There is one duty to be done, one end to achieve: to thrust out colonialism by every means in their power.
The more far-seeing among us will be, in the last resort, ready to admit this duty and this end; but we cannot help seeing in this ordeal by force the altogether inhuman means that these less-than-men make use of to win the concession of a charter of humanity. Accord it to them at once, then, and let them endeavour by peaceful undertakings to deserve it. Our worthiest souls contain racial prejudice. They would do well to read Fanon; for he shows clearly that this irrepressible violence is neither sound and fury, nor the resurrection of savage instincts, nor even the effect of resentment: it is man re-creating himself.
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I think we understood this truth at one time, but we have forgotten it — that no gentleness can efface the marks of violence; only violence itself can destroy them. The native cures himself of colonial neurosis by thrusting out the settler through force of arms. When his rage boils over, he rediscovers his lost innocence and he comes to know himself in that he himself creates his self. Far removed from his war, we consider it as a triumph of barbarism; but of its own volition it achieves, slowly but surely, the emancipation of the rebel, for bit by bit it destroys in him and around him the colonial gloom.
Once begun, it is a war that gives no quarter. You may fear or be feared; that is to say, abandon yourself to the disassociations of a sham existence or conquer your birthright of unity. When the peasant takes a gun in his hands, the old myths grow dim and the prohibitions are one by one forgotten.
For in the first days of the revolt you must kill: to shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone, to destroy an oppressor and the man he oppresses at the same time: there remain a dead man, and a free man; the survivor, for the first time, feels a national soil under his foot. At this moment the Nation does not shrink from him; wherever he goes, wherever he may be, she is; she follows, and is never lost to view, for she is one with his liberty.
But, after the first surprise, the colonial army strikes; and then all must unite or be slaughtered. Tribal dissensions weaken and tend to disappear; in the first place because they endanger the Revolution, but for the more profound reason that they served no other purpose before than to divert violence against false foes. The Nation marches forward; for each of her children she is to be found wherever his brothers are fighting. Their feeling for each other is the reverse of the hatred they feel for you; they are brothers inasmuch as each of them has killed and may at any moment have to kill again.
But however great may be the task at each turning of the way the revolutionary consciousness deepens. With his blinkers off, the peasant takes account of his real needs; before they were enough to kill him, but he tried to ignore them; now he sees them as infinitely great requirements. In this violence which springs from the people, which enables them to hold out for five years — for eight years as the Algerians have done — the military, political and social necessities cannot be separated. The war, by merely setting the question of command and responsibility, institutes new structures which will become the first institutions of peace.
Here, then, is man even now established in new traditions, the future children of a horrible present; here then we see him legitimized by a law which will be born or is born each day under fire: once the last settler is killed, shipped home or assimilated, the minority breed disappears, to be replaced by socialism. Look how patient he is! While he is waiting for decisive victories, or even without expecting them at all, he tires out his adversaries until they are sick of him.
It will not be without fearful losses; the colonial army becomes ferocious; the country is marked out, there are mopping-up operations, transfers of population, reprisal expeditions, and they massacre women and children. He knows this; this new man begins his life as a man at the end of it; he considers himself as a potential corpse. This potential dead man has lost his wife and his children; he has seen so many dying men that he prefers victory to survival; others, not he, will have the fruits of victory; he is too weary of it all.
But this weariness of the heart is the root of an unbelievable courage. We find our humanity on this side of death and despair; he finds it beyond torture and death. We have sown the wind; he is the whirlwind. The child of violence, at every moment he draws from it his humanity. We were men at his expense, he makes himself man at ours: a different man; of higher quality. Here Fanon stops. He has shown the way forward: he is the spokesman of those who are fighting and he has called for union, that is to say the unity of the African continent against all dissensions and all particularisms.
He has gained his end. If he had wished to describe in all its details the historical phenomenon of decolonization he would have to have spoken of us; this is not at all his intention. But, when we have closed the book, the argument continues within us, in spite of its author; for we feel the strength of the peoples in revolt and we answer by force.
Everyone of us must think for himself — always provided that he thinks at all; for in Europe today, stunned as she is by the blows received by France, Belgium or England, even to allow your mind to be diverted, however slightly, is as good as being the accomplice in crime of colonialism. This book has not the slightest need of a preface, all the less because it is not addressed to us. Yet I have written one, in order to bring the argument to its conclusion; for we in Europe too are being decolonized: that is to say that the settler which is in every one of us is being savagely rooted out.
Let us look at ourselves, if we can bear to, and see what is becoming of us. First, we must face that unexpected revelation, the strip-tease of our humanism. It was nothing but an ideology of lies, a perfect justification for pillage; its honeyed words, its affectation of sensibility were only alibis for our aggressions. A fine sight they are too, the believers in non-violence, saying that they are neither executioners nor victims. And if you chose to be victims and to risk being put in prison for a day or two, you are simply choosing to pull your irons out of the fire.
Try to understand this at any rate: if violence began this very evening and if exploitation and oppression had never existed on the earth, perhaps the slogans of non-violence might end the quarrel. But if the whole regime, even your non-violent ideas, are conditioned by a thousand-year-old oppression, your passivity serves only to place you in the ranks of the oppressors.
You know well enough that we are exploiters. This was not without excellent results, as witness our palaces, our cathedrals and our great industrial cities; and then when there was the threat of a slump, the colonial markets were there to soften the blow or to divert it.
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Crammed with riches, Europe accorded the human status de jure to its inhabitants. With us, to be a man is to be an accomplice of colonialism, since all of us without exception have profited by colonial exploitation. This fat, pale continent ends by falling into what Fanon rightly calls narcissism. Is Europe any different? And that super-European monstrosity, North America?
Chatter, chatter: liberty, equality, fraternity, love, honour, patriotism and what have you.
The Wretched of the Earth
All this did not prevent us from making anti-racial speeches about dirty niggers, dirty Jews and dirty Arabs. High-minded people, liberal or just soft-hearted, protest that they were shocked by such inconsistency; but they were either mistaken or dishonest, for with us there is nothing more consistent than a racist humanism since the European has only been able to become a man through creating slaves and monsters.
While there was a native population somewhere this imposture was not shown up; in the notion of the human race we found an abstract assumption of universality which served as cover for the most realistic practices. On the other side of the ocean there was a race of less-than-humans who, thanks to us, might reach our status a thousand years hence, perhaps; in short, we mistook the elite for the genus. And those eight years of ferocious war which have cost the lives of over a million Algerians? And the tortures?
But let it be understood that nobody reproaches us with having been false to such-and-such a mission — for the very good reason that we had no mission at all. For the folk across the water, new men, freed men, no one has the power nor the right to give anything to anybody; for each of them has every right, and the right to everything.
Here I stop; you will have no trouble in finishing the job; all you have to do is to look our aristocratic virtues straight in the face, for the first and last time. They are cracking up; how could they survive the aristocracy of underlings who brought them into being? But we, at least, feel some remorse. Formerly our continent was buoyed up by other means: the Parthenon, Chartres, the Rights of Man or the swastika. Now we know what these are worth; and the only chance of our being saved from, shipwreck is the very Christian sentiment of guilt.
What then has happened? It simply is that in the past we made history and now it is being made of us. The ratio of forces has been inverted; decolonization has begun; all that our hired soldiers can do is to delay its completion. The national service units are sent to Algeria, and they remain there seven years with no result. Violence has changed its direction.
When we were victorious we practised it without its seeming to alter us; it broke down the others, but for us men our humanism remained intact. United by their profits, the peoples of the mother countries baptized their commonwealth of crimes, calling them fraternity and love; today violence, blocked everywhere, comes back on us through our soldiers, comes inside and takes possession of us. Involution starts; the native re-creates himself, and we, settlers and Europeans, ultras and liberals we break up. Rage and fear are already blatant; they show themselves openly in the nigger-hunts in Algeria.
Now, which side are the savages on? Frantz Fanon. The Wretched of the Earth is a brilliant 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. For if the last shall be first, this will only come to pass after a murderous and decisive struggle between the two protagonists.
The social group, militarily and economically subjugated, is dehumanized in accordance with a polydimensional method. He also stressed that mere violence, without a clear plan for decolonisation, would only reproduce the power relations of the coloniser. In addition, he claims that despite reclaiming land and power, violence will not be able to ease the creation of a new national identity after overthrowing the colonisers.
It thus places peoples in their struggles and appropriate temporal contexts, instead of judging the action in itself, i. Her research focuses on themes surrounding religion and politics, with a particular interest in Islamism, critical Muslim studies, and Islam and Modernity. She tweets at mnrhrzk.
Classic book: The Wretched of the Earth | Red Pepper
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