “Rotten Apple,” almost collapsing the entire state as well. The “Rotten Apple” debacle and the grasp of the Family Assistant Plan proved their theory successful.

The Cloward-Piven Strategy is credited for changing the cultural attitude of welfare from temporary assistance to a lifetime entitlement throughout the nation. Through heavy lobbying, the Clinton Administration signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act ’96, an almost unanimous reaction to reconstruct the welfare system; the legislation was supported by Cloward and Piven, and they both attended the signing ceremony with then-President Clinton, because it was the first step towards the federal government reform of the social program system and a restart of the NWRO crusade at the Federal level.

While the NWRO made a good start, it could not accomplish all the Cloward-Piven goals; and the targets were expanded to voting rights, housing, and other “low income rights.” In 1970, Wade Rathke, a Wiley protégé and member of the radical Student for a Democratic Society (SDS) with Bill Ayres; one SDS goal was to begin a U.S. “race war.” Remember, the SDS developed into the Weather Underground domestic terrorist organization and members of SDS “occupied buildings at universities such as Columbia and destroyed draft records.”  One of the goals of the SDS was to begin a “race war” in the U.S. Rathke founded the Arkansas Community Organizations for Reform Now to register as many Democrat voters as possible so as to “overwhelm” local elections; later it was renamed as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and became a nationwide organization receiving federal funding for its initiatives. 

In 1980s, ACORN expanded its subsidiaries, allowing the “new” organizations to use ACORN assets and network. In 1982, Project Vote was established by Sanford Newman at ACORN’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. In the same year, Clive and Piven founded “Human SERVE” (Service Employees Registration and Voter Education), setting up motor-voter programs in selected states. Human SERVE and ACORN/Project Vote heavily lobbied for the National Voter Registration Act’93 (“Motor-Voter Act”) based on the “crisis” in voting. Curiously, Cloward and Piven attended the signing ceremony, and then-President Clinton, accompanied by his wife, Hillary, acknowledged Cloward and Piven’s substantial role in passing the legislation. States now had to permit mail-in voter registration, were severely limited in pruning voter rolls, and could not ask for identification or proof of citizenship when registering voters; additionally, Welfare, DMV, schools, libraries and other government offices were ordered to promote voter registration. In a CBS News interview in 1996, Cloward said of the Motor Voter law, “It’s better to have a little bit of fraud than to leave people off the rolls who belong there.”

ACORN and its subsidiary, Project Vote, set up registration sites all over the country. Sanford Newman hired Barack Obama (coincidentally, Obama attended Columbia University) to head the Cook County, IL office of Project VOTE because of his ability in the area of community organizing. Obama was instrumental in making ACORN a household name. Indeed, many credit Obama’s highly successful voter registration drive in 1992 for the election of the radical (and since disgraced) Senator Carol Moseley-Braun (who’s seat Obama later inherited), and cemented Obama’s reputation as a master community organizer. In 1995, Obama was the lead attorney for ACORN in a successful federal lawsuit against the state of Illinois to implement the Motor Voter law.

In 2010, following the scandalous loss of congressional funding and donor support, ACORN closed its “offices” around the nation, and filed in bankruptcy in November of that year; though most of ACORN chapters reorganized under new names, and its subsidiary and affiliated organizations, like Project Vote, continued to use its resources and network. 

On its heels, in the aforementioned December 1010 issue of the Nation, Piven penned, “Mobilizing the Jobless,” in which she lamented that European liberal groups were more successful in mobilizing the masses for strife and chaos, and that the American jobless “have to go from being hurt and ashamed to being angry and indignant” … “a kind of psychological transformation has to take place; the out-of-work 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.” Piven wrote:

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?

. . .

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.

Only a few short months later, the Occupy Wall Street launched in Zuccotti Park September 2011 and received nationwide coverage. Unsurprisingly, Piven was an advisor at OWS “teach ins” and attended protests; in October 2011, she is quoted at the OWS, “I think we desperately need a popular uprising in the United States[.]” But, by November 2011, it was widely reported that New York office of ACORN was organizing and supporting OWS, even recruiting homeless persons at $10 per hour to protest. In an effort to revive the demonstrations, OWS received academic support, such as the CUNY faculty statement signed by professors, including Piven, and other outside academics, supporting “the CUNY student movement in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street …” The OWS protest at Zuccotti Park continued through January 2012, when police made widespread arrests of protestors and dispersed the occupation site. But the OWS movement proved the working policies of the Cloward-Piven strategy successful yet again: create an ample pool of foot soldier recruits willing to advance its radical agenda at little or no pay.

The effects of the Cloward-Piven Strategy and social meddling are still implemented to this day, shown through, e.g., the continued resistance against curtailing illegal immigration and demands for amnesty and benefits. Data reports from the last census, 63% of households headed by a non-citizen reported that they used at least one welfare program, with much higher use of food programs and Medicaid. 

Even though there are restrictions and qualifications required under the aforementioned PRWORA’96 to receive welfare, there are loopholes which have aided this endeavor. By way of example, the Obama Administration implemented a HUD policy that removed the work-requirements; though this policy was terminated under the subsequent Trump Administration. Other restrictions have little impact because any bars to services do not apply to all programs and do not apply to non-citizen children; some states provide welfare service for illegal immigrants; and non-citizens (including illegal immigrants) can receive benefits on behalf of their U.S.-born children, including full welfare eligibility at birth. The current estimated price tag for these social benefits is $116 billion annually. Moreover, benefits are continuous; once eligibility is established, the consumption of resources is indefinite. The burden of illegal immigration on our already overstressed welfare system, coupled with the unaudited government waste (such as the $16 billion in improper payments for federal Medicare, which program has a $74 trillion liability already), will surely lead to the desired Cloward-Piven economic collapse. 

It’s the Rotten Apple all over again except with a supersized version of the Cloward-Piven strategy because state voter rolls are packed with illegal immigrant voters due to the Motor-Voter law. Just in Pennsylvania, a recent audit of the PA DoT computerized voter registration system uncovered almost 12,000 noncitizen voters registered in the state. Similarly, Texas announced they found nearly 100,000 noncitizens on its voter rolls, confirmed that least 58,000 of them actually had voted at least once. Indeed, California passed legislation that removed state punishment for noncitizen voting if the registration agent was incorrect in providing said registration. Additionally, in the March 8, 2019 vote by the House of Representatives on H.R. 1 “For the People Act,” the Liberal Congressional members were overwhelmingly against the amendment seeking to disavow municipalities permitting foreign suffrage. This widespread infiltration has major impact on U.S. elections echoing Obama’s March 2015 musings on mandatory voting, “If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country.” The Cloward-Piven disciples need to obtain a consistent supermajority, much like Obama’s first term in office; the illegal immigrants have become their targeted base. In the 1980s, before Motor-Voter was passed, NAAP official and head of voter registration, said, “When people are standing in line to get cheese and butter or unemployment compensation, you don’t have to tell them how to vote. They know how to vote.”

Each small step is leading to a Cloward-Piven victory of fundamental transformation of this country: flood the country with “needy” persons; obtain welfare benefits and overload the welfare system; obtain voting rights (first through driver’s licensing and then through sanctioned suffrage) and keep progressives in office. In turn, those progressives will surely pass a progeny law of the failed Family Assistant Plan, whether America is ready for it or not – just like the Obamacare measures. Like all social programs before it, once its established, it will reign in perpetuity.

Article contributed by Ann Murphy