[OPE-L] Report on the Harry Magdoff Memorial Meeting

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Sun May 07 2006 - 22:04:37 EDT

As there are a number of listmembers who knew Harry
-- and would, no doubt, have liked to attend (including
Samir, Paul Burkett, and Mike L) -- I  thought a short
report for their benefit is in order.

About two hundred and twenty-five (225)  relatives, friends, 
and comrades of Harry Magdoff  came together this 
afternoon for his memorial meeting in the New York
Society for Ethical Culture building overlooking Central
Park in Manhattan.

*Fred Magdoff*,  Harry's son, spoke first.  He described 
what it was like growing-up in the Magdoff household. 
He -- and many other speakers -- also talked about Beadie
Magdoff, his mother.  Harry's brother Sam, who died 
shortly before him, was also fondly remembered.  
One memorable story which he related was how, when 
Fred was a student at Oberlin College, Harry visited him.
Shortly beforehand,  during the 1950's Inquisition (what 
Annette Rubenstein called the "so-called MacCarthy period"),
Harry had been subpoenaed by a congressional committee
and told that he must hand-over all files from the Fund
for Social Analysis to the government.  That fund had given 
out grants for the publishing of works of Marxian analysis.
Rather than hand-over the files which contained all of the 
correspondence with the progressive scholars, Harry and
Fred decided jointly to *burn* the files in Fred's Oberlin
apartment.  Fred described the experience of violating the
law with your father as a wonderfully "bonding" experience.

Fred related how his father had been asked if there was 
anything about death that he was afraid of.  He answered 
that what he regretted the most about the prospect of
dying  was that he "wanted so much to see how it all 
turned out".  He was referring, of course, to history and
class struggle.  

Fred reported that in his last years he was tremendously 
excited by developments in Venezuela and enjoyed 
receiving messages from Mike L.   He remarked 
repeatedly:  "If I were eighty years old I'd be in Venezuela
now!".  (that also got a lot of laughs.)

*Robert Engler* emphasized Harry's abilities as a scholar
and a teacher and his contribution to the understanding
of imperialism.

*Kira Brunner* had been a young assistant at Monthly
Review (MR) and she fondly recalled the personal interest, 
respect, and friendship she received from Harry and 
Beadie.  She recalled also how much Harry had taught her:
she learned from him that "politics was the meaning of 
everyday life".

*John Bellamy Foster* spoke about Harry's concept of 
*family*.     For Harry, J.B. and all those who worked with
MR -- and others he was comrades with -- were part of
his extended family.  Someone (I can't recall if it was J.B.)
described  that the relationship between Harry and Paul 
Sweezy was a "marriage".  J.B. emphasized how 
"intellectually youthful" Harry had been and how he was
always "looking to the future".  He said that Harry was
"the most youthful of all of us"  and, therefore, how he
"couldn't understand why someone so young could have 

*Annette Rubenstein* and Harry had known each other
for a long time -- over 47 years.  They used to swim together
during lazy summer afternoons on Long Island.  She 
emphasized how wide his intellectual interests were and
how he was enormously interested in discussing literature
with her.  She  admired his courage and integrity in standing 
up to right-wing persecution during the "so-called MacCarthy 
period".  As many other speakers did, she recalled how 
friendly and social and caring he was: he was, she said, 
"the most social socialist".

*Bernadine Dohrn*, 1960's leader of the Students for a 
Democratic Society (SDS),  said that Harry "exemplified 
intellectual depth and daring" and that he "educated 
generations of New Leftists".    She described how SDS
had appealed to MR for help in educating their members
and how Harry gladly rose to the task and spoke at many
SDS meetings on college campuses.  Indeed, she said that
those speeches were instrumental in the making of _The Age
of Imperialism_.  Harry, she claimed, was a "true New Leftist" 
(?)  who nonetheless appreciated the need for concrete
empirical analysis -- perhaps reflecting the influence of 
the years  in which he had worked for the Bureau of Labor 
Statistics (BLS).

*Percy and Gladys Brazil*, long-time friends, were with him 
and some of his family at the end.   The day of his death he
listened to the music of J.S. Bach. It was his favorite music:
"Bach is divine", he had said.  Harry was lucid and talking 
about socialism right up until the end.  He said, shortly before 
his death, that there was one more article he would like to
write and it was on "The Future of Socialism".  The last section 
of that paper was to be on "the soul of socialism".

Only two days before his death he had discussed the 
challenges for socialism in the future.  According to 
Percy, after remarking that there weren't enough 
resources in the world to maintain the world's population at 
the current US standard of living he concluded "people will
have to change".  (What he said was more nuanced than that
-- I'm condensing.)   Yet, Percy said that for Harry "market
socialism is an oxymoron".

A  4-minute *video clip* of Harry talking in April, 2003
came next. "On Becoming a Socialist" described how 3 
events had in his youth pushed him towards socialism:
his uncle (his mother's brother) had been drafted in WWI
and sent to the front;  seeing celebrations in New York
of Russian émigrés following the fall of the Czar; and 
attending a lecture on "The Struggle to Free India".  From
these events, he learned to oppose war and colonialism and
admire and respect revolutions.  Taken together, these 
events pushed him on the path of a lifetime of activism as a 

And so the book now is closed on the life of Harry Magdoff.
Gone, but certainly not forgotten.   He had the satisfaction of 
knowing before his death that (in his words) "The MR flag is 
flying again!".   Long may it fly!

In solidarity, Jerry

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