Frances Fox Piven

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Frances Fox Piven
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Frances Fox Piven is a prominent U.S. sociologist, writer and socialist activist. She is an honorary chair of Democratic Socialists of America.[1]


She is Professor of Political Science and Sociology at CUNY Graduate Center with the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education & Labor Studies.[2]

Early life

In 1999 Frances Fox Piven explained her conversion to radicalism in a Democratic Left interview with Rob Saute;[3]

Like a lot of people in the New York area, my parents were Russian Jewish immigrants. They were intuitive radicals even though they didn't have formal educations. I think they certainly influenced me. My father when I saw him, which wasn't very often because he worked very long hours — always talked to me about world affairs. I remember him saying to me that you couldn't believe the capitalist press. So I asked him, "Then why do you read the newspaper all the time, Daddy?" And he said, "I read between the lines." Since I couldn't read at all yet — I was only about three or four — I studied between the lines to see what I could see, and I couldn't see a damn thing. That puzzled me — until I got it.
But I think that I actually really became a radical in the 1960s. Like so many people, I was very much influenced by the movements that welled up in the previous decade, and urban protests over issues like housing and welfare. I worked with tenant organizers and later I was very closely identified with the welfare rights movement.
I continued through the 1970s to stay very close to the organizers that I had gotten to know in the 1960s. By that time, most were community organizers or had become union organizers. So that's how I became a radical. I think 1 was pre-disposed to it by my family, but then it was the actual experience. But what's also significant is that I have always enjoyed myself a lot.

Writing

Fox Piven's books include Regulating the Poor (1972, updated 1993, co-authored with Richard Cloward), a historical and theoretical analysis of the role of welfare policy in the economic and political control of the poor and working class; Poor Peoples' Movements (1977), which analyzes the political dynamics through which insurgent social movements sometimes compel significant policy reforms; Why Americans Don't Vote (1988; updated as Why Americans Still Don't Vote in 2000) analyzes of the role of electoral laws and practices in disenfranchising large numbers of working class and poor citizens; and The War at Home (2004), which examines the domestic causes and consequences of the foreign wars launched by the Bush administration. Most recently, in Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America, Piven examines the interplay of disruptive social movements and electoral politics in generating the political force for egalitarian reform in American history[4].

Socialist Scholars Conference

1966

The Socialist Scholars Conference 1966, held September 9-11, at the Hotel Commodore, New York, included panels such as:[5]

Poverty and Powerlessness Organizing the Poor: Can it Be Done?

Commentators:

Beginnings of the "welfare movement" Written with associate sociologist Frances Piven of Columbia, Dr. Richard Cloward's paper for the Socialist Scholars opened with a call for a systematic strategy of "irregular and disruptive tactics" among the poor, urging them to overburden city and state governments with their "demand,," as a means of forcing these governments to turn to the federal government for more and more funds.

Prof. Cloward said, "We need, to devote more attention to disrupting corporate power." He described the poor as mere "supplicants" in the welfare state, and said they have most to gain "from a major upheaval in our society." He said our welfare system is "lawless" and violates human and civil rights. He called for welfare recipients' forcing city welfare departments to impose the labor union "check-off system" for welfare clients, by withholding 50 cents to a dollar for each client as dues to a fund for unionization of welfare clients to impose their demands for special benefits.

Prof. Cloward explained that each welfare client in New York City is entitled under existing law to special benefits for clothing, blankets, etc. He said that in 1965 city special benefits welfare payments amounted to "about $40 per client" and he called for each welfare client to demand $100 to $1,000 in such benefits.

He said there are now 550,00 welfare clients in the city, but that by 1967 there probably will be 60,000 The poor, said Dr. Cloward, could become a stake and powerful organization "in small portions of power" within the context "of a broader point."

Dr. Cloward said he had consulted with legal experts and "we estimate that $200 million in special grants" could be obtained in New York City alone: Dr. Cloward said that 'in Cleveland, on June 20, 1966, 30 to 35 welfare recipients were joined by others in a demonstration that included the Hough area.

In early August, he said, he himself had taken part in "a national conference to organize the welfare recipients movement,:' Dr. Cloward said he personally had taken part in Wednesday night meetings with welfare clients "week after week, month after month," and that as a result, "Next Monday there will be a demonstration of welfare recipients at City Hall"

Dr. Cloward read his paper to the Socialist Scholars Conference in the East Ballroom of the Hotel Commodore on Saturday afternoon, September 10. On Monday night, September 12, CBS and NBC TV newscasts showed the demonstration of screaming welfare recipients that took place right on Cloward schedule. They shouted demands for more "special benefits," though the present city general welfare budget (including hospital services, etc.) is almost a billion dollars annually, the Mayor says the city is "broke," and New Yorkers were hit this year with a city income tax in addition to state and federal taxes to pay for it all.

Prof. Cloward was right about the success of his Wednesday night meetings. Evidently his strategy of "disruptive tactics" will require costly police reinforcements at city welfare departments throughout our nation.

The prospects delighted Prof. William Ryan, formerly of Harvard now of Yale, who described himself to the audience as "a radical without portfolio." He said, "I have been enchanted with the Cloward strategy of blowing a fuse in the welfare agencies, housing developments, and among unmarried mothers. I wonder what would happen if there was a really systematic overload."

When a member of the audience went to the floor microphone during the question period to ask whether Dr. Cloward's strategy is a substitute for "Socialist organization of the proletariat, the industrial factory workers " Dr. Frances Piven of Columbia replied from the dais: "I really only want to make one point-the disruption of the system. Welfare rolls will begin to go up; welfare payments will begin to go up-the impact will be very, very sharp. The mounting welfare budget will increase taxes, force cities to turn to the federal government. We have to help people to make claims; for this they will organize and act."[6]

1990

The Socialist Scholars Conference 1990, held September 6-8, at the Hotel Commodore, New York, included panels such as:[7]

Michael Harrington as Theorist: A Critical Evaluation

1992

Arthur Kinoy and Frances Fox Piven, Irving Beinin were speakers on the The Left & the '92 Elections: Boycott, Third Party, or the Democrats? panel sponsored by Socialist Dialogue at the Tenth Annual Socialist Scholars Conference. The conference was held April 24-26, 1992 at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, New York City.

She spoke alongside Jim Sleeper, Jerry Watts and Ray Franklin on the Racial Politics and the Democrats: '92 panel sponsored by the Michael Harrington Center.[8]

1996

Piven was the scheduled speaker on Saturday, October 26, 1996, for a talk entitled "The Rich, The Poor, The 1996 Elections and Beyond", to be held at the U.N. Church Center, 777 United Nations Plaza, 44th Street off First Avenue. The event was sponsored by Women Strike for Peace (WSP). Information contact: Celia Fink, Coordinator, (212) 254-1925 or (203) 938-3954. Piven was described as:

  • - Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology, Graduate Schoo, CUNY and
  • - Author of numerous books including "Regulating The Poor"[9]

1997

In March 28-30 1997 Democratic Socialists of America convened their annual Socialist Scholars Conference at Borough of Manhattan Community College, New York.

The conference was themed "Radical alternatives on the eve of the millenium".

Invitees were asked to join Doug Henwood, Robert Heilbroner, Paul Sweezy, Harry Magdoff, Bill Tabb, Frances Fox Piven, Robert Fitch, Jane Slaughter and Ellen Meiksins Wood "as they debate changes in the labor movement, Marxist theory, the state of the economy, market socialism, and other areas where theory and practice meet".

Or "listen to the United States' only independent and socialist congressman", Rep. Bernie Sanders, "dialogue with" Joel Rogers of the New Party and In These Times' ....Salim Muwakkil on independent politics.[10]

1960s activism

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Institute for Policy Studies connections

The Institute for Policy Studies/TransNational Institute Annual Report for 1979-80 lists a sampling of seminars and lectures. Lecturers on U. S. political activities included Frances Fox Piven, James Weinstein, editor of IPS's weekly newspaper In These Times, Ned Crosby, president, Center for New Democratic Processes, Lee Benson, History Department, University of Pennsylvania, Harley Shaiken United Auto Workers consultant and Robert Cole, Economics Department, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

In 1993 Frances Fox Piven was listed as a among "former Visiting Fellows and Visiting Scholars and current TransNational Institute Fellows" on the Institute for Policy Studies 30th Anniversary brochure.

DSA Conference delegate

In 1983 Frances Fox Piven was a New York delegate to the Democratic Socialists of America conference in New York City, October 14-16, 1983[11]

DSA Feminist Commission

In 1985, Frances Fox Piven of New York was listed as a member of the Feminist Commission of the Democratic Socialists of America.[12]

In 1986 she was listed as a member of the National Executive Committee of the Commission.[13]

American Solidarity Movement

The American Solidarity Movement was announced in early 1984 by Democratic Socialists of America, as a vehicle to support American labor unions it considered under attack, or on strike and in need of support.

Members of the Initiating Committee for an American Solidarity Movement were: Michael Harrington (convenor), Stanley Aronowitz, Balfour Brickner, Harry Britt, Harvey Cox, Rep. Ron Dellums, Bogdan Denitch, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cynthia Epstein, Jules Feiffer, Rep. Barney Frank, Msgr. George Higgins, Irving Howe, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Frances Fox Piven, Jose Rivera, Ray Rogers, Gloria Steinem, Peter Steinfels, Ellen Willis.[14]

New Party builder

New Party News Fall 1994 listed over 100 New Party activists-"some of the community leaders, organizers, retirees,, scholars, artists, parents, students, doctors, writers and other activists who are building the NP" the list included Frances Fox Piven CUNY.

Campaign for America's Future

In 1996 Frances Fox Piven was one of the original 130 founders of Campaign for America's Future.[15]

War Times

In January 2002, a group of San Francisco leftists, mainly involved with STORM or Committees of Correspondence, founded a national anti-Iraq War newspaper[16] War Times.

Endorsers of the project included Frances Fox-Piven.

How Class Works

At the How Class Works - 2002 Conference, panels included; 3.0 Class and Public Policy

  • Frances Fox Piven, CUNY Graduate Center – Political Science
  • Adolph Reed, New School University – Political Science
  • Ruth Brandwein, Chair, Stony Brook – School of Social Welfare[17]

Not In Our Name

In August 2004 Frances Fox Piven, CUNY Faculty Grad Center endorsed an anti “Bush Team” Protest at the Republican National Convention in New York, organized by Not In Our Name, an organization closely associated with the Revolutionary Communist Party[18].

Paul Wellstone tribute

As the 2004 Democratic National Convention was poised to open in Boston , Jobs with Justice, , hosted a living tribute to the late Senator Paul Wellstone on July 25. Hundreds filled the historic Old West Church to tackle the question, “What must the Democratic Party do to live up to the progressive vision of Paul Wellstone?”

“Paul had the courage to stand the pain that comes with standing for something and not fall for anything,” said United Steelworkers of America union International President Leo Gerard. “That’s what the Democratic Party needs right now. He gave people a reason to fight, to hope.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), another panel member, called for “Wellstone Democratic Clubs” to mobilize neighborhoods into the political process to re-order national resources.

Many in the audience were students at Camp Wellstone, a workshop conducted in Boston for prospective candidates and campaign workers conducted by Wellstone’s campaign manager, Jeff Blodgett, also on the panel.

Rep. Major Owens (D-N.Y.) pointed out that too many liberals, including himself, voted for “welfare reform” in 1996. He praised Wellstone as the lone voice defending welfare at the time.

Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner quickly jumped in, igniting the audience with a clarion call for popular direct action to ensure accountability from a Kerry administration. “We need Kerry there and we need to be there to purge the cancer (of the Bush administration) from the soul of the body politic,” he said.

When Horace Small, the moderator, pooh-poohed the importance of trade in this election, Jim Hightower, author and radio personality, nearly jumped out of his seat.

“Tell that to Texas farmers who are losing their farms or workers who have lost their jobs to NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement),” Hightower said. “Who the hell elected the WTO (World Trade Organization)? Right now, in Washington, there are too many 5-watt bulbs sitting in 100-watt sockets. The people are revolting – in the best sense. I think we are going to get George.”

Confessing to once being a Republican, columnist Arianna Huffington reminded the assembly of all the dirty tricks and disgusting tactics that are on the horizon as November nears. Saying that “Mobilization is the key,” she proposed reaching out to the 50 percent of the eligible electorate that stayed home in 2000. “If we are able to just energize 10 percent of those voters, we win.”

The program included the presentation of awards to two attorneys, Julie Patino and Nadine Cohen, both of whom have fought difficult battles to protect affirmative action and voting rights of Massachusetts residents and immigrants. Other panelists included Al Franken, media personality, noted Columbia professor Frances Fox Piven and Anna Burger, vice president of the Service Employees International Union.[19]

Left Forum

2007

Vivek Chibber, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Bill Fletcher Jr., Frances Fox Piven and David Graeber were speakers on the closing plenary, Visions for the Future at the Left Forum. The forum was held March 9 - 11, 2007 at Cooper Union College, New York City.

Fox Piven also spoke alongside Mike Menser, Robin Hahnel and James Tracy, Community Housing Organizing Project, San Francisco Community on the What Are Non-reformist Reforms Today? panel.[20]

Left Forum board

In 2009, the Left Forum board included Stanley Aronowitz, Roderick Bush, Eric Canepa, Vivek Chibber, Nancy Holmstrom, Jamie McCallum, Lorraine Minnite, Frances Fox Piven, Hobart Spalding, Bill Tabb, Richard D. Wolf and Julia Wrigley.[21]

Open Letter to Obama on Iran

In 2008 Frances Fox Piven, Graduate Center, CUNY, New York signed an online petition “A Open Letter to Barack Obama on Iran”.[22]

Advisory Board Maurice & Jane Sugar Law Center

As at Winter, 2008, the following served on the Advisory Board of the Maurice & Jane Sugar Law Center:

Feminists for Peace and Barack Obama

In early 2008 Frances Fox Piven, of CUNY signed a petition circulated by Feminists for Peace and Barack Obama[23].

In the coming elections, it is important to remember that war and peace are as much \"women\'s issues\" as are health, the environment, and the achievement of educational and occupational equality. Because we believe that all of these concerns are not only fundamental but closely intertwined, this Tuesday we will be casting our vote for Senator Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.

Open letter to Andy Stern

On May 1 2008, Frances Fox Piven, of the City University of New York Graduate Center signed an open letter to SEIU president Andy Stern in protest at SEIU move to force its local United Healthcare Workers into trusteeship.

"We are writing to express our deep concern about SEIU's threatened trusteeship over its third largest local, United Healthcare Workers (UHW). We believe that there must always be room within organized labor for legitimate and principled dissent, if our movement is to survive and grow. Putting UHW under trusteeship would send a very troubling message and be viewed, by many, as a sign that internal democracy is not valued or tolerated within SEIU. In our view, this would have negative consequences for the workers directly affected, the SEIU itself, and the labor movement as a whole. We strongly urge you to avoid such a tragedy."

Progressives for Obama

In 2009 Frances Fox Piven Author, 'Poor Peoples Movements,' CUNY was listed as a signer of the Progressives for Obama website.[24]

Wellstone Action

In 2009 Frances Fox Piven was listed as a member of the Advisory Board[25] of Wellstone Action, a Minnesota based organization based on the political legacy[26] of that state’s late ‘progressive” Senator Paul Wellstone.

Wellstone Action and Wellstone Action Fund combine to form a national center for training and leadership development for the progressive movement. Founded in January 2003, Wellstone Action's mission is to honor the legacy of Paul and Sheila Wellstone by continuing their work through training, educating, mobilizing and organizing a vast network of progressive individuals and organizations.

Center for the Study of Working Class Life

In 2009 Frances Fox Piven, Political Science, CUNY Graduate Center served as an Academic on the Advisory board for the Center for the Study of Working Class Life[27].

New Politics

As of 2009 Frances Fox Piven served as a sponsor of New Politics, magazine almost completely staffed and run by members of Democratic Socialists of America[28].

Social Policy

The Editorial Advisory Group of the magazine Social Policy includes[29];

Noam Chomsky, Janice Fine, S. M. Miller, Peter Olney, Frances Fox Piven, Heather Booth, Peter Dreier, Maya Wiley, Robert Fisher, Ashutosh Saxena, Ken Grossinger==New York

"Real World Labor"

Real world labor.jpg

In August 2009 Dollars & Sense, produced an anthology entitled "Real World Labor", edited by Immanuel Ness, Amy Offner and Chris Sturr and the Dollars & Sense Collective.

Contributors included David Bacon, Kim Bobo, Aviva Chomsky, Steve Early, Bill Fletcher, Jr., Staughton Lynd, Arthur MacEwan, John Miller, Frances Fox Piven, Robert Pollin, Jane Slaughter.[30]

Democratic Lawyers Council

On April 12, 2010, Anne Hess and Craig Kaplan hosted an event entitled "An Evening for Election Integrity! - With Mark Ritchie, Minnesota's Secretary of State" at 214 East 18th St., New York City. Members of the host committee were: Al Appleton, Caron Atlas, Allison Barlow, Marjorie Fine, Frances Fox Piven, Anne Hess and Craig Kaplan, Allen Hunter and Linda Gordon, Riva Krut and Harris Gleckman, Ruth Katz, Sandra Levinson, Jaykumar Menon, Leah Margulies, Marion Nestle, Anita Nager, Miles Rapoport, Donna Schaper and Warren Goldstein, and Deborah Stern. The event was a fundraiser for Ritchie's upcoming 2010 re-election campaign as Minnesota's Secretary of State.[31]

Renewing the Call

On Dec. 22, 2010, Frances Fox Piven wrote an article for The Nation entitled "Mobilizing the Jobless". In the article she writes,[32]

"Second, before people can mobilize for collective action, 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...
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.
Protests by the unemployed led by young workers and by students, who face a future of joblessness, just might become large enough and disruptive enough to have an impact in Washington. There is no science that predicts eruption of protest movements. Who expected the angry street mobs in Athens or the protests by British students? Who indeed predicted the strike movement that began in the United States in 1934, or the civil rights demonstrations that spread across the South in the early 1960s? We should hope for another American social movement from the bottom -- and then join it."

Fight Back "Teach In"

Fight back usa screenshot.jpg

Fight Back Teach In held in New York City, a national teach-in on austerity, debt and corporate greed featuring Frances Fox Piven, Richard Trumka, and Cornel West on April 5, 2011

The following were featured speakers for the Teach In:[33]

AFL-CIO "Teach-In"

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Massachusetts Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren was scheduled to appear in an AFL-CIO sponsored “National Teach-In”, October 12, 2011. with two leading members of Democratic Socialists of America.

The AFL-CIO urged activists to join “Elizabeth Warren, Frances Fox Piven, Barbara Ehrenreich (invited) and student activists for a national teach-in on the jobs crisis and student activists’ fight for worker’s rights, equal access to education, fair taxation, and economic and social justice.”

According to the AFL-CIO press release;

America wants to work, and a new movement of students and young people is growing to demand that our leaders get to work creating good jobs. As part of that movement, we are organizing a National Teach-In at the University of California Washington Center on Oct. 12 that will be webcast live across the country. Frances Fox Piven, other featured speakers and student activists will discuss the roots of the jobs crisis and how unions, students and community groups are fighting back to defend the core values of our country. You can join by organizing a teach-in on your campus that tunes into the live webcast and then continues to discuss local and state issues and campaigns. The National Teach-In is part of a nationwide campaign that week to impress upon our political leaders and corporate power-brokers: Now is the time for big, bold action to put America back to work, retain good jobs and rebuild the U.S. economy.

The teach-in will examine the disaster caused by corporate control of our economic and political system. Americans are working harder than ever today while earning less – as corporate profits soar. The big banks are stripping away the wealth of consumers, homeowners, students and young workers. Meanwhile, our infrastructure erodes and corporations offshore millions of jobs overseas – while hoarding more than $1.3 trillion in cash that could be used to create jobs. Schools, day care centers, senior citizen facilities, health clinics, parks and firehouses are starved for funds so corporations and the wealthy can get billions of dollars in tax break…

Unions, student organizations and community groups are fighting back against these abuses of corporate power and the efforts of the right wing to reduce wages, maintain tax breaks for the wealthy and eliminate social safety net programs. In Wisconsin, students and workers joined together to protect the rights of public-sector workers to bargain collectively. In August 2011, more than 700 corporate accountability events – rallies, town hall meetings and demonstrations at congressional offices – were held in 48 states to tell political leaders to stop protecting tax breaks for the wealthy and focus on putting America back to work….
We are on the cusp of a new social movement to resist and roll back the corporate domination of political and economic systems by the banks, big corporations and Wall Street profiteers. Please join the National Teach-In: Students Rising for Jobs and Economic Justice to be part of this movement.

YDS 2012 conference

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Frances Fox Piven was a guest speaker at the Young Democratic Socialists 2012 Winter conference.

External links

References

  1. http://www.dsausa.org/about/structure.html
  2. Faculty
  3. Dem. Left, Millennium Part One 1999, page 9
  4. http://leftforum.org/node/21
  5. Second Annual Socialist Scholars Conference program.
  6. The Second Annual Conference Of Socialist Scholars, Alice Widener USA Today, September 16, 1966 page 28 and 29
  7. Second Annual Socialist Scholars Conference program.
  8. SSE Tenth Annual Conference Program, 1992
  9. People's Weekly World, Oct. 12, 1996, "What's On" section, Page 19
  10. http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/pen-l/1997m03.d/msg00084.htm
  11. DSA Conference delegate list Oct. 12 1983 update
  12. DSA Feminist Commission Directory, 1985
  13. 1986 DSA Feminist Commission Directory
  14. Democratic Left, Jan./Feb. 1984, page 6
  15. CAF Co-Founders
  16. WAR TIMES January 29, 2002
  17. How Class Works - 2002 Conference Schedule (accessed July 24 2010)
  18. http://www.revcom.us/a/1247/rnc_protest_nion_call.htm
  19. Wellstone legacy: Stand up and fight, July 31 2004
  20. http://www.myleftnutmeg.com/showDiary.do;jsessionid=2744F543BE2A4B8698421B7568CB9EF3?diaryId=5918
  21. http://leftforum.org/node/21
  22. Open Letter to Obama on Iran
  23. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/nyfeministsforpeace/
  24. Progressives for Obama
  25. http://www.wellstone.org/about-us/board-directors
  26. http://www.wellstone.org/about-us/our-mission-goals
  27. http://www.stonybrook.edu/workingclass/about/advisory.shtml
  28. http://ww3.wpunj.edu/newpol/whoweare.htm#eds
  29. http://www.socialpolicy.org/index.php?id=804
  30. TYR, Sep. 2009
  31. NYDLC website: The Official Newsletter of the New York Democratic Lawyers Council. Vol 6, Iss 11 March 15, 2010 (accessed on Nov. 18, 2010)
  32. The Nation: Mobilizing the Jobless , Dec. 22, 2010 (accessed on Jan. 5, 2010)
  33. Fight Back Teach In: Local Flyer (accessed on April 8, 2011)