The Moorish Wanderer

March 23rd, 1965: A Day Of Days

Posted in Tiny bit of Politics by Zouhair ABH on March 24, 2011

46 years have passed since the infamous March 23rd, 1965. And though many forgot, or tried to, or did not know about it, the students’ and pupils’ riots have had far-reaching consequences, and it is safe to say that we are still experiencing some residual effects.

A bit of history perhaps: by the mid-1960s, the political showdown between UNFP radicals and the Monarchy got exacerbated with tale-telling signs of economic depression. Indeed, after the sudden death of King Mohamed V in 1961, Hassan II engaged into a more open political activism, and publicized by his actions the covert clashes with the National Movement (especially the UNFP) to assert the Monarchy’s power on Morocco’s politics as hegemonic player.

Things turned sourer when Hassan II announced a constitutional referendum by 1962. An established constitution was the National Bloc’s main claim after 1956, and though late King Mohamed V had repeatedly promised a hypothetical constitutional convention, such business was deemed junior to the more pressing task of carrying out day-to-day government. It seems that then Crown Prince Moulay Hassan was not at all happy with the idea, since the outcome was unpredictable, and would at best lead to a toothless monarchy an outcome he considered a hindrance to his own thrust for power) if not an outright dismissal of monarchy as a political regime. Such delays took form of governmental de-stabilization and the exacerbation of internal divisions between radical elements and pro-status quo within the Istiqlal, divisions that led to the UNFP breakaway.

The 1962 constitutional referendum was, to say the least, a travesty of democratic consultation: though the ‘Yes’ had a cleat win of more than 90%, there were numerous instances of blatant administrative meddling, either by preventing Istiqlal or UNFP activists to vote, threats made to regular citizens, and especially in rural areas, local authorities bribed and threatened peasants to vote in favour. Furthermore, the constitution itself  was the King’s brainchild, an adaptation of the very power-concentrated French 5th Republic Constitution (as it is, the Crown Prince was a great admirer of Charles De Gaulle, though admiration was not always reciprocal) Almost immediately, 1963 general elections (the first ever for parliament in Morocco, the second after the 1960 local elections) locked in the political balance into violent confrontations.

Hassan II with his own Iago (turned a failed Brutus) Mohamed Oufkir (Picture LIFE)

The Regal hegemonic agenda basically dessicated democratic institutions and drained them out of any political legitimacy. Furthermore, the youthful Moroccan population, like all the youth around the world (let us remind ourselves of the 1968 upheavals in France and other countries in Europe, campus rebellions in the US to name but a few) was eager for some fresh change, a change that was too radical to a youthful King (eager too for some fresh change, but that would rather go his way)

The immediate trigger for the March 23rd protests (that lasted 3 days: 21-22 and 23 march 1965) was a new education regulation (issued by then-minister Belabbes) that de facto prevented virtually all High-School candidates from being able to get their baccalaureate (a degree that allowed for a safe job with the civil service, and thus the most straightforward way to lift off poverty and acquire a social status. That is why not only pupils, but also their parents -and young unemployed- took to the street and express their anger. At times of bad economic forecast and aspiring masses to better standards of living, the administrative decision (though thought to have a likely small effect) had a symbolism such that the people’s cup was bare: strikes at schools, street demonstration, police repression, and ultimately, large-scale riots in urban centres like Casablanca (Mohamed V High School earned quite a reputation from then on).

Casablanca, March 23rd (Picture Liberation)

The riots were such that police soon gave up, and the Monarchy (and its then-most staunch henchman, General Mohamed Oufkir) soon called upon the army, who only too well willingly carried out methodical street fighting for wrestling back the control of the rioting cities (bullet impacts can still be witnessed on some buildings in Casablanca for instance).

Why bring back such black memories? First, because Morocco’s history cannot be summed up in dates like August 20th, or March 3rd, or indeed November 6th. Such riots, contrary to what Abdellah Laroui‘s own account, were of ground-breaking magnitude: it was the bluntest end to the post-1956 idyll of national unity, a most violent depiction of the Monarchy’s ruthlessness in defending its prerogatives and repressing its dissidence. What was before circumvented to veteran nationalists and freedom-fighters like the so-called 1963 plot quickly spread to an institutionalized terrorism justified with red scare campaign. As some nihilists like to point it out, we do not live in a Bisounours kind of universe; There is a need for A remembrance day, and March 23rd is the ideal date. The IER unfortunately missed out on the symbolism, and a date like this one would balance up the pompous national holidays singing the praises of an all-too omnipresent monarchy. Think about it:

August 20th is a purely a Palace intrigue matter;

November 18th, Independence day is Mohamed V’s return and not that of Saint Cloud’s protocol (March 2nd);

November 6th, Green March was a tactical stunt (as does its corollary of Rio De Oro attachment, August 14th);

and finally, The King’s enthronement anniversary (July 29th).

Is it too much to ask for a non-Regal national holiday?

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?


Ecouvillon 1958

I am proud to say that I have left my nihilist filthy habit out of this post. Since some of our would-be young political leaders need to be punched in their unsubstantial guts and for those of you with a healthy thrust for modern history, I shall provide some insights on how Morocco found itself trapped in the Sahara problem; And I will too talk about a glorious feat unfortunately little known to the Moroccans. Broadly speaking, I claim the Makhzen made a mistake in neglecting -at best, if it’s not simply betrayal- the Moroccan Liberation Army. I sincerely believe that, if the Abdellah Ibrahim government had its way, that is, if the MLA commanders got the support they were requesting, this whole shebang wouldn’t happen. But of course, History cannot be re-written, but we should learn from it; The claim is justified, but it the truth should be told, the patriot is so indeed when they are fully aware of the Motherland history (and to be honest, I don’t think the CJDM people know much about it…) Ecouvillon. A bottle-brush. a tool you need to clean-up clogged stuff. Ecouvillon-Ouragan is a little-known episode of the immediate years following Morocco’s independence.

I’ve got a question: How come no one of our fiercely patriotic young people was shocked we’d got half-independence? Morocco recovered a little under 40% of its present area (Sahara included) with bits and chunks still under foreign supervision. We were indeed protected, though actually Moroccan territory was divided up between France and Spain (and we do know who signed the treaty, don’t we?) And, to remind the amnesic generations, the Green March was not the only, nor the first attempt to affirm Morocco’s claim over the Sahara.

Shortly before independence, the MLA started building up its strength. The first units of the Moroccan Liberation Army started guerrilla warfare on French garrisons, October 1955, on the border from their Spanish Morocco bases. After the independence, some of these units start moving southwards, directly into the Rio De Oro Sahara. Colonel Benhamou, deputy commander, moved then most of his troops to Attar early January 1957. Let us also note that right from the start, the Monarchy tried bribing some of its leaders, either by giving them grima, or a civil-service posting, or money (there were even official communication about that to the local commanders shortly after the Saint Cloud treaty was signed). In any case, the monarchy wanted to get hold of the MLA as soon as possible, seemingly to restore ‘law and order’ as this 1957 AFP communiqué suggests:

Répondant au désir de Sa Majesté Mohammed V relatif au retour au calme et à la stabilité, (…) l’Armée de libération se devait de cesser toute action que les circonstances l’avaient obligée jusqu’ici d’entreprendre pour assurer le maintien de la sécurité publique. Dorénamvant, il appartient au gouvernement de Sa Majesté, qui a pris en main les pouvoirs nécessaires, d’assurer ses responsabilitées et d’accomplir les tâches qui lui incombent(I.Dalle, p53)

Those who refused to do so continued the struggle, as Morocco was not fully independent, a large chunk of its territories (including the disputed Mauritania until 1960) was still under French and Spanish control.

Spanish Legion at Al-Aiun. These and the Tropas Nomadas fought against the MLA.

Early 1957 saw the first actions the MLA started out against small Spanish garrisons. Desert warfare gave significant advantage to the MLA flying columns: as they rely on local tribes‘ guidance, support and protection, they easily make up for their lack of air and heavy support, especially against fixed positions the Spanish forces were desperately trying to hold against the Moroccan raids. It must be pointed out that while some political factions in free Morocco where wholeheartedly supporting the MLA raids, other elements close to the Monarchy were actually afraid of this increasingly popular political and military force. Even the newly-founded FAR (Forces Armées Royales) were no match to the battle-harden –and ideologically committed- members of the MLA. Furthermore, because how unique battlefield the Rio De Oro is, modern weapons did not matter: save for the relatively new light weapons (sub and support light machineguns) the MLA as well as their ennemies fielded WW2-era rifles and mortars. The Spanish couldn’t make good use of their close-support jet fighters, so the technological gap between the MLA and the Spanish garrisons was narrowed down. The French, on the other hand, were increasingly concerned with the Algerian uprising (1954) and couldn’t commit enough troops to protect their territories. They where however in the same position, as they were fielding relatively obsolete weaponry, with the advantage of larger mechanized forces, compared to the Spaniards. The French were more than worried the MLA raids could affect their position north Port-Etienne (Nouakchott)

Early February, Ecouvillon is set up with big resources: the Suez fiasco prompted the French command (and their Spanish allies) to commit as much equipment and manpower to their venture in order to make out a swift and blitzkrieg-like operation. In facts, the field allowed for large-scale attacks, very much like the raids (rezzou) Sahrawi tribes were quite fond of. According to Attilio Gaudio, the French AOF (Afrique Occidentale Française) command committed 630 vehicles of all kind, Jeeps, GMC 6×6 Trucks, M8 Armoured cars and miscellaneous light tanks, in order to supply the 10.000-strong column with motorized support. These highly mechanized crack units, mainly paratroopers from the Légion Etrangère and the colonial troops (7e Régiment de Parachutistes Coloniaux), had also local levies, mainly the Méhariste troops with natives acting as guides. The Spanish fielded their own Legion (la Bandera), as well as their local levy, the Tropas Nomadas.

Inspection Line, French Meharists. They Provided Reconnaissance support for Ecouvillon

The strategic goal for the French was to secure a safe corridor near Tindouf, The Spanish, being subject to attrition and on the verge to lose their control over their Sahara, considered that a large-scale operation could indeed allow them to get rid of all hostile activities between Cap-Juby, Villa Cineros and El Aiun. This was a major shift in the ongoing war, as the colonialist forces heavily updated their arsenal and gathered impressive air support for their upcoming attack. The Moroccan Liberation Army, on the other hand, was not as modern as their enemies; the troops were a mixture of Sahrawi tribes and Moroccan irregulars, mainly veterans from the North-Spanish Morocco campaign. The MLA tactics were mainly guerrilla and the troops are mostly Camel-borne. Abdellah Ibrahim recalled that the very existence of the MLA was considered to be most dangerous for the Monarchy’s stability: “One time Colonel M. Benhamou and Fqih Basri met me in order to brief me on the difficulties the MLA is facing, namely the declining supply of food rations, hardware supplies, weapons and ammunitions, They then went on the serious breaches military and high-ranking officials were guilty of, relating to the secrecy of the whole operation (for the benefit of those who might have misunderstood, supporting the MLA was quite unofficial, and it upset lots of people, many of whom were on foreign powers’ payroll) Following his claims, 1958 was also a year of political tensions, as the monarchy increasingly worried the MLA was a serious rival to legitimacy. Abdellah Ibrahim also believed that then-crown prince Hassan was behind this, as well as the right-wing side of the Istiqlal were pushing for political rather than a military solution on the Sahara issue, making them objective allies in the plot against the MLA.

France still had a large chunk of southern Morocco, and since they launched the operation from two directions (as seen on the map) they account for some interesting reports on how helpful the Moroccan border guards were cooperating with them. The Monarchy actually made a deal with the French to help -however passively they were, but help nonetheless- to crush the MLA, and in exchange, they abandon Northern Sahara and could get the Spanish to cede Sidi Ifni. There’s nothing to be ashamed of this (after all, we were ‘protected’ then granted independence through treaties and negotiation) but we shan’t overlook the fact that the crown prince -the one so much praised for his genius on many, many things- voluntarily and consciously sold out true patriot just to make sure no one would appear as a political alternative to him.

Alongside the military operations, the Sahara problem was far beyond Moroccan internal affairs: France needed a safe corridor west of its Algerian territories, and engaged in a ‘chassé-croisé’ strategy with both Spain and Morocco; as A. El Ouali rightfully underlined: “Dès 1957, face à l’opposition franco-espagnole, l’Armée de Libération Marocaine, après avoir contribué à la libération des parties septentrionales du pays, dirige son action vers la libération de tous les territoires sahariens du Maroc. Elle choisit pour ce faire de s’attaquer d’abord au maillon le plus faible du colonialisme franco-espagnol : la présence espagnole au Sahara. Dès le mois de novembre 1957, elle parvient, dans une action éclair, à prendre de revers les forces militaires espagnoles et à s’installer dans l’ensemble du Sahara marocain” which is quite right, the sucessful raids against Al Aiun were rather a surprise for many observers:

“Guerrillas of the old Moroccan Army of Liberation, no longer occupied with fighting the French, moved into the scrublands around the Ifni frontier. No sooner had the King departed for his visit to the U.S. than the irregulars assembled a motley force of some 1,200 townsmen and tribesmen and launched an attack on Ifni. […]Their first thrust the black-turbaned, khaki-uniformed irregulars swept into Sidi Ifni itself, a small (pop. 10,000) fishing town of unpaved streets. They slaughtered a score of sleeping Spanish sentries and made off with some trucks and mules. The Spanish, who last month jailed a few local Moslems for demonstrating in favour of King Mohammed, had quietly reinforced the Ifni garrison with several hundred paratroopers and Foreign Legionnaires. Shouting their battle cry of “Long Live Death,” the Legionnaires led a counterattack into the hills that drove most of the invaders back across the frontier and cost them an estimated 100 dead, 200 wounded. Announced Spanish casualties: 5 dead, 43 wounded. The Moroccans managed to hang on to some of Ifni’s border outposts. Spanish paratroops dropped from the skies to retake one, a heavy cruiser lobbed shells into others.

The Time also accounted for some interesting articles on the ongoing operations the MLA carried out successfully against Spanish, then French outpost on the desert. The MLA was so successful that it carried out long-range raids on Al Aiun: “After two months of fighting, irregulars of the Moroccan Liberation Army, under the leadership of a squat ex-Marrakech street vendor named Benhamou, have driven the Spanish out of most of their Atlantic Coast enclave of Ifni. Ifni is not much but rocky rubble and scrub, but its single city, Sidi Ifni (pop. 10,000), has been used by the Spanish as the seat of the governor of all its desert provinces—Ifni, Rio de Oro, Spanish Sahara, as well as the part of southern Morocco that they have continued to rule on the ground that King Mohammed’s government is unable to establish its authority there. Last week, with Moroccans encircling Sidi Ifni’s tightly held perimeter, Madrid merged all the rest of its West African colonies under one military governor, and set up the new administration at the fortified town of Aiun, 250 miles south of Ifni

But Benhamou’s nationalists and tribesmen were moving fast. Now calling themselves the new Saharan Army of Liberation, they appeared at Edchera, near Aiun, in the midst of a blinding sandstorm, launched a fierce attack on its garrison of Spanish soldiers and Legionnaires. It was the most murderous battle since the 1934 French “pacification” campaign. The Spanish claimed the Moroccans fled, leaving 241 corpses and 20 camels. The communiqué also listed 51 Legionnaires dead, but a knowing Madrid source indicated that total Legion casualties almost equaled the Moroccan dead”.
The fact is, the military option was going well, very well indeed, and so the political negotiations ‘official’ Morocco engaged with the Spanish were of marginal interest. The crown prince’s involvement in Ecouvillon was for internal politics: the desire to get rid of the MLA, in order to assert his own power. The betrayal of true patriots (not matter what has been written and said on people like Basri, or Ait Idder) is nothing but treason. History is so ironic that, in 1963, Hassan II’s pity revenge was to accuse and sentence to death these people for treason. As Churchill once said: ‘What kind of people do they think we are?’ I guess this has been overlooked by our esteemed historians, has it not?

Operation Ecouvillon-Ouragan. The Northern part of Sahara still under France's supervision (Map 1958-1959) France committed Colonial paratrooper and desert troops to crack down on MLA activities.

What is then the point in telling the tale? Does it have a link with the current problem? Directly, yes; Instead of giving a free hand to the MLA, and therefore achieve an earlier complete independence (with no Polisario, no RASD, ولا ستي حمس) Hassan II sort of confirmed Spanish control over Western Sahara, and waited to wave the patriotic flag in 1975 –and ever since- in order, again, to deal with left-wing opposition. The very same tactics is set up whenever it’s necessary to suppress dissent. It is, as usual, the ‘enemy from within’ theory.

Why do I need to bring this forgotten history?

First off, to remind the ‘young elite’ that the Makhzen played a Machiavellian part with this Sahara business: first by sacrificing the MLA to the colonialists (in order to assert their power over Morocco) and in a time it was under considerable strain and low popularity, to play the nationalism card.

Second, because of this betrayal, and ever since 1975, the Moroccan people were constantly out of touch; all what was asked –oh, I should say imposed- was silence. 3 decades later, there still are people claiming urbi et orbi the Sahara is Moroccan.

Of course it is, but do we know why we are in such a mess in hands? Do we even admit the Makhzen’s responsibility in this? Of course not, populism and demagogy just point out to the Algerian and shout:’they’re the baddies, we are the goodies’ while young sahrawis in Tindouf are raised in hatred and resentment towards the ‘Colonialist Moroccans’. Meanwhile, dark forces in Morocco, Algeria and the Polisario are taking advantage and loot the people.

Third, because we need a radical shake up of the constitution: speaking for the Moroccan side, my fellow citizens need to be involved in the process. They need to know the negotiators, those in charge of the Sahara issue, should be accountable to the people’s will, and then, our claims will be entirely justified, or at least, with a rigorous and representative voice, that could win the international community’s respect. Perhaps I need to remind that Morocco craves international recognition in order to win their case, It is one of the basic conditions for a state to assert its sovereignty.

Ecouvillon just shows that the Makhzen cannot admit nationalism outside its boundaries. A sad indictment of the MLA Legacy, some consider the FAR’s involvment with ecouvillon as a glorious feat;

In any case, the venerable Ait Idder gives a very interesting account of his experience with the High Command.

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 !

… Et le Maroc passa à côté d’une opportunité historique

Posted in Uncategorized by Zouhair ABH on November 28, 2009

: le présent article n’est pas une apologie de l’indépendantisme Polisarien. Il s’agit d’un effort de dé construction d’une réalité confuse que très peu de marocains connaissent, car cachée par nos dirigeants depuis 30 ans)

“What does attract you in the desert?”

– “It is clean…”

C’était la réponse du Major T.E. Lawrence (Al-Orance pour les tribus arabes). Le Sahara n’est pas propre. Il est plein d’os blanchis, de carcasses calcinées d’avions, de chars, de divers véhicules, des cadavres d’une guerre qui dure toujours (même avec un cessez-le-feu)

La cause du Sahara, c’est deux thèses antagonistes : Sahara Marocain vs Sahara Occidental. C’est aussi une survivance de la guerre froide, un point où Est et Ouest se mesuraient par marionnettes interposées. Mais au fond, combien de marocains connaissent l’histoire vraie ? Ou tout au moins, combien ont les bonnes informations pour se faire une idée à peu près correcte de la situation ?

I. A l’origine, l’opération Ecouvillon/Ouragan

Ecouvillon a certainement été à l’origine du problème. En 1958, Le Maroc avait une armée ‘officielle’, structurée comme les armées modernes et encadrée à l’européenne (les FAR) et une guérilla bien équipée, très mobile et en constante coordination avec sa consœur algérienne. Il s’agit de l’Armée de Libération Marocaine, qui opérait au nord du Maroc depuis 1955, et qui s’est infiltrée petit à petit au Sud, après la signature des accords de La Celle Saint-Cloud. Ceux qui sont passés par le système marocain se rappellent peut être (ou pas…) les cartes géographiques ou le Maroc recouvre peu à peu son indépendance et son autorité sur des territoires donnés. Au sud de Sidi Ifni, les français et les espagnols étaient encore présents, et l’ALM-Sud opérait souvent des incursions en profondeur pour détruire des installations militaires franco-espagnoles. Cette armée avait des chefs comme Fqih Basri, M. Bensaïd Aït Idder, A. Yousoufi, résistants qui entendaient prolonger la lutte armée pour libérer tous le Maghreb.

Dans ce contexte, la monarchie marocaine (ainsi que ses alliés ‘objectifs’ en Europe et aux Etats-Unis) s’inquiétait de ce rival potentiel, d’autant plus que l’ALM était qualitativement et quantitativement supérieure aux FAR : certes, les officiers coloniaux marocains reversés étaient compétents, mais l’expérience unique des combattants de l’ALM, rodés aux opérations de guérilla (urbaine et classique) et de style ‘commandos’ lui donnait un avantage décisif. Cette ALM était donc un danger pour la monarchie, qui tenta par tous les moyens de l’asphyxier : en essayant de corrompre ses dirigeants (Sanhaji raconte que tout chef de l’ALM qui faisait allégeance à la monarchie avec un groupe de plus de 25 combattants était automatiquement intégré à la fonction publique, aux FAR, était éligible à un agrément de transport, etc…)

Ou encore en coupant les vivres : sous sa primature, A. Ibrahim a souvent défendu Benhamou et Basri devant Mohamed V, et surtout, My Hassan, les premiers se plaignaient de l’interruption du ravitaillement, interruption initiée par le prince héritier, et de son conseiller militaire, le Cdt Blair (de l’US Navy et très probablement de la CIA)

En 1958, Les combattants de l’ALM avaient habitude de partir de leurs bases en territoire marocain –avec la discrète neutralité bienveillante des gardes frontières marocains- et frapper en zone occupée. Les franco-espagnols décident de couper court à l’impunité des combattants ALM et larguent un millier de parachutistes derrière la frontière marocaine (le 7ème Régiment de Para Coloniaux et la Légion étrangère espagnole y participent) et prennent à revers l’ALM et les tribus sahraouies qu’elle arme. Elle est donc entièrement annihilée, et beaucoup de sahraouis garderont souvenir de cette opération. Les membres de l’ALM gardent le souvenir d’une trahison, les autorités marocaines les ayant abandonnés face à un adversaire bien renseigné et surtout, largement supérieur en nombre et en matériel (que peuvent faire les mortiers et fusils des combattants, contre les avions et les canons lourds du contingent Franco-espagnol ?)

Pour le Polisario, l’ALM était simplement un corps d’instructeur (mercenaires même). On comprendra plus tard pourquoi ce mythe fondateur est nécessaire à la littérature du Polisario pour trouver les racines d’un ‘nationalisme sahraoui’.

II El Ouali Mustapha Sayyed : Un patriote mal connu

« Fils de résistant, issu de la tribu des Thallat, le futur leader sahraoui grandit à Tan Tan, entre à l’école tardivement.[…] (Il) s’inscrit en faculté de droit à Rabat. C’est là que sa conscience politique se forme. […] Ses enseignants saluent ce “pur idéaliste dont l’adversité ne semble pas dévoyer la cause sahraouie”, ses camarades apprécient cet “esprit libre qui ne souffre aucun sectarisme”.

El Ouali n’envisage pas l’indépendance, bien au contraire. “Ces dignes héritiers de l’ALN veulent parachever ce qui n’a pas été permis à leurs aînés, réparer cette frustration, encore cruellement vivace, d’avoir été empêchés de pénétrer au Sahara armes à la main”, se rappelle un militant de gauche, qui les a côtoyés.

Entre-temps, El Ouali voyage, commence par l’Algérie où Bensaïd Aït Ider lui apporte son appui, jusqu’au jour où il lui fait état de ses projets sécessionnistes. “La révolution au Maroc, oui, mais la scission du territoire, non”, » (TelQuel n°210)

A l’évidence, quelque chose s’est passé entre le moment où El Ouali militait pour le rattachement du Rio de Oro espagnol au Maroc, et le moment où il fait appel à la Libye, puis aux Algériens pour armer et financer ce qui deviendra plus tard le Polisario. A Tan Tan en 1972, El Ouali organise une manifestation contre l’occupation espagnole du Sahara, est arrêté, puis enlevé par la police marocaine, puis relâché quelques mois plus tard. Bien entendu, cette arrestation en plus de ses activités politiques à l’UNEM, font qu’il passera par la torture ordinaire de l’époque. Dans l’optique makhzénienne, le patriotisme ne peut s’exprimer que par ses voies officielles, en proclamant l’attachement au trône et à la monarchie. C’est cette vision qui peut expliquer partiellement la décision de la monarchie pour étouffer l’ALM en la livrant littéralement, aux anciens colonisateurs. la majorité des combattants n’était peut être pas républicaine, mais aspirait vivement à un nouvel ordre des choses, ce que la monarchie, et –cette fois, ses alliés intérieurs- les anciens collaborateurs réhabilités, refusait catégoriquement.

El Ouali est donc dégoûté, mais ne se tourne pas directement vers le séparatisme. Il rallie les dirigeants de gauche, exilés en Algérie ou en France (Bensaïd Aït Idder ou Fqih Basri) pour participer à leurs projets (notamment l’organisation du Tanzim.) : ‘Arrivé à Tripoli le fqih Basri enrôle (El Ouali){…}, très vite, Mahmoud (Bennouna) et Basri découvrent en El Ouali les qualités d’un chef capable d’ouvrir un troisième front dans le Sud’

Remarquons que jusqu’en 1973, El Ouali opère avec des marocains, en tant quel tel, pour combattre le despotisme hassanien de l’époque. Après ? On peut lier deux évènements à l’intervention des services secrets algériens : Mars 1973 a été échec pour le Tanzim, car ce dernier a été, entre autres, infiltré par des agents marocains avec la neutralité bienveillante des algériens, ces derniers ayant aussi opposé toutes sortes de difficultés pour l’approvisionnement et les communications. Du côté d’El Ouali, il n’est pas impossible de penser qu’une manipulation algérienne et libyenne l’ait conduit à envisager de plus en plus l’idée d’un Sahara indépendant. Quand il est question d’Algérie ou de Libye ici, ce sont des forces occultes, manipulées à leur tour par les services de renseignement de pays plus grands : CIA et KGB ont déjà eu l’occasion de coopérer pour dévoyer des mouvements tiers-mondistes à leur propre bénéfice…

10 Mai 1973, le Polisario est officiellement créé, et engage des raids contre les postes espagnols : il ne s’attaque pas au territoire marocain, et se focalise sur la lutte contre les espagnols. Juin 1976, sa petite colonne est éliminée par l’armée Mauritanienne (avec le soutien de l’aviation française ?) devant Nouakchott. Sa mort ouvre la voie à une nouvelle phase dans le problème du Sahara.

III. Le Maroc, La Marche Verte, la guerre des sables

En 1975, la Monarchie ne tient que par la terreur policière. Hassan II a besoin de reprendre l’initiative face à un mécontentement populaire croissant (on enregistre de plus en plus de révoltes populaires dans les petites localités perdues du Maroc inutile) et des dates comme 1971, 1972 et 1973, prouvent qu’on peut dangereusement menacer le pouvoir. C’est ainsi que la marche verte allait permettre à la monarchie de reprendre l’initiative, et réactiver -à son bénéfice bien sûr- le vieux nationalisme marocain. Curieux retournement de situation : la Koutla (Istiqlal, UNFP puis l’USFP qui se créé en 1975 par scission de l’UNFP) qui compte beaucoup d’anciens résistants, perd une revendication qu’elle a longtemps fait sienne : la récupération des territoires marocains encore sous domination colonialiste (y compris la Mauritanie) à un moment où la monarchie souhaitait d’abord consolider son emprise sur les territoires de 1956. La Marche verte, est, en ce sens, une initiative audacieuse, plus dirigée vers des buts de politique intérieure, que par des considérations de ‘libération nationale’. 1975, c’est aussi l’année de la mort de F. Franco, dictateur de l’Espagne et, comme son collègue Salazar, inconscient des changements du monde après 1945.

La Marche verte, c’est aussi l’infiltration des FAR en zone sud, et dès 1976, des accrochages avec l’APLN Algérienne, et le Polisario, qui se renforce des milices espagnoles, composées de soldats Sahraouis. le Polisario, en plus de disposer d’une force armée disciplinée et en parfaite connaissance du terrain, reçoit du matériel moderne de Libye, d’Allemagne de l’Est, le Yougoslavie et de Tchécoslovaquie, et des renseignements précieux des Algériens. le Maroc reçoit le soutien de la France et des USA, mais le matériel reçu n’est pas très utile dans une guerre du désert, où la mobilité et l’armement léger et rustique obtiennent plus de résultats qu’une armée conventionnelle, à l’armement certes de qualité, mais fragile sous le climat sec du Sahara, et l’incompétence de militaires ayant peu ou pas d’expérience. Ce n’est qu’en 1991 que le climat se détend, et les deux belligérants signent un cessez-le-feu.

IV. Quel Sahara pour quel Maroc ?

La proposition marocaine d’autonomie sahraouie suppose un référendum constitutionnel : une partie du territoire marocain disposera d’une autonomie accrue, et le principe d’extension de ces avantages à d’autres régions marocaines suppose un changement profond du système administratif du pays. Un changement de telle ampleur doit s’effectuer à travers un réaménagement de la constitution. Une solution parmi d’autres serait de faire du Maroc une fédération de régions avec de larges attributions, mais qui se rattachent à l’idéal du Maroc pluriel mais indivisible. Une réforme constitutionnelle, redistribuant les pouvoirs au bénéfice du peuple marocain, sera nécessaire pour faire en finir avec ce ‘grand malentendu’

Bibliographie :

TelQuel n°210

‘Héros sans Gloire, Echec d’une révolution’ Mehdi Bennouna

‘Les Trois Rois’ Ignace Dalle

‘سنوات الصمود في قلب الإعصار’ Mohamed Louma & Abdellah Ibrahim

‘La Grance Encycolpédie du Maroc – Institutions’ Collectif