n 1981, a very young trade union confederation prepared for a founding confrontation. And causes a popular and social upsurge that shakes up the monarchy. Despite the squaring of the population by the power thugs, the population dares to take to the streets. Hassan II answers him with live ammunition.
At the end of the 1970s, several countries of the South experienced a recession with serious economic consequences. Between the burden of the public debt, the austerity plans drawn up by the international financial institutions, the fall in phosphate prices, a despotic regime, the war in Western Sahara and the drought that befell Morocco from 1980 , all economic signals are red.
Budget cuts are slashing modest public aid. The price of basic necessities (milk, flour, sugar, oil) is increasing. The crisis is weighing down the purchasing power of Moroccans and Moroccans, and external debt reached a record rate of $ 7 billion in 1980 [ 1 ] .
Social, urban and peasant combativity
The war waged since 1976 in Western Sahara has exploded the debt that weighs on an already fragile economy. This war broke out following the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara in 1974, where the Polisario front, after having fought the Spanish occupier wants to drive out the Moroccan occupier. This war allows Hassan II, on the one hand to occupy the Moroccan army on a combat front, to limit his putschist inclinations after two coup attempts (1971, 1972) and the purging of several high-ranking officers including the strong man of the kingdom, the terrible General Oufkir. On the other hand, it makes it possible to ” pacify ” the internal political scene by uniting it against an external enemy.
At the beginning of the 1980s, the threat of a putsch receded, while the political class wavered between servility, corruption and wait-and-see policy. On the other hand, opposition groups are struggling to establish themselves institutionally for some, to come out of hiding for others. The monarchy therefore has free rein to strengthen its domestic policy.
In order to break the deadlock where Hassan II led the country, the base of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), a still powerful opposition party, urges its leadership to act the creation of a new union. The Democratic Confederation of Labor (CDT) was created in November 1978. Embodying the aspirations for social justice of Moroccan workers, it wants to mark the break with the first Moroccan union, the Moroccan Labor Union (UMT), wedged between clientelism, authoritarian lock-in and corporatism, despite the existence within it of sections of struggle, with sincere combativeness.
The stagnation of wages, the high cost of living tighten the noose around workers even more, who from the spring of 1979 went on strike in ” the private and public sectors, blocking strategic sectors […] at the head of which phosphate, PTT, education, health, production and packaging of tea and sugar, energy, rail ” according to the newspaper Al Mounadila. Raids, torture and imprisonment will be the response of the Makhzen (the Moroccan power).
In the Moroccan countryside, where the majority of the population lives, the large landowners, including the royal family, plunder food lands, depriving the small peasantry of resources, leaving them the choice only between exodus to the cities or feudal servitude . Between 1978 and 1981 peasant revolts broke out, harshly repressed: Beni-Mellal, Amizmiz, Asilah, Ben Ahmed, Temara etc.) [ 2 ] .
On May 28, 1981, the ” government ” of Al Maati Bouabid announced the third price increase in three years on basic foodstuffs: + 112% on sugar, + 107% on oil, + 200% on milk, + 246% on butter, and + 185% on flour [ 3 ] . Faced with this programmed asphyxiation, the popular classes do not hide their anger. The muffled noise of protest announces the social explosion. The left-wing opposition is trying to trigger the social response necessary to weaken power.
On the political and institutional side, the parliamentarians of the USFP “ institutionally ” oppose the Makhzen project. On the union side, the CDT, many of whose members are also members of the USFP, is the spearhead of social protest. Having carried almost all of the record strikes of 1979, it calls for a massive mobilization against these anti-social policies, demands an increase in wages and threatens the most powerful weapon in the hands of workers: the general strike. This young union can afford such a threat, it is based on a very politicized and consistent working class base in the big cities.
The drop of lead increases
If the USFP and the CDT continue to issue alerts, ask for the cancellation of price increases, and the opening of a ” dialogue “, the government responds with an end of inadmissibility. Cynicism goes so far as to make believe in a concession when the Prime Minister announces a decrease … of the rate of increase: the tongue of wood in all its stench. The illusion of a “ parliamentary ” balance of power quickly vanished. Other weapons remain in the social camp. The CDT begins by sending invitations to other trade union organizations … The lack of response makes the CDT the main locomotive in the balance of power with power. On June 7, she issued an ultimatum giving the government seven days to consider its demands.
The opposition newspapers at the head of which Al Moharrir (Arabic-speaking) and Liberation (French-speaking), both press organs of the USFP, mainly affect city dwellers [ 4 ] . Among them, there are employees in the education and health sectors, and students. The sections of the CDT do the work of mobilization in the workplaces, always in semi-clandestinity.
The role of the Moroccan far left during this mobilization (mainly Marxist-Leninist and Maoist) is poorly documented. The March 23 Movement [ 5 ] , hitherto underground, underwent its legalistic transformation with the return of part of its exiled leadership, and the creation of the Organization of Democratic and Popular Action (OADP) party. On the side of Ilal Amam [ 6 ] , despite his clandestine nature and the disappearance of several of his activists, his role seems to have been important in the mobilization of students and high school students, in particular in the student union Union Nationale students from Morocco (UNEM).
The general strike is declared
Without a concrete response from the authorities, and without return of union action, the CDT announced on June 15 the general strike for the day of June 20. The UMT, whose management refuses to follow the movement of response, ends, after many stormy negotiations, by giving in to a day of strike on … June 18 in Casablanca only. Maneuver to undermine the strike announced by the CDT ? A pledge from the UMT leadership to calm the sections run by unionists furious at the silence of their union organization ? Maybe both.
Taking advantage of this signal, the CDT joined the strike of June 18 to display the unit (not built), to win over the most militant sections of the UMT in the strike of June 20, and to probe the degree of preparation of its own sections. It is a mixed success. Many trade unionists, not wanting to ” burn ” their cartridges and suffer the repression of power, preferred to focus on the 20. Because precisely what is criticized for this day of strike of June 18, apart from the lack of preparation time, is to designate trade unionists as targets in the Makhzen. Imprisoning them would deprive the movement of precious animators on June 20. Many will never forgive the UMT for this decision.
During this time, the Makhzen is not idle, all its “ thugs ” are mobilized in the districts and the cities to dissuade anyone who would count on joining the mobilization. The mqaddam [ 7 ] go door to door, requiring traders to open their stores, workers to return to the factory, public transport drivers to go to depots, and mothers of high school students and students that they hold their children. Despite all these efforts, several cities (Meknes, Tangier, Fez, Rabat, etc.) were deserted early in the morning of June 20.
The stores’ blinds are lowered, the factories shut down because of strikers and non-strikers who cannot find means of transport, the drivers refusing to take the wheel. The image is strong: Casablanca, the economic capital and largest city in Morocco, is a ghost town.
Never mind, the government does not intend to allow a blockage of the economy to set in, and sends back its thugs to force traders to leave their homes to open stores, requisition public transport drivers, it mobilizes even soldiers to replace the strikers. It is by seeing these maneuvers of undermining that the inhabitants of working-class neighborhoods, with a strong presence of young people from universities, high schools, or unemployed, decide to block the roads, establish makeshift roadblocks and harass the police with stones.
The army fires live ammunition
The riots spread to Sidi Bernoussi, Hay Mohammadi, Derb Sultan, Sbata … popular districts of the city. Tires and vehicles burn, and law enforcement forces are hit with stones and chases from angry crowds. Faced with this debacle, the Makhzen declared a state of emergency, armed the soldiers with live ammunition, arrested trade unionists and political activists. He had demanded that the population come out to maintain economic activity. He is now asking the military to shoot indiscriminately ” in the heart and in the head ” at the population in the streets and at the windows.
The bloodshed will only stop after three days: more than 900 dead (officially 66 according to the regime !), More than 5,000 wounded, and more than 10,000 detainees tortured, killed in jails or sentenced to several years in prison.
The newspapers Al Moharrir and Liberation are banned from publication. The torturer and 1 st Morocco cop Driss Elbasri, call the dead of this strike chouhada koumira ( ” the martyrs of baguette “) to mock the social revolt.
The progress of this day of strike in other cities is poorly documented, but by its economic place, its place in the country’s industry, and the martyrdom of its population, Casablanca highlighted both the combativeness of the workers. its and the savagery of the Moroccan regime, making this date a symbol of resistance and announcing other mobilizations, such as the great strike of 1984.
The end of social emancipation projects
After the general strike of 1981, the authorities did not seek to destroy the USFP, but rather to domesticate it. Having obtained his patriotic allegiance, Hassan II will give up ballast and tolerate the CDT … The reformists of the USFP will accommodate themselves to it, the CDT simply having to represent an instrument of pressure on the Moroccan power for a (bourgeois) democratization, in the framework of a ” constitutional ” monarchy .
But the cult of the personality around its indestructible secretary general Noubir Alamaoui (who will even invite Driss Basri, the executioner of 1981 to his congress of 1997), the long lack of independence vis-à-vis the USFP and the temptations of “ respectability ”, will participate in sclerosing the positions of the CDT and definitively burying any broad social emancipation project. The break with the USFP will be consummated belatedly, after the entry of this party into the “ alternation ” government desired by Hassan II at the end of his life.
The USFP has today become an auxiliary clerk of the Makhzen, completely domesticated. The CDT union for its part remains torn between a (weak) co-management unionism and limited sectoral struggles. This does not take away from many of its activists the desire to set more combative benchmarks.
Marouane Taharouri (UCL Nantes)