Morocco: The protest march on December 4, 2022, and its background

12 December 2022 by Eric Toussaint , Jawad Moustakbal

On Sunday, December 4, 2022, a national march was organised in the city of Rabat. It brought together some 3,000 people under the slogan “All together against the high cost of living, oppression, and repression”; it was organised by the national social front, which includes several trade unions and political and human rights organizations, to protest against the wave of soaring prices and the regime’s repressive escalation against all dissenting voices. Éric Toussaint interviewed Jawad Moustakbal, a member of ATTAC-CADTM Morocco.

[(This article has been translated into dutch :

CADTM : What are the economic, social and political reasons that can account for the success of the mobilisation in Rabat on December 4?

This national march is the first to be organized since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, which the authorities took advantage of to ban all forms of collective expression.

This national march is the first to be organized since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, which the authorities took advantage of to ban all forms of collective expression.

With placards reading “Akhenouch out” (« Akhenouch dégage »), participants chanted slogans condemning recent attacks on purchasing power and the government’s head, billionaire Aziz Akhenouch.

Launched by trade unions and left-wing political organisations within the coordination called the national social front, this mobilisation is a response to the sharp degradation of the living conditions for the majority of Moroccans, resulting from both structural and situational causes.

The structural causes are the result of neoliberal economic decisions by those who have been at the helm of our country for decades. Liberalization and privatisation policies, for instance, have been most profitable for a local elite centering on the “palace” and often in cahoots with Western multinational corporations to grab resources (water, forests, land, mines, etc.) or with the most profitable public companies, or vital and strategic sectors such as water distribution, energy, education, or health care Care Le concept de « care work » (travail de soin) fait référence à un ensemble de pratiques matérielles et psychologiques destinées à apporter une réponse concrète aux besoins des autres et d’une communauté (dont des écosystèmes). On préfère le concept de care à celui de travail « domestique » ou de « reproduction » car il intègre les dimensions émotionnelles et psychologiques (charge mentale, affection, soutien), et il ne se limite pas aux aspects « privés » et gratuit en englobant également les activités rémunérées nécessaires à la reproduction de la vie humaine. .

Opening borders to foreign commodities Commodities The goods exchanged on the commodities market, traditionally raw materials such as metals and fuels, and cereals. , as demanded by Morocco’s neocolonial agreements (dubbed free-trade agreements), has further weakened our economic structure and resulted in job losses in urban areas, while the adoption of export-oriented agriculture over the last 14 centuries has impoverished our small farmers and increased our food dependency.

Those policies were recommended by the IMF IMF
International Monetary Fund
Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.
and the World Bank World Bank
The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.

It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 189 members in 2017), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;

2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;

3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.

As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.

and meticulously carried out by those in power, namely the King and his advisers.

The debt system is a key element in the imposition of such neoliberal recipes through the conditionalities that often go with loans.

Those structural factors are directly responsible for the current situation since they also shackle the state’s capacity to face a dire predicament as they constantly reduce the financing of public services and increase our energy and food dependency. This means that we are more exposed to fluctuations in the prices of essential commodities for our people and our economy. We have to add the consequences of the drought that has become more intense and frequent over the last 20 years, in connection with the global environmental crisis and climate change.

According to the latest Oxfam reports, social inequalities in Morocco are particularly high.

Repression appears to be the state’s only response to the multiple crises that its own policies have exacerbated.

Marche nationale organisée à Rabat, le 4 décembre 2022, organisée par le front social national. Elle a rassemblé environ 3 000 personnes.

CADTM: Can you remind us of major mobilizations over the past 12 years?

Struggles erupted for the defence of resources (water, land, forest, etc.). They have never stopped, particularly in the most marginalised areas, which the French colonisers called “useless Morocco.”

Struggles erupted for the defence of resources (water, land, forest, etc.). They have never stopped, particularly in the most marginalised areas, which the French colonisers called “useless Morocco.” They are a response to a violent process of accumulation through dispossession led by the ruling classes. Apart from those ongoing struggles, we can distinguish three major mobilizations:

  • 2011: The movement that started on February 20 was the longest and most massive mobilization, with marches of tens of thousands of participants in over one hundred cities in Morocco. While this movement focused on cities and middle-sized towns and highlighted political and democratic demands, several protest movements for social rights, housing, land, and labour broke out at various places in the country and profited from the favourable environment resulting from what was called the Arab Spring.
  • 2016-2017: Hirak (protest movement) in the Rif 
    On October 28, 2016, a tragic and fatal incident occurred in the town of Al Hoceima, in the north-east of Morocco, when a state official seized the goods of Mouhcine Fikri, a fish seller, and threw them into a rubbish truck. When the seller desperately climbed into the lorry to retrieve his fish, a local policeman ordered the lorry driver to start the compactor and “crush him,” according to activists and witnesses. The truck horribly crushed Fikri to death. This sad event resulted in peaceful demonstrations for 10 months on end. They mobilised the entire population of Al Houçaima and neighbouring towns. This movement, which echoed the 2011 movement in using some of its slogans and organising marches and/or sit-ins every weekend, also initiated many innovations in terms of organization, communication, and involvement of wide social layers through popular assemblies in coffee shops where the list of demands was discussed and approved, a list covering the whole region as well as all aspects of people’s lives (economic, social, political, environmental, cultural, and sport-related).
  • 2017-2018: Hirak (protest movement) in Jerada:
    This movement was triggered by the conjunction of two successive events: the first was the repression of a demonstration against an increase in electricity prices, with two high school students arrested; the second occurred on the following day and was related to the death of two brothers who drowned in one of the makeshift mines dug without permit in the vicinity of the town to extract coal. Since the closure in 1998 of the Charbonnages du Maroc, which operated three large shafts in Jerada, the local people, who were entirely dependent on the mine, have begun to dig shafts in the surrounding forest to exploit the coal seams on their own. Thousands of people took part in demonstrations on the town square. Demands relate to three main areas: the price of water and electricity, an economic alternative, and the principle of accountability.

We should also mention the 2018 boycott campaign. In fact, after the liberalisation of fuel prices and the abolition of subsidies for some basic commodities, Morocco has witnessed numerous spontaneous attempts to organise campaigns to boycott products belonging to influential personalities close to the government. The 2018 campaign concerned three brands: the “Centrale” company for dairy products of the Danone group, Sidi Ali, which belongs to Meriem Bensaleh, former president of the employers’ union; and the Afriquia brand, which holds the bulk of the hydrocarbon distribution market and belongs to the current head of government, Aziz Akhenouch, who is one of the richest men on the continent. He accumulated wealth thanks to his proximity to the palace. This boycott campaign met with success and was widely supported, not only on social networks but also in the streets, resulting in the companies losing up to 40% of their turnover and having to review their pricing policy. This was the case for Danone concerning milk production.

CADTM: The Moroccan team’s victories in the World Cup have not been enough to quell social unrest.

The government has succeeded in setting up a climate of terror, with people being arrested and sentenced just for posting on Facebook or even “liking.”

No, I think the discontent has been there for decades and is not going to be dispelled, considering the level of economic, social, environmental, and cultural oppressions under which the vast majority of Moroccans suffer. What the government managed to stifle, at least for the time being, are outside manifestations of this discontent. These past two years, the pandemic played into the government’s hand as it instilled a climate of generalised fear and provided a pretext for banning and repressing any attempt at mobilization.

The government has also conducted a campaign of repression over the past few years. It started with sentencing the leaders of the Rif movement to 20 years in jail! It continued with the sentencing of the leaders of the Jerada movement to 10 years in jail, then also sentencing journalists and YouTubers to 5 to 10 years in jail. The government thus managed to establish a climate of terror in which people can be arrested and sentenced for posting on Facebook or even merely clicking on the “like” button for a post that is critical towards the king or his advisors.

As to the national team’s victories in the World Cup, the government has already launched its media machine to draw the maximum profit Profit The positive gain yielded from a company’s activity. Net profit is profit after tax. Distributable profit is the part of the net profit which can be distributed to the shareholders. from it, promote a so-called national unity, and put the masses to sleep.

Unfortunately, people now need a sense of victory, however elusive, considering the many setbacks they have endured and the distress they suffer in all aspects of their daily lives.
But I think that their elation will be short-lasting and that even if a victory in football can erase their terrible living conditions from their minds for a few days, the sense of discontent and of being despised and ignored (Hogra) among the popular classes will soon revive. What cannot be predicted is when this sense of discontent will find expression in collective mobilizations matching the violence of the ruling classes’ onslaught.

CADTM : What is the current level of public debt?

The level of public debt has steadily increased. It has almost doubled since 2010 to reach over 95% of the GDP GDP
Gross Domestic Product
Gross Domestic Product is an aggregate measure of total production within a given territory equal to the sum of the gross values added. The measure is notoriously incomplete; for example it does not take into account any activity that does not enter into a commercial exchange. The GDP takes into account both the production of goods and the production of services. Economic growth is defined as the variation of the GDP from one period to another.
if we take the debts of public companies with state guarantees Guarantees Acts that provide a creditor with security in complement to the debtor’s commitment. A distinction is made between real guarantees (lien, pledge, mortgage, prior charge) and personal guarantees (surety, aval, letter of intent, independent guarantee). into account. This predicament has been aggravated by the fallout of the COVID crisis, combined with the drought that has affected Morocco since 2020. Concerning the debt service Debt service The sum of the interests and the amortization of the capital borrowed. , according to the finance bill for 2023, expenses relating to the public debt will continue to increase from DH 90.21 billion in 2022 to DH 109.22 billion in 2023, i.e., a 19% increase.

CADTM : How has the indebtedness of popular classes developed?

Household indebtedness has increased by 4.8%, reaching 386 MMDH from 2020 to 2021, as against an average growth rate of 4.9% from 2013 to 2019. 

More than one debtor out of four has a rate of indebtedness over 40% of their incomes. Consumer credit, which accounts for 35% of private credit granted in 2021, continues to grow as a result of the deterioration of household financial conditions since the COVID health crisis.

Translated by Christine Pagnoulle

Eric Toussaint

is a historian and political scientist who completed his Ph.D. at the universities of Paris VIII and Liège, is the spokesperson of the CADTM International, and sits on the Scientific Council of ATTAC France.
He is the author of Greece 2015: there was an alternative. London: Resistance Books / IIRE / CADTM, 2020 , Debt System (Haymarket books, Chicago, 2019), Bankocracy (2015); The Life and Crimes of an Exemplary Man (2014); Glance in the Rear View Mirror. Neoliberal Ideology From its Origins to the Present, Haymarket books, Chicago, 2012, etc.
See his bibliography:
He co-authored World debt figures 2015 with Pierre Gottiniaux, Daniel Munevar and Antonio Sanabria (2015); and with Damien Millet Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank: Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers, Monthly Review Books, New York, 2010. He was the scientific coordinator of the Greek Truth Commission on Public Debt from April 2015 to November 2015.

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Jawad Moustakbal

Attac/Cadtm Morocco.

Jawad Moustakbal is the country coordinator in Morocco for the International Honors Programme: “Climate Change: The Politics of Food, Water, and Energy” at the School of International Training (SIT) in Vermont, USA. He has worked as a project manager for several companies including OCP, the Moroccan State phosphates company. Jawad is also an activist for social and climate justice, he is member of the national secretariat of ATTAC/CADTM Morocco, and a member of the shared secretariat of the international Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debts. He holds a degree in Civil Engineering from EHTP in Casablanca.

Other articles in English by Jawad Moustakbal (11)

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