[Marxism] Fanon

Philip Ferguson philip.ferguson at canterbury.ac.nz
Tue Mar 15 12:54:54 MST 2005

M. Junaid Alam wrote:
>Fanon grapples with questions that classical Marxism breezed by in
maximalist theoretical formulations that did not come to pass
historically, namely an imagined cleaned transcendence of feudal
relations in the periphery, and an elevation of colonies into
European-modeled capitalisms

As a Fanon enthusiast, I think this is only one dimension of what he
does.  His critique of the harsh realities of imperialist oppression is
matched by a critique of the inadequacies of the national bourgeoisies,
and their stand-ins, in the Third World to carry through the
all-encompassing revolutions needed.

'The Wretched of the Earth' contains an absolutely withering critique of
the kind of radical Third World nationalism which doesn't transcend
radical nationalism.

Also, by 'classical Marxism', you seem to be referring only to Marx and
Engels and their "maximalist theoretical formulations" about "the clean
transcendence of feudal relations".

Firstly, this is an inaccurate stereotype of Marx and Engels based on
their *earliest* writings, for instance Marx's 1853 stuff on India.  But
if you look at what they wrote later on, for instance on Ireland, you
have a wonderful example of their embrace of the liberation struggles of
oppressed peoples and their recognition that rule by the imperial powers
held back, even threw back, the development of such countries.

So it is quite wrong to suggest that they foresaw capitalism as simply
wiping out feudal relations and introducing modernist capitalist
democracy all over the world.

Secondly, surely Lenin (and Trotsky) belong to "classical Marxism".
Lenin's theory of imperialism showed very clearly that the development
of the oppressed nations was retarded by domination by the capitalist

Fanon's writings do not fill a gap in Marxist theory.  Rather they
provide a wonderful confirmation of it.  They draw out in moving detail
and in very humanist terms the realities of precisely the kind of
domination which Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky saw to be inevitable in
a capitalist world *and* they expose the inadequacies of forms of
anti-imperialism which do not go beyond radical nationalism.

That's why Fanon is still relevant.

A couple of years ago I put together a course on a number of
revolutionaries, including Fanon, and I was rather disturbed to note
that there is a new little Fanon publishing industry, dominated by
postmodernists.  Thus Fanon is being used as a little career niche by
pomo academics who are actually politically hostile to the core of
Fanon's work (he was a revolutionary, whose positions are thoroughly
compatible with Marxism and help enrich Marxism).  

It is also the pomos who have a little academic cottage industry and
career niche in making out that there are all kinds of important
"lacunae" in Marxism in regards to gender, 'race', nation, sexuality and
so on.  I don't think we need to make any concessions to this nonsense.



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