Morocco: A new Arab Spring?

By Sean Burns 

On 28th October 2016, a fish trader, Mohsen Fikri, was murdered in Al-Hoceima in the Rif region of northern Morocco following a police check. The appalling images of his death caused great anger and launched one of the largest protest movements in Morocco since the Arab Spring mobilisations in 2011.

Mobilisations have followed since then and have begun to structure themselves around ‘Hirak’ (the movement). Its figurehead, Nasser Zefzafi, was arrested recently for interrupting the preaching of an imam in an Al-Hoceima mosque. Huge solidarity demonstrations have taken place in major cities across the region. The state, in response, has ramped up its repression against activists, with up to 77 being charged with offences such as posing a “threat to internal security of the state”. The movement responded in a tremendous show of solidarity with demonstrations where the dominant chant was “Arrest us all, we are all activists!”

The despotic regime of Mohammad VI is feeling the pressure from below. They are fearful of the potential repercussions of a broad social movement for justice, democratic rights and an end to poverty. In particular, they fear any possible connection with the organised workers’ movement that could shake the regime to the core and spread the movement around Morocco.

It was much lauded that the Moroccan monarchy survived the Arab Spring uprisings where similar regimes had fallen in face of the movement of workers and young people in the region. Much was made of the “unique heritage” and standing of the monarchy, which allegedly saved it from being overthrown. The reality is far from this. The regime was capable of clinging to power because it offered significant concessions to that movement and employed sectarian tactics in repressing it.

The same social, political and economic problems inherent in Moroccan capitalism remain similar as they were during the Arab Spring. As one activist explained, “In Casablanca, where I live, I have heard for several weeks scolding anger in taxis and cafes, but also from the middle classes caught in a vice, between credits, family expenses, education, medical and incomes that do not increase.” There has been no fundamental solution provided to the problems of poverty and oppression that Moroccan workers suffer.

The situation grows increasingly unstable as the regime must rely upon increased repression. The demands of ‘Hirak’ must be broadened out to take up issues of subsidies for basic necessities (gas, fuel, flour, sugar, etc.) and the imposition of a decent minimum wage. The organisation of democratic struggle committees across the country is key in broadening its appeal to the mass of workers and providing a coherent organisation to combat state repression.