The Moorish Wanderer

Makhzen, Bureaucracy and the People

There’s something any liberal/radical political force will have to take into account whenever it has the opportunity to take over ‘real power’ in Morocco (through peaceful and democratic process, I do hope), the whole range of actors party of government (or any governmental-related sector). These actors are not necessarily of hostile intentions, perhaps with different motivations, and ultimately, agendas.

The civil service. It’s quite strange to discuss a piece on our own one. The fact it, Morocco followed an incomplete -and somewhere perhaps, purposely- copy/paste policy of the French civil service scheme(s). And we ended up with all the drawbacks of it, and none -or very little- of their advantages. Yet one way or another, the civil service, even without a policy of their own, that is, with no purpose but to serve the political power in place, can be a powerful tool or a stubborn roadblock for any democratically elected and motivated government. The fact is, all government with radical/ambitious polices -left or right alike- in many parts of the world (say, the U.K under Thatcher , France under Mitterand, Clinton or Obama, etc…) usually face cautious, if not deliberately hostile behaviour from the civil service, that very body designed, paid, trained for one thing and one thing only: to carry out the policies of their political masters. The satirical show ‘Yes (Prime) Minister’ just outlines -in a comical way, though full of hidden meaningful allusions- that when the senior civil servants (and in facts, even the lowly officials) do not agree with the pace of change or with any change at all, they can feature, as Sir Humphrey Appleby calls it : ‘creative inertia’. This is not our main subject, but it is related to how a government should proceed (among a set of designated public policies) to get through their polices and get along with their agenda. They do, after all, represent the will of the people, right?

There’s something that needs to be pointed out regarding the Moroccan context: the Makhzen (as a state of mind as well as an institutional cluster) has a solid grip on civil service. whether you believe or not Makhzen still exists or not (and that’s institution for you) some behaviours or specific procedures survived and are still in effect. It is actually so perverse that some actors, the very ones longing and claiming for change (say, some trade-unionists, or journalists, or politicians) could easily block and repel any change that wouldn’t serve their interest, or endanger their rent-position. Rules of the game it seems.

The civil service reform -a reform that has to be part of any real radically democratic political agenda- has to bear it in their computations.
1/ the left-wing parties: UNFP/USFP and the Radical Left surprisingly agree on the principle of ‘strong’ governmental bureaucracy. Strong in the sense of centralized and rationalized, just as Wallerstein describes it. In facts, the left-wing side takes for granted Morocco cannot be ruled without a strong bureaucracy, for one thing: with no obedient and devoted bureaucracy, no progressive political power can do away with the reactionary, feudal lobbies. The UNFP/USFP vision was perhaps more ‘operational’ (and in facts, with a glimpse of experience in 1958, and in a more limited pattern, in 1998)
The civil service of the immediate following years of 1956 was quite pro-Istiqlal, and later, in some levels, pro-Union Nationale des Forces Populaires. The embryonic service was therefore full of sympathy for the left-wing party (a sympathy ranging from neutral to actively biased) especially in services with daily in touch with the people: education, post office/telegraphs, police (many former ALM soldiers joined the police after 1955 and 1958) and finally, local administration. Until 1969, these sympathies were quite important, and even though they were not put into practise, they would have been of great help for a genuinely powerful UNFP government. The 1970’s saw the Rabat-wing take off and turn Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires, and with it, the Ittihadi influence (formalized through their own trade union CDT)
In facts, this Ittihadi ‘natural hegemony’ (not only in the USFP, but even in its successive spin-offs, such as the Parti d’Avant-garde Démocratique Socialiste, Congrès National Ittihadi, Parti Socialiste and soon to be merged-with Parti Travailliste) justifies itself with the historical heritage the UNFP represents (and that every Ittihad party, symbolically or voluntarily, claims as theirs). In any case, Benbarka did state the theoretical background of it in the founding text, ‘Option Révolutionnaire‘: “l’importance, pour l’avenir de notre pays, de ce 2° congrès de l’UNFP, qui va donner à notre mouvement la possibilité de sortir avec une organisation renouvelée et des perspectives nettement définies et lui permettre ainsi d’être à la hauteur de ses tâches historiques”. Or when discussing the party’s role in economic development: “il faut expliquer que toutes les options économiques du parti révolutionnaire qui sont les points de son programme, ne sont pas par el1es-mêmes le socialisme, mais que simplement elles lui préparent le terrain. La planification par exemple est un moyen rationnel de choisir les points d’impact des investissements, les nationalisations dans les domaines agricole, industriel, commercial et bancaire – quand elles sont possibles et favorables – servent à augmenter les possibilités nationales d’investissement.” That assumes party workers and technicians to supervise the whole planning process.
Then, Bebarka sketches a very intersting plan for the Option Révolutionnaire as a party, as an organization fit for power:”Tout d’abord. il nous faut veiller sur l’instrument seul capable de traduire nos résolutions dans la réalité: c’est notre parti l’UNFP. Nous avons bien dit,. au moment de sa création, qu’il ne s’agissait pas d’un parti comme les autres. Et c’est à juste titre que notre organisation n’a cessé de susciter les espérances populaires dont nous sommes porteurs.(…) Pour ce qui est de la participation de la base, il s’agit de l’inscription dans les statuts d’une disposition qui assure une participation effective de tous les militants à l’élaboration de la ligne de conduite de l’UNFP, ainsi que le contrôle des différents organes centraux et régionaux par la base.(…)” (the whole range of p28-30 is devoted to a thorough description of how the revolutionary party, i.e. UNFP, should be)
In essence, the UNFP-USFP bureaucracy is very much in the spirit of another of Benbarka’s ideas, namely, the ‘militant citizen‘. The bureaucracy is dual: the civil servants, citizens as well, are there to support the party’s project; either by enlisting as party workers (a touch of Leninist theory there) or by providing enthusiastic support for it.

The student breakaway of the early 1970’s that led to ’23 Mars’ movement was even more ‘conceptual’ about it. These young militants, alongside their Ilal-Amam’s opposite number shared a deep understanding of Leninist theory of ‘Party-State’ and Maoïst experience. The radical left went even further in their public-policy strategy: Whatever has been said or speculated upon, Ben Barka remained true to the idea of a constitutional monarchy: a symbolic and purely honorific King, while the party political is dealt with by politicians, presumably elected and therefore of diverse political opinions, but that is quite blur in Ben Barka’s writings. The radical left adopted the Leninist theory of Party-state as theirs. Lenin did write in 1905: “…First of all, we are discussing party literature and its subordination to party control. Everyone is free to write and say whatever he likes, without any restrictions. But every voluntary association (including the party) is also free to expel members who use the name of the party to advocate anti-party views. Freedom of speech and the press must be complete. But then freedom of association must be complete too. I am bound to accord you, in the name of free speech, the full right to shout, lie and write to your heart’s content. But you are bound to grant me, in the name of freedom of association, the right to enter into, or withdraw from, association with people advocating this or that view. The party is a voluntary association, which would inevitably break up, first ideologically and then physically, if it did not cleanse itself of people advocating anti-party views.” and that was just about party literature; Lenin had this incredible insight for detail organization (which made him such a great leader, or horrible butcher, depending on your political views) and produced a tremendous sum on that matter; In “What Is To Be Done” (much more classier in French: “Que Faire?“), the paragraph 4 essentially: “The workers’ organisations for the economic struggle should be trade union organisations. (…) It is certainly not in our interest to demand that only Social-Democrats should be eligible for membership in the “trade” unions, since that would only narrow the scope of our influence upon the masses. Let every worker who understands the need to unite for the struggle against the employers and the government join the trade unions. The very aim of the trade unions would be impossible of achievement, if they did not unite all who have attained at least this elementary degree of understanding, if they were not very broad organisations. The broader these organisations, the broader will be our influence over them — an influence due, not only to the “spontaneous” development of the economic struggle, but to the direct and conscious effort of the socialist trade union members to influence their comrades. But a broad organisation cannot apply methods of strict secrecy (since this demands far greater training than is required for the economic struggle). How is the contradiction between the need for a large membership and the need for strictly secret methods to be reconciled? How are we to make the trade unions as public as possible? Generally speaking, there can be only two ways to this end: either the trade unions become legalised (in some countries this preceded the legalisation of the socialist and political unions), or the organisation is kept secret, but so “free” (…) that the need for secret methods becomes almost negligible as far as the bulk of the members is concerned (…) I could go on analysing the Rules, but I think that what has been said will suffice. A small, compact core of the most reliable, experienced, and hardened workers, with responsible representatives in the principal districts and connected by all the rules of strict secrecy with the organisation of revolutionaries, can, with the widest support of the masses and without any formal organisation, perform all the functions of a trade union organisation”. And that was tried to be applied. The radicals being students or high-school pupils, the students’ union (UNEM) was the perfect trade-union’ organization-like for the party-state to flourish. The party-state, after the revolution, takes over political government (as the organized tool of proletariat dictatorship as it were) and carries out the socialist period until the communist state is achieve, thus leading to the dissolution of both the party, the dictatorship and the classes. As on can see, there’s little difference in the left-leaning political side but in details of implementation.

2/the Makhzen bureaucracy: There must be at least someone in the inner circle that would have enough education to realize how powerful the Makhzen is now, compared to 1956, and even more powerful compared to the pre-1912 Morocco. It must be pointed out that Laroui considered the Makhzen as the first attempt to create a modern bureaucracy in Morocco. Theoretically at least, all the essential symbols of civil service were there: taxes and armed forces. Very rustic, very primitive of course, but with an intrinsic logic and set of functions that did prompt Laroui to consider it as ‘Modern’. The Makhzen bureaucracy had but one crucial weakness: rationalization, or rather, institutionalization. Even though Makhzen apparatus had centuries of existence, tribes always tried either to take advantage of it, or to free themselves from it. Moroccan political administration was a constant reaffirmation of central power (and failed in achieving it completely). In facts, Makhzen power was function of the sultan’s personnality: Sultan Rashid, being ruthless and very active, managed to tame the tribes and maintain a centralized, Makhzen-obedient Morocco. Sultan Abdelaziz, being weak and under his Vizir’s influence, had little grip on power and therefore ruled a rebellious Morocco with ‘Blad Makhzen’ going as far as Fes and major imperial cities, with the rural areas living in Siba, or autonomous home rule (and especially not anarchist state, as the Makhzenian hagiographers tend to write)

Theoretically, Makhzen governement is very structured: there was a top-level civil service with official titles (Grand Vizir, Grand âalaff, Khlifas or deputies in regions, etc…) the hierarchy is well established and rigidly codified (not a very good thing of course, but it just shows Makhzen bureaucracy got at least the drawbacks of modern civil service) Laroui, in his ‘Origines culturelles et sociales du Nationalisme Marocain‘ relates how this bureaucracy meddles even in choosing the sultan: “(…)Nous voyons que le sultan est bien choisi par une minorité qui représente le Palais au sens large, c’est-à-dire la famille sultanienne, les serviteurs et les grands commis; Toutefois, cette minorité même ne jouit pas d’une liberté illimitée; son choix est souvent circonscrit à deux frères, et même dans ce cas, les préférences marquées par le sultan défunt (…)” (p81)
Then Laroui proceeds in enumerating the various departments the official Makhzen consists of, all of which are part of the semi-modern the pre-1912 bureaucracy Morocco had:
– the Army: according to J. Erckmann, the Army couldn’t field more than a standard regular division (10.000 troops that is) called ‘guish‘ الجيش. However, and because the outfit is not enough to set up expeditions or face exterior threats, the Makhzen also draft irregulars from the tribes: Guish of course, but also Cheraga, Oulad Jamîi, and Udaya (which were deported and forced into Imperial service). While in western countries the military cast was shun from political involvement (even the Prussian court privileged professional, apolitical officers, save for Bismarck, that is) the tribal army was waist deep in political intrigues and court plots. In facts, the guish, mainly slaves descendent of the Bukhara army, maintained a tight political control over high offices (the well-known example of Grand Vizir Ba Hmad for instance.)
The main feature of Makhzenian army is that of its purpose; It is not fit for war against foreign powers (as Isly Battle will tragically point out) but to collect taxes and suppress dissent whenever it grows too important and too popular. “En réalité (…) il s’agit d’un service militaire permanent qui dépend des besoins et de la situation du Trésor” (footnote 39, p82)
– the Civil Service: unlike the army, the civil srvice changed overtime; For instance, about the Amin (deputy representative of a specific corporation, i.e. Artisans, Butchers, Blacksmiths, Grocers,… )”...il n’en reste pas pas moins vrai (qu’ils) ont intrduit une certaine rationalisation dans l’administration fiscale, l’intendance des palais sultaniens, l’exploitation des azibs (domaines fonciers), l’organisation de la douane, des droits des portes et marchés, de la poste chérifienne, etc…; Les livres de comptes qui remplissent les archives du temps de Mohamed IV ou Hassan Ier leur sont dus (…)” (p84) The odd thing is, Laroui didn’t mention justice (left to the Cadi, which is not technically speaking a civil service, for his reward and payroll comes from the ‘gifts’/bribes he gets on the cases before him.) or local administration. In facts, Makhzen civil service is above all, and perhaps, solely, about money. It’s purpose is to pump money out of the Moroccans to pay for the army and the sultan’s expanses.
The Makhzen scheme, while proved working for a couple of centuries, lacks the essential feature a good bureaucracy should have, namely efficiency.

3/ the Islamist scheme: a return to the golden age
The odd thing about what is now the popular ideology among Moroccans (and the MENA region I should think), Islamism, is its total lack of bureaucratic vision. Which is even odd, regarding the huge sympathy it draws from social categories such as engineers, doctors, lawyers and so on. Speaking for Al-Adl, their paper on political reforms, while being as radical as Annahj’s stand, doesn’t say much on the bureaucratic front: how civil servants should be trained, how they should act on behalf of their government, all in all, how to run a country.
Besides their heavy reliance on Shariaa and Hadith corpus, the Islamists (the most able ones of course, the PJD is out of course) position is, with all due respect, shallow. Their ideological articles, while very structured and quite bright, do not deviate from the classic scheme of the Islamic Umma. an activist writes on that matter: “لا يفوت المطالع لأي من كتابات الأستاذ المرشد عبد السلام ياسين، بناءها على أساس اليقين بوعد الله تعالى، فيحدّث عن الخلافة الثانية ودولة القرآن كأنه يراها رأي العين، هذا اليقين العظيم الذي أوصى بتعلمه رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم، مصدره ما سماه الأستاذ المرشد حفظه الله “الشهادة التاريخية” “المتمثلة في السيرة النبوية وفي الخلافة الرشيدة، ثم بعد في ومضات تاريخية هنا وهناك، بأن القرآن قابل للتطبيق، وبأن دولة القرآن ليست مثالا حالما تمخضت عنه الفلسفة الأرضية كما تمخضت عن المذاهب الفكر“. The classical islamic institutions (khilafa, bayt al mal, etc…) are deemed to be still effective (a surprisingly ignorance of the modern world complexity makes me wonder about one particular subject: how are Adl militants-civil servants are going to monitor banks on the sensitive issue of interest rates? Or is Bayt Al Mal director will deal with it all right in religious zeal as well?)

In facts, the Islamist civil service project is very simplistic. It bears the same features as the Makhzen circa 1912, with a stronger ideological content of course but no real interest in actual local and central government. Faith does not lead a country into prosperity, neither moral values enforcement. One doesn’t live on pray and religious observance of rites…

What’s a good bureaucracy then? Max Weber provided the theoretical background to it; “ Weber sets out an ‘ideal type’ (see last lecture) for bureaucracy, characterised by an elaborate hierarchical division of labour directed by explicit rules impersonally applied, staffed by full-time, life-time, professionals, who do not in any sense own the ‘means of administration’, or their jobs, or the sources of their funds, and live off a salary, not from income derived directly from the performance of their job. These are all features found in the public service, in the offices of private firms, in universities, and so on.

The modern bureaucrat is a full-time, life-time professional; this requires a sufficient salary and job security, because otherwise people will not stay in the job full time for life. Unless they do, the organization will not be efficient. It takes time and experience to learn the job, not so much because it is difficult to perform the particular task, but because it all has to be coordinated. An elaborate division of labour requires stability of staff. Because of the nature of bureaucratic work, and also perhaps because of the importance of training and coordination in the job, the bureaucracy wants educated recruits. Their education will be attested by some certificate (partly just to prove they have been educated, but also perhaps because a bureaucracy likes to work with clear impersonal criteria). Weber speaks of ‘credentialism’, the preoccupation evident in modern societies with formal educational qualifications. All these things – credentials, fixed salary, tenure, stability of staffing, Weber incorporates into his ideal type. They are all required, he believes, for the efficient functioning of an administrative machine.”

Even though Weber recognized his ideal type will not fit the real bureaucracy, his predicament of the bureaucratic model as a universal standard came true. Now, bearing in mind those features, what could a genuine democratic government do? Not much of course, as setting up an entirely new civil service takes time (and in facts, a lot of time)

Perhaps we’ve been looking the other way round; Perhaps the civil service is not that essential after all. I am not stating a government can run a country without civil services, but the citizens can, by means of regular check, make sure the civil service doesn’t run the country by itself. The idea of citizen committees at local levels (I’d say, at borough level, 500 or so household would hold the local administration accountable), a bottom-up sort of political legitimization process. I did discuss in an earlier post some proposals for regionalization (or a Federal Moroccan monarchy that is). It could be a very good idea: by means of local and federal administration, the civil service loses its ‘political’ grip on home affairs; Civil servants tend to be more efficient when their are under credible and dissuasive control (on corruption as well as on productivity). It could be so that no political body gets involved in the process: the citizens at local levels could inquire on both their elected members as well as on their administrative staff. Of course, this cannot be achieved if citizens are not interested in politics or public management. However, there should be a way in linking their zeal over control, and their own personal interests: everyone knows how difficult it is to get an administrative paper at the local office; For the sake of argument, regardless of civic pre-conditions, how could an household agent get the incentive to devote some of their time to control and check what the state agent is doing?

I am through. There’s a lot to be discussed about how good a civil service should be in running a contry while being transaprent and accountable to the people’s will. I do however have some ideas I could toss in; perhaps for another article: strict transparency for budget allowance (in opposition of a sacred principle within the civil service, ‘principe de non affectation‘) civic control over tax breakdown, ‘civic pay’ for occasional checks…

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  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Hisham, Maroc Blogs. Maroc Blogs said: Makhzen, Bureaucracy and the People: There’s something any liberal/radical political force will have to take into … http://bit.ly/cycfcy […]

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