The Guardian January 26, 2000


Victor Perlo 1912-1999

Victor Perlo, among the world's pre-eminent Marxist economists and an 
unwavering advocate of socialism, died December 1 at home in Croton-on-
Hudson, New York.

He was a member of the National Committee of the Communist Party USA and 
the chair-emeritus of the Party's Economics Commission.

Perlo was a prodigious writer, author of 13 books which have been 
translated into more than a dozen languages. He wrote numerous articles in 
economic and political journals and many pamphlets.

His weekly column in the People's Weekly World, "People Before 
Profits", was one of the most widely read features in the paper. [Many of 
his articles have appeared in the The Guardian.]

Perlo's major works include American Imperialism (1951), Empire 
of High Finance (1957), Economics of Racism I and II (1973 and 
1996), and Superprofits and Crises (1988).

His wife, Ellen, was his close partner, editing his columns and books and 
designing the graphs and charts to accompany his writing.

He is best known for his analyses of the political economy of United States 
capitalism, comparative economic systems, and the economics of racism in 
the United States. He contributed the concept of the "profits of control" 
to Marxist economic theory.

Perlo's writing was striking for its thorough documentation and clarity. 
Yet beneath the painstaking scholarship was a passionate love of the 
working class and oppressed peoples and an equally intense hatred of the 
exploiters.

In a recent People's Weekly World column headlined, "How rich is 
rich?", Perlo wrote of the Forbes Magazine list of the richest 400 
Americans "headed, of course, by Bill Gates of Microsoft with a net worth 
of $85 billion ...", adding "they are the decisive force behind the global 
aggressions of US imperialism, the anti-labour practices and politics and 
the intensified racism polluting our lives".

Following the publication of Economics of Racism II: The Roots of 
Inequality, USA, Perlo received the Myers Centre Award for the Study of 
Human Rights in North America "for the outstanding work on intolerance in 
North America".

The book is a goldmine of information proving that the monopoly banks and 
corporations squeeze enormous superprofits from the system of racist job 
discrimination. Perlo calculated that these extra profits rose from US$56 
billion in 1947 to US$197 billion in 1992.

Perlo ended the book with a chapter on the Communist Party USA's 
People's Economic Program calling for full employment at decent 
wages, affirmative action to achieve full job equality, affordable housing, 
quality public education and universal health care.

It was perhaps the widest read and most influential of his books. The first 
edition in 1973 coincided with an upsurge in the struggle against racism 
and his book was used as a college text in many African American studies 
courses. It went into several editions.

Perlo travelled several times to the Soviet Union and Cuba and wrote books 
and articles on the superiority of socialism in meeting the material and 
spiritual needs of the people.

In 1977, he and Ellen toured the USSR for seven weeks covering 13,000 
kilometres and visiting dozens of factories, collective farms, and 
interviewing scores of Soviet people.

Out of this expedition they co-authored Dynamic Stability: The Soviet 
Economy Today published by New World Paperbacks in 1980.

The book greeted the steadily rising standard of living in the USSR and the 
heroic struggles of the Soviet people to build a new socialist society.

Victor Perlo was born May 15, 1912, in East Elmhurst, New York, the son of 
Russian-Americans who had both emigrated in their youth from Omsk in 
Siberia. He received a BA and MA in mathematics and statistics from 
Columbia University in 1933.

It was the depths of the Great Depression and Perlo was already part of the 
movement fighting to win relief for the millions of unemployed.

He joined the administration of President Franklin D Roosevelt, serving in 
various New Deal government agencies from 1939 to 1947, where he was one of 
the group of economists known as "Harry Hopkins' bright young men".

They worked for enactment and implementation of the WPA (Works Progress 
Administration) jobs program headed by Hopkins. They also helped push 
through unemployment compensation, the Wagner National Labour Relations 
Act, the Fair Labour Standards Act, and Social Security.

It was during these years in Washington that he married Ellen Menaker, whom 
he had known from his youth, when he visited her uncle's summer camp in 
Massachusetts.

During World War II, he applied his formidable intellect to the defeat of 
Hitler fascism, serving as a department head of the War Production Board 
and in the Office of Price Administration. He also served a stint with the 
Brookings Institution, a prestigious economic think-tank in Washington.

After World War II, he was a victim of the anti-Communist, anti-union 
McCarthy witch hunt that cost tens of thousands of progressive Americans 
their jobs. From 1947 until his death, he worked as an economic consultant 
and writer.

Despite his international stature, he was denied permanent academic 
employment in the United States. He never compromised on his commitment to 
the working class and labour movements, to end racism, and for socialism.

In addition to his research and writing, Perlo was active in his community 
for peace, civil rights and against police brutality.

From the 1960s until his death, he was chief economist for the Communist 
Party USA. His son, Art, now leads the Party's Economic Commission.

Even as his health was failing, Perlo's passion for the struggle continued 
undimmed. He wrote a hardhitting report on US imperialism for the Party's 
Ideological Conference in October last. He dictated his weekly column to 
Ellen from his bed until just a few days before he died.

His interests included tennis, mountain climbing, and chess. He was also a 
talented pianist.

In addition to Ellen, he is survived by children Kathy, Stanley and Arthur 
and their families.

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People's Weekly World, paper of the CPUSA

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