The Moorish Wanderer

A Reddish Tone

Posted in Moroccan Politics & Economics, Moroccanology, Polfiction by Zouhair ABH on January 7, 2010

Before I start digressing on my intimate political beliefs, I would like to share a thought :

I think we missed an essential point in 1955 when Sultan Mohamed Ibn Youssef came back from his exile. We didn’t have a constituent assembly or convention to put on paper the kind of regime the newly independent Morocco wanted. Instead, a quite revolutionary social contract –the beya-, but with no real binding obligations from both sides, only from one. And since 1956, the same regime stood, no matter what the late Hassan II, or Mohamed VI would have said, we still are basically in the same constitutional turmoil, with overlapping spiritual and temporal powers, which is not very democratic. The official speech claims Democracy for Morocco since 1956, I can hardly see any real delegation of power to the people’s representative… But that is another tale.

Ideological quibbles are pathetic, point taken. My last post made things even worse apparently, making me the chief commie of the PSU, which does flatter me, but obviously does not serve the Party (yep, by now, one should have guessed that I am not the official spokesperson, expressing merely my individual opinion.

Begone; the glorious era of intellectual glamour, communists are -if any left- history’s dust. I might be referring to a period I actually never lived in, and subsequently, I might be idealizing it too much, though the older readers might remember their wild college years (that is, before shut up or lifted by the police…) This is the chance to justify my garish, old-fashion political beliefs.

What happened people? Can’t we dream of a better world? To be frank, various post-1917 experiences were hardly practical experiences of a better world: I cannot sanely advocate that North Korea, former USSR, former Maoïst China, former Democratic (?) Kampuchea and many other regimes where communists, or tried to achieved communism. Actually, an unfortunate mix of human unbound wickedness and fanatic utopist behaviour made so-called communists mass-murderers. On the other hand, one has to be aware of the full range of facts before one could form a definite opinion on the matter. First and foremost, what is Communism ?

* Abolition of private ownership of means of production (i.e. machinery)

* Abolition of classes: Proletariat vs Bourgeoisie

* The Motto: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” becomes reality

* Work is no longer a tedious assignment

* Science and Progress rule societies

Ok, it is a bit of a utopia (and perhaps, an impossible utopia if I may digress), though one has to pinpoint the finer aspects of these basic principles:

The abolition of private ownership has been long caricaturized as something that goes like: “communism means sharing your clothes, house, wife…“.(the latter is not a joke, someone I knew did point it out…)

Ridiculous statements, none of those goods (I am excluding female companion from the lot) are means of production. If one was to read carefully the Communists Manifesto (I won’t get you to read ‘Das Kapital‘, the book is simply monstrous), they would understand that: “We see then: the means of production and of exchange, on whose foundation the bourgeoisie built itself up, were generated in feudal society. At a certain stage in the development of these means of production and of exchange, the conditions under which feudal society produced and exchanged, the feudal organization of agriculture and manufacturing industry, in one word, the feudal relations of property became no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces; they became so many fetters. They had to be burst asunder; they were burst asunder.” Now, things did grow more complex since the 19th century, and such simplistic criterion is somewhat obsolete. Nonetheless, there is a matter of social regulation at stake. Immanuel Wallerstein is no Marxist, but as a leading authority in sociology, the man pointed out –and quite cleverly I have to stress- that capitalism is usually tempted by rent, rather than risky profit. The core argument for liberalism is that property is the sole motive that drives human being seeking their wealth; subsequently, one has to make way for private property.

I do not have a problem with that, unless this very same property creates a rent situation, which inevitably leads to exploitation and alienation, and that, I cannot tolerate

Means of productions are not targeted per se, which was quite an improvement on the Luddism movement that sought destruction of machinery. They have to be shared, and the classic Marxist theory views them as possible tools for submission of human work under capitalism, but as tools of human progress under socialism and communism.

The only way to avoid the problem is therefore to make production means collective, as shared private ownership makes work alienation virtually impossible. The same structure fostered modern capitalism: equity shareholders have collectivized their wealth, and they do get larger return. I believe economic theory did not dug deeper in the benefits of workers shares (cooperatives for instance), and, why not, a whole new model could be built on collective ownership of Capital. Theoretically, the primary accumulation would grow at a smaller rate, but the average growth would not deviate significantly, leading to a steady growth (I still need the mathematical tools to prove it, though I guess it makes sense.)

– Abolition of classes: I am definitely fan of this one. Not only Morocco is class-divided, but these very divisions are clanic and tribal; one has just to look at the wealthy families’ genealogies, their historical and geographical respective backgrounds, and one could find remarkable patterns and homogeneity. Classes and tribes overlapped, which makes any violent action to abolish classes a bloody civil war (Morocco is already living a discreet one, a historical bequest from pre-1912 Makhzen). However, what I believe to be abolition of classes is actually a paraphrase of Bourdieu and Elias’ works on symbolic capitals: the ruling classes distinguish themselves by showing symbols of wealth: money and cars for the bling-bling ones, and fine arts, erudition for others. This use of symbols is to be symbolically put down; Money does build up classes, but symbols give them their characteristic shapes. Abolition of classes does not mean abolition of inequality. It is a sad comment on humankind achievement, but it cannot be addressed. However, Rawles theory seems relevant here to be considered as a suitable criterion.

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” : The very foundations of Social Security : I don’t like the consensus among mainstream economists, that turn the blind eye on the very serious –dangerous is not an overstatement- assumption of the Ricardian equivalence following which, government expenditure are just re-allocation of private resources, which prevent an economy from reaching the equilibrium state. A whole lot of immaculate economic models lie on this hypothesis, a useful argument to undermine projects such as Social Security, Wealth Taxes, Universal Medical Care, Social Services, etc…

The famous motto appeals to emotions as well as rational thinking: in a community. The emotion part is quick to deal with (though some d***heads might argue that people should get on their backsides and look for an honest day work…) the rational part is equally simple, as long as one gets themselves out of the classical utilitarian homo economicus paradigm. I wanted to write something about Lenin, but I fear the task is too difficult and too onerous to be performed, so I shall devote another post to it in the fullness of time.

There remains the question of ‘Reform vs Revolution’; I did mention that I seek pacific ways to change things, that is, through elections and political education (call it propaganda or whatever you like). The Cambridge Dictionary defines Revolution as ‘a change in the way a country is governed, usually to a different political system and often using violence or war’. Ok, the often part does not me justice, but I am fiercly convinced other ways are possible. (I recommend this excellent course at the MIT History department) I shall conclude this part by clarifying one other thing: a revolution in Morocco does not necessarily mean a Republic overthrowing the Monarchy, but it certainly does mean a genuine constitutional monarchy overthrowing the Makhzen bureaucracy. In other terms, being a revolutionary in Morocco is therefore to push for constitutional reforms, through peaceful means, but with the wit to make sure that reactionary forces stay out of touch.
The remaining principles are not specifically communists, and Scandinavian societies did achieve it without any reference to Marx or else

What about the Liberals and the Makhzenian lot?

The Liberal chap is a bit of an enigma. This lot is well-educated, urban middle class with little or no knowledge of political issues. Max Weber might describe them as follow: The honest man in the street that believes genuinely in liberty and Democracy for Morocco, but tend to consider that it could be achieved with the least disagreeable political confrontation, or perhaps, with no confrontation at all (the term confrontation takes here a harmless connotation). They have a somewhat blurred vision of post-1956 Morocco. Anyway, a “wait-and-see” posture on political matters.

I shall come back to this idea of confrontation. With crude generalization (helpfully supported by the Wallerstein criterion), liberals are more or less bound to push for reforms, but not too much. Constitutional reform, once a radical claim, is now overtly discussed by liberals (ranging from moderate islamists to neo-liberal friedmannites), but in broader term, and its true spirit –profound redistribution of powers- is smudged by bien-pensant intellectual hollowness, leaving Radicals like myself stewing in their anger and looking like fools

In Moroccan context, Liberal intellectuals are the pre co-opted ones (by the Makhzen, that is), and represent this transition Makhzen tactics implement before absorbing the ex- (radical) intellectual. Some former political prisoners, often well-educated and of broad-minds, believed they could ‘change the system from within’. I shan’t bore you with a list, though some of them were members of the radical left

I don’t blame the liberal for their cautiousness, who wouldn’t ? Why should I endure costly sacrifices (and I hope, only time and money) for a cause that has little chance to be achieved? All I can hope for is that they keep on their sympathy to the radicals.

The Makhzenian fellow is even trickier: an even more heterogeneous population (by now, you might have noticed that I, too, made blunt generalizations) ranging from the Hassan II nostalgic, to the neo-makhzenians that believe sincerely –oh, what a tragedy- that the present regime is scoring democratic reforms under the Royal leadership. And there is quite a leap in this range. On the other hand, the level of commitment to the Makhzen is a close function to the benefits it distributes. One has to keep in mind that the machine alternates sanctions and rewards, in a typical arbitrary fashion. Actually, the very concept of ‘commitment’ in Moroccan history is very vague, as Moroccan loyalty is more a sort of a Brownian motion. In strict Makhzenian context, elite families had to ways to go: keep on with their wealth by serving the strongest, or lose everything forever if on of their lot had the unfortunate demise to bet on the wrong side. The present regime differs very little from that a century ago –with, perhaps, some modern updates-, and their obedient elite are not loyal, it is servile.

If you don’t want to be libeled as ‘Radical’, that is fine, though just think about it : claiming constitutional reforms requires a bit of baldness

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