Labour in labour

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

Voulez vous lire avec moi?

In this page we will post information about books we have read, especially but not only those referred to in this tazebao. We will not limit ourselves to political texts (barra minn hawn!)

Timothy Radcliffe OP

[004] Timothy Radcliffe OP, What Is the Point of Being A Christian?. London and New York: Burns & Oates, 2005. ISBN 0860123693

You need not be a practicing Catholic to read and benefit from Radcliffe’s book. In fact, if you are an ‘outsider’ who is seeking ways and means of communicating with Catholics (or more broadly Christians), to do things together with them, things aimed at changing the world (or at least manageable bits of it) to make it a bit better. If this is situation corresponds to the one you find yourself in, then read this book. It will certainly make it difficult for you to lump all Catholics (and Christians) together in one box. For example, read this:

“People often say that the Church is hung up on sex. For most of the Christian tradition the Church has been far more preoccupied with lying. In Dante’s Inferno the top circles of hell, where the punishments are lightest, are reserved for people who got carried away by their passions. They desired the good, but desired it wrongly. The middle regions of hell were reserved for people who desired what was bad, above all the violent. But the icy heart of hell is kept for those who undermined the human community of truth, the liars, the fraudulent, the flatterers, the forgers and, worst of all, the traitors. It is convenient for the media to present the Church as obsessed with sex, since it locks the gospel into a safe little box where it can be mocked. Indeed as we have seen […], sexuality is a profound part of our human identity, but for a traditional Christian lying is much more serious, which one may or may not consider a consolation!”

Radcliffe then goes on to quote the late Herbert McCabe OP (I have my own personal recollections of McCabe…he left a lasting impression on my own intellectual development). “As Herbert McCabe OP wrote: ‘As long as Christian morality is thought to be mainly about whether and when people should go to bed, no bishops are going to be crucified and this is depressing.’ ” [p.164]

Perhaps one thing we could organise after we get this leadership contest behind us (the sooner the better, one, so we can get on with the business of opposing Lawrence Gonzi & co, and two, because it is…yes, becoming rather stale and boring), is a seminar on “A practicing Christian is a practicing pain in the neck of liars in high places!”

Timothy Radcliffe OP was born in 1945 in London. He is a Dominican friar of the English Province, and former Master of the Order (1992-2001), the only member of the English Province to have held the office since the Order’s foundation in 1216. Before that he was Prior Provincial of the Dominicans in England. Like the late Herbert McCabe, a former external examiner in Philosophy at the University of Malta, Radcliffe is a member of the Dominican priory at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Radcliffe published the following:
Sing a New Song. The Christian Vocation. Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1999. ISBN 1871552702
I Call You Friends. London: Continuum, 2001. ISBN 0826472621
Seven Last Words. London: Burns & Oates, 2004. ISBN 0860123650
What Is the Point of Being A Christian?. London and New York: Burns & Oates, 2005. ISBN 0860123693
Just One Year: Prayer and Worship through the Christian Year, edited by Timothy Radcliffe with Jean Harrison. London: Darton, Longman and Todd for CAFOD and Christian Aid, 2006. ISBN 0232526699


[003] Environmental Politics in the European Union: Policy-making, Implementation and Patterns of Multi-level Governance, by Christoph Knill and Duncan Liefferink (2007)

A comprehensive introduction to the making, the development and the implementation of European Union environmental politics and an overview of the major theoretical approaches available in the field. The environmental policy of the EU has made substantial progress during the last thirty years. Starting off as little more than a by-product of economic integration, environmental policy developed into a central area of EU policy-making. This book looks at the driving forces behind this development and the central areas and instruments of EU environmental policy. It analyses the factors impacting on the formulation and the implementation of environmental measures in the complex multi-level setting of the EU. More importantly, it takes a critical look at the EU’s effectiveness and problem-solving capacity in the environmental field. It is designed as a textbook and although this might put off certain readers, it has the advantage of employing a clear and insightful analytical perspective based on the theoretical state-of-the-art of EU policy studies.




[002] The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, by Barack Obama (2006)

If you have already read Barack Obama’s previous book, his 1995 memoir Dreams From My Father, you may be slightly disappointed by his latest politico-literary effort, The Audacity of Hope. The former was written before the the 45-year-old junior senator from Illinois entered the fray of politics. Dreams was intensely personal and introspective: it was about an absent father, it was about fluid identities, about constructing who you are from the debris of what you are not or don’t want to be – his father was from Kenya, his mother was from Kansas, and the young Barcack grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia, both black and white he was neither – and it was in the great tradition of the confession, grass, drink, “a little blow”, as he cruised along the turbulent 60s and 70s.

The Audacity of Hope, on the other hand, is what it is and what it’s got to be, it is a politician’s book, an intensely political book. If Dreams struck you for its flowing spontaneity, Audacity strikes you for its tailor-cut functionality. Dreams didn’t have to prove anything. It was an end in itself. Here was a person like other persons, eager to be accepted and understood but not to stand up and stand out as a person unlike most others. The function (purpose, goal, end, objective) of Audacity is totally different. Audacity‘s author, in the last instance, is not after your understanding – well, if you want to make an effort to understand him, fine, but otherwise, no problem – but after your recognition that, man, here is someone who is different, who can and will stand up and, as he does so, he will stand out. He’s got to. He wants to be the next president of the United States of America, today’s only superpower, the centre of a global empire, where the destiny of the world is the order of the day, where it is daily decided what is good and what is evil.

So, please forgive the man if he sometimes regresses into the prefabricated language with which politicians thumbsketch policy across a broad range of issues, themes and problems. You will, however, noticed that there is a residue of Dreams in Audacity. The ring of authenticity so dominant in Dreams is strong, very strong, in Audacity but not, it must be conceded, repeat not, dominant. And yet, in a sense, Audacity has grown out of Dreams. This will to transcend the cultural fragments that was America in the third quarter of the 20th century and to be more of a nation made up of persons who have something in common in spite of very different roots than of individuals thrown by history into one (albeit big) space, the identity of each of which is determined by her or his past. This will, this hope, to be more one than many, also reflects an emerging desire for peace: with one’s own past, with one’s own present, with one’s own future, with the existential ‘other’.

Is there a lesson for us in this book by the man who might well be leading the world’s dominant power before the end of this eventful year? I think so. The man has detected a deep subterranean rumbling emerging from the entrails of humanity and recognised it for what it is, an urge for peace, a weariness of conflict and hate. I think that even we Maltese, in our own micro-situation (itself a factor, surely, that determines our own affairs), are (sixty-three years after the end of World War II, almost exactly fifty years after the riots of April 1958, forty-four years after Independence, thirty two years after the birth of the Republic, twenty-one years after Labour’s electoral defeat of 1987, ten years after the fall of the brief lived Labour government of 1996-1998, three years after EU accession, a few weeks after the 2008 elections, when the memories of the Interdett and the Mizbla, of the great conflicts over education and health, of the victims that these conflicts left on the ground, have not faded at all) aching for the closure of an epoch.










[001] In the post A short history of wrecks in Maltese, we referred to the book below. Many of you asked us for the details. Well here they are: A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, a novel by by Marina Lewycka (2005)

Synopsis: Nadezhda and Vera, two Ukrainian sisters brought up in England by their refugee parents have always avoided each other. Suddenly they have to learn how to get along because since the death of their mother, their old father has been sliding into his second childhood. A alarming new woman has just entered his life. Valentina, a bosomy young synthetic blonde from the Ukraine, seems to think their father is much richer than he is, and she is keen that he leave this world with as little money to his name as possible. If Nadazhda and Vera don’t stop her, no one will. But separating their lecherous dad from his new love will not be easy. Valentina is a ruthless professional and the two sisters are no match for her. As Hurricane Valentina turns the family house upside down, old secrets come falling out, including the most deeply buried one of them all, from the War, the one that explains much about why Nadazhda and Vera are so different. In the meantime, their father carries writing his history of the tractor.



5 Responses to “Voulez vous lire avec moi?”

  1. Lavinia Cassar said

    I love you guys! You are almost certainly the only political activists (in the sense of taking politics seriously and trying to make a difference)in this country who have a sense of humour, are capable of irony and don’t sound (don’t read, actually) like what a specimen of homo neanderthalensis would sound/read today if you stuck a mike in front of his mouth and/or a pen between his toes. I suppose yours is an experiment in postmodern political expression. Where else, of course, would you come across a reference to Marina Lewycka’s novels? Ok, just to tell you that at least one of your (as of today at least) regular readers, has read her ‘A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian’! Did it all in one fell swoop on Easy Jet from London Gatwick to Malta International, and I can assure you I am almost wet my pants with my desperately suppressed laughter. Right now I am in the process of devouring her Two Caravans, just published. It’s set in a field of strawberries in Kent … the characters are immigrant strawberry pickers. There’s Andriy, ex-miner from old Ukraine (yes, Old-Labour-like!) and Irina, also Ukrainian, but of the post-Soviet type (more to the right than New Labour). Then there are two Chinese girls, a guy from Malawi and Yola and Tomasz from Poland. Finally, there is Vulk, aspiring to become a gangster, who lusts after Irina. Will send you a note after I have read it! And as they used to say when calling Super One, “Grazzi, Sahha u Proset tal-Programm!”

    Lavinia Cassar

  2. Claude Micallef said

    Your post on Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope is excellent, not so much the part about the book itself but the concluding reference to the need of ‘closure’ of a whole epoch of political strife in Malta. It was a kick in the eye for me. Yes we need ‘closure’. The fact that we, Labour, lost the last elections (photofinish, maybe, but we lost it nevertheless) shows that a majority of people (a much, much bigger majority than that obtained by GonziPN)want to be let alone, they do not want ‘inkwiet’ even if it means tolerating corruption and bad governance. They will do anything to get that, even if it means voting GonziPN. Whoever we choose as our new leader will have to tackle this issue. The message needs to be: if you do not want inkwiet, vote Labour. Unless we decide, of course, that Labour and inkwiet have become synonymous in too many heads. We’re certainly not going to win any election if we keep running forwards with our head screwed backwards.

    Claude Micallef

  3. Simon Mallia said

    I have read Christoph Knill and Duncan Liefferink’s Environmental Politics in the European Union: Policy-making, Implementation and Patterns of Multi-level Governance, published only last year, and can confirm that it is a very good introduction to the subject. Don’t be put off by its textbook approach…it is after all a text book! Excellent background if you are a citizens’ representative (actual or aspiring) at all levels (local council, national parliament, European parliament) and have more passionate commitment than expertise!

    By the way, if anyone out there is interested in joining a reading group, to meet regularly to discuss books of common interest, contact me!

    Simon Mallia

  4. Mercy Grech Smith said

    I was pleasantly surprised to stumble on your brief but stimulating review of Timothy Radcliffe’s inspiring book on the meaning of being a Christian today. I must say that I was even more pleasantly surprised to find a reference to an English Dominican in a Labour-oriented blog in Malta. I have been commuting regularly between Malta and the UK for the last thirty years (mainly, it is true, for three or four weeks in Summer)and ever since I can remember my Maltese friends gave me the impression that no self-respecting Homo Sapiens in Malta would ever have anything to do with the Labour Party here. Evidently, I must now revise this impression. I am looking forward to meeting the Caretaker (who has my e-mail address) to exchange views.

    Mercy Grech Smith

  5. Mark said

    Great website. Would be good if you could add the following websites to your links:


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