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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Remembering Frantz Fanon

CSMS Magazine Staff Writer

 Too often we tend to forget those who have devoted their entire life fighting against racism and raw exploitation so humanity could revolve itself and the world could be a better place. Since the early times, humanity has been going through stages that revolutionized the way we think, the way we perceive our environment and the way we interact with one and other. Feudalism was an advance stage of society when it replaced the notion of city-states to impose the concept of nations governed under one central government. The industrial revolution of the eighteen-century substantially did away with feudalism, where the bourgeoisie played the role of revolutionary force that allied itself with the masses to overthrow a defunct system that was out of touch with reality. The capitalists were in great need of skilled workers, not slaves, to work in newly built factories. But the search to acquire mass fortunes in far away lands had triggered a new waves of injustice of immense proportion. European colonial powers, in their quest for riches in Africa and in newly discovered America, have committed atrocities in an unimaginable level. But as country after country became decolonized, newly born privileged class sprung like mushrooms in the morning dew, with an utter of commitment to upholding the old status quo ever. No thinker described such phenomenon so eloquently better than Frantz Fanon, whose works had a profound impact on many nationalist movements around the world in the 1960s.          French psychiatrist and revolutionary writer, whose writings had profound influence on the radical movements in the 1960s in the United States and Europe. As a political thinker born in Martinique, Fanon’s views gained audience in the Caribbean islands along with Aimé Césaire, Edouard Glissant, C.L.R. James, and Eric Williams. Fanon rejected the concept of Négritude—a term first used by Césaire—and stated that persons’ status depends on their economical and social position. Fanon believed that violent revolution is the only means of ending colonial repression and cultural trauma in the Third World. “Violence,” he argued, “is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; it makes him fearless and restores his self-respect.””I have no wish to be the victim of the Fraud of a black world.My life should not be devoted to drawing up the balance sheet of Negro values.There is no white world, there is no white ethic, any more than there is a white intelligence.There are in every part of the world men who search.I am not a prisoner of history. I should not seek there for the meaning of my destiny.I should constantly remind myself that the real leap consists in introduction invention into existence.In the world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself.” (Fanon in Black Skin, White Masks, 1952)Frantz Fanon grew up in Martinique amid descendants of African slaves, who had been brought to the Caribbean to work on the island’s sugar plantations. Fanon’s father Casimir worked in the customs service; he died in 1947. At the lycée Schoelcher in Fort-de-France, where Fanon studied, one of his teachers was Aimé Césaire.In his teenage Fanon became politically active and participated in the guerrilla struggle against the supporters of the pro-Nazi French Vichy government. He served in the Free French forces and volunteered to go to Europe to fight. After the war he studied medicine and psychiatry in Paris and Lyons. Among Fanon’s friends was Edouard Glissant, his younger compatriot, who studied philosophy and history at the Sorbonne. Fanon was, according to Glissant “extremely sensitive”. Glissant debuted as a poet with Un champ d’îles (1953), Fanon’s first major work, BLACK SKIN, WHITE MASKS, appeared in 1952.The book, analyzed the impact of colonialism and its deforming effects, had a major influence on civil rights, anti-colonial, and black consciousness movements around the world. Fanon argued that white colonialism imposed an existentially false and degrading existence upon its black victims to the extent that it demanded their conformity to its distorted values. The colonized is not seen by the colonizer a human being; this is also the picture the colonized is forced to accept. Fanon demonstrates how the problem of race, of color, connects with a whole range of words and images, starting from the symbol of the dark side of the soul. “Is not whiteness in symbols always ascribed in French to Justice, Truth, Virginity?” Fanon examines race prejudices as a philosopher and psychologist although he acknowledges social and economic realities. The tone of the text varies from outrage to cool analysis and its poetic grace has not lost anything from its appeal.In 1952 Fanon began to practice in a psychiatric ward in Algeria. He married in 1953 a young white Frenchwoman. At Blida-Joinville’s hospital, where Fanon worked as the director of the psychiatric department, he applied the ideas of François Tosquelles, an innovative practitioner of group therapy. In 1954 the National Liberation Front (FLN) started its open warfare against French rule. After three years Fanon resigned and allied himself with the Algerian liberation movement that sought to throw off French rule. Fanon travelled guerrilla camps from Mali to Sahara, hid terrorists at his home and trained nurses to dress wounds. In 1959 he was severely wounded on the border of Algeria and Morocco. Fanon then worked briefly as an ambassador of the provisional Algerian government to Ghana and edited in Tunisia the magazine Moudjahid. During this period he also founded Africa’s first psychiatric clinic. Much of his writing concentrated on the Algerian revolution, including the essays published in L’AN CINQ, DE LA RÉVOLUTION ALGÉRIENNE (1959), in which he calls for armed struggle against the French imperialism. Fanon himself did not live long enough to witness Algeria’s independence.Fanon survived several political murder attempts, and also the slaughter in 1957, in which the F.L.N. killed 300 suspected supporters of a rival rebel group. After a 1,200-mile intelligence expedition in 1960, from Mali to the Algerian, he was seriously ill. Finally Fanon was taken of leukemia and died in Washington, DC, on December 12, 1961. After negotiations, his body was flown back to Algeria to be buried on Algerian soil. Josie Fanon, his wife, committed suicide in Algiers in 1989.Fanon’s last work, The Wretched of the Earth (1961), was called by its publisher “the handbook for the black revolution”. The book was based on Fanon’s experiences in Algeria during the war of independence. Using Marxist framework, Fanon explores the class conflict and questions of cultural hegemony in the creation and maintenance of a new country’s national consciousness. “In guerrilla war the struggle no longer concerns the place where you are, but the places where you are going. Each fighter carries his warring country between his toes.”The Wretched of the Earth became one of the central documents of the black liberation movement. Fanon’s writings also influenced such anticolonial writers as Kenya’s Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Zimbabwe’s Tsitsi Dangarembga, and Senegal’s Ousmane Sembè. In contrast to Mao and orthodox Leninism, Fanon did not accept the view that the Communist party leads the revolution, but he believed that the revolutionary party grows from the struggle. As a Marxist Fanon argued that postcolonial African nations end in disaster if they simply replace their white colonial bourgeois leaders with black African bourgeoisie trained by Europeans – oppression remains under capitalistic class structure. “The national bourgeoisie will be greatly helped on its way toward decadence by the Western bourgeoisies, who come to it as tourists avid for the exotic, for big game hunting, and for casinos. The national bourgeoisie organizes centers of rest and relaxation and pleasure resorts to meet the wishes of the Western bourgeoisie. Such activity is given the mane of tourism, and for the occasion will be built up as a national industry.”For further reading: Fanon by D. Caute (1970); Colonialism and Alienation by Renate Zahar (1974); Frantz Fanon by L. Gendzier (1973); Frantz Fanon: Social and Political Thought by Emmanuel Hansen (1977); A Critique of Revolutionary Humanism: Frantz Fanon by Richard C. Onwuanibe (1983); Holy Violence by B. Marie Perinbam (1983); Frantz Fanon and the Psychology of Oppression by Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan (1985); Fanon: In Search of the African Revolution by J. Adele Jinadu (1986); Fanon and the Crisis of European Man by Lewis R. Gordon (1995); Fanon: A Critical Reader, ed. by Lewis R. Gordon (1996); Fanon’s Dialectic Experience by Ato Sekyi-Otu (1997); Frantz Fanon: Conflicts and Feminisms by T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting (1997); Fanon for Beginners by Deborah Wyrick (1998); Rethinking Fanon, ed. by Nigel C. Gibson (1999); Frantz Fanon: A Life by David Macey (2000); Frantz Fanon: A Biography by David Macey (2001)Selected works:PEAU NOIR, MASQUES BLANCS, 1952 – Black Skin, White Masks (trans. by Charles Lam Markham)L’AN CINQ DE LA RÉVOLUTION ALGÉRIENNE, 1959 – Studies in a Dying ColonialismLES DAMNÉS DE LA TERRE, 1961 – The Wretched Earth (trans. by Constance Farrington) – Sorron yöstäPOUR LA RÉVOLUTION AFRICAN, 1964 – Toward the African Revolution (trans. by Haakon Chevalier)Also see The Language Delimma for Caribbean Writers CreolophoneNovel Injustices: Whither The Contemporary Novel?

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