12/17 Freedom School: On Frantz Fanon

Socialist Party Los Angeles Local Freedom School: “Of Masters and Slaves: Fanon’s Critique of Colonial Violence and the Imperative of Direct Action for Contemporary Liberation Struggles”

With Nicholas Walrath

The writings of Frantz Fanon have found renewed currency both within and outside academia, from the burning streets of Ferguson, Missouri to the wind-swept plains of Standing Rock, North Dakota and beyond the United States’ borders. Given the continued neoliberal onslaught against the poor and people of color via austerity measures and extrajudicial police killings and within the context of the continued dispossession and state violence directed toward the U.S.’ and global native populations, an atmosphere of struggle and resistance in 2016 is highly palpable, if not volatile.

This revolutionary context lends a newfound salience to Fanon’s transdisciplinary analysis, one that gained maturation and influence during the onset of mid-20th century decolonization movements throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Given this era of hyperaccumulation-via-dispossession, the main scope and purpose of this talk is 1) to clarify and dispel liberal critiques of Fanon’s advocation of violence and armed struggle, which he wrote about, at length, in the (in)famous opening chapter to The Wretched of the Earth (WOE), “On Violence” and 2) to bridge the gap between this well cited, though often miscontextualized, chapter and Fanon’s formulation of Hegel’s master/slave dialectic found in his first book, Black Skin, White Masks.

These works are often taken separately, the latter being read simply as a meditation on the detrimental psychological effects of colonialism upon the black/native subject, whereas WOE is widely perceived as the “Bible of decolonization,” offering a revolutionary praxis for human emancipation in the Third World. Nonetheless, the insights these two works provide, though through vastly different theoretical lenses, should not be read as mutually exclusive but rather serve the cause of human liberation by informing one another – within the realms of ethnopsychiatry and dynamics of colonial politics, respectively. A fundamental thread that runs through both works is that the only real pathway out of the black/white, colonizer/colonized, first world/third world Manichaeism inherent to (neo)colonialism is through armed resistance and/or direct action. Thus, Fanon’s framework for realizing a “new humanism” through resisting state violence by placing one’s body on the line is not only timely but also extremely relevant for Black Lives Matter activists, Native American, First Nations, Indigenous water protectors, and other marginalized groups who have, as a matter of survival, eschewed “legitimate” paths toward recognition like national electoral politics and negotiations in favor of direct action and international networks of solidarity.

Nicholas Walrath is a researcher for the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and member of the Los Angeles chapter of the Socialist Party USA. He resides in San Bernardino County, California.

Saturday, December 17th
4-6 p.m.

2617 Hauser Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90016

Open to the public!

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