VADUM: Piven: Fiery and fearful

Socialist advocate for mob violence complains she is target

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If you promote violent leftist insurrection for a living, should you be surprised when anonymous members of the public threaten you with violence?

Apparently.

Take the case of Marxist professor and community organizer Frances Fox Piven, a frequent target of conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck.

In the Nation magazine just last month, Ms. Piven expressed outrage that Wall Street bankers weren’t being dragged from their homes and led to the guillotine because of the country’s high unemployment rates and an anemic economy. “So where are the angry crowds, the demonstrations, sit-ins and unruly mobs? After all, the injustice is apparent,” she wrote.

Ms. Piven’s next words ought to send a chill down the spine of every American.

“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.”

Shocked staffers at the Nation report that the publication’s website has been flooded with angry comments, expletives and unprintable threats against Ms. Piven’s person.

But instead of recognizing the root causes of this backlash, Occidental College professor and activist Peter Dreier points his finger at Mr. Beck, Ms. Piven’s most persistent critic. Mr. Beck has railed against Ms. Piven almost daily on his cable TV show for the past two years, calling her “an enemy of the Constitution.”

It is a harsh but nonetheless accurate epithet directed at someone who sees the Constitution as an inconvenient obstacle standing in the way of socialist utopia. It should be noted that Ms. Piven’s only objection to Karl Marx’s opus is that it is too vague to achieve radical social transformation. “The Communist Manifesto, was really too general for the purposes that we need to put the strategic work to today,” she told a 2009 radicals conference in Germany. Apparently she views her work as an improvement on Marx’s approach to extremist rabble-rousing.

Yet Mr. Dreier denounces Mr. Beck for “vitriol” and accuses him of orchestrating a “hate campaign” against Ms. Piven in order to “stir people to aggressive and hateful action.” For her part, Ms. Piven repeatedly has said Mr. Beck is a scapegoating racist and liar.

But Ms. Piven is a master at orchestrating aggressive, malicious activism.

She has said that well-intentioned politically motivated violence is sometimes necessary: “Probably unless you have a good reason for breaking the window, probably you shouldn’t do that unless it’s a big part of your strategy.”

In fact, Ms. Piven, a City University of New York professor, has advocated the forcible overthrow of the United States government more or less continuously for the past 45 years. In “The Weight of the Poor,” an influential call to arms for the activist left that ran in the Nation in 1966, Ms. Piven and her late husband, Richard Cloward, called upon activists to pack the welfare rolls in order to spread dependency, bankrupt the government and cause uprisings against the capitalist system.

Overburdening government bureaucracies would cause “a profound financial and political crisis” that would unleash “powerful forces … for major economic reform at the national level,” they argued in their article, which was so popular the magazine sold an unprecedented 30,000 reprints.

The poor have every reason to revolt, Cloward said later, because they would benefit more than other groups “from a major upheaval in our society.” The poor make progress only “when the rest of society is afraid of them,” he explained.

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