Harry Magdoff, co-editor of Monthly Review since 1969 and one of the world’s leading political economists, died on New Year’s Day, 2006 at his home in Vermont. He kept the journal to the socialist principles and theoretical and pedagogical standards of its late founders, Paul M. Sweezy, who died in February 2004, and Leo Huberman.
A capsule biography from MR, May 1999, by Christopher
The twentieth anniversary issue of Monthly Review in May 1969 carried the announcement that Harry Magdoff – the independent economist – had officially joined Paul Sweezy as co-editor, replacing Leo Huberman, who had died in 1968.
Born in 1913 in the Bronx, son of a house painter, Magdoff attended the City College of New York where he became a member of the Social Problems Club and editor of Frontiers, the club’s monthly periodical. In 1932, he traveled to Chicago to attend the founding conventions of the National Students League and the Youth League Against War and Fascism.
On that trip, he married fellow New York student Beatrice Greizer (familiarly known as Beadie, to whom he has been married ever since). He was editor of the NSL’s national publication Student Review in 1932-1933. After being expelled from City College for his activism, he attended New York University, receiving a B.S. in economics in 1936.
He accepted a position in Philadelphia with the Works Progress Administration’s national research project, for which he conducted studies of the labor force, unemployment, industrial capacity, and productivity. In 1940, he moved to Washington, D.C., to take charge of the civilian requirements division of the National Defense Advisory Commission.
After U.S. entry into the Second World War in 1941, he served with the War Production Board. Near the end of the war, he was the chief economist in charge of the Current Business Analysis Division at the Department of Commerce, where he oversaw the Survey of Current Business. He spent his final years in government as special assistant to Secretary of Commerce Henry Wallace.
In 1948, he was summoned before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Unemployed, he returned to New York, where he took various jobs, sometimes anonymously, in financial analysis and insurance before joining the staff of Russell & Russell, a publisher of scholarly out-of- print books, between 1959 and 1965.
Magdoff returned to the fore as a public Marxist intellectual with “Problems of United States Capitalism,” an essay in The Socialist Register 1965, edited by Ralph Miliband and John Saville (London: Merlin Press). Widely recognized for his economic analysis of imperialism, Magdoff is author of The Age of Imperialism (1969) and Imperialism: From the Colonial Age to the Present (1977), and co-author with Paul Sweezy of The Dynamics of U.S. Capitalism (1970), The End of Prosperity (1977), The Deepening Crisis of U.S. Capitalism (1980), Stagnation and the Financial Explosion (1987), and The Irreversible Crisis (1988), all from Monthly Review Press.