Untrapping the soul of Fanon: culture, consciousness and the future of Pan-Africanism.
|Abstract:||This essay uses the occasion of the 50th anniversary since Frantz Fanon's transition to reflect upon the implications of his thought and praxis to the contemporary evolution of Pan-Africanism. The notion of a Fanonian Pan-Africanism is central to the conceptual and theoretical framework for this analysis. It assumes that Fanonian thought contained within it many of the fundamental elements that have defined Pan-Africanist thinking for generations. I also explore Fanon's practical connections to Pan-Africanist formations across the African Diaspora. The essay's main contribution is to reflect on how these dimensions of Fanon's ideas and work might inform our understanding of the relationship between, on the one hand, self-awareness and cultural consciousness and, on the other hand, Pan-African consciousness and the present-day politics of Pan-African unity.|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
(Criticism and interpretation)
Consciousness (Social aspects)
|Author:||Young, Kurt B.|
|Publication:||Name: Journal of Pan African Studies Publisher: Journal of Pan African Studies Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 Journal of Pan African Studies ISSN: 0888-6601|
|Issue:||Date: Nov, 2011 Source Volume: 4 Source Issue: 7|
|Topic:||Event Code: 290 Public affairs|
|Product:||Product Code: 8524101 Philosophers NAICS Code: 54172 Research and Development in the Social Sciences and Humanities|
|Persons:||Named Person: Fanon, Frantz|
|Geographic:||Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States|
The 1983 publication of The Pan-African Connection by Trinidadian historian Tony Martin tapped into a re-emerging theme that revisits the significance of Frantz Fanon's revolutionary thought and example to Pan-Africanism. There, Martin contextualized Fanon by placing him alongside earlier generations of Caribbean Pan-Africanists including Daaga, Henry Sylvester Williams and Marcus Garvey, and within the tradition of Pan-African expressions such as Maroon societies, Rastafari and Negritude. (1) It is in the spirit of this theme and on the occasion of the Journal of Pan African Studies' commemorative issue on Frantz Fanon that this essay revisits his significance to contemporary Pan-Africanism.
The general focus here is on how Fanonian Pan-Africanism can inform our understanding of the emerging dimensions of Pan-Africanism at this point in its evolution. Fanonian Pan-Africanism refers to the intersections between the elements in Fanonian thought that have been and remain theoretically and practically relevant to the Pan-African movement. It represents the direct application of Fanon's core concepts and revolutionary praxis to the broad experiences and particular political efforts across the African Diaspora. Specifically, I am concerned with how Fanon's claims regarding the relationship between self-awareness, the emergence of cultural consciousness and the struggle for national liberation provide a lens for viewing the relationship between Pan-African consciousness and the politics of Pan-African unity.
This tribute to Fanon comes at a transitional period in the historical trajectory of Pan-Africanism. The current transition can be defined by a shift away from the Pan-African congress and continental unification orientations of the 20th century and towards alternative approaches. Accordingly, this reflection on both the Pan-Africanist dimensions of Fanonian thought and on the contributions of Fanonian thought to the evolution of Pan-Africanism must be framed within a theory that is consistent with this transition. From that perspective, the more specific objectives here are to first locate a theoretical framework suited for navigating the intersection between Fanonian thought and Pan-Africanism. Guided by of this framework, the essay then explores the implications of Fanon's reflections on the ontology of self-awareness, culture and national consciousness to the formation of Pan-African consciousness. The third aim is to identify lessons from Fanonian Pan-Africanism that can inform the current task of internationalizing politico-cultural movements that incorporate this Pan-African consciousness.
Fanon in the Pan-African Nationalist Context
The case has been made that the popular distinction between Pan-African "ideas" and "movements" has given way to a more "holistic" view of Pan-Africanism. (2) From this holistic perspective, Pan-African consciousness is inseparable from the movements that focus on building political linkages across the African Diaspora. Fanon anticipated this symbiotic relationship. He did not engage African unity and power through the Pan-African Congress or the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Two years before his birth, the Third Pan-African Congress convened in London and Lisbon in 1923, essentially to institutionalize protestations for self-rule within the context of the "Great Power" politics of that generation. (3) And, at the time of his unfortunate illness and death, the founding of the OAU was still 17 months away. Rather, Fanon's Pan-African lineage transcended these once-dominant orientations and was instead a product of cultural and nationalistic political responses to concrete realities in specific parts of the African Diaspora.
At the conclusion of his celebrated essay, "On National Culture," published in the highly acclaimed The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon offered this thought: "There now remains one fundamental question. What is the relationship between the struggle, the political or armed conflict, and culture?" Later, he extended the thought with the following "culture questions":
Fanon's own position on these questions was very clear. Culture was not divorced from the practical efforts toward of liberation:
And since we are concerned with the intersections between Fanonian thought and Pan-Africanism, it seems that the starting point for an optimal theoretical framework is one that locates Fanon within an approach that is consistent with his position on culture. I submit that Pan-African nationalism is best suited for such a task.
Pan-African nationalism is particularly valuable to this analysis since it explains a contemporary shift in Pan-Africanism towards nationalistic organizational formations that connect culture, Pan-African consciousness and the building of Diasporic linkages. A key premise is that those theoretical approaches that reduced Pan-Africanism to unified African governments or that suppressed the value of African identity within a Pan-African movement are no longer credible, desirable or practical. It also assumes that what is more pragmatic at this point in its evolution is an approach that elevates the relationship between consciousness and trans-Diasporic unity. There are four claims here:
1. The political process that leads to African Diasporic unity must emanate from politicizing the cultural consciousness and identity of African people at the organizational levels that are dedicated to collective empowerment.
2. The localized expressions of nationalism are the most concrete organizational manifestations of a politicized consciousness and identity shared by African people in that local setting.
3. Pan-Africanism must be articulated in terms of its emergence out of these collective nationalistic responses to the unique local experiences of African people on the Continent and throughout the Diaspora and out of the international political linkages that are forged between them.
4. Therefore, contrary to the predominance of the continental unity model, the internationalization of nationalistic political efforts is the operational framework for a practical Pan-Africanism. (6)
Implicit in both Fanon's question, and the ways in which culture is conceptualized in Pan-African nationalism, is its importance beyond the mundane definitions usually limited to music, dance, cuisine, etc. Instead, culture is that most essential human expression that defines the collective worldview, values, beliefs and identity of a group. Moreover, beyond these ideational forms, culture is a dynamic force that ultimately manifests itself in broad patterns of behavior and action. Thus, it is that force that determines the group's human relationships, social structures, collective interests, institutional tendencies and, most importantly for this discussion, its modes of collective political struggle.
Accordingly, beyond congresses and states, Pan-African nationalism forces a very different understanding where politicizing consciousness and identity is a necessary process for political struggle and unity. Furthermore, Pan-African nationalism assumes the practical application of only the most useful aspects of culture to the conditions that are unique to specific locales across the Diaspora. Finally, Pan-Africanism becomes the internationalization of nationalistic organizational efforts throughout the African Diaspora based on linkages that include, inter alia, developing institutions for sustaining cultural, political and economic collaboration; sharing first-hand experiences and strategies; and transferring of resources from one location in the Diaspora to another. From this theoretical perspective, the Pan-African movement evolves out of a consciousness and collective nationalistic response to the unique local experiences of African people. Thus, as we contemplate the meaning of Fanon from a Pan-African nationalist approach, an inescapable consistency emerges: the arch that connects culture, consciousness and unity.
To Make Myself Known: The Ontology of Consciousness and Struggle
Old tendencies in Pan-Africanism die hard. The emphasis on notions of culture, consciousness, identity and nationalism tend to trigger contentious questions from those who have grown accustomed to previous approaches. An example of such a question from the once-prominent "United States of Africa" perspective might ask how can Blacks across the Diaspora, long removed from the Continent, be expected to develop an identity based on African cultural systems? And, even if it were possible, what specific African cultural elements would be relevant? Similarly, a materialist approach to class-based struggle in Pan-Africanism might question the concrete manifestations of cultural consciousness. How is culture valuable in the context of a real struggle for unity today? The theoretical discussion above provides a basis for two brief responses to such questions.
First, the relationship between consciousness and Pan-African unity is a dynamic one that is not defined alone by exact recreations of cultural elements from Africa. Rather, the development of a cultural consciousness is a product of an ontological process that leads to a redefined sense of self-awareness among African people based on a break from the imposed narratives that serve an oppressive social order. Second, the same break that produces this cultural consciousness on the individual level also promotes the development of a collective consciousness where the individual begins to identify with the experiences and political struggles of the cultural group to which he or she belongs. A Pan-African consciousness emerges at that point where an effort is made to associate one's self-awareness and cultural consciousness to the collective experiences and concrete struggles of other peoples and communities throughout the African Diaspora. Perhaps the best indicator of Fanon's significance in this regard was his perspectives on the ontological break in the awareness and consciousness of enslaved Africans. As Martin implied, locating Fanon within the Caribbean context helps to crystallize this point.
Paget Henry, in his primer on the evolution of Afro-Caribbean philosophy, argues that the Caribbean region was defined by the presence of a "political framework" that dogmatically "inflated European identities while deflating African identities." (7) In that political situation, power was legitimized and maintained through an "overvaluation" of European culture and an "undervaluation" of African culture. There were at least two broad philosophical streams of resistance to this: a poeticist/existentialist and a historicist tradition. For Henry, Fanon was influenced by figures in both streams. Prominent among the poeticists/existentialists were figures such as Edouard Glissant, Wilson Harris, Derek Walcott and the Negritude philosopher, Aime Cesaire. Conversely, the historicists were defined by the contributions of George Padmore, C.L.R. James, Arthur Lewis and Garvey. (8) Regarding the former, an important narrative of Fanon's life and work was the impact of the Negritude thinkers on his growth. Particularly noteworthy were the philosophical influences of the revered Haitian ethnologist and writer, Jean Price-Mars, and the direct guidance of Fanon's mentor and close friend, Cesaire. Through them, Fanon's evolution within the poeticist/existentialist line was evident in his thesis on the ontology of the African's individual and collective resistance to slavery.
Price-Mars was foremost among the Afro-Caribbean intellectuals in articulating the significance of consciousness formation. In his definitive work, So Spoke the Uncle, Price-Mars's introduced his pioneering analysis of collective bovarism, the complex among the Haitian elite that, he argued, was a microcosm of "the faculty of a society of seeing itself as other than it is." (9) In Haitian society, collective bovarism symbolized the cultural fault line that was manifested in the prevailing political, economic and social order. In other words, at the core of the Haitian experience were the contradictions between the elite's preference for a French 'being' while simultaneously rejecting those persistent African cultural modes that had always reverberated in the collective consciousness and "folk-lore" of the masses. This particular aspect of Price-Mars's groundbreaking research served as a mold for the ideas of many of the Afro-Caribbean poeticist/existentialists in the first part of the 20th century.
It was within this context, writ large, that Fanon formulated very early in his widely read book, Black Skin, White Mask, a similar assessment on beingness, culture and consciousness that captured the essence of Price-Mars's work. Essentially, Fanon was exploring the same connection between cultural domination and the formulation of a self-perception that valued the West while arresting the development of African notions of being:
For Fanon, the "master-slave" relationship was at the root of an overarching power arrangement in the Caribbean that assumed Western cultural, political and economic domination, and the multiple forms of African resistance to them. However, the deeper ontological concerns for Fanon were the group-level dynamics that were produced when a colonial power enlisted its culture and worldview, not just for enslaving individuals, but ultimately as a means of sustaining its domination of the entire group.
From a philosophical perspective, an Afro-Caribbean response to domination can be framed in the Black/Africana tradition where, as Hord and Lee contends,
Fanon's ontological thinking belonged to this tradition as well. His philosophical statements on master-slave recognition were directly connected to notions of collective consciousness and identity formation. He began from the position that "every ontology is made unattainable in a colonized and civilized society." Moreover, "In the weltanschauung of a colonized people," he added, "there is an impurity, a flaw that outlaws any ontological explanation." (12) Fanon made the case that to be colonized meant that the African's notions of being and existence were warped to the extent that their intrinsic connections to their cultural idiosyncrasies were blurred. Given the dynamics of culture and power in the Caribbean, the ontological demands of Western cultural imperialism that were imposed on the African's individual sense of being was most meaningful in the broader assault on cultural consciousness at the group level. Fanon explained it this way:
As he later develops in Black Skin, White Masks, the enslaved African engages in a struggle "to make myself known" that captured the essence of recognition. Fanon seemed emphatic in explaining this ontological shift towards a new view of self:
Recognition meant a confrontation with previous notions of existence in a way that produced an alternative consciousness and, ultimately, a desire to alter the oppressive reality that it was confronted with. But, the task of transforming reality must occur at the group level. He famously captured this point here:
The struggle for recognition was not only a struggle for a new consciousness of self; it was simultaneously grounded in a corrective realization of the group's collective experiences.
Fanon also explored some of the potential difficulties of this break in his presentation at the historic First Congress of Black Writers and Artists, convened in Paris in September of 1956. His paper entitled "Racism and Culture," reprinted in Toward the African Revolution, drew a distinction between what he called the "verbal revalorization" of cultural rediscovery and the process from self-awareness and consciousness to national liberation. On the one hand, a sort of break seemed to
occur when members of the "inferiorized group" realized the contradictions of their own self-imposed alienation (collective bovaryism) and quest to gain entrance into the spaces reserved for the dominant culture group. (16) After "Discovering the futility of his alienation," a cultural rediscovery occurs that brings about a vigorous reconnection to the culture of his own oppressed group. However, he was equally focused on the "ecstasies" of this type of cultural rediscovery. As he saw it,
On the other hand, he fully embraced that type of break that resulted in the attainment of a consciousness that both challenged the Western assault on African culture and informed visions for a wider struggle against the realities produced by it:
In this case, the breakthrough towards consciousness and cultural rediscovery was not ecstatic or unstructured, but liberatory.
Fanon further contextualized this liberatory version of the ontological break in The Wretched of the Earth and particularly in his essay, "On National Culture." There, he focused on the vital role of the African intellectual as an instrument for detecting the cultural assaults leveled against the humanity of the group, and articulating the path from their newfound consciousness to their contributions to transforming the society. Fanon wrote that, initially,
Then, after confronting the collective nature of cultural domination, the new consciousness embraced by the intellectual is further strengthened when the people to which he or she belongs begins to struggle:
Finally, Fanon's writings on the revolution in Algeria provided a concrete illustration of this break in his writings on French cultural imperialism and the actual means by which the liberation movement responded to it. This was the main thrust in his important essay, "Algeria Unveiled":
Culture for Fanon was unavoidable in the positive development of a national consciousness that was, in turn, necessary for advancing the national liberation struggle: "It was the colonialist's frenzy to unveil the Algerian woman, it was his gamble on winning the battle of the veil at whatever cost, that were to provoke the native's bristling resistance." (22)
In the relationship between culture and Pan-Africanism, the question is not simply one of importing specific pre-colonial or pre-enslavement African cultural elements. Instead, Fanon's theoretical observations prompt a better question: How can the process where an ontological break from the inferior status imposed on African people produce a self-awareness and cultural consciousness that trigger, in turn, a broader Pan-African consciousness? The following discussion on politicizing Pan-African consciousness provides some insight.
Unity and Effective Solidarity: The Politicizing of Consciousness
An often neglected theme in Fanon's writings, particularly those articles published from 1958 to 1960 in El Moudjahid, the official organ of the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN), and reprinted in Toward the African Revolution, was his effort to connect the Algerian revolution to the rest of the African world. In "Decolonization and Independence," Fanon referenced this significance in the observation that "Every ambush laid, every garrison blockaded and destroyed, every plane brought down sows panic among French colonial forces and strengthens the African or Madagascan or West Indian. (23) Later, in "The Algerian War and Man's Liberation," he asserted that, "There is not one occupied territory in Africa that has not modified its future prospects in the light of the Algerian war." (24) These points indeed reflect the commonly held narrative that the liberation struggle in Algeria hastening decolonization processes throughout the Francophone territories. The interpretation that has not been adequately noted is Fanon's insistence of Algeria's Pan-Africanists relevance. In "Unity and Effective Solidarity Are the Conditions for African Liberation," he framed the same matter in these terms:
The notion of "inter-African solidarity" is a useful starting point for our goal of gleaning practical lessons from Fanonian Pan-Africanism. We begin by exploring three pillars of Fanon's solidarity: 1) his organizational development within the cultural nationalist tradition, 2) his ideological agility, and 3) his balancing of national and international levels of organization.
Of Negritude and Cultural Nationalism
First, Fanon's encounters with Negritude is extremely instructive, and at times paradoxical. For many Pan-Africanists, Negritude elicits an ideological backlash that has often degenerated into the dismissal of its culture proponents as, at best, naive idealists with romantic notions of Africa, or, at worse, reactionary "cultural nationalists" whose ideological confusion lends comfort and support to the enemies of African people. Interestingly, Fanon's systematic denunciation of reactionary tendencies among some Negritude adherents often provided the justification for the outright rejection of culture. Particularly poignant was Fanon's well-known reference in The Wretched of the Earth to the inconsistency between the rhetoric of unity at the Second Congress of Black Writers and Artists, held in Rome in the Spring of 1959, and the contradictory policies of two particular Negritude leaders from Madagascar and Senegal. He offered the following critique of Madagascar's Jacques Rabemananjara:
Then, Fanon wasted little time in castigating Senegalese president, Leopold Sedar Senghor in a similar tone:
Since then, Fanon's unique perspectives on the intersections between culture, politics and African unity have been interpreted in ways that frustrate that very connection.
For example, by the mid-1960s a new generation of Black revolutionaries looked to the ideas and examples of theorists and practitioners from across the African Diaspora for guidance in their own movements. Fanon's probing analyses of themes from the liberating role of violence to the negative effect of bourgeois nationalism made him an extremely attractive guide. According to David Hilliard, Fanon's influence on leaders of the Black Panther Party, such as co-founder Huey P. Newton, can be seen in the application of his ideas on the role of the lumpen proletariat in revolutionary struggle. Newton looked to Fanon to formulate a vision of harnessing the "... brothers and sisters off the block as potential revolutionaries." (28) This was a particularly powerful line in Fanon's thinking given the realities of the urban setting and the possibilities it posed to the Panthers' commitment to the revolutionary transformation of that space. Curtis Austin, in Up Against the Wall, recently revisited the impact of Fanon's theories of cathartic revolutionary violence on the ideological and organizational maturation of the Black Panther Party. (29) This was not limited to the Panthers. Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee leader, James Forman, relied heavily on Fanon's critique of bourgeois nationalists as a template for understanding the implications of imperialism and neo-colonialism during the formation of the OAU:
Being thus equipped with Fanon, the Panthers and many others in the Black radical tradition were poised to engage those who, at a time of revolutionary upheaval, competed with them for the hearts and minds of the Black masses. Perhaps the most intense engagement was directed at the nationalist who articulated a contending vision of Black political struggle in cultural terms.
In a 1968 interview with The Movement magazine, Newton was asked to contrast the expressions of "cultural nationalism" and "revolutionary nationalism" that competed for ideological and organizational footing at the highpoint of the Black Power movement:
The interview captured the two-part denouncement of culture in Black/African political movements during that era. On the one hand, the "pork chop nationalism" critique reflected the assumption that emphasis on African cultural identity was a reactionary activity that distracted from the more immediate work of confronting material conditions. The Panthers were most vociferous in its application of this pejorative to the Us Organization led by Maulana Karenga, who, we might add, was equally inspired by Fanon. Karenga recently recalled the following:
Notwithstanding this, the charge was that "reactionary" cultural nationalists were diametrically opposed to the revolutionary nationalists who provided, on the other hand, a practical ideological blueprint for a radical transformation of society. As such, and citing the FLN as a model, Newton located the Party squarely within revolutionary nationalist camp:
Regarding a specific impact on Pan-Africanism elsewhere, this distinction reached an even higher pitch in the ideological debates that dominated the fragile 6th Pan-African Congress (6th PAC) in 1974. As Ronald Walters argued in his comprehensive work, Pan-Africanism in the African Diaspora, tensions at the 6th PAC around cultural nationalism in general and Negritude in particular emerged out of the sharp ideological tensions between Black Marxist-Leninists and Black nationalists. (34) Here too, Fanon's earlier challenge to Senghor's leadership contradictions set the tone:
This was the prevailing undercurrent at the 6th PAC that was further exacerbated by the fact that it was the first of the modern Congresses in which these competing ideological camps were forced to coexist. (36) Amiri Baraka, one of the leading Marxist-Leninist theoreticians, defined the ideological differences at the meeting this way:
But Fanon's criticism of the misappropriations of culture by Senghor and others should not be misread as a wholesale rejection of cultural nationalism as reactionary. For no other reason, such an interpretation of Fanon's critiques betray the complexities in his praxis. A more accurate reading of Fanon shows his clarity on both the potential misuses of cultural rediscovery, as expressed in "Racism and Culture," and the indispensible connection between cultural consciousness and the concrete movement towards liberation.
Fanon's gestation within the Negritude tradition has certainly been well established. As mentioned earlier, he was directly and indirectly influenced by two of Negritude's towering figures (Cesaire and Price-Mars, respectively) and was an active participant in the Paris Congress in 1956. It is also a fact that Fanon evolved within the same cultural and political milieu that stimulated the rise of Negritude and its kindred movements of that period. In his influential essay, "Negritude or Black Cultural Nationalism," Abiola Irele, profiled the early cultural nationalist expressions across the African Diaspora that were different links in one chain. (38) Particularly critical for Irele was the prominent role of the Harlem Renaissance. In addition to and in concert with its artistic and literary feats, one of the underappreciated contributions of the Harlem Renaissance was its political reverberations across the African Diaspora:
Beyond his encounters with Negritude, what deserves more attention is that Fanon's intellectual and political acumen ripened at the points throughout the Western hemisphere where a number of these movements intersected. In Cuba, the rise of Negrismo in the 1920s was establishing itself in the region during Fanon's adolescent years. There the iconic poet, Nicolas Guillen, was recognized as the voice of the movement, largely as a result of his creative interpretations of the "racial and social protest" elements that were grounded in the Afro-Cuban experience. (40) In the francophone Caribbean, it was Haiti that was among the major beneficiaries of Harlem's energy. Stirred by the developments in New York (and also in Cuba), but most immediately as a response to the U.S. Marines' occupation from 1915-1934, the Noirisme and Indigenisme movements represented Haiti's organizational manifestations of cultural nationalism. During the 1930s, Noirisme intellectuals such as Lorimer Denis, Louis Diaquoi and a young Francois Duvalier were inspired by Price-Mars's critiques of the Haitian elites' intoxication with French identity. They were particularly attracted to his questioning of the socio-political implications of their leadership: "What can be the future, what can be the worth of a society where such aberrations of judgment, such errors of orientation are transformed into constitutional sentiments?" (41) Like Price-Mars, they too called attention to a need to validate Haitian popular culture in political terms. From the mid-1920s to the mid-1940s, the energy that produced Noirisme also resonated in the more literary Indigenisme movement which, among other features, sought to recapture the intellectual, political and cultural integrity associated with Price-Mars. Carolyn Fowler, in her classic work, A Knot in the Thread, spotlighted the contributions of Jacques Roumain in this era. She cites his novel, La Montagne ensorcelee as "marking an important step in the Indigeniste movement: it was the first peasant novel to appear in Haiti." (42) Similarly, Valerie Kaussen utilizes his most renowned novel, Gouverneurs de la Rosee, as Roumain's contribution to "pan-Africanist and transnationalist political movements aimed at imagining new forms of black self-determination" throughout the African Diaspora. (43) With his Afro-Caribbean backdrop in mind, it should be of no surprise that Fanon's observations on individual consciousness never resulted in the aforementioned ideological rejections of cultural consciousness within his Pan-Africanist activities.
Ideological Agility in Fanonian Pan-Africanism
Second, Fanon possessed a keen sense of ideological agility in his ability to appreciate the coexistence of the culturalist and materialist approaches to political struggle. Recall that Henry also located Fanon within a historicist philosophical tradition in the Caribbean that, while clearly Pan-Africanist, also held strong Marxist tenets. (44) Fanon's firm incorporation of dialectical statements on mutual recognition and the construction of both master and slave consciousness discussed earlier has solidified his bona fides among Marxist theorists. In addition, Fanon has been routinely examined through a Marxist lens since, as Renate Zahar suggested, his confrontation with the colonial psychological complex was critical to an understanding of alienation in the colonial context. (45) Likewise, Irene Grendzier, in her early study of Fanon, explored in some detail the well-known impact of Hegel's The Phenomenology of Mind on Fanon's philosophical points. (46) Particularly noteworthy was his reliance in Black Skin White Mask on Hegel and the dialectical tradition to express his ontological thinking on the relationships emerging between the colonizer and the colonized. So, in addition to the break with which we are concerned, he also articulated the following:
With that dialectical approach firmly in place, Fanon extended this interpretation to explain the emergence of self-consciousness triggered by a newfound recognition from the Other such that, "Man is human only to the extent to which he tries to impose his existence on another man in order to be recognized by him," and that "It is on that other being, on recognition by that other being, that his own human worth and reality depend." (48)
However, Fanon, with his dialectical thinking and Marxist reference points, did not conflate cultural nationalists with reactionaries who, in the tradition of Joseph Mobuto, Idi Amin and Papa Doc Duvalier, only invoked African cultural elements for the purpose of securing state power. In fact, Duvalier is often cited as one of the most egregious reactionary examples since he was one of the early advocates of culture as a means of shifting political power toward the Haiti masses. We are often told that his harnessing of cultural forces within the Haitian body politic and his manipulation of Voudon as an instrument for sustaining his dictatorship said more about culture politics than about Duvalier himself. The convenient conclusion has been typical: since Duvalier embraced cultural consciousness, and Duvalier's despotic rule was nothing less than reactionary (which it certainly was), then cultural consciousness (or cultural nationalism) was also reactionary in its political manifestations. Quite to the contrary, such a conclusion is not only erroneous but actually reveals a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy that is inconsistent with the philosophical, strategic and tactical links between Black nationalism and culture.
Furthermore, the reliance on Fanon by revolutionary nationalists and others to justify the broad rejection of cultural nationalists based on certain manipulations by heads-of-state such as Senghor or, in the worst case, Papa Doc Duvalier, seems contradictory in light of Fanon's equal reprimand of the reactionary tendencies of the Left in France and Algeria. In fact, in June of 1959, just months after chastising Rabemananjara's contradictions at the Second Writers' Congress in Rome, Fanon published an article entitled "Algeria's European Minority" that rebuked the Communist Party's imperialistic actions in France:
Fanon was no less clear in his condemnation of the contradictions on the ground in Algeria:
And regarding the popularity of The Wretched of the Earth in the paradox outlined at the onset of this segment, Fanon's ideological criticisms were not limited to the cultural nationalists. Political inconsistencies of the bourgeois nationalists and Marxist types were also taken to task:
Indeed, Fanon dedicated nearly an entire chapter, "The Grandeur and Weakness of Spontaneity," to examining contradictions in the transplanting of class-based and proletarian theories and concepts in the African colonial setting. With a level of clarity and intensity that balanced his critique of Senghor, Fanon also berated the fact that,
We will say more about this shortly. A lesson for now is that Fanon's critique of the contradictions around culture and class never amounted to a rejection of culture or class; both were reinforced in his approach to political struggle. This ideological agility was most evident in his politico-cultural activities in Africa during decolonization.
From National Consciousness to Pan-African Consciousness
In the final passages of "On National Culture," Fanon left us with a powerful statement regarding the relationship between national consciousness and liberation:
He was more focused in one of the frequently cited conclusions in The Wretched of the Earth, where he specifically recognized the progression from national consciousness to "Third World" liberation:
The inference has been that the relationship between consciousness and liberation among continental Africans had to contribute to a broader Third World effort. However, in order for this "new direction" to materialize, the politicizing of consciousness must contribute first to the development a politico-cultural praxis for, among other pragmatic tasks, building trans-Diasporic institutional linkages and the sharing of strategies and resources across the Africa Diaspora. From a Pan-African nationalist perspective, the contemporary politics of Pan-African unity is the sum total of the various struggles across the Diaspora and the linkages that connect them. But what model is most conducive to trans-Diaspora linkage-building? And, what is the role of a Pan-African consciousness in binding them? Beyond his intellectual and political roots, Fanon's direct participation in what Harold Cruse once referred to as the "politico-cultural" tradition of African liberation movements is perhaps the most practical guidepost. (55) Earlier, in The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, Cruse used "The Harlem Background" chapter to contextualize his warning that, "As long as the Negro's cultural identity is in question, or open to self-doubts, then there can be no positive identification with the real demands of his political and economic existence." (56) The politico-cultural movements that Cruse observed in Africa, particularly Amilcar Cabral's efforts in Guinea Bissau, were positive alternatives to the cultural vacuum he criticized in Harlem and elsewhere. Fanon was a precursor to Cruse in regards to both anticipating the politico-cultural model and the broader, Diasporic relevance of that model for contemporary Pan-Africanism. Indeed, his answer to his own question, "What is the relationship between the struggle, the political or armed conflict, and culture?" is a definitive expression of the politico-cultural model:
But how did Fanon envision uniting the Diasporic points of struggle from this perspective? What did he see as what Bernard Magubane has called the "The Ties That Bind"? (58)
In his approach to politico-cultural institution-building, Fanon was particularly weary of universal Blackness as an adhesive. Cheikh Anta Diop, in his 1977 Afriscope interview with Carlos Moore, provided a backdrop for Negritude's shortcomings in this regard:
Similarly, Fanon's conceptualization of a politico-cultural entity assumed that their success rested on vigilantly guarding against embracing symbolic and impractical cultural elements.
What became problematic for Fanon, as he explained later in The Wretched of the Earth, was an apparent drift in Negritude towards symbolic ritualistic activities:
Fanon's extremely influential observations on the cathartic role of violence in the struggle for national liberation were actually a conjoined component of this. Violence was practical in the sense that, "The colonized man liberates himself in and through violence." (61) In Fanon's view, rituals were important but should not be institutionalized if they were not practically liberating. Moreover, in concrete terms, "The violence of the colonial regime and the counterviolence of the colonized balance each other and respond to each other in an extraordinary reciprocal homogeneity." Consequently, "Violence among the colonized will spread in proportion to the violence exerted by the colonial regime." (62)
Yet, Fanon, in his "Spontaneity" chapter, also saw the need to guard against the importation of strategies and identification of resources that were inconsistent with the local realities on the ground. The political parties' relationship with the African peasantry was a case-in-point:
Conversely, the African peasants' awareness of themselves and relationships with one another was the proper foundation for their politico-cultural understanding:
Fanon also reflected with discontent on suggestions at the 1956 Paris Congress of a universal Black political struggle and, consequently, the tendency among some of the delegates from the United States to dovetail strategies there with those of continental Africans. "But gradually," Fanon observed, "the black Americans realized that their existential problems differed from those faced by the Africans." (65) The institutional and strategic implications of this for Negritude were palpable:
Surely, notions of a universal struggle stemming from a single Black culture cannot bear fruit in broader Pan-Africanist efforts if it could not stimulate unity at a single Negritude meeting.
Beyond the culture versus revolutionary violence dichotomy, the lesson from Fanon's critique is that the task of developing edifying strategies for Pan-Africanism must, at the very least, account for the harmonizing of the cultural identity of the people with the substantive local realities on the ground. In A Dying Colonialism, Fanon provided one of the most vivid descriptions of politico-cultural praxis by detailing various strategies employed during the Algerian revolution. Perhaps the most cited example highlighted the strategic role of the Algerian woman. He outlined the context in his chapter, "Algeria Unveiled":
In addition to political domination and economic exploitation, the revolution in Algeria was also cultural. Fanon observed that, "The tenacity of the occupier in his endeavor to unveil the women, to make of them an ally in the work of cultural destruction, had the effect of strengthening the traditional patterns of behavior." (68) There are important implications of this for Pan-Africanism. Algeria's significance in Pan-Africanist terms was that its revolution was a practical demonstration of the relationship between culture and political struggle. Algeria showed that where the culture of the people remained an essential part of their mundane reality, it was also an essential part of their practical revolutionary strategy.
In the final analysis, while Fanon rejected the symbolic misuses of Blackness and resisted universalist conceptions, his binding of those concepts within the context of a broader, Pan-African struggle, was cogent:
This assumption of a "responsibility" of the self-conscious African toward the "Negro-African" and their own politico-cultural struggles in other parts of the African Diaspora (and vice versa) is the binding element in Pan-African consciousness. Only then can Africa and its people contribute to higher levels of human unity and political organization.
Through this commemorative reflection on Fanon's contribution to the evolution of Pan-African unity, we can better appreciate the relevance of cultural and consciousness to Pan-Africanism. In the cultural scheme of things, whether in Martinique or Algeria, Harlem or Senegal, or Haiti or Guinea Bissau, the African world has been and remains "touched by the sediments" of its "infinite past." As a result of this legacy, and if Pan-Africanism is to remain relevant, it must persistently seek to "untrap" the potential in Fanon's ontological position that the processes that produce a new consciousness of one's self and the cultural group to which one belongs are inseparable from their political struggles. Indeed, his response to his own culture question was that, "If culture is the expression of the national consciousness, I shall have no hesitation in saying, in the case in point, that national consciousness is the highest form of culture." (70) And, just as, for Fanon, national consciousness was the highest form of culture, and since the group's cultural consciousness informs its unique politico-cultural actions, then the linking of politico-cultural efforts across the African Diaspora are the highest forms of Pan-African consciousness. Thus, it is through the politicizing of consciousness that Pan-Africanism will continue to lift us from our "abysmal existence." Ashe.
Kurt B. Young
University of Central Florida
Orlando, Florida, USA
Notes and References
(1) Tony Martin, The Pan-African Connection: From Slavery to Garvey and Beyond (Dover, Massachusetts: The Majority Press, 1983).
(2) Kurt B. Young, "Towards a Holistic Review of Pan-Africanism: Linking the Idea and the Movement," Journal of Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, Vol. 16.2 (2010), pp. 141-163.
(3) The sessions in 1923 actually comprised the 4th meeting, which reflected the fact that the early congresses included the Pan-African Conference of 1900.
(4) Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Richard Philcox (New York: Grove, 2004), p. 178.
(6) Kurt B. Young, "Pan-African Nationalism in Theory and Practice," The International Journal of Africana Studies, Vol. 15.1 (Spring 2009), p. 33.
(7) Paget Henry, Calibans Reason: Introducing Afro-Caribbean Philosophy (New York: Routledge, 2000), p. 69.
(8) Ibid., p. 73.
(9) Jean Price-Mars, So Spoke the Uncle, trans. Magdaline W. Shannon (Washington, D.C.: Three Continents Press, 1983), p. 8.
(10) Frantz Fanon, Black Skin White Masks, trans. Charles Lam Markmann (New York: Grove Press, 1994), p. 18.
(11) Fred Lee Hord and Jonathan Scott Lee, eds., I Am Because We Are: Readings in Black Philosophy (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1995), p. 7.
(12) Fanon, Black Skin White Masks, p. 109.
(13) Ibid., p. 110.
(14) Ibid., p. 115.
(15) Ibid., p. 130.
(16) Frantz Fanon, Toward the African Revolution, trans. Haakon Chevalier (New York: Grove, 1967), pp. 38-39.
(17) Ibid., p. 42.
(18) Ibid., p. 43.
(19) Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, p. 150.
(20) Ibid., p. 167.
(21) Frantz Fanon, A Dying Colonialism, trans. Haakon Chevalier (New York: Grove, 1965), p. 37.
(22) Ibid., p. 47.
(23) Frantz Fanon, Toward the African Revolution, p. 105.
(24) Ibid., p. 148.
(25) Ibid., pp. 172-173.
(26) Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, p. 169.
(27) Ibid., 170.
(28) David Hilliard, This Side of Glory: The Autobiography of David Hilliard and the Story of the Black Panther Party (New York: Lawrence Hill Books, 1993), p. 180.
(29) Curtis Austin, Up Against the Wall: Violence in the Making and Unmaking of the Black Panther Party (Fayetteville, Arkansas: University of Arkansas Press, 2006), p. 141.
(30) James Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries (Seattle, WA: Open Hand Publishing, Inc., 1985), p. 508.
(31) Philip S. Foner, The Black Panthers Speak (Boston, MA: Da Capo Press, 2002), p. 50.
(32) Maulana Karenga, "Keeping Faith with Fanon: Reaffirming the Cultural Revolution," Los Angeles Sentinel, July 29, 2010, p. A7.
(33) Foner, p. 50.
(34) Ronald Walters, Pan-Africanism in the African Diaspora: An Analysis of Modern Afrocentric Political Movements (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1997).
(35) Ibid., pp. 117-118. Wilson Record and others have provided a framework for these debates that actually date back to the Marxist critique of the national question emerging in the late 19th century and early 20th century. An important precursor of the 6th PAC debate was those that occurred between the "Black Bolsheviks" and Marcus Garvey. See Wilson Record, The Negro and the Communist Party (New York: Atheneum, 1971) and George Padmore, Pan-Africanism or Communism (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1971).
(36) Kurt B. Young, "Towards an 8th Pan-African Congress: the evolution of the race-class debate," Journal of Political Ideologies, Vol. 16.2 (June, 2011): pp. 145-167.
(37) Imamu Amiri Baraka, "Some Questions About the Sixth Pan-African Congress," The Black Scholar, Vol. 6 (October, 1974), p. 45.
(38) Abiola Irele, "Negritude or Black Cultural Nationalism," The Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 3.3 (October, 1965), p. 321.
(39) Ibid., p. 335. Particularly notable among the Harlem intelligentsia were the roles played by Langston Hughes and Marcus Garvey in linking movements across the African Diaspora.
(40) Irele, p. 331.
(41) Price-Mars, p. 8.
(42) Carolyn Fowler, A Knot in the Thread (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1980), p. 109.
(43) Valerie Kaussen "Slaves, Viejos, and the Internationale: Modernity and Global Contact in Jacques Roumain's Gouverneurs de la rosee," Research in African Literatures, Vol. 35 (Winter, 2004), p. 121.
(44) Henry, p. 78.
(45) Renate Zahar, Frantz Fanon: Colonialism & Alienation (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1974), p. 15.
(46) Irene L. Gendzier, Frantz Fanon: A Critical Study (New York: Vintage Books/Random House, 1973), p. 165.
(47) Fanon, Black Skin White Masks, p. 109.
(48) Ibid., pp. 216-217.
(49) Fanon, A Dying Colonialism, p. 150. Grendzier is among a number of scholars who have noted the ambivalence of the French Left towards the Algerian revolution. She explores in detail three of Fanon's criticisms the Left's position: 1) its early support for France's war on Algeria, 2) its refusal to accept Algeria's demand for full independence, and 3) the maintenance of Algeria within the French orbit. See Gendzier, pp. 153-155.
(50) Ibid. In the text's introduction, Adofo Gilly, provided an important context that supports this point. It is worth quoting at length: "People never forget the past - or what the past teaches that is of importance for the future. The Algerian people have not forgotten that the French Communist Party, at the beginning of the armed revolution in Algeria, denounced it as a 'nationalist and reactionary' movement. And for a long time the Party maintained this position or kept aloof while continuing to insist that Algeria was part of France. Neither have the people forgotten that the Algerian Communist Party followed the line of the French Party, although many individual Communists cast their lot with the revolution. Nor have they forgotten those who, during this period, gave lip service to the revolution while in practice supporting Messali Hadj, an instrument of French imperialism who called himself a socialist in order to combat the revolutionary mass movement from within Algeria itself. The people haven't forgotten any of this, because they are practical and scorn forever those who out of selfishness or criminal blindness fought the liberation movement, denounced it, or betrayed it, meanwhile calling themselves 'revolutionaries' or 'Communists' or 'socialists.' Such people, once the collective experience of the masses is accomplished, are never again influential, no matter what money or means they may have at their disposal." See p. 10.
(51) Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, p. 22.
(52) Ibid., p. 64.
(53) Ibid., p. 178.
(54) Ibid., p. 238.
(55) Harold Cruse, "The Amilcar Cabral Politico-Cultural Model," Black World, (October, 1975), pp. 20-27.
(56) Harold Cruse, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: A Historical Analysis of the Crisis of Black Leadership (New York: Quill, 1984), 12.
(57) Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, p. 168.
(58) Bernard Magubane, The Ties That Bind: African-American Consciousness of Africa (Trenton, NJ: Third World Press, 1987).
(59) Cheikh Anta Diop, Black Africa: The Economic and Cultural Basis for a Federated State (Chicago, IL: Lawrence Hill Books, 1987), p. 75.
(60) Ibid., p. 20.
(61) Ibid., p. 44.
(62) Ibid., p. 46.
(63) Ibid., pp. 66-67.
(64) Ibid., p. 67.
(65) Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, p. 153.
(66) Ibid., p. 154.
(67) Fanon, A Dying Colonialism, p. 37.
(68) Ibid., p. 49.
(69) Ibid., p. 179.
Souls trapped in time ... Time that is the future evolved Strangled in murky waters Sounds of despair Break barriers of confusion In the tumultuous battlegrounds Of our souls Reaching for salvation We live, love, cry ... Touched by the sediments of our Infinite past, We bravely smile While our minds are lost in bewilderment ... Oh glorious future ... Lift me from my abysmal existence. Betty Ann Bedeau
During the conflict is culture put on hold? Is the national struggle a cultural manifestation? Must we conclude that the liberation struggle, though beneficial for culture a posterioi, is in itself a negation of culture? In other words, is the liberation struggle a cultural phenomenon? (4)
We believe the conscious, organized struggle undertaken by a colonized people in order to restore national sovereignty constitutes the greatest cultural manifestation that exists. It is not solely the success of the struggle that consequently validates and energizes culture; culture does not go into hibernation during the conflict. (5)
Every colonized people--in other words, every people in whose soul an inferiority complex has been created by the death and burial of its local cultural originality--find itself face to face with the language of the civilizing nation; that is, with the culture of the mother country. The colonized is elevated above his jungle status in proportion to his adoption of the mother country's cultural standards. (10)
the identity of the individual is never separable from the sociocultural environment. Identity is not some Cartesian abstraction grounded in a solipsistic self-consciousness; rather, it is constructed in and at least partially by a set of shared beliefs, patterns of behavior, and expectations. In place of Descartes's "I think; therefore I am," we find in this black tradition, "I am because we are; and since we are, therefore I am." (11)
The black man has no ontological resistance in the eyes of the white man. Overnight, the Negro has been given two frames of reference within which he has had to place himself. His metaphysics, or, less pretentiously, his customs and the sources on which they are based, were wiped out because they were in conflict with a civilization that he did not know and that imposed itself on him. (13)
What! When it was I who had every reason to hate, to despise, I was rejected? When I should have been begged, implored, I was denied the slightest recognition? I resolved, since it was impossible for me to get away from an inborn complex, to assert myself as a BLACK MAN. Since the other hesitated to recognize me, there remained only one solution: to make myself known. (14) Emphasis original
I rummaged frenetically through all the antiquity of the black man. What I found there took away my breath. In his book L'abolition de l'esclavage Schoelcher presented us with compelling arguments. Since then, Frobenius, Westermann, Delafosse--all of them white--had joined the chorus: Segou, Djenne, cities of more than a hundred thousand people; accounts of learned blacks (doctors of theology who went to Mecca to interpret the Koran). All of that, exhumed from the past, spread with its insides out, made it possible for me to find a valid historic place. The white man was wrong, I was not a primitive, not even a half-man, I belonged to a race that had already been working in gold and silver two thousand years ago. (15) Emphasis mine
"The culture put into capsules, which has vegetated since the foreign domination, is revalorized." It is not reconceived, grasped anew, dynamized from within. It is shouted. And this headlong, unstructured, verbal revalorization conceals paradoxical attitudes. (17)
The logical end of this will to struggle is the total liberation of the national territory. In order to achieve this liberation, the inferiorized man brings all his resources into play, all his acquisitions, the old and the new, his own and those of the occupant. (18)
The colonized intellectual who decides to combat these colonialist lies does so on a continental stage. The past is revered. The culture which has been retrieved from the past to be displayed in all its splendor is not his national culture. Colonialism, little troubled by nuances, has never claimed that the "nigger" was a savage, not an Angolan or an Nigerian, but a "nigger." (19)
When the colonized intellectual writing for his people uses the past he must do so with the intention of opening up the future, of spurring them into action and fostering hope. But in order to secure hope, in order to give it substance, he must take part in the action and commit himself body and soul to the national struggle. (20)
The decisive battle was launched before 1954, more precisely during the early 1930's. The officials of the French administration in Algeria, committed to destroying the people's originality, and under instructions to bring about the disintegration, at whatever cost, of forms of existence likely to evoke a national reality directly or indirectly, were to concentrate their efforts on the wearing of the veil, which was looked upon at this juncture as a symbol of the status of the Algerian woman. (21)
The African peoples are concretely involved in a total struggle against colonialism, and we Algerians do not disassociate the combat we are waging from that of the Rhodesians or the Kenyans. Our solidarity toward our African brothers is not merely verbal. It does not express itself through a vote, through acclamation in the international meeting of resolutions or condemnations. ...The inter-African solidarity must be a solidarity of fact, a solidarity of action, a solidarity concrete in men, in equipment, in money. (25)
In 1959 the African intellectuals meeting in Rome constantly spoke of unity. But one of the leading bards of this cultural unity is Jacques Rabemananjara, today a minister in the government of Madagascar, who toed his government's line to vote against the Algerian people at the United Nations General Assembly. Rabe, if he had been sincere with himself, should have resigned from the government and denounced those men who claim to represent the will of the Malagasy people. (26)
"Negro-African" culture grows deeper through the people's struggle, and not through songs, poems, or folklore. Senghor, who is also a member of the African Society for Culture and who worked with us on this issue of African culture, had no scruples either about instructing his delegation to back the French line on Algeria. Support for "Negro-African" culture and the cultural unity of Africa is first contingent on an unconditional support for the people's liberation struggle. One cannot expect African culture to advance unless one contributes realistically to the creation of the conditions necessary for this culture, i.e., the liberation of the continent. (27)
The complexities of nation-building, the reality of changing a former colony into a truly independent country, is often a bewildering process. If one does not have a clear ideological position, the African reality will often produce a distorted perception. Bourgeois nationalism is the trap waiting for everyone who lacks that position, especially those of us in the United States who are of African descent. The need to fight against the bourgeois nationalists, who bury the issue of exploitation under the rallying cry of nationalism, was becoming ever more apparent to me. My studies of Frantz Fanon were of particular help in this. (30)
Cultural nationalism, or pork chop nationalism, as I sometimes call it, is basically a problem of having the wrong political perspective. It seems to be a reaction instead of responding to political oppression. The cultural nationalists are concerned with returning to the old African culture and thereby regaining their identity and freedom. In other words, they feel that the African culture will automatically bring political freedom. Many times cultural nationalists fall into line as reactionary nationalists. (31)
Indeed, Fanon's proposal to set afoot a new African person, who is neither a conception nor reflection of Europe or its offspring, finds its ultimate and unavoidable solution on the subjective and objective level, i.e., in the hearts and minds of our people, and in what we do in our daily lives. This mutually reinforcing practice and project which he, Sekou Toure, Malcolm X, and Amilcar Cabral taught and which we of Us have advocated since the 1960s, is nowhere more clear than in the process of cultural revolution. For cultural revolution, as they all taught, is a broad, profound and thorough-going social process which leads not only to the transformation of society, but also and simultaneously to the transformation of the people involved. (32)
The Black Panther Party is a revolutionary Nationalist group and we see a major contradiction between capitalism in this country and our interests. We realize that this country became very rich upon slavery and that slavery is capitalism in the extreme. We have two evils to fight, capitalism and racism. We must destroy both racism and capitalism. (33)
What came to be a cultural world view that peoples of Africa descent shared a similar culture or "way of being" because of common experiences of African cultural origin and white domination, was immediately attacked by Marxists. Although this debate over Negritude reached its highest point perhaps at the 1959 Roman Conference of Negro Writers, it became identified in the French African context with the personality of Senghor. (35)
Basically it is the struggle between reactionary Nationalism, which pulls finally for Black Skin privilege as opposed to White and objectively seeks to cover the oppression of the Black NeoColonialists under the banner of Race, and supports capitalism and imperialism by dividing the anti-imperialist thrust of revolutionary socialism, which seeks to unite all who can be united in the ultimate struggle against imperialism and its by products, one of which is racism!" (37)
The Negro renaissance in the U.S.A. is of capital importance in the development of Negritude. The writings of American Negroes were known outside the U.S.A. and commented upon by Negro intellectuals in France and the Caribbean. (39)
Ontology--once it is finally admitted as leaving existence by the wayside--does not permit us to understand the being of the black man. For not only must the black man be black; he must be black in relation to the white man. (47)
Because of their own contradictions and because of the power and the radicalism of the reactionary parties, the forces of the Left in France have up to the present time been unable to impose negotiation. But undeniably they are constantly forcing the extremists to unmask themselves, and hence progressively to adopt the positions that will precipitate their defeat. (49)
In Algeria the forces of the Left do not exist. It is unthinkable for European democrats really to militate in Algeria outside the Algerian Communist Party. We know that even the Algerian Communist Party was for a long time confined within a reformist position of the French Union type, and that for long months after November 1, 1954, the Algerian Communists denounced the terrorists provocateurs--in other words, the F.L.N. (50) Emphasis original
It should come as no surprise therefore that a good many colonial subjects are active members in branches of metropolitan political parties. These colonial subjects are militant activists under the abstract slogan: "Power to the proletariat," forgetting that in their part of the world slogans of national liberation should come first. (51)
The weakness of political parties lies not only in their mechanical imitation of an organization which is used to handling the struggle of the proletariat within a highly industrialized capitalists society. ...The great mistake, the inherent flaw of most of the political parties in the underdeveloped regions has been traditionally to address first and foremost the most politically conscious elements: The urban proletariat, the small tradesmen and the civil servants, i.e., a tiny section of the population which represents barely more than one percent. (52)
The development and internal progression of the actual struggle expand the number of directions in which culture can go and hint at new possibilities. The liberation struggle does not restore to national culture its formal values and configurations. This struggle, which aims at a fundamental redistribution of relations between men, cannot leave intact either the form or substance of the people's culture. After the struggle is over, there is not only the demise of colonialism, but also the demise of the colonized. (53)
The Third World must start over a new history of man which takes into account of not only the occasional prodigious theses maintained by Europe but also its crimes, the most heinous of which have been committed at the very heart of man, the pathological dismembering of his functions and the erosion of his unity, and in the context of the community, the fracture, the stratification and the bloody tensions fed by class, and finally on the immense scale of humanity, the racial hatred, slavery, exploitation and, above all, the bloodless genocide whereby one and a half billion men have been written off. (54)
To fight for national culture first of all means fighting for the liberation of the nation, the tangible matrix from which culture can grow. One cannot divorce the combat for culture from the people's struggle for liberation. (57)
Negritude, as it became known, was originally a West Indian creation; Africans confiscated and monopolized it in post-colonial times! During the post-colonial epoch an entirely different interpretation was given the term Negritude. Under this blanket term, a flood of literature emerged, the content of which was clearly deceptive. In fact, as far as I can remember, the term Negritude was only applied to a literary or political current after Jean Paul Sartre's Black Orpheus written in 1948. Cesaire coined the term but prior to the publication of Sartre's book I knew of no political or literary current which went under the name of Negritude. This is an important element. Actually, what was done in the post-colonial epoch was to gather the political anti-colonial black movements and writings of the 1930's and 40's and place them under the blanket term of Negritude. (59)
During the struggle for liberation there is a singular loss of interest in these rituals. With his back to the wall, the knife at his throat, or to be more exact the electrode on his genitals, the colonized subject is bound to stop telling stories. After years of unreality, after wallowing in the most extraordinary phantasms, the colonized subject, machine gun at the ready, finally confronts the only force which challenges his very being: colonialism. [...]The colonized subject discovers reality and transforms it through his praxis, his development of violence and his agenda for liberation. (60)
We have seen that the nationalist parties base their methods and doctrines on the Western parties and therefore in the majority of cases do not direct their propaganda at the rural masses. In fact, a rational analysis of colonial society would have shown them that the colonized peasants live in a traditional environment whose structures have remained intact, whereas in the industrialized countries it is these traditional circles which have been splinted by the progress of industrialization. It is within the burgeoning proletariat that we find individualistic behavior in the colonies. Abandoning the countryside and its insoluble problems of demography, the landless peasants, now a lumpenproletariat are driven into the towns, crammed into shanty towns and endeavor to infiltrate the ports and cities, the creations of colonial domination. (63)
The peasant who stays put is a staunch defender of tradition, and in a colonial society represents the element of discipline whose social structure remains community-minded. Such a static society, clinging to a rigid context, can of course sporadically generate episodes of religious fanaticisms and tribal warfare. But in their spontaneity the rural masses remain disciplined and altruistic. The individual steps aside in favor of the community." (64)
Negritude thus came up against its first limitation, namely those phenomena that take into account the historicizing of men. "Negro" or "Negro-African" culture broke up because the men who set out to embody it realized that every culture is first and foremost national, and that the problems for which Richard Wright and Langston Hughes had to be on the alert were fundamentally different from those faced by Leopold Senghor or Jomo Kenyatta. (66)
The decisive battle was launched before 1954, more precisely during the early 1930's. The officials of the French administration in Algeria, committed to destroying the people's originality, and under instructions to bring about the disintegration, at whatever cost, of forms of existence likely to evoke a national reality directly or indirectly, were to concentrate their efforts on the wearing of the veil, which was looked upon at this juncture as a symbol of the status of the Algerian woman. (67)
Self-awareness does not mean closing the door on communication. Philosophy teaches us on the contrary that it is its guarantee. National consciousness, which is not nationalism is alone capable of giving us an international dimension. This question of national consciousness and national culture takes on a special dimension in Africa. The birth of national consciousness in Africa strictly correlates with an African consciousness. The responsibility of the African toward his national culture is also a responsibility toward "Negro-African" culture. (69)
|Gale Copyright:||Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.|