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Franz Fanon, now in Norwegian

January 1968


Well, comrades, we may as well as last take the spoon in the other hand, shake our darkness and get out. The new day on the way will find us well prepared and full of determination. Let us once and for all say goodbye to a Europe that invariably raises man to the clouds, but murders it every time it dares to appear, both in its own cities and everywhere else in the world. Comrades, do we have nothing else to do but create a third Europe? Western civilization claims to be a triumph of the Spirit. It is in the name of the Spirit Europe has committed its crimes and kept four-fifths of humanity in chains. For so long, the European, talking to himself, has fallen so indecently in his own image that he has ended up in a delirium where the smallest attempt to use the brain to think with causes the most unbearable pain. For the sake of Europe, for our own sake, and for the sake of humanity, comrades, we must change him, prepare new thoughts and do our best to create a new human being.

Six years after the Algerian revolutionary ideologue Franz Fanon said goodbye to Europe in his book "Les Damnés de la Terre", the book is now finally in Norwegian. Born in Martinique, Fanon received his medical and psychiatric education in Paris and settled in Algeria, where he participated in the liberation struggle from its inception in 1954. He was introduced by the journal FAX here at home a year ago, and characteristically probably it is FAX Forlag that this autumn has brought The damned of the earth out on the market. The book is central to revolutionary thinking in Africa and Asia and in the Black Power movement in the United States. . However, this is not only a disadvantage; Today we may have better prerequisites for being able to put the book into a larger context and more easily see weaknesses in it.


The expanded concept of violence. While in Norway there has been a debate in recent years about an expanded concept of conscription, in the future the expanded concept of violence will be central. Fanon's book will contribute to a clarification and expansion of our traditional concept of violence that defines the poor's attempt to free themselves from oppression as "violence", while preserving the status quo and the political and economic oppression itself is defined as "peace".

However, the whole history of the colonial system is an endless history of violence in various forms. Algeria, Congo, Vietnam and Angola with mass murder and torture as the manifest violence. All of Africa, Asia and Latin America with the impersonal violence that our economic system exerts by pulling raw materials and capital out of these areas.

However, there is no reason to uncritically support Fanon's view of the functions of violence in the liberation struggle, as Jean-Paul Sartre seems to do in an otherwise highly readable preface. Both the book and the preface were written during the Algerian war of liberation and are clearly marked by this in its somewhat inconsistent and perhaps somewhat cultivating attitude to violence. What does The damned of the earth so intense is Fanon's analytical stance, which makes his glow all the more scorching. Sometimes, however, the analysis becomes inconsistent, and other times it does not go far enough.

It is undoubtedly true that when the colonial slave kills the oppressor, he kills two people: the oppressor and the oppressed himself. Violence has a positive character-forming effect. It has a unifying effect on the colonial people because the individual feels like an active link in the chain of acts of violence that is the answer to the conqueror's abuse of power. The act of violence has a cleansing effect, drives the toxins out of the slave's soul, removes the inferiority complex and any tendencies towards contemplation and hopelessness.

Fanon's chapter on "Colonial war and psychological damage" in which he discusses the psychological effects of the war on the population, may seem to reduce to some extent the positive and character-forming function he sees in violence, and the value he attaches to violence as a cultural phenomenon.

Furthermore, there is undoubtedly an overestimation of the violence in the following: “Only the people who have practiced violence in organized forms under an information-minded leadership have been given the code key that makes it possible to understand social reality. Without violence, without the practice that is the condition for real insight, it all becomes nothing but carnival parades: a few technical changes, a few new names at the top, a new flag, and at the bottom a mushy mass that still lives in the Middle Ages and continues its eternal circular motion. "

Violence is, of course, neither an inevitable nor a sufficient condition for creating the socialist future-oriented social order in the third world that Fanon wants. The country Africa and Asia to which socialists attach the most hopes, Tanzania, was liberated without armed struggle, and has today gone further in socialization than some of the countries where armed and organized violence was necessary. Although Fanon seems in many ways to be linked to the French cult and violence-romanticizing tradition of Georges Sorel, there is little reason to reject his main thesis: The white and rich world has for centuries practiced, and still practices, violence against the third world. ; the poor's revolt against us is therefore only a reflection of our own violence.

Our values ​​are perverted. "This is not a book, it's a fist blow," Time wrote. It's probably true that The damned of the earth on Western humanists and liberals must seem like a fistfight, and the blow seems all the stronger because Fanon does not write for us, but addresses the people of the third and poor world. We in the West are reduced to "the others" and objects of the thoughts and actions of the third world, instead of being the ones who act and make others objects of our deeds as we are used to.

The shock that the European welfare person experiences by reading Fanon is the shock of experiencing himself through others when the gap between one's experience of oneself and others' experience of one becomes too great and insurmountable. Gøran Palm's book "An unfair consideration" which was published in Norway last year, gave a literary and emotional picture of a Western European intellectual's anguish by experiencing himself and his culture through the eyes of others, and therefore seems in many ways an introduction to Fanon . However, Fanon is more in-depth and analytical, and therefore seems all the stronger. Sartre points out in the preface that Fanon gives us Europeans a chance to get to know ourselves as objects when he portrays us for his brothers. Our victims have their knowledge of us from their wounds and their shackles. Therefore, their testimony becomes irrefutable.

The testimonies from the third world show us the objective reality: the values ​​of the West are perverted in developing countries.

Individualism: concentration on a kidnapped child in France, and oblivion of thousands of napalm-stricken children in Vietnam and millions of starving people in India.

Property rights and private initiative: the right of the strong and rich Euro-Americans to own the property of the poor and weak colored.

Social equalization: prosperity based on two obstacles to the extraction of third world raw materials and human resources.

Humanism: dehumanization of man everywhere outside of Euro-America.

Freedom: freedom to benefit others.

The shocking thing about this, of course, is that Fanon is turning our own methods against us. For centuries we have been accustomed to judge others by their deeds, Russians, Africans and Asians, while we have judged ourselves by our motives, humanism, Christianity and individualism. Today, the third world says to Euro-America: Your deeds will testify for you. And our deeds lie like bloody wounds in the past and present: Algeria, Congo and Vietnam, colonialism and neo-colonialism with economic exploitation, violence and torture in every conceivable form.

This is how a new image of ourselves emerges in the mirror where our values ​​become perverted and our traits distorted: “We were human beings at the expense of the colonial slave. He has become human in ours. A new and better person. It is by fighting against us that the others become human. We can no longer hide that we are in fact the enemy of humanity. The elite reveals themselves as they are, a gangster gang. "

Gangster gangs – and so what? This is nothing new for Norwegian left-wing socialists who for many years have experienced the West's economic system as a crime against humanity. The new for left-wing socialists in The damned of the earth will be the largely analytical attitude to the concept of violence, the analysis of national consciousness and national culture in the third world and of the relationship between bourgeoisie and peasant proletariat.

Among humanists and liberals, Fanon will probably arouse mixed feelings. Some would argue that he is "one-sided" and that he preaches the ideology of hatred and envy. However, these are not reasons enough to reject him. Faced with social reality, one-sidedness, hatred and envy must be the only adequate responses to our economic exploitation.

Others will be shaken by the untouched and unmade-up image The damned of the earth gives of us and our culture. Fanon will make them ashamed, and the shame is, according to Marx, a revolutionary feeling, which can drive humanists and liberals to cognition and action instead of wrinkling their noses at the means the third world today and in the future will be forced to to use in its social, economic and political liberation struggle.

Frantz Fanon:
The damned of the earth. PAX. 1968

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