Class Issues in Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth

Frantz Fanon, in his classic account of colonialism and violence, The Wretched of the Earth, went to great length and detail explaining the elements needed to overthrow a colonial oppressor.

Most obvious in his writing is his acceptance for, and at times the encouragement of, violence. This violence is to be directed at those foreigners who subdue and suppress the native national people.

Throughout the book Fanon speaks of the need to remove the foreign presence in the land in order for the country to gain its independence and its own character.

Fanon is aware that not all foreigners in the land are there to oppress. He realises that some may be sympathetic to their cause, and that they are not guilty, nor responsible, for what has happened.

For me, The Wretched of the Earth, has a quite obvious underlying Soviet or Communist undertone. Fanon speaks fondly of Angolan revolution, refers to the rise of the peasants on numerous occasions and clearly states his feelings on “capitalist exploitation”.

Fanon also speaks fondly of Khrushchev, who is said to treat “miserable capitalists in the way that they deserve”. The use of the tern “Western press” is also an indication of Fanon’s views towards Soviet and Communist states. For when blame is placed by Fanon, it is the Western press that received it – parts of Europe and the USA – and not the European press – which would include the Soviet Union.

Though it represents but a small portion of his writing, it should not surprise us then that Fanon sees the issue of class within the broader battlefield of colonialism. Class, after all, being fundamentals to Marxist doctrine and Communist ideology.

The Wretched of the Earth is often interpreted as a struggle between colonialists and the oppressed natives. However, something I feel that can often get overlooked, is the class undertone. This underlying message, alongside the encouragement of violence, means that Fanon is at times, advocating class war.

In the most simplistic terms, and at the basic reading of it, The Wretched of the Earth is promoting the need for the natives to free themselves from those foreigners who have occupied their land. But Fanon is not so naive  to think that all foreigners are enemies, and all natives friends.

He is aware that independence is not only a struggle of nations, but a struggle of class.

Though the white European colonialists are by and large the enemy, “it sometimes happens that you get Blacks who are whiter than Whites.” Here Fanon is talking about the wealthy elites, the upper class who do not wish for independence because they have no desire to risk the comfort they have.

Fanon states: “the fact of having a national flag and the hope of an independent nation does not always tempt certain strata of the population to give up their interests or privileges.”

Even within the context of the struggles for independence, class can be seen as a crucial issue which needs to be addressed.

It seems that class has a permanent place in the global struggle for equality among people. Until the issue of class is resolved, and the gap between wealthy and poor is brought to a respectable, moral position, it will always be an issue that divides and causes conflict. Whether that is in post-colonial Algeria, Kurds fighting in the Middle East, or even perhaps modern day Scotland.

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