Revolution, King, and People: Morocco 1953

TALIM 1953 horiz

Tangier Gazette 4 September 1953, TALIM research library

In this month of August, it's hard to keep track of all the holidays, whether religious (end of Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr) or national.  Today's "Revolution of the King and the People" day is the anniversary of the 1953 event that sparked a new stage in Morocco's struggle for independence, which came two years later.

Exactly 60 years ago today, 20 August 1953, the French Protectorate authorities deposed then-Sultan Mohamed V.  He and his family were sent into exile, first to Corsica, then to Madagascar.  The installation of a puppet sultan only further inflamed nationalist passions, and Mohamed V continued to militate for independence via broadcasts on Radio Tangier.  His return to Morocco in 1955 sounded the death knell for the Protectorates, French and Spanish.

In those days of Cold War across the globe, it was easy for both sides to see the nefarious hand of "international communism" or conversely "American imperialism" behind all events.  The US, from the days of the Casablanca Conference in 1943, had kept lines of communication open with Mohamed V and indeed with Moroccan nationalists, so it's hard to see any American role in the events of 1953.  Izvestia's accusation shown in the Tangier Gazette headline – "they want to convert (North Africa) into their chief base of combined operations" – was hardly justified by the US base at Port Lyautey (later Kenitra in independent Morocco).

Sixty years later, in a regional context of upheaval stemming from "the street" and its Islamist and military permutations, it is intriguing to consider Morocco's celebration of revolution (or reform) coming from the top.

Gerald Loftus

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.