(OPE-l) Paul M. Sweezy at the New School

From: Gerald A. Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@msn.com)
Date: Sat Feb 28 2004 - 19:16:25 EST

A brief remembrance and appreciation:

In the Fall of 1975, while still a Senior at New York University,
I sat-in on a class entitled "Reading and Using Capital" taught
at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research
by a visiting faculty member -- Paul M. Sweezy.

Sweezy  agreed to teach this course to fill in a temporary but
devastating void in the New School Economics Department
caused by the death of  Stephen H. Hymer, 39,  in an automobile
accident in February, 1974.  

The course was unlike any other course I have ever taken. It
was a phenomenon and a reflection of a time decades ago when
the enthusiasm for studying Marx and Marxist political economy 
was very high.  It was also an exclamation point concerning the
high regard that students of political economy had for Sweezy.

Let you tell you a little bit about it.  To begin with,  there was no 
classroom in the 5th Avenue Graduate Faculty building that was
big enough so a huge classroom -- which, if I recall correctly, had
been a cafeteria -- on 12th St.  was booked.  I don't recall how
many students were in the class -- at least one hundred and fifty 
(150).  Maybe two-hundred (200).  I had to sneak my way into
the classroom by flashing a  computer card  that I found discarded
near the NYU computer lab  which resembled the card required
for admittance.   I  don't recall any other class at the New School 
where they asked that you show an admittance card  before they let 
you into a classroom.  There had never been a class so large before 
-- or, I believe, since -- offered by the New School Economics 
Department.  This wasn't  just a class, it was an  _event_.

I don't recall how many study groups there were -- perhaps a 
dozen.  I met and later became friends with Paul's Teaching 
Assistant -- (OPE-L member) John Ernst.  There was some 
irony here because John had previously studied with Paul Mattick, 

There wasn't a lot of time for discussion and Sweezy relied heavily
on the study group leaders to assist students in their study of
_Capital_ (Volume I).  It was such a huge class very few students 
were able to receive individualized instruction from Paul.  What I 
recall most vividly about the class is that most students weren't simply taking
notes, they were practically _dictating word-for-word Sweezy's lecture_.
One has to remember that this was at the very height of the influence
of the "_Monthly Review_ school".   The overwhelming amount of students
simply _adored_ him.  

I didn't find his lecturing style to be particularly impressive.  Judging by 
the reactions of other students, they disagreed.  He was very ... well ...
_professorial_ in style.  He certainly wasn't a public speaker like 
Luxemburg, Lenin, or Trotsky.  But, in his own way, he was a living
legend.  He was among the very few Marxists in academe in the US 
who maintained their political and personal integrity during the dark
years of McCarthyism.  He, along with the late Leo Huberman,
created a journal in 1949 that helped to keep the flame of Marxism alive 
in the US during  this period of repression.  And he showed on many 
occasions that he was willing to re-think his positions after events 
demonstrated that a re-thinking was necessary.  He was _not_ a 
dogmatist.  He was a scholar. He encouraged other Marxists to think 
for themselves and stand up for what they believed in.  He will be sorely

In solidarity, Jerry

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