On July 1, 1962 a referendum was held that paved the way for Algerian independence from the government of France. The complete cessation of armed conflict marked the end of war that lasted seventeen years. The Algeria movement for freedom stands out as a success story similar to the legendary revolutionary campaigns in the Caribbean and Latin America. It is also a case study for those seeking to go down the path of revolution as a method to enforce social reform. No revolution is complete without a defining text and in this case, the struggle was analyzed and transcribed the famed revolutionary, writer, philosopher and psychiatrist, Frantz Fanon. (1925-1961) The book was finished shortly before his death and published not long after. Originally written in French, it has been translated by Richard Philcox for English readers.
Tragically, Fanon died on December 6, 1961 from the effects of leukemia and did not live to see the success of what became a masterpiece. And in a cruel twist of fate, his deteriorating condition forced him to seek treatment in the one country that became the poster child for imperialism, the United States. Following his death, he was buried in Algeria, the nation he wrote so passionately about. The Wretched Of The Earth dissects the Algerian campaign and the complicated, dysfunctional and deadly relationship between colonial governments and their colonized territories. Fanon minces no words, he is frank and his rhetoric sharp. His mission is writing this text was to explain to the reader the ingredients necessary for armed revolution and in inevitability of the inclusion of violence. The benefit of having a first hand witness to the bloody struggle for liberation put him in a unique perspective to become the movement’s biographer.
Fanon proves himself to be a complex and deeply intellectual figure. Tapping into this seeming endless intellect, he does not stop at examining the oppression of the colonized. He dives further discussing the mental and physical state of both opponents before moving on to the rebuilding of the nation that has newfound freedom. If we fully digest what Fanon tells us we can see the long-lasting effects of colonialism even to this day. Across the world, revolutions are taking place and others are being formulated as the oppressed masses reached their breaking point. Along the way, Fanon will be there to guide them with his insight and words. His critics have said that he incites violence. I do not believe the criticism is warranted entirely. As Fanon points out, violence is a part of revolution and is a logical result of systematic oppression over a period of time. A system that subjects its citizens to daily discrimination and deplorable living conditions will eventually engineer its own downfall. And this is the point that Fanon emphatically drives home. Decolonization is never pleasant but it must be strategically developed and carried out by those who truly wish to break the back of their colonial rulers.
Throughout the year, his work has been studied and employed by countless revolutionaries figures including Huey P. Newton and the Black Panther Party for self-defense. Next to Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, Fanon stands out as one of the loudest voices against American and European imperialism. And like Guevara, he died before reaching forty years of age and had yet to reach his full literary and revolutionary potential. But through his works his legacy continues and he finds new fame as young minds embrace the works of the past as seek to understand the brutal system of colonization which takes of many different forms but possesses the same agenda to extract as much as possible from the nations and people under its control. Fanon was survived by his widow Josie who died on July 13, 1989 in Algiers after tragically taking her own life. After Frantz’s death she never remarried and carried his name for the rest of her life. Her devotion to him is reminiscent of the devotion given by those who have read and studied him and believe him to be a voice for their own struggles. And for many more years, The Wretched Of The Earth will be one of the most important books ever written about decolonization.
“When we revolt it’s not for a particular culture. We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe” -Frantz Fanon