THE IGNORED GROANS OF THE WORKING CLASS IN MALTA -
David Cuschieri

Zminijietna Harga Jannar – Marzu 2008

 

When the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union was dissolved, millions of people were led to believe that socialism was doomed to failure. The capitalist economic model was hailed as the triumphant one; a system that many described as having no alternative. It is plausible to say that the early 90s represented a time of great expectations.

The dreams of countless capitalists were surely translated into reality as an increasing amount of governments around the world embraced the neoliberal philosophy. As the 90s rolled on, it appeared that the way had been paved for the victory of the private sector over the public one. As one State-owned company after another was privatised, this process was accompanied by a very strong campaign aimed at destroying all confidence in such companies; the State-owned organisations were associated with a never-ending list of negative characteristics so that the wave of privatisations would meet as little resistance as possible.

With reference to Malta, the latter was not spared from the vicious onslaught of the private sector against anything that was owned by the State. This campaign was largely endorsed by the country’s Nationalist Party.

Nowadays, there is little doubt that the private sector in Malta is much stronger than ever before. As the Maltese government embraces the neoliberal philosophy, there is a greater likelihood that several private companies would be able to have a more profound impact on people’s lives than the State. Indeed, as the private sector becomes increasingly powerful, the State could easily be threatened to serve its interests. If a large company fails to get its way, it could certainly wind up its local operations and move to another country in which it has more control over the State in its attempt to maximise profits. This has happened in various countries and Malta is not an exception to this disturbing phenomenon.

When analysing the increasing power of the private sector in Malta, one could ask: how is this issue affecting the thousands of individuals that make up the working class? Perhaps more importantly, who is struggling to defend the working class members from the shocking exploitation that is often associated with numerous private companies? Many Maltese people still praise Dom Mintoff and Dr Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici for their efforts to improve the plight of the working class in Malta. For both leaders, ideology was a very important matter when discussing the way forward for the country. Indeed, albeit with limited means, they both frequently tried to educate the masses about the benefits of Socialism.

With the appearance of Dr Alfred Sant’s New Labour, it seems that the relationship between ideology and the interests of the working class was brushed aside. Although Dr Sant might have focused on a number of issues that affected the thousands of wage slaves in Malta, his efforts did not appear to be based on a clearly-defined ideology.

Nowadays, in spite of the soaring profits recorded by several private companies, the working class in Malta is still made up of a huge number of people who are struggling on a daily basis to live comfortably. Thousands of individuals are reporting difficulties to make ends meet. Although there is a great deal of talk about the creation of new jobs in Malta, there are many people whose salaries are so low that they can barely ever think of spending money on anything else apart from the survival costs (food, rent, mortgage, and so on). Whenever a crisis, such as a serious injury or unemployment, hits certain members of the working class, the State’s response is often slow and far from being effective.

If one listens carefully, it is possible to hear the many groans of the working class in Malta. The biggest problem is that in the eyes of countless individuals, there is currently no political party that is paying sufficient attention to the groans of the exploited masses. More often than not, these groans appear to be totally ignored. It seems that even the Malta Labour Party is no longer widely perceived as an organisation that is offering many substantial changes to improve the plight of the working class.

In view of the above, one could surely assert that the working class in Malta requires a party that is truly committed to defending its interests. A party that heeds the groans of the suffering people, can restore faith in a caring State, and is willing to guide those in pain towards a better future.    

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