Sunday, July 25, 2021

Summary - Chapter 1 of The Wretched of the Earth - On Violence

The first section of The Wretched of the Earth is titled "On Violence" or "Concerning Violence". It is a detailed explanation of violence in relation to the colonial world and the decolonization process. Fanon starts from the premise that decolonization is, by definition, a violent process without exception. The purpose of this process is the eventual replacement of one group of humans by another, and this process is only complete when the transition is complete. This conception of decolonization is based on Fanon's construction of the colonial world. Through his observations, he concluded that all colonial structures are actually nested societies that are not complementary. He uses Aristotelian logic in which the colony followed the "principle of reciprocal exclusivity". Based on this conclusion, Fanon characterizes the settler class's assessment of the native population as dehumanizing. Settlers literally don't see natives as members of the same species. The natives are incapable of ethics and therefore are the embodiment of absolute evil  as opposed to the Christian settlers who are forces of good. For the colonized, subjectivity is always directed against him. 

One of the temporary consequences of the colonization of which Fanon speaks is the division of the native into three groups. The first is the native worker who is valued by the colonist for his work. The second group is what he calls the "colonized intellectual". These are, by Western standards, the most educated members of the native group who, in many ways, are recruited by the colonist to be the mouthpieces of their opinions. The colonists had "implanted into the mind of the colonized intellectual that essential qualities remain eternal, despite the mistakes men can make: the essential qualities of the West, of course"; these intellectuals were "ready to defend the Greco-Latin pedestal" against all enemies, settlers or natives.. This group is described in Marxism as the poorest class; those who are outside the system because they have so little. This group is often rejected by Marxists as unable to help organize workers, but Fanon sees them differently. For him, the lumpenproletariat will be the first to discover violence in front of the colonist.

Fanon is not totally sympathetic to the native. He refers to the native as containing his aggression through the terrifying myths that are so often found in underdeveloped communities.

Once the idea of ​​revolution is accepted by the native, Fanon describes the process by which it is debated, adjusted, and finally implemented. According to Fanon, revolution starts as an idea of ​​total systematic change and, through actual application to real-world situations, is diluted into a small shift of power within the existing system. "[The] pacifists and legalists ... to be blunt enough, demand ... 'Give us more power '", but the “native intellectual coated his aggressiveness with his thinly veiled desire to assimilate into the colonial world”. The colonialist bourgeoisie offers non-violence and then the commitment as new ways to get out of the violence of decolonization ; these are also mechanisms to dull and degrade the movement. An example of this is the newly independent Republic of Gabon, which became independent from France in 1960, and later the new president, Léon M'ba, said "Gabon is independent, but between Gabon and France nothing has changed; everything remains as before" (quoted in Wretched of the Earth, p. 52). For Fanon, this is the perfect example of a decolonization movement that has been weakened by the hesitation of its leaders. To combat this, "the newly independent Third World countries are urged not to emulate the decadent societies of the West (or East), but to chart a new path in defining human and international relations".