[OPE-L] Harry Magdoff, 1913-2006

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Sun Jan 01 2006 - 16:31:10 EST

Harry Magdoff died today, New Years Day, at the age of 92. Harry,
along with Paul Sweezy (who died last year), was instrumental in
the publishing of _Monthly Review_ and MR Press.  He was also the
author of many books and articles on political economy, with a special
focus on the subject of imperialism . I am reproducing the wikipedia
article on him below, but take note that the section on "accusations
of espionage" does not sound credible (reinforcing a point made by
Paul Z earlier today about wikipedia) and arguably might constitute

In solidarity, Jerry

Harry Magdoff
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Henry Samuel Magdoff (21 August 1913 - 1 January 2006), commonly known as
Harry Magdoff, was a prominent American socialist commentator. He held
several administrative positions in government during the presidency of
Franklin D. Roosevelt and later became co-editor of the Marxist
publication, Monthly Review.

        a.. 1 Early years
        b.. 2 Government service
        c.. 3 Accusations of Espionage
        d.. 4 Post-government career
        e.. 5 Notes
        f.. 6 See also
        g.. 7 Publications
          a.. 7.1 Harry Magdoff
          b.. 7.2 Harry Magdoff and Paul M. Sweezy
        h.. 8 References

Early years
A child of poor Russian-Jewish immigrants, Magdoff grew up in the Bronx.
In 1929, at age 15, Magdoff first started reading Karl Marx when he picked
up a copy of The Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy in a
used-book store. "It blew my mind," recalled Magdoff in 2003. "His view of
history was a revelation....that got me started reading about economics.
We were going into the Depression then and I wanted to figure out what it
all meant." [1] His interest in Marx led him to embrace socialism.

Magdoff studied mathematics and physics from 1930 to 1933 at the City
College of New York taking engineering, math and physics courses; he was
active in the Social Problems Club with many schoolmates who later joined
the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a Comintern organization that fought in the
Spanish Civil War. Magdoff attended New York University after 1933, where
he studied economics and statistics, receiving a B.S. in Economics in
1935. He was suspended and later expelled from City College for activities
related to editing Frontiers (a radical student magazine not sanctioned by
the school), including participation in a mock trial of the school's
President and its Director.

Government service
In the mid-1930s, Magdoff moved to Philadelphia to take a job with the
Works Progress Administration measuring the productivity of various
manufacturing industries. David Weintraub assisted him with letters of
recommendation to get a job with the government. By1940 Magdoff was
working for the New Deal Works Progress Administration (WPA) as its
Principal Statistician. During World War II Magdoff worked on the National
Defense and Advisory Board and the War Production Board, in the
Statistical and Tools Divisions.

Accusations of Espionage
Elizabeth Bentley charged that a number of government employees had worked
on behalf of the Soviets in the late 1930s and early 1940s.[2] According
to the Counterintelligence Reader, Magdoff was a member of the Perlo
group.(See pg. 31)[3]. Magdoff was identified by Arlington Hall
cryptographers in the Venona project and FBI counterintelligence
investigators as a Soviet source under the cover name "Kant" in 1944. Code
name "Tan", which appears in the 1948 Gorsky Memo, and appears once in
deciphered 1945 Venona traffic, according to researcher John Earl Haynes,
is consistent with Magdoff. Code name "Tan" is said to have replaced
"Kant" as Magdoff’s cryptonym in 1945. [1][4]

A memo from Lt. General Pavel Fitin, head of KGB foreign intelligence
operations, to Secretary General of the Comintern Georgi Dimitrov, exhumed
from the NKVD Archives in Moscow [2][5] in the late 1980s requested
information regarding Magdoff. The request dated 29 September 1944[6]
included the same names transmitted in Venona decrypt # 687 of 13 May 1944
[3][7] from the KGB Rezidentura in New York which reported on Bentley's
initial contact with the Perlo group.

Victor Navasky, editor and publisher of The Nation, argues that when
authors "Haynes and Klehr list 349 names (and code names) of people who
they say 'had a covert relationship with Soviet intelligence that is
confirmed in the Venona traffic.' They do not qualify the list, which
includes everyone from Alger Hiss to Harry Magdoff....The reader is left
with the implication--unfair and unproven--that every name on the list was
involved in espionage, and as a result, otherwise careful historians and
mainstream journalists now routinely refer to Venona as proof that many
hundreds of Americans were part of the red spy network." [4]

Ellen Schrecker agrees: "Because they offer insights into the world of the
secret police on both sides of the Iron Curtain, it is tempting to treat
the FBI and Venona materials less critically than documents from more
accessible sources. But there are too many gaps in the record to use these
matrerials with complete confidence" (Schrecker, Many are the Crimes,
1998, pp. xvii-xviii).[8]

For more details, see: Harry Magdoff and espionage.

Post-government career
Magdoff was happy[9] to leave his U.S. government position, then with the
United States Department of Commerce, on December 30, 1946, and went to
work for the New Council on American Business in New York until 1948, at
which time he began employment with Trubeck Laboratories in New Jersey.

He was an economic advisor and speechwriter to former Vice-President and
then unsuccessful Presidential candidate Henry Wallace. Unable to be
reemployed in government because of security concerns, he found a career
in academia beginning in the 1950s. One of his most famous works, The Age
of Imperialism, his first and arguably most influential book, came out in
1969. The book sold over 100,000 copies and was translated into fifteen
languages. Two years later after the death of Leo Huberman, Magdoff began
co-editing the Monthly Review with Paul Sweezy, and has continued to edit
the magazine into his 90th year. Magdoff and Sweezy together produced five
books, as well as many years of Monthly Review. Magdoff's most recent book
is Imperialism without Colonies, published at age 89. Monthly Review is
one of the preeminent socialist journals in the world, a journal
characterized by its independent, nonsectarian Marxist approach.

Under Magdoff's direction, the Monthly Review focused more and more upon
imperialism as the key unit of analysis for global development and the
forces challenging neocolonialism in the Third World. This perspective put
the magazine and its press squarely on the New Left intellectual agenda
since the late 1960s. His work also kept him in the forefront of socialist
thought in the U.S. from the 1930s to this day. The Great Depression left
a strong impact on Magdoff's perspective on capitalism, as Magdoff recalls
a sense of doom felt in the mid-century by pro-capitalists, holding that
nothing since 1929 lead him to believe that the economy has become immune
to cycles of severe crisis. Until his death, Magdoff co-edited the Monthly
Review with John Bellamy Foster.

Magdoff died on New Year's Day, 2006 at age 92. He had two sons, one of
whom, Fred Magdoff, is an expert in plant and soil science. His wife of
almost 70 years, Beatrice, died in 2002.

  a.. 1⇧ Susan Green, "The Sage of Imperialism", Seven Days, May 3, 2003.
  b.. 2⇧ Elizabeth Bentley deposition, 30 November 1945, FBI file 65-14603
  c.. 3⇧ Rafalko, A Counterintelligence Reader. NACIC, no date.
<http://www.nacic.gov/history/CIReaderPlain/Vol3Chap1.pdf>, vol.3
chap.1, pg.31.
  d.. 4⇧ John Earl Haynes, Historical Writings, Responses Reflections
and Occasional Papers, Gorsky Memo, Annotated English Version, fn 41.
  e.. 5⇧ Vladimir Pozniakov, A NKVD/NKGB Report to Stalin: A Glimpse
into Soviet Intelligence in the United States in the 1940's.
  f.. 6⇧ Wikisource:Fitin to Dimitrov, 29 September 1944
  g.. 7⇧ Wikisource:Venona 687 KGB New York to Moscow, 13 May 1944,
Perlo group
  h.. 8⇧ Schrecker, Many are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (Boston:
Little Brown, 1998), pp. xvii-xviii.
  i.. 9⇧ FBI Silvermaster group file, Part 5b, pg. 176 (pg. 92 in PDF
format); "On December 20, 1946...Magdoff indicated that he was happy to
be leaving the Commerce Department..."
See also
  a.. Harry Magdoff and espionage
Harry Magdoff
  a.. Imperialism Without Colonies (2003)
  b.. The Age of Imperialism (1969)
  c.. Imperialism from the Colonial Age to the Present (1977)
Harry Magdoff and Paul M. Sweezy
  a.. The Irreversible Crisis (1988)
  b.. Stagnation and the Financial Explosion (1987)
  c.. The Deepening Crisis of U.S. Capitalism (1980)
  d.. The End of Prosperity (1977)
  e.. The Dynamics of U.S. Capitalism (1970)

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Tue Jan 03 2006 - 00:00:01 EST