Article from "Socialist Morocco"
The propaganda meetings of the Assembly for National Action
The Assembly for National Action has shown for some time significant activity: conference and meetings succeeded each other and assembly members thought they could count on a more sympathetic attitude from the current French government. Moreover they place much hope in the government of the Popular Front. They thought that the moment was right where their plans could be given consideration and reforms would finally be implemented. These hopes soon afterwards were dashed. Nothing was being done, nothing was announced, not even reforms of symbolic value which could have alleviated their impatience. Hence they used the only option left for them, and an imperfect one at that, namely the use of propaganda.
I attended the Salé meeting. It was a very successful one. There were enough attendees to fill a small gathering place, a meeting a la European with arm bands and instructions, hopes, songs, eloquent outpourings, enthusiastic audience, telegrams and petitions; nothing was missing. The speakers addressed the assembly's program: liberty of the press and worker syndicates, administrative reforms, and farming reforms. They demanded action to take care of the latter and that the administration, justice, finance and education to not be totally in the service of the French population and their interests. They demanded the right to live in dignity. A program known widely. How could one not approve it? How could a socialist not applaud when at times outcries are raised against exploiters and capitalists, be they French or indigenous? That the French representatives, with all the time at their disposal, accumulated promise after promise and great speeches but almost nothing was done. Alas that's the evidence.
Moreover, was this not the source for the profound effort by the Assembly for National Action? Allal El Fassi tried to define Moroccan nationalism in an oratorical flight. He introduced a beautiful humanitarian nationalism modeled after the 1900s; a nationalism based on love of country, without chauvinism, racism, prejudice with respect to religion, sex and social standing. A nationalism that depends on philosophy and human rights. Does philosophy and human rights suffice to establish nationalism. Allad El Fassi believes not. He would like to root it in traditions dating back to Tarik. He especially would like to root it in the interests of the masses. He and the other speakers who followed him understand that only the support of the masses allows a strong affirmation of the freedoms of which they have been deprived by the French. Freedoms they demand and if necessary they will resolutely take.
There is perhaps a flaw in their principles. The Moroccan nationalist are bourgeois intellectuals like the rebels of our French Revolution of 1789, like the European revolutionaries of the first half of the nineteenth century. Their liberal and national revolution is perhaps old fashioned. No matter, here. The important thing is to have the backing of the masses. This legitimizes the threatening rhetoric, somewhat daring affirmations that one could make to a protector who has done nothing. But the masses you must have with you. The assembly's speakers are bourgeois from their faces to their fine hands; even so-called speakers of the common folks such as the workers and farmers among them. This is normal and, ... regrettable. They spoke to the masses, to the poor, to women and to Jews. There were to be precise no women nor Jews in the room. There were many young men not more than twenty years of age; there even some children and older men who were there in smaller numbers. There were a few elderly who prayed with their rosaries without being impacted by the voices of the speakers. I don't think there were many real proletarians in the room. Again, all of this is not surprising. However where are the crowds if even symbolically? Lets accept that this is just the start. But will they come? The members of the assembly represent a transitional generation which often has in opposition the generation that preceded it. They do not pretend to depend of the Islamic religion when they speak to you in confidence and I believe what they say is true with regards to own course of action. However, when they speak to those of the bled (countryside) where the masses are they are obliged to depend on their religious feelings. They present themselves as reformers who are hostile to popular beliefs and the practice of marabouts. Therein lies many sources for inevitable misunderstandings. How can one conceive of a movement of the masses where there is no commonality of absolute thought between the generations; between the intuitive and passive crowd and the chiefs who are who they are only because they have a more audacious and clearer faith or a much greater cultural upbringing? I would hope that the members of the assembly could aspire to exert actions without the masses than all European groupings. But I am not sure that such action will be organized yet as agile as this organization has been in its beginnings and in the current circumstances. I am not sure that it can could be so organized even after the meetings in Fez and Salé.
Article from the newspaper "Progrès de Fès" (Progress in Fez)
On the matter of a meeting: Our young Moroccan intellectuals and nationalist appeal to the leaders of corporations ... to support democratic liberties and if necessary, to serve as shock troops.
Sunday evening, the Assembly for National Action invited to the residence of Mr. Benzakour his followers and members of corporations in Fez. The attendees, depending on estimates, ranged from 1000 to 2000 people.
Various speakers took the floor to talk about the goal of the meeting and to treat certain topics such as public education, justice, general policies, agriculture and the craft industry.
The Assembly for National Action introduced in 1934 a plan for reforms too general to be amenable to practical and rapid implementation and for which the vast majority of the populations showed disinterest. One does not cause the upheaval of the political and social structure of a country in one day. France was only able to be in its current stage after following three centuries of preparation during which shone philosophers, thinkers, jurists, economists, scholars, artists and political figures which the young modern Morocco to this day has not revealed the presence or the works of comparable men.
These democratic freedoms of the press, the right to associate, to education and unions demanded today by the Assembly for National Action, the people of France did not obtain for over a centry after the great revolution. Is Morroco at the this stage of readiness to be granted all this freedoms? How many of those present in the Sunday meeting have a precise idea about these democratic liberties?
The Assembly of National Action is composed of a group of young intellectuals of the current generation whose inexperience excuses all audacity. It is to those people that General Noguès alluded to in his speech in the El Bagdadi square:
"Beside my old Moroccan friends from the city and the countryside, I know that some young people who were fortunate to be the first to receive our modern instruction, wish that, in one day we transform the country. They are like children, a little unruly, who are not the least loved ones of the family but whose parents, in their very own interest, have the right and duty to maintain in supervision until they acquire the necessary maturity."
If our young Moroccan nationalists have not yet attained this necessary maturity, what should one think about the masses who stayed at that same level of our peasant population during the era of Henry IV? May our young Moroccans lift their eyes up a little to see the giants who planed the French Revolution and granted the liberties we enjoy in France. This does not mean that we must do nothing and leave Morocco in its present state without any modifications. From an economic and social viewpoint we have already made great achievements that some would qualify as a "miracle."
To the young Moroccans of good will I ask: Before the arrival of the French Protectorate to Morocco, how many schools, colleges, and hospitals did you have? Your intellectual baggage and your social ideas, do they differ appreciably from those of your distant predecessors, those tolbas (students) at the time of Moulay Idress, that is during the era of Charlemagne? Did you not live in perpetual insecurity and uncertainty about the next day? After sunset did you dare venture out alone from the ramparts of Fez? In less than twenty five years, didn't France achieve with respect to instruction and public health, general security, and public works a more considerable set of achievements than that of ten generations of sultans? Hence, be a little more patient and don't demand right away the freedoms for which neither you nor your friends are ready for.
That said, I repeat, this does not mean there is nothing to be done. On the contrary, I am convinced that the Protectorate Administration is reviewing with kindness those of your demands that are just and achievable. I know that the governmental circles of France received you with kindness and they spoke to you words that were noticeably similar to those pronounced by General Noguès at the El Baghdai Square. I know you were received by General Noguès in Rabat and that the Resident General renewed his advice to you. Ok! Was it to force the hand of the French Government and the Protectorate Government that you aroused the members of the corporations of the Medina? How many among these illiterates understood the scope and impact of your speeches? Don't they have their organized corporations, their elected amines (heads), and their ancestral customs?
You know that all the members of every corporation ask for but one thing: work and their daily bread. We are aware that the members of the various corporations are enduring hard times and they are feeling the effects of the ravages of the (economic) crisis. Is it the fault of the protectorate that you prefer European shoes over babouches and cars over saddles embroided with silver and gold? Do you believe that democratic liberties and freedom of the press will improve the sort of the craftsmen? So! Why delude them with hope that is currently is not achievable? The Residence is concerned about the fate of the craftsmen and General Noguès in his speech at El Baghdai Square said,
"We are studying together the possibility of guiding, your corporations and your crafts, progressively towards new opportunities so they don't have to suffer from threatening competition while carefully preserving the artistic industry which is the pride of the city."
Let us all insist that these promises by the Residence are achieved in a timely manner so that our craftsmen recover, thanks to the vigilance of the administration, their former prosperity.
As for us in these columns have frequently brought to the attention of the public authorities to the painful situation in the medina, and we recognize that we perhaps can not react with sufficient effectiveness to the benefit of these formerly flourishing corporations. But one more time, will the democratic liberties demanded by the Assembly for National Action improve the lot of our craftsmen? If the young Moroccan nationalists invited yesterday to their meeting the medina's craftsmenm, who they previously had never been interested in, then it was not uniquely for social solidarity but rather to benefit from their presence and to impress the public authorities. 'See!', they could say, 'we have the people on our side. We represent not only the elite, but also the masses!' And that affirmation would appear to be true.
Moreover, in all demonstrations, one needs shock troops. In case of fights and riots that confront the police and even the armed forces, it won't be our intellectuals involved. It will be the good old working class pumped with promises and hopes who will march against the services for public order while the leaders distance themselves from the fray. Morocco's history teaches us that the workers of corporations, the tanners, the cobblers, the butcher's assistants, etc.. have always been at the origin of riots that upset Fez and have served as shock troops to the agitators and discontented. And those are the ones called upon at Sunday's meeting.
To govern is to foresee is the wisdom of the ages. The Administration must therefore foresee who is responsible in case social conflict occurrs in the streets. It must spot the leaders and make them understand that it will hold them responsible, and in case of trouble they will be immediately arrested. But above all else, the Administration must review with good will the demands of those under our protection and give them satisfaction if they are valid and reasonable.
Signed: M. Bouyon
Follow this brief commentary which says much about the intentions of the "le Progrès de Fès" newspaper:
In May of 1874, several months after the enthronement of Sultan Moulay Hassan, the tanners rioted in Fez. "It was a very serious riot" affirmed the author of the book, 'Kitab Al Istiqsa' and the notables fearing somewhat a reprisal from the Sultan, sent him a letter to deny any responsibility and discharged it on "the rabble, the bad nationals and those without confession." Isn't it a bit surprising to see today the descendants of these notables of the time of Moulay Hassan, appealing to "the rabble, the bad nationals and those without confession" to achieve their demands and to impress the authority? We hope that General Noguès will not be obliged to re-establish order, which by the way was not disturbed, by "bombarding the city from all directions" as did the Sultan Moulay Hassan and as the author of 'Kitab Al Istiqsa' affirms.