Harry Magdoff, 1913-2006

Harry Magdoff, Marxist commentator and one of the co-editors of Monthly Review, died on New Year’s Day. John Bellamy Foster has this obituary in MRZine.

Harry Magdoff — coeditor of Monthly Review since 1969, socialist, and one of the world’s leading economic analysts of capitalism and imperialism — died at his home in Burlington, Vermont on January 1, 2006.

Harry Magdoff was born on August 21, 1913 in the Bronx, the son of working-class Russian Jewish immigrants. His father worked as a housepainter. He grew up in a New York immigrant community at a time when war and revolution were common topics of conversation. On one occasion, he overheard a debate in a local park in which it was pointed out that Britain “owned” India. He was shocked and began to explore the history of colonialism. In 1929, at the age of 15, he encountered Karl Marx for the first time, when he found a copy of Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy in a used bookstore. Reading the famous preface, he was stunned. “It blew my mind,” he was to recall. Marx’s “view of history was a revelation. I didn’t understand the rest of the book, which cost me a quarter, but that got me started reading about economics. We were going into the Depression then and I wanted to figure out what it all meant.” The “determining element” in his emerging radicalism, however, was what he witnessed at the demonstration of the unemployed in Union Square in March 1930.