Haiti on my Mind

Racism is an ulcerated ostrich, or a crenulated werewolf, perhaps an infected tourniquet or an awkward viper – Will Alexander

For nonwestern countries, outside of the Atlantic project, achieving mass human rights can only be a global solidarity effort and Haiti’s economy and state today is proof of this; what Haiti dreamed and dreams of can only come from internationalism. As Robin Blackburn notes in his book The American Crucible and in many essays, the Haitian revolution realized or actualized for black people what was just intended to be enlightenment human rights language, as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is important to note this and that the intention of human rights language during the enlightenment; neither the Declaration of Human Rights nor the American Constitution intended to create an equal human community or ensure equality in human community for black people, despite their language. Instead, both were an attempt to lay the ground for bourgeois governance of national production in temporary coalition with fiery democratic masses to end feudal modes of production and the bourgeois’s place in feudal society.

It was not until the 1960’s and the Western interest in “Third World” politics that achieving human rights for all including the self-determination of black people became a westerner ambition. This was the time of Fidel Castro, Frantz Fanon, Che Guevara, etc, before the time when Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton internationalism claimed to be building an international human community. This was also the time of many insurrectional community groups, etc, attempting to guide the west, such as the SDS, etc. This was the time that came with the birth of third world project, Bandung, and eventually the non-aligned movement, alongside the long antiwar movement and communist and socialist activism and organizing in the west. The anti-vietnam movement mustered genuine western interest in human community. This was before neo-liberalism and this project failed. Haiti found no friends in this project, given that in the 60’s, during the heyday of the postcolonial movement, it was being dictated by Francois Duvalier, Papa Doc.

The West, though not all of it thanks to the work of activist westerners, for the most has worked with Haitian elites to suppress Haitians. In the 1990’s, when Jean Bertrand Aristide came to power, previous Presidents had already started participating in the global neo-liberal project, to the point where Haiti was a large benefitted of foreign aid because of this. They had begun killing national agricultural productions and opening the borders to massive imports. It was the beginning of contemporary Haitian poverty. Add to this the fact that Bill Clinton’s human rights internationalism, bubble gum neoliberalism, was popular in the US. Aristide did not have the global conditions to work with to effect change because there was no willingness by the hyperpower USA to build this human community.

Instead, scarcity, illiteracy, and other important factors have led to a tragic contemporary society. The main reasons for this scarcity being the marginalization of Haiti by the industrial world and neo-colonial mentalities of Haitian business, religious, and intellectual elites.

As Robin Blackburn notes in his book The American Crucible, Haitian life “comprises echoes of a pre-capitalist past and the memorable refusal of the first globalization”. Though capitalism, or shall we say proto-capitalism exists in Haiti in the form of very oppressive factories, this “memorable refusal of the first globalization” is the foundation of a state of affairs without the resources to see Haitian prosperity through. The memorable refusal of the first globalization has produced politics that have neither led to an economic system nor a legal system, a public health system, a public education system, etc that can be considered humane. This is why Haitians are once again in the streets.