Frantz Fanon on single-issue movements

“[…] in the thick of the fight, more than a few militants asked the leaders to […] draw up a program […] under the pretext of safeguarding national unity, the leaders refused […] their only ideological activity took the form of a series of variants on the theme of the right of peoples to self-determination, borne on the wind of history, which would inevitably sweep away colonialism. When the militants asked, if the wind of history couldn’t be a little more clearly analyzed, the leaders gave them instead […] the necessity of decolonialization and its inevitability.
After independence, the party [which was formed for a single cause] sinks into an extraordinary lethargy. The militants are only called upon when so-called popular manifestations are afoot, or international conferences or independence celebrations. The local party leaders are given administrative posts  […] the militants disappear into the crowd and take the empty title of citizen. […] The intellectuals, who on the eve of independence rallyed to the party, now make it clear that they gave their support with no other end in view than to secure their slices of the cake of independence. The party is becoming a means of private advancement […]
Some have a double source of income and demonstrate that they are specialized in opportunism. Privileges multiply and corruption triumphs, while morality declines. […] ministers grow rich, their wives doll themselves up, the members of parliament feather their nests and there is not a soul down to the simple police officer who does not join in the great procession of corruption.”

1. “Radical” demands cannot fill holes in your theory. Conjuring higher goals is as futile in ex-colonies as among leaders of the European Union. A single issue is no end in itself, and sometimes achieving it is worse than failure; e.g., if a small group of activists achieve their goals, the movement as a whole may lose. If one minority achieves “equal rights”, whatever that means, it might earn them the envy and suspicion of those not relatively privileged in this way, thus further dividing the ruled.

2. The “wave of history” wouldn’t sweep the dandruff from your head. “Justice” will not prevail, but history will be written by those capable of maintaining the greatest injustice over the longest period.

3. Appealing to “rights” (to self-determination or free movement) is sufficient for minor press conferences. An appeal is just a rhethoric device. Stalin is quoted as asking: “The Pope and which army?” That’s what the government says to your appeals.

4. Lucky are movements, where “extreme lethargy” sets in after enforcement of their goals. Lethargy results if you ask meaningful questions such as: “Why do I buy shoes?” or “What am I fighting for?” You needn’t chomp through volumes of theoretical tractates, just nurture a healthy gut instinct and the courage to listen to it.

5. When “pioneers” retire into representative roles, the masses retire to booze and bars. Our “struggle” really is degenerating into reunions at “popular manifestations” and “international conferences.”

6. “Impartial” intellectuals are in reality opportunistic. Nerds love pie, too.

7. Collective movements become vehicles for private advancement.

8. “Dolling yourself up” – whichever “style” you prefer – shows you have a lot of people to convince.

9. Bringing about the revolution is not the white man’s burden, if ever it was. Anyway, most revolutions last century were not by whites, they just got better publicity. We, the not-so-wretched, cannot expect others to change for us the world we made. A suffering person’s immediate aim is to alleviate her suffering, not to find the reasons behind it.
Anyway, when powerful people try to set off a revolt, they always speak about sharing the gains – they never speak about sharing the burdens, and when they do, they mean “delegating.”

Fanon text continues by describing the emergence of fascism in semi-colonies, such as the glorious nations of Latin America. He understands nationalist  rule in the classical socialist sense: The final power grab of the historically obsolete lumpenbourgeoisie. In Munich you can still see them standing in line to pay five euros for a Leberkäsbrötchen or five hundred for camel-patterned wool sweaters. They’d never harm a fly – the pay is ludicrous and the working conditions plain brutal.

Unlike Germany, where racism is seen as the defining feature of Nazism, other fascist movements only feature racism, religious particularism or  Chauvinism as a side effect. Hence, even when analyzing Germany, we should never mistake Ausländerfeindlichkeit for the purpose of bourgeois rule.

Anyway, the Federal Republic of Germany is nothing but the peacetime version of Nazi Germany. On the global scale, all inhabitants of Germany, from the richest to the poorest, are leeching on the world’s wretched. Whether we profit from cheap bananas or cheap ECB interest rates, solidarity is just an empty phrase, when brayed around the world from the golden toilet seat, like the Pope’s  Christmas prayer.

This Widerspruch frequently haunts people whose memory of life on the feudal farm or in the global slum is still fresh. Often they retreat into excessive identity-seeking, resorting to the opiates of nationalism and religion to quell the feeling that they are feeding on the remains of “their” people, devoured and excreted by their oppressors.


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