Revolutions are an integral aspect of political evolution in the society. The success or failure of such a movement is dependent on the conduct and capabilities of the leaders and the masses.1 To this end, it is important to analyze the roles of these two parties with respect to political change. In this essay, the author provides an analysis of the differences between the masses and the leaders associated of a revolution based on Fanon Frantz’s The Wretched of the Earth. It is apparent that there are various differences between the two parties. A critical analysis of Fanon’s text reveals that the diversity of the stakeholders determines the success of a revolution. To this end, it is noted that if an uprising is to succeed, the different roles played by the leaders and the masses must complement each other.
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Revolutions are fuelled by a number of issues in a society. One of them includes the perceived or real injustices perpetrated against the masses by those in power. According to Fanon,2 the discrimination against the locals on the part of the colonial powers resulted in socio-economic imbalances among citizens. For instance, in one section of the text, Fanon points out that the natives relied on the European culture to perpetuate violence and division.3 It is important to acknowledge the fact that violence was necessary in attaining independence from colonialists. However, Fanon points out that psychological liberation requires much more. The pursuit of self-respect should not rely on violence alone. Self-respect of a people is a struggle that should transcend the vagaries associated with aggression.
In the current essay, the author analyzes the differences between the leaders and masses of a revolution by asserting that uprisings can succeed without violence. The Rose Revolution in Georgia is an example of a liberation cause where aggression was not common. In addition to the analysis of the differences between the two parties, the author of the essay elaborates on the issue of political morality with respect to Algeria and the entire African continent. The concept is of particular interest in the current times of global turmoil. People can seek out a path to freedom without resorting to violence. By the end of this essay, the writer will resolve an important aspect of political stability through the development of peaceful agitation techniques.
The Role of the Masses in a Revolution and Establishment of New State
The ideals of any given revolution are based on the goodwill of the masses. In this regard, the roles played by these participants are essential as they ensure that the objectives of a political change are met.4 According to Fanon,5 the Algerian society was completely dehumanized due to the harsh environment of colonialism. Consequently, individual members of a society were forced to coalesce around the idea of doing away with the negative effects of bad governance that resulted from colonization. To this end, it appears that the primary role of masses entails embracing the ideals of a cause meant to trigger political change in their society.
A revolution is a process that goes beyond the removal from office of individuals in a regime. Coates points out that such an uprising requires a paradigm shift within a society.6 However, a this form of change in mind set cannot be realized in the absence of a movement with an agenda to overhaul existing systems. Fanon suggests that a revolution requires a psychological angle which is realized through the goodwill of a people.7 In light of this, the masses are required to commit themselves fully to the objectives of a revolution. A new state will require the said goals to be enforced in letter and spirit. Such a move further justifies the need for cooperation on the part of the citizens.
The second role of the masses as set out by Fanon involves a pursuit of knowledge. As already mentioned, Fanon is against the exploitation of violence during a revolution.8 To this end, the question of how a new state will be established arises. According to Coates,9 participants in a political cause are required to have sufficient information about its objectives and ideals. In light of this, the masses are required to seek out information that will enable them appreciate the goals of the revolution. The participants are required to constantly interact with all the parties to a revolution to minimize the risk of falsehoods being peddled through propaganda.
Thirdly, members of the public taking part in a revolution are expected to put the leaders in check. There are instances where a cause is hijacked by greedy elements in the society. With regards to this, it is the responsibility of the general public to act as the gatekeepers of the objectives developed for a revolution. When masses successfully put the leaders of a revolution in check, the cause meets its objective effortlessly and efficiently without the need to engage in violence. An example is seen in the case of Libya. The masses failed to bring the leaders to account and allowed the door to anarchy to open. Had the citizens resisted violence, the story would have been different.
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The Role of Leaders in a Revolution and Establishment of a New State
According to Fanon, some of the duties entrusted to the leaders of a revolution are different from those of the masses. An uprising is a cause that requires a well defined agenda to ensure its success in the development of a new system of administration. Consequently, the leaders of this cause are charged with the enormous responsibility of articulating an agenda.10
In Wretched of the Earth, Fonder makes the following statement; “Europe undertook the leadership of the world with ardor, cynicism, and violence. Look at how the shadow of her palaces stretches out ever further! Every one of her movements has burst the bounds of space and thought”.11 From the excerpt, it is clear that the leaders of the Algerian revolution were not satisfied with the European style of leadership. Fanon points out that the cynicism and violence associated with the colonialists had resulted in agitation from the masses.12 However, the agitation would not have been organized in the absence of a well articulated message. Revolutions fail to achieve their objectives when the message of respective causes is not made clear by the leaders. Here, the roles of the leaders and the masses are different. The former articulates ideals, while the latter embraces and furthers them. However, for the movement to succeed, the two stakeholders need to synchronize their duties.
On a separate note, revolution leaders have a role to play with respect to transition from one system to another. According to Coates,13 vacuums result when there are no systems put in place to facilitate a change. In this regard, Fanon proposes the creation of strong political parties that can carry on with the agenda of a cause.14 Transitional mechanisms require the existence of strong institutions to prevent the gains of a revolution from being lost in the euphoria. To this end, the leaders of a revolution are required to form political outfits that will provide a transition to a new state. On their part, the masses must be willing to be led by the leaders into the new dispensation.
The Political Morality and Structure Envisioned for Algeria and Africa in Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth
Political change in Algeria and the rest of Africa requires an intellectual approach to address the injustices that exist. Vernon argues that political morality is necessary in a revolution since it enhances a structured mechanism of addressing injustices.15 Based on this understanding, Fanon elaborates that the Algerian cause requires intellect more than violence.16 Consequently, the revolution leaders and the masses have their respective roles cut out. In the African scenario, the leaders are often seen as agitating for reform. However, revolutions fail to materialize since the masses do not respond to these calls for political change. The political morality envisioned by Fanon intends to encourage revolutions that are devoid of violence.
The political morality described above is one which seeks to foster nationalism in Algeria and Pan-Africanism for the rest of Africa. However, the realization of the twin objectives depends on the willingness to research and embrace knowledge on the part of the leaders and the followers. At this juncture, a similarity appears between the two stakeholders in relation to their pursuit for information. To support this supposition, Fanon makes the following statement; “the battle against colonialism does not run straight away along the lines of nationalism. For a very long time the native devotes his energies to ending certain definite abuses”.17 He continues to say that; “the unpreparedness of the educated classes, the lack of practical links between them and the mass of the people, their laziness, and (…) their cowardice at the decisive moment of the struggle will give rise to tragic mishaps”.18
From the statement above, it is evident that most countries in Africa were faced with a myriad of problems after colonialism. The morality suggested by Fanon will ensure that the agitation sought after responds to the political failures. The revolution that is envisioned requires the participation of the leaders and the masses. However, the leaders may fail to link the masses to the ideals of a movement.19 The inability of the leaders to relay information to the citizen explains why a better part of sub-Saharan Africa is yet to experience the fruits of the revolutions that led to their independence.
The political morality brings about issues to do with nationalism and African renaissance. However, the latter calls for a paradigm shift, which requires the masses to actively engage in political discourse and agitation.20 Consequently, the citizens are required to take an active role in acquiring knowledge about revolutions. Intelligent uprisings are realized when the leaders and masses play their roles. However, the differences between the two parties imply that an African renaissance is always a pipe dream.
The Relevance of Fanon’s Political Theory in Modern Times
Based on the discussions in this essay, it is important to point out that the main political theory advanced by Fanon touches on the redemptive nature of revolutionary violence. According to Gaus,21 the theoretical movement is not sufficient in addressing contemporary societal issues. For instance, the crises in the Arab world transcend problems brought by colonialism. In spite of this, the theory creates a platform on which the masses and revolution leaders can come together to realize the objectives of the cause.
The political theory has been applied outside Algeria. For instance, the model was used in America during the Civil Rights agitation of the 1960s. According to Gaus,22 the Black Panther Party was formed on the basis of this theory. However, times have changed and people are agitating for a number of changes on matters relating to their social interactions. The redemptive nature of revolutionary violence theory focuses mostly on colonial matters, making it inadequate in addressing contemporary problems in the society. The model should evolve with times to address the universal concerns relating to socialism.
In this essay, the author analyzed the various differences between revolution leaders and masses. Each one of these parties has a role to play with respect to the agitation for political and social reforms. According to Fanon,23 revolutions succeed when the leaders and the masses carry out their functions without undue pressure. The different roles of the parties to a revolution help in the development of political theories. One of them is the model advanced by Fanon. However, the theory is inadequate in responding to current social demands. The masses and leaders must collectively come up with efforts that will help realize the goals of international socialism envisioned in this paper.
The masses can accomplish their roles through proactive involvement in politics. On the other hand, revolution leaders must focus on providing the masses with the relevant information. It is important to appreciate the diverse nature of the two parties. The variation encourages a complimentary relationship between the masses and the revolution leaders.
Coates, Ken. Revolutions. Nottingham: Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, 2009.
Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. Translated by Richard Philcox. New York: The Grove Press, 2004.
Gaus, Gerald. Political Concepts and Political Theories. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2000.
Vernon, Richard. Political Morality: A Theory of Liberal Democracy. London: Continuum, 2001.
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- Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Richard Philcox (New York: The Grove Press, 2004), 18.
- Fanon, 32.
- Fanon, 36.
- Ken Coates, Revolutions (Nottingham: Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, 2009), 67.
- Fanon, 99.
- Coates, 178.
- Fanon, 154.
- Fanon, 199.
- Coates, 203.
- Coates, 78.
- Fanon, 311.
- Fanon, 204.
- Coates, 234.
- Fanon, 214.
- Richard Vernon, Political Morality: A Theory of Liberal Democracy (London: Continuum, 2001), 102.
- Fanon, 288.
- Fanon, 148.
- Fanon, 148.
- Fanon, 148.
- Vernon, 109.
- Gerald Gaus, Political Concepts and Political Theories (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2000), 33.
- Gaus, 47.
- Fanon, 313.