What a leftist Moroccan journal from the 60s can teach us about today’s cultural crises.
Next March will mark the fifty-year anniversary of Souffles, a short-lived but incendiary publication founded in the wake of the brutally repressed March 1965 student protests that inaugurated the decades-long period known as “the years of lead” in Morocco. Initially a poetry and culture review, Souffles and later its Arabic-language twin Anfas became the unapologetic platforms for the disgruntled Moroccan youth that took to the streets in 1965. In 1971 the journal’s editor-in-chief, Abdellatif Laâbi, and dozens of fellow Souffles-Anfas activists were arbitrarily arrested, tortured, and imprisoned, effectively putting an end to this remarkable journal, if not to political dissidence, which continued unabated in the jails of Hassan II.
Moroccan writers and artists broke with stagnant French models and Arabic canons in order to forge new artistic forms.
A repository of seminal 1960s texts from across the colonized and postcolonial world, Souffles-Anfas provides a window onto the transnational cultural and political movements that mark the heyday of Third Worldism and anticolonial theory. The sentiments and political grievances expressed in Souffles-Anfas are precursors to contemporary progressive movements—from the pro-democracy revolts collectively termed the Arab Spring to struggles for racial justice in the West. The journal proved instrumental in establishing dialogues between writers, artists, and activists from Africa, Asia, and the Americas. It published seminal works by tricontinental writers and political activists the likes of Haitian writer René Depestre, the Syrian poet Adonis, and Amilcar Cabral, the leader of the struggle for independence from Portugal in Guinea-Bissau, as well as key revolutionary and postcolonial texts, such as the Black Panthers’ Ten-Point Program or the Argentine manifesto for a Third Cinema.