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LUMPENPROLETARIAT—A friend of mine at a Mediterranean café in Berkeley many years ago commented to a mutual friend about me, as I gorged on shawarma: You know what he needs to read? He needs to read Frantz Fanon. Indeed. I was only familiar with the “Cliff’s” notes version of The Wretched of the Earth. Honestly, I think I was afraid to read Fanon, even as an adult in my 20s, American fascism being what it is and all. People of color are often discouraged from reading, or being associated with, so-called radical or revolutionary thinkers, theorists, and authors. The French government, for example, censored Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth.

Martin Luther King Jr. (born Michael King Jr.; January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) 

Even studying the fate of Martin and Malcolm leads you down some pretty scary investigative journalism leads. You get called names, if you’re not careful. And, yet, the forbidden writings and ideas of Frantz Fanon might have never been more relevant than today, with the Black Lives Matter movement reaching a critical mass in 2020, perhaps the biggest protest movement in U.S. history.

Even now, something about our society makes it seem like a radical act to even discuss Fanon. Thankfully, we have Dr. Peter Hudis, a welcome scholar and discussant in the body of work established by Frantz Fanon, the French West Indian psychiatrist and political philosopher.

The philosopher, psychiatrist, and revolutionary militant Frantz Fanon was a key figure in the struggle against European colonialism. Fanon’s innovative thinking on racism and its relationship to class oppression still speaks vividly to the present.

Fanon argued that the peasantry and the lumpenproletariat would serve as the principal force of the revolution, not Africa’s nascent working class.

Peter Hudis, “The Revolutionary Humanism of Frantz Fanon”



JACOBIN—[26 DEC 2020] The renewed protests against racism and police brutality over the last year have supplied a fresh impetus for thinking about the nature of capitalism, its relationship to racism, and the construction of alternatives to both. Few thinkers speak more directly to such issues than Frantz Fanon, the Martinican philosopher, psychiatrist, and revolutionary who is widely considered one of the twentieth century’s foremost thinkers on race and racism.

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These considerations were central to Fanon’s last and most famous book, The Wretched of the Earth. He began writing the book after learning that he had incurable leukemia and died shortly after it appeared in 1961. Scholars often overlook the fact that The Wretched of the Earth does not completely turn its back on Europe. Instead, Fanon set out to critically rethink dimensions of European thought, including Marxism.

Fanon insisted that a Marxist analysis “should always be slightly stretched when it comes to addressing the colonial issue.” In Marx’s analysis of capitalist accumulation in Europe, the development of capitalism had torn peasants from the “natural workshop” of the land and transformed them into urban proletarians, who in turn would become a massive, compact, and revolutionary force through the concentration and centralization of capital. Fanon saw that this process was not being repeated in Africa.

The destruction of the continent’s traditional communal property forms did not lead to the formation of a massive, radicalized proletariat, since the colonialists did not industrialize Africa but rather underdeveloped it through the brutal extraction of labor power and natural resources. The peasantry remained the greater part of the population, while the working class in towns and cities was relatively small and weak. Because of this, Fanon argued that the peasantry and the lumpenproletariat would serve as the principal force of the revolution, not Africa’s nascent working class.

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[31 DEC 2020]

[Last modified on 1 JAN 2020 at 06:02 PST]