Re: Paul M. Sweezy, 1910-2004

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Tue Mar 02 2004 - 12:47:14 EST

At 20:09 28/02/2004, Cyrus wrote:

>     I have no choice other than to accept the bitter news about Paul M.
>Sweezy (1910-2004), an embodiment of the struggles in the long and bloody
>Twentieth century.  He was the first who taught me the very alphabets of
>Marxism, quite sometime before Marx.

         I share the feelings of Cyrus and Jerry about the importance of
Paul Sweezy. Many of us may have differed on particulars with Paul, but I
don't know who can doubt his commitment to a living Marxism and the
building of a socialist alternative to capitalism. One of my first forays
into writing on Marx was a critical review in Studies on the Left of
Monopoly Capital, but in 1990, in Maxine Berg's Political Economy in the
Twentieth Century, my essay on Paul began:

>             Described by the Wall Street Journal as  "the 'Dean' of
> radical economics", Paul Sweezy has more than any other single person
> kept Marxist economics alive in North America.[1] One work would be
> sufficient to have achieved this--- The Theory of Capitalist Development
> (first published in 1942). During the period of the 1950s and 60s, this
> was the book to which one turned to learn about Marxist economics. As
> Meghnad Desai testified years later (in the Introduction to his own text
> in Marxian economics):
>There was in those days one book that students could read if they wanted
>to acquaint themselves with Marx's thought. The Theory of Capitalist
>Development, when all is said and done, still remains a classic
>introduction to Marxian economics....It was a definitive statement of a
>certain period about how Marx and his system were a key to the
>understanding of capitalism. While the book comes in for much casual
>criticism today, Paul Sweezy can be credited for having kept the eventual
>prospect of a revival of Marxian economics alive.[2]
>[1] Lawrence S. Lifshultz, "Could Karl Marx Teach Economics in America?"
>Ramparts, Vol. 12, No.9 (April 1974),p.54.
>[2] Meghnad Desai,Marxian Economics (Oxford:Basil Blackwell,1979),pp.1-2.

         After hearing of Paul's death, I looked over a folder of
correspondence. In it, I found a note from Paul (17 August 1982) which
ended with some important advice that took me decades to take to heart
(although I haven't fully followed it) and which I think worth passing on
to other OPE-L members and readers:

'Finally, if an old man may presume to give advice to a young one, let me
recommend (1) that you stop quoting Marx every second sentence, (2) that
you develop your own style and formulations more freely, and (3) that you
engage your contemporaries in more vigorous critical polemics. They badly
need it.'

         in solidarity,

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Currently based in Venezuela. Can be reached at

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(58-212) 573-4111
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