[News] We have an anti-imperialist obligation to the people of Haiti

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Feb 13 11:22:58 EST 2014

    We have an anti-imperialist obligation to the people of Haiti

        Ajamu Nangwaya

        2014-02-12, Issue 665 <http://www.pambazuka.org/en/issue/665>


Toussaint, the most unhappy of men!

Whether the whistling Rustic tend his plough
Within thy hearing, or thy head be now
Pillowed in some deep dungeon's earless den
O miserable Chieftain! where and when
Wilt though find patience! Yet die not; do thou
Wear rather in thy bonds a cheerful brow:
Though fallen thyself, never to rise again,
Live, and take comfort. Thou hast left behind
Powers that will work for thee; air, earth, and skies;
There's not a breathing of the common wind
That will forget thee; thou has great allies;
Thy friends are exultations, agonies,
And love, and man's unconquerable mind. [1]
- To Toussaint L'Ouverture, William Wordsworth

We are coming upon the 10th anniversary of the February 29, 2004 coup in 
Haiti that was orchestrated by imperialism [2] against the labouring 
classes and the democratically elected government of President 
Jean-Bertrand Aristide. According to journalist and writer Yves Engler:

' On Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 2003, Jean Chrétien's Liberal government 
organized the 'Ottawa Initiative on Haiti' to discuss that country's 
future. No Haitian officials were invited to this assembly where 
high-level US, Canadian and French officials decided that Haiti's 
elected president 'must go', the dreaded army should be recreated and 
that the country would be put under a Kosovo-like UN trusteeship. [3]

Just over a year after this pivotal meeting of the three Western states 
in Canada, the democratic government in Haiti was overthrown, President 
Aristide had been kidnapped and exiled to the Central Afrikan Republic, 
hundreds of Fanmi Lavalas's (FL) supporters killed, there was immediate 
occupation of Haiti by 2,000 Western troops (latter replaced by the 
United Nations' military intervention), repression against grassroots 
organizations, filling of the jails with political prisoners and 
abandonment of the FL government's investment in education, job 
creation, healthcare, public services and preoccupation with increasing 
the minimum wage. [4]

The anti-democratic assault on the labouring classes in Haiti has 
resulted in the banning of the Fanmi Lavalas party from serving as an 
electoral instrument of the people as well as the execution of 
initiatives by elite forces to co-opt opportunistic elements within this 
political organization. [5] Charlie Hinton, an organizer with the Haiti 
Action Committee <http://www.haitisolidarity.net/>, has documented the 
different ways that the current Michel Martelly regime in Haiti is 
pursuing a path toward dictatorship. [6] People of good conscience 
across the world, especially those in the Americas, should develop or 
strengthen their ties of solidarity with popular organizations within 
Haiti's working-class and peasantry.

It is only through people-to-people solidarity based on mutual respect 
and principled collaboration that Haiti will rid itself of the United 
Nations' (MINUSTAH) occupation force [7]; force France to repay Haiti 
the ransom of 90 million gold francs (over $23 billion today) that was 
extracted from the latter as the price for diplomatic recognition and 
freedom from the threat of re-enslavement [8]; end the cycle of Western 
military interventions, coups and/or propping up of anti-democratic, 
anti-people regimes [9]; and put an end to the local elite's and foreign 
capital's exploitation of the people. [10] Based on Haiti's contribution 
to humanity, it should hold a special place in the internationalist 
programmes of progressive forces across the world.

The enslaved Afrikans in Haiti were the only people to have successfully 
overthrown a system of slavery in the annals of history. They defeated 
the strongest military forces of the day, that of France, Britain and 
Spain, in order to free themselves from the servile labour regime and 
boldly assert their freedom and humanity. [11] This historic feat, the 
Haitian Revolution, was significant beyond the victory that the enslaved 
Afrikans registered in using armed struggle to effect emancipation-from 
below. These Black Jacobins [12] etched the fear of revolution in the 
hearts and minds of the enslavers or agricultural capitalists in the 
other slave-holding territories in the Americas.

America's Declaration of Independence and France's Declaration of the 
Rights of Man and the Citizen are hailed as seminal texts that affirm 
inalienable, universal human rights, but the revolutions associated with 
these two documents were comfortable in maintaining slavery, a state of 
unfreedom. [13] It was the Haitian Revolution by way of its June 1801 
Constitution that unambiguously declared universal freedom from 
enslavement in Article 3, 'There cannot exist slaves on this territory, 
servitude is therein forever abolished. All men are born free, live and 
die free and French.' [14] Essentially, it was Caliban 
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caliban>, in a switch of roles, who 
introduced Prospero 
<http://shakespeare.about.com/od/thetempest/a/The_Tempest_Power.htm> to 
the virtue or practice of universal freedom and paid for this 
significant achievement with the former's blood.

The celebrated French Revolution and the American Revolution were 
parochial and hypocritical in allowing for the abridgement of liberty 
through the institution of slavery. But The Haitian Revolution made it 
clear to the world that the enslaved or the colonized had the capacity 
to forge the path to freedom through their collective effort against 
seemingly insurmountable odds. On the conclusion of the 1831-1832 
Emancipation Rebellion in Jamaica, the British authority was so spooked 
by the possibility of another Haiti with its freedom-from-below that it 
passed an abolition law in 1833, which took effect in 1834; 

Haiti's role in Simon Bolivar's wars of independence in Latin America is 
not widely known. In the spirit of principled international solidarity, 
Haiti provided a place of refugee to Bolivar and his comrade Francisco 
de Miranda in 1815 and gave them material aid in the form of schooners, 
printing presses, fighters and as well as guns for several thousand 
troops. [15] Haiti's only condition for its contribution was Bolivar's 
commitment to abolishing slavery, which he didn't vigorously and 
speedily implement. Haiti was still living up to the ideal of universal 
freedom from slavery and colonial domination. This country was there, 
materially and morally, during a crucial movement in Latin America's 
struggle for self-determination. It is rather instructive and ironic 
today to see Latin American military forces serving in Haiti as an 
occupation army under the United Nations' banner.

Haiti's legacy of defying and exposing the farcical nature of the racist 
characterization of Afrikans as sub-humans by defeating the best 
European armies of the period, taking its freedom in its own hands, 
contributing to the liberation of Latin America and threatening the 
continued viability of slavery has probably earned the country the 
unenviable economic and political status it currently holds in the 
region. [16]

I believe Wordsworth's was right in declaring to the deceived and fallen 
Toussaint (and by extension Haiti), 'thou hast great allies / Thy 
friends are exultations, agonies, / And love, and man's unconquerable 
mind.' Our anti-imperialist obligation to Haiti and its people for their 
contribution to universal freedom entail the provision of political, 
moral and material support in fighting our common enemies of social 
emancipation and justice. Our internationalist sensibilities and 
politics ought to be informed by Martin Luther King's claim, 'Injustice 
anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an 
inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. 
Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.' [17]

We may demonstrate our international(ist) solidarity commitment with the 
people of Haiti in the following manner:

1. Form or join an organization devoted to Haiti internationalist 
solidarity work. This type of formation is necessary to effecting 
consistent and systematic public education, mobilizing and organizing in 
support of the struggle of the Haitian labouring classes.

2. Mobilize and educate to pass a resolution or policy on 
internationalist solidarity with the people of Haiti. Mobilize, educate 
and organize members in your trade unions, student organizations, 
community organizations, faculty associations, progressive religious 
organizations and other civil society groups to support a resolution 
specifying actions and programmes that will be implemented to 
materialize people-to-people solidarity with grassroots and popular 
organizations in Haiti.

These Haiti-based organizations are worthy of people-to-people support: 
Défenseurs des opprimés 
(Defenders of the Oppressed) - - a human rights organization; Tèt Kole 
Ti Peyizan Ayisyen 
(Small Peasants Working Together) - Haiti's largest organization of 
small farmers; 
Ouvriye[/url] - one of the most prominent labour organizations; Ayti 
Kale Je <http://www.ayitikaleje.org/haiti-grassroots-watch-engli/> 
(Haiti Grassroots Watch) - investigative reporting; SOPUDEP 
<http://www.sopudep.org/> (Society of Providence United for the Economic 
Development of Pétion-Ville) -- education and community development; and 
Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye <http://www.lethaitilive.org/bri-kouri/> (Noise 
Travels, News Spreads) - investigative reporting.

3. Raise awareness about the 10th anniversary of the 2004 coup. Organize 
teach-ins, film series, lectures, rallies, demonstrations, informational 
pickets, do radio and television interviews and/or write articles to 
raise awareness about the February 29, 2004 coup d'état in Haiti and the 
role played by imperialist actors such as Canada, the United States, the 
International Monetary Fund, the Inter-American Development Bank, 
non-governmental organizations, local elite and the Canadian 
International Development Agency in overthrowing the pro-people 
government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. A primary objective 
behind the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the 2004 coup is to 
motivate individuals and groups to participate in solidarity projects or 
actions in support of the struggle in Haiti.

4. Support the lawsuit of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux and 
Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti <http://www.ijdh.org> that 
is aimed at holding the United Nations accountable for the introduction 
of cholera to Haiti. The 2010 cholera outbreak has resulted in over 
8,300 deaths and infected close to 650,000 <http://www.ijdh.org> 
Haitians. You can educate the people in your community or civil society 
organizations about the action of the United Nations and support or 
develop campaigns directed at getting this international body to accept 
legal and moral responsibility for the devastating action of its 
occupation forces.

5. Mobilize and organize to end the UN's occupation. Create or 
contribute to a broad-based campaign of progressive forces in your 
community, country or region aimed securing the withdrawal of the United 
Nations' occupation force of over 8,000 uniformed personnel in Haiti. 
Haiti did not experience a civil war and there are no warring sides 
being kept apart to justify this military presence. Support initiatives 
in states that have troops or police personnel in Haiti to build support 
for the pull out of their respective military and police contingents.

6. Contribute to the fight against neoliberalism. Your organizations 
ought to support Haitian trade unions, rural organizations and other 
progressive civil society groups that are fighting neoliberal capitalist 
policies in Haiti. They have devastated Haiti's rice industry and 
flooded the country with heavily subsidized agricultural products from 
abroad. As a result of the extreme neoliberal economic policies imposed 
on Haiti, it has one of the most open economies in the Americas. For 
those of us who are based in global North countries the fight against 
neoliberal capitalist policies starts where we live and work.

I am in full agreement with the following assertion of international 
solidarity activist Kali Akuno: 'As we gather our forces to support the 
resistance of the Haitian people, and join with it in common struggle 
against imperialism, we will appear as a new defiant spirit and a force 
to be reckoned with.' [18] Challenging anti-working class policies at 
home is a part of the global solidarity work of delegitimizing them and 
pushing an alternative approach to human economic and social development.

7. Mobilize against any attempt to bar Fanmi Lavalas from participating 
in the next round of elections. The conservative political and economic 
forces have conspired to exclude this movement from participating in 
recent elections because of its popular support among the people. Fanmi 
Lavalas was the political organization used by President Jean-Bertrand 
Aristide to win the presidency on two occasions (both times unseated by 
a coup). It can lay claim to the series of economic, social and physical 
infrastructure programmes that benefitted the peasantry and the 
working-class during the Aristide administrations. [19]

Irrespective of how we might feel about elections, if a progressive and 
popular Haitian organization is deliberately and deviously barred from 
participating or Fanmi Lavalas is seen by large segments of Haitians as 
representative and reflective of them [20], as allies we ought to stand 
in principled solidarity with the self-determined goals of the people.

The abolitionist, former enslaved African, feminist and statesman 
Frederick Douglass had this to say about Haiti's role in promoting 
'universal human liberty' and it serves as a reminder of our debt of 
gratitude and obligation to its people:

'In just vindication of Haiti, I can go one step further. I can speak of 
her, not only words of admiration, but words of gratitude as well. She 
has grandly served the cause of universal human liberty. We should not 
forget that the freedom you and I enjoy to-day; that the freedom that 
eight hundred thousand colored people enjoy in the British West Indies; 
the freedom that has come to the colored race the world over, is largely 
due to the brave stand taken by the black sons [and daughters] of Haiti 
ninety years ago. When they struck for freedom, they builded better than 
they knew. Their swords were not drawn and could not be drawn simply for 
themselves alone. They were linked and interlinked with their race, and 
striking for their freedom, they struck for the freedom of every black 
man [and woman] in the world. [21]

* Ajamu Nangwaya, Ph.D. is an educator and activist with the Toronto 
Haiti Action Committee and the Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity.


[1] Quoted in Brian Hickey, "Wordsworth Sonnet: "To Toussaint 
L'Ouverture", 38, Retrieved from 
[2] Richard Sanders, "A very Canadian Coup d'état in Haiti: The Top 10 
Ways that Canada's Government Helped the 2004 Coup and its Reign of 
Terror", The CCPA Monitor April 2010, Retrieved from 
http://coat.ncf.ca/Haiti/Canada_in_Haiti.htm; Putting the Aid in Aiding 
and Abetting: CIDA's Agents of Regime Change in Haiti's 2004 Coup, Press 
for Conversion, May 2008, Issue #62
[3] Yves Engler, "Remembering the Overthrow of Haiti's Jean-Bertrand 
Aristide: The Occupation Continues" Counterpunch, January 31-February 2, 
2014, Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/p3shncx
[4] Peter Hallward, Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politics 
of Containment (New York: Verso, 2007), 250-276.
[5] Charlie Hinton, "10 Steps to Dictatorship in Haiti: Why the 
Grassroots is Taking to the Streets against President Michel Martelly," 
Counterpunch, December 7, 2013. Retrieved from 
Hallward, "Damming the Flood," 263-264.
[6] Charlie Hinton, "10 Steps to Dictatorship."
[7] Deepa Pachang, "UN in Haiti: Keeping the Peace or conspiring against 
it?" Pambazuka News, November 3, 2011, Retrieved from 
[8] Noam Chomsky, Paul Farmer & Amy Goodman, Getting Haiti Right This 
Time: The U.S. and the Coup (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 2004), 
13; Hallward, "Damming the Flood," 226.
[9] Haiti Action Committee, Hidden from the Headlines: The U.S. War 
against Haiti, (Berkeley: Haiti Action Committee, 2003).
[10] Kali Akuno, "Confronting the occupation: Haiti, neoliberalism and 
Haiti," Pambazuka News, April 15, 2010, Retrieved from 
http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/63698; Hinton, "10 Steps to 
[11] C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San 
Domingo Revolution (New York: Vintage Books, 1963), viiii.
[12] "The Black Jacobins." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 
from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_Jacobins
[13] Nick Nesbitt, Universal Emancipation: The Haitian Revolution and 
the Radical Enlightenment (Charlottesville, Virginia: University of 
Virginia Press, 2008), 81-82,
[14] Nick Nesbitt, Toussaint L'Ouverture: The Haitian Revolution (New 
York: Verso, 2008), 46.
[15] Kim Ives, "Hugo Chavez' legacy in Haiti and Latin America," Haiti 
Liberté, March 7, 2013, Retrieved from 
http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/8263; Michael C. Twomey, "Questions 
Concerning the Haitian Revolution and its Impact in the Spanish 
Caribbean," Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/nb65gql
[16] Hallward, "Damming the Flood," 11.
[17] Martin Luther King, "Letter From Birmingham Jail," April 16, 1963, 
Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/73teqp
[18] Akuno, "Confronting the occupation."
[19] Haiti Action Committee, We Will Not Forget: The Achievements of 
Lavalas in Haiti, (Berkeley: Haiti Action Committee, 2005)
[20] Hallward, "Damming the Flood", 136-140.
[21] Frederick Douglass, "Lecture on Haiti, Delivered at the World's 
Fair, in Jackson Park, Chicago, Jan. 2, 1893", Retrieved from 



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