Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.
Source: Melita Historica. [Malta Historical Society]. 6(1972)1(99-100)
ANONYMOUS: L-Istorja tal-Partit Nazzjonalista. Lux Press, Malta, 1972, 135 pp., illus.
It is the first time that a history of the Nationalist Party has been written and the author, who has chosen to remain anonymous, indicates that he just wanted to make an attempt to condense a sketch-history of the oldest Maltese political party.
The book, which is illustrated, is divided into fourteen chapters covering events between 1880 and 1962. It gives information about Nationalist congresses, electoral programmes and details about various nationalist newspapers and activities.
The history of the Party goes back to the last decades of the 19th century when a group of intellectuals took the initiative to lead the Maltese in their demand for constitutional reform. The first outstanding leader was undoubtedly Fortunate Mizzi who was very popular especially among the Gozitans and who soon became known as the 'Pater Patriae'. He started his campaign for a respectable constitution based on self-government by the publication of such papers as Il Risorgimento (1883). Another personality, Filippo Sceberras, led the Comitato Nazionale Maltese. These were followed by the setting up of two Nationalist groups: the Associazione Politico Maltese (1915) of Mizzi, which proposed the formation of a Popular Council to demand a responsible government, and the Comitato Patriottico (1910), later known as the Unione Politico Maltese, which was led by Mgr. Panzavecchia. The Mizzi group led to the formation of the Partito Democratico Nazionalista the statute of which was approved on 10th May, 1921. Its first electoral programme proposed, among other things, the establishment of district committees, social assistance, the development of tourism, industry, commerce and agriculture, reforms in the educational system and the setting up of arbitration councils for trade disputes. Mgr. Panzavecchia led the Nationalists to their early victories, but this is given only a slight importance by the author. The P.D.N. and the U.P.M. amalgamated in 1925 to form the Nationalist Party.
In 1915 Enrico Mizzi contested the election for the first time. From the earliest days of his political career, he made demands for Dominion [p.100] Status or full responsible government. He considered the 1921 Constitution as "inadequate". In 1917 he was imprisoned in Verdala Barracks, Cospicua, because of his political assertions. Another bold exponent of Nationalism to be imprisoned later for practically similar reasons, was Carmelo-Mifsud Bonnici. The Strickland vs Church Crisis and the Language Question developed in the 1930s. In 1933 the Governor suspended the Constitution and prohibited political activity. The Party received a hard blow when, as the Second World War approached, Enrico Mizzi and others were illegally deported to Uganda. Their deportation was highly criticized by Sir Ugo Mifsud in his last speech in parliament. It was during this era that George Borg Olivier entered the political scene to steer the helm of Maltese Nationalism.
Back in Malta after the War, Enrico Mizzi entered once more into the political arena: he proposed the establishment of a unicameral assembly and requested complete autonomy for Malta. The Nationalist Party also made demands for Malta's rightful share in the Marshall Aid and other American Assistance to Europe. The Party gained a minority government in 1950. Enrico Mizzi was elected Prime Minister but was soon to die in office on 20th December, 1950. George Borg Olivier succeeded him as leader of the Party. He led the Nationalists to power in 1951 and in 1953 when they formed a Coalition Government with the Workers' Party of Dr Paul Boffa. In 1955 the Nationalists found themselves in the Opposition when the Malta Labour Party of Mr. Mintoff proposed the 'Integration Plan'. The discharges of Dockyard workers and the breakdown of the Integration Talks led to a political crisis and, the British Governor declared a state of emergency. The Nationalists continued with their demand to have Malta a "full and free member within the Commonwealth" and, at the same time, expressed their views on the Labour Party vs Church crisis that had arisen. In 1962 constitutional government was restored and the Nationalists succeeded in gaining power in August 1962 a formal demand for Independence was made.
Besides such information, the Author adds an Addenda in which he gives a list of Party Secretaries and Candidates who have contested the Elections between 1921 and 1962. Though there are many passages in quotes and some dated references, the book lacks an index and documentary references which one would expect in a scientific monograph. It would have been more rewarding had it also included information about the Party's district organization, its achievements while in office and its various memoranda. Nevertheless this publication could certainly serve as an incentive to encourage greater research in contemporary political history.