In November 2020, New Black Nationalists launched the Frantz Fanon Forum (F-3) to conduct a critical reading of the Martinican philosopher’s theoretical works.
The forum’s circulating concern is soliciting the Black Diaspora’s counsel on the merits of adopting “Fanonism” as New Black Nationalism’s guiding ideology. This draft highlights critical points of alignment between Fanon’s concepts and New Black Nationalist constructs.
To contextualize the forum’s exchange of ideas and mitigate the vagaries of terminology, let us clearly state what is meant by “guiding ideology.” We mean assessing whether Fanon’s theories constitute a coherent system of ideas and nexus of practical revolutionary activity to create a Black nation-state.
Six decades after his death, Fanon remains the authoritative voice defining Decolonial Theory. His name still conjures visions of a Global South insurgency of Black and brown people consuming the colossus of global imperialism. Yet, the relevance of his theories to the Black liberation experience in America’s settler state, has historically hovered on the margins of Black left, academic, and nationalist thought.
By default, the Fanon Forum challenges standing orthodoxies and notions of “African-American Exceptionalism” that dismiss Fanonian thought as an anachronistic bricolage of Third World “Black Nirvana.” Fanon’s corpus, it is suggested, is ill-suited to Blacks’ highly stratified class-structure, and vanguard role in an advanced democracy that elected a Black president.
Thus, in defending Fanon’s legacy and arguing the grammar of his theories we have renewed the quarrel with his detractors. Indeed, we assert the 2020 global revolt of 21 million protesters under Black Lives Matter’s ubiquitous banner following Georges Floyd’s police execution, underscores the enduring truth and urgency of Fanon’s message.
To determine the wisdom of New Black Nationalists adopting Fanonism as its ideological outlook, the F-3 seeks to interrogate his theories against the unique conditions and revolutionary possibilities in America’s settler state.
Just as the legendary Ghanaian philosopher and author Ato Sekyi Otu once said, “I read Fanon as an African, exercised first and foremost by the disasters of the post-independence experience,” our reading of Fanon must emanate from a Black Nationalists perspective.
When New Black Nationalists coalesced as an on-line network in 2018, our consensus view held that Black Nationalism’s theoretical base had languished in a state of atrophy since the Black Power era of the 1960s. Our resolve was to help rebuild the movement’s intellectual foundation.
Since that time our analytical products have addressed a series of issues: Black millennial formations, Black Social Democracy, Afrofuturism, Crisis Theory, the Black Lives Matter Movement, Black Culture Theory, Afrofuturism, Black Feminism, Black Identity, and the trajectory of Black Nationalist ideological construction. In January 2020, we released a Statement of Principles, defining New Black Nationalists’ core beliefs.
After examining the global Black Millennial Awakening in 2020’s “summer of rage,” we concluded that a decisive shift had occurred in the mood, consciousness, and revolutionary activity of the Black Diaspora. From Brazil’s quilombos to West Papua’s independence struggle, the original BLM movement that ascended in 2013, has been transformed into “Black Lives Matter 2.0.”
In the course of our review, we also encountered a second phenomenon: the long shadow Frantz Fanon’s revolutionary influence cast across the planet. The slogan “I can’t breathe,” paraphrased from Fanon’s dictum, “We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe,” echoed across every continent.
In South Africa we learned the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) became one of the first political parties to adopt “Marxist-Leninist-Fanonian Thought,” as its ideological vector. Again, and again Fanon’s presence coursed through the Black Diasporic insurgency. New Black Nationalists found ourselves confronting a “Fanonian moment.”
Fanon returns to us because the interlocking systems of race, racism, and the imperialist colonial order, now clothed in the garments of “globalization” continue to choke the life out of Black people in the Global South and metropoles of Western capitalism. Moreover, Fanon resurfaces because the newly independent governments and Black liberation movements in Africa and the Caribbean, that won state power since the 1960’s have largely degenerated into aborted and failed revolutions.
As today’s radical Black millennials excavate the historical vaults of the past half-century, they’re discovering Fanon’s theories aren’t so much in error as the incorrect paths’ leaders and movements of his time embarked on. This phenomenon has been most tragically demonstrated in South Africa where the "Mandela Moment" and the collapse of apartheid held so much promise. In an age of fabricated and compromised leaders, Fanon stands out as a principled revolutionary who refused to kowtow to anyone.
Fanon was not the advocate of absolute truths, nor was he wed to any particular ideology. Fanon sought truth where it was to be found. Fanon’s life was a laboratory of experience as a colonial soldier, clinical psychiatrist, philosopher, theorist, and participant in Algeria’s revolutionary war as an editor, strategist, and ambassador of the National Liberation Front that defeated French to win independence in 1962.
Our Black Nationalist rendering of Fanon encompasses his approach and methodology in crafting theory, as well as the power of his text. The two should not be separated. Fanon plumbed the depths of Hegelian dialectics and Jean Paul Sartre’s existentialist assumptions. He dissembled Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic and sexual development theories as being of limited utility to the Black Diaspora, thereby leading to new developments in his psychodynamic analysis of postcolonial theory.
Fanon grasped the revolutionary kernel of Marxism-Leninism, while at the same time assailing its failure to account for the pervasive effects of racism in their revolutionary model for non-capitalist countries.
Fanon didn’t advocate scrapping the totality of Marxist formulations but famously noted the science needed to be “stretched” to comprehend new revolutionary paths in the Third World. He became the radical exponent of a Third World Marxist heresy that placed peasants, not privileged working class proletarians of capitalist countries, at the vanguard of Third World revolution.
Fanon was also a central figure in the Black cultural and writers’ movements of the iconic 1950’s Black identity debates in Paris and Accra involving Aime Cesaire, Richard Wright, Leopold Senghor, and others. He rejected efforts to declare Pan Africanism and Negritude ideology as philosophical systems that defined the Black Diaspora’s identity.
In a similar way, New Black Nationalists have never subscribed to rigid ideologies and absolute truths. We’ve incorporated aspects of Afrocentrism, Pan Africanism, Cultural Nationalism, Religious Nationalism (Liberation Theology, Islamic, Moorish), African Socialism, Marxism-Leninism, Mao-Tse Tung Thought, Black Atlanticism, Afropessimism, Afrofuturism and Radical Black Feminism into our analytical framework.
As vision holders of a nationalist project to create a Black state, we’re compelled to grapple with the amalgam of Black expression that makes up our cultural/psychological composite. At the same time, we recognize the limitations of these philosophies as comprehensive cultural, political, and ideological systems. In Fanonism, we found an overarching ideological universe possessing the depth and elasticity to close critical gaps in Black Nationalist ideology writ large. This is especially true in the areas of ontology and culture.
From its inception, New Black Nationalists dissented against DuBois’s idealist Hegelian dialectics that merged the American/white subject [thesis] with the Black “Other” [antithesis]. The synthesis of DuBois’s construction produced a hybrid “Negro American” identity or what we would refer to today as "African Americans."
Aime Cesaire’s Francophone Negritude movement employed a similar Hegelian idealist dialectic, advocating the fusion of French and Martinican native culture to produce a “Creole” subject. It’s not surprising that after World War ll, instead of Martinique becoming an independent country, the Caribbean island in the Lesser Antilles chose to become and has remained an “Overseas” department of the Republic of France.
DuBois and his successors (Aime Cesaire, Leopold Senghor, and the Black Atlanticist Paul Gilroy) all elaborated counterdiscourses, asserting by European standards of culture, science, and reason, that Blacks were eminently qualified for citizenship and full investment in the estate of Western nationhood. Their arguments that Blacks were a self-actualized people were proffered in the notable absence of ever mentioning Black women as subjects.
Since Martin Delaney’s first call in the 1850’s to establish a Black nation in West Africa, Black Nationalists have asserted their right to self-determination and separation from America’s settler state. As successors of that tradition, we condemn America’s oppressive, genocidal, militaristic, and white supremist country as a diseased and morally degenerate state. We had no part its creation nor do we wish to remain a part of it as provisional citizens. Rather, we are preparing for American Empire’s inevitable collapse and defeat by any means necessary to establish an independent nation.
Unlike, DuBois, Cesaire, Senghor, and Gilroy, Fanon posited that the Hegelian idealist dialectic was incapable of recognizing, much less producing Black subjectivity. Fanon held that Black subjectivity was not contingent on responding to being “Othered,” because the Black subject already existed--brought into being by what he called a higher power of “cosmic harmonies.” By contrast, Fanon emphasized the materialist dialectic or “action” in the form of armed revolution to overthrow European/white colonialism, thereby allowing Blacks to define their own subjectivity. Fanon historically continues to come under fire for his advocacy of violent revolutions to seize power.
New Black Nationalists also hold that Black people are a historically constituted nation, descended from a common ancestry. We submit that Black people were forged as an oppressed nation in the 1800’s in a common territory in the Black Belt South as the majority population, speaking a common language, possessing a distinct culture, and sharing a common psychological makeup.
We referenced “common psychological makeup,” as a vital component of Black national development because the Black psyche plays a unique role in our liberation struggle. It embodied our collective response to the extraordinary challenges of chattel slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and the Civil Rights struggle. Until the post-civil rights era, Blacks’ psychological framework maintained a remarkable consensus concerning the necessity to wage resistance struggles and elaborate resistance discourses.
However much that consensus frayed as more Blacks entered the upper and middle-classes, and become more balkanized along political, social, generational, technological, and gender lines, the 2010’s engendered a new psychological response. “It was captured by the slogan “Black Lives Matter”—a phrase that is more potent and durable in the Black psyche than the organization’s reformist political agenda.
Increased state-sanctioned violence visited on Black communities; the proliferation of White Nationalist vigilante groups and militias; the FBI’s designation of Black Identity Nationalists as “terrorists,” and race-based cultural warfare directed by Trump from the Oval Office that escalated into calls for “civil war” by election day 2020, induced a new mind set within the Darker Nation.
Our reading of Fanon’s decolonial psychoanalysis and the works of Afropessimists and Black Feminists, convinced New Black Nationalists, that we had underestimated the critical shift in the psychodynamics percolating in the Black conscious over the past five years. This new realization was incorporated as a central theme in our analysis of BLM 2.0, of the dynamics in America’s settler state and internationally as well.
The idea that the existence of Black humanity, occupying any physical space, constituted a subversive threat in and of itself to the state, irrespective of an individuals’ station, class, or wealth was crystallized in the Black Diaspora’s imagination. The open rebellion against the hunting, brutalization, and exploitation of Black flesh, in every corner of world emerged as a collective diasporic consciousness in the 2020's summer of spiritual renewal, however ephemeral. That energy and momentum continued well into the fall with Nigeria's anti-SARS national uprising and November revolts in Paris and Brazil.
This emerging BLM 2.0 collective diasporic consciousness reminds us of the first paragraph of Fanon’s seminal work, Wretched of the Earth; “National liberation, national reawakening, restoration of the nation to the people or Commonwealth, whatever the name used, whatever the latest expression, decolonization is always a violent affair.”
On this point New Black Nationalists agree with Fanon. Violence, no matter what class or people wield it to seize power and dismantle the adversary’s machinery of state coercion, is the midwife of revolutions. More controversial that Fanon upholding the principle of violent revolution was his insistence that violence is a means by which the colonized and dispossessed could overcome their inferiority complex.
Fanon’s critics bayed and howled at this “mystical doctrine” of the Martinican psychiatrist. But in reality, these hypocrites would never support a violent revolution of the oppressed under any circumstances. Violent revolutionary wars were okay for George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to overthrow England’s King George and establish a slavocracy, but not for contemporary Black Nationalists.
Among the most important controversies the Fanon Forum will address is Fanon’s commitment to women’s liberation, and his relevance to feminist liberation theory and praxis. Fanon’s writings on Black and Creole women in Martinique and the Antilles, the psychosexual tendencies of white French women, and Algerian women’s role in the national liberation movement and its intersection with Arab and Islamic culture, were all controversial. Not surprisingly, they have produced extensive critiques, polemics, and counterdiscourses from white and European feminists, Algerian feminists, and Black Radical feminists in the U.S.
These debates and critiques are complex, multi-layered and critical for Black Nationalists, because there can be no path to a Black nation-state without an alliance with Black Feminists. Having said that, New Black Nationalists do not believe Fanon, was a misogynist, anti-feminist, or anti-womens liberation. Fanon never professed to be a feminist. We hold that Fanon was committed to women’s liberation as a revolutionary humanist, and that this writings have made profound contributions to anti-racist feminist liberation theory.
Indeed, Fanon’s constant attention to the plight of women provides us with a window into his expansive vision of the liberation of Black people across the Third World. Fanon was not just the radical exponent of the colonized overturning colonialism and imperialism; he was always preoccupied with what came next.
Who would be the leaders to rebuild these new societies? What types of new societies would they build? Fanon’s philosophy envisioned the least of Black people—peasants and soldiers of humble origins taking society into their own hands “to start a new human history.” At the heart of Fanon’s revolutionary project was “New Humanism,” which he envisioned as ushering in a new era of social relations and engagement between all people that would eclipse nationalism.
Beyond the issues briefly touched on here, the Fanon Forum will explore his writings on nationalism, building a Third World alliance against the U.S and Soviet Union superpowers, the essence of the "lived experience" and other contributions of Fanonian thought.
As conceived, Phase 1 of the Fanon Forum will conclude at the end of February 2021, when we will make a determination on adopting the ideological framework of New Black Nationalism and release a summarizing thought document.
We invite everyone who wishes to participate in this reading of Frantz Fanon and contribute their ideas to the discussion, to forward your commentaries, thoughts, and papers to us at Twitter @WBBrookslll
We look forward to hearing from you.