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Every generation must discover its mission – In Remembrance of Frantz Fanon

by Ka-Ubuntu 


Frantz Fanon, revolutionary psychiatrist, brilliant writer, has ardently fought all kinds of alienation. Born with French nationality in the West Indies in 1925. He died as an Algerian on 6 December 1961 at the age of 36, a few months before Algerian independence, in which he had played an active part. Created in 2020, our independentist Réunionese and pan-African organisation, Ka Ubuntu, wants to pay tribute to this major contributor to independence in Africa. We share his vision of an internationalist struggle, the right to self-determination and the sovereignty of each people. 


Born in 1925 to a middle class family in Martinique, Frantz Fanon was deeply marked by his racial heritage and his experience of society under French colonial domination. 


Growing up in colonized Martinique, Fanon was confronted with the reality of colonial oppression and the consequences of institutionalized racism from his earliest childhood memories. These experiences shaped his perception of the world and created the basis of his decolonial commitment. 


Over the years, Fanon developed a profound analysis and a critique of the colonial dynamics, shedding light on domination mechanisms and the devastating effects of colonization on colonized people. His work has helped to raise awareness of the need to understand colonial structures in order to get rid of them.


In 1943, Fanon decided to leave Martinique to join the Free French Forces (Forces Françaises Libres) at the age of 18. His voluntary commitment shows his desire to contribute to the fight against Nazism and the oppressive forces threatening liberty and human dignity.


“Every time dignity and human liberty are questioned we are affected, Whites, Blacks and Yellows, and every time they are threatened in any place whatsoever, I will commit myself to it without return.” - Fanon.


But his experience in the French army quickly revealed the contradictions and injustices persisting even at the very heart of the military apparatus. 


Indeed, despite his upbringing imbued with the ideals of the French revolution and the principles of equality and fraternity, Fanon came up against a disconcerting reality. The French army, which was meant to embody these values, turned out to be imbued with flagrant racial discrimination. 


This called into question the very basis of his identity and his relation to France. 


The young Fanon was confronted with the prejudice against the colonial African troops who were treated differently and oftentimes discriminated against, leaving him with a sense of deep disillusion. He shared this disillusion in a letter to his parents in April 1945, where he expressed his confusion towards this brutal reality: “If I didn’t return, if you learn one day of my death at the hands of the enemy, take comfort, but never say: he died for a good cause […]; because this wrong ideology, the shield of secularists and imbecilic politicians, must no longer enlighten us. I was wrong!”


This experience profoundly influenced Fanon, and marked the foundation of his reassessment of colonialism and his fight for the emancipation of the colonialised people. 


His personal experience of racism and the genesis of his work, “Black Skin, White Masks”, are intimately connected. Fanon began writing this book in the late 1940s while studying medicine in Lyon. “Black Skin, White Masks” was published in 1952, when Fanon was 27. The book is the fruit of his in-depth reflections of racial mechanics and their impact on society. It is an essay that explores the complex dynamics between black and white people, examining the psychological consequences inherited from colonialism. 


Fanon, as a precursor of decolonial thought, highlights that colonization is not just about economic domination, but also influences individual and collective psychologies. He highlights how the colonized, conditioned by the colonial system, integrate and internally accept their alleged inferiority, while the colonizers assimilate and claim their alleged superiority. Through his writings, Fanon encourages the oppressed to free themselves from this psychological imprisonment, to become aware of their own identity, their “négritude”. However, he makes it clear that this awareness is only an initial step towards overcoming the artificial categories of Black and White. 


Fanon’s aim goes beyond a simple understanding of racial and colonial dynamics. He seeks to emancipate individuals by encouraging them to free themselves from the mental chains imposed by centuries of domination. 

Fanon said “I am not a slave to the slavery which dehumanized my fathers.”


In 1953, Frantz Fanon decides to move to Algeria where he works as a psychiatrist at the hospital of Blida. Fanon analyzed the behavior of the colonized in Algeria and realized that psychological treatment alone would not suffice. At the International Congress of Black Writers and Artists, he highlighted the use of exploitation, torture, razzias and racism, which reduced natives to inert objects in the hands of the occupying nation. For Fanon, it was pointless to deal with the consequences without tackling the causes, as colonization engendered more psychological disorders than he could treat as a psychiatrist.


That's why, in 1954, he joined the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), despite threats, attacks and expulsion, renouncing his French nationality to go into exile in Tunis. His writings in the press are read worldwide, advocating pan- Africanism and encouraging the internationalization of struggles. With regard to this internationalization of struggles, Fanon won the esteem of freedom fighters such as Che Guevara, Mehdi Ben Barka, Amilcar Cabral, Agostino Neto, Nelson Mandela and many other liberators. His reputation among independence movements grew when he became the Algerian provisional government's ambassador-at-large for sub-Saharan Africa in Ghana.


For Fanon, the quest for freedom demands sacrifice. 


He sees insurrection as a duty, even if it meant using violence. His major work, "The Wretched of the Earth” (“Les Damnés de la terre”, 1961), is an analysis of the processes of decolonization and their repercussions. In it, Fanon explains his vision of the paths to liberation, highlighting the imperative of a total revolution to shatter the oppressive structures of colonialism. He warns of the risks inherent in neo-colonialism, and calls for a radical transformation of post-colonial societies.


“The colonial regime is a regime established by violence. Colonial rule has always been established by force. It was against the will of the people that other peoples, more advanced in the techniques of destruction or numerically more powerful, imposed themselves. Violence in everyday behavior, violence towards the past, which has been emptied of all substance, violence towards the future.” - Excerpt from L’an V de la révolution algérienne (1959)


Fanon’s vision of violence provoked fierce controversy in France. 


Often criticized for his position as an apologist for violence, it is important to point out that criticism comes mainly from “propagandists of imperialism and supporters of the hierarchy of civilizations… essentially the organic intellectuals of the markets.”


In his writings, Fanon approaches violence through the prism of praxis, a notion that integrates both theory and action. For him, violence is not merely a means or a end in itself, but an element of praxis intimately linked to social transformation and the struggle against oppressive structures. He does not glorify violence for its own sake, but sees it as a contextual tool within a broader struggle for emancipation.


In his analysis, Fanon point out that violence is often perceived as a necessity in the face of colonial oppression. He sees it as an inevitable response in situations where the oppressed find themselves at an impasse, confronted by deeply entrenched systems of power and exploitation. 


“Colonialism is not a thinking machine, not a body endowed with reason. It is violence in its  natural state and can only bow to greater violence.” - The Wretched of the Earth (1961)


For Fanon, revolutionary violence is a tactical strategy used to break with the oppressive colonial order. It is one of the ways of tearing down structures of domination, liberating the consciousness of the oppressed and inciting them to claim their freedom. 


Fanon warns of its dehumanizing and alienating effects, recognizing the psychological and physical after-effects on both oppressed and oppressors. Thus, he empathizes the importance of post-violence social and psychological transformation, involving the complete reconstruction of decolonized societies. He stresses post-conflict disalienation and psychological rehabilitation, and advocates for reconciliation and the construction of a truly free society, based on equality, justice and mutual respect. This awareness underlines the importance of a thorough understanding of the implications of post-colonial violence. 

At Ka Ubuntu, we defend the idea that violence can become inevitable when all peaceful avenues are systematically ignored by the imperialist and colonialist system.


Colonial regimes establish themselves in our nations through violence. We see this again today in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


On La Réunion, the imperialists constructed a settlement colony, introducing a system of slavery motivated by economic interests and imbued with racism. A system of unspeakable violence and cruelty. After its supposed abolition, “engagism” took over in our country. Engagism in La Réunion was a system whereby workers, often from India, China, Africa, Madagascar or the Comoros, were recruited under contract to work on the sugar plantations after the abolition of slavery. These workers, known as “Engaged” (engagés in french), signed contracts for a fixed period and were often subjected to harsh working conditions and unfair treatment. 


Displaced and mistreated, the Engaged were destined for an existence of servitude which, in many respects, brought them close to the status of slaves. 


Since 1946, La Réunion is a French Department located 10,000 km from Paris. This departmentalization is a continuation of colonization in a different form. French colonialism is maintained on La Réunion by presenting itself as the welfare state. They distil in the subconscious of the Réunionese population that without the French, they could not survive. All the while, economic and social inequalities are rife on the island – a reality that no one can deny. Today, the violence to which our people are subjected is subtle and far more dangerous than the blows of a stick.


The youth faces a variety of form of symbolic violence which have a significant impact on their development and well-being. 


The violence present in Reunion’s youth can manifest itself in subtle ways through discrimination in education, employment and access to resources. This discrimination contributes to perpetuating cycles of socio-economic disadvantage. 


La Réunion, with a third of its population under the age of 20 (260,000), is the third youngest region of France, behind Mayotte and French Guiana. The youth unemployment rate will reach 32% in 2022, 2.5 times higher than in France. Furthermore, a considerable number of young people are forced to leave the island to pursue their studies in continental France (2,300 students per year).


Réunion’s youth, marginalized by the capitalist system, find themselves plunged into delinquency, drug and alcohol abuse. This marginalization leads to a militarization of the youth, as a result of the colonial state’s propaganda aimed at recruiting these young people into its army. It is therefore imperative to politically educate our youth so that they participate in the emancipation of La Réunion and overthrow the colonial order. 


“Every generation must, in relative opacity, discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it”, said Fanon. It is up to each generation to preserve its sovereignty, its right to self-determination, enabling its people, its nation, to free itself from all forms of foreign domination, using all means, including violence if necessary. 



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