February 29, 2004

Note: Marxist Economist Paul Sweezy Is Dead

Paul Sweezy, 1910-2004.

I would like Paul Sweezy to be remembered for the following passage:

"The publication in 1952 of Stalin’s Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR would make possible today a more satisfactory reply.…In the light of [Stalin’s] explanation…I would like to amend the statement which Mr. Kazahaya criticizes.…[The amended statement] conveys my meaning more accurately than the original wording and is, I think entirely in accord with Stalin’s view." (Paul Sweezy (1953), The Present as History (New York: Monthly Review Press), p. 352.)

Paul Sweezy called himself an intellectual. Paul Sweezy publicly revised his opinion on an analytical issue in order to agree with the position taken by a genocidal tyrant. Fill in the blank: Paul Sweezy was a ________.


UPDATE: You will note that my description above of Sweezy's writings in The Present as History are value-neutral (for surely calling Stalin a genocidal tyrant is a value-neutral description of who and what he was). I apply no evaluation words to Sweezy himself. I invite readers to apply their own valuation words (and what those words should be is, I think, easy to ascertain: res ipsa loquitur, after all).

So note that every single negative evaluation of Sweezy attributed to me by people writing in the comment thread is in fact generated inside their own brains, and then ascribed to me for no other reason than what their own (bad) conscience tells them (correctly) that I must be thinking about Sweezy's morals.

I admit I did not expect such a large number of people to react by saying, essentially, that (a) what Sweezy did in compromising with Stalin was a horrible, unforgivable crime, and (b) because it is so horrible and unforgivable, what DeLong did in bringing up this crime is horrible and unforgivable because DeLong is (c) blackening the memory of a great and good man. There's a certain problem of logic here: after all, the category "great and good man" does not usually go with the category "horrible and unforgivable crime."

Yet here they are: old (and new) leftists wrestling with (and losing to) their own bad consciences:

What is this crap? I generally like to tone of this weblog, but to choose the occasion of Paul Sweezy's death for a series of snide remarks and cheap insults, especially given that nothing here is based on more than one paragraph of his work, is really tasteless. I am surprised and disappointed.

Tom Slee, you should not be surprised or disappointed. So Brad does your assertion mean that every economic adviser during the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administration endorsed the slaughtering of millions of Vietnamese? And if they didn't why did they accept the appointments? Was it the patriotic opportunity to serve the country that made them overlook the fact that their policy prescriptions would aid the militarization of the economy and the slaughter of innocents? Your sanctimoniousness is as childish as it is pathetic.

It's hard to imagine Brad Delong accumulating a resume like this one. http://cepa.newschool.edu/het/profiles/sweezy.htm People still discuss Sweezy's work, even those who disagree with him (I mean, just think of the huge debates on the Sweezy-Dobb debate--Paul Sweezy unknown??? wow!). It's odd that someone whose work really does not receive much serious discussion, and most certainly won't receive much attention after his passing, would take this occasion to attack a fellow scholar.

Fifty years from now people will still be reading Sweezy's work. Fifty years from now NO ONE will know who Brad DeLong was. Some of the people making comments here really need to get beyond this childish "Marxism has been shown to have failed" and, so, anything associated with Marx must be rejected. This is anti-intellectualism at its worst.

The only time delong could touch sweezy is after his death...nota bene the timing...

it's obvious that approximately 90% of the posts here (including the one from delong) are from people that haven't read anything of sweezy. this whole thread is a bad joke. the fact that sweezy cited stalin is to his credit in my book--and i don't care whether he was right or wrong on the point in question (whatever it was, since delong made sure not to tell us). you don't think people were using the mere mention of "stalin" to discredit people back in 1953? It was worse then than now. sweezy was saying "fuck you" to mccarthyites and pious liberals, because he knew that he was practicing an altogether different sort of economics than the system modeling of those supportin the capitalism. now, I'M a capitalist. but there need to be analyses that don't take the entire system for GRANTED, that try to imagine it from OUTSIDE. that's part of what a marxian perspective allows for. you can use the perspective and not be an avowed supporter of stalin's crimes. the problem is that people like delong will respond to a critical analyis of capitalism as a whole as equivalent to a call for terrorist violence. but there's a difference between theoretical critique and practical politics. (a difference that stalinist and capitalist ideologues both deny.)

What a cowardly obituary on Sweezy you give. If you think his life and work add up only to those times he accommodated himself to Stalin, then you're still living in the Cold War.

I don't understand what Brad's point is. Is it that Stalin was wrong about everything and, so, no one could ever agree with Stalin? For instance, if Stalin (properly) corrected Sweezy's grammar then Stalin would necessarily be wrong and Sweezy would be a dupe by correcting his grammar? Brad is simply engaging in good old fashioned red-bating: Sweezy once thought Stalin's explanation for some economic situation was correct and, so, Sweezy was some sort of monster. In Brad's eyes, what else do you possibly need to know about Sweezy. This mean-spirited, illogical attack on a honorable man--Sweezy--really puts Brad's intellectual standing in question.

Posted by DeLong at February 29, 2004 01:35 PM | TrackBack

Comments

On a point of pedantry, was Stalin really quite "genocidal"? I know he was a mass murderer millions of times over, and that he moved millions of people around in Eastern Europe and Central Asia in what today would be called "ethnic cleansing", but did he ever try deliberately to wipe out an entire race or tribe people, in the way that Hitler did with the Jews and gypsies, or the Rwandan Hutus did with the Tutsis?

Posted by: PJ on February 29, 2004 01:49 PM

____

ideologue

Posted by: MattS on February 29, 2004 01:53 PM

____

...whore, of course. But DO NOT allow any implication that whoredom is confined to the precincts of Marxism.

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on February 29, 2004 02:14 PM

____

I don't know what Charles Nelson Reilly's going to say, but I have to go with "keister."

Posted by: Chris Marcil on February 29, 2004 02:26 PM

____

"Paul Sweezy called himself an intellectual. Paul Sweezy publicly revised his opinion on an analytical issue in order to agree with the position taken by a genocidal tyrant. Fill in the blank: Paul Sweezy was a ________."

A dead guy. A dead guy who nobody ever heard of. A dead guy who changed his mind 50 years ago.

And Brad is STILL mad about it....

(Sheesh. Talk about 'holding a grudge' <];!)

Posted by: Mike on February 29, 2004 02:29 PM

____

"sycophantic defender of Marxism in all its forms?" Not entirely unknown nowadays either.

I dare say a couple of them will show up in these comments.

Every single nation in human history that has called itself "Marxist" has wound up as a poverty-stricken totalitarian hellhole that people brave razorwire, guns, sharks, and land mines to escape.

And this has been regardless of the nation's history, culture, language, racial makeup, or any other factor.

We practically have lab experiments on this, with controls: North and South Korea. East and West Germany. China and Hong Kong or Taiwan.

It takes a pretty stupid person not to have gotten the point about old Karl by now.

The academics keep whining that this wasn't "real" Marxism at all, but you know, after a doctor has killed every patient he has ever treated, you don't have to know the exact details of his medical education to decide not to send your kids there.

It will be a great day when Marxist academics are treated exactly the same as avowed Nazi academics would be on any decent college campus, i.e. run out of town on a rail, covered with tar and feathers.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 29, 2004 02:35 PM

____

Mankiwist?

Posted by: name on February 29, 2004 02:35 PM

____

21st century Republican?

Posted by: Charles Kinbote on February 29, 2004 02:36 PM

____

"...a poor old dead man being mercilessly mocked by a mean college professor."

Posted by: praktike on February 29, 2004 02:36 PM

____

We are wading into dangerous waters. I think we should introduce more variables into the assertion.

X publicly revised his/her opinion on an analytical issue in order to agree with the position taken by Y. X was a Z

Y can be instantiated with lots of evil things.

Paul Sweezy, may you rest in peace.

Posted by: CSTAR on February 29, 2004 02:38 PM

____

Sounds like someone I could've used in my administration.

Posted by: George W. Bush on February 29, 2004 02:57 PM

____

Yeah, trying to mine the "sycophantic" vein, I kinda like the sound of "lickspittle." Or "stooge." Not "ideologue," except in the sense that slavish deference can be construed as an ideology (democratic centralism?).

Mike, in this quotation, Sweezy gives no sign of having changed his mind. He might as well have written, "I mean (and meant) whatever Stalin said last."

It's possible that Brad is quoting him out of context, although I doubt it. Prima facie, Sweezy is "being mercilessly mocked" by his own words. It's a nasty sight, but let's not avert our eyes in order to think better of Sweezy than he deserves.

It's not my field, but I assume there are honest "Marxist" economists. I rather doubt there are any honest Stalinist economists.

Posted by: Mark Lindeman on February 29, 2004 03:02 PM

____

What is this crap?

I generally like to tone of this weblog, but to choose the occasion of Paul Sweezy's death for a series of snide remarks and cheap insults, especially given that nothing here is based on more than one paragraph of his work, is really tasteless.

I am surprised and disappointed.

Posted by: Tom Slee on February 29, 2004 03:07 PM

____

Wouldn't "Paul Sweezy publicly revised his opinion on an analytical issue in such a way that it agreed with the position taken by a genocidal tyrant" be better? How do you get the further "in order to agree", rather than his finding a better fitting or better expressed formulation in the words of another?

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on February 29, 2004 03:20 PM

____

I'm sure that Tbrosz, being intellectually consistent, would also want to run the supply-siders out of town.

Posted by: marky on February 29, 2004 03:26 PM

____

Tom Slee, you should not be surprised or disappointed.

So Brad does your assertion mean that every economic adviser during the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administration endorsed the slaughtering of millions of Vietnamese? And if they didn't why did they accept the appointments? Was it the patriotic opportunity to serve the country that made them overlook the fact that their policy prescriptions would aid the militarization of the economy and the slaughter of innocents?

Your sanctimoniousness is as childish as it is pathetic.

Posted by: antineoliberalism on February 29, 2004 03:34 PM

____

Paul Sweeney is a dead man.

There were never many American Communists and there would have been fewer still if more of us entered upon our commitments with the proper awareness of the complexities within our natures and everybody else's. We have been sifting through these fragments of lives begun in enthusiasms and ending in disappointments. And when we have done, and fall into reflections about American communism and its servants and what they meant in America, mightn't we find ourselves surprised to say:

"Of course. Communism was the journey whose travelers hadn't all that much in common except whichever particular morning each had woken up and said 'Behold, the earth is flat."'

So, then, the best advice for historians of American communism might be to steer clear of all temptation to make the flat surface do the work that belongs to the round, because that particular mistake is among the more dangerous weapons in the Demon of Error's locker.

Murray Kempton

Posted by: Curtiss Leung on February 29, 2004 04:09 PM

____

It's hard to imagine Brad Delong accumulating a resume like this one

http://cepa.newschool.edu/het/profiles/sweezy.htm

People still discuss Sweezy's work, even those who disagree with him (I mean, just think of the huge debates on the Sweezy-Dobb debate--Paul Sweezy unknown??? wow!). It's odd that someone whose work really does not receive much serious discussion, and most certainly won't receive much attention after his passing, would take this occasion to attack a fellow scholar.

Posted by: steve philion on February 29, 2004 04:32 PM

____

At times a very innovative thinker but alas one that adopted his thinking to be fashionable with a particular crowd.

Posted by: Harold McClure on February 29, 2004 05:30 PM

____


...someone that you should be encouraging your readers to learn about, not someone whose large body of complex work you should summarizing misleadingly with a single (apparently) unfortunate quotation, given without context.

Posted by: speakingcorpse on February 29, 2004 05:42 PM

____

It should be pointed that out that, as of 1964, Sweezy and his sidekick Prof. Paul Baran were STILL enthusiastically defending the Soviet Union, in what can only be described as an utterly insane way -- something pointed out at the time by (among others) Robert Heilbroner.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on February 29, 2004 05:52 PM

____

a member of the Bush Administration's economic team.

Posted by: Cal on February 29, 2004 06:05 PM

____

Fifty years from now people will still be reading Sweezy's work. Fifty years from now NO ONE will know who Brad DeLong was.

Some of the people making comments here really need to get beyond this childish "Marxism has been shown to have failed" and, so, anything associated with Marx must be rejected. This is anti-intellectualism at its worst.

Posted by: PanJack on February 29, 2004 06:11 PM

____

Tbrosz:

Why are you trying to drive Marxists from the academy? Shouldn't you rather be pleased that Marxism has become a merely academic matter?

And, by the way, if arguments can be said to "prove" anything, then it is not if they are applied in such a broad-brush manner.

Posted by: john c. halasz on February 29, 2004 06:41 PM

____

Is the term "Marxist economist," by definition, a contradiction?

Posted by: abf on February 29, 2004 07:09 PM

____

Is the term "Marxist economist," by definition, a contradiction?

--i think michael perleman or anwar shaik...puts paul krugman or milt friedman or delong to shame frankly... http://cepa.newschool.edu/het/schools/neomarx.htm

and an economist like doug henwood, whose influenced by Marx is bangup...go check out his latest book http://tinyurl.com/3adkk
...or go and produce a work like Monopoly Capital...as Sweezy did...

Posted by: stephen philion on February 29, 2004 07:37 PM

____

I would guess that the closest present analogy would be Hubbard.

Thanks to the tireless work of Brad, exposed the man as frequently contradicting even his own economics textbook and ruined his reputation in the process.

Posted by: Bubb Rubb on February 29, 2004 07:48 PM

____

The only time delong could touch sweezy is after his death...nota bene the timing...

Posted by: stephen philion on February 29, 2004 07:50 PM

____

Steve Philion writes:
>
> It's hard to imagine Brad Delong accumulating a resume like
> this one
>
> http://cepa.newschool.edu/het/profiles/sweezy.htm
>
> People still discuss Sweezy's work, even those who disagree
> with him (I mean, just think of the huge debates on the
> Sweezy-Dobb debate--Paul Sweezy unknown??? wow!). It's
> odd that someone whose work really does not receive much
> serious discussion, and most certainly won't receive much
> attention after his passing, would take this occasion to attack
> a fellow scholar.

Three points.

First, I looked at the (abbreviated) vita you linked to. I am not an economist, but it is hardly clear what if anything on this list you would believe a modern reader should be interested in. If it isn't the 30's era papers in mainstream econ journals, then I'm assuming it's either a monograph on Socialism or one of the later works on the the inevitable downfall of the US economic system (maybe 1979's "The Deepening Crisis of US Capitalism"?). Brad DeLong suggested that one of these major works was in fact altered so that it fit the new facts promulgated by Comrade Stalin. If so, that would seem, *to me* to be an altogether fitting reason to treat the rest with grave suspicion.

Second, how in the world could you tell who will be and won't be of interest N years from now? And why do you phrase your response to an assertion (based on a direct quotation) that a man was a Stalinist stooge as content-free slander?

Third, you seem to suggest that an attack on the man's works at this time (after his death) is somewhat unfair since he cannot respond. Yet somehow I have to believe that this exact issue has come up (probably a lot) over the 50+ years since the original text appeared. So what precisely *is* the defense for making this statement? I'm sure you have a convincing one in mind, but just forgot to mention it.

Posted by: Jonathan King on February 29, 2004 08:15 PM

____

You'll notice that only Sweezy's first two publications are in mainstream publications, it then to change to "self-published" status.

No offence no the comrades here, but that's usually a sign of quackery.

Posted by: Stephane on February 29, 2004 08:26 PM

____

it's obvious that approximately 90% of the posts here (including the one from delong) are from people that haven't read anything of sweezy. this whole thread is a bad joke. the fact that sweezy cited stalin is to his credit in my book--and i don't care whether he was right or wrong on the point in question (whatever it was, since delong made sure not to tell us). you don't think people were using the mere mention of "stalin" to discredit people back in 1953? It was worse then than now. sweezy was saying "fuck you" to mccarthyites and pious liberals, because he knew that he was practicing an altogether different sort of economics than the system modeling of those supportin the capitalism. now, I'M a capitalist. but there need to be analyses that don't take the entire system for GRANTED, that try to imagine it from OUTSIDE. that's part of what a marxian perspective allows for. you can use the perspective and not be an avowed supporter of stalin's crimes. the problem is that people like delong will respond to a critical analyis of capitalism as a whole as equivalent to a call for terrorist violence. but there's a difference between theoretical critique and practical politics. (a difference that stalinist and capitalist ideologues both deny.)

Posted by: speakingcorpse on February 29, 2004 08:40 PM

____

A bright up-and-coming economist worked on economic policy for a particular presidential administration. This president, however, was shown to have lied under oath.

Despite the fact that his concern was with purely economic matters, at his death it was noted that this economist had aligned himself at an early age with a well-known lying president.

This raised the issue as to whether anything this economist had ever written could be taken at face value, given his long association with a lying president.


Posted by: Larry on February 29, 2004 08:46 PM

____

Second, how in the world could you tell who will be and won't be of interest N years from now?

--easy, 1) the sweezy-dobb debate continues to be discussed widely, 2) his book Monopoly Capital is widely discussed, debated, and 3) his first book, his most well known one, is widely recognized as an important contribution to political economy. nothing i know done by delong comes close.

Posted by: stephen philion on February 29, 2004 08:50 PM

____

Now this is truly pathetic and shows absolutely no understanding of US history:

"You'll notice that only Sweezy's first two publications are in mainstream publications, it then to change to "self-published" status. No offence no the comrades here, but that's usually a sign of quackery."

I just guess that JPE wasn't publishing marxist works in the 1950s, don't you suppose?

Sweezy and other marxists in the middle part of last century paid a high personal price for their political and economic beliefs.

Posted by: LoneGunman on February 29, 2004 08:51 PM

____

What a cowardly obituary on Sweezy you give. If you think his life and work add up only to those times he accommodated himself to Stalin, then you're still living in the Cold War.

Posted by: Dick Fitzgerald on February 29, 2004 09:01 PM

____

OK Lenin's and Stalin's statues have been trashed. However, may I suggest we put at least a momentary pause in this posthumous trashing of a marxist economist:

Please note that before the expression "supply side economics" came to denote the claim of a monotone increasing relationship between x and f(x), where x = payments to the rich in lower corporate tax rates and f(x) = increased revenue to the government as exemplified in the "Laffer Curve" it had another more dignified existence. This term used to refer to any one of a number of models of the productive apparatus of an economy as opposed to the demand side of the economy. (e.g. I'll name names: Solow, Swann, Cobb-Douglas even Samuelson and von Neumann). Certainly Marx (and by extension Sweezy) was in this sense a supply sider since he too was concerned with understanding the relation between Capital, Labor and Output.

So we could add that to fill your blank:

Paul Sweezy was a supply sider.

But perhaps this is too much of an insult even for this thread.

Posted by: CSTAR on February 29, 2004 09:09 PM

____

Ah....what exactly is your point here, Brad?

Posted by: bobbyp on February 29, 2004 09:41 PM

____

That sometimes the wingnuts are on your "side" as well. Marxian economics, what a frigging joke, kind of like neocon foreign policy.

Posted by: strawman on February 29, 2004 09:44 PM

____

Dick Fitzgerald writes:
>
> What a cowardly obituary on Sweezy you give. If you think his
> life and work add up only to those times he accommodated
> himself to Stalin, then you're still living in the Cold War.

But nobody here has really answered the question. Why on earth would anybody have accomodated himself or herself to Stalin in 1953? What precisely was not yet known about the man by that point that would excuse this? Or, if we allow disbelief that something so horrible could be true (or some similar defense) than why wouldn't we expect to see some sort of acknowledgement that something had gone terribly wrong back there somewhere. If such a "mea culpa" did appear in any timely fashion, than I think you have a much stronger case.

In principal, what you say could be true. I could imagine a distinguished career in some field (say mathematics) that coexisted with Stalin worship in a way that could make you uncomfortable, but still willing to believe that Professor Z really did know a thing or two about algebraic topology. But when the subject is economics or political economy and/or the history of Socialism...this starts to look like an entry in a different message thread on this blog:

"Other than the fact that Sweezy publicly accomodated Stalin in the 1950s, you have no evidence that his seminal writings on Socialism weren't brilliant and enduring contributions."

Posted by: Jonathan King on February 29, 2004 09:52 PM

____

I don't understand what Brad's point is.

Is it that Stalin was wrong about everything and, so, no one could ever agree with Stalin? For instance, if Stalin (properly) corrected Sweezy's grammar then Stalin would necessarily be wrong and Sweezy would be a dupe by correcting his grammar?

Brad is simply engaging in good old fashioned red-bating: Sweezy once thought Stalin's explanation for some economic situation was correct and, so, Sweezy was some sort of monster. In Brad's eyes, what else do you possibly need to know about Sweezy.

This mean-spirited, illogical attack on a honorable man--Sweezy--really puts Brad's intellectual standing in question.

Posted by: Henry Adling on February 29, 2004 10:23 PM

____

speakingcorpse: "you don't think people were using the mere mention of "stalin" to discredit people back in 1953?"

How many more dead Kulaks did we need before the mere mention of Stalin (let alone fealty) should have discredited someone in 1953?

Tom Slee: "I generally like to tone of this weblog, but to choose the occasion of Paul Sweezy's death for a series of snide remarks and cheap insults, especially given that nothing here is based on more than one paragraph of his work, is really tasteless."

Yeah, but that's some paragraph. Sweezy is being remembered as an intellectual, so it seems to me that it would be more tasteless to not focus on his service to Stalin's victims. If it was just your Uncle Frank the cab driver that thought Stalin was hunky dory, that would be something else entirely.

PanJack: "Fifty years from now people will still be reading Sweezy's work."

They'll be reading all the old Marxists. After a good several-chapters-of-pure-prose proof of the necessity of capitalist exploitation, the transparency of a Joyce or a Pynchon becomes intolerable....

Posted by: Joe Mealyus on February 29, 2004 10:47 PM

____

I don't have a dog in this fight, but I will say that if Sweezy corrected his view because Stalin was correct on a point of fact, then I have no problem with that. Of course, that's not the interpretation that comes to mind..

Posted by: marky on February 29, 2004 11:27 PM

____

Hmmm ... it's appropriate of course to bring up the fact that people did bad things in the past, and toeing the party line was a bad thing.

But one day it's going to be Larry Summers and Andrei Shleifer who pass away. I know you're aware of all the material that someone in the mood to be nasty could put together on those two. On that day, if not before, you'll end up agreeing that it was not a good idea to write what you did when you did.

Posted by: dsquared on February 29, 2004 11:50 PM

____

The main book of Paul Sweezy made us appreciate the United States people like the Lincoln Brigade during the Spanish Civil War or the Singer Pete Seeger, for instance.

Please differentiate the professional value from the political opinions.

Some little perestroika would be very good for you also:
Is Guanatnamo a Concentration camp?
Do you, currently protect the rights of people detained?
Was Eisenhower president of the United States when met Franco in Madrid?
Did Stalin attack Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs?
Was Nixon responsible of the Chile coup?

Some elements for those who think only others make crimes...

Posted by: Vicenc Melendez on February 29, 2004 11:59 PM

____

Well this is a post concerning a man that I have absolutely no respect for, considering that I know absolutely nothing about him other than what I've read in this post.
That said I'd like to look at Brad's statements here:

'Paul Sweezy called himself an intellectual. Paul Sweezy publicly revised his opinion on an analytical issue in order to agree with the position taken by a genocidal tyrant. Fill in the blank: Paul Sweezy was a _______'
followed by the UPDATE:
' You will note that my description above of Sweezy's writings in The Present as History are value-neutral '
I don't really understand that update as according to him the choice as to what it should be is obvious (so I guess the statement that he's being value neutral is worthless, if he's also setting it up so that people should choose the result he wants)
next Brad is somewhat surprised that people don't like what he posted about Sweezy. I noticed a lot of people didn't like that he was picking on a dead guy, I've never found it to be particularly ennobling spectacle but it's probably true that people get picked on all the time right when they die so I suppose Brad should get a pass on this as being no better than he ought to be.

Someone else remarked on how just because a genocidal tyrant said something it does not mean that what they said is wrong. Given the information contained in the passage quoted by Brad: "…I would like to amend the statement which Mr. Kazahaya criticizes.…[The amended statement] conveys my meaning more accurately than the original wording and is, I think entirely in accord with Stalin’s view." I have to point out that for me, a person unfamiliar with Sweezy's work, the particular controversy under discussion, or anything else other than Stalin was bad the only context within which to evaluate this quote is that Stalin was bad and Sweezy was a bad man (note that the word a before the blank precludes us saying that Sweezy was an intellectual.)
I don't really think that is adequate. Despite the reference to Stalin's 'Economic problems of Socialism in the USSR' I doubt that the statement Sweezy was amending was something in the nature of "don't do genocide" to "sorry, I was wrong, do do genocide - please"

in short what I took from the quote was that Sweezy had at some point made a statement criticized by Kazahaya. Perhaps the criticism was partly based on statements of Stalin, these statements could have been based on the necessity of genocide but they could just as well have been based on the necessity of producing more steel. Sometime after this criticism a paper was published that had data that caused Sweezy to reconsider his statement, the data may have been "Paul Sweezy, urgent commands from your genocidal, tyrannical overlord, amend comments vis-a-vis Kazahaya" but it could also have been something more like "steel production lagged, seriously hampering production of drilling equipment", Sweezy then amended his statement. The style in which his statement was amended seems similar to much academic writing, the only anomalous detail seems to be the use of the identifier Stalin in places usually reserved for more common identifiers like 'Professor Smith'.

Given all this I can certainly see why Brad would want to give a detail-poor value-neutral indictment of a dead guy meant to cause everyone to see him as a really despicable scum barely worthy of a high place in the Bush administration.

Of course the thing which really irritates me is that when some people take offence either at his picking on the dead guy, or at the rather stupid proposition that Stalin never said one honest thing ever (a position I must infer, and that others have inferred as being Brad's, given the detail poor nature of the quote,) Brad accuses these people of having bad consciences. Now one thing I know from semantic studies is that when someone has a bad conscience it is because they do bad things, and are bad people. So basically not coming to the proper conclusion that Sweezy was a bad man - despite the lack of data, and not just saying that he was bad, makes the rest of the posters on this thread bad people.

Now of course, as I've pointed out, I know nothing of Sweezy, this is all just analysis of Brad's post. I note that some people in this thread seem to think that Sweezy had some good points to him, and he was perhaps not one-hundred percent bad(in other words they would fill in that blank with a not obvious to Brad word), despite the presence of the word Stalin in the quote I have to think it might be so, in the same way that I don't think George Bernard Shaw was a totally worthless human being for having noted in the late 30's that that Hitler chap had some proper grievances.

Posted by: bryan on March 1, 2004 12:08 AM

____

Waiting for an old man to die to throw mud on him, how noble. If I thought more of DeLong I'd say I think less of him, but I never did, so I don't. It looks like DeLong is preparing a long career of scraping the bottom of the barrel to attack workers movements on behalf of the idle class. Unfortunately for him there is a lot of competition, but he reeks of such utter vileness that I think he will survive as a groveling sycophant for a while.

Posted by: michael sabini on March 1, 2004 12:28 AM

____

Brad:

"...(for surely calling Stalin a genocidal tyrant is a value-neutral description of who and what he was)."

Um, no. Calling Stalin a "genocidal tyrant" is most definitely a value judgement--a truth, but also a value judgement. The words "genocide" and "tyranny" are always heavily value-laden in our culture.

"I apply no evaluation words to Sweezy himself."

Again, no. If I were to say to you, "And you call yourself an economist!" you would certainly think that I was casting aspersion upon your credentials. When you write, "Paul Sweezy called himself an intellectual," the presumed implication (especially in context) is that you're doing the same thing, only a bit less forcefully.

The clear subtext of your words is, "Paul Sweezy was no intellectual! Paul Sweezy supported someone very evil!"

Your claim that "every single negative evaluation of Sweezy attributed to me by people writing in the comment thread is in fact generated inside their own brains" is at best intellectually dishonest, at worst insulting.

(I say this as someone who has no investment, whether personal, professional, or ideological, in Sweezy or his politics.)

Posted by: Jeff Davis on March 1, 2004 12:39 AM

____

This thread reminds me a little bit of when I was serving in the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia as a press officer and Nixon died. I had been raised in the 80s to believe he was like the Devil incarnate and that Watergate was a horrible crime and basically cancelled out anything decent he may have done. I was amazed that the decision was made for embassies to lower their flags to half mast to commemorate his passing.

A controversy happened because someone back in Washington responsible for writing his official obit for embassies to pass to the foreign press wrote a fairly balanced obit that mentioned the negative stuff, and it was roundly criticized on the view that you can't criticize the dead. I am sorry, but yes, you can. Their actions, whether good or bad, are their record. They are the ones that lived the way they did and if you speak of them truthfully after they die you'll get the good with the bad.

In this case I daresay perhaps Professor DeLong read five or six obits that were completely 100% pro-Sweezy and ignored anything controversial he may have done so he just wanted to add some balance, but I will wait to hear from him on that.

Re Sweezy himself: I studied Marxist economics in Paris but don't remember studying him -- probably because he was American -- we sort of stopped at Gramsci. I remember at the time being struck by how marxist economics was really to me more like a religion than a science. Sometimes free market economics seems that way to me too, though.

Posted by: Anna in Cairo on March 1, 2004 12:59 AM

____

Update:

My "bad conscience" is killing me.

Some here may remember that I called the corpse in question, the one who Brad said, "called himself an intellectual":

"...A dead guy who nobody ever heard of..."

It turns out I was wrong.

A little googling has convinced me SOMEBODY has indeed heard of the former guy we're talking about here. It MIGHT even be fair to say he was a somewhat prominent "fish" in HIS little academic 'pond'.

(Then again, it might not <];-)

Posted by: Mike on March 1, 2004 01:55 AM

____

Hm. Someone once said, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?"

Obviously, Sweezy was much more willing to take Stalin's word as a 'fact' than you or I or Keynes. That makes him a... what, again?

Because people never change their analytical opinions after being presented with direct information from the policy makers in question. Never happens at all.

I look forward to more of your posts about Ron Suskind and Paul O'Neill.

C.

Posted by: Carlos on March 1, 2004 04:18 AM

____

Blowhard. And yes, I read his work. He was a big part of what was, and is, wrong with a large fraction of the left.

Posted by: Paul Barron on March 1, 2004 05:59 AM

____

chickenshit post. That's the blank filled in DeLong just wrote a ____. That's alright, lots of smart people write stupid things every once in awhile. Was that your point about Sweezy?

Posted by: david on March 1, 2004 06:38 AM

____

If it's not too obvious, all this "value-neutral" verbiage has the hallmark of somebody in the proverbial deep doo-doo, wiggling and sinking deeper.

Posted by: Max Sawicky on March 1, 2004 06:43 AM

____

If you set aside the debate about good and evil and bad consciences, doesn't the argument run something like this: Paul Sweezy's work is, taken as a whole, now pretty much useless, both as a tool in understanding how capitalism works and (even worse) as a tool for envisioning a different society. The major reason it's useless is because Sweezy never came to grips with the fundamental and ineradicable problems that make any socialist or communist economy radically inferior to a market-based economy. One of the reasons why Sweezy may never have come to grips with this is because he was committed to a religion -- and, as the quote suggests, committed to following the interpretations of that religion offered by its high priest -- rather than attempting the (admittedly impossible) task of nondogmatically analysis.

Posted by: Steve Carr on March 1, 2004 06:59 AM

____

Yoshie at the lbo-l list neatly noted the bogus case Delong makes from this quote:

It is telling that Brad De Long deliberately removed the recognizable
context from his "obituary" of Paul Sweezy

-- the context that De Long was perfectly capable of supplying four
years ago, when Sweezy was still alive:

***** The Wayback machine

* To: pen-l at xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
* Subject: The Wayback machine
* From: Brad De Long
* Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 16:08:27 -0800

I owe the context for a Sweezy quote from _The Present as History_...

The publication in 1952 of Stalin's _Economic Problems of Socialism
in the USSR_ would make possible today a more satisfactory reply to
Mr. Kazahaya on the law of value under socialism. Briefly, Stalin's
position is that the law of value still continues to operate under
socialism to the extent that certain features of capitalism,
particularly the operation of the price mechanism in the agricultural
sector of the economy, have not yet been eliminated. Under full
communism, on the other hand, the law of value will no longer apply.
In the light of this explanation, which seems to me entirely sound, I
should like to amend the statement which Mr. Kazahaya criticizes, by
substituting "communist" for "socialist" and "communism" for
"socialism." It would then read as follows: "In the economics of a
communist society the theory of planning should hold the same basic
position as the theory of value in the economics of a capitalist
society. Value and planning are as much opposed, adn for the same
reasons, as capitalism and communism." This conveys my meaning more
accurately than the original wording and is, I think entirely in
accord with Stalin's view...

*****

So, Sweezy wished to clarify the meanings of the terms "socialism"
and "communism" by saying that the law of value still continues to
operate under socialism to the extent that economy is capitalistic,
i.e., governed by market discipline, whereas it won't under communism
worth its name. As Jim Devine said four years ago, "Well, this is a
pretty mild and inconsequential thing to agree with Stalin [or the
Soviet economist(s) who wrote the work attributed to Stalin] about"
(at
).

Perhaps, De Long thinks that we must insist that the earth is flat if
Stalin wrote that the earth is round. :-0

Posted by: stephen philion on March 1, 2004 07:21 AM

____

I agree. Not your finest hour, Mr. DeLong.

Your "update" is petty and wrong. What you wrote is NOT value-neutral, not at all. You picked out a very specific piece from a man who wrote volumes, quoted it out of context, and noted the very worst thing about it.

A parallel comes to mind: the selective reading of John Kerry's biography that the Republicans are currently engaged in. They ignore all the context, they ignore all the details of his life, and they snip out a few words that make the man sound bad.

"John Kerry called himself a war hero. John Kerry voted against every new weapons system. Fill in the blank: John Kerry is a ____."

It's a cheap shot.

Posted by: Kent on March 1, 2004 07:53 AM

____

Ah. Finally!: "So, Sweezy wished to clarify the meanings of the terms "socialism" and "communism" by saying that the law of value still continues to operate under socialism to the extent that economy is capitalistic, i.e., governed by market discipline, whereas it won't under communism worth its name. As Jim Devine said four years ago, "Well, this is a pretty mild and inconsequential thing to agree with Stalin [or the Soviet economist(s) who wrote the work attributed to Stalin] about""

Finally somebody willing to say that pretending to receive instruction from J.V. Stalin on technical matters of economics is really not such a bad thing after all.

Posted by: Brad DeLong on March 1, 2004 08:04 AM

____

Delong
Asshole

Now I didn't say these two words are linked. If you think I said this you are showing your own perspective on things and don't say I'm linking these two words. Further, the word asshole is merely a value neutral term for part of a human body.

(I am so clever! No wonder I is a college professor.)

Posted by: Henry Adling on March 1, 2004 08:08 AM

____

Finally somebody willing to say that pretending to receive instruction from J.V. Stalin on technical matters of economics is really not such a bad thing after all.


--actually, as surely you know, sweezy would use such 'instruction' to refute Stalin's take on political economy. James Devine is right, you take something inocuous and turn it into a matter of scandal.

Posted by: steve philion on March 1, 2004 08:16 AM

____

One thing I forgot to say.

Dr. Delong says:
*snip*
Yet here they are: old (and new) leftists wrestling with (and losing to) their own bad consciences:
*snip*

Brad, this explanation doesn't make sense, either. I read through the comments, and I don't see any bad consciences.

Even if I'm wront about some of the others, your claim of "bad conscience" certainly doesn't apply to me. I had never heard of Mr. Sweezy before today. (My training is in moral philosophy and theology, not economics.) I don't know and don't care one way or the other about whether he was or was not a Stalinist dupe. What bothers me is the cheap tactics in your attack on him. Those I can recognize even without knowing all the facts of the case.

And although I don't know everything, I can read. And I can see that the quote you noted is a lot less damning when placed in its proper context. Just like John Kerry's votes vis-a-vis weapons systems are defensible, in context. You may not agree with them, but they are not obviously ludicrous or evil.

If you think Sweezy was evil, or complicit in evil, or at least ludicrously wrongheaded, fine. But you'll need to write something a lot more persuasive than your little cut-and-paste job to convince anyone.

In general, I'm a big fan of your writings. But I really think you need to apologize for this one. (For what it's worth.)

Posted by: Kent on March 1, 2004 08:20 AM

____

Oh, yes!! I have seen the light!! The material economic conditions of a society have no relation at all with their beliefs and actions. History is just how great men showed the light of reason to the unlearned!!! The lie that your ideology is influenced by your social class has been exposed!!

Posted by: CarlosC on March 1, 2004 08:33 AM

____

Carlos, the same "material economic conditions" produced Milton Friedman and Paul Sweezy. So what's the relation between the conditions and their beliefs and actions? Oh, I know, it's complicated. Thanks. We really needed Marxism to tell us that.

Stephen, this is exactly what I'm talking about. Spending your time today reading and debating about whether the "law of value" would be operative in socialist societies but not communist societies is roughly the equivalent of spending your time debating the evolution of the Elvish language in Middle-Earth. Let it go.

Posted by: Steve Carr on March 1, 2004 08:46 AM

____

I agree. I am Not A Marxist. I can't stand Stalin or people who have problems admitting how nasty Soviet Communism was. I read this blog as a convenient pointer to useful articles on economic policy.

And my position on this whole silly matter is that DeLong's quote was petty and stupid. He's obviously misrepresented the context of it, but even if he didn't, it's hardly responsible to make such an assertion about somebody without any real backup or background. It's rather indistinguishable from the sort of right-wing mudslinging that DeLong obviously loathes.

Posted by: Ian Montgomerie on March 1, 2004 09:01 AM

____

For some reason I was thinking of Paul Baran the other day and thought I should re-read Monopoly Capital, which I have not looked at since 1973. Now I see this post, and the mostly silly emotional comments on the post and poster, and would humbly suggest that : (1) no apology is required from Professor de Long since Sweezy was definitely guilty of crimes against basic intellectual honesty and was so for several decades; (ii) it may have been in bad taste to give this pop quiz at the time of Sweezy's death, but this is perhaps inherent in the form of the blog; (iii) Sweezy will be remembered for Monopoly Capital and probably not for much else (Monopoly and Competition in the English Coal Trade ?); (iv) those of you out there who are squawking at Prof de Long ... when was the last time you read anything of Sweezy's ?; (v) Marxism will (and must) be chiefly remembered for its criminal policies but it provides an intellectual foundation for historical analysis that modern liberalism does not and Sweezy contributed to that analysis.

Posted by: John M on March 1, 2004 09:08 AM

____

In response to the very first post - actually, DeLong was to my knowledge wrong to describe Stalin as "genocidal". "Mass murderer" would be the more correct term. Overuse of the word "genocide" is one of my pet peeves. It refers to a policy of targeting an entire culture/religion for extermination (via killing, deporting, or whatever). Stalin predominantly massacred those who got in his way, irregardless of their culture or religion. Some people bore more of the brunt than others (e.g. Ukrainians, the Kulak economic class) but the policies that killed very many of them weren't specifically created to kill all of them.

Posted by: Ian Montgomerie on March 1, 2004 09:13 AM

____

Just a note. The point at issue in Sweezy's receiving instruction from J.V. Stalin is technical but not minor. To say (as Sweezy did) that the operation of the Law of Value is superseded (either partially or completely) under socialism is to say that socialism partakes (to some degree at least) of utopia: market exploitation, production in response to price signals rather than in response to human needs, et cetera are all withering away in Sweezy's original vision of socialism. Where Stalin corrects Sweezy is in transferring those utopian aspirations to something called "communism" that will never be reached.

Sweezy is (originally) saying that really existing socialist countries are (or soon will be) obviously happier and better places to live than capitalist countries. Stalin is saying that they won't--and that a technical Marxist economic analysis demonstrates that they won't.

Posted by: Brad DeLong on March 1, 2004 09:15 AM

____

Sweezy will be remembered for Monopoly Capital and probably not for much else (Monopoly and Competition in the English Coal Trade ?); (iv) those of you out there who are squawking at Prof de Long ... when was the last time you read anything of Sweezy's ?;

--and the sweezy-dobb debate will just be forgotten? odd, i thought it generated and still generates considerable discussion among historians, economists, sociologists,...marxist and non-marxist alike...
let's see, i've read recent writings in the past year or two that paul wrote in MR. i've reread sections of Monopoly Capital. Ellen Wood's work on the transition to capitalism got me rereading the debates in the Hilton series on the dobb-sweezy debate and the brenner debates...

Posted by: steve philion on March 1, 2004 09:20 AM

____

Was it widely known in 1952 that Stalin was a genocidal tyrant or are we demanding that Sweezy required foreknowledge of hindsight?

Posted by: Jack on March 1, 2004 09:23 AM

____

"It's hard to imagine Brad Delong accumulating a resume like this one" [link to Sweezy's resume].

Actually, I think Brad's exceeded that of Sweezy. (I'll agree with the person above who noted that after the late 1930s, the list given in the linked resume for Sweezy was essentially self-published; mostly Monthly Review articles or monographs). With the added value that Brad's predictions and prognostications are more directionally correct than Sweezy's.

Would you rather be famous & fabluously wrong or relatively obscure and correct?

Posted by: Tom on March 1, 2004 10:43 AM

____

Jack writes:
>
> Was it widely known in 1952 that Stalin was a genocidal tyrant
> or are we demanding that Sweezy required foreknowledge of
> hindsight?

I suppose if you didn't want to call him a "tyrant" you could fall back on another term (hmm, would "unelected all-powerful leader and object of an extensive self-promulgated personality cult" do it? And that was clear a long time before 1952. As far as the genocide goes, a defense based on Stalin's innocence of others' ignorance would be really, really tough by then. Plus, some of this stuff was absolutely publicized; google on the search terms "Stalin show trials" (without quotes) some day when you have a few hundred hours to spend looking at the output and going out to verify stuff at the library. A truly thinking person should definitely have known something very bad was going on by the 30s, and many did figure this out. Others presumably looked past this towards some greater good that world socialism was supposed to attain.

Posted by: Jonathan King on March 1, 2004 10:49 AM

____

Actually, I think Brad's exceeded that of Sweezy.

--in length of pages, perhaps, in substance, not even close.

Posted by: steve philion on March 1, 2004 10:55 AM

____

In the 1970s, a number of folks resurrected the hackneyed old left slogan "left in form, right in essence" to criticize the ultra-left, especially the Trotskysists. Brad's comments on Paul Sweezy bring to mind a play on that formula, "wrong in form, right in substance."

That Sweezy was all too often an apologist for Stalinism is indeed true, right down to his rather forceful defense of Maoism and Cultural Revolution.

That the occasion of the man's death is not exactly the appropriate time to be making such political critiques is just as true.

This is the time to pay attention to my mother's old adage [and probably, Brad's mama as well], "If you don't have something good to say about the man, don't say anything at all."

The end of human life does demand some respect and some decorum.

Leo Casey

Posted by: Leo Casey on March 1, 2004 11:23 AM

____

That Sweezy was all too often an apologist for Stalinism is indeed true, right down to his rather forceful defense of Maoism and Cultural Revolution.

--huh? the MR published Mao's "Critique of Soviet Economics, " on JVS's, "Economic Problems of Socialism, " from '52,...gosh...Sweezy's book cowritten with Bettleheim 'On the Transition to Socialism" is clearly anti-Stalinist...etc. etc. etc. etc.

Posted by: steve philion on March 1, 2004 11:34 AM

____

Well Leo,
I once saw the NYtimes issue a CORRECTION for an obituary. The deceased had been active in politics and labor, and it seems that the obituary was supplied by friends or family.
The next day, the NYtimes issued the correction, saying, basically "This man was a scoundrel, and we want to correct the impression that he was an upstanding citizen".
If only the rest of the Times had the then high standards of the obits, maybe Judith Miller would be out on her ass now.

Posted by: marky on March 1, 2004 11:37 AM

____

The obits are the only section of the Times that are rigorously fact checked. Sad but true and a true reflection of how sad the Times has become.

Like much of the left today, Chumpsky comes to mind, Sweezy was a man who hated liberty and loved tyranny.

Posted by: Karlito on March 1, 2004 11:58 AM

____

It was widely known, by anyone who cared to look that Stalin was a genocidal tyrant in the mid 1920's.

Posted by: radek on March 1, 2004 12:07 PM

____

Personally, I hope Brad DeLong is not remembered for his cheap attack on Paul Sweezy here, or his earlier cheap attack on Edward Said. I hope he's remembered as a fine neoclassical economist who didn't let his belief in markets get in the way of fiercely criticizing those who use markets as a shibboleth or a propaganda tool. Some people deserve to be remembered for the evil they did, but Brad isn't one of them, and I don't think Paul Sweezy was either. I'd hope Sweezy would be remembered for making an important contribution to the theory of oligopoly pricing, for writing the best popularization of Capital in English, and for trying (not very successfully IMHO) to bring Marxian and Keynesian economics into communication with one another.

This may be apocryphal, but I'll repeat it anyway. I've heard that when Wolfgang Stolper was applying for permanent residency in the U.S. following WWII, Sweezy provided testimony assuring the authorities that Stolper had no ties to the Nazis. Stolper, I'm told, said that he didn't trust any of Sweezy's economics, but that he'd trust Sweezy with his life. Not a bad way to be remembered.

Posted by: Michael McIntyre on March 1, 2004 12:30 PM

____

"[The amended statement] conveys my meaning more accurately than the original wording and is, I think entirely in accord with Stalin’s view." - Sweezy

I could be wrong here - never having heard of the guy before now - but personally, I don't think Brad's interpreting Sweezy the way that I would from that sentence. To my mind, Sweezy was saying that the revised statement expressed his meaning more clearly than before, and it happens to agree with Stalin's viewpoint. Unless by "expressing more clearly" he means "a complete about-face", I don't really see the problem, I must admit...

Posted by: Paul on March 1, 2004 12:34 PM

____

Filing in the blank:

Paul Sweezy is a -------

corpse.

Which is an observable.

Posted by: Stirling Newberry on March 1, 2004 12:41 PM

____

Brad says:

"Just a note. The point at issue in Sweezy's receiving instruction from J.V. Stalin is technical but not minor. To say (as Sweezy did) that the operation of the Law of Value is superseded (either partially or completely) under socialism is to say that socialism partakes (to some degree at least) of utopia: market exploitation, production in response to price signals rather than in response to human needs, et cetera are all withering away in Sweezy's original vision of socialism. Where Stalin corrects Sweezy is in transferring those utopian aspirations to something called "communism" that will never be reached.

Sweezy is (originally) saying that really existing socialist countries are (or soon will be) obviously happier and better places to live than capitalist countries. Stalin is saying that they won't--and that a technical Marxist economic analysis demonstrates that they won't."

I say:

Um, Brad, just going by your interpretation in those two paragraphs... doesn't that mean that Stalin (or at least whoever wrote his paper) was CORRECT, and thus that it's hardly unreasonable to agree with his clarification?

I mean, according to how you say it, Sweeney originally argued that actual Communist states could achieve a sort of "economic utopia". Then the Soviets themselves officially say "no we don't, we're not utopia". It seems rather reasonable to take their word for that if you didn't believe it already!

Brad, do you believe any of the following?

1) Stalin was simply incorrect to say that Soviet Communism wasn't going to achieve economic utopia any time soon
2) If Sweeney harbored any belief that Soviet Communism had practical utopian elements, he should not drop those beliefs because the Soviets come out and admit it didn't
3) If Sweeney was in fact talking purely about "theoretical" Communism but hadn't made that clear, he should not have made the distinction clear in response to a Soviet statement that his ideas didn't apply to their economy

I don't find any of those three beliefs reasonable but given your understanding of events, it looks like one of them is required to justify your attack.

Posted by: Ian Montgomerie on March 1, 2004 01:51 PM

____

Many issues got confused in this thread. Is Marxian economic theory correct? Was Stalin a bloodthirsty tyrant? Was Sweezy a good economist? Was Sweezy a fool in having a high opinion of Stalin? I shall attempt to disentangle at least some of these questions.
A) What are the crucial theses (one may almost call them dogmas), that distinguish Marxian economics from other socialist economic theories? I think there are (at least) four:
1. Marx's labour theory of value is correct, therefore:
2. Under Capitalism absolute and relative immiseration of the population is unavoidable, but:
3. Capitalists will use ALL means at their disposal to hold on their economic, (and due to the Theory of Historical Materialism also political) power, and therefore:
4. (at least a temporary) Dictatorship of the Proletariat is unavoidable and desirable, and:
5. After the Dictatorship of the Proletariat the State will shrivel away, all (economic) contradictions will be solved, and an unprecedented era of economic wellbeing and social happiness will ensue that will more than justify any possible suffering of the transition to Marxian Socialism.
If you don't hold these theses you have no right to call yourself a Marxist and Marx himself, Lenin, Stalin, Mao etc. did and would heap scorn and obloquy on you.
B)Was Stalin a bloodthirsty and paranoiac tyrant? Certainly, by 1953 when Sweezy's quoted book appeared, there could not be any doubt that he was. This was almost two decades after the Soviet show-trials, slavishly imitated later in all the satellites, after the liquidation of the Kulaks, the Gulag archipelago,after literally millions of people perishing in Siberia. Whether the systematic deportation of, say, the Tartars to Siberia would count as genocide I leave to the tender conscience of the defenders of Stalin.
C). If you don't subscribe to any of the four theses mentined in Point A, you cannot regard Sweezy a great economist.
D). Was Sweezy a fool? After Koestler and Orwell, after the preparation for the Jewish doctors' show-trial, after Khrushchov's famous speech there was only one alternative to unconditional recanting: you were either a fool or a deeply repellent human being.

Some interesting questions still remain. How can there still be believers in the Marxian economics rather than of, say, Scandinavian type Social Democracy? Worse, how can Stalin still find defenders, as this thread shows he can? How can some supposedly intelligent and highly educated contributors be so uttely devoid of any knowledge of modern history? Of course most of them have no memory of, or were not even alive in 1952, but Sweezy was a 42 year old university professor. However, there are many 42 year old university professors who believe in Predestination, or in the Infallibility of the Pope, or that the Lord has given the Land of Israel to the Jews, that drinking alcohol is an unconditional evil in the eyes of Allah, or slaughtering cows in the eyes of Brahma. The excuses for bloodshed are inexhaustible. Homo Sapiens is an irrational and repulsive animal.

Posted by: Thomas T. Schweitzer on March 1, 2004 02:36 PM

____

there are two points I would like to make.
1. It is tasteless and inane to post the kind of message Mr. DELONG has posted. Most of us have been raised to treat the dead (intellectuals included)--- even if we disagree with them on some points --- with some respect. The out-of-context comment seems irrelevant and callous at best.
2. The substantive point about the 'law of value' under socialism is both deep and controversial. Although socialist theory is in need of serious rejuvenation, treating the theory of value as irrelevant will not do. I happen to think that both Sweezy and Stalin, and even Mao and Bettelheim were wrong and far too economic determinist. But they all engaged seriously with some of the key questions with regards to the political economy of socialism. Whether Stalin was genocidal or not--- evidence points to his being a mass murderer--- is not relevant to judging the merits of Sweezy either as a theorist or as a person.It is sad to see someone who thinks he is an intellectual to launch a mischievous attack and others who don't seem to have read anything by Sweezy, Stalin or others who tried to think about the law of value under socialism responding without realizing how intellectually and culturally impoverished an intellectual Mr. De Long must be to do what he seems to be doing here.

Posted by: Haider A. Khan on March 1, 2004 03:50 PM

____

"1. It is tasteless and inane to post the kind of message Mr. DELONG has posted. Most of us have been raised to treat the dead (intellectuals included)--- even if we disagree with them on some points --- with some respect. The out-of-context comment seems irrelevant and callous at best."

If someone was disreputable during life, that remains true after they're dead and at the moment they died. Rose colored glasses are not useful at any time, funeral or no.

Your comment is also incorrect. The odd convention is simply to be overly positive about someone shortly after their death (and only if they weren't conceived of as sufficiently evil during life). Once their corpse has been in the ground for a while, criticism of them returns to normal.

Posted by: Ian Montgomerie on March 1, 2004 04:24 PM

____

Stalin tried to think about the law of value??
I am SO glad Brad decided to make this post.
It's been quite revealing to see the
"Stalin as polymath" portrait of the 1st or 2nd most murderous tyrant in history.
"Well, he killed tens of millions, but he had a lot to say about the delicate question of the theory of value", which sounds like
"Mr. Lecter had a remarkable ability to deliver erudite lectures on Bach's choral works, in which he indulged us while serving sweetbreads he had harvested just that morning." to me.

Posted by: marky on March 1, 2004 04:27 PM

____

Brad Delong is a _Wanko_.

My thinking is that a million commentaries and books come along, intellectuals all citing and quoting, and to extend this quote to mean a great deal more than what it is, is to take a shot at a person's life's work, in some underhanded and typically anti-communist way. Stalin did inherit a peasant's rebellion built on the only logical response to capitalist exploitation: collective action by cheap, illiterate labor. Perhaps Stalin had his staff ghostwriter write a book, before he killed the guy. And perhaps that book said something sensible. To agree with a genocidal murderer on some point about the evolution of Marxist economics is not to condone genocidal murder.

Brad Delong is a _Wanko_.

Posted by: John on March 1, 2004 05:43 PM

____

Adolf Hitler thought the Treaty of Versailles was too punitive. John Maynard Keynes thought the Treaty of Versailles was too punitive. Adolf Hitler was a genocidal murderer. John Maynard Keynes was a _____.

Posted by: jon on March 1, 2004 06:05 PM

____

Yes, but would J.M.Keynes make a point of his agreement with Hitler? I think not.

Posted by: marky on March 1, 2004 06:08 PM

____

"...but would J.M.Keynes make a point of his agreement with Hitler?"

See the preface to the German edition of the General Theory.

"And if I can contribute a single morsel to a full meal prepared by German economists, particularly adjusted to German conditions, I will be satisfied..."

"The theory of aggregated production, which is the point of the following book, nevertheless can be much easier adapted to the conditions of a totalitarian state [eines totalen Staates] than the theory of production and distribution of a given production put forth under conditions of free competition and a large degree of laissez-faire."

http://www.blancmange.net/tmh/articles/foregt.html

Posted by: Sandwichman on March 1, 2004 06:46 PM

____

"I just guess that JPE wasn't publishing marxist works in the 1950s, don't you suppose?

Sweezy and other marxists in the middle part of last century paid a high personal price for their political and economic beliefs."

Or maybe by the 1950's their work had diverged so much from mainstream economics that, even without HUAC's interference, little of it could have been published. Besides, where's the Marxist lit in JPE or AER now? I guess we have to consult the Monthly Review.

And please do enlighten Ukrainians, Tatars, etc. about "high personal prices". While it's obviously unfortunate the US wasn't able avoid some the 50's paranoia, it was but a tiny speck of a drop compared to an ocean of famine, murder and madness in the USSR. So forgive me if I'm glib re: the suffering of American Marxist intellectuals who's views meshed with known Soviet thugs.


Posted by: Stephane on March 1, 2004 07:54 PM

____

Paul Sweezy made important contributions to Marxist economics. His analysis predicts that a mature capitalist economy is always in danger of falling into stagnation, and recent history confirms this. Business Week wrote that "their analysis of the problems of capitalism are just plausible enough to be disturbing". Sweezy also established a magazine (MR) and a press (MR Press) that have published a great deal of stimulating material from a radical perspective. Very few other radical economists, if any, have accomplished anything comparable.
Of course, along the way, Sweezy attracted enemies. He nearly went to jail during the McCarthy era for giving a lecture on socialism.

Posted by: John F on March 1, 2004 09:06 PM

____

You are a master at misrepresentation of the views of others and can't differentiate between epistemology and your own psychopathology:

I admit I did not expect such a large number of people to react by saying, essentially, that (a) what Sweezy did in compromising with Stalin was a horrible, unforgivable crime, and (b) because it is so horrible and unforgivable, what DeLong did in bringing up this crime is horrible and unforgivable because DeLong is (c) blackening the memory of a great and good man. There's a certain problem of logic here: after all, the category "great and good man" does not usually go with the category "horrible and unforgivable crime."

As a matter of empiricism and logic, (a) is false.

Did Tobin, Solow etc. apologize for working with Kennedy etc. during the Vietnam war? *That's* complicity in an unforgiveable crime.

Here's the full quote that DeLong hacked in order to disgrace a scholar, who, like every other scholar got plenty of things wrong:

The publication in 1952 of Stalin's _Economic Problems of Socialism
in the USSR_ would make possible today a more satisfactory reply to
Mr. Kazahaya on the law of value under socialism. Briefly, Stalin's
position is that the law of value still continues to operate under
socialism to the extent that certain features of capitalism,
particularly the operation of the price mechanism in the agricultural
sector of the economy, have not yet been eliminated. Under full
communism, on the other hand, the law of value will no longer apply.
In the light of this explanation, which seems to me entirely sound, I
should like to amend the statement which Mr. Kazahaya criticizes, by
substituting "communist" for "socialist" and "communism" for
"socialism." It would then read as follows: "In the economics of a
communist society the theory of planning should hold the same basic
position as the theory of value in the economics of a capitalist
society. Value and planning are as much opposed, adn for the same
reasons, as capitalism and communism." This conveys my meaning more
accurately than the original wording and is, I think entirely in
accord with Stalin's view...

As you can see this is a simple analytical dispute of minor importance regarding some arcana in Marxian political economy. Nothing suggests compromising or endorsing Stalin's policies on the elimination of his political enemies. No where does Sweezy say or write,however well disguised, "Kill 'em all Joe"

So Sweezy read a book by Stalin and got into an analytical dispute over a minor point, big fucking deal.

"In his social and political views Schumpeter was anything but radical. In fact one could make the case -although I do not propose to do so- that Schumpeter was not merely conservative in his social views but reactionary. In his most private thoughts, as suggested by a recent biography, he seemed to possess an insatiable longing for the glorious later days of the Hapsburg Monarchy. Moreover, the most charitable characterization of his attitude toward Nazi Germany in the dark days of the 1930s and the Second World War is that he was ambivalent." [Nathan Rosenberg "Exploring the Black Box" page 47]

And yet Brad has no trouble writing about Schumpeter as a great economist. And, as Joan Robinson was fond of pointing out, Schumpeter's views are just Marx with the adjectives changed.

Posted by: Diodorus on March 1, 2004 09:40 PM

____

I happened to discuss one of Sweezy's contributions to economics here:

http://csf.colorado.edu/pkt/pktauthors/Vienneau.Robert/LTV-FAQ.html

I also happen to reference works published in AER (1979), CJE (1987, 1989, 1997, 1998), EJ (1948, 1958, 1997), JEL (1971, 1974) and RES (1957). If I were to update my FAQ, I would add a reference to
a Journal of Economic Theory (1982) paper by Lipietz.

I happen to think that that there isn't more discussion of Marx in mainstream economics journal reflects more on a pitiful history of intolerance among economists than the worth of Marx's work.

And nowhere above have I made any judgement on Stalin or the USSR, with a bad conscience or not.

Posted by: Robert on March 1, 2004 11:34 PM

____

At Max Sawicky's website, there's a link to an extended passage from Marx' "Grundrisse" on the relevant topic here, "the law of value". It is Marx at about his most clear. What interested me was that Marx says that the law of value, whereby the output of production is measured by extacted, generalized labor-time, whereas the development of the technical productivity of the "forces of production" increases by leaps and bounds, devaluing the labor-time measure, precisely on the basis of the extention of the hold of the "law of value" on the markets from which capital is accumulated, is an ongoing contradiction, which thereby will fall away, effectively yielding thereby some new form of economic organization: this is an application of Hegelian "dialectical" logic, with its eo ipso transitions. Since, as we all know, mankind never poses itself a problem without the means of its solution being already at hand, just as a question necessarily opens up the field of its possible answers- (??!!???!!!!!?????). Marx never gets to the point of what this organizational transformation is and how it is to occur. He simply clearly delineates the split between the requirements of the sphere of production and those of the sphere of market exchange. But this description is not altogether daft. And it seems to me that the problem of organizational transformation and that of the realization of human potentials from the accumulation of wealth driven by the imperatives of capital reproduction and accumulation is still with us. International deflation, anyone?

Posted by: john c. halasz on March 2, 2004 12:52 AM

____

Besides, where's the Marxist lit in JPE or AER now? I guess we have to consult the Monthly Review.

--consult european economics journals, they're more interested in history in any event.

Posted by: steve philion on March 2, 2004 07:14 AM

____

I can't express how disappointed I am that someone like Brad -- teaching at such a famed institution as Berkeley -- could behave this way.

"a value-neutral description" ??? Either Brad is not so bright or he thinks the rest of us are idiots. I'm not sure which is worse.

The excerpt that he has tailored to stand in for the life and work of an important scholar such as Paul Sweezy is nothing less than an ad hominem attack. That the attack is against someone recently deceased makes it even more cowardly.

Is it envy that made Brad do this? Does Brad wish he had half the courage? Half the intellectual depth as Sweezy? I don't know. Regardless it's sad to see a supposed scholar stoop so low.

Posted by: Victor on March 2, 2004 09:37 AM

____

A decent remembrance.

Paul Sweezy, 93, Marxist Publisher and Economist, Dies
By LOUIS UCHITELLE

New York Times
Published: March 2, 2004

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 generation."

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.

Posted by: Eric Glynn on March 2, 2004 01:47 PM

____

I am not an economist, nor a Marxist, and certainly no apologist for Stalin, and had never heard of Paul Sweezy until reading Brad's page and the NY Times obit.

If his work on oligopolies was original, it does seem a worthwhile contrib.

Here in Oz, lots of things (TV, news, foods, telcos) are duopolies, and they often do not compete as hard as one would like. Only newcomer upstarts bring on price competition. There may have been a fair bit of this in the US when I grew up there in the 50s.

If Paul S really thought of that, he deserves some credit. In spite of his indefensible admiration of Stalin. True belief dies hard, I guess.

Lastly, I have to mention that 30-40% of Russians now profess admiration for Stalin, in full knowledge of his crimes. Being strong, rather than right, is what counts for them.

As it seems to be for some supporters of some other regimes.

JHH


Posted by: Jeffrey Harris on March 3, 2004 06:50 AM

____

Students and scholars who are interested in critical appraisals of Sweezy's, Baran's, and the Monthly Review's historical and theoretical place in American Marxism, by authors who know and continue to work in the marxian tradition, I suggest the introduction to _Rethinking Marxism - Struggles in Marxist Theory: Essays for Harry Magdoff and Paul Sweezy_ (1985). The introduction by Stephen A. Resnick and Richard D. Wolff is available here:

http://www.nd.edu/~remarx/books/books/rm.html

Posted by: Eric Glynn on March 3, 2004 07:26 AM

____

I only made it half way through this thread.
I have read very little written by P Sweezy actually nothing written before 1989. Then I read an article in L'Unita (no longer official organ of the Italian communist party but still 100% owned by the Italian communist party). L'Unita had a generally favourable view of the events 1989 but they wanted to give the other view --roughly that it was a stumble on the path to the Red Dawn. I think they had trouble finding an Italian willing to say that. Pauls Sweezy had no doubt about the eventual triumph of communism in 1989.

Often it helps to be completely nuts to be a great economic theoris. Sweezy certainly isn't the only crazy economist but he was certanly mentally unusual.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on March 3, 2004 08:55 AM

____

"The only time delong could touch sweezy is after his death...nota bene the timing...
Posted by stephen philion at February 29, 2004 07:50 PM "

econ161.berkeley.edu/ TCEH/Slouch_Social%20Democracy22.html

econ161.berkeley.edu/TCEH/Slouch_Soviet26.html

Nota benne davvero Stephen. Almeno avresti potuto fare un google di Delong e Sweezy. Avresti notato che Delong ha "toccato" Sweezy quando era vivo.


Posted by: Robert Waldmann on March 3, 2004 09:11 AM

____

Professor DeLong:

Anyone who read your ungracious comment would believe that Sweezy was a Stalinist. In fact, he was never a member of the Communist Party and criticized its lack of intellectual freedom; he was always understanding of those of his colleagues who had, he believed, been forced to the right by the need to earn a living; and he was a lifelong friend of Joseph Schumpeter's, which is hardly what one would expect of a lickspittle ideologue.

I hope your sins are all as venial as that of taking one of Stalin's theoretical points seriously in 1952 (not long after the days of "Uncle Joe" and well before the revelations of the Gulag), and that after your death someone isn't prepared to consign you to oblivion with as little humanity.

(P.S.: I will add, in the interests of disclosure, that Monthly Review Press will publish a book of mine in January, "The Fiction of a Thinkable World"; but I never had the pleasure of meeting its founder, Paul Sweezy.)

Posted by: Michael Steinberg on March 4, 2004 06:35 PM

____

Post a comment
















__