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The Lysaght School of Debating

Dear comrades,

Joe Craig, in your last issue, has a point about the “diminishing returns” of the debate between us, and entering upon another production cycle is unlikely to increase the profitability. I stand over what I have written, and presumably the same goes for Joe. Readers will probably have already made up their mind as to which of us has made the most sense. I will repeat, though, that Joe’s book deserves to be read as a contribution to the discussion on social partnership.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the interventions of D R O’Connor Lysaght. The Lysaght School of Debating operates, like basic arithmetic, on four basic functions. Step I: Ignore what the other person is saying. Step 2: Accuse them of saying something else. Step 3: Batter the living daylights out of that ‘something else’. Step 4: Hope that no one maintains enough interest to notice what you’re up to. He holds me responsible for the free ride given to union leaders on anti-war platforms— and then cheerfully admits that he hasn’t the faintest notion of where I stand on the matter! Evidently DR is like the late Mr de Valera: he only has to look into his own heart to know what people are thinking.

Filtering the thousand-odd words of his epistle yields precious little in the way of shiny stuff. DR has now discovered that left-wing trade union leaders do exist and sometimes for a considerable length of time, but they are constrained by their position—which is no more than I pointed out to him last time out. Myself and himself are agreed that union bureaucrats are susceptible to pressure from below. For me, this means that rank-and-file activists building an independent resistance will have to apply such pressure, recognising the fundamental difference between union leaders and capitalists: after all, Mick O’Reilly is not the same as Tony O’Reilly. But for DR. they are no more susceptible to pressure than the British Conservative Party—less so, indeed—and it follows that they have no more connection to the working class than Margaret Thatcher had. DR is entitled to his view, of course. In fact, he’s welcome to it.

Free collective bargaining is no improvement on social partnership, according to DR: they are only two sides of the one coin. But if they are indeed not antipodes but twins, then why have socialists been calling for No votes to partnership deals for 17 years? Because “an end to partnership in itself’, even if it goes no further than restoring traditional trade union activity, would be a concrete step forward. If DR thinks not, then I look forward to him stumping the country with the slogan; “Vote No, although it makes no real difference”.

DR has also divined that Yours Truly is “essentially reformist”. Not a little bit reformist, mind, but essentially reformist: reformist to the very essence of my being. I am happy to leave it to those who have read what I have written in Red Banner on this and other subjects to judge whether he has a point, or if reformism is here just another word for disagreeing with DR. Such a characterisation should give a person umbrage, but I must confess it leaves me unmoved. Passing a schoolyard, you might well hear a boy shouting at a girl: “Yeah? Well, you smell!” She has no reason to get too upset about it, because it says less about her personal hygiene than it does about his inability to articulate himself.

Yours in solidarity,

Maeve Connaughton


This debate has taken place in the last five issues of Red Banner, going back to November 2002, and both sides have had ample opportunity to present their point of view. The discussion of social partnership will, of course, continue in our pages, but this particular debate is now at an end.



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