The Moorish Wanderer

Radicalism and Social-Democracy in the Country of Autocracy

Posted in Uncategorized by Zouhair ABH on December 4, 2009

I had a heated debate with some friends about our respective political stands, and out of the blue, I stated that I (or perhaps the party I am in) was a radical (what ?)

No no no, not that sort of radical! I have nothing to do with the bearded thugs that pop every now and then 😀. No… rather the sort of fellow one look up to, the sort that know where the knife and the fork go in 😀

Joke wise, being a radical in Morocco is merely adopting a challenging attitude towards the regime. Setting that aside, I might be a leftist radical, but fellows that consider themselves as ‘social-democrat’ or even ‘democratic-islamist’ are just radicals as well. For it anyone that has an ambitious project for their fellow citizens, or simply has dreams of another system alternative to the Makhzen.

Not that the officials or the regime’s advocates (or Attajdid and Al Massae fans to that matter) are saying that, but interesting set of data I came across show that on average, Moroccan people are more clinging to ‘traditional values’ and therefore, are by default for the statu quo. The following:

One can see Morocco in the tiny bit on the left hand side, down to the bottom of the graph. By Jove! Bangladesh and Azerbaijan are more progressive than us! (with all due respect to these countries of course…)

Perhaps detailed information about this survey are welcomed to understand how they got the result (and I can say that, from a purely statistical point of view, the survey is wonderful, a state-of-the-art kind of thing). I got here some of their conclusions:

– “The Traditional/Secular-rational values dimension reflects the contrast between societies in which religion is very important and those in which it is not. A wide range of other orientations are closely linked with this dimension. Societies near the traditional pole emphasize the importance of parent-child ties and deference to authority, along with absolute standards and traditional family values, and reject divorce, abortion, euthanasia, and suicide. These societies have high levels of national pride, and a nationalistic outlook. Societies with secular-rational values have the opposite preferences on all of these topics.”

– “The unprecedented wealth that has accumulated in advanced societies during the past generation means that an increasing share of the population has grown up taking survival for granted. Thus, priorities have shifted from an overwhelming emphasis on economic and physical security toward an increasing emphasis on subjective well-being, self-expression and quality of life. Inglehart and Baker (2000) found evidence that orientations have shifted from Traditional toward Secular-rational values, in almost all industrial societies. But modernization, is not linear-when a society has completed industrialization and starts becoming a knowledge society

The present paper is not about discussing the finding of World Values Surveys (I do not have what it takes to discuss it in length). I merely use the data to assert that:

– A significant part of Moroccan population does not take the basic principles of progress for granted. A subpopulation is even convinced that it is actually a threat to the national values. That means a permanent stumbling block for any ambitious modernizing and progressive planning.

– The poor economic background has a negative impact of values, as Moroccan switched (if any) to ‘survival values’: filial solidarity and religious conservatism. As the Inglehart & Baker paper states it, it could be the fruitful work of government actions (which is precisely the case in Morocco, with the efficient support of Wahabite funds)

All in all, Morocco is not as progressive as someone like me would like it to be. And that makes me a radical, because my own political stands are quite far away from the average Moroccan stand on this map. Please be aware that I answered the same questions asked (this table shows some questions asked to the representative panels in the surveyed countries), and the comparison does not stand firm: the plot arranged had to go through statistical processes, and an individual standing out of the surveyed population doesnt mean much. However, it precisely does state my point, namely that myself (as well as ‘moderate’ friends of mine) are far away from the average set of values cherished by the ’common man’. Presumably, by answering some of the questions cited in the article, I found myself somewhere here:

The objective is to prove that, even though my good friend defines themselves as ‘social democrat’, their own political stand makes them a radical by Moroccan standards. (Incidentally, I apparently, am a democrat socialist; I shall come back later on that, the two stands are quite different). Theoretically, my set is quite distance from their own, but on average the difference is much smaller than the average distance between our respective stand and the Moroccan average one. (They did not take the test, but based on my own evaluation, they where quite close on the map)

I could also venture another explanation for radicalism and reformism. Perhaps my friend and I are of virtually one mind about a lot of issues, but we might differ in the means used to change things.

I still believe in the virtue of planning (not as centralized as the Soviet Gosplan) because our economic structure is not a real capitalist one, and needs some sort of ‘buffer zone’ before turning to real free market.

I regard partial or total nationalization (temporary of course) as a way to crack down private monopolies that are doing more harm than good to the economy as a whole (you know what I am talking about : ONA Holding and its subsidiaries…).

On the economic side, I am indeed a bit of a radical: in ideal Morocco, there would be no private cars, only cycles and common high quality free-transportation. Rich people would be paying extra-taxes on their wealth and VAT would be abolished. I still cast doubts about the benefits of minimum wage, but I believe companies are better managed and generate more profits –in the long run- when employees are also share-owners as well (that also means that Trade Unions would be part of the managing process)

Anti-trust watchdog office would carry on making sure that no company or cartel could have their way for an oligopoly or monopoly. All these measures could not be achieved without a ruthless administration and uncompromising civil servants corps. A true bureaucracy as Max Weber advocated for. And just as you know, I shan’t close down or nationalize small shops 😀

Being a radical is taking an uncompromising stand on several issues. Uncompromising does mean being a realist, in the sense that one has to be aware of the extent of the hardships one is facing. Also, uncompromising is not contradictory with flexible (as radicals are often depicted at best as rigid people, if not purely fanatics). So radicals, in fine, are merely presenting a more ambitious plan for the future, compared to the liberals (I am merely referring to the criterion Immanuel Wallerstein is using the distinguish between Radicals and Liberals). It is therefore agreed that, under this perspective, my social-democrat friend is as radical as I am about the democratic Morocco we are both advocating for.

To conclude this fastidious paper (It is Friday and I am dead tired…) I wanted to clear up the difference between ‘social democrat’ and ‘democratic socialist’. According to Wikipedia (and I trust this, as their references are ok) :

Social democracy is a political ideology of the political left and centre-left on the classic political spectrum. Social democracy emerged in the late 19th century from the socialist movement and continues to exert influence worldwide.[…]

The adoption of Third Way ideology by many social democrats has proved divisive within the broader social democratic community. Traditional social democrats argue that Third Way ideology has caused the movement to become too centrist, and even that the movement may be becoming centre-right. In general, apparent reversals in policy have encountered significant opposition among party members and core voters; many of the latter have claimed that their leaders have betrayed the principles of social democracy.”

This excerpt is actually describing the “third way” politicians such as Blair, Jospin, Schröder and many others made the “social democracy of the 21st Century”

On the other hand, democratic socialism is defined as:

Democratic socialism is a description used by various socialist movements and organizations, to emphasize the democratic character of their political orientation. The term is sometimes used synonymously with ‘social democracy‘, but many self-identified democratic socialists oppose social democracy, seeing it as capitalist.”

Now, I don’t know much about you, but I believe firmly that a better system could be achieved, outperforming capitalism in creating wealth, but in the same time, with income equality (or semi-equality). I should be libelled as ‘communist’, but in the matter of seizure of power, I do believe that many classical Marxist schemes are to be updated and adapted to the Moroccan context.

References :

Modernization, Cultural Change, and the Persistence Of Tradition Values”; Ronal Ingelhart & Wayne Baker (Michigan University) American Sociological Review, 2000, Vol. 65

World Values Survey

– WVS Data could be found here :

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