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“Books that the perfect Marxian must know.” W.E.B. Dubois asks Abram Harris, 1933

 

W.E.B. Dubois’ papers are digitized and online at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Dubois received his Ph.D. at Harvard in economic history in 1895 and in 1892-94 he studied in Berlin. In 1933 apparently Dubois returned to Marxian economics and asked Abram Lincoln Harris, a leading scholar of Marxian economics in the United States, for some reading suggestions. Economics in the Rear-view Mirror has posted earlier a proposed for an undergraduate course description submitted to the department of economics at the University of Chicago by Harris in 1961 that did not amuse George Stigler. I have read somewhere that Frank Knight liked Harris’ work, which is consistent with Harris having published the articles linked below in the Journal of Political Economy.

Anyhow, there is more interesting material in Dubois’ papers that are easily accessible and well-organized at the above link.

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Carbon copy
Letter from W.E.B. Dubois to Abram Harris

January 6, 1933.

Mr. Abram Harris,
Howard University,
Washington, D.C.

My dear Mr. Harris:

From bits which I gather from publishers and friends, I take it that you are still alive. Ben Stolberg told me that you had lost your father. I am very sorry indeed. Also, I have heard of your scholarship which is about one-fifth as large as it should be but I presume it is to be regarded as a great concession on the part of scientists.

You have perhaps seen my tentative program for a re-examination of the Negro problem which I published in January and I shall publish a revised one in February. I have been re-reading Marx recently as everyone must these days. I have the three volumes of “Capital” and the small Vanguard book by Max Eastman [I am guessing Dubois is referring to: Marx and Lenin: The Science of Revolution. New York: Albert and Charles Boni, 1927.]. I write to ask if you will send me a list of four or five best books which the perfect Marxian must know. Please rush these.

I am coming down Sunday, January 22, on my way to Atlanta. If the spare room is vacant, I should be glad to stop.

Very sincerely yours,

WEBD/DW

 

Source: Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963. Letter from W. E. B. Du Bois to Abram Harris, January 6, 1933. W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

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Letter from Abram Harris to W.E.B. Dubois

 

HOWARD UNIVERSITY
Washington, D.C.

January Seventh
1933

Department of Economics

Dear Dr. Du Bois:

We will be very glad to have you stay with us when you pass through the city on your way to Atlanta. Let me know how long you plan to be here, so that I can arrange a little gathering. I read your program for re-examining the Negro problem and I want to talk with you about it.

A good Marxian ought to know the intellectual and social background of Marx’s works. This I should think is best gotten from any of the standard works on economic doctrine and the history of political thought. I would suggest your brousing [sic] through Gide and Rist, History of Economic Doctrines; Halévy, The Growth of Philosophic Radicalism; [Part I The Youth of Bentham; ] and, Dunning, Political Thought from Rousseau to Spencer. The following by Marx and Engels should be read: Marx, The Gotha Program; Wage Labor and Capital, and Value, Price and Profit (in The Essentials of Marx, Algernon Lee, Vanguard Press); The Critique of Political Economy (if Capital has not been read); and Engels Feuerbach: The Roots of Socialist Philosophy; Socialism from Utopia to Science, and The Land Marks of Scientific Socialism. After you finish with these I suggest that you look into Marx’s Revolution and Counter-Revolution; and, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.

I have just completed what I consider a new interpretation of Marx. [“Economic Evolution: Dialectical and Darwinian” Journal of Political Economy (Feb. 1934, pp. 34-79)] If I had an extra copy of the manuscript I would send it along to you. At any rate the reprint [“Types of Institutionalism“, Journal of Political Economy (December, 1932), pp. 721-749] which I am enclosing will give you some idea of what is contained in this new interpretation.

Sincerely,
[signed]
Abram Harris

Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois
69 Fifth Avenue
New York, N.Y.

 

Source: Harris, Abram Lincoln, 1899-1963. Letter from Abram Harris to W. E. B. Du Bois, January 7, 1933. W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

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Copy of Telegram from W.E.B. Dubois to Abram Harris

January 20, 1933

Mr. Abram Harris,
Howard University,
Washington, D.C.

Shall arrive Sunday afternoon about four or five Stop Must leave Monday morning before day Stop No breakfast Stop Please find a safe garage nearby for my car

W. E. B. Du Bois.

 

Source: Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963. Telegram from W. E. B. Du Bois to Abram Harris, January 20, 1933. W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

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Carbon copy
Letter from W.E.B. Dubois to Abram Harris

Rockefeller Hall
Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia.

February 2, 1933.

Mr. Abram Harris,
Department of Economics,
Howard University,
Washington, D.C.

My dear Mr. Harris:

I have just got hold of my secretary so that I can really answer letters. I want to thank you and Mrs. Harris so much for your kind hospitality. I think I made a good getaway from your house, except that I forgot to set the alarm clock for seven and leave it for you. I hope you did not oversleep.

I spent Sunday night in Durham, Tuesday night at Spartenburg, and arrived here Wednesday.

I have read and re-read with a great deal of interest your article on Marx, Feblem [sic, dictated[?], clearly “Veblen” intended] and Mitchell. Send me anything else you have on the subject.

Very sincerely yours,

WEBD/DW

 

Source: Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963. Letter from W. E. B. Du Bois to Abram Harris, February 2, 1933. W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

Image Source: Abram Lincoln Harris (ca 1935). Guggenheim fellow. https://www.gf.org/fellows/all-fellows/abram-lincoln-harris/

Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier

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