Friday, October 26, 2007

Bring Mehdi Back! (Part III)

Mehdi Ben Barka & the Tricontinental
(Final Part)

René Gallissot
October 2005
In Le Monde Diplomatique

[If you find this (paraphrasing) translation poor or inappropriate, you can read the original piece in full here (fr).]

There is little doubt that the Moroccan state (up to high ranking officers and officials) bears a heavy responsibility in the abduction and subsequent murder of Mehdi Ben Barka. The year 1965 starts with violent events that will further exacerbate the sensitivity of the state and eventually trigger a brutal repression: March 22 and 23, students demonstrate against the newly introduced schools admission quotas which they consider discriminatory. They are later joined in the streets by their parents. The demonstrations are repressed in blood by the infamous Gen. Mohamed Oufkir, the then-ministry of Interior. The state of emergency is decreed. Second phase: Hassan II (seemingly) offers an overture to Ben Barka by hinting to the possibility of accepting the idea of a national unity government. Ben Barka deplores the absence of the conditions for a genuine democratic transition and reiterates the views he previously exposed in the message-report he wrote in 1962 for his party's second congress, under the title: "Revolutionary Option in Morocco." In June the fake offer is retreated. Secret and frenzied concertations start between the palace and the secret services under the supervision (and that's an understatement) of United States officials (as it is now widely documented,) and the active "help" of the Mossad (Israel secret services.) In the meantime, Ben Barka dedicates himself to preparing the Tricontinental Conference, the preparatory committee over which he presides [...]

Ben Barka defines his objectives: helping national liberation movements notably in Palestine; intensifying the struggle against occupation -including armed struggle- on the three continents; supporting Cuba; getting rid of foreign military bases; opposition to nuclear weapons, to the Apartheid regime and to racial segregation. The end goal being "total liberation." In late September, Ben Barka visits Havana to finalize the arrangements and preparations for the upcoming Conference, scheduled in January 3th, 1966.

Eliminating Ben Barka was obviously becoming a major and pressing demand for those who wanted to put an end to mounting third-world insurrection. Already in June 1965, Ben Barka loses the Algerian support after Boumediène accessed power through a military coup. To make things even worse, President Sukarnu of Indonesia loses his power in September 30th, depriving the Tricontinental from one of its major bases.

To understand the motives behind the murder of Ben Barka, one needs only to examine the pattern of political assassinations and coup d'etat perpetrated during this sinister period: the Iranian Premier, Ali Mansour, is assassinated in January 21; Humberto Delguado, the leader of the Portuguese opposition, in February 13; Malcolm X, in February 21; the deputy defense minister of Guatemala, Ernesto Molina, in May 21, etc...

In October Mehdi is murdered; in 1967 Che Guevara is executed [in Bolivia under orders from Washington]; Martin Luther King is killed in April 1968; Amiclar Cabral (the major theorist of African liberation) in January 1973...

Thus, a kind of "world class warfare" was taking place in which those who wanted to reestablish a reactionary order used all means of violence, political assassinations, death commandos and imposed absolute dictators and awful regimes, fomenting conflicts and instigating wars of intervention.

Movements of liberation were pushed forward by their quest for a genuine emancipation and the Tricontinental tried to capture this progressive potential. Those who assassinated Ben Barka wanted to kill this perspective of world liberation.

Rest in Peace Mehdi.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bring Mehdi Back! (Part II)

Mehdi Ben Barka (1920-1965) is the charismatic leader (amongst others) of the anti-colonial movement which led Morocco to formal independence from France in 1956. He founded the National Union of Popular Forces (UNFP) in 1959. He later was accused of plotting against the regime and forced to exile. The Moroccan authorities condemned Ben Barka to death in absentia in 1964. He was kidnapped in Paris -in broad day light- in October 29, 1965. His body was never recovered.

I've read many papers and commentaries on the life and death of Mehdi Ben Barka, but the one piece, I think, that has cleverly put the circumstances of the murder of the Moroccan leader in its appropriate perspective, both local and international, was this article published exactly two years ago in Le Monde Diplomatique by Rene Gallissot, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Paris.

I apologize in advance if my (paraphrasing) translation sounds poor or inappropriate. In any case, you can find the original piece in full here (fr).

Mehdi Ben Barka & the Tricontinental
(Part I)

René Gallissot
October 2005
In Le Monde Diplomatique

1956 was a vertiginous year: turmoil within the communist bloc, a Franco-British "expedition" in Suez. July 26, president Gamal Abdel Nasser decides to nationalize the Suez Canal and everyone predicts the collapse of Egypt; the opposite happens, along with a surge in independence struggles. The Bandung conference had already predicted in April 1955, this upsurge of national emancipation movements which will indeed occur first in Asia and Africa, then in Latin America , the former Portuguese colonies in Africa and eventually in South-Africa.

Who remembers today July 14, 1958, when the Republic was proclaimed in Baghdad, radiant, with no religious veils, renewing the French Revolution's declaration of 1789, secular, federating all minorities, promising pluralism of thought and expression? The French war in Algeria continued unabated, but Algerians were standing firm. For Africa, the epicenter was then the Congo, freed at last from [the cruel] grasp of Belgium domination. [In the beginning of the 60's,] the Tricontinental was a de facto reality.

Mehdi Ben Barka, at the very moment of his assassination in October 1965, was working on making the liberation movements in the "third-world" converge, by preparing the Tricontinetal Conference which was scheduled to take place in Havana in January 1966 [...]

The institutionalisation of the regimes following independence [from western colonial powers,] raised the problematic of distinguishing State strategies for [controlling] power on the one hand from the international liberation movement on the other. In 1961, in opposition to so-called "moderate" states, the Group of Casablanca assembled representatives from states known as progressive: Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Libya and Morocco under the advocacy of Abdallah Ibrahim's left leaning government (which will soon after be revoked) [...]

Due to two condemnations to death in Morocco, Ben Barka was constantly in exile, often travelling between Cairo and Geneva. During his six months stay in Algiers, he engaged in the laborious task of bringing about an internationalist perspective for the conjunction of the national liberation movements [...]

The Algerian capital had become the intellectual home for the international revolutionary contestation [...]

Breaking up underdevelopment was not only a national project, it was also a concerted action against dependency to the Capitalistic system, the dominant poles of which are various but fundamentally linked to the economic and political hegemony of the United States. "Africa is the Latin America of Europe," repeatedly said Ben Barka. Federating the Maghreb and Africa was taking an anti-imperialistic dimension. We are here far from national-developementalism which eventually transformed the left -in the context of the emerging states- into [a lifeless] technocratic elite. The Tricontinental movement was independent from the Soviet Union and Ben Barka wanted to establish an autonomous dynamic [...]

In Algiers, Ben Barka launched a new publication for information, agitation and reflexion for the anti colonialist commission of the OPSAA (The Organization for the Solidarity of the Peoples of Africa and Asia established in Accra-Ghana in 1957), titled "la Revue Africaine." His interest turned then towards Cuba and Latin America. He was particularly impressed by the Cuban [tremendously successful] literacy campaign, dreaming of a similar experience in his own Morocco. He decided to work in establishing a documentation and studies Center on national liberation movements and -convinced as he was by the revolutionary potential amongst third-world youth- he set up the outline for a Tricontinental University [...]

American attempts to overthrow Fidel Castro, led the Cuban leader to get closer to Moscow. Followed the "Cuban Missiles" crisis and the cruel US economic blockade over the island. In 1962 Cuba was expelled from the Organization of the American States and Castro summoned "the people of the world to get moving." That was the precise objective of the Tricontinental. In October 3th, 1965, Ben Barka declared during a media conference, preliminary to the Havana Conference that "both currents of the world revolution will be represented: that stemming from the October revolution (or Bolshevik revolution) and that from the national liberation revolution."

The profound cause of the abduction and murder of Ben Barka can only be elucidated within this revolutionary and Tricontinental context.

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bring Mehdi Back!

A French judge, Patrick Ramaël, launched yesterday five international arrest warrants against high-ranking Moroccan personalities, well established in the State Apparatus and the Moroccan army. They are suspected of being involved in the abduction (in October 29, 1965 in Paris) and subsequent murder, of the historic Moroccan opposition figure, Mehdi ben Barka. The suspects are namely: Gen. Hosni Benslimane (head of the gendarmerie nationale), Abdelhak Kadiri (former head of the military intelligence), Miloud Tounsi (allegedly a member of the gang who kidnapped Ben Barka in front of Brasserie Lipp), Boubker Hassouni and Abdlehak Achaachi (both members, at the time, of a Moroccan secret unit).

Judge Ramaël visited Morocco in the recent past and tried to interview the aforementioned suspects but has been repeatedly delayed and obstructed by the Moroccan authorities who used all means and the most ludicrous excuses to discourage Ramaël from doing his job.

Forty two years after the death of Ben Barka, and after many frustrations and aborted attempts, all I personally hope is that some form of justice is -at last- unfolding in front of our eyes. The body of Mehdi Ben Barka was never recovered and his family (as well as the bulk of the Moroccan civil society) has been eagerly awaiting for some due process to take place so as they (and their compatriots) can overcome their grief.

To Be Continued...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Wishful Thinking

As each day goes by, I wonder if I should give it up all together. I'm beginning to have some headaches because of all this mumbo jumbo about democracy, elections and so on and so forth... I had these thoughts for a moment now and I can't help thinking and wondering: What if elections in my country were free and fair? What if the PM of Morocco and the government-elect were from a progressive, clean and people-driven party? What if the King finally conceded power to the elected institutions of the country and satisfies himself by a role of mediation and arbitration? What if a national conference was held and the country's elite was called to draw a new text for the constitution? What if the judiciary was given -at last- free rein to investigate, litigate, prosecute and judge anyone on equal basis? What if the press was given the freedom it ought to have? What if people who brandish religion as a political ideology stopped meddling into the political life? What if the corrupt thugs and kleptocrats of the Makhzen were held accountable for the theft of the country's wealth, for their hideous embezzling activities and their monopoly of the economic sector through clique and cronies? What if an enlightened educational system was proposed to all Moroccans' sons and daughters without prejudice of class or gender? What if the huge amounts of money assigned to royal palaces' maintenance and to satisfying the monarch's caprices were rather allocated to social and public projects? What if the government efforts were concentrated on bringing about a dignified health system guaranteeing that people are not going to be turned down because of their lack of resources or forced to bribe nurses and doctors to get access to basic care? What if the legislature was disconnected from the executive power and awarded autonomy to move away from its current subservient role of a complaisant rubber stamp?

... Ah... the headache again!... wait a minute I'm gonna take a paracetamol tablet... Gulp!... I'm feeling better now... So, where were we?... Yes: What If...

What if big public companies were ruled by highly monitored civil servants thoroughly accountable before people's representatives? What if Morocco lastly cut loose the leash of servility with French companies who are literally buying out the public sector in the name of an opaque process of "privatization"? What if the country stopped its vulgar worship of the US administrations, one after the other, and started engaging in a sovereign path and empathising and cooperating with fellow independent States? What if the monarch started fulfilling his (self-anointed) role of the "President of the Palestine Council"(sic)? What if al-Alaoui (you know... the two-faced marathon speaker of the RTM -Radio Television Marocaine- who often accompanies and comments on King's televisual "activities" with a ridiculous shivering voice, often on edge of tears, pledging his allegiance every second of every minute making viewers either laugh out loud or causing them to vomit out of disgust), what if he was relieved from his sycophantic "mission" alleviating millions of people? I'm sure he could be easily reassigned to a more "discreet" position (I don't want the man to end up jobless after all, despite the pain in the neck he often caused me.) What if a civil rather than a military was elected as head of the Moroccan football federation? What if sport stopped being shamefully used as an anesthetic of the masses ? What if the 2022 World Cup was held in Morocco? What if Raja Club Athletic started winning again?

And Finally, what if I stopped rambling just right here?

Wishful thinking! one might challenge; maybe so, but one thing is for sure: I don't think any Paracetamol dose will be able to calm this bloody headache... I hope a good sleep will do... good night and good luck!

(picture credit: "imaqine")

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Chatting With the Prince, Final Part

He may look like Che Guevara (who, by the way, died forty years ago this week), but he obviously doesn't espouse the same revolutionary visions as those of the Argentine doctor.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Tutu Too?!

The Israel Lobby Goes Nuts on Desmond Tutu.

Supporters, within the United States, of the Apartheid regime in Israel have recently shown higher and unusual sensitivity toward academics, political commentators and world figures who dared criticizing the ongoing criminal actions of the Zionist State. The witch hunt campaign to stifle public debate and to muzzle journalists have been going on for years, but the recent and flagrant loss of subtlety shows how arduous it has become for the Lobby to keep on with the business of "intellectual terrorism."

The publication last year of the ground-breaking and courageous article "The Israel Lobby" by Mearsheimer-Walt (who since produced the book), has broken the omerta surrounding the issue of US-Israeli relationship. The authors (who are renowned and respected scholars), have been targeted by an unprecedented campaign of vilification; accused of being "anti-Semitic" and "unpatriotic." But their work had the effect of a psychotherapy on those (so many) who were spooked and terrorized by the fear of being labeled anti-Semites and subsequently running the risk of being ostracized.

Many prominent voices, including distinguished Jewish figures, in America and the wider Western world and within Israel itself, made their voices heard: people like Gilad Atzmon, Robert Trivers, Gary Leupp, Cindy Sheehan, Andrew Bacevich, Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Uri Avnery, Amira Hass, Ilan Pappé, Israel Shahak, Ed Hermann, Howard Zinn, Johnathan Cook, Bill & Cathy Christison, Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, Norman Solomon, Ralph Nader, Jeffrey St. Clair, Robert Fisk, Alexander Cockburn, Gideon Levy, Scot Ritter... and so many, many others.

The most recent sortie of the Lobby deserves the Gold Prize for "Ludicrousness & Insanity." The charming, peace loving Desmond Tutu, Archbishop of Cape-Town and Nobel Prize laureate, was banned from speaking at St. Thomas University in Minneapolis because of his characterization (in a 2002 speech) of the occupation regime in the West Bank as an Apartheid-like regime. He was dismissed and "suspected" of being... guess what?... anti-Semitic!

Read this post from "Rootless Cosmopolitan" by Tony Karon.
(picture credit: "")

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Chatting With the Prince, Part II

Praising Evolution

The advent of the new Monarch in Morocco has raised a lot of hopes in the future; maybe too much. But the dreams and illusions have been terribly dashed after two electoral shams in 2002 and 2007. Many Moroccans (especially the young) may have lost hope in changing the system in an evolutionary way (from the inside, by participating in the political system and by using the institutions available.) This helpless situation may have led some to contemplate or consider a "revolutionary option"...

That was the question I e-mailed to today's Riz Khan show on Aljazeera which was hosting Prince Hicham (thanks Amine for the tip!):

An enlightened evolution toward democracy is always a safer option than a headstrong revolution stemming from despondency and which often gets out of hand and yields undesirable and unpredictable results. But the danger of not having alternatives and languishing in a continuous state of political, economic, cultural and social sclerosis is to constrain the more desperate and destitute people to extremist solutions. Some may very well consider revolutionary rather than evolutionary options taking the risk of embarking the country on the unknown.

That was in substance the answer of Prince Hicham to which I adhere.

The "Red Prince" as he's often labeled hinted at the antagonistic relationship he still has with his cousin the King, reiterated his views on the Moroccan monarchy and commented on the latest legislative elections. He answered further viewers' questions emphasising the need for a fundamental change in the way the power in wielded in Morocco (and beyond... throughout the Arab world.)


(look up for the video here)