morocco

Is libertarian socialism possible in North Africa?

Is libertarian socialism possible in North Africa? Is it even possible to struggle for it in an organised way? What about West Africa? Central Africa?

These are the regions I am trying to educate myself about now. South of Europe.  There are hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean, and I have been trying to find out why.

Of course, I knew the general picture – Wars, Poverty, environmental destruction, corrupt and oppressive governments – and I knew that all these things in one way or another are the fault of transnational capitalists and the big imperialist states, of which most sit on the UN Security Council.

But now I’m trying to find out which way or another. Which transnational corporations, companies and capitalists are making money out of where, with help from who, and with what consequences? It’s a big question, made up of a great deal of smaller ones.

Of course, there are lots of books available, and lots of documentaries, but you’d be surprised how little actually. Or perhaps you wouldn’t.

Most countries in the Sahara and Sahel regions do not have TV networks producing high quality journalism in the English language, because of government repression, a general lack of resources, and sometimes just because of the generally chaotic situation.

Two English-language broadcasters who do have quite a lot of stuff up there on YouTube for free are Al Jazeera – owned by Qatar, and Press TV, owned by Iran. Iran and Qatar have completely contradictory geopolitical interests for the most part, and it is no surprise that Al Jazeera and Press TV often report contradictory narratives.

For example, take the war in the north of Mali. Al Jazeera glorifies the struggle of the Tuaregs for an independent State called Azawad with many emotional interviews and personal stories. Press TV says that hardly anyone in the north of Mali actually wants independence and it’s all a French conspiracy.

So basically, both of these channels are trying to appeal to Westerners who have anti-imperialist sympathies, as of course is Russia Today. But all of them are actually controlling information and constructing narratives to suit the interests of various imperialist states and, one must suppose, transnational capitalists.

How many Tuaregs actually wanted independence? Al Jazeera could just be focusing on the minority who do and making it seem like they represent them all, or Press TV, who don’t provide any evidence for their statistics, could be making it all up. Al Jazeera makes no mention of possible French interests in stirring up the conflict, though is usually quite critical of French imperialism.

So you can’t just base your ideas on what is on TV, is the conclusion. You have to go back to the basics.

When Britain, France and other imperialist powers directly colonised countries in Africa, and in other parts of the world, they basically wanted to export resources back to their imperial centres to sell to their people, or to convert in factories to something else which they could sell to people both in the colonies and in Europe.

So they needed to make sure that some roads and ports got built, as well as mines, plantations and a few shitty houses for native workers to sleep in, but that was about it. They definitely didn’t want these countries to have big industries of their own so that they could produce their own goods, because then they wouldn’t have to buy them from the imperialists.

Today in Africa you still see people using industrially-made products that are imported from outside Africa, only now the companies are not only European but Asian and American as well. You still also see African resources mainly being exported outside of Africa to Europe, Asia and the Americas.

So it’s clear that despite many changes of government in the past 60 or more years since these countries became independent, not that much has changed in terms of the basic economic set-up.  In colonial times, this economic set-up was based on the brutal force of a completely undemocratic state, and again, not much has changed.

So what about libertarian socialism? As Nationalism, Marxist-Leninism, Islamic Fundementalism and even ‘African Socialism’ have all failed to actually change the basic situation that African workers, peasants and landless, unemployed refugees are in, could a non-statist political movement work?

What has usually happened when countries have had mass political movements for independence from European empires is that their leaders have taken over the state structures and economic infrastructure that the Europeans left and have been corrupted or bullied by the Europeans and Americans into keeping everything basically the same as it was before.

Often there has been a bit of a struggle, usually taking the form of military coups and civil war, which when you look a bit closer turn out not to be a bunch of ‘mindless savages killing each other for no reason’ or whatever the Western media tries to present it as, but actually a bunch of armed groups funded by different imperialist powers fighting each other, or just one group funded by the West fighting another group which genuinely wants to nationalise the wealth of the country.

Unfortunately most of these armed fighters who have simply wanted to nationalise the wealth of the country have also been guilty of killing civilians and so cannot be supported uncritically, even if the imperialist stooges they are fighting are far worse.

Increasingly the anti-imperialist fighters are fucking crazy Islamic fundamentalists who kill anyone they don’t like, oppress women, kill LGBT people, and do all sorts of other stupid bullshit.

So what about libertarian socialism? What about a movement that says the same thing as all the others have said ‘stop exporting all the resources at the barrel of a gun’ but which instead of saying ‘then give it to our new state in the name of Allah, Socialism, the Nation or Whatever’ says ‘let the workers control the means of production directly at the level of the shopfloor?’

What about NO state? What about communities running their own affairs in municipal assemblies, workers running their own workplaces, everyone electing all individuals to be put in any position of responsibility or authority and having the power to instantly recall them if they abuse it?

What about villages, neighbourhoods, workplaces, all being self-governing and choosing delegates, again subject to instant recall, to go to regional or industrial meetings to coordinate production and distribution between themselves as and when is necessarily, with no fixed centralised authority?

There are some African political activists calling for such a thing. There are anarchist movements in South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, maybe other places. But it is a very small movement in a very big continent.

Travelling activists have always played a role in the history of the anarchist movement. Bakunin, Kropotkin, Malatesta, Emma Goldman, Makhno, they all moved across borders many times in their lives, spreading ideas along the way and linking together organised workers and revolutionaries in different countries.

It seems to be that Europe has quite a lot of educated people of libertarian socialist opinions (whether they use that term or not) who are not particularly ‘engaged in revolutionary struggle’ right now – and North Africa is the closest place to go for most Western Europeans, where they would be able to find actual revolutionary conditions.

In Europe, conditions are not revolutionary because the ‘masses’ are far too bourgeois. There is an ‘underclass’ or lumpenproletariat of people who have nothing much too lose and everything to gain from social revolution. The majority of people, though, are enjoying the benefits of transnational capitalist imperialism far too much.

Look at me, for instance. I am unemployed, yet I can still eat and have a roof over my head, because the food I eat is mostly grown in other countries and the producers paid a fraction of the low prices that I pay for it, out of money that the State in my country is able to afford to pay me, just to stop me getting too angry, because it is a rich State that makes wealth by exporting high tech arms and financial services around the world to maintain the global, brutal capitalist order which it helped create in the first place.

Now take the average unemployed person in Morocco, the closest African country to me. They don’t get given money by the State just for being unemployed. The state isn’t going to pay the impoverished masses there money to stop them getting too agitated. Instead it relies on brute force and a network of government informers in every neighbourhood.

The Moroccan state couldn’t afford the kind of social welfare system that exists in the UK. They have what money the Western imperialist governments let them have, through the World Bank, foreign aid, or direct investment, which is very little.

Say they wanted to buy a load of landmines from a Western company. Well, I’m sure a Western bank would lend them the money, and a Western government would encourage them to. Then the Western arms company would have more money, and so would the bank, so that Western government would have a higher GDP. The same people might even own the bank, the arms company, and control the government. In effect they have just given the Moroccan state a bunch of weapons for free, because they wanted to anyway, to keep down the pesky Moroccan workers. But you may as well make shit loads of money at the same time.

So basically, in Europe you have a lot of revolutionaries with not much potential for revolution, and in Africa you have a lot of potential for revolution without enough revolutionaries. So how about some redistribution?

To be clear – I am not at all calling on European activists to come and ‘save Africa’ or any shit like that. We are not going to ‘bring anarchism’ to the masses. Anarchism doesn’t work like that. It is not the same as Marxism.

Marxists, especially Marxist-Leninists, believe that the people are basically too stupid to govern themselves, but that if a bunch of Marxist intellectuals come along at the right time and boss them around a bit, maybe those intellectuals could take over the State, and boss the people around some more, until one day, far in the future, the people will be ready to govern themselves.

Anarchists believe that people are able to govern themselves now, if only they would be given a fucking chance. Being given a chance includes acquiring land, tools and other means of production while being free from external oppression for long enough to get something going.

So whereas Marxists, for their strategy to work, need to go around convincing people that Marxism is a belief system that makes sense, but that is just too complicated for the workers to understand, and that they, the Marxists, are very clever and should be listened to and obeyed all the time if the workers know what’s good for them, anarchists have no need to behave like this.

Anarchists just need to go along, pitch in, help out, just like everyone else, and stay true to their principles, being as open and honest about them as is possible without getting shot in the head. At the most, anarchists need to convince workers of the value of themselves, not of anarchist theory.

For example, if you say to someone, ‘you can do that yourself, you don’t need some big shot to do it for you” and they say ‘oh no, for sure, I couldn’t do that, not little old me”, you just need to tell ‘em they shouldn’t be so down on themselves. Just be encouraging, like a mate.

There are people in Africa who cry out for foreigners to come and solve all their problems for them. They may not particularly be happy with a bunch of foreigners coming and saying ‘no, do it yourself, but we can help out a bit if you like’, but hey. Fuck ‘em. You can’t treat someone differently because they are from a different country. If some dickhead came up to me in England and asked me to solve all their problems for me I would tell them the same thing.

There can be no revolution in Europe without revolution in Africa. When people there kick out the multinational corporations and destroy all the dictatorships, taking the wealth of their countries into their own hands, directly, you know what will happen here in Europe? We won’t have any fucking food to eat, or petrol to drive cars with, uranium to power our laptops, or coltan to make those laptops out of. Then you might see some revolution. Then the European working classes might think about rising up and seizing the land, factories, and other means of production.

So that is the basis on which I am saying European activists should go to Africa – as revolutionaries who see no borders as being real, and know that our liberation is bound up with the liberation of all people, all around the world. We should use our privileged access to resources – as well as other privileges such as relative freedom of movement and in many cases skin colour privileges – to support working-class, peasant and landless people’s struggles for liberation – helping to build connections between movements in different countries, on the basis of non-hierarchical, horizontal organising, and resisting all bureaucratic or authoritarian tendencies in those movements from within.

It’s a lot to ask, I know, and potentially very dangerous. But what else is there? Shall we let Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb be the leading voice of opposition to capitalist imperialism in the region while we sit in Europe watching things get worse and worse from a distance?

Or should we practice what we preach?

Dream come true

We sit around on sofas, and yes, we even smoke hash. Sometimes we manage to make it through a whole movie before someone calls us, or knocks on the door – usually a West African refugee, or a crazed Moroccan landlord. Sometimes we just hear a voice carried up from the street all the way here, to the top floor. Above us is the roof, which is of course a whole floor in itself. Not in England, but here it makes perfect sense.

Almost four years ago I had a dream in a treehouse in France about this city. I didn’t know it then of course. I had been here before that, but for completely different reasons. I would have no idea that the dream was about a real place until much later, after everything had started here. The Tangerine Scene Dream.

I have seen many scenes since the dream, and now it sure matches them all. There is in-fighting, people with dreadlocks, people who run around like crazy trying to do too much and others sitting on sofas smoking hash, sometimes picking up a musical instrument.

So I guess that’s what I wanted. Someone once told me that scenes were counter-revolutionary, in that same forest where I had the dream in a tree. Seriously.

But you know, scenes aren’t counter-revolutionary. The sofa-dwellers and the rushers-around are two sides of a beautiful coin that is worth more than money.

Later that same person who’d said that got healed by a reiki healer who told me she was just paralysed in her mind. I found this hard to believe- when I knew her she had to always be pulled around on a bike trailer she playfully referred to as a taxi. For security reasons, she never said what state she came from, and I don’t even remember her pseudonym, so I guess she won that round.

What I’m trying to say is that Anarcho-punks should come to Tangiers, and probably other activist types should too, but I wouldn’t know. Wouldn’t claim to speak for them.

If you are used to squats and grime, punk and arguments, then come on down, the water’s fine. I mean, I’ve never swum in the sea here, because I’m afraid of judgmental stares, but hey.

Not all Moroccans are conservative, interfering arseholes, just like not all Brits are Tory scum. You will fund dodgy characters offering a range of drugs and other illicit pursuits, very, very easily. So come on down.

If you can play a bit of guitar or some other instruments, then definitely bring it. We need to make some noise down here. If you have some recording devices, or cameras, or you like to make art out of things you find on the street, or dance, or whatever the fuck, just come on down. Even if you just want to get drunk and chat shit all day, you can definitely do that too.

The more of us there are down here, just hanging out, being punks, the easier it will be for the ones who want to be all serious and activisty about everything, as it will provide a sea of European nutters for them to swim in undetected.

They are already pretty used to freaks from Europe down here anyway. I know hustlers who have the whole psychedelic hipster con routine down, and are living comfortably, supporting their families.

It can be stressful here, just living day to day, when you are used to an easy-going squatter lifestyle full of queer circus artists and people like that. If you are a woman you have to put up with a lot of nonsense, and worse, all the time. But still, there is really a struggle going on, and it feels really important to be part of it when you’re here.

You just got to have solidarity with West African people here in Morocco, really, and with most Moroccans too. What the fuck did they ever do to deserve all this? The cops are fucking dickheads down here, seriously. There are informers all over the place too. But still.

Showing solidarity doesn’t really mean you have to get arrested and shit – if you don’t want to put yourself on the front lines you don’t have to, and cops usually just leave you alone if you seem to just be another European tourist.

The important thing is to SHOW SOLIDARITY with the people who don’t have a fucking choice about whether they get arrested or not, just because of the colour of their skin and what it says or doesn’t say on their passport. That means SHOWING YOU GIVE A SHIT about them and people like them, that you’re not just another evil colonising exploitative bastard.

Just hang out with people, listen to their stories, tell them some of your own. Help them out in little ways, so they see you’re real. Treat people to a meal, some hash, coffee, whatever. If you have some spare medicine or some shit you can give it. Don’t get hung up about it, just do it if you feel like it, not out of guilt.

That’s real shit. That’s the kind of real shit people can SEE. No-one likes to be treated like its their –unpaid- job to help YOU understand their situation, or work hard to get you pictures for your activist blog or whatever, just to go home hungry at the end of it while you fly back to a nice house in Europe where they wish they could be. So just be real, be generous, don’t be a dick, etc.

This is about LOVE, and RAGE, and STRUGGLE. We want to fuck up the system right? And we aren’t really doing much about it right now. The whole squatting and rioting thing is at a pretty low point right now in the UK, so come on down to the sun, and get some ideas from people who are in a struggle they aren’t just going to give up on when they get bored, because they have no choice. They can’t change the colour of their skin, and why would they even want to? The fucking racist cops should change their MINDS

If you want Anarchy in the UK, just remember that the UK was BUILT ON SLAVERY AND COLONISATION of African people, and a fuck load of other people too. If you want Anarchy in the UK you need ANARCHY IN AFRICA as well.

Morocco is an African country. Lots of Moroccans have figured that out, but some are still confused, and think somehow that people from countries on the other side of the Sahara desert are like, totally different from them. For example, you hear people talk about ‘those Africans’, or ‘those Negros’ or ‘Sub-saharans’ or whatever.

As if Morocco is somehow NOT just a PUPPET GOVERNMENT for the Western Imperialists. The police all speak French for fucks sake. Moroccan people have to unite with other oppressed people around the world to stand a chance, not just keep sucking up to Europe hoping for some spare change and fucking over their African brothers and sisters in the process – and it’s not like there aren’t a lot of Moroccans who already know this, and are in fucking jail just for criticising the King or some shit.

At least British squatters KNOW we aren’t Africans, except it the whole ‘everyone comes from Africa way’. But anyway, AFRICA UNITE, is perfectly consistent with FUCK ALL AUTHORITY, and NO BORDERS! NO NATIONS!

Africa Unite is not about bringing in some kind of crazy Super State 1like the FUCKING E.U. is trying to be. Africa Uniting means tearing down the borders, smashing all the States, in this whole MASSIVE continent which is full of REVOLUTIONARY DREAMS.

Why do you think there are so many refugees and so many civil wars going on? It’s because people aren’t happy with the way things are, and are trying to do something to change things. Lots of people just want to be free, and want justice, want to stop being so poor while Westerners are so rich, and know their god-damn history better than most Europeans know theirs.

So that’s it, basically. The Western Imperialist system is NOT dead, and in fact continues to be built on the backs of African workers who are oppressed and exploited to fuck, so if you are European revolutionary, you need to be supporting revolutionaries in Africa, not just in Palestine or Chiapas or Indonesia or Bolivia or Tibet or wherever else is popular, and NOT just staying stuck in a little bubble in the UK thinking you are fighting the system just by wearing patches on your jacket that most people walking past can not even read.

Tangiers is that place you can see over the water if you go to the beach on the South coast of Spain, near Gibraltar. You know Gibraltar? They have a Morissons there where you can buy cider and baked beans. Good place to stock up if you plan to go to Tangiers afterwards.

Tangiers is a place where you’re gonna find African revolutionaries from more countries you can count, hanging out in the same few neighbourhoods. It really isn’t hard to meet them in the slightest, as lots of the time they have nothing to do expect try to avoid getting arrested and driven out to the middle of a desert hundreds of miles away.

If they manage to avoid that for long enough to hustle up some money somehow then they can try and buy a shit boat to cross the sea with, and often get caught, or else they can live in a forest for a while trying to muster up the strength, courage and numbers to charge at the border fences around Ceuta or Melilla – which are like Gibraltar is British but in Spain, except Spanish, and in Morocco, and are each surrounded by two, really fucking high fences topped with razor wire and guarded by murderous racist bastards on both sides.

So yeah, the least we can do is come down and hang out with them, try and show that we give a shit. The most we can do is a lot more. Somewhere in between is a load of really powerful revolutionary network-building and important human rights and humanitarian work. We might even SMASH THE BORDERS!

And that’s all I have to say about that. For more see Interzonevoices.com and beatingborders.wordpress.com

PS – fuck all that ‘white people shouldn’t have dreads’ bullshit that’s going around the UK scene right now. It’s just divisive and ridiculous. I am a white person with dreads, with shit loads of African revolutionaries as friends, who nearly all have dreads, and have never said anything but positive stuff about white allies having dreads. So if you’re a non-black anarcho-punk sick of people criticising you for having dreads, come down here and actually fight racism, away from all the posers who think the struggle is just about how you fucking dress. NO BORDERS!