[Marxism] NY Times obit: Paul Sweezy, 93, Marxist Publisher and Economist, Dies
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Tue Mar 2 04:01:28 MST 2004
Paul Sweezy, 93, Marxist Publisher and Economist, Dies
March 2, 2004
By LOUIS UCHITELLE
Paul M. Sweezy, a Harvard University economist who left
academia and became the nation's leading Marxist
intellectual and publisher during the cold war and the
McCarthy era, died Saturday at his home in Larchmont, N.Y.
He was 93.
The cause was congestive heart failure, his daughter,
Lybess Sweezy, said.
Mr. Sweezy did not think of himself as a Stalinist or
sectarian. His Marxism developed as a response to the Great
Depression, and his mentor was a famed conservative
economist, Joseph Schumpeter, who counted on spirited
entrepreneurs to lift the economy through a process of
destruction and rebuilding. While Schumpeter wanted less
government, Mr. Sweezy wanted more to offset what he
considered capitalism's failings.
Still, the two men worked together at Harvard in the late
1930's and early 1940's. Schumpeter cited his young friend
in several of his own works and endorsed Mr. Sweezy for a
tenured professorship at Harvard, even campaigning on his
behalf. The slot went to a non-Marxist, and Mr. Sweezy soon
left academia. Because of an inheritance from his father, a
banker, he had enough money to support himself. Mr. Sweezy
later told friends that if he had been forced to work for a
living, he might have been more of a conformist.
Instead, in 1949 he became co-founder and co-editor of The
Monthly Review, an independent Marxist journal published in
Manhattan that he continued to edit and contribute to until
well into the 1990's. The magazine still appears, although
its monthly circulation has fallen to 7,000, from 12,000 at
its peak in the 1970's. For the first issue, Albert
Einstein contributed an article titled "Why Socialism?" and
over the years the bylines included such famous radicals or
Marxists as W. E. B. Du Bois, Jean-Paul Sartre, Che Guevara
and Joan Robinson.
"The Monthly Review was attractive to people who were
leaving the Communist Party and other sectarian groups,"
said John Bellamy Foster, a co-editor of the publication
now. "It was and is Marxist, but did not hew to the party
line or get into sectarian struggles."
That reflected Mr. Sweezy's approach in the 100 articles or
so that he wrote over the years and the more than 20 books
he signed as author, co-author or editor. The most famous
was "Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic
and Social Order" (Monthly Review Press, 1966), with Paul
A. Baran as co-author.
That book argued that unregulated market economies have a
tendency to stagnate and to develop oligopolies in which a
few companies dominate each industry and keep pushing up
prices, fattening profits for the oligopolies but damping
economic activity because of a lack of price competition.
What saved the United States from that fate in the 1960's,
the authors wrote, were temporary phenomenon: military
spending, robust consumerism and the growing demand for
autos because of rapidly expanding suburbs and the new
Interstate highway system.
Paul Marlor Sweezy was born on April 10, 1910, the youngest
of three sons of Everett P. Sweezy, vice president of First
National Bank of New York, and Caroline Wilson Sweezy. He
earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard in 1931 and his
Ph.D. in 1937. By then he was a Marxist, having taken that
step during a year at the London School of Economics.
"I became convinced," he wrote much later, "that mainstream
economics of the kind I had been taught at Harvard had
little to contribute toward understanding the major events
and trends of the 20th century."
Still, back at Harvard, as a graduate student and then an
instructor, he came in contact with Schumpeter and a
friendship flourished, although they supported different
solutions for ending the Depression. For Schumpeter,
President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal measures
suppressed entrepreneurs in their normal process of
creative destruction and innovation.
For Mr. Sweezy, who borrowed from Keynesian theory as well
as Marxism, government planning and intervention had a
role, although working people also had to intervene.
Listening to their debates, Paul Samuelson, the Nobel
laureate, spoke of Schumpeter as "the foxy Merlin" and Mr.
Sweezy as the "young Sir Galahad" who early on "established
himself as among the most promising economists of his
During World War II, Mr. Sweezy spent four years in the
Army as an officer in the Office of Strategic Services.
After returning briefly to Harvard as a teacher and having
failed to gain a tenured position, he left in 1946 to
pursue the goal of establishing "a serious and authentic
American brand of Marxism."
The pursuit was not easy in the McCarthy era. He found
himself in the courts in the 1950's after he refused to
turn over to the attorney general of New Hampshire his
notes from a lecture at the University of New Hampshire.
The attorney general accused him of subversive activities
and the case eventually went to the United States Supreme
Court, which ruled in Mr. Sweezy's favor.
Mr. Sweezy's first wife, Nancy, and his second wife, Zirel,
survive, as do three children, Samuel, Lybess and Martha;
two stepchildren, Jeffrey and Jennifer Dowd; seven
grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
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