The Spanish crisis with Morocco

20 May, 2021

Pedro Sánchez arrives to Ceuta in the midst of the crisis with Morocco
Pedro Sánchez arrives to Ceuta in the midst of the crisis with Morocco

After almost 36 hours of crisis with Morocco and after a general mobilization of the Spanish state, everything is apparently back to normal… but only after the National Court reopened a case for genocide against the Polisario leader clandestinely sheltered by Spain, and it became clear that the European support would not go beyond statements and after the USA supported Morocco and disregarded Sánchez. A full-fledged triumph of the Moroccan simulacrum that was enough to bring about a state crisis and highlight the international isolation of Spanish capital. Now a good part of the Spanish interests call for a “Perejil moment” from Sánchez, a change of course in Spanish imperialism.

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The unmitigated surrender leads headlong from a crisis with Morocco to a gas crisis with Algeria

Brahim Galli, president for life of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, recognized only by Algeria. His asylum in Spain has been the trigger for the crisis with Morocco
Brahim Galli, president for life of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, recognized only by Algeria. His asylum in Spain has been the trigger for the crisis with Morocco

Last night the news broke: the National Court reopens a case for genocide against the Polisario leader who is a clandestine refugee in Spain. It was the first demand of Rabat. And as soon as it was fulfilled, the borders of Ceuta returned to normality. The Sánchez government must have thought that a timely surrender is a tactical victory that can cut short the crisis with Morocco. But it is mistaken.

If having secretly provided shelter and medical care to the dictator-for-life of the ghostly Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic infuriated Morocco to the point that the Makhzen was considering the possibility of expelling Spanish capital from the country, betraying him and moving from shelter to trial for genocide inevitably opens a stage of conflict with his imperialist patron: Algeria. From a crisis with Morocco it will move on to a crisis with Algeria

And certainly not at a random time. If the state with Sánchez at the head was deeply involved in the negotiation of the gas agreement with Sonatrach, the Algerian state-owned company, even accepting a turnaround in its position towards Morocco and the Sahara, it was because they consider access to gas a strategic bet for Spanish capital within the framework of the Green Deal. Josu Jon Imaz, Repsol’s CEO, has been very explicit:

I would like that, just as France has set very clear goals by committing to nuclear energy or Germany has set in motion its agreements to have a gas pipeline connected to Russia, in Spain we should set our own goals. In this regard, it is important to emphasize that North Africa is a gas producer. It needs social stability. Spain has an opportunity with our regasification plants. We can help the whole European continent.

Josu Jon Imaz at Wake Up Spain

This strategic bet means betting on the gas connection with France to turn Algeria into an alternative to the conflictive monopoly of Russian gas (and in the future of green hydrogen). An alternative that would require the necessary mediation of a few large Spanish companies: Enagás and two companies of the Criteria Caixa group, Repsol itself and Naturgy, now taken over from Australia and with La Caixa redoubling its bet and investment in which Sonatrach, to top it off, retains 5%.

Betting with one hand billions and a good chunk of the recovery funds on companies linked to Algerian gas and with the other judging for genocide the head of the main Algerian proxy in his low-intensity war against Morocco after providing him shelter, does not seem the way to keep business at cruising speed with Algiers. So that sector of Spanish capitalism is more than willing to accept the price of some additional crisis with Morocco.

That is why the editorial of El País, a newspaper owned by Criteria, is not afraid today in its editorial on the crisis with Morocco to call for a heavy hand from the EU and Spain towards the Moroccan Makhzen while consciously ignoring the legal process against the hitherto Saharawi refugee:

Spain and the EU would do well to make it clear through the relevant channels that episodes of this kind will not advance Moroccan interests one millimeter, neither on the Saharawi question nor on that of economic aid.

Crisis with Morocco and ostracism by the US

The Spanish army seizes Perejil Island in 2002 and evicts a group of Moroccan gendarmes who had hoisted the Makhzen flag at the height of the 2002 crisis with Morocco
The Spanish army seizes Perejil Island in 2002 and evicts a group of Moroccan gendarmes who had hoisted the Makhzen flag at the height of the 2002 crisis with Morocco

The indictment of Galli by the National Court by no means closes the crisis with Morocco. The Spanish press today pointed out as a supposed hope that it will most likely end up being linked to a broader crisis between Morocco and the European Union, which could break out at the end of June or beginning of July. In fact yesterday the Moroccan press, while keeping quiet about Ceuta, fueled the upcoming battle with Germany.

That hope for Morocco to be the one to engage Germany and the EU as a whole in the crisis is itself significant of the isolation of Spanish capital on its southern border. Yesterday Sánchez had his “Perejil moment”. Unlike Aznar in 2001, Brussels did not look the other way, but it was clear to him that he could not expect more than statements, that he was not going to get any support to exert collective pressure measures against Morocco.

In 2001, the shock of another crisis with Morocco led Aznar to push for a change of imperialist axis that separated Spanish capital from France and Germany in order to embrace Bush’s US. It culminated in the Azores summit and Spain’s participation in the Iraq war.

This time it looked even worse for the illusions of the Spanish government. Yesterday, at the height of the crisis with Morocco, President Biden ignored the border problems and launched a message of support to Morocco… while still denying a simple telephone conversation to the most bidenist government in history and its President. Such disdain is humiliating. So much so, that the Moroccan Foreign Ministry boasted yesterday of threatening Spain after receiving the backing of the US Administration, as ABC reported in its editorial.

Sánchez, who sees falling on Spanish exports the weight of new tariffs from Biden, had already announced on Monday that after his visit to Buenos Aires he would go to Costa Rica to meet with the Central American presidents. He promises investments and aid to curb the migrations affecting the U.S…. and to establish a ground for collaboration with Biden. It remains to be seen whether he will persevere or whether his Perejil moment will lead him to a turn of the depth and consequences of the Aznarite one. Or whether the Central Americans don’t understand that Sánchez has become controversial for Biden after this crisis with Morocco and decide to downgrade relations.

The crisis with Morocco is evidence of “Crisis of State”

The green march, like practically every crisis with Morocco, accelerated in its day the crisis of state that the Spanish ruling classes were living in 1975
The green march, like practically every crisis with Morocco, accelerated in its day the crisis of state that the Spanish ruling classes were living in 1975

Without exaggerating in the least for once, and becoming a ventriloquist of the so-called deep state, the ABC editorial explained the crisis with Morocco as the result of a Crisis of State. It noted not only the impotent request for help from Moncloa to the EU and the humiliation on account of Biden, but also the failure of the Spanish intelligence services, the shortcomings of the diplomatic apparatus and the indolence of Laya’s ministry and of the President himself. He reaffirmed that there is no strategic plan, only improvisation and negligence.

But it was an understatement. The orientation and vicissitudes of the imperialist policy of a national capital and its state not only express its contradictions, they also shape them internally and, in defeats, amplify them. Spain has been no exception in its long series of crises with Morocco, from Prim’s colonial war to the Green March and the occupation of Perejil Island.

At the moment, in Lledoners, Waterloo and Sant Jordi they must be wondering how it is possible that in a matter of hours the National Court found a legal loophole allowing the trial of a refugee brought and protected by the intelligence services and the Government, and yet over four years it has been impossible for three governments to find a legal solution first to their aspirations and then to the imprisonment of their leaders.

On the other side of the revolt of the Spanish petty bourgeoisie, the idea of a new humiliation which yesterday spread out from Ceuta throughout the Spanish barracks, amplified today by the warmongering delusions of the far right and Stalinism, lead us to think that we should not be surprised to see military pronouncements in the style of those taking place in France. And on the left, where there has been a historical link since the 1960s with the Polisario/Algeria, a resurgence of the financing of all kinds of political movements would not be surprising either, thus bringing back to Algiers an old practice it never completely renounced to.

These are only glimpses among the most irritating possible results for the Spanish bourgeoisie, but it is still too early to anticipate to what extent the resonance of the blow suffered from Morocco and endorsed by the US will have repercussions on the structures of Spanish power and on the latent crisis of state under the unresolved crisis of its political apparatus. But what is certain is that the failures of Spanish imperialism are very likely to come one after another.

In each of these, they will inescapably call us to unity. That is to say, to close ranks with the imperialist interests of Spanish capital -which involve our own precarization and impoverishment– in the face of its rivals. Whether in the name of the security of the Ceuta people, the liberation of the Sahrawi people or democracy in Ibero-America, the goal is always the same. And the only internationalist answer is the same as well: the enemy is always in one’s own country.