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The Rise of Nationalism

Moroccan nationalism first arose in the 1920s. In December 1934, a small group of nationalists - members of the newly formed Moroccan Action Committee (Comité d'Action Marocaine - CAM) - proposed a Plan of Reforms that called for a return to indirect rule as envisaged by the Treaty of Fès, admission of Moroccans to government positions, and establishment of representative councils. The moderate tactics used by the CAM to obtain consideration of reform-petitions, newspaper editorials, and personal appeals to French officials-proved inadequate, and the tensions created in the CAM by the failure of the plan caused it to split. The rump CAM was reconstituted as a nationalist political party to gain mass support for more radical demands, but the French suppressed the party in 1937.

During World War II, the badly divided nationalist movement became more cohesive, and informed Moroccans dared to consider the real possibility of political change in the postwar era. However, the nationalists were disappointed in their belief that the Allied victory in Morocco would pave the way for independence. In January 1944, the Moroccan Istiqlal (Independence) Party released a manifesto demanding full independence, national reunification, and a democratic constitution. The sultan had approved the manifesto before its submission to the French resident general, who answered that no basic change in the protectorate status was being considered. The general sympathy of the sultan for the nationalists had become evident by the end of the war, although he still hoped to see complete independence achieved gradually. By contrast, the residency, supported by French economic interests and vigorously backed by most of the colons, adamantly refused to consider even reforms short of independence. Official intransigence contributed to increased animosity between the nationalists and the colons and gradually widened the split between the sultan and the resident general.

In December 1952, a riot broke out in Casablanca over the murder of a Tunisian labor leader; this event marked a watershed in relations between Moroccan political parties and French authorities. In the aftermath of the rioting, the residency outlawed the new Moroccan Communist Party and the Istiqlal. In 1953 France exiled the popular Sultan Mohammed V to Madagascar. Mohammed V's deposition enraged not only the nationalists but also all those who recognized the sultan as the religious leader of the country. Two years later, faced with a united Moroccan demand for the sultan's return, rising violence in Morocco, and the deteriorating situation in Algeria, the French government brought Mohammed V back to Morocco.

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