History is on nobody’s side
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.