Academic journal article Theory in Action

Anti-Colonial Anarchism, or Anarchistic Anti-Colonialism: The Similarities in the Revolutionary Theories of Frantz Fanon and Mikhail Bakunin

Academic journal article Theory in Action

Anti-Colonial Anarchism, or Anarchistic Anti-Colonialism: The Similarities in the Revolutionary Theories of Frantz Fanon and Mikhail Bakunin

Article excerpt

Speaking in very different social spheres, what exactly could a Russian anarchist writing in the mid- 19th century have in relation with an anticolonial psychiatrist writing in the mid^O* century? The similarity could be understood simply by looking at their revolutionary intent. When we examine Mikhail Bakunin and Frantz Fanon' s revolutionary theories, we see very stark overlapping thoughts regardless of the different time and place in which they were writing. This leads me to believe that anarchism and anti-colonial struggles speak to one another. By looking at them together, I think we can better understand revolutionary change outside of the urban working class and top down revolutions, which have often-lead revolutionary debate.

I want to explore these similarities by looking at Frantz Fanon' s theory of colonial overthrow, in tandem with Mikhail Bakunin' s thoughts on social revolution. I will do this paying particular attention to the similarities between the two in their focus on peasantry as a revolutionary force, violence as a mode of revolution, and skepticism of post-revolution bourgeois dictatorship. Unlike classical Marxism, which relies on the industrial working class while ignoring other revolutionary forces, Mikhail Bakunin's anarchism speaks to issues of anti-colonial revolutions. This is because Bakunin understood domination and resistance outside of the simple bourgeois and proletariat antagonism that is inherent in capitalism. He did not dismiss this, but understood that other factors, and other players, will help produce a truly antiauthoritarian revolution.

At the same time, Fanon pushed his thinking beyond a classical Marxist understanding, to further understand the multiple layers of domination and exploitation within colonialism. Rather than reducing his understanding to a basic class analysis, Fanon looked to the psychological realm. He attempted to understand the individual motivations, reactions, and overall feelings that functioned within the colonized peoples during a revolutionary movement against colonialism.

In order to examine Bakunin and Fanon' s thoughts on revolutionary change and revolutionary movements, I think it is important to clarify the differing historical contexts that both theorists were writing in, which will in turn make the similarities between anti-colonial and anarchist struggles more recognizable. Bakunin's thinking emerged from the anticapitalist debates during the 19th century in Europe. The writings I cover reflect Bakunin's firm commitment to anti-authoritarianism both within revolutionary movements and society as a whole. His thoughts on the peasantry can be seen in his work, Letters to a Frenchman on the Present Crisis, which covers Bakunin's revolutionary thoughts in the French context of 1870. These letters were written during the downfall years of the Franco-Prussian war, at a time when France faced inevitable defeat. "The government of Napoleon III had collapsed and the succeeding provisional republican government was hopelessly demoralized. The French armies were in full retreat and the Prussian troops were at the gate of Paris" (Dolgoff, 2002: 183). Bakunin's revolution looked further than just simple repulsion of the foreign Prussian Army, but also aimed to defend the revolution against internal enemies that sought to advance their own power in the revolutionary wake.

Frantz Fanon, writing nearly a century later, was embedded in the anticolonial struggles of Algeria against French colonial rule. In The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon explores the psychological effects of colonialism on the colonized and the modes needed to mentally and physically overthrow colonial domination. Fanon was interested in the process of decolonization though revolution, and the developments and characteristics such a process would take. He understood in many ways that the colonial situation was different than the industrial working class revolutions that Marx had put so much faith in. …

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