Frantz Fanon and Decolonisation

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‘Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds’ – Bob Marley, Redemption Song

This famous line from the popular song by Bob Marley became prominent to me at the weekend while I was at a European conference in Paris. It was a special conference commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of Franz Fanon. Fanon is best known as a psychologist, revolutionary theorist and philosopher who played a leading role in the revolutionary movement in Algeria in the fifties and early sixties. Fanon died of leukaemia at 36 and his politics has left an indelible mark on cultural and political movements around the world since then. The last book he wrote is especially famous, The Wretched of the Earth, which gave us a vivid insight into the merciless impact of colonialism and racism on its victims. More importantly, however, it laid out a powerful and radical vision on the struggle for decolonisation that is necessary to tackle the dehumanisation that derives from the colonial process.

According to Fanon there were three specific stages to go through in the decolonising process. Firstly, the natives had to recognise that they had been completely assimilated by the occupying power; in the second phase, native intellectuals had to return to their own history and the importance of native culture; and in the final stage, a major effort is made to reawaken and inspire the natives through a cultural and literary revival. If this cultural revival succeeds in the colonial context, according to Fanon, a wider struggle for liberation and national independence can be ignited. ‘To fight for national culture’ said Fanon, ‘means first and foremost to fight for the liberation of the nation, that material keystone which makes the building of a culture possible.’

In the talk I gave at the Fanon conference in Paris, I used the definition of decolonisation above to describe the revival of the Irish language in Ireland from the Gaelic League to the Easter Rising in 1916. In addition, with plenty of examples from activists who took part in the contemporary revival in the years after the 1981 Hunger Strike, I referenced the ideological legacy that Fanon’s thinking still has up to the present day. I listened to other speakers from France, Palestine, Latin America, Nigeria, South Africa and the black community of North America making similar comparisons using Fanon’s theories to examine their own local history and politics.

The talk that most

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impressed me, however, was that given by an expert on South Africa who used Fanon’s dark warning on the dangers of neo-colonialism. Fanon wrote that there was a major danger that a ‘bourgeois nationalist’ class would emerge after the realisation of ‘formal independence’ that would implement a system just as unjust as the colonial period. He showed that this has happened in the New South Africa today where people were given the right to vote but not the economic equality that was promised to them.

A black wealthy class developed in the new era while poverty and hardship increased for the poorest in the same period. It was with a heavy heart that the speaker described the vicious water and electricity riots in 2005 when the ANC government suppressed every campaign for basic rights. Fanon highlighted the difference between ‘independence’ and ‘liberation’ and warned of the danger of failing to recognise this. It is clear that his decolonising vision of liberation is just as relevant today everywhere where the stigma of colonialism can still be felt.

Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh

Frantz Fanon agus Díchoiliniú

‘Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds’- Bob Marley, Redemption Song

Tháinig an líne chlúiteach seo ó amhrán iomráiteach de chuid Bob Marley chun solais dom ag deireadh na seachtaine agus mé ag comhdháil Eorpach i bPáras. Comhdháil ar leith a bhí ann ag déanamh comóradh 50 bliain ar bhás Frantz Fanon. Is mar shíceolaí, teoiricí réabhlóideach agus fealsúnaí is mó atá iomrá ar Fanon a d’imir ról ceannasaíochta sa ghluaiseacht réabhlóideach san Algéir sna caogaidí agus luathseascaidí. D’éag Fanon de bharr Lukemia ag aois 36

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agus d’fhág smaointe s’aige rian cinniúnach ar ghluaiseachtaí cultúrtha agus polaitiúla ar fud na cruinne ó shin i leith. Tá clú go háirithe ar an leabhar deireanach a scríobh sé, The Wretched of the Earth, a thug léargas glinn dúinn ar tionchar neamhthrócaireach an choilíneachais agus an chiníochais ar a gcuid íobartach. Níos tábhachtaí, áfach, leag sé fís chumachtach agus radacach amach faoin streachailt dhíchoilínithe atá ag teastáil chun dul i ngleic leis an dídhaonnú a shíolraíonn ón phróiseas choilíneach.

Dar le Fanon go raibh trí chéim ar leith arbh éigean dul tríd sa phróiseas díchoilínithe. Ar dtús, bhí ar na bundúchasaigh aithint go ndearnadh comhshamhlú iomlán orthu ag an chumhacht forghabhála; sa dara céim, go mbeadh ar intleachtóirí dúchasacha pilleadh ar an stair s’acu agus ar thábhacht an chultúir dhúchais; agus sa chéim dheireanach go ndéantar iarracht mhór chun na bundúchasaigh a hathmhuscailt agus a spreagadh trí athbheochan chultúrtha agus litríochta. Más rud é go n-éiríonn leis an athbheochan chultúrtha seo i gcomhthéacs an choilíneachais, dar le Fanon, spreagfar streachailt níos leithne ar son fuascailte agus neamhspleáchais náisiúnta. ‘To fight for national culture’ arsa Fanon, ‘means first and foremost to fight for the liberation of the nation, that material keystone which makes the building of a culture possible’.

Sa chaint a thug mise ag comhdháil Fanon i bPáras, d’úsáid mé an sainmhíniú ar an díchoilíniú thuas chun cur síos a dhéanamh ar athbheochan na Gaeilge in Éirinn ó Chonradh na Gaeilge go hÉirí Amach na Cásca in 1916. Lena chois sin, le neart samplaí ó dhíograiseoirí a ghlac páirt san athbheochan chomhaimseartha sna blianta i ndiaidh na Stailce Ocrais in 1981, thagair mé don rian idé-eolaíoch atá ag smaointeoireacht Fanon go fóill anuas go dtí an lá inniu. D’éist mé le cainteoirí eile ó Fhrainc, ón Phalaistín, Meiriceá aáidíneach, an Nigéir, An Afraic Theas agus pobal gorm Mheiriceá Thuaidh ag déanamh compáraidí comhchosúla ag baint feidhme as teoiricí Fanon chun stair agus polaitíocht logánta s’acu a chíoradh.

Mar sin féin, an chaint is mó a chuaigh i bhfeidhm orm, ná an méid a bhí le rá ag saineolaí ar an Afraic Theas a bhain úsáid as rabhadh dorcha Fanon ar chontúirtí an nuachoilíneachais. Scríobh Fanon go raibh baol ollmhór ann go dtiocfadh aicme de ‘náisiúntóirí buirgéiseacha’ chun cinn tar éis do ‘neamhpléachas foirmeálta’ teacht i gcrích a bheadh ag cur i bhfeidhm córas chomh éagothrom céanna leis an ré choilíneach. Léirigh sé gurb amhlaidh atá an scéal in Afraic Theas Nua an lae inniu ina bhfuair daoine an chéad chun vótáil ach ní an comhionannas eacnamaíochta ar gealladh daofa. D’fhorbair aicme shabhir ghorm sa ré úr agus d’ardaigh an t-anró agus bochtánas don chosmhuintir is boichte sa tréimhse chéanna. Is le croí trom a chuir an chainteoir síos ar na círéibeanna fíochmara uisce agus leictreachais in 2005 nuair a chuir rialtas an ANC cos ar bholg ar gach aon fheachtasaíocht ar son ceart bunúsach. Léirigh Fanon go raibh difear idir ‘neamhspleáchas’ agus ‘fuascailt’ agus gur ghá bheith airdeallach ar an fhíric seo. Is cinnte go bhfuil fís dhíchoilíneach chun fuascailte s’aige chomh feiliúnach sa lá inniu agus a bhí ariamh gach aon áit ina bhfuil rian an choilíneachais le mothú go fóill.

Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh

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