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Violence as a Revolutionary Praxis

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His last vital breath, Frantz Fanon used it to dictate ‘The Wretched of the Earth’, his most famous work, prefaced by Jean-Paul Sartre. The doctor, suffering from leukemia, knew that he had only a few weeks left to live. In this testament published in France in 1961, in the midst of the Algerian war, and immediately banned for undermining state security; Frantz Fanon wanted to “create a new man”. His book develops two major themes: the necessary and spontaneous violence and the birth conditions of a new nation.

And it is precisely the role of violence, the collective violence as a form of protest struggle, in which this transformation must operate. According to Fanon, only violence can detoxify colonized’s alienated consciences, and the violence of the colonial rule.

The originality of Fanon is therefore to defend that the movement of emancipation, which vector is violence, can produce a double liberation: psychic at both the individual and collective levels. The pivotal argument for his conceptualization of violence as a liberating violence is the following: the process of emancipation presupposes a necessary violence because it is through violence that alienation has been built.

As a result, this coursework will evaluate the positivity of violence as a revolutionary praxis toward a new humanity: in other words, I will question the possibility of finding a legitimacy of collective violence in the very idea of ​​praxis, namely, a material and social human activity of transformation of society, objective reality and man himself (Gerhart, 1997).

This paper will also argue that the line of junction is also a line of fracture: Fanon's political theory, which sees violent praxis as the only path to the fabrication of new men and new humanity, is indeed in tension with its clinical analyzes. Our analysis will be done in the light of Fanon's dual posture: that is to say, the committed intellectual who has fervently supported the struggles of the Algerian resistance, and the psychiatrist who, in Algeria, treated men and women deeply marked by this violence.

Violence as a revolutionary praxis for Fanon toward the subjective creation of a new man.

To begin with, in Fanon’s view, colonization has always been violent, and represented by bloodthirsty authorities, so the only way to emancipate is to use violence in return. Violence is only one answer to another, the colonized is the creation of the colonizer.

In the first chapter Of Violence, Fanon attributes to the colonial world, two principal determinations: it is a compartmentalized and a manichean world. In colonial regions, unlike colonizing countries, there is not intermediary in the power relations between dominant and dominated, no institutional relays to push relations of domination for consent. More precisely, violence plays the role of this intermediary.

In this manichean organization, the native is the man who has no values, who is 'impervious to ethics' (p.11): the language of the colonist when he speaks of the colonized, can go as far as dehumanization and animalization. Fanon repeatedly describes the recurrent zoological terminology in colonists' language to describe colonized people (Gendzier, 1973).

Furthermore, Fanon notes that both colonial and colonized worlds are irreconcilable, he deduces the impossibility of peace as long as colonization persists. The colonial edifice is indeed possible only by the total negation of society and the colonized individual. The colonized are thus forced to emancipate themselves to get rid of the meaning of colonization. As settlers are not ready to give up their interest and privileges, political violence is needed (Hudis, 2015).

The parallel between psychiatric alienation and colonial alienation is one of the foundations of Fanon's thought. He defines colonialism as being, above all, a devastating psychic state. The colonization is a violent system affecting the values ​​of the populations, makes them sick, alienated, inhuman, without identity, greedy and envious. Therefore, in order to defend themselves, all that remains for them is to reverse the course of events and finally use the same weapon: violence.

Fanon's work penetrates the psychic and cultural meanders of colonization, its mechanisms of hybridization and mimicry. In his book Black skin, white mask, his pages on the desire for lactification illuminate a social and public health problem: these black women desperate to whiten their skin sign of alienation. As a black young woman, I have experienced and seen the problem of colorism within the black community but before reading Fanon, I was not able to see the alienation dimension. It is common that the more the dark of your skin is, the more you will be subjected to critics. Consequently, the only option you have is to use products to make your skin lighter and to be more close to occidental criterion (BBC, 2018).

The process of emancipation toward the creation is realized through the revolutionary praxis. Without this latter, there is no possibility of internalized violence reorientation of the colonized, nor the possibility to reverse internalized polarity. The internalized violence reorientation becomes a real political weapon. ”The challenge now is to seize this violence as it realigns itself. Whereas it once reveled in myths and contrived ways to commit collective suicide, a fresh set of circumstances will now enable it change directions”(p. 20-21).

Ultimately, this violent praxis is a collective violence that will demystify in the sense of a destruction of individualistic and selfish values ​​in favor of the individual fusion in the collective struggle, toward the national liberation. How does collective violence succeed in this tour de force of being the place of emancipation, in other words a place of transformation of an internalized violence into the creation of the new man?

Violent praxis would be the only truly operative form of action for the fabrication of the new man because without it, there is no possibility to reorient the contained violence of the colonized, no possibility of reversing the polarity of this internalized violence, which means the failure of emancipation. Violence in this sense becomes the cement of the group, and takes the individual from his individual concerns to his existence in a collective group.

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The fabric of a new man is thus effected by the concrete and psychic integration of a collective, which gradually takes the form of a national consciousness (Hurdis, 2015).

Lastly, I would like to question the creation of the new man in comparison with the clinical analyzes proposed by Fanon in the last chapter of ‘The Wretched of the Earth’.

The new man in question: evaluation of the violence positivity in regards to Fanon’s clinic.

The positivity of violence as a revolutionary praxis which leans on the thesis of the new man creation seems in appearance quite difficult to put in coherence with the interest of the psychiatrist Fanon for war neurosis. Fanon's clinical cases at the end of his book show how violent the praxis is and correlative to many pathologies, particularly in relation to psychotic behaviors. He distinguishes in particular three types of pathologies linked to violence. The violence that has been deep engraved within the subjective structure is not only the source of collective emancipation, but also of irreversible damages to personal integrity (Jha, 1988).

When colonized people rebel, the bloody and inhuman climate of war causes other mental disorders said to be more specifically reactionary. This phenomenon common to all wars has often been studied but Fanon considered it to be more violent in the case of a colonial war which is, he says, is a true genocide (Gerhart, 1997).

The description of the clinical cases that Fanon have treated is in this sense, enlightening to grasp the implications of war violence in the subjective structuration of individuals. It seems, then, that the fabric of the new man in violent praxis is also leaning on a series of lesions of subjective identity directly correlating with violence. The disorders observed are gathered into various categories: on the one hand, the disease has declared itself directly after a traumatic event, in the other hand, the general atmosphere of war, because it disrupts the way of life causes troubles.

There is also this tension between the psychiatrist and the intellectual Fanon in his concerns about the totalizing nature of such violence; it is, however, the counterpart of this subjective creation that is accomplished in and through violence : “This violent praxis is totalizing since each individual represents a violent link in the great chain, in the almighty body of violence rearing up in reaction to the primary violence of the colonizer” (p 50).

Once the struggles have reached the fulfillment of their political ends, the problem of pacification arises. A visionary aspect can be recognized in Fanon's work, since it predicts the emergence of the problem of minorities, that is to say the displacement of revolutionary violence towards identity struggles. For what he calls the 'conscience of the people', after being created by violent praxis, becomes rebellious to all pacification. The fate of violence is therefore to reorient itself in new directions, and the risk is that it takes the shape of fratricidal struggles. The pacification of such violence appears to Fanon most complex especially because it has materialized in an “atmosphere of violence”, which “after having penetrated the colonial phase, continues to dominate national politics” (p. 75).

Thus, we can retain the implicit message of Sartre’s quotation in ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ preface: “The child of violence, at every moment he draws from it his own humanity. We were men at his expense, he makes himself a man at ours: a different man; of higher quality” (p. 24). If native population and colonization are defined by Sartre like true neurosis, on the other hand the new man who is born of violence will have to face the consequences of this violent praxis on his history to build.

To conclude, ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ is a text on the revolutionary violence, since Fanon himself was engaged in the Algerian struggles. This conjuncture text seems to me to be a relevant starting point for neutralizing moral judgment on violence praxis.

Fanon’s book which defends the thesis of a liberating violence, presents the interest of being at the interface between both political and clinical theory of violence.

In addition, I would like to return to the preliminary question, namely the legitimacy question of political violence when it takes the form of a revolutionary praxis. In the frame of Frantz Fanon’s thought and specifically the writing of ‘The Wretched of the Earth’, Fanon does not theorize a violence legitimacy but more precisely in the context of decolonization struggles, the necessity of this violence. To this end, he proposes a historical and materialistic analysis of violent praxis as a vector of subjective transformation and collective liberation within an energetic scheme. In this paper, I have tried to argue that the tension of this analysis with his clinical approach to war neurosis makes it impossible to extrapolate a priori the scope to others contexts. The author’s goal is not theoretical research on mental illnesses, he aims above all, to provide an additional argument to his enterprise of struggle against colonialism and its perversions.

This proofreading leads us to recognize the vitality of a psychiatric work that is inseparable from the political one. Frantz Fanon's political action was directed against a major form of alienation in his eyes: colonialist alienation, and this action found a favorable field of application in Algeria.

We can not dissociate the two aspects of his action: revolutionary action and psychiatric action which are the constants of the same commitment.

Lastly, the reinterpretation of Frantz Fanon reveals to us today, as yesterday, the acuteness as well as the relevance of his view on the world evolution from the point of view of the colonized and the dominated. Half a century after its publication, his flagship work, ‘The Wretched of the Earth’, has not aged. His analyzes, in fact, anticipated the possibilities of negative evolution for oppressed people, despite the formal independence they were gaining access to. Fanon's thinking and his language allow us to better analyze and better understand how and why, despite independence, we have witnessed the development of a neocolonialism, the very one against which Fanon warned the elites of decolonized countries (Youtube, 2016).


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  2. Fairchild. H. H. (1994). The Wretched of the Earth in Contemporary Perspective. Sage Publications. (Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2) p.191-199
  3. France 24. (2016). Does “la Françafrique still exist ?” [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 Dec 2018]
  4. Gendzier. I. L. (1973). Frantz Fanon A Critical Study. (Wildwood House Ltd, London). p 193-206.
  5. Gerhart. G. M. (1997). The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon Review. Council on Foreign Relations Stable, (Gerhart Source: Foreign Affairs, Vol. 76, No. 5.)
  6. Hurdis. P. (2015). Frantz Fanon Philosopher of the Barricades. (Pluto Press, London). p 111-140.
  7. Jha. B. K. (1988). FANON'S THEORY OF VIOLENCE: A CRITIQUE. (The Indian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 49, No. 3), p 359-369.
  8. Majumdar, M. (2016). The ‘Wretched of the Earth’ – then and now, (International Journal of Francophone Studies, vol. 19, no. 1), p 95-103.
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