[News] A New Fanonian Moment? - The Legacy of Frantz Fanon

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Mar 13 12:24:34 EDT 2015

Weekend Edition March 13-15, 201

*A New Fanonian Moment?*

  The Legacy of Frantz Fanon



Frantz Fanon died a few months before Algeria’s independence in July 
1962. He did not live to see his adoptive country becoming free from 
French colonial domination, something he believed had become inevitable. 
This radical intellectual and revolutionary devoted himself, body and 
soul to the Algerian National liberation and was a prism, through which 
many revolutionaries abroad understood Algeria and one of the reasons 
the country became synonymous with Third World revolution.

With the weight of its recent past and in particular its long struggle 
for independence that served as a model for several liberation fronts 
across the globe and given its assertive diplomacy and audacious foreign 
policy in the 60s and 70s, the Algerian capital was to become a Mecca 
for all revolutionaries. As Amilcar Cabral announced at a press 
conference at the margins of the first Pan-African Festival held in 
Algiers on 1969: “Pick a pen and take note: the Muslims make the 
pilgrimage to Mecca, the Christians to the Vatican and the national 
liberation movements to Algiers!” Fanon would have been surely proud of 
that moment of Algeria’s and Africa’s history. The festival was 
impregnated with a revolutionary fervour and with his ideas around a 
combative culture that is fuelled by people’s daily struggles. The 
radical atmosphere of a few days in July was captured in an important 
and powerful film by William Klein: The Pan-African Festival of Algiers, 
which attests that this Pan-African gathering was not only a slogan or a 
generous utopia but also a genuine meeting of African cultures in unison 
in their denunciations of colonialism and fight for freedom.

Political leaders like António Agostinho Neto and Cabral saw culture at 
the heart of their concerns because they associated it with liberation 
which they theorised as a form of political action. They strongly echo 
Fanon’s words in /The Wretched of the Earth/ 
<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0802141323/counterpunchmaga>: “A 
national culture is not a folklore, nor an abstract populism that 
believes it can discover the people’s true nature. It is not made up of 
the inert dregs of gratuitous actions, that is to say actions which are 
less and less attached to the ever-present reality of the people….It is 
around the people’s struggles that African-Negro culture takes on 
substance and not around songs, poems or folklore.” [i] 

It is worth bearing this in mind when we think about the role and the 
conception of culture today. Is it simply a culture that entertains 
people and diverts them from the real issues? Or is it a culture that 
speaks to the people and advances their resistance and struggles? Is it 
an independent and free culture that fosters dissent and criticism or is 
it a folkloric one that comes under the suffocating patronage of some 
authoritarian elites?

Fanon had high hopes and strongly believed in revolutionary Algeria and 
his illuminating book “/Studies in a Dying Colonialism/ 
(or as it is known in French /L’An Cinq de la Révolution Algérienne/) 
attests to that and shows how liberation does not come as a gift . It is 
seized by the masses with their own hands and by seizing it they 
themselves are transformed. He strongly argued that for the masses, the 
most elevated form of culture, that is to say, of progress, is to resist 
imperialist domination and penetration. For Fanon, revolution is a 
transformative process that will create ‘new souls’. [ii] 
For this reason Fanon closes his 1959 book with the words: ‘The 
revolution in depth, the true one, precisely because it changes man and 
renews society, has reached an advanced stage. This oxygen which creates 
and shapes a new humanity – this, too, is the Algerian revolution.’ 

Fanon’s concern with what the masses do and say and think and his belief 
that it is the masses, and not leaders nor systems, who make and 
determine history, is at the centre stage in his books. It is crucial to 
analyse Fanon’s testimony because it illustrates how, in the midst of 
the worst disasters, the masses find the means of reorganising 
themselves and continuing their existence when they have a common 
objective. In that respect, Fanon’s descriptions of the conduct of the 
masses is of great importance as they show how the masses go on living 
and how they go forward. [iv] 

This focus and vivid attachment to the wretched of the earth, their 
lives and their struggle is put in opposition to an instinctive aversion 
to a national bourgeoisie that will betray the masses, halt liberation 
and set-up a national system of tyranny and exploitation, reminiscent of 
the colonial counterpart. Fanon rightly observed how nationalist 
consciousness can very easily lead to ‘frozen rigidity’, merely 
replacing the departed white masters with coloured equivalents.

*Understanding Africa: Fanon today*

More than five decades after his death, the question seems to be: why 
Fanon is relevant now? Rather than, is he relevant at all? It would be 
instructive to explore how this revolutionary would think and act in the 
face of contemporary issues in Africa and the world.

Fanon’s work, written five decades ago still bears a prophetic power as 
an accurate description of what happened in Algeria and beyond. Reading 
Fanon’s words and especially ‘The Pitfalls of National Consciousness’ 
his famous chapter in /The Wretched of the Earth/ (based on his 
reflections on his West African experiences as well as his concerns 
about the Algerian revolution),[v] 
one cannot help being absorbed and shaken by their truth and foresight 
on the bankruptcy and sterility of national bourgeoisies in Africa and 
the Middle East today; bourgeoisies that tended to replace the colonial 
force with a new class-based system replicating the old colonial 
structures of exploitation and oppression. Today we can see states 
across the formerly colonised world that have ‘bred pathologies of 
power’ as Eqbal Ahmad has called them, giving rise to national security 
states, to dictatorships, oligarchies and one-party systems. [vi] 

What has become of Algeria today with oil money playing an enormously 
important role in pacifying the population and paying for a bloated and 
ubiquitous security force corresponds to what Fanon feared. His vision 
and politics were and are not to the taste of the ruling class and 
that’s why he is marginalised today and reduced to just another 
anti-colonial figure, stripped of his incandescent attack on the 
stupidity and on the intellectual and spiritual poverty of the national 

As Edward Said argued, the true prophetic genius of /The Wretched of the 
Earth/ is when Fanon senses the divide between the nationalist 
bourgeoisie in Algeria and the FLN’s liberationist tendencies. He was 
the first major theorist of anti-imperialism to realise that orthodox 
nationalism followed the same track hewn out by imperialism, which while 
it appeared to concede authority to the nationalist bourgeoisie was 
really extending its hegemony.[vii] 
Fanon put it to us bluntly: ‘History teaches clearly that the battle 
against colonialism does not run straight away along the lines of 
He then warns us that we must take a rapid step from national 
consciousness to political and social consciousness if we really wish 
our countries to avoid regression and uncertainties.

In this state of affairs the national bourgeoisie dispense with popular 
legitimacy and turns its back more and more on the interior and the 
realities of uneven development and is only interested in exporting the 
enormous profits it derives from the exploitation of people to foreign 
countries. Today’s events confirm this assertion as we can see a 
scandalous and endemic corruption and ‘legalised’ robbery in Algeria, 
Nigeria, Egypt, Ben Ali’s Tunisia and South Africa, only to mention a few.

In Algeria for example, an anti-national, sterile and unproductive 
bourgeoisie is getting the upper-hand in running state affairs and in 
directing its economic choices. This comprador elite is the biggest 
threat to the sovereignty of the nation as it is selling off the economy 
to foreign capitals and multinationals and cooperating with imperialism 
in its ‘war on terror’, another pretext for expanding the domination and 
scrambling for resources.[ix] 
It is a bourgeoisie that renounced the autonomous development project 
initiated in the 1960s and 1970s, and as Fanon eloquently put it is 
‘incapable of great ideas and inventiveness and does not even succeed in 
extracting spectacular concessions from the West, such as investments 
which would be of value for the country’s economy.’[x] 
In the contrary, it now offers one concession after another for blind 
privatisations and projects that will undermine the country’s 
sovereignty and will endanger its population and environment – the 
exploitation of shale gas for example.[xi] 
Today, Algeria – but also Tunisia, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, 
Gabon, Angola and South Africa among others – follows the dictates of 
the new instruments of imperialism such as the IMF, the World Bank and 
negotiates entry into the World Trade Organisation. Other African 
countries are still using the CFA franc, a currency inherited from the 
times of colonialism and still under the control of the French Treasury. 
Fanon would have been revolted at this /bêtise/ and sheer mindlessness. 
How can we go on being submissive to imperialism bowing to every folly 
to satisfy foreign capital?

Fanon had predicted this ominous situation and the shocking behaviour of 
the national bourgeoisie when he noted that its mission has nothing to 
do with transforming the nation but rather consists of ‘being the 
transmission line between the nation and capitalism, rampant though 
camouflaged, which today puts on the masque of neo-colonialism.’[xii] 
This is where we can appreciate the lasting value of employing Fanon’s 
critical insights when he describes for us the contemporary postcolonial 
reality, a reality shaped by a national bourgeoisie 
‘unabashedly…anti-national,’ opting he adds, for an abhorrent path of a 
conventional bourgeoisie, ‘a bourgeoisie which is stupidly, contemptibly 
and cynically bourgeois.’[xiii] 

That is exactly what happened in Algeria and other countries in Africa. 
These regimes are content with the role as the Western capitals’ 
business agent and are only preoccupied with filling their pockets as 
rapidly as possible, ignoring the deplorable stagnation into which their 
countries sink further and deeper. Fanon would have been shocked by the 
ongoing international division of labour where we Africans ‘still export 
raw materials and continue ‘being Europe’s small farmers who specialise 
in unfinished products.’ [xiv] 

Fanon’s critique of tourism, which he regarded as a quintessential 
post-colonial industry, must be revisited and pondered over. He condemns 
the fact that nationalist elites have become ‘the organisers of parties’ 
for their Western counterparts in the midst of overwhelming poverty for 
their populations. Bereft of ideas and cut off the people, these elites 
he argues, will in practice set up their countries as ‘the brothel of 
This is not just a Caribbean experience; it has become the experience of 
many countries in Africa such as post-apartheid South Africa, Tunisia, 
Egypt and Morocco.

    In these poor, under-developed countries, where the rule is that the
    greatest wealth is surrounded by the greatest poverty, the army and
    the police constitute the pillars of the regime; an army and a
    police force (another rule which must not be forgotten) which are
    advised by foreign experts. The strength of the police and the power
    of the army are proportionate to the stagnation in which the rest of
    the nation is sunk. By dint of yearly loans, concessions are
    snatched up by foreigners; scandals are numerous, ministers grow
    rich, their wives doll themselves up, the members of parliament
    feather their nests and there is not a soul down to the simple
    policeman or the customs officer who does not join in the great
    procession of corruption.[xvi]

This raging passage from The Wretched is a fairly accurate portrayal of 
the situation in many African countries where repression and suppression 
of freedoms are the rule – helped of course by foreign expertise – and 
where greedy elites institutionalise corruption and serve foreign interests.

Fanon was one of only a few radical intellectuals to point out the 
dangers of a ‘carefully nurtured’ nativism, to borrow Edward Said’s 
words, on a socio-political movement like decolonisation.[xvii] 
>From nationalism, we pass to ultra-nationalism, then to chauvinism and 
finally to racism and tribalism. This is seen in several exclusionary 
and dogmatic ideologies like Arabism, Senghor’s Négritude, and the 
appeals to pure or authentic Islam, which had disastrous consequences on 
the populations. Again take the example of Algeria, where cultural 
diversity was ignored for a narrower culturalist conception of Algerian 
identity, when the Berber dimension of the Algerian cultural heritage 
was marginalised and reduced to folkloric manifestations, when the elite 
engaged in a sclerotic arabisation policy, when it developed a 
conservative interpretation of religion and a reactionary vision of the 
role of women in society by adopting Islamist-appeasing social measures 
such as the notorious and retrograde Family Code of 1984.

Edward Said noted that more effort seemed to be spent in bolstering the 
idea that to be Syrian, Iraqi, Egyptian, or Saudi is a sufficient end, 
rather than in thinking critically, even audaciously about the national 
program itself.[xviii] 
Identity politics assumes the primary place, and ‘African unity takes 
off the mask and crumbles into regionalism inside the hollow shell of 
nationalism itself.’[xix] 
Fanon argued for going beyond the first steps of nativist assertive 
identity towards true liberation that involves a transformation of 
social consciousness beyond national consciousness.[xx] 

Fanon’s vision of the future Algeria, which he shared with his mentor 
Abane Ramdane, the architect of the revolution, was a secular democratic 
society with the primacy of citizenship over identities (Arab, Amazigh, 
Muslim, Jewish, Christian, European, White, Black, etc): ‘in the new 
society that is being built,’ Fanon wrote in /Studies in a Dying 
Colonialism/, ‘there are only Algerians. From the outset, therefore, 
every individual living in Algeria is an Algerian…We want an Algeria 
open to all, in which every kind of genius can grow.’[xxi] 
He did not forget the role of women in the new society when he said that 
every effort has to be made to mobilise men and women as quickly as 
possible and admonished against ‘the danger of perpetuating the feudal 
tradition which holds sacred the superiority of the masculine element 
over the feminine.’ [xxii] 
Fanon demonstrated in an essay he wrote in his 1959 book entitled 
‘/Algeria Unveiled’/ how women were essential elements in the Algerian 
revolution and how the necessities of combat gave rise to new attitudes 
and new modes; ‘the virtually taboo character assumed by the veil in the 
colonial situation disappeared almost entirely in the course of the 
liberating struggle.’ [xxiii] 

*Alternatives: A second Fanonian moment?*

Alas, such a generous vision of a pluralist society is yet to be 
achieved and this is the second Fanonian moment of decolonisation, a 
moment that breaks away with the hierarchies, divisions and regionalisms 
constituted by imperialism by embracing a universal humanism (that will 
include men and women), and by building regional and international 

The sad contemporary reality that Fanon described and warned against 
five decades ago gives little doubt that were he alive today, Fanon 
would be hugely disappointed at the result of his efforts and those of 
other revolutionaries. He turned out to be right about the rapacity and 
divisiveness of national bourgeoisies and the limits of conventional 
nationalism but he did not offer us a prescription for making the 
transition after decolonisation to a new liberating political order. 
Perhaps, there is no such thing as a detailed plan or solution. Perhaps 
he viewed it as a protracted process that will be informed by praxis and 
above all by confidence in the masses and their revolutionary potential 
in figuring out the liberating alternative.

However, Fanon alerts us that the scandalous enrichment of this 
profiteering caste will be accompanied by ‘a decisive awakening on the 
part of the people and a growing awareness that promised stormy days to 
So we can see Fanon’s rationality of revolt and rebellion, suddenly made 
absolutely clear by the Arab uprisings in 2011. What has started in 
Tunisia and then Egypt’s Tahrir Square has become a new global revolt, 
spreading to Spain and the Indignados movement, to Athens against the 
vicious austerity measures, to the urban revolt in the UK, to the 
massive student mobilisation to end education for profit in Chile, to 
the Occupy movement against the 1%, to the revolt in Turkey, Brazil and 
so on. The popular masses in all these countries rebelled against the 
violence of the contemporary world offering them only growing 
pauperisation, marginalisation and the enrichment of the few at the 
expense and damnation of the majority.

Countries like Egypt and Tunisia were long praised for the ‘wonderful’ 
achievements of their economies with high economic growths that do not 
reflect at all the abject poverty and the deep inequalities entrenched 
in those countries. The masses erupted into the political scene, 
discovered their political will and power and beginning again to make 
history. As the Egyptians said of January 25^th , the start of their 
revolution, ‘When we stopped being afraid, we knew we would win. We will 
not again allow ourselves to be scared of a government. This is the 
revolution in our country, the revolution in our minds.’[xxv] 
Egyptians and Tunisians did not only revolt to demand democracy and 
freedom but they rebelled for bread and dignity, against the oppressive 
socio-economic conditions under which they lived for decades. They rose 
up to challenge the Manichean geographies of oppressor and oppressed (so 
well described by Fanon in /The Wretched/), geographies imposed on them 
by the globalised capitalist-imperialist system.

What can Fanon tells us about what happened in Egypt since 2011 with the 
military coup and the undergoing counter-revolution? Fanon would 
probably say: ‘The bourgeoisie should not be allowed to find the 
conditions necessary for its existence and its growth. In other words, 
the combined effort of the masses led by a party and of intellectuals 
who are highly conscious and armed with revolutionary principles ought 
to bar the way to this useless and harmful middle class.’[xxvi] 
Liberals, Islamists or military Generals, what’s the difference? All of 
them belong to a sterile bourgeoisie aligned with the demand of global 
neoliberal capitalism.

Fanon would also repeat to us an important observation he made on some 
African revolutions (including the Algerian one), which is their 
unifying character sidelining any thinking of a socio-political ideology 
on how to radically transform society. This is a great weakness that we 
witnessed yet again with the Egyptian revolution. ‘Nationalism is not a 
political doctrine, nor a programme’, says Fanon.[xxvii] 
He insists on the necessity of a revolutionary political party that can 
take the demands of the masses forward, a political party that will 
educate the people politically, that will be ‘a tool in the hands of the 
people’ and that will be the energetic spokesman and the ‘incorruptible 
defender of the masses.’ For Fanon, reaching such a conception of a 
party necessitates first of all ridding ourselves of the bourgeois 
notion of elitism and ‘the contemptuous attitude that the masses are 
incapable of governing themselves.’[xxviii] 

For Fanon, the “we” was always a creative “we”, a “we” of political 
action and praxis, thinking and reasoning. [xxix] 
For him, the nation does not exist except in a socio-political and 
economic program ‘worked out by revolutionary leaders and taken up with 
full understanding and enthusiasm by the masses.’[xxx] 
Unfortunately, what we see today is the antithesis of what Fanon 
strongly argued for. We see the stupidity of the anti-democratic 
bourgeoisies embodied in their tribal and family dictatorships, banning 
the people, often with crude force from participating in their country’s 
development and fostering a climate of immense hostility between rulers 
and ruled. Fanon, in his conclusion of /The Wretched/, argues that we 
have to work out new concepts through an ongoing political education 
that gets enriched through mass struggle. Political education for him is 
not merely about political speeches but rather about ‘opening the minds’ 
of the people, ‘awakening them, and allowing the birth of their 

This is perhaps one of the greatest legacies of Fanon. His radical and 
generous vision is so refreshing and rooted in the people’s daily 
struggles that open up spaces for new ideas and imaginings. For him, 
everything depends on the masses, hence his idea of radical 
intellectuals engaged in and with people’s movements and capable of 
coming up with new concepts in a non-technical and non-professional 
language. Just as for Fanon, culture has to become a fighting culture, 
education has to become about total liberation too. He says, ‘If 
nationalism is not made explicit, if it is not enriched and deepened by 
a very rapid transformation into a consciousness of social and political 
needs, in other words into humanism, it leads up a blind alley.’ [xxxii] 
And that’s what we need to bear in mind when we talk about education in 
schools and universities. Decolonial education in the Fanonian sense is 
an education that helps create a social consciousness and a social 

For Fanon, the militant or the intellectual must not take shortcuts in 
the name of getting things done as this is inhuman and sterile. It is 
all about coming and thinking together, which is the foundation of the 
liberated society. And this is not only abstraction as he gives us 
concrete examples from the Algerian revolution, writing of how the 
creation of production/consumption committees among the peasants and FLN 
gave rise to theoretical questions about the accumulation of capital: 
‘In those regions where we have been able to carry out successfully 
these interesting experiments, where we have watched man being created 
by revolutionary beginnings’, because people began to realise that one 
works more with one’s brain and one’s heart than with one’s muscles and 
sweat. [xxxiii] 
He also tells us about another experience in /Studies in a Dying 
Colonialism/ in an essay on the radio, ‘the voice of Algeria.’[xxxiv] 
He describes a meeting in a room where people are listening to the radio 
with the militant (teacher) in their midst. This form of the classroom 
he wrote about is a democratic space where the teacher is an informed 
discussant, not a director and where the purpose of political education 
is self-empowerment.

An intellectual or a militant cannot be truly productive in their 
mission of serving the people without being committed to radical change, 
without giving up the position of privilege (careerism) and without 
challenging the divisions that prevail under capitalism: leader vs. the 
masses, mental vs. manual labour, urban vs. rural, centre vs. periphery 
and so on. For Fanon, the centre (capital city, official culture, 
appointed leader) must be deconsecrated and demystified. He argues for a 
new system of mobile relationships that must replace the hierarchies 
inherited from imperialism.[xxxv] 
In order to achieve liberation, the consciousness of self, a 
never-ending process of discovery, empathy, encouragement and 
communication with the other must be unleashed. That is one of the 
fundamental lessons that we must heed when we build grass root social 
movements that are diverse, non-hierarchical and intersectional.

Fanon was not a Marxist but he strongly believed that capitalism with 
imperialism and its divisions enslave people. Moreover, his precocious 
diagnosis of the incapability of the nationalist elites in fulfilling 
their historical mission demonstrates the continuing relevance of 
Fanon’s thought today. In spite of his own failure -his early death at 
the age of 36 might be to blame here- to put forward a detailed ideology 
of how to go beyond imperialism and orthodox nationalism and achieve 
liberation and universalism, he surely managed to provide us with 
crucial tools to work it out for ourselves: his illuminating conception 
of education always influenced by practice and also transformative, 
striving to liberate all mankind from imperialism. This is the living 
legacy of a revolutionary and a great thinker.

/*Hamza Hamouchene* is an activist and President of the Algerian 
Solidarity Campaign based in London./


The Wretched of The Earth, Frantz Fanon, Penguin, 1967, p188-189.

The phrase ‘new souls’ was borrowed from Aimé Césaire.

A Dying Colonialism, Frantz Fanon, Grove Press, 1967, p181.

A deeper analysis is provided in “A Dying Colonialism”.

The Pitfalls of National Consciousness, Chapter in /The Wretched of the 
Earth, /p119-165

The Neo-Fascist State: Notes on the Pathology of Power in the Third 
World, Eqbal Ahmad, Arab Studies Quarterly 3, No.2 (Spring 1981), p170-180.

Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism, Vintage, 1994, p328.

The Wreteched of The Earth, Fanon, p119.

Is Algeria an Anti-Imperialist State, Hamza Hamouchene, Jadaliyya, 
October 2013.

The Wretched of The Earth, Fanon, p141.

Algeria, an Immense Bazaar: The Politics and Economic Consequences of 
Infitah, Hamza Hamouchene, Jadaliyya, January 2013.

The Wretched of The Earth, Fanon, p122.

Ibid, p121.

Ibid, p122.

Ibid, p123.

Ibid, p138.

Culture and Imperialism, Edward Said, p371.

Ibid, p361-362.

The Wretched of The Earth, Fanon, p128.

Ibid, p165.

A Dying Colonialism, p32 and p152.

The Wretched of The Earth, p163.

A Dying Colonialism, Frantz Fanon, 1967, p61.

The Wretched of The Earth, p134.

A quote by Ahmad Mahmoud in an article by the Guardian, “Mubarak is 
still here, but there’s been a revolution in our minds, say protesters”, 
Chris McGreal, 5^th Feb 2011.

The Wretched of The Earth, Fanon, p140.

Ibid, p163.

Ibid, p151.

50 Years Later: Fanon’s Legacy, Nigel C Gibson, Keynote address at the 
Caribbean Symposium Series “50 Years Later: Frantz Fanon’s Legacy to the 
Caribbean and the Bahamas, December 2011.

The Wretched of The Earth, Fanon, p164.

Ibid, p159.

Ibid, p165.

The Wretched Of The Earth, Fanon, p154.

A Dying Colonialism, Fanon, p69-97

Culture and Imperialism, Edward Said, p330.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/news_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20150313/21167aa2/attachment.html>

More information about the News mailing list