John McDonnell named biggest influences as Lenin, Marx and Trotsky

Posted On: 
15th March 2016
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell once cited Trotsky and Lenin among his “most significant” influences, it has emerged. 
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell

The New Statesman has unearthed an interview Mr McDonnell gave to the Trotskyist Alliance for Workers’ Liberty in 2006, when he was campaigning for the Labour leadership.

In it, he set out his political and economic philosophy, including describing Labour as a “terrain of struggle” which socialists like him were trying to win.

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“We're trying to win the battle of ideas on the basis of a really thorough, democratic debate,” he said.

“So we're trying to win hegemony within both the party and the country. And then, use that battle of ideas to make sure we can reflect that in the battle of organisation within the movement overall.”

Asked which thinkers had been the “most significant”, he said: “If we go through it... the fundamental Marxist writers of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, basically. In terms of the ability to mobilise spontaneously, Rosa Luxemburg.

“Interestingly enough, for a long time I was quite interested by the writers of the New Left who appeared in the 60s. Williams, Miliband, Griffiths, E.P. Thompson and others, particularly around the historical issues themselves.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Mr McDonnell said he believed he could win over voters on the issue of “management and planning of our economy”.

He said: “Is planning and co-operation and management of the economy in the interests of the community overall, better than the free market liberalism and neocon, dog-eat-dog capitalism that we're experiencing at the moment?

“I think there'd be majority support in the country for a more managed and rational approach. We've won that argument since the Enlightenment, but we've never been able to implement it.”

Mr McDonnell was accused at the weekend of “following an entryist Trotskyist agenda” after it emerged he said in 2012 his Labour membership was a “tactic” and that members should quit “if it’s no longer a useful vehicle”.