Delia’s PN is an anticipated reaction to Labour’s neoliberalism

Foreign nationals are portrayed in a troubling manner by Muscat himself, who regards people like myself as mere numbers to profit from

To be Maltese, in Delia’s view, is to be Latin, Catholic and “spontaneous”. This one-dimensional stereotype does not do justice to the Maltese society which is way more diverse than a tourist’s perception of it
To be Maltese, in Delia’s view, is to be Latin, Catholic and “spontaneous”. This one-dimensional stereotype does not do justice to the Maltese society which is way more diverse than a tourist’s perception of it

Reported in between news reports of high-profile corruption, more obscene development proposals and heated debates on IVF and embryo freezing, the not-so-subtle xenophobia of PN leader Adrian Delia did not attract as much attention as it should have.

The rhetoric of the PN’s leader signalled the troubling shift rightward, which calls for much more than a few derisive comments in his address.

He spoke at a business breakfast organised by the PN with the theme “The Maltese Worker – A Long Term Plan” – albeit with no workers in sight – warning of the threat posed by the “influx of foreign workers” to Malta’s social fabric. Previously, his xenophobic colours shone in statements like “we will not let foreigners make money from the people’s assets”, when objecting to Żonqor development and Vitals deal, and “by 2050, Europe will no longer be Christian”.

Scoffing at the Nationalist Party’s leader is clearly not enough.

Unless confronted with constructive criticism and socially beneficial policies, Delia might well succeed at making the Nationalist Party ‘great again’ as he has already done with making it live up to its name.

First and foremost, his rhetoric is anything but random.

It is a tried and tested way to build on the existing social anxieties, including xenophobia, which were nourished by the policies of the current PL government. A feeling that ‘the country no longer belongs to them’ is being shared by a growing number of Maltese. The country is becoming truly unrecognisable, thanks to the efforts of the construction lobby which craves knocking down every Maltese architectural jewel to clear a spot for yet another faceless apartment block, and eyes every ODZ field as a potential host of yet another petrol station.

Malta’s intangible heritage such as firework displays (which put the country on the world map) has also been passing through tough times due to the encroachment of over-building. I fail to see the foreign workers’ fault in all of the above though. If the loss of heritage concerns Delia so much, it would have been more fitting to put the blame on the developers (who were Maltese, last time I checked).

When it comes to lamenting the tearing social fabric, Delia exploits another existing anxiety:  that of a disintegrating community.

Community ties take time to develop and little time to break. The unregulated property market and the construction assault on open spaces, vital for community life, pushed many Maltese natives out of their home localities in search for affordable housing. Neither does the hectic contemporary lifestyle favour mutual support and solidarity, since it encourages us to see others as competitors, rather than community fellows.

Also, there is no denial that the unfair playing-field which prioritises the interests of employers over employees, allows the former to exploit migrant labour and exacerbate competition between the local and foreign workers.

And finally, the Nationalist Party’s leader hopes to score points on the existing fears of ‘foreigners’ among the Maltese population. As established by MaltaToday in an earlier survey, matters pertaining to ‘foreigners’ are the second major concern to the Maltese after traffic.

These concerns are regularly fostered by the Maltese media and politicians. Besides, foreign nationals are portrayed in a troubling manner by no other than Joseph Muscat himself, who regards people like myself as mere numbers to profit from. The PM’s tolerance advocacy leaves no role for foreign workers apart from mandatory servants to Malta’s economic growth. This narrative alone is already enough to strip non-Maltese residents from their humanity.

It’s worth nothing that, despite the patriotic rhetoric, Adrian Delia is not as faithful to the cause of the Maltese workers as he poses.

When Betsson Group, a Swedish company, dismissed 130 employees in January, Delia’s solidarity was firmly with the gaming sector, not the local teachers, pilots, social workers, and doctors who were on strike at the time. In a tweet, he also promised that his party “will be catalyst in creating new economic sectors.”

Alas, in Delia’s ‘normal Malta’, everything will fall into place once eugenics will prevent foreign mothers from having children... a lovely normality, isn’t it?

One can only wonder how attacking foreign residents will transform into achieving his grand economic vision.

The PN leader’s understanding of the Maltese national identity is equally contradictory.

To be Maltese, in Delia’s view, is to be Latin, Catholic and “spontaneous”. This one-dimensional stereotype does not do justice to the Maltese society which is way more diverse than a tourist’s perception of it. This is the irony: a ‘true patriot’ of Malta sounds no different than a much-maligned foreigner whose source of information about Malta comes from tourist booklets.

From the experience of nine years in Malta, I’ve learnt that recognising and navigating through diversity of the place is what turns a foreign resident into a local. During the first couple of years here, my understanding of the Maltese people was similar to that of Delia. At an early stage of integration, I thought of the Maltese as loud, over-religious and chaotic. It took a few more years to move away from this stereotype, after having met Maltese who were neither loud nor chaotic, Maltese who did not fancy festa, Maltese who loathed pastizzi, yet were Maltese anyway.

By describing the Maltese in such simplistic terms, Delia shows a lack of respect for a society way more diverse than he imagines it to be. It seems that I, a threat to the Maltese identify, in nine years succeeded in learning more of Malta’s many colours than has Delia in his forty-eight.

Here are the questions to ask: what is Delia’s proposal to make Malta a “normal country”? How does he plan to improve the lot of the Maltese workers? Wouldn’t it make more sense to call for the increase in the minimum wage? How about saving the little that remains of the Maltese countryside and its architectural beauty from developers’ insatiable appetite?

Alas, in Delia’s ‘normal Malta’, everything will fall into place once eugenics will prevent foreign mothers from having children and foreign workers will be sent away. A lovely normality, isn’t it?

To prevent such a horrific ‘normality’ from materialising, it is not enough to simply criticise Delia.

It’s paramount to understand that the xenophobic, paleo-conservative cancer draws its energy and inspiration from the consequences of the Labour Party’s neoliberalism. Xenophobia and nationalism creep into people’s worst insecurities of the future. They find a fertile ground in anxieties of a stressful and over-competitive lifestyle.

Just as much as Brexit was an outcome of Blairite pro-business policies and Trump’s victory was largely pre-defined by two decades of neoliberalism in the US, Adrian Delia’s PN is an anticipated reaction to Joseph Muscat’s Labour.

And the PL is to blame for its possible future success.

 

Raisa Galea is an editor of the blog Isles Of The Left

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