Athar Jaber

Frantz Fanon - Concerning Violence

Frantz Fanon:
The Wretched of the Earth (1961)

1. On Violence

Decolonization is always a violent event.

It is the unconditional and total substitution of one  “species” of mankind by another. 

By setting out to change the order of the world, decolonization is an agenda for total disorder.

Decolonization is the creation of a new man, and it never goes unnoticed.

The colonized becomes a man through the process of liberation. Therefore, decolonization, implies the need to challenge the colonial situation – the status quo. “The last shall be first”.

It can only succeed by resorting to every means, including violence.

The colonial world is a compartmentalized world.

It is divided in two. The dividing line, the border, is represented by the barracks and the police stations.

Explanation of the different methods applied in capitalist society and colonized regions, by which order is maintained.

In capitalist society: education, promise of pension, love of status quo, instil a mood of submission and inhibition in the exploited.

In colonial regions: language of pure violence. Threat of police and military intervention, rifles, napalm…

The two sectors, “native” and European, confront each other. There is no conciliation possible. They mutually exclude each other.

The race one belongs to is the factor that separated this world.

The violence which governed the ordering of the colonial world will be vindicated when the colonized swarm into the forbidden – the colonizers – cities.

The colonial world is Manichean. The colonist is not content with physically limiting the space of the colonized. The “native” is declared unethical, without values. Representing absolute evil.

The “native’s” indigence and depravity are demonstrated by their myths.

One must not come into contact with the colonized as they are infectious and poisonous. Compared to parasites and diseases.

The colonized is reduced to the state of an animal. The colonist often refers to the bestiary.

The colonial context is characterized by the dichotomy it inflicts on the world. Decolonization unifies this world by a radical decision to remove its heterogeneity, by unifying it on the grounds of nation and race.

During the struggle for liberation, the western, humanist values of enlightenment and beauty which seemed to ennoble the soul prove worthless to the colonized because they have nothing in common with the real-life struggle in which the people are engaged. 

In a kind of auto-da-fé, the colonized intellectual witnesses the destruction of all his idols: egoism, arrogant recriminations, and the need to have the last word.

Self-criticism is an African institution. Disputes which break out in a village are worked out in public.

Description of difference between the adapted, intellectual colonized subject vs the simple colonized people. Unable to communicate on same level. Intellectual focuses on details while the people look at the greater picture.

Question of truth. Only fellow national are ever owed the truth. Behaviour towards them is open and honest. While its strained and indecipherable towards the colonist. In answer to the lie of the colonial situation, the colonized subject responds with a lie.

Manichean character of colonial society is maintained intact during decolonization.

The colonist: light, innovation, dynamic vs the colonized: ancestral, petrified.

The colonist makes history. Not the history of the country he is despoiling, but the history of his own nation’s looting, raping and starving to death.

The colonial world is a compartmentalized, Manichean and petrified world of statues: the status of its heroes.

Apartheid is one method of compartmentalization. Confronted with this order the colonized is in a permanent state of tension. He will direct his aggressiveness against his own people.

Confronted with a world configured by the colonizer, the colonized subject is always presumed guilty.

The colonized is a persecuted man who is forever dreaming of becoming the persecutor. His muscles are always tensed, ready to act when the right moment arises.

The relationship between the colonist and colonized is one pf physical mass.

Inapt to attack the colonist, the colonized releases his muscular tension onto his fellow countryman. A self-destructive act.

Religion, the attribution of the fate to God, contributes to accepting the presence of the colonist with the “serenity of stone”.

Meanwhile The aggressiveness of the colonized is inhibited by his terrifying myths. This superstructure has a precise function in the way libido works. 

The secret sphere in underdeveloped countries is a collective sphere that falls within the reals of magic.

The colonized affectivity is kept on edge and the psyche finds an outlet through muscular spasms, often described as hysterical. Ecstasy of dance = muscular orgy during which the most brutal aggressiveness and violence are channelled.

Everything is permitted in the dance circle. 

The sole purpose of gathering and dancing is to let the supercharged libido and aggressiveness out. Symbolic killings and imagined murders.

One step further and we find ourselves in deep possession.  

Such a dissolution or splitting of the personality, plays a regulating role in ensuring the stability of the colonized world.

During the struggle for liberation there is a loss of interest in these rituals. 

The colonized subject discovers reality and transforms it through his praxis, his deployment of violence and his agenda for liberation. 

Political parties and intellectual elite are the forces that can empower the colonized.

This elite does not want to overthrow the system. It is violent in words but reformist (not revolutionary) in attitude.

The colonized intellectual has invested his aggression in his wish to be assimilated to the colonizer’s world. His interests are individualistic.

In colonial countries the left-out peasantry is revolutionary. It has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Students.

Colonialism is naked violence and only gives in when confronted with greater violence.

Nonviolence is the attempt to settle the problem around the negotiating table before the irreparable is done.

Notion of compromise.

In fearing the violence of the masses, the national bourgeoisie proposes a compromise to the colonial forces.

Quote by F. Engels.

The allocations of the instruments of force is important in the field of violence. So is also, guerrilla warfare.

Capitalism new notion of profitability. Colonies shifted from exploited source of raw materials to a profitable market. Capitalism collude with the forces of violence in colonial territories.

The Conference of Berlin carved up a mutilated Africa among three or four European flags.!!

The colonialist bourgeoisie is aided in the pacification of the colonized by the powers of religion.

Nationalist political leaders stir up revolutionary feelings in their listeners but there is no substance, no political or social agenda.

The emergence of new nations and demolition of colonial system results from violent struggle, either inside or outside the nation.

Colonized people are not alone. Permeable frontiers. Violence is atmospheric.

Example of Dien Bien Phu.

Analysis of atmospheric violence and its development from mere atmosphere to actual action.

The colonist feels a change in the air. National parties become restless, call for more meetings and security and troop reinforcements are increased.

The demonstration of military power on the colonist side does not intimidate the people.

Nerves are on edge, fear sets in and everyone is trigger-happy.

The gun goes off.

For the colonial subject, objectivity is always directed against him. UN General Assembly of September 1960. Representative of oppressed countries are aggressive and violent in the extreme, but their population found nothing exaggerated.

Khrushchev’s shoe.

Fidel Castro’s military uniform demonstrates his awareness of the continuing regime of violence.

Cold war context. America as the baron of international capitalism.

Violence is a desperate act only if compared to the military machine of the oppressor.

In the context of international relations, it represents a formidable threat to the oppressor.

Capitalism’s military strategy has everything to lose if national conflict were to break out, as socialist propaganda might infiltrate and contaminate the masses.

The peaceful coexistence between capitalist and socialist realities maintains and aggravates the violence in colonial countries.

Correlation between colonial violence and modern world violence.

The colonized, underdeveloped man is a political creature in the most global sense.

Independence has brought moral reparation and dignity to the colonized people. But they didn’t have time to build an own identity.

On the dangers of adopting a policy neutrality.

The combat between colonized and colonist is plainly an armed struggle. The existence of this struggle is indicative that the people are determined to put their faith only in violent methods.

A method learned from the colonists.

The colonial regime owes its legitimacy to force: “We are here by the force of the bayonet…”.

“It’s them or us” exemplifies the Manichean vision of a compartmentalized world.

Violence is the absolute praxis of the colonized. He liberates himself in and through violence.

Aimé Césaire poetry.

The violence of the colonial regime and the counterviolence of the colonized balance and respond to each other in an extraordinary reciprocal homogeneity.

The violence of the colonized will spread in proportion to the violence of the colonial regime.

Unbalanced availability of armed forces (weapons) between the two parties. Biased look on victims of both sides. One is relevant the other neglectable.

Terror, counterterror, violence, counterviolence.

The work of the colonist is to make dreams of liberty impossible to the colonized. The work of the colonized is to imagine every possible method for annihilating the colonist.

Manichean mechanism: absolute evil of colonist vs. absolute evil of native.

But for the colonized this violence is invested with positive, formative features.

Mortar kneaded with blood and rage.

The people realize that life in an unending struggle.

The violence of the colonized unifies people.

Colonialism is separatist and regionalist while violence is totalizing and national.

At the individual level, violence is a cleansing force.

Enlightened by violence, the people’s consciousness rebels against any pacification.



During its early years the young independent nations evolves in the atmosphere of a battleground.

Europe is different. Achieved national unity without too much struggle. 

European opulence vs underdeveloped world.

Former was built on the backs of slaves, 3rd world, blacks, Arabs, Indians and Asians.

Necessary endeavours needed for underdeveloped countries to achieve independence: austerity, work out of proportion, hunger, poverty. While bloated Europe looks on.

Colonialism vs anticolonialism, capitalism vs socialism is not the issue anymore. Wealth needs to be redistributed.

The Third World must refuse to get involved in Western rivalries (capitalism vs socialism). It must not be content to define itself in relation to values which preceded it.

The colonial system was interested only in the riches that fuelled its industry.

Young independent nations must rethink its sources, research its soil and subsoil.

For harmonious progress, socialism is better than capitalism. But something other than human is needed. Capital, technicians, engineers, mechanics, etc.

The task is to humanize a world that imperialism has reduced to animal level.

Colonized countries must demand a retribution from colonizers just as Europe demanded Germany to pay for the damages inflicted during WWII.

The wealth of the imperialist nations is also the wealth of the exploited nations.

Europe has been created with the resources of the Third World.

In order to emancipate the Third World to a global discourse, the European masses must first all decide to wake up, put on their thinking caps and stop playing the irresponsible game of Sleeping Beauty.


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