Or some random thoughts on the current plight of socialism-labourism.
The apparent demise of the left as we know it is tickling the fancy of commentators and activists alike. Is the left really dead or is it reinventing itself? Have communism, socialism, labour movements and all the worker centric ideologies disapparated for ever leaving a vacuum to be refilled or is this a moment for redefinition and adaptation to the needs of the modern voter?
What does it mean to be a leftist today? Is there any meaning left in the workers’ party? Does socialism still purport to provide answers to 21st century western civilisation? Have the people begun to ring the death bell of the politics based on the class and on exalting the role of the worker in society? Is socialism only about workers?
Questions would become poetry if we did not answer them. I am being purposely liberal with the definition of socialism. I am also being purposely restrictive by narrowing my considerations to ideologies that began with the working class. I consider myself as an outsider who has always been curiously interested by leftist policies from the outside. The closest I ever got was on the windowsill as I discovered the centre-left possibilities of Christian Democracy – not the apologist, conservative wing but the social-democrats with the added value of christian humanistic inspiration. And I could go on.. chain upon chain of -isms, -atics and -ocracies – enough to give a politologue a bad case of political indigestion.
There are more than a handful of people who have manifested more than a passing interest in the future role of the Labour Party in Malta. We have started to post and use blogs for chatting and comparing notes. IN doing so, we have begun to risk getting lost in definitions, counter-definitions and life-jackets thrown at the theories in the political handbooks. We risk being mired in the “workers”, the “revolutions”, the “classes”, the “anarchy”, “the progressive liberals” and so on and so forth.
Nostalgics of some missed era of socialism (didn’t we have enough of that?) will be pushing the case for a return to the roots that probably never were. Their vocabulary is alienating the wider audience. When they speak of alienation itself, of the weak and the oppressed, and of the abuse of the working masses they fail to understand that this kind of talk is only music to the ears of the fans of Guevara, the ideologists of handbook socialism and the ones who deep inside would love the fable of socialism to be tried one more time – maybe this time they will get it right. A bit like voting for Alfred Sant in 2008.
Then there are those who will pepper the red with a bit of green in the naive belief that this will suffice to “modernise” the message. Throw in a bit of Corporate Social Responsibility, a dash of Polluter Pays principle, a smother of bioethics and marinade the lot in a soup of Rights for Future Generations. It’s the New Socialist who will only eat from the bio section and probably cycle to work. Sorry guys. Been there done that. Romano Prodied it actually. And it’s not enough.
And now for the J’accuse rough notes
This is where my ideological bit comes in. We live in the 21st century and not the 18th. The alienation is no longer of the worker but of the citizen. Champions of the worker as conceived until 1989 will soon find that not many people assimilate with this idea. Of course there has been a huge bulk which thought they fall within that category because Alfred Sant said so but – and here’s the news…the moment you tell them that their material aspirations, their ideas of comfort, their mode of interaction with society – makes them more of individuals in the IT age than pure and simple opressed workers they’ll believe you. Probably because it is true.
New labour methinks should first define the basic building unit of its society. It should define the individual it wants to empower with its policies with its ideas. This idea of the 21st Century Maltese Citizen would be the building block of the new party. An individual empowered with freedoms, choice and with various tools with which he can fulfil his potential. A society that is prepared to let this individual achieve his aspirations by providing security, comfort and identity. The tools with which the individual can, out of his own choice engage in civic society will be the policies with which the New Labour can build its spinal base.
There cannot be such a building process if the party were to automatically focus on the disgruntled, the weak, and the oppressed worker. Put bluntly aspirations for a better society cannot be built on the idea of persons who think of themselves as losers in the game of life. The project should be realistically positive. The individual in a liberal society empowered with rights and restricted by obligations with the common good in mind can be this positive building block.
I’d have more to say but let me see what you guys think for now. In the meantime remember, it is not the nostalgia for the ideology that will help move things forward but practical and at times lateral thinking that will provide a basis for a functioning programme to put forward for the individual as an actor on the local, national, regional and international stage.
Yes we can.