Eddie Mair 4pm - 7pm
Iain Dale pushes John McDonnell on whether he is a Marxist
6 November 2019, 17:42 | Updated: 7 November 2019, 08:38
Iain Dale asked the shadow Chancellor whether he was a socialist and a Marxist, based on a speech he made at his party conference.
Iain Dale said: "I was stood at the back of the hall during your conference speech in Brighton and I was thinking to myself, listening to you talk and the policies that you were announcing, that this was the most socialist speech I had ever heard a Labour shadow Chancellor give.
It went down very well in the hall. How do you describe yourself nowadays? Because you have described yourself as a Marxist in the past. You obviously describe yourself as a socialist."
McDonnell replied: "So I describe myself as a socialist. I think I'm in the tradition of the Attlee government.
He added: "If you look at the history of socialism in this country, it goes back a few centuries.
"So, in my speech, I think I made reference to the cooperatives. You know, we're going to double the coop sector. That goes back to Robert Owen, you know, centuries ago.
"I think I made reference, yes, to public ownership, and that is the traditional Attlee commitment on public ownership.
"But actually, I said, no, we've moved beyond that, we want a different type of democratic ownership that we have.
I made reference to making sure that people, when they created the wealth they have a fairer share in that wealth, so shareholders shareholding, collective shareholding."
He continued: "So I see I'm in the mainstream with the traditional British socialism and that speech, I think, actually laid the foundations of what is taking the ideas that were developed within our movement into the 21st century.
It is socialist though, there's no doubt about it, and that socialism is about making sure that the concept of an irreversible shift in wealth and power in favour of working people, that's what it is all about."
Iain Dale asked: "But you don't self identify as a Marxist any longer?"
McDonnell replied: "Well, I keep saying I'm almost trying to rehabilitate the reading of Marx in this country."
Iain replied: Surely, if you believe in the basic tenets of Marxism, you shouldn't be ashamed to say 'yes, I am a Marxist'?"
McDonnell replied: "Well, I think that then doesn't portray the breadth of my understanding, because my understanding is that I'm a socialist, and that contains an element of an understanding of Marxist analysis of capitalism, of course.
"but also contains that concept of cooperation from Robert Owen and that tradition also contains that concept of how you create a society which is based upon a wide-ranging culture. So William Morris.
Then those other elements of scientific analysis etc, by the Webbs and others. So that breadth of socialist practice in this country I celebrate."