Happy Birthday, Paul!

Monthly Review, April 2000 | Go to article overview

Happy Birthday, Paul!


In honor of Paul's 90th birthday, we asked a number of people from different walks of life--trade unionists, radical activists, academics, and longtime friends--to write short tributes to Paul.

John Bellamy Foster

Robert McChesney

Samir Amin:

I met Paul Sweezy first through my reading of The Theory of Capitalist Development (1942). I was a student in Paris in the early 1950s. Most of the economic Marxist literature at that time simply repeated what Marx had written in Capital, without adding anything. That reminded me of the Islamic theological production, reduced to "Comments of the Koran," then repeating endlessly "Comments of the Comments." Paul's book just proved--and convinced me immediately--that Marxism could be used in another, creative manner, powerful for the analysis of really existing capitalism. Paul, of course, pursued that direction. He identified a real and major problem of capitalist reproduction, whose solution could be found within the framework of an analysis restricted to the study of the relation between the two departments (production of means of production, and production of consumption goods) of Book Two of Capital. For that purpose, he and Baran introduced a new concept, that of surplus, and conceived a third department ( for absorption of the surplus). That was also, for me, a gigantic step in the development of creative Marxist political economy.

I met Paul, physically, later--in the early 1970s in New York. I immediately felt a deep respect and developed a fraternal friendship with him, Harry Magdoff, their families, and all the colleagues of the Monthly Review team, not only for their intellectual qualities and exceptional lucidity, reflected in the magazine and in the books published by Monthly Review Press, but also for their enormous personal political courage. Paul and his friends at Monthly Review stand in the "heart of the beast," in the center of the major imperialist power. Yet they never hesitate to support the people victimized by U.S. imperialism in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, and never make the least concession in that respect. In the most dramatic time, that of McCarthyism, Paul and Harry stood among those few individuals who gave Americans and the peoples of the whole world a most beautiful example of courage.

That lucidity and rigor of thought, that courage, call immediately for total respect and warmest love.

Nicholas Baran:

I have known Paul since I was a little boy, when Paul and my father, Paul Baran, were close friends and collaborators. I spent many an evening listening to the two Pauls discuss issues which I barely understood, but knew to be of great importance. After all, there was a picture on the wall of the two of them, along with Leo Huberman, visiting with Fidel Castro! Paul has been like an uncle to me, and it is a great honor to be able to congratulate him on his 90th birthday in the publication to which he devoted his long and distinguished career. Happy Birthday, Paul!

Rosalyn Fraad Baxandall:

My parents were in the Communist Party and their politics seemed troglodyte to me in high school. Somehow, rummaging in their belongings, I found Albert Einstein's "What is Socialism?" I read it, had friends read it, and suddenly socialism made sense to me. During the movement, we followed MR and put the Vietnam War in the context of U.S. imperialism. Fanshen had an enormous impact on the women's liberation movement. Consciousness-raising (a major practice and theory of second-wave feminism) came directly from the speak bitterness campaigns. Thank you, Paul, for enriching my (and the movement's) life.

Grace Lee Boggs:

Marx would have been proud of a long-distance runner like Paul. I know I am.

Anne Braden:

Paul's brilliant intellect and clear vision have made him a beacon for many decades to people across this country who are working to build a just society. …

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