Why we’re talking about pride | Sarah Haider

Labour youths are not just reclaiming the labels set upon us, but setting a precedent about how politics should be. It is about beliefs, and being able to freely own them and express them without shame

Members of the Labour Party onstage during the 2017 election campaign
Members of the Labour Party onstage during the 2017 election campaign

It would be unfair not to start right from the beginning of the journey that led us to this campaign. The moment the new Labour Youth Executive sat around a table, merely weeks after another landslide turnout, we were still feeling a bit dejected. Our events were not as well attended as we had hoped over the summer and Freshers’ week was around the corner. It was then that we started asking the question as to why some people were anxious about attending events of the Labour Party.

Why did we have to entice University students to engage with us by using freebies?

This got us thinking. What have we always known to be true but never really addressed?

Growing up, we all had the same stories. “I could not say it at school but University was somewhat worse”; “I was excluded in class”; “I was singled out by my superiors”. They may have had their reasons but they quietly shaped us. These phrases, or versions of them, were something we all felt and we wondered if others felt the same. We all came from different backgrounds, and quite a few of us from non-Labour families.

For too long, Labourites have felt the need to ‘hide’ their politics. We were told not to show our colour, that we are Labour only in our homes, to avoid talking positively about the Labour Party in public or not dare even mention Mintoff if we don’t feel shame for what he was painted out to be.

This is not something we made up; it is not unheard of Labour Party supporters suffering an inferiority complex – as if we have no capability to govern or do good for our country. However, it was time to question how much of this was external and how much of it had become internalised. This led to the birth of ‘Proud of my Politics’.

Labour supporters today have much to be proud of – we have a proud history of policies and vision that led to many benefits, progress and rights that our country today takes for granted.

We have a proud history of feminism, from extending suffrage to women, electing the first female MP and today under Joseph Muscat’s leadership – we put forward initiatives rooted in feminism. Let’s call it “women-omics”. The Labour Party created LEAD, a project that has given over 70 women and girls the confidence to further express their political opinion – all they needed was a little push and a party that welcomes women leaders with open arms. Only last month the PL also elected more women to its National Executive without the need for quotas (although these have been put in place to ensure it remains representative).

We have a proud history of socialism, from free healthcare to free education – stipends for students, pensions and benefits for members of society who need it most. Today, Labour in government carried on these initiatives whilst also increasing those pensions, decreasing unemployment to an all-time low by pushing initiatives that make work pay whilst simultaneously taking action on those who abuse of such social services.

They said Labour would not work. Yet, in these past five years, Labour not only worked but it exceeded expectations. Whilst sticking to our core values we also created a movement. A movement of progressive people who believe in equality, justice and freedom.

A number of reforms have been pushed through Parliament making Malta a more inclusive society – from marriage equality, to a much better version of the Equality Act. Reforms on censorship and enhancing fair process within the justice system.

All of this and then there is the economy. But the focus here is our politics and what we are proud to be part of. Much more can be done but the movement created by the Labour Party has swept Malta into the 21st century and of course, that cannot happen without some criticism.

Criticism is always welcomed by our party, and our aim is to continue pushing forward whilst taking it into consideration. We are not perfect, but we need to make space for politics that allow for human fallibility – everyone makes mistakes. We must all defend our right to be wrong, apologise, and correct it. However, demoralising supporters and throwing mud at the Labour Party is not part of that criticism. That creates a culture of shaming people for speaking up and standing up for their beliefs. That is not Malta, at least that is not the Malta we want to live in.

Our Malta is a place where we can freely express our beliefs and not fear retribution or the onslaught of online trolling. Our Malta is a place where changing your political allegiance bears no shame but, if anything, evidence is the strength of your beliefs. Our Malta is where we can debate and at times agree to disagree, but still be able to share what is mutually ours – our passion for our country and how we can make it better. Ultimately, that is what ties us all together. So that is what Proud of My Politics is all about. It is not just about us, the Labour Youths, reclaiming the labels set upon us, but setting a precedent about how politics should be. It is about our beliefs, and being able to freely own them and express them without shame.

This is about being proud enough of my politics not to feel the need to demean anyone else’s in the process.

Is it fair that we have been made to feel lesser? No, but paying it back is not the answer. That is why we are proud, Proud of our Politics, and we will no longer be made to feel ashamed of it.

Sarah Haider is campaign coordinator of Forum Zghazagh Laburisti

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