The Moorish Wanderer

Wandering Thoughts, Vol.15

Posted in Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Morocco, Read & Heard, Tiny bit of Politics, Wandering Thoughts by Zouhair ABH on December 17, 2011

A few days back in Morocco are quite short to spend with one’s family and acquaintances – but hey, I suppose it’s great to be back anyway, even for a short time.

A few things to discuss perhaps (given a very busy schedule and burdensome workload inherited from the Fall semester, among others) that do not relate strictly to the main topics this blog usual posts about. Or perhaps it does: Parti Socialiste Unifié is organizing this weekend their convention, and well… I am very ambivalent about it all. At no time during the opening day was there any feeling that perhaps the strategic choice of backing up Feb20 all the way up (or down) instead of taking a step back and consider the bigger picture: PSU is there for a long time, the movement, clearly not. More on that, later.

I have also taken to watch some new TV shows as well – namely, Hart Of Dixie (yes, I know…) Boardwalk Empire and Pan Am (Yes, I know!) and believe you me, they are worth watching, really!

Hart Of Dixie was not my idea; I started listening to some Otis Taylor tracks (Ten Million Slaves is easily recognizable for those who enjoyed watching Public Enemies) and the trailer was interesting enough: a glossy, too-good-to-be-true freshly graduated New Yorker Doctor Zoe Hart (Rachel Bislon) finds out that her real father is one Harley Wilkes, a Doctor in Blue Bells, Alabama, in the heart of Dixieland. Hart needs to spend a year South of the Mason-Dixon line before she can move on with her future career as a cardio-thoracic surgeon. The show is enjoyable, it really is !

Boardwalk Empire is of another calibre however; but then again, that’s Martin Scorcese for you (he direct the Pilot). The show is set in Atlantic City N.J.  during the 1920s, at the height of the Prohibition Era. A special effort has been made for the costumes, the music, the hardware… and I don’t think words are enough to describe all the back-room politics that take place in Atlantic City. Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson, city treasurer and the mastermind of a large-scale bootlegging scheme that doubles as an efficient political machine (E. Thompson fits in the American political vernacular of local “party boss”) running on buying off loyalties and other allegiances to, say, get the New Jersey delegates behind Warren Harding‘s nomination for GOP presidential candidate. Great stuff to watch, already two seasons have been aired so far.

Last series is Pan Am, I’m still watching the earlier episodes, but it sure has a je-ne-sais-quoi flavour of Mad Men: both are set in the late 1950s- early 1960s, and gender relations are depicted with a great deal of realism.

Picture of the Opening Meeting at Cinema Royal - Rabat

But enough with the glamour: PSU is holding its convention this weekend, between Bouznika and Rabat, and from what I have read and listened to, and for all the goodwill displayed and the hopes aroused, we are still far away from building a strong left coalition. Why so? Because party leadership – outgoing and even the likely new- still do not understand that shackling the party to Feb20 with so much enthusiasm and with little strategy, even to influence Feb20 and induce them to be more amenable to our goals, is not a strategy, it’s standing on the sideways of political history.

Don’t get me wrong: I think the party belongs with the Feb20 movement, but let us face it: left-wing political parties and radical Islamist AWI are all competing for influence -not control- of an otherwise very heterogeneous organization (although the term “organization” is a bit of a stretch) and I blame the movement for making PSU leadership going gaga over the youth; I really do.

Because of them, the decision to boycott elections and the referendum has been of no sizeable political benefit in terms of party membership or standing among the mainstream Moroccan citizens. And instead of going for the issues that matter, taxes, jobs, crime, standards of living, education and local government, I was horrified to listen to some of the speeches given during the opening meeting for the convention, and two words kept coming back: “Nidal” & “Somoud“.

Get over it, those we seek to enrol in our grand scheme for social justice and democratic institutions are not interested in militant mumbo-jumbo, they want clear and detailed answers to well-defined and real problems.The only thing I find solace in is the unheard of -in Morocco- transparency by which the party runs its internal elections: deliberations are open for independent observers, and party finances are there for everyone to see. No other party -save perhaps for PJD- can and does so. Occasions like these reassure me in my political choices.

I did not attend the rest of party conference for many reasons, among which some urgent projects I had to hand out on a tight schedule, the fact that I have not seen my family in months, and finally because my small, temperate, reasoned voice has no chance to be heard. I hope the newly elected leadership will heed the call of moderations in words – something that does not surrender the party’s nihilism, and does certainly not mean that they have sold out to Makhzen apparatus, because it is high time we left-wingers had crossed over to the Moroccan electorate to get them interested in our scheme, and left behind an obsolete body of language.

Going down with style, PSU Boycotts Nov.25 Elections

Posted in Flash News, Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Morocco, Polfiction, Read & Heard by Zouhair ABH on September 19, 2011

One has to hand it to the comrades: when they go down, they do so in style indeed. late Yesterday, PSU National Convention voted in favour of boycotting November 25th elections. This piece of news, just like any other, has its bad and good spins. Good news, PSU has been, as usual, very open about its proceedings, and the decision to boycott was openly and democratically discussed. If this isn’t free and open partisan democracy, I don’t know what is. Bad news, too, as fellow Blogger Omar El Hayani pointed out (bitterly)

Anyway, by doing so, PSU and the Democratic Alliance lose some support among the more moderate of sympathisers and likely voters. On the other hand, these live (or are registered) in districts PSU candidates, whatever their fame and statutes, will never carry. The decision to boycott elections was, I suspect, a counter-move to appease allies on the left, and perhaps a bid to confirm party strength by postponing the crucial question of radical dissidence or moderate opposition. I fear that with the high spirits gathered during weekly demonstrations, some old-guard PSU are rekindling with their far-left youth. Nostalgia is alright, but not to the expenses of compromising the build up of a strong democratic left-leaning party.

I still believe that boycott decision is just a temporary setback. Come the 2014-2015 local elections, PSU and its Democratic Alliance partners can engage into meaningful campaigning and carry genuine popular support by trying to prove they are fit for office. I submit that a strategy disparaging parliamentary elections as idle and inefficient, while advocating local elections are the real popular test to submit to, is a winning strategy, both on the medium and short run. As for any illusions on the regime’s strength and viability, the impact of boycott on behalf of the radical left remains, truth be told, peripheral.

Yet, for all the unobliging comments the decision has triggered (among others, on the twittoma) the Radical Left can, whenever possible, show some strong numbers when it comes to elections. Once labelled elitists, Left-leaning activists can carry seats other parties fail to woo; Indeed, the candidate’s personality and charisma matter a great deal, but when ideological commitment is conjugated with those essential ingredient, the Radical Left manages to build itself safe strongholds on the electoral map. I suggest it would be a shame to lose both parliamentary and local electoral base there. And I do hope the leadership will have keen insight on the matter. Sooner or later, PSU and its allies (including Annahj by the way) will have to confront itself to the electoral litmus test, and prior local activism or elected offices are going to be crucial to deal with local Moul Chkaras, or very active PJD operatives in the area.

Since they first contested elections in 1984, the average turnout carried by New Left candidates hovered around 150,000 votes. Though the high watermark was recorded between 1993 and 1997, the numbers held steady in 2002, and have even risen in 2007, considering how all major political parties (including PJD) lost votes in the process. And yet, the New Left still fails to rise above the 5-6 seats-odd in parliament house, when its electoral base allows for a dozen seats, even 25-30 commensurate to their electoral base. Indeed, ballot system, and the features of New Left electorate doesn’t allow for an expansion in their caucus, unless the Alliance keeps on growing, a double-edge strategy, since accelerated alliances and mergers within the left-leaning field both provide it with momentum and seemingly political strength, but also makes collective endeavour in electoral competitions very hazardous: in 2007, the Alliance agreed on common tickets over 75% of all contested districts, and separate candidates in the remaining 25%. However, crucial constituencies (like Rabat) were hotly contested by party leadership, because of the symbolism it carries, and as a way to summon up the blood and exacerbate the feud with a weakened USFP. But overall, common campaigning finds favour with the electorate: in 1993, the Koutla effectively campaigned jointly on all districts, and found itself with 1/3 of total expressed popular vote, a result no coalition ever achieved before or after.

But coming back to the implications the boycott induces, I was referring to “going down in style“. Unless the party finds itself an alternative playing field, there is no way we can keep on taking to the streets every two weeks: the party needs financing, visibility on public outlets and measurable strength to submit the authorities to its will, or at least to make its voice heard with strong credibility. Annahj can afford to stand firm on its Refuseniks position because it does not function as a political party. PSU and PADS (and to a lesser extent, CNI) on the other hand, cannot.

The crucial point is, the boycott directive will not be massively followed (to the tune of 200,000 voters) and these released votes will either go into an invalidated ballot, or in favour of a third party.Thousands of these votes will go, depending on the contested district, to one party or the other. The argument is that once these voters commit to these third parties, a scheduled comeback will be as painful, as tedious and as costly as it gets for the new candidates. I suppose the 31 OADP candidates had a hard time looking for votes in 1984, as they have just made the transition from clandestine activism to “normalized” politics. It would have been best that long-term views prevailed over the temptation of getting dragged to the left over this boycott business. In this, I believe Mohamed Bensaïd Ait Idder was right in advocating to keep on campaigning:

Watching Mohamed Sassi and Najib Akesbi advocating (O so bitterly) for electoral boycott was akin to that of a disillusioned lover seeking revenge by vowing celibacy: it hurts twice, and only themselves are to be blamed for it. The 2007 and 2009 poor showing were wake-up calls: I understand the PSU enjoyed a great deal of popularity with many likely voters, and these might -just might- have gone to the polls and slip a ballot endorsing PSU candidates. Perhaps Profs. Sassi et Akesbi gambled upon this momentum to reach out for voters; they enjoy, after all, high profile publicity, immense respect across the political spectrum and with the general public (when they get to know them) and, in Akesbi’s case, a valuable electoral experience as a former USFP local board member in Hay Riad neighbourhood (Rabat). But there is a catch to a political campaign, in Morocco and elsewhere: the financial cost and risk for a candidate to undertake such an endeavour.

Because campaign funding schemes in Morocco are still rudimentary (either because candidates are old-school fund-raisers, or because of the restrictive set of regulations imposed on political funding) candidates frequently need to finance themselves, which involves either a strong belief in winning the seat, or at least to do a 3% showing, necessary to be reimbursed by State funding. PSU (and Alliance partners) failed to capture Rabat seats, and were further humiliated by not passing the 3% threshold. The same story goes for 2009. A university Professor on a MAD 150,000-200,000 annual tenure cannot afford to campaign every now and then, and systematically lose election and money. Boycott makes sense for both our leaders. But by saving money in Rabat, we lose Representatives. Lahcen Fathallah (Chtouka Ait Baha) El Mokhtar Rachdi (Jerrada) and Mhamed Abdelhak (Sidi Bennour-Ouled Frej).

Votes in 2007 encompass the alliance (AGD) and individual votes gathered by PSU and PADS candidates. PS Votes have been accrued as well.

We lose 475 local board members if the boycott applies equally to local elections. In short, an all-out boycott, for the sake of the principle, will loses the only remaining imperfect, but nonetheless the most trustworthy indicator of popularity/political strength, i.e. the electoral base. Supporting bi-monthly demonstrations might be a commendable thing to do, but it goes as far as alienate lukewarm support from otherwise potential activists, opinion leaders, funding sources, good will that isn’t readily available when PSU (and other members of the Democratic Alliance) decides to go back to elections.

Indeed I am not happy with my party’s decision. My dissatisfaction is not out of sheer alacrity for election campaigns, but because of the enumerated facts above, the single genuinely democratic party in Morocco, the party that allows open debate on important issues without stifling dissent (such as my good self in this case) cannot shut itself off the silent majority that might just be successfully wooed by the charms of our unique brand of partisan democracy. I do hope all these elements have been pondered during debate held last weekend during the Convention, and I remain nonetheless optimistic about the prospects. We might be going down with style, but this is not the first time the New Left manages a Phoenix-like comeback. We have started with 30,000 odd electoral base in 1984, we certainly can always do better. And we shall.

I assume this boycott thing is only temporary, just a signal that whatever the party’s support and its size, we are a force to be reckoned with (the party of ideas, for instance) As a matter of fact, we need time to settle down and ponder on the last few months. We need to prepare for an already much postponed conference to renew the leadership. We need to review in depth our political and economic message we try to get across. We need to shift the focus om more down-to-earth issues without losing out of sight those issues that made the “New Left” brand: deep institutional reforms. In a sense, the boycott might just well be this pretext we need to attend to these more urgent tasks. For sure, we have now conceded the next couple of matches to other parties, and this allows them to get the better of us. But then again, we have nothing but time to oppose to their watches. OADP always made it and muddled through in tougher years. We can do just as well.

“I’ll Be Back” General Douglas McArthur, Philippines, 1941.

It might take a while, but it’ll be back.

Proposal For Financing Strategy, PSU Case Study

Posted in Flash News, Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Morocco, Read & Heard, Tiny bit of Politics by Zouhair ABH on February 24, 2011

The label is not bound to come off as yet: I should perhaps put in a word about my political affiliation: it started out of a blindly commitment; Not out of ignorance, you understand, but for more emotional motives. Then, it morphed into something more documented, less attached to doctrinaire, almost philosophical matters. And now, out of more reasoned stand, I would like to contribute one time or two for the Moroccan Radical Left.

I think I referred to that ambivalent state of mind in a raging –or supposed to be so- about Ben Barka’s legacy. Well, it’s more or less the same thing: still passionate about principles, but utterly realistic, almost disillusioned about any likelihood of change from the radical left, and they taking power (democratically, let us be absolutely clear). And you know, the whole nostalgic motley of Red Flags, Che Guevara portraits, even Lenin flags are fine. I mean, the Moroccan public –already severely lacking culture, as the recent internet-based exchanged have proved- is not bound to react to the reddish symbolic. They are more prone to react to the secularist, almost atheistic stance, as well as the vanguard stand on homosexuality, and, quite expected, on de-penalizing soft drugs, legalizing prostitution, alcohol and many other taboo issues.

On the other hand, there is definitely a shortage of able operatives in these parties. I should restrain my demonstration to the Parti Socialiste Unifié (PSU) ‘Que Bene Amat, Bene Castigat’ one might say. Perhaps this should be salutary. This shortage is positively dangerous, in the sense that intermediate activists with specialist skills are much needed when a political party, out in wilderness for many years –of not always in opposition- was suddenly in charge, or part of a ruling coalition (most likely with other ill-staffed left-wing parties) How can they man things then? Rely on the civil service? I should certainly hope not. What might happen was admirably caricatured in ‘Yes Minister’ (and its sequel ‘Yes Prime Minister’) where political power was merely struggling to second-guess the civil service into implementing their policy, instead of actually carrying it out.

Despite all these misgivings, there remains the question of finance. Party finance at the PSU (and from now on, it applies indiscriminately to the PADS the CNI, and Annahj too) is abysmal for a number of reasons: debts, mismanagement of resources during campaigns, reliance on old-style communication, and of course the status of ‘small party in opposition’ that prevent it from the many perks larger and more docile parties enjoy.

Still and all, there’s a need to shake up the finance policy and start looking for the money. The nexus of political action, in Morocco and elsewhere, is money.

”]Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...

I have almost finished ‘Race of a Lifetime’ (courteously recommended by Anas Aloui, bless him) on the backdrops of Democratic nomination, and ultimately the US Presidential Elections in 2008. I was particularly amazed at how important fundraising was to Hillary Clinton (and later on to soon-to-be US President Barack Obama). I caught a glimpse of it in a more dramatized way when I caught on to the West Wing, but this documented account was mind-boggling. What is public in the US about political and party finance is more covert in France, and opaque, almost mafia-like here in Morocco..

I also remembered what I read in ‘Blog!’ about the Dean campaign (Democratic candidate for nomination in 2004, before he dropped out of the race) I also remembered reading about John Kerry’s commitment to drop federal money and rely solely on activist support and individual donations. I know it is a bit of a long shot, but we really should listen and learn. Benchmarking France -as we always do, whether we like it or not- is out of the question: it has a detestable public funding for political parties, who rely heavily on that, even the largest parties are ready to cheat to get the maximum out of the public purse to fund their activities. Let us not forget that Moroccan officials, some decades ago, dully copied the “caisse noire” methods shadowy activists like Charles Pasqua liked to use.

Systems that allow political parties to fund themselves (by adopting for instance legislation allowing individuals to deduce some of their income tax when donating, whether to charities or political parties) are better suited for Morocco, where the State has a dark story of money-laundering, illegal financing and acrobatic financial dealings that allowed for parties to rise from dust and, ex nihilo, be large parties (Union Constitutionnelle, Rassemblement National des Indépendants, even Parti Authenticité Modernité) with quasi-majority in the house.

So, the PSU, with an official batch of 10.000 activists, spread out across 131 or so groups (numbers date back to the 2007 Convention). At best, 5670 militants are already contributing one way or the other in financing the party. If one was to take out about 31% of young activists (and as such deemed unable to contribute financially) one is left with at best 3200 activists. If an average annual contribution was, say 100 Dirhams (which many activists cannot afford, truth be told) then the immediate war chest is 320.000 Dirhams, plus about 25.000 Dirhams from leadership and members of parliament, a total of a little less than 350.000 Dirhams. This might seem a lot, but it barely covers debts the party accumulated from failed electoral campaign to the other, as well as the unfortunate incident in 1996 after an OADP splinter group (A. Ouardighi group) absconded the Newspaper ‘Anoual’ from its assets and left the OADP party with debts.

USFP Imposing HQ at Hay Ryad. Not very left-wingy...

And even if arrangements were found to reschedule the debt, this modest amount of money could barely pay for  new equipment in some branches, or for a year’s salary on staff and regular expenses, certainly not for a full committed campaign, let alone the re-opening of a newspaper, an idea dear to many party activists and leaders, at a time newspaper circulation in Morocco is at its lowest.

Could a PSU newspaper compete with Rachid Nini? Because the only way to do so is to play to the hand of demagoguery, and then I’d seriously consider my commitment… So, to cut the story short, activist self-financing is not going to make up for much expenses. There is a need for a plan. For a while, I thought it was presumptuous of me to start devising recommendations to some leaders and activists old enough to be my father. But then again I found the 2007 convention booklet. I rushed to read the Finance committee’s findings, and let me tell you: I was expecting figures, charts. I found only laconic comments; Resources were down from at least 50% to non-existent. The new legislation on political parties completely closed down any hopes for public funding (the party did not succeeded in securing the necessary 5% in many elections) while donations and contributions from members of parliament and local councils dropped by half. Contributions from the Youth organization was a meagre 2.500 dirhams (meagre, in the sense that there was potential for more) and no contributions from the Women’s organization. Funding, and by ricochet, party finance are in disarray.

First, let us be optimistic (can we? sorry, let me put the noose down here… thank you) because, by Moroccan standards, finance at the PSU is a transparent matter, and far more transparent than any other party on the political spectrum. That is why they look so in disarray. Other parties are certainly in the same situation, but they either cover up for it, and/or receive money -bribes- from the regime. How do you account for the Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires to build a lavish party headquarters in the Hay Ryad cozy suburb? Or for Al Bayane, newspaper spokesperson for Parti du Progrès et du Socialisme to have a brand new printing equipment?

But that weakness can, I hope, be turned into a strength: the party can make a pledge never to take legal public funding (it has already outlawed any brown-envelope payments-style from the authorities) and rely solely on individual, collective and corporate donations. While it is still represented in government, their members of parliament could introduce a private members’ bill allowing tax deduction for donation to charities and political organization (including trade-unions). Then, with the help of grass root activists and party leadership, there can be hope to levy money from the affluent as well as the middle and working classes. I am quite sure that there are many sympathizers that would gladly contribute if they are given a chance, and a clear framework to donate and be allowed to follow closely party activities. And precisely because of this traditional transparency, there are little risks of mismanagement, abscond and the like. One might even dream of more and more professionals joining in and reshaping the party into a fighting electoral force.

'Die Partei Hat Immer Recht'. If only...

Let us first determine the costs of such policy. The changes would deal with the following issues: operational assets, past debts, current expenses and human resources

a/ Operational assets: Since the newspaper option is out of the question, the party needs to focus on internet communication. Far from being the dada of political geeks, it is an pre-emptive policy as more and more Moroccans are on the look out for news on the internet. As a matter of evidence, a website like Mamfakinch is turning into an alternative agency news with many internet-users logging on the lookout for news unavailable on traditional media outlet. Lakome, Goud, Youtube, even Big Brother are turning into popular news-hubs. While internet contents are usually quasi-free, hardware costs money. And for every branch to have at least one decent computer might cost dearly. Supposing the party secured a good deal of 130 computers at a reasonable price of 2.500 Dirhams, the total cost of such investment is about 400.000 Dirhams. That could be partly financed with party activists chipping in, but other means of financing are needed.

Computers alone are not enough. There’s also a need for electricity and, above all, internet connection. There’s an additional 400.000 Dirhams too (assuming a minimum internet consumption of MAD150 a month, same for computer electricity consumption). All in total, capital cost is about half a million Dirhams (not to mention the annual expenses of similar amounts). I remember a discussion with an ‘old-style’ activist, two years ago. He told me, with a straight face, that the branches faced high levels of expenditure because they could not systematically send a deputation when meetings were organized, say in Rabat or Casablanca. So, he said, they had to communicate via Fax. I was taken aback, because when such a problem was presented to me, I thought of an obvious choice: ‘Skype‘! Ok, the answer seems ludicrous, but at least it does cut down the fax cost to considerable levels. That was, among others, a clash of generations: I, practical, looking for rapid solutions, and his generation, clinging on to useless decorum (his reply was: ‘well, we need a proof of meeting‘).

There is also a need for cameras. As February 20th events unfolded, and police repression has been recorded against human rights activist (and not, strangely enough, against the hooligans) videos flourished on the internet. I am certainly not advocating for ‘a video camera recorder for every branch’ (for the mere reason that its cost is an unnecessary overkill) However, it seems to me the party adopted the administrative regional boundaries to list its branches. I’d advocate to purchase two camera recorders for populous regions (typically with more than 500 activists) and one per region. I really have no idea what type of camera recorder is suited for demonstrations (or local podcasts and interviews) but a nominal unit price of MAD 2.000 would bring their total cost to MAD 50.000. With microphones, cables, spare batteries, total cost can be priced to MAD 60.000.

Then, there’s transportation: for whatever reason, there is a need for vehicles (large and medium-size vans) as a mobile unit for communications, or to bring activists from neighbouring regions to help their comrades when there’s a campaign, or an election. It can also be part of a caravan touring regions for communications and PR purposes. Let us be modest in our estimates and assume there is a need for only 2 vans. If bought at second-hand price, they would cost, say MAD 150.000.

Finally, and in order to avoid further humiliation from public authorities, party leadership should, in my opinion, buy headquarters (the ground floor of a former Finance Ministry building in Casablanca). A deal can be worked out with the authorities either by paying back all the debt plus a stipend, or by simply writing-off the debt and buying the ground floor at a discounted market value. That would mean about  one million dirhams to say the least (it seems price per square meter at Rue d’Agadir is at least MAD 2.000).

Over all, physical assets investment can be estimated to around 2 million Dirhams (650.000 for tangible assets, and 1 million for party headquarters)

b/ Past Debts: I really have no idea how much money was borrowed in the party’s name. However, I know from past information that rent for party headquarters was about MAD 54.000 had to be paid, and a debt of 900.000 Dirhams from the Anoual incident. With more extrapolation, because the last 3 years of rent were not paid , one can account for another MAD 54.000 as a debt burden. All in all, the party needs to pay for at least 1 Million. very steep.

c/ Current expenses: While this remains a fundamentally local matter, grass-roots activists need to be involved with the basic principles of accounting, i.e. books have to be balanced. expenses need to be accounted for. Bills and receipts need to be kept and stored for future reference. This dangerously bureaucratic streak has at least one upside, it guarantees that local finance is well-managed, and when it fails to do so, it is relatively easier to find out the culprit. So, coming back on the estimate, apart from local headquarters rent -which varies from one region to the other- there’s the expenses for the operational assets, as well as the unexpected rush when unscheduled demonstrations take place, or unforeseen events force local activists to take to the street.

b/ Human Resources: At least at central level, the need for typists, or technicians can be partially alleviated by proposing paid internships for young graduate from typing and IT schools. It is true turnover is likely to be high, and candidates might not be the best choice, but instead of employing full-time staff, MAD 100.000 can be a reasonable budget for human resources (Apparently, Attijari Wafabank pays its interns MAD 2.000, we settle for 1.000, which is still a good deal, considering that internships in Morocco are not paid…)

Collecting donations: Red Cross-style

This is all very well, but were to find the money? What we are talking about here is 2 to 3 Millions in capital cost, and at least 600.000 in annual expenditure. Where can the PSU levy all this money? The first choice is: to go directly to the public and ask for money to support the party. Does it sound like begging? Well… Yes and No. Yes, because the party is in dire financial situation and desperately needs the cash. and No, because if someone agrees to chip in, they are also asked whether they want to keep in touch with their local branch, and by means of a newsletter, kept updated on the party’s activities. Apparently, it is quite feasible, especially when one keeps in mind that there is a need to raise everyday cash of about 1.600dhs all over Morocco. In fact, there’s a need to raise twice as much to cover for central as well as local expenditure. Online donations, party fund-raising, contact and email listings for regular calls for contributions and volunteers, there’s a lot to be done, and the best part of it is that it costs almost nothing (volunteers and activists are soliciting donations for free, and internet communication costs are shared with other operations)  As the Chicago guy once said: ‘Yes, We Can Do It’ (As long as grass-roots activists and volunteers are motivated for, then yes, it is possible)

For more heavy-weight finance, the party will resort to ask big donors, like Karim Tazy, or Miloud Châabi (or even Anas Sefrioui, Mounir Majidi, Othmane Benjelloun, what the hell, we shoot for the starts, right?). The trouble is that it’s a political minefield, for both the donor and the recipient. But then again, donations are not supposed to influence the party’s stand, but merely a helpful hand from wealthy citizens eager to see a political agenda pushed closer to power. Personally, I wouldn’t mind showing up at BMCE headquarters with my tin-cup asking for a big fat check of 1.000.000 dhs 😀 [alternatively, I could be thrown out of the building by security…]

There is big money out there. Whether as an aggregate of small donations (5dhs to 150dhs) or more sizeable (a thousands and more) if not higher figures, in case the system does work.

Now, I’ve written the piece in English, and I don’t think party leaders will read it. I mean I don’t seriously consider these measures because I know they cannot be implemented. I should also stop reading about politics in the Western hemisphere. Why would I be writing about it then, one might ask? Well… I was desperate to avoid a post about February 20th and the ensuing Kafkaesque debates with some ill-educated, sub-cultivated bullock-heads on the need for constitutional reforms…

The Underdog

Posted in Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Moroccan History & Sociology by Zouhair ABH on February 16, 2010

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.

The late 1990’s brought another batch of disillusion; El Youssoufi was appointed Primer Minister, in order to implement the ‘Alternance Consensuelle’ (what a contradiction in terms !)

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 !

Propositions de gestion des communes, 2009

Posted in Uncategorized by Zouhair ABH on June 10, 2009

Camarades, Lectrices, Lecteurs,

Après une discussion passionnée (?) avec Annous, voici quelques propositions de gestion des communes par le RGD. Ces propositions sont une synthèse entre les principes défendus par le RGD, des extraits des programmes des différentes listes et enfin, ma propre opinion (!). Here follows a bunch of proposals the RGD could bring forward.

* Lutte contre la corruption : revendication classique de la gauche radicale, certains d’entre vous se demandent bien ce que la gestion quotidienne d’une commune peut avoir d’impact sur la lutte contre les marchés publics truqués, les détournements de fonds, etc, etc… Primo, les élus du PSU-RGD sont tenus de faire une déclaration de leurs revenus avant et après leur mandat. Une décision toute simple, mais que seuls deux formations politiques imposent à leurs représentants : la gauche radicale bien sûr, et le PJD. La déclaration de revenus pré et post-mandat est une première étape pour la suite des propositions.  l’extrapolation qui suivra sera peut être farfelue, mais elle trouve ses justifications théoriques dans des travaux de fond sur la théorie du signal : le cas d’une entreprise qui envoie un signal déterminé sur le marché financier en adoptant un comportement temporel quelconque. Barruci en parle dans on ouvrage ‘Financial Market Theory’ : une société cotée envoie un signal positif -et est donc valorisée en conséquence- lorsqu’elle respecte scrupuleusement -et sur une période temporelle longue- les règlementations du marché sur lequel elle est évaluée. L’extrapolation, comme je le disais, est farfelue ; Mais au rythme où les choses se déroulent, l’offre politique marocaine ressemble beaucoup à un marché, et les Marocains à des demandeurs de projets politiques. au delà de l’aspect éminemment monopolistique de ce marché (s’il existe), la position du RGD-PSU (en tant qu’offre de projet politique) se constitue sa crédibilité à travers le respect de principes qu’il s’impose et impose à ses militants. Pour résumer, le message de la lutte contre la corruption, à travers différents moyens, est, pour le PSU-RGD, un message très crédible et donc applicable. Fin de la partie théorique, passons aux moyens que se donnent les candidats de la gauche radicale. En plus de la déclaration des revenus, les programmes des différents candidats omettent -malheureusement involontairement- que leur travail sera régulièrement audité. Par qui ? pour les riches communes, par des cabinets assermentés, et pour toutes les communes, par les associations de quartier. En clair, les candidats PSU-RGD appliqueront les principes de contrôles au sein de l’alliance, à leurs mandatures. cunning, isn’t ? Une commune proprement auditée est en général une commune bien gérée, et les risques de ‘misbehaving’ sont négligeables.

* la Commune et le Citoyen : bref passage, puisque l’association étroite des ‘syndics’ signifie essentiellement, par un effet de cascade, un intérêt marqué de la part du Marocain moyen dans la gestion de son quartier et de sa commune. Comment ? ce n’est pas simple, mais nous faisons le pari de la complexité pour reprendre l’expression d’E. Morin. Un syndic est en général corrompu parce que la gestion de la commune est défectueuse. Lorsque la commune est dirigée par une poignée de gauchos, les brèches type passe-droits sont promptement parées, et les syndics sont ‘toed into line’ comme diraient les British. Reste le comportement des implantations locales du ministère de l’intérieur, sur lesquels les conseils communaux n’ont aucune prise (sauf si vous soutenez les revendications de réforme constitutionelle…)

* Gestion des moyens : après la ‘pacification’ de la gestion financière de la commune, passons à celle des moyens physiques. Le blog d‘Annous faisait état du fameux partenariat PPP (Partenariat Public-Privé). Pour des raisons idéologiques ET historiques, le principe attire les réserves de certaines personnes de la gauche radicale, parmi lesquels je me place. Néanmoins, dans le contexte actuel, et dans les marges de manœuvres proposées aux conseils communaux, le PPP peut être un bon moyen de gestion, une synthèse entre l’esprit de service public et d’efficacité. Mais comme le disait Annouss, ce sont les dispositions du PPP qui posent problèmes. Je suis heureux d’annoncer qu’en assainissant la gestion financière des communes, les négociations avec les intervenants privés, les appels d’offres, les concessions, etc… seront publics, transparents et régulièrement re-négociés. En somme, la commune se dotera des mêmes mécanismes que pour une société privée (contrôle de gestion, audit interne…) faisant appel à des sous-traitants. Cette attitude capitaliste (c’est ça, foutez vous de moi…) ne s’applique pas aux relations qu’entretiendra la commune avec ses citoyens. le RGD-PSU a des propositions très Keynésiano-Fabienne. En termes clairs, une commune RGD-PSU s’arrangera pour assurer un service sanitaire décent pour tous les habitants, des logements étudiants, bref, un cadre de vie épanouissant. Le budget investissement initial sera donc important, avec une attention particulière portée aux équipements collectifs. Comment vérifier que nos conseils communaux vont s’acquitter de leurs tâches ? Des outils de gestion budgétaire plutôt simple que les associations et les cabinets évoqués plus hauts se chargeront d’évaluer.  Discours ? ou pas… les associations de quartier, mais aussi les auditeurs intègreront dans leurs évaluations les feedbacks des habitants de la commune, avec une évaluation de la contribution de la commune au bien-être collectif. Un indicateur difficile à mettre en place, mais qui envoie un signal fort et crédible -dans l’esprit de la théorie énoncée plus haut-

Les propositions décrites ci-dessus sont élargies et puisées dans les programmes des candidats de Yacoub El Mansour, d’El Heroura, des propositions générales du Parti lors des élections de Septembre 2007 et de mes propres conceptions.