The Moorish Wanderer

The Ben Barka spoiled legacy

Posted in Flash News, Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Morocco by Zouhair ABH on October 29, 2010

I had to write about him. About his memory and subsequently, his legacy. I do apologize for a post that will differ violently from the tone of previous pieces, this is a matter of opinion that does not necessarily hold rational arguments, or shall we say, arguments of Cartesian logics. I do apologize as some of my fellow bloggers with whom I share ideas could misunderstand my point.

So there it is. He was abducted a cold day in Paris, October 29th, 1965 by venal mob, and he was never to return to his family, his party, his friends, to his country. A memory to be honoured of course, but I fear it is becoming more and more hollow. Empty of any political meaning, and more of an opportunity for old comrades to meet and reminisce about past memories.

I am certainly not bitter. Nor disillusioned with left-wing politics, but certainly at odds with leading individuals. Perhaps impassioned enthusiasm gave way to rational commitment. It is my firm belief Morocco can expect a better future under a government that upholds the left-wing values of individual and collective liberties, state religious neutrality, government transparency and fair economic policies. These I reckon to be my values too. But please, stop waving pictures of Ben Barka as though it was a sort of a ritual one has to sacrifice to every late October. It is insulting for his memory and for past struggles just to stand there in Paris, outside in the cold weather in front of Brasserie Lipp (occasionally chanting some old-fashion slogans). Perhaps the insult is not voluntarily made. Perhaps that’s one way of honouring him, and perhaps, it is good to be so. But when one looks closely to the post-1965 Moroccan politics, and with even more scrutiny into current politics, so many things happened, what was deemed solid rock, uncompromising and of a constant nature, yielded so easily and changed so rapidly decades after, much to the despair and sorrow of the Moroccan people, and in a shameful manner so that one might ask: are we close to the day to find only one honourable politician in this whole land?

Individuals, once as incorruptible as Robespierre, as uncompromising as Cromwell, as fair as Guevara, surrendered to the enticing allure of Makhzen perks. The remaining faithful are irrelevant, those that betrayed the ideals are the one to blame. What does it have to do with Ben Barka’s memory? This resolute square of old contemptibles -and please do not see in this any mark of insult- still clinging on to Ben Barka’s memory are an even louder symbol of how his ideas have been defeated, or rather, how the balance of power shifted against those who claim to be his faithful and true to his ideas. The All Moroccan public does not hold October 29th as a particularly special date, and yes, those still remembering the day are right to be his keepers. But that just stress on the unfortunate fact Moroccan politics, Moroccan left wing politics in particular, are completely remote from the common Man. I am not referring to social movements, because these are operating outside politics, even if small yet resolute political parties are taking part in it.

Politics, as an undertaking and a rallying project of society as long since been dead in Morocco (since the so-called Consensual Alternance). Voluntarism in politics, as Ben Barka saw it, did not stand much chance since the days of the late Abdellah Ibrahim‘s government:  “La cause principale de cette pauvrete [est] l’economie agricole […] qui emploie 3/4 de la population, mais ne produit que le quart du PIB” [M. Ben Barka, Ecrits Politiques 1957-1965]. Yet those in governement that claim heritage of his party and his policies made arrangements and alliances with landowners. Some of their leaders are landowners in their own right with little incentive to push forward the policies he advocated. At times where everything in Moroccan left-wing falls apart, it is always reassuring to witness hard-line commitment, but also saddening to notice their falling number, and how isolated they are. The memory of Ben Barka becomes the living -and I do assure you, there is nothing of caustic pun here- symbol of the demise of left wing. Radicalism, Socialism, Social-Democracy or Communism, call it whatever you want. The masses and the young generations are not attracted to these ideals, not in the numbers that once put the fear of god in the regime’s supporters.The Ben Barka legacy of ideas, principles and vision are an utter failure. Not because of their nature, nor because of unfortunate application in real life. They failed because those who associated themselves with them so closely betrayed them, thus rendering them so. In Moroccan politics, Men and Ideas are alike. there is nothing hasty about such a statement, simply the trivial conclusion of academia.

So, would I be calling to cease these rallies? No, and I shan’t call them rallies too. In Paris, conferences about the subject bring more Frenchmen and Maghreb-born former exiles than any other part of the Moroccan community in France or Europe. Last year I attended the conference in question and in facts, my fellow attendees looked more like an alumni of old rifles, tired and growingly old dissidents. And as I said, their regular, very respectful and dignified stand just reminds me how isolated they are, we are, in face of an assured regime that distribute favours as they saw fit to corrupt the past rivals and enemies. How would Ben Barka act if he was alive, in these precise conditions? Would he prefer exile and quiet retreat? Would he be still on the frontline of politics, leading a resolute but insignificant political party? Would he have compromised too?

In the meantime, ceremonial is all right but something needs to be done over his legacy. Soon even the senior figures will pass away, what then?