The Monthly Review, established in 1949, is an independent socialist magazine published monthly in New York City. The publication remains the longest continuously published socialist magazine in the United States. The journal has an impact factor of 0.460.
|Editor||John Bellamy Foster|
|Categories||Marxism, socialism, political economy, economics, social science, philosophy|
|Frequency||Monthly (double issue July–August)|
|Publisher||Monthly Review Foundation|
|Based in||New York City|
Following the failure of the independent 1948 Presidential campaign of Henry A. Wallace, two former supporters of the Wallace effort met at the farm in New Hampshire where one of them was living. The two men were literary scholar and Christian socialist F.O. "Matty" Matthiessen and Marxist economist Paul Sweezy, who were former colleagues at Harvard University. Matthiessen came into an inheritance after his father died in an automobile accident in California and had no pressing need for the money. Matthiessen made the offer to Sweezy to underwrite "that magazine [Sweezy] and Leo Huberman were always talking about," committing the sum of $5,000 per year for three years. Matthiessen's funds made the launch of Monthly Review possible, although the amount of the seed money was reduced to $4,000 per year in the second and third years by the executors of Matthiessen's estate following his suicide in 1950.
Although Matthiessen was the financial angel of the new publication, from the outset the editorial task was handled by Sweezy and his co-thinker, the left wing popular writer Leo Huberman. The author of an array of books and pamphlets during the 1930s and early 1940s, the New York University-educated Huberman worked full-time on Monthly Review from its establishment until his death of a heart attack in 1968.
Sweezy and Huberman were complementary figures guiding the publication, with Sweezy's theoretical bent and writing ability put to use for a majority of the editorial content, while Huberman took charge of the business and administrative aspects of the enterprise. Sweezy remained at home in New Hampshire, traveling down to the New York City once a month to read manuscripts, where Huberman conducted the day-to-day operations of the magazine along with his wife, Gerty Huberman, and family friend Sybil Huntington May.
Briefly joining Sweezy and Huberman as a third founding editor of Monthly Review — although not listed as such on the publication's masthead — was German émigré Otto Nathan (1893-1987). Although his time of editorial association with MR was short, Nathan was instrumental in obtaining what would become a seminal essay for the magazine, a lead piece for the debut May 1949 issue by physicist Albert Einstein entitled "Why Socialism?"
Another key contributor during the first 15 years of MR was economist Paul Baran, frequently considered as the third member of an editorial troika including Sweezy and Huberman. A tenured professor at Stanford University, Baran was one of a very few self-identified Marxists to teach economics at American universities during the Cold War period. Baran worked closely with Sweezy on a book regarded as a landmark in Marxist theory entitled Monopoly Capital, although he died of a heart attack prior to the work's first publication in 1966.
Monthly Review launched in 1949 with a circulation of just 450 copies, most of whom were personal acquaintances of either Huberman or Sweezy. The magazine's ideology and readership closely paralleled that of the independent Marxist weekly newspaper The National Guardian, established in 1948. Despite a conservative political climate in the United States, the magazine quickly reached a critical mass of subscribers, with its paid circulation rising to 2,500 in 1950 and to 6,000 in 1954.
During the McCarthyism of the early 1950s, editors Paul Sweezy and Leo Huberman were targeted for "subversive activities." Sweezy's case, tried by New Hampshire Attorney General, went all the way to the Supreme Court and became a seminal case on freedom of speech when the Court ruled in his favor.
In 1953 the magazine added veteran radical Scott Nearing to the magazine's ranks. From that date and for nearly 20 years Nearing authored a monthly column descriptively entitled "World Events". During the Truman and Eisenhower years, a number of left wing intellectuals found a space for their work in MR, including a number that would gain in stature in the ensuing liberalized decade, such as pacifist activist Staughton Lynd (1952), historian William Appleman Williams (1952), and sociologist C. Wright Mills (1958).
From the middle years of the 1960s, radical political theory saw a resurgence in association with the emergence of a New Left in Europe and North America. Monthly Review grew in stature in tandem with this resurgence. While remaining an intellectual journal not oriented towards acquiring a mass readership, circulation of the publication nonetheless grew throughout this era, approaching 9,100 in 1970 before peaking at 11,500 in 1977.
While MR remained essentially a publication with roots in the so-called "Old Left", it was not unfriendly to the young radical movement which grew in conjunction with the Civil Rights Movement and the opposition to conscription and the Vietnam War. Among those associated with the 1960s New Left published by the Monthly Review were C. Wright Mills, Herbert Marcuse, Todd Gitlin, Carl Oglesby, David Horowitz, and Noam Chomsky.
The Monthly Review editorial staff was joined in May 1969 by radical economist Harry Magdoff, replacing Leo Huberman, who had died in 1968. Magdoff, a reader of the publication from its first issue in 1949, bolstered the already well-developed "Third-Worldist" orientation of the publication, based upon revolutionary events in Cuba, China, and Vietnam. Certain Maoist influence made itself felt in the content of the publication in this period.
Monthly Review became steadily more critical of the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s, with editor Paul Sweezy objecting to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the suppression of the Polish trade union "Solidarity" through martial law in 1981. In the latter case, Sweezy declared the incident had proved beyond doubt that
...the Communist regimes of the Soviet bloc have become the expression and the guardians of a new rigidified hierarchical structure which has nothing in common with the kind of socialist society Marxists have always regarded as the goal of modern working class movements."
Despite an apparent decline of the American Left in the 1980s, MR's circulation hovered in the 8,000 range throughout the decade.
From its first issue, Monthly Review attacked the premise that capitalism was capable of infinite growth through Keynesian macroeconomic fine-tuning. Instead, the magazine's editors and leading writers have remained true to the traditional Marxist perspective that capitalist economies contain internal contradictions which will ultimately lead to their collapse and reconstitution on a new socialist basis. Topics of editorial concern have included poverty, unequal distribution of incomes and wealth, racism, imperialism in relations between economically developed and less developed nations, and inefficiencies in production and distribution seen as endemic to the capitalist system.
Although not averse to discussion of esoteric matters of socialist theory, MR was generally characterized by an aversion to doctrinaire citations of Marxist canon in favor of the analysis of real-world economic and historical trends. Readability was emphasized and the use of academic jargon discouraged.
Editors Huberman and Sweezy argued as early as 1952 that massive and expanding military spending was an integral part of the process of capitalist stabilization, driving corporate profits, bolstering levels of employment, and absorbing surplus production. The illusion of an external military threat was required to sustain this system of priorities in government spending, they argued; consequently, effort was made by the editors to challenge the dominant Cold War paradigm of "Democracy versus Communism" in the material published in the magazine.
In its editorial line Monthly Review offered critical support of the Soviet Union during its early years although over time the magazine became increasingly critical of Soviet dedication to Socialism in One Country and peaceful coexistence, seeing that country as playing a more or less conservative role in a world marked by national revolutionary movements. After the Sino-Soviet split of the 1960s, Sweezy and Huberman soon came to see the People's Republic of China as the actual center of the world revolutionary movement.
Monthly Review remained true to an independent orientation throughout its history and never aligned with any specific revolutionary movement or political organization. Many of its articles have been written by academics, journalists, and freelance public intellectuals, including Albert Einstein, Tariq Ali, Isabel Allende, Samir Amin, Julian Bond, Marilyn Buck, G. D. H. Cole, Bernardine Dohrn, W. E. B. Du Bois, Barbara Ehrenreich, Andre Gunder Frank, Eduardo Galeano, Che Guevara, Lorraine Hansberry, Edward Herman, Eric Hobsbawm, Michael Klare, Saul Landau, Michael Parenti, Robert W. McChesney, Ralph Miliband, Marge Piercy, Frances Fox Piven, Adrienne Rich, Jean-Paul Sartre, Daniel Singer, E. P. Thompson, Immanuel Wallerstein, and Raymond Williams.
"The Monthly Review... was and is Marxist, but did not hew to the party line or get into sectarian struggles."
In addition to the U.S.-based magazine, there are seven sister editions of Monthly Review. They are published in Greece; Turkey; Spain; South Korea; as well as separate English, Hindi, and Bengali editions in India.
Monthly Review Press, an allied endeavor, was launched in 1951 in response to the inability of the maverick left-wing journalist I. F. Stone to otherwise find a publisher for his book The Hidden History of the Korean War. Stone's work, which argued that the still ongoing Korean War was not a case of simple Communist military aggression but was rather the product of political isolation, South Korean military buildup, and border provocations, became the first title offered by the MR Press in 1952.
Titles published by the press in its formative years include: The Empire of Oil by Harvey O'Connor (1955), The Political Economy of Growth by Paul Baran (1957), The United States, Cuba, and Castro by historian William Appleman Williams (1963), Fanshen by William Hinton (1966), Monopoly Capital by Paul A. Baran and Paul M. Sweezy (1966), the English translation of Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano (1973), and Unequal Development (1976) and Eurocentrism (1989) by Samir Amin.
In later years Monthly Review Press has published such titles as: Marx's Ecology by John Bellamy Foster; Discourse on Colonialism by Aimé Césaire; The Great Financial Crisis by Fred Magdoff and John Bellamy Foster; and Biology under the Influence by Richard Lewontin and Richard Levins. MR Press is also the U.S. publisher of The Socialist Register, a long-running annual series of topical essays written by radical academics and activists.
From 2005 to 2016, Monthly Review published an associated website, MRzine. At its closure, Monthly Review announced that it would maintain an online archive of the site.
Monthly Review has had six editors listed on its masthead: