John McDonnell: There is a lot to learn from reading Das Kapital

Posted On: 
7th May 2017

John McDonnell has said there is a “lot to learn” from reading the works of Karl Marx, as he declared he would be the first socialist chancellor if Labour wins the general election. 

John McDonnell on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show
Credit: 
BBC iPlayer

Mr McDonnell said he wanted to “transform”, rather than overthrow, the economic order and he stopped short of describing himself as a Marxist – but he acknowledged the influence of Marx in his ideology.

“I believe there is a lot to learn from reading Das Kapital, yes, of course there is,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

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“But I also believe in the long tradition of the Labour party which involves people like G.D.H. Cole, Tawney and others. You put that all together and you have, I think, a direction for our economy based upon sound principles of fairness.”

When it was put to him that he would be the first Marxist chancellor, Mr McDonnell appeared to suggest that previous Labour heads of the Treasury were not rooted in the party’s traditions.

“I’m going to be the first socialist [chancellor] in the tradition of the Labour party,” he said.

“What that means, it’s going to be rooted in Labour party values. And what are they? Fairness and equality, making sure that there is a democratic decision taken at every stage, so that means I will be including in the economic development process of our country businesses and trade unions and communities, local government, elected mayors and we will determine together the future of our country. It will not be done by private lobbyists behind closed doors as it is under this Government.”

Former Tory minister Michael Gove claimed Mr McDonnell’s comments on Marx were an “indicator of the type of economic strategy that he would love to implement if by some mischance he were to find himself in the Treasury”.

Labour has today announced its plans to increase taxes for those earning more than £80,000 per year.

Mr McDonnell refused to be drawn on the details of the rises – whether a new tax band would be increased, or whether Labour could set the top rate of income tax beyond 50p – but he stressed that the increases would be “modest”.

The party has also committed to no personal tax increases – through VAT, income tax or National Insurance contributions – for the 95% of people who earn less than £80,000 per year.

After the local council elections results last week, most forecasts expect Labour to lose seats in the coming general election, leading to speculation about whether Jeremy Corbyn would stay on as leader in those circumstances.

Mr McDonnell refused to repeat his comment last year that it was “inevitable” that Mr Corbyn would have to stand down if Labour lost a general election.