Fanon returned exhausted from the successful mission into Southern Algeria in late 1960. But his exhaustion could not be slept off, something else was wrong. He requested a blood test which immediately revealed a high white blood count. Leukaemia was the diagnosis and in 1960 it was a death sentence. Fanon, the loud-hailer of the revolution, was dying. Possessed, driven Fanon forced himself on. It was in the last year of his life – with the death sentence hanging over him – that he composed his master work, The Wretched of the Earth. Between treatment and periods utterly incapacitated, he dictated the chapters that make up his most famous work. As a consequence the book is a fierce and polemical draft, the ideas still in development and movement. Despite having refused treatment in the United States (a place Fanon believed was full of racists and lynch mobs) in October he traveled to Washington. Six weeks later he died. The greatest exponent for a militant and continual revolutionary mutation, across the entire planet, had finally been silenced.
Below is the final teaser to the forthcoming biography, The Militant Philosopher of Third World Liberation.
The Whole of Existence
‘Independence Fanon concludes in The Wretched of the Earth is not a panacea; it is no exorcism. It is rather an ‘indispensable condition’ from which men and women can become ‘truly liberated’; independence, therefore makes ‘possible the radical transformation of society.’ Independence is essential but limited and fragile. Independence must grow over into social and political transformation. The role of revolutionary theory and organisation is also vital. ‘There must be no waiting until the nation has produced new men; there must be no waiting until men are imperceptibly transformed by revolutionary processes in perpetual renewal. It is quite true that these processes are essential, but consciousness must be helped…The application of revolutionary theory.’ Revolutionary theory liberates and decolonises the mind and makes explicit the goals of the struggle, demystifies the past and present. Revolutionary theory (and practice) is in therapeutic terms a requirement necessary to enable us to cease to be strangers in our own environment. The revolution – which must be helped by the correct theory – is an attempt to end a state of depersonalisation. A revolutionary theory is an attempt to ‘recerebralise a people’ and the process is, as Fanon reminds us again and again in The Wretched, dialectical. Both theory and practice interact and transform each other. Revolutionary theory without revolutionary practice is sterile, but practice with little theory opens up the possibility that ‘liberation’ will decay and stagnate.
When the book was finished, at the end of July 1961, he deposited the manuscript with the writer and activists Claude Lanzmann. Then, tragically, he got on with the terrible struggle against dying. In this struggle what good was a book that he had slaved to write and finish, when he wanted to live? In Fanon’s last days in November and December there could be no solace. Even if his book could make a claim for being the most important political tract of the 20th century, what importance did it really have at the end of his life? When faced with death what value could it have? Against life a book weighs little. Before the final, absolute end of his existence there was no balm or recompense; hanging on, clawing to stay alive was Fanon’s last struggle. Finally he succumbed to double pneumonia on 6 December. As furious an opponent as he was there could only be one victor. Fanon was dead.’