A WORD which the French think cannot fairly be used about their overseas activities is "colonialism," because the term implies racial domination and commercial exploitation, ideas which are alien to the French spirit and are denied, they believe, by the work they have accomplished. This is an age, however, when facts are twisted to suit propaganda needs. In the same moment, for instance, that the Soviet Union represents itself as heading the "truly democratic" nations in a struggle against American "imperialism" and British and French "colonialism," it is busy oppressing and exploiting half of Europe.

Frenchmen see quite clearly that this American "imperialism" is actually only the development by the United States of methods of defense for the Western community against Communist expansion. But do Americans see equally clearly that the alleged French "colonialism" is merely the performance, often under adverse conditions, of a twofold duty of civilization: to better the physical condition of the local populations and to educate them? The task can be performed only in a spirit of understanding and regard for the traditions of the people. Those aims and that spirit pervaded the work of the greatest French administrators, Savorgnan de Brazza in darkest Africa and Lyautey in Morocco. "Men like Lyautey are our most dangerous enemies," said the pan-Arab agitator, Chekib Arslan, "because they know how to make themselves liked." Lyautey's high concept of the French mission in Morocco is revealed in what he wrote to one of his colleagues: "What I dream of, and what many of you dream of with me, is that, among all the disturbances which rock the world so that one wonders when and how it will ever regain its equilibrium, there should be created in Morocco a sound, orderly, harmonious organization; we wish this country to be a sturdy bastion of order against the mounting tide of anarchy."

To what extent has this vision been realized after 40 years of the Protectorate? The answer is written in the soil of Morocco and the faces of its people. No statesman visits this country without expressing astonishment at the tremendous results obtained in such a short time. But those who have not had an opportunity of observing on the spot how Frenchmen and Moroccans work harmoniously together are sometimes deceived by a systematic distortion of the facts, prompted--whether outside or inside the country--by emotion, self-interest or political calculation.

There can be no doubt that the Franco-Moroccan achievement benefited at the start from France's earlier experience in Algeria and in Tunisia, even though the political conditions were different. The country which France christened Algeria was a political void when she landed there in 1830, for Turkish sovereignty had become theoretical, and even this had not survived the fall of Algiers. After some hesitation, France in 1848 incorporated Algeria into the home territory and divided it into three departments (Algiers-Oran-Constantine) which were added to the 89 metropolitan departments. Thus its inhabitants became French before they became Algerian, as one of its present political leaders has pointed out. Today the proportion of Frenchmen of European origin living in Algeria is high--close to 1,000,000 in a population of something over 8,000,000. This fact, and the integration of the indigenous population into the French political system, give this part of white Africa the character of a French province, stretching southward into the heart of the Sahara.

No natural boundary separated Algeria from Tunisia. The "hereditary possession" of this little kingdom had belonged since the beginning of the eighteenth century to a family with the rank of Bey; and its inhabitants had inherited their civic and cultural traditions from the most ancient times. As France felt unable to leave Algeria's eastern frontier open onto a country which was in perpetual anarchy, she took over the nominal Turkish sovereignty and, in 1881, established in Tunis, through an agreement with the Bey, a régime which received the name of Protectorate. Under this régime the character of the protected state was respected; and the replacement of the former international controls by the French guarantee gave France the necessary powers for developing the country economically and modernizing its administration. With this impetus Tunisia has regained the prosperity it knew in the days of the Roman Empire, and today its population has passed 3,000,000, of which about 250,000 are Europeans.

The Moroccan Protectorate was negotiated in the same spirit with the Sultan of Fez in 1912, following the international conference in Algeciras and diplomatic agreements which permitted France to remove certain international restrictions which had weighed on Morocco since 1880. The unity of control indispensable to the renaissance of North Africa was now complete. However, France granted Spain a zone of influence in the northern part of the Protectorate, where that country had had a foothold as a result of the occupation of the ports of Ceuta and Melilla in the Reconquista of the fifteenth century. In addition, the territory of Tangiers in 1923 acquired international status, insuring its permanent neutralization.

Above and beyond its privileged geographical position, the Sherifian Empire was peculiar in that it was bounded on the east and to the south by a range of mountains which made it as it were turn its back on the rest of Africa. Sometimes it is said that Spain is an unattached fragment of the African continent; it could equally well be said that Morocco is an unattached fragment of the European continent. Its important Atlantic coastline, which improves its climate and widens its horizons, combines with its wide coastal plains and high mountainous interior to give it a European rather than an African character. What is more, the Berber origin of the majority of its rural population, which explains its strong peasant nature, and several centuries of intercommunication with Spain, further accentuate its Western orientation. Only its Moslem religion, the tribal organization of its rural population and the theocratic form of its government link it to the East.

Lyautey understood immediately the special nature of this country, its capacity for utilizing the fertilizing influences of France, and the temporal and spiritual strength which could result from the union. Under his guidance and that of his successors the French went to work.


First the tribes had to be pacified, especially those of the Berber mountain ranges who had never permanently admitted the authority of the Sultan. Persuasion was used more than force, following Lyautey's maxim, "A bargain is worth a battalion." The task was finished in 1934.

While this was going on, the old Sherifian organization was equipped with a modern administration, called "neo-Sherifian." French Directors, assisted by Moroccan Delegates, supervise the public services along the lines usually followed in modern nations, except for those which are subject to Koranic law and therefore come under the authority of Moroccan ministers (vizirs). The Resident General acts as the Sultan's Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Sultan, with the assistance of a Grand Vizir, remains the sole legislator. In the tribes the Sultan is represented by caids, but these act subject to regulations designed to limit various feudal abuses and to facilitate the operation of a more highly developed administration. The Sherifian Empire was divided into seven large administrative regions--Casablanca, Rabat, Meknes, Fez, Oujda, Marrakech and Agadir.

Once these over-all reforms had been made, France was able to devote attention to the economic and social betterment of the country, in order to guarantee the population work, food and health. A few statistics will bear witness to the rapidity with which, in spite of two world wars, Moroccan modernization has progressed in the last 40 years.

First of all, internal and external communication systems had to be created. A rail system of 1,000 miles now links Marrakech and Fez and continues toward Algeria on the east and to Tangiers on the north. In our automobile age, however, it naturally is road travel which has been especially developed in Morocco: 7,500 miles of surfaced roads and 18,750 miles of maintained roads now permit the year-round movement of more than 65,000 vehicles. Egypt, by contrast, with twice as large an area and population, has a much less extensive highway system.

Five great ports provide for foreign trade. The chief of these, Casablanca, placed by Lyautey's decision on the site of a fishing village, now handles more than 7,000,000 tons a year, which puts it fourth among French ports, ahead of both Dunkirk and Bordeaux. Though its piers are 3,710 meters long, they are inadequate and are to be doubled in length.

This rise in harbor traffic is due largely to the growth of mining. In a short time, Morocco has succeeded in establishing a place in the world market for two of her commodities, phosphate and cobalt (the phosphate mines were nationalized in 1920 for the benefit of the Sherifian state); and her exports amount approximately to one-quarter and one-tenth of the world production respectively. The mining of tin, zinc and manganese is increasing yearly.

The Algeciras Treaty inaugurated a liberal customs régime for Morocco, but in spite of this, processing industries have been developing since 1940 under the pressure of necessity; the chief is a fish cannery, supplied from large sardine banks just off the Moroccan coast. In the last few years, thanks to an inflow of capital, there has been an astonishing development in the manufacture of cork, cement, oils, paper, fabrics and other goods.

As the country is short of coal (the only mine, that of Djerada, produces about 400,000 tons of anthracite), three-fifths of the power necessary for this new Moroccan industry is provided by water. Six dams have been constructed, producing 380,000,000 kwh, while two new dams now being built--one of which ranks among the greatest in the world, with a storage capacity of 1.5 billion cubic meters of water--will raise this figure to 800,000,000 kwh; to this should be added 400,000,000 kwh produced in the thermal plants. Since the total power production in Morocco was only 140,000,000 kwh in 1938, this is a more rapid development than has taken place in any other country.

In the field of social welfare, the authorities of the Protectorate gave first place to medical assistance and improvements in hygiene. As the country had been devastated periodically by epidemics of plague, typhus and smallpox, to say nothing of endemic malaria, everything needed doing. Today there are 260 rural clinics, 73 infirmaries, and 6 specialized hospitals (ophthalmological, anti-venereal, anti-tubercular, etc.). When the new hospital at Rabat is finished in 1953, there will be 11,500 beds, 9,300 of them in the Moslem institutions and 2,200 in the mixed hospitals, open to both Europeans and Moroccans. All medical consultations and hospitalization is free for Moroccans, whether Moslem or Jew. In addition, especially trained field teams use the most modern methods to fight malaria. As a result of this immense public health effort both the infant mortality rate and the death rate have dropped dramatically--the latter from 30 per 1,000 in 1930 to 21 per 1,000 in 1950. The population is increasing about 100,000 a year.

These projects, instituted by French scientists and with French money, have provided work for the increasing urban population, which has risen since 1920 from 250,000 to 1,700,000. In Casablanca alone it grew from 268,000 in 1936 to 551,000 in 1947, an increase of 30,000 a year, creating, incidentally, a number of serious problems in town planning.

The old medinas, or Moroccan towns, which Lyautey had sought to preserve by building the new European cities alongside, were soon too small. Careful sociological studies showed that it would be wise to create a special type of satellite city which would come up to international standards of town planning and yet be financially practicable. As a result, in the main industrial centers there now are areas limited to 30,000 or 40,000 inhabitants and consisting of four or five community units, separated from each other by park zones. In the hygienically arranged building areas cell-like dwellings are slowly rising. Each covers 64 square meters and looks like a honeycomb, divided into two main rooms facing south and east and opening, according to Moslem custom, onto an enclosed interior court. In other words, Morocco is developing, but in accordance with its traditions.

The cost of this economic and social program has amounted since the beginning of the Protectorate to about 50 billion francs a year. At first it was met entirely by French funds, and French capital still accounts for two-thirds of it. In 1951, the Fund for Modernization and Equipment, which had received 9 billion francs from loans and French taxes and 6 billions from the Marshall Plan, obtained 15 billions in Morocco; and to this was added the sum of about 20 billions of private investments, 90 to 95 per cent of it from the French market and only about 15 billion francs from the Moroccan budget.

It would be less than truthful not to add that all this work was undertaken by France before the Point Four doctrine was so generously set forth by President Truman, and, moreover, that the doctrine cannot be efficacious without the assistance of competent technicians and a trained staff.


In spite of the important rôles assumed recently in Morocco by mining, industry and urban development, it is not to be forgotten that 85 percent of the population still depends entirely on the cultivation of the soil. For both social and economic reasons, then, Protectorate officials have been working energetically to modernize agricultural methods; this will improve the living conditions of the fellah as well as develop a socially stable rural élite.

Traditionally, Morocco was a country of sheep and goats, and grain monoculture. When pacification permitted the tribes to settle on the land, there resulted a major agricultural development in the truest sense of the term: from 1927 to 1951 the sown and cultivated area rose from 3,000,000 to 5,000,000 hectares. In the first period (1920-1945) the French administration sought to protect the fellahs from the plague of usury by forming a Farm Association and creating marketing facilities for grain. "Sociétés Indigènes de Prévoyance" unite the farmers of two or three tribes, place agricultural implements at their disposal, and when each agricultural year begins provide them with selected seed; the distributions amounted to 280,000 quintals in 1951. Short and middle-term improvement loans are also available.

In spite of this assistance, the fellahs did not follow the technical example of the French farmers in their midst as rapidly as had been hoped. There are now some 4,000 of these European farms, each easily recognizable in the open Moroccan countryside by the grove of trees around the farmhouse, the evenness of the ploughed furrows and the orderly vineyards and olive and orange plantations. What is more, though they occupy only 7 percent of the arable land, they produce 15 percent of the grain harvest and 80 percent of the vital citrus crop. But the neighboring fellahs, even those who are large landed proprietors, remained for long stubbornly attached to their traditional farming methods.

The major enemy of North African farming is the variability of the rainfall. Usually there is one good year in every five. The harvest depends on the prompt arrival of the autumn rains and even more of the spring rains; it can also be virtually destroyed in a few days by the hot, dry wind from the interior known as the Chergui. The two remedies are power cultivation and irrigation.

Only a tractor makes possible the summer plowing of earth hardened by drought--the method of dry-farming--and quick ploughing and sowing in the fall when the rains come late. In addition, the lack of fodder makes it impossible to support teams strong enough to pull heavy carts. Faced with the inability of the Moroccan farmers to alter their ancestral habits, the administration of the Protectorate decided in 1945 to take in hand the modernization of their means and methods of cultivation step by step. For this purpose it scattered throughout the country organizations known as "Secteurs de Modernisation du Paysanat" (S.M.P.), which were in the nature of model farms supplied with mechanized equipment at the disposal of the neighboring fellahs. At first the fellahs were wary, but gradually they became accustomed to making use of this equipment for their own work and began to accept the advice of the supervisors. In six years, methods of cultivation on over 100,000 hectares of land were modernized in this way. The rate of progress is necessarily slow in the period of adaptation to the human and physical environment, where its work is as a drop in the bucket; but it is increasing steadily. While providing this technical assistance to the fellahs on their own land, the administration is also undertaking the irrigation of vast outlying areas, the improvement of which will soon alter the whole physiognomy of the Moroccan countryside.

Already the construction of three little dams between 1925 and 1935 had made possible the irrigation of some 45,000 hectares devoted to the cultivation of citrus fruits, and more recently of cotton. New improvements and the completion of big projects now under way on the Oum-er-Rbia at Bin el Ouidane and at Imfout will increase the area of irrigated land in a few years to 400,000 hectares. In the first of the new areas a state bureau created in 1941 for the sole benefit of the Moroccans is dealing with the problems of resettlement and technical organization presented by this complete transformation in the use of the soil. The Moroccan fellahs will be the chief if not the only beneficiaries, for since 1938 the proprietary tribes are protected by law from undue dispossession. Valuable crops (rice, cotton, vegetables, citrus fruits, fodder, etc.) will thus reinforce the financial stability of the small proprietors in many parts of the country.

Here is the crux of the Moroccan problem: the creation of a rural middle class. Its absence was the main reason why certain East European countries and, more recently, China, were so vulnerable to Communism. Its lack enfeebles the countries of the Near and Middle East today and accounts for the fact that in spite of their apparently democratic constitutions they still contain an anachronistic feudal régime. In Egypt, half of the land under cultivation belongs to 12,000 big landowners; the other half is divided among 14,000,000 fellahs.

Farsighted and honest Arab politicians agree that this is the crucial problem for their countries. They might do well to come and study the steps which have been taken in this field in Morocco, a country for whose well-being they often profess great concern; and the results of such a study would be more profitable to the great masses of their compatriots than the agitation they stir up in order to keep themselves in power. They would find, for example, that in 1945, a year of great drought and a bad harvest, a law was passed in Morocco entailing family property to prevent small landholders from selling out to the large. In Morocco as elsewhere rural modernization is more often a matter of social education than a technical problem.


The gradual education of the Moroccans, then, is the Protectorate's basic work. The budget of the Department of Public Instruction accounted for 19 percent of the general budget for 1952 (as opposed to 12.5 percent in Egypt). This has permitted 300 new schools to be opened per year. Statements of that sort give only a partial indication of the scope of the program, however. The Youth Service is very active, constantly organizing playing-fields, summer camps and group trips for young Moroccans. The goal is the balanced nation of which Lyautey dreamed.

The diverse elements of the population make this difficult. There are in Morocco 3,000,000 Berbers, divided into 385 tribes-- the basic element of the indigenous population, living in the mountains and in the south; 3,000,000 Arabs and Arabized Berbers, divided into 247 tribes, inhabiting the coastal area and plateau; 600,000 city-dwellers, artisans and bourgeois; 800,000 workers, recently migrated to the industrial areas; 200,000 Jews; and 400,000 Europeans, the majority of them French.

Each group forms a community, separated from the others by its own traditions and customs. The Berbers, now subject to a central government after centuries of anarchy, are still attached to their traditional laws, and many would willingly resume their former separatism. The city-dwellers have no rural affiliations, and the women among them still lead cloistered lives as in the Middle Ages. The workers in the towns, uprooted from their tribal environment, no longer observe their religion's ritual obligations and retain only the strong sense of racial solidarity, in which circumstance they are easy prey to anti-foreign or Communist propaganda. The Jews, still for the most part living in the mellahs, are developing with surprising rapidity, and never again would accept their previous inferior status. Though the Europeans are only 5 percent of the population, they provide the majority of the administrators and the technicians, and the taxes on their economic activities provide half of the state income; the size of their economic stake in the country makes it impossible for them to accept the position of a political minority.

The complexity of this social system is entirely ignored by the small group of agitators who exploit the idea of independence in order to secure political power. The first result of independence would be the destruction of the balance upon which European and Moroccan cooperation depends. This would occur, too, at a time when the spirit of solidarity, sealed with the blood of two wars, is so genuine and so strong that France no longer feels any need to keep more than half as many troops in Morocco as Spain stations in Spanish Morocco. (The population in the Spanish Zone, incidentally, is only a tenth as numerous and its area is only one-twentieth as large.) The goal set by France is to develop the internal administration of the Protectorate just as fast as a rural and urban middle class can provide a suitable Moroccan staff--that is, men who are well-trained, honest and devoted. Such officials have participated in the mixed social and economic committees of the administration since the beginning of the Protectorate, and the number of Moroccans taking an active part in the direction of affairs is growing. To hasten the pace a Moroccan School of Administration has been established in Rabat. As a further means of developing competent officials the Frenchmen responsible for the future of Morocco have arranged a large number of scholarships for young Moroccans to do technical or legal graduate work both in France and Morocco. Though this youth is much attracted by French culture, it sometimes allows itself to be diverted from constructive work to sterile political agitation. When the winds of demagoguery blow from various Near Eastern countries, where mere opposition to the West is enough to figure as an ideology, there is no great danger, for enlightened Moroccans believe that their Western orientation is sound and have no real sympathy for states with antiquated social systems. It is a more serious matter, however, when the criticism is accepted in foreign countries, not because it has been investigated and found to have some substance but simply because the public opinion there is moved (as is French public opinion) by the idea that one people must not be oppressed by another people, and because, not being fully and fairly informed, their warm hearts and good faith are imposed upon.


In the middle of the twentieth century, after two world wars, both nationalism and colonialism have become outmoded. Modern life is built on the concept of solidarity of peoples. In Western Europe the recognition of this fact results in an attempt at a unified organization which, beginning on economic and military levels, and helped by the United States, will one day be given expression in the political realm as well. Parallel with this development, under the conditions of the atomic era, and face to face with the vast stretches of Eurasia which already have been Sovietized, the promontory which is Europe must find support on the African continent by forming a Eurafrican bloc. The place where the two continents can be welded together is North Africa. By geography, by the ethnic origins of the major part of its population, and, until the Arab invasions of the Middle Ages, by history, North Africa was an integral part of Europe when the latter was developing in its Mediterranean cradle. This integration is the more natural economically in that semi-arid and temperate climates complement each other in food production. Today, 75 percent of Algeria's external commerce is with France, and the figure for Morocco is 50 percent even under its present liberal customs system.

Strategically, North Africa protects the southern flank of Western Europe just as Great Britain protects its northern flank. As an air and logistics base at the Atlantic and Mediterranean crossroads, whether considered as a supply base or as a point of departure in the event of war, the possession of it is a trump card in the hands of the Western Powers. The loss of it, or simply its collapse into anarchy, would open up a threat from the flank to the whole strategy for the defense of Europe and break a vital link in the system of Atlantic communications. Of this whole area, Morocco, covered by Spain on the north and protected to the south and east by the Atlas Mountains, is the most unassailable bastion. Geography designates it as a base for the strategic air forces of the coalition of Powers which are working to save the peace.

The development of Morocco and provision for its security thus are then essential elements in Western defense. They can be achieved only by a combination of industrial progress, agricultural modernization, social organization and political stability. The sine qua non for each of these is Franco-Moroccan unity. It has become a symbol of the reconciliation and fusion of what might now be called the old West and the old East. In 1952 the West and the East are no longer what the history books told us; the traditional terms have acquired a new meaning. The present division of the world is no longer a religious schism, such as used to exist between Christianity and Islam, both of which are united today in spiritual aspirations which often seem startlingly similar. The division in the world today is between two concepts of man's fate: the individualistic and liberal concept versus the collectivist and totalitarian concept. That, today, is the new West and the new East.

The ancient East, from the Arab states of the Mediterranean basin to Pakistan, India and the new Indonesian Republic, is not yet fully aware of this world revolution. But whatever dreams it may have of forming a third force--traditionalist, feudal and artisan in nature--cannot survive the inexorable lessons of reality. Should the West succumb, each of these countries would have to surrender to Communism; their very nationalism would have prepared them for that fate, as has been seen in China and even more vividly in Korea. In North Africa, France is not simply responsible for the safety of 1,600,000 Frenchmen. She has the responsibility for the new world which is taking shape there. In Morocco it must correspond to the dream of Lyautey; whether it does or not is one of the tests on which may hang the future of the West.

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  • GENERAL AUGUSTIN GUILLAUME, French Resident-General in Morocco; member of the Conseil Supérieur de la Guerre; commanded troops in the Italian campaign and in the liberation of France; afterwards Military Attaché at the French Embassy in Moscow; commander of French occupation forces in Germany, 1948-1951; author of works on North Africa and on strategic questions
  • More By General Augustin Guillaume