Chapter 1: THE LAST DAY OF FRANTZ FANON Followed by an interview with Josie Fanon, his wife

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Stories by Christian Filostrat

Reads: 1816

 

The Last Day

of

Frantz Fanon

A One-Act Narrative

 

Followed by an interview with

Josie Fanon, his wife

 

 

National liberation is a first step; without it, very little can be done. Without independence, nation building cannot begin.

La libération nationale est une première étape; sans elle, très peu de choses peuvent être faites. Sans l'indépen- dance, la construction de la nation ne peut pas commencer.

Josie Fanon

 

 

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice, for they shall have their fill. Mathew

 

 

. . . if all the Arabs and Berbers of Algeria were considered French . . . my village would no longer be called Colombey-the-Two Churches, but Colom- bey-the-Two-Mosques.

Charles de Gaulle

 

 

… whenever a man contributes to the triumph of the dignity of the spirit, whenever a man says no to an attempt to subjugate his fellows, I feel solidarity with his act.

Frantz Fanon, Black Skin White Mask

 

 

 

After six years of revolutionary activities in Africa, Frantz Fanon arrived in New York in early October 1961, suffering from an advanced case of leukemia.  Admitted to Bethesda Naval Hospital, he died on December 6th. He was 36 years old.

Born in Martinique in 1925, Fanon was a product of the French colonial system. In 1943, he joined the free French forces to help defend “liberal France” against the racist Vichy French sailors stationed in Martinique during the war – those “sailors who had forced [him] to defend and thus discover [his] color.”

The experience in the French army further sharpened his awareness of a world where division and racism were the rule. That and a keen, sensitive mind made him the most lucid observer of the realities inherent to colonialism. He is colonialism’s foremost forensic analyst.

 

Until the Algerian Revolution, Fanon adhered to the principles of négritude espoused by Aimé Césaire, his lycée teacher. Black Skin, White Mask is a négritude testimonial in which Fanon acknowledges blackness albeit from the point of view of his French colonial upbringing and Césaire’s adaptation as to the place of peoples of African descent in the French empire.

While giving him unparalleled insight into and appreciation for national liberations and struggles found in his writing, his uncompromising efforts on behalf of the Algerian Revolution shortened his life. Today, we speak of a Fanon legacy.

 

 

December 5, 1961, Dr. Frantz Fanon, a.k.a., Ibrahim Fanon, psychiatrist from Martinique, Algerian revolutionary, author of The Wretched of the Earth, is lying in a hospital bed in room 37 of the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, USA. He first went to Moscow for treatment but was told that NIH was the preeminent facility for his type of cancer. He’s thirty-six years old. The day of his death on December 6, he’s reflecting on what his revolutionary activities have taught him.

 

 

My time is up; the count is inexorable.

Defiant, I make the most of the awareness that I’m near death, by occupying my mind with what I believe. Delirium helps. It obliges me to examine my hallucinations; and in trying to recollect what I may have muttered, my life passes in front of me in spurts.

Since October, hopes, despair, fatigue, all are intertwined with the count. In the case of the fever, it’s hide and seek with the chill, and I’m reminded of home, of my childhood in Martinique before the war. We were obsessed with the game of hide and seek especially at nightfall. Playing outlaw (coups de bandits) was another pursuit. The adults watched us from their doorways and whispered hiding places to us. René usually got most of the whispers. He spoke French with a Negro de Paris accent, proof he had been to France. The adults favored him for that. We thought nothing of it. In fact, we assumed it appropriate given that he had been to France.

Presently, fever and chill, like two powerful kingdoms have forged a treaty – fever night, chill day. I have no say in the matter. As I told my wife, Josie, in Tunisia at the onset of my night chills, this thing is taking its course without any input from me. What I assume is stress, inspires the fever to burn with more zeal at nightfall.

“When did you become a revolutionary?” Josie asked me. I told her without hesitation and in Creole to underscore the point that who I am and what I am was shaped by Martinique. But she didn’t understand me – she doesn’t know my native tongue. Camus owed everything to football; I owe everything to Martinique. Had I not grown up in Martinique, I would not be who I am today. In short, my character was shaped by colonialism. When I’m delirious it’s in Creole that I chatter. I don’t know from whence it comes. I can clearly hear myself, but I’m powerless to control my thoughts or how I express them. That’s why I think those who brought me here have placed a Creole speaker in my room to monitor my episodic deliriums. He takes notes.  I understand they must get their pound of flesh in return for providing me medical treatment in this exclusive hospital. (Being friends with Roberto Holden who is on America’s payroll undoubtedly helped too.) Whatever the American stance toward the Algerian Revolution, there’s a cold war raging out there, and France is a NATO member due some consideration. They’re wasting their time, however; delirium is incoherent and one raves more in the mind than out loud. In Blida my patients would tell me much more while coherent than when raving.

Memory is attached to speech and language is flexible. I appreciate the scientific reason for remembering childhood through delirium. I just never imagined it would happen to me. But I don’t mind that at the end my thoughts are riveted on Martinique – on my innocent childhood. The man who monitors me must himself be from Martinique, for I saw him smile. I think I may have unconsciously clammed up once I saw that smile. But I can’t be sure.

I do have moments of lucidity, mostly during the day, when it’s the turn of the chill to torment me. These moments allow me time to examine the hows and whys of my journey and what the revolution meant to me personally. However, Marseille, Lyon, Tunis, Rome, Paris, Blida and the other places I passed through seem appendages to my Martinique childhood and culture. Even when I’m lucid and thinking in French, I envision my childhood and Martinique. My palliative care for this life-limiting illness serves to dissect with geometric logic all that I experienced then. Self-definition is a comforting act, and this end of life nostalgia has me longing for my mother’s spicy red snapper court bouillon. The food is awful here.

Like the fever and the chill, the count has brought other memories, as if on cue. That’s the sure sign the end is near, having said often enough that memories are for when one’s time is up. It’s Sartre, who, as in so many things, put me on the trail of the fact that it’s the totality of life, existentially, the sum of what one has done from A to Z. At the end, you can write your life story. Not before. I am there, sustaining myself. That’s all! Or as Simone de Beauvoir would say, the only thing I’m not is dead. Not yet.

Last night, my sight returned, dimly to be sure, but I could see. My eyes were working again. My renewed sight brought me the kind of relief only reprieve from death can bring.  It was as if the hospital director had come in person to tell me I was going to live, a cure from the count was imminent. I was going to march in the Revolution’s victory parade. Afterward, I was going to resume my psychiatric practice. I was going to write the books I needed to write. The world would hear my warnings about colonialism. That took a while to register; but when it did, I gave myself up to the fairytale. The excitement levied a heavy tax, however. I paid by falling asleep without help from any capsule. The fever was not fooled and was at the rendezvous, unwilling to forgo its tryst with the count.

Last night’s fever had me lurching back to when I was ten years old; to a day in 1935 when my uncle arrived on the ship Colombie from Le Havre. He had brought a newspaper, L'Étudiant noir, that he had picked up in Paris. He came to our house, it seemed, less to get reacquainted after a couple of years in France than to talk about Aimé Césaire, the newspaper’s editor, whom he had met. What had excited him was that Pierre Aliker, André Aliker’s younger brother, was Césaire’s best friend. That titillated my parents. I, on the other hand, was intrigued because the year before, in January, I had gone with my brothers to Fond Bourlet to see the body of André Aliker bound head to foot washed up on the beach there. All of Martinique was there to gawk – after all it was the dead body of someone everyone knew. In memory, that had not happened before. It was the first real sens-ation of my life.  I remember too, that there wasn’t a person at the beach who did not assume that the béké, whose wife Aliker had denounced for tax fraud in his newspaper Justice, had killed him. Justice was the press organ of the Communist Party in Martinique.

The békés were the French colonists. They owned the economy of the island. But we seldom saw any of them. No one could tell you how many there were. They lived behind walls, overlooking the ocean. My brothers and I threw stones at their mango trees, but the walls prevented us from getting any of the fruits.

André Aliker on the other hand was from a family of farm laborers who worked on the békés’ banana and sugar cane plantations. He had volunteered to fight for France during the First World War and had been highly décorated. He would pass by our house every Thursday evening to sell his newspaper to my father.  He didn’t inconvenience anyone.  A “no thank you” and he would go to the next house to see if they wanted his paper there.  But communists unnerved people, especially slavery’s ghosts, the békés.

My education regarding the Master-Bondsman Dialectic didn’t begin with my reading of Hegel, but with personal experiences such as the béké’s murder of André Aliker on January 12, 1934. With that murder, the béké master demonstrated once more what happens to bondsmen who disregard their place. To be sure, the béké killed Aliker less for denouncing his wife than for trans- cending his bondsman status. To the béké, Aliker was a “traitor” for joining the Communist Party, a French organization hostile to the béké class’s domination of Martinique. Then too, joining the communist party was a sort of liberating act the béké couldn’t tolerate.  And although the communists sought only a social adjustment – not independence – it was enough to disturb the béké, who spent most of his time on the qui vive for any alteration to the status quo. Any mention of reparation and wealth redistribution was censured.

As far as my education was concerned, the communists then represented a France as hostile to the evil béké as the France of the French revolution had been.  I had wanted to be a playwright and a poet; that January in 1934, I wanted to be a revolutionary. Little did I dream it would be Algeria, a stop over during the war that would make me one. Twenty years later, the békés in Algeria put a price on my head just as the Martinique béké had on Aliker’s, the Belgians on Lumumba’s and the French on Moumié’s. They would have given a great deal to eliminate what I represented. Brutality is the favorite mode of communication used by békés everywhere. Besides being expedient, brutality embraces all the human emotions.

The fact that Césaire was a friend of Aliker made him a champion of the working class.  I would meet him a few years later when I started high school at the Lycée Victor Schœlcher overlooking the Bay of Fort de France.  “I’m a Marxist,” he told us.

My father read passages from L'Étudiant noir that my uncle had brought.“He’s not a communist,” my father announced after he had read Césaire’s editorial. In fact Césaire’s beautiful prose spoke against the communists’ social demands. What Césaire was advocating was racial consciousness. He called that Négritude. He had a way with words, Césaire did. I could listen to him speak in his singular fricative way and be mesmerized all day. He was asking the people of Martinique to become aware of their black race, embrace their Négritude, and underscore the fact that blacks were not white Frenchmen. In 1935 that was even less attractive than what the communists were advocating.  Can you imagine people going around clamoring that they were proud to be black? Césaire didn’t say how they would make that leap. Racial consciousness would be an end in itself, it seemed – not a dialectical progression. It wouldn’t be a stage in eliminating the béké’s domination of Martinique, for example.

But blacks can’t be anything other than black, and they should acknowledge that fact. This must be a stage in the evolution of blacks toward liberating themselves. Or so I thought, until I realized that Césaire never thought in terms of liberation. On the contrary, he thought in terms of remaining under French rule permanently. He was against assimilation to prevent the dissolution of people of African descent in Martinique in order to be full partners in the French colonial enterprise. Négritude would permit racial autonomy so that Martinique could have a seat at the table of the French empire. To secure that seat they would have to recognize they were black. That was it and nothing else. Had Césaire been familiar with Hegel’s Master - Bondsman Dialectic he would have realized the impossibility of the colonizer allowing the colonized to design such a social architecture. More likely, Césaire knew but discarded it, not trusting Martiniquans to go it alone without the colonial overseer. Black Skin, White Mask was in line with Négritude. The Algerian revolution rescued me from that arrangement. Césaire’s concoction to keep Martinique under French rule was a tragedy. Oddly, no one wrote with more insight into the malediction of colonialism. His Discourse on Colonialism is a masterwork. But Césaire spent his time until very recently doing what the French Communist Party told him to do. Then too, he spent his time pushing Martinique and the other minor remnants of the French empire deeper into the bosom of France. A supplicant, Césaire now spends his time begging De Gaulle for crumbs for Martinique. De Gaulle seems to take un plaisir fou double crossing Césaire. The more he begs the more De Gaulle screws him. What can I say except that I don’t understand it. Is Césaire writing for others, not himself or Martinique? Is this a case of parallel universes? Revolution by words? For others? Revolution is not a word, it’s a step!  There are others like Martinique that are still hobbling as best they can with assistance from the mother country. The French call them the assisted ones (les assistés). When France gets tired of these clingers on, or when it becomes economically weary of them, it will kick them out. I said something to that effect in an El Moudjahid piece two years ago. The truth is, France will have to kick them in the ass to make them grow up. Césaire could easily have done what Sékou Touré did three years ago, but Sékou Touré trusted the Guineans, Césaire had no faith Martinique could go it alone.

The communists on the other hand considered racial consciousness un-proletarian and contrary to international communism. They thought it would detract from French prolet- arian rule of Martinique whenever that occurred. That was always the catch with the communists: they valued theories over insurrection. They didn’t make revolution; they talked about it in perpetuum. (The communists practiced “bad faith” in Sartre’s assessment. They were pimps (maquereau) at heart, I would later discover; and not only because of their hostility toward the Algerian revolution.) As far as Césaire was concerned, the com- munists were no threat to French rule of Martinique. Consequently, when, he decided to enter politics, he honored his friend Aliker by letting the communists manage his candidacy for both mayor of Fort de France and deputy to the French National Assembly and promptly facilitated the drafting of the law pushing Martinique further down the colonial nadir by making it a department of France along with other scattered islands and French Guyana.

I often thought of Martinique over the years and felt guilty that I had not done more for my birthplace that had become synonymous with colonialism triumphant by 1960.  Then too, I considered that perhaps Césaire was right. Perhaps he had grasped that the gangrene of colonialism had penetrated too deeply to save the patient. Only amputation would do, but Césaire didn’t have the wherewithal to tell the patient the truth.

We had good relations with Cuba, and I asked my FLN superiors to transfer my ambassadorship from Ghana to Cuba. Unfortunately, my illness took center stage and there were urgent priorities such as finishing The Wretched of the Earth and getting medical treatment. Cuba is not that far. Perhaps I could have ventured by boat to Dominica and stepped over to Martinique. Isn’t that what I did in reverse back in 1943?

People will wonder how it came to pass that an anti-colonialism revolutionary risked his life crossing the Dominican Channel in a canoe during the Second World War to go fight for France? I’m not sure, but I think seeing a Martiniquan being beaten up in Fort de France’s great square, La Savane, by two Vichy sailors had something to do with it. 

He was an older man with a slight built and a ferocity worthy of a mongoose. I’d never seen anything like it. The sailors ran. The Martiniquan ran after them.  Having caught them he lavished blows on their prostrated backs until the stick he had picked up broke.  I was thrilled to see a Martiniquan fight back.  He spoke French with an accent suggesting he had spent time in France. An educated Martiniquan defending himself – France had taught him well. That impressed me and had enormous influence on me.  (When someone comments on my own Negro de Paris accent, I remember that event and the old Martiniquan in La Savane.)

Being enamored with the France that was against the fascists was another reason, given that the békés were on the side of the fascists. Then there was the fear that the United States was going to take over Martinique. The French made sure that people heard of the lynchings in America and dread the US coming to Martinique and instituting their method of Negro eradication. The people pictured La Savane being turned into a lynching field and they said no.  Also there was the persecution of the Jews in Europe that served as an impetus for the Vichy people administering Martinique to mistreat blacks. The lid had been lifted on persecution every-where. De Gaulle’s call to the colonies to come save the mother country from the people doing that resonated clearly with us and was an immediate incentive to go fight the fascists. We were called “dissidents” and we risked our lives to join General de Gaulle in the war against the fascists in Europe. We Martiniquans were the vanguard in France’s mission civilisatrice; and we were proud of our blond hair blue eye Gaul grandfathers. We were more civilized than other natives. We were the original évolués. Everyone knew, for example, that if you were from Martinique you were more cultured than someone from Guadeloupe. You were better educated, lighter skinned; spoke French with a closer to a Negro de Paris accent. De Gaulle represented the France that fed our illusion of being all those things – the good France. Pétain represented the opposite. He represented the France that defined us as no less than Africans if not Calibans. Consequently, one colonizer was better than another. Can you believe it? I often ask myself. Had the “empire” not responded to De Gaulle’s plea to come save the mother country, the colonial game would have been up for France. I was going to say no colonized person is wise or does the right thing. But I know better. Suffice to say that no one is born wise.

Mayotte Capecia, one of my primary characters in Black Skin, White Mask, must have set this up – letting me enjoy my dream about Martinique better to show up, floating above the statue of Josephine in La Savane, in a follow-up nightmare, to tell me how much I misunderstood my birthplace and women under colonialism. Of all the places to come to haunt me, she picked my deathbed.

What a nightmare it was! And I was as eager as a schoolboy to tell my wife about my latest encounter with La Capecia.

After talking about our son who is attending the kindergarten at Howard University in Washington and the debut of my book, The Wretched of the Earth, we talked about how fortunate that Sartre agreed to write the preface. It means that The Wretched of the Earth is going to be read. Anti-colonialists everywhere may gain from understanding the Algerian Revolution. Nothing could have made me happier than to see The Wretched of the Earth published before I die. Then we talked about the negotiations with the French at Évian-les-Bains. My wife didn’t linger there. It upsets me how much we’re giving away. Revolutionaries are not negotiators; they’re too eager to feel what it’s like to be in power. We said a bit about the count if only to acknowledge the obvious. Even a minor cancer has a billion cells, each one capable of malignancies.

When I wrote in Mask, “there is an aura of malediction surrounding Mayotte Capécia,” I didn’t realize how right I was. She had come to confront me again in one of the most bizarre dreams of my life. Like a quimboiseuse casting spells, Mayotte Capecia was berating me in Creole. I had bouts of blindness; and when I could understand what she was saying, I heard there’s more to come. Regaining my sight was a trick to tease me with hope. She then accused me of hiding behind Hegel’s dialectics to curse my birthplace. You’re full of French education and no different from the other blacks with French masks you so condemned, she shouted.  I barely understood what she was saying, she was speaking so fast. (I must also say that my Creole is rusty.) Next she asked me what I would’ve been without my French education.  How then could I criticize a woman like her in any book? She then cried, has your mother walked in my shoes? I shook my head, no. So, gratuitously, you picked a poor working-class woman to represent black women who eke out an existence. Who are you to call how I survive corruption? You say women like me are alienated. Of course we are. Will going to La Savane and clamoring that I’m black and proud feed my children? Remove the alienation you say I suffer from? I had a white grandmother. What of it? Deny her to pass your test?  Why shouldn’t I identify with her? Her kind can do more for me than your kind.  She’s on the side of the conquerors – the successful. Your side is wallowing in defeat begging dimes from sailors up and down La Savane. What else can we do other than to accommodate the French colonial occupation of Martinique? What are women like me supposed to do, starve? What about the children? Who’s going to feed them? The conquered?  Since you forget that Martinique is not only French dominated but male dominated as well, what’s your cure for Martiniquan women, doctor?  So I worked as a laundress.  It’s a job open to women like me.  Being a laundress is what makes me want to bleach my skin to be French? Someone who has never known hunger cannot lecture one who has on how to go about feeding herself and her children.

It was not really Mayotte Capecia who was berating me in a nightmare; it was my subconscious, using my delirium to hide behind.  The zeal to make sense of things required that I expend what energy I had left to look into this occurrence, once I could focus.  Mayotte Cap- ecia or my subconscious was right – I should have said more about women under colonialism in the Moslem world and in Africa. We can beat the French, but unless the revolution obliterates religious, racial, political, class – all social barriers, it will not be successful.  Just as important, unless women cease to be marginalized and disdained as second-class citizens – beasts of burden in Africa’s case – Algeria and the rest of Africa will continue to be like horses whose legs are tied to inhibit wandering. If it turns out that way, Algerian and African development will have no chance. It will be worse than under French colonialism because it will be sanctified by independence – a new permanent socio-religious ecosystem – a culture of underdevelopment that’ll last a hundred years. 

I was so keen to dissect the trauma colonization caused the native’s psyche that I shortchanged the Mayottes Capecias.  I was so keen that I missed what was in front of me.  In retrospect, I now know there’s no successful uprising unless the Mayottes Capecias are part of the struggle. Without an aware Mayotte Capecia, we’re only getting rid of the colonizer without getting rid of the disease the colonizer imposed when he came.

I asked my wife, “Why would my subconscious be questioning me at this stage?” I told her about the concept of dépalé in the Martiniquan Caribbean context.Dépalé is not just to divagate and say unreasonable things. In the Martiniquan Caribbean context it means to feel guilty for what one has said or done – to confess a wrong done to someone using witch- craft. Given how influenced I was by my Martiniquan Caribbean background it must be what I was doing – dépalé.

As perceptive as ever and eager to divert my mind from the count, Josie answered that it probably had to do with my overheated brain and what I’d learned since I wrote Black Skin, White Mask. My failure to examine in depth the place of the Arab and African woman in the colonial enterprise was due to the fact that I did not give women the space they deserved in the struggle because I knew nothing of the struggle at the time. I was into Aimé Césaire’s Négritude and, then too, Martinique and Lyon were not Algeria. “Your criticism of Mayotte was valid because the choices she made reinforced colonialism.  She acted against herself. It was suicide. There’s no way to rationalize that.”

I thought but didn’t tell her, only a revolution can raise the native above the despondency of surviving as best as he or she can under colonialism, and I told her once I had a bout of energy that what Mayotte said about not knowing what else to do was true. After all, survival was her primary concern. Didn’t Sartre say that existence preceded essence? She pursued existence, as all biological beings must. Starving people may rebel against their circumstance out of desperate hunger, but they do not instigate a revolution. A war of liberation is made of more than hungry nat- ives. The canon of revolution is straight- forward on that. Revolution is an ant’s work; requiring lots of patient dedication, for one must move very slowly sometimes, but advance all the same toward liberation.

Having to submit to colonialism and resist what tradition says is a woman’s place, Mayotte adjusted to her circumstance with expediency and pragmatism. To achieve essence she’d have to undergo an acte de conscience to stand up to tradition, in addition to developing an anti-colonial deontology. No dialectical progression is possible; no linking to history occurs, until that leap is made. Before joining history, Mayotte Capecia had to fulfill her individuality by finding consciousness as a colonial subject. Without that acte she remained fodder for colonialism and for intellectuals like me to heap scorn on. How does a poor alienated person, casualty of colonialism, acquire the awareness not only to question colonialism but also to join the insurgency? How does the native not only act but take responsibility for his action. That’s where I made my mistake about Mayotte Capecia.

Mayotte Capecia was not even aware she was a captive of colonialism. Human beings are not born wise. She would have to be informed. But she had no time for education; she was too busy staying one step ahead of starvation.  Her attraction to Europeans was not just a matter of self-worth; it was a matter of economic survival and the success of colonialism. I should also have addressed the issue of women as sexual commodities and sources of influence between colonizer and native.

Accustomed as she was to my practice of dictating, Josie took out her notebook and began to write just like the old days.

It’s not enough to say that life is more challenging for women of color under colonialism. I should have elaborated on the alien- ating power of colonialism specific to the woman of color and the reason her life is so much more dysfunctional than a man’s.

The oncologist comes once a day, late in the afternoon, to give me the count. He speaks in a neutral voice and doesn’t seem to be a racist. Perhaps American racism is expressed differently.  Perhaps he has no need to be one. The count is enough.  I don’t usually think in such terms, but I’m in America now and America is synonymous with racism of the lynching kind.  (My wife can attest how reluctant I was to come here. I would not have allowed it if I hadn’t thought that there was more to be done. I desperately wanted to march in the grand parade at the close of the Revolution. Then too, I had some books to write. I was also aware that my usefulness was running its course in Algeria; and having observed where the rest of Africa was heading, I was eager to put to use my expertise: to shout that they were deathly misguided in decolonizing according to the colonizers’ agenda. Recognizing that the African elites were Africanizing colonialism didn’t help me get better. How horrific is Africa’s future going to be? I’m thankful I’ll not see the horror of coups d’état en série and dictators for life all over Africa.)

I got distracted from my train of thoughts. That’s an effect of the count, and it annoys me to no end, but I can do very little about it. Then too, there’s nothing like reflecting on the future of Africa to send my mind into a downspin. I don’t indulge myself when my wife is here. If she sees tears in my eyes, she knows I have Ramdane (Abane) on my mind… Was I naïve to assume that revolutionaries keep their eyes on the revolution and on nothing else? Is that why when FLN conspirators killed Ramdane I was so distraught and couldn’t recover? I didn’t say anything, but everyone knew how it was with me. Ramdane was a brother to me. Moreover, he was as knowledgeable strategically about the Algerian Revolution as was Lenin about the Russian Revolution. Had the Bolsheviks killed Lenin, there would still have been a Russian Revolution, but it would have been ragged, its left flank up in the air because the Bolsheviks would have been disoriented without their compass, their single-minded leader. The assassination of Ramdane undermined the Algerian Revolution’s center of gravity, the political wing in Algeria itself.  Then too Ramdane was farsighted: he wanted all Algerians to be part of the revolution. It never recovered. I was an outsider. I was not born in Algeria. Let’s face it. I was not even a Moslem. Kabyles think Ramdane was killed because of his ethnicity. After his assassination, I became an unmitigated outsider. I wrote to escape.  If Ramdane were there, Josie’s resolve to remain in Algeria would please me. It’s not the same without Ramdane’s political wing as the vang -uard of the revolution.

She knows how anxious that makes me and is able to distract me. Anyway, I was ruminating about being in America now. The American Negro entertainers in France I met when I was in Lyon spoke of their country in lynching terms. They sang, “Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees,” or something to that effect, with amazement in their eyes.  But they loved France. ‘Your white man is superior to mine, they would say laughing. If laughter is not a sign of bitterness, I don’t know what is. They love another bigoted country because they wish it to be less racist than theirs. Why is that? “We don’t get lynched if we’re seen with a French woman,” they always explain. That seems to be the critical test – being seen with a white woman and living to tell the tale. I wanted to include a chapter about American Negroes in France in my Black Skin, White Mask dissertation. I planned to examine the relative perceptions racism imposed on us, but as I would have had to assess the way American Negroes were treated in other countries, I decided to omit the chapter and concentrate instead on what I already studied.

The count is in. It’s perceptibly higher than yesterday’s. The latest mini-remission is continuing. However, the accumulation of a depressed count is inexorably taking me to the existential end. No way around that. I wish to have seen Algeria independent. I have no doubt whatever that we have defeated colon- ialism there the only way it should be done.  Having overcome France with the same means they used against us for over a hundred and thirty years, we have liberated ourselves physically and most crucially mentally.  May these thoughts prove prophetic!

I am feeling energized by the scrap of remission left, and I want to reflect on colonialism’s edifice. The end will come too soon anyway.

The settler does not go to Africa, the Caribbean or any other place as a gift from on high.  He goes there to exploit the natives, their land, their labor, etc. Exploitation is colonialism’s business, and the settler uses panoplies of tools to achieve his goals. Not the least of which is the color of his skin. To hear him it’s as if it stems from God. But he can never have enough people on the ground to control the colony. By what astonishing mystery does he accomplish that feat then? He makes the native his auxiliary, by turning the native against himself.  Having taken away his freedom, he cowers the native with his guns and other weapons such as his church. There’s no colonialism without force, for colonialism and force are marasa (identical twins). The native turns into a patient suffering from aboulia in that he or she is powerless to act freely. By the time the native has recovered, the colonizer has made what he is and what he represents the nirvana of achievement. No one can be like the colonizer. He’s the ever-inaccessible attainment. To be human, the native must become European. A rebellious native is an African savage. A Caliban. The native will pretzel himself ad infinitum to be considered worthy of his colonizer and hundred of thousands will die in France’s wars with Germany. But it’s for naught. The colonizer understands too well that if he allows the native to become his equal, the colonial enterprise itself ceases to exist.

It’s only during the transition to neo-colonialism that the colonizer makes a pretense of accepting the native as an equal. By then it’s too late, for the native who has not forced the colonizer to give him back his independence is but a leaf in the colonizer’s wind.

If he attains self-consciousness, the native finds it obligatory to repair his self-worth, a responsibility that compels him to activate a rebellion to force the colonizer off his land. With that decisive act, he not only removes his oppressor; he gains back his humanity through conquering back his freedom and his land. The upshot is a native reinvigorated internally and externally – a purified native. On the other hand, if the native doesn’t fight to regain his self-respect; if passivity isn’t a strategic ruse but a dependency, he remains the colonizer’s accomplice in the colonial enterprise. I remember reading something Eleanor Roosevelt said about consenting to be abused. I thought about what she said for a long time and made a note of it.

The native’s spirit depends, therefore, on his action. His spirit can become solid or remain frail. The native has nothing to lose but his subjugation. In clinical terms, colonialism affects negatively the native’s brain. Excessive level of stress hormones plays havoc with the native’s behavior. Oppressed people are perm- anently on the edge of revolt because inside of them simmers the innate need to be free. Powerless against the settler the native turns his ire against himself and his community. Powerful in insurrection, the settler is his target. I have no data to reference, but I’d wager that forensic evidence would show that the revolution decreases the native’s stress hormones considerably.

I sought to tell the Africans not to purchase pseudo-independences at the expense of their self-respect. I told Patrice Lumumba personally, and I told conference participants in Africa and Europe the parable of the two birds with one stone repeatedly: When the peasants lay hands on a gun, the old myths fade, and one by one the taboos are overturned: a fighter’s weapon is his humanity. For in the first phase of the revolt killing is a necessity: killing a European is killing two birds with one stone, eliminating in one go oppressor and oppressed: leaving one man dead and the other man free.

I can hear myself being repetitive. I think I noted already that had the communists been less rigid they’d have conquered the world? Rigidity and Moscow doomed them. I don’t have the energy to be succinct. Regardless, I need to move on; it’s not like I have all the time in the world.

In Blida I saw how terrified settlers became once the natives started to use guns against them. It was traumatic. For the first time they gave the native a second look. The native had become a human being. The game was clearly up. The native had ceased to be acquiescent to colonialism’s credo and European domination, as he had ceased to be a thing. A native with a gun is cause for ontological fear in the settlers’ community. A prey that turns against a hunter is an awe-inspiring creature. He is no longer a colonized man. Catharsized, he is a native who now respects himself with an eagerness as bright as the Algerian sunshine. “They’re no longer on our side,” settlers told me. “They’re fighting to be independent,” they cried. “We thought they wanted us here. What can they do without us?” Such fears often cause psychotic breaks with reality. Suddenly they question the ethics of colonialism. What’s the explanation for this pathology? Discovering that the native has become a freedom fighter instead of a passive serf after so many years of European authority is an irretrievable shock for the settler. The Algerian slogan “a suitcase or a coffin” sent shockwaves through the settler communities. Some committed suicide, such was the astonishment at not only losing their sense of superiority but at the distinct possibility that the natives were about to do to them what they had done to the natives.  I explained to those who came to the hospital that the natives were not interested in revenge – they were beyond that. Hatred wasn’t the idea. They just wanted their humanity back. This was a revolution. Anti-colonialism is the 20th century’s humanism. There isn’t a day I don’t recite these first couple of lines from Sartre’s Black Orpheus. Occasionally, I’d also use them to ask settlers, “What did you expect?” When you removed the gag that was keeping these black mouths shut, what were you hoping for? That they would sing your praises? Did you think that when they raised themselves up again, you would read adoration in the eyes of these heads that our fathers had forced to bend down to the very ground?

I love those three questions from Sartre . . . So true. So appropriate to a revolution rising. Literature is replete with such assertive questions.  I also like Shakespeare’s to wrong the wronger till he render right. I recited it numerous times, to the delight of my FLN colleagues.

Tell me who the settlers are and I’ll tell you what their level of racial animosity toward the native is. It’s when I became acquainted with Sartre’s Anti-Semite and Jew that I fully grasped where the settlers’ racism came from and the extent of their low self-esteem and resultant viciousness toward the native. If you want to understand one of the principal etiologies of colonialism, look into what Sartre talks about in Anti-Semite and Jew. Sartre’s statement about anti-Semitism held my attention, and I memorized it – I memorized most everything Sartre wrote – to have him on hand as needed:  Anti-Semitism is not merely the joy of hating; it brings positive pleasures too.  By treating the Jew as an inferior and pernicious being, I affirm at the same time that I belong to the elite . .  . There is nothing I have to do to merit my superiority, and neither can I lose it. It is given once and for all . . . anti-Semitism is a poor man’s snobbery.

To be sure, the Europeans who became settlers and colonialists did not come from the upper crust of European society. They came from petit bourgeois lower classes from all over Europe, encouraged by the mother country to boost the number of whites in the colony. Perforce opportunists to the core, they offered themselves to whoever promised them a sense of belonging somewhere. Colonialism has no advocates more dedicated to its dogma. Many sought posts in militias and vigilante groups that favored the strict enforcement of colonial policies toward the native. They were also hired as overseers and colonial controllers of one kind or another. These settlers defend their racial prerogatives with maniacal diligence. You can count on the petit bourgeois to follow the schema that will enhance his self-esteem and offer him protection against his lower class status.

Sartre’s “poor man’s snobbery” manifested itself among this group of Europeans in ways even the colonial administration considered extreme – going out of one’s way to humiliate natives, for example. These settlers have a field day abusing Algerians. It’s all right to abuse them because the Algerian is a rat, anima- lization being a branch of racism. What harm could there be in abusing a rat. Rat then bec-omes ratonnade – rat-killing. Kasbah onslaughts are ratonnades.

These settlers seemed also to experience “positives pleasures” in destroying the native’s property, being especially fond of uprooting the native’s olive trees. One told me that olive trees represented Christianity and should not be grown on land outside of European control.

The one you assume is on the side of the oppressed instead finds his identity in Sartre’s “poor man’s snobbery.” The petit bourgeois cuts his own throat to practice this “snobbery.” Understanding why doesn’t make it less baffling. No clinical explanation can ease this feeling. Racism is the most perverse of human proclivities.

All petty bourgeois are not without education. Camus was not without education, and he was deservedly so an eminent writer. His Myth of Sisyphus is a tour de force. But he too was unable to see beyond his European origin, and he could not support an Algeria that wanted to be free. He criticized our response to the ratonnades and said that our reaction was an excuse. Like Aimé Césaire and many others, he thought in terms of improving colonialism, like an oncologist who thinks in terms of maintaining a cancer and not curing it. Sartre was right about him.

Another episode of epistaxis has begun. It appears that the latest remission has come to an end. I think it’s the last. While it lasted I was even able to walk. I’ll not walk again.  My thoughts are scattered. I hope I don’t lose them completely, though. I want to believe they’ll lead me to what I’d have liked to address once the fighting phase of the revolution is concluded.

First the women! It was not enough to say that they were playing a part in the revolution. I should have considered their lives in light of the revolution and what those lives would become afterward. I missed the once in a lifetime opportunity to explain that without equality all the sacrifices will be lost. Women, farmers, Berbers, Kabyles, no one should be left out of the revolution. The independence of Algeria depends on the exertion of all Algerians. That’s what Ramdane Abane taught me – that they should all be on the frontline. They posses the inherent incentive to be rid of what’s hurting them, be it a toothache or an oppressor! If we truly want them included, they’ll be included. After all, what is a revolution, if not the last shall be first.

Roberto Holden came to see me.  I’m too far-gone to remember what I told him.  I’m sure, however, that I repeated what I said before – defeat colonialism. As there’s no equivalency between freedom and subservience, one can- not go overboard in considering what the native must do. He must fight colonialism to eradicate it totally. Don’t sit at a table with the Portuguese until that’s done. Follow Amilcar Cabral, the Ramdane Abane of Guinea-Bissau. He’s the only leader outside of Algeria who has a comprehensive understanding of the meaning of nationhood. He also appreciates that national liberation is not only armed struggle. It is also a cultural act, and he knows the value of the gun to liberate the native’s psyche. He’s studied the Portuguese and knows how much they need the colonies for a semblance of significance. Colonialism is to the Portuguese and the Belgians what anti-Semitism is to the lower class that Sartre talks about. Portugal is poor, but it has South Africa and the United States to sustain it. It will be a slog to rid Africa of them. Holden should stop his tribalism and concentrate on the national liberation of Angola by working to unite all insurgent groups opposed to Portuguese colonialism in Africa.  Tribalism is so convenient to fall back on: it’s the sword of Damocles over Africa’s head. No one who has tribalism on the brain should lead a liberation movement. Forget the Congo. The murder of Lumumba has sealed the fate of the Congo. Lumumba made the mistake of being so naïve or so arrogant as to believe he could gain independence without defeating the business of colonialism in the Congo. The independence the Belgians handed out to him isn’t worth the parchment it’s written on – it’s a colonialist independence, not a native one.  I’m convinced it’s better to remain under the colonialist’s boots until the revolution than do what Lumumba did.  Revolution is not for parchment, no, not until the gun has had its way with generations of colonial authority and restored the native to his rightful place – not until the last is first. Only Algeria had what it took to defeat colonialism the way it should be defeated in Africa. We learned that truces were traps. That’s why we will never acquiesce to a ceasefire until independence is certified.

 

Agitated due to hypoxemia.

A nasal cannula is inserted in my nose in response to the hypoxemia. Cerebral hypoxia was the cause. The additional oxygen has given me a lift. It’s like a tonic, and I’m less agitated.

Where was I? The French, of course. The French will do their damnedest to show that the communists, the Egyptians, who knows? deceived the Algerians. They will claim that France was about to give us full equality and spend whatever was necessary to make Algeria a paradise.

Look how enraged De Gaulle was when Sékou Touré told him that Guinea preferred freedom in poverty to opulence in slavery. And look what De Gaulle did to the people of Guinea after they voted for independence. Settlers do not give up colonialism graciously. Most of them are petit bourgeois prone to small mindedness, as quick with racism and all manner of denigration as taking revenge. French expats in West Africa went so far as to create a so-called National Liberation Front of Guinea to take Guinea back in the name of colonialism. How much harsher will they be with us who have won a full-fledged revolution against them and forced De Gaulle to bow to the evidence that colonialism had been crushed in Algeria. How many National Liberation Fronts of Algeria will they lay for us? Guinea is a preview. There they endeavored to destabilize it by beggaring the people, anticipating that they would go on strike and compel Sékou Touré to take extralegal measures to safeguard the country and his rule. He did. Sékou Touré is not made of what it takes to withstand this kind of colonial ambush. He thinks plastering the country with vapid slogans makes revolution. He’ll use the attacks against him to isolate the country to perpetuate his rule and become a dictator. In so doing he’ll prove the colonizer’s case. It’s 1961 and already he has created a one-party totalitarian state. Fortu- nately, he has Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah to steady him. I know Nkrumah well. He tried to teach me English. He carries the hope of Africa on his shoulders.

 

Irregular breathing. Meditative.

Will my Algerian brothers be ready for the onslaught from the petit bourgeois?

We should be ready for them to do to us what they did to the Guineans. They’re going to blow up facilities to deprive Algeria of basic services, and they will try to collapse us economically. We should prepare by storing a six-month supply of water and food to withstand the offensive that’s sure to come. Then too, we must protect Pieds-Noirs and Harkis from retribution lest the French massacre our people to discredit us. Self-interest obliging, and De Gaulle’s personal feelings toward Arabs, the forces of neo-colonialism will do all in its power to show how misguided we were and how much better Algeria was under colonialism.

How will my Algerian brothers react to liberation? Modesty will be in order; for while liberation will restore our birthright to self-government and ensure an independent future, it will not erase the colonial past – it will not expunge the legacy of ratonnades and the other brutalities colonialism inflicts on the native. Revolutions are not magic wands. Humility will also go a long way toward making the people appreciate that a unique opportunity to reform society has been entrusted to them.

If the chance to reform toward a just society isn’t seized, all the sacrifices will be for naught; the revolution will become a footnote, and De Gaulle will have his day. Then too, we must not delude ourselves into assuming that just because the French are encumbered by De Gaulle’s perspective that France must let us go to remain “European” they’re done with us. De Gaulle breathes vindictiveness. He’s not going to take lightly that the Algerian Revolution triggered the dissolution of the French empire in Africa, and that Berbers and Arabs imposed on him. It is true that some African French leaders, Houphouet-Boigny and Senghor, for example, feel as De Gaulle does. Our Revolution disrupted their vision of remaining under French rule. The Algerian revolution inspired natives everywhere. My last good laugh may have been when I heard that De Gaulle reminded Senghor that the French were a “European people of the white race, of Greek and Latin culture and of Christian religion.”  Senghor’s hatred for Algeria knew no bound.

 

Irregular breathing pattern intensified.

I should have thought of dear Josie when writing about women in the colonial situation. What will become of her after the revolution? She told me she wouldn’t go back to Lyon. She was planning on staying in Algeria.  Would my name be sufficient to guarantee her safety and my son’s?

 

Another pneumonia diagnosed.

To die in America like this  .  .  .  damn.

Twilight is upon this day . . . Algeria, the damned of colonialism I think of.

Just is the Fellagha battling for his humanity, and the Fellagha who has died for his.

 

Coma at the door.

I see Fort de France . . . le flamboyant (poinciana tree) in La Savane I sat under dreaming about my mother’s court bouillon.

I love you, Josie.

..  . The redeeming faith is that as long as there’s colonialism there’ll always be a Fellagha named Frantz Fanon  .  .  .  a Fellagha.  .  .

 

*

 

Author’s note: I relied less on Fanon’s El Moudjahid articles and books than on discussions with people who spent time with him. His wife, of course. She was there until the end in Bethesda, MD. Bertene Juminer of Guyana, also a physician and a writer, who was with Fanon in Tunisa, and who had a lot to say about Fanon’s views and his work from discussions he and others had with him. In Cayenne, we spend days talking about Fanon. Aimé Césaire, who spoke of how it was in Martinique at the time Fanon was his student at the Lycée Victor Schœlcher in Fort de France in 1942. Leon Damas, who was in Rome at the time Fanon was meeting with Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.  His brother Joby Fanon, who wrote a magistral book about him.  There were others. I regret having missed the opportunity to speak to Leopold S. Senghor about Fanon’s application to work in Senegal when I was in Dakar. Given Senghor’s views of Algeria, it would have been interesting to speak to him about Fanon and the revolution.  All errors are mine. Listening to tapes of Fanon talk was I must say an eye opener.

 

 

 

Interview with

Josie Fanon

 

The interview with Mme Josie Fanon took place on November 16, 1978 at Howard University’s African-American Center. 

 

 

cf: What are the reasons for your visit to the United States this year?

Josie Fanon: I came back this year because of an invitation from the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid, which is organizing throughout the year a series of homages and commemorations to black revolutionaries, notably Paul Roberson, Nelson Mandela of the A.N.C., President Nkrumah, etc.

It is in this context that the committee decided to pay tribute to Frantz and invited me.

 

 

cf: How do you feel about this second trip to the United States?

Josie Fanon: From a personal point of view, I am a bit shaken to be back in the U.S. because it is where my husband died. I am also interested in observing the black civil rights movements in the US, examine the new perspectives and discuss what the hopes are.

 

 

cf: You were in the U S previously in 1961. When exactly in 1961 were you here and what were your reasons for that trip?

Josie Fanon: I came to the United States in November 1961 because my husband was hospitalized at the N.I.H Bethesda Hospital. The Algerian Provisional Government (APG) had sent him here for medical care. One year earlier, while representing the provisional government in Ghana, doctors diagnosed him with leukemia.  They first sent him to Moscow for treatment, but the disease worsened; and the APG, with the Tunisian government’s assistance, asked the Americans for help. At the time, they believed that the best medical facilities were in the United States.  It was under these circumstances that he came to the U.S.

 

However, you should note that he did not come here of his own accord. In fact, he was not in favor of this solution. As a black man, a militant, and an anti-imperialist revolutionary fighter, he was not comfortable going to the United States.  But really, he had no choice.  He was very ill – in fact, he was dying.

 

 

cf: You were telling me when we passed through the campus gate, that your son, Olivier, had spent some time at Howard University in 1961. Would you say more about that?

Josie Fanon: My son was a toddler at the time and because I had to take care of my husband – I was here more than a month – I visited Frantz everyday and spent many nights at the hospital with him. During that time, we enrolled our small son at Howard University’s kindergarten.

 

 

cf: what is your occupation today?

Josie Fanon: I have been for sometime a professional journalist. I worked from 1962 – the year of Algeria’s independence – until last year [1977] for the Algerian press. I also worked with the Algerian Front for National Liberation in the information section.  Since 1977, I have worked for a Pan-African magazine, Demain L’afrique /Tomorrow Africa published monthly in Paris.  That’s the reason I live in Paris now.

 

 

cf: How did you meet Frantz Fanon?

Josie Fanon: I met him in Lyon (in the southeast of France). We were both students. He was in medical school; I was in liberal arts. We met at a theatre. He was 23; I was 18.

 

 

cf: Speaking of Lyon, would you retrace for us the course of Fanon’s life?

Josie Fanon: When I met Frantz, he had been already in France about four years. Understand that he was from Martinique; born in a French colony, he had assimilated all the cultural values of France. This pathology is common to the people of the French-speaking Antilles. Even today, these colonies are the territories where French colonialism has been the most over-emphasized, most perfidious, and most noxious.

 

In the first stage of Frantz’s life, while still very young, he joined the Free French Forces during the Second World War. This meant that for a time, he identified with France. However, when he went to France and confronted French society’s racism, he began to understand and he analyzed his personal and his countrymen’s experiences. The result of this analysis is in “Black Skin, White mask” published in 1952. He was twenty-five at the time.

 

During that time, he was also a medical student, specializing in psychiatry. At the completion of his studies, he wanted to go back to the Antilles or to Africa to look for work.  For administrative reasons, he was unable to get a position in Martinique, Guade- loupe, or Senegal; so he picked Algeria, which was still in Africa.  This was in 1953, one year before the start of the Algerian revolutionary armed struggle. He had already made contact with Algerian nationalists; so that when the revolution began, he was already integrated in the revolutionary movement. There is nothing surprising here. Many wonder why Fanon went to Algeria or what relationship could there have been between a man from Martinique and Algeria.

 

The answer is simple: there exists a fundamental fraternity between all colonized people and between people colonized by the same foreign power. The Algerian revolution was not alien to Fanon.

 

In 1957, the French government expelled us from Algeria. We went to Tunisia, where the Front for National Liberation maintained its external branch and where they later created the Algerian Revolution’s Provisional Gover- nment.

 

Fanon worked within the F.N.L and the Provisional Government.  He was also interested in news dissemination. In 1960, they appointed him the Provisional Government’s Ambassador to Accra.

 

We can retrace Fanon’s itinerary. From his condition as an individual under French rule to his consciousness as a black man through his experience in a colonial society – up to a superior level and his adherence to the wider cause of the Algeria Revolution and still another level, the African Revolution in general.

 

Even before his ambassadorship to Accra, Fanon had taken part in a number of African people’s conferences, including the first one held in 1958. During the conference, he made contacts with other

African leaders of that period notably Patrice Lumumba, Felix Moumié of the Cameroon and President Kwame Nkrumah. The field of his experience and action widened and resulted in the writing of The Wretched of the Earth.

 

 

cf: Do you know what were Fanon’s plans after the publication of The Wretched of the Earth?

Josie Fanon: It is always difficult to say what an individual like Fanon would have done if he had not died when he did.  In his life, two things interchanged constantly. He would certainly have maintained his political activities.  However, I cannot say with certainty where.  No doubt, he would have stayed in Algeria – at least for a while. He had fought for its independence and because Algeria was a country very dear to him.  This is, in fact, what I have done.  The other important factor was his scientific interests.  He was a psychiatrist and had never abandoned his research in that or other medical fields.  He always practiced medicine even while involved in politics and writing.

 

 

cf: He was not what you would call a professional revolutionary then.

Josie Fanon: That’s right, he was not a professional revolutionary. He was a man very much opened to reality. In fact, everything he wrote he based on his personal experiences not on abstract theories.

 

 

cf: In the context of recent African history, how would you judge Fanon’s work since his death?

Josie Fanon: All that has happened in Africa since independence in 1960 - 62 demonstrates the accuracy of Fanon’s points of view. Oppressed and colonized people cannot free themselves other than through armed struggle.  That was the case of the Portuguese colonies and the case of what is now taking place in South Africa.  How can there be a negotiated solution for majority rule there? The conflicts of the past few years in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia demonstrate that fact.  To pretend that blacks can achieve majority rule there through a negotiated solution is an illusion and a trick. Africans in that part of the continent will have to wage a very prolonged and protracted armed struggle. Moreover, I do not believe that they can succeed without the solidarity of the black American people.

 

 

cf: In the context of recent African history, how would you judge Fanon’s work since his death?

Josie Fanon: All that has happened in Africa since independence in 1960 - 62 demonstrates the accuracy of Fanon’s points of view. Oppressed and colonized people cannot free themselves other than through armed struggle.  That was the case of the Portuguese colonies and the case of what is now taking place in South Africa.  How can there be a negotiated solution for majority rule there? The conflicts of the past few years in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia demonstrate that fact.  To pretend that blacks can achieve majority rule there through a negotiated solution is an illusion and a trick. Africans in that part of the continent will have to wage a very prolonged and protracted armed struggle. Moreover, I do not believe that they can succeed without the solidarity of the black American people.

 

 

cf: Can you say a few words about Fanon’s relationship with the Négritude poets, Aimé Césaire and Leon Damas?

Josie Fanon: Fanon had been Césaire’s student in Martinique. For him, Césaire, Damas, and others like them were very important in his intellectual evolution as regard to the consciousness of his own négritude.  He admired Césaire and Damas greatly. Nevertheless, he had already understood that, politically, Césaire could have done much more for the independence of Martinique. Independence is the sine qua non of political freedom.  Even if neo-colonialism is active in a country, it is preferable to colonialism and total dependence. National liberation is a first step; without it, very little can be done. Without independence, nation building cannot begin.

 

 

cf: Going back to Fanon’s birthplace – the French speaking Antilles, what is the colonial situation there?

Josie Fanon: When Fanon left Martinique, conditions there were not as clearly defined as they are today. He never stopped thinking of Martinique.  I think he would be more concerned today, because underneath their departmental status, Martinique, Guadeloupe and Guyane are just French colonies with another name. I believe that he would put all his energy in the service of his country (Martinique) and the Caribbean region in general

 

 

cf: When The Wretched of the Earth was published, Jean Paul Sartre prefaced it.  In subsequent editions, Sartre’s preface is removed. Why?

Josie Fanon:  It was through my initiative that Sartre’s preface to The Wretched of the Earth was removed.

 

Let's say that from a western point of view, it is a good preface.  Sartre understood the subject matter in The Wretched of the Earth.

 

But in June 1967, when Israel declared war on the Arab countries, there was a great pro-Zionist movement in favor of Israel among western (French) intellectuals.  Sartre took part in this movement.  He signed petitions favoring Israel.  I felt that his pro-Zionist attitudes were incompatible with Fanon’s work.

 

Whatever Sartre’s contribution may have been in the past, the fact that he did not understand the Palestinian problem reversed his past political positions.

 

 

cf: A great deal has been written about Fanon. If you have kept up with what has been written, what is your reaction ?

Josie Fanon: Indeed a number of Western intellectuals have written about Fanon. In my opinion, they have not completely understood his works.  There is still much more to be written.  I think, however, that it is in Africa and here in the US in the African-American community that valid works about Fanon will be carried out.

 

 

cf:  Some critics say there is a fundamental contradiction between Fanon’s works, what he stood for, and the fact that he married a white French woman.  How do you answer these critics?

Josie Fanon: It is my opinion, and I believe that it was also his – otherwise he would not have contracted nor remained in this interracial marriage – that  there was no contradiction.  In his works, he states clearly that it is through a revolutionary process that we can understand and resolve racial problems.  Otherwise, we find ourselves in dead-end situations that are impossible to resolve – the sort that we can never put to rest.  For example, critics can reproach a black American for marrying an Arab woman because her skin is lighter than his is and so on, and so on.

In a certain phase of the struggle, such a position can have for a time a positive and beneficially unifying effect.  However, it remains a limitation.  We are not going to limit each other to race! Otherwise, where is the revolution?

We can draw a parallel between such personal problems and the concept of Négritude, which Fanon analyzed.  In his opinion – and this was later proven true – Négritude was but a stage in the dialectical process of the black man’s struggle for liberation.

END

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Josie Fanon

 

Josie Fanon 1931 – 1989 was a passionate and meticulous journalist, who paid close attention to events unfolding in Africa. Honest, opened, disappointment in what Algeria had become demoralized her. Before taking her own life, she reportedly said to her husband's ghost, "Ah! if you knew what they did to this  beautiful Algeria that deserved all the sacrifices”

Josie Fanon committed suicide at El Biar, Algers. She is buried in El Kettar cemetery in Algers. Born Marie-Joseph Dublé in Lyon, France, she was 58 years old.


Submitted: October 05, 2018

© Copyright 2021 Christian Filostrat. All rights reserved.

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