Franz Fanon and the Fate of Colonized and Colonizer
Algeria, South Africa and Palestine
(Part 1 of 2)
Despite decades after death, Fanon did not lose his theoretical and practical legacy. Apart from whether revolutions achieve his basic theory – that revolution must kill the colonizer and the colonized and create both in new manner – his argument did not lose its human necessity or cohesiveness because it contains both consciousness and praxis.
The failure of the so-called the post-colonial era which was uncovered as a mere language and discourse without any real form of crystallization and embodiment, and even appears as direct, practical and varied forms of colonialism especially during the era of neo-liberalism, globalism, structural adjustment, comprador’s inherit of revolutions in periphery, and finally imperialism’s invasion and launching direct wars against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen…etc, all those developments encourage us to re-call Fanon’s theory including his critique of “Post-colonial” regimes.
There is no doubt that ideas live for centuries as used values and if ideas are commodities they are from a kind that never expires.
But, how about another level of thinking and judgment, which is the expectation or prophecy, Fanon touches or lays a foundation for?
In all military, economic, political and cultural aspects of life, always a confrontation on field of struggle is more direct and breeds fast results than abstraction and theorization because it transcends direct conflict time and continues to the post-liberation period.
The direct field/case of Fanon’s struggle and theorization is Algerian revolution as one of the revolutions of periphery in the age of second nationalism wave in modern human history which unfortunately declined and was inherited by comprador class/regimes. This decline raises the question regarding the legacy of Fanon’s theory especially in relation to class issue.
In his direct argument that revolution must kill both the colonized and colonizer as the way to created new man in both parts after colonialism has been uprooted, Fanon might be influenced by Mao’s argument that revolution stems from the barrel of gun. Some people imagined that colonial era ended and was followed by a new, “post-colonialism”. It seems that it is a “post” of some form colonialism, i.e. new version of colonialism.
In addition to the false term “post-colonialism”, many questions remain:
- Has a new man been created in the country of revolution, new in forms of socio- economic, political and cultural levels, meaning larger that the level of armed struggle.
- Was a new man been created in colonial countries abandon his colonial, racist, and plunder policies?
- Or the bitter fact is that Fanon succeed in arguing for killing the old man in both societies, but the result was different from his expectation which is that both men reconciled through a collusion of both at the cost of people of the liberated country?
My question does not aim to exaggerate Fanon’s ideas as if he expected or saw everything, but it aims to shed light on the reality of so-called Post – Colonialism or a version of post-colonialism which means that Fanon’s project was not completed. But we must remember that it is hard for any project to be completed totally as long as the world is marching from one event to another or that any project transforms from one level to another.
Fanon grasps the effectiveness of patriotic/national revolutionary violent struggle against colonialism. But, to what extent he grasps the class dimension after colonialism, i.e. in the era of local bourgeois rule? The other question: to what extent he grasps the importance and possibility of de-linking with world capitalist order? In other words: Fanon grasps the effectiveness of the gun, but his class vision was foggy.
Class Issue during and after Liberation
Event is always before our expectation, plan, decision and conceptualization…etc, but we grasp it and try to control and use it to a certain extent a decision which help us to influence some coming events either directly or not.
Marx witnessed industrial revolution and the first national wave and coined his great discovery and analysis that the working class as the negation of the bourgeois is the force of revolution and socialism. But, he failed to consider the revolutionary potentiality of the peasants either because they are land owners on the one hand, and they are scattered and live to a certain extent individually on the other. This without ignoring two main facts that influenced him:
- The pivotal role of the capitalist mode of production in European social formation at that time which attracted him to concentrate too much on the working class.
- The role of peasants against Paris Commune.
But, conditions of revolution change and transformation has been extremely different after Marx’s death.
In the 1950s, Fanon witnessed the second nationalism’s wave in periphery where peasants are:
- The social majority
- The most exploited and impoverished by both colonizer and dependent comprador bourgeois of colonized countries.
This situation enabled Fanon to realize that the revolutionary potential of the peasants, but for sure not all sectors of peasants. This is what Fanon grasps in Algeria and its deep readiness to fight the French colonizer, but in fact his vision was never limited to Algeria, it is international point view against colonialism in general and in Africa in particular.
Fanon’s argument is based on revolution’s role to create new man for both colonized and colonizer. Let’s examine his argument today in the era of absence of regimes of Bandung conference, collapsing of most of socialist regimes, and the third wave of nationalism manufactured by imperialism in the era of globalism on a world scale.
Where are the peasants in this new world, hundreds of millions of peasants in India and China return to rural areas while their land has been occupied by MNC’s, tens of millions of peasants in Egypt surrounding cities looking for any job…etc. China which in Fanon’s life was a symbol of victories revolution whose backbone was the peasants degraded after Mao’s death to be the place of the most exploitation of workers under the rule of “communists” who mix plan and market, Open Door policies and looking for development through “high” western technology, a policies made working class conditions under MNCs similar to that of workers in Manchester in F. Engels’ time. But, still Amin and some of Monthly Review writers consider China as a successful regime who rescued peasants from poverty as if it is still in Mao’s era. Any ways, what must be discussed, not here, is whether the peasants in China, India and many places in periphery still have the same revolutionary load?
Fanon did not consider peasants as a revolutionary class forever and every where, but at the same time he wasn’t sure that the working class in the core capitalist countries still a revolutionary one at least during his life. The working class still is the most potential revolutionary class but it did not transcend its internal weaknesses to practice its historical role, the weakness that lured Marcuse to bit on the lumpen Proletariat.
Fanon benefited from his own experiment in Africa in understanding bourgeois dependency of so-called independent states at his time and to expect its future aiming to develop his theory based on that knowledge for the benefit of all of Africa.
He realized two big weaknesses in Africa: The cultural and the lack of ability, in addition to the African bourgeois imitation of capitalist Europe. Those problems transcends the high national culture of sacrifice and simplicity of the fighters during revolution, or the culture of popular classes in general or concretely the culture of latent nationalism which replaced by culture of comprador bourgeois which is parasitic, bureaucratic and nonproductive oriented.
Those weaknesses hamper the possibility of formal development project on the one hand, and that of development by popular protection which was possible especially during the direct time of victory and high spirit of independence and even de-linking on the other.
This is what Fanon realized and argued that this bourgeois discovered its historical mission to be a mediator between its own country and western capitalism which uncovered its face by neo-colonialism, we must confess that the greedy of settlers and block development which was imposed by colonialism did not leave a chance for enough free choice of local bourgeois … Africn bourgeois is building casinos, tourism places and imitates the European and calls that patriotic industry.
Here is a failure of Fanon when he attributes most of the lumpen-development to the interference of colonial bourgeois .Why does he expect colonial bourgeois to act differently despite the fact that he described the inclination of dependency of the local one! By other token, Fanon here suffers of superficiality of class understanding in the Marxist manner.
As a humanist, revolutionary, but not socialist, he limited his analysis to the role of state/power criticizing its deformed willingness for development while in fact ignoring its real class orientation. That is why, he failed to grasp the fact that development by state as a tool for a class mainly did not serve the nation as a nation especially the majority, the popular classes.
One can’t judge if his readings on Marxism were simple or if he was influenced by Sartre who concentrates on liberties and accused USSR as “Stalinism” joining Trotsky’s and imperialism campaign against Marxism-Leninism covered by an exaggeration of so-called Stalin’s crimes. They deliberately mix USSR socialist experiment of socialism with Marxist theory.
Fanon did not make a departure with the state’s role in development as long as state is a tool for certain/ruling class interests that is why his critique for its role didn’t reach a radical attitude. Bourgeois role in national liberation against colonialism never continued after that. The same is for European bourgeois which became imperialist.
Unfortunately, this is not Fanon’s plight alone, the Dependency school and the World System theorists and de-linking did not transcend the ideology of expecting development and socialism from those who are in power as a class which is the main reason of the collapse of socialism in USSR and Eastern Europe. My thesis is that socialism must be based on Development by Popular Protection.
Algeria, South Africa and Occupied Palestine
The case of Algeria sheds light on Fanon’s contribution in both the liberation stage and after. While our analysis not economical, but there is no escape from based it on political economy to examine if Fanon’s argument crystallized or not.
Peasants were the main population and revolution’s block in Algeria. But the policies of both, Bin Bella’s short period (1962-65) in power and after him Bo Median’s longer one (1965-78) concentrated on industrializing the country. Both periods contains socialist orientation, i.e. nationalization of oil 1971 and building public sector/state sector, policies which increased the working class.
Achill’s heel that was the leading party in Algeria was a nationalist but not communist one in comparison to Cuba for instance. Algeria leadership maintained good relationship with USSR, but in it’s era of revisionism Khrushchev and Brezhnev. In addition to USSR revisionism, French and Algeria’s communist parties and a lot of French intellectuals those who were born in Algeria or in France continued to consider Algeria as part of France, a position that hamper the radicalization of its socialist transformation and maintains a “good” relationship with imperialist France. Those one might call intellectual and ideological “Harakis”.
Life did not help Fanon to tell if he might have been influenced by Sartre in two passive issues:
- Sartre’s Marxism
- Sartre’s attitude towards the Zionist Ashkenazi Regime which contradicts his support of Algeria’ liberation struggle, position that a lot of western intellectuals shares Sartre .
It must be noted that Algeria’s opportunity for self-reliance and even de-linking after liberation more than that of Cuba and even China under Mao as it is an oil producing country with a fertile large agricultural land and other mineral interior resources in addition to the availability of Arab supporting regimes especially Egypt under Nasser. This in addition to the good cultivated land and projects which was left after the escape of French settlers, oil nationalization, and concentration on industry despite of the fact that oil industry got the lion share taking into consideration oil prices shock following 1973 which increased state revenue.
But the death of Bo Median 1978 cut the developmental productive orientation to be followed by an era of recalling the colonizer during the rule of Chathli Bin Jdeed, who maintained a strong relationship with president of French imperialism Mitterrand and allowed the building of strong relationship between Algerian and French generals to control the country.
Bin Jdeed changed the top leaders of the army for the sake of his supporters, a decision reminds us of Gurbachev’s collusion with US imperialism. Bin Jdeed fired general Blowseef for false accusations while the real reason was that this general refuses to let US imperialism using Algeria sky for its aggression against Libya 1985.
Moreover, Bin Jdeed encouraged the Islamic Rescue Front (FIS) was according to intimation from Mitterrand in a process of restructuring French agents to control the main positions in the state.
Those developments were the internal mechanisms of Counter Revolution (CR) which uprooted the revolution’s generation in the post independence era, i.e. it terminated the possibility of breeding the new Algerian man which Fanon expected or argued for. As for comparison, this degradation took place through an alliance between CR internal and external wings where both wings recruit their internal and external mechanisms, i.e. the role of French colonial oil companies under the US hegemony. This might be realized through the heavy pressure on oil prices 1987 through the fabrication downfall of oil prices.
This took us back to reevaluate Fanon’s theory that revolution must create a new man in both colonial and colonized countries that the colonizer return to Algeria as he was before or even re-called, a development which pushed for an uprising 5 October 1988, the same result applied for the ex-colonial country that no new man has been breed.
In fact, Algeria of Bin Jdeed gave up productive development and colluded with French imperialism and led the regime to depend on rental economy.
“…Despite the fact that budget reserve reached $ 200 billion before oil crisis…and concentrates its strategy on developing non oil sector through public expenditure, but the real annual growth for the period 2006-2010 fluctuated between 2-3.5 percent which is far less than the needed minimum to embark on a productive economy able to absorb unemployment. This in addition to high costs of large projects which were not completed and especially the fast increase of food imports…Expers estimate that poverty level still high: More than 15% of the population living for less than $2 per day and income differentiation too large… rental economy which is based on fossil exploitation allows the regime to distribute assistance and bribes to people so as to cover the minimum social needs through increase of public sector’s salaries and distribute loans for unemployed youths. Those loans were aimed at establishing companies to “employ youths” but goes for buying new cars and consumer goods…a development which increased illegal immigration called “Alharaqa”… decline of public sector and more dependency on oil and gas export as raw materials and rental orientation…hydrocarbon’s share in budget reached 52% and 95 % of export income and 25% of Domestic income GDP , and it is not enough to cover the country’s food needs despite of the large agricultural land of Algeria”.
The Black Decade in Algeria “Al-Ashriyah Al-Sawda’” was the final departure from Fanon’s heritage on the one hand and transcendence of his political expectations on the other.
Bin Durrah:”…attributes reasons of the Black Decade to the authority and army not to the changes done by Bin jdeed and imperialist French influence on him. .. While civil war caused 200 thousand victims in 1990s and the disappearance of another 20 thousand in addition to hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced, …it enabled the regime to break the backbone of all political representation tools. It is the crime of military junta which blocked the election process in January 1992 and caused the horrible blood bath. But some of the Islamists share the regime’s sin after they call for military disobedience against the coup and its allies…the war gave a chance for the dismantling the economic public sector, the adoption of adjustment program in 1994 under the sponsorship of IMF and the orientation towards the “Contwar economy”.
But the current crisis of so-called Arab Spring is going to prove the opposite of Bin Durra’s argument especially in Libya, Syria, and Yemen that a strange dangerous collusion relationship exists between Powers of Politicized Religion (PPR) and CR.
What remains in our analysis are two questions that need answers
- Was what discussed above the reason behind not creating the new man which Fanon expected or wished despite the violence and depth of revolution?
- And whether Algeria’s avoidance the fall into Arab Spring is a result of its revolutionary experience and whether Algeria really avoided that crisis?
 The first wave of nationalism in modern history took place in western Europe following industrial revolution, but the Eurocentrists pretend that it is represented all the world, i.e. that all the world follows Europe’s history. But I assume that there are another two nationalism waves, the second is the one in periphery, i.e. the colonies against colonialism in the middle of Twentieth century, which are progressive revolutions, and the third which took place in the end of the same century by some ethnicities as a manufactured movements led by imperialism in the era of globalism with a local comprador bourgeois. The third wave is reactionary one for example, in Kosovo, Iraqi Kurds, some of republics of former USSR and Yugoslavia…etc.
 Palestinian Authority built casino in first few years of its rule in West Bank and Gaza!
 For the role of state as a regime represents a class, not people, see Adel Samara: Beyond De-linking: Development by Popular Protection vs. Development by State, 2005.
منشورات مركز المشرق العامل للدراسات الثقافية والتنموية، رام الله 2005
 Bin Billa’s period consider the development of cooperatives as well guided by Yugoslavia’s model.
 See Adel Samara Zionist Terror: Hypocrisy and Violence. A paper presented in to the Fifth’s Conference of Research Center of Ina’ash Al-Usra, West Bank 22-25 April 2014. pp. 153-182.
 Algeria country profile, pp. 11–12.
The opinions and views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Kana’an’s Editorial Board.