LENIN set the tone for most successful revolutions in the twentieth
century when he altered traditional Marxism to suit the conditions of
Russia. Mao Tse-tung followed Lenin's example when he too adjusted
Marxism (and Leninism) to a Chinese environment. It seems to follow,
therefore, that attempts at revolution everywhere should not be mere
imitations of previously successful upheavals but should, instead, be
tailored to fit specific circumstances. Thus, African revolutions should
be made on the basis of African conditions. But such conditions are not,
in general, always easy to discern, nor are separate analyses of those
conditions certain to be similar. This is especially true of the theories of
revolution of two of the most important and influential figures in recent
African history: Frantz Fanon (1925-61) and Amilcar Cabral (I925-
Although a native of Martinique, Fanon's ancestry was African. He
studied medicine in France, became a psychiatrist, and then practiced
in Algeria where he soon found himself involved in the Algerian
Revolution. Fanon's thoughts on revolution were based mainly upon his
knowledge of and experience in much of Africa, especially Algeria.l
Cabral was the organiser and leader of the revolution in the country
of his birth, Guinea-Bissau (formerly Portuguese Guinea). His theories
were a result of his experiences, beginning as a student in Lisbon,
continuing as an agronomist who surveyed the agricultural resources
* Associate Professor of History at California State College, San Bernardino, and co-editor
(with Clifford T. Paynton) of Why Revolution? theories and analyses (Cambridge, Mass., I97I).
1 Fanon's life and thought may be surveyed in the following: G. K. Grohs, 'Frantz
Fanon and the African Revolution', in The Journal of Modern African Studies (Cambridge),
vi, 4, December 1968, pp. 543-56; David Caute, Frantz Fanon (New York, 1970); Renate
Zahar, L'Oeuvre de Frantz Fanon (Paris, 1970); Peter Geismar, Fanon (New York, I971);
Pierre Bouvier, Fanon (Paris, 1971); Philippe Lucas, Sociologie deFrantz Fanon (Algiers, 197I);
Paul A. Beckett, 'Frantz Fanon and Sub-Saharan Africa: notes on the contemporary
significance of his thought', in Africa Today (Denver), xIx, 2, Spring 1972, pp. 59-72;
Emmanuel Obiechina, 'Frantz Fanon', in Ufahamu (Los Angeles), III, 2, Fall I972, pp. 97-
116; Irene L. Gendzier, Frantz Fanon: a critical study (New York, 1973); and L. Adele Jinadu,
'Some Aspects of the Political Philosophy of Frantz Fanon', in African Studies Review (East
Lansing), xvi, 2, September I973, pp. 255-89. ROBERT BLACKEY
of his country for the Portuguese Government, and concluding as a
nationalist and revolutionist.1 Both Fanon and Cabral dealt with many
of the aspects of revolution, the former more as an abstract theorist, the
latter more as a party organiser. They examined the nature of revolu-
tion in Africa, the social structure, the utility of party and leadership,
the value of violence, and the role of culture, while they also speculated
upon post-revolutionary society.
The purpose of this article is to discuss and illustrate the differences
and similarities between the theories of these outstanding and original
revolutionists. While it will be the task of others to determine where the
ideas of one or the other, or of anyone else for that matter, are especially
applicable to a given African situation, it is hoped that this attempt at
contrast will be a contribution towards understanding African revolu.
tions and the continent's search for identity.
NATURE OF THE AFRICAN REVOLUTION
Fanon and Cabral were essentially men of peace. Neither plunged
immediately into the troubled waters of revolution without first trying
more tranquil currents. Fanon practised at a hospital in Algeria and
tried to work through legitimate channels before he felt compelled to
join the rebels. He explained his position in his letter of resignation
from the hospital at Blida in I956: 'The function of a social structure
is to set up institutions to serve man's needs. A society that drives its
members to desperate solutions is a nonviable society, a society to be
replaced.'2 In the same year a handful of men led by Cabral formed
the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde
(P.A.I.G.C.) - the Cape Verde Islands are some 600 miles off-shore and
considered part of Guinea-Bissau. Earlier attempts at reform had failed,
but for three years the P.A.I.G.C. employed peaceful means to gain
independence. When this also proved unsuccessful other means had to
1 Although there is no biography of Cabral his ideas are discussed in the following:
Ronald H. Chilcote, 'The Political Thought of Amilcar Cabral', in The Journal of Modern
African Studies, vI, 3, October I968, pp. 373-88; Gerard Chaliand, Armed Struggle in Africa:
with the guerrillas in 'Portuguese' Guinea (New York, 1969); Basil Davidson, The Liberation of
Guine: aspects of an African revolution (Baltimore, 1969); Bernard Magubane, 'Amilcar Cabral:
evolution of revolutionary thought', in Ufahamu, II, 2, Fall 197 , pp. 7 I-87; Eduardo Ferreira,
'Theory of Revolution and Background to his Assassination', in Ufahamu, II, 3, Winter 1973,
pp. 49-68; Maryinez L. Hubbard, 'Culture and History in a Revolutionary Context:
approaches to Amilcar Cabral', in Ufahamu, III, 3, Winter 1973, pp. 69-86; and Charles
McCollester, 'The Political Thought of Amilcar Cabral', in The Monthly Review (New York),
xxIV, 10, March I973, pp. Io-21.
2 Frantz Fanon, 'Letter to the Resident Minister' (X956), in Toward the African Revolution
CONTRAST IN THEORIES OF REVOLUTION FOR AFRICA I93
be employed. 'In the beginning', wrote Cabral, 'we thought it would
be possible to fight in the towns, using the experiences of other countries,
but that was a mistake. We tried strikes and demonstrations, but ...
realized this would not work.'l At these points both men became
On the nature of the African revolution Fanon and Cabral were in
general agreement, differing only over emphasis and detail, some of
which, however, is very important. Of the two, Cabral was far more
explicit, but both expected revolution to be more than just a struggle
for independence. For Fanon, revolution was part of the process of the
regeneration of man and society, of self-liberation and rebirth. Only
through revolution could a suppressed people undo the effects of
colonisation. As a psychiatrist, Fanon was particularly interested in the
psychological effects which revolution would have on the colonised
man. For true liberation to occur, he asserted, independence must be
taken, not merely granted; it must be the work of the oppressed them-
selves. It was through the actual struggle that liberation would come,
restoring integrity and pride, as well as the past and the future. 'True
liberation is not that pseudo-independence in which ministers having
a limited responsibility hobnob with an economy dominated by the
colonial past. Liberation is the total destruction of the colonial system.'2
The oppressed must bring all their resources into play because the
struggle is at once total and absolute.
The African revolution, and the larger liberation struggle of colonial
people everywhere, is the fundamental characteristic of the advance of
history in this century, according to Cabral.3 Such a revolution means
the transformation of life in the direction of progress which, in turn,
means national independence, eliminating all foreign domination, and
carefully selecting friends and watching enemies to ensure progress.
'The national liberation of a people is the regaining of the historical
personality of that people, its return to history through the destruction
of the imperialist domination to which it was subjected.'4 A people
must free the process of development of the national productive
forces. Thus the struggle is not only against colonialism, but against
neo-colonialism as well.
1 Quoted in David A. Andelman, 'Profile: Amilcar Cabral', in Africa Report (New York),
May 1970, p. 19.
2 Fanon, 'Decolonization and Independence' (1958), in Toward the African Revolution,
3 Amilcar Cabral, 'Guinea and Cabo Verde Against Portuguese Colonialism' (1961), in
Revolution in Guinea: selected texts by Amilcar Cabral (New York,. I969), p. I4.
4 Cabral, 'The Weapon of Theory' (I966), in ibid. p. Io2. Cabral possessed a vision that encompassed the broad spectrum of
revolution; he had an appreciation of the crucial everyday work of the
struggle that Fanon lacked. He stressed that revolutionists must not
fight for ideas alone, but for material benefits, improved conditions,
and a better future for children. The fight must not be merely for
abstract ideas of liberty and independence, but for local and pressing
grievances and problems.
National liberation, the struggle against colonialism, working for peace and
progress, independence - all these will be empty words without significance
for the people, unless they are translated into real improvements of the
conditions of life. It is useless to liberate a region, if the people of the region
are then left without the elementary necessities of life.1
In other words, it is through gaining supporters by arguing for local
grievances that revolutionists will open the prospect for a better future
wherein the more abstract ideas could be incorporated.
Proceeding further, Cabral emphasised that although the goal of
national independence was unquestionably vital, the struggle itself, to
be truly successful, must continue on three levels: political action,
armed action, and national reconstruction. This means: (i) that
political work must be maintained at all levels of society to establish and
preserve national unity; (ii) party organisation and discipline must be
strengthened and adjusted to the evolution of the struggle to correct
mistakes and hold leaders to proper principles and goals; (iii) the armed
forces must be strengthened and the enemy isolated; (iv) liberated
areas must be defended, kept tranquil, and developed for the benefit
of the people there; (v) more cadres of complete revolutionists must be
trained to be able to go out in the countryside and educate the people;
and (vi) ties must be strengthened with other African nations, and with
anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist forces everywhere.2
Cabral was thorough as he linked the revolution to the daily needs
of the people. But this might have come to nothing without sufficient
education and preparation beforehand. Here Cabral's contribution to
the concept of revolution is especially valuable and, perhaps, unique.
He used his position as a government agronomist during I952-4 to
travel about his country and acquire an intimate knowledge of the life
of his people, thus laying the groundwork for a later time when he would
combine the theory and practice of revolution: 'nobody has yet made a
successful revolution without a revolutionary theory',3 he said, echoing
1 Cabral (I965), quoted in Lars Rudebeck, 'Political Mobilisation for Development in
Guinea-Bissau', in The Journal of Modern African Studies, x, i, May 1972, p. 3.
2 Cabral, 'The Development of the Struggle' (I968), in Revolution in Guinea, pp. 125 f.
3 Cabral, 'The Weapon of Theory', p. 93.
CONTRAST IN THEORIES OF REVOLUTION FOR AFRICA 195
Lenin. Before the armed struggle was launched, Cabral and his fellow
leaders made a careful analysis of their society; they came to under-
stand the position of the tribal chiefs vis-d-vis the villagers; they exam-
ined the social structure in the towns; they investigated the views of
those who lived without chiefs; and they studied the ways in which
Portuguese colonial exploitation actually affected the every-day life of
the population. This earlier political preparation made the struggle
possible. The tireless work of listening and talking, of directing and
explaining, of relating the P.A.I.G.C. to the people, and vice versa, was
what apparently made the difference between success and failure.
By I960 P.A.I.G.C. members were out in the countryside explaining
their aims and mobilising the people; Cabral had come to believe that
their struggle would need massive rural support before the revolution
began. The small guerrilla band, or foci, as espoused by Che Guevara
and Regis Debray, would not have been enough to spark the struggle.
Instead, a period of two years preparatory political work was under-
taken. This was especially difficult since Guinea-Bissau had an illiteracy
rate of some 99 per cent, a shockingly small number of university
trained men (only 14 prior to I960), and no military academy to teach
tactics and strategy. A political school was founded in Conakry (in the
neighbouring Republic of Guinea) in which, at first, party members
received political instruction and were trained how to mobilise the
masses. Then those peasants and youths who had been recruited went
to the school, whereupon they embarked on an intensive education
programme so that they too could return to the countryside to con-
vince others to join the struggle. The attempt to gain followers avoided
generalisations and pat phrases, using instead questions and informa-
tion that would relate directly to those involved.
We started from the concrete reality of our people. We tried to avoid having
the peasants think that we were outsiders come to teach them how to do
things; we put ourselves in the position of people who came to learn with the
peasants, and in the end the peasants were discovering for themselves why
things had gone badly for them.l
This political preparation was probably the hardest work of the
revolution, but it was also the most useful. By 1962-3 the P.A.I.G.C.
was ready to fight, and the years of preparation proved invaluable.
Fanon, as indicated above, paid little attention to the details of
making a revolution; he was more interested in encouraging their
occurrence. Analysis for the sake of analysis was for intellectuals;
Fanon wrote to arouse, to anger, and to warn against the dangers of
1 Cabral, 'Practical Problems and Tactics' (1968), in Revolution in Guinea, p. I59. I96 ROBERT BLACKEY
exploitation. But he expected the African revolution to proceed along
two stages. First, there would be a period of physical struggle during
which a national programme has to emerge to act as a unifying element
in order to achieve independence. (This was no easy task, and Fanon,
unlike Cabral, did not give it much attention.) Secondly, after inde-
pendence the energies of the revolutionists must be directed into
building a socialist state. Fanon did not encourage a chauvinistic type
of nationalism; as a pan-Africanist he recognised that it was necessary
to hold a people together. But he did favour a nationalism based upon
the genuineness and individuality of the indigenous culture which
would, in turn, unite with other anti-colonial and socialist movements;
such a nationalism, however, has proved elusive.
Fanon's affinity for socialism was, like Cabral's, primarily the result
of circumstance; he was not doctrinaire about it, nor did he feel that
traditional Marxism-Leninism was completely suitable to Africa.
Specifically, neither Marx nor Lenin dealt with the question of race,
probably because it never occurred to them. Fanon took aspects of
Marxism-Leninism and injected the race factor: 'you are rich because
you are white, you are white because you are rich'.l Although he did
not consider himself a Marxist he was sympathetic with the Marxist
approach to revolution. But Fanon emphasised 'underdeveloped
countries' as the agency for change, not 'social class'. Moreover, not
only did Fanon wish to be free from capitalism, but also from any
institutionalised form of communism as well. In fact, it was with
sanguine - though it seems unrealistic - expectations that he looked to
the Third World to create a humanistic society, apart from and inde-
pendent of capitalism and communism.
Cabral similarly did not consider himself a Marxist and modified
Marx on the subject of class in a way only slightly different from
Fanon. 'We agree that history ... is the result of class struggle, but we
have our own class struggles in our own country; the moment imperial-
ism arrived and colonialism arrived, it made us leave our history and
enter another history.'2 Therefore, while the class struggle has con-
tinued it has done so in a modified way. Africa's struggle is against
the ruling class of the imperialist countries; this has given the class
struggle another connotation, and has meant a different evolution for
the African people. 'In colonial conditions no one stratum [or class]
can succeed in the struggle for national liberation on its own, and
1 Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (New York edn., 1968), p. 40.
2 Cabral, 'Brief Analysis of the Social Structure in Guinea' (I964), in Revolution in Guinea
CONTRAST IN THEORIES OF REVOLUTION FOR AFRICA I97
therefore it is all the strata [or classes] of society which are the agents
of history.'l Thus, in colonial countries traditional Marxism does not
work; the class struggle does not command history - the entire colonial
It is in their analysis and discussion of classes where we find the
sharpest contrasts between Fanon and Cabral. It is here that their
fundamental differences lie, and where students of the African revolu-
tion must devote most of their attention, not only in order to make or
understand revolutions, but also because of the foundation 'class'
provides for post-revolutionary society.
There is no doubt that in Africa the peasantry comprises the largest
single group in society. For most of recorded history, as well as for
traditional Marxism, peasants have been the poorest revolutionists.
Fanon recognised their conservatism, and accepted the premise that in
industrial countries they were, generally, the least aware, the worst
organised, and the most reactionary class. Even in the Third World
the peasants were often retrograde and prone to religious fanaticism
and tribal warfare. But in the twentieth century, especially in China
and Vietnam, the peasantry has become revolutionary when provided
with an appropriate ideology, capable leadership, and efficient organ-
isation. Fanon was aware of this, and believed that under stress or
provocation the peasants were capable of uncontrollable rage. Peasants,
he said, had 'bloodthirsty instincts' and were capable of brutality and
violence. Because of this Fanon concluded that they must be an integral
part of the African revolutionary elite since they were the only true and
spontaneously revolutionary force. 'It is clear that in the colonial
countries the peasants alone are revolutionary, for they have nothing
to lose and everything to gain.' Peasants would answer the call of
revolution, thinking of their liberation only in violent terms. 'The
starving peasant, outside the class system, is the first among the ex-
ploited to discover that only violence pays. For him there is no com-
promise, no possible coming to terms.'2
Fanon also selected the peasants as part of the revolutionary elite
because, in the absence of a significant African proletariat, they were in
1 Ibid. p. 69.
2 Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, p. 61. For an evaluation of his views on the peasantry,
as well as on class in general, see B. Marie Perinbam, 'Fanon and the Revolutionary Peasan-
try- the Algerian Case', in The Journal of Modern African Studies, xI, 3, September I973,
pp. 427-45; and Martin Staniland, 'Frantz Fanon and the African Political Class', in
African Affairs (London), LXViII, 270, January I969, pp. 4-25. the majority. In addition, the other classes had to be evaluated and
utilised in terms of the peasantry, whose thinking is 'pure' and un-
hampered by the inconsistency and compromise of the urban pro-
letariat and bourgeoisie. For Fanon, even in the post-revolutionary
society the peasants must be central and pivotal; when they become
the politically decisive arm of the revolution the nation will become a
living reality to all its citizens.
Like Fanon, Cabral recognised the importance of the peasants
because their very numbers provided the main strength of the opposi-
tion to foreign domination. Experience taught the P.A.I.G.C. that the
rural masses would 'be the principal force in the struggle for national
liberation '. Also, more than other groups, they have kept their culture
and identity intact. But the peasants in Guinea-Bissau proved to be
most difficult to convince that they were being exploited. Therefore,
although the struggle must be based upon the peasants, Cabral did not
see them as a revolutionary force per se. Here he distinguished between
a physical force, which the peasants are, and a revolutionary force,
which they are not. Admittedly, they comprise most of the population,
control most of the nation's wealth, and do most of the producing. But
to convince them to fight was difficult because, unlike in China, the
peasants of Guinea-Bissau had no tradition of revolt and therefore did
not welcome the revolutionists readily.2 Thus, Fanon and Cabral both
saw the peasants as perhaps central to any African revolutionary
movement although, as we shall see, unable to lead a revolution them-
selves. Where they differed, however, was in the relative faith each had
in the peasants: Fanon saw them as a spontaneous revolutionary force,
whereas for Cabral they were a vital, but difficult to persuade, physical
The two men also differed concerning the roles played by the pro-
letariat and the lumpenproletariat. (Since they did not consider them-
selves Marxists, it is doubtful that they used these words, along with
'bourgeoisie', because they believed in them. Rather, it is suspected,
they employed them symbolically as a basis for comparison with
European revolutionary theory and because they were writing, in
large measure, to a western audience familiar with such terminology.)
The urban or colonial proletariat Cabral preferred to call 'wage-
earners'. Although they were hardly a traditional proletariat, many
became committed to the revolution because, in comparing their
1 Cabral, 'At the United Nations' (1962), in Revolution in Guinea, p. 38. Also see Cabral,
'Identity and Dignity in the National Liberation Struggle', in Africa Today, xix, 4, Fall 1972,
2 Cabral, 'Brief Analysis of the Social Structure', p. 6I.
CONTRAST IN THEORIES OF REVOLUTION FOR AFRICA I99
status to that of European workers doing the same job but earning
more, they developed a consciousness of their exploitation.1 They are a
'little proletariat' and helped to make up the backbone of the revolu-
tion. Nevertheless, the cities themselves are strongholds of colonialism,
and revolutionary activity there must be of a limited and clandestine
nature.2 Fanon, however, had absolutely no use for the colonial pro-
letariat; in fact, he was contemptuous towards African workers who, he
insisted, were like the bourgeoisie in industrial countries: a favoured
class. 'In the colonial territories the proletariat is the nucleus of the
colonized population which has been most pampered by the colonial
regime.'3 They were in a 'comparatively privileged position', and thus
reluctant to attack a system which both created them and guaranteed
their existence. 'In the colonial countries the working class has every-
thing to lose; in reality it represents that fraction of the colonized
nation which is necessary and irreplaceable if the colonial machine is to
run smoothly.'4 To rely on the proletariat, said Fanon, is to try to
transpose European conditions on Africa.
Fanon and Cabral are equally far apart on the question of the
lumpenproletariat. Marx thought this group was incapable of any con-
structive action. Cabral agreed to the extent that they were not to be
trusted because of the assistance they usually give to the colonialists.
But Cabral distinguished between two categories of lumpenproletariat.
He expected nothing from the traditional diclassis, the beggars, prosti-
tutes, pimps, and petty criminals. But the other group of declassis are
those 'young people who are connected to petty bourgeois or workers'
families, who have recently arrived from the rural areas and generally
do not work'.5 This group is astute enough to compare its standard of
living with the colonialists and, with the close relations it has with both
the rural areas and the towns, has the potential for revolutionary
Fanon did not draw a similar distinction between categories of
lumpenproletariat. After beginning in the countryside, he said, the African
revolution would filter into the towns through the lumpenproletariat,
'that fraction of the peasant population which is blocked on the outer
1 Ibid. pp. 62 f.
2 Cabral, 'At the United Nations', p. 37. 3 Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, p. Io8.
4 Ibid. p. 109. Fanon's position on the proletariat, especially in its relationship with the
peasantry, has made subject to criticism by Marxists. See Nguyen Nghe, 'Frantz Fanon et les
problemes de l'independence', in LaPensde (Paris), I07, February 1963, pp. 22-36; andJack
Woddis, Jew Theories of Revolution: a commentary on the views of Frantz Fanon, Rdgis Debray, and
Herbert Marcuse (New York, 1972), pp. 25-175. 5 Cabral, 'Brief Analysis of the Social Structure', p. 59. fringe of the urban centers, that fraction which has not yet succeeded
in finding a bone to gnaw in the colonial system'. Once politicised this
group would be the 'urban spearhead' of the revolution. 'For the
lumpenproletariat, that horde of starving men, uprooted from their tribe
and from their clan, constitutes one of the most spontaneous and the
most radically revolutionary forces of a colonized people.'l Unlike
Cabral's more precise analysis, Fanon's discussion here is highly
romanticised. He expected 'the pimps, the hooligans, the unemployed
and the petty criminals ... all the hopeless dregs of humanity' to be
able to 'recover their balance, once more go forward, and march
proudly in the great procession of the awakened nation'.2
The final class to be evaluated by both men as they formulated their
theories of revolution was the bourgeoisie (i.e. the merchants, business-
men, civil servants, professional people, and a few agricultural land-
owners). To Fanon it was a useless, parasitical class, not even a true
bourgeoisie, but a 'greedy caste, avid and voracious ... It remembers
what it has read in European textbooks and imperceptibly it becomes
not even a replica of Europe, but its caricature.'3 And unlike in Euro-
pean countries, the bourgeois phase in the history of underdeveloped
countries is a useless one, not even promoting an economy to make a
socialist revolution possible. The national middle class which takes over
power at the end of the revolution is underdeveloped itself, and is in
no way commensurate with the bourgeoisie of the mother country. It
is engaged neither in production, building, nor labour. 'It is completely
canalized into activities of the intermediary type. Its innermost vocation
seems to be to keep in the running and to be part of the racket.'4
Because the national bourgeoisie
is strung up to defend its immediate interests ... sees no further than the end
of its nose, [and] reveals itself incapable of simply bringing national unity
into being, or of building up the nation on a stable and productive basis ...
[it] should not be allowed to find the conditions necessary for its existance
The bourgeoisie only tries to replace the colonial class that had been
removed by the revolution, whereas for Fanon the aim is to redistribute
the productive energies of the nation, not to substitute black bourgeoisie
Fanon wrote that the bourgeoisie must betray its classical role and
not act like selfish, national bourgeoisie; it must think of the nation
1 Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, p. 129.
2 Ibid. p. 130. 3 Ibid. p. 175.
4 Ibid. p. 150. 5 Ibid. pp. I59 and 174f.
CONTRAST IN THEORIES OF REVOLUTION FOR AFRICA 201
above itself and join with the revolutionary forces 'to repudiate its own
nature in so far as it is bourgeois, that is to say in so far as it is the tool
of capitalism, and to make itself the willing slave of that revolutionary
capital which is the people'. But Fanon was not hopeful that the bour-
geoisie would 'follow this heroic, positive, fruitful, and just path;
rather, it disappears with its soul set at peace into the shocking ways
... of a traditional bourgeoisie'.1 Therefore, it must be replaced since
by exploiting the country it is endangering the future.
Fanon resented the national bourgeoisie for another reason. As a
pan-Africanist he was ambivalent towards nationalism which he viewed
as a tool of liberation only. He wanted revolution to overflow national
boundaries to create a new humanism in all of Africa. But the national
bourgeoisie, he feared, put obstacles in the path of his dream. 'This is
why we must understand that African unity can only be achieved
through the upward thrust of the people, and under the leadership of
the people, that is to say, in defiance of the interests of the bourgeoisie.'2
Cabral saw the same alternative facing the bourgeoisie - i.e. joining
the revolution or betraying it - but he expected different results.
Fanon's 'national bourgeoisie' is Cabral's 'native petty bourgeoisie'.
This group emerges out of foreign domination and is indispensible to
the system of colonial exploitation. It stands midway between the
masses and the local representatives of the foreign ruling class. Even
though it is native, the petty bourgeoisie strives to be like the foreign
minority and become integrated with them. But the colonial system
is such, observes Cabral, that this is impossible. Those of the African
middle class 'do not succeed in overcoming the barriers thrown up by
the system. They are prisoners of the social and cultural contradictions
of their lives. They cannot escape their role as a marginal class.'3 The
petty bourgeoisie is the class which inherits power as a result of their
European education and service to the colonial regime; their role in
the African bureaucracy is indispensable. From this situation a feeling
of bitterness and frustration develops which leads to them questioning
their marginal status and rediscovering their identity. This group
among the petty bourgeoisie (as opposed to those committed to, or
compromised with, colonialism) is the only one capable of leading the
revolution, since the peasants are a non-revolutionary force and the
working class is in an embryo state.
The revolutionary petty bourgeoisie must then return to the masses
Ibid. p. 150.
2 Ibid. p. I64.
3 Cabral, 'Identity and Dignity', p. 4
and completely identify with them. This process is slow and uneven,
with many among the bourgeoisie being indecisive. But it is only
through the struggle that they can hope to identify with the masses;
from the African bourgeoisie there arises 'the first important step
toward mobilizing and organizing the masses for the struggle'.' With
the success of the struggle the petty bourgeoisie must continue to lead.
'The moment national liberation comes and the petty bourgeoisie
takes power we enter, or rather return to history, and thus the internal
contradictions break out again.'2 When this happens 'the petty
bourgeoisie can either ally itself with imperialism and the reactionary
strata in its own country to try and preserve itself as a petty bourgeoisie
or ally itself with the workers and peasants'.3 This, finally, means that
for the petty bourgeoisie to fulfil its r6le in the revolution it 'must be
capable of committing suicide as a class in order to be reborn as revo-
lutionary workers, completely identified with the deepest aspirations
of the people to which they belong'.4 This, said Cabral, is the dilemma
of the petty bourgeoisie in the struggle. It is also the fulcrum upon
which turns the success of the revolution.
Thus, although both men could agree on the nature of the dilemma
facing the indigenous bourgeoisie, the results of their respective analyses
pointed in opposite directions. Fanon's bourgeoisie would fail the
revolution and try to use the struggle for its own selfish ends; other
groups would have to ensure the success of the struggle. But Cabral's
bourgeoisie, in sufficient numbers, would- no, must -join forces with
the masses, and become reincarnated in the condition of workers and
peasants to bring about a successful revolution. This is one of the most
important differences between their theories.
PARTIES AND LEADERSHIP
Lenin made a distinctive contribution to the theory and practice of
revolution when he substituted party for class as the motive force. The
party, he said, showed the masses the way.5 Virtually all revolutionary
theorists since then have utilised Lenin, in one way or another, in their
analyses of parties and leadership. Fanon and Cabral each recognised
Ibid. p. 47.
2 Cabral, 'Brief Analysis of the Social Structure', p. 69.
8 Ibid. p. 70.
4 Cabral, 'The Weapon of Theory', p. x o.
6 For a discussion and evaluation of Lenin's theory on, and contribution to, the concept of
revolution, as well as those of others, see Robert Blackey and Clifford T. Paynton, Revolution
and the Revolutionary Ideal (Cambridge, Mass., forthcoming)
CONTRAST IN THEORIES OF REVOLUTION FOR AFRICA 203
the value of efficient leaders for a successful revolution but, as with the
other factors we have surveyed, there are both similarities and dif-
ferences in their considerations.
Fanon, as emphasised above, recognised the conservative nature of
the peasants, as well as their potential for collective and spontaneous
violent action. But peasants lack adequate intellectual leadership
without which the revolution would fail. Such leadership, according to
Fanon, will come from the revolutionary elite in the cities who other-
wise have no base for action. It is crucial for revolutionary leaders to
intervene at the precise moment when peasant hostility erupts against
the colonial force. With outside leadership, momentum can be main-
tained and the insurrection of the peasants can be transformed into a
revolution.' Thus, Fanon hoped to turn peasant violence into an angry
awareness of injustices by merging it with revolutionary leadership.
When peasant revolts occur it is the duty of revolutionary leaders to
move in and direct them.
What Fanon found wrong with most national political parties in
colonial countries was that they were reformist and alienated from the
peasants. He opposed single-party regimes as 'the modern form of the
dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, unmasked, unpainted, unscrupulous,
and cynical'.2 Instead, he urged the more radical and militant members
of those national parties to join with the peasants, and together become
the basis for the political organisation of the revolution. Although he
was not especially specific regarding this organisation, he did develop
the idea of a minority or illegal party, composed of the urban radicals
acting as the ideological vanguard and the masses as their numerical
base.3 This illegal party, then, is led by deviant nationalists who have
reacted against the enclosed character and limited nature of the tradi-
tional national party. They are pushed out of the city to the countryside
where they discover that the peasants, unlike the urban proletariat, are
not indifferent. In this way the role of the peasants in the illegal party
is crucial; the party is the product of the fusion of the peasants with
the urban revolutionary elite (to which the galvanised lumpenproletariat
are later added).
Perhaps because he was in more of a central leadership role in his
revolution than Fanon was in Algeria, Cabral employed greater pre-
cision in discussing the role of party and leadership. Like Fanon he
shared a fear of elites but the P.A.I.G.C. had a real structure that
i Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 'Spontaneity: its strength and weakness', passim.
2 Ibid. p. I65.
3 Ibid. pp. 125-8.
Fanon's vaguer illegal party lacked. 'In our circumstances the Party
equals the State because there is no other means of making the State a
truly national, truly liberating organism',1 wrote Cabral. He sought a
government that would emerge during the struggle, grow from village
roots, and avoid the perils of becoming a privileged minority or an
oligarchical network. 'The Party is the people', said Cabral. 'For us
the people's opinion ... is extremely important, because the Party is
fighting for the people.'2 Cabral's study of the social structure of his
country indicated that for victory to be achieved all the groups of
Guinea-Bissau would have to be united, and not just Fanon's peasants,
lumpenproletariat, and urban leadership. Therefore, one of the primary
functions of the P.A.I.G.C. would be to minimise the conflicts and
contradictions among the various groups and classes making up the
struggle. Only a politically aware, revolutionary party can distinguish
between true national independence and fictitious political indepen-
dence, and then make it known, through the struggle, to the masses.3
During the struggle, liberated areas must be organised so that
colonial rule can be replaced effectively. Autonomous regions must be
eliminated to prevent local potentates from exercising power, selfishly,
over the people. Everything must be tied to the party's central organisa-
tion, with military leadership a part of (and not separate from, nor
superior to) the political. But military effectiveness is vital because the
revolutionists must show the masses that they are at least as powerful as
the colonial army; otherwise they might lose the support of the masses.
Therefore, the party must also train and organise forces to follow-up
the political groundwork. Simultaneously, care must be taken to keep
the guerrillas in contact with the masses and to encourage local
participation. All this is the task of the party for Cabral.
Fanon is probably best known for his views on violence and revo-
lution, a subject about which there is considerable debate.4 Although
he was not especially consistent in his pronouncements on violence,
1 Quoted in Davidson, op. cit. p. 138.
2 Quoted in Chaliand, op. cit. p. 68.
3 Cabral, 'The Weapon of Theory', p. 105.
4 See A. Norman Klein, 'On Revolutionary Violence', in Studies On The Left (New York),
vi, 3, 1966, pp. 62-82; Barbara Deming, 'On Revolution and Equilibrium', in Liberation
(London), xII, I, February 1968, pp. I0-2I; Louis Coser, 'Fanon and Debray: theorists
of the Third World', in Irving Howe (ed.), Beyond the New Left (New York, 1970); Horace
Sutton, 'Fanon', in Saturday Review (New York), 17 July I97I; Gendzier, op. cit.; and
CONTRAST IN THEORIES OF REVOLUTION FOR AFRICA 205
much of what he said can be understood if all of his views are considered.
Cabral's thoughts on the subject were somewhat similar, although he
was not as preoccupied with violence as Fanon.
During the revolutionary process of seizing freedom, violence,
according to Fanon, is necessarily applied because the very structure of
colonialism is fundamentally violent.
Decolonization, which sets out to change the order of the world, is, obviously,
a program of complete disorder . . . [Colonialism] is violence in its natural
state, and it will only yield when confronted with greater violence.l
Decolonisation involves 'vomiting up' foreign values and this pro-
duces new men. Through violence Africans come to realise that the
colonialists are no different from themselves, that their lives and their
skins are the same. This discovery, according to Fanon, 'shakes the
world in a very necessary manner. All the new, revolutionary assurance
of the natives stems from it.'2 Thus, violence 'makes it possible for the
masses to understand social truths and gives the key to them. Without
the struggle . . . there's nothing but ... [the masses], still living in the
middle ages.'3 Violence and revolution are not only rewards in them-
selves, but means to a greater end as well.
Yet, Fanon admitted that other means may be appropriate if the
situation dictates it. 'If need be, the native can accept a compromise
with colonialism, but never a surrender of principle.'4 A colonised
people must win their war of liberation, he insisted, 'but they must do
so cleanly, without "barbarity" . . . The underdeveloped nation that
practices torture thereby confirms its nature, plays the role of an under-
developed people.'5 The rest of the world, in order to accept a colonised
nation setting itself up as an independent nation, must see the colonised
people, in every one of its acts, as lucid and self-controlled.
Because we believe one cannot rise and liberate oneself in one area and sink
in another, we condemn, with pain in our hearts, those brothers who have
flung themselves into revolutionary action with the almost physiological
brutality that centuries of oppression gave rise to.6
An explanation for this apparent inconsistency may lie in the North
African context in which Fanon found himself, and in the emotional
nature of much of his writing. In Algeria the French were deeply
entrenched with a large colon or settler population, and were determined
to hold on, whatever the cost; the Algerian revolutionists had no
1 Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, pp. 36 and 6i.
2 Ibid. p. 45. 3 Ibid. p. I47.
4 Ibid. p. I43. 5 Fanon, A Dying Colonialism (New York edn., I965), p. 24.
alternative to violence. Therefore, when Fanon wrote of violence as 'a
cleansing force . . [freeing] the native from his despair and inaction',l
he was probably referring to Algeria only; he was not celebrating
violence per se. In-fact, he acknowledged that while 'in Algeria the test
of force was inevitable . . other countries through political action and
through the work of clarification undertaken by a party have led their
people to the same results'.2 Thus, Fanon wrote only of a reactive
violence that was an integral part of justice and non-compromise.
Cabral did not devote very much attention to violence, though like
Fanon he realised that it was the essential instrument of imperialist
domination. Revolution and national liberation, he believed, cannot
without the use of liberating violence by the nationalist forces, to answer the
criminal violence of the agents of imperialism . . . Imperialist domination
implies a state of permanent violence against the nationalist forces. There
is no people on earth which, having been subjected to the imperialist yoke
(colonialist or neo-colonialist), has managed to gain its independence
(nominal or effective) without victims.3
Violence needs to be used not only in response to the violence of
imperialism, but also to ensure true national independence. Com-
promises with imperialism, as experience taught Cabral, do not work.
But, as opposed to the French in Algeria, who were well settled, there
have been other colonialists who have not been interested in establishing
that kind of colony. Therefore, in such a situation, as in Guinea-
Bissau with the Portuguese, terrorism need not be employed. A military
struggle is often enough.4
ROLE OF CULTURE AND FUTURE PROSPECTS
As with most of the components of revolution we have considered,
especially where the two theorists tend to share similar ideas, Cabral
was more organised and attentive to detail than Fanon. But when both
men defined the role of culture in a revolutionary situation, and
speculated about the future, the differences between them are less pro-
nounced. Each employed more generalisations than usual- though
Cabral still less than Fanon - and each was essentially optimistic.
One of the greatest evils of colonialism, according to Fanon, is that
'it turns to the past of the oppressed people, and distorts, disfigures,
Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, p. 94.
2 Ibid. p. I93.
3 Cabral, 'The Weapon of Theory', p. Io7.
4 Cabral, 'Practical Problems and Tactics', p. 135
CONTRAST IN THEORIES OF REVOLUTION FOR AFRICA 207
and destroys it'. It warns Africans that if the settlers depart then they
'would at once fall back into barbarism, degradation, and bestiality'.1
Colonialism had 'generously' lightened their darkness. But this negative
situation can only be countered when the native turns backwards
towards his unknown roots - then he 'turns himself into the defender of
his people's past; he is willing to be counted as one of them, and hence-
forth he is even capable of laughing at his past cowardice'.2 The purpose
of culture is to utilise the past to open the future, to be an invitation to
action and a basis for hope. 'To fight for national culture means ... to
fight for the liberation of the nation, the material keystone which
makes the building of a culture possible. There is no other fight for
culture which can develop apart from the popular struggle.'3 Thus,
culture aims not only to counteract the evils of colonialism but to
construct the future.
A national culture is the whole body of efforts made by a people in the sphere
of thought to describe, justify, and praise the action through which that
people has created itself and keeps itself in existence. A national culture in
underdeveloped countries should therefore take its place at the very heart
of the struggle for freedom which these countries are carrying on.4
Culture is a vital part of a people's identity in its struggle for freedom.
Cabral agreed. In fact, he went so far as to assert that it is impossible
to create and develop a revolution unless a people keep their culture
alive in the face of continued organised repression of their way of life.
'It is cultural resistance which at a given moment can take on new
forms - political, economic, military-to fight foreign domination.'5
Cabral further observed that in the colonial situation the cultural
influence of the imperial power is limited to the capital and other
urban centres, and then only to small numbers of petty bourgeoisie and
urban workers. As for the masses, they are either completely or almost
untouched by the culture of the colonial power. Since foreigners are not
even interested in promoting culture for the masses, the latter, in turn,
'find that their own culture acts as a bulwark in preserving their
The future, to Fanon's mind, would be bright. Every victory in the
revolutionary struggle 'is a defeat for racism and for the exploitation
of man ... [inaugurating] the unconditional reign of Justice'.7 Fanon
1 Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, pp. 21 of.
2 Ibid. p. 2I8. 3 Ibid. p. 233. 4 Ibid. 5 Cabral, 'Identity and Dignity', pp. 40f.
6 Ibid. p. 41.
7 Fanon, 'Algeria Face to Face with the French Torturers' (1957), in Toward the Africa
did not elaborate upon what would happen after the success of the
revolution. His emphasis was on redistribution rather than upon
material creation. Moreover, he viewed the struggle for liberation as
part of a larger African-wide movement for a democratic and social
revolution. But in pursuing this goal, Fanon warned, none of the
African nations could afford to imitate western and capitalistic ways
of life; in fact, none should dare imitate the West because it would only
lead to a similar moral and spiritual debasement. He tried to minimise
the differences between Arab Africa and Black Africa because they, as
well as the other divisions of the continent, in no way reflected tribal
differences, geographic realities, or economic and social factors. They
were, instead, the 'gift' of Europe to Africa. Fanon believed that
common interests should bring Africans together in order to 'try to set
afoot a new man'.1
Cabral also believed in looking to the future, beyond the struggle for
national liberation, to the economic, social, and cultural evolution of
the people on their road to progress. He, too, opposed 'narrow national-
isms which do not serve the true interests of the people' and favoured
instead an 'African unity, on a regional or continental scale, inasfar as
it is necessary for the progress of the African peoples'.2 Although he
expected tribal differences to disappear with the success of the struggle
as they were absorbed by the new social order, he still recognised that
everyday conditions must also be changed. The most important thing
of all, he said, 'is an understanding of our people's situation . . .We
must assure [them] that those who bear arms are sons of the people and
that arms are no better than the tools of labor.'3 The purpose and goal
of the revolution is to protect the man with the tool.
Fanon was more concerned with making the revolution than with
predicting the future in much detail. His writings were intended to be a
part of the war against colonialism and imperialism. He saw hope for
Africa in all the people of the continent coming to grips with the
problems of unity and solidarity, so that they could collectively pursue
the best interests of all concerned, especially those of the masses, in the
quest for total liberation. Fanon was a brilliant propagandist of revolu-
tion, a prophet of hope for the oppressed.
1 Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, p. 316.
2 Cabral, 'Guinea and Cabo Verde Against Portuguese Colonialism', p. 17.
3 Quoted in Chaliand, op. cit. p. 35
CONTRAST IN THEORIES OF REVOLUTION FOR AFRICA 209
Less emotional than Fanon, Cabral was also a prophet of hope. He,
too, was primarily concerned with making the revolution, but he
placed it under the microscope of analysis in a way Fanon did not.
More than any other revolutionist in this century, with the exception of
Lenin and Mao Tse-tung, Cabral lived, breathed, and thought through
his people's revolution as a unique event. He was laying down a
cardinal principle when he said that 'it is necessary for each people to
find its own formula for mobilizing for the struggle'.l Each country
entering upon a path of revolution must look to its own internal con-
tradictions and problems.
Our own reality - however fine and attractive the reality of others may be -
can only be transformed by detailed knowledge of it, by our own efforts, by
our own sacrifices . . . However great the similarity between our various
cases and however identical our enemies, national liberation and social
revolution are not exportable commodities.2
He was a high-principled but practical and far-sighted revolutionist.
In lieu of Cabral's advice no conclusion that unequivocably decides
in favour of either revolutionist would be in order. Fanon, to be sure,
is the better known and more widely read. His words pound on the
doors of consciences; what he says comes from the heart and swells the
body to action. But Fanon, as we have observed, is sometimes con-
tradictory and his generalisations often lack supportive evidence.
However valuable Fanon may be, he should not be taken as the sole
guide for the African revolution. Cabral is more an excellent companion
than an alternative, while their differences can be overcome by follow-
ing his advice to find the proper formula for a given situation.
Both Fanon and Cabral fell victim to a cancer, the former to the
kind medical science is attempting to conquer, the latter to the variety
for which revolution seeks a cure. The differences in their theories of
revolution are important to evaluate, but it must also be noted that
they were seeking a similar future for their people.
1 Cabral, 'Practical Problems and Tactics', pp. 159f.
2 Cabral, 'The Weapon of Theory', p. 92.