I don’t know if you are familiar with the 1960’s cartoon (I am not particularly fond of it, though I find it somehow nice to spend an evening watching classic cartoons); Underdog is a superhero kind of dog, that swoops in the nick of time to save the city –and its sweetheart- from the evil plots of the villain. Underdog, on the other hand, is also a nickname for what is called in Game Theory, a weak or dominated strategy player; in other terms, the loser.
Sometimes being an Underdog is dignifying. No one likes to lose, of course, but in the Moroccan context, especially in Politics, being at contre-courant is a real bliss. A few days ago, I was supporting the idea that the Moroccan non-governmental left should stick to its ‘radical’ adjective. The media –especially the newspapers- have various titles for it: rebellious, radical, democratic, extra-governmental, far-left, you name it. But –as I will perhaps write about it- Moroccan journalists, in their huge majority, are amateurs, the very term of Radical is misused, and even though the correct –or should I say, official- title is the ‘democratic left’, I would like to shade some light on how and why, besides being democratic, the new left is also radical.
First, I would like to give the historical, uncontested definition of radicalism. I like to use the world-system analysis Wallerstein developed in an attempt to understand the world surrounding us in a sensible fashion;
According to Wallerstein, political movements can be broadly gathered up in three main sides: Radicals, Liberals and Conservatives. 1968 shook violently a safe century-long consensus:
“[…] Now what happened in the world revolution of 1968 is that […] centrist liberalism was shattered and we returned to a world [of] true conservatism, true radicalism, and the third is centrist liberalism which of course is still there […]
Now when you talk about ‘liberal capitalism’ you are referring to what is often called ‘neoliberalism,’ which is not at all the centrist liberalism that had dominated the world before. It is rather a form of conservatism. It has been pursuing a standard attempt to reverse the three trends that are negative from the view of world capital: the rising cost of personnel, the rising cost of inputs, and the rising cost of taxes.
I think the day of neoliberalism is absolutely at an end; its effectiveness is quite over. And globalization as a term and as a concept will be forgotten ten years from now because it no longer has the impact it was meant to have, which is to persuade everyone to believe Mrs. Thatcher’s preaching: ‘There is no alternative’. (Theory Talks)
Furthermore, Wallerstein says:”The radicals were appalled by the timidity of the liberals, and deeply suspicious of the motives and intentions of the specialists. They insisted therefore on the importance of popular control of the administration of change. They argued further that only rapid transformation could stem the underlying popular pressure to destabilize social life and make possible the recreation of a harmonious social reality”.
So for the half-witted that dumbly associates radicalism and revolutionary violence, here’s a tip, we are not interested in warring Morocco, but we strongly stand on sweeping the country clean of makhzenian institutions for a democratic and constitutional monarchy. Our means are radical, but not violent, for it we truly believe things cannot be changed step by step, Morocco already lost 50 years.
Now, why would I refer to the Radical/Democratic Moroccan left as ‘Underdog’?
Did it lost every issue it engaged in? To be fair, most of the comrades’ hopes are gone with the wind: in the 1960’s and 1970’s, some of them tried to take up arms against the monarchy, but failed in the process (whether it considered to actually overthrow Hassan II is still subject to debate) and later on, where sometimes heavily criticized for this.
2007 and 2009 are perhaps the last straw for these battle-hardened militants. Save for Annahj (the hard-line committed communists of them all), there was a sort of deep disappointment when they couldn’t get the necessary seats. Does it mean they had the sole purpose of getting into parliament? Certainly not, for their vast majority anyway.
The Radical/Democratic left encounters the same problem its political brethrens around the world are experiencing since the early 90’s: lack of funding, lack of professionalism in political communication, weak grasp of new technologies.
Crude generalization is quite easy, but the point is, the comrades are growing old, and the new generation seems a little too much in its dreams of Guevara and the related stuff. Either ways, Do note that I am not rubbishing the radical left; they are doing a pretty good job through the joint committees (demonstrating against the degrading public services and the rising consumer prices), another myth about how the leftists are usually cut off the people’s issue. And it’s not like they use abstract and abscond speech to attract the Moroccan citizens, some of them do have treasures of communication skills; But the matter is, it is so deep in the minds that the ‘radical left is disconnected’, even with novel tactics, stereotypes are so stubborn and hard to dismiss.
Is the radical left condemned to play it underdog forever? Of course not, provided that not only they need a major shift in the ideological paradigm as well as in communication strategy.
About the change in the ideological paradigm, I want beforehand to discuss what ‘ideological paradigm’ means; There is an unhealthy obsession journalists throughout the world spread about the word ‘ideology’. The philosophical concept is far broader than the connotation used in the mainstream-popular medias, namely : “ideology is […] a pervasive set of dynamic conditions suffusing the institutional apparatus of the state and shaping not just the idea of the person as subject, but more importantly for theorists to follow, clarifying in structural terms the idea of a subject position, wherein political and psychological forces converge to define possibilities of action and forces of constraint and repression.” (Althusser) or, to put it in simpler ways, “a set of aims and ideas that directs one’s goals, expectations, and actions.” Do I advocate for a change in the radical left ideological paradigm ? yes, to the extent of how they view themselves. I suspect some of them are still longing to the glorious-ear of the UNFP (Union Nationale des Forces Populaires), the leading leftist party in the opposition to Hassan II’s regime. The problem with the Moroccan left –save perhaps for the PPS former orthodox communists– is of mythology, the obsession of reviving the UNFP. That could work of its modern split (USFP), but not for the radical left.
Now, to sum up my intolerable digression on the matter : in order to avoid being the underdog, the radical left has to pick itself up, ditch the UNFP dreams and build up a broad radical left (the Alliance, plus Annahj), setting aside their little differences, just like Die Linke in Germany. Come on comrades, let’s make radicalism sexy again in Morocco !