Violence and violence alone can cauterize
the absolute wound of colonialism.
The Wretched of the Earth
Violence. Frantz Fanon's name is synonymous with the word, and for good reason.
Fanon's writings on Third World insurrection and violence have defined the anti-imperialist global insurgency the past half-century. The bards of imperial scholarship long ago concluded history was not likely to render Fanon's formidable corpus of theories irrelevant. Nor did discrediting Fanon as an exotic psychiatrist from the remote Lesser Antilles island of Martinique, impress them as a serviceable strategy.
As if by default, a reductionist project emerged. Outfitted with trap doors and enclosures, its design contemplated containing Fanon's growing subversive influence. It was conceded that Fanon voiced the aspirations of the oppressed, who compelled by colonial domination and circumstance, employed violence to secure their independence. When the high tide of anti-colonial struggles receded, it was thought the curse of Fanon would wash out to sea. That didn't happen. History in this instance, was not lies agreed upon by scholars.
Fanon remains without peer among modern thinkers in elaborating a theory of violence that at once upended the corridors of Western academia, while infecting Third World liberation movements' with the contagion of revolutionary warfare.
Argument No. 5, Fanon on Violence, Destruction, and Creation, reaffirms New Black Nationalists' support for the fundament and continued relevancy of Fanon's multi-faceted theory on violence. FAN-5 outlines a broad framework to critically evaluate his writings on violence as part of the ongoing process to adopt the compendium of Fanon's theories as our guiding philosophical system.
The circulating concern of Fanon Argument No. -5, is upholding Fanon's construct on violence as a vital creative force. FAN-5 also modifies elements of Fanon's theory on violence contingent with new global conditions, and our analysis of the revolutionary process within America's settler state. Further, FAN-5 expands the writ of imperialist violence to maintain dominion over the Global South to include the growing phenomenon of Necro-politics.
Finally, FAN-5 scripts out an abbreviated case study of Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress's use of violence in South Africa's national liberation struggle. The case study has been included as part of our Fanon Global South Africa Study Project, and directly relates to the application of Fanon's theory on violence in a settler state.
To these ends, Fanon Argument No. 5 addresses Fanon's construct on the role of violence in the following areas:
- Violence and the Collective Catharsis Theory
- The Use of Violence as Determined by Historical and Cultural Conditions
- South Africa & Mandela's Middle Course on the Use of Violence
- Violence and the Development of National Consciousness
- Violence and the New Age of Necro-politics
As a philosopher-psychiatrist, Fanon was a relatively obscure figure outside the orbit of the French left and Negritude Francophone movement. He could have easily been a footnote in history if he hadn't written two books: Black Skin, White Masks, and The Wretched of the Earth.
Despite his tragic death at the age of 36, in 1961, Fanon won the intellectual argument that violence was the sacrament that sustained Europe's empire of ethnography. He disrobed Enlightenment colonialisms' Hobbesian state of nature, and its modernist vector of the nation-state that visited rapine and death on the planet.
Fanon's insistence that oppressed Black and Brown people become conversant in a liberatory language European colonialists understood; namely revolutionary violence, posed an existential threat to France's colonial empire. Moreover, Fanon was no armchair philosopher.
Fanon edited Algeria's National Liberation Front [FLN] newspaper, conducted study groups with FLN soldiers on the battlefield, and traveled by jeep to reconnoiter smuggling routes from Mali and Niger to funnel weapons to Algerian liberation forces. Fanon was by any measure a complete revolutionary thinker and practitioner.
Alert to the danger he posed to Imperium Francium, Charles de Gaulle's murderous Fifth Republic regime responded with multiple assassination attempts to liquidate him. Four days after Leukemia claimed Fanon's life, "The Wretched of the Earth," appeared on Parisian book shelves. French government authorities ordered copies to be immediately seized and burned.
Fanon's condemnation by Western imperialists as an intellectual outlaw and pariah, was especially provoked by his theory of Collective Catharsis. Fanon's insistence that revolutionary violence was not only necessary to win liberation but functioned as a therapeutic for the oppressed, set the wolves of imperial apology baying.
For Fanon, violence not only cleansed the neuroses of the oppressed, it was the catalyst to create new subjective consciousness, national identity, nationhood, and in his words a "new species of mankind. In Fanon's schema, each component built on its predecessor as a concert moving from the violent destruction of colonialism to a post-capitalist New Humanist society.
Frantz Fanon was exploring the frontiers of a new human arrangement beyond Europe's failed Dark Enlightenment and the beleaguered socialist societies of his day.
For Black Nationalists in America's settler state, upholding and expanding Fanon's theory on violence to win liberation and create a Black-led nation-state is an ideological necessity and practical matter of mounting urgency. The January 6, 2021, Capitol Coup in Washington, D.C., marked the exit from American Empire's corporate-managed democracy for Donald Trump, white supremacist militias, and the Republican Party.
Autocracy, coup plotting, and preparations for civil war now constitute the Trump-White Nationalist-Republican Party project. Violence and insurrection have been sanctioned as legitimate means to achieve an autocratic end.
We have entered a new phase of the pre-revolutionary period portending the collapse of American Empire and existential crises. Irrespective of who wins the coming civil war, violence will be the midwife of a new order in Global North's Western Hemisphere.
Violence and the Collective Collective Catharsis Theory
Collective Catharsis: the term has a history. In conceptualizing his theory Fanon said the following, "In every collectivity, exists--must exist--a channel, an outlet through which the forces accumulated in the form of aggression can be released."
In Ancient Greek, catharsis translated to ‘purify, cleanse or purge.’ Aristotle described catharsis as feelings of pity and fear relieved by an intervening event. Fanon, whose first vocation and abiding passion was psychiatry, recognized that colonialism breeds sickness and a profound health crisis among a people.
For Fanon, Collective Catharsis was inextricably linked to the colonized experience of violently ridding themselves of colonial rule. Violence was Fanon's intervening event to purge the colonized feelings of self-hatred, inferiority complexes, lactification, and other neuroses internalized by the incessant dehumanization by colonial powers.
Fanon's formulation of Collective Catharsis is two-dimensional from a health standpoint of purging mental and physical health disorders, but also beginning the generative process of creating a new being. In this section, we focus on the health issues.
Fanon was greatly concerned about the assault on Black bodies, their psyche, and culture. In America's settler state, Fanon would quickly recognize the sexual objectification of Black flesh, and the myriad comorbidities like cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and strokes that are an everyday part of contemporary Black life.
Fanon chose the word "detoxify" to describe the effects of dehumanization on the colonized. The colonized body, he said, was "poisoned" by "toxins."
He described this same phenomenon in The Algerian Syndrome.
Fanon considered the restoration of the mental and physical health of the colonized as an integral component of building a new nation on a new foundation. Fanon's goal was not just to save the individual but to make society a healthy place for all to thrive mentally and physically.
From our reading of Fanon, New Black Nationalists clearly underestimated the importance of this issue. When reviewing Black Lives Matter's agenda, we were struck by the prominence given to restorative health issues within Black communities as part of what BLM called the "war on Black people."
Restoring the health of our people before and after the struggle to create a new Black republic must be a collective priority of Black people. This is a legacy issue New Black Nationalists claim as part of our inheritance as Fanon successors.
Violence and the Development of Nationalist Consciousness
In Fanon Argument No. 4, Fanon on Nationalism and Nation-Building , we focused on two aspects concerning the role of violence. First, violence is a catalyst in developing the embryo of national consciousness, which in turn must be enriched to engender national identity, and a sense of national destiny.
Second, the armed struggle for national independence creates new organizational forms and cultural devises in the course of the liberation war. These innovations evolve and become part of the architecture and template for the birth of the new nation.
In this section of FAN-5, we build on the themes opened in FAN-4 by returning to the following passages from Fanon on violence, destruction, and creation. Here are applying them the conditions in America's settler state.
In this first quote Fanon speaks of the destructive force of violence and the natives ridding themselves of fear and inferiority complexes. "Violence" says Fanon, "frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; it makes him fearless and restores his self-respect.'
New Black Nationalists submit that the 1960s urban rebellions in over 200 Black communities, destroyed the stigma and identity of "colored people" and "the negro" as acceptable racial identifiers.
These assigned names took on the connotation of an accommodationist and servile people lacking the capacity for self-direction and independence. The Black Power movement expunged these pejorative terms from the Black popular vernacular.
Revolutionary violence, then, was not just cathartic, it opened the door for colonial subjects to recreate themselves. It is impossible today to imagine our communities identifying themselves as Black people, in the absence of the violent tumult and revolutionary Black organizations who articulated a new liberatory grammar.
Renaming ourselves Black was precisely what Fanon meant about recreating ourselves with a new consciousness. "Decolonization" Fanon says, "never goes unnoticed, for it focuses on and fundamentally alters being, and transforms the spectator…It infuses, a new rhythm, specific to a new generation of men, with a new language and a new humanity.
The slogans, "Black Power," and "Black is Beautiful," not to mention the creation of the Black Arts Movement, represented the rhythm and language of the new generation.
From a New Black Nationalist perspective, the shortfall of the Black Power movement was its inability to foster a sense of Black nationalist consciousness. Black racial consciousness and Black Nationalist consciousness are not the same thing.
The struggle in the 1960s, at its root created new imagery, ideas, and a collective spirit of racial identity and solidarity. It was also a radical democratic struggle against racial inequality and oppression that sought to fully incorporate Black people into the estate of America's illusory opportunity society.
The composition of Black revolutionary forces in the streets reflected a similar political dynamic. Black leftist revolutionaries, cultural nationalists, Black Marxist, and Pan-Africanists, and religious separatists like the Nation of Islam, were generally grouped under the rubric of "Black Nationalists". Virtually none of these organizations were nation-state bound Black Nationalists, either programmatically or ideologically.
Arguably, the leading organization that advocated and seriously worked for the establishment of Black nation-state in the Black Belt South was the Republic of New Africa [RNA], founded in Detroit in 1968. While the organization endured splits, as would any group over five decades, their work still continues. New Black Nationalists owe a profound debt to the RNA, and the continuing efforts of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and Cooperation Jackson.
Despite the absence of a more muscular Black nationalist political current surfacing amid the revolutionary revolts of 1960s, New Black Nationalists believe the period marked a critical advance for the cause of founding a Black-led republic. From the 1960s Black Power revolutionary upsurges, we gleaned the following three lessons.
1) The political crisis of American Empire in the 1960s spearheaded by Black rebellions and the anti-Vietnam War protests, did not rise to the level of an existential crisis that threatened to collapse the government. Nor was the overthrow of the U.S. government the principal goal of sixties radical and revolutionary forces.
2) The political trajectory of the radical Black Power movement was as its best, a democratic struggle for inclusion.
3) Nation-state Black Nationalists like the RNA were a relatively small trend with limited capabilities to broadly influence and popularize the cause of Black nationhood.
Going into 2020s, the confluence of events confronting American Empire differ dramatically from the 1960s. American Empire's international domination as a peerless superpower is in retreat. Pax Americana is now confronted with an increasingly confident condominium of Russian-Chinese geo-political power.
The COVID-19 pandemic has structurally weakened an economy already tottering on an unstable foundation. The unprecedented polarization of the country along partisan and racial fault lines is playing out against a backdrop of widespread institutional rot.
The new post-truth environment ignited by Trump has severely eroded the capacity of the body politic to achieve national consensus on virtually every political question, even the national health emergency posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. America is becoming a politically insolvent and ungovernable polity.
We have already witnessed a motley white nationalist coup attempt led by a sitting president. The growing provocations of the White Nationalist camp have unleashed a chain reaction of events that are escalating preparations for an armed conflagration. Our assessment in Argument #4, subtitled "A Quarter to Nation Time," indicates that we have reached the final approaches of the point of no return.
In this environment, the advocacy for self-determination, a Black nation-state, and other forms of Black autonomy will be real-time possibilities. The clock is ticking and Black Nationalists must do the work to develop nationalist consciousness and the rationale for creating a Black-led nation as a major step to becoming the masters of our destiny.
Franz Fanon's description of the development of the armed struggle and its impact on nationalist consciousness is instructive in this regard.
“The armed struggle" he said "mobilizes the masses of the people, i.e., it pitches them in a single direction, from which there is no turning back. When it is achieved during a war of liberation the mobilization of the masses introduces the notion of common cause, national destiny and collective history into every consciousness. National consciousness in which the national interests take priority over loyalties to tribe, ethnicity, race, religion, and traditional practices on gender. "
The Use of Violence is Determined by Historical Development, Concrete Conditions, and Culture
Among Third World liberation struggles that toppled colonialism, was India and its celebrated leader Mahatmas Gandhi. Gandhi shared Fanon's view that colonialism breeds national sickness. Both agreed their people would never be healed and their full humanity never restored without winning their independence. Their approaches, however, to the health needs of their people and violence could not have been more different.
What New Black Nationalists are calling attention to here is how a country's historical development and culture influence the use of violence and how it is deployed. In India's case, a massive non-violent movement of civil disobedience brought the 89-year reign on the British Raj to its knees.
Frantz Fanon was adamant about the need for armed revolution, particularly in those countries with colonial settler populations. Gandhi was the apostle of peace and non-violence. As a doctor, Fanon was partial to surgery and anti-biotics to remove malignant diseases. Gandhi preferred prayer, medication, hot baths, mud packs, and herbs.
Fanon believed the colonized must rise up to reclaim what was stolen from them, particularly lands that were expropriated. Gandhi believed Indians made too many excuses, and should rely on their own initiative. Gandhi encouraged Indians to build their own schools instead of being educated by the British. He encouraged them to spin their own linen instead of buying imported British cloth, thereby breaking the back of Britain's economic exploitation of India.
Fanon was relentless in insisting the colonized must gain self-awareness and political consciousness to act on their own behalf for liberation. Gandhi's approach reflected India's majority Hindu religious and spiritual values of asceticism, self-control, discipline, inner strength and resolve in seeking the way to happiness.
Hinduism as practiced in India stood in sharp contrast to Islamic beliefs and practices in Algeria. Islam divides the world into dar-al-islam (the domain of Islam) and dar-al-harb (the domain of war).
The irony of India's independence movement is that violence directed against the British was largely contained. But no sooner had independence been granted in India, did the nation's Hindu and Muslim populations engage in horrendous bloodletting and violence that ended in the partition of India and the creation of the Muslim state of Pakistan.
Contrary to claims by some, Frantz Fanon was not anti-Islamic. Quite the opposite, he believed Muslims had waged the most determined struggle against colonial encroachments of any people on earth. At the same time, he warned of the potential for Islam evolving into an intolerant and authoritarian political current. In two decades following Fanon's warning, Algeria was overrun by mass Islamic sectarian violence.
India and Algeria won their liberation. The British quit India and granted it independence in 1947. Algeria won its eight-year liberation war against France in 1962. It was one of the bloodiest anti-colonial wars in modern history.
Turning then to America's historical development and culture, the violence exacted in the enterprises of trans-continental slavery, the genocide of its indigenous people, and the theft of Northern Mexico stands without rival.
The path to liberation here will not deviate from this course. Independence was won in a violent Revolutionary War. Slavery was abolished in the flames of civil war. There are more guns than people in the United States, which by every metric remains the most violent society on the planet.
Black people have not asked for civil war: it is being brought to our doorstep. So let us prepare to win. A section of white America, led by the racist whoremonger and rake Trump, has convinced themselves their reign of racial dominion will end unless they resort to civil war to install a white nationalists autocratic regime. There will be no Gandhian or King-inspired peaceful solution to the American predicament.
New Black Nationalists are not naïve. We are not in denial about the moment we are living in. Neither are our people who are forming Black militias, gun clubs, firearms associations, and Black 2nd Amendment Rights movements in record numbers. New Black Nationalists have enthusiastically supported all these efforts and will continue to do so, particularly among the groups self-identifying as Black Nationalists.
The organized arming of Black America is something new compared to the Black Power era of the 1960s. These efforts are vital to prepare for the days of trouble ahead, and positioning our communities to leverage any opening to convert an existential crisis of American Empire into a new Black nation-state.
Some Thoughts About South Africa and Mandela's Middle Course - A Case Study and a Question on the Use of Limited Violence
If for arguments sake Fanon was the prophet of war and Gandhi the apostle of peace, how should we interpret the ''middle course" mapped by Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress on the issue of violence? From the article: Fanon on the Role of Violence in Liberation: A Comparison with Gandhi and Mandela, we have highlighted the following passages from author Gail Presbey's work.
We have included this section to serve as a case study of sorts. How do the tenants of Fanon's constructs play against the grey area between violence and non-violence. In South Africa's case, the African National Congress's use of "limited violence" poses a set of interesting questions.
Presbey observes that "Nelson Mandela walks a fine line between these two thinkers, stressing the importance of non-violence while eventually turning to limited use of violence."
Presbey goes on to posit that, "The early strategy of the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa was directly influenced by Gandhi's non-violent action. Albert Luthuli, a Zulu chief who was elected president of the ANC in 1952, led campaigns of massive disobedience against unjust laws in a Defiance Campaign. He insisted as late as 1962 that non-violence as a method must be strictly adhered to because 'as long as our patience can be made to hold out, we shall not jeopardize the South Africa of tomorrow by precipitating violence today.'
Presbey further inveighs that "Nelson Mandela and members of the ANC in South Africa also assumed and feared that retaliatory violence would escalate when they decided to form Umkonto we Sizwe and consequently used limited violence for their cause. The lack of of progress, and the continued hardships of living under apartheid, made the resistance movement in South Africa decide to make the stakes higher. "
Presbey concludes that Mandela and the ANC used a careful selection process for a method of violence that would take the least lives. Carefully chosen sites for sabotage would cripple the economy and make a point: but lives would not be taken because of special concern for the healing process, since avoiding direct loss of lives 'offered the best hope for future race relations.' said Mandela.
Mandela noted that part of the ANC decision to depart from their long history of non-violent struggle resided in the fact that the people were no longer satisfied with non-violence and yearned for violent expression of their anger.
Mandela was afraid that if the ANC did not make itself relevant to the needs of the people by giving them the guidance and the structure required for a limited and calculated use of force against apartheid, the people would find their own, and perhaps more destructive, ways to express the violence they desired.
Having considered Presbey' s snapshot of Mandela and the ANC's thinking on the role of violence in the liberation movement, we will now offer some observations about Mandela and the ANC's overall approach to incorporating armed struggle into its liberation movement. As a means of comparison, we will also list some of Fanon's views on the use of violence in liberation movements.
Factors Influencing Mandela and the ANC's Use of Violence:
- Mandela and the ANC's assessment was that a full blown armed struggle for power would probably result in a long bloody war that would likely end in a stalemate with severe losses on both sides, and the destruction of South Africa's economic base.
- A long indecisive civil war would ultimately result in horrendous acts of bloodshed committed by both sides. But ANC atrocities would diminish their moral high ground and international standing as a just struggle against white minority-rule. The ANC believed the potential loss of support of Western governments would severely deprive their post-apartheid government of valuable aid needed to run the country.
- The ANC eventually employed armed struggle to turn up the economic and political pressure on the white-minority National Party. In commencing armed struggle, they sought to prevent more radical elements inside and around the ANC's orbit from taking up the armed struggle outside the ANC's central command structure.
- The ANC's version of armed struggle focused on sabotage, attacks on infrastructure and economic targets that limited the loss of life. Inside South Africa armed forces did not concentrate their efforts on seizing and controlling large areas of the country.
- The nature of the ANC's armed attacks and military operations did not involve intensive mass recruitment and active day-to-day participation of millions of people in the armed struggle. It appears the ANC ran a number of operations by more specialized units.
- Mandela was willing to make serious even deep concessions to South Africa's white minority in order to create a unity government that would be seen as an authentic multi-racial, multi-party democracy. Large-scale armed struggle to win state power went against the grain of the ANC's central strategy to take control of the country through negotiations and elections as the new majority ruling party.
Fanon's Maxims on Violence and Armed Struggle
Having outlined some of the political calculations the ANC considered, we can map their strategy against some of the maxims embedded in Fanon's writings on the use of violence in the liberation struggle.
Fanon Preferred Violence/Armed Struggle to Win Independence Rather than Independence Being Formally Granted
- Fanon did not advocate violence for the 18 African countries that were being granted independence in 1960 or even his native Martinique. Nevertheless, Fanon took the controversial position that a violent struggle for independence would have been more beneficial for the colonized in the long-run.
In Gail Presbey's assessment, Fanon's line of reasoning appears to have been that, "The consciousness of the Martinican would have been changed after violence. They would have seen France as its true enemy instead of its smiling, deceiving friend. Therefore, they would have had a sounder self-identity in relation to the French. Second, although 'independence' was achieved, the independence after the armed struggle would have had a different character. It could more radically diverge from the colonial model, by disrupting the easy transition between the colonial government and the native elite. So the effects of violence would been psychological and practical. "
Fanon noted that his native Martinicans didn't fight for or win their freedom and registered his outrage when Martinicans erected "thank you" statues" to France for inviting Martinique be official supplicants of French Empire.
Ironically, Aimee Cesaire', once the radical poet/author and founding father of the Negritude school of philosophy, rejected France's offer of independence in favor of Martinique becoming an Overseas Department of France. He was buried with state honors, in 2011, in a service presided over former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Why Violence Would Ultimately Compel Colonial Powers to Capitulate
- Strategically, Fanon did not believe it was possible for Arab forces to overpower the French forces militarily. Fanon believed that no colonial power could ultimately be successful for two reasons. First, they could not murder all the natives and subvert the imperatives of colonialism's raison d'etre as a profitable enterprise.
Second, Fanon predicted French imperialism would quit Algeria. He posed the following question and and proffered a response.
By what aberration of the spirit do these men, without technique, starving and enfeebled, without experience with methods of organization, confronted with the military and economic might of the occupation, come to believe that violence will free them? How can they hope to triumph? The truth is that there is no colonial power today which is capable of adopting the only form of contest which has a chance of succeeding: the prolonged establishment of large forces of occupation."
In Fanon's view, violence raised the cost of imperial occupation and potentially would accelerate the exit of the colonialist. Like non-violent strategies, both strategies count on the colonizer's forces ultimately giving up the battle, even though they possess the weapons to obliterate the colonized population.
Compromise & Concessions: Fanon's Problem With Non-Violence Arguments
- In countries with colonial settler populations Fanon largely opposed non-violent methods saying those were the ideas of the native bourgeoisie, who suggested it because their interests were the same as the colonizers. Fanon said the native bourgeoise were not so much advocating "non-violence" as they were advocating accommodation and compromise. Fanon's issued a full-throated rejoinder.
"At the critical, deciding moment the colonial bourgeoisie, which had remained silent up till then, enters the fray. They introduce a new notion, in actual fact a creation of the colonial situation: nonviolence. In its raw state this nonviolence conveys to the colonized intellectual and business elite that the interests are identical to those of the colonialist bourgeoisie and it is therefore indispensable, a matter of urgency, to reach an agreement for the common good. Nonviolence is an attempt to settle the colonial problem around the negotiating table before the irreparable is done, before any bloodshed or regrettable act is committed. But if the masses, without waiting for the chairs to placed around the negotiating table, take matters into their own hands and start burning and killing, it is not long before we see the "elite" and the leaders of the bourgeois nationalist parties turn to the colonial authorities and tell them: This is terribly serious! Goodness knows how it will all end. We must fin an answer, we must find a compromise."
Listening to the Voice of the People as a Principle
- Listening to the people was a principle that Fanon adhered to. Unlike Gandhi, Fanon said Algerians had no desire to "love" their French colonizers. Fanon's listening skills were finely attuned to the pitch of class interests. He noted the following;
"In colonial countries only the peasantry is revolutionary. It has everything to lose and nothing to gain. The underprivileged and starving peasant is the exploited who very soon discovers that only violence pays. For him there is no compromise, no possibility of concession. There is no question for them of competing with the colonist. They want to take his place"
Fanon was interested in determining who would be the most steadfast in supporting the revolutionary seizure of power, and then to rebuild society on a new basis of social relations. For Fanon, that class was the peasantry.
Fanon Insist Violence Must be Guided by Educated & Competent Leadership
-Fanon expressed real concern regarding the colonized up taking violence as motivated by "revenge," and its target was "indiscriminate".
Gail Presbey noted that Fanon would go on to predict that the "unmixed" and total "brutality" of the colonized, "if not immediately combated, invariably leads to the defeat of the movement within weeks." Fanon was clear, by itself, violence motivated by revenge would not enough and destructive.
Further, in Wretched of the Earth Fanon goes on to say, "Against the idea that what is needed most is a strong, central revolutionary party" Fanon insisted that "What is needed most is a to educate the people politically. It is also important to organize and enlighten those who live in the countryside.
Violence and the New Age of Necro-Politics
Broadly defined, Necro-politics is the use of social and political power--especially by governments and official state actors-- to dictate how some people may live and how some must die.
In his book Necro-politics, New Wave Francophone philosopher Achille Mbembe advances a compelling argument that the contemporary world is plagued by ever-increasing inequality, militarization, enmity, and terror. Wars of predation, counter-insurgency, water and food security, religion, and other causes are assuming the character of totally eliminating the threat rather than resolving a dispute, albeit with violence.
Propelled by a resurgence of racist, fascist, and atavistic white ethno-nationalist forces that surfaced in Europe with the advent of the new millennium, Necro-politics metastasized to American Empire's shores by the early 2010s.
Initially embraced by Alt-Right intellectuals, then scattered white-supremist militias, and Obama "birthers," the reactionary camp finally coalesced around Donald Trump's presidency. There it settled under the sobriquet of White Nationalism after the Republican Party rallied to its standard.
It is in the United States that Necro-politics developed its most dystopian and apocalyptic variant. Like Europe, Necro-politics in the America's settler state is being driven by dramatic immigration shifts.
Immigration from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa is transforming Europe's demographic profile. So too, Central and South American, Caribbean, and Pacific Rim immigration along with reproductive trending among existing Black and Brown people threatens to reduce whites to minority status as early as 2044. The Browning of Global North is giving rise to a new vocabulary of fear and mobilizing the anxiety of annihilation.
Donald Trump's rhetoric denouncing Mexican "illegals" as murderers and rapists; Blacks as having failing schools, unsafe streets, and no jobs; Muslims as collaborators refusing to turn in family members who are terrorists, and Chinese spreading COVID-19, are more than just racist attacks.
Trump's apocalyptic rants envisioned whites as being encircled by hostile sub-human "Others," including white Democrats and Republican who disagree with him. They are enemies of the state who need to be dealt as an existential threat to white people.
Thus, asylum-seeking immigrants were seized at the border, caged, and housed in camps. Border walls and travel bans were employed to keep the invaders out. Trump proposed the seizure of oil wells in Syria and Iraq guarded by U.S. troops as scant resources need to be reserved for authentic white Americans. A white European only immigration policy was put on the books to replenish the dwindling stock of white folks.
These policies were clearly articulated to open the door to a white-nationalist autocracy or a new version of apartheid-style white minority-rule. But more than that, they raised the specter of what needs to be done with hostile surplus populations and those deemed national security risks, by the color of their skin and national origin.
Necro-politics made its most conspicuous appearance to date during the COVID 19 pandemic. Trump played with life and death decisions for hundred of thousands of people. He rewarded Republican governors and Red States with resources, while punishing Democratic governors and Blue States. His pronouncement about herd immunity as the solution to the coronavirus pandemic, when no one was vaccinated was a mass death sentence scenario.
On several occasion Trump spokesperson's suggested that the deaths of senior citizens to COVID-19 did not constitute a significant loss of life because they had little to contribute to society. If anything they were a drain on the nation's dwindling resources.
Even more sinister was Trump holding largely unmasked COVID-19 "super spreader" campaign events. These rallies promoting his cult status as a White Nationalist demi-god were also meant to convey a message that whites must be willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause, if only to demonstrate the their unbreakable bonds of affection for each other and the Dear Leader. These events evoked a macabre social tableau of mass death as an acceptable reality based new notions of sacrifice to preserve white life.
Trump and Republican governors weaponized the COVID-19 pandemic, and wielded it as an instrument of biological terrorism. In this sense, Trump's coronavirus bio-terrorism bore all the components of psychological and physical terror that Fanon likened to colonial violence and dehumanization of the oppressed. More than 49, 000 Blacks lost their lives to COVID-19 between February 2020 and February 2021, when the vaccines began mass distribution.
Finally, the promotion of big lies, bizarre conspiracy theories, and living in a post-truth world is the open door to advocate the containment, purging, or genocide of any population or subgroup deemed enemies of the state.
New Black Nationalist may disagree with Afro-pessimists on any number of issues, but their contention that America's "civil society’s is dependent on anti-black violence—a regime of violence that positions black people as internal enemies of civil society," cannot be ignored.
Thus we turn back to Fanon's statement that French colonialist would never kill all of Algeria's natives, because the colonial imperative was to derive profits from its imperial venture.
Necro-politics raises the real possibility that Fanon's statement no longer applies to Black people in America's settler state. The argument for maintaining Blacks as an army of surplus labor for profits is undercut by several countervailing forces, including automation and replacement.
Put another way, the argument to maintain 33 million Blacks for profits sake is moot, if you are overthrown by a violent revolution and don't have state power.