Category Archives: Haitian Revolution

Haiti, Aristide, Fanmi Lavalass: Being a call to reclaim history, humanity, Africa, the commons

Haiti, Aristide, Fanmi Lavalass:
Being a call to reclaim history, humanity, Africa, the commons.

A call to foes
who plug their ears hoping
not to hear their conscience’s call
for fidelity
with Haiti

A call to friends
Wringing their hands
Waiting to follow the brave
Sufficiently outraged
To risk everything
To make humanity
in Haiti

A call to those
In between, soooo
Comfortable on the fence
Looking at suffering
Enjoying the spectacle
Of a family seeking
to reconnect with
all of its members
from South Africa
to Haiti

Is it not time to stop the 200 years and more of suffering of the people of Haiti? Isn’t more than 200 years of solitary confinement enough punishment for doing what humanity was in greatest need of: Equality, Freedom, Justice, Dignity? Is it not time to stop and think about how best for humanity to become one again? Is it not time to end –select your words— the solitary confinement , exile, résidence surveillée, relégation, of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in a country freed from apartheid?

Following the earthquake on January 12, 2010, emergency alarm bells went off in the military/political power centers of the world. In the minds of the most powerful governments, i.e. those who got together to make sure that President Jean-Bertrand Aristide be taken out of Haiti, the first order of business was to secure/maintain their order on the island. Securing an order that for more than two centuries has been framed by constant punishment of those (and their descendants) who managed to break free from the rule imposed by the Code Noir issued in 1685 by the French Monarchy. That Code rationalized the Africans to be movable property (biens meubles), i.e. not human beings. It was a way of legalizing the beginning of a never ending crime against humanity which can also be seen as a splitting of humanity which, to this day, has not ceased.

Between 1792 and 1794, the Convention declared the end of slavery. Then, came Napoléon Bonaparte and the vengeful restoration of slavery everywhere. How virulent that process was, has been described in many books, among them CLR James’s Black Jacobins and, more recently Claude Ribbe, Le Crime de Napoléon. Following the failure to reinstate slavery in the place which had gotten rid of it without permission, France and its allies forced Haiti to pay compensation for the lost of property (the slaves and the sugar plantations).

Jean-Bertrand Aristide, his team and supporters, mostly the poorest of the poorest –Fanmi Lavalass—insisted that there be restitution, i.e. the compensation which had been paid from 1825-1826 through 1947 had to be given back to Haiti.

The case of Aristide’s kidnapping (in April 2004) and subsequent imprisonment in South Africa, and the latter’s shameless opposition to his return to Haiti following the earthquake on January 12, 2010 is one of the most heartless crimes ever conscientiously and consciously committed by the so-called Western community on people in danger. It is like the collective raping of a people in the process of healing. It is like a repetition of the splitting apart that wrenched the Africans from their land, their families in order to feed the insatiable predatory monster in the process of being born across the Atlantic.

How wrenching the history of Haiti has been cannot be imagined by those who see themselves as the descendants of those who asked for compensation. The violators managed to pass themselves as the victims of what has, since May 10 2001, been recognized by the French National Assembly (Loi Taubira) as a Crime Against Humanity. Pierre Nora, a famous historian, protested the passing of that law. Pierre Nora’s logic is not unlike the professor who, in graduate school, reminded me that historians could not apply the morality of 20th century to what happened in the 19th century. At the time, I could not think of the obvious answer, i.e. the Africans, back then, did not consider themselves as objects, but as human beings, as fully part of humanity, but since the Code Noir was the instrument for reducing them to objects, historians are supposed to submit to that legal document as if that document superseded what the Africans considered themselves to be.

For the past five centuries, the mindset which has grown hand in hand with capitalism has blinded humanity to one of its fundamental tenets, namely that it is one and that its splitting apart must stop. What is at stake in Haiti is much bigger than how the jailers of Aristide and their allies would like to frame the issue.

But before calling on them to correct their ways, one should attempt to explain to ourselves and to them what has been happening to the commons, history and Africa. This is crucial for the simple reason that the so-called political and military leaders of the world have always looked at Africa, and its history as an extension of the commons, i.e. to be enclosed at will for the purposes of benefiting the specialists of enclosing. Keeping in mind that the enclosure movement has moved far beyond land and see to assault what was once considered sacred: humanity’s conscience.

It is important to draw the attention of these masters of the enclosing process to how those who are being enclosed have seen, felt the process. Long before the splitting of the atom, humanity began to be split apart and became one of the most enduring roots of capitalism, a predatory system that is unaware of how predatory it is.

Africans from Africa (Kimpa Vita and the Antonins), on the way to the ships, on the ships themselves (Ayi Kwei Armah’s Two Thousand Seasons), in the Caribbean, in the Americas, refused to enter the equation being prepared for them to be fodder for something which is now called globalization. The knowledge of how that history has unfolded is still embryonic, at best.

Questions arise

Why the vindictiveness against Haiti, against Aristide, against Fanmi Lavalass? What is it in the contemporary history of Haiti that frightens the ever modernizing enslavers?

What happened between 1791-1804 in Saint Domingue was not supposed to happen. The dominant mindset was certain that slaves could not think outside of what they were expected to be: slaves. However, a good half of them, at the time, had been born in Africa: free. They did not need to learn about freedom from the philosophers of the Enlightenment. Therefore, when the Africans resolved to free themselves and organized themselves accordingly, they achieved the unthinkable, the improbable, the forbidden.

For more than two hundred years, the descendants of the revolution which went beyond the French Revolution have never forgotten what had been achieved through commitment, organization, determination, emancipatory politics. At the same time, for more than two hundred years, the descendants of those who were defeated have vowed to crush any person, and/or group of persons who might appear like carrying on in fidelity with the spirit of 1791-1804. The descendants of the ones who committed crimes against humanity have vowed to keep Haiti as a source of the cheapest possible labor available to the US. Poverty must be maintained at all costs so that people would be willing to work at any price that might be offered.

In order to demonstrate that the action of 1791-1804 was wrongheaded, the current leaders of the most powerful nations are determined to keep hammering away at the following lesson: Challenging power shall always be punished with the greatest severity. In cases where victory was achieved (as in 1804) the punishment shall be incalculably harsher.

According to such a view, Haiti shall get poorer and poorer and the richest nation on earth (for now) shall get richer and richer. The shameful inequality based on an even more shameful history of repeated crimes against humanity will continue smashing (as in the linear accelerators) the small matter we call humanity’s conscience. One day what is left of it shall be pulverized just in the same way that human beings were pulverized in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This experiment has been under way for the past 5 centuries. Now and then carriers of humanity’s conscience rise up. Like Aristide, like Fanmi Lavalass, like Pierre-Antoine Lovinski, the rule is “smash them”.

If the final act being programmed, i.e. the annihilation of humanity, is going to be stopped, then allowing Humanity to be one in Haiti could help suspend the looming fatal end of humanity.

Following the earthquake, if common sense and solidarity had prevailed, Jean-Bertrand Aristide would have come back because at times like these, one would have expected those who had engineered his kidnapping and subsequent incarceration in South Africa might have relented and allowed the Haitian people to be one again.

It is never too late for common sense and solidarity to re-emerge, but, for that to happen, there will have to be the kind of worldwide mobilization that brought about the formal end of apartheid. The cancer of apartheid without a formal capital has continued to spread. This is the only conclusion one can reach if one is going to explain how the South African government accepted to be the post apartheid Robben Island for Aristide, with the apparent silent acceptance of all the African leaders.

Surely, in fidelity to those who did say enough is enough back in 1791-1804, one can do better than just watching and/or wringing our hands hoping for a happy ending.

Two Hundred Years on and Still Fighting for Complete and Total Emancipation

Unfortunately, ever since the first slave revolt by Haitians in 1791, the country has been beset by abuses caused from within and without. It has never been able to fulfill its potential as a nation. Bill Clinton, What Haiti Needs in Time Magazine January 14, 2010

In the above quote, one gets a clear sense of how and where the troubles of Haiti began and how they were perpetuated. The problems of Haiti, typically, started when they sought to free themselves from slavery. President Bill Clinton (PBC) thinks of the 1791 uprising as “unfortunate”. In the very last paragraph (see the full quote below) of his piece on how to fix Haiti he calls for getting Haiti out of his past 200 years in chains.

If PBC were to make a little humble effort to read about the history of Haiti, and understand it within the parameters of what the Africans were confronted with, he would have to admit that there is more to Haitian history then his attempt at summarizing and silencing its most crucial parts.

For PBC, the model history is that of the US and how the US tackles disasters (e.g.Oklahoma City bombing 1995), it does not occur to PBC that to any history, especially one dealing with such disasters as confronting slavery, there are at least two sides: the one which wins and the one which loses. In the history of Humanity, the losing side may, one day, being the winning side. And vice-versa. As fables recount the world over, the side which reduces everything to how it sees things, will one day regret such shortsightedness.

From 1791 through 1804, the Africans who had turned Saint Domingue into the pearl of the French economic possessions had sworn at Bois Caiman (Televangelist Robertson calls this vow a pact with the devil) to end slavery. For an enslaved person to end slavery or any form of submission on his/her own timing is more than an affront to the enslaver (and his allies). Likewise with the colonized who seeks the end of his/her colonized status against the wishes of the colonizer. In the history of Africans, such thirst for freedom/liberty can only clash with the freedom/liberty of the owners of the physical and/or mental chains. This liberty is the liberty of capital. Ever since slavery, to this day, the liberty of capital has dictated the conditions under which it, and only it must prevail.

This is what PBC seeks to convey at the very end of his piece:

Before this disaster, Haiti had the best chance in my lifetime to fulfill its potential as a country, to basically escape the chains of the past 200 years. I still believe that if we rally around them now and support them in the right way, the Haitian people can reclaim their destiny.

“The chains of the past 200 years” were imposed because the Africans had removed the chains of slavery. And, clearly, the “right way” has to be in PBC’s mind the American way. The imperial language could not be clearer.

For the past 200 years, Africans of all stripes in Africa and beyond its borders, have been trying to unchain themselves from shackles of a predatory system which is against nature and against the principles of life. The responses from the system has been the same, over and over. PBC’s piece on what Haiti needs shows the formatting at work. Let Haiti be Haiti, let President Aristide go back to where he belongs. There is no better way of healing than allowing all Haitians, including President Aristide, and those who have been marginalized and/or rusticated for political reasons, to come together and recover.