Posted 16 days ago
First off, I haven't read The Wretched of the Earth, but I feel that many people who picked up this article haven't, either. But Abu-Manneh's reading of the book is one that inspires confidence:
The aim of national struggle is to forge a socialist internationalism premised on popular solidarity and cooperation — one that reconfigures sovereignty as social and economic democracy. That, in a nutshell, is the political cause that Fanon advances in Wretched...For Fanon, ending racism and exclusion had to be done not through reifying oppressed identities and celebrating national or ethnic particularism, but through common struggle for freedom and equality.
As Abu-Manneh indicates, although Fanon was writing specifically for the struggle of Algerian independence from French colonial rule, this perspective is very relevant to today. Only half a century has passed since the book's publication, and it's clear that the world, although having undergone many revolutions to be free of formal colonial rule, still largely operates under informal economic structures that dictate freedom and power.
Abu-Manneh writes that many people cast-off Fanon for his focus, or glorification of violence. His rebuttal to that is the following:
Violence has a function for Fanon. It is an instrument for forging national unity. Only that way can the colonized hope to achieve their objectives. There is no violence for its own sake in Fanon, but only as a means to a political end: independence. The nation thus comes into its own as an oppositional political project and an instrument of liberty.
In the American context, this made me think of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers. Many critique these groups for their focus on violence, but it's also clear that they were essential components in the struggle for civil rights. I am no expert here, but I have read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and I find it very, very hard to refute that argument.
Another cricital interpretation of Fanon that applies to today's world is the focus on identity politics, specifically Négritude. Abu-Manneh warns, as Fanon did, that an over-emphasis on identity ignores the materialism that structures the world as it is. Fanon writes:
My life should not be devoted to drawing up the balance sheet of Negro values...There is no white world, there is no white ethic, any more than there is a white intelligence.
By focusing on identity politics, we may miss the materialist causes that create inequality to begin with. Ruling classes have learned to assume the dialect of identity without conceeding the true causes of these issues.