851s.00B/9–1747: Airgram

The Consul General at Tunis (Fuller) to the Secretary of State


A–117. Communist activities—North Africa: The important meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of August 30–31 (referred to in my secret A–114 of September 3, 19471), gave birth to a prodigious offspring—the draft of a new Franco-Tunisian treaty to supplant the treaty of 1881 (of Karsar Said, or Le Bardo) and the Convention of 1883 (La Marsa) which established the Protectorate. The draft, which is brief and comprises but eleven articles, is being transmitted to the Department under cover of despatch. The proposed treaty was presented to the Resident General by a delegation of Party leaders on September 2, and the September 6 issue of the Communist weekly L’Avenir de la Tunisie declares that the Resident promised that he would transmit the proposed draft to the French Government (and the Consulate General’s inquiries seem to confirm this claim; see my confidential A–116 dated September 15, 19471). Such gratuitous act on M. Mons’ part though not surprising is significant enough to warrant, in our view, a more serious attention given to this new Communist stratagem than would normally be the case. The average Frenchman in Tunis is inclined to ridicule any serious consideration of the proposal, and the conservative French press (La Presse, La Dépêche, and La Tunisie-France) has only briefly deigned to offer a few ironic observations on the draft. The Socialists (Tunis Socialists), perhaps [Page 707] somewhat taken aback at having been gone one better by the Communists in espousing the Nationalist cause, have refrained from comment. However, the Arab dailies Ez Zohra and Al Nir’ate have published the draft in toto, though without adding any observations. The Nationalists presumably will refrain from going so far as to give public endorsement to the proposal, conceivably viewing it as to their best interest for the moment to wait and see how they can use this Communist maneuver to their own advantage—to make the most out of a situation involving the interplay of their forces with those of the Communists, the Socialists, and the Residency.

Publication at this time of a proposed treaty to replace the Protectorate régime marks another characteristically relentless Communist tactic of being the “advance guard” for the liberation and independence of Tunisia, of continuing to outdo the Nationalists, the Residency, and the Socialists in thinking one step ahead of anyone else. As Djerad2 writes triumphantly in the last issue of the Communist organ, L’Avenir. “We are the first to point out the path”.

The proposed treaty comprises but 11 articles, and is noteworthy for its brevity and simplicity. Summarized, it provides: (Art. 1) that the French Government will recognize Tunisia as a Free and Sovereign State having its own Government and Parliament, its own money and finance, and “forming part of the French Union as an associated state”; (Art. 2) for the abrogation of the treaties of 1881 and 1883 and in a general manner all of the agreements, laws and decrees heretofore determining the relations between the “high contracting parties”; (Art. 3) that the position of Resident General give way to that of a representative of the French Republic having the rank of Ambassador to the Tunisian Government, and that in conformance with Article 62 of the French Constitution regarding the defense of the French Union, the French Government will assume the defense of Tunisia; (Art. 4) that France renounces all interference in the “internal affairs” of the country; (Art. 5) that the corps of civil controllers is suppressed, as well as that of Native Affairs officers stationed in the military territories of southern Tunisia; (Art. 6) for the abrogation of French naturalization laws in Tunisia and assumption by all Tunisian subjects of Tunisian nationality and the enjoyment of the rights and liberties of all citizens of the French Union guaranteed by the Constitution of the French Republic; (Art. 7) that all French officials and agents will be placed at the disposition of Tunisia by France and are to come under the authority of the competent Minister of the Tunisian Government, the Tunisian Government to assure them of the application of French laws regarding Government [Page 708] positions; (Art. 8) the guarantees of the “legitimate economic and cultural interests” of French citizens residing in Tunisia; (Art. 9) for special Franco-Tunisian conventions to determine the status of French-teaching schools as well as the “temporary régime of French courts in Tunisia” for French subjects; (Art. 10) for a separate convention to determine the future customs relations between Tunisia and France and between Tunisia and other members of the French Union; (Art. 11) for the hypothetic date when the treaty will go into effect.

Despite the fact that during the past month the Communist leaders have engaged in verbal combat with such Destourian figures as the Neo-Destour leader Salah Ben Youssef, behind the scenes the Communists have, in their typically consistent fashion, made contact with Salah Farhat, leader of the far less numerous and more conservative Old Destour Nationalist Party, conscious of the reported rift which recently occurred between him and Ben Youssef (see my restricted despatch No. 289 of September 15, 19473). It was Maurice Nisard and Mohamed Ennafaa who called upon Farhat. In their conversation with him they endeavored to convince Farhat of the political wisdom of the Old Destour coming out openly in favor of the new treaty. The Consulate General’s source revealed that Farhat listened with patience, but that he finally dispatched the delegation, politely but firmly pointing out that his party could not subscribe to the Communist proposal, the reported excuse being that the condition of entering the French Union, so sacrosanct to the Communists, was anathema to all Nationalists.

For the period under report, the propaganda regarding the new proposed treaty is of perhaps principal importance. Of hardly less significance is the increasing number of articles appearing in the last two issues of L’Avenir devoted to a mounting crescendo and tempo of criticism against the United States, thus revealing perhaps a real concern on the part of the Communists in Tunisia that it is to the United States, if not the UN, that the Nationalists look to for their help. L’Avenir reverts again to the Egyptian case which was rejected from the purview of the Security Council, thanks to the machinations of the United States, and devotes a front-page article in the September 6 number joyfully narrating the violent anti-Anglo-Saxon manifestations of the Egyptian students in Cairo. This number also berates the United States for allegedly granting priority for the recovery of German economy over that of other countries, condemns America’s political and economic (dollar diplomacy) designs on Turkey; and endorses the Russian economist Lanetsky’s article “Africa and the [Page 709] Truman Doctrine”, which tells how both militarily and economically the United States has a mainmise on Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.

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  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Ali Djerad, secretary general of the Communist Party in Tunisia.
  4. Not printed.