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Cloward and Piven’s article is focused on forcing the Democratic Party, which in 1966 controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress, to take federal action to help the poor. They argued that full enrollment of those eligible for welfare “would produce bureaucratic disruption in welfare agencies and fiscal disruption in local and state governments” that would “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 constrained to advance a federal solution to poverty that would override local welfare failures, local class and racial conflicts and local revenue dilemmas.” They wrote “the ultimate objective of this strategy (is) to wipe out poverty by establishing a guaranteed annual income... (via)the outright redistribution of income.”
This was an example of what are commonly called Trojan Horse movements -- mass movements whose outward purpose seems to be providing material help to the downtrodden, but whose real objective is to draft poor people into service as revolutionary foot soldiers; to mobilize poor people en masse to overwhelm government agencies with a flood of demands beyond the capacity of those agencies to meet. The flood of demands was calculated to break the budget, jam the bureaucratic gears into gridlock, and bring the system crashing down. Fear, turmoil, violence and economic collapse would accompany such a breakdown -- providing perfect conditions for fostering radical change. That was the theory.