History is on nobody’s side

Posted in 1 by Editor on February 3, 2009

This article appeared yesterday, February 2, on The Times of Malta. You may access the original at http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20090202/opinion/history-is-on-nobodys-side


In my last, and first, contribution to this column, I considered the possibility of Lawrence Gonzi’s replacement with someone else, possibly a younger person, as kap (leader) of the Nationalist Party. I asked if his hypothetical exit, and therefore the end of GonziPN, can save the Nationalist Party at the next general election.

I then went on to say that this will depend mainly on the PL’s ability, or otherwise, to understand and implement Joseph Muscat’s new approach. I argued that the recently approved modifications to the party’s statute “were a necessary step forward but by no means a sufficient one” and that “Joseph Muscat’s ‘new political season’ presumes a radical change of culture within and throughout the Party”. I emphasized the difficulty of pushing through such a transformation.

Finally, I said I would be back here to argue that “it can – and must – be done”. And here I am. Let’s take this step by step. Let’s begin by taking a step backwards. To start with, it cannot be sufficiently stressed that history is on nobody’s side. There is no guarantee that the Partit Nazzjonalista, with or without Dr Gonzi at its head at the next general elections, will lose.

Although it comes to the same thing, it is nevertheless useful to state this again in a different way: there is no guarantee that Dr Muscat’s PL will win. The latter statement is true absolutely. There is no inevitability in the world of politics. It is a world of uncertainty and only fools claim otherwise, and of those that pronounce themselves otherwise only utter fools believe their own words when circumstances compel them to do so.

That, in 2013, the PN will have been almost uninterruptedly holding on to power for practically a quarter of a century, may well indicate to a reasonable person of good will that it is high time for change. But in the real world things do not happen simply because they are reasonable in the view of men and women of good will.

Now, if it is by no means certain that the PL will replace the present ruling party at the next elections, the chances that it will are greatly enhanced if good old Labour truly and effectively becomes Dr Muscat’s PL in good time before the said elections. Conversely, the level of uncertainty regarding a PL victory increases if this critical transformation fails or if it takes too long to materialise.

The only way, therefore, of containing the inevitable uncertainty of any statement about political outcomes, is for us to do our best to ensure that Labour adopts Joseph’s new approach as swiftly and as thoroughly as possible. Swiftly, because there is no time to waste. Thoroughly, because it must be adopted by all players at all levels without exception.

This is not to say that Joseph’s PL should be a monolithic body that is intolerant of different points of views. On the contrary, he rose to leadership because he stood for a vision of a party capable of mobilising a broad movement of people with different views and interests united by the conviction that this country deserves much better than what it has had to endure so far.

In my view, transforming Labour into Joseph Muscat’s PL need not mean throwing out anybody whose vision of a better society is different from that of the new leader. On the contrary, I believe that the strength of his approach lies – as he has begun to successfully demonstrate – in proposing a party and a movement that are open to diverse ideas, where the fundamental rule of the game is tolerance and mutual respect.

There would, for example, be no place in Dr Muscat’s PL for the “cynical, derisory and depreciative” attitude (to borrow Evarist Bartolo’s words) shown recently by Deputy Prime Minister Tonio Borg in his reply to the Leader of the Opposition who had mentioned gay or cohabitating couples during the debate on the rent reform legislation.

For this is exactly what the transformation I am referring to means. There is no place in this PL for anything said or done that stands in the way of a movement open to the variety of progressive ideas that are bubbling out there. It’s an impressive cauldron of views and visions communicating with and confronting each other. They are impervious to any official line imposed by any leader, party, government, church or censor. If electoral victory is not certain, ignoring their existence spells certain defeat.

There’s more to be said about the transformation. Meet me here in two weeks.


Mario Vella


5 Responses

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  1. J. Borg said, on February 3, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    “We do not just ride waves. We create the waves we ride”
    -Otto von Bismarck

    I don’t think Labour should just wait for society to start demanding for a more progressive stance. Labour should (and I think it already started), maybe in a subtle way, creating the right atmosphere for society to start demanding a more progressive Malta. Then, it will be much easier for progressive proposals to be accepted and supported by the majority.

  2. Sangue Blu said, on February 3, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Joe Muscat has NOT ushered in a new political season. His TERREMOT is a TRICK that will keep everything as it was. He aims to trick us into trusting him. The Labour Party CANNOTchange. Deep down it is the OLD MINTOFFIAN party.

  3. Sangue Rosso said, on February 4, 2009 at 12:15 am

    Well, aren’t a section of nationalists still fascist-symapthisers?

    I’ve been told that a certain PN official has faccetta nera as one of his favourite videos on his youtube account. I’ve seen the account, but of course I can’t say if the user is this particular PN official, what is sure is that the background is made up of “madum”.

  4. Josephine Sammut said, on February 4, 2009 at 9:46 am

    I suppose what Sangue Blu means to say is that there’s something wrong with the LP’s DNA, or more likely its supporters’ DNA (PN supporters do not have DNA – they are disembodied spirits sent down to earth to protect this last bastion of the pre-Reformation Catholic faith).

  5. Dorothy Camillleri said, on February 4, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    The signs of the times must be carefully be evaluated by any political leader. He must not over-reach or move before the times, neither must he wait to move when it is already too late to move. The N.P. read the signs of the times very well in the 80s and I remember them changing the black maduma, bringing on soft patels of blue, and yellow. Black was discarded and suddenly we had a surge of “workers” unions within the PN. All this gave the impression that PN changed; it did, it became more organized, determined, disciplined with only one aim in mind: to topple Mintoff.

    The new P.L. must not become Machiavellian, like the PN, who are simply ruling and guarantee a monopoly on the goodies for a selected few. Sleaze is rampant and it is only now that some of these facts are coming out in the open. This “openness” is a sign of the times as well, because after all, Maltese bonafide citizens all have Malta at heart, and the thin red line beyond which there is no return to “normality” is already behind us. It is the role of P.L and its leader, to grasp the bull by the horns to tame the sleaze, corruption and blatant nepotism, that is eroding the future of the young Maltese generations.

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