‘Real human needs’: Moroccan Marxists’ demands against capital’s pandemic.

The following demands were written by al-Mounail/ah Current (a Moroccan Marxist grouping, recently forced to close their website and newspaper), and published by ahewar.org on 15 March

Its original title is ‘How to fight the Corona pandemic? Let us fight to impose urgent measures’.  We thank the editors of ahewar.org (” .. من أجل مجتمع مدني علماني ديمقراطي“).

Diana al-Hadid
‘Fireball Falling’ (2018)

COVID-19 has spread with a deadly, viral speed across the world due to the global adoption of neo-liberal policies, as sponsored by international financial institutions: Policies which have weakened “mechanisms of prediction, prevention, and treatment”, with health systems privatised and countries’ health budgets appallingly reduced. 

The global capitalist system stands accused of spreading and exacerbating epidemics, due to the entwinement of: The environmental crisis in its various dimensions; food industries seeking profit at safety standards’ expense; and the impoverishment of Global South countries, and their resultant vulnerability to disasters. 

The state has reacted to the spread of COVID-19 to Morocco with a tyrant’s mindset, wanting only political stability. Instead of preparing the public to confront the pandemic, it has given false reassurances in order to control the popular mood; for fear of provoking panic, it has only parsimoniously published data, without taking the necessary measures – a criminal disdain for millions of workers’ and labourers’ fate, whilst the bourgeoisie have both a highly-effective healthcare system and the financial means to withstand the virus. 

With those same neo-liberal policies, the state has driven the health system into the ground, as recognised by the United Nations’ reports in which Morocco appears at the bottom of the global ranking of public health quality [1]. The state further deepens the catastrophe through the continued openness to private capital (domestic and foreign), through decreasing its financing of public health, and ignoring those who cannot pay – the policies that have sabotaged public health, and which forebode a true cataclysm if the pandemic spreads on a wider scale.

And, the state is looking to exploit the labouring masses’ current shock and make its attacks a permanent reality. The level of popular consciousness – as distorted by neoliberal ideology – contributes to this, with calls being made across the internet to volunteer for work, especially for public health organisations. 

This presents a convenient opportunity for the state to evoke the spirit of the 2011 constitution, which constitutionalised the neo-liberal choices adopted by the state since the beginning of the 1980s, namely the withdrawal from social welfare and public services to the benefit of the private sector and private initiative, and its contentment with mere “regulation and strategic planning”, that is, opening the door to the further development of a market economy. 

Moreover these calls perpetuate the idea in the popular consciousness that ‘alone the state is weak [عجز الدولة لوحدها]’, and unable to guarantee public services and confront catastrophes. But it is not a question of weakness, but of social and economic choices, decided upon and implemented methodologically, cold-bloodedly, with full awareness, serving local and foreign capital and placing the cost of the crisis on the shoulders of workers and the working masses. 

Regressive currents – unopposed to the logic of capital – benefit from the epidemic, as they relegate its causes to ‘moral phenomena’ and thereby excuse capitalism and state policy, and replace the measures necessary to eliminate the pandemic with litanies. The same applies to liberal currents, which take every disaster as an opportunity to find common ground with this tyranny, without opposing its economic and social choices. 

In the face of catastrophe, workers and toilers have only unified class power to force the bourgeoisie and its state to bear the cost of the pandemic. We must fight the illusions of reactionaries and liberals, as well as the distortions of popular consciousness by an ideology premised on individual salvation – on “saving one’s own skin”. 

What is required is not simply volunteering for services that the state itself should provide, but rather popular and workers’ organising structures for intervention and militancy, including neighbourhood committees, trade unions, and militant groups. The task is not only cleaning and otber prevention methods, which we must force the state to allocate a specific budget for; what is far more needed is discussion of an actual strategy to contain the epidemic and limit the worsening of it consequences, i.e.:

  • A rapid and immediate increase in the public health budget, to reach the level suggested by the World Health Organisation (12% of the state’s budget, instead of the current 6%), and to make this increase permanent and not simply during the fight against the virus. 
  • Opening private clinics free of charge to those possibly infected with the virus, under state supervision and popular monitoring. 
  • Providing a sufficient number of properly equipped ambulances, placing all private ambulances (with crews and drivers) at the disposal of the public-health system, and supplying them with free gasoline from major distribution stations, with penalties for non-compliance. 
  • ّWhen necessary, converting tourist resorts and major hotels into properly-equipped hospitals.
  • Seizing drug distribution companies’ supplies, to be held by hospitals and distributed freely to people susceptible to infection. 
  • Monitoring larger markets and supermarkets, and penalising those who increase prices; strictly supervising wholesale supermarkets; setting steady prices for essential consumables; and limiting purchases, in order to avoid markets’ depletion. 
  • Stopping all programmes for the liberalisation of public service sectors, whether in education, healthcare, or social welfare, and restoring the state’s hold over them, under popular-national supervision. 
  • Halting the tragi-comic dismantling jobs in the public sector and public administrations via the “advanced regionalism” and “centreless administration [لا مركزة إدارية]” programs: only a central public administration with the means of intervention in every region can confront the epidemic – not “entities” reliant on subsidies from “central interests”, plus their own funding efforts. [2]
  • Cancelling all outsourcing agreements for hospital cleaning and security services, and returning them to the Ministry of Public Health within a public sector employment framework.

And, because the working class is faced with a catastrophe without the proper means to confront it, the left, the trade unions, and human rights and women’s rights organisations must struggle for: 

  • A radical reduction of working hours without a decrease of wages, in order that workers have time to look after their physical health and safety. 
  • Putting private medical services at the disposal of major production works in order to monitor the health of workers, as well as public institutions with large concentrations of people: schools, universities, et cetera.
  • The penalising of any boss who dismisses workers without pay, and ensuring that workers in all sectors receive a minimum wage that guarantees them a supply of basic necessities. 
  • Paying full wages to people forced to stop work in order to care for their children following school closures, for the infirm, and for people convalescing after treatment. 

Union organisations, enterprise committees [3], workers’ delegates, and health and safety committees must be involved in decisions regarding production, whether over whether activity should continue through remote work, or the decision for a temporary shutdown, if indeed containing the disease requires such exceptional measure (all whilst insisting that such exceptional measures are to be abandoned once the pandemic is eradicated). 

And to fund these measures, we must refuse the state budget’s deficit as an excuse, since this deficit is the responsibility of the state itself, as well as the bourgeoisie benefiting from it. Through our own militancy, we must compel the state to undertake drastic financing measures:

  • An immediate halt to the payment of public debts (whether external or internal), pending the examination of methods of borrowing and spending.
  • Transferring expenditures from sectors such as national security, the army and ‘ceremonies and honours’ towards financing of healthcare, social welfare, and education, making this transfer permanent rather than exceptional. 
  • Halting the export of profits of foreign companies investing in Morocco, and transferring them to the public budget. 
  • Halting the liberalisation of the Dirham’s exchange rate, due to the likelihood of its decrease in value and, as a consequence, the deterioration of cash reserves, and the exacerbation of inflation and price escalation which will diminish workers’ purchasing power. Imposing strict supervision of banks and financial transactions in order to prevent capital-flight.
  • Imposing progressive taxes on profits and wealth. 
  • Putting all large private real-estate structures and private logistical means at the disposal of medical services, with penalties for non-compliance.

Feminist organsations, environmental groups, and neighbourhood associations have a fundamental role to play in protecting the health of workers, through their publications, urging actions amongst the population, and raising demands with public authorities. 

We are staring at disaster: Let us face it with strength of determination, with solidarity, and with collective struggle against an austerity that robs us of our wealth, one that has ruined our public services and now threatens our lives. 

The epidemic may be contained, but if the economic and social conditions which have produced it persist, it will only return with a greater, more violent force. The enemy is not the virus, but the capitalist system and neo-liberal policies which will continue to destroy the conditions for life on the planet, if we do not replace it with a system that seeks not merely the accumulation of profits, but to fulfill real human needs whilst protecting the environment. 

Today, the slogan remains as it was a century ago – “Socialism or Barbarism”. 

Al-Mounadil/ah Current, Morocco

15 March 2020

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[1] Numbeo.com’s ‘Health Care Index by Country 2020’ presented Morocco as behind Pakistan and Nigeria, with only Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Venezuela ranked below. Note that the latter index is ‘based on surveys from visitors of this website’. 

[2] The translators are unfamiliar with the politics of this regionalisation process. Suffice it to say that ‘central interests’ implies the Palace. 

[3] See Articles 464-469 of the 2003 Labour Code on these employer-employee fora. 

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