60th Anniversary of MONTHLY REVIEW

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On September 17, 2009, Monthly Review celebrated its 60th anniversary at the New York Society for Ethical Culture in New York City. Five-hundred enthusiastic supporters gathered to hear remarks by Robert McChesney, Grace Lee Boggs, John Bellamy Foster, Fred Magdoff, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Michael Tigar, and hear music by Toshi Reagon.

More than six decades ago, Paul Sweezy and his good friend, the labour journalist Leo Huberman, had long dreamed of founding a magazine offering a forum for insightful comment and analysis of world and national events from a specifically socialist perspective. The two already had a history of activism in the radical cauldron spawned by the Great Depression, the rise of the labour movement, and the World War II. By 1948, with the accelerating crises of Cold War and domestic repression – and with seed money from Sweezy’s good friend and Harvard colleague, the literary historian and critic F.O. Matthiessen – they pressed forward with their plan for what would become Monthly Review.

It was to be a publication that would stand against class exploitation and opposed to the organisation of production for private profit rather than social need. Paul and Leo maintained that poverty, inequality in wealth and income, racial oppression, imperialism and waste were permanent and endemic, not atavistic or peripheral, features of capitalist society. As intellectuals they saw as their task demystifying the current order as thoroughly as possible and to practice, as Paul Baran would later put it, “the continuous, systematic and comprehensive confrontation of reality with reason”.

Monthly Review was launched in May 1949, initially reaching only a few hundred subscribers, in what was a grave time for radical dissent. The enveloping reactionary, brutal and vulgar system of oppression – McCarthyism – was felt in every corner of society, impacting trade unions, government, publishing, film, television and education. It made the survival, even the very existence, of the fledgling Monthly Review enterprise all the more surprising.

But survive it did.

The first issue featured the lead article Why Socialism? by Albert Einstein. From the first issue of Monthly Review, it spoke out for socialism and against US imperialism, and is still doing so today.

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