(OPE-L) Re: Paul M. Sweezy, 1910-2004

From: Gerald A. Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Tue Mar 02 2004 - 13:58:46 EST

Anders:  It's good to hear from you again.  I wish it was a happier
occasion.  The following was sent by  Joe Smith to GloboList.
Note url at bottom for full interview.

In the following excerpt PMS tells us why and how he became
a Marxist.

In solidarity, Jerry

> Paul Sweezy: "The reason I first became interested in Marxism and
> radical ideas was because of the state of the world in the early
> thirties, the financial collapse, and the Great Depression, the
> international situation which was prelude to the Second World War.
> And during that decade, particularly in the United States--well not
> particularly, but certainly markedly in the United States-- there was
> an upsurge of radical activity and radical thought. Up to then, I
> would say, there was virtually no Marxism in the United States.
> "You may be familiar with the work of Thorstein Veblen. He was one of
> the original faculty at the New School. He was not a Marxist, but he
> was very strongly influenced by Marxism, and he was just about the
> only important U.S. social scientist of the time, of the 1920s, who
> had really taken Marxism seriously. There was the old Socialist Party
> which had developed a few interesting thinkers, particularly Louis
> Boudin, who was more or less in the mold of Kautsky and the social
> democratic theories of the German party. But he was also an original
> thinker. And there were a few others. But by and large, in academia
> anyway, Marxism was nothing of any influence whatever, and whatever
> was known about it or written about it was a caricature, was not
> serious. There was no serious Marxist tradition.
> "When I came back from England in the fall of 1933, it had already
> begun to change. There was a good deal of questioning and thinking
> around the big universities. I was at Harvard at the time, but this
> was true of various other universities too. Particularly in New York,
> New York University, City College. During the 1930s, the Communist
> Party, of course, grew rapidly, and took a leading role in the
> organization of the working class, and the CIO, the breakaway
> federation from the American Federation of Labor. And generally
> speaking it was a period of a great deal of not very sophisticated
> theoretical work, but a good deal of ferment and interest. And that
> was the context in which I became a self-educated Marxist. I had had
> a normal neoclassical training, but as a Marxist I had a problem of
> mostly teaching myself, and of course in conjunction with trying to
> absorb traditions, German particularly, and the European tradition.
> "It was during that period that I gradually wrote, over several
> years, The Theory of Capitalist Development, which was started more
> or less as an effort of self-clarification. I was teaching from about
> 1935 or 1936 a course on the economics of socialism, which we
> interpreted in two ways. One, as the economics of a socialist
> society. And two, as the economic theories of socialist movements.
> And in the latter, of course there were many socialist traditions,
> Christian socialism, Fabian socialism and so on, and Marxist. And I
> tried to raise the level of treatment of Marxism in that course, and
> in graduate courses and seminars, and found that it was a long hard
> struggle to overcome the traditions and inhibitions of a neoclassical
> training. I don't know. I can't say I was terribly successful in the
> early stages. It took me a long, long time before I could accept the
> Marxist labor value theory because I was totally accustomed to the
> type of thinking of marginal utility price theory, and so on. And I
> couldn't for a long time, I couldn't see how there could be another
> kind of value theory with totally different purposes. That took
> years. The Theory of Capitalist Development was finished soon after
> the war started, and was published just a few months before I went
> into the U.S. army. Now by that time, I think I could call myself a
> Marxist, with a reasonable background in the modes of theoretical
> reasoning and a grounding in the classical texts. But it didn't come
> quickly by any means."
>  This interview was conducted by Sungur Savran, visiting scholar in
> economics, and E. Ahmet Tonak, professor of economics at Simon's Rock
> of Bard College, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts on March 20,
> 1986.
> Interview & photo:
> http://www.simons-rock.edu/~eatonak/sweezyinterview.html

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