Francis Fox-Piven: The Communist Manifesto Was 'Really Too General'...

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

Given the tumult in the Middle East, as well as in Wisconsin and other states, it is worthwhile to explore some of the brains behind today’s “revolutionary” spirit—especially, given the Left’s hatred of the free-market, today’s socialists’ renewed interests in “revolution” and anarchists ambushing Seattle police.


Unless you’re a Glenn Beck watcher, you’ve probably never heard of Francis Fox-Piven. At the sry age of 79, Fox-Piven is a professor of political science and sociology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. However, her Marxist activism spans nearly five decades.

In 1966, Fox-Piven, along with her now-deceased husband Richard Cloward, wrote an article in the Nation magazine entitled The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty. The article outlined what later became known as the Cloward-Piven Strategy (and often cited by Beck), calls for income redistribution by adding people onto welfare rolls.

This was Cloward and Piven in 1966:

It is our purpose to advance a strategy which affords the basis for a convergence of civil rights organizations, militant anti-poverty groups and the poor. If this strategy were implemented, a political crisis would result that could lead to legislation for a guaranteed annual income and thus an end to poverty.


A series of welfare drives in large cities would, we believe, impel action on a new federal program to distribute income, eliminating the present public welfare system and alleviating the abject poverty which it perpetrates. Widespread campaigns to register the eligible poor for welfare aid, and to help existing recipients obtain their full benefits, would produce bureaucratic disruption in welfare agencies and fiscal disruption in local and state governments. These disruptions would generate severe political strains, and deepen existing divisions among elements in the big-city Democratic coalition: the remaining white middle class, the white working-class ethnic groups and the growing minority poor. To avoid a further weakening of that historic coalition, a national Democratic administration would be con-strained to advance a federal solution to poverty that would override local welfare failures, local class and racial conflicts and local revenue dilemmas. By the internal disruption of local bureaucratic practices, by the furor over public welfare poverty, and by the collapse of current financing arrangements, powerful forces can be generated for major economic reforms at the national level.

The ultimate objective of this strategy–to wipe out poverty by establishing a guaranteed annual income–will be questioned by some. Because the ideal of individual social and economic mobility has deep roots, even activists seem reluctant to call for national programs to eliminate poverty by the outright redistribution of income.


A federal program of income redistribution has become necessary to elevate the poor en masse from poverty.


And, here is Fox-Piven in 2009:

Rather than a Marxist leopard changing her spots, 43 years later, Fox-Piven is still spewing her Marxist rhetoric. This video of Fox-Piven speaking about labor unions and a new struggle for solidarity was filmed in 2009. In the clip, Fox-Piven discusses the union decline, its changes in leadership and the attempts to revive itself on “old strategies.”

[At the 2:56 mark]

So, in the United States, it isn’t that labor hasn’t recognized that they’re in big trouble as they lose members and lose density. They do. They know that. And, there has been shifts in leadership…but not dramatic. And what those new leaders have tried to do is they’ve tried to revive, to put more energy into old strategies and old repertoire…

Our model could be the Manifesto. But the Manifesto…the Communist Manifesto was really too general for the purposes that we have … that we need to put the strategic work to today. We want to face off against neo-liberal propaganda…


Perhaps it’s true: Old Marxists never really go away, they just become professors.

[H/T: RomanticPoet’s Blog]

Image: Creative Commons

“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776


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