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The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon

The Wretched of the Earth (1961)

by Frantz Fanon

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A classic text, but one more for academics. Fanon's ideas work better as epigrammatic statements to open books than as a whole book by themselves. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Jul 3, 2016 |
A very interesting study of the devastating effects of colonization on it's subjects long after the exit of the colonizers. The french in particular do not seem to have learnt a whole lot despite the inhuman slaughter of WWs I and II.
  danoomistmatiste | Jan 24, 2016 |
A very interesting study of the devastating effects of colonization on it's subjects long after the exit of the colonizers. The french in particular do not seem to have learnt a whole lot despite the inhuman slaughter of WWs I and II.
  kkhambadkone | Jan 17, 2016 |

The classic anti-colonialist text, with foreword by Jean-Paul Sartre, explaining and legitimising violence against a colonial regime; the author was thinking particularly of Algeria to which he gave the last few years of his life, but also of the whole area dominated by European colonisation, particularly the rest of Africa. It's passionate and well-argued, and I can see why it has remained a key political text for the last half-century (and will endure much longer). He is particularly good on the psychological consequences of manipulation by unaccountable regimes for those governed by them.

However, I have several problems with Fanon's analysis. The biggest is that in justfying violence, he rather fetishises it - I've seen this with other commentators too, the assumption that a resort to violence is in itself evidence for the purity and legitimacy of its perpetrators. I'm not convinced by that. The IRA's supporters used to argue that violence was the natural outcome of the situation in Northern Ireland, and convinced a lot of people of the purity and legitimacy of their cause, before they settled for a deal which was essentially what had been on offer 25 years and hundreds of deaths earlier. Some politically motivated violence is really crime, even if perpetuated by the oppressed.

That's tactics, in a way; there's an error also of strategy, in that Fanon calls on internal differences in a country to be ironed out, or preferably just ignored, in favour of making common cause against the colonial oppressor. That's all very well; but it doesn't address the issue of sharing out power and other resources internally once the colonial oppressor has withdrawn (or even beforehand). Questions of regional autonomy, deals between ethnic and religious groups, and indeed emancipation of women, sexual minorities and other groups, can't simply be handwaved away by focussing on the national struggle. Privileging the national struggle above all else allows for discrimination against groups who are deemed insufficiently committed to the cause, and Fanon's arguments legitimise this.

He also gets wrong the economic and political trajectory of post-colonial states, though I don't think he can really be blamed for this as nobody else saw it coming either. And he rejects any connection between the Algerian war and the struggle for civil rights in the USA; which is one link that I'm quite happy to allow, given the parallels in power and wealth structures and the use of state coercion as a political tool.

Still, I'm glad I have now read it. ( )
  nwhyte | Apr 8, 2015 |
Fans of Conrad, Morrison, Friere. Lovers of [Things Fall Apart], [Les Misérables], [The Hunger Games]. Definers of postcolonialism, social justice, revolution. Members of the military, political parties, life itself.

Think on the lies you live by.

The parameters do not matter. Neither do your excuses. If you are for peace, you are for it completely, or you are not for it at all. If you condone violence in any amount, the memorial, the dramatizations, the history of your people, you condone it all. When it comes to crimes against humanity, there is no compartmentalization.

A country colonizes another. The colonizer breaks down the people, breaks down the culture, and bleeds the country dry. The colonized develops a pecking order, a few imbibing the parasitic infection to an extraordinary degree while the rest succumb to violence, starvation, madness. The colonizer manipulates these unavoidable results of unholy oppression into an argument, a Western science proving the natural degeneracy of the colonized, this concept of 'science' having as much truth to it as this concept of 'Western.' Better to call it 'Atlantic', the northeastern corner countries of this seascape infecting every other country within reach.

The native must realize that colonialism never gives anything away for nothing.

Nor will we acquiesce in the help for underdeveloped countries being a program of “sisters of charity.” This help should be the ratification of a double realization: the realization by the colonized peoples that it is their due, and the realization by the capitalist powers that in fact they must pay.

Independence! Independence? Independence is the colonial country making certain concessions to certain people in return for certain benefits. Independence is those colonized souls, infected with Atlantic ideologies and addicted to a level of life standards, choosing the bourgeois over their country as a whole, assuming a well paying part of the colonizers' remaining structure and descending into depraved senility accordingly. Rich is rich and poor is poor, and in times of revolution the contempt of urban academic for rural masses is just as misguided and virulent. The result is a stunted obscenity pandering at the colonizers' ideal; there is no true independence without the entirety of the people.

That famous dictatorship, whose supporters believe that it is called for by the historical process and consider it an indispensable prelude to the dawn of independence, in fact symbolizes the decision of the bourgeois caste to govern the underdeveloped country first with the help of the people, but soon against them.

Because it is bereft of ideas, because it lives by its heredity incapacity to think in terms of all the problems of the nation as seen from the point of view of the whole of that nation, the national middle class will have nothing better to do than to take on the role of manager for Western enterprise, and it will in practice set up its country as the brothel of Europe.

White is white and black is black, until you realize it is not a question of racism but an endemic of the comfort of the individual versus the blossoming of the people. What is at stake here is not "What do I have to lose?", but "What am I losing?". The question is not of violence or non-violence, unless you apply it to the whole spectrum of history and look just why exactly we have France and the U.S. and how morality is a pitiful question when put into the context of that next mouthful of bread. Neither is the former colonies catching up to the colonizers the solution, for the latter only exceeds in terms of capacity, in both speed and completeness, for obliteration of other and self.

In the colonial context the settler only ends his work of breaking in the native when the latter admits loudly and intelligibly the supremacy of the white man's values.

The passion with which native intellectuals defend the existence of their national culture may be a source of amazement; but those who condemn this exaggerated passion are strangely apt to forget that their own psyche and their own selves are conveniently sheltered behind a French or German culture which has given full proof of its existence and which is uncontested.

Fact: countries that have progressed beyond Middle Age levels did so through brutal exploitation. Fact: countries that were exploited will return to near Middle Age levels if all colonizer influence is cut off. Fact: the fact that Germany is back on its feet while the 'Third World' continues to exist is not a matter of justice, but international economic dependencies. Fact: 'First World' inhabitants may have more nipples to suck, but that is a matter of luck, not sociocultural fortitude or their health as a human being. Fact: the slogan of the 'Western' world is torture, and torture includes brainwashing.

They find out on the spot that all the piles of speeches on the equality of human beings do not hide the commonplace fact that the seven Frenchmen killed or wounded at Col due Sakamody kindles the indignation of all civilized consciences, whereas the...massacre of whole populations - which had merely called forth the Sakamody ambush as a reprisal - all this is of not the slightest importance.

If your country has never been discredited on all levels of life, you don't understand. If your history has never been castrated and left to desiccate for centuries on end, you don't understand. If your existence has never been deemed by scientific communities to be a degenerate one in need of taming, you don't understand. If you have lived with hope longer than without, you don't understand. If you have given up your right to politically participate on any level due to middling inconvenience or panderings at anarchy, you will never, ever, understand.

To educate the masses politically does not mean, cannot mean, making a political speech. What it means is to try, relentlessly and passionately, to teach the masses that everything depends on them; that if we stagnate it is their responsibility, and that if we go forward it is due to them too, that there is no such thing as a demiurge, that there is no famous man who will take the responsibility for everything, but that the demiurge is the people themselves and the magic hands are finally only the hands of the people.

Everything can be explained to the people, on the single condition that you really want them to understand.

If you don't understand that 'First World' and 'Third World' are labels signifying nothing but a world that likes to pit one lie against the other, if you don't understand the relationship between the oppression abroad and the violence at home, if you are willing to take the amputation of your individual satisfactions from the communal good lying down, you are doomed.

Two centuries ago, a former European colony decided to catch up with Europe. It succeeded so well that the United States of America became a monster, in which the taints, the sickness, and the inhumanity of Europe have grown to appalling dimensions.

A government or a party gets the people it deserves and sooner or later a people gets the government it deserves.

Don't tell me you believe in the future. Tell me why, and how, and just what you are going to do about it.

"In your opinion, what should we have done?"
"I don't know. But you are a child and what is happening concerns grown-up people."
"But they kill children too..."
"That is no reason for killing your friend."
"Well, kill him I did. Now you can do what you like."
( )
1 vote Korrick | Mar 5, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Frantz Fanonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Banisadr, Abu al-HasanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Farrington, ConstanceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Philcox, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sartre, Jean-PaulPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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National liberation, national renaissance, the restoration of nationhood to the people, commonwealth: whatever may be the headings used or the new formulas introduced, decolonization is always a violent phenomenon.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0802141323, Paperback)

Frantz Fanon (1925-61) was a Martinique-born black psychiatrist and anticolonialist intellectual; The Wretched of the Earth is considered by many to be one of the canonical books on the worldwide black liberation struggles of the 1960s. Within a Marxist framework, using a cutting and nonsentimental writing style, Fanon draws upon his horrific experiences working in Algeria during its war of independence against France. He addresses the role of violence in decolonization and the challenges of political organization and the class collisions and questions of cultural hegemony in the creation and maintenance of a new country's national consciousness. As Fanon eloquently writes, "[T]he unpreparedness of the educated classes, the lack of practical links between them and the mass of the people, their laziness, and, let it be said, their cowardice at the decisive moment of the struggle will give rise to tragic mishaps."

Although socialism has seemingly collapsed in the years since Fanon's work was first published, there is much in his look into the political, racial, and social psyche of the ever-emerging Third World that still rings true at the cusp of a new century. --Eugene Holley, Jr.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:41 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Frantz Fanon was one of the twentieth century's most important theorists of revolution, colonialism, and racial difference, and this, his masterwork, is a classic alongside Orientalism and The Autobiography of Malcolm X." "The Wretched of the Earth is an analysis of the psychology of the colonized and their path to liberation. Bearing singular insight into the rage of colonized peoples and the role of violence in historical change, the book also incisively attacks postindependence disenfranchisement of the masses by the elite on one hand, and intertribal and interfaith animosities on the other. A veritable handbook of social reorganization for leaders of emerging nations, The Wretched of the Earth has had a major impact on civil rights, anticolonialism, and black-consciousness movements around the world. This new translation updates its language for a new generation of readers and its lessons are more vital now than ever."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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