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John McAnulty

In the debate with Maeve Connaugnton our views have been constantly misrepresented, thus preventing development of the debate and forcing the necessity to go over the same ground again in order to state in other ways what our real position is. Eventually this could only lead to repetition and a closure of the discussion was eventually enforced. 

How can such a debate seek resolution?

One method of resolution would be to appeal to existing Marxist theory, specifically to the comparison between trade union consciousness and revolutionary consciousness among the working class. Unfortunately, the major work on this issue is part of the tradition of Leninism, a tradition disparaged by ‘Red Banner’ and by the Irish left generally. This refutation is based on sentiment rather than any serious consideration of Lenin's work, but it does prevent addressing the debate by discussing the ideas already generated by Marxist thought.

The issues in the debate could also be resolved in action, by an honest evaluation of situations where unity with the bureaucracy had been adopted as a strategy. The action could be followed up by a balance sheet assessing the actual outcome of the strategy. This does not happen because of the sheer dishonesty of those who support this strategy. For example, in the battle over the bin charges in Dublin, the left simply refused to acknowledge that it had a strategy of avoiding confrontation with the bureaucracy.

In the campaign against the racist referendum and in activity since the left has focused narrowly and in a non-class way on issues of civil liberties.  That the working class had a specific view of the referendum, concerning the tens of thousands of workers, many with trade union membership who lack basic rights as workers, was simply ignored in pursuit of a lowest common denominator unity that robbed socialists of their essential arguments.
Yet this issue must be resolved. It dominates almost every struggle involving the working class. The current protests against wave after wave of privatisation ignore the fact that the trade union leadership has already declared that the issues involved are political and not their responsibility. The bureaucrats’ practice is, in fact, to police the workers and demobilise resistance, but this is not acknowledged.

In Belfast there is a united ‘campaign’ against water charges where the bureaucracies’ policy is to develop alternative ways to pay! The issue is posed by the formation off the Independent Workers Union. Although they themselves have some illusions, by their very existence they pose an alternative to the current union leaderships. For that reason they have faced attack by the bosses and have been left isolated by other unions.  The socialist organisations have little or nothing to say, calling into question their right to pose as a potential leadership of the working class.

We welcome further contributions to this debate from socialists and working-class activists.


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