I’m rather pleased to see that the Socialist Workers Party has put up podcasts of all the meetings at this year’s Marxism conference. This is an absolute godsend for those of us who like to keep tabs on the SWP’s thinking, but not to the extent of spending an actual weekend with the comrades. Anyway, I went on looking for Goretti Horgan on “raunch culture”, a subject I’ve been meaning to tackle for a while, but I couldn’t resist listening to the Big Debate.
If you’ve been to these conferences, you’ll know that the Big Debate is a ritual of the event. In previous years, the SWP liked to have Captain Eamo debating a Shinner. A couple of years back, the Socialist Party ran not one but two eye-catching debates at their weekend school, with Joe Higgins debating Sir Garret FitzGerald (Garret of course will debate anybody, but I couldn’t figure out what was in it for the SP) and Peter Hadden versus Eoin Ó Broin (now that one I would have loved to see, if only to find out who was the biggest liar). So, you always expect at least one big name.
The SWP scored big this year by getting in the Cleverest Man in Ireland, Pope’s Children author, Sunday Business Post columnist and all-round renaissance man David McWilliams, who was put up to debate class in the Celtic Tiger with Swiss Toni. What was striking, at least for somebody who isn’t an SWP member looking to have prejudices reconfirmed, is that Swiss, who is a clever bloke himself and no slouch at debating, comprehensively failed to lay a finger on McWilliams. McWilliams was at a clear advantage, not least because he has made an empirical study of modern Irish society and tried to describe it in its own terms. I don’t find his categories altogether convincing, but they hold up rather better than taking some facts about Ireland and squeezing them into the categories of Sasanach neo-Trotskyism mixed with a little dash of Weberian sociology.
Anyway, go and have a listen and come to your own conclusions. And, from the Socialist Democracy site, this review by Rayner Lysaght makes some telling points with a good deal less verbosity than the Great White Chief manages.