Moroccan troops, out of the Western Sahara!
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 17; Spring 2021)
On November 15th, Moroccan troops took by force the border crossing of Guerguerat, an enclave that unites Mauritania with the Western Sahara and that Sahrawi activists have been blockading since October 21st in order to denounce the fact that, despite the UN prohibition, the Moroccan state used a road that transitioned through Guerguerat in order to export raw material (phosphates, copper, iron, uranium, etc.), fish, etc.
After the intervention of the Alaouite army, the forces of the Polisario Front returned fire. A few hours later, the Polisario Front declares a state of war in the region and, just as much, a break with the ceasefire agreed upon in 1991.
The terms of this ceasefire implied, as well as the end of the hostilities that began in 1976 with the retreat of Spain from the Sahrawi territories, the beginning of a United Nations-backed project to hold a referendum on self-determinations in the years following its signing. Since the peace treaty was approved by Morocco and the Polisario Front, the Moroccan authorities, sovereign over the majority of the land in the Western Sahara now that POLISARIO only occupies a negligible and furthermore almost uninhabited part of the desert, maintain an iron control over the population and the natural resources of the zone. Cities like Laayoune are subject to an iron fist that rigorously controls the life of every Sahrawi, imposing not only open political repression, prohibiting reunions, banning associations and persecuting the most renown militants but also controlling the entirety of the daily life of the population.
The declaration of war by the Polisario Front, more specifically the Ejército de Liberación Popular Saharaui [Popular Sahrawi Army of Liberation], which is its military branch, puts an end to almost twenty years of undisputed rule by the Kingdom of Morocco over the region of the Western Sahara, as of the prevailing international law that obligated the Polisario Front to reduce its activity to the control of Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria, where more than 200,000 people that have emigrated after Morocco and Mauritania assumed control of the Western Sahara live.
Throughout this period, only the terms of the peace accord have governed the Sahrawi side: while the Polisario Front has renounced all activity behind Moroccan borders, the compromises gained by Morocco, especially the holding of a referendum on self-determination for the Western Sahara, have been postponed one way or another, until the point where now absolutely nobody can think that they are going to be fulfilled. Of course, the repression against the Sahrawi population, now disarmed and at the mercy of the Rabat’s authorities, has not ceased for any moment; and the kingdom implemented a campaign for the replacement of the original population by Moroccan emigrants it uses by as the spearhead of its imperialist politics in the region, forcing the Sahrawis to abandon Hassaniya (a dialect of Arabic spoken by them) in favour of the dialects of Arabic spoken in the north of the country.
The UN itself, which maintains a military force in the Western Sahara (MINURSO, or the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara), considers this region to be one of the last existing colonies in the world which implies the recognition that the ruling power, Morroco, oppresses the Sahrawi population in every sense.
Of course, the recognition by the UN of this situation stops there: its military forces have not lifted a finger to prevent the army and Moroccan police, aided by bands of armed civilians, imposing periodic terror in the streets of the zone’s cities and towns. The interest of the imperialist powers in the region is evident: on one hand, every country that has in one way or another participated in the colonisation of North Africa (primarily France and Spain, but also Great Britain) have commercial interests in the region and Morocco is their primarily ally. Moreover, the Kingdom of Morocco acts a stopgap controlling immigration passing through the Gibraltar Strait or Canary Islands en route to Europe, using all of its police and military forced to repress migrants fleeing the poverty of their home countries.
Finally, other great imperialist powers, like above all the United States, maintain considerable investments in the region, most notably the petroleum sector, and they need a powerful state like Morocco to defend their economic, political and military interests in the North of Africa, a zone that in recent decades has become very complicated. In this context, the UN has simply permitted a situation that nobody is interested in changing, with the exception of the Sahrawis on behalf of international law: allowing Moroccan excesses while periodically crying out for a solution to a conflict that it allows on a daily basis.
Currently a large part of the Sahrawi people live in refugee camps: between 125,000 and 160,000 people have been living in wilayas in East Algeria since 1975. The situation in these camps is terrible, the population depending on NGOs for absolutely everything, lacking direct access to basic necessities, with high rates of mortality, even for Africa, and so on. It is not surprising that, as some sources affirm, a significant part of the population of these camps have joined the ELPS in the last few days. In fact, it is more probable that one of the main motives for the reopening of hostilities by the Polisario Front has been the greater and greater pressure that the youth of the camps, faced with a situation that has become unsustainable, exert in the direction of returning to war
The dispossessed Sahrawi masses are not only confronting the Moroccan army. They have in front of them a whole network of interests in which the principal world imperialist powers participate to maintain the existing status quo in the region. But, nevertheless, they have very few allies. Their traditional “friends” out of Moroccan borders have been Algeria and the political organisations of the Spanish left.
There is little to say with regard to the former: Algeria use Sahrawis as a means of pressure against the Moroccan government, allowing them in exchange to scrape by in subhuman camps for 40 years. For it the situation of the Sahrawi people is, just like for France or Spain, an interchangeable piece in an international diplomatic game.
About the latter, the political forces of the Spanish left, for decades they have organised “solidarity” with the Sahrawi people, giving out economic aid, claiming its cause as their own, etc. In truth this aid has always been poisoned. Political and economic support for the Polisario Front as representative of the Sahrawi Democratic Arab Republic always implies open support for the situation created by the peace accords in 1991. The Polisario Front has been the principal defender of a policy of pacification that has only led to poverty and death for the Sahrawi people. Support given to this party meant the reinforcement of this policy, the strengthening of the pressure exerted by the United Nations, Spain and France for the Sahrawi to abandon its struggle in favour of an international mediation that, as seen today, led nowhere. The folklore, the slogans of “Free Sahara”, etc. that have been so beloved by the PSOE, PCE and others, brought behind it the defense of a situation that was inevitably harmful for the Sahrawi; but it was preferred to keep them in this situation instead renewing the spark of a struggle that really did not interest anyone.
On the other hand, today we see how the Spanish government, led by the PSOE and PODEMOS, the first allies of the Polisario in the Socialist Internationalist, the second steadfaster defenders of the struggle of the Sahrawi people up to the day of their entrance into government, looks to the other side allowing Morocco to return to battering the Sahrawis with all of the harshness it deems convenient.
From November 15th, when confrontations began, the PSOE-PODEMOS government has only referred to the situation happening live in the Sahara... to condemn a demonstration that put up the flag of the Polisario Front in front of the Moroccan consulate in Valencia! For his part, Pablo Iglesias, now accustomed to the ways of diplomacy, has been limited to asking on social media for the resolutions of the United Nations to be respected, these same resolutions permitting the existence of “black” (secret) prisons in which Sahrawi militants have been tortured for many decades. The interests of the Spanish bourgeoisie in Spain and Morocco are, without a doubt, well represented by the “most progressive government in history.”
The only ally on which the oppressed Sahrawi people could really count on is the proletariat of the big metropolises involved in the oppression of the Sahara. Because only the proletarian class has a direct interest in the liquidation of the situation of colonial dependence that the Sahrawi masses put up with, to the extent to which its own bourgeoisies, French, Spanish or North American, would suffer a hard blow with the rupture of the imperialist “equilibrium” in the region. Spain has a large dependence on Morocco for the import of raw materials (fish, phosphates, land for construction, etc.) and for maintaining control of immigration. As for France, still the first “economic partner” of Morocco and the first foreign investor, it has important economic interests to defend there.
Can the Sahrawi people liberate themselves from Moroccan colonial oppression thanks to the war that the Polisario Front seeks to restart against Morocco? It is very unlikely.
The Polisario Front has amply demonstrated that it is not a national-revolutionary force; aiming, now as in the past, to force Morocco to negotiate in order to obtain an economic territory in which it can develop its own bourgeois power and finally possess a “nation” with respected borders and with a proletariat to exploit directly. But these possibilities of success already disappeared in 1976, when Morocco occupied the territory of the recently declared Democratic Republic of the Western Sahara, which in this manner could not exercise any independent power since Spain abandoned its former colony, although the UN recognised its legality.
The small Sahrawi people has been forced to survive in conditions of continuing oppression, first under the power of Spain and afterwards under that of Morocco with the consent of the imperialist powers interested in the mineral resources of the area (above all the phosphates, of which Morocco are one of the premier producers of worldwide thanks to the occupation of the Western Sahara) and also interested in a general order whose defence demands a friendly state, which is precisely Morocco. It is against this repression that Sahrawis have rebelled many times aiming for their self-determination, but historical vicissitudes have not been favourable to them, like they haven’t been for peoples much more numerous, like the Palestinians or the Kurds.
The Sahrawi people are obligated, for the umpteenth time, to deal with forces much more powerful and determined to keep them under oppression, but beyond the hypocritical claims to the “right of self-determination”, and of an armed organisation, POLISARIO, that seeks their emancipation from foreign oppression only to substitute it with the oppression of the national bourgeoisie.
The only perspective in which it is possible for the oppression of the Sahrawi people to end is much more vast than simply “national”: it is the perspective in which the class struggle of the proletariat inserts itself, not only that of the Sahrawi proletariat, but also the Moroccan, Mauritanian and Algerian proletarians, that confine it, and of the Spanish proletarians that hold equally the class duty to struggle against the oppression of the Sahrawi people and for its “self-determination” because, for a long time, its bourgeoisie, from the palaces of Madrid, has exercised its oppression using it to buy off the highest strata of the Spanish proletariat and turning it into its accomplices, while for decades it has utilised it indirectly through the oppression exercised by Rabat.
A perspective like this is difficult to concretize due to the work carried out for decades by the collaborationism of the forces that proclaim themselves “socialist” or “communist” - like the PSOE and the PCE - but that are in reality completely bourgeois; but it is the only one which proletarians should aim for, if they seek to no longer carry on as tragic handmaidens to the bourgeois class and witness repeated massacres.
As communists we are for the right of self-determination to all peoples, large or small, but at the same time we know that this right, as has happened up to now, will continue being systematically betrayed by any bourgeoisie more powerful and by any collaborationist force. It is only on the terrain of the class struggle, of the revolutionary proletarian struggle, that history will open up a real possibility of self-determination as the first step towards the overcoming of all conflicts and all competition between nations and states, towards a real union between people beyond any bourgeois wall, beyond any sort of oppression.
For the self-determination of the Western Sahara!
Long live the struggle of the Saharan masses against the military and social oppression of Morroco!
For the internationalist solidarity of the Spanish proletariat!
For the internationalist solidarity of the proletariat of the Magreb, of Europe and of America!
For the resumption of the class struggle!
International Communist Party