Adriaen van de Venne, Fishing for Souls, 1614, oil on panel 98 x 189cm, Rijksmuseum
James Debono, in a substantial contribution to our open-ended debate on and around Labour’s quest for a new leader, argues that, whilst adhering to the values of social democracy, “the party could be more open to people who do not necessarily share this ideology but share some common ground” (see Comment No. 38 to the post Games contestants play reproduced below this editorial for easy reference).
Of the five individuals that have so far declared a firm intention to contest for the position of leader of the Labour Party, one of them, Joseph Muscat, has clearly outlined a vision of a party in which everybody that shares its core values has an assured place. Muscat, however, went further – indeed, much further – than this. The Party, he writes in his programmatic statement for its renewal, should promote a ‘Movement that brings together our society’s Progressives and Moderates’ (Moviment li jigbor flimkien lil Progressivi u Moderati fis-socjeta’ taghna).
What is new and original in this statement is that he is not suggesting that all those who feel they have something in common with the Labour Party – be it core values or shared views on specific issues – need not join the Party if they feel that they may thereby lose their specific individual or collective identity. In other words, the proposed Movement is not reducible to the Labour Party nor is it a ‘front’ for the Labour Party. The proposed Movement is intended to encompass both the Labour Party and all progressive and moderate elements in society that wish to work with Labour without relinquishing what is unique to them.
Back to James Debono. In his comment, he writes: “For example liberals, greens and leftists can potentially support a progressive MLP at least on some issues. The MLP could promote itself as a rainbow coalition of progressive people. One should remember that MLP+AD=a majority in the country.” Joseph Muscat’s vision of the Labour Party within a broader Movement of Progressives and Moderates could provide a workable solution to the mechanics of what Debono calls “a rainbow coalition of progressive people”, at least in a transitional phase during which the various elements of the Movement learn to understand each other by working together. In any case, in such a Movement nobody should be made to feel that they must ultimately be ‘eaten up’ by the Labour Party.
Moreover, the Movement proposed by Joseph Muscat need not be limited to “liberals, greens and leftists”, to quote again from James Debono’s comment pasted earlier today on this tazebao. The Movement should encompass a much broader spectrum of colours, a broader rainbow. It should, for example, include an important section of socially committed groups and individuals in this country who conceive of their voluntary work as a Christian mission, as a bearing witness to their Faith.
Anyone with her or his ears to the ground knows that many individuals active in these groups and networks are painfully disenchanted with Gonzi and the Nationalist government. They voted for it on the 8th March because they sincerely believed that Lawrence Gonzi – if given one last chance, a reprieve – would immediately upon re-election set to work to radically improve standards of governance and to exclude all but the morally decent from any political appointment. This has evidently not happened and there are clear indications that it is not likely to happen, ever. Members of voluntary organisations, especially Catholic ones, expected much more from a man who himself comes from a ten year experience as president of the Catholic Action Movement (1976-1986) as well as personal engagement in voluntary work. They are – ask them – very disappointed and many of them are beginning to feel the anguish typical of political orphans.
The rainbow is a profound symbol of alliance with ancient, even biblical, roots: “I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” (Genesis 9:13). The bow in the cloud bridges over even the most apparently forbidding abyss, as Adriaen Pietersz van de Venne may have been unwittingly suggesting, in his work Fishing for Souls, painted in an epoch of bloody religious and political strife. All decent persons in this country will recognise their own colour in the rainbow stretching above the Movement of Progressives and Moderates, a rainbow of unity respectful of diversity.