Friday August 29th, 2014, 12:05 pm (EDT)

Harry Magdoff

Primitive Accumulation and Imperialism

To mark the centenary this year of the birth of Harry Magdoff, born August 21, 1913, Monthly Review is publishing the following talk found in his papers, and originally entitled “Primitive Accumulation.” The precise date and occasion of the talk is unknown. However, an inspection of the contents suggests that it was probably delivered not long after the publication of Arghiri Emmanuel’s article “White-Settler Colonialism and the Myth of Investment Imperialism,” in the May–June 1972 issue of New Left Review, and before the publication of Magdoff’s long article, “Colonialism: European Expansion Since 1763,” which appeared in the fifteenth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica late in 1974. It appears that the audience was aware in advance of the two topics to be discussed: Marx’s treatment of “So-Called Primitive Accumulation” in volume 1 of Capital and Emmanuel’s article on “White-Settler Colonialism.”

Capitalism and the Fallacy of Crude Underconsumptionism

The question of “underconsumptionism” is a tangled one—due not only to the commonplace fallacy associated with what is known as “crude underconsumptionism,” but also because the term has been used at various times to refer to what Joseph Schumpeter in his History of Economic Analysis called “non-spending” or effective demand theories (the second in a typology of underconsumption theories designated by Schumpeter). Underconsumption in this sense, however, would encompass theorists like Keynes and Kalecki who focus not on underconsumption per se, but on underinvestment. Hence, the term is no longer applied to theories of this type (except by some Marxian critics of “underconsumptionism”).… In the following exchange with Jonathan Penzner published in the April 1982 issue of Monthly Review, Harry Magdoff and Paul Sweezy, then editors of the magazine, pointed to the fallacy of crude underconsumptionism.… | more |

Financial Instability: Where Will It All End?

The recession that began in the second quarter of 1981 (the second in two years) dragged on into 1982. Most observers look for some recovery in the second half of the year, but hardly anyone expects it to be vigorous. Meanwhile, all the typical signs of stagnation continue to be in evidence. The official unemployment rate which stood at 7.6 percent in 1981 rose to 9.5 percent by the middle of 1982, and the manufacturing capacity utilization rate fell from 79.9 percent to 69.9 percent in the same period.… The counterpart to this stagnation in the realm of production and employment was a continuing ballooning of the financial superstructure of the economy which, as the essays in this volume have been at pains to emphasize, has been one of the most spectacular features of capitalist development during the post-Second World War period.… | more |

No Nukes!

Considerations of Environmental Protection Criteria for Radioactive Waste, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Radiation Programs, Waste Environmental Standards Program, Washington, D.C. 20460, February 1978.

Most government reports make dull reading, and this one is no exception. But it contains a message which needs to be taken in by everyone even minimally concerned about the future of the human race. That message, quite simply, is that there is not and cannot be a safe program for disposing of radioactive wastes. The reasons are basically simple, do not depend on any complicated scientific arguments, and cannot be refuted or made irrelevant by any conceivable increase in scientific knowledge or technological capability. They can be summed up in a series of quotations from the report.… | more |

The Meaning of Work: A Marxist Perspective

Marxists may be expected to have few disagreements about the meaning of work in the past and present. The same cannot be said, however, about work in the future. Since I will be talking about work under socialism and communism as well as in history, what I am presenting here is a Marxist perspective, not the Marxist perspective… | more |

Four Letters on Capitalism and Socialism

Even when Harry Magdoff was writing articles less often in his final years, he continued to compose letters that displayed his keen interest in world developments, the evolution of his thinking, and his deep personal commitments. Reprinted here are four letters he wrote in the opening years of the new millennium. The first was written while he still lived in New York. The last three were written in Vermont where Harry had moved in June 2002 to live with his son Fred and his daughter-in-law Amy Demarest. The fragilities of old age had largely confined him by then to home. But his thinking still knew no bounds… | more |

Harry Magdoff, August 21, 1913-January 1, 2006

Harry Magdoff, coeditor of Monthly Review since 1969, socialist, and one of the world’s leading economic analysts of capitalism and imperialism, died in his home in Burlington, Vermont on January 1. He was ninety-two years old… | more |

Approaching Socialism

Among the arguments against socialism is that it goes against human nature. “You can’t change human nature” is the frequently heard refrain. That may be true of basic human instincts such as the urge to obtain food to eat, reproduce, seek shelter, make and wear protective clothing. However, what has usually been referred to as “human nature” has changed a great deal during the long history of humankind. As social systems changed, many habits and behavioral traits also changed as people adapted to new social structures. Anatomically modern humans emerged some 150,000 to 200,000 years ago. Over the tens of thousands of years since, many different kinds of social organizations and societies have developed. Initially, most were based on hunting and gathering, while for about the last 7,000 years many have been based on agriculture. These societies were organized as clans, villages, tribes, city-states, nations, and/or empires… | more |

Farewell, Comrade Paul

If I belong anywhere today, it is with you. But to my great regret, I cannot be physically present. No doubt other speakers will deal with Paul as a major theoretician, a worldwide influential thinker and struggler for the sake of humanity. And there is much to say about Paul the human being. Not to monopolize the stage, I have selected two areas to dwell on: Paul as a friend and Paul as a coworker… | more |

Encounters with Che

We think the following letter, written to the daughter of long-time friends, will be of interest to our readers. —The Editors… | more |

China and Socialism: Editors’ Foreword

We depart this year from our usual practice for MR’s July–August double issue. Instead of a collection of articles on a common theme, we are devoting the issue to a single manuscript—a study of China and economic development theory by Martin Hart-Landsberg and Paul Burkett that will be published in book form by Monthly Review Press early next year. Although there are numerous books on China, this one is especially worthy. It is a careful, clear, well-grounded Marxist study of how a major post-revolutionary society turned away from socialism. In addition, the current transformation in China throws light on why capitalism, by its very nature, creates poverty, inequality, and ecological destruction in the process of economic growth.… | more |

Disposable Workers: Today’s Reserve Army of Labor

These are difficult times for workers. In the wealthy countries of capitalism’s center, labor is struggling to maintain existing wages and benefits against a combined assault by corporations and governments, while conditions of workers in the periphery are even more difficult. The widespread acceptance and adoption of capital’s agenda—”free trade,” “free markets,” greater “flexibility” regarding labor, and reduced social welfare assistance—has led to one group of real winners. Transnational corporations (and their owners and top managers) now have more freedom to produce where labor and other costs are cheap, have their patents protected, and move capital in and out of countries at will. Many workers, unfortunately, are finding that their situation has become more tenuous.… | more |

Capitalism as a World Economy: An Interview with Harry Magdoff

Harry Magdoff sat down to talk in front of a video camera in April 2003, three weeks before the conference “Imperialism Today” sponsored by Monthly Review in honor of his ninetieth birthday. An edited version of his remarks would be shown on a large screen at the start of the conference. But Harry has much to say that will be left on the cutting room floor, not because it lacks relevance, but because the time for the video is short, and a good portion of it will be devoted to how he became a socialist. Here, then, are Harry’s thoughts on capitalism, imperialism, the United States—and Iraq. (Note: the transcript of the interview was edited in July 2003 under Harry’s supervision to fill in a number of details.)… | more |

Imperialism Today

Imperialism Today

On Saturday, May 3rd, 2003 Monthly Review and the University of Vermont co-sponsored “Imperialism Today,” a one-day conference in honor of Harry Magdoff. Invited speakers were asked to discuss the context and workings of the current U.S. global hegemony, the means by which control is exercised over resources and the global periphery, the maintenance of (and challenges to) ideological hegemony, and the prospects for anti-imperialism.… | more |

Imperialism Without Colonies

Imperialism Without Colonies

with an introduction by John Bellamy Foster

In the decades after 1945, as colonial possessions became independent states, it was widely-believed that imperialism as a historical phenomenon was coming to an end. The six essays collected in this volume demonstrate that a new form of imperialism was, in fact, taking shape—an imperialism defined not by colonial rule but by the global capitalist market. From the outset, the dominant power in this imperialism without colonies was the United States.… | more |

Creating a Just Society: Lessons from Planning in the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.: An Interview with Harry Magdoff

Lessons from Planning in the U.S.S.R. & the U.S.

In early July 2002, I asked Harry Magdoff if he would be interviewed for the Statesman, a Kolkata, India newspaper for which I write political commentary. Our first interview was so satisfying that we continued for several sessions. What follows is a discussion of something Harry has considered, what we can learn from the experience of the Soviet Union. It is, characteristically, concerned with learning from history. Harry is methodologically committed to the actual world from which all theory springs, to which it must speak, and to meet whose specific particularities it must continually be reshaped.… | more |

The New Face of Capitalism: Slow Growth, Excess Capital, and a Mountain of Debt

For a long time now, the U.S. economy and the economies of the advanced capitalist world as a whole have been experiencing a slowdown in economic growth relative to the quarter-century following the Second World War. It is true that there have been cyclical upswings and long expansions that have been touted as full-fledged “economic booms” in this period, but the slowdown in the rate of growth of the economy has continued over the decades. Grasping this fact is crucial if one is to understand the continual economic restructuring over the last three decades, the rapidly worsening conditions in much of the underdeveloped world to which the crisis has been exported, and the larger significance of the present cyclical downturn of world capitalism… | more |

An Interview with Harry Magdoff

The twentieth anniversary issue of Monthly Review in May 1969 carried the announcement that Harry Magdoff—the independent economist-had officially joined Paul Sweezy as co-editor, replacing Leo Huberman, who had died in 1968 … | more |

A Note on the Communist Manifesto

Probably the passage in the Communist Manifesto most frequently cited these days is a portrayal of the global spread of capitalism:

All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the productions of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands. We have universal inter-dependence of nations…. All nations, on pain of extinction, [are compelled] to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In a word, it creates a world after its own image.

A Letter to a Contributor

The Same Old State

As mentioned over the phone, we like your article very much. It needs to be shortened, and we will be suggesting some editorial changes. Meanwhile, I would like to get your thinking about my disagreement with this statement in your conclusion: “Today’s neo-liberal state is a different kind of capitalist class than the social-democratic, Keynesian interventionist state of the previous period.” I can’t see any significant difference in either the state or its relation to the ruling class, even though clearly there is a considerable difference between the functioning of the capitalist economy during the so-called golden age and the subsequent long stretch of stagnation. I do not mean the absence of any change at all in the capitalist class. Thus, the growing influence of the financial sector (not necessarily a separate sector) is noteworthy. But that is hardly a measure of a major change in the state … | more |