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Violence and Political Action:Frantz Fanon and Martin Luther King on political Action

Violence and Political Action:Frantz Fanon and Martin Luther King on political Action

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Published by Guy Pade
This paper is an attempt to confront two major twentieth century theorists of social struggle and change - the Algerian revolutionary Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) and the African American civil rights activist and leader Martin Luther King (1927-1968).
This paper is an attempt to confront two major twentieth century theorists of social struggle and change - the Algerian revolutionary Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) and the African American civil rights activist and leader Martin Luther King (1927-1968).

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Published by: Guy Pade on May 02, 2009
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Violence and Political Action:
 A Theoretical Discussion of the Ideas of Frantz Fanon and Martin Luther KingOn political Action
(Written by Guy Pade)
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Introduction
 This paper is an attempt to confront two major twentieth centurytheorists of social struggle and change - the Algerian revolutionaryFrantz Fanon (1925-1961) and the African American civil rights activistand leader Martin Luther King (1927-1968). These two men, whose years of activity and writing parallel, shareyet differ in a number of categories. They share an African ascendance;both men sought freedom, justice and equality for their people; andthey seem to have shared a common enemy the white man.Nevertheless, while they seem to have had a similar starting point andsimilar goals, they differ gravely in there philosophical approach to theproblem and to its solution. King was one of the greatest advocates of nonviolence in modern history. Fanon, on the other hand, believed inthe psychologically emancipating power of violent action.
 
As the question of decolonization and ethnic national sovereigntycontinue to rattle our world, in the former Yugoslav republics, thePalestinian autonomy, the minority populated suburbs of Paris, etc. it isinteresting to examine the writings of theses two very influentialthinkers. What implications do they have for us today? What can welearn from the differences between them as we grapple with thecomplexities of a world torn between a history of segregation and avision of multiculturalism?I shall begin this examination with a brief history of the life andtimes of Frantz Fanon and Martin Luther King. Then I will begin a criticalcomparison of how Fanon and King viewed there respective situations –the black and white psyche, the desired change, and the means of achieving that change. Having made clear the basis for the debate, Iwill turn to the debate on physical violence as a means of politicalaction. In doing this I will try to see if the difference of opinions on theissue of violence, is a product of different outlooks on the struggle athand, or rather an essential disagreement rooted in the philosophicalroots of these two distinct thinkers.
- 2 - Years of Upheaval: The Life and Times of Frantz Fanon & MartinLuther King 
 The 1950’s and 60’s were a period of cultural and political unrest. The U.S.A., having just won the war in Korea, entered a period of growing civic unrest, mostly through black-white tensions and thecommunist scare of Senator McCarthy and others. (Washington 1986:xi-xxiv;King Encyclopedia) Africa was also beginning to rise-up at thistime against its European colonizers. (Adas 2003; Kent 2000) Twomajor figures of this era were Frantz Fanon, who became the leading
 
theoretician of the Algerian struggle for independence, and MartinLuther King, who was perhaps the most important leader of the African-American’s struggle for desegregation and equality. (Gordon, Sharpley-Whiting and White 1996: 1-8; Washington 1986: xi-xxiv)
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Frantz Fanon was born on the island of Martinique, on June 20, 1925.He was privileged (in comparison to the majority of the blackpopulation in Martinique) to attend the
lycee
(a British grammarschool). When he was 17, the Nazis occupied Martinique. Fanon fled tothe island of Dominica, where he joined the Allied forces againstGermany, and earned honors a war hero in Europe.On his return to Martinique, Fanon worked in the elections campaignof the communist candidateAime Cesaire. After the elections, he wentto study psychiatry at Lyon, on a war veteran’s scholarship. During hisstudy at Lyon, he edited a student paper
Tam Tam
, and wrote threeunpublished plays. During this Period Fanon also fathered a child out of wedlock, and later married a French woman, Marie-Josephe Duble.(Gordon, Sharpley-Whiting and White 1996: 1-8)

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