Socialist Worker

Interview: 'Fanon was a brilliant charmer and disciplined militant'

Leo Zeilig interviewed Pierre and Claudine Chaulet earlier this year as part of his research into the Algerian national struggle

Issue No. 2283

Pierre Chaulet and Claudine Chaulet joined the struggle in Algeria in the early 1950s. They were part of a small group of Algerians of European origin who were committed to the revolution.

Both were close friends of Fanon and introduced him to militants in the FLN.

After Pierre was released from prison in 1957 the couple joined Fanon in exile in Tunisia where they worked together on El Moudjahid, the FLN paper.

Pierre describes Fanon in vivid detail. “He was a brilliant talker, a charmer who adored using words from the medical and psychiatric lexicon to express a core meaning. He seemed to have read everything.

“Sometimes he was in a spin of words, taking lyrical flight, pushing reason to the point of paradox to provoke discussion.

“Yet at the same time he was a disciplined militant, modest and accepting criticism of certain improper expressions or exaggerations.

“The Wretched of the Earth should be read like an urgent message, delivered in a raw state and uncorrected.

“He was sick, and aware that he was condemned. But he desired with all his force to say what he had to say.”

Pierre described the crucial role Algeria played in Fanon’s life. “He participated in the liberation struggle of a settler colony, with the aim of abolishing a colonial system that rested on exploitation and racism.

“This was the realisation of his dream as a young Caribbean man confronted with a similar system as a child.”

Much of this energy was expressed through Fanon’s newspaper work, Pierre adds. “The freedom of discussion was total within the editorial committee. Each one of us would speak in turn on a certain theme.

“But we shared the same analysis and we had the same objectives within the editorial committee. Fanon was one of us and what we wrote was a reflection of the collective.”

Fanon did not separate his radical activism from his work as a doctor. “Fanon not only removed the chains of certain patients, but he also abolished the use of straitjackets.

“He organised social and leisure activities, including a cafe, a football pitch, concerts with Algerian musicians, religious events for Muslim patients and a printing press for a hospital newspaper.”

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Tue 13 Dec 2011, 17:13 GMT
Issue No. 2283
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