The enemy on my Left

I’m not going to beat around the bush. One of the greatest enemies of the left is the left itself. As harsh as it may sound I feel that this is not some hidden reality but in many occasions manifestly obvious. However, it need not be so.

Let me start by eliciting the irony of the left. It stems from the fact that there are many ‘lefts’ ranging from the extreme, e.g. communism and anarcho-syndicalism, to the more moderate social democracy and environmentalism. Now, whilst a wide range of ideas and choices is good for democracy it is ironically bad news for the left which at the end of the day aspires to govern. This may not be the case in Malta (unlike Italy for example) but even if it were it is not something one can do much about.

My statement becomes justified when, for instance, we see socialists quarrelling with socialists, unions fighting amongst each other like there’s no tomorrow and greens/environmental organisations fearing any kind of association with the left. We witness this sad state of affairs every day and as we rip each other apart conservative neoliberals rub their hands in glee. If you think about it, even if it is not of our doing, we are partially and indirectly responsible for creating a world order based on greed and environmental corruption.

Yet the left truly becomes its own greatest enemy when it becomes the victim of hopelessness. I’ve seen people who, like me, dream of another world, where social justice, civil liberties and environmental concerns are the norm and not the exception. “But in Malta”, they say, “such things aren’t possible. It’s best to pack your bags and leave.” Well, with that attitude, I’m sorry to say, nothing will ever be possible in Malta.

I think the time to construct a renewed hegemonic left has come. I know, for to long now have we been mulling and moping about our existence and our future that it’s becoming almost unbearable. But I’m not considering theoretical prospects…I believe that we should go for it. The time to put an end to trivialities and instead seek unity has never been greater. It may be easier said than done but where there is a will there is a way. Let us not forget that when social movements were united, particularly when green NGOs and other organisations were united they won. Such events should not be eschewed but developed and built upon.

There exist plausible arguments against coalitions and alliances which may initially rise to glory only to fall into some disagreement later and vote each other out of power. It may be wise to keep things as they are… each to his own. It may also be said that leftist parties were successful without any such unity. But whilst a leftist party may win from time to time the fact remains that a political lobby governed solely by capitalist interests will always be stronger. Besides, I’m not such a big fan of defeatist logic.

I agree with the proposal that in Malta we should form an umbrella coalition of socialists, greens, leftist and environmental NGOs which should unite and support each other on a wide range of issues. If not for electoral purposes, at least as a forum where ideas can be consolidated and solidarity strengthened. If we truly want to create a successful hegemony based on social and environmental justice we must not fear taking such bold steps. Unfortunately such suggestions have so far fallen on deaf ears.

It is always better to be allies instead of enemies because in unity there is strength and in strength there is victory.

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8 Responses to The enemy on my Left

Red said...

Very interesting blog and article! :)

I totally agree that the fighting between various leftist organisations has been very damaging in terms of winning popular support. I believe that a great deal of the friction was caused by theoretical differences between the groups. For instance, one group could say that unless there is a dictatorship of the proletariat, there could be no justice in society while others could shudder upon even hearing the word "dictatorship".

I think that the time has come for different political organisations within the Left camp to focus on what the main priorities should be in the light of today's circumstances. Instead of arguing about who makes up the proletariat, perhaps it would be a much better idea to talk about increasing legislation that safeguards an employee's rights!

Wherever possible, organisations should try to merge since having too many entities tends to confuse people.

Andrew Sciberras said...

Hi Red,

Many thanks for your comments - it's always good to meet fellow bloggers. I agree with what you wrote and I also feel that it can happen if we really want it to. If you notice, there have been some steps in the right direction, e.g. union coalition and a resurgence of green NGO's which have made a considerable impact on certain issues.

And the left can be an even greater force. As we have seen, on a European level there is the same problem but when Socialists, Greens and Liberals vote together I think they would have the majority, effectively making the left stronger in the EP.

james debono said...

Forget green NGOs-most of their members are apolitical or have nothing to do with the left. Many are at best disgruntled nationalists who do not even feel comfortable with AD.
And the Labour party still poses a dilemma as it has still to anchor itself in mainstream social democracy... (to say it mildly)
Apart from its ambivalent stands on a range of cultural issues i still cannot fathom whether the party is fiscally conservative or progressive.
Even a coalition of the left outside labour will be full of sparks between those leftists who give equal importance to social rights and civil liberties and expresses themselves through a discource based on ecological and social responsibility which does not put off the new middle classes (who are also threatened by precarious job conditions) and the old left which bases its discourse on the state and an abstract monolithic working class.
Am afraid that we first have to establish the basics before thinking too big,

Andrew Sciberras said...

Yes indeed. In fact one of the reasons why I feel that unity is necessary - or beneficial to put it that way - is because it may serve to keep each of the parties in check. At least that is what I hope. But you are right and that is why I have maintained that one of the major enemies of the left is the left itself. But with a lot of thought and some common sense something, at least something, can be done. My interest is not to see this or that party in power but to see the left in power.

james debono said...

We need a good dose of pessimism of the intellect and optimism of will!
I think that the discussion can be more concrete after June.

Red said...

Andrew: pleased to meet another leftist thinker. :) Talking about NGOS, I do believe that they have a very important role in society whereby they can shed light on certain issues or to encourage a number of projects. Yet, if we are talking about great and enduring changes, these have to come via political parties.

James: Going forward, I believe that the "old left" will move closer to the "new left". By this, I mean that there will probably be less talk about the proletarian struggle and more talk about focusing on specific groups of people that are quite vulnerable (e.g., the pensioners, first-time job seekers, etc.).

Having said this, I still believe that no genuine leftist organisation could ever surrender its emphasis on the duties of the State towards its citizens. The more one tries to absolve the State of certain tasks, the easier it becomes for the private sector to do whatever it wants with the lives of thousands of people. Without the heavy intervention of the State in Malta during most of the 1970s, we would probably have witnessed terrible and widespread poverty in this country.

As long as a government is democratic, if its policies are driving the country down the drain, elections can always solve that problem. Yet, how does one deal with increasingly powerful private companies?

Sadly, even here in Malta, the State is being reduced to little more than a regulator. If one is unemployed, it's your problem and you have to see how you are going to deal with it. If you are old and want to retire, you might have to cut back on many things since the pension is sometimes too low. If you come from a relatively poor family and want to go to university, the aid given by the government is so little that it is virtually impossible to survive for 4 years without working. If you are being exploited at work, you either look for another job or you try to "solve the problem". What about the collective action which brought about so many huge changes in the past? Why have unions become so impotent?

james debono said...

I agree that that the state has a fundamental role especially through taxation to redistribute wealth. If we want to strengthen the health, education, the environment we need taxes. And to be fair taxes have to come from those who afford most.

Red said...

James: I totally agree that those who have the greatest amount of wealth should be the ones to be taxed most heavily in order to have a State that can truly safeguard the interests of all its people through the provision of certain essential services/products. The greatest problem with this argument, however, is that once you start taxing certain individuals/companies, the tendency is that they will blackmail the government by threatening to fire people or to set up shop in a country with lower taxes.

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