Morocco : a natural disaster made worse by neglect and poverty

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
September 11, 2023

It took ten seconds for the earthquake that shook the High Atlas to plunge thousands of Moroccans into a tragedy and change their lives for ever. There are over 2,100 dead. Thousands of houses have been demolished and tens of villages reduced to rubble. Many people have lost everything and are literally left with nothing.

Most of the victims are poor people. The king’s palaces and the tourist paradises didn’t collapse. It was the houses and villages built of adobe sometimes directly against the mountains that did. And they had no chance of resisting the earthquake.

Even in Marrakesh, it wasn’t the rich neighborhoods that suffered massive damage. The riads of Strauss-Kahn and Bernard-Henri Levy were untouched but the oldest buildings in the Medina collapsed.

And, as usual, the poorest, especially in the most remote areas, were abandoned with their dead and their relatives trapped under buildings. For two days, they were often alone trying to remove the rubble with their bare hands to find survivors. Even today, many of them are still in profound distress, sleeping on the ground with perhaps a blanket to cover them, no water, no food, no contact with any officials.

It’s easy to blame fate as some have done! The seismic risk and the fragility of the houses were well-known: in 2004 an earthquake killed 600 people at Al Hoceima in the Rif region; and sixty years ago, the quake in Agadir killed 12,000.

But the king, who owns a beautiful town house measuring 1,600 square meters (more than 17,000 sq ft), at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, is probably more interested in Parisian real estate market than prevention and security for villages, houses and infrastructures.

The earthquake in Turkey in February 2023 claimed 50,000 lives. The one in Haiti in January 2010 claimed 250,000. Things happened then and now in exactly the same way: the population is not only the victim of a natural disaster but also and above all the victim of extreme poverty. and underdevelopment.

Today, all government heads are making a show of coming to the aid of the Moroccans: France, the United States, Qatar, the United Kingdom, Spain, Israel… even neighboring Algeria, strongly opposed to Morocco on the question of the Western Sahara. This humanitarian chorus

Yesterday, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, the Algerian president, and Mohamed VI, the king of Morocco, were berating one another, showing aggressive nationalism designed to foster hatred between Algerians and Moroccans. And today, Tebboune is interested in the fate of Moroccan farmers?

Macron is no less hypocritical. He’s doesn’t want to waste an opportunity to show how generous he is but he’s still refusing to issue more visas for Moroccans who want to come here! France is one of the major powers keeping Moroccan workers in poverty.

Relations may be strained between Macron and the king of Morocco because the latter ordered that his counterpart’s telephone be hacked but France has been a supporter of the monarchy ever since Morocco became independent. And French big business is quite happy with the dictatorship and the fierce political and anti-trade-union repression used by Mohamed VI to exploit workers as much as possible.

Let’s take the fuss around international aid for what it is: play-acting!

The cases of Haiti and Turkey have in fact demonstrated how wide a gap there is between the aid promised and the aid that goes where it’s needed. The only aid that will go to the victims and will meet their real needs will come from solidarity among workers.

This solidarity was set up spontaneously in Morocco through family or association networks. It was often ahead of government presence. It’s also being organized here, set up by workers originally from Morocco. This is a good thing because it will give encouragement to those affected to overcome this catastrophe and rebuild.

But for things to be built on a solid basis, we need to build a society in which exploited people can enjoy the riches they create. With this as a goal, we should unite to overthrow all regimes that are working exclusively for the big bourgeoisie, repressive monarchies as well as so-called Western democracies!

Nathalie Arthaud