[OPE-L] John Bellamy Foster, The Optimism of the Heart Harry Magdoff (1913-2006)

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Tue Jan 03 2006 - 08:34:38 EST

The following was published on mrzine./ In solidarity, Jerry

John Bellamy Foster, "The Optimism of the Heart: Harry Magdoff (1913-2006)"

            The Optimism of the Heart:
            Harry Magdoff (1913-2006)*
            by John Bellamy Foster
            Harry Magdoff -- coeditor of Monthly Review since 1969,
socialist, and one of the world's leading economic analysts of
capitalism and imperialism -- died at his home in Burlington,
Vermont on January 1, 2006.

            Harry Magdoff was born on August 21, 1913 in the Bronx, the
son of working-class Russian Jewish immigrants.  His father worked as a
housepainter.  He grew up in a New York immigrant community at a time when
war and revolution were common topics of conversation.  On one occasion,
he overheard a debate in a local park in which it was pointed out that
Britain "owned" India.  He was shocked and began to explore the history
of colonialism.  In 1929, at the age of 15, he encountered Karl Marx for
the first time, when he found a copy of Contribution to a Critique of
Political Economy in a used bookstore.  Reading the famous preface, he was
stunned. "It blew my mind," he was to recall. Marx's "view of history was
a revelation.  I didn't understand the rest of the book, which cost me a
quarter, but that got me started reading about economics.  We were going
into the Depression then and I wanted to figure out what it all meant."
The "determining element" in his emerging radicalism, however, was what he
witnessed at the demonstration of the unemployed in Union Square in March

              The fact that I was there shows an inclination, an interest.
 The experience, however, was overwhelming.  The square was
mobbed, crowded with gaunt-faced people, dressed as you
might expect people in poverty to dress.  They listened
quietly to the speeches, applauding and shouting
from time to time.  Then a speaker roused the crowd to a high pitch and
urged that all march down to City Hall.  As the crowd began to move,
mounted police appeared.  With billy clubs, they beat anyone within reach
ruthlessly on heads, arms, shoulders.  Blood splattered.  I ran like hell.
(Phelps 1999, 56).

            While at the City College of New York, where he commenced
studies of engineering, physics and mathematics, Magdoff
supported himself by teaching courses on Marxism in Yiddish to
working-class men and women
in Newark, Elizabeth, and New Brunswick, New Jersey.  At City College, he
was active in a progressive student organization known as the "Social
Problems Club" and became editor of Frontiers, the club's monthly
magazine.  In 1932, he visited Chicago to participate in the founding
conventions of the National Students League and the Youth League Against
War and Fascism.  During that trip, he married his fellow New York student
Beatrice Greizer.  Beadie (as her friends called her) also grew up in the
Bronx and had been marching on picket lines ever since she was a
pre-schooler, along with her pro-union mother.  When they first met, some
three years before, Harry and Beadie, together with other friends, would
climb on her tenement house roof, listen to classical music, and discuss
art, as part of a neighborhood group dubbed Friends of Culture.  They were
to remain together and engaged in a common struggle for humanity until
Beadie's death nearly 70 years later.

            Magdoff became editor (along with the celebrated poet, Muriel
Rukeyser) of the National Students League's national
publication Student Review in 1932-33.  In one of the issues,
he wrote (foreshadowing his later views):

              Very often, particularly in the classroom, imperialism is
defined as the policy of a government aimed at conquering or
controlling foreign territories. . . . In its attempt to be
all-inclusive, to take in all attempts at foreign conquest,
this definition excludes the key to the understanding of
each.  It covers everything but explains nothing.  There is
a difference between the colonial annexation by highly
developed monopoly capitalism searching for markets and raw
materials, and the colonial projects of slaveholding Rome.

            He was twice ousted from City College for his political
activities -- at first suspended and then expelled -- and went
on to New York University's School of Commerce, from which he
received a BS in economics in 1936.

            Upon graduation from New York University, Magdoff joined the
National Commission on Technological Unemployment and
Reemployment of the Works Progress Administration, based in
Philadelphia.  His salary wasn't high enough at first for
Beadie to give up her teaching position, so he commuted to New
York for a time.  He headed a project directed at developing
detailed productivity measures for a number of manufacturing
industries.  While working for this project, Magdoff developed
the method for measuring productivity in individual
manufacturing industries still used by the Department of
Labor.  The results of this research were published in 1939 in
a book-length government report, Production, Employment, and
Productivity in 59 Manufacturing Industries, 1919-1936
(1939a).  Magdoff also published two related landmark articles
on the development of productivity measures and the growth of
the services sector (1939b) and (1940).

            Following the completion of the WPA project, Magdoff took up a
position with the National Defense and Advisory Board in
Washington, DC, where he was put in charge of the Civilian
Requirements Division, which, together with the Military
Requirements Division, studied industrial capacity and
productivity with the purpose of discerning bottlenecks that
might emerge in the event of full capacity production during
wartime.  "Another group," Magdoff recalled, "was studying the
military angle.  We felt they were underestimating things.
Six fellow employees
and I wrote a memorandum about this because it was clear the Army's
methods were outmoded.  We were like Young Turks. Our memorandum reached
Roosevelt's desk on the day Pearl Harbor was attacked."

            Magdoff was soon asked to sit on the War Production Board
monitoring the industrial effort.  He was appointed program
progress officer in charge of the WPB-732 monthly statistical
series on metalworking industries, which assessed the
productive capacity in these industries.
In this capacity he also inspected and was involved in the planning and
control of factories producing machinery and equipment for metal-working
factories -- for example, manufactures of machine tools, foundry
equipment, ball bearings, grinding wheels, chains, and so on.  (Some of
the lessons that he drew from this experience were to be addressed in his
later work, specifically "Creating a Just Society: Lessons from Planning
in the U.S.S.R. and the U.S" [2002c].)

            In 1944, as the war came to a close, Magdoff became the chief
economist in charge of the Commerce Department's Current
Business Analysis Division.  He was responsible for overseeing
the publication of the Survey of Current Business, for which
he authored the introduction in 1946.  His duties also
included writing a weekly report on the economy for Cabinet
meetings and preparing other analyses of economic

            Secretary of Commerce (and former Vice President) Henry A.
Wallace requested that Magdoff become his special assistant in
1946.  He accepted the position reluctantly, not wishing to
serve as a general economic advisor and preferring his role as
chief economist at Commerce.  He was given the job of
overseeing the work of the Bureau of Standards and of the
Census.  He also authored weekly economic position papers for
Wallace for Cabinet meetings with President Truman.

            From mid-1947 until around 1952, Magdoff worked as program
director for the New Council of American Business, a pro-New
Deal business group.  In addition to directing their program,
he authored monthly newsletters and position papers, gave
talks on the economy, and prepared congressional testimony.
He also met on occasion with Henry Wallace in this period,
answering Wallace's questions on economics and foreign policy
in connection with the latter's 1948 bid for the Presidency on
the Progressive Party ticket.  Magdoff authored Wallace's
small-business platform.

            This was the time of the rise of what was to be known as
McCarthyism.  Following his departure from the New Council,
Magdoff suddenly found employment opportunities in government
and policy analysis closed off to him.  He was compelled to
testify to congressional committees and grand juries on his
political background and subjected to continual harassment
from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Effectively
blacklisted, he left Washington with his family (Harry and
Beadie now had two sons, Michael and Fred) and moved to New
York where he could seek employment in business.  Beadie
resumed teaching.  In New York, the persecution continued.  On
one occasion when Magdoff was called to testify before a
Senate committee, it appeared on the front page of the New
York Times.  The landlord would not renew the lease on their
apartment and the family was forced to move.

            For almost a decade, out of economic necessity, he worked on
Wall Street as a financial analyst and stockbroker.  He
eventually took a job as a financial analyst for an insurance
company, occasionally advising labor unions on pension fund
investments.  Together with Beadie he also sold insurance,
mainly to other radicals.  In the late 1950s, he joined
Russell and Russell, a publisher of out-of-print scholarly
books, among them W.E. B. Du Bois' Black Reconstruction in
America.  He subsequently became co-owner of the firm.  He
remained at Russell and Russell until 1965, when the
publishing house was bought by Atheneum.

            During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Magdoff taught classes
for a number of business firms, in response to the requests
from a group of pro-New Deal businessmen.  After the president
of the New School for Social Research heard about these
sessions, Magdoff was invited to teach at that institution as
an adjunct, which he did throughout the 1960s; he also taught
at Yale for one semester on a similar basis.  His courses
included the economics of planning, economic development, the
history of economic thought, the structure of U.S. business,
imperialism, and Marxian economics.

            After leaving Russell and Russell, upon its purchase by
Atheneum in 1965, Magdoff was at last free, due to a modicum
of financial independence obtained through the sale of his
interest in the company, to pursue his intellectual and
political interests as he saw fit.  Although he dreamed at one
point of going to Cambridge in England or some other like
location and engaging in a "life of study," he chose instead
the harder course of complete devotion to the cause.  He
reemerged in print as a public Marxist intellectual with his
publication of "Problems of United States Capitalism" in The
Socialist Register, 1965.  An important part of that article
was the section entitled "The Economy Grows on Credit," in
which he explained how the US economy had increasingly become
dependent on the expansion of credit/debt in order to
stimulate demand.  Aside from the dangers of a financial
collapse, this tended to raise the level of profits necessary
for business, which required higher profits in order to repay
the debt plus interest.  "In a semistagnant economy" already
characterized by a slackening of capital formation, he
observed, "larger profits cannot come from greater
accumulation of capital but by reducing the share going to
wages and salaries." Yet, wage and salary earners needed to
increase their incomes steadily as well, since they too were
caught in the debt trap.  The share of personal income that
went toward repaying debts, he noted, was 14 percent in 1951,
rising to 21 percent by 1963.

            Magdoff had been an avid reader of Monthly Review: An
Independent Socialist Magazine, edited by Leo Huberman and
Paul Sweezy, from its very first issue.  He found it on a
newsstand on 42nd Street near the library and immediately
"fell in love with it for three reasons: it talked about
socialism, a taboo topic at the time; it declared itself
independent, beyond the control of any party; and the language
was clear and simple.  These things gave it a quality that was
altogether different."  He became close friends with Paul
Baran, professor of economics at Stanford and a mainstay of
Monthly Review, and MR editors Sweezy and Huberman.  In March
1965, he wrote his first article for the magazine, "The
Achievement of Paul Baran," shortly after Baran's death.  In
the same year, he presented a talk on "The American Empire and
the US Economy" at the second Socialist Scholars Conference in
New York.  This was revised to become the closing chapter of
his book The Age of Imperialism: The Economics of US Foreign
Policy (1969).  The main body of The Age of Imperialism,
chapters 2-5, was first presented in a preliminary form at the
third Socialist Scholars Conference in 1967 and then greatly
expanded to be published in three parts in Monthly Review in
1968.  The Age of Imperialism was to have an immense impact on
the US left in the context of the struggle against the Vietnam
War.  It sold 100,000 copies and was translated into 15
languages.  It was to become -- along with Baran's Political
Economy of Growth (1952), Baran and Sweezy's Monopoly Capital,
and Harry Braverman's Labor and Monopoly Capital (1974) -- one
of the primary works to define the Monthly Review tradition of
US political economy.

            Magdoff's book had as its object nothing less than the
rediscovery of U.S. imperialism.  It demonstrated that the
United States had an empire, although one different from the
empires of Britain and France that had preceded it, and that
this (even more than the contest with the Soviet Union) was
the context in which the Vietnam War had to be understood.
Addressing what was widely viewed as an anomaly in the United
States in its relation to the rest of the world, arising from
the existence of an interventionist foreign policy accompanied
by a seemingly "isolationist economy," Magdoff showed that the
U.S. economy was in fact anything but isolationist.  Here, he
emphasized the flow of foreign direct investment abroad and
its effect of creating a cumulative stock of investment,
generating a return flow of earnings.  He criticized the
common error of simply comparing exports or the foreign
investments of multinational corporations to GNP.  Rather, the
importance of these economic flows could only be gauged by
relating them to strategic sectors of the economy, such as the
capital goods industries; or by comparing the earnings on
foreign investment to the profits of domestic nonfinancial

            In this connection, Magdoff provided data showing that
earnings on foreign investments had risen from about 10
percent of all after-tax profits for U.S. domestic
nonfinancial corporations in 1950, to around 22 percent in
1964.  These startling numbers drew a lot of attention, and
prominent academics (Robert W. Tucker, Benjamin Cohen, and
Barrington Moore) alleged that Magdoff's calculations were
invalid since (they claimed) he had made two errors: (1)
including profits from financial corporations in his figures
for profits from foreign investment, while excluding financial
corporations from his calculations of the profits of domestic
corporations; (2) using figures for earnings from foreign
investment that were before taxes, while employing data for
profits on domestic corporations that were after taxes.  In
response to these criticisms Magdoff wrote a "technical note"
for his 1978 book Imperialism: From the Colonial Age to the
Present in which he showed that both criticisms were based on
lack of familiarity with government statistics and statistical
techniques.  He explained how he had taken account of the
earnings of financial corporations in calculating profits on
foreign investment, and that his calculations had been
confirmed (to within less than a percentage point -- well
below the margin of error in the basic data) by more complete
government statistics (in which the earnings on foreign
investment of nonfinancial and financial corporations were for
the first time separated out) published a few years later.
With respect to his treatment of taxes, not only did he not
make the error of comparing profits before taxes to profits
after taxes -- his calculations were all based on after tax
figures -- but, ironically, it was the critics, he
demonstrated, who, due to their lack of familiarity with
government data, fell into the "noncomparability trap."

            The Age of Imperialism was also notable for its arguments on
international financial expansion of US capital, based on the
dollar's hegemonic position in the world economy and on the
growth of a debt trap in the third world.  It was here that
Magdoff first explained the "reverse flow process" inherent in
the continuous reliance on foreign debt -- an issue to which
he was to return in 1984 in his article "The Two Faces of
Third World Debt": "before long the service payments on the
debt will be larger than the inflow of money each year."
Assuming the simple case of an annual loan of $1000 at 5
percent interest "to be repaid in equal installments over 20
years," it follows that, in the fifth year, almost fifty
percent of the annual loan will go to servicing the debt; in
the tenth year, approximately ninety percent of the loan will
be devoted to debt service; in the fifteenth year, the outflow
for interest and amortization will be greater than the loan
itself; and, in the twentieth year, "the borrower is paying
out more than $1.50 on past debt for every $1.00 of new money
he borrows."

            Would it be possible, Magdoff asked, for a country to avoid
this trap by not borrowing year after year, but instead using
the borrowed money to develop industry to provide the revenue
to dispense with borrowing and even pay off the debt?  A large
part of the answer was to be found in the reality that, since
the repayment has to be made in the currency of the creditor
nation, the debt could only be repaid (irrespective of the
rate of growth) if there were enough exports to provide the
needed foreign exchange.  Even as early as 1969, long before
the third world debt problem was deemed critical, Magdoff
observed that "the service payments on the debt of the
underdeveloped world has increased more rapidly than has the
growth in its exports.  Hence the burden of debt has become
more oppressive and the financial dependency on the leading
industrial nations and their international organizations such
as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund has
increased accordingly."

            The essence of the new stage of imperialism represented by the
United States was the globalization of monopoly capital under
conditions of US hegemony.  Magdoff wrote in the closing pages
of The Age of Imperialism:

              The typical international business firm is no longer limited
to the giant oil company.  It is as likely to be a General
Motors or a General Electric -- with 15 to 20 percent of its
operations  involved in foreign business, and exercising all
efforts to increase this share.  It is the professed goal of
these international firms to obtain the lowest unit
production costs on a world-wide basis.  It is also their
aim, though not necessarily openly stated, to come out on
top in the merger movement in the European Common Market and
to control as large a share of the world market as they do
of the United States market. (1969, p. 200)

            Not only were these trends with respect to the growth of
monopoly capital borne out in the decades that followed, but
they were to culminate in the United States in the greatest
merger wave since the beginning of the twentieth century --
one no longer aimed at control of national markets, but at the
control of as large a share as possible of the world market.

            The introduction to The Age of Imperialism had concluded with
these words: "Students frequently put the question: is
imperialism necessary?  The point I am trying to make here . .
. is that such a question is off the mark.  Imperialism is not
a matter of choice for a capitalist society; it is the way of
life of such a society."  Nevertheless, questions about the
larger history and theory of imperialism and its relation to
the growth of capitalism naturally arose, and Magdoff found
himself writing numerous essays over the 1970s directed at
answering these questions, which were later brought together
near the end of the decade in Imperialism: From the Colonial
Age to the Present (1978).

            The lead essay in this volume was entitled "European Expansion
since 1763" and dealt with the history of imperialism from the
late eighteenth century to the 1970s.  It was originally
published in Volume 4 of the fifteenth edition (1974) of the
Encyclopedia Britannica as the second section of the
Macropedia article on "Colonialism (c.145O-c.1970)."
Magdoff's analysis was notable for its treatment of both the
main historical developments up through the Vietnam War and
its discussion of the theoretical literature -- particularly
the interpretations of the "new imperialism" developed by
Hobson, Lenin, and Schumpeter.  (In its 1979 edition, the
Britannica, succumbing to political pressure, lopped off
Magdoff's article at 1914, substituting a conservative Cold
War ideological account by Berkeley professor Richard Webster
that dropped all mention of the US role in Vietnam in
1954-1973 -- previously included in Magdoff's treatment --
ending the analysis instead with the defeat of the French in
Vietnam in 1954.)

            Most of the other essays in Imperialism dealt directly with
misconceptions about the history of imperialism.  Most
important was Magdoff's response to the question: "Is
Imperialism Necessary?"  In answer to the common contention
that capitalism and imperialism were separate categories, and
that the latter was not necessarily an attribute of the
former, Magdoff argued that capitalism had been from the start
a world system and that imperialist expansion in the broad
sense was just as much a part of that system as the search for
profits itself.  He also argued against those on the left who
sought to generate an analysis of modem imperialism through a
particular theory of economic crisis or the necessity for the
export of capital, rather than recognizing that imperialism
was intrinsic to capitalism's globalizing tendencies from the
very start.  Any simple, mechanical, purely economic
explanation for imperialism was to be avoided -- rather the
sources of modem imperialism were to be found in the
historical development of capitalism since the sixteenth
century. "The elimination of imperialism," Magdoff concluded,
"requires the overthrow of capitalism."

            In May 1969, Magdoff joined Paul Sweezy as coeditor of Monthly
Review, replacing Leo Huberman who died in 1968.  Magdoff's
new role as an editor of the leading Marxist magazine in the
United States, which also had a strong world presence, allowed
him to play a wider role in the nurturing of a new generation
of radicals that had developed with the New Left. In the 1960s
and '70s, he traveled extensively abroad (usually with Beadie)
-- to Europe, Mexico, Japan, India, Israel, Venezuela, Egypt,
and elsewhere.  As Harry was to recall, "We made nice
friendships with presidents, heads of government."  Everywhere
there was interest in the analysis of Monthly Review.  As in
the case of Paul Sweezy and Paul Baran, he struck up a
friendship in Cuba with Che Guevara.  His memories of Che
(originally in the form of a letter to a friend) were later
published as "Encounters with Che" (2004b).  Che and Harry had
long talks on economics and planning on a couple of occasions
in Cuba and New York.  Referring to what was to be their final
meeting, Magdoff wrote: "I have my portion of vanity, which
pushes me to report our parting words.  Recognizing that he
was a nice friendly fellow, I asked, 'You know how I feel
about Cuba.  What should I do?'  Che answered 'Keep on
educating me.'"

            Over the course of the 1970s and '80s, Magdoff and Sweezy
collaborated in a series of articles that constituted a
running commentary on the US economy and its global role,
resulting in five essay collections entitled The Dynamics of
US Capitalism (1970), The End of Prosperity (1977), The
Deepening Crisis of US Capitalism (1980), Stagnation and the
Financial Explosion (1987), and The Irreversible Crisis
(1988).  Not only did these works extend the analytical models
of Baran and Sweezy's Monopoly Capital and Magdoff's The Age
of Imperialism, but the analysis was deepened and widened to
take into account the financial explosion and the questions of
productivity, investment, savings, inflation, unemployment,
the decline of US hegemony, and the resurfacing of economic
stagnation.  Together with Sweezy, Magdoff displayed an
economic approach that brought together and synthesized the
insights of Marx, Luxemburg, Kalecki, Hansen, and Schumpeter.
Even more than Sweezy, Magdoff was to emphasize that
stagnation was an endemic tendency of capitalism, not confined
simply to its monopoly stage.  Magdoff's deft handling of
economic statistics gave Monthly Review's political economy
clarity and an empirical grounding almost entirely lacking in
other left publications.  In 1979 and 1980, he authored
(together with Sweezy) two key essays on productivity
statistics and the understanding of economic growth and crisis
-- "Productivity Slowdown: A False Alarm" and "The Uses and
Abuses of Measuring Productivity" (reprinted in 1980) -- in
which he employed the knowledge that he had developed in the
formulation of the techniques for measuring productivity in
the 1930s, to explain common mistakes in economic
interpretation arising from a failure to understand the
meaning and limitations of productivity data.

            In the early 1990s, Magdoff's concern with the development of
capitalism and imperialism led him to consider the question of
globalization, and in 1992 he authored a lengthy essay for the
Socialist Register, entitled "Globalization -- To What End?"
Providing a long historical view of globalization, Magdoff
argued against the common view that what was emerging was "a
new 'international' of capital that will make and enforce the
rules of international relations."  It was true that attempts
were being made to strengthen international institutions in
the face of the globalization of finance and other
developments.  But behind all of these structures lay nation
states and their intense competition with one another, which,
rather than letting up, showed all the signs of intensifying.
New sources of tension, disharmony, and international rivalry
were thus emerging even among those nations at the core of the
capitalist system.  At the same time, the globalization of
monopoly capitalism was manifested in a widening of "the
overall gap between core and periphery nations."  Magdoff's
empirical analysis of globalization emphasized the dramatic
shift in the nature of U.S. foreign direct investment from
manufacturing to finance, with the latter exceeding the former
by a third by 1990.  Most important was Magdoff's description
of the overall worsening relative economic position of
countries in the periphery over the 1980s, with rapid
increases in long-term debt accompanied with a decline in the
share of world exports (excluding the "four tigers": South
Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong).

            In the face of economic stagnation in the Soviet Union and the
development of economic restructuring strategies during the
perestroika period under Gorbachev, Magdoff, together with
Sweezy, wrote in Spring 1990 a two-part assessment of
"Perestroika and the Future of Socialism."  This analysis
argued that the failures of Soviet planning and the emergence
of stagnation were not inherent failures attributable to
central economic planning itself, but were traceable to the
peculiarities of Soviet development.  In particular, it was
emphasized that the Soviet Union had developed as a sui
generis war economy that relied on the forced drafting of
labor and raw materials -- a form of development that was
necessarily self-limiting over the long term.  Further, the
Soviet worship of growth rates and its competition with the
United States had led to an overemphasis on production and
investment in heavy industry in relation to consumption.
These factors were further complicated by enormous waste and
inefficiency in the use of material inputs and failure to
maintain and replace existing plant and equipment.  Finally,
the Soviet reliance on extreme bureaucratization, resulting
from the conditions under which central planning and massive
industrialization had been introduced under Stalin (who
forcibly rejected the more cautious approach advanced by
Bukharin), contributed to the overall stagnation and made
reform of the system difficult.  The biggest mistake that
could be made in the perestroika process, Magdoff and Sweezy
argued, would be to assume that the principle of central
planning itself was at fault under these circumstances, and to
turn uncritically to the market.  Markets generally were
utilized for three tasks: (1) distribution of goods and
services to consumers, (2) allocation of productive resources
and investment between sectors; and (3) the determination of
how much individuals and groups get paid for their labor and
other assets they may own.  Central economic planning relied
on the market for the first of these tasks.  It would be fatal
to a socialist economy, they argued, to turn to the market as
the principal means of solving the second and third.  And any
attempt to open the floodgates and integrate the much weaker
Soviet-style economies with the stronger advanced capitalist
economy would be disastrous for the former.

            Magdoff's approach to the question of socialism and planning
had always emphasized that the concrete historical conditions
had to be addressed -- there was no definite formula, rather
methods of trial and error had to be applied in relation to
changing historical circumstances.  The biggest mistake of
post-revolutionary societies such as the Soviet Union and
China was to worship the mechanisms of planning and
bureaucratization while failing to attend to the most pressing
human needs (the addressing of which is the main virtue of
planning).  Socialism itself could never be separated from its
basic aims, the first of which was "the elimination of human
domination and exploitation of other humans."  This analysis
and critique aimed at the building of an egalitarian socialist
society was systematically advanced in his 2005 essay (written
with his son Fred), "Approaching Socialism."  Among other
factors stressed in this article was the need to protect the
natural environment.  In 2003 Magdoff (together with his MR
coeditor John Bellamy Foster) coauthored a Foreword to China
and Socialism (first published as a book-length special issue
of Monthly Review and then as an actual book in the following
year) by Martin Hart-Landsberg and Paul Burkett, in which it
was argued:

              [O]nce a post-revolutionary country starts down the path of
capitalist development -- especially when trying to attain
very rapid growth -- one step leads to another until all the
harmful and destructive characteristics of the capitalist
system finally reemerge.  Rather than promising a new world
of "market socialism," what distinguishes China today is the
speed with which it has erased past egalitarian achievements
and created gross inequalities and human and ecological

            The critical thrust and wide-ranging nature of Magdoff's
thought was well conveyed by his classic 1982 essay, "The
Meaning of Work: A Marxist Perspective."  This article opens
with a critical consideration of Edward Bellamy's utopian
conception of socialist society in Looking Backward, in which
work (viewed in a Smithian sense as a sacrifice) was to be
replaced, as much as possible, by leisure.  It closes with an
affirmation of William Morris's rejection of Bellamy's utopia
in favor of a socialist vision (inspired by Marx), where work
is seen not as a pain, but as an object in itself in its
unalienated condition -- energetic life activity devoted to
useful and often pleasurable ends.  In his overall argument
Magdoff presents a fascinating outline of the stages in the
division of labor over the long course of human evolution,
focusing on the separation of town and country, of head and
hand (extending as far back as Ancient Greece), and on the
degradation of labor under modern industry.

            In the 1990s, Monthly Review went through a number of
transformations.  Finding it much more difficult to write and
to carry out the onerous duties of editing in their eighties,
Magdoff and Sweezy brought Marxist scholar Ellen Meiksins Wood
on board as a coeditor, a role she fulfilled from March 1997
to March 2000.  Beginning in April 2000, the magazine was
edited by Magdoff and Sweezy, along with John Bellamy Foster
and Robert W. McChesney, until Sweezy's death in February 2004
and McChesney's departure that June -- leaving the magazine
with just two coeditors -- Magdoff and Foster -- once again.
Despite all of these changes, Monthly Review retained its
identity as the world's leading independent socialist

            After Beadie's death in June 2002, Harry relocated to
Burlington, Vermont to live with his son Fred and his
daughter-in-law Amy Demarest.  In these years, a renewed
outflowing came from his pen.  Special issues on the economy
in Monthly Review in four successive Aprils (2001-2004) were
produced by Magdoff and his MR coeditors (with the help of
Fred Magdoff).  In 2003, some of his earlier work on
imperialism was brought together under the title Imperialism
Without Colonies, and a conference on "Imperialism Today" was
held in Burlington, Vermont in celebration of his 90th
birthday, with speakers coming from as far away as India.  The
esteem with which he was held by the participants was summed
up best at the conference by U.S. Represenative Bernie
Sanders, who stated:

              Recently, we have heard a great deal about America's
greatest generation.  Harry Magdoff is, along with many
others in the Monthly Review community, the true heart of
the greatest generation of Americans.  He fought for the
unemployed in the depression; he played a vital role in the
war against fascism; he bravely endured when the right wing
tried to destroy America's progressive voices.

              When a generation of young Americans wanted to know how it
was possible that the United States would make war on the
distant nation of Vietnam, Harry taught them that
imperialism, despite the end of the colonial period, still
was a dominant force in the relations between nations.
Always ready to articulate the needs of the poor, the
outcast, and the deprived, Harry has been a pillar of
support for those who believe that economic justice is worth
fighting for.  Harry's wisdom, his loyalty to the wretched
of the earth, his constant courage in the face of tough
times, have all provided an invaluable example for those of
us in later generations.

            In 2003-2005, he wrote important essays with Fred on
unemployment ("Disposable Workers") and socialism, and did
major interviews on the world economy and planning --
conducted by his friend Huck Gutman.

            In all of these works and in his life as a whole, Magdoff
revealed a rare quality -- the ability to combine the most
searching intellectual inquiry, often involving ruthless
criticism of existing institutions, with the deepest level of
human compassion and understanding.  He once stated (altering
Gramsci's famous saying): "You have to be a pessimist of the
mind, but an optimist of the heart."  What always struck those
who knew Harry Magdoff best was his prodigious "optimism of
the heart" -- the ultimate basis from which he derived his
uncompromising socialist worldview. We will miss him.

            * This manuscript is a greatly expanded and revised version of
a piece by the author that appeared in the Biographical
Dictionary of Dissenting Economists, (Northamption, MA: Edward
Elgar, 2000), 385-94.

            Magdoff's Major Writings

            (1939a), Production, Employment, and Productivity in 59
Manufacturing Industries. 1919- 1936 (coauthored with Irving
H. Siegal and Milton B. Davis), Philadelphia: WPA National
Research Project, May.

            (1939b), "The Purpose and Method of Measuring Productivity,"
Journal of the American Statistical Association, 34, June,

            (1940), "The Service Industries in Relation to Employment
Trends" (coauthored with David Weintraub), Econometrica, 8,
October, 289-311.

            (1969), The Age of Imperialism: The Economics of US Foreign
Policy, New York: Monthly Review Press.

            (1970a), The Dynamics of US Capitalism (coauthored with Paul
M. Sweezy), New York: Monthly  Review Press.

            (1970b), Vietnam, the Endless War (coauthored with Leo
Huberman and Paul M. Sweezy), New York: Monthly Review Press.

            (1974), Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Chile (coauthored
with Paul M. Sweezy), New York: Monthly Review Press.

            (1977), The End of Prosperity (coauthored with Paul M.
Sweezy), New York: Monthly Review Press.

            (1978), Imperialism: From the Colonial Age to the Present, New
York: Monthly Review Press.

            (1980), The Deepening Crisis of US Capitalism (coauthored with
Paul M. Sweezy), New York: Monthly Review Press.

            (1982a), "International Economic Distress and the Third
World," Monthly Review, 33, April, 1-13.

            (1982b), "The Meaning of Work: A Marxist Perspective," Monthly
Review, 34, October, 1-15.

            (1987), Stagnation and the Financial Explosion (coauthored
with Paul M. Sweezy), New York: Monthly Review Press.

            (1988), The Irreversible Crisis (coauthored with Paul M.
Sweezy), New York: Monthly Review Press.

            (1990a), "Perestroika and the Future of Socialism - Part 1,"
Monthly Review, 41, March, 1-13.

            (1990b), "Perestroika and the Future of Socialism - Part 2,"
Monthly Review, 41 (10), April, 1-17.

            (1992), "Globalization - To What End?," Socialist Register;
1992, London: Merlin Press.

            (2001a), "The New Economy: Myth and Reality" (coathored with
John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney -- with the help
of Fred Magdoff), Monthly Review, 52 (11), April, 1-15.

            (2001b), "Paul Krugman vs. the Quebec Protestors" (coauthored
with John Bellamy Foster and  Robert W. McChesney), Monthly
Review, 53 (2), June, 1-5.

            (2002a), "Slow Growth, Excess Capital, and a Mountain of Debt"
(coauthored with John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney
-- with the help of Fred Magdoff), 53 (11), April, 1-14.

            (2002b), "Creating a Just Society: Lessons from Planning in
the U.S.S.R. & the U.S." (interviewed by Huck Gutman), Monthly
Review, 54 (5), October, 1-22.

            (2003a), Imperialism Without Colonies, New York: Monthly
Review Press.

            (2003b), "What Recovery?" (coauthored with John Bellamy Foster
and Robert W. McChesney -- with the help of Fred Magdoff),
Monthly Review, 54 (11), April, 1-13.

            (2003c), "Capitalism as a World Economy: An Interview of Harry
Magdoff" (interviewed by Huck Gutman), Monthly Review, 55 (4),
September, 1-13.

            (2003d), "Foreword" (coauthored with John Bellamy Foster), in
Martin Hart Landsberg and Paul Paul Burket, China and
Socialism, special issue of Monthly Review, 56 (3),
July-August, 2-6.

            (2004a), "Disposable Workers" (coauthored with Fred Magdoff),
Monthly Review, 55 (11), April, 18-35.

            (2004b), "Encounters with Che," Monthly Review, 56 (4),
September, 47-50.

            (2004c), "Farewell, Comrade Paul," Monthly Review, 56 (5),
October, 1-3.

            (2005), "Approaching Socialism" (coauthored with Fred
Magdoff), Monthly Review, 57 (3), July-August, 19-61.

            Other References

            Editors (2002), "Remembering Beadie Magdoff," Monthly Review,
54 (5), October.

            Foster, John Bellamy (1986), The Theory of Monopoly
Capitalism, New York: Monthly Review Press.

            Foster, John Bellamy (2000), "Harry Magdoff (born 1913),"
Biographical Dictionary of Dissenting Economists (Northampton,
MA: Edward Elgar), 385-94.

            Foster, John Bellamy (2002), "The Rediscovery of Imperialism,"
54 (6), November, 1-16.

            Franklin, Bruce (1982), "On the Rewriting of History," Monthly
Review, 34, November, 40-47.

            Green, Susan (2003), "The Sage of Imperialism," Seven Days
(Burlingon, Vermont), April 3, 2003.

            Phelps, Christopher (1999), "An Interview with Harry Magdoff,"
Monthly Review, 51, May, 54-73.

            Pool, John C. and Stephen Stamos (1985), "The Uneasy Calm:
Third World Debt," Monthly Review, 36, March, 1-19.

            Resnick, Stephen and Richard Wolff (eds.) (1985), Rethinking
Marxism: Essays for Harry Magdoff and Paul Sweezy, Brooklyn,
NY: Autonomedia.

            Targ, Harry (1986), "Magdoff, Harry," in Robert A. Gorman
(ed.), Biographical Dictionary of Marxism, Westport, CO:
Greenwood Press, pp. 207-9.

            John Bellamy Foster is editor of Monthly Review.

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