Friday April 18th, 2014, 4:46 pm (EDT)

Marxism & Socialism

Marxism and Socialism

Sweezy in Perspective

Paul M. Sweezy was, in the words of his contemporary John Kenneth Galbraith, “the most distinguished of present-day American Marxists.”1 A Harvard-trained economist, his writings spanned some seven decades from the early 1930s to the closing years of the twentieth century. For more than half a century he was coeditor of Monthly Review, subtitled An Independent Socialist Magazine, which he founded along with Leo Huberman in 1949. Although first and foremost an economist, Sweezy was also a social scientist in a much broader sense. His impact on political science, sociology, history, and other disciplines was profound. He took the entire globe as his field of analysis, helping to enlarge our understanding of imperialism and of the necessity of revolution, particularly in the third world…… | more |

The Communal System and the Principle of Self-Critique

The collapse by century’s end of most of the post-revolutionary social experiments of the twentieth century put socialists nearly everywhere on the defensive. Today’s call for a “socialism for the twenty-first century” is an attempt to transcend this defensive posture and to engage fully with the most urgent problem of our time: the creation of a sustainable socialist order. In this respect, “István Mészáros,” in the words of President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, “is someone who lights up the road. He points to the core of the argument we must make in order to go beyond the defensive attitude in which the world’s peoples and revolutionary movements find themselves, and to take the offensive, throughout the world, in moving toward socialism” (quoted from back cover of Mészáros, O desafio e o fardo do tempo histórico [Sáo Paulo: Boitempo Editorial, 2007]; English edition, The Challenge and Burden of Historical Time [forthcoming from Monthly Review Press, 2008]).… | more |

Against the Market Economy: Advice to Venezuelan Friends

I am here to salute you—because you are attempting to do what nobody has ever succeeded in doing before—help autonomous groups of workers and consumers plan their interrelated activities democratically, equitably, and efficiently themselves. You have already created the elements of what you call the “social economy”—worker-owned cooperatives, communal councils, municipal assemblies, participatory budgeting, subsidized food stores, health care clinics, and nuclei of endogenous development. Now you want the cooperatives and communal councils to display solidarity for one another rather than treat each other as antagonists in commercial exchanges. And sooner rather than later you want the benefits of this kind of participatory, socialist economy to encompass the entire economy and all Venezuelans.… | more |

December 2007, Volume 59, Number 7

December 2007, Volume 59, Number 7

» Notes from the Editors

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Thorstein Veblen, the greatest critic of U.S. capitalism in the early twentieth century and one of the foremost social theorists of all times. Veblen was the subject of a special issue of Monthly Review fifty years ago last July in celebration of the centennial of his birth. He remains important today from our perspective for at least three reasons: (1) he was the first to develop a theory of monopoly capitalism, including a recognition not only of the implications of the rise of a big-business dominated economy, but also the new role assumed in this era by finance, advertising, the penetration of the sales effort into the production process, excess productive capacity, etc.; (2) Veblen provided a strong critique of the ecological destruction of U.S. capitalism (particularly the devastation of forests); and (3) Veblen’s unbridled wit and sardonic language coupled with his keen analysis cut to the heart of capitalist ideology. Thus, for instance, he wrote of the ahistorical character given by orthodox economics to such categories as capital and wage labor… | more |

A Guaranteed Annual Income Will Not Work

In “The Imperative of an International Guaranteed Income” (Monthly Review, April 2007) Stephen Fortunato Jr. presents a pretty good outline of guaranteed annual income (GAI) issues and how they might apply on an international scale. As a Marxist, I take the view that a GAI won’t work… | more |

Reply to Collier

Ken Collier raises concerns about increased rent, transportation costs, etc., that surely must be addressed theoretically and pragmatically in any push for a guaranteed annual income. Political realities, however, do not mean that socialists should take the GAI off the table or abandon living-wage campaigns or any other struggle for social justice… | more |

With Thanks to Hans Koning

Hans Koning died April 13 in his Connecticut home at the age of eighty-five. Monthly Review Press had the distinction of publishing three of his books. One of them, still a classic in many high schools, was Columbus: His Enterprise — Exploding the Myth, the first trade book to challenge the U.S. origin myth. That myth says that this nation was founded by brave white men fleeing oppression — not by genocide, enslaved labor, and imperialist expansion. Originally published in 1976, the U.S. Bicentennial year, it was reprinted in 1992, the five-hundredth anniversary of Columbus’s voyage, when it sold 30,000 copies. MR Press also published The Conquest of America: How the Indian Nations Lost Their Continent (1993)… | more |

Venezuela: Who Could Have Imagined?

Michael A. Lebowitz, Build It Now: Socialism for the Twenty-First Century (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2006), 127 pages, paperback, $14.95.

This short work consists of two parts: analytical and programmatic. The analytical emphasis is upon the most important crime of capitalism: namely–its dependence upon alienation/dehumanization… | more |

New Wings for Socialism

Seventeen years ago, in 1990, I began an essay with a poem of Bertolt Brecht. It was a poem about a man in Europe in the Middle Ages who put on “things that looked like wings,” climbed to the roof of a church, and tried to fly. He crashed, and the bishop who passed by said, “No one will ever fly.”… | more |

Socialism and the Knowledge Economy: Cuban Biotechnology

As authoritatively stated in an editorial in Nature, vol. 436, issue 7049 (July 2005), “Cuba has developed a considerable [scientific] research capability—perhaps more so than any other developing country outside of Southeast Asia.” Cuba has been especially successful in establishing a biotechnology industry that has effectively introduced drugs and vaccines of its own, along with a nascent pharmaceutical industry that has achieved considerable success in exports. Its agriculture and health sectors have been strong beneficiaries of its scientific research. As Nature observed: “It is worth asking how Cuba did it, and what lessons other countries might draw from it.” Indeed, the Cuban case is all the more surprising since it is not only a poor country, but one that has been confronted for decades by a ruthless embargo imposed by the United States, which has been extended to scientific knowledge. Moreover, much of Cuba’s scientific progress has occurred in the decade and a half since the fall of the Soviet Union, which previously had aided it economically and technologically… | more |

Cuban Doctors in Pakistan: Why Cuba Still Inspires

The signs point to the fact that the symbol of the Cuban revolution is reaching the end of his road. Even if it does not formally mark the definitive end of almost fifty years of undisputed leadership at the helm of the island republic, Fidel Castro’s handing over of power to brother Raul in late July is surely a precursor to what will happen sooner rather than later… | more |

The Necessity of Planning: In Honor of Harry Magdoff

I wrote some time ago that “Harry Magdoff is a great teacher and an indomitable combatant. His contributions to socialist theory-on imperialism and monopolistic developments, as well as on the vital role of planning for any viable society of the future—are of a truly lasting importance.”… | more |

‘Let the Dialectic Continue!’

Harry Magdoff died on New Year’s Day 2006 at the age of ninety-two. He will be remembered in the hearts of those who knew him, those who were profoundly influenced when they heard him speak, and those who have read Monthly Review and his great books on imperialism, which helped mature the thinking of the generation of leftists who came of age during the Vietnam War. It is the warmth of his person, the clarity and incisiveness of his thinking, and his profound vision of the absolute necessity of socialism that characterize his historic contributions and set him apart as one of a handful of great Marxist thinkers of the last century. The breadth of Harry’s knowledge—his grasp of world history, Marxist literature, and broader literatures—was extraordinary. He was as content, for example, to discuss the nature of calculus with a college student as Shakespeare with a Shakespeare scholar, all with that wonderful enthusiasm and energy he always brought to conversations… | 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 |

What Maoism Has Contributed

The Second International’s Marxism, proletarian-and-European-centered, shared with the dominant ideology of that period a linear view of history—a view according to which all societies had first to pass through a stage of capitalist development (a stage whose seeds were being planted by colonialism which, by that very fact, was “historically positive”) before being able to aspire to socialism. The idea that the “development” of some (the dominating centers) and the “underdevelopment” of others (the dominated peripheries) were as inseparable as the two faces of a single coin, both being immanent outcomes of capitalism’s worldwide expansion, was completely alien to it … | more |

July-August 2006, Volume 58, Number 3

July-August 2006, Volume 58, Number 3

» Notes from the Editors

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s famous remark, cited by Karl Marx, among others, was surely a part of the sensibility that motivated Harry Magdoff’s life and work. Harry’s writing and scholarship were important achievements and distinguished contributions to the socialist project, but they were grounded in a profound understanding of life, history, and the human condition. The centrality of both theory and life were much in evidence on a clear brisk weekend in early May, when many of the MR extended family—readers, writers, staff, and, of course, the Magdoff family—gathered in New York, on Saturday for a roundtable on Harry’s contributions and the future of MR, and on Sunday for a meeting celebrating, as it turned out, the lives of both Harry and his beloved wife Beadie… | more |

Remembering John Kenneth Galbraith

When my father, Paul Sweezy, died at the end of February 2004, John Kenneth Galbraith, or Ken, as he preferred to be called, in- vited my mother to gather her children and come talk. He told us that the New York Times and other newspapers had called to in- terview him for Paul ‘s obituary but he had declined. He felt bad about doing so, but he said, their questions focused on political differences and that is not what he wanted to say about Paul… | 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 |

Marx’s Vision of Sustainable Human Development

In developed capitalist countries, debates over the economics of socialism have mostly concentrated on questions of information, incentives, and efficiency in resource allocation. This focus on “socialist calculation” reflects the mainly academic context of these discussions. By contrast, for anti-capitalist movements and post-revolutionary regimes on the capitalist periphery, socialism as a form of human development has been a prime concern. A notable example is Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s work on “Man and Socialism in Cuba,” which rebutted the argument that “the period of building socialism…is characterized by the extinction of the individual for the sake of the state.” For Che, socialist revolution is a process in which “large numbers of people are developing themselves,” and “the material possibilities of the integral development of each and every one of its members make the task ever more fruitful.” … | more |