Protests were held in several cities in Morocco on October 17 to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The actions were organized by the Moroccan Social Front (FSM) in defense of socio-economic rights and freedoms, and against neoliberal policies that have led to rising costs of living. The Front was also joined by the Worker’s Democratic Way (WDW) party and the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH).
Monday was the culmination of three days of protests, beginning October 15, called by the FSM “in response to deteriorating social conditions” in Morocco, and to demand a “productive social dialogue conducive to responding to the demands of various segments of the Moroccan working people.”
Speaking to Peoples Dispatch, FSM National Secretariat member Mouad Eljohri said, “At least two-thirds of Morocco’s population is living in poverty today, in conditions of vulnerability. This poverty has not fallen from the sky, it is a consequence of the class policy of the ruling class.”
“This is a policy based on rent, on monopoly, and on dependence— dependence on imperialist world capital. It is based on despotism.”
Eljohri added, “While poverty has risen and the purchasing power of the majority of citizens has suffered a serious blow, the fortune of the head of the government has doubled in two years!”
FSM activists in Rabat held a sit-in at Parliament Square on October 17 , denouncing the “policies of plunder, exploitation, and impoverishment of capitalism and imperialist aggression for which peoples around the world are paying the price” and the “economic and social policies of the state that are dependent on the imperialist political, economic, and financial decision-making centers, and which are hostile to the true and popular national interests”.
Eljohri stated that around 30 FSM branches heeded the call to protest and took to the streets on October 17. Actions were held in cities including Casablanca, Marrakesh, and Tetouan. In Khenifra, activists raised slogans and marched while being surrounded by police on either side. In a video shared by news outlet Aabbir, police could then be seen trying to forcibly escort away certain activists.
On the International Day for the #EradicationofPoverty, #Oct17, the Workers Democratic Way @NahjMaroc called for protests. In Khenifra, WDW members have been attacked by the police. Despite repression, the mobilization had a strong popular impact. 🇲🇦🚩✊https://t.co/qWyN3bvYHE
— International Peoples' Assembly (@peoplesassembl_) October 18, 2022
‘Poverty is a political crime’
The October 17 protests were organized against the backdrop of worsening economic conditions in Morocco. The country, which is heavily dependent on agriculture, is facing its worst drought in over three decades. The rate of inflation, which stood at 1.4% in 2021 is expected to reach 6.3% in 2022, after soaring to 8% in August. The country has also witnessed a rise in food prices.
A further increase in the cost of fuel also came into effect on October 17, as the government rejected calls for a cap on the price of diesel and gasoline. The price of diesel is expected to reach MAD 16 while the price of gasoline is set to exceed MAD 14.
“Poverty in Morocco is a political crime committed by the existing regime,” WDW proclaimed in a statement on October 19. It stated that over 25 million people in Morocco were living in poverty, some of whom below the extreme poverty line.
“Poverty is the result of the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few monopolists of the parasitic bourgeoisie, large landowners, senior civil and military state officials, and the various components of the Makhzen [Morocco’s governing authority] mafia that employ political influence and social prestige to steal and rob the livelihood of the vast majority of the Moroccan people.”
The WDW further condemned imperialist forces including France as well as institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank “that care for the interests of imperialism and keep people under control in order to facilitate the process of the robbery of the goods of their countries.”
“Poverty is a social condition that can be eliminated when the oppressed people gather to extract their rights from the thieves and their masters,” WDW declared.
FSM has outlined a series of demands including an increase in wages and a reduction in the prices of electricity and water bills as well as food items including oil and flour. It has called for a reduction in fuel prices and to return to the people “looted funds, including 17 billion dirhams that were devoured by the fuel lobby”. Importantly, FSM has called for the nationalization of Morocco’s sole oil refinery— “this will contribute in a considerable way to security and national sovereignty in terms of energy,” Eljohri stated.
FSM has also demanded the withdrawal of “retrogressive” measures related to laws on strike and trade unions, and an end to contract work. It has rejected the government’s proposed pension reforms which, Eljohri explained, will give way to an increase in the retirement age and reduce the salary after retirement.
Other key issues raised include ensuring free and quality public services for all, especially in health and education, providing adequate housing while “stopping the attack and robbery of the lands of the masses” by real estate mafias, guaranteeing the right to work, and providing unemployment compensation.
FSM has urged that rights including the freedom of union action, expression and association must be respected.
Eljohri added, “We came out to demand the immediate release of all political detainees in Morocco, those detained in the popular uprising of the Rif, and all journalists who have been detained in a completely illegal manner.”