Where is Morocco going?

When King Hassan II died at the end of the last century all expectations of change were concentrated in the figure of his son Mohammed VI. Fascination grew over this young and apparently modern monarch who announced he would transform his country, establish the rule of law and lead it successfully into the 21st century. Expectations were running high. Only one year after his arrival, the royal reform movement stalled - the alliance of the Throne and the socialists has not delivered the results the masses had hoped and waited for. This is a recipe for future explosions in the class struggle.

"Revolutions do not so much appear because of the absence of reform but as a result of the deceived expectations of the masses in the reforms a regime committed itself to."

Jean Jaurès, in Socialist History of the French Revolution (1901-1904)


When King Hassan II died at the end of the last century all expectations of change were concentrated in the figure of his son Mohammed VI. Dubbed the 'King of the poor' he embarked on a program of reforms, and he seemed to be ready to defy the conservatives in the state and break with the heritage of his father. Political exiles like Abraham Serfaty and the Ben Barka family were allowed back in the country and he set up a group to compensate the families of political activists who disappeared during the years of government repression under his father. The hated Minister of Interior Driss Basri was also dismissed. The young king even paid a visit to the northern Rif province, a region openly neglected by his father.

Fascination grew over this young and apparently modern monarch who announced he would transform his country, establish the rule of law and lead it successfully into the 21st century. Expectations were running high, very high amongst ordinary people, the downtrodden and inarticulate masses of the cities and the countryside. Lets not forget that three quarters of the population had only known one king over 35 years of rule!

The transition to a young thriving democracy seemed underway. Intellectuals were dreaming of a Spanish style transition similar to the end of the Franco dictatorship. Mohamed VI was however quick to draw the limits of the possible reforms. In his second speech to the nation in 1999 he insisted he would continue to exercise his constitutional powers. The same powers his father had. He did not leave any room for ambiguity on this question.

A monarchic dictatorship

What is the nature of the regime Mohammed VI inherited? Morocco likes to be described as a constitutional monarchy but it would be more correct to speak of a monarchic constitution. It is a system where all the main state powers are strongly centralised in the hands of the Monarch, the Royal Palace advisers and its personnel together with the political and economic oligarchy linked by family bonds to the dynasty of the Alouites. The role of the government is politically marginal.

All important decisions are taken by the King. The King also keeps direct control on the so-called ministries of sovereignty. These are Defence, Justice, Religious affairs and the Interior of course. Frankly speaking this resembles the description of a fully fledged military and police dictatorship in royal dress!

It has even a specific name in Morocco, it is called Makhzen. Makhzen means literally warehouse in Arabic. By extension this means the Treasury, the symbol of power of the early caliphs, the medieval rulers, who had submitted, through violence, the different tribes to the payment of taxes. It became more developed under colonial domination. After the independence of 1956 the main features of the Makhzen survived and became more refined, partly thanks to the help of the Israeli secret service Mossad. The outer forms and habits of this state remain strongly feudal and based on slavish submission and unconditional allegiance to the King. But let there be no doubt: this state machine is dedicated to the ruthless defence of capitalist interests of the Palace (the King owns 60% of all shares of the stock exchange of Casablanca!), the privileges of the lethargic local bourgeois and its own imperialist interests in the region (the occupation of Western Sahara, the military support to the rotten regime in Mauritania against nationalists and Islamist uprisings, its excellent relations with Israel).

Someone may be quick to interject - but Morocco has a parliament, even a second chamber (a senate)! There is no contradiction between the fact that the political regime in Morocco is a monarchic dictatorship and the existence of a parliament, a senate and even elections contested by different parties. A dictatorship, or to be more accurate, a bourgeois bonapartist regime is capable of coexisting with parliamentary ornaments.

Has this not been the case with the rule of Suharto in Indonesia or even Pinochet in Chile? Parliaments, as well as so-called multiparty systems, are elements able to strengthen and not weaken the centralised power of the king. They are part of the scenery of the recurrent balancing acts of the king between the different forces inside and outside the state apparatus. Pretending to be the referee of the nation, the Makhzen tends then to rise above society and serves its own interests. No regime, independently of its ruthless and absolute character, is able to survive with the sole help of the sword. It would rapidly run out of breath. It regularly needs to find some new points of support in society in order to extend its life expectancy.

The political history of Morocco since independence is characterised by this perpetual movement of the monarchy between the different wings of the state, the parties, factions of the bourgeoisie and other social forces like the peasantry. First of all the monarchy entered into competition with the bourgeois nationalist Istiglâl, born out of the struggle against the French and Spanish protectorate. Its triumph was only achieved by leaning on the armed forces. To compensate the growing power of the Forces Armées Royales (the Moroccan army), which had become the backbone of the state in the early 1960's, Hassan II relied on the different right wing parties.

Cruel repression, the declaration of the state of emergency, a few referendums, constitutional reform, well rigged elections, the creation of parties in royal tutelage and even promises of 'democratisation' helped him to stave off coup attempts inside the army and the left (the plots of 1963, 1971, 1972) as well as to abort some guerrilla movements (1973). The war in the Western Sahara introduced a strong element of nationalism and forced consensus which helped Hassan II to distract the attention of the masses (the Green March in 1975). At the same time he kept the army busy and far away from the capital. The assassination of the reformist socialist leader Mehdi Ben Barka by the secret services in France in 1965 and of the General Secretary Omar Benjelloun of the socialist USFP in 1975 by a fundamentalist youth group called Chabiba Islamiya were part of the same political game.

Fundamentally Hassan II relied on the support of the fellah, the peasant, as the 'defender of the Throne'. The village administrations and the traditional power structures in the countryside would not fail him during his long reign. Socially he had always opposed the village (the 'bled') to the rebellious city. Sooner or later this social base, the classical point of support of bonapartist rulers, would be subject to strong erosion. As a consequence of rural exodus to the cities due to low agricultural productivity, climatic uncertainty (long periods of drought) and generalised poverty, the urban population started to outgrow the village dwellers for the first time in 1993-94. Part of the secret of the longevity of the rule of Hassan II lay, until recently, in the strong rural character of Morocco. To limit ourselves to this conclusion however would be very one sided. The reformist character of the mass left parties of the USFP and the smaller PPS (the Communist Party), and the ultra left and Maoist mistakes of the student groups will have a more decisive impact on the survival of Hassan II.

A weak and dominated economy

The Moroccan economy represents only 0,41% of the GDP of the European Union and 0,147% of the world production. But in sub-Saharan Africa it takes a share of 10,5% of the regional GDP. In the Maghreb it represents one third of the economy, smaller than Algeria but bigger than Tunisia. The country has never known any agrarian reform: the urban bourgeoisie limited itself to taking over old colonial estates (0,7% of the farming concerns represent 15,4% of the useful land). Irrigation never exceeded 1 million hectares and concern only those lands involved in speculative cultures. The technical backwardness is colossal. There is only one technician for 3000 hectares. In the US there is one agricultural engineer for every 100 hectares. The low level of productivity of agriculture is a hamper on the industrial development of Morocco. Industry is centred around mining (mainly phosphates). The bowels of the earth hide three quarters of the world reserves of phosphates. The country is the second biggest exporter of this primary material. Textile, confection, agribusiness and chemicals represent the bulk of the exports. Fishing and tourism also contribute to economic development.

Economic growth is very slow. In the 1980’s per capita growth of GDP was almost nil. In the next decade yearly progress was at a rate of 0,1%. Weak economic growth was cancelled by demographic growth. Despite ‘good fundamentals’ praised by all the international institutions of capital the economy is largely stagnant. The black market economy is nevertheless thriving. Income from drug production and trafficking in the northern region of the Rif is estimated to represent one quarter to a third of the official GDP! The informal economy is also worth one third of the formal economy. We should not forget the incomes from smuggling via the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Mellila which accounts for another third of the value of the economy.

The total debt stands at something like 100% of GDP. This is less than Japan or Italy but it has more devastating consequences on its capacity to invest. Generally speaking domestic public but also private investment is very low, indicating the parasitic and lethargic character of the local bourgeois. A newspaper commented recently that Moroccan industrialists like the tobacco industry preferred to be taken over by multinationals rather than modernise its machinery.

Imperialist domination is crushing. Not only do French interests penetrate deeply inside the economic fabric, but Portuguese, Spanish, Arab and American capital also weigh heavily in the economy. Foreign multinationals control more than 50% of the shares of 750 out of 1200 of the main companies. Half of these are French. They represent 35% of industrial production. The Alouite Kingdom is strategically important for France. Paris has 400 companies active in the kingdom. It is also the largest trading partner, the largest creditor and largest financial partner.

The Moroccan Spring

The 'Moroccan Spring' in the 1990's followed the 'Tunisian Spring' and the Algerian 'democratisation'. Not accidentally these attempts of reform were initiated by the upper circles of the regimes in the Maghreb after the social explosions of the 1980's, and the uprisings in Tunisia in 1984 and in 1988 in Algiers. In Algeria this led to the questioning of the one party state of the FLN and the organisation of parliamentary elections. In Tunisia the coup d'état which overthrew President Bourguiba in 1987 raised expectations of democratisation under his successors in 1988-90. This reform fever which had gripped the oligarchies in the Maghreb was inspired by the need to change the way they ruled to make sure they continued to rule themselves. From the point of view of the class struggle it means that reform from the top is designed to undermine the possibilities of revolution from below.

In Morocco this question was posed under the regime of the father of Mohamed VI. Hassan II started to find new ways to guarantee the survival of his regime. The 70's and the 80's in Morocco were known for its repressive atmosphere. Those were the so-called 'années de plomb' or 'the years of lead' where a heavy and suffocating carpet oppressed all forms of protest. Those were the years of massive arrests of leftwing activists, show trials, extra judicial executions, torture in the prisons of Tazmamart and so on. This repression has been denounced by Gilles Perrault, a French writer in his famous book 'Notre ami, le Roi' (Our friend, the King) and by Ahmed Marzouki in ‘Tazmamart, cellule 10”. Those measures succeeded to a great extent in dealing with the left wing challenges posed to the regime by the activity of the radical student movement (the Union National des Etudiants du Maroc) and the Maoists groups like 'Ilal Ammam', the '23 of March" movement. Their ranks were rapidly dispersed and depleted under the blows of repression.

The fact that Hassan II claimed to be a descendant of the prophet Mohamed and that he gave himself the title of 'Commander of the Believers' did not save him from fundamentalist challenges. Those started to appear in the early 90's with the protests against the first Gulf war. Islamic activism in different universities in Fez and Casablanca in 1994 was a symptom of the growth of this movement. This and other factors convinced Hassan II to engage in what has been described as 'l'alternance politique', the changing of the political guard. For the first time the socialist party, the Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires became part of the government and even lead it thanks to its Prime Minister Youssoufi. In 1993 it had refused to enter the government but in 1998 A. Youssoufi the leader of party became the Prime Minister. The much smaller PPS (the so-called Communists) had already entered accepted posts in earlier governments. Degenerating beyond recognition they will become more royalist than the king! Hassan II always made good use of dissidents and opponents.

A USFP activist gives the following description of the role of those opponents. “The dynastic continuity is guaranteed by the integration of certain opponents of the King... An opponent is like fuel. To be able to advance you need to consume a lot of them; and if you intend to make a long trip you’d better make sure you find opponents, foresee them, produce them and even import opponents.” (Le Journal, 7th-13th of February 2004). This happened with individuals like Abraham Serfaty, a former Maoist and after Nelson Mandela the political prisoner with the longest conviction in Africa, who became the advisor of the young King in matters related to oil. Many others could be mentioned but their reintegration follows the same pattern of wanting to reform the system ‘from within’ and ending as the left wing cover for the regime.

Indeed sometimes a regime has to start leaning on its left foot after having stood too long on its right foot! This was particularly urgent as the working class and the poor people from the cities started to defy the regime. The alarm lights of the regime were turning orange and some even red! In December 1990 the unions organised a general strike which was followed later by popular uprisings in Fez, Kenitra, Tanger and other cities. A few months earlier hundreds of thousands Moroccan had demonstrated against the first Gulf War and the support of the Arab regimes for US imperialism. That was when Hassan II prepared for ‘change’, which was in reality a quest for new legitimacy eroded by recurrent challenges.

A quest for new legitimacy

The promotion and financing of ‘civil society’ by the King at the turn of the 1990’s reflected this preoccupation. The rapid rise of the so-called ‘monde associatif’ after a speech of Hassan II was very significant. Soon 30,000 ‘associations’ were registered. They were designed to become a reformist buffer between the state and the masses. Idealistic youth who wanted to ‘change the world’ were lured and trapped in establishing ‘associations’. Those falsely described non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) were also a safe and lucrative haven for ex-lefts of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Three quarters of those NGO’s were dedicated to charity. The other quarter was involved in human rights, women and labour rights, and also cultural rights but always from the perspective of harmless ‘lobbying’ and not from the perspective of the class struggle to overthrow the monarchic dictatorship.

The USFP governments born out of the ‘alternance’ span the period starting from the end of the reign of Hassan II (1998) up to the first years of Mohammed VI (1999-2003). The USFP lost the premiership but still continued to be part of the government together with the Istiqlâl and other right wing and ‘non-partisan’ ministers. The USFP was seriously weakened by this government participation. This was at the same time the inevitable and desired result of the monarchy’s strategy but it created new difficulties for its survival. In the years that Youssoufi led the government, the party faced different splits. The union wing, the Confédération Démocratique du Travail (CDT) split from the party, following the youth wing and the left grouped in the Union de la Gauche Socialiste (UGS).

In the first elections they were able to contest they were only allowed to get 1%. Indeed elections continued to be rigged by the Ministry of the Interior. Parties who are authorised to stand candidates first negotiated their election result with this powerful minister. Then corruption enters in the game. As the joke goes in the country: ‘I bought a sheep for 1200 Dirhams and the Moroccan for only 200 Dirhams’. Indeed votes have a price and are bought by the candidates.

Exhaustion of reform

The alliance of the Throne and the socialists has not delivered the results the masses had hoped and waited for. The conditions of the ordinary Moroccans has not changed. Illiteracy and employment are today’s social epidemics as much as they were before. More than half (55%) of the population cannot read or write. The fate of women is even worse with an illiteracy rate of 74%. Rural women are in a desperate situation where 82% of them are condemned to illiteracy. Those are real stunning figures even for African standards. It’s the result of an education policy of the last fifty years specifically aimed at keeping the people in the countryside ignorant. It is always easier to get the ignorant to submit, is it not?

Exploitation and social inequality have not disappeared in this period. The fate of the one million domestic servants in the country, mostly female, has not changed. It is said that the proportion of this workforce is higher than in Victorian times. Those ‘petites bonnes’ as they are called have replaced child slavery which was abolished at the beginning of the 20th century. They come from the orphanages or have been sent to work in the families of the middle class and the bourgeois by poor parents. These modern domestic slaves have are aged between 5 and 15 years. A quarter of them are younger than 10 years old. A third are 13 years and older. They live and work at the total disposal of the rich. 72% get up every morning before 7 am and 65% go to sleep after 11 pm. They do not have any weekly holiday. They receive a monthly ‘wage’ of 300 Dirham (or 30 euro). Broken childhoods must still guarantee the easy life of the rich.

One third of the population of the big cities is without work. The situation is worse for young people, especially those who have studied. In the Moroccan situation, the more you have studied the more difficult it is to find a job. Can you imagine a stronger condemnation of a social and political regime where a quarter of a million people with certificates from higher education and university are sitting idle? Yes there is worse: the tragedy of massive migration of despaired youth who try to cross the strait of Gibraltar. The finest youth see no future in staying in Morocco and try to work in Europe, especially Spain and France. This strait is something like the Rio Grande for the poor Mexicans who want to migrate to the United States. It is a very deadly migration. Some 10,000 migrants are estimated to have died attempting to cross the 17 km of sea since 1998. Another group of migrants is rarely mentioned: the young girls who move to the Gulf countries as ‘nurses’ and ‘beauty counsellors’. Prostitution is their real destination.

Counter reform

In the year 2000, only one year after the arrival of the new king, the royal reform movement stalled. Inertia seems to have had conquered all aspects of political life. Even worse: three papers that revealed the complicity of the leaders of the socialists in the coup attempt of 1972 against Hassan II are closed. The limits of freedom of the press were visibly reached here. The multiplication of the number of daily papers and magazines reflect more the numerous manoeuvres of the different political factions of the regime than real freedom of speech. Islamic activists as well as human rights defenders are imprisoned. The reform of family law was postponed and the Berbers were denied the right to form a party. It is clear, the regime was frightened by the consequences of the reforms it had initiated and tried to turn its back on the hopes it had created. That has always been the fate of the experiences of self-reform from the top engaged by autocratic regimes since the Chinese Imperial dynasties.

These movements have always been very dangerous for the regimes involved. People tend to take these new found liberties and reforms very seriously and want to make maximum use of it. This in turn frightens a faction of the oligarchy who try to establish a movement going in the opposite direction. Their logic is that reform will open a Pandora’s box of social and political frustration of the masses. This involves the possibility of questioning the regime itself. Another faction who favoured the reform argues that without this ‘democratic transition’ they will face a social explosion which will challenge the foundations of their rule. Both are right in reality. Whatever their choice they will still face the revolt of the masses sooner or later. Reforms will lead to new counter-reforms. Moments of ‘openings’ only prepare other moments of ‘brutal interruption’ of ‘democratic transition’. The recently released trade unionist from Safi, Rachid Chrii has a good understanding of the real meaning and limits of the reforms in Morocco. He declared the following upon his liberation:

‘The accession to power of the ‘new’ Moroccan regime has indeed inherited all the contradictions of the ‘old’ one: the wearing out of the classical instruments of the dictatorship and his ‘organic’ incapacity of engaging in political reform. In fact all the initiatives taken the last ten years proceed from two reasons: at one side, reform the instruments of domination with the aim of giving itself a democratic legitimacy and to the other hand strengthening the despotism by sealing the gaps which would open the way to a real political opening. That’s how you must understand our arrest and detention (journalists, left wing activists and islamists) and also our liberation today’ (in Rouge 30th of March 2004).

At the beginning of the new millennium many ask themselves: is Morocco really changing? Is the ‘democratic transition’ not the shortest way between open dictatorship and a more subtle but just as deceiving dictatorship? The fact that 85% of the population have become indifferent to national politics is no surprise in this context (poll by ‘Morocco 2020’). The legislative and local elections have not enthused ordinary people. ‘From the socialists to the nationalists, from left to right, all ‘secular’ parties are rejected by the Moroccans. Meanwhile the Palace with its splendour and its opacity, has never seemed so distant. The ‘King of the poor’, ‘the internet generation’ (a term used to describe the young advisers of the monarch): these are all empty slogans coming from the imagination of the public relations wizards which provoke only indifference or contemptuous smiles’ (Le Monde Diplomatique, July 2003). Political decomposition has accelerated. Not less than 35 different parties competed in the elections. On the one hand it reflects of course the will of the regime to drown any possible challenger amidst a sea of parties. On the other hand it shows a growing fractioning of the political personnel linked to the regime.

Islamic challenge?

The attraction of the Islamists of the Parti de la Justice et du Développement (PJD) amongst young people is thus easy to explain. Living in the human cloaks at the outskirts of the Casablanca (where half of the six million inhabitants survive) or Tanger (where a belt of 500,000 men, women and children surround the city) the poorest sections of society have turned ‘en masse’ to this party. The PJD’s popularity is not so much the result of a religious revival. The profile of a new, clean and persecuted party reinforces the trust gained thanks to their Islamic social network. The similarity with the situation in Turkey and the landslide victory of the AKP, the moderate Justice and Development Party is striking. Many see the PJD as the only opposition party. The mass mobilisation against the reform of family law in the beginning of the year 2000 allowed them for the first time to visibly display their force. The elections of 2002 underline their electoral breakthrough. The PJD has an image as a seditious party. But the opposite is true. Links have existed for a very long time between the leaders of the PJD with the police services and the Ministry of Interior.

It is the Minister of Interior of Hassan II, Driss Basri who offered the forerunner of the PJD, the MPDC, 10 seats in the parliamentary elections of 1997. In the elections of September 2002 the PJD leaders accepted to stand only 52 candidates. 42 were be elected. During the latest imperialist war against Iraq they accepted the ‘advice’ of the regime not to mobilise massively against the colonial adventure. Now they have accepted to change the top of the party and changes to the party rules to satisfy the regime. The PJD is a reactionary party supporting capitalism, which lies at the root of the people who support it. A perceptive journalist concluded in the beginning of the year: ‘Going from one concession to another, the PJD will face an identity crisis which in the short term could change the PJD in an ordinary right wing party as many others’. For the oppressed masses religion represents what Marx described as the quest for ‘a heart in a heartless world’. Sooner or later the PJD will be unmasked as a force which is usurping the strong desire of justice of the masses. The same will happen with the powerful Justice and Charity group of Sheik Yassine. Another trend in Moroccan Islamism has been underestimated: the radical Saudi Wahabite which is currently active amongst youth and the recruiting agents of the Al Quaeda network of Ossama Bin Laden.

The bomb attack of the May 16, 2003 in Casablanca has shattered the confidence of the regime. Thirteen young fundamentalist men coming from the poor neighbourhoods of the city attacked five targets, killed 43 people and wounded hundreds more. The image of a quiet, tranquil and controlled country exploded that day. Before that date Morocco seemed to believe it was immune to Islamic terrorism. The economic consequences were quick to materialise. Investment promises were postponed and economic growth plunged. Politically the results were more spectacular. King Mohammed VI decided the end of the “era of laxity”. He continued denouncing those “who make bad use of the freedom of expression” and ‘limit themselves to systematic opposition to the orientation” of the regime.

The message was without ambiguity. The Islamists of all tendencies, the press, the human rights groups and grass root left wing activists were warned. Massive arrests of Islamists, superficial trials and the imprisonment of independent journalists like Ali Lmrabet and trade unionists and human right activist like Mohammed Rachid Chrii happened after the May 16. Repressive laws were pushed through parliament reminiscent of the years of Hassan II. Brutal repression seems to be the dominant reaction to all social movements. Students protesting the privatisation of education have to face the presence of the police at their campuses. Fishermen, handicapped people, unemployed youth, peasants and intellectuals who protested in the last period have been beaten up by spiteful police. This was the reaction of a regime at bay and which does not know what to do. Reform or counter-reform, one or the other or a combination of both, neither of these directions will guarantee stability and the defence of the privileges of the oligarchy.

Foreign imperialists are following closely the developments in Morocco. Its most important trade partners, France, Spain and the United States of America are presenting - each one of them for their own reasons - the kingdom as an example to follow in the new Middle East after the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Increased inter-imperialist competition is also an element in the equation. The European Union has signed a Free Trade agreement with Morocco after years of negotiations. Quickly afterwards the kingdom signed another agreement with the United States which upset France in particular. Spain has nostalgic dreams of past times when they were a regional power in the Mediterranean. They hope to undermine the position of the French. The attitude of Madrid under Aznar at the beginning of the war against Iraq was aimed at getting favours from the US in regards to regional security and NATO.

The US has also promised to increase its military and economic aid drastically after a visit by Colin Powel. The US is also behind the proposal of UN envoy Baker who is dealing with the conflict of the Western Sahara. The new UN proposal goes in the direction of abandoning the idea of sovereignty for the Saharans and forgetting all together the idea of a referendum on self-determination. The proposal on the table is one of autonomy within the framework of Morocco. Reports in the local press also revealed that the US is outsourcing the ‘interrogation’ of suspected terrorists to the services of the efficient police of the King. As the English say: ‘You scratch my back, I scratch your back’!

‘State feminism’

The Moroccan monarchy is looking jealously in the direction of its apparently stable and safe Tunisian neighbour. A political convergence is visible between both countries. Morocco seems attracted by the bitter and totalitarian recipes of President Ben Ali. One of the ways Ben Ali has tried to face the Islamic threats to his regime was by engaging in what is called ‘State feminism’, introducing a reform of the family law. By doing so he hopes to find some new points of support in society amongst women against the islamists. This is combined with brutal repression of every expression of dissent. Mohammed VI also decided recently to reform the ‘moudawana’ or the reactionary family law.

It has become a bit less reactionary indeed. But only a monarch and ‘official feminists’ living light years away from social reality faced by peasant and worker women can be enthused by this reform. Women of the oppressed classes cannot expect any liberation from the King and his laws. These women stay extremely poor and are kept culturally ignorant. One quarter of urban workingwomen are unemployed. The women lucky to work – there is a growing trend of proletarianisation amongst women – are concentrated in textile and confection factories were work is hard and must be very flexible.

In the village not only do they take charge of all domestic tasks, but they must help in agriculture and are literally treated as packhorses for the family. They are crushed by feudal prejudices and hypocritical morality. Those few examples are sufficient to prove that working women from the village and the city can only find their real emancipation in a radical change in their social position which can only be achieved in a joint effort with their male colleagues to put an end to exploitation and oppression maintained by the Makhzen.

The working class has not yet spoken

Half of the labour force is involved in agricultural activity and the other half in services and industry. One third of wage earners are in industry. They form the core of the working class. On the union front they are organised mainly in three unions, the UGTM, the CDT and the CTM. Their leadership is linked to the monarchy and the bosses and signed a deal last year on April 30. This deal is a kind of ‘social contract’ where the unions commit themselves to social peace. It will not be easy to commit the workers to this social peace. This will be especially true when conditions worsen and when discontent over the general political situation of the country starts to percolate in the minds of the mass of the workers. This process is underway but needs some time to find its expression in mass movements. In this sense the experience of the ‘transition’ plays a very educational role in the understanding of the incapacity of all factions of the bourgeoisie to grant democratic rights, freedom and a decent standard of living.

The union leadership is moving earth and heaven to make sure no broad social movement erupts from the factories around unifying demands. The Ministry of Labour published figures recently claiming a drastic decline in the number of social conflicts. In 2003 it registered 130 conflicts. Three years earlier in the year 2000 some 460 conflicts were registered. This situation has been praised as the beginning of a ‘new era of social relations based on confidence and mutual understanding’. Let us not be fooled by this pep talk. But it is true that in the context of double repression of the workers by the police and by the union bureaucracy we should not be surprised to see that the accumulating discontent finds other expressions.

The movement of unemployed youth and their organisation, l’Association Nationale Des Chômeurs Diplomés (ANDCM) is such an expression. This organisation was set up in 1991 and is the most combative organisation today. It has fought many battles, facing repression and intimidation. Independent from the official unions it nevertheless seeks the help of some of them. The work in the official unions remains fundamental to reach the workers in the factories and in the mines, who do not have an organization such as the one the young unemployed have, and urge them to come into action.

The earthquake in the Rif region in February witnessed also the early beginnings of an angry protest movement of the victims (peasants and workers) of corruption, inefficiency and against the corrupt state in general. The revolutionary and anti-imperialist traditions of the Rif region will be relearned.

Then we have the student movement that is fighting against the “Charte de l’Enseignement’, a blueprint for privatisation and attacks against the right to study. The need for a united student movement like the Union Nationale des Etudiants du Maroc is still felt and seen as very important. Other movements are also coming to the fore: the fishermen, intellectuals etc. In the end, the traditions of the general strike of 1990 will have to be rediscovered by the working class. When the working class speaks out its voice will dominate that of all kings, princes and corrupt politicians.

Anaemic left

The main weakness of course is the lack of a mass Marxist political force. The fact that pockets of young and dedicated Marxists exist is hopeful. They are still small but they have started the job. At the left of the USFP we find an attempt to unite the former youth wing of the party, the people from the CDT, the followers of the defunct Ilal Amam who are now called Voie Démocratique, the Union de la Gauche Socialiste and the Parti d’Avant Garde Socialiste. This front will be called ‘Rassemblement de la Gauche Démocratique’ or the ‘Gathering of the Democratic Left’. Correctly, they denounce the USFP and the PPS for their capitulation to the Makhzen and their social democratic program. Unfortunately this left front does not offer its own program. At best it raises the question of ‘constitutional reform’ leaving out what exactly this is supposed to mean. It could mean reforms in the direction of a republic but within the framework of capitalism. It could also mean some kind of step in the direction of a constitutional monarchy. Neither options will be able to respond to the demands of the workers, the peasants and the poor. This idea of “constitutional reform” illustrates the reformist framework of the components of the ‘Gauche Démocratique’. The most left wing group in this front the Voie Démocratique is also still a prisoner to the Stalinist theory of two stages, a characteristic from its Maoist past. This is the artificial division of the struggle for democracy and national liberation against the monarchy from the struggle against capitalism and for socialism. Not understanding this will make them easy prey for the manoeuvres of different wings of the bourgeoisie and of the state who could lure them in critical support of the regime.

The pertinence of the permanent revolution has never been so great in Morocco and the Arab world as today. Forty years ago the historian H.E. Tütsch wrote that ‘the Arab world is witnessing the telescoping of the different revolutions of the Renaissance, the Enlightment, the Reformation, Liberalism and Socialism’(in ‘Facets of Arab Nationalism’, 1965). Those revolutions can never be carried through with the help of the rotten Arab bourgeois. It will have to be carried through against them, thanks to the unified movement of the working class of the Arab world hand in hand with the peasantry. They represent the only radical and truly revolutionary democrats in the Arab world!

A socialist revolution in Morocco would inevitably take the form of revolution in the whole of the Maghreb involving Tunisia, Algeria and also Egypt. A socialist revolution will be able to lift the area out of the secular cycle of poverty and need. Just think about the following facts: The economies of the Maghreb are completely distorted and have developed as a function of the interests of the imperialism. Trade has been completely directed to France and Spain. Trade between Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia represent only 1% of all exchanges! Algerian oil is almost totally exported to Europe. There is no Arab solidarity here: only narrow interests of the national oligarchies. The economies of the Maghreb are complementary: Algeria possesses oil and gas, Morocco and Tunisia have phosphates and also industrial know how, Tunisia has experience in the tourist industry it could share etc. These things are possible in a system of rational economical socialist planning based on the needs of the workers and the peasants. To achieve this a socialist revolution is needed - a real social storm. The same kind of storm the Lebanese singer and poet Marcel Khalife describes in ‘Promises of the Storm’ and which will bring the same sweet fruits.

‘If I serenade the happiness
behind the lids of frightened eyes,
it's because the storm
has promised me wines,
new toasts and rainbows’.

 June, 2004

See also:

[Back to In Defence of Marxism] [Back to Africa]

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.