Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has been widely criticised for his attendance of an International Workers’ Day rally, and the speech he gave amid controversial flags and banners.
McDonnell did not seem at all bothered as he spoke of reform for the working class of Britain – all the while surrounded by the images and emblems of such enemies of the people as Joseph Stalin (the Soviet leader whose hands bear the blood of 25 million, the majority his own countrymen) and Bashar al-Assad (the Syrian dictator and war criminal of almost two decades).
This is only to be expected of an ideologue the likes of John McDonnell, who by now is no stranger to being criticised for his extreme politics.
New Statesman wrote in 2016:
“Unlike Jeremy Corbyn, who recently confessed that he had not “read as much of Marx as I should have done”, John McDonnell is described by friends as a “true follower” of the philosopher.”
According to the article, when McDonnell was asked in 2006 (long before attaining his current position) who had influenced his political though, he answered:
“The fundamental Marxist writers of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, basically.”
Although he has long praised Marx, McDonnell has (for the most part) refrained from reference to those two particular revolutionary murderers in recent years.
While this is no doubt a wise PR decision (aligning oneself with trigger happy radicals is not a vote winner in the overwhelmingly Liberal United Kingdom), perhaps it would have been a wiser to avoid distasteful mention of Communist mass murderers altogether.
In November 2015, McDonnell thought it appropriate to brandish and quote from a copy of the notorious Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung in Parliament, a book containing the infamous words of the Chinese revolutionary leader ultimately responsible for the deaths of up to 70 million people – the vast majority fellow Chinese citizens (45 million died of famine during the ‘Great Leap Forward’ and many more were murdered in political purges).
The jest came after an attempted trade agreement selling UK assets to China.
Much of the laughter at what McDonnell insists was a joke came from the Conservative MPs, and many Labour comrades were less than impressed – perhaps on account of refinement of taste.
Following a short reading from the book, McDonnell hurled the volume at then Chancellor George Osbourne, who responded by joking that “half the shadow cabinet have been sent off to re-education.”
McDonnell seems to have gained some self awareness since the criticism he received for the ‘little red book’ incident, as he attempted to hide the fact that his May Day speech was given under Soviet and Syrian flags by posting selectively cropped photos of the moment to social media.
However, alternative photos later surfaced showing that the event had openly venerated a number of history’s most reprehensible totalitarians.
The London march has been criticised for anti-Semitic chants in years past.
International Workers’ Day was founded by the Second International, an association of Socialist and Labour parties and movements from nations far and wide.
The Second International famously ejected Anarchists and Libertarians from their meetings and events, choosing instead to become zealots of the authoritarian state Socialism which was to be the death knell of so many during the twentieth century.
This week, former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair came out to slam the backwardness of the party’s rhetoric, a common criticism among many moderates put off by the radical and out-moded leanings of party leadership.
Blair urged a more up to date approach:
“If from the progressive side of politics you offer people a vision that looks like the past, then I’m afraid you’ll lose that group of people in the middle who would be prepared to go for you provided they felt you understood the modern world.”