Laayoun Ainya is one of the most famous Moroccan songs of the 1970s and something of an unofficial national anthem for many Moroccan nationals. This is a song you will hear played by the groups that gather in the Djemaa el Fna on balmy nights when crowds gather to be entertained and sing along to popular and familiar tunes. The song itself deals with important aspects of Moroccan nationalism and questions over the Moroccan claim to sovereignty over the Western Sahara and deals explicitly with the Green March, during which hundreds of thousands of unarmed Moroccans occupied desert lands.
On October 16th 1975, the International Court of Justice in the Hague issued an advisory opinion on the legal status of the area known as the western Sahara prior to the Spanish colonisation of the region in 1884. That night, King Hassan II appeared on Moroccan television and radio asking for 350000 volunteers to occupy the territory in an attempt to secure Moroccan sovereignty over the land. This sovereignty was contested by Mauritania, Algeria and many of the inhabitants of the sparsely populated desert region as represented by the Polisario movement. As a result of the occupation an agreement was signed which divided the land between Morocco and Mauritania, this resulted in fifteen years of Polisario's guerilla warfare against the Moroccan government.
I don't wish to get into the politics of the Green March, but the music contained in the grooves of this record is absolutely wonderful:
I suppose my views on nationalism and the idea of the nation state are best summed up by Benedict Anderson:
"In an anthropological spirit, then, I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community - - and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.
"It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion...all communities larger than primordial villages of face-to-face contact (and perhaps even these) are imagined. Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined. Javanese villagers have always known that they are connected to people they have never seen, but these ties were once imagined particularistically-as indefinitely stretchable nets of kinship and clientship. Until quite recently, the Javanese language had no word meaning the abstraction 'society.'...The nation is imagined as limited because even the largest of them encompassing perhaps a billion living human beings, has finite, if elastic boundaries, beyond which lie other nations. No nation imagines itself coterminous with mankind. The most messianic nationalists do not dream of a day when all the members of the human race will join their nation in the way that it was possible, in certain epochs, for, say, Christians to dream of a wholly Christian planet.
"It is imagined as sovereign because the concept was born in an age in which Enlightenment and Revolution were destorying the legitamcy of the divinely-ordained, hierarchical dynastic realm. Coming to maturity at a stage of human history when even the most devout adherents of any universal religion were inescapably confronted with the living pluralism of such religions, and the allomorphism between each faith's ontological claims and territorial stretch, nations dream of being free, and, if under God, directly so. The gage and emblem of this freedom is the sovereign state.
"Finally, it is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings.
"These deaths bring us abruptly face to face with the central problem posed by nationalism: what makes the shrunken imaginings of recent history (scarcely more than two centuries) generate such colossal sacrifices? I believe that the beginnings of an answer lie in the cultural roots of nationalism."