We should get organized

I believe that true progressives in the country should get organized in order to make a difference. As things stand progressives, myself included, are too detached from one another and declarations on a computer screen and the occasional interview/statement/meeting, although extremely welcome, are having negligible effect.

Over-seas they have think-tanks, lobbies and civil liberties unions which collaborate to pursue common positions and pressure politicians and governments not to forget about human/civil/animal rights, etc.

In Malta we have a strong hunting, real-estate and business lobbies all of which fall on the right of the political spectrum. Over and above, political parties have a free hand in fashioning for themselves their own twisted ideas of progressivism. Sadly they are using progressivism and back-drop youths to give them a young, spicy look but they don't pursue it with conviction. If they did, divorce would be a real right and not a political tool that crops up from time to time. Co-habitation rights would be a reality, not empty promises. Migrants would not be treated as animals. In other words, they are free to hijack this socio-political orientation at leisure. Just because Labour happens to fall on the left (at times I wonder) it does not make it progressive, certainly not with archi-conservative political dinosaurs on its back-bench. And I hate it when AD claims that progressive politics is its "exclusive political agenda".

Neither is there a strong enough response to Church declarations against secularism and homosexual rights. Some panellists on Peppi's Xarabank is great but it is not enough. Facebook groups are a good forum, but again not enough.

If we want a progressive lobby we should encourage secular organisations like MGRM, Moviment Graffitti, Zmienijietna, Migrants Solidarity Movement and others to support each other and work together. I would definitely include the green lobby, and unionists but a number of these (especially unionists) are unfortunately too tainted with partisan politics. One must not exclude members of a religious order, like Fra Gwann Xerri and Father Mark Montebello (Mid-Dlam ghad-Dawl) and religious organizations like JRS.

Abroad such non-partisan coalitions exist and we should also have them in Malta.

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10 Responses to We should get organized

james debono said...

It is a sense of political ideology which makes people like me and you see a common thread linking civil liberties, workers'rights, migrant rights, green issues, gay rights, secularism etc etc etc.
This is not obvious for a lot of people even many in NGOs.
A coalition of NGOs seeking to unite all these causes is not likely to be accepted by single issue people.
On the other hand an organisation which seeks to develop a common thread between all progressive causes is more like a political movement in its own right than an NGO.
And what makes this different to graffitti or Zminijietna? One could say that graffitti is too anarchic and Zminijietna too communist. But if that is the case one is simply aspiring for yet another movement.
ACLU in America is a fine example of civil society fighting for minority rights. It is regarded as liberal. But it is not a coalition of progressives or a political movement in its own right.
In many ways the emergence of social movements in the 1970s and 1980s coincided with the crisis of Stalinism in the east and the retreat of social democracy in the west after its glorious post war years.
Towards the end of the 1980s this new wave of politics resulted in the emergence of the first alternative electoral lists in West Germany.
The logic was that one has to get to the heart of power to change things. The entry of a colourful bunch of long haired bearded greens in parliament signalled the change,
But ironically it was not the NGOs who took the lead in this venture but former members of new left/antagonistic/street fighting movements of the 1970s.
Ironically it was this generation of 68 leaders like Cohn Bendt and Joscka Fischer who turned green parties in to more pragmatic and more mainstream parties.
Personally i still belong to this tradition of politics ultimately based on the equality of the various struggles for emancipation and not on the primacy of the working class, the nation or other absolutist notions.

james debono said...

On the other hand i think that it would make sense to have a civil liberties organisation like ACLU -identified by a non partisan/professional commitment to civil liberties and human rights.
ACLU actually challenges the establishment in a court of law. That requires lawyers and professional assistance.
Yet this is a seperate process from the aggregation of political progressives...

Andrew Sciberras said...

Many thanks for your insight and historical analysis on the subject James.

I'd like to make some points

"an organisation which seeks to develop a common thread between all progressive causes is more like a political movement in its own right than an NGO."

- I am all for that political movement.

"ACLU...is not a coalition of progressives or a political movement in its own right."

- I understand what you mean, but I very much like the idea that, although its primary aim is to support civil liberties and defend minority rights, it is an organization that is beyond the party-structure but has considerable influence on politicians

"Yet this is a separate process from the aggregation of political progressives..."

Again I understand what you mean. The picture of ACLU on my post may have been misleading. My focus was not, essentially, on the creation of a C.L.U. (although, like you, I welcome the idea) but on the creation of a social movement that is ultimately independent of political parties. I believe that there has to be a strong and influential voice which is capable of responding to State or party policies that fall foul of human and civil rights. Also there must be a counter-response to the ever-growing racist sentiments of fear and loathing which are clearly manifest on the island.

Organizations like the UN & UNHCR, JRS, MSF are looked down upon as some kind of nosy enemy whose sole intention is that of aiding and abetting human traffickers. Should progressives remain silent in the face of this crass ignorance. Are our blogs and social networks making a difference?

Red said...

The dilemmas that you have been facing over the past few weeks have been haunting me for a fairly long time.

Way back in 2004, when I was living in Spain, I supported the social democratic party since their messages were far more appealing than the ones of the Partido Popular. When Zapatero won the election in 2004, he increased the minimum wage and he introduced a number of social reforms which benefited millions of Spaniards. He also approved the regularisation of thousands of immigrants who had been living in Spain without any documents for several years. He also withdrew the country from the insane war in Iraq.

As time went by, however, one could notice that even though Zapatero's party was far better than the Partido Popular, it was not doing enough. As I said in an earlier comment, almost one third of the workforce in Spain is on temporary contracts! Furthermore, there are still many homeless individuals in Spain. It is very hard to reconcile such facts with the principles and ideals of Socialism.

When I returned to Malta, I perceived the Sant-led Labour Party to be fairly divorced from the Socialist philosophy. There was a great deal of criticism against the EU, but virtually no talk about how capitalism was affecting thousands of Maltese individuals. When a political party is reduced to merely discussing issues without trying to put things within the framework of an ideology, it can become quite hard to feel motivated to choose one party over one or more rivals.

Nowadays, even though I support the work done by various NGOs, I am beyond believing that such organisations could ever perform huge feats in the country. For major changes to occur, one has to be in Parliament, in a position to carry out the urgent changes that our country needs.

Till this very day, I still have mixed feelings about the Labour Party. Dr Joseph Muscat has clearly stepped up the talk about being "progressive" and many other prominent politicians within the party are talking more often about the principles of the party. Yet, neither Dr Muscat nor any other Labour Party MP has engaged in a discourse about the importance of Socialism in order to tackle the evils of capitalism. Moreover, as I often say, it is extremely difficult for me to have faith in a party that presents itself as Socialist whilst embracing various capitalist or neo-liberal principles. The contradictions between Socialism and Capitalism are too great to be just brushed aside!

During the past few weeks, I have been seeing myself as a Socialist Democrat. I was nurturing the belief that if the Labour Party could have more genuine Socialists within its ranks, the party might become a truly Socialist organisation once again. Having said this, I am still having second thoughts about this idea. I believe that way too many people in the Labour Party have little ideological education about the Socialist ideology's role in today's world.

Since I read a bit of everything, I had often read the criticisms made by various reasonable Communists vis-a-vis the social democratic parties. I must admit that the Labour Party has exhibited many of the "faults" identified by such Communists.

As stated in a previous post, there is still this belief that as soon as one even mentions the word "Communist", suspicions and stereotypes start flying around all over the place. All I can say is that many reasonable Communists I met have been far more consistent and committed to Socialism than countless Labour Party politicians who often talk and talk about the poor and then do very little to change things once in power!

Of course, it is important to be realistic. I am not very interested in movements because they are sometimes too detached from reality and they are also too weak to implement certain changes. What this country needs is a genuine Socialist party!

Andrew Sciberras said...

I dislike a 'chameleon' party which 'whores' itself to the electorate by changing its colours and basic beliefs; promising everyone paradise on earth; panders to dark sentiments instead of trying to overcome them, etc, etc.

On the other hand I like the idea of a watermelon coalition like Sinistra e Liberta`. I believe (or dream) that green, socialist, social democratic, and communist ideologies can be very harmonious and have a common sense of purpose. I also like the idea that the different (but in many ways related) factions can keep one another in check.

Red correctly stated that "For major changes to occur, one has to be in Parliament, in a position to carry out the urgent changes that our country needs." In a democracy such as ours, Members of Parliament are elected by the people but to a large extent potential MPs work with/for the grass-roots.

I still fear that Labour's grass-roots is composed of the old-school "socialist" militants which want Malta out of the European Union and the immediate suspension of international obligations. To me these are not socialists but radical nationalists who still believe anything foreign is the enemy. A number of youths (not all) in the Labour Party are the ones capable of anchoring the party in social-democracy but I think they hold too little clout and most are brushed aside.

Given that Labour's base is far from promising and given the fact that a Maltese-version of Sinistra e Liberta` is never going to happen, what hope is there for the Maltese left? Shouldn't there be a strong social movement much like the one that elected Zapatero and Obama into office and the one which brought down De Gaulle 40 years ago?

james debono said...

I think we should meet for a beer or 2!

james debono said...

Move on is a good example from the States on how mass mobilisation can be effective in the internet age

Andrew Sciberras said...

I'm all up for a beer, or two, or three... :-) But something tells me it better wait till after exams, heh :|

james debono said...

Ok...and after the MEP elections there will be much more to discuss!

Red said...

Would love to meet up for a drink to discuss certain topics! :)

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