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Once again the cliches are flourishing, and the melody abandoned in vain is returning: Whatever the results of the Labor primaries, whoever wins, party democracy is celebrating its victory. The voters streamed to the polls, fulfilling their public duty. And who wouldn't want to join the festivities? Who wouldn't want to break into a dance - a Nahalal hora or a Druze debka?

But suddenly, by an act of the devil, memory spoils the party and the celebration. After all, over the last seven years, we've already attended this festival, and very soon every triumph turned into a travesty. True, democracy won out. It was only the party that lost. And we can still recall the media toadying to the sweet populism of the Likud Central Committee, which caused a stench.

And when democracy triumphs, it sometimes reveals surprising discoveries: The Arab sector, for example, which makes a sizable contribution, thousands of votes, to Ehud Barak. Another reason to celebrate: After all, during Barak's term as prime minister the events of October 2000 took place, and the Or Commission had its say about the functioning of the government and its leader during the days of blood and disaster. And here, out of a deep Fuadian (as in Benjamin Ben-Eliezer) awareness, they are causing sins to turn as white as a ballot slip. These are truly messianic times.

And another cliche is flourishing: The state, they explain to us, greatly needs Labor because without it there is no social-democratic party here worthy of the name. And who wouldn't agree? Only one little problem clouds this understanding: This is not the social democracy for which we prayed.

A party that even during its term in office allowed gaps to widen and poverty to increase and avoided social and economic ministries is not a Labor party. A party that also actively perpetuated occupation and repression is not Labor. A party that missed an opportunity for peace and did not miss an opportunity for war, and even now remains silent and is missing out on negotiations with Syria, by what name should it be called? A party that participated in almost all the governments, had difficulty pulling itself from the teats of abundance and was incapable of serving as an opposition is a lost party.

The party that agrees to participate in the same cabinet as a chauvinist racist deserves the name "the national rescue front"; and the party that congregates with a justice minister who favors cutbacks in authority and power deserves the name "the party of justice" (Adalah); and the party that paddles around with pleasure in the murky pool in Ehud Olmert's backyard is like any party that has become tainted.

The Labor Party is an ailing party, and nobody disputes this diagnosis. When it is suffering from a severe and unremitting migraine, it is immediately sent to the department of neurosurgery for a major operation. If only they give it a different head, it will be cured.

But the pain persists and worsens, and after so many operations, it should be clear: The problem is not only in the head, it is almost certainly more serious and more extensive. Perhaps it is suffering from atrophy of the muscles, or from rickets in the bones, or from problems in the spine or from some infectious disease.

But Labor refuses to go for a general checkup. And two days ago, in despair, another head was screwed onto its shoulders, and this time not a new head but one that has been renovated. Even in a decent garage, they avoid such dubious repairs.

Judging by the results of the first round of the primary, and barring a last-minute change, we can already predict the general elections; they will be elections of warmed-over soup. Benjamin Netanyahu and Barak will be taken out of the national freezer, and we will be forced to partake of this insipid and inconsequential concoction because "we have nothing else today. Sorry."