A Tribute to Leo Panitch, 1945-2020

Monday, January 25, 2021 - 1:00pm
Greg Albo & Stephen Maher

Progressives have lost one of our leading lights. Leo Panitch died December 19, 2020 in a Toronto hospital where he was being treated for cancer. His prognosis was good, however he contacted Covid-19 and died in a few days from a fulminating pneumonia. He is sorely missed on both sides of the Atlantic. A man with an amazing generosity of spirit, he was a pillar of the international left.

The Center for Global Justice pays tribute to Leo Panitch by rebroadcasting a webinar he did with us in July on “Capitalism, Socialism and the Pandemic.” We are joined in this tribute by Leo's friend and collaborator Greg Albo and Stephen Maher, a colleague at York, and former student of Leo.

For more than a quarter of a century, Leo Panitch was editor of one of the most important journals of Marxist thought in the world: the Socialist Register. This yearbook, in which Leo wrote significant essays, was on the cutting edge of Left thought. For him, the only way out of capitalism was by building on social democracy. Born to a Winnipeg working class family, he held firmly to the centrality of the working class if the socialist project was to have any future. Nevertheless he was deeply aware of the conservatizing trend within social-democratic parties, the increasing distance from the working class, and the impending disaster from the managerial takeover. His last book Searching for Socialism: the project of the Labour New Left from Benn to Corbyn was written with Colin Leys.

In many ways his magnum opus was The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire, cowritten with Sam Gindin. In it they offer a sweeping account of not only the global economy, but the political foundations on which it rests. They argue that the internationalization of capital had not been driven by autonomous economic forces or technological change, but had always been a political project pushed by the US state, dating back to the Roosevelt Administration that designed the post WWII world order. They demonstrate how neoliberal globalisation is the product of a state-sponsored re-regulation of markets across the world in favor of the capitalist class.