What was Frantz Fanon's thesis in "The Wretched of the Earth?"
Fanon argues in this book that the effects of colonialism linger and harm a nation in insidious ways even after the colonial power has left. For example, the group left in charge after the country has achieved freedom is almost always comprised of a layer of technocrats and intellectuals trained by the masters who were once in control. These new leaders want all the money, prestige, and consumer goods that the colonizers once had. Unfortunately, they lack the boldness, vision, and initiative that drove the colonizers to take over the country to begin with.
Fanon contends that this new power group simply becomes a weak imitation of their European conquerors. They allow the former occupying power to exploit the country and its resources, signing favorable contracts with them. The new leaders park their increased wealth in Swiss banks and purchase expensive European commodities, like cars, rather than reinvesting their wealth in their own land and people.
The hope, Fanon argues, lies in the common people—what he calls the lumpenproletariat, borrowing from Marx. To fully develop a vital nation in a postcolonial context, political organizers need to go the villages and organize those who have not been corrupted by the colonizer's mindset.
Fanon's Wretched of the Earth is fairly transparently a call to action for exploited colonial peoples around the world, but specifically in Africa. He has two broad goals in the book, which he wrote while dying of leukemia in 1961. The first is to illustrate the ways in which colonial societies have been exploited by their colonizers, and the second is to show how colonial peoples might overthrow not just the colonizers themselves, but the ideas and structures that supported their rule. He pushes for the preservation of indigenous institutions, warns of the rise of bourgeois governments in newly independent former colonies, and generally calls for intellectuals in Africa and elsewhere to assert their political and cultural autonomy, even if this assertion led to violence. Violence, he thought, was perhaps an unavoidable by-product of decolonization given that colonization itself was inherently violent. Simply stated, Fanon's book was a call for immediate, unconditional decolonization.
Fanon’s book is a psychiatric analysis of colonization. That is, he analyzes colonialism as a kind of mental illness, one that negatively effects both the mental health of individuals and of societies. Fanon argues that colonialism is a kind of slavery, and that the roles of master and slave, colonizer and colonized, will pervert and destroy the the human potential in both roles.
Whatever good intentions the European colonizer might have had, the social relationships necessitated by colonialism invert them; in his conclusion, Fanon argues that while Europeans may speak of humanitarianism, their actions suggest just the opposite: Europeans “are never done talking of Man, yet murder men everywhere they find them, at the corner of every one of their own streets, in all the corners of the globe.” He calls for the colonized to rebel against their masters, so that the Third World can ”start a new history of man,” or invent a new social order independent of European values.