We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Frantz Fanon, Philosopher of the Barricades

Click here if you wish to access a partial transcript of this talk by Peter Hudis from communists in situ

The title of this post is also the title of a new book by Hudis about the insights of Franz Fanon that are very relevant today especially here in the US where racism is raising its ugly head once again. Fanon (1925 –1961) was born in Martinique in the Caribbean and became a psychiatrist, philosopher, and revolutionary writer. He wrote most profoundly about the psychological effects of racism on the victims of racism and how it develops out of exploitation to become such a tenacious problem for all people to overcome. (The same holds for sexism also.) 

(A side-note: In recent years I have become aware of my own racism that is not only directed toward African-Americans but also people of Japanese descent. The racism takes the form of a visceral reaction and, of course, I would never consciously act on such feelings. The Japanese reaction is a product of my brainwashing at the hands of the US ruling class in the early years of my life during WWII. They needed us to hate Japanese so that young Americans would go to war and kill them in order to eliminate the Japanese capitalist class as a rival for domination and exploitation of Asian resources and markets. I was constantly subjected to despicable yellow caricatures of "Japs" that to this day brings out a visceral reaction whenever I see people of Japanese descent.)

As a Marxist Fanon was often critical of traditional Marxists because they ignored racism as an independent factor which had to be dealt with by revolutionaries, and that racism would not simply vanish when a socialist revolution was accomplished. Hudis writes about Fanon:
His dire warning of what happens when the struggle against racism and colonialism loses sight of the ultimate goal of transforming human relations remains as important today as when it was written. Indeed, in some respects it has become more important, in light of the many unfinished and aborted revolutions that we have experienced over the past 50 years.

True, Fanon may not provide us with a golden key to resolve the questions of our time, and he surely would never have pretended otherwise. What a reexamination of his thought can achieve, however, is for us to come to a better understanding of the complex inter-relation between race and class as we try to work out how today’s struggles against racism, sexism and class society can lead to a new humanism.