Frantz Fanon Lives! 60 Years After His Death, Fanon’s Ideas Remain the Weapons of the Oppressed
Editor’s Note: The following is the writer’s analysis. “The master’s room was wide open. The master’s room was brilliantly lit, and the master was there, very calm… and our people stopped dead… it was the master… I went in. “It’s you,” he said, very calm. It was I, even I, and I told him so, the good slave, the faithful slave, the slave of slaves, and suddenly his eyes were like two cockroaches, frightened in the rainy season… I struck, and the blood spurted; that is the only baptism that I remember today.” —Aimé Césaire Today marks the 60th anniversary of the passing of one of the greatest thinkers to have emerged from the ranks of the oppressed, Frantz Fanon (1925-1961). Fanon’s contributions are timeless. As long as white supremacy and neocolonialism remain in the driver’s seat of human relations, Fanon’s thought will continue to arm the colonized in the Battle of Ideas. The Radicalization of Fanon Born and raised in what is still France’s Caribbean island colony of Martinique, Fanon was exposed to and shaped by the everyday class and race relations that characterized the island in the early 20th century. Forced to join a segregated column of Black troops, he fought in World War II. Upon continuing his studies in post-war France, he came face to face with the racism that dominates the European world. In his first book, Black Skin, White Masks(1952), Fanon reflects on coming of age in a world, where, “For the black man there is only one destiny. And it is white.” At the time of publication, Fanon had just turned 27. In 1953, the Martiniquais psychiatrist was assigned to Algeria, where he treated patients who were severely traumatized by the violence French colonialism had spun into motion. He met Dr. Pierre Chaulet, a French doctor who secretly treated members of the guerrilla resistance, Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), who had survived torture and captivity. “Viscerally close to his patients whom he regarded as primarily victims of the system he was fighting,” Fanon immediately became a cadre of the Algerian Revolution.1 By 1956, Fanon’s consciousness no longer allowed him to oversee operations at Blida Hospital in Algeria. In an influential resignation letter that moved many on the left, he wrote: “There comes a time when silence becomes dishonesty. The ruling intentions of personal existence are not in accord with the permanent assaults on the most commonplace values. For many months my conscience has been the seat of unpardonable debates. And the conclusion is the determination not to despair of man, in other words, of myself. The decision I have reached is that I cannot continue to bear a responsibility at no matter what cost, on the false pretext that there is nothing else to be done.” The Wretched of the Earth Fanon produced a prodigious amount of intellectual work. Toward the African Revolution is a compilation of his writings on forging African and Third World unity with the Algerian Revolution at the vanguard of this process.2 A Dying Colonialism explores how the Algerian people threw off their internalized inferiority complex by turning away from the colonizer’s cultural practices and embracing their own traditions.3 He dedicated his last days to dictating the final ideas of his most moving work to his wife, Josie. Six decades after it first hit the streets of Paris, The Wretched of the Earth: The Handbook for the Black Revolution That Is Changing the Shape of the World is as accurate and explosive as ever. The title comes from the line “Arise, ye wretched of the earth” from “The Internationale,” the Second Communist International’s official anthem, and from Haitian communist intellectual Jacques Romain’s poem, “Sales négres:” too late it will be too late on the cotton plantations of Louisiana in the sugar cane fields of the Antilles to halt the harvest of vengeance of the negroes the niggers the filthy negroes it will be too late I tell you for even the tom-toms will have learned the language of the Internationale for we will have chosen our day day of the filthy negroes filthy Indians filthy Hindus filthy Indo-Chinese filthy Arabs filthy Malays filthy Jews filthy proletarians. And here we are arisen All the wretched of the earth all the upholders of justice marching to attack your barracks your banks like a forest of funeral torches to be done once and for all with this world of negroes niggers filthy negroes.4 How many revolutionaries the world over became enraptured in his eloquent portrayal of the “Manichaean” differences between the neighborhoods of the rich white colonizer in Algiers and the casbah (ghettoes) of the colonized? Here within this classic, that all revolutionaries have a duty to study, reside some of the most poignant prose on how the oppressed internalize violence and project it onto themselves: “Where individuals are concerned, a positive negation of common sense is evident. While the settler or the policeman has the right the livelong day to strike the native, to insult him and to make him crawl to them, you will see the native reaching for his knife at the slightest hostile or aggressive glance cast on him by another native, for the last resort of the native is to defend his personality vis-a-vis his brother.” Based on his treatment of patients in the Blida Hospital, which today bears his name, Fanon’s final chapter, “Colonial War and Mental Disorders,” examines the “ineffaceable wounds that the colonialist onslaught has inflicted on our people.”5 The fundamental pillar of the book, however, was Fanon’s conviction that the colonized could only shed their fear and shame through a baptism of revolutionary violence. Fanon’s former high school teacher and mentor, Aimé Césaire, had a profound influence on him. Césaire’s words cited at the beginning of this article from his epic poem on slave liberation, “And the Dogs were Silent,” set the tone for the Fanonian worldview. Despite a chorus of liberal complaints from the West that Fanon was “too violent,” Fanon concluded: “As you and your fellow men are cut down like dogs, there is no other solution but to use every means available to reestablish your weight as a human being.” ‘You Can Kill a Revolutionary, But You Can Never Kill the Revolution’ Though Fanon died of leukemia when he was only 36, revolutionaries the world over have picked up his fallen weapons, his ideas, and applied them to their own particular national liberation struggles. Fanon’s observations and thesis continue to mold the thinking of awakening generations in life-and-death struggles from Johannesburg to Gaza to Harlem. As political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal writes, the Black Panthers were Fanonists. His audio essay and tribute to Fanon discuss what the psychiatrist’s anti-colonial perspicacity meant to a 15-year-old Mumia, who has spent 40 years in prison. In Seize the Time, Bobby Seale talks about the influence of Fanon on the young Panthers and how Huey P. Newton read the book seven times.6 Malcolm X, Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Nelson Mandela all traveled to independent Algeria, which emerged as an epicenter of Pan-Africanism and internationalism. Paulo Freire stated that he had to rewrite Pedagogy of the Oppressed after reading The Wretched of the Earth. Hamza Hamouchene, president of the London-based Algerian Solidarity Campaign, discusses in CounterPunch what he deems Fanon’s unique contributions to understanding nationalism, the national bourgeoisie, political education and universalism, among other themes. It is important to highlight that Fanon was more than just a doctor and writer. At his graveside, Vice-president of the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (GPRA) Krim Belkacem emphasized Fanon’s diverse roles in the FLN’s total war. Beginning in 1954, Fanon worked as a writer, editor and propagandist for FLN periodicals Résistance algérienne and El Moudjahid. He also was a researcher; lecturer; a FLN representative in Ghana, Ethiopia, Mali, Guinea and Congo; as well as a clandestine militant. Looking at the work of Karl Marx, Steve Biko, Cedric Robinson, Sylvia Wynter and other examples of revolutionaries/intellectuals, the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research wrote a tribute to Fanon because of how he embodied the praxis of a radical or organic intellectual: “The world will only be shaped by the most valuable insights of philosophical striving when philosophy itself becomes worldly via participation in struggle.” Fanon survived an assassination attempt, exile in Tunis and was staring down a crippling disease that he refused to talk about but that ultimately claimed his life. Aware he was dying, he pledged, “I will not cease my activities while Algeria still continues the struggle and I will go on with my task until my dying day.”7 Today, it is more necessary than ever to study Fanon to understand the psychological, emotional and spiritual damage wrought by neo-colonialism on the peoples of Africa, the Americas, Asia and what the Black Panthers referred to as the United States’ internal colonies. Fanon’s conclusion in The Wretched of the Earth on African and human liberation begs the same questions six decades later: “Let us waste no time in sterile litanies and nauseating mimicry. Leave this Europe [U.S.A.] where they are never done talking of Man, yet murder men everywhere they find them, at the corner of everyone of their own streets, in all the corners of the globe.” Danny Shaw is a professor of Caribbean and Latin American Studies at the City University of New York. He frequently travels within the Americas region. A Senior Research Fellow at the Center on Hemispheric Affairs, Danny is fluent in Haitian Kreyol, Spanish, Portuguese and Cape Verdean Kriolu. Notes 1 Fanon, Frantz. Toward the African Revolution. New York: Grove Press. 1964. 2 Fanon, Frantz. Toward the African Revolution. New York: Grove Press. 1964. 3 Fanon, Frantz. A Dying Colonialism. New York: Grove Press. 1965. 4 Macey, David. Frantz Fanon: A Biography. London and New York: Verso. 2012. 5 Macey, David. Frantz Fanon: A Biography. London and New York: Verso. 2012. 6 Seale, Bobby. Seize the Time: The Story of The Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton. Random House: 1970. 7 Macey, David. Frantz Fanon: A Biography. London and New York: Verso. 2012.
Sent from my iPhone
On Dec 6, 2021, at 11:35 AM, aj <email@example.com> wrote:
Frantz Fanon: a classic for understanding colonialism https://brasil.elpais.com/cultura/2021-12-03/frantz-fanon-um-classico-para-entender-o-colonialismo.html (DeepL translation from Portuguese): The Martinique writer masterfully illustrated colonial trauma. Six decades after his death, we remember his work and legacy OMER FREIXA Buenos Aires - 03 DIC 2021 - 13:09 EST On December 6, 1961, the Martinique psychiatrist and intellectual Frantz Fanon succumbed to a merciless leukemia that shortened his life at the peak of his academic production, at the age of 36, and in the year of publication of his last work, the classic The Wretched of the Earth. He died at a key moment in African history, the coming of independence, a time he witnessed and was a protagonist of while serving in the National Liberation Front (FLN) during the war for the emancipation of Algeria (1954-1962). As a psychiatrist, his experience was fundamental in profiling colonized people, in a book that has become an obligatory reference for studies on colonialism. Colonialism and alienation In the heat of the war in Algeria, which had already lasted seven years at the time of writing The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon wrote that colonization is always a violent process that dehumanizes the colonized, denying them their past, their essence, and their values. "Colonialism is not a thinking machine, it is not a body endowed with reason. It is violence in a state of nature," he opined in the first pages of his essay. The colonial system builds and perpetuates stereotypes. Fanon constantly denounced them. In 1961, he argued that the oppressor was defined by the colonized as an enemy of values, devoid of them as well as of morals. The dehumanization went to the extreme of comparing the African to animals. "The language of the settler is a zoological language," the psychiatrist added. These observations had backing in the scientific discourse of the time. In this field, in pre-1954 France, it was concluded that the Algerian was a born criminal, an impulsive and inhuman murderer, who killed for nothing, and always stole violently. Even some similar observations were made in Tunisia and Morocco, with which the stereotype of a North African criminal was concluded. Fanon denounced the content of French teaching regarding subjects based on metropolitan theories that associated them with inferiority and aggressiveness. In one of these studies, the North African native appears as almost devoid of cerebral cortex or, in another, the African is compared to a lobotomized European. The conclusion, according to several French experts of the time, was that the mental structure of the African predisposed him to be almost an animal. The author of The Wretched of the Earth defined him, in a framework of a certain ambiguity, as a trapped being. On the one hand, fearful and even hostile to the oppressor; on the other hand, envious of him, wanting to take his place and even sleep in his bed, possessing his wife. The native was barred from the city, the separation between the two worlds was a reality, and because of this distance and the inherent violence of the system, the colonized lived in a permanent state of tension. Such tension manifested itself in the desire to overcome the limits that were imposed under threat or coercion. Therefore, these tensions were sublimated during sleep: "They are muscular dreams, dreams of action, aggressive dreams. I dream that I jump, that I swim, that I run, that I leap. I dream I laugh (...). During colonization, the colonized never stop liberating themselves between nine o'clock at night and six o'clock in the morning," he summarized. As the African did not unload his violence against the European, he did it with his fellow men, through internal fights, or through religion. In states of trance, they forgot their condition of submission, even if only for a moment. It is not accidental that during colonialism the hospitals were saturated with individuals with extremely altered psyches. Liberation and war If colonialism is pure violence, Fanon explained, the response must be equally violent. Since that system is built by force of arms, the subject knew that also through them his time would come. "Colonized man is liberated in and by violence," the author preached. There is no alternative, he argues in his pages. The new society must be born as a result of violence and revolutionary armed struggle. Fanon recommended forming a common front against the oppressor. The colonized found themselves trapped by misery and hunger that pushed them further and further into the desperate act of open and organized struggle. It was the moment to penetrate the colonizer's forbidden abode. "Progressively and imperceptibly, the need for a decisive confrontation becomes urgent and is experienced by the great majority of the people," he warned. And the beginning of liberation brought relief. Its beginning allowed the colonized to relax, artistic production became expressive, and there was a reinvigoration of expressions in general, more creativity in cultural manifestations and a resurgence of the imagination. Moreover, Fanon found that ordinary crimes virtually disappeared in Algeria after 1954. This means that the aggressiveness of the Algerian was overcome through the liberation brought about by the war of independence. The liberation, besides the redemption of the people, the protagonist actor, also required the expulsion of the foreigner, a process consummated in Algeria since independence in 1962, for example. But the problems of organizing the new state would soon arise. The people first The armed struggle is the product of the people, the birth of a new nation. Fanon pointed out that violence unified the people by putting pressure on the colonial regime. Despite the attempts of the colonizers to divide them by fostering tribes and other mechanisms, violence in practice would be totalizing and national, tending to eliminate regionalism and tribalism. But unity did not end at these points. With regard to the most postponed sectors, these actors pulled themselves together by integrating themselves into the efforts of the national liberation struggle on an individual level, by storming, to paraphrase the Martinican, the citadel of the colonizer. Therefore, recognizing that this was the only way, all these individuals were unified because the struggle promised them a restorative horizon under the umbrella of nation-building. Nevertheless, fragments of these groups also aligned themselves with the oppressor. "Every colonized person in arms is a living piece of the nation," the author celebrated. The purpose was to build a nation in order to expel the intruders. But the departure of the latter did not clear the picture. The national bourgeoisie took the reins of power once decolonization was produced, and little changed. Misery rose again. This new group betrayed the people and allied with external actors, leading to neocolonialism and keeping popular aspirations at bay. Fanon denounced the way in which this bourgeoisie lost its renovating airs and became an instrument of the previous status quo. The author of Black Skin, White Masks was strongly denounced. The newly independent countries, as described above, transformed their governments from bourgeois dictatorships into tribal dictatorships. "Subsequent to the colonial power handing the country over, the party that claimed to be the servant of the people, that pretended to favor the development of the people, rushes to lead the people back to its cave," the intellectual said. In other words, he criticized that the parties were distant from the people, from the masses. His urgent request consisted in again building bridges with such masses, and that the people be protagonists of the armed struggle and of the final process of transformation. He postulated the importance of government and party being at the service of the people. "The politician must not ignore that the future will remain closed as long as the consciousness of the people is rudimentary, primary, opaque," he concluded. As the French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in the prologue to the Martinican's work, the colonized are cured of their colonial neurosis by expelling the colonist with weapons. However, neocolonialism is somehow still perpetuated 60 years after the publication of The Wretched of the Earth. The former metropolises have not completely abandoned Africa, as was assumed after most of the continental political liberation in the 1960s. Even today, various mechanisms still subjugate African populations and governments, as Frantz Fanon warned and wrote in 1961.
Omer Freixa is an Argentine Africanist historian, professor, and researcher at the University of Buenos Aires and the Universidad Nacional Tres de Feve
THE WRETCHED OF THE EARTH: