OPINION

Take the EFF’s Fanon infatuation seriously

Paul Maritz |

13 May 2022

Paul Maritz says “On Violence” is a manifesto for anti-colonial and post-colonial murderousness

Self-intoxication: The EFF and Franz Fanon

13 May 2022

As the mind governs the body, a political party will be governed by its ideas. A party that runs out of ideas will inevitably stagnate (as might well be the case with the governing party in South Africa), but the party that introduces and celebrates the wrong ideas might well intoxicate itself, thereby becoming a risk for itself, and those around it. This article makes the point that the appraisal of and affinity for the ideas of Fanonism by the EFF is very dangerous self-intoxication and that it must be taken note of by the rest of South Africa.  

In March and April of 2020, while most of the world was locked down and living online, the popularity of online learning all but exploded. The fresh opportunities afforded by a newfound audience was not missed by the EFF, who started an online ideological stream, called the EFF Book Club. 

The model was simple enough: Floyd Shivambu, Dr. Mbuyiseni Ndlozi and various other EFF elite comrades read texts and excerpts which the EFF as a party deem an important source of knowledge, after which the importance and relevance of the particular text is discussed. After starting, rather predictably, with an introduction to Karl Marx on the 1st of April and Vladimir Lenin on the 5th, the third video, which aired on the 7th of April, and which is most relevant to this article, was on the work of Martinique-born author Franz Fanon.

The order of these first three videos poetically echoes the 2019 Constitution of the EFF, which states that “the Economic Freedom Fighters subscribes to the Marxist-Leninist and Fanonian schools of thought on its analysis of the state, imperialism, class, and race contradictions in every society.”

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While most readers who are at all interested in the history of ideas will know who Marx and Lenin were, and what consequences their thoughts had, it would seem as if very few people outside of far-left politics have taken note of, or even heard of “Fanonism”, and the so-called “Fanonian school of thought”.

This clear one-sidedness in terms of the interpretation of Fanon has the practical implication that almost all the available literature on Fanon has been written by ardent disciples of his work, who romanticise it, and who do not address head on the clear and present dangers that his work presents to any kind of order, and any kind of stable future in South Africa. Seeing as this author is held in such high esteem by such an important voice in South African and African politics, closer inspection of his work is imperative.

Introducing Fanon

Franz Fanon was born in Martinique under French rule and died of leukaemia in 1961, at the young age of 36. Even though he was a psychiatrist, he is primarily known for his decolonial literature, especially Black Skin, White Masks (1952) and The Wretched of the Earth (1961). While revolution in Europe had mostly taken the form of a revolutionary wave which brings rapid devastation, as was the case in among others France in 1789 and Russia in 1917, Fanon proposes the idea of a “revolutionary war” which consists of multiple phases, and systematically brings the change that is longed for, unfolding over decades, even generations. To this point, he states in The Wretched of the Earth: