Strengths and Weaknesses of Nationalism in Colonial and Postcolonial Times

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In “The Pitfalls of National Consciousness”, Fanon shows the conflict that occurs through the anticolonial fight between the middle classes and the majority of the nation. Fanon’s assessment of nationalism is correct because as independence was achieved it allowed for the national bourgeoisie to become the leaders of this newly independent nation. It is also said that these bourgeoisie were unfit to lead the nation as they were bureaucrats whose goal it was to obtain wealth and prestige leaving the people of the nation in poverty much like it was during colonial times. This reaffirms that there were strengths and weaknesses to nationalism in both colonial and post-colonial times especially once independence was gained and new leadership had to take the place of colonist.

Nationalism failed at achieving liberation, this was due to the national bourgeoisie. The national bourgeoisie were the privileged middle class that controlled the economy and whose primary goal was the defeat of the colonial rule. This independence and liberation allowed the privileged middle class to pick up where the colonist left off and replace them in every regard by asserting their dominance over the working class. The new ruling class was considered an underdeveloped bourgeoisie and is inadequately prepared to replace the colonial system. This new bourgeoisie did not know how to control the economy and therefore could not nationalize it either. Instead they shipped resources from the country to Europe and resorted to sending appeals for help to their former mother country. This shows that the economy was still the same as it was under colonialism and the newly decolonized nation remains dependent on the colonial power, with the one difference being that the new bourgeoisie benefitted from exploiting the masses.

The new bourgeoisie were not only inadequately prepared but created the nations dependency by imitating the methodologies of the traditional bourgeoisie. With this the middle class became a ‘business agent’ of the Western bourgeoisie. Fanon goes on to blame the fall of nationalism on the laziness of the middle class and that it rose to power because they replicated the bourgeoisie of their mother countries that sustain their colonial rule. They replicate the colonial bourgeoisie in the way that they attempt to control the masses. Through their connection with European ways the new bourgeoisie are able to gain more wealth and influence through the European capitalists. These leaders were responsible for the emergence of a ‘national consciousness’ that made their wealth possible. This led to the exploitation of the poor people of the nation as well as dictatorship that led to corruption and the decline of morality. This decline in morality is seen in the betrayal of the working class where before independence was established the leaders would embody the aspirations of the working class but once independence is declared the intentions of the leaders are made clear. They want the return of their profit that constitutes the national bourgeoisie.

The business agents of the Western bourgeoisie neglected national development in favour of the development of the tourism industry which Fanon referred to as the ‘brothel of Europe’. Fanon also introduces the notion of racist’s beliefs regarding the presumed inferiority of African people. The national bourgeoisie turn their backs on those they deem peasants, Fanon however states that they should be the most privileged part of the country.

Fanon also shows the strengths to nationalism through the building of the nation. The masses in the villages outside the capital cities should learn and understand the political systems and how they should work in their interest and understand that speeches are not enough to build a viable economy. Fanon also states that the masses need to realize that the government works for them and that change will happen when the common people take the power back from them. Fanon shows that if a national government wants to be national it should strive to be governed by the people and for the people. Nationalism should be to the advantage of all people not just the nation bourgeoisie.

In conclusion while Fanon criticisers the uselessness of the national bourgeoisie and its weaknesses he also recognisers the strengths that emerge from it and through the masses. While the national bourgeoisie became the leaders of the new independent nation the masses can still rise up against the oppression they are enduring. This shows that Fanon was correct in stating that there are strengths and weaknesses of nationalism in colonial and postcolonial times.


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Strengths and Weaknesses of Nationalism in Colonial and Postcolonial Times. (2021, Jan 24). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/strengths-and-weaknesses-of-nationalism-in-colonial-and-postcolonial-times/

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