Concerning Violence

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Concerning Violence is a new film by Göran Hugo Olsson, (director of The Black Power Mixtape), based on Frantz Fanon’s classic book The Wretched of the Earth. It is illustrated with archival film of colonial realities and national liberation struggles taken from the vaults of Swedish Television.

The film is divided into nine sections ranging from footage of guerilla warfare in Mozambique to the pillaging of natural resources from former colonies. The film footage is superb.

The sheer racial arrogance of colonialism is captured in several sequences of black servants and their colonial masters. There is the constant fear that all Black people wanted to do was take the places of the colonial masters.

There is a series of interviews. One is with women members of Frelimo, the main liberation movement in Mozambique in the 1960s. They talk about their experiences of being fighters alongside men, with women commanders as well as men, of their equal treatment. The democracy of the movement meant they discussed everything before decisions were taken. One of the women pointed out that through the struggle they had found their self respect and the confidence to talk as equals to white people, such as those doing the interview.

Another interview is with Thomas Sankara, President of Burkina Faso in the 1980s, talking about the problems of becoming trapped in dependence on the IMF and the World Bank.

He insisted on the need to develop the country’s ability to grow its own food instead of relying on hand outs from other countries paid for with loans. Within a year of the interview, he had been assassinated in a French-backed coup.

Shots of snipers shooting cows from a helicopter to deprive liberation movements of food and a single house in a village going up in flames to terrorise the population, bring home the violence at the heart of colonisation.

And of course, violence is the theme of the film. Fanon believed that the extreme violence of the colonisers had to be matched by a violent response from the colonised.

In The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon describes powerfully the way in which racism corroded the lives of the colonised physically, mentally and emotionally. For him violent resistance was not only necessary to overcome the colonial masters, it was an essential tool for cleansing the colonised of the effects of subjugation.

For Fanon, the peasantry was the revolutionary class which could lead the fight for liberation. Thus in the film, there are no indications that within the womb of colonial societies, there were potentially powerful working classes developing which could play a role in destroying both colonisation and creating a different kind of society altogether.

Nor is there any sense of the impact that the successful struggles against Portuguese colonialism would have on unleashing a revolutionary process in Portugal in 1974.

The film ends on the theme of not following the European way. Fanon, despite dying in 1961, was acutely aware of the danger of the exploitation of the masses continuing under post-independence governments. However, there are no pointers to an alternative just an exhortation to do things differently.

So go to this film to see its powerful record of national liberation struggle in the 1960s and to hear the views of Frantz Fanon, icon of Black struggle. But also go to Miners Shot Down about the Marikana miners whose battles have acted like a hand grenade in South African politics. That society has followed the European model, otherwise know as capitalism.