Rif region revolt must spread! The whole regime must be swept away!
On the evening of October 28, 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 a great anger and launched one of the largest protest movements in Morocco since the Movement of 20 February 2011. Mobilizations have followed since then and have begun to structure themselves around the “Hirak” (the movement). Its figurehead, Nasser Zefzafi, was arrested last Sunday on the pretext of interrupting the preaching of an imam in an Al-Hoceima mosque.
Spontaneous demonstrations of solidarity took place in the city as well elsewhere, notably in Casablanca and Rabat. After the demonstrations on Saturday in Al Hoceima, the king’s attorney general announced the arrest of 22 activists of the Hirak movement, but other sources have put forward the figure of 70 people for offenses such as “threat to the internal security of the State” or “the humiliation of the country’s symbols”. The demonstrations continued on Sunday, under the slogan: “Arrest us all, we are all activists!”
In a video that circulated on AJ +, a demonstrator explained: ”Al Hoceima is surrounded, by land and by air. The forces of repression invade the houses and force people to leave by force, as if they were in Tel Aviv or Gaza.” Not knowing how to put an end to the social movement initiated last October – and particularly afraid after the general strike and the massive demonstration of 18 May – the regime uses force, using the special status of the province of Al Hoceima. The region has been under military rule since the 1958-59 uprising for fear of an insurrectionary movement that could spread throughout the Rif.
The ruling elite fears, however, that the anger will go far beyond Rif and that the struggle of Al Hoceima will be an example. A moderate activist, Mohamed Alami Berrada, explained on 29 May on the site Media24: “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. (…) The Rifains are the first to react today, but I am almost certain that if the creation of value and jobs does not take off, in the short term, we will see several Zefzafi emerge in all the districts of the urbans areas with high unemployment. And Nasser risks being the sweetest among them…” He then delivered the following figure: ”Every year, 300,000 young people enter the labor market, competing for only 30,000 jobs created on average per year, ie 270,000 new unemployed young people every year.”
Building the Movement
Since the spontaneous mobilisations of October 2016, the movement has been structured and developed its list of demands. The Hirak movement demands that the investigation into the death of the young Mouhcine Fikri reveals all those involved and that its results are disclosed quickly. It also wants clarity on the deaths of five people in an offices of the Banque Populaire after the demonstrations on 20 February 2011. It also calls for the release of all political prisoners from the Rif, the small cannabis growers of the region and the repeal of the 1958 dahir which made Al Hoceima a military zone.
Its activists also denounce the “economic blockade” which the region is subjected to, as well as the “widespread corruption” and the “powerful lobbies that gangrene” the fishing and agriculture sector for example, while the small fishermen work without any social protection. They demand the construction of a multidisciplinary university and training institutes, the expansion of the network of schools, colleges and lycées, the opening of new technical and scientific sections, etc. With regard to the health sector, activists are demanding the construction of a hospital and community clinics, as well as a centre for the disabled.
The movement is also demanding the construction of a provincial library, a cultural center, a theater, a conservatory, but also the completion of the Rif museum project. It accuses the administrative services of corruption and of serving a few real estate lobbies, and demands the immediate cessation of “expropriations not justified in the name of the general interest” as well as the “confiscation of collective lands”. Other demands concern the recruitment of local residents into the local civil service and the adoption of Amazigh as the language of the local government.
The whole regime must be swept away!
Most of these demands address problems facing the country as a whole, and these demands could be taken up elsewhere to develop a powerful social movement capable of preventing the regional isolation of the struggle and seeking support among the masses in the rest of the country. Protests that took place in urban centers such as Rabat and Casablanca last October and this weekend show that the potential for this exists. They illustrate that the issues at stake go far beyond the cultural and ethnic divisions that the government has constantly used to weaken social resistance, both yesterday and today.
This list of demands represents a basis for discussion that could be broadened by including the return of subsidies for basic necessities (gas, fuel, flour, sugar, etc.) and the imposition of a decent minimum wage. With the organization of democratic struggle committees across the country, these demands could be developed in order to promote the involvement of the masses of workers and the poor. The organization of such democratic committees would also make the task more difficult for the repressive forces of the state, by organizing the defense of the movement.
As we explained in an article following the tragic death of Mohsen Fikri: “Local struggle committees in the workplaces and neighbourhoods would be an ideal place to discuss collectively the demands of the movement. They would also serve to develop its organization and strategy towards the overthrow of the despotic regime of Mohammed VI, and to eventually convene a revolutionary constituent assembly bringing together democratically elected representatives of these various committees. The movement that swept across the region in 2011 has already shown how such a process has the capacity to influence the international arena. It was also during that period that the reactionary Islamist organizations found themselves temporarily “asphyxiated” by the united activity of the masses.
However, we must of course learn from these past struggles that came to a deadlock which benefited the imperialist forces, local despots or reactionary Islamists. The movement cannot simply stop when a leading figure is overthrown: it is the capitalist system that must be overthrown. Only the democratic nationalisation of the key sectors of the economy would allow for the establishment of an economy planned according to the needs of the entire population, in contrast to the plans like “Emergence”, “Emergence II” or “industrial acceleration” of the Makhzen regime which have had the effect of enriching only the social base of the regime. On this basis it will also finally be possible to find a harmonious solution to the national question and to the oppression of the Amazigh people, based on the self-determination of all peoples and on workers’ solidarity”.
As the general strike in the Tataouine governorate in Tunisia recently demonstrated, the material conditions that gave rise to the mass uprising and the process of revolution and counter-revolution in the region in 2011 are still present.
We are all Mohsen Fikri! No to the repression of social movements! No to the state impunity! Hands off individual freedoms and democratic rights! Down with social and cultural oppression! General strike ! The whole regime must be swept away ! Power to the workers and youth!