The Realities of the “Left” in Morocco

A map of the forces of the left in Morocco and of the left’s multiple schisms, noting its weaknesses, its characteristic fragmentation and its intellectual dilemmas, as “the Left”becomes, in itself, a vague and cloudy concept. This article also documents the strengths and potentials of the Moroccan Leftas assessed by one of its most prominent activists.

Abdullah Al Hareef

Leftist activist from Morocco

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This publication has benefited from the support of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. This text may be reproduced in part or in full, provided the source is acknowledged.

It is true that the objective conditions in Morocco, including the many deep and deepening economic, social and political crises, are appropriate for the riseof the left to the forefronts, however, the left in Morocco is characterized by weakness, fragmentation and intellectual disorientation. The concept itself has become obscure, especially because of the widespread prevalence of “postmodernism” and its influence, which focuses on “superstructures” for defining the left (“conservatism” versus “modernity”), and amplifies sexual and factional identities and particularities at the expense of social classes. These concepts resort to fragmented action, especially in the civil society which is often confined to non-governmental organizations that are – in turn- often funded by Western institutions, at the expense of class struggle and its tools (unions and political parties). So, what is the“Left” in Morocco today?

Who is the Left Today?

The current stage in Morocco is characterized by the struggle for national liberation from the hegemony of Western (and especially French) imperialism, and for democracy. This struggle is being waged by the popular classes (working class, jobless proletariat in both rural and urban areas, the petty bourgeoisie and part of the middle bourgeoisie which is in line with the aforementioned classes). The left consists of the forces that aspire to represent the popular classes and strive for their immediate interests (improving their material and moral statuses), and for the strategy of national liberation and democracy that defends the values of progress, freedom, secularism, equality and dignity.

The left in Morocco today consists of the Socialist Democratic Vanguard Party, the National “Ittihadi” Congress, the Unified Socialist Party, the Democratic Way, and small Trotskyist groups (the “Militants”, “Democratic Liberation” and the “Communist Action League”), in addition to groups that descend from the “Qa'idiyyin” (Basists), mainly from Al-Barnamaj Al-Marhali (“The Conjuncture Program”).

Thus, the left is divided into a radical left and a reformist left.
The radical left consists mainly of Marxist forces formed of the following main directions:

- The Marxist or Marxist-Leninist approach that fights against capitalism and for socialism and seeks to build the working class party as a tool to accomplish the tasks of national and democratic liberation along the path of socialism.

- Trotskyism, which believes that the conflict, in all countries of the globe, is now between the bourgeoisie and the working class, and that the task that must be put forward globally is the socialist revolution.

The reformist left is a social-democratic left that fights the serious repercussions inflicted by capitalism upon the popular masses, instead of fighting capitalism as a mode of production. It considers elections the primary means for change.

The Left’s Reality on the Eve of the Arab Spring

The reality of the Moroccan left on the eve of what was called the "Arab Spring", embodied in the February 20Movement, hasdeep historical roots:

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- The Moroccan Communist Party, which was founded at the end of the colonial period, made strategic mistakes (itfailed to raise the question of the struggle for independence and insisted on linking it with the struggle for an agricultural revolution), leaving the leadership of the struggle for independence to the bourgeoisie.The partygradually retreated, since Morocco's Independence in 1956, from the task of building the working class party and from its Marxist identity, thus becoming amere appendage of the right-wing. Hence, it lost its public influence and sway, and changed its name to the “Party of Liberation and Socialism" and then to the "Party of Progress and Socialism". This prompted the withdrawal of some of its cadres on the 30thof August 1970, and resulted in the establishment of a secret Marxist-Leninist organization that would later be known as “Ila Al-Amam” (“Going Forward”).

- The National Union of Popular Forces was formed in 1959 as a leftist popular party with both a reformist and a radical approach. The regime worked on weakening this party by targeting the radical trends within it (the armed resistance and the Liberation Army), taming the unions (the Moroccan Labor Union) and strengthening the reformist and technocratic approach within it. This was evident in the mid-1960s, when the National Union of Popular Forces was unable to respond to the violent repression of the Casablanca uprising of 23 March 1965 (1), the regime declared a state of exception and Mehdi Ben Baraka was assassinated on the 29th of October, 1965. This led, in 1968, to the withdrawal of a group of cadres that later established a secret Marxist-Leninist organization, which was known as "March 23". This organization lived in a split that led to the withdrawal of a number of its activistswho founded the organization "Let’s Serve the People" in 1970. The organization "March 23" gradually abandoned Marxism and the task of building a working class party to build a leftist socialist-democratic party under the name of, "The Organization forDemocratic and PopularAction". The organization “Let’s Serve the People” vanished. In 1972, the trade union wing separated from the party, whose name became the “Socialist Union of Popular Forces”. This union then gradually shifted to the right, leading to successive withdrawals from its ranks:

- The withdrawal of the radical current in 1983, and the establishment of the “Vanguard Social Democratic Party”.

- The withdrawal of its central union, the Democratic Confederation of Labor, which founded the National “Ittihadi” Congress Party in 2002.

- And, finally, the withdrawal of the "Loyalty to Democracy" movement, which waspopular among the party's youth.

Small Trotskyist groups were formed, since the beginnings of the 1980s, not on the basis of fundamental differences over the fateful issues of the Moroccan people, but rather as a reflection of the divisions of the Trotskyist movement in Europe or its internal-conflicts (the “militant” movement, the “Democratic Liberation”movement and the “Communist Action League”).

In the late 1970s, a unions’ movement was in action at the center of the “National Union of Moroccan Students”, that became known as “The Qa'idiyyin (Basist) Students”, influenced by Marxist-Leninist thought. The movement soon split into rival groups.

The intellectual disorientation of the left was caused by several factors. The socialist alternative was in a crisis after the collapse of several experiences that strived to build socialism, the efforts to develop a socialist thought were feeble and the bourgeois penetrated many leftist organizations, especially with “postmodernism”. The latter doubts the foundations of progressive thought and the feasibility of change while promoting the alternative idea that it is sufficient to work on partial issues, identity politics and societal issues such as women’s rights for example and promotes the work of the “civil society”.

At the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, taking advantage of the relative political détente at the time,a debate was launched to bring together the forces that were once part of the Moroccan Marxist-Leninist movement. The discussion resulted in:

- The founding of “The Democratic Way” on 15 April 1995, as a public political organization that considers itself a continuationof the Marxist-Leninist experience in Morocco, especially of the “Ila Al-Amam” (“Forward”) organization. Its central goalwas to build the party of the working class and the proletariat. In 2004, it became a legal entity.

- The “Unified Socialist Left” was established through the merger of the “People's Democratic Action Organization” withone of the groups that descended from the (“Basist”) “Independent Democrats” and another group that was influenced by the experience of the Marxist-Leninist “Movement for Democracy”. The “Loyalty to Democracy Movement” later joined the “Unified Socialist Left” to create the “United Socialist Party”.

Thus, the left in Morocco today consists of the Socialist Democratic Vanguard Party, the National “Ittihadi” Congress, the Unified Socialist Party, the Democratic Way, and small Trotskyist groups (the “Militants”, “Democratic Liberation” and the “Communist Action League”), in addition to groups that descend from the “Qa'idiyyin” (Basists), mainly from Al-Barnamaj Al-Marhali (“The Conjuncture Program”).

The Socialist Democratic Vanguard Party, the National “Ittihadi” Congress, and the Unified Socialist Party founded together a common political framework under the name “The Federation of the Democratic Left”, while maintaining their own party organizations.

The most important features of the left today are: the quantitative impairment in its various organizations and its weak ties with the classes, groups and segments that it supposedly represents, especially the working class and the proletariat in general. The left also has weak connections and appeals very little to women(despite its advocacy to full equality between men and women), and to young people, including students, perhaps with the exception of the “Conjuncture Program”, which has a good influence in some universities, mainly in the cities of Fez and Oujda.

There is also a deep fragmentation: if it is normal and natural that two main streams (radical and reformist) exist within the left, why,then, are both streams divided into a number of organizations rather than seeking unification (at least for the Marxist left, which is supposed to work together to expand radiation and implantation in the midst of the working class)? Why are the two currents neither looking for commonalities nor building a front to fight for their shared goals?

- The intellectual disorientation of the left was caused byseveral factors.The socialist alternative was in a crisis after the collapse of several experiences that strived to build socialism, the efforts to develop a socialist thought were feeble and the bourgeoispenetrated many leftist organizations, especially with “postmodernism”.The latterdoubts the foundations of progressive thought and the feasibility of change while promoting the alternative idea that it is sufficient to work on partial issues, identity politics and societal issues such as women’s rights for example and promotes the work of the “civil society”.
Many leftists were disheartened by this reality and, consequently, started to move away from Marxism and get closer to liberalism. Most of the militants who remained faithful to their convictions went on to indulge in mobility,reducing class conflict in the struggle for unions, civil society organizations, global and continental social forums. They over-confidently kept betting on anti-globalization movements despite their vague nature. Interest in theorydeclined as doubtin the possibility of achieving socialism and radical change rose.

- Tension, conflict, and ready-made judgments marked the relationship between the left and the Islamists. The left considered the Islamists a homogeneous obscurantism. It was convinced that the distinctions or variations within Islamism were minor and did not reflect, in depth, different class positions. The Islamists, on the other hand, regarded the left as a homogeneous force composed entirely of atheists.

How Did the Left Handle the February 20 Movement?

Most leftist organizations were enthusiastically involved in the February 20 Movement and played a vital role in fueling its rise, with the exception of some groups from the “Qa’idiyyin”, who negatively influenced some university students. Islamic organizations, especially “Jama’at Al ‘AdlwalIhsan” (“The Justice and Charity Party”), and some groups within the Amazigh movement also had a considerable contribution to the February 20 Movement. The movement was opposed by the Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP), part of the Salafist movement, some of the administrative parties, the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) and the Party of Progress and Socialism. Unionist bureaucracies quickly abandoned the February 20 Movement, especially after the agreement of April 26, 2012, which gave the workers some gains. Hence, the working class became almost absent from the February 20 Movement.

The left considered the Islamists a homogeneous obscurantism. It was convinced that the distinctions or variations within Islamism were minor and did not reflect, in depth, different class positions. The Islamists, on the other hand, regarded the left as a homogeneous force composed entirely of atheists.

Despite the sacrifices the left made in its effort to advance the February 20 Movement, it missed a great opportunity to overcome its weaknesses and accomplish a democratic breakthrough for the following reasons:

- The left either leads or is a substantial presence in popular organizations for human rights and in significant trade unions. It leads the largest human rights organization in Africa and the Arab world: “The Moroccan Association of Human Rights”, which has international reach.It leads a union federation (“The Democratic Confederation of Labor”) and major unions (the National Union for Agriculture, the Moroccan Workers’ Union, and the Moroccan Syndicate of Education). All of these are affiliated with the central “Moroccan Labor Union”. These two central unions (the Democratic Confederation of Labor and the Moroccan Labor Union) are the most broadly representative union. The left also leads several national coordinating committees, both factional and thematic (the fight for education, the Palestinian cause, etc.) or for a specific issue (against the high costs of water and electricity bills, against the scarcity of drinking-water and against the collective land-grabs), as well as the committees for local affairs (housing, transportation, security, etc.). The left is furthermore present in other popular movements and is strongly affiliated with the “National Union for Higher Education” and leads the “National Association of Unemployed Graduates of Morocco”. The left supported the popular movements that pervaded many Moroccan regions (the rural “Al-Reef” movement, the Jarrada movement, and others) and its activists were heavily involved in them.

Despite the foregoing, the left is greatly isolated from the masses. One of the most important reasons is the absence of proper linkage between public, political and organizational work, between the struggle for immediate demands (improving the financial status and morale) and strategic goals (changes in favor of the popular classes). As for the work of the coordination committees, it is occasional, condescending and representational and fails to work in line with the concerns of the popular classes orhelp them take their affairs into their own hands. This is not to mention the fact that these organizations consume an enormous amount of energy in the struggle over the positions of power among the forces of the left itself, rather than competing to serve the interests of the popular masses and working on rapprochement and the development of common grounds.

The left also suffered from the reluctance of the people, especially the youth, to join political work or to become part of any kind ofpolitical partisan organizations, becauseof the following reasons: 1- most parties had become political “shops” growing farther away from the people's concerns and aspirations; 2- the significant attack on socialism that exploited to the extreme the collapse of the Soviet Union and the countries of the eastern bloc; 3- the proliferation of postmodernist thought.

It was no wonder that the Arab Spring tookthe Moroccan left by surprise. The left wasneither readynor qualified to formulate suitable strategies, tactics and alliances to respond to the regime's plans and initiatives. And it was not surprising either that the various components of the left disagreed on the slogan of the February 20 Movement (2). The slogans “against corruption and tyranny” and “for democracy, freedom and a decent life” were raised. However, the “Unified Socialist Party”, in particular, insisted on converting the slogan to “A parliamentary monarchy”, while the "Democratic Way” defended the original slogans, insisting that the Moroccan people have the right to choose the form of the system they want. Moreover, apprehension, caution and even direct conflict governed the relationship between most of the left's components and “Jama’at Al ‘AdlwalIhsan” (“The Justice and Charity Party”).

The left is heavily present in popular organizations for human rights and unions, however, it remains greatly isolated from the masses for many reasons.

The February 20 Movement sparked a wide debate inside the left,leading to different assessments of the situation and the tasks at hand:

The Federation of the Democratic Left considered that the situation required raising the slogan of the “parliamentary monarchy”, stipulating the necessity of the adoption of this slogan before any political collaborationcould be considered. It also demanded the recognition of the Western Sahara as Moroccan and its participation in the elections.
It opposed any joint action with the “Justice and Charity Party”. However, coordination was in place between the Federation of the Democratic Left and the Democratic Way due to many reasons: the exigencyto confront the dangerous deterioration of social and economic conditions,the collective involvement in the rapidly expanding popular struggles - especially the rural movement- and the necessity to confront its repression, and, finally, the insistence of the “Democratic Way” on unilateral action and struggle. The national march on July 8, 2018 in Casablanca was an embodiment of the coordination. It condemned the unjust sentences against activists and leaders of the “Al-reef” rural movement and demanded their release as well as the release of all political detainees. The coordinationgrewbeyond that as more left-wing forces and the “Justice and Charity Party” joinedin the national march of July 15, 2018 in Rabat for the same purpose.

As for the “Democratic Way”, it considered that the February 20 Movement was, in fact, the first wave of a revolutionary process that would extend for a longer time and define periods of tidal action. Therefore, it considered that the left’s main and most important task was to rehabilitate itself by strengthening its components and elaborating a unified plan that would make it ready to take action upon the arrival of the upcoming revolutionary tide. It emphasized that the “Makhzen” (the ruling elite) (3) wasthe real enemy now, and that the people who widely boycotted the elections acknowledged the powerlessness of the institutions that conducted the elections since all authority was lyingin the hands of the king and his advisers. The “Democratic Way” positively regarded the participation of the “Justice and Charity Party” in the February 20 Movement and its willingness to open a dialogue with the left, and wished to use this exchange to develop joint field work and launch a public dialogue between all the anti-power forces. Hence, it put forward the necessity of:

- Building a front that includes all the forces negatively affected by the “Makhzen”, whatever its class positioning and ideological background, except for the Takfiris, Wahhabis, and the forces that are non-independent of the system orthe external forces. At the same time, it engaged in a public dialogue with the components of this front on the most contentious issues, while seeking the collective development of the desired alternative.

- Building a democratic front with the left as its backbone. Its goal is to secure the democratic path after liberation, and it includes democratic forces, political figures, unions, social movements, and popular movements.

- The Trotskyist forces rejected any political action with other left-wing components, and therefore any tactical or strategic alliance. It struggled for the unions and the human rights movement. The position of some of the Trotskyists wasto participate in the elections.

- The groups descendent from “Al Qa’idiyin’s” (“Basist’s”) experience are semi-secretive and divided between those who sanctify Stalin, Mao, or Anwar Khoja. They propose building the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary party in the complete absence of any strategy for change or any basis for their tactics. Most of these groups have been immersed in violence, not against the enemies of the people, but against the other forceswho may compete with them forpower in some universities, especially the Marxists.

The content of this publication is the sole responsibility of Assafir Al-Arabi and Rosa Luxemburg Foundation cannot accept any liability for it.

Translated from Arabic by Sabah Jalloul
Published in Assafir Al-Arabi on 11/12/2018


1-When hundreds of demonstrators were killed during the protests of high school students against a judge’s decision to expel a number of their colleagues for age considerations, the motive was to get rid of the students’ surplus due to the economic crisis. Shooting, raids and arrests continued for several days, and victims were said to have amounted to thousands (a note from the editor).
2-Following the gruesome grinding of the fisherman Mohsen Fikry on October 28, 2016 in Al-Hoceima in the countryside, a peaceful popular movement erupted in various cities and villages of the countryside, lasted for a full year and raised economic, social and human rights demands. It demanded the lifting of militarization from the region. The regime foughtthe uprising with repression. More than a thousand people were arrested, brought to trial, and sentenced to unjust sentences of up to twenty years, especially for the leaders of the movement. The forces of the left and the Justice and Charity Party have mobilized to defend the victims by providing media, political and judicial support, embracing families, organizing multiple demonstrations and national marches in Rabat, Casablanca and a number of the country's cities.
3-The “Makhzen” is the primary tool of the monarchy to impose its authority and implement its policies. It essentially consists of senior security officials, military, judicial, administrative, and religious officials, most political officials, a number of businessmen, media owners, senior contractors of the official “civil society”, some senior union officials and others who have influence in power or in proximity to the ones in power.

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