Morocco: Behind the "democratic" mask of the king lies the brutal face of dictatorship

The new King Mohammed VI is fond of presenting an image of Morocco as a southern Mediterranean country steadily moving towards modernity and democracy. We asked two Moroccan Marxists to shed some light on these claims, which to many ordinary people seem completely unjustified.

The new King Mohammed VI is fond of presenting an image of Morocco as a southern Mediterranean country steadily moving towards modernity and democracy. We asked two Moroccan Marxists to shed some light on these claims, which to many ordinary people seem completely unjustified.

Some people like to pretend that Morocco is becoming a real democracy. The new King Mohammed VI (son of Hassan II who kept the country under his iron grip up to his death in 1999) even goes as far as saying that he wants to introduce so-called "modernity" in the country. What is the nature of these "democratic" reforms which he seems to be introducing? What is your opinion about them? How does the population react to them?

Assif: The new king recently claimed in the French daily paper Le Figaro that his subjects aspire to a strong and democratic monarchy. This really doesn’t amount to much at all, except to say that the present king is in favour of an absolute and antiparliamentary monarchy. The truth is that this country is not set on a course of democratisation. Quite the contrary.

In practice, despite the existence of parliamentary electoral outfits, we are experiencing the consolidation of a bloody dictatorship. The present government, led by the so-called technocrat Jettou, is continuing the same policy of his social-democratic predecessor Yossoufi.

All the antidemocratic laws have been presented by these governments and of course they have been approved by an obedient parliament that is very loyal to the Makhzen, the royal palace.

Top in black: ''I'm good and prefer to pull the strings secretly''
Main in black: ''Royal Court (Palace) Budget''
Bottom right in red: ''At the Parliament''
This is a cartoon published in the satirical weekly 
papers Demain (french) and Doumane (arabic)

I just think it is worth mentioning a few examples. The law on so-called "freedom of the press" actually curtails free speech. The law on the right to organise political parties and demands the complete recognition of article 19 of the constitution. This article gives enormous political power to the king. Then there’s the social legislation, which attacks basic union rights. Finally there is the latest so-called antiterrorist legislation, which in reality opens the gates for the persecution and imprisonment of all political opponents. Morocco is facing an impasse. The only real answer can be provided through a proletarian alternative.

Rashid: The reaction of the workers in my factory to this so-called democratisation depends strongly on their class-consciousness. Some of them realise that this is just empty talk. For them democracy in Morocco is shameless window dressing. They say quite correctly that the nature of the political system has not changed fundamentally since the death of Hassan II. Others have hopes and tend to give credit to this propaganda of the ruling class. You see, the level of consciousness on this question is quite differentiated among the workers. Personally I believe that all this talk of taking steps in the direction of ‘modernity’ and ‘democracy’ is essentially for foreign consumption, especially for Europe. In the end these are just manoeuvres intended to consolidate the rule of the bourgeois and the Makhzen.

Tell us something more about the nature of the Moroccan ruling class. Is the royal palace just an old fashioned ornament or does it possess much power in the country?

Assif: The ruling class in Morocco is reactionary, despotic and colonialist. The formation of this class is the result of the uneven development of international capitalism. It has inherited primitive forms of domination such as the monarchy. This bourgeois class is not capable of playing the same progressive and revolutionary role as its counterparts in France and Europe during the 18th century against absolutism and feudal oppression. The monarchy is therefore in actual Moroccan conditions an essential part of the ruling capitalist class. The monarchy is and remains absolutist and autocratic.

Rashid: Trotsky was right when he developed the theory of the permanent revolution. His conclusion was that the bourgeois class of the colonies and ex-colonies had become incapable of fulfilling the democratic tasks of the revolution (the struggle against absolutism, the conquest of democratic rights and liberties, land reform, etc.). The only way out of the impasse of capitalist barbarism is through the international socialist revolution.

How do the workers and the peasants live? What does the future hold for young students?

Assif: In 1980 the colonialist regime of Morocco started to apply the measures suggested by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. This very quickly led to a catastrophic situation. Privatisation and the abolition of social subsidies were a hard blow against the living standards of the working people, both in the cities and in the countryside.

In four years, between 1980 and 1984, the country was swept by a wave of revolt. Those movements were put down in blood. The most important uprisings took place in Casablanca in 1983 and Tetouan a year later.

Today the social situation has become even worse. The minimum wage is very low. All sectors of the economy have been affected by the crisis. Every year the universities produce many thousands of unemployed. By 2010 some 75% of the young people who leave university will not be able to find a job. The Moroccan bourgeois is utterly incapable of giving even the slightest glimpse of a better future to the workers, peasants and young students.

Rashid: Multinational capital dominates our economy. Believe me, the faces of those capitalists have nothing human in them. The exploitation in the workplaces is brutal. Every worker who tries to defend his rights and attempts to organise any kind of trade union action immediately comes up against the strong arm of the state. There are many reasons why workers should move into action against the social and economic conditions in which they are forced to live.

Take for instance any average company where workers have toil for 9 hours every day and for this they only earn 45 Dirham a day, the equivalent of 4.5 euros. This is 5 Dirham an hour (or half a euro). But many workers have also to travel long distances to go to their factory. This costs them around 1 euro a day (or the wages for 2 hours work!). What do the unions do stop this? The biggest unions like l’Union Marocaine du Travail (UMT)or l’Union Générale des Travailleurs du Maroc (UGTM) are on very good terms with the bosses. Every time the workers try to move into action the leaders of these unions act as real strikebreakers!

Can you give us a panorama of the left parties?

Assif: The left parties in Morocco are the Parti d’Avant-Garde Socialiste (PADS) and the Voie Démocratique (VD). Both are neo-reformist tendencies. Then you have the parties who used to be in the opposition but who are now fully integrated into the political system. These are the USFP, the PPS and the PSD.

The two first parties, PADS and VD, are involved in the struggle against unemployment, supporting the programme of the militant association of young unemployed graduates. On the other hand these tendencies also struggle for democratic freedom and rights, mainly around the demand for a constitutional reform to curtail the power of the monarchy by installing a parliamentary monarchy. Thanks to this reform they hope to be able to guarantee independence from the judiciary and electoral rules which would install free elections.

On the question of capitalist exploitation both currents do not really have a developed socio-economic plan. Despite their public support for "scientific socialism" both the PADS and the VD are still prisoners of the Stalinist concept of two stages (first bourgeois democracy, then socialism!). It is true that now their adherence to this concept has become more vague than in the past. But in gradually distancing themselves from this, the PADS as VD have actually removed from their political thinking any possibility of dealing with the tasks of democracy and modernity by means of the socialist revolution.

So what are the main weaknesses of the left in Morocco? Is there any perspective for the development of the revolutionary left?

Assif: The revolutionary left in Morocco must engage in bold and genuine self-criticism. This process of critical reappraisal must start with absorbing the lessons of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent Stalinist degeneration of the first communist revolution in the history of mankind. This discussion must lead to radical change in the theoretical concepts of class struggle. The revolutionary left still has to reach a level of maturity and has to be equipped with a real socialist perspective of struggle. Today we cannot speak in Morocco of a well and strongly organised revolutionary movement which has the aim of achieving the socialist revolution.

Rashid: Today there exists no real combative Trotskyist movement in Morocco. More time and a better international perspective are needed to achieve this.

Muslim fundamentalists are trying to use the discontent of the population to their own advantage? Do you think they will succeed?

Assif: The recent terror attacks in Casablanca on May 16, have literally exploded the myth that fundamentalism in our country was a peaceful phenomenon. No one can say this anymore. Of course they will exploit the general impasse the country is facing in order to build up their forces. It is not even excluded that some day they may even try to take power. But this would only be possible in the absence of a mass popular socialist alternative. The inability of the left to provide such an alternative will undoubtedly be exploited by the fundamentalists to gain ground amongst the poorest and most marginalized sections of society.

What is your vision for revolutionary socialism in Morocco?

Assif: Socialism is the dialectical result of the decay of capitalism. I like to quote Gramsci in that regard. He was fond of saying that against the pessimism of reason we must counterpose the optimism of the will. By systematic and patient work of propaganda and agitation centred on the correct socialist demands, we will create the conditions for a socialist revolution. Morocco is one of the weakest links in the capitalist chain. The local bourgeois class has proven to be structurally incapable of carrying the country forward towards a genuine modernity and democracy. This job has to be assumed now by the working class in alliance with the poor peasants. Our first task now is to create the political and organisational conditions for the development of the only really democratic party, i.e. a revolutionary socialist party.

Join us

If you want more information about joining the IMT, fill in this form. We will get back to you as soon as possible.