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Mr McDonnell, are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?

A perfectly justified question to put to John McDonnell in the light of this report from the Telegraph:

John McDonnell welcomed the financial crash and called himself a Marxist, newly found footage shows

John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor, welcomed the financial crash that wrecked Britain’s economy and insisted he was a Marxist, newly uncovered footage shows.

Mr McDonnell, who is Jeremy Corbyn’s closest political ally, is seen in the 2013 video saying that the economic upheaval proves the faults with modern capitalism.

At one point Mr McDonnell, who was a backbencher at the time, says of the crisis: “I’ve been waiting for this for a generation!”

The comments are documented in a YouTube video viewed less than 60 times which was posted on the website on March 16, 2013.

Here is that video: John McDonnell MP Speaking at communities against the cuts meeting 16-3-13. The relevant extract is between 07:10 and 07:35.

In a video entitled “John McDonnell MP Speaking at communities against the cuts meeting”, the man now in charge of Labour’s economic policy is seen discussing the crisis.

“We’ve got to demand systemic change. Look, I’m straight, I’m honest with people: I’m a Marxist,” Mr McDonnell is seen saying at one point.

“This is a classic crisis of the economy – a classic capitalist crisis. I’ve been waiting for this for a generation!

“For Christ’s sake don’t waste it, you know; let’s use this to explain to people this system based on greed and profit does not work.”

Most of the comments I have read seem to think that his “welcoming” the financial crash of 2008 is the main story. I don’t see it that way. He could reasonably claim (added later: he has claimed) that it was said as a self-mocking joke about the way Marxists have been predicting the imminent demise of capitalism for years and only now, it seems, has it finally happened. No, I think the damning part is “I’m honest with people: I’m a Marxist.”

My title for this post was also intended as a historical joke. There is no doubt about what party Mr McDonnell belongs to, the Labour Party. The doubt that arises in many people’s minds is whether under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership this is still a party normal people can vote for without going the full Venezuela. We know he is now and has long been a member of the Labour party, but someone will inevitably now ask Mr McDonnell, “Are you a Marxist?”

In 2013 his straight and honest answer was “Yes”. If he answers “No” three years later, will people believe him? When did he change and why?

If he answers “Yes”… this man is Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.


Update: Mr McDonnell appeared on Question Time last night. He was asked by David Dimbelbly if he was a Marxist, in the light of that video. Watch the first half minute of this clip to see how he responds. At 15 seconds in we have:

Dimbelby: “Are you a Marxist?”

McDonnell: “No, I’m a socialist.”

Dimbelby: “Well, why say, ‘I’m a Marxist'”?

McDonnell: “Because actually I was trying to, I was demonstrating, a prediction of the capitalist crisis at the time.”

Anna Soubry’s lengthy attack on him afterwards becomes tedious, but she got a solid round of applause for her initial indignant restatement of fact in the face of this farrago: “You said, ‘I’m a Marxist'”.

11 comments to Mr McDonnell, are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?

  • Watchman

    Expect his defenders to start drawing fine distinctions between Marxists and Stalinists or Maoists…

    Although as I have yet to see anyone produce a Marxist economy that had the wealth available to work (no theoretical reason why it shouldn’t, so long as there was far more wealth being produced than could actually be used – of course, this over-consumption might cause problems for Mr McDonnells more superficial environmental credentials…).

  • Paul Marks

    I am not going to praise Karl Marx – a new experience for me.

    Karl Marx understood that credit money expansion did terrible harm – led to speculative bubbles and then collapse. He got his understanding of this matter from his reading of David Ricardo. This anti Keynesianism (before J.M. Keynes was even born) is one of the very few good points of Marxist economics – most of the rest of it is headbanging insanity.

    As for John McDonnell – a rather well preserved man (not fat and bald like me) and always well dressed.

    Of course he is a total Red who would (if he gained power) lead to the deaths of millions of people. But elections are not about policy – they are about image.

  • Paul Marks

    Is the Labour Party a Marxist party committed to totalitarianism?

    We will know in a few days.

    If Mr Corbyn wins then Mr McDonnell wins.

  • llamas

    Paul Marks wrote:

    ‘Is the Labour Party a Marxist party committed to totalitarianism?’

    Well – Yes. Or rather – Yes – Still.

    Since the Party leadership has been that way since at least the late 1930s, I think we can safely assume that it’s not just a passing fancy.

    See many past discussions on the disconnect between what the Party leaders stand for vs what the Party’s voters think it stands for. While their Marxism may have been a bit wobbly in the past – there were various dalliances with Stalinism and Trotskyism, after all – their totalitarian urge is as strong and consistent as ever. As we see in the current leader. he is not an aberration – he is just the continuation of a long line of Labour Party leaders. The difference is that he says what he believes, unlike past leaders who believed the same things as he does but were careful to screen their beliefs from the view of the voters, most of the time.



  • Why is it a problem if the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer is a Marxist?
    If you have an official title of “Shadow Chancellor”, you pretty much have to be evil. It’s part of the job requirements.

  • Stonyground

    Presumably Marxist economies are immune from these kinds of crashes due to the fact that they never get off the ground to start with.

  • mezzrow

    Over here, we refer to this sort of thing as a Kinsley gaffe.

    “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth – some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.” – Michael Kinsley

  • Runcie Balspune

    saying that the economic upheaval proves the faults with modern capitalism

    I wonder if the same logic equates the impressive body count with proof of the faults with “modern” Marxism?

  • Rich Rostrom

    llamas @ September 15, 2016 at 4:41 pm:

    Paul Marks wrote:

    ‘Is the Labour Party a Marxist party committed to totalitarianism?’

    Well – Yes. Or rather – Yes – Still.

    Since the Party leadership has been that way since at least the late 1930s…

    Would that include Clement Atlee, who signed Britain up for NATO, had the RAF carry about a 1/4 of the Berlin Airlift, and sent British troops to fight in Korea?

    Labour has long been seriously infested with bolsheviks (Militant in the 70s and 80s, Momentum today), but they weren’t the leaders.

  • Paul Marks

    Agreed Rich Rostrom.

    I have never claimed that the Labour Party has always been Marxist controlled – although there has always been long been a totalitarian element (for example Harold Laski – who was Chairman of the Labour Party under Atlee, although Atlee thought he was insane).

    Whether or not the totalitarians dominate the Labour Party is NOT something we need to speculate upon.

    We do not need to speculate – because we can just wait a couple of days (till the leadership election result comes out) and see.

    Mr Owen Smith is a man of the left – he is offering more wild government taxes, spending and regulations (and on and on).

    If the members of the Labour Party turn him down and stick with Mr Corbyn it will not be because of economic policy.

    It will be because they, the members, are committed to dictatorship – to an end of the “capitalist game” of Parliamentary government.

    The truth is a simple, and as brutal, as that. We do not have to speculate – we just have to wait and see.