[Marxism] frantz fanon and socialism

Josh Saxe joshsaxe at gmail.com
Sun Oct 16 20:34:47 MDT 2005

I just read "The Wretched of the Earth" by Frantz Fanon and have some
thoughts and questions.  First I want to say that his writings are
very impressive and seem to capture the spirit of the anti-colonial
revolutions of the 50's and 60's and strike me as still having a lot
of relevance both for national-liberation struggles within the borders
of first world states and in the third world.  Second, can we consider
him a socialist?  He was for overthrowing the third world bourgeoisie,
and for a revolutionary struggle led by the peasants and the
lumpenproletariat, but what kind of society was he really advocating
after that struggle succeeded?  He criticizes those whose program was
simply to sever political ties with "mother countries" without
discussing the type of society that third world people would then set
up, but he is not altogether clear in this book on his views of that
subject.  The role of intellectuals in the revolutions also seems to
be a blind spot in the book (as it is in most Marxist writing I think)
as he does not really discuss their place in the actual revolutionary
struggle but dwells more on their role in producing culture -
certainly peasants and lumpen elements weren't leading the FLN, it was
Western educated intellectuals like Fanon himself and that has to be
reckoned with.

>From what I can gather Fanon was for the kind of policies Nasser was
spearheading in the Arab world that were in the end inspired by the
Stalinized Soviet model - nationalizing almost the entire economy,
maintaining tight control on imports in favor of domestic industry
(import substitution) and pursuing development along corporatist lines
while not committing to either of the two Cold War blocs.  A kind of
lighter weight cousin of "socialism in one country" complete with
5-year plans and whatnot. This kind of development model was very
common among nationalist regimes from the post-war period through the
late 70's, pursued by Nehru, the Ba'ath party in Syria and Iraq, the
PRI in Mexico to a lesser extent, AD in Venezuela, even revolutionary
Cuba and China, etc: although many gains came from it it seems
discredited to me maybe not as a _tactic_ but definitely as a
revolutionary model for the third world.  The 20th century showed that
it simply cannot produce the first world living standards in the third
world that it promised, and if it can alleviate the effects of
capitalist imperialism in the present it leads to economic stagnation
and falling behind the imperialist world in the long term.  And now I
wonder if the world economy hasn't become so complex, so many inputs
and outputs that "socialism in one country" type regimes wouldn't
stagnate and fall behind the development of the first world much more
quickly than in the past?  What is the alternative for the
revolutionary states in dependent countries that we will inevitably
see explode onto the scene in the 21st century then?

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