In 1959 Fanon plunged himself deeper into the work of the FLN, eventually taking a break from his psychiatric work at the end of the year to concentrate on his new position as ambassador to Africa for the Gouvernement provisoire de la République algérienne (GPRA) based in Ghana. The year of his appointment he wrote his second major book, Year Five of the Algerian Revolution. In the book Fanon sought to describe to a larger audience the profound changes taking place in Algeria, but the book was also intended as a sustained engagement with the French left – an attempt to shake the European left from its complacency and lethargy, to wake the continental working class from its game of sleeping beauty so it could join forces with the Algerian people involved in the process of making the revolution.
Below is the fifth teaser to the forthcoming biography, The Militant Philosopher of Third World Liberation.
‘Principally Fanon’s book was about a new Algeria, recreated since 1954. The date represented year zero not because the FLN ordered it, but because Algerians had been reborn. ‘The men and women of Algeria today resemble neither those of 1930 nor those of 1954 nor yet those of 1957. The old Algeria is dead.’ The revolution was nourished this new humanity, ploughed over the land and watered the crops of a new society.
Fanon details clear the ‘peculiarities’ of the Algerian struggle (and indeed of the fight for national liberation under settler colonialism). In other countries independence ‘acquired by a party’ that develops national consciousness, in Algeria it is national consciousness and ‘collective suffering’ that drives people to take ‘its destiny’. The strength of the Algerian revolution is not the number of patriots under arms; rather it is the ‘hundreds of thousands of … Algerian men and women’ who make up the revolt. These thousands, Fanon argues, have turned the future of the Algerian nation into a reality, ‘It is at the very centre of the new Algerian war. There is a new kind of Algerian man, a new dimension to his existence.’ The celebration in the book is a familiar story of the transformation of human potential during revolutionary turmoil. Undiscovered capacities develop; cowed and humiliated people stand-up against oppression and old customs and servility fall away.
The ‘remodelling’ of Algerians under the dynamics of the revolution transforms ‘the consciousness that man has of himself.’ Both the oppressed and oppressor are fundamentally altered. The coloniser is dislodged from their perch of invulnerability, their convoys stoned, their forces attacked. The book tells this story: out-gunned by the French army, the revolution has one formidable force, the ‘radical mutation that the Algerian his undergone.’’