Friday, 19 March 2010

The Rise of the Communist Party of Malta

Last Monday, the Times of Malta published an interesting article regarding the Maltese Communist Party. Although this party has been in existence since 1969, it never enjoyed the popular support that could easily be witnessed when talking about the country's two biggest political parties (the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party).

Although the Labour Party in Malta never embraced Marxist-Leninist principles, the Mintoff and Mifsud Bonnici administrations were clearly more leftist than the Sant and Muscat ones. During those times, the most prominent Labour Party representatives stressed the importance of doing things within an ideological context. Hence, if a measure was going to be implemented, it was fairly easy to fathom how such an action was intended to coincide with the party's ideological objectives. The speeches about the benefits of Socialism helped to distinguish the Labour Party from the Nationalist one. As stated above, the Labour Party was never a Communist organisation, but the discourse used by individuals such as Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici sometimes overlapped with that utilised by a number of Communists. By using this strategy, several Maltese people perceived the Labour Party as being sufficiently leftist and did not feel a strong need to move to another party that also talked about the fruits of Socialism.

With the introduction of Alfred Sant's New Labour strategies during the 1990s, there was a fairly evident desire to move away from the anti-capitalist rhetoric that was quite popular during the 1970s and the 1980s in order to embrace a more pro-capitalist stance towards various issues. Almost from the start, this change led to varying degrees of friction within the party. To many people, the key question was: if the Labour Party was planning to desert "the Socialist Cause", what really made it so different from the Nationalist one?

Over the years, the Labour Party developed into an organisation that would talk about social justice and about a number of topics frequently mentioned by leftist parties, but it would hardly ever specify how it seriously intended to remedy countless social ills. Furthermore, even though it was clear that numerous problems were being facilitated by the increasing penetration of capitalist practices in Malta, the bulk of the Labour Party politicians never dared to criticise this economic model. Once capitalism was embraced in the most dogmatic way, politics was reduced to a competition between who could be the best manager of a fundamentally capitalist society.

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Communist Party of Malta went underground. Although it was never disbanded, it became largely inactive.

When it became clear that the Labour Party had become just another pro-capitalist organisation, several individuals started feeling as though the country lacked a political vehicle that could seriously challenge the capitalist model that formed the basis on which the Maltese economy was built.

Aware of this reality, the Communist Party of Malta started noticing a growing degree of interest in a party that was seriously interested in preserving and/or ensuring free education, health care, stable and decent employment, proper housing, and so on. Unlike the other huge parties, the Communist Party of Malta was not going to pay lip-service to workers' rights and then fail to review the country's appalling minimum wage.

More and more people are losing faith in Malta's two biggest parties. As such individuals feel that neither one of those parties is truly working hard enough to ensure that ALL people residing in Malta have a certain level of welfare, the Communist Party will continue to grow day by day...


Anonymous said...

I really think Communist principles make sense. But it's impossible to employ communism in countries which are so immersed and blinded by consumerism. It's true that competition is healthy in many aspects of life, and commodities in our lives emerge from research made as a result of competition. But if we take a look at our commodities developed throughout the last years, are they really beneficial? They have turned us into lazy, obese citizens - an individualistic society. Not to mention the harm to the environment.
All sense of brotherhood is gone. Workers tend to look for their own interests instead of fighting battles as one front. Through capitalism and privatisation the quality of jobs has been seriously undermined. If you speak up, your head may roll - plenty of others are there to take your place. People are dispensable.
Now in an ideal communist society everyone would have his and her place, there would be an equal measure for everyone. But that's it. You cannot hope or dream for more - you may even be penalised if you question the establishment, as that would provoke thought in others. You'd have to stay in line and cannot let your mind wander onto better and bigger things.
And so it goes full circle. I believe that in the Maltese context it wouldn't be too harmful to reassess some privatised assets and if possible give them back to the state. I believe that subsidies should not be outright denied, after all the recent recession has shown that Governments can in fact help out when disaster hits. Why let disaster hit? Why shouldn't the Government be involved in its own state's business? But then it should lead by example and expect more from its employees who tend to be described as the lazy bunch who'll never lose their job anyway. It would be political suicide in the international arena if the Labour party in Malta decides to go "Communist". I think it currently offers a better alternative to the current PN administration. I compare the current administration to Bilbo Baggins description of himself in the Lord of the Rings :), "like butter stretched over too much bread".
Well in conclusion I admire the Communist principle but alas I strongly believe it cannot be maintained. I still admire the equality principle that is quite absent in the capitalist mentality. I am hoping the Labour party can show that if in Government, it can reach a compromise between the two.

Maak said...

Just a few comments taken from that post on the Times that made me feel quite hopeful. Seems there is some support for this after all.

Raymond Cachia
There is a great need for Communism/and true Socialism to be resurected again.

The emergence of the Centre and Far Right with their Capitalist agenda have run roughshod over Workers' Unions and labour rights for the past decades, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Also, the new Ccommunist Party does not have to follow the tyrannical and despoti models of old, who in their despotism became just another totalitarian system like Fascism. We need to see a benevolent and humane version of communism, that puts human beings ahead of corporate profits and the amassed wealth of the world being controlled by a few people on top.

Joe Xuereburs,
The Maltese mindset is notoriously difficult to shift. Communism is only a word but for the people on this blessed island, it will forever be linked with godlessness and therefore, a big no-no. Rather than make sarcastic remarks about the Communist Party, I think it would be more constructive to see if the points raised (about the raw deal being meted out to the working-class for instance) have any validity and whether anything can be done to reverse trend. Of course either of the extant Parties could do this without recourse to any dreaded extra parties, not tried, not tested. And Communism can stay out in the cold and church congregations could even see an upsurge. Problem solved. And not a shred of sarcasm in sight. Only irony.
In other words, how about a secular Malta with people worshiping whatever they like?
The Communist ideology is a sound ideology, make no mistake about that. It sinned and was sinned against in equal measures. Like ANY system it can be corrupted. Yes, including the one that purports to have long-term, eternal best interests at heart. Food for thought.

Eric Gahn
The need for Marx's teachings to be resurrected has never so neccesary as in these days. A true, living, leftist society would never have created the monster that the Credit Crunch is. Instead big business was allowed to go its own way without any regard for those who toiled to enrich the business owner's pockets for low pay and long hours.

Joseph Ellul - Sydney
wherever communism reemerged is due to the tyranical powers of the rich. These mega rich people are above the law and do not care. Politicians are their slaves and will pass laws against the workers. We will see if real communism will make a comeback. Only time will tell. So do not joke about this new party as it might bite you all in the backside... as it well should.

Mikiel Sciberras

China is nominally Communist, but that for all effects and purposes it is actually a Capitalist Totalitarian State. Being world's fastest growing economy, does not mean anything, especially when the wealth is foreign owned and/or concentrated in the few hands of the 'party' officials, their families and cronies.

To be sure, this economic growth is thanks to the blood and sweat and toil of the Chinese workers – the slaving classes.

Nowadays, having a strong economy does not automatically translate into benefits for the workers, not according to Neo-Con theory. In North America, for example, real wages for workers have actually gone down, while Companies have registered unprecedented growth and wealth.

By the way, I strongly suggest that the name 'Communism" be done away with, for it has many bad connotations. The Centre and Far Right parties are today hiding under the pseudonyms of Neo-Conservatives, Christian Democrats etc. (sounds so much better then fascist). I suggest that Mr. Degiovanni opt for a similar nomenclature - how about Neo-Com.

Red said...

Anonymous: Thank you for your comment. You surely raised some interesting points. As far as the Labour Party is concerned, I would tend to disagree. I believe that the Labour Party in Malta has embraced capitalism to such a degree that even if it had to win the elections tomorrow, there would probably be only minor changes that would affect the lives of various segments of society (such as the working poor). I still think that the biggest weakness of the Labour Party is that it often criticises the effects of capitalism without really focusing on such an economic model as the source of various problems. Just blaming every ill on the Nationalist Party and having very little to offer is unlikely to persuade many voters to change their minds when it comes to voting.

Maak: There is no doubt that Malta requires a Communist party! The biggest challenge lies in educating people about the benefits of socialism and to show them that the mistakes made by several individuals should not be confused with a party's ideological principles. If a politician succumbs to corruption, this does not mean that the party has gone totally astray.