Labour in labour

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

Wanted: someone who can reach out to those who care about the value of truth.

Posted by fcb on May 27, 2008

It is not enough for the new leader to be a smart political tactician. Sure, we all dream of someone with the reflexes of a fourteen year-old master of the joystick in front of a video-game, ducking just in time to avoid being disintegrated by a dematerialisator ray from an enemy starship whilst simultaneously taking out a dozen android gonzians even before the Old Man – brooding in the Ille of Cast – thinks of instructing them to capture on a chip images of our smart-ass lasciviously abusing a half-liter tub of ice-cream – the sort of images that would destroy the electoral  prospects of any would-be first minister of the intergalactic federation. It is necessary but not sufficient.

It is not enough for the new leader to be a consumate international networker with strategically placed friends in the capitals of the Continent, which friends will fly in to bear witness to their friend’s competence and, more importantly, intercede on our behalf with the chieftains of Europe when and as required. It is necessary but not sufficient.

What we need is someone who is smart and streetwise but who can also understand what makes women and men of good will in this Country of ours look towards the future with growing apprehension. They may not all use these words but what is bothering them is that truth is in scarce supply and that they see no sign that there will be more of it in the foreseeable future, on the contrary. The better read amongst you will grin and point out that the crisis of truth, itself just one element of a broader crisis of values, is not just our local problem but a worldwide one, certainly a European one. This is no consolation. 

Our new leader must be someone who is bothered by this and who strives to reach out to those – and there are more of them than we seem to think – who are not ready to sacrifice certain fundamental values, truth first and foremost, to tactical exigencies, to political opportunism. We have said this before on this site, and we will say it again. We take it for granted that Gonzi, his government, his party, are strenghtened by the implicit support of various lay religious groups and of countless individuals for whom religious values are fundamental. This is not untrue but it presumes that these groups and individuals are necessarily subordinate to the political needs and aims of Gonzi, his government, his party and the social and economic interest groups they represent.

We think this is an unwarranted assumption. We are convinced that many who give so much of their lives to these groups and many individuals for who the spiritual dimension of existence is of vital importance, are not unconditionally tied to Gonzi and all he stands for. They will take us seriously when and to the extent that we take their concerns seriously. Their main current concern is the crisis of values, especially the crisis of truth. They will take us seriously when and to the extent that we take the crisis of values, especially the crisis of truth, seriously. Our new leader must be someone who understands them and who is understood by them. This may not be sufficient but is necessary.




18 Responses to “Wanted: someone who can reach out to those who care about the value of truth.”

  1. Michael Caruana said

    My name is not Michael Caruana. Much as I am ashamed to admit it, I have chosen to hide behind a pseudonym. In any case, my name is not important. With over three-thousand members organised in a hundred local communities, the movement I belong to must be one of the most significant on the Island. In the world we are about one million. All I want to do is to bear witness that many of us are not happy that it is taken for granted that we will defend a Nationalist government at all costs. Between truth and this government, many of us will choose truth.

    Michael Caruana (Author states that this name is a pseudonym; his identity is not known to the Caretaker)

  2. Good morning,
    I would like to plug a post on my blog that is relevant to the general discussion here:

    Thank you in advance, I hope that it is of interest to you and your readers.
    Jacques René Zammit

  3. fabrizioellul said

    I decided to create a new blog to dedicate to politics; so as to leave mine for other stuff.

    Your comments will be appreciated.

  4. This post appeared originally on J’accuse: and is reproduced with the author’s permission. Caretaker

    “Cliques: Loud and Damaging
    A salient point in the Labour Party report on the reasons for the defeat in the last elections is the existence of “klikkek” within the party. The word “kilikkek” translates to English, quite literally, as “cliques”. A “clique” is described as “a small, exclusive, group of people” – the operative word being “exclusive”. The Online Etymology Dictionary gives the following result for the word “clique“: “1711, from Fr. clique, from O.Fr. cliquer “to make a noise,” echoic. Apparently this word was at one time treated as the equivalent of claque.”

    Today’s Times editorial dwells on the fragmentation and self-destructing party dynamic of the different party cliques. The editorial points out:

    “Hardly any party or organisation is immune to internal trouble or the inbreeding of cliques but, when the pull of such trouble or cliques strengthens itself to a proportion that affects the central unifying force, it often leads to derailment.”

    The sentence is a veiled defence to any argument that states that cliques cannot possibly be the only problem because everybody under the sun knows that the Nationalist Party has been equally afflicted by “cliques” – in their case power bases intended to consolidate the position of certain groups of individuals with the party. No doubt, the Times is once again performing its duty as unofficial apologist of the boys in blue but there is another implied truth in this statement that goes beyond apologist editorials – one that Labour sympathisers and reformers would do good to notice.

    Cliques within a political party are not a local phenomenon and exist elsewhere. What is interesting is the way they have evolved within the Labour party, gnawing away at the very foundations and backbone of what is necessary for a party to function. To exist even. The problem with a clique is the reason for its formation. An exclusive group of persons intent on extending its power base for its own benefit does not have the interests of the party as its main priority. It exists to ensure the survival of the individuals – more than that it strives for a successful placing as high up in the hierarchy as possible.

    The basic principle behind a clique is “help yourself and the others in the clique” – almost akin to a Masonic Agreement. In the political world a clique is not identifiable by a common political cause – let us say for example those in favour of making the introduction of more social rights like divorce. It is solely restricted to a power-hungry movement or sometimes to a movement formed to oust another one (think Gordon Brown though not exactly).

    The MLPN are most prone to have cliques during election campaigns. The competition in districts is restricted between candidates of the same party insofar as certain “guaranteed” votes are concerned. That cliques occur in such circumstances are inevitable. It is also possible that clique-forming could occur within the dynamics of the party – normally compensated with the formation of shared power-centres one for each large or dominating clique allowing for a certain balance.

    Factions: Purpose and Substance
    What we have not heard about in the Labour Report is “factions”. A political faction is no new discovery. Political factions are omnipresent, especially in large parties. Some apologists would have us believe that the Nationalist party is an umbrella party that has different factions including what must be a very silent “liberal” one. There is no doubt in my mind that something of the sort does exist within the PN though the way the party functions does not allow for much transparency in that field (of ideological factions – call them nuances if you like) – given the one-way traffic at the PN general councils they seem to be very far from having an open and honest debate about the ideological differences that exist.

    A faction is not a defection or a whistleblower on alleged corrupt practices. It is a healthy (though sometimes problematic) existence within a party that has a set of priorities based on different political ideas. Different from what? It may be different from the mainstream or more probably there may be different factions with different ideologies competing to push them at the head of the party agenda. A faction does not work to split the party (that is only a last resort when agreement seems to be so far from being reached that the only solution is the creation of another party). Factions debate (and yes, in this macchiavellian world of points of order, right of speakers to vote and party organisations sometimes use “underhand” tactics) in order to get their agenda as part of the party agenda.

    Here is Wikipedia’s description of a political faction (my underlining):

    “A political faction is a grouping of individuals, especially within a political organisation, such as a political party, a trade union, or other group with a political purpose. It may also be referred to as a power bloc, or a voting bloc. The individuals within a faction are united in a common goal or set of common goals for the organisation they are a part of, not necessarily shared by all of that organisation’s members. They band together as a way of achieving these goals and advancing their agenda and position within the organisation.”

    As I said, even the work of factions can turn out to be deleterious to a party’s health. Long power-struggles between internal factions can still diminish the party’s appeal to the electorate. Factions also require individuals playing the role of the “leader” or as wikipedia calls them “magnets” around whom the faction forms. Factions have one substantial advantage over clique. Their substance is based around a set of goals, an agenda, that is more often than not political in nature. They bring to the party a level of debate about principles, ideas and policies that are absent from cliques.

    Some parties prefer their factions to act internally. That is an organisational choice depending on the effects any struggle between factions may have on the public perception of the unity within the party. Let us not get waylaid by the debate of “going public” or not although it has its own merits. At this point my reflection centres on the problems of the Labour party as highlighted by the report.

    Coupled with the call by the report drafters for the Labour party to be less scared of “intellectuals” (as they call them) and of engaging in debate, this issue of the cliques must be of primary concern to whoever wants to reform the party into a working viable alternative. The temptation is to iron out all differences and create a uniform party where individuals must get, if you excuse the vulgar Maltese expression, permission for every fart. The practices of the Labour organisational structures seem to point in that direction – permission to speak, permission to think and permission to exist as a Labourite.

    This is a reaction to trouble caused by cliques and the ugly image they portray. Power for power’s sake is an ugly trait of Maltese politics, from the smallest movement within a party to the hegemony of MLPN on national politics. The risk is that in reacting to this report, the wheat is thrown away with the chaff and what is left is a factionless but spineless Labour party that might as well be a management organisation of sorts – managing fifty percent of the disillusioned electorate and expert only at producing reports explaining failures. That is not what the average Labourite wants, that is not what this country needs.”

    Jacques Rene Zammit

  5. Joe Vella said

    It is interesting to note that first we had ” the party machine” then,”cliques” of Alfred Sant, then we had the “defeat” report being lambasted by some of the leaders whom the report mentions as reponsible for the defeat. But if the leaders are not responsible, who is?
    Which clique is spinning all this? Is it, the “anti-party” clique, whose mission statement is “I win you play, I don’t win you don’t play?” This is why the Labour Party, of whom I sympathise but am no member, needs to put its house in order. For the labour Party to do this, is no easy matter, but it is not as difficult as cleaning up Malta, and direct it once again towards a sound, just nation based on Christian morality, and rule of law. Never has the Nationalist Party, in it long history, made a mockery of corruption, rule of law, and fortitude as it has under Dr Lawrence Gonzi, of all people, an ex-president of the Catholic Action, of which I am a member!
    Therefore, it is imperitive for the delegates to choose a leader who has no past blemishes, who is intelligent, and above all, a practising Catholic who practises his religion and does not use it for personal power!

    Joe Vella

  6. Albert Farrugia said

    Top marks Jacques!
    A good example of the way factions work is the way politics work in Germany. The two main political parties, the CDU/CSU and the SPD openly have factions, identifiable with particular politicians. Their ideas are debated daily on the media. They try to build majorities for their ideas within their party. Sometimes the debates turn sour, with negative effects on the party as a whole. The SPD lost strenght a couple of years ago by the departure of the Lafontaine faction, which advocated more “true” leftist principles. Lafontaine has since joined forces with former communist Gregor Gysi to form “The Left”. But on the whole politics in Germany is interesting and more or less transparent due to this way of doing things. And it is soley based on ideas.
    There is no way that the next MLP leader will be able to take one step forward if this clique problem is not tackled. Though one might argue that this clique system is the result of the 1998 Old Labour Rebellion, to give the events of that fateful summer a name, I believe that its roots run really much much deeper. Does anyone remember the Lorry Sant clique being deadly enemies of the Vincent Moran clique? Or the bitter enmity between Lorry Sant and Dom Mintoff in the 80s?
    Though the two parties sometimes tend to be photocopies of each other, in some aspects they are as different as they can be.
    In the PN the culture which has evolved is one in which factions and cliques are simply absorbed, diluted, and then disappear. Without leaving any lasting damage. Remember Josie Muscat’s clash with the PN after 1981? The party at first tried to paper over the split, but to no avail. Yet Josie, who, do not forget, was one of the party’s main heavyweights simply exited the political scene. Any fallout? Maybe a little, bur totally cleaned away and forgotten.
    More recently, the John Dalli case. There was a time when, in the light of the articles that he was writing all over the place, up till last year, his leaving the PN seemed imminent. His entourage was similarly very angry. It was an open question whether he would contest the elections. Members of the PN “machine” were openly talking of Dalli being in “self-desttruct” mode. Yet what happened? As the election approached John Dalli is appointed “consultant”. A spin if ever there was one! Yet, come election time, John Dalli is elected as if nothing ever happened, and there he is, a minister once again in Gonzi’s cabinet.
    Can the MLP ever imitate that? I sincerely doubt it. But if not, I think that the clock is ticking for the MLP as we know it today.

    Albert Farrugia

  7. Abel Abela said

    To Joe Vella:

    Dear Joe, you wrote that ‘For the labour Party to do this is no easy matter, but it is not as difficult as cleaning up Malta, and direct it once again towards a sound, just nation based on Christian morality, and rule of law.’

    I hope not! This is an ultra-conservative agenda which goes directly against the basic principles of any progressive party.
    In practice the MLP has moved in that direction since the 1990s.
    In my opinion it’s one of the fundamental mistakes of the Sant era.

    ‘Cleaning up Malta’ – from what exactly? What do you mean in practice by ‘a sound, just nation based on Christian morality, and rule of law.’? Should Malta continue to impose ‘Christian morality’ (whatever that means) on all citizens?

    Like – not allowing divorce? Because this is the reality in European Malta in 2008.

  8. Joe Vella said

    Considering that the majority of Maltese are Christians and Catholics, that PN members of parliament are so too (even the one who spoke on the altar at Mosta to remind us how pious he is), it only stands to reason that if this majority lives up to what it believes, the morality level of the nation –
    especially the self-righteous PN members of parliament – would improve exponentially! The day to day things ar more important than divorce, and then divorce, separation, annulment, the Church teachings are still evolving……even the Apostles left their family to live a new life! He who is not a sinner should cast the first stone! It is useless to try to be philosophical with a people the majority of which understand only through parables or from the symbolism of Byzantine mosaiscs!

    Joe Vella

  9. Mary Cini said

    I agree with Abel. Joe Vella, hanini, why on earth should the Leader of the Labour Party (or of any modern democratic political party) be a practicing Catholic? Tridx, ga li qeghdin hawn, indahhluha bhala klawzola fl-istatut tal-Partit din? U li nkunu qeghdin fiz-zifna ghax ma ndahhlux ukoll klawzola ohra li tghid li kull sena meta membru igedded it-tessera ta’ shubija jrid jeghmez maghha certifikat bil-firma u it-timbru tal-kappillan li jikkonferma li l-applikant (a) jattendi mhux inqas minn 95 fil-mija tal- quddisijet ta nhar ta’ Hadd, (b) jqerr u jitqarben regolarment, u (c) ma juzax mezzi ta’ kontracezzjoni kimici jew mekkanici ? Hallina minnek Joe!

    Mary Cini

    Secular and proud of it, read my lips Joe Vella: sec·u·lar [ sékyələr ] !

  10. Dennis Spiteri said

    The new leader ought to be one whose religious beliefs (or lack of any) do not make any citizen feel that she or he is not part of the country that may one day be governed by the said leader. Surely Joe Vella can agree with this?

    Dennis Spiteri

  11. Joe Vella said

    Yes, you are all right, but few of you stand a chance of getting elected in Catholic Malta. We are Catholics, and whether we like it or not the labour Party ideology is based on Christian teachings. Even those amongst you, who like me, used to listen to Mintoff after the reciprocal apology from both Church and Party, remember the speeches of Dom. They were all based on the Gospels! Yep, many people understood him then, and I suppose even now, considering that less than 45% of the Maltese read any book during the last 6 months!

    Of course, a modern Catholic leader will never trample on the rights of non-Catholics, even though these are a minority! But, the great majority, like me, attend church every Sunday and are members of some religious organization, and have Labour sympathies. But – and here it is were you should debate -I will never use my religious beliefs for personal gain, or for the gain of my political party, and its accolites, as Dr lawrence Gonzi the ex-President of the Catholic Action does!

    Conduct a survey amongst the delegates of the Labour Party and you will conclude that, like me, the greater majority of them are ordinary souls who try to live a simple life based on the values and principles of Christ’s teaching.

    Joe Vella

  12. A manager said

    Dear D. Attard,

    A couple of weeks ago, Joe Muscat was being criticised for being a ‘manager’ not a ‘leader’.

    A manager would have done exactly what you are saying. On the other hand, a leader would make others feel part of a team even when there are obvious problems. This is clearly what Joe Muscat is doing.

    So now it seems he is being criticised for being a ‘leader’ rather than a ‘manager’.


    [Caretaker’s note: Real name withheld on contributor’s request. I could take a solemn oath to declare that the author is a well known Maltese top industrial manager.]

  13. Rennie Grech said

    Lil Danny Attard

    Ma nistax nifhem kif ghalik Muscat ma jista jaghmel xejn tajjeb. Qed tikkritikah ghax qal li se jaghti lil shabu c-chance li jghidulu fejn iridu jahdmu.

    Mur gib kieku qal li jew jaghmlu li jghid hu jew jistghu imorru isaqqu l-hass tal-Marsa.

    Min jaf x’ kont tghid????

    Nahseb kont tghid li rasu iebsa bhal Fredu Sant.

    Rennie Grech

  14. Andrew Sciberras said

    The MLP should strive to become a PROGRESSIVE PARTY. What does it mean to be progressive? A radical view would posit that there is no inherent value in tradition. Social arrangements such as marriage, the family and gender roles are not fixed, rather they should be changed or updated whenever such a change is good for the greater good of society or it benefits the people who wish to engage in social arrangements. Progressives believe that a society that is controlled by social norms and dogmatic values such as Catholicism should be abolished and replaced by SECULARISM and FREEDOM OF CHOICE – A complete separation of State and Religion. Does this mean that one must go to war with the Church? Absolutely not. Rather, the freedom to engage and live a faith that you feel is in accordance with your spirituality and beliefs is fundamental. So is the freedom to not have any faith in particular. But the key word is ‘freedom’. Not everyone is a Catholic. Therefore, even though Catholicism is the major religion in Malta, there should be no imposition of religion in Party or State dogma. There should be no inherent religious values, rather there should be the Freedom of Religion. Everyone is EQUAL and EQUALITY is one of the main tenets of any modern Social Democratic Party.

    Simply put: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Agnostics, Atheists: They are all equal human beings and religion should never get in the way or give rise to any social or political exclusion. Thus it would be wrong to build the MLP upon the foundations of Catholicism because that would completely transform the party into the sheer opposite of what it should stand for.

    As it is, we are not really spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing in between ideologies. Lets not make it even worse.

    Andrew Sciberras

  15. danny attard said

    Dear Manager,

    Have no idea what you are on about. I have made no comments on this post and therefore am not sure as to which comments of mine you are reacting to. Please be more specific that I may react to your kind comments. I do not recall making any comments re ‘being a ‘manager’ not a ‘leader’’ or ‘being a leader more than being a manager’. I did opine that GA has – if he does not carry chips on his shoulder – better managerial credentials to deal with Labour’s requirements. For the record I am also of the opinion that JM’s managerial credentials are also up to the task.

    Thanks and Regards

    Danny Attard

    Hi Rennie, It is obvious that you have not followed the ongoing debate.

    Re: Ma nistax nifhem kif ghalik Muscat ma jista jaghmel xejn tajjeb

    These are two comments you will find spread around various posts:

    1. I can not understand the fuss picked up on the Shultz endorsement. I find the fuss opportunistic

    2. I find the opinion polls being used against JM to be gravely misleading and are, in my opinion, being abused by the coalition of conservatives.

    Re: Qed tikkritikah ghax qal li se jaghti lil shabu c-chance li jghidulu fejn iridu jahdmu.

    I did nothing of the sort. There is a significant difference between:

    having an opportunity to point their preferred roles (I think this is great)
    occupying the roles they prefer (I think this is seed for future discord)

    In my opinion roles have to be agreed. I think JM did explain this well during one of his interviews on the 28th.

    Warm regards

    Danny Attard

    p.s. this is the time when everyone has to put forward their honest opinions. Strengths and opportunities do not come on their own.

  16. J. Borg said

    I don’t see why a new Labour leader has to be a practicing Catholic. Labour has worked for what little secularism we have on these rocks, so I don’t know why it should be Labour to go against secularist principles. Secularism can ease the integration of those who do not form part of the major religious group. This will become increasingly important as 1) native Maltese will change religion and beliefs more than they used to do in the past and 2) the influx of immigrants, both from EU and non-EU countries, will change the religious demographics of Malta. Having said this, there is no need of sidelining Catholics and Catholic beliefs. In Sweden, the Social Democrats have a section for Christians within the Party ( English version). Even if I’m not a fan of such organisations myself, I think that something similar could be a solution for those who want to give a Catholic face to Labour, while at the same time keeping Labour itself relatively secular. On the other hand, there should also be the possibilty for other religious / irreligious people to form their own sections. Now that would probablly make a mess out of the Party, even worse than it is now. So I guess secularism is the answer 🙂


  17. fabrizioellul said

    Joe. The more religious a country is, the more Hypocritical it becomes. PArliament should be secular.

    Divorce is an important issue. Because no state has a right to impose a will on its citizens. It goes against the free-choice that all of us should have.

  18. leli said

    Congrats for this blog. When I stop and think, I feel so sorry. So much creativity, so much talent, so much energy and yet so little room within our party before the election for supporters and well-wishers to contribute. And when I read the post-election report I feel even more bitter because with more inclusion, space, drive and leadership we would have won hands-down.


    (Caretaker: Leli posted this comment in the About Us page. We copied it here because we would like as many visitors as possible to read it. We do not know Leli but would love to meet him. Leli, please contact me on

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