43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2004
Almost all prominent black revolutionaries of the 1960s, from Malcolm X, Huey Newton, Nelson Mandela carried heavy influences from Fanon's writings in their struggles from social change and racial equality. However, Fanon's "wretched of the Earth" could arguably be the ultimate manifesto, or bible of Third World liberation. Fanon was no Gandhi, though. ; he makes his strongest point to suggest that all solutions to decolonization lay on violent revolution by using the Frech-colonized Algeria as a model and his Manichean (Good Vs. Evil), or bipolar portrayal of the endless antagonism that naturally arises between the colonized and the settler.
Fanon describes the conditions that emerge to allow for a war of liberation to take a foothold, the wave of repression unleashed
by the occupying army to put down the rebellions, and most interestingly - because it is what has taken place ever since - the prospects of continued exploitation by the established relationship between the new "revolutionary" bourgeoisie and the former colonizer country after the nationalist struggle and pressure at home had forced its withdrawal.
Fanon gives psychologycal analyses to testimonies given by his Algerians and French patients during the war period, and who had been affected directly or otherwise by the war. Cases involving French soldiers and police's torture, selective asassinations, surviving a mass killing, and gang rapes of rebels' wives by the French are some of which Fanon describes with chilling detail in the appendix.
"The Wretched of the Earth" remains an invaluable document that testify to the often overlooked argument made by numerous armed movements of the 1960s as revolutions broke out throughout the ex-colonized World.
57 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2004
This is a very useful book to anybody interested in understanding colonialism and its effects in Africa. Colonialism was a military project, and Fanon explained that clearly. Fanon does not shy away from suggesting the use of force, if necessary, to achieved freedom. But this book is not about the use of force/violence to achieve freedom, and should not be regarded as such. It is a book that explains western attitudes towards the colonized world, their willingness to use violence, their assault on African culture, and the curruption of African leaders after independence. Do not forget that independence came to Africa, after the French, the British and Belgians were given a clear warning about the fate that was awaiting them in other parts of Africa by the FLN (in Algeria), the MAU MAU movement (in Kenya), and the very aggressive movement for indepence in the Congo and Ghana. Europe was distoryed after World War II, and their armies could no longer sustain their military projects in Africa. This vulnerability was exploited by African leaders. That is why they failed in maintaining direct colonial control of their former colonies. When you ready this excellent material, you will appreciate Fanon's foresight:-his warning to Africans(and every colonized country)to take their destiny into their own hands: saying that every generation must out of relative obscurity, find its mission, fulfill it or betray it. A warning that most Africans ignored after independence. To anybody interested in the works of people like Dr. Walter Rodney, Aime Cesaire, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, and Basil Davidson, this book is a "Must Read". Please read other Fanon material: Toward African Revolution, Dying Colonism, Black Skin White Masks. Interesting reading! Every African must read Fanon's books!
68 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2003
Those reviews that castigate Fanon for "glorifying violence" ought to be ignored. Fanon is writing, among other things, a phenomenology of anti-colonialism. It is meant neither as a recommendation nor a condemnation but as a description of the objective truth of a historical condition. That is, for Fanon reverse racist violent nationalism is a stage in the emergence of a political consiciousness that will eventually overcome and, indeed, renounce its own beginnings. What is remarkable is that people at present are so manifestly incapable of reading a dialctical unfolding such as this. The violence of the Algerian War had already largely taken place at the time of Fanon's writing and, let it be recalled, it was primarily the murder of Algerians by the French, for whom African imperialism is still a profitable if somewhat unsavory business.
While Fanon tracks the stages in the evolution of a radical anti-capitalist consciousness in the underdeveloped world, there is no question of his endorsing or advocating violence. One has only to read the final chapter on the psychological effects on both the colonizer and the colonized to see that Fanon is acutely aware of the brutality for all concerned of the Algerian War, even or, indeed, especially, for the oppressors themselves. There is certainly no question of his endorsing the indiscriminate horrors committed that were committed by the FLN against their oppressors.
The other thing, of course, that the petulant, anti-intellectual, ahistorical reactionaries who have shared their opinions here conveniently ignore is the violence inherent in the settler colonialism Fanon was addressing. As for the comparison with India, it is indeed illuminating, and one might profitably develop Fanon into a critique of the post-colonial India elite. After all, the real thrust of the book is its attempt to push anti-imperialism in a genuinely democratic direction, insofar as this was even possible for a largely peasant agricultural society caught within a much larger capitalist cosmos. At any rate, contra one reviewer, in the much-vaunted democracy of India, were peasants substantially liberated by the Indian National Congress from their indebtedness and from coercive labor practices? For his part, Fanon is not content with such liberal eye-wash as the talk of "Indian democracy" achieved through non-violence. In stark contrast to many other romantic commentators, he is keenly aware that there is nothing save radical democratic organized politics that can prevent post-colonial societies from a descent into poverty, despair, and the reactionary resurgence of "leadership" and virulently post-traditional "ethnicities" and "religiosities" though, in the face of the further defeat of the radical left in the West, most likely there is nothing to prevent the implosion of the Third World and the exhaustion (and extermination) of progressive energies there. Pages 95ff. in which Fanon discusses the terrible brutality of the very attempt to create industrialism in a country such as Algeria, and the awful irony of "independence" from the wealth of the colonizer are powerful and utterly ignored by most "radicals" who refuse to see that the resources already exist for the world to enjoy both opulence and sustainability.
Another thing - Fanon is inconceivable without Marxism. It informs his every argument, even if his point is only to criticize actually existing Marxisms. Therefore, the claim that "Fanon is great, except for the Marxist bit" is absurd and puerile. The real problem is that that entire intellectual language and with it the vast majority of the history of 20th century social hope is being actively forgotten. The nuances of so much of Fanon lies in the way he handles, refashions, and pushes up against the limits of the Marxian legacy as it came to him. (The idea that Fanon is a "genius" and that there are none else like him is similarly an indication of a tragic social and political amnesia, and this is not meant to detract in the slightest from the incredible achievement that is both this work and youthful masterwork "Black Skins, White Masks").
Finally, to uncritically drag Fanon into the American context, as some other reviewers want to do, is, it seems to me, potentially extremely misleading. Far more so than "Black Skins," "Wretched" is a book of its time and place. Certainly, any comparison with Malcolm X, who was no leftist and certainly no Marxist, is hopelessly misguided. Never mind the fact that Fanon's project of a liberated Algeria can scarcely be compared with the project of black American radical activists. American blacks were not colonized but forcibly transported and enslaved. More importantly, American blacks live within the heart of capitalism and Fanon's recommendation to the New World descendents of slaves would never be so crackpot as a separatist black nationalism.
There are many good grounds for criticizing Fanon, but since few reviewers seem capable of even approaching those matters, a more basic commentary seemed necessary.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2000
Fanon is among the few thinkers who successfully wrote about emerging post-colonial nation-states. Many prefer to delve into the psychological implications of his work but I would rather view it as a warning againt the new tyranny that has its roots in the national struggle. Indeed, many nationalist movements became the new proxy for the departing colonial power thus ignoring the fact that fighters do not by default make good politicans. The dicourse of national struggle became the harbinger of the national dictatorship despite the evidence pointing to the outskirts and villages as being the impetus behind the drive for independence and not the educated classes as many claimed. I am not claiming that national struggle is bad but it has to be viewd objectively and its role must therefore end with independence to allow for genuine restructuring or else a political neo-imperialism emerges to replace direct military colonization. In both cases the winner is the colonizer who has returned in the form of the new nationl government mainly those who were educated in the West during colonization.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2010
I read Frantz Fanon's "The Wretched of the Earth" in college in the early 1960s. It was an assigned reading in my only sociology class so I can't claim any credit for discovering the book on my own. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and into more recent times, "The Wretched of the Earth" has been high on the reading lists of every Social Science and History department of every significant university in the USA, in the rest of the Western Hemisphere nations except when the universities have been closed by military dictatorships, in Europe, and of course in the post-colonial nations of Africa and Asia. Che Guevara read Fanon. Ali Shariati read Fanon. Malcolm X read Fanon. But so did Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Barry Goldwater read Fanon. So did Bill Clinton and George Herbert Bush, I suspect that George W Bush was assigned to read Fanon but chose the 'classic comic' version instead. In short, "everybody" read Fanon, usually "The Wretched of the Earth", and the mere reading of Fanon has never been sufficient to justify labeling the reader as an advocate of violent revolution. If you've never read Fanon, by the way, it's not too late; his writings have never gone out of print, however much they may seem 'dated' in content.
Fanon was born in Martinique in 1925, of a middle-class 'mixed race' family prosperous enough to send him to the most prestigious high school in the former slave-owning colony. When the pro-Nazi Vichy French government began its campaign of racial abuse in Martinique, Fanon escaped and joined the Free French Forces. Later he enlisted in the Gaullist French army, joining Allied forces in Casablanca, and eventually seeing combat in in Alsace. After the War, Fanon studied medicine and psychiatry in Lyons and Saint-Alban. In 1953, Fanon was appointed 'chef de service' at a psychiatric hospital in Algeria, where he practiced until the French colonial authorities ordered his deportation back to France in 1957. During his years as a psychiatrist in Algeria, Fanon focused his practice and research on socio-therapies which too account of his patients' cultural backgrounds, a radical concept then but standard among psychotherapists in hospitals and clinics of the USA today. In 1954, Fanon also aligned himself with the FLN, the anti-colonial liberation front. The vast majority of Fanon's writings deal with Algeria's struggle for independence, but the common impression that they are all manifestos of violent revolution is false. Chiefly they are sociological analyses of the mentality of people, specifically the Algerians, after decades of colonial oppression. Fanon was not a methodological academic sociologist or anthropologist. His writings are intuitive, founded principally on his own experiences as a person of color and a scion of colonialism.
The Wretched of the Earth has always been Frantz Fanon's most famous work. It was written during and regarding the Algerian struggle for independence from colonial rule. Fanon explored the psychological effect of colonization on the culture of a 'subject' people, and the implications of that mindset both for building a movement for independence and for establishing a polity after independence. A controversial introduction to the text by Jean-Paul Sartre presented Fanon's work as an advocacy of violence. This focus derived from the book's opening chapter `Concerning Violence' which is a caustic indictment of colonialism and its legacy. Defenders of Fanon's legacy argue that Sartre's comments have led to a limited approach to the text that focuses on the promotion of violence. Further reading reveals a thorough critique of nationalism and imperialism which also covers areas such as mental health and the role of intellectuals in revolutionary situations. Also important is Fanon's view of the role of language and how it molds the position of "natives", or those victimized by colonization. Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth has become a handbook for political leaders faced with decolonization. It is still read in the Pentagon today as advice on dealing with the conflict in Iraq.
I'm reviewing this book, which I read so many years ago, as a small response to the current book by Dinesh D'Souza -- The Roots of Obama's Rage -- which attempts to "tar" Obama as a disciple of Fanon and thus filled with obdurate hatred for the colonial powers, including the USA. Obama certainly has read Fanon, and refers to him once in his book "Dreams from My Father." But, as I said before, "everybody" has read Fanon. I would hope that a substantial number of Republican Senators and Representatives have read Fanon; if not, our Congress is more woefully undereducated than I assumed. Even Philip Roth has read Fanon, and refers to him in his novel "American Pastoral".
Dinesh D'Souza offers an intriguing example, in himself, of post-colonial mentality. He was born in Mumbai in 1961 -- the very year that Fanon died of leukemia -- but his parents were from Goa, the ancient Portuguese colony on the west of India. D'Souza was raised as a Roman Catholic but came to Dartmouth, where he was prominent in ultra-conservative activities. He began his career as a writer, so to speak, by publishing the names of "gay' Dartmouth students, without their consent, in the "Dartmouth Review", a publication subsidized by rightwing organizations not affiliated with Dartmouth. He was also a vociferous critic at Dartmouth of affirmative action. He has gone on to be closely associated with the Heritage Foundation and the Hoover Institute, prominent reactionary think-tanks funded by ultra-conservative business tycoons. He now professes to be an "evangelical Christian" after having denounced th American catholic Church for 'pacifist' stances. His vociferously expressed opinions include anti-feminist diatribes, rejection of Darwinism, the assertion that 'some cultures/races are innately superior to others as demonstrated by their historical accomplishments, and the notion that secularism and secular morality have led to the unfair suppression of "conservative" thought at American universities. Considering that D'Souza is patently a 'product' of colonialism and post-colonial reaction, one might suspect that his vehemence is partly fueled by defensiveness, and his ideological rigidity by over-compensation.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2006
Frantz Fanon is a great Pan-African writer and theorist. He was a psychiatrist who was born in Martinique in the West Indies in 1925. He is one of the foremost writers and intellectuals on black liberation from racial oppression and revolutionary armed struggle. Fanon was not just an armchair theorist with an incisive mind but a practical man who elected to get involved in the fight for freedom in the Algerian war of independence. He participated in the Algerian Liberation movement, the FLN, in the Algerian war of independence against the French in the 1950s.
Fanon's thinking was influenced by his analysis of testimonies that he got from Algerian and French patients that he treated during the Algerian war that had been traumatized by the war. The testimonies included the French troops and police torturing innocent civilians, mass killings and assassinations and rapes of defenseless men, women and children.
The Wretched of the Earth is a classic book written in the Communist framework that analyses the psychology of colonized people and eloquently explains their anger and frustration. He explains the techniques that imperialists use to subjugate the colonized peoples. Fanon discusses the social and economic basis of colonialism. He highlights the willingness of colonial powers to use violence, their attack on African culture and way of life, among other things. He concluded that violence was the only way to free the oppressed people. His views are in direct contrast to those of another great historical icon, Gandhi, who preached non-violent means to end oppression. The "Wretched of the Earth" has been very influential to all the subsequent liberation wars on the African continent, the civil rights movement and black consciousness movements worldwide.
Fanon was very prophetic as he attached post independence disenfranchisement of the masses by the ruling elites as well as tribal or religious clashes. Leaders of the newly liberated nations would have done well to heed in advice and avoid corruption and violence against their own peoples. He saw the need for a liberated country to have a national culture and national identity to ensure that there is unity that welds the nation together against various forces bend on its destruction.
Although Marxism has largely collapsed worldwide, this book is recommended reading for anyone wishing to learn about colonialism and its impact in Africa. The book now has an important historical value in the current largely decolonized world. The book will help the reader understand how revolutionary movements worldwide have justified the use of violence to achieve their ends. Readers from countries where the people are oppressed and wish to put an end to their plight may find this book to be still very relevant and enlightening.
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2001
Frantz Fanon was an extraordinary man. Passionate, charismatic, brave, deeply moral, profoundly intelligent and exceptionally perceptive and sensative. Those qualities infuse all of his books and its no surprise that all over the world so many good people refer to Fanon's work as "my bible" or "our bible." Everybody should read The Wretched of the Earth. The world has changed since the book was written. The wretched have far less hope now. But Fanon's insights into the nature of oppression and resistance and especially the promises and dangers of nationalism are as fresh and enlightening as they have always been, Most of the 'great' European philosophers thought that it was appropriate to use violence to resist certain types of oppression. Yet John Locke or Karl Marx are not routinely referred to 'apostles of violence' and their work is never reduced to their support for armed resistance to certain types of oppression. It's clear that a lot of people are still horrified at the idea of a black man with a gun - even if he's resisting oppression. Fanon's reception in the West tells us a lot about his continued relevance. This is one of the most important books of the last century. Everybody should read it. Everybody should learn from it.
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2000
Fanon describes the situation of those livng all down under of humanity who have nothing to lose but their chains and they can get rid of their chains. What I found extraordinary interesting was to compare Frantz Fanon to Ayn Rand: Those whom Ayn Rand regards as "social parasites" are e x a c t l y the same that Frantz Fanon describes as "The wretched of the earth" . So if you read "Atlas shrugged" and "The wretched of the earth" in a row, you'll get two opponent perspectives of the same world.
46 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2001
Reading this amazing book in 2001, the first fact that blew my mind was how relevant this book is in today's world, even though it was written in 1961.
This book is an attempt at understanding the processes of decolonialization, and offering a constructive way to make this process successful and meaningful. Seemingly, it has only historic value in today's decolonized world. But as I read the book, from its beginning to its end, I could not help finding parallels to many current world issues. Wherever there is a situation of oppressed groups trying to put an end to their oppression - the words of Fanon are relevant and enlightening.
Fanon helped me understand the attitudes of the oppressed (found today mainly in Africa and Asia), and the pitfalls of the national liberation struggles. Reading this book explained why so many countries replaced colonialism with corrupt dictatorships.
This book shows that Fanon is one of the sharpest and most truthful intelectuals of the 20th century.
I know I did not manage to convey the full impact this book had on me. The impact may become clear when I say that this book must be translated to every language, taught in every high school system, and discussed at every academic and political level.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
...which should certainly be viewed as an appropriate response. Frantz Fanon was a Black psychiatrist who was born on the French island of Martinique. During the Algerian War of Independence (1954-62) he worked in Algerian hospitals, and developed a strong sympathy for the struggle of the native Algerians (who were not of European origins!). Fanon died in 1961, far too young, at 36, stricken by leukemia. Alistair Horne wrote the classic, dispassionate account of the Algerian War, entitled A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 (New York Review Books Classics). Fanon wrote his own classic masterpiece, a cri de coeur, literally on his death bed. This book would be an essential inspirational text for those who fought in the remaining anti-colonial wars as well as the Black civil rights movement in the United States. The book also contains an introduction from Jean-Paul Sartre.
In the introduction, Sartre says in his indubitable style: "The European elite undertook to manufacture a native elite. They picked out promising adolescents; they branded them, as with a red-hot iron, with the principles of Western culture; they stuffed their mouths full with high-sounding phrases, grand glutinous words that stuck to the teeth. After a short stay in the mother country they were sent home, whitewashed. These walking lies had nothing left to say to their brothers; they only echoed." Sartre is utterly oblivious. Willfully oblivious? How many of those "natives" who were educated in European "rights of man" values went back to lead the revolts against their colonial masters? A minority, for sure, but surely a majority of those who actually revolted, from Ho Chi Minh to Pol Pot. And is Frantz Fanon himself a "walking lie"? Clearly he was one of the natives who benefited from a European education, and could see the hypocrisy in the proclamations of universal rights and then hear the clearing of the throat, the er.. ah.., of course I mean for whites, even leaving the distaff side "in their place." Fanon himself does not address his somewhat ironic situation of utilizing his European education to denounce the European "world order." Perhaps if Fanon had lived longer, he would have addressed this matter.
But STILL, this is an excellent book, because that is not really the issue. Fanon is simply scathing in his denunciation of the injustices and hypocrisy of colonial rule. For example, in speaking of the colonialist: "...he shows them up and puts them into practice with the clear conscience of an upholder of the peace; yet he is the bringer of violence into the home and into the mind of the native." Or: "The Church in the colonies is the white people's Church..." Or: "Leave this Europe where they are never done talking of Man, yet murder men everywhere they find them, at the corner of every one of their own streets, in all corners of the globe. For centuries they have stifled almost the whole of humanity in the name of a so-called spiritual experience."
Fanon also does denounce his fellow natives who have been educated, and are Sartre's "walking lies": "It (the native bourgeoisie) follows the Western bourgeoisie along its path of negation and decadence without ever having emulated it in its first stage of exploration and invention..." The word "bourgeoisie" is one of those flags that confirms a "Marxist analysis" which is obviously quite dated today, aside from connoting prose that drifts into the opaque.
But again, STILL, even with that `dated' flaw, it does not diminish insights such as: "Those literally astronomical sums of money which are invested in military research, those engineers who are transformed into technicians of nuclear war, could in the space of fifteen years raise the standard of living of underdeveloped countries by 60 per cent." Even more dramatically (and only partially correct): "The people come to understand that wealth is not the fruit of labor but the result of organized, protected robbery."
Despite the heavy prose, and the lack of ironic introspection, this is a classic critique of the essential injustice of the colonial "world order"; it is a book which has inspired many. Ah, if he were only alive today to render such a critique of "globalization." 5-stars.