THE ENEMIES OF THE POOR by James Graham

THE ENEMIES OF THE POOR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The author, now a poverty-law teacher, has been a union counsel and a community-action participant. The strong points of this essay are descriptive, not polemical; and in the discussions of the urban poor there are also failures of description, insofar as Graham commits the ""protect the good name of the poor"" fallacy (as if conceding the existence of social pathology among ghetto victims would undermine his claim that the present relief system wastes money and people) and chooses from, e.g., Podell's studies the findings which best fit his bias. After analyzing the difficulties in procuring legal service for the poor and outlining reactionary and rebellious currents in the Catholic Church, Graham offers a substantive appraisal of the unions and ""the working poor"": labor leaders' fear that welfare agitation will reveal the extent of their own members' poverty; racket unions in the North and organizing successes in the South; his own attempt to build a welfare rights-labor coalition in New York in 1969. Graham uses striking data to show how welfare subsidizes low-wage urban industries as well as the slumlords he fought in Brooklyn in 1966. The ""community control"" section describes the latter campaign in detail; there is no ideological argument as such. The book makes good use of historical background (English poor laws, the Southern Populist movement, the origins of federal legislation), but features some unaccountable misidentifications, attributing a Protestantism-caused-capitalism thesis to Tawney (instead of Weber) and the ""opiate of the masses"" remark to lenin. It remains a praiseworthy if not entirely successful effort to tie up some extremely important themes.

Pub Date: May 29th, 1970
Publisher: Random House