From Fluidity to Exclusivity: Interwar Moroccan Jewish Leftists and their Legacies

By Alma Heckman
Submitted to Session P4930 (Between the National and the International: Arab Communists from the Mashreq to the Maghreb in the 1940s and 1950s, 2017 Annual Meeting
Judaic Studies;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Stories of the Rif war (1920-1926), the industrialization of colonial Morocco, the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the Communist International and interwar Moroccan Jewish political engagement intertwine in a knot of institutional, political and social histories. Communist and broadly leftist ideas in Morocco stemmed not only from France but reformulated and reinterpreted themselves among Spanish, Italian and local Moroccan (both Jewish and Muslim) workers. The story is not one of the French Communist Party (PCF) simply implanting itself in Morocco as a foreign, colonial agent, but rather one of an active Moroccan reception amid a dynamic, constantly recalibrating urban civic society. This paper shows that the PCF enacted its own form of mission civilisatrice (“civilizing mission”) in Morocco and embraced aspects of the prevailing colonial, protectorate discourse. However, the party was quickly “domesticated” for the needs of Moroccan Jewish and Muslim revolutionaries. I argue that the interwar period was one of vast political efflorescence for Moroccan Jews with a transnational genesis. Following the Second World War and the anti-Semitic policies of the Vichy regime in Morocco, these options would narrow and become increasingly mutually exclusive. During the 1920s and 1930s, however, Moroccan Jews were participants in a dynamic, constantly recombining political sphere of ideas and ideologies, all of which held both conflicting and complementary visions for the future of Moroccan Jewry.