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Notes from the Editors, July 2003

» Notes from the Editors
Notes from the Editors, July 2003
» Notes from the Editors

John Bellamy Foster and Bob McChesney write:

The articles on imperialism in this special issue were all written in honor of Harry Magdoff’s ninetieth birthday. Most of them grew out of papers presented at the “Imperialism Today” conference organized to celebrate Harry’s life and work, held in Burlington, Vermont on May 3, 2003. The conference was from our perspective an enormous success. Penetrating analyses of the current imperial moment were presented, challenging questions came from the floor, and there were good discussions and good cheer all around—despite the grim turn of world events that needed to be confronted. In the reception at the end of the day U.S. Representative Bernie Sanders (Independent-Vermont), spoke of Harry’s achievement. As the conference participants gathered around he declared that,

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 patiently 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.

It was what Representative Sanders called Harry’s “invaluable example” that inspired the articles included in this issue at a time when such analyses are most needed. We are proud to dedicate this issue of MR to Harry Magdoff, our esteemed coeditor and beloved friend.

Fifty years ago, on July 14, 1953, MR Coeditor Leo Huberman was called before Senator Joseph McCarthy’s committee in the witch-hunt against leftists and radicals. The entire hearing/interrogation was published in the August 1953 issue of MR. In his statement, read to the McCarthy Committee, Huberman said the following:

I am a writer and editor. I have no other occupation and no other source of income.

I have written eight books and many pamphlets, and at present I am occupied full-time as co-editor with Paul M. Sweezy, of Monthly ReviewAn Independent Socialist Magazine, which is published in New York City.

My ideas are best indicated in the subtitle of the magazine—independent socialist. I have never been a member of the Communist Party. However, like millions of other non-Communists throughout the world, I am a Marxist and a socialist and believe in working together with others, including Communists, to the extent that their aims and methods are consistent with mine.

I have never sought to conceal what I think or where I stand. My socialist principles were fully set forth in the first issue of Monthly Review (May 1949) and have been reprinted in its pages from time to time. I am anxious that my ideas and beliefs should be known to as many people as possible; anyone interested in them can readily satisfy his curiosity by reading my books and Monthly Review. I have nothing to hide—quite the contrary.

So much I have stated under oath, not because I concede the right of this Committee to ask for such information, but because I want to make it crystal clear that Communism is not an issue in this case and to focus attention on what is the issue—my right as an author and editor to pursue my occupation without interference from Congress or any of its committees. To assert that right, I have refused to answer any further questions put to me by the McCarthy committee concerning what I think, or what I believe, or with whom I associate. That, in accordance with good old American tradition, is my own business—to be discussed only with whom I choose. I do not choose to discuss it with the McCarthy committee….

My refusal is based, in the words of Dr. Albert Einstein, “on the assertion that it is shameful for a blameless citizen to submit to such an inquisition and that this kind of inquisition violates the spirit of the Constitution.”

In the event that my refusal leads to a judicial test, I stand ready to carry the case up to the Supreme Court so that the important Constitutional questions involved herein, may be decided.

Leo Huberman’s refusal did not lead to a judicial test. A similar refusal by his MR Coeditor Paul Sweezy, however, did. The famous academic freedom case Sweezy vs. New Hampshire, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 17, 1957 was one of the main events bringing the McCarthy era to a close (see the discussion of this in the April 2000 issue of MR). Now that a new repression is developing in the United States it is more important than ever that these events be remembered.

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