—by Franck Laraque
In the context of the Black History Month and to make you understand better the relevance of my topic, I will look quickly at the similarity of the liberation struggle of the Afro-Americans and Haitians, and their solidarity.*
Liberation Struggle in the US
1) Resistance of the Native Americans under the leadership of leaders such as Crazy Horse Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Chief Joseph.
2) Black resistance against slavery with Gabriel Prosser, Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner (pioneer of the theology of liberation, religion vs. slavery), Harriet Tubman (the Underground Railroad), Frederick Douglass (the abolitionist movement).
3) After slavery, fight for economic, civil & political rights: Tubman, Douglass, B.T. Washington (the Tuskegee Institute & Machine), DuBois (the Niagara Movement, NAACP), Garvey (UNIA, Universal Negro Improvement Association); Elijah (Poole) Mohammad (the Nation of Islam); Malcolm (Little; X, NOI; El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, the Organization of Afro-American Unity); Marthin Luther King Jr. (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), The Black Panthers Party (Huey Newton & Bobby Seale), the Black Liberation Army (Assata Shakur, known as Joanne Chesimard), PUSH (People United to Serve Humanity, Jesse Jackson).
Liberation Struggle in Haiti
Resistance of the Indians under Caonabo, Bohechio, Manicatex, Anacaona, Cotubanama, Cacique Henri (sovereignty of his territory). Resistance against slavery: Padrejean, Makandal, Boukman (pioneer of the theology of liberation, vodou vs. slavery); general revolt of the slaves, resulting in the abolition of slavery.
Fight for autonomy & independence; General Moïse, his disagreement with the agrarian policy of Toussaint (his 1801constitution proclaims him governor-for-life with the right to choose his own successor; unity of the island). Deportation of Toussaint to France; death at Fort de Joux. The union of Dessalines (leader of the new Freemen) & Pétion (leader of the old Freemen) & the maroons, under the leadership of Dessalines, defeated the French and proclaimed the indepen dence of Haiti, 1804. Struggle against involuntary servitude: Following General Moïse’s step, Jean Jacques Acaau, Charlemagne Péralte & Benoît Batraville; and now several peasant Communities.
We learn from our history of the solidarity that has united us. For example, Article 44 of the 1816 constitution stated,” Africans, Indians and those related to them by blood… who would come to reside in Haiti will be considered Haitians but their rights to citizenship will be granted after a year of residency.” It is reported that Denmark Vesey wrote a letter to President Boyer of Haiti in 1822, asking for his support in case of victory. In May 1824, the same president sent 50,000 pounds of coffee to be sold to facilitate the migration of Afro-Americans to Haiti. Within four years, 13,000 black Americans had come to Haiti; in 1861, another 1,600 came. In 1861, thanks to Frederick Douglass, minister-resident in Haiti, the Haitian government was not forced to sign a lease granting the Môle St.Nicolas to the US for a naval station, despite Admiral Gherardi’s pressure with his seven battleships and two thousand sailors. W.E.B. DuBois took a strong stand against the US occupation of Haiti (1915–1934). Haitians occupied key positions in Garvey’s UNIA in New York. Langston Hughes and Jacques Roumain, our famous poet and novelist, were great friends. Hughes protested against Roumain’s imprisonment and led a campaign for his release. Former congresswoman Chisholm, reverend Daughtry, Jesse Jackson (who went to the Vatican to ask the pope to intervene in favor of the Haitian refugees), Congressmen Owens & Rangel as well as former mayor David Dinkins supported Haitian demands for political asylum and better treatment.
Finally we should not forget that in 1969 Black & Puerto Rican students took over City College (New York), forced the adoption of open admission and the creation of the Department of Ethnic Studies, which became the Department of Black Studies, the Department of Puerto Rican Studies & the Department of Chinese Studies. In the 1980s, the Dept. of Black Studies had an enrollment of 1500 students or more, and a faculty of 15 full time teachers (6 Afro-Americans, 4 Africans and 5 Caribbeans). The Black students never stopped fighting for themselves and the future generations against racism & discrimination.
Struggle for liberty and survival
We deem it necessary to give very simple definitions of some words and concepts that we are using in our text, which is not a rigorous analysis but rather a historical profile of the struggle of the Haitian masses, and particularly of the small landowners and tenant farmers of the peasantry for liberty and their survival.
The masses: The poor classes—the majority of the population—include 1) the small peasant 2) the working class or proletariat, and 3) the lumpenproletariat.
The parcel of land peasantry: “The small peasant is the owner or tenant-farmer of a small lot. As a farmer, he is exploited; a part of his fruit of labor goes to the bourgeoisie compradore and all kinds of intermediaries when his products are sold in the market place.” (Luc, 1976: 56)
Working class or proletariat: “The Haitian working class or proletariat is made up of wage-earners who produce the surplus value in the city industries and of farm workers in the countryside” (Luc, 1976: 59}
The lumpenproletariat: The lumpenproletariat is made up of the city’s unemployed, evicted peasants or peasants who had to quit an unproductive land, that is to say “servants, street porters, peddlers, shoeshiners, beggars” (Luc, 1976: 62)
The struggle of the masses for liberty: Generally speaking, it is the armed struggle waged from 1492 to 1920 against slavery and for independence, and the rather peaceful struggle since 1928. The armed struggle started with the destruction of the Fort Navidad by Caonabo and his warriors in 1493; followed by the La Vega Real battle in 1495, in which almost one hundred thousand Indians were killed. The struggle is enhanced by the thirteen-year guerrilla waged by Cacique Henri and his warriors, whose territory was recognized as independent by the 1533 agreement concluded with Barrio Nuevo, the special ambassador sent by the King of Spain (Laraque, 2003:25). The struggle is heightened by the general slave revolt led by Boukman, the pioneer of the Liberation Theology (vodou against slavery), in 1791, which resulted in the formal abolition of slavery in 1793. Then, it continues with the unity of the island under Toussaint Louverture and his 1801 constitution, which proclaimed him governor-general for life. The maroons who took refuge in the mountains represented a real threat to the very existence of the colony. Jean Fouchard (1972) emphasizes the importance of the role of the maroons in the apocalyptic warfare for the independence of Haiti. The great C.L.R. James rightly notes in his preface of The Haitian Maroons (Fouchard, 1981):
“Hitherto they (the maroons) had been considered merely as accessories, more or less important to the national movement against slavery and for independence. The author establishes that the other participants in the revolt are the accessories; without the Maroons there could have been no successful foundation of a new state, perhaps not even a full-blooded revolution.”
Finally, there is the war for Haitian independence under the leadership of Dessalines; one of the greatest epics in the world’s history, thanks to the incredible heroism of the masses, particularly during the battle of Vertières, on November 18, 1803 (2,000 wounded, 1,200 dead).
Another important armed struggle for the liberation of Haiti is the guerrilla led by Charlemagne Péralte et Benoît Batraville (1918–1920). From 1928 on, the struggle for the sovereignty of the nation and against dictatorships adopts a peaceful strategy with two new weapons: strikes and street demonstrations, except for the armed movements of Pasquet, of Jeune Haïti (Young Haiti), of the members of PUCH, of Jacques S. Alexis, and more recently of the “insurgents” against Aristide. The peaceful movement (1928–1930) against the American occupation and domination prevents a new reelection of Borno in 1929–1930, overthrows the government of Lescot in 1946, of Magloire in 1956, and of Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986.
The struggle of the masses—and especially of the parcel-of-land peasants—for their survival
We want to deal now with the struggle of the former slaves against servitude (or peonage) which is a loss of liberty less severe than slavery, and then with the struggle of the small peasants against the State and other great landowners. We are talking about the creation of the small peasant farmer or owner of a parcel of land, of his resistance to the foreign colonialist and, when the latter was defeated and forced to leave, to the old and new freemen. Since 1793 the abolition of slavery has raised a political, social and economic dilemma which until now has not been equitably resolved: the transition from forced free labor to waged labor. Hence the origin of the parcel-of-land peasant and of the obstinacy of his action against the system of land peonage that government and big landowners keep on imposing. Following is an idea of the path of this struggle, with some dates as reference points.
In anticipation of the economic disruption that would result from the abolition of slavery, coercive and inhuman legislations and regulations were put in place in order to maintain the prosperity of the colony at all costs. As early as 1793, Sonthonax and Polvérel set up an agrarian system that pinned the sharecropper to the field. This is how Moral (1978:13) describes it:
“Yearly attachment of the sharecropper to the plantation, severe regulation and discipline of labor and related activities under the supervision of the local authorities; revenue sharing according to a strict scale that gives a quarter of the product of the form to the work force. This less rigorous bondage resolves on paper the contradiction between the declaration of liberty and the persistency of the traditional system of exploitation of the colonial land. But the implementation of the 1793-1794 agrarian law is straightway, extremely difficult and winding.”
The reaction of the farmers was quick to follow. They fled to the easy city life and especially to the mountains where they got parcels of land for themselves. This economic maroonage created a labor shortage at a time of unemployment, thus destabilizing the economy. There were uprisings of farmers in some areas. Toussaint Louverture made no bones about it. His October 1800 regulations, and mainly his 1801 Constitution, instituted what is called his agrarian authoritarianism (caporalisme agraire).
The 1801 constitution proclaimed Toussaint governor-general for life and gave him the right to choose his successor; granted him 300,000 francs annually and the payment of his honor guard; the public revenue became the private funds of the governor-general, who functioned as governor and intendant (art. 37, 57,58). However, it is the Articles we list below which triggered the revolt of the farmers under the leadership of Moïse. Article 14 pinned the farmer to the farm for the continuity of the cultivation. Article 15 created the paternalistic system: the plantation is an industry where the worker’s only rights are the ones that the owner grants him. Article 16 stated that the farmer or worker received only a share of the revenue, that any change of his residence would cause the ruin of the crops and would be punished vigorously according to police regulations. The Article 16 provision about the bringing-in of farmers deemed necessary for the renovation or growth of the crops was ambiguous and, at the instigation of Toussaint’s enemies, raised doubts about the permanency of liberty. Article 73 reestablished the property ownership rights of the French émigrés and created a conflict between them and the natives who occupied their lands during their absence.
The culmination and strict implementation of too many constraints brought about a revolt which, if spread, could well undermine the governor-general’s agrarian policy and even destabilize his government. It was led by his adopted nephew, the general Moïse. Moïse was in charge of the North, where he was inspector-general of the plantations, and under his command was the general Christophe, in charge of Cap-François. Moïse refused to use strong actions against farmers and workers. He said he was not the “torturer of his people”; that black people had not won their freedom only to be under the iron rule of white property owners (Madiou, 1989 II: 144). He asked his uncle to sell all State domains to the officers, soldiers and farmers, contrary to Toussaint’s agrarian policy. According to Moral (1978: 18) Toussaint’s philosophy of prosperity could be summed up in three great principles: 1) the priority of land cultivation, 2) the guarantee of freedom through work, and 3) the submission of the masses to military discipline.
The conspiracy that started in Cap-François on October 10, 1801, quickly spread to the whole department. The massacre of 200 whites was the beginning of the implementation of a scheme whose objective was the killing of all French people. Toussaint, as usual, acted quickly and without mercy. In the Gonaïves area, he went after the rebels without respite and ordered Dessalines to put down the revolt. A great number of farmers were stabbed. Christophe acted the same way in Cap-François. Moïse was captured and indicted as being the leader of the revolt. His supporters were ruthlessly murdered. This extermination was called “knives-war” because only knives and daggers were used to kill. Toussaint thought that the execution of Moïse on November 9, 1801 would earn him the favor of the French government, which would be grateful to him for having maintained the privileges of the French colonists. He made a terrible mistake. Bonaparte sent a formidable expedition, under the command of his brother-in law General Leclerc, to restore slavery. Toussaint resisted, but the native farmers did not answer his call. They would not forget the awful repression of Moïse’s supporters in the interest of the French, whom they were being now asked to fight against.
A defeated Toussaint fell into a trap set by General Boudet and was arrested on June 10, 1802.
He was deported three days later. The agrarian policy of Toussaint was made even tougher by Leclerc. The servitude system was intensified by the return, in great number, of the émigrés who had already anticipated the restoration of slavery. The natives who took refuge in the mountains waged a guerrilla warfare under the leadership of many old freemen such as Lamour Dérance and Charles Belair (Port-au-Prince), Larose and Lestrade (Arcahaie), Pierre Cangé, Noel, Mathieu, Sans-Souci, and Sylla, in other areas. Thus:
“Everywhere, the scattered guerrilla of the “freedom fighters” sustained, since the fall of 1802, the most authentic revolutionary movement, for it was part and parcel of the transformations which changed the agrarian structure of St-Domingue through the dismemberment of the vast colonial domains.” (Moral, 1978—our translation)
The unity of the black and mulatto leaders, who integrated their precursors, the maroons, among their troops under the leadership of their commander-in-chief Dessalines, made the independence of Haiti possible on January 1, 1804, following the famous battle of Vertières. There, the rank and file suffered the greatest number of dead and wounded.
The iron discipline imposed by Dessalines kept the farmers in the plantations. The 1804 decree and the 1806 constitution prescribed the seizure of the properties of former colonists in favor of the State. Dessalines shouted at some generals and high civil servants: “Black people whose fathers are in Africa won’t have anything? The properties we conquered with our blood belong to all of us; I want them to be shared fairly.” This statement remained only a wish since the emperor was murdered on October 17, 1806 at Pont Rouge (Red Bridge). The country was then divided into two states. Christophe, in the North, continued the harsh agrarian policy of Toussaint; whereas Pétion, in the West and the South, started a land reform while maintaining the system of large estates. Between 150,000 and 170,000 hectares were given to 10,000 beneficiaries. He wanted to secure the loyalty of the officers, rank and file, and farmers, and incite a revolt against Christophe.
The legislation and regulations adopted by Boyer [who succeeded Pétion and Christophe in a reunited Haiti] during his twenty-five reign did not work to keep the latifundia (large estate) system, and contributed greatly to his overthrown in 1843. Around this year, peasants of the South formed the Suffering Army (l’Armée Souffrante) under the leadership of Jean-Jacques Acaau. He asked for the lowering of the cost of imported goods and the increase of the price of export crops, which, in a certain way, preceded the new international economic order advocated by Manley, Castro and Nyerere. His saying “the rich black man is a mulatto, the poor mulatto is a black man” stressed the concept of class struggle contrary to the ideology of that time, and preceded the communist manifesto of Marx and Engels written in 1848. The peasants of Cayes, Cavaillon, Aquin and Massif de la Hotte were the victims of bloody repressions from 1844 to 1848. Acaau committed suicide.
But the masses, when their leaders are killed, find more radical ones later on. In fact, the revolt of the peasants became a guerrilla whose objective was not only the preservation and growth of their lands, but also the defeat of the occupying forces, under Charlemagne Péralte and Benoît Batraville (1918–1920). In 1906, a contract was granted to the Compagnie Nationale de Chemin de Fer (National Railroad Company) for the construction of railroads. Public domain lands are conceded for one dollar the 1 ha 29, at a distance of 20 kms of each side of the road. Statute labor, a condemnation generally given to criminals sentenced to hard labor, was extended to the farmers.
[The US invaded Haiti in 1915…] On January 14, 1918, Péralte was sentenced to five years in prison and to hard labor. He escaped on September 3, 1918 and immediately afterwards started an extraordinary war of liberation. It is worth noting the reaction of the occupier in the Histoire de la Garde d’Haïti, 1915–1934 (HDGH, 1953: 48):
“His professed intent to throw the invaders to the sea and free Haiti helped him recruit supporters among the assailants of the city of Hinche, and in a short while, was renowned as the most skillful leader of the bandits fighting against the marines and the Gendarmerie. The animosity against statute labor drove some people to swell his ranks and soon forced recruitment brought his troops to about five thousand; furthermore, according to a precise estimate, a strength of fifteen thousand men could back up Charlemagne’s move for a short while whenever the hostilities occurred in their neighborhood. These occasional bandits and their women, who, as public saleswomen moved everywhere, made up Charlemagne’s very efficient Intelligence Service. Charlemagne was a talented organizer. He was the Chief and his most prominent lieutenants were the ministers in the government he had set up. Benoît Batraville, his deputy, was the chief of the Cacos in the central region, while he was in charge of military operations in the North. Their forces were scattered.”
The meeting of these two heroes is worth emphasizing:
“Benoît came down from his horse. Two generals from Charlemagne’s entourage took the bridles from his hands. He, in battle dress, is just a soldier in front of his chief. He heads for Péralte. The latter, to show his esteem, take a few steps towards Benoît. The sight of these two men looking at each other straight in the eyes while shaking hands gives chills. Then they stand side by side and face the two armies paying them honor. The presidential anthem, played by bugles and drums, rings above the crowd. Then, the cheers follow. The soldiers fraternize and the two chiefs go into the house where the conference starts immediately.” (Gaillard, 1982: 247).
Betrayed, these two leaders are killed in their own camps. One is executed without having the time to defend himself; the other one is killed while leaning on his elbow—as he tries to get up, he is shot back down again. Here is a summary of the American version of the facts:
“On October 1, 1919, the Americans Hanneken and Burton, with their faces blackened, and about twenty Haitian soldiers led by Jean Edmond François, GDH, who got the password “General Jean” (General John) from Conzé, his secretary, arrive at the last outpost where Charlemagne’s bodyguards are. Jean Edmond François points out Charlemagne, who is standing up talking to his wife, to Hanneken. The two Americans move towards him. Two cacos yell “Halt!” Hanneken tells Burton “All right,” and with his automatic pistol shoots Charlemagne down with two bullets to the heart. Burton opens fire with his submachine gun and ‘cleans the place.’ The soldiers are put in position so as to repel any counterattack.” (Our translation of JDGH, 1953:59)
In the case of Batraville, the events were not very different. In fact, on May 18,1920, Captain Perkins and Sergeants Taubert and Passmore enter Batraville’s main camp. Standing up, Batraville fires at Passmore, who fires back with his automatic rifle and wounds Batraville. When the latter, though wounded, tries to get up by lying on his elbow, he is shot down by Taubert (HDGH, 1953:64). The guerrilla for the liberation of Haiti is quelled. The struggle from 1920 to 2004 is a peaceful one, with the exception of a few cases. The inefficient land policy of the governments allowed the peasants, despite everything, to become owners or tenant farmers of a piece of land and to grow enough food crops to have some food security, contrary to the exclusive export food policy. The American occupation of Haiti (1915-1934) carries within it two disastrous policies for the Haitian economy: 1) the expropriation of many peasants and their migration to other countries, and 2) the concept of economic liberalism that would flourish in the 1980s and cause the migration of the peasants to the cities and, in particular, to Port-au-Prince.
The first policy: The 1918 constitution, imposed by the Americans, requires loans and contracts, grants to foreign companies the concession of public domain properties and authorizes the expropriation of peasants’ lands for the restoration of large estates necessary for large scale production:
“…State lands occupied or rented by the peasants were the first ones to be conceded. Peasants who lived around such properties were soon expropriated. Hence the mass migrations to Cuba and the Dominican Republic and thus, this work force, thrown out of its natural framework, would become the labor force of the American firms located in these countries.” (Pierre-Charles, 1967: 144-145)
But soon after the closure of big agricultural firms such as Plantation Dauphin, SHADA, and so on, resilient and vigilant Haitian peasants re-occupied these lands and replanted their own crops. The infernal politico-economic dictatorship of the Duvaliers brought about the exodus of “plane-people,” and especially of “boat-people,” mainly to the United States and Canada. The second policy started with the adoption in 1980 of the economic neo-liberalism with its two main aspects: a) the assembling factories, which give an illusion of economic boom and attract peasants, who cannot be fed anymore by their deforested and dried plots, to Port-au-Prince. On the pretense of competitiveness, the factory owners pay the lowest prices, forbid strikes and don’t grant any program of health-life insurance or pension; and b) the need for foreign aid, with its prerequisite of free exchange or so-called free exchange: a system that destroys the national agricultural production by making it noncompetitive, and thus paves the way for the invasion of US products.
In his remarkable and extensive book Haiti-Plateau Central Société: économie et paysannerie, Fred Doura enlightens us about the Plateau Central economy, and the different aspects of its peasantry for its survival. He shows its relationship with the Plateau Central landed oligarchy and the agro-export oligarchy. He notes that this peasantry controls at least 55% of Plateau Central’s cultivated lands:
“And, the power conferred by the possession of the main means of production, first, has allowed the peasantry to limit the capacity of the landed oligarchy to extort the surplus value produced by the former. The peasantry’s resistance to the appropriation of the surplus accordingly diminishes the power of the landed oligarchy to change the revenue of production to her benefit; second, it has also allowed the peasantry to enjoy some autonomy regarding the agricultural production.” (Doura, 1995:401).
Doura does not fail to say that the peasant’s resistance does not eradicate, nor does it even make a big hole in, the system of exploitation that neo-liberalism modernizes. A competent and tireless researcher, he puts himself at the center of the Haitian economic reality without bragging or pedantry but convinced of the possibility of a sustained economic recovery. His flood of research (Doura 1995, 1998, 2002, 2003) does not want to merely denounce and show the schemes and traps of globalization, but recommends clear and precise solutions in all aspects of the national crisis, and particularly to the benefit of the peasantry, without excluding any classes.
The peasantry’s resistance is not confined to the Plateau Central. It is spread all across the country. We will give examples that we are aware of. There are many others to find out about in order to prove that struggle and hope go hand in hand. The hope for an economic survival glows at Pliché and at other community developments being helped by Lambi Fund, Fonkose, the Haiti Support Project of the Leroys. It glows in the rural organizations that FOKAL is subsidizing, among them Asosyasyon pou Developman Fondènèg, Asosyasyon Peyizan Dori, Asosyasyon TK Bèladè, Konbit Peyizan Nip, Organizasyon Mouvman Peyizan GranPlen; in all, more than twenty of them. One of the most active, and which shows greater readiness to fight, is Batay Ouvriye. According to its own definition, Batay Ouvriye is an organization that regroups business associations, factory committees, workers’ associations, and activists to set up a democratic and autonomous labour movement capable of defending laborers, workers and unemployed. BO helps workers in the West, North and Northeast to create unions to take action against the violations of their rights by the multinationals who are set up in these departments. BO is doing its best to minimize the extensive damage inflicted by the establishment of free zones in the Northeast, along the Haitian-Dominican frontier; a frontier that allows the Dominican army, with the complicity of the Haitian government, to come in and intimidate and beat up Haitians who are asking for their rights. We think it is relevant to give an idea of the impact of the free zones. The American-Dominican textile factories in the Dominican Republic, having reached their quotas, decided, in agreement with the Haitian government and the World Bank, to establish such factories in Haiti in order to take advantage of the available Haitian quota. The Aristide’s government, just like the other third-world countries, acquiesced as self-evident the postulate of the industrialized nations who are asserting that the comparative advantage of the third-world consists of the unjust and humiliating competition to supply the lowest cost of labor. It is a concept that implies the interdiction of the right to strike, no programs of health-life insurance, no retirement benefits. Lowest wages and lowest prices for agricultural products drive the masses under the threshold of poverty. These free zones, which pay slave wages, and grant tax exemptions and the repatriation of the profit, bring about the ruin of the farmers of the Maribaroux plain and nearby areas. Deprived of their fertile lands, these farmers are at bay. According to Alex Dupuy,1 the compensation offered by the government, and their wages, if they are employed, will be lower than the income of their expropriated 1200 acres; an income valued at $1.2–2.4 million; an income that could have been higher if the lands were irrigated and the farmers had access to agricultural savings banks. In fact, this an another blow which quickens the dismantling of the peasant economy.
Although our task was to deal with the history of the peasantry’s resistance, we believe it is appropriate to cast a glance at the important role of the workers’ unions in Port-au-Prince. Our great friend, the trade unionist André Leroy, was kind enough to give us the following information: The first steps in the creation of a union were taken in 1903 under President Tirésias Simon Sam. But it is in 1946 that real unions appeared: the Federation of Haitian workers with Victor Vabre; the National Union of the Haitian Workers with Nataniel Michel, an affiliated member of the AFL-CI0; the Peasant and Worker Movement with Daniel Fignolé and his famous steamroller, which made him President and the victim of a kidnapping by the army. The year 1958 saw the formation of the Interunion Committee, which consisted of the representatives of the Union of workers, employees and laborers of the hotels, bars and restaurants of Haiti; of the Peasant Union of Kenscoff; of the Association of Taxi Drivers-Guides of Haiti; of the Union of Workers and Laborers of light manufacturing goods; of the Young Christian Workers; of the Union of Workers and Grain Sorters of the Reimbold Firm; of the Union of the HASCO Workers and PSC. Later on, the Interunion Committee broadened and became the Haiti Trade Union. This union, fighting for the autonomy of all unions against dictatorship and imperialism, backed up the strike of the National Union of Haitian Students against the tyrannical dictatorship of François Duvalier, who abolished the Haiti Trade Union in 1963. The Autonomous Trade Union of Workers was created in 1980. When it was banned, its members had to go into hiding.
The unfortunate fate inflicted on the peasantry is not only a glaring social injustice but also an economic aberration. Haiti, being above all an agricultural country, has the land as its main means of production. Thus, a policy that binds the farmers, the masters of the dew, to live in poverty results in a kind of food suicide for the whole nation. Out of the 180,000 irrigable hectares, only 45,000 are irrigated. This is one of the reasons that the cost of imported food products run in the range of 250 million US dollars.
The country will be ungovernable as long as the majority of the population is not integrated in a process of auto-centered capital accumulation, and does not have an inward economy which meets the fundamental rights of the whole population, as said and done by Maurice Bishop in Grenada. Such a result will never be reached without the economic conscientization of the masses (Laraque, 2003:25-47). To sum up, we are saying that we are neither politician, nor economist, nor agronomist. We do believe, however, that our experience, and the knowledge drawn inside and outside Haiti, enable us to envision a new way for Haiti that does not exclude any class, and does not exploit any class. This implies a radical change of priorities based on two main points: 1) the blooming of agriculture through the rational and technical development of the rural areas—a bottom up development that will guarantee food security and the profitable export of crops, and 2) the protection of the national production against invasion by imported foreign products which comes with globalization—the hardly-disguised mask of economic imperialism.
—Franck Laraque (1/18/05)
Professor Emeritus, City College, NY
* This essay was first delivered in a conference.
1. Alex Dupuy; “Globalization, the World Bank; and the Haitian Economy,” article which will be published soon in Caribbean Societies and Globalization; Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.
Doura, Fred Haïti-Plateau Central Société: économie et paysannerie, Montréal: CIDIHCA, 1995; Mondialisation Montréal: CIDIHCA, 1998; Économie d’Haïti 1 Montréal: Les Éditions DAMI, 2001; Économie d’Haïti 2, Montréal: Les Éditions DAMI, 2002; Économie d’Haïti 3, Montréal: Les Éditions DAMI, 2003.
Fouchard, Jean Les marrons de la liberté Paris: Éditions de l’École, 1972; The Haitian Maroons Ouvrage traduit par A. Faulkner Watts, New York: Edward W. Blyden Press, 1981.
Gaillard, Roger Charlemagne Péralte le Caco, Port-au-Prince: Roger Gaillard, 1982.
“Histoire de la Garde d’Haïti 1915–1934.” Texte préparé sous le contrôle du Commandant de la Garde d’Haïti, avril-juillet 1934. Traduit par le lieutenant Willy Laraque, 7 décembre 1953.
Laraque, Paul et Franck Haïti: la Lutte et l’Espoi, Montréal: CIDIHCA, 2003.
Leroy, André Union Intersyndicale d’Haïti, 1958.
Luc, Jean (Yves Montas) Structures économiques et lutte nationale populaire en Haïti, Montréal: Les Éditions Nouvelle Optique, 1976.
Madiou, Thomas Histoire d’Haïti Tome II, 1799–1803 Port-au-Prince: Éditions Deschamps, 1989.
Moral, Paul Le Paysan haïtien, Port-au-Prince: Les Éditions Fardin (reproduction) 1978.
Pierre-Charles, Gérard L’économie haïtienne et sa voie de développement, Paris: Éditions G-P Maisonneuve et Larose, 1967.