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December 30, 2010

Co-Author of Original Cloward-Piven Strategy Calls For Mass Protests, Disruptions

Frances Fox Piven doesn't seem to advance a sneaky new strategy here as she did so long ago. Mostly it's just calling for typical leftist roil. But Ron Radosh went behind the firewall at The Nation to read her new aggrievements, and here's what she'd like to see:

What is needed, she suggests, are “mass protests” that might influence Obama and press “him hard from his base.” To do that, however, she notes that they have to get past the many obstructions to mobilize the unemployed. This is especially the case that the unions today “do little for their unemployed,” who don’t pay dues and “are likely to be malcontents.”

Piven argues that their task is harder than it was in the past, because the unemployed are diverse, are not in one area of the country and have no common institutional setting. It is hard to bring people together, even in welfare and unemployment centers, she complains, since often administrators try to avoid long lines and crowded waiting areas, where organizers could proselytize and inflame the dissatisfied applicants.

But most important, she writes, “they have to develop a proud and angry identity and a set of claims that go with that identity. They have to go from being hurt and ashamed to being angry and indignant (Radosh's emphasis) …Losing a job is bruising; even when many other people are out of work, most people are still working. So, 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.”

They also need targets, which she sees as “the most difficult of the strategy problems.” Since she knows well that “local and state governments are strapped for funds,” the poor and the unemployed must demand “federal action.” It is, in other words, another “fiscal crisis of the state” that, as in the past, can be used to advance the radical goal. There first have to be local protests that have to “accumulate and spread,” then “become more disruptive” (Radosh's emphasis) in order to pressure our national political leaders. What does Piven mean when she calls for disruption? She is clear and up front about her intent:

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. (Radosh's emphasis)

What she is calling for is nothing less than the chaos and violence engulfing Europe. Disgruntled leftist unionists, students who expect an education without cost, and citizens of social-democratic states cannot accept that the old terms of the social contract they thought would last forever have worn out their welcome. The European welfare-state governments can no longer function with the kind of social programs that now far exceed their nation’s budgets and hence are moving their countries to the precipice of total collapse.

It's going to be a rocky two years. They won't quit fighting until they know, really know in their bones, they've been beaten, and they're pretty oblivious as a general matter, so it's going to take a serious pounding to get through.


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posted by Ace at 08:04 PM

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