Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.
Source: Melita Historica. [Published by the Malta Historical Society]. 5(1971)4(349-350)
[p.349] Reviews 1971
E.C.-A.A.: Il-Qawmien tal-Haddiem Malti, Vol. I (1920-1955), Freedom Press, Malta, 1971, 177 pp., 27 illus.
The history of the Labour movement in Malta goes back to 1885 when Ang. Caruana set up an association which became known as 'Societą Operaia Cattolica' and to the early decade of the twentieth century when the controversial personality of the self-educated Profs Emmanuel Dimech shocked the local Establishment with its enlightened criticism and when the Worker's Union appeared in the Dockyard.
The authors, who have chosen to give only their initials, present a study, largely based on G. Bonnici's Storja tal-Partit tal-Haddiema (1931), of the early days of the Labour Party. Its first political programme proposed, among other things, compulsory education, encouragement to local industry and agriculture, assistance to Maltese emigrants and the introduction of Income Tax. The history of the Party's organization and its subsequent development is related with the general development of Maltese constitutional history and the Party's relations with other political parties, the British Colonial Government and the Church.
In 1924 the Party contested the general election declaring that its principles were based on the papal encyclical 'Rerum Novarum' and loyalty to the Empire. Facts and reasons are given to explain why the Labour Party joined in the Compact Government of 1927 and to describe the Party's position in the politico-religious crisis that characterised the Strickland era. Particular attention is given to the notable contribution made towards the consolidation of the Party by Prof. P.G. Frendo, Col. W. Savona, LL.D., Rev. Prof. Michael Gonzi, Mr. Censu Bugeja, Mr. Gu-ze Orlando, Col. M. Dundan, M.D., and Dr. (later Sir) Paul Boffa, M.D., who became Malta's first Labour premier in 1947 when the Party gained 59.9% of the votes cast and 24 out of the 40 seats of the Legislative Assembly. The Party quickly gained the support of the General Workers' Union which was set up under the leadership of Mr. Reggie Miller.
In its first sitting the Labour Government passed the Census Bill, the Income Tax Bill and amended the Ordinance on Succession and Donation Duties. The Party sought to fulfil its programme, but internal trouble developed when the setting up of a national insurance on a contributory basis was proposed. By 1948, Mr. Dom. Mintoff, M.A. (Oxon)., who had first joined the Party as assistant secretary of the Cospicua Labour Committee in 1935, had become the most popular member of the Party. When Dr. Paul Boffa failed to sign an ultimatum to Britain demanding direct [p.350] Marshall Aid, a split in the Party followed rapidly and on 16th October, 1949, Mr. Mintoff was elected leader of the Party.
Concluding the history up to 1955, the authors relate the Party's activities in the early 1950's when it formulated the 'Integration Plan' with the affirmation of the principle of self-determination as an alternative, which led to the second Labour Administration of 1955.
An appendix about Emmanuel Dimech is also added. It helps the reader to get a better picture of the early days of the present century. But one has to realize, as the authors state in the introduction, that "it is still too early to make an objective appreciation of many of the recent events which without doubt are among the most important". Yet it may be stated that their publication will be considered as a contribution towards the study of contemporary political history in spite of the fact that the book lacks an index and documentary references which are essential for a scientific presentation.
C. G. S.