A message from John Bellamy Foster
Monthly Review, an independent socialist magazine, has turned seventy! Our first issue appeared in May 1949, containing Albert Einstein’s “Why Socialism?,” still among the most popular short statements of socialist values ever written.
The long life of the magazine naturally raises the question: Is Monthly Review the same publication it was in the beginning? We believe that it is, where it counts. One reason for the magazine’s remarkable continuity is that the founding editors, Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy, together with Harry Magdoff, deftly guided it from its inception to the beginning of the twenty-first century. It was only in the late 1990s that these editors, shaped politically by the 1930s, were joined by new ones who came of age in the ’60s: Ellen Meiksins Wood, Robert W. McChesney, and John Bellamy Foster. Across decades and generations, the common political and intellectual project shared by all of MR’s editors has made possible the magazine’s strong tradition of independent critical analysis, recognized around the world.
Yet for all this consistency, MR has necessarily undergone significant changes. As historical conditions evolve, the magazine itself has had to confront new challenges. MR first arose as a voice of resistance against the redbaiting of the McCarthy era, and its first efforts accordingly aimed to support what the editors called “Cooperation on the Left” building on the upsurge of the 1930s.
Better smaller but better
But it was soon discovered—as stressed by Paul Baran, professor of economics at Stanford and a crucial figure in MR’s early years—that with the New Deal era left pulverized, there was no genuine socialist movement in the United States with which to cooperate. The magazine thus entered a long holding action, adopting a view that Baran, adapting Lenin, called “Better Smaller but Better.” If MR was to contribute to the resurgence of socialism in the United States, it could only do so by maintaining and developing the critique of capitalism, while counseling clarity about the prospects for socialism. Any watering-down of the analysis to gain more readers would prove fatal in the prevailing political environment.
In this unfavorable context, MR emerged as an internationalist publication by necessity as well as conviction, drawing its main inspiration from anti-imperialist struggles and revolutions around the world, including the successive triumphs of the Chinese Revolution in 1949 and the Cuban Revolution in 1959. The latter connection was particularly strong: Che Guevara was a friend and contributor to the magazine.
MR also supported militant black revolts in the United States, and published the work of such legendary figures as W. E. B. Du Bois, Lorraine Hansberry, and Malcolm X. The September 1969 issue featured Margaret Benston’s “The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation,” now recognized as a foundational text for the most vital strands of socialist and Marxist feminism.
Both the magazine and Monthly Review Press—founded in 1952, when the famous left journalist I. F. Stone could not find a publisher for his Hidden History of the Korean War—quickly gained global renown for economic analyses of monopoly capitalism and imperialism, in such works as Baran and Sweezy’s Monopoly Capital (1966), Magdoff’s The Age of Imperialism (1969), Harry Braverman’s Labor and Monopoly Capital (1974), and Samir Amin’s Accumulation on a World Scale (1974), to name just a few. By the late 1960s, MR, an independent socialist periodical born of the Popular Front era, had evolved into a leading publication for new currents in Marxism, constituting a vital intersection of New Left and Old.
It was this development that guided the magazine—still following a strategy of Better Smaller but Better—through the final decades of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first. This was a transitional period marked by contradictory forces: economic stagnation, financialization, globalization, the rise of the digital communications economy, the demise of Soviet-type societies, and growing planetary ecological crisis, but also socialism for the twenty-first century (first declared in Venezuela), and a widespread revival of interest in Marxism, especially social-reproduction theory.
First coherent interpretation of 2007-08 Financial Crisis, and what followed…
When the Great Financial Crisis shook the global economy in 2007–08, MR was the first to offer a coherent interpretation, in essays collected in Foster and Fred Magdoff’s The Great Financial Crisis (2009). Likewise, it was MR that provided the first systematic treatment, in a July-August 2014 special issue, of what it dubbed “surveillance capitalism.” The magazine and press have likewise been at the forefront of ecosocialism, as with the publication of Kohei Saito’s Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism, winner in 2018 of the prestigious Deutscher Memorial Prize. Lately the magazine has been engaged in a comprehensive critique of neoliberalism and its alliance with neofascism, conceived as a destructive absolute capitalism. Critical to this effort is former Associate Editor Michael Yates’s new book, Can the Working Class Save the World?
As we enter our eighth decade, both the possibilities and the challenges facing MR are greater than ever. More than 100,000 people visit the websites of the magazine and MR Online every month, more than half of them from outside of the United States. Our success in reaching this growing global audience cannot be attributed simply to the use of technology. At a time when it is fashionable to issue potted “takes” and lists of the five or ten things you need to know on virtually any topic, MR remains committed to going beyond the news headlines to illuminate underlying causes and historical trends.
Why we need your help
For seventy years, that approach has stood the test of time. MR has lasted because there is a community that values not only what we have to say, but also how we say it. That is why we will not put our current and recent articles behind a paywall. Making our content freely available online, for both a new generation of readers and those who cannot afford the cost of a subscription, will never be a path to financial security. Rather, it is a political obligation, one that goes to the heart of Monthly Review’s project.
That’s why we need your help. Whatever amount you can afford, large or small, will ensure we continue the work envisioned by our founders. There are tens of thousands of people worldwide who wish they could give to the magazine, but cannot afford to do so. Please make a donation in their name. Please DONATE ONLINE or write, as you have in the past, a generous check. Help celebrate Monthly Review’s seventieth birthday and contribute not just to critical analysis of the world as it is, but to the creation of a new one. You are our support. We are counting on you.
—John Bellamy Foster