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Re-inventing the Malta Labour Party (and Maltese politics): an unauthorised tazebao.

Mintoff at Qormi. Flash news, flash questions!

Posted by fcb on April 27, 2008

Dom Mintoff made an appearance at George Abela’s meeting this morning in Qormi. See Raymond Grech’s second-hand report but, more importantly, his first-hand questions. Contributors are kindly requested not to be distracted from the interesting debate developing in the comments’ section under the previous ‘Bow in the Clouds’ posting. Do come in here and post your views briefly and, above all, contructively and with moderation. But then, however, do go back to the previous section where the great debate continues…

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34 Responses to “Mintoff at Qormi. Flash news, flash questions!”

  1. Raymond Grech said

    Mintoff endorses George Abela”, The Times website updated at 10:41, reported this morning!
    http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20080427/local/mintoff-turns-up-for-george-abela-meeting

    According to The Times Dom Mintoff today declared his backing for George Abela’s leadership bid, during a a short speech before an “enthusiastic crowd” at a public activity held by George Abela in Qormi this morning. Mintoff was welcomed by Abela as “an honoured guest.”

    Former Labour leader and Prime Minister Dom Mintoff, 91, spoke about several subjects, “even saying his hearing aid was a means for the Police Commissioner to know his whereabouts” The Times reported.

    He had come to the Abela’s meeting, he is reported to have said, “not to see whether or not Dr Abela had said the truth about the 1998 MLP executive meeting which proposed that the Labour government hold a snap election” but “to see that Dr Abela achieved his aims”.

    According to report in The Times, Mintoff “complained over corruption in the country and said he did not view the next general election as being five years away”. “It is up to us” he is quoted to have said. The The Times reporter says that Mintoff, at this point, added “that no one should tolerate the ‘dirt’ Malta was seeing”.

    This last phrase is not reported as direct speech, the word ‘dirt’ however is written in single inverted commas ‘…’. Presumably this either means that it is the actual word used by Mintoff (this would contrast with The Times’ normal way of indicating direct speech, which is to reproduce the speech within double inverted commas “…” or that this venerable newspaper is taking distance from the expression ‘dirt’.

    In any case, does anyone here have first-hand knowledge of what went on? What do you make of it? How will Mintoff’s intervention impact upon George Abela’s chances of success?

    Raymond Grech

  2. Anthony Licari said

    Dr Anthony Licari

    MINTOFF ENDORSES GEORGE ABELA. I believe that this will create confusion among certain media people and nationalists – and even disgruntled labourites – who had clearly been promoting George Abela as the modern social democrat of the near future. With Mr Mintoff’s endorsement of Dr Abela, an interesting tandem has been created which plays havoc among the “sober” voters hoping to see in Dr Abela a clear departure from past politics. I believe that the timing of this new development could not have been worse for Dr Abela. Mr Mintoff is not written about very positively in the conservative media. His approval of Dr Abela may, by association, be very harmful to Dr Abela.
    Anthony Licari

  3. Raymond Grech said

    Dear Caretaker,

    I can see what Anthony Licari is getting at, but I suspect that only the badly informed will be disappointed or confused.

    The media people and nationalists Anthony has in mind never forgave Alfred Sant for not having taken a public stand against and distanced himself from the MLP practices of those years. Whether the argument is fair or otherwise need not detain us here, but it appears that it can equally be applied to George Abela, who was never MLP President but, my contacts in Qormi tell me, used to be very close to Lino Spiteri during the 80s – the PN representatives and sympathisers in the media certainly did not think of Lino Spiteri as ‘New Labour’ back then. In fact my friends suggest that he was a useful behind-the-scenes operator during that period (interesting that two out of five candidates for the leadership post have links to Qormi). If my informants are right than George Abela is about as new in MLP terms as Putin is in Russia.

    But really this is neither here nor there – it’s the effect on the MLP delegates that matters. Does anyone here have any idea of their profile? For example, do many of them date back to Dom’s or KMB’s time?

    Raymond Grech

  4. Tony Farrugia said

    In a carbon conscious world, we’ve got a fossil fuel candidate to lead the Labour Party. George Abela has just confirmed that he is a politician completely stuck in the past. Should he be elected leader of the Labour Party on June 5th, the people rallying around him will for sure be the roadblock to reform.

    One of the greatest tasks for the next Labour Leader will be to repair the broken contract between the generations. So Dom Mintoff attended Dr George Abela`s meeting? Is Dr Abela running out of steam already? We, the young, want to talk about the future. Mr Mintoff and Dr Abela were the future once.

    Tony Farrugia

  5. Alistaire Borg said

    People my age remember Mintoff splitting Boffa’s moderate Labour Party in the early fifties. Pity. I also remember Mintoff resigning office in 1958 just after 3 years in government! In the riots that followed Agata Barbara, Bertu Hyzler, Joe Micallef Stafrace and many more, were seen in the streets of Valletta helping the workers in their needs. I cannot recall ever seeing Mintoff in the streets of Valletta with the workers during those difficult times. Thirteen years later labour won, and the workers never had it so good. During the 1976 – 1981 legislature Eddie Fenech Adami was elected the new PN leader and unfortunately Mintoff was no match for Eddie and his young team. During this legislature started the downfall of Mintoff and his Labour Party. Governing without the majority of votes and falling into the trap of violence were disastrous for Labour.

    Come 1992 and Alfred Sant was entrusted with the leadership of the Party. He managed to wipe clean the Party as no one else would have done. Sant won the election and Mintoff from is-salvatur turned to it-traditur for the second time, as he had already did it to Pawlu Boffa!

    Sant and his Labour Party could never recover from this blow. The Labour Party looked like a Horse of Troy at that time, with uninterrupted flow of leakages. It is puzzling me up to this date how all of a sudden all the leakages stopped.

    Though most of Sant’s arguments were proved right time and time again, he was not credible with the floaters due to the fact that certain individuals in the Labour camp, at least so they declare, made their utmost for this to happen. With the help of the ‘indipendent’ and Nationalist media they succeeded.

    Today we have seen Mintoff attending Gorg Abela’s rally. He has every right to do so, and I will be the first one to defend his right. Also Gorg Abela has a right to greet Mintoff as an ‘honourable guest’. Add to these Alfred Mifsud’s memo to Alfred Sant and the recent revelations by Gorg Vella regarding Gorg Abela’s behaviour during the 1998 problems, then even I have a right to draw my own conclusions.

    What goes up must come down, and this time round it is Gorg Abela’s credibility that has suffered irreparably.

    Alistaire Borg

  6. pinu z-zebbugi said

    It takes two to tango. So now we know who was backing George when he jumped the boat. So the puppet master is back and got himself a new puppet to manipulate by pulling the strings. He’s at the same game again.

    Pinu iz-zebbugi

  7. Frank Dimech said

    Here we go again…..1996 is not over. Mintoff still wanting to rule behind the scenes. The question is, why are there intelligent people like Dr Abela and others still determined to ruin the Party? Is it because of the syndrome I win or I spoil the game? And Dr Abela wanting democracy in the MLP… When was the MLP democratic under Mintoff? Wasn’t he a member and part of Mintoff’s party machine when we lost three elections in a row? Now, it is not a question of new beginning, but a question of whether the Labour Party will be a Mintoffian party again, with Dr Abela and Co at its helm?

    Frank Dimech

  8. This blog post and this blog are featured on

    http://www.maltamedia.com/blogosfera

    Sandro Vella

  9. James Gafa said

    Let’s not over-react to the Qormi events…yes, event[s], because I think we must distinguish between George Abela’s meeting and Mintoff’s part in it.

    I don’t for a minute believe that Abela meant it when he greeted Mintoff as an “honoured guest” (if that is what he said, I seem to have read that in The Times online report). Abela would have been better off without Mintoff. As a matter of fact, Mintoff (the Mintoff we would like to treasure as a historical landmark in our national development) would himself have been better of without the Mintoff we saw in Qormi today.

    On the other hand, it would be incorrect to claim that with today’s appearance at Qormi, Mintoff has ruined Abela’s chances to win the leadership contest. I don’t know who will win but if Abela does, Labour’s slow and gradual descent into political insignificance will accelerate and will become irreversible. It is a descent that began in 1981 and with the exception of the period between the departure of Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici and the electoral defeat of 1998 – during this period the Phoenix flew, briefly, but gloriously it flew – it has been a descent all the way.

    All electoral defeats are tragic but sometimes in tragedy there is hope. The latest tragedy could yet be the opportunity for the Phoenix to fly again. With Abela at the helm – at the helm without a forward-looking vision bit only a baggage full of grudges from the past, and without a cultural heritage that is distinct from Gonzi’s – the Phoenix will not fly again. The wind will disperse its ashes in the desert. What was heard and seen today will open the eyes of many party members and delegates.

    So, don’t blame it all on Mintoff if Abela himself does not take off. Il-Perit’s visit didn’t help but it was not determinant.

    James Gafa

  10. Old delegate said

    Have read all the comments on the Qormi meeting in this blog. Friends, do not be provoked into a mud-slinging match.

    I have already made my choice. I, an old delegate, perhaps one of the oldest, will vote for the youngest candidate, Joe Muscat. Not only because he is the youngest, but also because he has no chips on his shoulders. he is intelligent in a constructive, creative, sort of way. His is not the intelligence of makakkerija. He is my hope for the future.

    Because I have already chosen does not mean that I think that the candidates that I have not chosen should be belittled and insulted. We will need everybody on board as soon as we have a leader.

    By the way…this is not the Mintoff I want my children’s children to read about in history books. This is what I am telling my son right now. He is helping me translate this letter in English and he is smiling and nodding his head.

    Why in English? Because I want everybody to understand me clearly, even those that feel more comfortable reading and speaking in English. It is funny but true. If you say something in English, sometimes you are respected more. And, you know, the words of someone we respect more, carry more weight than those of someone we respect less.

    That’s why we should speak to the floater in English. Just bite your tongue and speak to them in English. Ending up without a tongue is not a high price to pay to win the future.

    Old delegate [Author’s name known to Caretaker]

  11. Marie Abdilla said

    I saw coverage of Dr. Abela’s event in Qormi. Mostly old men and ex Labour and GWU members with huge chips on their shoulders.

    Stories in Illum “Mozzjoni li ghaddiet b’vot unanimu” with transripts of minutes from the MLP National Executive show that the decision to go for elections in 1998 was unanimous. No more blatant lies please Dr.Abela!

    Also how fitting that on the day that Illum also publishes a letter from Alfred Mifsud to Alfred Sant written in 1998 “L-ghajnuna ta’ George Abela kienet indispensabbli ghal Mintoff – Mifsud iwissi lil Sant” Mintoff shows up at Qormi and endorses Dr. Abela. He says he wants an inclusive forward looking party but reality is that with Abela as Leader its back to the 80s.

    Vote Abela – Get Mintoff!!!! All are welcome to come back to the Party as members contributing towards the common good if they are prepared to be team players and bury old grudges but Dr. Abela as Leader… No thanks!! What we want is a forward looking visionary moving to the future not buried in the past.

    Marie Abdilla

  12. J. Borg said

    To me it’s so strange that Mintoffians are supporting the most “centrist” of the 5 contestants….but than, I guess it’s because they identify with him as a group since, like them, he had moved from the centre to the periphery of Labourland. As everyone can notice, a number of people who had moved to the periphery, or even jumped over the fence, are now being seen in MLP activities, and not just George Abela activities but also in activities of other contestants + of the Party….I hope these people would still work within and for the Party irrelevant of who is choosen as leader. If MLP wants to grow stronger, and hopefuly win the next general election, all “factions” have to be kept happy. I think this could happen if we have a leader who is clever/crafty enough (ah well, that’s politics i guess) and who is reasonable enough to be able to make concessions. No one should think of the Party as his own possession, but rather the Party should be more like a home which gathers in it all those who, to varying degrees, identify with the left/socialism/social-democracy/social liberalism and preferably also green politics (and what about feminism?). While being moderate in its approach, Labour should have certain values and principles, which ideally would be common to all the varying shades of the “left” and the “left-of-centre”, and which identify it from other Parties.

    J.Borg

  13. Night Editor said

    Rise and shine! Rise and shine!

    Monday bloody Monday it is! And what a Monday it’s going to be…

    All of you who are sitting puffy eyed in front of your PC this morning for one last scan of yesterday’s papers, blogs etc, before setting out to face the world, remember that nationalists sfegatati at your place of work or study, in shops and bus stops, canteens and bars will ask you – with an ear-to-ear smile – what you think of Mintoff’s presence in Qormi yesterday.

    Politely, as politely as only we Labourites by birth or by choice can, reply that you are too busy thinking about mafia-style day-light murders, about JPO putting pressure on the police by bragging that ongoing investigation on the Mistra scandal will find him innocent, about the two tyres you bust this weekend thanks to our top-EU quality roads, about that unsold property you bought in 2003 and on which you spent a fortune to bring it up to the standards that foreign buyers would expect (you know which foreign buyers, those that were going to rush to buy property in Malta after EU accession in 2004 but never came), about someone – now dead – claiming to have been brutally beaten by the police and then dumped over a bastion, about business as usual at MEPA (same chairman, same everything).

    Enjoy!

    AMC

    Your friendly night editor as she now passes to buck to JG for the first day shift. Keep you comments coming in. Don’t forget that we have another, important, debate going on the need for Labour to reach out to all progressives and moderates. See the “The Bow in the Clouds” editorial.

  14. Qum! said

    Switching off emotions, it is highly interesting to read the ‘reactions’ posted here.

    As if someone like Mintoff is not entitled to prefer one candidate over another.

    Yet someone like George Vella backing Muscat is – of course – perfectly acceptable and does not irritate anyone here..

    Hmmm…

    So much for tolerance.

    Please bear in mind that Mintoff is still a delegate of the party. Personally, I do not see the Machiavellian plots/string pulling etc that some of you see. I just see a delegate backing a candidate and showing his support.

    For those of you who were there, you would have seen a much different reaction to your own.

    Qum

    (Author’s name is unknown to Caretaker…but that is no problem at all!)

  15. Nikita Zammit Alamango said

    AMC what a lovely gathering of points this is…It’s true, you know, that the PN must really be happy that the leadership race is in the near future and it’s all everybody’s talking about.

    They hope that we will be to blinded from seeing what is going on outside in our streets, what this minority government is doing. The blunt decisions the government has taken after only 1 month and 20 days in government: the PFP, rise in diesel and cereals’ prices, the changing of dates of the waste scheme, the MUT disagreement…. oh so much has happened without consultation with the opposition! Ops! I forgot to mention that miskin they offered us a speaker. How generous !! Give me a break !!

    So, dear fellows, let’s not be too blind to see the right Leader whilst paying attention to the current situation.

    Nikita Zammit Alamango

  16. J. Borg said

    Dear “Qum!”, I don’t think that anyone here ever said that Mintoff doesn’t have the right to back George Abela. Comments were on the implications which this backing has, and not if there should have been this backing or otherwise. I don’t think that Mintoff’s public support for George Abela has the same weight as that of any other delegate. If you think about it, it’s a positive thing that Mintoff’s appearance has been given media coverage, it shows that old Dom is still relevant 😉

    J. Borg

  17. Maria Vella said

    LATEST
    Hi Qum,

    I do not think that the tolerance bit comes into anything. Of course Dom Mintoff has the right to support the Dr Abela candidacy. Each one of us will draw one’s own conclusions from that. Personally, the Mintoff endorsement to the Abela bid accentuates the feeling that Abela represents more of an anti-Sant faction that is keener to get his own back than to lead the party with vision and purpose. I for one demand that there be changes in the palace, but my motivations are based on percieved performance, as all changes have to be driven by objectives and meritocracy not some sort of ‘revenge’. Moreover, the Mintoff endorsement causes a few eyebrows to rise because of, among others, the distance between the two on matters EU. Finally there is the image issue. We all seem to agree that we need to reach out to the floaters. We should be all eternally grateful for what the Perit did for our Nation but many of us feel deeply hurt by his persistent reluctance (putting it mildly of course but this is no time for recrimination) to let new blood do their job – end of story. At this day and age I do not think that he is a magnet to attract floaters.

    In the final analysis, Labour’s new leadership should hopefully include a wide representation of inclinations within the labour movement ranging from the progressives to the christian conservatives and traditional socialists. In my view, given Malta’s stage of economic, social and cultural development, such leadership should be spearheaded by the progressive element not only because this represents the widest spectrum of society but also because it will give Labour a distinctive edge on the Gonzipn Christian Democrat grey mould. Regards

    Maria Vella

  18. Andrew Sciberras said

    I have been following the discussion regarding this subject on the timesofmalta.com here: http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20080427/local/mintoff-turns-up-for-george-abela-meeting

    Reading through some comments there I am dumbfounded by what people have to say. Of course, they have every right to say it but it seems that the entire ordeal is blowing out of proportion. This is but a sample of how some people responded to others that are questioning Mintoff’s appearance and endorsement of George Abela:

    “Please supporters of know it all Joe Muscat just shut up, your champion is just a new face with the wrong ideas. Besides to add insult to injury he’s backed by Alfred Sant, manwel cuschieri, jason micallef and their losing clan. When will you understand that these people don’t stand a chance infront the electorate. Joe Muscat is being pushed by these people not because they are interested in winning the next election but, it appears, to keep their positions within the party. Maybe three successive defeats have not been enough for you to understand this simple equation you need another one, maybe and I repeat maybe you will realize your mistake with these people. Joe Muscat will not attract any PN voters he’s part of the Sant clan and this is a sin for PN voters, will you please take notice of this advice. Or maybe you are happy that some people who back him keep their jobs at your expense!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Even Dom Mintoff at the age of 91 is by far a better choice than Mr. Know it all Muscat.”

    P.B.[14 hours 26 minutes ago]

    ——

    “George Abela is too intelligent for all you hardcore Labourites out there.
    You like people like Muscat [Alfred Sant 2] who fits exactly to your way of reasoning!

    PN would be pleased to see Muscat as MLP leader as they would be sure of an extra 5 years in power after the 2012-2013 election.

    Abela is far better than all other candidates but you don’t share this view… your head is more than 6 feet under sand.

    Keep dreaming of winning a GENERAL election… your dream will never come true if you don’t change YOUR mentality and start realizing that the PN’s policies were right from day1.

    You won’t win again unless you’ll start being totally pro-EU, support liberalisation, accept privatization of companies, avoid controversies over social budgets like the last one, have a reformed TV/radio agenda, stop the annoying slogans [like we need a new beginning, families are facing problems, people are dying with hunger, Armageddon is coming…] at every mass meeting and be a serious opposition that backs the Government when facing a huge problem like oil crisis or pensions and not just criticizing.

    But there again…my words are too arrogant for you… too pathetic for you… too biased for you… too pro-GonziPn for you…

    So keep your Muscats, Sants and Jasons…keep in touch with Super One’s propoganda…keep doing politics the ‘eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth’ -way… keep praising your Manuel Cuschieris and Tony Abelas…

    and keep loosing again and again and again…

    We don’t need you!”

    M.B. [1 hour, 9 minutes ago]

    Similarly there are some comments that are blatantly against GA.

    Assumption 1: PN Supporters

    If these are PN supporters speaking all out against JM and in favour of GA than there is absolutely nothing new is there?

    Assumption 2: AbelaMLP Supporters

    If these are AbelaMLP Supporters than this is where the cookie crumbles. The questions that beg to be answered are

    1. How can we be so divided?
    2. Perhaps it is always natural for a Leadership contest to be divided [Gonzi/Dalli – Obama/Clinton – Muscat/Abela] ?
    3. How can you call for inclusivity and yet relish the thought of kicking everyone out?
    4. Where is the unity, the solidarity and the equality we hold so dear?
    5. Why do they ask their peers to shut up?
    6. Why do they accuse and judge without facts?
    7. Why do they let the public think for them and not think for themselves?

    Moreover, if we are to look at M.B.’s comment, is there a general call for a second gonziPN party? One that places more emphasis on traditional family values and private enterprise and a neo-liberal economy? The New Left or the Third Way has of course embraced the idea of private investment and the free market. In fact I encourage you to read this article on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_democracy

    But what about worker’s rights? What about fair trade? What about equal rights and opportunities for all? What about the progressive movement? Are we to throw these down the drain in order to be elected?

    Does Malta have such a big fear of Social Democracy? Are we to transform this nation into ‘L-Amerika fil- Mediterran’ ?

    Surely, a lot of questions need answering.

    Andrew Sciberras

  19. Annabelle Cauchi said

    So, having suffered 12 years of discriminations under the PN, every MLP supporter is supposed to forget who was responsible for this demise and welcome Mintoff and his friends back? No way Dr Abela! I, for one, will not forget !

    Annabelle Cauchi

  20. Qum! said

    Hi Maria (Vella)!

    Thanks for your comments.

    1) “Personally, the Mintoff endorsement to the Abela bid accentuates the feeling that Abela represents more of an anti-Sant faction that is keener to get his own back than to lead the party with vision and purpose. ”

    Was there any doubt about Dr. Abela being anti Sant? Did Dr. Abela need Mr. Mintoff’s endorsement for this to come out? I would have thought that this was pretty obvious way back in 1998 🙂

    And is there actually anything wrong with not agreeing with Dr. Sant’s way of doing things? What’s the big issue that people are finding with Dr. Abela being anti Sant?

    Many of us left the party we love because of this very fact.

    You either had to toe the line (and do things against your conscience/belief or you left & amp; were branded ‘a traitor/against the party (not the leader’s decisions, mind!) etc. At least the latter allowed you to keep a clean conscience and did not sell out on your basic belief)….

    Equally, is there any doubt that Dr. Muscat is being backed by the Sant/G.Vella/Cuschieri etc camp?

    So what? It’s all pretty clear, obvious and above board, I would have thought.

    b) “Moreover, the Mintoff endorsement causes a few eyebrows to rise because of, among others, the distance between the two on matters EU.”

    Again I perceive a misinterpretation of facts – thanks to Mintoff’s not having a voice through any of the party’s propaganda at the time.

    (BTW Dr. Sant gave clear instruction that there would be ‘zero communication’ with Mr. Mintoff even when Mr. Mintoff formed part of the cabinet and had every right to have access to all information like all other members of cabinet. I’m sure the whip of the time (Joe Mizzi can confirm this direct order given in 1997/1998)).

    I think Mr. Mintoff has NEVER stated that he is against EU!

    In fact, I think he has always believed it to be a good thing. What he has, however, always maintained was that the PACKAGE that Malta got was just not good enough, has many bad points (against Malta) and should be renegotiated. Just like others have done in fact, even if we are not aware of that are we…?

    >We all seem to agree that we need to reach out to the floaters.

    Agreed!

    Can we honestly do that if Dr. Muscat is seen as “Dr. Sant’s puppet” – an image (whether right or wrong) that I do not see him yet having shaken off? For many floaters, Dr. Muscat = Dr. Sant in the background….

    Ultimately, it’s not a matter of ‘wishing for a new start’ etc: it’s a matter of how the floating voter perceives..

    On the other hand I will also concede that Dr. Abela clearly needs to attract more youth to his cause.

    >In the final analysis, Labour’s new leadership should hopefully >include a wide representation of inclinations within the labour >movement ranging from the progressives to the christian >conservatives and traditional socialists.

    Agreed 100%, so here’s an interesting question:

    Would Dr. Muscat be willing to welcome back traditional socialists like Mr. Mintoff (and many others) back into his camp?

    Would he be willing to state so publicly BEFORE the election of leadership?

    We tend to point the “finger of intolerance” at Dr. Abela but nobody has asked/done the same to Dr. Muscat.

    Can Dr. Muscat clearly state how he will attract people like Mintoff etc back and allow them a clear and equal voice within the party that they also love?

    Or is it not a prerequisite for Dr. Musact to be ‘burdened’ with different ideas?

    Will we remain with a ‘NEW (sic!) Labour’ mentality that history has shown to be not capable of being in government?

    QUM!

  21. Maria Vella said

    Good questions Mr Sciberras, yet the more the Maltese Charade goes on the more it dawns on me that in the final analysis it is certainly not a matter of substance but a matter of sauce.

    Maria Vella

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  23. Andrew Sciberras said

    Points of Discussion

    (1) Bringing Everyone Back

    Reading through your comments I see a general question popping up and that is how can the new leader unite the traditional socialists with the more liberal, progressive movement of the center-left? Is it even possible? Well it takes two to tango.

    (2) Traditional Socialism

    Let us start of with the premise that Dom Mintoff, Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici and their supporters fall within the context of traditional socialists. Now the questions that need to be answered are

    (a) What is traditional socialism?;
    (b) Is it relevant today?

    Should we define traditional socialism as the socio-economic system in which property and the distribution of wealth are subject to control by the community? Is it characterized by the collective ownership of the means of production? Is it the antithesis of capitalism and private property? The complete nationalization of the means of production? Does it put on a pedestal the working classes and disregards all other sectors of society? Is it characterized by a militant (il-militanti tal-Partit) movement and an extraordinary amount of volunteers (il-volontiera)? Is it characterized by some form of punishment or exclusion thwarted against its dissidents?

    Whilst we should embrace our socialist ideals, i.e. the continuing struggle to protect the rights of the workers (il-Haddiema) against rampant capitalism and social injustice we must necessarily move on with the times. We cannot remain stuck in the past and one hopes that the so-called traditional socialists accept this fact. This is, perhaps, the reason as to why so many people are questioning the endorsement by Dom Mintoff? The evolution of socialism is in fact evident. From Marx and Engels came Communism, from Communism came Socialism, from Socialism came Democratic Socialism and Social Democracy (which are, in fact, two distinct politico-socio philosophies). Think of Democratic Socialism as Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela and Social Democracy as Tony Blair’s Britain and Zapatero’s Spain.

    In this day and age, like it or not, Social Democratic and Labour Parties embrace a mixed economy consisting mainly of private enterprise but with government owned or subsidized programmes of education, health care, child care and related services for all citizens. It is characterized by bodies that should regulate private enterprise in the interest of workers, consumers and fair competition. It advocates fair trade. In essence it calls for a fully fledged system of Social Justice and Dialogue in order to keep the market forces liberalized but in check and to ensure that the worker’s rights are fully respected.

    If the traditional socialists are not happy with the evolution of the Left to Center-Left than what can I say? They have the freedom to reform themselves and get in touch with a dynamic and ever-changing world or to remain ingrained in the past.

    (2) Progressives

    Social Democrats and Labour Parties around the world are evolving. They also call for equality and solidarity between all races, sexes, genders, religions, sexual orientations. In my opinion it is unfair to impose religion on people, it is unfair to unify the Church and State in one body, it is unfair to discriminate on the basis of sex and sexual orientation (yes, homosexuals and heterosexuals are EQUALS). We cannot progress, as a nation, with these ever-present obstacles in our lives. Environmental protection and alternative energy funding laws are to come towards the top of the agenda. What about civil rights and liberties? What about rewarding people based on merit and not on the hbieb-tal-hbieb philosophy? What about imposing heavy taxes on those that pollute most and imposing fewer taxes on those that pollute least? Where are the economic and social policies that also comply with affluent sectors of society?

    This is the call of a new generation of Maltese, Europeans and World citizens alike. Which Leader is ready to embrace this call of the people? Which Leader has the courage to discuss issues that unfortunately are still a taboo and controversial in Malta? So far I see one, possibly two candidates that hit the nail on the head.

    Andrew Sciberras

  24. Alfred Calleja said

    “What a difference a day makes” was one of my favourite tunes of my teenage years. Esther Phillips thrilled me with her jazzy voice scaling up those high notes.

    After many years I found myself humming the tune again just before lunchtime last Sunday when I was going through the local papers. My eyes popped when I read in Illum the advice that Alfred Mifsud gave to Prime Minister Alfred Sant in a memo dated July 10, 1998, the day after George Abela jumped ship and resigned his post as Labour’s Deputy Leader for Party Affairs in the middle of a serious political crisis. I changed the lyrics to “What a difference ten years make” but the rhythm somewhat lost its pace and the brio was gone.
    If you bear with me you shall discover why.

    Alfred Mifsud told the other Alfred the following:

    “This is a situation which needs cool heads and thinking, and I dare say that a detached view could enrich your analysis so I decided to bother you with my thoughts.

    It is clear that you are fighting at least two factions that conveniently have come together to fight a common adversary. The George Abela and Lino Spiteri camps are no Mintoff buddies but primarily the objectives of both camps are quite congruent. George Abela is clearly challenging your party leadership. Mintoff is challenging your ability to govern.

    It is important that you understand the problem and the motivations involved as otherwise a proper solution is elusive. Mintoff does not want to remove you from Prime Minister. The last thing Mintoff wants is to go to elections because this will wipe away his residual power base. Mintoff has been manoeuvering you into a situation where your party leadership is weakened enough so that you will not find the moral conviction and courage to call elections knowing that the party is not wholeheartedly behind you. For this purpose the assistance of George Abela is indispensable to Mintoff. Without your obtaining a clear mandate to call early elections, Mintoff gets exactly what he wants, your obligation to learn how to live with him or your resignation and replacement by someone who is willing to live with him. Through this Mintoff will earn his nomination for Presidency and with George Abela will become the savior of the party having pulled it back from the electoral precipice you were driving it into. We will also get a puppet Prime Minister”

    Alfred Mifsud went on with some suggestions for a plan of action and after his signature added a post script informing his Prime Minister that:
    “If new elections become a reality count on my (sic) to fill any administrative void filled by George Abela as may be necessary”

    This, ladies and gentlemen is Mr Alfred Mifsud who 10 years later:
    – Is four square behind George Abela’s bid for Labour’s leadership
    – goes on NET TV to sing George Abela’s praises
    – is organizing opinion polls to see where moderates, floaters and Nationalist voters (addirittura!) stand on Labour’s leadership issue
    – in his piece of Friday Wisdom he tells Labour elders – a word borrowed from his now comrade in arms Lino Spiteri in the George Abela campaign – that they serve the party much better by shutting up.
    – defended with Illum his new allegiance to George Abela with a very nonchalant “circumstances 10 years ago were different…10 years passed over everyone and every one is now 10 years more mature”

    This is where I sang to myself “What a difference 10 years make” slightly out of tune.

    As I was reading this sensational revelation, Dom Mintoff was sitting front row listening to George Abela speaking of old wine in old barrels and about putting old jackets on new faces. Here again, my mind went 10 years back. Precisely to that dramatic meeting of Labour’s executive group of the 8th July 1998. That day George Abela joined all members present at the meeting in a unanimous vote in favour of a motion to call a general election in the shortest time possible and to condemn without reservations Dom Mintoff’s behaviour in Parliament. Lest anyone forget, this motion condemned Mintoff’s shift in his position from abstention to a vote against the motion to transfer the lease for the land at the Cottonera waterfront..

    Claiming that he has the credentials to lead the Labour party on the basis that his past is a guarantee for the future, Geoge Abela welcomed as “an honoured guest” the man who sabotaged a hard won Labour government after 10 years in opposition, with his quixotic claims to fight for the right of the citizens of Cottonera to barbeque burgers and sausages on the quay and swim there as they please.

    Yes indeed what a difference ten years make. What does not change is the strength of the old Arab proverb that says the enemy of my enemy is my friend. What Labour badly needs to-day is saving and deliverance from cliques who are bonding together on this precept to avenge their failed political ambitions of ten years back and in some cases longer than that.

    Alfred Calleja

  25. Albert Farrugia said

    I was pleasantly surprised to discover this blog! For a while I was scared that the Maltese blogosphere was totally dominated by Daphne Caruana Galizia (DCG)’s blog. And, it is also wonderful that it is in English. Nothing elitist here but, as was written in an earlier post, like it or nor English is the language of the socially mobile in Malta. It is no coincidence that when we talk of the so-called “independent” media only English-language newspapers come to mind.
    I would like to make a point at this stage. The MLP can win only if it manages to come up with what I call a “Project for the country”. Joseph Muscat has, infact, used similar language. Look at the PN. In the 70s it was about to fall apart. Unil they declared their policy to be that of Malta joining the EU. All other matters of PN policy flow out from that main central theme. And, let’s face it, the PN has reached each and every political objective it set before it as long ago as 1981.
    On the contrary, througout these 27 years, the MLP never really managed to present something new and exciting to the country. It was a formidable and tough opposition. But not more. In 2003, after the PN achieved its greatest goal, I believed that the MLP would now come up with a project for Malta, taking the initiative from the PN. Unfortunately this did not happen.
    I stop my post here as I believe posts should be short and to the point. But I am very much interested in the debate. This country simply NEEDS a change desperately. We have come to the point were a man previously held by the police dies a few days later, and all we hear is SILENCE!

  26. Saviour Ciantar said

    Up to now I’ve heard some leadership contestants argue (Dr Abela’s friends) that everyone should make way for them because, with them at the helm, the party will win the elections! How can we win the moderate vote with Mintoff as the CEO behind the scenes? Who is going to believe this? Dr Abela, please, renounce Mintoff. Not in the sense of renouncing what he has done for a country in the past. Nobody in his right senses denies him his historical significance. Renounce his present meddling. Renounce his interferences since, at least, the great victory of 1996. Without Mintoff, if you want to, you will be in the winning team. With him, you do not stand a chance, but what’s worse is that, with him, the whole Party does not stand a chance. Mintoff forever? No Labour Party in government, ever. No Mintoff? No Gonzi Party in government for ever!

    Saviour Ciantar

  27. Maria Vella said

    Hi back Qum, I’ll try to keep it as brief as possible.

    I agree with most of your arguments…I feel it is a just a matter of tuning…mela:

    Was is no doubt that Dr. Abela is anti-Sant. The issue is that Dr Abela’s sentiments are so strong that they led him to leave the party. Now with his bid to return at the helm he seems bent on purging any hint of Sant odour. That would mean an important section of current-day Labour. Is there a need for this? I do not think so. I disagreed with many a Labour/AS stance but never found it a problem to stay within the party. I strongly feel that people in marketing and research, the general secretary etc must make a dignified exit. Not because they were pro-Sant but because, in my opinion, they performed poorly. The vibes coming from the Abela camp carry a sense of retribution. This sends out the wrong vibes and is uselessly anti-union (always in my opinion of course).

    The few friends of mine who (I think) may have left the party, did so not because of diverging views but because it was a case of their view or nothing else.

    Is Dr. Muscat being backed by the Sant/G.Vella/Cuschieri etc camp? Have no idea. Have no problems with George Abela and think highly of him. Sant camp? Well if Dr Muscat carries an ‘I know it all attitude’ than God help us. Cuschieri, certainly not a flattering feather in one’s cap.

    The Mintoff endorsement causes a few eyebrows to rise because of, among others, the distance between the two on matters EU. I followed il-Perit’s contributions at CNI activities. Dr Abela states that we have to embrace the EU with conviction. That I see to be miles away from Dom’s position. Like AS’s Labour, Mr. Mintoff may have never stated that he is against EU. In fact his position was much closer to Labour than to Abela’s. Mintoff’s position was perhaps the package while Labour’s objection was one of timing.

    We all seem to agree that we need to reach out to the floaters. We can not do that if Dr. Muscat is seen as Dr. Sant’s puppet. That is why PN hands are all at the pumps to ensure that Dr Muscat is seen as a Sant Poodle. Now contenders may decide to enforce this perception or stay in neutral.

    In your opinion many floaters see Dr. Muscat = Dr. Sant in the background…. Do you think this is the case?

    You ask – would Dr. Muscat be willing to welcome back traditional socialists like Mr. Mintoff (and many others) back into his camp? I think so if these are willing to operate within a wide spectrum of left shades and ready to row with the plan agreed to by the majority.

    Would he be willing to state so publicly BEFORE the leadership election? I think he has already done that.

    We tend to point the “finger of intolerance” at Dr. Abela but nobody has asked/done the same to Dr. Muscat. I do not see Dr Abela as being intolerant. I see him as being ‘my way or no way’. Anyone not willing to understand that 141,000 people can not have one view and therefore positions of authority have to be respected. Going to elections or not is not a matter of principle (hence yes even I would leave the party) but one of strategy (I for one did not want the Labour Government to go to the polls but I saw no other alternative and Dr Abela has not shown there was one either).

    You ask : Can Dr. Muscat clearly state how he will attract people like Mintoff etc back and allow them a clear and equal voice within the party that they also love? Now Mintoff is my idol, imma to state that Mintoff is a person who will sit and discuss issues and embrace a view that is not his own…I think we need to get real on this.

    One final thing. To date I think that MLCP has an edge on competition. Addressing me as if I were some Dr Muscat fan is a tad off the mark 🙂

    Greetings and may you return to the fold be it under Joseph, Marie, Michael or Varist. If it will be George, I will have to hold my nose damn hard…but I will not flee away.

    Regards

    Maria Vella

  28. pinu z-zebbugi said

    What Alfred Calleja is saying is new to lots of people, especially about Labours’ executive meeting of the 8th July 1998. This should be better explained to every one, so every one may recognise the wolf in sheepskin and his past.

    Pinu iz-Zebbugi [Author’s name know to Caretaker]

  29. Bo Peep said

    Wolves. Wolves in sheep clothing.

    “Stop that Peppi. You’re scaring me. Mamma mia, what is this I hear? ‘Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Help me or the wolf will kill my sheep!’ ”
    “WOLVES on the loose, dressed to deceive? Help! Help!”

    Jo Sheperd: “What is it Bo Peep? Why do you cry wolf, when all I see is sheep?”

    Bo Peep: “Forgive me dear Sheperd but these sheep just seem strange to me. I have a bad feeling. Peppi said they could be wolves in sheep clothing that I’m tending.”

    Jo Sheperd: “That’s ridiculous Bo Peep. You are so gullible my sweet. All I see is regular sheep of a different breed. They have unusually big ears I agree but they look docile to me. Big ears are not a sign of danger, do not worry. Don’t you remember that even Red said her grandma boasted a pair these on each side of her cheek?”

    Bo Peep: “Maybe Krasicki was right, they are just stories used to entertain the meek.”

    Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

    Bo Peep

  30. Wally Buhagiar said

    If there is anybody out there who is enjoying this and thanking his lucky stars, that’s none other that Lawrence Gonzi! I think highly of all the contestants for the job of leader but although not all of them may ultimately be The Leader, none of them may be an effective leader once elected unless the others undertake to rally around her or him to give the Country a choice between a Gonzi government heading for trouble (remember, the man himself warned us before elections that there is trouble ahead) and a strong, credible, European, environment-friendly administration that will bring us peace of mind and sustainable prosperity. So let’s stop giving Gonzi and his desperados a helping hand. Let’s get this done, let’s get it done with dignity, and let’s offer this country a decent choice. It deserves better!

    Wally Buhagiar

  31. Qum! said

    Good morning Maria Vella,

    “ The issue is that Dr Abela’s sentiments are so strong that they led him to leave the party.”
    Hand on my heart, I think he did the right thing: to stay and do things AGAINST your principles (like having to vote for something which you have publically stated you are against otherwise you are branded a traitor) is NOT healthy for the party no matter what people here try to argue (emotionally not logically).
    This, by the way was also the path I chose to take rather than stay on and be a ‘yes-man’.
    “Now with his bid to return at the helm he seems bent on purging any hint of Sant odour.”
    Again personally, I think that unless this is done, we cannot move forward. Let’s be frank (and logical not emotional) have we forgotten the executive meetings etc where we saw nothing but pure stuborness where people had to toe the leader’s line or else..?
    This is not about revernge but about doing a necessary task: if a patient has cancer, you have to cut and remove if the patient is to survive. Ignoring the cancer is not going to cure the patient in the long term. Again, logic not emotion dictate this.
    “I strongly feel that people in marketing and research, the general secretary etc must make a dignified exit. Not because they were pro-Sant but because, in my opinion, they performed poorly.”
    I agree… but that would in itself actually mean most of the Sant ‘clique’ no? So, what is it to be?
    “ The vibes coming from the Abela camp carry a sense of retribution. This sends out the wrong vibes and is uselessly anti-union (always in my opinion of course).”
    I disagree entirely. I see it the other way round.
    “Is Dr. Muscat being backed by the Sant/G.Vella/Cuschieri etc camp? Have no idea.”
    Seriously….?!! Just read some papers/ radio/etc
    “Well if Dr Muscat carries an ‘I know it all attitude’ than God help us. Cuschieri, certainly not a flattering feather in one’s cap. “
    I think that Dr. Muscat has a BIG contribution to give to the party. His playing mates, regretably, let him down big time.
    “The Mintoff endorsement causes a few eyebrows to rise because of, among others, the distance between the two on matters EU. “
    They are both PRO EU… as long as we gain from the EU and are not shackled by it. If you did follow FMI (not CNI) , Mr. Mintoff is clearly on record (on video) that:
    – we should wait a little bit longer to see what the EU grows into (as it is still in dipers and we are committing our future with it without knowing what it will actually turn into).
    – the present package has two main huge disadvantages for Malta making it unacceptable in its present state.
    – we should therefore renogotiate a better package for Malta (which is always/still achievable!) and if we do not get it…
    – only then should we not join. For Malta’s sake.
    “We all seem to agree that we need to reach out to the floaters. We can not do that if Dr. Muscat is seen as Dr. Sant’s puppet. That is why PN hands are all at the pumps to ensure that Dr Muscat is seen as a Sant Poodle. Now contenders may decide to enforce this perception or stay in neutral.”
    Actually I see this differently. No matter what PN say, they need a WEAK opposition not a strong one (in order to win again). I think that Liverpool would prefer to play Wrexham FC in a final rather than Chelsea. For PN to say otherwise is very tongue in cheek and of course cannot be taken seriously! I speak to many in the PN camp (as I’m sure many others do). They percieve Dr. Abela as our only chance to win the next elections (no disrispect to the other contenders!).
    They also percieve that Dr. Muscat = Dr. Sant = Status Quo which is absolutely fine by them.
    Therefore they are using reverse psychology: they are ‘backing’ Dr Abela so that the labour voters say “you see! They want Abela…let us vote Muscat!” But actually they know that Dr. Abela is a wise negotiator. Ask Dr. Austin Gatt, who has taken on Dr. Abela and came out very bruised…
    As proof of this:
    -take a look at the constant attack on the Dr. Sant camp (including Jason etc) before the elections and take a look at the UTTER SILENCE emanating from the PN propaganda machine on these guys right now…
    Why? Because for them “AS continuation” (and they see this in Dr. Muscat!) = guaranteed PN victory.
    -take a look at how they cover Dr. Muscat (or lack of it).
    Why? Because they love Dr. Abela or want good for MLP??? Not a chance! It’s all about reverse psycology….
    “In your opinion many floaters see Dr. Muscat = Dr. Sant in the background…. Do you think this is the case? “
    Absolutely.
    “You ask – would Dr. Muscat be willing to welcome back traditional socialists like Mr. Mintoff (and many others) back into his camp? I think so if these are willing to operate within a wide spectrum of left shades and ready to row with the plan agreed to by the majority. “
    I see “‘as long as you obey my rules and not have a variant oppinion”.. 
    “Would he be willing to state so publicly BEFORE the leadership election? I think he has already done that.”
    Ironically, this is 100% what I have felt since the very beginning! I agree with you entirely. She has 3 trump cards which she should keep to herself and use them wisely and at the right time.
    “Addressing me as if I were some Dr Muscat fan is a tad off the mark ”
    I was not trying to do so at all. And if you were, I would have no problem with that… I hope that Dr. Muscat does not see me as an “enemy” either but someone who is merely speaking his mind.
    My sincerest wish is for the party to get the BEST leader and I have tried to piont out the good points and bad point of the two mentioned here.
    “Greetings and may you return to the fold be it under Joseph, Marie, Michael or Varist.”
    Alas, the last experience has left a very bitter taste that I doubt very much that I would want to go back to that situation. I have other interests that give me a lot of satisfaction and I doubt I would want to give them up for politics.
    “If it will be George, I will have to hold my nose damn hard…but I will not flee away.”
    Lets sit back & see what happens! Then we’ll cross the bridges when we get to them.
    Best regards
    Q!

  32. El Azarus said

    After the defeat of 1987, a number of rebel activists, candidates and ‘intellectuals’ (an obscene word then) opted for a protacted struggle to seize the Party from the stranglehold of some of the powerful former ministers who had not done too badly for themselves in the 16 years of Labour rule (1971-1987). The history of that struggle has not been written yet and it is for sure too early too write it.

    It is fair to point out that although Alfred Sant, as Party president, was not one of the rebels, he was neither captive nor accomplice of the clique of cabinet barons and their networks – he had not been, after all, their choice for Party president. George Vella, on the other hand, was one of the rebels. George Abela was not so visible then, but he was clearly not distant from the grandees who – recently deprived of state power – were desperate to retain control of the opposition Party.

    Some important political actors, even the most important ones by far, chose not to take front line roles on either side in this unequal fight. Foolhardy younger ones, outsiders almost, did. Lorry Sant, practically a symbol, bore the brunt of the rebels’ attacks. Guze Abela, the legendary Nutar with the rare reputation of taking no crap from anyone, the tallest man in the Party’s history in spite of the smallness his condition had reduced him to, understood the historical importance of the ongoing struggle and agreed to step into the thankless role of chairman of the Vigilance & Discipline Board. The former deity, descending from Olympus, tried to meddle but was told to bugger off, in no uncertain terms.

    Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici, although leader at the time, was marginal to this process and perhaps intentionally so. There is a strong case in favour of the argument, that Karmenu wanted George Vella to succeed him as leader of the Party, precisely because of the stand Vella took in the post-87 effort to reform the Party, something that Karmenu himself had nver really involved himself in. George Vella declined.

    The duel for leadership between Alfred Sant and Lino Spiteri came at the tail-end of this period and had little if anything to do with it. Which is not to say that there were no attempts to confuse issues. Alfred Sant benefitted from the unexpected achievements of the rebels. So would have Lino Spiteri, had he won that contest. By the way, Spiteri never quite appreciated the profound respect that several of those rebels had in his regard. By assuming that they were Alfred Sant’s cronies and pitbull terriers, he alienated them from himself and alienated himself from them. Contrary to his usually admirable ability to make distinctions where distinctions exist, he failed to do so on that occasion.

    In any case, Alfred Sant would never have been able to rid the Party of its violent elements, had the rebels not first neutralised the Labour grandees. Significantly many of these violent elements floated in and out of the Labour grandees’ circles as easily as they floated in and out of the entourages of the Nationalist grandees, when circumstances demanded it; this too is an aspect of our political history that will require historians with half a dozen balls to research and write…no gender disrespect intended.

    Why is this contributor bringing up all of this now? Because it may well be that the real issue at stake in this leadership contest is the legacy of the post-87 struggle to reform the Party. Twenty years later and it re-emerges again. There are certainly temptations to re-establish a continuity with Labour’s pre-87 (if not pre-84) past and to do so with a vengeance. There are certainly some that consider these past 20 or 23 years as a period of exile to the periphery of what we used to call the Labour movement.

    No, this commentator does not think that George Abela is one of them, although he may be allowing himself to be cast in the role of their horseman of the Apocalypse. One hopes that Abela, whose experience in the trade union movement would add considerable value to Labour’s “gruppo dirigente”, will not underestimate the narrowness of the line that distinguishes the figure of the four horsemen of John’s Revelation to the celebrated gentleman of La Mancha. He ought to be above fighting the anachronistic fights of others.

    Lino Spiteri is certainly not one of them. His continues to be one of Labour’s best brains ever
    and, precisely because of this, he is certainly above entertaining such miserable visions. And by the way, whoever wins this contest, would be an utter fool not to listen to him closely and frequently.

    El Azarus [Author’s name not known to Caretaker]

  33. Tazebao Caretaker said

    Mr. Mintoff’s visit to Qormi on the occasion of George Abela’s meeting there has occasioned a spirited discussion. It has been useful. Some things, we submit, are clearer now. We sincerely think, however, that it is now time to resume the debate where we had left it off. We cordially invite you, therefore, to refocus on the future of the Labour Party and the Country. Although you are perfectly free to post more comments here, may we suggest that you redirect your attention to either the latest editorial (Back to the Future) or to the previous one (Bow in the Clouds)?

    The Caretaker

  34. This blog post is featured on Maltamedia: The Maltese Blogosphere

    – Nominate blog post of the month –

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