Victor Perlo 1912-1999

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Tue Dec 14 18:54:21 MST 1999

Victor Perlo 1912-1999

NEW YORK - Victor Perlo, among the world's preeminent Marxist economists and
an unwavering advocate of socialism, died Dec. 1 at home in Croton-on-Hudson,
New York.

He was a member of the national committee of the Communist Party USA and the
chair-emeritus of the Party's Economics Commission.

Perlo was a prodigious writer, author of 13 books which have been translated
into more than a dozen languages. He wrote numerous articles in economic and
political journals and many pamphlets. His weekly column in the World,
"People Before Profits" was one of the most widely read features in the

Perlo's major works include American Imperialism (1951), Empire of High
Finance (1957), Economics of Racism I and II (1973 and 1996), Superprofits
and Crises (1988). His wife, Ellen, was his close partner, editing his
columns and books and designing the graphs and charts to accompany his

He is best known for his analyses of the political economy of United States
capitalism, comparative economic systems, and the economics of racism in the
United States. He contributed the concept of the "profits of control" to
Marxist economic theory.

Perlo's writing was striking for its thorough documentation and clarity. Yet
beneath the painstaking scholarship was a passionate love of the working
class and oppressed peoples and an equally intense hatred of the exploiters.

In a recent World column headlined, "How rich is rich?" Perlo wrote of the
Forbes Magazine list of the richest 400 Americans "headed, of course, by Bill
Gates of Microsoft with a net worth of $85 billion ..." adding, "they are the
decisive force behind the global aggressions of U.S. imperialism, the
anti-labor practices and politics and the intensified racism polluting our

Following the publication of Economics of Racism II: The Roots of Inequality,
USA," Perlo received the Myers Center Award for the Study of Human Rights in
North America "for the outstanding work on intolerance in North America."

The book is a gold mine of information proving that the monopoly banks and
corporations squeeze enormous superprofits from the system of racist job
discrimination. Perlo calculated that these extra profits rose from $56
billion in 1947 to $197 billion in 1992. Perlo ended the book with a chapter
on the Communist Party USA's "People's Economic Program" calling for full
employment at decent wages, affirmative action to achieve full job equality,
affordable housing, quality public education and universal health care.

It was perhaps the widest and most influential of his books. The first
edition in 1973 coincided with an upsurge in the struggle against racism and
his book was used as a college text in many African American studies courses.
It went into several editions.

Perlo travelled several times to the Soviet Union and Cuba and wrote books
and articles on the superiority of socialism in meeting the material and
spiritual needs of the people.

In 1977, he and Ellen toured the USSR for seven weeks covering 13,000
kilometers and visiting dozens of factories, collective farms, and
interviewing scores of Soviet people. Out of this expedition they co-authored
Dynamic Stability: The Soviet Economy Today published by New World Paperbacks
in 1980. The book greeted the steadily rising standard of living in the USSR
and the heroic struggles of the Soviet people to build a new socialist

Victor Perlo was born May 15, 1912 in East Elmhurst, New York, son of
Russian-Americans who had both emigrated in their youth from Omsk in Siberia.
He received a BA and MA in mathematics and statistics from Columbia
University in 1933.

It was the depths of the Great Depression and Perlo was already part of the
movement fighting to win relief for the millions of unemployed. He joined the
administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, serving in various New
Deal government agencies from 1939 to 1947, where he was one of the group of
economists known as "Harry Hopkins' bright young men."

They worked for enactment and implementation of the WPA jobs program headed
by Hopkins. They also helped push through unemployment compensation, the
Wagner National Labor Relations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and Social
Security. It was during these years in Washington that he married Ellen
Menaker, whom he had known from his youth, when he visited her uncle's summer
camp in Massachusetts.

During World War II, he applied his formidable intellect to the defeat of
Hitler fascism, serving as a department head of the War Production Board and
in the Office of Price Administration. He also served a stint with the
Brookings Institution, a prestigious economic think-tank in Washington.

After World War II, he was a victim of the anti-Communist, anti-union
McCarthy witch hunt that cost tens of thousands of progressive Americans
their jobs. From 1947 until his death, he worked as an economic consultant
and writer.

Despite his international stature, he was denied permanent academic
employment in the United States. He never compromised on his commitment to
the working class and labor movements, to end racism, and for socialism. In
addition to his research and writing, Perlo was active in his community for
peace, civil rights and against police brutality.

>From the 1960s until his death, he was chief economist for the Communist
Party USA. His son, Art, now leads the Party's Economic Commission. Even as
his health was failing, Perlo's passion for the struggle continued undimmed.
He wrote a hardhitting report on U.S. imperialism for the Party's Ideological
Conference in October. He dictated his weekly column to Ellen from his bed
until just a few days before he died.

His interests included tennis, mountain climbing, and chess. He was also a
talented pianist.

In addition to Ellen, he is survived by children Kathy, Stanley and Arthur
and their families. A memorial meeting will be announced.

This article is reprinted from the latest edition of the "People's Weekly
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