Paul M. Sweezy (1910-2004) and The Commitment of an Intellectual

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N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture
Paul M. Sweezy (1910-2004) and The Commitment of an Intellectual


N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Sweezy was born on this day 98 years ago. [url=]The current Editor of MR, and others, write about Sweezy's commitment and his views. [/url]

[ 10 April 2008: Message edited by: N.Beltov ]

jeff house

Sweezy was a decent guy, and some of his books were pretty useful, but he was far too influenced by Sovietism, and later Maoism.

He gave up on the USSR just in time to find a new Saviour Revolution, that of China.

I remember well how he followed the Maoist analysis that the USSR had become a "capitalist" country.

Then, he followed Mao in declaring that China needed a Cultural Revolution, and he generally supported it.

Because he was one of those people for whom Revolution is godlike, he could never be bothered to voice any concern for the victims of the Cultural Revolution, who numbered in the millions.

The article contains the following sad statement by Sweezy at the end of his life:


Asked in 1999 whether the world was “closer to socialism now than it seemed when you started Monthly Review, or farther?” Sweezy answered: “Well, if socialism is ever going to happen, we’re nearer to it now than we were then.”

So, millions of people followed the clarion call to over the last century, and this is all the certainty he can muster that it was worth it?

That, and capitalist China and capitalist Russia, and all the other capitalisms which grew out of Sweezy's favorite revolutionary societies, the ones he says all failed?

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

I could also find fault with Sweezy, and blather about the problems associated with his views on the origin of capitalism, and contrast those views with the views of Bremer et al, but I would then be missing the huge body of work that he left and Sweezy's establishment of a left wing institution in Monthly Review that has outlived his long, long life. Furthermore, Sweezy took McCarthyism to the Supreme Court and gave it a thumping. It's the [b]combination[/b] of scholarship and social commitment that is so admirable about people like Sweezy and for which he still deserves our admiration.

jeff house

See, I don't think of support for Mao Tse Tung as "social commitment". \

Also, if you go back and re-read Monthly Review over the decades, you will find that it is ALWAYS predicting capitalism's final crisis as just around the corner.

So, after fifty years of that, is it such a useful institution? Or is it just recycling sweezy's dream world?

But you are right, Sweezy, like many with similar views, bore the brunt of McCarthyism, and fought back, eventually succeeding in the courts.

He's hardly a towering figure, but he merits respect, I think, for trying. Unfortunately, a lot of it was delusion-based.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Your grudging praise is ... grudging. His pal "Ken" Galbraith wasn't nearly so ... grudging. Look it up.