Burning Down the House: Frantz Fanon and the Rise of the Fallists (Part 1)

Written by: Anthony Stuurman “Each generation must discover its mission; fulfil it or betray it, in relative opacity.”  – Frantz Fanon With the recent ‘lit’ protests at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, it is worth exploring the ideological basis for this behavior. Frantz Fanon, beloved by...

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Written by: Anthony Stuurman

“Each generation must discover its mission; fulfil it or betray it, in relative opacity.”

 – Frantz Fanon

Frantz FanonWith the recent ‘lit’ protests at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, it is worth exploring the ideological basis for this behavior.

Frantz Fanon, beloved by the Fallists, wrote extensively on the subject of protest, liberation, racism, identity, and decolonisation. Despite his critics, Fanon serves as a useful primer when trying to understand why sometimes liberation movements succeed or fail. Interestingly, this is one area of Fanon’s work that Fallists often ignore, or, at best, misinterpret – yet it is extremely insightful when trying to get a handle on explaining the rise of Fallism and in particular the recent events at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

So, according to Fanon, why do liberation movements succeed or fail? And, more importantly, where do Fallists fit into Fanon’s understanding of failed/successful states? For Fanon, liberation isn’t automatic or guaranteed. In fact, it is quite a risky business. Getting a vote really isn’t enough. For liberation to be fully realised, certain prerequisites must be in place, namely: unity, food security and industrialisation. If not, disaster strikes!

National Unity

Unless there is a common social cause, there cannot be true liberation, as the various groups within the newly liberated country simply subjugate each other. Consequently, central to liberation is the emergence of a particular group of intellectuals that drive national unity. To succeed, however, this newly emerged class of intellectuals needs to do the hard work of creating a new and unifying identity for the country. This necessitates a truly creative approach, which also means avoiding easy ideological shortcuts. However, Fallists fall into a second possible group.

Rather than doing the hard work necessary to create a new unifying narrative, some within this new class run the risk of what Fanon refers to as ‘lazy’ and ‘wilfully narcissistic’ intellectualism. By its nature this narcissistic class is out of touch with the reality of national liberation, and, instead, positions itself incorrectly as the focal point of liberation – in other words, they become the struggle. Working class and others concerns are sidelined through the use of divisive rhetoric. This enables them to con the working classes into believing that if they engage in violent protest (burning libraries, science labs, etc.), they will somehow further their cause.

Anyone who dares to disagree is branded with cries of ‘you’re a coconut’/’Impimpi!’ or if you’re white, ‘Racist!’. No matter whether this is voiced by white, black, middle-class or working-class – Fallists will attempt to silence criticism with the race card. Free speech goes down the toilet. Their ‘lazy intellectualism’ and ‘wilful narcissism’ allows them no other option but to misdirect with ultimately divisive hyper-racialism. As a direct consequence, the very real needs of ordinary students are effectively silenced. However, it is these ordinary students who pay the price through disrupted studies, burning of facilities, etc.

Food Security

Fallists often like to quote the following of Fanon: “first and foremost the land.” But they don’t quote the second part, which reads: “the land which will bring them bread and; above all, dignity.”  When Fanon wrote about land ‘first’, what he actually refers to is the industrial intensification of agriculture, which in turn leads to food security. He isn’t writing about random land redistribution; he is referring to its use of feeding the population. In others words, you can’t be liberated if you are at risk of starvation. Interestingly, South Africa is one of the few countries in Africa to achieve this first goal of liberation. We have a largely industrialised agricultural system which provides food security. There is no dignity in starvation.

However, Fallists, as members of the newly formed wilfully narcissistic class, instead demand that agriculture be de-industrialised, to be reduced to some form of small scale peasant farming – in essence, to risk the nation’s food security. By doing this they demonstrate their lazy intellectualism. Their cries of land first are really there to create racial division. When they cry “land first”, what they really mean is “me first!”.  They don’t really care, or even know, much about feeding South Africa.

Industrialisation and Job Creation

The third requirement is the development of the industrial sector. Again, this is very important as it provides jobs to the masses. Fanon correctly observed that in colonial countries, there is as much a problem of uneven development as there is under development, meaning that jobs in turn are spread unevenly. To remedy this uneven industrialism, Fanon argued, a class of industrialists needs to be nurtured. In other words, capitalism must be able to run its course throughout the country. Without jobs, the working class is in danger of remaining in grinding poverty and developing a culture of dependency on state handouts, just to survive. If you are dependent on state handouts, you aren’t really liberated; you’re chained to a cycle of poverty.

Once again, of course, rather than seeking to promote job creation through industrialisation, we find Fallists demanding obscure and abstract changes to the university curriculum that does nothing to develop the entrepreneurial, technical and employability skills needed to fully industrialise. Further, they rail against what they divisively see as a mythical ‘white’ monopoly capital. They ignore the fact that South Africa’s wealth is now largely owned by black South Africans. Instead, they push the hyper-racialised myth that ‘whiteness’ is to blame for lack of job creation. When Fallists protest ‘white monopoly capital’, what they really protest is job creation!


Increasingly we are seeing, among Fallists, the rise of an intellectual class that Fanon referred to as ‘retrogressive’ by nature. Rather than taking the hard route of leading the country forward, they are dragging down the real world liberation and everyday dignity of the average South African, black or white. The eroding of free speech, burning and protests are a direct and national cost of Fallists trying to promote their regressive agenda. The three prerequisites for national liberation: unity, food security and industrialisation, are at risk. Politically, South Africa is at a vital junction point. However, as Fanon pointed out, the rise of the Fallists isn’t inevitable.

In Part 2, I shall be exploring the conditions, tactics and strategies that are required to ensure that Fallist ideology, and its regressive influence, is side-lined from national discourse.

Author: Anthony Stuurman (a pen-name) is an educator in the Eastern Cape with an interest in neuroscience, ethnobotany and a passion for free speech.

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  1. Mark Ryan Schulz Reply

    South African ‘Fallists’ are the intellectual equivalent of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge. They push agrarian socialism and a restoration of a ‘traditional’ African value system (Ubuntu) in an attempt to reverse the ‘damage’ done to the ‘original’ people. Burning things down, especially things that have come to symbolize ‘foreign’ culture, is the manifestation of the desire to return things to their ‘natural state.’ They are seeking to erase and rewrite history, starting in 1652.

    1. Harald Sitta Reply

      Quite right!

  2. Altus Pienaar Reply

    Great article.
    You talk about willful narcissism but what should we call corporate capitalism!?!?!?
    While I agree on your standpoint that Fallist ideals is far from the ideal, I need to point out that capitalism is rapidly driving humanity to its own self extinction and does not offer long term solutions both politically or materially. (If you believe that industrialized agriculture is providing food security I would like to know how you see us moving beyond oil when it runs out in another 30 odd years?)

    I believe the idea that unity can be created by ‘intellectuals’ could be at the heart of our current human condition. The believe that ‘leaders’ knows best, or might be more clever at making decisions on our behalf is the root cause for the failed social and political systems we have seen in the most recent history of man.
    There does not exist enough intelligence in one man to make him capable to dictate to entire nations on how they should live and conduct their everyday existence, so why do we allow this? Fallism is but merely another symptom of this alien idea allowing so much power into the hands of such few men….but hardly ever women who on every sphere of intellectualism can be as capable as a man. This simple fact should be the shining light exposing the fraudulent idea forced down upon us through the centuries by monarchs, dictators, autocrats and in more recent history the oligarchs controlling us through the eye-blind of what we believe to be democracy. Similarly in the workplace we are controlled by a handful of board members of large corporations making all economic decisions on our behalf.

    The way I see it is that the fallists are simply a desperate attempt at fixing what is fundamentally wrong with our current society and in the same way that crime is escalating out of making the best of desperate situations in desperate times so too is fallist attempts merely desperate measures because there is few other options left to explore within the current capitalist and materialistic mindset.

    The most logical assumption reading my comment would be to believe I am supporting fallism but this would be as narrow minded as believing I am in support of crime. What I am saying is that we should look at these weak attempts at rectifying society using a narcissistic mindset, to bring us to the realization that we need to get right down to basics creating a new foundation onto which we can build society. Similar to realizing that using laws, courts and prisons to try an eliminate crime can never be successful when we ignore the social, intellectual and spiritual well being of society and the individual alike.

    1. Anthony Stuurman Reply


      Thanks for the comment. I shall try my best to address your point regarding Capitalism, Food Security and the peak-oil issue.

      It might be worth unpacking the difference between Capitalism and the technology it deploys. By nature capitalism drives technological innovation. Modern commercial agriculture is very high-tech, the “Boer and his Bakkie” is becoming increasingly an urban legend (or is that a rural legend?) So the question for me is rather “Can capitalist innovation solve the Peak-oil issue in food security and still turn a profit?”

      In short. Yes. I know of several projects where venture capitalists have teamed up with innovative farmers and have done just that. They have developed methods where chemical pesticides etc etc are no longer necessary. Importantly, their yields per crop and per area are significantly greater as they can grow more intensively, year round. I’ve seen production values as high as R17 000 on a 15 x 2.5 meter row. If you know anything about food production, you will know that it is an insane figure.

      The drawback, as with almost any new technology, is that there are very high start up costs. Unless SA can get its act together in terms of land policy, investors won’t part with the necessary funds to get it started. We need to get going with it soon though, a number of European countries, Canada and the US are already starting to adopt the new tech.

      That, to an extent, reveals my view of capitalism. I don’t see it necessarily see it as the big bad wolf or as angelic either. I’d be very curious as what you think would be a better way?

      Again, thank you for the comment.


    2. Shadeburst Reply

      Altus, some comments:

      Oil run out in another 30 years? [citation needed]

      Capitalism is rapidly driving humanity to its own self-extinction. Huh. Capitalism has halved world poverty in the last thirty years. We are living longer than at any previous time in history. All other economic systems have only resulted in greater material misery for the people.

      Just as economic progress depends on free markets in goods and services, so the politics of upliftment depends on a free market in ideas. As you very rightly say, no one person or even a whole government department can plan for a whole nation, because information is necessarily incomplete.

      Your statement about workplaces and corporate boards is difficult to disentangle because it combines two different issues. In the modern welfare state, labour has parity with employers, so let’s put that to one side. The people who make the real economic decisions are everyone carrying a wallet. We have a vote called a dollar, or a rand, and we can vote for whichever corporation we choose, large or small. Consumers decided the relative fates of Nokia and Apple, not the handfuls of board members.

      You call it materialism, I call it prosperity. The great thing about a free society is that everyone is free to place whatever comparative values they like on whatever they want. Yes, society would be more moral if we spent less on blingmobiles and luxury houses and spent more on the needs of others. Trying to enforce that through regulation is as futile as the prisons, police and courts you mention. We have to try and encourage society to change its values. Fortunately this does seem to be happening pretty well and the welfare state is now the norm in industrial nations. People are happy paying more tax in the name of what they have now come to see as a worthy and necessary cause.

      Yes, democracy is a flawed system but it’s an improvement on not having any representation at all. There must be a better way, but nobody’s found it as yet.

  3. Harald Sitta Reply

    “Fallism” (??) A neologism for #allbloodyraciststhingsmustfall I may guess. please confirm 🙂

    1. Anthony Stuurman Reply

      Correct. Although racism comes as optional!

      1. Harald Sitta Reply

        #Fallistsshallfall !! Yes, it is a fight about the cultural hegemony in which we are .. Will write about Gramsci soon! I am eager for part 2 !

        1. Anthony Stuurman Reply

          Part 2 is on its way. Well done on spotting Gramsci! I always thought Gramsci should’ve been born in Naples rather than Rome. Growing up on a side street off the Via Tribunali would have made him 100% gangsta!

          1. Harald Sitta

            Gramsci was a very clever guy. His concept of cultural hegemony (CH)and how to achieve it is excellent strategy and tactic. BUT on the right side almost nobody knows or is capable to combat it! In the 70s we in JES ( Young European Student Initiative) – a conservative and ordo-liberal movement understood it and had been quite successful at University, getting as decisive Conservatives nearly 30 percent of the vote ( and the majority at Law faculties!) .And we tried to influence the parties right of center to take up the fight around CH. They never understood and until today we do not.

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