Friday, May 20, 2011

Haiti: Reparations and Reconstruction


For two hundred years the peoples of Haiti have been struggling to reconstruct their society. Before the Haitian revolution of 1791-1804 could be consolidated, the French and other imperial powers worked to isolate the revolution for fear that the ideas of freedom would be contagious and spread. But they could not turn the tide of freedom. Failing to stem the idea that the African enslaved wanted freedom, the government and political leaders of France demanded reparations from Haiti, thus distorting the essence and meaning of reparative justice for 100 years. Despite this, the fears of the imperial west that the Haitian Revolution would inspire other slaves in Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States came to fruition. Haiti played its role of supporting freedom and independence throughout the region. Simon Bolivar and other revolutionaries from Latin America flocked to seek assistance from Haiti. Every act of freedom by Haiti scared the imperial powers; these powers slowly consolidated the ideas of capitalist exploitation and white supremacy so that these racist ideologies of the 19th and 20th centuries began to take root in Europe and North America.

United States revolutionaries, such as Thomas Jefferson, who internalised chauvinistic ideas about European and male superiority opposed the reconstruction of Haiti and refused to recognise the independence of Haiti. It was only after the bloody US Civil War (1861-1865), when the enslaved in the United States won their freedom that the US government recognised Haiti. This diplomatic recognition was followed by the destruction of the capacity for the Haitians to reconstruct their society. Western bankers, financiers and merchants and Jim Crow architects worked with a small clique inside of Haiti to frustrate efforts for reconstruction. To guarantee that reconstruction did not take place the bankers, financiers and the militarists organised a military occupation of Haiti (1915-1934). This occupation by the US, supported by France and Canada, laid the foundations for brutal militarism to contain the spirit of the people of Haiti. In the book, ‘Haiti: The Breached Citadel’, author Patrick Bellgrade Smith brings to life the epic struggles of the Haitians to be independent and how the forms of peasant agriculture gave them social solidarity outside of the urban centres where the √©volu√© aped France. Read More