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Fanon on Revolutionary Violence

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I’m reading Fanon for Beginners by Deborah Wyrick along with a few selected chapters from The Wretched of the Earth and I found Wyrick’s explanation of Fanon’s theory of revolutionary violence quite intriguing and illuminating:

The colonized person lives in an atmosphere of violence-violence directed at him.  Material violence dehumanizes, oppresses, tortures, and terrifies the native in order to keep him in his overdetermined, subservient ‘place’ within a rigid Manichean system.   Psychological violence enslaves him to an inferior identity bestowed by the colonizer and ensnares him in the disabling web of colonial history.

Fanon suggests that revolutionary violence brings needed physical release to natives whose muscular energy has been blocked, or channeled negatively, by colonial confinement.  A colonized person, then, resembles a patient suffering from neurosis or hysteria manifesting itself through physical symptoms.  Root out the cause, and the body as well as the mind can heal.

Fanon has been accused of advocating random terror, of glorifying violence per.  This is most certainly not true

To distinguish between revolutionary violence and violence that are symptoms of capitalism and imperialism Fanon:

lets the grim narratives speak for themselves…the French soldier whose job as torturer keeps him from sleeping and compels him to beat his wife…the remorseless Algerian teenagers who club a good friend to death, simply because he was French.  Obviously, Fanon knows that many violent acts are as destructive to their perpetrators as to their victims

In the face of determined violent resistance, a colonial power will try slippin into a neocolonial relationship with a former colony…rather than continuing a costly war.  This is why compromise and accomodation are so dangerous to a liberation movement, and why total armed struggle must continue until full independence is achieved.

For Fanon, colonialism is not just a matter of the mother country and her current and former colonies.  It is the enforcement arm of Western capitalism in general…(Wyrick, 107-115)

A EZLN rebel in southern Mexico.  They have fought an armed resistance against the Mexican government since 1994 but haven't fired a shot since their opening campaign.

A EZLN rebel in southern Mexico. They have fought an armed resistance against the Mexican government since 1994 but haven't fired a shot since their opening campaign.

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