Sociologist from Malta

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Muscat's incumbency cannot be trusted - Michael Briguglio


Yesterday different news portals in Malta reported that Joseph Muscat lost the support of the majority of his cabinet and that he would be resigning. 

Then came an Orwellian government statement, typical of Muscat-speak.

Needless to say, it denied that Muscat has lost confidence within the Cabinet. It then added
that Joseph Muscat will remain focused on the country's priority, to close one of the largest criminal cases in it's history, as he promised, and it would just be at that moment when he will answer and speak about the road ahead. 


Yeah, right. 

The once almighty Prime Minister has become liablity to his party and country. But it seems that he will be prolonging his stay, and we are now reading that the Labour Party will have a leadership contest on January 18. 

It is unclear what Muscat's role in Government and Labour will be till then. 


But given his history of trickery and standing up for crooks, we shouldn't trust him. His clear conflict of interests tell us that he should resign from Prime Minister immediately. 

Muscat may well be using this time to extend his power of incumbency. He may buy time and manouver to protect the gang of crooks. Not that we hadn't any similar tricks in the past years. 

Let's not allow Muscat to get away with this. 

For every day he remains gripped to the role of Prime Minister, we should stand up to be counted. In our own ways: whether in the streets, in the mediasphere, within the institutions, in our communities, behind the scenes...

Country before crooks.


Friday, November 29, 2019

Stop the rot - Michael Briguglio

This morning we read that the Police requested the postponement of the court sitting of Melvin Theuma, the alleged middleman in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. He was due to testify after the President signed the pardon requested by Theuma’s lawyer in return for his testimony.  

In the meantime, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat did not resign despite protecting crooks and having clear conflicts of interest in Malta's political crisis. In line with this narrative, his Cabinet refused to recommend a Presidential pardon to Yorgen Fenech, and Keith Schembri was released by the Police. 

The gang of crooks is doing its utmost to protect itself, and Muscat is keeping up appearances as magician in this bloody party.  

But the gang of crooks does not enjoy absolute power, and parties can be followed by hangovers: The state depends very much on society allowing it to function. 

We should stop the rot. The President of Malta, Labourites who put country before crooks, the Opposition, civil society, the press. Each and every one of us.

We can voice our concerns publicly, attend protests, write, share social media communication. We can help build unity against the evil we face. We can boycott government initiatives and speak up in our own communities. In our own ways, we can refuse to assist the gang of crooks in its attempts to look legitimate.  

Let us stop this collective nightmare. 

File photo The Malta Independent - Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is currently visting President George Vella following Cabinet's refusal to recommend a Presidential Pardon to Yorgen Fenech 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Muscat is running out of tricks - Michael Briguglio

Ruling elites can resort to various options to silence dissent. These include co-opting, seducing, deceiving, bribing and using brute force. In liberal democracies, methods such as terror and violence are less possible due to factors such as media scrutiny, civil society activism, political pluralism, rule of law and voter response.  

But in Malta, Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered. Two years later, omerta' is imploding. Joseph Muscat has lost all political legitimacy. 

The criminal investigation of his right hand man, Keith Schembri is enough to rubbish Muscat's claims of political stability. If the Prime Minister really wants stability, he should resign immediately.

He has not only surrounded himself with kingpins of corruption who are being investigated in connection with the murder of Caruana Galizia, but he gave them his blessing for years. The cherry on the cake was when he had the gall to thank Schembri for his work once the latter ran out of options. 

As I am writing this blog I am watching Finance Minister Edward Scicluna sounding like an apologetic Soviet appartchik on One TV. It would have been better if he apologized for his role as Minister in the Electrogas financial deal and in the weakening of the the FIAU and the MFSA. Luckily not everyone is so spineless.

In the meantime, Joseph Muscat must be in panic mode. It is the only way how I can interpret his emphasis for the rallying of troops on Sunday.  He may even get softer in the coming days to try to show us that he is listening. But tricks can go stale. Especially when omerta' is giving way to struggles for personal survival by implicated actors.

Public declarations and actions against the mess are flourishing. Different voices are expressing their dissent in their own ways.  

Let's not be detracted by divisive tactics, hunches, grudges, antipathies and affiliations. To be effective, a worthy cause requires commitment, unity and numbers. 

Our chorus is that Joseph Muscat's time is up.  Let's sustain it. 



Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Joseph Muscat should resign - Michael Briguglio

The constantly developing political crisis makes Joseph Muscat's position as Prime Minister untenable. He himself said he wants stability. Indeed: he should resign with immediate effect.

The Prime Minister should pay the political price for a Faustian pact involving kingpins of corruption who are being interrogated in connection with the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. A pact which has real effects on Maltese society. A pact which he kept blessing through his electoral popularity. A pact which is imploding.

The once almighty are now in a precarious situation and must be calculating how to save their skin at the cost of breaking the code of silence, omerta'. They are facing the Titanic of their own creation.

Respect to all those who are standing up to be counted in their own ways. 

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Muscat is part of the problem - Michael Briguglio

The current untenable political situation looks like the result of Faustian pact, a deal with the proverbial devil. Its authors are in a precarious situation and must be calculating how to save their skin at the cost of breaking the code of silence, omerta'. They may try to sacrifice some allies in the pact, but they simply cannot control all the holes in what looks like a sinking ship. 

The fact that so far three Labour MPs have stood up to be counted is admirable. I believe that there are other Labourites who feel let down by the ruling elite and who want the albatross removed from their Government's neck. Seeing the bigger picture is not monopolized by any particular affiliation or belief. Indeed, we are also witnessing newly found unity within the PN opposition and a growing chorus of civil society voices demanding justice. So much for divide and rule. 

In the meantime, Joseph Muscat said he will not abdicate. He never did: his years long inaction against kingpins of corruption has had real effects, where some are more equal than others at society's expense. 

Muscat is part of the problem. 

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The situation is untenable - Michael Briguglio


When Mizzi and Schembri were not fired during the Panama Papers scandal it was clear that they had disproportionate power within the ruling elite.

The recent turn of events indicates that implosion may be knocking at the door of the same
elite. The requests for presidential pardons hints the breakdown of omerta' and the spread of distrust and panic. Government's refusal to urgently discuss matters in Parliament, as requested by the Opposition suggests that the ruling elite is trying to cover up its newly found weakness and confusion by stonewalling debate. It is trying to put on a brave face behind precarious unity. A waiting game is in place, but in the meantime cans of worms may still be opened within the judicial process. Behind the apparent unity of the power bloc, elites may be calculating the best way to save themselves. 

In such instances I admire those who see the bigger picture and act accordingly, irrespective of their affiliations and orientations. There are plural possible political outcomes, but the great unifier is that the current situation is untenable. 

The bigger picture - Michael Briguglio


I wish to emphasize that

  1. One hegemonic formation can be replaced by another. For this to happen, adversaries of the ruling bloc need to set aside their differences and focus on what unites them in the articulation of an alternative hegemonic formation. On a micro-level, such strategies reaped success in various civil society conflicts with the support of political actors, under different goverments. It also explains the construction of hegemonic formations in the form of different PL and PN governments. Conversely, factionalism, sectarianism and puritanism work to the benefit of the ruling bloc. 
  2. The current hegemonic formation can witness internal struggles to maintain power and incumbency whilst removing its political liabilities . The questions here are whether such struggles are taking place within Labour and, conversely, whether the ruling bloc can survive the current situation through its networks of power and the logic of numbers. 
  3. Force majeur should never be underestimated, but it can never be predicted. Some possible guesses: the judicial process can open various cans of worms, possibly leading to implosion; political ruptures may take place beyond the current way of things; conversely the 'invisible' and 'silent' majority may be not primarily concerned with what is dominating the mediasphere. 

The future is unwritten, but one can help push history towards certain directions through political encounters. I insist that the bigger picture should precede factionalism, sectarianism and puritanism. 

Friday, November 22, 2019

Power understands the language of power - Michael Briguglio


Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi should have been removed from office ever since the Panama Papers documentation emerged.

The current controversy involving them can be seen in terms of networks of power and the logic of numbers. These factors comprise essential elements within hegemonic formations.

The question is how to shift their direction, for example through broad non-sectarian counter-hegemonic coalitions; internal power struggles; force majeure etc.

In line with the stoic principle that one should focus on what one can do and not on external factors over which one has no power, I reiterate what I have been saying ever since this state of affairs emerged: That if one wants cleaner politics,one should act beyond one's narrow affiliations. One should see the bigger picture.

Malta has other characteristics in its political economy which also help explain the way of things - and these have immense ramnifications. Our party and candidate financing laws are a joke, with as many loopholes as boreholes across the islands. Dominant political ideology is too aligned with big business interests and  unsustainable exploitation of our common good. And politics and business are too dependent on each other, with patronage fuelling the vote.

A hegemonic formation can be deconstructed and be replaced by another one. Again, networks and numbers are key characteristics in such articulations.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Tumas, Big Business and Politics - Michael Briguglio


Back in 1998 my BA (Hons) dissertation in Sociology - ‘State/Power: Hiltonopoly’ - analysed the relations of power in the Portomaso development project. 
My research concluded that a symbiotic relationship exists between the State and big developers.
In this regard, developers provide economic growth and other incentives. The State provides policy and operational support. 
I argued that the relationship is fed by an ideological commitment to such development through the exploitation of land. The Planning Authority is the State’s major representative in this regard. 
21 years later, the dissertation can help understand the networks of power still active today. Further analysis can unearth direct material gains by actors involved in such networks, also including other economic sectors. 
Who said social class is dead?

You can download the dissertation here: https://www.academia.edu/2120916/State_Power_Hiltonopoly

Monday, November 04, 2019

Norm Rejection is 25 - All releases are now available online


Norm Rejection is 25 years old! Our CDs are now freely accessible online.  We also added #MaltaNotForSale as a stand-alone. 
Links:


Malta Not For Sale (Single - 2000): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnThAPzsxpI

The Radical Underground (Album - 2014): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4kvv2q13nI




Subtly Mesmerized? (EP - 1994):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FpIzfji9gE

Enjoy and share!

Yours in Metal,
Michael Briguglio, Sean Vukovic, Wil Pace, Jo Kerr, Rex Grech Santucci, Andrew Martin (RIP)