Said Hajji was born in Salé on February 29, 1912 one month to the day of the signing of the Treaty of Fez which placed the southern half of Morocco under a French Protectorate. He was barely seven when his 18 year old brother, Abderrahman, the eldest of the family, became known as the "Moroccan Zaghloul" by his circle of colleagues because of his patriotic fervor and his commentaries on the front-page articles from the Middle Eastern newspapers to which he subscribed. For this was the moment in history where Egyptian nationalists regrouped around their famous patriot, Saïd Zaghloul, to demand independence for Egypt. It was also the period during which the Wafd, a new political party he founded, lost all hope of achieving a political settlement with Great Britain. From 1919 to 1922 the party engaged in an overt struggle against the occupation, creating a turmoil of storms by instigating general strikes, assassination attempts, sabotage and riots.

It was within the context of this infighting with western occupiers, that young Said was soon to find out that his eldest brother was hit with a fifteen day jail sentence for organizing a solidarity march in support of the ex-Pasha of Sale. The latter had been deported to a remote region of the country by authorities of the Protectorate for openly voicing his disapproval for new fiscal measures because they would overburden the small business owners and craftsmen.

Said spent the most memorable period of his adolescence listening to the news of the war in the Rif which lasted from 1921 to 1926. He shared the enthusiasm of his eldest brother who undertook steady correspondence with the leaders of the Rif revolution and who even proposed to put his residence at their disposal for use as a recruitment center for volunteers as well as a dispensary to heal the wounded from the front lines. He was proud of Abdelkrim's victories over the Spanish occupation forces and believed that the final victory was at hand when his forces reached the environs of Fez. Unfortunately, the advent of fresh reinforcements of French and Spanish metropolitan troops backed by a powerful logistic replenishment of military firepower overwhelmed even the tenacity of Abdelkrim, who was forced to lay down his arms and surrender, before going into exile on Reunion Island.

Abdelkrim's defeat was felt across the nation, a stinging lash that awakened Morocco from its torpor. Said still only 14 years old and obviously too young to oppose the occupation forces in any capacity, began to dream about continuing the struggle by pacifist means. However he could not refrain from reading over and over a poem by his brother Abderrahman, "The Surrender of Abdelkrim" portions of which are translated here from Arabic:

Is it true this news hawked by the press?
Our world is troubled, our morale in distress.
Is it true, Abdelkrim, your life in danger,
Condemned to exile, a prisoner forever?
How can it be, after shaking land and sky,
Brandishing your sword, symbol of angry cry,
You ceded your will; and yet, did not your foe,
Witness of your courage, once shaketh so?
Even as your name rang o'er the country,
To where volunteers swarmed aplenty?
How can it be, after so much valor,
A defeat your opponents now savor?
How can it be, after victories galore,
To surrender, resigned to fight no more?

Soon after Abdelkrim's surrender, the emotion and will to continue the struggle still strong, Said and a small band of friends created a club which they named "Al Widad" (The Concord) and established a newspaper named after the club with articles written in a journalistic style."Al Widad" was entirely handwritten and many manual copies were made to be distributed to several major cities in Morocco. This newspaper, with Said as the director and chief editor, had as its byline "Friendship and harmony for all races, classes and religions."

On January 1, 1929 in a handwritten memorandum, Said provided a retrospective review of the various stages he underwent in his early formative childhood. He reviewed the period from his traditional schooling in the Koranic medrassa which he admitted was mostly of little influence on his development to his access to education in the first public school established in his hometown. Based on this introspection, Said saw the need to have the traditional schooling restructured from top to bottom along the lines of the advanced methods used in modern education. He even tried to use "Al Widad" to align its readers with these views and perspectives on education.

It should be noted that the "Al Widad" club successfully created several papers, all handwritten and all under the supervision of Said Hajji. Besides the weekly "Al Widad" already mentioned, the club distributed a 24 page monthly "Widad", and two other newspapers "Al Madrassa" (The School) and "Al Watan" (The Nation). Said ensured the regular circulation of these papers from 1927 until end of November 1930 when he left for the Middle East to pursue his higher studies. The responsibility and care for continued circulation of these journals was passed on to his friend Abou Bakr Al Kadiri with whom he would remain in contact during his studies. The subject matters for these various journals dealt essentially with problems of concern to youth, with the flow of ideas that occupied the minds of the intellectual elite of the period, with the synthesis of historical, scientific or literary works, and with national or international events.

As an example of its political and social commentary, on January 8, 1929 the "Al Widad" special edition No. 29 included a copy of a political cartoon first published by the Casablanca "La Croix" (The Cross) paper, No. 127, which represented Morocco under colonial power as a person inserted in a mechanical press and being squeezed slowly to death with no one coming to his rescue. The cartoon, placed in the center of the front page, was paired with the commentary: "And here we are, causing tears in the eyes of a mother who is losing her child and who has nothing in life to look forward to," just as was written in the original paper. This is the fundamental reason for which our newspaper was created. It was created to fight slavery and colonialism . Its sole purpose is to eradicate this plague which threatens our compatriots. May each Moroccan listen, read and weep for the deplorable situation in which he finds himself. He will be condemned to annihilation if he does not immediately awaken and adopt the motto: "To the death and long live Morocco!"

The first public school in Azrou, which the French intended for the development of the upcoming generation of Moroccan Berbers was strictly prohibited from any instruction of Arabic or the Islamic religion. On the occasion of the opening of this school, Said published an article on May 9, 1929 in the "Al Maghrib" No. 65 titled "A grave danger threatens our native tongue. We must beware." He analyzed the disastrous consequences of this undertaking by the Protectorate Authority designed to separate the inhabitants of the cities from those in the outlying regions. The article exposed this as an attempt to cut the fraternal ties which always existed between Arab and Berber by denying the latter the right to learn to read and write in the language of the Koran. By confining instruction to subjects taught only in French they were digging an impassible trench between the students at the Azrou school and their compatriots elsewhere in Morocco. Said incited his fellow Moroccans in this article to raise their voices in protest and to organize demonstrations against this abominable colonial policy.

Special Edition of the handwritten journal "Al Widad", January 8th, 1929

Special Edition of the handwritten journal "Al Widad", January 8th, 1929.

The "Al Widad" club could be considered to be the kernel of a movement that opened the way for a truly intellectual setting for Morocco's modern civil society. It served as the starting point for an awakening which manifested itself in the creation of new socially conscious groups. The latter included an association for the preservation of the Koran which was formed in Salé for the purpose of endowing each mosque with a sufficient number of copies of the Koran. This helped put an end to the chaos which occurred with individual recitations by encouraging a unified reading of the sacred Book and thus emphasizing the collective will of the faithful to glorify in unison the words of the Almighty and to nourish their feelings of belonging to a community governed by Islamic values.

But it is without doubt the creation of the Salé Literary Club which provided Said Hajji with the ideal forum to make the most of his thoughts on social progress which he wished to communicate especially to those of his fellow citizens who continued to rest on their laurels. He therefore stirred up a series of discussions on the pros and cons of the ways and customs of Moroccan society, insisting on the need to jealously preserve the positive aspects while banishing certain traditions whose antiquated character clashed with progress in the modern world. He also gave a number of presentations in front of the intellectual elite of Salé to bring them up to date on recent steps made towards literary rebirth in the Middle East and to inform them of what other Arab countries thought of Morocco and what they thought of Moroccans.

With respect to the planning and implementation of new projects, Said Hajji was the type of entrepreneur who, whatever the effort required, counted only on himself to reach his objectives. He created the "Moroccan Society for Publications" with the goal of reprinting certain ancient works that had become practically inaccessible because of the poor quality of print and especially because of the fact that they were deteriorating due the test of time and due to the lack of maintenance and care. To this end, he acquired a printshop in Salé which, despite the obsolete nature of its equipment and its manual setting of print, allowed him to meet a significant number of his objectives. These included the publication of new editions of several ancient books and the creation of new publications based on manuscripts which had been stored in private collections in conditions that did not conform to the standards required with respect to the professional handling methods and preservation of books and other archived documents.

In addition, he was later successful in using this printshop to bring into circulation "Al Maghrib", the crown of the first national press written in Arabic, which was printed three times each week. (More details will be given later on the struggle to obtain a truly national press). Once he was able to purchase "Al Omnia", a better equipped printshop in Rabat, he not only was able to increase the circulation to a daily newspaper but he added a weekly literary supplement and subsequently a monthly review. To this day, this collection of publications amounts to an obligatory set of references for whoever wishes to study the artistic and literary culture of Morocco during the 1930's.

Three years after the end of hostilities in the Rif, Said and his brother Abdelkrim, seventeen and nineteen years of age respectively, were in London where they were taking lessons in English at Marbel School. They found themselves in an environment still charged with emotion and a will to launch a nonviolent struggle for freedom. On August 18, 1929 they wrote a letter to the former supreme leader of the Rif revolution to inform him of the considerable standing he enjoyed in the Moslem circles in Great Britain where "many are those who recognize his name thanks to his exploits that have astonished the world". They reiterated their unwavering admiration for the stunning victories he won over the French and Spanish coalition forces and expressed to the distinguished leader their deepest affection for the valor of his troops and for fighting to the limits of his capabilities and for the goal of delivering the nation from the yoke of colonialism. The letter ended with an outburst of patriotic fervor calling for a revolt against the established order and the hope for a future of dignity as follows; " Farewell! Farewell! Long live freedom for our country! May the winds of liberty make our nation's flag wave proudly!"

This letter was destined to the Rifi leader who was in exile on Reunion Island but it never reached its destination for it was intercepted by the French security services and passed on to the island's governor. The latter immediately alerted the Minister of the Colonies who then consulted with his colleague in Foreign Affairs to determine if he could allow the Governor to deliver the letter to its addressee. The reply from Quai d'Orsay was adamant and negative, the Minister believing that "it would not be appropriate to deliver messages of this type to Abdelkrim which would lead him to believe that he could still count on loyal followers in Morocco."

The initiative by the Hajji brothers to write to Abdelkrim provoked a considerable clearing of the battle decks in the heart of the French administration. The Political Affairs Bureau in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent the French translation of the letter to the Resident General in Morocco and included a memorandum from the French Embassador in London providing additional information on the conditions with respect to the authorization for temporary residence in the British capital for the two parties of interest. On his part, the Resident General requested from the French civil control services two memoranda, one providing accurate intelligence on the authors of the letter and on the members of their family, the other assessing the declarations made by Abdelkrim Hajji during an interrogation he was subjected to upon his return to Morocco by the Rabat regional controller on this matter. After reviewing this information, the French Resident General supplied the pieces of information including family affiliations requested by the Minister of Foreign Affairs who wanted to determine if the initiative taken by the brothers was linked to any political undertaking.

The outcome of the commotion instigated by the letter, conveyed by the civil control authorities to the two brothers who had returned to Morocco, was to deny their request to renew their passports so they could pursue their studies in Nablus in Palestine. They were informed that they could not leave the national territories until further notice. This action was to find a justification after the fact in a mission report written by a professor at the Moroccan Institute of Higher Learning after a professional tour of the Middle East where he concludes that "the city of Nablus is known for its Islamic fanaticism and by its xenophobia" and that one receives "lessons in nationalism for which the colonial powers will eventually pay."

But instead of being intimidated by this arbitrary interdiction to their freedom of movement, Said and especially Abdelkrim, would soon find the occasion to take on their first act on the political stage following the signing of the Berber Decree on May 16, 1930. Abdelkrim would organize a large protest movement in response to the separatist aims of a colonial policy based on the well known principle of divide and conquer. The Decree sought to treat the Berber population differently from the Arab. For further information on this protest movement, we refer the reader to the section of this book dedicated to the Berber crisis and especially to the article in the appendix "The missing link in the history of the National Movement" in which Abdelkrim Hajji gives his account of the facts as the prime instigator of the protest movement which spread like wildfire across the country.

By mid-October, the Protectorate authorities acquiesced to the request submitted by their father Ahmed Hajji, to send his two sons to pursue their higher studies at the Islamic University of Beirut. The approval was taken after consideration of the fact that the request by Ahmed was made to distance his sons from the political scene and also because the selection of Beirut, which was under a French mandate administered by the French High Commissioner for Syria and Lebanon, would be able to closely monitor their every act and gesture.

However, despite this surveillance, Said and Abdelkrim took advantage of their stay in the Middle East by carrying out a large public relations campaign for the Moroccan cause throughout the countries of the region. With active collaboration from students from Tetouan who were pursuing their studies in Nablus and Cairo, they put in place a plan of action to reinforce their contacts with the spokespersons for the press and the leading influences of public opinion so that their support would not be limited to addressing the Berber crisis, but would be more general and would provide the moral support necessary for all the trials the country was to undergo. And so that is how the Egyptian newspapers, "Al Fatah" and "Al Manar" published a series of articles denouncing colonial policies in Morocco. Then it was the turn of Jerusalem's "Al Arab" magazine to take up the change of the guard. Said was in constant communication with a number of important spokespersons for the region's newspapers such as Egypt's "Campaign", "The Islamic Alliance" and "The Star of the Orient", Syria's "Palestinian Guardian" and "Syrian Gazette" and Iraq's "The Arab World" and "The Independence." Said continuously supplied articles on the political issues in Morocco such as the Berber crisis, the agricultural dilemmas, and the problems at the economic and social level confronting the country.

The links established with the key molders of public opinion proved, at a minimum, that the Moroccan crises were not sufficiently known in the rest of the Arab world and that a permanent entity such as a press agency was needed charged with spreading news about Morocco and its neighboring countries in North Africa. To address this need, Said initiated the creation of the "Maghreb Committee for the Near East" whose objectives and action plans were documented on April 30, 1933. With respect to objectives, the document proposed to improve awareness about the Maghreb by spreading information free of lies or adulterations and by informing leaders of public opinion and the Arab public in general about events that were jarring the country in a manner consistent with the reality and facts in evidence. Those were the stated objectives the committee outlined in their charter in order to ensure the best possible penetration of the Maghreb's message in the Middle East. With respect to the action plan, it foresaw the need to create a North African entity charged with the mission of promoting the political interests of their respective countries to the Middle East and the need to be affiliated with the Association of Moslem Students of North Africa. The plan also called for establishing contact with various North African societies, institutions, and clubs, irrespective of their political leanings or agenda. It encouraged reinforcing contact with newspapers, magazines, editors, literary scholars, poets, politicians, and individuals or groups that worked for the common cause. This newly established committee would have an elected president, a secretary general and a treasurer. A representative of each member country would be responsible for covering their country's specific expenses while the committee would handle expenses for common endeavors from the rolling funds garnered from membership fees. At the end of the month, a report of the events in each country would be presented by the respective participants. The committee, in turn, would begin its journalistic activities for each country starting with an informational preamble such as the history and geography of the country of interest and at its conclusion the committee would add current news dealing with political, economic, social or cultural issues.

In July 1932, Said and Abdelkrim returned from Damascus to spend the summer vacations back home. This was an opportunity to resume meetings with the group of nationalists from Salé, Mohammed Hassar, Abou Bakr Al Kadiri, Al Haj Ahmed Maïninou and Mohammed Chemao. During these meetings, they settled on new approaches for conducting their business and they created a fund to address the expenses to fund the projects that they planned to launch. They made a pact to energize the youth around nationalistic activities. They agreed to compile a data bank consisting of a selection of books, newspapers and other publications on Morocco and to make these available to the young readers. In future meetings they would offer detailed reports on the general status of the country and would send articles on Moroccan current events for the Arab press in the Middle East.

A year later in the summer of 1933, Said was called upon to be part of a select committee with Mohammed Al Yazidi, Omar ben Abdeljalil and Hassan Bouïyad to develop the "Official Report of Grievances by the Moroccan People" which was to be presented in 1934 to the Moroccan sovereign, the French government and to the French Resident General in Rabat. (As we will see later, an abbreviated version, limiting the grievances to those most urgent was resubmitted in October 1936 after receiving approval at the first caucus of the National Action Committee.)

When Said returned permanently to Morocco in 1935, he intensified his political and cultural activities during the next few years. He submitted in July of 1935 a request to the authorities in charge for the creation of a literary magazine which he intended to call "Marrakech" but this was denied without any explanation. He protested by writing a letter in January 1936 to the Resident General complaining about the obstructions to the freedom of the press. He increased his trips to Morocco's interior to re-establish contact with the nationalist elements from other cities and to coordinate activities with them on behalf of the National Action Committee. We will see later that he was specifically targeted for surveillance by the security and control services when he traveled to Marrakesh and especially to Tetouan because the services believed correctly that he was acting as a liaison with the nationalists of the northern zone under Spanish mandate. He gave numerous lectures at the Literary Club of Salé and taught without pay at the open school managed by Abou Bakr Al Kadiri. Nationalists from Salé and other Moroccan cities were frequently invited to his home (also monitored and documented by the security services.) He joined in the public opinion campaign against the return of the ashes of Marshall Lyautey to Morocco. He corresponded with the newspapers of the northern zone and was the proxy in the southern zone of the magazine "Al Maghrib Al Jadid" that Mekki Naciri circulated in the international zone of Tangier. An intelligence memo written by the Bureau of Indigenous Affairs considered him " as a leader of the opposition movement in Salé where he is gaining more and more influence."

It is of interest to note that circumstances were such that his departure to the Near East in 1930 and his return to Morocco in 1935 were both marked by events that seriously threatened the sovereignty of Morocco as embodied by His Majesty the Sultan. The Berber Decree, mentioned earlier was a major threat and the crisis concerning the Consulting Council for Government was just as serious. We now describe the latter in some detail.

Established by fiat in 1919 by Marshal Lyautey acting in his capacity as the first French Resident General, this council and its constituents represented nothing less than the seeds of French colonial control. Its members, all French and chosen by appointment, belonged to three distinct groups, the first group consisted of the settlers, the members of next group were merchants and industrialists, and the third was left to those who fit into neither of the previous two. Initially this council was conceived to be a consulting body on economic and professional matters but later the council ended up acquiring power to make decisions and to set policy, effectively intervening in all areas of government. Since the inception of the Consulting Council, its members reviewed reports on the various sectors of economic and social activity, then made modifications in the details of the recommendations in favor of their areas of interest. Little consideration was paid to the interests of the native Moroccans. In their eyes, the latter practically did not exist. Generally the council would spend several days of deliberations to reach a decision on its recommendations. Once a recommendation was finalized, the council would set up a second meeting, a sort of pseudo-council meeting wherein a few Moroccans designated 'Intuitu Personae' by the Protectorate government were included to rubber-stamp the desires of the Consulting Council.

Within the first year of his return from Damascus, Said was to find his country on the brink of becoming the principle victim of what apparently was a crisis created by an internal power feud within the French administrative apparatus involving this council. The conflict arose between M. Ponsot, the current Resident General and the French colonialists in the Consulting Council who wanted to effectively monopolize authority. The latter wished to have the Council granted the power to decide on matters related to the management of public finances, on the establishment of a tax base and on the redirection of budgetary allocations (according to the unique interests of the French living in Morocco of course). The colonialists not only were aiming to exploit the resources of the country without sharing them but they also threatened to assume outright the sovereign powers of the Sultan and even the authority of the Resident General himself, by insisting on the right to initiate and to edict the laws and regulations of the country. The Sultan, whose privileged position would therefore be reduced to that of a figurehead, would in effect need to do no more than sign these edicts with his eyes closed.

Not having possession of a national news outlet with which to be heard, the National Action Committee with Said playing a prominent role, made known its issues and position statements denouncing the hegemonic intentions of the French colonists by distributing handwritten tracts. Furthermore the nationalists complained about the state of misery imposed on Moroccans especially since the major portion of the budgetary taxes collected exclusively from them were directed to cover the compensation and salaries of a plethora of French civil servants pouring down from the Metropole. The latter were rarely recruited on the basis of open positions planned for in the budget. Instead jobs were created according to the abilities of the newcomers. One report from the National Action Committee made note of the fact there were 16,551 French bureaucrats for a population in 1930 of five million Moroccans whereas elsewhere, such as in Indochina, the number of civil servants barely exceed 6,000 serving a population estimated at that time to be above 20 million.

The last straw that broke the camel's back arrived when the Resident General proposed to reduce the exorbitant number of French civil servants because they presented a formidable burden to the budget of the state. Angered by the proposal, the Council members declared that they were going to cease all cooperation with the authorities and made it known that henceforth they considered themselves a decision making body and no longer just a consulting entity. This was the declaration of war hatched by the French community against the French Protectorate government which also threatened the sovereignty of Morocco.

In response to the meeting of the Budgetary Commission which was the scene of this hue and cry, the nationalist leaders of National Action Committee launched the following series of communiqués commenting on the nature of the debates occurring within this commission:

  • It should escape no one's attention that the organizations reserved for French participants, who are oblivious to the existence and rights of the people of Morocco, have pushed aside all legalities and will no longer abide in any manner with the spirit of the Protectorate nor with the agreements signed by the government of the Republic of France.

  • Even though the French Residency has already established organizations that are contrary to the spirit of the Protectorate, organizations in which Moroccan voices are totally absent and even though it offered to reinstate the Council representatives who resigned, the Consulting Council still rejected the offer made by General Ponsot.

  • Our Committee took this occasion, to address the special commissions of the French Senate and the House of Deputies, with a memorandum that exposed the state of misery and desolation in which Moroccan people find themselves as a result of being subjugated to exorbitant taxation. We were able to convince the commissions that members of the French residents in Morocco should not presume to benefit both from the rights accorded to the French in the Metropole and to take advantages of what is rightfully due to Moroccan nationals.

  • On the occasion of the forming of the new government, the National Action Committee has decided it was its duty to draw attention to the gravity of the situation created by the disagreement between the Protectorate Administration and the representatives of the French colonials. It should be remembered that any organization acting on behalf of the Moroccan state, consisting of only French citizens, is a flagrant attack on the spirit and the letter of the Treaty of Fez. Consequently it is recommended that any such organization must be abolished and replaced with a consulting body that recognizes the right of Moroccans to participate in the management of the affairs of their country.

  • The Committee has announced that it is following very closely all developments unfolding at the Budgetary Commission and that it will spare no effort to convince the appropriate circles of French officials of the necessity to safeguard the legitimate rights of Moroccan nationals and to allow the latter to participate in decisions affecting them.

  • Our Committee has been made aware that the emissaries sent to Paris by the French colonials have not been successful in influencing the parliamentary committees. On the contrary, the representative of the Senate in the Committee on Foreign Affairs made it known that "many French people forget that Morocco is not a battleground for French electoral campaigns and it is our duty to take into consideration the Moroccans who are in the majority and whose rights the Parliament must respect."

  • The National Action Committee has dedicated the last of these communiqués with regards to this matter to the statements issued by the Resident General Henri Ponsot to the Committee of the Colonies and Countries Under Protectorate. Mr. Ponsot pondered the question about "what policy should France adopt with respect to Morocco." He added, "We would be led astray if we remain attached to the policies we followed the past fifteen years. We need therefore to adapt our conduct according to the progress experienced by the country. We must not stop at the level of achievements accomplished so far. The warnings coming from other Moslem countries urge us to redouble our efforts and to adopt a more dynamic policy than that of the past. That is the price we must pay if we wish to preserve and to have respect for our authority." This statement, continued the communiqué, shows the recognition that the Resident General attaches to the political situation in Morocco. It also allows one to understand the intent of recent resolutions made by the Parliamentary Committee which led, for example, the French High Commissioner for Syria to declare that its colonial administration was to be replaced by an administration consisting of nationals who had fought successfully for addressing the legitimate grievances of that country and for binding their national unity.

The seven communiqués distributed by the National Action Committee were intended to condemn the unbounded ambitions of the French colonials who wanted a free hand in the management of the budget as well as total control over the economic and social policies. The colonials had intended to monopolize all means of sovereignty and function of the state apparatus as if the country was their property and that Moroccans did not exist. Moreover certain among them had the gall to feel entitled as one of them would declare:

"We have conquered Morocco so that we can behave like a landowner over its domains. It is our birthright that we must hand down to our descendants who can exploit it as they please and according to their needs."

Said was involved in all the decisions, both at the national level and local level, that were taken by the National Action Committee. So much so that any attempts to trace back all his patriotic activities would amount to reviewing the balance sheet of activities of this political organization. One can detect threads of Said's most cherished ideas in the telegram sent to His Majesty the Sultan and to the appropriate French authorities with regard to this affair involving the Consulting Council:

  • The Moroccan people live in utter material destitution and have extremely poor morale.

  • The Protectorate administration has not only demonstrated a total incapability, if not an obvious lack of will, to provide for their most basic vital needs; but it has also overwhelmed them with exorbitant taxation.

  • The representatives of the French colonials in the Consulting Council of the government, representing in fact only a small European minority, have no right to speak in the name of the Moroccan people.

  • The European residents of a country like Morocco which is placed under a Protectorate regime, are not empowered to participate in the management of public affairs.

  • Only the Resident General has the prerogative to watch over their interests and even then at an administrative level only

  • The present Consulting Council must be abolished

  • It is absolutely essential to give the people the right to elect their representatives so that they can defend their own interests as well as the Moroccan national cause in its entirety.

Unfortunately, the arm wrestling between the Resident General and the French colonials ended ultimately in favor of the latter. The government of the Republic took the decision to relieve Henri Ponsot of his duties and replaced him with M. Marcel Peyrouton, formerly the Resident General in Tunisia where he distinguished himself with a repressive policy against the Destour Party (Party for the Constitution) which championed Tunisian nationalism.

At this stage in the deteriorating internal relations of the French in Morocco, it is necessary to step back and take a quick look at the struggle undertaken by the National Action Committee to address a list of national grievances with the intent to have them approved by the authorities and entered in a plan for reform. These reforms could not be achieved without recognition of the Moroccan people's fundamental rights, starting with the freedom of the press. In the early 1930's, the emerging national movement did not have a single newspaper at its disposal which could serve as its mouthpiece. The only daily that circulated in Arabic was the "Assaïda" which was supervised by the Bureau of Indigenous Affairs of the French Residency. The principal and central concerns of this government sponsored newspaper was to ensure a systematic coverage of the activities of the Protectorate Authority, the travels of the French Resident General , as well as the receptions, weddings and other celebrations which were organized at a local level with participation from the regional authorities.

The first request for authorization to publish a national newspaper in Arabic, "Al Amal", (The Action) dates back to 1932. It was categorically rejected by the French administration, however, during that same year the administration allowed the publication of a monthly magazine "Al Maghrib" . The founder, originally from Algeria, was permitted to provide the public with a "cultural, literary and civilizing magazine" as was indicated on the very first page of its cover. This magazine censored itself from tackling political issues. Nevertheless despite its narrow scope and the fact that its leanings were not always in agreement with any patriotic objectives, many of the young elite submitted and published articles of high quality. Said Hajji was part of this team of young benevolent collaborators which included such patriots as Ahmed Balafrej, Omar ben Abdeljalil, Mohammed Al Fassi, and Mohammed Hassar.

It is appropriate to note that the northern zone of Morocco, under Spanish mandate, did have a few publications in Arabic in contrast to the southern zone under the French. Among the publications that circulated in Tetouan there was the "Assalam" magazine and in 1934 the "Al Hayat" magazine sent out its first edition. Said had provided them with news articles and literary essays since the days when he was in the Middle East and these were regularly published in the north. These magazines had their circulation shutdown in the French occupied zone but their articles were eventually relayed by another magazine, "Al Maghrib Al Jadid" (The New Morocco) that Mekki Naciri began to distribute in 1935 in the international zone of Tangier. Said, having just returned permanently that year from the Middle East, signed a contract as a proxy to represent the magazine's interests in southern zone.

Within the same month of signing up as a proxy for "Al Maghrib Al Jadid", Said initiated a request for authorization to publish a magazine dedicated strictly to cultural issues. The reader will recall that this magazine which he intended to call "Marrakesh" was rejected arbitrarily and without any justification. For Said, this was the last straw and he immediately wrote a complaint to the French Resident General which the reader can read in the section of this book dedicated to his correspondence. In that section he also wrote:

"Time will do its work, the situation will change, certain administrative processes will be put into question and all that will remain is the implacable verdict of history which will toss a shadow over this period during which Morocco has endured for almost a quarter century."

And adds after a few paragraphs:

"The responsibility for this situation lies indisputably with France, considered for a long time as the country of enlightenment amongst the European countries, but now it risks bringing serious detriment to this image by arbitrarily interdicting all that by nature strengthens the cultural life in our country."

The National Action Committee ranked public freedoms at the top of its demands. In particular the freedom of the press, was considered very important. For the publication of national newspapers would provide the sole means of getting its message across and to make known the principles of democracy and justice for which it was leading the struggle against the colonial policy imposed on Morocco by the so called 'protectorate' power. The committee felt that only the publication of a free national press would allow it to denounce the wrongs inflicted on the Moroccan people by an unscrupulous administration which demonstrated little regard to their interests. Its members therefore decided to form a permanent 'Press Commission' which was entrusted to use all legal means to facilitate acquiring the requisite authorizations for the publication of national newspapers and to ensure the follow up of all grievances related to the exercise of freedom of the press.

This commission consisted of three leaders of the National Action Committee, Said Hajji, Mohammed Al Yazidi, and Brahim Kettani. Once the commission's purpose was defined, the following communiqué signed by Said on behalf of his colleagues was immediately sent out:

"Among all countries of this world today, there is one which does not have a single newspaper written in its native tongue. That country is Morocco and it finds itself under a French Protectorate. Numerous requests have been sent to the appropriate authorities for the purpose of obtaining authorization to publish newspapers in Arabic, but all were rejected. These rejections were despite the existence of the 1914 Code of the Press which permits and regulates the Arabic press. This is a code which nevertheless should be considered to be the most severe to have ever been decreed because any publication is tributary to an authorization that can be retracted at any moment simply by an administrative decision. Furthermore any charges against the press come under the jurisdiction of military tribunals. And yet despite these shackles placed on the freedom of the national press in Arabic, the Code of the Press has never had to be executed because no authorization has yet been granted. It is for this reason that a commission has been formed with the mission to demand this sacred right, to allow victims of injustice to put down their complaints, for scholars to express freely their views, and for preachers to preach as they please. The commission will use all the means that the law guarantees it to reach its goals. We appeal to your sense of duty to give this commission all the necessary assistance until the Moroccan people can remove this yoke around its neck."

Then, around mid-September 1936, it proceeded to distribute a tract signed by all three members, which is cited here in its entirety because it summarizes the whole philosophy behind the struggle led by the National Action Committee to have the right to publish national newspapers and to establish a climate conducive for freedom of the press:

"Ever since Morocco entered into this new phase of its history, our compatriots have not ceased from demanding a national press in Arabic which would help them understand how this country is evolving and would serve as the mouthpiece for public opinion and provide information on the events that influenced formed the latter. But despite numerous requests which were submitted in conformance to the norms established by the Code of the Press, the administrative authority has not to this day taken one decision in favor of the right to create a Moroccan press written in Arabic. On the contrary it has denied all requests submitted to it irregardless of whether the purpose of the publication was political, informational, literary or cultural. Morocco's progress is thus left in tow, unable to adapt to civilizing processes in any of their manifestations. What little progress the Moroccan people were able to profit from has been incidental and superficial. In our times, the press is the unique medium that is available to ensure good ties between the individual and the society to which he belongs. It brings to light the relationships that need to be established between the nation and the political powers, because it helps create a climate that permits social groups to better understand the government's viewpoint and for government to be more sensitive to the people's aspirations. Faced with the refusal by the government authorities against all requests submitted most recently to it by individuals, we have deemed it necessary to establish a commission composed of those who have attempted to make these requests. This commission will have recourse to all legitimate means to force open the doors for a national press, to finally allow these nationalists to have at their disposal the freedom which is rightfully theirs within the framework of justice and order. It will count on the Moroccan people who appreciate the importance of the press will play in our present society and who, for many years with tenacity and perseverance have not ceased to make it part of their demands."

Despite the conflict between Henri Ponsot and the representatives of the French colonials in the Consulting Council, the National Action Committee had great hopes for the Resident General to prevail. They felt persuaded that he was going to crown his policy of openness and dialogue by putting in place all or part of the demands submitted over the previous two years to the Protectorate Authority. Unfortunately, the conflict turned in favor of the colonial interests with the sacking of Henri Ponsot and with his replacement with a new Resident General who was totally hostile to any form of dialogue and for whom only repression was the means with which to address unrest from patriotic circles. Upon the announcement of the recall of Henri Ponsot, the nationalists from Sale, sent two telegrams with Said at the head of the signature list. The first was sent to His Majesty the Sultan and the second to the President of the Council for the French Government. To His Majesty they requested that he act on behalf of the nationalist movement and express to the government of the Republic of France his disappointment for its treatment of Henri Ponsot at a time when glimmers of hope were beginning to appear for the implementation of needed reforms. The President of the Council was informed that the Sale members of the National Action Committee protested strongly on behalf of the city's population, against the slight by the French government against Morocco, by letting itself be abused by political maneuverings dictated by the sordid interests of the colonials living in Morocco and by relieving the Resident General Henri Ponsot of his duties at a time when the latter, strengthened by the trust of the Moroccan people, was ready to put into action the economic and social reforms much needed by the country.

The arrival of Marcel Peyrouton was marked with a return to a state of political tension because even before taking over his duties in Morocco, he made thunderous declarations, asserting that after having silenced the nationalist Destour Party in Tunisia, that he would do the same in Morocco where he expected to cope with the same type of resistance movement from its nationalists. Despite this, the leaders of the National Action Committee requested an audience with the new Resident General, who right at the outset, began with threats that he intended to follow the same policies in Morocco that he deemed had been successful in Tunisia. His message was terse and final: 'listen well and good by!' Disappointed by this interview, the members of the delegation, decided to publish word for word some of his comments and invectives, the latter directed at members of the leftists of the French Popular Front who were visiting Morocco. The Committee wrote to the liberal French press in order to inform the French parliament members who were sympathetic to the Moroccan cause on their conversation with the new Resident General. In addition the National Action Committee was able to intercept a telegram from Mr. Peyrouton to the Director of the Moroccan Bank in Tetouan ordering him to issue a half million French francs to the Spanish Phalangist party which, because it was fascist, was a sworn enemy of the Popular Front which had just taken office in France.

Mr. Peyrouton's assignment at the head of the French General Residency in Rabat, was to be a short one. After only six months in office, the Popular Front government recognized that France had committed a serious mistake in nominating him and decided to relieve him of his duties and designated General Nogues, a disciple of Marshall Lyautey and former director of the Bureau of Indigenous Affairs, to replace him. Around the middle of September 1936, General Nogues took over as Resident General. The National Action Committee immediately thereafter sent him a congratulatory letter and a set of documents intended for the resumption of dialogue with the French authorities. In addition the committee included a number of suggestions, hoping to open a new era of understanding with the France's representative to the country. The response to this overture, dated October 2, 1936, informed them of the new Resident General's interest in the grievances submitted to him and of his wishes to follow up on the latter as much as possible after taking into account of course other requirements for the general progress of the country.

It was under this new environment of détente that the National Action Committee held its first caucus on October 25, 1936. The objectives of the caucus were to perform an exhaustive review of activities spanning the last six years and to approve a new declaration of general policy which was to focus on the implementation of a new plan of reforms. Said contributed substantially to this Reform Plan which was derived from the previously cited Official Report of Grievances which he co-authored in the summer of 1933 within the framework of the commission in which he participated. In his presentation at the caucus, Said laid out the accomplishments of the National Action Committee since its inception in 1934 up to the presentation of the Official Report to the highest national and French authorities. He seized the opportunity to convey the total support of the representatives from Sale to the achievements of the last few years and emphasized the need to reinforce coherence and unity with the leaders of the Committee. Said also invited the attendees to redouble their efforts to bring success to the ideals of freedom and justice, requesting that they must remain vigilant to ensure victory. After the speeches, the caucus attendees were invited to discuss item by item the contents of the original grievance report and to reduce its content to the most urgent ones. Thus the revised Reform Plan, was trimmed down to the top priority reforms and included democratic freedoms such as that of the press, and reforms related to education, justice, farming, public health, and taxation. It also included the pressing need to restructure the work laws to align the benefits for Moroccan workers and craftsmen closer to those of their counterparts in France.

General Nogues received a delegation from the National Action Committee and reviewed with them the proposed reforms and he promised to respond favorably to those proposals whose execution would present no difficulties. One of the immediate positive outcomes was the emergence of a national press. A newspaper in Arabic, "Al Atlas", mouthpiece for the Committee was authorized under the direction of Mohammed Al Yazidi. In April 1937 the "Al Maghrib" newspaper in Arabic was authorized for the founder Said Hajji. Lastly a daily written in French, "L'Action du Peuple" (The People's Action) was granted authorization under Mohammed Hassan Al Wazzani.

However shortly after these journals were launched and some freedoms had begun to be tolerated, the forces opposing détente in the Bureau of Indigenous Affairs began the use of various political schemes and plots to tie up the nationalists. Even General Nogues began to side with the plotters, swapping the policy of dialogue and honest cooperation with that of force and brutality. The plan for reforms was postponed indefinitely and a wave of repressive acts crashed upon the nationalists. The "Al Atlas" paper whose first edition appeared on February 12, 1937 was seized, stopped from circulation and censored numerous times. Said was a member of the committee in charge of the press that regularly published communiqués in protest. Such a communiqué was issued on September 8, 1937 after the seizure and subsequent permanent shutdown of "L'Action du Peuple" and the seizure of the thirtieth edition of "Al Atlas". The shutdown of "L'Action du Peuple" was instigated by the publication of an article on the unrest in Meknes provoked by the diversion of water to the benefit of the settler plantations. The article imputed the responsibility of the ensuing massacres on the occupation army contrary to the falsehoods spread by the colonial press. As for"Al Atlas" its thirtieth edition was seized in retaliation for the refusal by its management to remove the text in the editorial commenting on the above mentioned incident and by an article signed by Omar Ben Abdeljalil who compared Zionism to colonialism . The paper's management's counteroffer to leave blanks in the spaces reserved for these articles with the header "Censored Material" was rejected. It was during this period of uncertainty and political unrest that a faction led by Mohammed Hassan Al Wazzani split from the National Action Committee and created an independent political party called the "Qawmi Party" (Nationalist Party). On October 14, 1937, "Al Atlas" was stopped permanently from circulation. After only six months of publication under a climate of back and forth chicanery, its interdiction was final on the day following the constitutive assembly of the National Party, the successor to the National Action Committee which was forced to shutdown its operations based on the Ministerial decree of March 18, 1937.

The dissolution of the National Action Committee was justified by saddling it with far-fetched accusations such as attributing to it the intention of weaving a plot against His Majesty the Sultan, a claim which was at the least ridiculous and provoked indignation in self respecting Moroccans. The second motive for the dissolution was based on an alleged oath that the activists prayed before the Almighty to serve only in the cause of the country and only in the cause of the political organization to which they belonged. But the real reason for the dissolution of the National Action Committee was to be found in the stubborn and blind attitude of the Bureau of Political Affairs which wished to prevent all Moroccans from becoming involved in the affairs of their country. The bureau's hardheaded approach led it to order the arrest of all persons connected with the activities of the Committee, even those whose only connection was a subscription to its papers.

With the stoppage of "L'Action du Peuple" in September and the shutdown of "Al Atlas" in October, the national press was reduced to the "Al Maghrib" newspaper directed by Said Hajji. "Al Maghrib" became henceforth the torch bearer for the struggle and in one of its very first editions, the nationalists announced the creation of the National Party. This new party was formed to resume the struggle of the National Action Committee which, as previously mentioned, had been banned as a political institution a few months earlier. The decision to create the National Party was instigated at an informal meeting at the home of Mohammed Al Yazidi in Rabat after consulting by phone with Ahmed Balafrej who was in Paris at that time. The article addressed the urgency to summon an extraordinary caucus to ratify this decision and to permit the leaders to lay out the bylaws of the new party as well as all the legal documents relating to its creation. The Caucus was held on October 13, 1937 allowing the leader of this new political entity, Allal Al Fassi, to proceed with a detailed analysis of the situation in Morocco since the caucus of the National Action Committee held one a year earlier, on October 18. He noted that the situation had gotten worse because of the crises provoked by the sudden turn in policy by the Protectorate Authority which, to consolidate the interests of the French colonials, had proceeded with the diversion of the waters of Boufekran to the benefit of the colonist's lands. The move stirred up a legitimate uprising by the rural native population in the Meknes region and this gave pretext for the horrific carnage dealt to the demonstrators by the occupation forces. The "Al Maghrib" newspaper echoed the accounts of these incidents and expressed its condemnation for the perpetrators.

Finished was the hope of pursuing a policy of cooperation and dialogue with the Protectorate government. A pact was formed and documented by the members of the National Party which condemned all aggressions committed by the Protectorate administration as well as all attacks against the civil rights of Moroccans and in particular all attacks aimed at suppressing a free national press. The National Pact rejected all responsibility for the current national crisis and blamed it on the reactionary thinking which prevailed in the heart of the administrative apparatus. It called on the grassroots of the National Party to give full support to its leaders with respect to any means and ends they chose to adopt and put in motion to fight against the colonial policies. The pact rejected the false accusations levied on the patriotic movement and decided to suspend all cooperation with the government of the Protectorate until it renounced the suppression of civil rights and engaged in the implementation of urgent reforms which were adopted at the recent caucus of the National Party.

The National Pact was handed to the chief of staff for General Nogues' office in Rabat by the party's emissary in charge for relations with the Residency, Mohamed Elyazidi. The chief of staff tried to make clear to the emissary that the text needed to be amended, especially with respect to the final paragraphs so as to avoid exposing the National Party members to a wide range of punishments. But Mohammed Elyazidi had rejected this proposal explaining that the text was formally adopted by the caucus which represents the leaders of the party and that he was in no manner or form empowered to change anything. When General Nogues became aware of the contents of the National Pact, he immediately dispatched his chief of staff to Paris with a message to inform the government of the Republic of the seriousness of the situation and to convince it of the necessity to act with the utmost firmness to put an end to the National Party by sentencing its leaders to exile. On October 25, 1937 only ten days after the National Pact was submitted, the Resident General gave orders to arrest four of the top leaders of the Party. Allal Al Fassi, Mohammed Al Yazidi, Omar Ben Abdeljalil and Mohammed Mekouar. Allal was sent to exile in Gabon while the others were transferred to different locales in the Saharan regions.

As soon as news of the arrests reached the regional leaders, they organized demonstrations across the country. The largest were held in Fez, Rabat, Salé and Port Lyautey (later renamed Kenitra), Casablanca, Oujda and Marrakesh. In a show of solidarity the Qawmi Party, led by Al Wazzani and which had split from the National Action Committee, joined in the demonstrations. The demonstrations ended with massive arrests of the local leaders of both parties and some of their members. Prison terms ranging from three months to more than a year were meted out. The sentences were issued by civil authorities who used justice expeditiously, disallowing any form of defense or possibility of appeal; the condemned persons were marched off to where they would be incarcerated.

After the demonstrations and the ensuing arrests in the main cities and in particular in Fez, which is the stronghold of Allal Al Fassi, General Nogues went to this city on October 31 and gave a speech in front of the notables, the representatives of the different professions and the foreign press which published papers in Morocco. He condemned the machinations of the nationalists which, according to him, had taken on disquieting proportions during the last month. He claimed he had the support from even the leftists groups within the Popular Front whom he emphasized supported his firm commitment to put a definitive end to the activities of the National Party even if this called for the use of force. And that is how things have unfolded, he said, for according to him the recourse to armed intervention turned out to be indispensable to ensure law and order. He concluded that the Protectorate had done its duty by resorting to force and that it would persist in its determination to maintain order.

On November 29, General Nogues gave another speech in front of the city council members of Fez where he again attacked the nationalists, referring to them as 'children' who lacked maturity and committed irresponsible acts without thinking, and that they had let themselves be manipulated by foreigners. In response to this and similar remarks by the representative of the French Republic in other speeches, the National Party sent out a public letter addressed to the General where the party expressed its astonishment that the French authorities continue to deny, since the establishment of the protectorate, that Morocco had produced in fact a whole generation of responsible elite. Moreover it claimed its surprise that the French authorities continue to believe they are dealing with a community of backward savages instead of a people who are able to think of what is best for them and who have strong cultural and historical roots. The French authorities, it said, pretend to be ignorant of the fact that the people are perfectly aware why they fight and sacrifice for a just cause. Furthermore, it said, the French remain in denial that the people understand quite well the scope of the grievances that they want addressed and the French wont admit that the people have no need to be guided by the hands of any foreigner. It affirmed that the French authorities knew perfectly well that the members of the National Party are guided by the sole motive of devotion to the patriotic cause and a unique concern for national reform

The arrests of the National Party leaders led to a massive solidarity movement in the northern zone where big demonstrations, especially in Tetouan and Laraiche, were organized by the Abdel Khaleq Torres, leader of the National Reform Party and by Mekki Naciri, founder and director of the "Al Maghrib Al Jadid" magazine. Afterwards, the leaders of the reform party launched an international public relations campaign to condemn the repressive policies of France in the zone under its protectorate authority. They entrusted Thami Al Wazzani to get in touch with Ahmed Balafrej and the Prince Chakib Arsalane in Switzerland for the purpose of coordinating the national movement across both the Spanish and French zones. From within this sphere of influence in the north, Taib Bennouna, General Secretary of the National Reform Party, contacted Said Hajji to inform him of the decision taken to create an office in Geneva for the national cause and to ask him on behalf of the executives of the reform party to become an active member of this effort.

Said had maintained contacts with the patriots of the northern zone since the early 1930's. He kept his ties with a number of young elite from Tetouan who were studying in Nablus and Cairo when he and his brother Abdelkrim were studying in Damascus. Hence Said Hajji was the best possible choice to coordinate the activities between his party and the National Reform Party in the northern zone. In this new capacity, Said was frequently called upon to go to the northern zone which did not escape the notice of the Consulate of France in Tetouan which spied on him each time he arrived. In a letter dated April 6, 1936 for example, the following comments were made:

"The Tetouan nationalists employ for the purposes of conveying their secret passwords to the parties in the French zone certain emissaries with whom they maintain in liaison between Fez, Sale and Tetouan."...."The most active emissary and the most dangerous appears to be Said Hajji. This young man has very close ties with the nationalists of Tetouan and during numerous trips between this town and Sale he served as a liaison agent, exchanging passwords and information. Perhaps you will find it useful given these circumstances to request that the security services exercise a strict surveillance of the comings and goings of this nationalist whose photograph is attached."

This letter was sent to the Bureau of Indigenous Affairs which in turn responded on May 5, 1936 thus:

"This Bureau is not unaware of the particularly active role of this young agitator for the national movement. By communicating to you an information file that summarizes the observations raised against him, I would be in your debt if you would be willing to let me know if it would be of any inconvenience to withdraw his passport. I believe, in fact, that this measure is the only one that could put an end to this dangerous activity, a tighter surveillance above that already taking place will be ineffective."

The day following the arrests of those within the ranks of the National Party and the exile of four of its principal leaders, Said who was spared, found himself the only one left on the political scene. Not only was this true with respect to the Sale chapter where all the leaders were incarcerated including Abou Bakr Al Kadiri, but at the national level as well where a large vacuum was felt after a slowdown and cessation of the activities of the party. Why was he not arrested? Was it in deference to the privileged relationship his father had with British circles and the French entente with the British at the 1906 conference at Algeciras or what is it a political calculation to not burn all bridges with all spheres of influence within the national movement? A security memorandum written on November 8, 1937 by the Bureau of Sherifian Affairs (French department interfacing with His Majesties government), to the Bureau of Political Affairs states:

"the Rabat-Sale establishment is astonished to see the person whose name is Said Hajji, director of the "Al Maghrib" newspaper still free and consider him to be a practicing and active nationalist who has had meetings in his residence, on many occasions, with the leaders of the conspiracy Allal, Al Yazidi and Ben Abdeljalil."

Said saw for the first time that he was faced with a situation where he had to make a number of decisions guided only by his heart and soul, and for which he would have to assume all responsibility. He knew that the National Pact forbade dialogue with the Protectorate Authorities as long as the latter did not renounce its repressive policies and as long as they did not begin to put into effect the reforms submitted to them three years earlier. However as a leader of the party he could not remain idle with arms crossed waiting for the protectorate powers to alter their policies and to bend to the demands formulated in the National Pact. This would play into the Protectorate's hands for they were quite happy with the status quo. It would also delay the National Party's agenda. Said therefore had a choice on one hand to wait an indefinite amount of time for the release of his comrades in the struggle to collectively determine the tactics to get out of this impasse or on the other hand to engage at a personal level, even if it meant reinterpreting the National Pact to account for the realities on the ground and to exploit recent developments in the political arena to come out with a victory. A detailed self review of his options led him to the following conclusions:

  • More than 5,000 people were arrested and condemned for up to two years in prison without parole. The leaders of the National Party were exiled for an indeterminate period. Said was concerned that their prolonged absence would dampen the patriotic spirit within the party and would have to be restarted from scratch after they were freed.

  • The campaign orchestrated by Ahmed Balafrej against General Nogues in the French political circles the day following the wave of arrests was successful in changing the general's policies. Said noted that this campaign almost cost General Nogues his position as the French Resident General, the evidence being that he renounced any further repressive measures.

  • This new policy by the General was not to the liking of the Bureau of Indigenous Affairs. Its response was to seek further harm for the National Party leaders by conjuring up all kinds of false accusations, at times with the collaboration of individuals with no scruples or care about the national cause.

Said thought it was his duty to exploit this discord by engaging in a direct dialogue with the Resident General to explore reaching the release of political detainees and the resumption of the implementation of reforms. He was able to initiate these discussions without the awareness of the security and control services which were known to be not supportive of détente. The official talks Said had with the Resident General were recorded in a final official report which explicitly confirms that the following points were addressed:

  • Reform of civil administrations and in particular that for education

  • Reformation of the agricultural sector with priority to land redistribution to poor farmers and for more safeguards for landowners

  • Improvement of the conditions for workers in the industrial and traditional crafts sector

  • Authorization for the formation of cultural associations and right of assembly for those with common interests

  • The lifting of censorship against the national press

  • Freeing of political detainees and the return of their leaders from exile

At the conclusion of the discussions which ended up with the basis for an accord that could serve to break through the impasse, Said made it clear that the endorsement of the Nationalist Party leadership would be necessary for this working agreement to be final However, since most of the leadership was either in prison or in exile, Said suggested to General Nogues that he be allowed to leave for Switzerland to submit the tentative agreements to Ahmed Balafrej for his approval. The Resident General, anxious to open a new era of cooperation and dialogue, agreed immediately and gave instructions to the appropriate government offices to provide his interlocutor a passport, valid for three months for France and Switzerland.

The government offices, who were still unaware of the discussions that had occurred and who were asked to keep the Bureau of Indigenous Affairs in the dark, were left wondering about the Said's mission. The Controller of the Civic Affairs for the region of Rabat who delivered the passport rushed to the Director of Political Affairs to request a discrete surveillance of Said during his stay in France. The head of the civic affairs section for Salé for his part, informed the Rabat office that Said was engaged intensely in numerous activities as of late: "He has recently gone to Fez dressed in European clothing and has come back with a suitcase." In this same memo, there were questions about his comings and goings to Rabat and the need to " monitor the Guessous Institute which he visits with his father, as acting directors of the institute." The same memo adds that one of the teachers of this school was recently replaced by Omar Aouad, a native of Salé and former student at College Moulay Youssef, and known to have nationalist leanings. Speculation ran rampant. There was a report that "the purpose of his trip to Fez was to find out the latest incidents there with regards to the demonstrations in support of the Destour and to establish liaisons to incite similar demonstrations in other Moroccan cities". They attributed to Said's intentions in France were to work through the Association of Moslem Students of North Africa "in order to obtain the release of those sentenced in October." They also stated that he wanted " to meet with Balafrej in Switzerland, where the latter is receiving medical attention, in order to update him on the status of the Guessous Institute." In a second letter dated May 2 1938 addressed to the Director of Political Affairs, the regional head of the civics control stated that the visa granted to Said for France and Switzerland was for fifteen days and that it would soon expire without the person in question having decided to "take advantage within the prescribed time given the urgency of the authorization which was granted." The writer wondered if he should renew the visa and stated that his view was to not extend it. However an annotation on the margin of this letter notes that "Said Hajji had effectively used his passport to go to Switzerland where he completed a very quick trip and had met with Balafrej."

The conclusion one can make as to why the Resident General put the French administrative apparatus at arm's length with respect of the resumption of dialogue which took place with Said is that the General, who still remembered the disagreement between Henri Ponsot and the Consulting Council of the Government, wished at all costs to avoid the failure of the ongoing talks through the machinations of the administration's bureaucracy. This was especially important because the French government circles were pressuring him to adopt a less rigid policy than that which he had put in place.

In any event, Said arrived as expected in Geneva but was not able to meet with Ahmed Balafrej, the latter had just been admitted into a hospital to undergo surgery. Instead he had discussions lasting four hours with the Prince Chakib Arsalane, Balafrej's host in Geneva with whom Balafrej frequently stayed and whose friendship was sealed by unconditional support to the Moroccan cause. Said returned back to Morocco after his discussions with the Prince and assurances by the latter that he would convey their discussions to Balafrej. When Balafrej recovered from surgery, he maintained a continuos correspondence with Said; asking for clarification on certain points, expressed his reservations about others and proposed modifications of certain proposals and finally giving his approval to the agreement contingent upon the amendments that needed to be made.

Starting from this new position of cooperation, the detainees who were liberated after one year in detention met with Said. They were briefed on the official reports of the meetings held at the Residency as well as the final letter by Balafrej in which he gave his approval to implement the agreements that were submitted to him. Said also showed a personal letter that he sent to Balafrej making several suggestions on how to face the mounting international crisis which threatened the country as well as his response approving the suite of Said's proposals. After reviewing all these documents, the decision was made to draft a communiqué declaring the National Party's position with regards to events that pointed to the imminence of war. A team of nationalists were received by the Resident General and the declaration was read in front of the representative of France by the patriot, Mohammed Al Ghazi. A few days after the issue of this declaration and on the same day that war was declared, members of the Qawmi Party from Rabat and Sale presented in their turn a similar petition to the Resident General assuring him of their party's unconditional support for the cause of France.

Members of the secret cell known as "Taifa" who were still able to move about freely, met to develop a common patriotic position. Besides Said Hajji, this cell included Abou Bakr Al Kadiri, Mohammed Al Ghazi and Mohammed Al Fassi. Before advertising the aforementioned communiqué, the temporary executive committee of the National Party met and after a thorough review of the internal and international situation presently at hand, they adopted the following motion:

Considering that Article 7 of the National Pact of October 13, 1937 was limited to the circumstances which were the origins of its adoption;

Considering the gravity of the international crisis which risks to drag our nation into a dangerous and unprecedented situation,

Considering that such a situation demands a total revision of the guideline followed by the Party ever since the adoption of the National Pact;

What follows has been agreed to by the Party:

The guideline for the Party is henceforth to request from the governmental authority all that is in the public's interest; to engage with the authority a dialogue to this end and to sincerely cooperate with it each time it provides proof of good will.

This new guideline for the Party, that Said had in fact initiated at a time when he found himself alone on the political scene and when he took it upon himself to engage in what qualified as a "dangerous turn", had without any doubt and contrary to some who have written on this subject, largely contributed to lighten the troubles of a large number of political detainees, many of whom were freed before the end of their sentence.

Said Hajji and Mohammed Al Ghazi were permitted to meet with a number of patriots who were under house arrest. Their travels to Marrakesh, Mazagan (Al Jadida), and Mogador (Essaouira) were noted on November 25, 1939 in an intelligence bulletin sent to the head of the Casablanca civil control section by the head of the Chaouia-South circle. Previously, an intelligence memo dated November 14, 1939 emanated from the Division Commissioner of Marrakesh, noting their passage through the city where they "visited with Moulay Hassan ben Seddik Alaoui, ex-nadir and well known nationalist, who has already been the subject of numerous reports." In addition the memo states that they "went to see the brother of Abdelkader Hassan, recently sentenced to 6 months in jail for possession of illegal tracts." A memo dated October 26, 1940 destined for the Bureau of Political Affairs informs us that Said wished to see General Nogues to resume once more discussions with regards to the deportees and in particular Omar ben Abdeljalil. Another document dated April 12, 1941 stated that "Said Hajji from Salé, has been authorized to go to Ouaouizarth to meet with Si Mohammed Al Yazidi." The steps taken on behalf of these two important political figures were crowned with success since both were freed during 1941. Only the leaders Allal Al Fassi and Mohammed ben Hassan Al Wazzani stayed in their places of exile for eleven and nine years respectively.

Several months later, on March 2, 1942, Said sighed his last breath after a cruel illness which had lasted four month without any remedy able to cope with it. The deceased had filled his short life well, he could sleep in peace, a righteous sleep in the presence of the Almighty.