At times, out of sheer defiance at my dishonourable discharge from the National Book Council by Robert Abela’s government, I say “I have no regrets”.
I’m proud at having revived a book industry and introduced new sources of revenue during a time when the book industry was going through a slump. I’ve made many mistakes which I regret, for sure, but they are not mistakes of a political nature. I am not perfect and I am fully aware of my limits as an irrelevant mortal. People often misjudged me by saying that I could have acted differently in order to keep the peace with the government and the Labour Party, of which I am a member. With regards to the preconceived actions and positions I took in the frame of this latter advice, I say again, and quite clearly, that I have no regrets.
I have never acted with hostility towards the government or Prime Minister Robert Abela, and least of all towards the Labour Party when I was an executive with the government. The executives who damaged the government’s reputation and ruined that of the party are people like Johann Buttigieg, who solicited business from Yorgen Fenech in his official capacity as a government executive, and Jason Micallef, whose incompetence, rent seeking and acerbic verbiage make him equivalent to a sexless monkey on LSD.
Then there are the Victoria Buttigiegs: their epitome is the current Attorney General who got promoted for abetting and covering up the corruption under Joseph Muscat and is currently ensuring that her corrupt boss, Edward Zammit Lewis, who returned the favour of Yorgen Fenech’s gifts by defending him under Joseph Muscat’s administration, doesn’t get hauled to court on criminal charges of bribery and corruption.
I am proud to say that, in my position as a government executive, I have served no one but the Republic and the book industry and its stakeholders. I am proud of what I have created and my contribution, and despite the repeated attempted humiliations I have been imposed by the powers that be, I stand tall in legacy and history on these thickset and slippery pieces of shit.
In reality, I have many regrets. After I finished my book, my positions and ideas have become even clearer and I am now even more confident in what I believe in. For the record, these are my regrets:
I regret starting a Phd at the University of Malta. I never finished it. I regret many other things in this regard, but for now I’ll keep them to myself.
I regret the political position I took in 2017, but in reality I know that, even in a parallel universe, I would probably not have acted differently. The position of many Labour rebels, including mine at that time, was extremely difficult. It’s never black or white. I explain this in my book. I know very well the consequences of my mistake and I carry its burden. I can take it. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Fuck it. Labour can still absolve itself from its sins, and it should make an effort to regain its trust with the journalistic and intellectual community. This won’t happen under Robert Abela’s premiership.
I regret giving Robert Abela the benefit of the doubt. Today, Robert Abela makes no pretences of ruling the country like a feudal lord. Apart from the sense of arrogance and entitlement, the reality is that he doesn’t know better. In recorded Maltese history, he is by far the dumbest and most vacuous village lawyer who has ever been thrown into power by the sheer gravity of Maltese rent seeking and robot bureaucracy; I explain this in my book. He is cutting the country into pieces and giving them to specific groups to buy electoral support. He gave l-Aħrax to the hunters, Ta’ Qali to the petrol heads and now he is giving Marsascala’s coastline to the rich. He has total contempt for free speech and is decapitating public institutions that could potentially furnish society with critical dialogue, such as what he did with the Public Broadcaster and the National Book Council. He tries to impress the common folk struggling to make ends meet with pitiful €50 cheques sent by post. Sure, I agree with direct cash giveaways to aid workers while stimulating the economy, only that, today, the public purse is viewed by Robert Abela as an exclusive tool for his electoral success. And forget about getting the construction industry reformed: he’s completely on their side and has been all the way. Robert Abela was part of the same bureaucracy which aided and abetted the construction industry during Joseph Muscat’s rent seeking boom. They’re all in this together and they’ll keep doing it.
Why are you so angry? Take a break, man.
I’m not angry, I’m fucking furious. But I’m not spiteful. I think it will get better, but it will get worse before it does. I am still a Labour Party member and I won’t be voting for PN in the meantime but third parties. I want to become active again in the Labour Party in the future. That’s where my past and my future lies, but not the present. And it’s going to take many years before I return to the political fold. Had they kept supporting my work at the party library and archives where I had successfully restored and catalogued the original archive, I would have become a subdued party acolyte offsetting my sins with my essential archival work. I wanted peace not war, but it was clear from the onset of Robert Abela’s administration that I was to be purged. I thank deeply from the bottom of my heart Gino Cauchi and Toni Abela who had supported my work in the the Party’s Archive.. I salute you.
My emotions were also very transparent and I trusted many friends in the party who eventually turned against me and abandoned me. I regret being so emotionally transparent and today I am more guarded.
My book is available for pre-order and it will be out in all bookstores next Friday. I will be holding a Twitter Spaces Q&A online next Sunday at 19.00. Follow me on Twitter and you’ll get the link. Come join me if you want to talk about my book. Everyone is welcome, including my enemies.
Disclaimer: What I am doing is completely legal and I’m fully cooperating with the police. I’m in touch with the Malta Police Commissioner and his deputy with whom I’m sharing my information.
My name is Mark Camilleri and I was a Malta government executive under Joseph Muscat’s and Robert Abela’s Premiership. I was also a Labour Party delegate. I broke rank with my government and the Labour Party after the 2019 political crisis and today I am no longer a government executive. I have given up my career and also forfeited the opportunity to become an ambassador with the diplomatic service in 2019 in order to be able to keep speaking against what I deemed as great injustice and corruption. Through the book I’m launching today, I share my experience, my knowledge and also untold stories about government-sanctioned criminal activity.
In this book, I tell the story of how disgraced prime minister Joseph Muscat, his chief of staff Keith Schembri, and former energy minister Konrad Mizzi, abetted and covered for Darren Debono, a Maltese oil smuggler indicted by the United States government. Through Darren Debono, the Maltese government refuelled a foreign warship in foreign waters while officially refusing to allow it to refuel on Maltese territory. The Minister of Police, Emmanuel Mallia also participated in the abetting and covering up of the money laundering in the illegal oil smuggling business. I also explain through this story that Joseph Muscat’s proximity to criminals was by design and not by accident. I explain why and how. Joseph Muscat earned the title of Person of the Year in Organized Crime and Corruption by the OCCRP in 2019. Although I cannot prove it, I am completely convinced that Joseph Muscat, apart from being involved in corruption himself, was also aware in advance of the plan to murder Daphne Caruana Galizia. I give detailed explanations in my book.
I also tell the story of what happened in the government and the Labour Party during the November/December 2019 political crisis and after the Panama Papers scandal in 2016. I explain how the bureaucracy and the civil service were essential to executing the corruption of Joseph Muscat’s government.
I give credit to Daphne Caruana Galizia who was right on many things, but mainly on the corruption behind the Electrogas deal and the new power station which eventually lead to her murder. Daphne was also right on the Minister of Economy, Chris Cardona who visited a brothel when abroad on a ministerial conference. I explain why. I cover all this because Chris Cardona terrorised Daphne financially by issuing garnishee orders against her. I also shame another Minister who had a similar life passage to Cardona and also participated in the cover up of the Panama Papers scandal.
100 digital copies of my book are available on the Open Sea website as private and collectable items. Each copy of the book comes with a unique serial number and an NFT of the book cover. Along with the purchase of the book and upon verification of the serial number, you will be given a link to a private Discord channel intended for the use of intelligence sharing and gathering on systematic injustices both on a local and global scale. The link to your PDF is held on the blockchain and is permanent and uncensorable. The price of every digital copy is 0.1 Ether. Funds received from the digital sales of the book will be used to fund the printing of the book for the mass market, security and legal costs and to fund my work with further publications. The print version will be published in October and will be available for the price of €15 from all of Malta’s bookshops and online.
A Rent-Seeker’s Paradise will be launched on the 19th of September on the OpenSea market and blockchain netwrok in a limited amount of copies. Funds obtained from the digital sales will be used for the print publication to the mass market, legal costs, security and further publications.
The book cover is adorned with an NFT by CryptoWeirdos.
The geographic smallness of my beloved home country may give the impression that we Maltese are simple folk living under the idyllic and peaceful aura of our warm climate. This can’t be even more further from the truth as the Maltese reality is divided by social and political camps and riddled with complex contradictions which make us nothing less than a very interesting nation.
When it comes to women we have some problems. Apart from the fact that abortion is still a criminal act both for the woman and the medic executing it, Malta also has alarming rates of femicide, sexual abuse and a justice system that has constantly failed to protect women. Look, we are a young Republic, and as a nation are barely through our adolescence, so abortion, a subject which needs some basic philosophy and science in order to be understood is still lagging in the popular conscience. We are also a bit religious.
But we are also patriarchal and a little bit misogynistic. One of the reasons why Daphne Caruana Galizia was hated, for example, was simply because she was a woman and took no shit from men (and women alike). While men who flaunt their criminal behaviour both in business and politics get applauded by misguided crowds, mischievous women are looked down upon as a menace to society.
And still, the biggest female menace to society is yet to come. The threat of genocidal abortion looms over our sanctimonious society. Last month in May, Marlene Farrugia did the unexpected and presented a private member’s bill in Parliament to decriminalise abortion. It was a shocker because abortion is still a taboo in Malta and women who decide to have one are looked down upon with extreme hatred and disgust. Surprisingly, the biggest gasp, outright shock and horror to Marlene Farrugia’s bill was expressed not by the conservatives but by the liberals, the Labour Party and the pseudo-intellectuals whose response was an unequivocal, how dare you? How dare you Marlene Farrugia propose a solution to this problem and effect it so sharply and timely while we are still cowardly discussing between each other and behind closed doors the theory of our eventual indented action, sometime down the line in future history, to solve this so complex conundrum ourselves? How dare you Marlene Farrugia do what we were not able to do ourselves. And you even did it without our permission or even notice or warning! How dare you?
And it is understandable why both men and women alike are hating on Marlene for doing what she did as if they are surprised that lightning can also come from a clear sky. Marlene Farrugia intimidates many of her compatriots because she is a self-made woman who stands on her own without needing the backing of anyone at all. She can do whatever she likes and no one can do anything about it. And doing what is most unexpected, by herself, what all the merry men and women couldn’t even do together in unison, is of course so much unwarranted. The Labour Party’s reaction was a textbook case of saying I was deeply offended without saying I have been offended. In this way, Farrugia ruined the narrative which was supposed to have been inscribed by the powers that be that the Labour Party was advancing the rights of women through the parliament gender quotas (which will work exclusive to Labour and PN, btw). It’s like Farrugia has finally created the much-needed rupture in the plot of a story where something that is supposed to happen never actually happens or at least happens only much later with an excessively nauseating delay. It’s like Godot eventually shows up when he is supposed to never show up in the first place or a twist in the plot of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse where a sudden miraculous intervention cuts the story short and finally takes the Ramsays to the Lighthouse. How dare you? This wasn’t supposed to happen.
Let’s be honest. I’m not the one who likes pretentions, but this should not be confused with the women without pretensions Musumeci-misogyny type. What I mean is I don’t like to lie and scribble gymnastic-bullshit. Many of the Labour MPs and MEPs who have pretensions and made declarations against abortion are actually pro-choice and they should be called out for their cowardice. Politics is becoming tiring with all the delusional and cryptic nonsense going on. You, dear Alex Saliba, are one of them. Much of a socialist you have been during your teenage years at college and changed you have not, other than that you have become a politician who reads from a stupid script instead of speaking your true beliefs and principles. You are all a bunch of cowards to me, but maybe I have too many pretensions.
And trust the intellectuals to articulate with some overly-stretched -rational the unwarranted and futile action of Marlene’s. This chorus justifies like a broken record the cowardice of our politicians in order to downgrade the historic break which Marlene Farrugia has just made in Maltese politics and Maltese history. First, it was Carmen Sammut, the University’s pro-rector who recently showed her true colours by complaining publicly on Facebook against Lovin Malta for supposedly breaking the news of Keith Schembri’s health complications before the news reached his family first (the claim was immediately denied by Lovin Malta). Sammut declared, and I kid you not, that Farrugia did not do any favours to women by presenting this bill. Take it, women. Sit there in your role as the obedient gender until your royal highness decides when it is appropriate to defend your rights.
Following Sammut it was Dominic Fenech’s turn, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Head of the History Department to pour cold-water on Farrugia’s proposal. Bizarrely, he took credit for having already decriminalised abortion along with the Labour Party in the 1980s and what Farrugia was actually proposing was only depenalisation. Fenech’s argument is that given a motion was passed by the Labour Party Annual General Conference in 1980 which declared that no woman should go to prison for having an abortion, the Labour Government of today is bound by this resolution and therefore decriminalisation is already in place. When I pointed out to him the absurdity of this argument, and that in fact there have been cases of women spending time in jail for having an abortion under a Labour government, his response was this:
Hilarious considering the Freudian slip, but the audacity of the Dean of the Faculty of Arts to speak to his former student like that is rooted in a collective frustration amongst the intellectual rent-seeking class for having been outdone by a lone woman in the bidding of what a progressive force is supposed to do.
Fenech’s argument is legally absurd and shows outright ignorance on how the legal process actually works. Does Fenech even listen to himself when he speaks? All well and good for him having been a major participant in a motion in the 1980s, but it does literally nothing to the execution and enforcement of the law itself by the authorities – both back then and especially today. What Fenech should have said instead, is that the 1980 motion only serves to show how distant and discordant the Labour Party has become with its inherent principles: not only with regards to women but also with regards to many other aspects such as social justice, corruption and the environment. Sure, a political party needs to change, and surely the economic policies of today should be very different from back then, but on a human rights issue, one would hope that the Labour Party would have made a step forward rather than a step back. And let’s not also forget that a motion passed in 1980 by a political party, will change nothing how a magistrate or a judge or a police commissioner will interpret the law. Having said the obvious, let’s conclude.
Maltese politics has become a tiring charade of smoke and mirrors but at what cost? . Old habits die hard, and it will take new generations to stifle out the toxicity and the rent-seeking which is assaulting politics and society in general. However, I believe that that’s what is happening today. Most of the support to Marlene Farrugia’s act is coming from the younger generations who apart from agreeing with her bill in principle, are tired of a political discourse based on misinformation and fairy tales. Those who used to be lions have turned into sheep while lambs are growing into wolves.
This is a quick reply to an article posted here. Of course, it’s saddening to see the Labour Party digging itself into the abyss of the rent-seeking jungle instead of admitting to its own faults.
We have arrived at the point of extreme greed and shamelessness when it comes to the rent-seeking marriage between the construction industry and the major political parties. No one bat an eyelid as Deborah Schembri, previously the Government Minister responsible over construction and development policies has now been appointed as the official representative of the construction industry. Schembri was congratulated by Joseph Muscat in bizarre Facebook post and apparently it seems to have become normal to use the Labour Party as a platform for a get rich quick career in the politics of rent-seeking.
Meanwhile, someone from the Labour Party decided to pen a convoluted article with a narrative about Labour saving the housing market. The article is full of mistakes and half-truths and I have penned them here for your perusal.
“In early 2020, the Maltese property market gave signs it was going to tank.”
A market which goes up by more than 100% in the span of five years and then makes a meagre 10% correction does not mean that “the market was going to tank.”
“The number of final deeds of sale fell from over 1,000 in previous months to little more than 550 in May 2020.”
Shock and horror if we mean-revert to the levels before the property market started heating up.
“The future looked dire.”.
Indeed, for an over-leveraged contractor who had emptied all his lines of credit but couldn’t sell the large number of over-expensive apartments built on debt to gullible foreigners who can’t come to the islands due to the pandemic, the future looked very dire.
“At the end of the first quarter of 2020 house prices were 4.4% below their end-2019 value. To give some perspective, in the rest of Europe they were 1.4% up.”
Malta is the only nation-state in Europe whose property prices increased by more than 100% in an indiscriminate manner, irrespective of the geographic location of the property in the span of five years.
“Property is the main asset of Maltese households. Which means that if the property market tanks, the impact is not, as some commentators argue, mostly felt by property developers. The impact falls hardest on average Maltese families. From just that initial drop the average Maltese family would have had a fall in its net wealth equivalent to €8,800, wiping away two years’ worth of its previous savings.”
Look, this is no different from anywhere else in the world. The most basic and common asset which ordinary people aspire to and is most commonly held is a home. Well, simply because people need to live somewhere.
Now, theoretically, property prices going up would be healthy if it is matched by wage and salary increase but this has not been the case under the Labour administration. During the same span of time that the value of property exploded by more than 100%, salaries only increased by 20%. The result of this gap is the increasing exclusion of new entrants in the market and this is increasingly being felt by the younger generations. But there is also an obvious point based on simple mathematics which makes the argument above rather insipidly simplistic. The property market in Malta could only explode in value given the serious lack of supply of land which could be used to supply extensive market demand. The supply is only being increased by taking up more ODZ land and increasing building heights. So, it is true, that families who own a property, but especially land, have the guarantee of an appreciating asset, but for what goal or end? Supply is already constrained enough that selling your property to buy another one will guarantee you to get a bad deal. Most of the high quality-properties are taken and are not up for sale unless it’s for a huge premium. New apartment buildings are overly-expensive and of horrible quality with no insulation properties. Bad and ugly buildings lower the quality of life not to mention the lack of proper development policies which is constantly reducing public spaces in exchange of cars and buildings.
“Besides, as pointed out by innumerable IMF and rating agency reports, a house price shock in Malta, given the concentration of mortgages in banks’ loan book, would have strong impacts on banks.”
Sure, but we don’t need the IMF to tell us this. It has been like this for at least since the 1960s. Local banks are overly-dependent on the property market and that is not a good thing. It is also a sign of great stagnation in our local banking sector, a lack of diversification and a lack of innovation. As Bank of Valletta starts transacting US Dollars through Western Union, our banking sector is beginning to look more like that of a banana republic than something on which our future can rely upon.
“The latter would need to increase their provisions, to make up for the falling value of their collateral and heightened risks, cutting off their supply of credit to the economy.”
Please, explain why this would be a bad thing. Underlying this bizarre concern is the risky mentality to over-leverage oneself with various lines of credit to pay for construction sprees. Is this how we want our economy to grow? Back to the 1960s it seems. Let’s take on mountains of debt to build the hell out of the country then. The Ministry of the Economy should change into the Ministry of Construction and Concrete Development.
“In April 2020, the total amount of loans granted by local banks fell by €40 million. This decline in credit would transmit the impact of falling house prices to other economic sectors, which would be drained of the finance they need to operate.”
It’s the other way round. The author keeps harping about the gloom and doom which will befall us in case the over-leveraged construction bonanza gets a hold of itself. The construction industry comprises 5% of GDP (while real-estate is another 5%) and it is only fueled by the multiplier-effect of other industries mainly financial services, online gambling and tourism. It’s not the construction industry pulling the economy, it’s the economy pulling the construction industry with it. Look, it’s very simple. People need jobs to get mortgages and pay for their property and most people don’t work in the construction industry, get it?
This is not to dismiss the importance of the construction industry but keep in mind that political parties give excessive importance to this industry because it is their biggest donor.
“Government, beset with so many challenges, may have been tempted to look aside and concentrate on other issues. This is, after all, what the government had done in the 2008 financial crisis. In the second quarter of 2008 Maltese house prices fell by 4.1%. No policy action was taken. Banks started to tighten credit, as the ratio of non-performing loans doubled. The number of permits issued halved almost immediately. The impact was not fleeting. Official data indicates that even in 2012, the volume of property transactions was still a quarter below that in 2008. The house price correction of 2008 was undoubtedly one of the prime causes of the lackluster performance of the Maltese economy in subsequent years.”
Surprise, surprise, all other economic sectors were also doing badly especially tourism. Here the article fails to mention various important things. Since Malta had joined the European Union the value of property had already increased exponentially but it was still relatively affordable to the huge majority of Maltese income-earners.
“Reflecting this consideration, the current administration undertook several actions to sustain the property market. The first crucial measure was to introduce a moratorium on existing loans. This meant that banks had to give a temporary holiday for borrowers who were affected by the crisis. By end July a tenth of all households with a mortgage, around 7,400 families, were benefitting. Instead of facing financial problems, that in a worst-case scenario could have led them to face a foreclosure and have to sell their property, these families went on with their lives.”
Keep in mind that this scheme enabled people to delay their mortgage payments on the condition that their delays would be charged with interest. It was basically emergency relief at a cost paid back later. The solutions to our incoming housing crisis go beyond measures of social-relief on a profit-basis.
“Government was not content with stopping the market from dropping. In June, policy turned on the offensive. Announcing an unexpected temporary cut in stamp duty, Government provided an incentive for those households with ample liquidity to use this to go up the property ladder. The measure has been incredibly successful. Instead of continuing to fall by half, property sales went back to their previous level and then started to improve. “
The exemption from the stamp-duty aided first-time buyers but it’s not the variable which would make people buy or sell property, neither is it a variable which will enable banks to make their final decisions on whether to issue a loan or not. This measure would become irrelevant if the government opted to transfer dead-capital from the our stagnant banks and the over-heating construction industry to our consumption economy by a multi-pronged development strategy which would include lower interest rates for first-time home buyers (other European countries are offering 1% loans for property purchases of first-time buyers), cutting down the over-leverage in the construction industry, adding supply to the market and introducing proper development policies once and for all.
“The “usual suspects” will argue that this is another case of the Government jumping in to save its developer buddies. The reality is that this measure was a godsend for Middle Class families. Instead of worrying like in 2008 about falling property values and bank restraint on credit, this time round, the situation is completely different.”
I don’t know who the usual suspects are. Last time I read the press, very few wrote on this subject with a critical lens with James Debono being one of the only ones whom I can remember. Surely, the reference here is not aimed at the Nationalist Party given it is in full agreement with the Labour Party on the construction industry. On the other hand, I’m only a Labour Party member and surely don’t have as much as influence as the usual suspects who are funding the Party and dictating its policy over the construction industry.
Publishers and authors have asked me to make a statement on the recent controversy about the European Prize for Literature. Without going into the details of the case – this is a case about a prize funded by the European Commission and administered by the European Writers’ Council, the Federation of the European Publishers and the European and International Booksellers. Local juries are composed of members of the European Writers’ Council, which in Malta’s case is the Akkademja tal-Malti. Apparently, the local jury awarded the prize to a Maltese author which was withdrawn by the administering consortium on the grounds that the book was published by a publisher that is owned by a political party.
First of all, as the Executive Chairman of the National Book Council, I am in no position to comment on how other institutions, public or private, run and administer their prizes. Similar conditions would have applied in local grants with other local public entities, for example, and still I would have no moral, or legitimate, interest to comment or interfere in any manner. Likewise, it would be madness to allow any outside interference in how the National Book Council runs the National Book Prize. My role as the Executive Chairman of the National Book Council with regards to the National Book Prize is to ensure that the adjudicators follow the rules to ensure that their decision is executed and is defended. Practically, as the executive legally responsible for the National Book Council, I have to support the adjudicators’ decisions whatever they may be – that is my role. We, at the National Book Council, take great pride in the prestige and status of the National Book Prize. As a cold and calculating executive, I can tell you two things. Firstly, that the National Book Prize is even more prestigious than the European Union Prize for Literature. We do not only provide the monetary equivalent to the winning authors, but also much more in terms of exports and marketing – which eventually directly impact book sales. So we can reassure our authors that there are even greater opportunities out there. Secondly, it is also in our interest that the European Union Prize for Literature is successful, so as to maximise the opportunities for local authors. That any author wins the European Union Prize for Literature is a welcome outcome, whatever the conditions may be. In fact, I believe the European Union Prize for Literature should even take place more often, at least once a year. Brussels should increase the Prize budget, rather than heckle about rules.
BUT. If authors want to change the rules, we can do this together – and I can tell you how. First of all, being this an issue close to your heart, let me suggest we discuss this in the upcoming Congress on 29 May, so as to also reassure everyone that I am here to represent you until Government drops the axe, or I lose your support by means of your votes. If authors feel strongly about the National Book Council having a say in how the EUPL runs its Prize, there is a process we need to follow, there are steps to be taken.
Disclaimer – I have no idea how Albert Marshall, the Executive Chairman of the Arts Council, got involved in this as the President of the local Jury. I may not be understanding the Byzantine trajectory here. But, as far as I know, the local administrator is the Akkademja tal-Malti. The Akkademja tal-Malti is not a representative organisation of local authors – it used to be the language academy before it was replaced by the Language Council. It took the opportunity, back then, and rightly so, to join the European Writers’ Council and manage the Prize in the absence of a proper authors’ organisation in Malta. The National Book Council has never had any objection to this.
What the National Book Council has done in the past was to try and get a seat in the European Writers’ Council, without prejudicing the Akkademja tal-Malti, however we were negated this opportunity on the grounds that we are a Government entity. These grounds can be easily appealed if the legal reforms we are proposing to the Maltese Government are approved and Government has an obligation to do so given these reforms have been approved by your kind selves during the last Writers’ Congress in September 2019.
The reality is, however – and I am being very honest here so that you may get the full picture, at least from my own perspective and experiences – that our best allies are not in the European Writers’ Council, but in the European Commission and its bureaucracy. And I say this with sadness, of course. From my own experience as a lobbyist during the last European Copyright Directive reforms, I have experienced way much more effort and tangible work done in the authors’ favour by bureaucrats than by the European Writers’ Council itself. In fact, the EWC took such a soft approach with regards to the authors’ interests on the said directive that another network of organisations had to be created to lobby separately from the EWC. The National Book Council made significant contributions to this network in private through our own Government and public channels. My impression is also that bureaucrats in the European Commission respect authors to a great extent and they will not be willing to get involved in a controversy with ANY author – be it a Maltese author who has been allegedly discriminated, or be it a representative from the EWC.
To conclude, the National Book Council cannot take a position on the results of the Prize. However, the National Book Council may change the rules of the Prize if we are members of the EWC. This step is only possible if the Government accepts our legal proposals. My proposal to you is simple: we should leverage this situation and ask Brussels to commit themselves to increase the funding for the EUPL on the certain conditions. This, I think, is the best we can do as the National Book Council. We can discuss this further during the Congress on 29 May.
All authors registered in the Public Lending Rights scheme have been invited to the Congress in the past few days. If you have not yet registered in the Public Lending Rights scheme, do so here. You will then be contacted via email to take part in the Writers’ Congress.
This series about rent-seeking is just a collection of notes for the compilation of a much larger work. Footnotes and research for this piece are missing.
Smoke weed and live with your parents. There is one big elephant in the room that has been consistently ignored by Government and the political class. As Deoborah Schembri, the Labour MP, takes on her role as representative of the construction industry, Government expects you to believe that this revolving door is a normal occurrence. There is little excitement by the youths over the decriminalisation of cannabis as they struggle with the very serious social problem of today. After all, there is no amount of weed that is going to console a young couple who can’t afford to buy their first home. As a politician who supposedly is working to solve this kind of problems, Deborah Schembri is not ashamed to show you whose interests she is fighting for. Jungle rules.
The socio-economic impacts of rent-seeking are quite apparent. Sure, we have a serious geographic problem of land scarcity and a growing population and this is not of the Government’s making, but as the political-class has been interwoven with the rent-seekers for many years, they have only made it worse. Given that we have no natural resources, the economy is strictly labour-intensive meaning that economic growth can only be achieved by increasing the productivity of labour. If we don’t innovate and the value of production doesn’t increase, the only way to increase the productivity of labour is by increasing labourers. Throughout the last seven years, the Government has raked in more taxes with the expansion of the labour force, foreign workers were brought in, and more women entered the workforce.
As the population keeps growing, and property prices increase by far much more than wages do (see article on economy 2019) and property keeps getting bought at a steady pace the inevitable housing shortage emerges. Smoke weed and live with your parents.
The structural policies which should address this issue are missing because it is not in the interest of the political party-donors for Government to find a solution to this problem. If Government would increase the supply of housing and address market imbalances in terms of demand, profit margins in the construction industry will be cut and property prices may correct substantially.
A recent article in The Times quoted a study that 55-cars are added to our streets every day. Instead of addressing the problem right away with an underground metro, we have sloshed away our national funds into more roads reducing potential building space. Quality of life deteriorates with increased traffic congestion but an erosion of the quality and affordability of homes is exacerbating the erosion of the quality of life. The answer to your problems? Pay for a gym membership.
One of the current problems afflicting the book industry right now is the same problem afflicting all of Maltese society: jungle rules. The rampant disregard to the law and to good governance by many public officials is outstanding not because it happens in the first place; we all know that greed can make people act in a very destructive manner, but because it is being allowed to be perpetuated by the same government which supposedly is cleaning out the house.
Allow me to be brief and spare you with the details which may only be relevant to our industry. The Malta Book Festival, previously the Malta Book Fair, has been held at the Mediterranean Conference Centre for more than thirty years. Since 2013 we re-branded the event and made it bigger hitting consistent record sales year after year. As the Festival grew over the years we started taking more space at the MCC to add more capacity until we practically started booking most of the MCC, including Republic Hall in 2019. Then we were suddenly told that we were not able to book Republic Hall anymore because the Malta Tourism Authority had front-run our booking for an event they are sponsoring which will host the Cirque de Soleil circus.
I was flabbergasted. It was just right after the end of the Festival in 2019 that I received the news. Eventually, the pandemic arrived and Cirque de Soleil went bankrupt. MCC contacted us and told us that Republic Hall was available once again. In 2021, we then received the news the Cirque de Soleil show was to go ahead anyway and that we were not able to make use of Republic Hall any longer. I protested against this with the Minister of Tourism Clayton Bartolo and the Prime Minister himself and all I got from the government was the request to help myself by changing the dates and location of the Malta Book Festival. So, practically, the book industry is expected to take a bigger hit in sales by further changing the arrangements of its event for the sake of a foreign circus subsidised by our own government.
The Minister of Tourism has just recently released a document outlying the importance of promoting indigenous culture as part of MTA’s new strategy. Despite the fanfare to launch this document, the Minister and MTA are doing exactly the opposite of what this document says – they are subsidising a foreign circus at the expense of a local culture industry. And the expense is on our side is at least €100,000 less in book sales and a long-term negative impact on our brand. Great way to help small businesses. So, it’s not just about the money. And we don’t accept bribes either just to make it clear.
But there is also a very obvious reason why we are being front-run like this without any consideration to our industry and to the families who depend on it. The Cirque de Soleil show at Republic Hall is a corrupt contract handed over to 365 Entertainment Group by MTA official, and ex-Konrad Mizzi canvassar, Lionel Gerada. Gerada, who is a convicted fraudster, was given authority by the disgraced Konrad Mizzi to allocate MTA events funds and 365 Entertainment is amongst MTA’s favourite recipients. 365 Entertainment Group has been allocated a substantial, but yet undisclosed amount of funds to organise the Cirque de Soleil circus, but the government-suibsidised payment to Cirque de Soleil is undoubtedly in clear breach of EU-State Aid rules especially given the context. Gerada has also committed perjury when testifying with the Public Accounts Committee saying he has no connections to 365 Entertainment Group when he was caught representing them and dining with its owners in the Netherlands. And guess what? 365 Entertainment is one of those companies which last year promoted Malta as a safe-party destination to British tourists and directly contributed to the re-emergence of the virus pandemic in the country.
Why do I say it is a corrupt contract? Because a contract effected with the provision of funds by a convicted fraudster and public official who is associated with the same company he is giving the funds to, is simply nothing else but a corrupt contract. These are jungle rules. A corrupt contract will subsidise a show by a foreign and bankrupt company at the expense of a local cultural industry of national importance. You would expect people to resign over this scandal in ordinary European States, but this is not an ordinary European State. And, despite all of this, the government expects us to remain silent, complacent, and at best help ourselves by taking on bigger hits in sales by changing our arrangements. I’m not sorry. The older I get the less intolerant I become of corrupt bullies and infantile behaviour by supposedly-grown men. In our jungle rules, corrupt idiots are being allowed to bully their way around in the country, wreaking havoc on society and our businesses indiscriminately. It is my job and my duty to defend the interests of the local book industry and I will keep doing so as long as the law allows me to.
One of the problems with the left of today is that it is stuck with the ideas of its peers which apart from being outdated have been misconstrued by many years of Leninist and Trotsykist influence in European socialist literature. I have great admiration for Marxists like Ernest Mandel who in the Second-World War fought with the Resistance, but the Marxist ideas of our peers have a particular history to them which is completely different from the historical conditions which have caused today’s state of affairs. Mandel was born in a world run by empires and where capitalism was ruthlessly oppressive, where racism was the official normal, and wars took place which massacred millions of people. Post Second-World War, the world changed to a great extent. Western Europe adopted the social-contract and the traditional empires were dismantled, however great injustices like the Vietnam War still echoed the oppressive vicissitudes of capitalist-imperialism of the old world and international communist movement lived to fight these injustices.
Back then socialism was an incredibly innovative political-ideology which was adhered to by political-movements that directly addressed the needs and aspirations of ordinary people. It was also fueled by countless of political, economic and philosophical debates. For example, Anuerin Bevan’s programme for the National Health Service to provide free health-care for all was a very radical concept back then which even some of his fellow members of the Labour Party were opposed to. Today, free-health care is embedded in the European psyche as a given-right, but the historical thought process which brought about this idea in our psyche was fraught with many barriers. Just look at the debate in the US on the student debt-jubilee proposal. Some of those who oppose it claim that it is unfair on them after having paid off their debts themselves. The idea that someone else is going to get something for free while I had to pay for it may be, for some, unfair, but the simple logical answer to this should be that if I have suffered injustice, it doesn’t mean that I am going to accept that it is repeated on others. Indeed, from my European perspective, forcing young people into debt for a basic university education is an injustice which restricts social mobility.
This is why it was very refreshing to see AOC coming in defense of the Reddit users in the GameStop saga – a glimmer of light amongst the recycling of idealist left-wing critique which doesn’t make any sense. Rashida Tlaib’s proposed bill on stable-coins signals to me that the left still doesn’t understand the world we live in and refuses to think outside its dogmatic box. It is after all true that the leftt keeps failing to relate to ordinary people and keeps being sidelined to the periphery of politics. Grace Blakeley‘s text on the GameStop saga produces the same kind of frustration. Hers is a very dogmatic and idealistic critique which once again re-affirms the left’s refusal to re-read Marx in the light of the events which followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. Even Slavoj Zizek is not meticulously engaged with Marx and history as he is more concerned with Hegel and Lacan, but at least he has been one of the only few contemporary left-wing intellectuals who brought some tangible and rational discourse forward that broke away from left-wing idealism – case in point was when Zizek actually extolled the virtues of voting and inspired many young English left-wingers to eventually join the Labour Party and militate for Corbyn.
Post-GameStop saga, Blakeley argues that the fact that people can buy a company’s shares in an economy where most shares are owned by a very few number of people may create the illusion that somehow, ordinary people can successfully become owners of capital and achieve economic emancipation by becoming capitalist owners. Blakeley says, somewhat bizarrely, that neo-liberalism entices workers to believe that they can only exercise power as capitalist owners. I find this sentiment strange given that the point of Marx was that workers should become collective owners, but it seems to me that Blakeley sees this as an abstraction and an impossibility in today’s capitalist framework. Never mind the current phenomenon were countless of small businesses are being decimated and the aspirations of young people to open their own business in some of the most difficult conditions ever – from Blakeley they should rather keep their pay-cheque. But let’s drop this for a moment and go into some theory. The problem with Blakeley’s argument is that she does this from the stand-point of Mandel’s Marxist idealism whereas private ownership of assets under capitalism, primarily what used to be described as the workers’ collective ownership of the means of production, is not emancipatory given that this collective ownership will still uphold the rules of capitalism in trade and probably even finance. She highlights this point hyperbolically by saying that ordinary people buying stocks “are in an alliance against workers” and supporting companies which do great damage in the “Global South”.
I find this argument non-dialectical, simplistic and akin to Lassalle’s argument of the abolishment of the wages system which Marx derided. The failure of the re-reading of Marx by the left probably stems from the lack of appreciation of history itself which was essential for Marx to break with Hegel through Hegel himself by outlying the dialectical forces of history. And the lack of appreciation for history also stems from the rigid and dogmatic Leninist and Trotskyist views which were adopted by the left as the mainstay of Marxist philosophy. It seems that the left is confident in its misconstrued world-view and speaks as if it is a textbook of Andre Gunder-Frank’s theories while ignoring the massive historical changes that have happened ever since Marx wrote his Communist Manifesto. The point of Marx is to break from economic idealism, but the left is instead building its own idealistic bunker.
Marx can not be read idealistically or from the lack of a historical stand-point. I would say it is even non-Marxist to apply many of Marx’s concepts in today’s world. It should be obvious to a historian that even capitalism itself has changed its form and nature and this is also where Fukuyama gets it wrong with his constant hip-hopping of his endless list of static categories which are imposed on a linear course of history that supposedly explain how and why liberal-democracy and capitalism have mutually grown together. Feudalism took many hundreds of years to change and transform itself, so much so that historians have a difficulty and disagree between them on marking its beginning and the end on exact chronological terms. It is also similar with capitalism. We have seen through the course of the last century great changes to capitalism, most noteworthy, probably, the abolishment of traditional empires and the emergence of new global economic powers like Japan and today, China. Western Europe in the post-Second World War era adopted a new social contract which ensured free healthcare, free education and social mobility and the 1960s European Social Charter also echoes Marx’s words in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts that we should live in a meritocratic economy where people can freely chose their career out of will, desire and ambition and achieve success at it instead of having to forcefully choose a job and work simply to pay the bills. Additionally, the taxation regimes have changed and liberal-democracy have provided the opportunity for people to fight for their interests with their vote creating a wave upon wave of social-legislation which improved people’s lives.
Blakeley underlooks history. Europe after the plague epidemic of the 14th century had a serious labour-shortage which led to many serfs becoming peasants and this was a decisive hit to feudalism in its transition to capitalism. After the Second-World War we have seen changes in capitalism which are distinct from Victorian era-capitalism such as the nationalisation of companies to protect jobs, workers becoming capitalists, the booming of small businesses and the rise of the middle-class, free healthcare and free education, strong welfare states and much more. Although the rich got richer, workers and ordinary people also got richer and had greater access to money and the financial markets. The boomer generation is indistinguishable from the workers and ordinary people of the 1920s and the 1930s. The great material progress made ever since Marx wrote on the abolishment of capital is overwhelming. Marx never denied the incredible forces of capitalism which can produce great wealth. Marx’s problem with capitalism is that its basic legal system was built to make the wealthy wealthier at the expense of free labour. But Marx’s problem with the system of production also had a historical aspect to it and Marx was very aware of this:
The relations of production are taking a different character in their historical course thanks to technology and also thanks to the introduction of intellectual property. The invention and widespread use of computer coding drastically increased the meritocratic opportunity in the world of business while the process of value creation took historically different characteristics wherein young and capable coders could build their products and their businesses even single-handedly. Today, the problem is that some of these businesses such as Microsoft and Apple have grown so big as to effectively wield monopolistic power. On the other hand, we have also seen digital companies extracting value from small-business and replacing them with cheap-paying jobs and huge returns to shareholders – case in point is Amazon. Oil brought great changes to the economy as well, but the green-energy transition is also changing that again. Surely, the process of value creation is changing and one can not apply Marx’s literal texts on these themes because they have historical distinctive characteristics from the process of value creation in Marx’s time. Undoubtedly the concept of free-labour in relation to the surplus-value still exists in the capitalist system, and in some sectors of the economy this aberration has actually got worse with new digital brokers and middle-men coming into the scene and taking a cut of the profit from both businesses and workers – Gig economy, Bolt, Uber etc…
Classes are also changing dramatically. The old capitalist-elite has changed dramatically. The financial elite who took over from the industrial elite in the 19th century are now being taken over by the digital elite. The old families who were in the car business ever since cars were invented are being challenged by a young entrant who coded Paypal and then sold it to start an electric-car company and space-company with the aim to go go to Mars. The historical rise of the middle-class, the house equipped with the domestic appliances and the family car, mass-literacy, the huge decrease in poverty and the eradication of polio, has also been met with advent of space-capitalists.
We are of course, still living in capitalism and the financial markets are clear testament of this. The stock market mirrors society’s hierarchy of classes quite explicitly as the massive number of assets available are mostly owned by the very few while the masses own a tiny fraction of it. At the same time, the architecture of finance is changing too. Bitcoin and crypto-currency are changing finance to the extent of making banks obsolete with decentralised finance and Bitcoin platforms which take on the banking role of providing loans and paying interest. So far the left has overlooked this incredible development, despite the fact that the banking system is one of the most important structures which make the system of capital so skewed in favour of those who hold assets at the expense of those who don’t (more on this another time).
The GameStop saga also shows a very interesting reality which was non-existent even a few years ago. Ordinary people can actually, and with concentrated and collective effort cause significant events in the financial market. No, we are not speaking of a systematic event here, and sure, there were investors in the GameStop long like Michael Burry who also made a lot of money on the trade, but by now no one can deny the power of the collective retail investor which can in some situations be very effective and may even put hedge funds out of business. But not only so. GameStop was in fact a classic case of a business going bust due to severe economic conditions and competition by bigger businesses like Amazon. It was shorted aggressively and greedily by hedge funds who were fought back by a retail army who loved their brand. This was a very rare occasion in history where the small fish gathered together and successfully exerted their power in the stock market. Now, of course, the retail guys could have been front-run by the insiders who manage of the plumbing of the system, but no one can deny that this event actually happened just like no one can deny that hedge funds and rich people have been buying billions of Dollars of Bitcoin from small fish who bought in early when hardly anyone wanted to buy it, creating as a result what may be described as one of the biggest wealth transfer events from rich to poor in recent history.
Just because wealth re-distribution doesn’t necessarily abolish capitalism as Mandel said it doesn’t mean it isn’t emancipatory. For many years people have fought for their right to be represented in parliament and be able to vote. When everyone was eventually able to vote, social legislation became more popular. Nowadays, we see more people wanting to participate in the financial markets and many of them feel entitled to make money out of it – this is good. Eventually financial markets will also change due to the increased popular participation and they are already changing – case in point is Bitcoin and crypto-currency. As more and more young people come into the financial markets, the political, financial and economic aspects of the financial system will also change. I’m not saying it will change for the good, but this is history in the making and refusing to accept is akin to once again ignoring the aspirations of ordinary people. The financial system is run by bankers, bureaucrats and big capitalists who set the rules of the game in their favour, but, if thanks to the internet and the democratisation and profusion of knowledge ordinary people are becoming well versed in financial markets, and in some cases even beating hedge funds, then that’s welcome. This will not bring more injustice to the world. So, instead of admonishing young people for trying to get rich from the stock market aby condemning them as “allies of oppressive capital”, socialists should be trying to make sure that many more ordinary people owned assets and even more power in the financial markets. It’s like Proudhon has taken over the left and the moralistic disengagement from the system is the only way out. This idea is absurd and would be equivalent to ask workers to refuse to join trade-unions because they compromise with capitalists. I’m pretty well sure that both Marx and Lenin thought that a tangible improvement in the workers’ life is way much more valuable than a hundred political programmes. Disengaging with the system to adopt moralising platitudes will give you just that: the bleating of age-old slogans. After all, even the British left realised very well in 2010 that engaging with the system, joining Labour and voting in elections is the best way to effect positive and progressive change.
To conclude, Marx’s most famous adage in The German Ideology applies, but the left has once again entered the trap of idealistic remorse. It’s as if the left is stuck in Plato’s post-modern cave creating ideas which are not really applicable outside, a disenfranchised character in a novel by Camus or the woman in the dunes of Hiroshi Teshigahara, resigned to live in the sand for ever. And this is very unfortunate with its results apparent to everyone – the left in the periphery of power while the right keeps winning more and more.