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“Toward the African Revolution”: Frantz Fanon’s Ideology Essay (Book Review)

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Updated: Jan 29th, 2022

Introduction

Over the centuries, African society was struggling on the way to freedom and independence. However, despite all struggles, the current post-independent African countries are quite far from the freedom in determining their own path. No doubt that Frantz Fanon plays an important role in the process of the African revolution; he is a person whose part cannot be underestimated. Frantz Fanon offers an analysis of the significance of the educated and influential elites in African striving for freedom. However, Fanon’s recommendation to use violence as a way to oppose colonization should be criticized and reassessed (Dada 6).

Frantz Fanon said: “Colonialism is not simply content to impose its rule upon the present and future of a dominated country. Colonialism is not satisfied merely with holding people in its grip and emptying the natives’ brains of all forms and content. By a perverted logic, it turns to the past of the oppressed and distorts, disfigures and destroys it” (Fanon The Wretched of the Earth 169).

In my opinion, Fanon’s approach to colonialism has a psychological meaning, rather than explaining it from the political or social perspective, he argues that the oppressor has an influence on people’s thoughts as well as their past and future. By understanding the psychological aspects of colonialism, opposing it with the help of the mindset rather than physical force can become the most successful path towards freedom in African countries.

Frantz Fanon as a Historical Figure

Frantz Fanon was born in 1925 in Fort-de-France in a middle-class family and lived his whole childhood as usual, but his ambitions led him to the educational path. In World War II, he found himself in France to combat in the realms of the Free French Army. As the war ended, Fanon had an interest in psychiatry, so he started a career in medicine. Fanon went to Algeria where the revolution began to gather momentum. He was pushed into opposition and began to cooperate with various organizations, including the National Liberation Front. In the middle of the 1950’s he received numerous death threats and was forced to flee the country. He had moved to Tunis where he was appointed a chief representative for the Algerian revolution and at the beginning of the ’60s represented Ghana in the Algerian government. Frantz Fanon died in 1961 (Celarent 2063).

The African National Liberation

In Toward the African Revolution (1964), Frantz Fanon shows the racist intentions of those who wanted to colonize Africa. He understood that the main purpose is overcoming psychological alienation before overcoming the physical one. Political freedom was the next step, a long but positive process of claiming personal identity and dignity. For him, colonialism was fundamentally inexcusable (Fanon Toward the African Revolution 101).

As a way of opposing colonialism, Fanon promoted a violent approach. In my opinion, the issue with his statement lies in the fact that the forces that run countries have become so impersonal, that the violent opposition to them becomes useless. The most powerful way of opposing colonialism is changing mentally, although the effect would not bring any instant fix for the African countries that have to go through a long path before becoming free both mentally and physically.

His approach toward colonialism was both effective and not. While it gave some ground for thinking about the nature of colonialism and the psychological ways of becoming free in the mind, it had very little effect on the real changes, which is supported by the state of African countries today. Although Frantz Fanon was certain that colonialism should be defeated in the African countries, in my understanding, his thoughts were never characterized by triumphalism. In this aspect, he was similar to Nelson Mandela, who did not care much for triumphalism.

Toward the African Revolution

In his work Toward the African Revolution Frantz Fanon reveals his approach toward the superiority of the European population over the African. He argues the subjects of racism, colonialism, and neocolonialism as well as the innate nature of national self-determination and national consciousness. There is no doubt that Fanon greatly influenced the 20th and the 21st centuries with his radical ideas of overcoming racism and a person being characterized not by the color of the skin, but his or her personality. The Ethiopian philosopher Teodor Kiros remarked that “Frantz Fanon is regarded by many as one of the greatest revolutionary thinkers of the twentieth century” (qtd. in Rabaka 167). The ideas put forward by Fanon have relevant meaning today, as African society is not on its way towards freedom of thought and action.

In Toward the African Revolution Fanon applies a psychological approach toward the research of the colonial phenomenon and focuses on the general situation rather than examining the individual matter of things (Rabaka 170). In my opinion, this approach was instrumental in identifying the global characteristic of colonialism. By examining the psychological background of colonialism, he was able to put forward the idea that society has to first change mentally and then go through physical changes. The significance of this idea can be applied not only to the African but also to any other society.

In Toward the African Revolution Fanon states that when the French gave the definition of colonialism, they simplified the facts to make this term not as important as it actually was. “The term of colonialism created by the oppressor is too affective, too emotional,” he writes (Fanon Toward the African Revolution 81). In my opinion, the emotionality of the term colonialism influenced the thoughts of the oppressed that gave it more significance than it actually had. The necessity for a more liberal and free type of behavior rather than the recognition of the rights of those who are oppressed was the opposition to colonialism (Martin 105). I agree that colonialism had nothing in common with individual relations, but rather it was the oppression of the African population and the territorial invasion by Europeans.

Toward the African Revolution is a thought-provoking work, which, in my opinion, is the most important in all of Frantz Fanon’s lifework. He was able to trace his journey as an intellectual dedicated to revolution, a person who was able to combine philosophical and psychiatric ideas, gaining experience on his life journey. He was not really a planner who played with strategies, but the insights from his work are still relevant to our days. He also was an advocate for women’s rights and the need to address the issues connected with women in developing countries, which still is the problem in African developing countries.

Fanon’s Value Today

Many may say that the ideas of Frantz Fanon are not relevant today, and society should disregard them. However, I truly believe that the African population is still oppressed and still needs to find its national identity to move forward. When examining Toward the African Revolution, I understood that the Africans’ strive for freedom and decolonization does not coincide with political and territorial independence, but rather the independence of the thought. Thus, Frantz Fanon’s approach can be used for good causes in the African countries, as long as his violent and radical ideas are reconsidered and treated with caution.

As the masses in the African countries are nowadays much more prone to sudden uprisings, the value of Fanon’s description of the situation applies today. The excellent analysis of the role of the masses, in my opinion, can become the basis for modern developments in African society.

Conclusion

Frantz Fanon was one of the most influential figures of the 20th century. He was the one who stood up for the African society in striving for the liberation of the mind as well as the liberation of the society as a whole. He was radical in his ideas against colonialism and argued that the violent approach can be the way of opposing colonization. Given that the current post-independent African countries are quite far from the freedom in deciding their way, the ideas of Frantz Fanon are as relevant now as they used to be. The most value holds his opinion that no matter what the definition of colonialism is, any society should have freedom of thought as well as be tolerant and accepting of others.

Works Cited

Celarent, Barbara. “A Dying Colonialism by Frantz Fanon.” American Journal of Sociology 116.6 (2011): 2062-2068. Print.

Dada, Sunday Olaoluwa. Fanon and Cabral on culture and national liberation. 2010. Web.

Fanon, Frantz. Toward the African Revolution: Political Essays. Trans. Haakon Chevalier. New York, NY: Grove Press, 1964. Print.

The Wretched of the Earth. Trans. Richard Philcox. New York, NY: Grove Press, 1963. Print.

Martin, Guy. African Political Thought. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Print.

Rabaka, Reiland. Africana Critical Theory: Reconstructing the black radical tradition, from W. E. B. Du Bois and C. L. R. James to Frantz Fanon and Amilcar Cabral. New York, NY: Lexington Books, 2009. Print.

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