Monthly Review

This article is about the American Marxist magazine. For the British periodical (1749–1845), see Monthly Review (London). For the Indonesian periodical (1954-1956), see Review of Indonesia.
Monthly Review: An Independent Socialist Magazine
Editor John Bellamy Foster
Categories Marxism, socialism, political economy, economics, social science, philosophy
Frequency Monthly (double issue July–August)
Publisher Monthly Review Foundation
Country United States
Language English
ISSN 0027-0520
OCLC number 241373379

The Monthly Review, established in 1949, is an independent socialist magazine published monthly in New York City. As of 2015 the publication remains the longest continuously published socialist magazine in the United States. The journal has an impact factor of 0.460.[1]



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 such a magazine to the sum of $5,000 per year for three years. Matthiessen 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.[2]

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.[3]

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.[4]

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?"[5][6]

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.[7]

Monthly Review launched in 1949 with a circulation of just 450 copies, most of whom were personal acquaintances of either Huberman or Sweezy.[8] 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.[9]

McCarthy period

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.[10]

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).[11]

New Left era and after

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.[12] 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.[13]

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.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15] 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."[16]

Despite an apparent decline of the American Left in the 1980s, MR's circulation hovered in the 8,000 range throughout the decade.[17]

Publication today

Since 2006 John Bellamy Foster has been the sole editor, together with Michael D. Yates, as associate editor, assistant editors, and an editorial committee.[18]

Political orientation

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.[7]

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.[17]

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.[19]

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.[20]

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 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.[6]

In 2004, Monthly Review editor John Bellamy Foster told the New York Times

"The Monthly Review... was and is Marxist, but did not hew to the party line or get into sectarian struggles."[10]

Non-English editions

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.[21]

Monthly Review Press

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.[22]

Titles published by the press in its formative years include: The Empire of Oil by Harvey O'Connor (1955), The Political Economy of Growth[23] by Paul Baran (1957), The United States, Cuba, and Castro by historian William Appleman Williams (1963), Fanshen[24] by William Hinton (1966), Monopoly Capital[25] by Paul A. Baran and Paul M. Sweezy (1966), the English translation of Open Veins of Latin America[26] by Eduardo Galeano (1973), and Unequal Development[27] (1976) and Eurocentrism[28] (1989) by Samir Amin.[22]

Harry Braverman (author of Labor and Monopoly Capital[29]) became director of Monthly Review Press in 1967. The present director of the Press is Michael D. Yates (author of Naming the System[30]).

In later years Monthly Review Press has published such titles as: Marx's Ecology[31] by John Bellamy Foster; Discourse on Colonialism[32] by Aimé Césaire; The Great Financial Crisis[33] by Fred Magdoff and John Bellamy Foster; and Biology under the Influence[34] by Richard Lewontin and Richard Levins. MR Press is also the U.S. publisher of The Socialist Register,[35] a long-running annual series of topical essays written by radical academics and activists.

Abstracting and Indexing

According to the Journal Citation Reports, the journal has a 2014 impact factor of 0.460, ranking it 107th out of 161 journals in the category "Political Science".[1]


Monthly Review has had six editors listed on its masthead:[6]


  1. 1 2 "Journals Ranked by Impact: Political Science". 2014 Journal Citation Reports. Web of Science (Social Sciences ed.). Thomson Reuters. 2015.
  2. Phelps, C. (1999). "Introduction: A Socialist Magazine in the American Century". Monthly Review. 51 (1): 1–21. doi:10.14452/MR-051-01-1999-05_1. p. 2-3.
  3. Phelps, C. (1999). "Introduction: A Socialist Magazine in the American Century". Monthly Review. 51 (1): 1–21. doi:10.14452/MR-051-01-1999-05_1. p. 3-4
  4. Savran, S.; Tonak, E. A.; Sweezy, P. M. (1987). "Interview with Paul M. Sweezy". Monthly Review. 38 (11): 1. doi:10.14452/MR-038-11-1987-04_1. p. 32-33
  5. Einstein, A. (2009). "Why Socialism?". Monthly Review. 61 (1): 55–61. doi:10.14452/MR-061-01-2009-05_7. HTML version available at the Monthly Review website: "Why Socialism?". May 1949. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  6. 1 2 3 "About Monthly Review".
  7. 1 2 Phelps, C. (1999). "Introduction: A Socialist Magazine in the American Century". Monthly Review. 51 (1): 1–21. doi:10.14452/MR-051-01-1999-05_1. p. 4-5.
  8. Savran, S.; Tonak, E. A.; Sweezy, P. M. (1987). "Interview with Paul M. Sweezy". Monthly Review. 38 (11): 1. doi:10.14452/MR-038-11-1987-04_1. p. 43-44
  9. Phelps, C. (1999). "Introduction: A Socialist Magazine in the American Century". Monthly Review. 51 (1): 1–21. doi:10.14452/MR-051-01-1999-05_1. p. 7-9.
  10. 1 2 Paul Sweezy, 93, Marxist Publisher and Economist, Dies, New York Times, March 2, 2004.
  11. Phelps, C. (1999). "Introduction: A Socialist Magazine in the American Century". Monthly Review. 51 (1): 1–21. doi:10.14452/MR-051-01-1999-05_1. p. 18-19.
  12. John Bellamy Foster, "Monthly Review," in Mari Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, and Dan Georgakas (eds.) Encyclopedia of the American Left New York: Garland Publishing Co., 1990; p. 485.
  13. 1 2 Phelps, C. (1999). "Introduction: A Socialist Magazine in the American Century". Monthly Review. 51 (1): 1–21. doi:10.14452/MR-051-01-1999-05_1. p. 20-21.
  14. Phelps, C.; Magdoff, H. (1999). "Interview with Harry Magdoff". Monthly Review. 51 (1): 54–73. doi:10.14452/MR-051-01-1999-05_3. p. 54, pp. 61-64
  15. Phelps, C. (1999). "Introduction: A Socialist Magazine in the American Century". Monthly Review. 51 (1): 1–21. doi:10.14452/MR-051-01-1999-05_1. p. 24-25.
  16. Sweezy, P. M. (1983). "The Suppression of the Polish Workers Movement". Monthly Review. 34 (8): 27–30. doi:10.14452/MR-034-08-1983-01_3. p. 30
  17. 1 2 John Bellamy Foster, "Monthly Review," in Mari Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, and Dan Georgakas (eds.)Encyclopedia of the American Left. New York: Garland Publishing Co., 1990; p. 484.
  18. Monthly Review Archives, "Editorial Team."
  19. Peter Clecak, "Monthly Review (1949—)," in Joseph R. Conlin (ed.), The American Radical Press, 1880-1960: Volume 2. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1974; pg. 667.
  20. Clecak, "Monthly Review (1949—)," p. 671.
  21. "Foreign Editions of Monthly Review".
  22. 1 2 Phelps, C. (1999). "Introduction: A Socialist Magazine in the American Century". Monthly Review. 51 (1): 1–21. doi:10.14452/MR-051-01-1999-05_1. p. 15-16.
  23. Baran, Paul A. (2000). The political economy of growth. New York: Monthly Review Press. ISBN 0853450765.
  24. Hinton, William (2008) [1966]. Fanshen. New York: Monthly Review Press. ISBN 1583671757.
  25. Baran, Paul A.; Sweezy, Paul M. (1966). Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic and Social Order. New York: Monthly Review Press. ISBN 0853450730.
  26. Galeano, Eduardo (1997) [1973]. Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. New York: Monthly Review Press. ISBN 9780853459910.
  27. Amin, Samir (1973). Unequal development. New York: Monthly Review Press. ISBN 9780853453802. OCLC 477201729.
  28. Amin, Samir (2010) [1989]. Eurocentrism (2nd Edition). New York: Monthly Review Press. ISBN 9781583672075.
  29. Braverman, Harry (1998) [1974]. Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century. New York: Monthly Review Press. ISBN 0853459401.
  30. Yates, Michael D. (2003). Naming the System. New York: Monthly Review Press. ISBN 1583670793. OCLC 477201729.
  31. Foster, John Bellamy (2000). Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature. New York: Monthly Review Press. ISBN 1583670122.
  32. Césaire, Aimé (2000) [1955]. Discourse on Colonialism. New York: Monthly Review Press. ISBN 1583670254.
  33. Magdoff, Fred; Foster, John Bellamy (2009). The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences. New York: Monthly Review Press. ISBN 9781583671849.
  34. Lewontin, Richard; Levins, Richard (2007). Biology Under the Influence: Dialectical Essays on Ecology, Agriculture, and Health. New York: Monthly Review Press. ISBN 9781583671573.
  35. Panitch, Leo; Albo, Greg; Chibber, Vivek, eds. (2013). Registering class: socialist register 2014. New York: Monthly Review Press. p. 335. ISBN 1583674314. OCLC 844308930. Also see the full listing Socialist Register books.

Further reading

External links

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