“In a short time, this continent will be liberated. For my part, the more I penetrate cultures and political circles, the more I am sure that the great danger that threatens Africa is the absence of ideology.
Fanon, ‘This Africa to Come’
“All this assessment, this awakening of consciousness and this advance in knowledge of the history of societies are only possible within the framework of an organization and within the structure of a people.
Fanon, the damned of the earth
Despite the obstacles that stand in the way and the state’s efforts to divide, co-opt and exhaust it, the Hirak has retained exemplary unity and peace. This has been demonstrated in various slogans such as: “Algerians are brothers and sisters, the people are united, you traitors.
The movement is led by young people and relatively unorganized. There are no clearly identifiable leaders or organized structures that propel it. It is a popular uprising mobilizing the mass forces of the middle and marginalized classes in urban and rural areas. Unlike Sudan, where the Sudanese Professional Association has played a leading and organizing role, in Algeria the organization is done horizontally and mainly through social media. The general strike in the first weeks of the uprising, which helped force Bouteflika to abdicate and shake up alliances within the ruling class, was organized spontaneously after anonymous calls on social media. Such amorphous, unstructured, leaderless dynamics and movements are extremely vulnerable. If they can generate large interclass mobilizations and are not an easy target for repression or for the co-option of leaders, they nonetheless show fatal weaknesses in the long term.
But what can Fanon teach us about class struggle and organization?
The class struggle is at the heart of Fanon’s analysis. Lebanese Marxist Mahdi Amel, emphasizing Fanon’s ideas on how revolutionary praxis differentiates itself and changes meaning and direction after independence, writes: [revolutionary violence] was before independence, essentially a national struggle, after independence it becomes a real class struggle ”through which the masses discover their real enemy: the national bourgeoisie (Hamdan, 1964a). Thus, from a strictly national level, the struggle passes to a socio-economic level of class struggle. Fanon urges us to move from a national consciousness to a social and political consciousness when he says: “If nationalism is not made explicit, if it does not grow richer and deepen with a very rapid transformation into an awareness of social and political needs, in others words to humanism, it leads to a dead end ”(Fanon, 1967a, p165).
However, Fanon invites us to “stretch Marxism” as a means of understanding the peculiarities of capitalism in the colonial and postcolonial world. In the words of Emmanuel Wallerstein, Fanon “rebelled with force against the sclerotic Marxism of the communist movements of his time”, affirming a revised version of the class struggle breaking with the dogma according to which the urban and industrial proletariat is the only revolutionary class against the bourgeoisie (Wallerstein, 2009). Fanon considered the peasantry and the urbanized lumpenproletariat as the strongest candidate for the role of historical revolutionary subject in colonial Algeria. And here, Fanon meets Che Guevara when they both point out that in colonized countries, the revolution begins in rural areas and moves to urban cities. It is initiated by the peasantry, which embraces the proletariat rather than the other way around as in the case of capitalist and even socialist European countries (Hamdan, 1964b).
In short, the class struggle is essential on condition that the struggling classes are clearly identified. With this in mind, it is crucial to determine the revolutionary classes (and their alliances) in the current uprising. It is necessary to go beyond “workerism” and embrace a much broader conception of the proletariat in its contemporary expressions, namely the unemployed youth, urban / rural workers, informal workers, peasants, etc. These are the classes that have nothing to lose but their chains, which makes them potentially revolutionary.
In his chapter “Spontaneity: its strengths and weaknesses” in The unfortunate, Fanon feared that if the lumpen-proletariat is left to its own devices, without an organizational structure, it will become exhausted (Wallerstein, 2009). To avoid this and block the road to the parasitic bourgeoisie which still reigns in Algeria, Fanon would probably say: “We must not let the bourgeoisie find the conditions necessary for its existence and its development. In other words, the combined effort of the party-led masses and highly conscious intellectuals armed with revolutionary principles should stand in the way of this useless and harmful middle class ”(Fanon, 1967a, p140).
Fanon will also repeat to us an important observation he made on certain African revolutions, namely that their unifying nature rules out any reflection of a socio-political ideology on how to radically transform society. This is a great weakness that we are still witnessing with the new Algerian revolution. “Nationalism is not a political doctrine, nor a program,” says Fanon (Ibid, p163). He insists on the need for a revolutionary political party (or perhaps an organized social movement) which can advance the demands of the masses, a party / structure which will educate the people politically, which will be “a tool in the hands of the masses. of the people ”and he will be the energetic spokesperson and the“ incorruptible defender of the masses ”. For Fanon, achieving such a conception of a party requires first of all to get rid of the bourgeois notion of elitism and of “the contemptuous attitude that the masses are incapable of governing themselves” (Ibid, p. .151).
Fanon abhorred the elitist discourse on the immaturity of the masses and asserted that in the struggle they (the masses) are up to the problems they face. It is therefore important for them to know where they are going and why. Nigel Gibson articulated this point of view eloquently in these terms: “For Fanon, the ‘we’ has always been a creative ‘we’, an ‘us’ of action and of political praxis, of thought and reasoning” ( Gibson, 2011). For him, the nation only exists in a socio-political and economic program “drawn up by revolutionary leaders and taken up with full understanding and enthusiasm by the masses” (Fanon, 1967a, p164).
Unfortunately, what we are seeing today in Africa is the antithesis of what Fanon strongly defended. We see the stupidity of the antidemocratic bourgeoisies embodied in their tribal and family dictatorships, prohibiting the people, often with cruel force, from participating in the development of their country, and fostering a climate of immense hostility between the rulers and the ruled. Fanon, in his conclusion of The unfortunate, argues that we must develop new concepts through continuous political education, enriched by mass struggle. For him, political education does not only concern political speeches, but rather “opening the mind” of the people, “awakening them and allowing the birth of their intelligence” (Ibid, p159). “If the construction of a bridge does not enrich the conscience of those who work on it”, then according to Fanon, “it should not be built and the citizens can continue to cross the river by swimming or by boat” (Ibid , p162).
This is perhaps one of Fanon’s greatest legacies. His radical and generous vision is so refreshing and rooted in people’s daily struggles, which open up spaces for new ideas and imaginations. For him, everything depends on the masses, hence his idea of radical intellectuals engaged in and with popular movements and capable of inventing new concepts in a non-technical and unprofessional language. Just as, for Fanon, culture must become a culture of combat, so education must also become a total liberation (Gibson, 2011). This is what we need to keep in mind when we talk about education in schools and universities. Decolonial education in the Fanonian sense is education that contributes to creating social and political awareness. The activist or the intellectual must therefore not take shortcuts in the name of action, because this is inhuman and sterile. It is about coming and thinking together, which is the foundation of a liberated society.