Editor’s Note: As worldwide resistance grows to the Bush administration’s relentless march towards war with Iraq, it is instructive to hear the reflections of Paul Laraque, one of Haiti’s foremost living poets. The following text is extracted from a speech Laraque presented on Jan. 19, 2003 at a public meeting of the Haitian People’s Support Project in Woodstock, NY. It is followed by a poem from “Les armes quotidiennes/Po?sie quotidienne” (Daily Arms, Daily Poetry), which in 1979 was the first work in French to win Cuba’s “Casa de las Americas” literature prize.
As a poet from Haiti, the first Black republic in the world and the only state ever created by a revolt of slaves and still in existence in the whole history of humankind, I will emphasize other means of resistance, particularly revolutionary violence opposed to the reactionary violence of the dominant classes.
From the Haitian Revolution that led to the abolition of slavery to the Cuban Revolution which introduced socialism in the Americas, all the revolutions were violent because the colonists and the local oligarchies would not give peace a chance. The peoples of the world could not and will not let the big powers keep the monopoly of violence.
My poetry tends to be an explosive mixture of love and liberty, dream and revolution, the cruelty of the present and the hope of the future. I believe that culture cannot be dissociated from history. Since the Spanish conquest with the cross and the sword, our hemisphere has been marked by native resistance against colonialism and genocide, by Black heroism against slavery, by peoples’ struggles against imperialism, by masses’ revolt for economic equality and social, political and cultural freedom.
As powerful as it might be, no state has the right to violate international laws and the sovereignty of another state. No state has the right to occupy the land of other people and condemn them to die from hunger or otherwise. Solidarity with the victims of terrorism is right, but preventive war and the deliberate killing of innocent people, including children, pregnant women, old people and patients in Iraq, are wrong; those were the weapons of Nazis and Fascists against Jews and Blacks. An international embargo against “Apartheid” in South Africa was right but, according to most members of the United Nations General Assembly, the U.S. embargo against the Cuban people is wrong. As for the women’s liberation movement, it is an integral part of the struggle against inequality, racism, repression, poverty and war.
Many of my French and Creole poems are dedicated to my wife Marcelle Pierre-Louis Laraque, whose death left me on the verge of despair. But life goes on. Today, I am joining my voice to yours. Indeed, you and hundreds of organizations across the country, from California to Washington, D.C., are proclaiming the will of the people for work and peace, against the war and repression. It is a great satisfaction to meet here young people like my grandson Marc Arena; they are the light of the future.
Of course, our ideologies and cultures are different. A democratic society needs multiple voices but one goal: liberty and the “pursuit of happiness” for all.
Poetry is truth. The inhuman living conditions of the masses must change. That’s the only way all of us can live in peace and dignity. Nonviolent if possible, violent if necessary, only a revolution or a revolutionary alliance between democracy and socialism will save Haiti and the world.
REIGN OF THE PEOPLES
You say democracy and we know it is Bolivia’s tin Chile’s copper Venezuela’s oil Cuba’s sugar raw materials and profits
You say democracy and it’s the annexation of Texas the hold up of the Panama Canal the occupation of Haiti the colonization of Puerto-Rico the bombing of Guatemala
You say democracy and it’s America to the Yankee it’s the rape of nations it’s Sandino’s blood and Peralte’s crucifixion
You say democracy and it’s the plunder of our wealth from Hiroshima to Indochina you spread the slaughter everywhere and everywhere ruin
You say democracy and it’s the Ku Klux Klan o hidden people inside your own cities an ogre is devouring your children
Ubu from the empire of robots you let your ravens fly from Harlem to Jerusalem from Wounded Knee to Haiti from Santo Domingo to Soweto the people will be waving the torch of revolution
Night is a tunnel opening on the dawn Viet-Nam stands like a tree in the storm the frontier which marks the place of your defeat history’s lessons have no recourse a footbridge stretches from Asia to Africa the reign of the white race is ending on earth and the reign of the peoples in the universe is beginning.
Paul Laraque (Translation from French by Rosemary Manno)
All articles copyrighted Haiti Progres, Inc.