Aristide leaves Haiti

So Aristide has gone. I wonder: now that the rebels have achieved their sole aim, what will they do? Has anyone heard their agenda or plan?

Yahoo! News – Aristide Leaves Haiti to ‘Avoid Bloodshed’

bq. By Jim Loney and Alistair Scrutton

bq. PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) – Haiti’s President Jean-Bertrand Aristide left his chaotic Caribbean country on Sunday, driven out by a bloody revolt that put rebels near the capital and by pressure from the United States and France.

bq. Aristide said he departed to avert bloodshed but turmoil persisted in the capital Port-au-Prince, where shooting rang out as armed Aristide supporters roamed the streets and looters ransacked a police station.

Power without money is an illusion

Another insightful article from I’n’I’s Haiti news, this one by Saul Landau, a noted documentary film maker. This has an excellent and balanced rundown of the issues in Haiti today, as well as the historical context.

Mr. Landau offers the following example from his own experience as a parallel to what’s happening in Haiti today.

Haiti News

bq. “In 1989, I interviewed Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley. I asked him what reforms he would make now that he had regained political power (he won as a Democratic Socialist in 1972 and 76, was defeated in 1980 and won a third term in 1989, no longer a socialist, but a supporter of IMF policies).

bq. “He laughed scornfully. ‘My budget has no flexibility,’ he said. ‘The DEA offers a $29 million grant to burn ganja [marijuana] fields. I have a choice: use the money to open the roads blocked by Hurricane Andrew or raise teachers’ pay and keep the schools open. I can’t do both. No agrarian reform. No health care.’ He shook his head. ‘Political power without money in the budget is an illusion.’

Opinion, commentary, and information at I’n’I

Courtesy of the Haiti List (or, as I’ve taken to calling it, the Haiti Information and Opinion Tidal Wave), I came across the following essay:

HAITI: Rhetoric Versus Reality

bq. “The reality of the current ‘hands-off’ approach of the US is a cold-blooded invitation to the ‘rebels’ to carry on tearing the country apart, for as far as the US is concerned Haiti is not only a geographically handy reservoir of cheap labour (as it has been for generations) but most important of all – Haiti’s struggle is a beacon for the poor and the oppressed of the world, just as it was exactly 200 years ago, when it became the world’s first independent Black republic. Making an example of Haiti (just at it did with Iraq) is the real objective of the ‘hands-off’ approach. Defy the US and you reap the consequences.”

The essay, as you can see, bemoans the current state of US relations with Haiti, and attacks the media’s poor treatment of Aristide. Factually, it seems to jive with what I understand to be true of Haiti’s history.

“William Bowles”:’ site, “I’n’I – Investigating the ‘new’ imperialism”:, contains a wealth of information and opinion. Not all of it is about Haiti, but there are plenty of Haiti links as well as a ticker running the latest Haiti headlines.

Raising my voice

I’ve never been really involved in politics, but I decided to write to my representatives tonight to urge US involvement in defending Haiti. If you find the following useful, feel free to copy and paste it into letters to your own representatives.

Should you decide to do so, you should know that email is better than snail mail right now, as postal deliveries have been on suspension for some time. Go to “” to contact your congressman, and to “ senators_cfm.cfm” senators_cfm.cfm to contact your senator.
Continue reading Raising my voice

James’ The Black Jacobins Chapter III

In this chapter, James describes the shifting balance of power in Haiti in 1789 – 91.

The French Revolution was having far-reaching effects. Suddenly, with the fall of the Bastille, the small whites in Saint Domingue, inspired by their brothers in Paris, made a determined grab for power. The wealthy bourgeoisie of the North angled for a new situation as well, while the Mulattoes were fighting, both through official and unofficial channels, to be covered under the blanket of the Rights of Man.

There were three divisions of whites in 1789, post-revolution:

# The Assembly of the North Province – wealthy merchants and bankers from LeCap
# The Assembly of St. Marc – called themselves the Patriots, condemned the usury of the northern bourgeoisie; when they couldn’t get the Mulattoes’ cooperation, they called for their extermination.
# The counter-revolutionary royalist bureaucracy.

All three groups hated the Mulattoes, yet needed their support. (pp. 66-67)

From James, p. 63:

bq. “The small whites, as soon as they heard of the fall of the Bastille, had deserted their friends the bureaucracy and joined the revolution.. There was only one hope for the bureaucrats — the Mulattoes, and the Governor instructed the commandants of the districts to adopt a new attitude towards them. ‘It has become more necessary than ever not to give them any cause for offence, to encourage them and to treat them as friends and whites.’ The retreat of race prejudice had begun.”

Prejudice had shifted out of expediency. In the vacuum of power, alliance with the Mulattoes was key. “The whites were only 30,000. The Mulattoes and free blacks were about the same, and increasing at a far greater rate than the whites.” (p. 64) The black slaves were not considered. It was seriously thought that revolution was not in their nature.

The wealthy and the bureaucrats of that colony, who had maintained a realistic and pragmatic understanding of the situation to which they were subjecting the blacks, sensed something was coming.
Continue reading James’ The Black Jacobins Chapter III

A couple of blog notes for Feb 21, ’04

I’m tracking the current situation in Haiti as closely as possible, and I’m all to tempted to post updates here. However, “Haiti Pundit” has been doing a great job posting all the latest updates and news, so readers who want the skinny on the current stuff should head there. I get royally miffed from time to time about some inaccuracy I hear in the news, so I’ll probably make a comment from time to time, but I’m trying real hard to regain my focus on Toussaint.

To that end, I hope to have the next chapter of James done by tomorrow. Also, I have a very interesting post in the wings comparing Haiti’s historical troubles with those of the Irish during the potato famine. I’ll get that up ASAP.

A mess, indeed

The Seattle Times today published a column by William Raspberry, Syndicated columnist, entitled, “The mess in Haiti demands our attention”. You can read “his piece here”: before you read the following response, which I emailed to the writer and to the Seattle times just moments ago. I’ll let you know if I hear back…

Mr. Raspberry –

Regarding your column of February 17, 2004, “The mess in Haiti demands our attention”, could you please cite the sources that lead you to claim that the election of Jean-Bertrand Aristide is “widely seen as corrupt”? I’ve done substantial research into current Haitian politics as background for a book I’m writing on Haitian history. There are several legitimate sources that challenge your interpretation of the facts.

There were two sets of elections in Haiti in 2000 – the legislative elections in May and the presidential election in November. Though there was some disagreement over the counting methods used to determine some of the winners of the May legislative elections, these elections can at worst be referred to as “flawed,” though even at that, the will of the people was widely felt to have been represented in the results. The Embassy of Haiti notes that the election involved 29,500 candidates vying for 7,500 seats. Only 8 of these seats were ultimately in question, and the question was only whether these candidates would be involved in runoff elections or win the seats outright. Aristide called for and received the resignations of the senators whose seats were in question (save for one not associated with his party who refused to step down), so he appears to have been responsive to charges of irregularities.

Other than that, Haitian elections went pretty well for a country with such a turbulent political history. Election observers such as the OAS and ICIO (International Coalition of Independent Observers) agree that about 60% of registered voters participated. The UN even stated that the elections on May 21, 2000, went “unexpectedly well.” (UN document a/55/154)

The November presidential election, as observed by the ICIO and KOZ�PEP, a Haitian peasant organization, was widely reported as fair and honest. The OAS and UN have agreed with this assessment, though their own representation at that election was limited. Even the United States recognized Aristide as the legitimately elected leader of that country. As you can read for yourself in the transcript of the State Department Daily Press Briefing for December 17, 2001, Richard Boucher said, “We have looked at the leadership in Haiti as being a legitimate, elected leadership, we recognize the results of the last election, and obviously we stand with people who are elected against those who would seek to overthrow them by force.”

I have put together an extensive review of Haiti election reports by the UN, OAS, ICIO and others at my website. I encourage you to take a look at “”: There you will also find links to the relevant reports so that you can read them for yourself.

You are an intelligent man, and you know full well that to a public that knows little about Haiti, the perception that its president entered power by corrupt means allows them to turn their heads when his ouster is called for. But Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whatever his flaws, is the legitimate, democratically elected leader of Haiti, and his ouster by other than legitimate, democratic means would represent a serious blow to Haiti’s fragile republic, and would be a damning indictment of those who purport to love and defend democracy. Even the US government agrees: the Associated Press today quotes Colin Powell as saying, “We cannot buy into the proposition that the elected president must be forced out of office by thugs and those who do not respect the law.”

If Reverend Fountroy, who you quote, believes that Aristide should be removed from power, who does he propose to put in his place? Andy Apaid, leader of the opposition alliance, as a holder of a US passport is ineligible to hold government office under Haiti’s constitution (and may in fact face prosecution under the US Neutrality Act). The Haitian majority have not put forth an alternative. Many of the individuals who are jockeying for power in Haiti at this point are ex-military. Do you mean to advocate for a return to military regime in favor of an Aristide democracy?

Your column further confuses the current issue by suggesting the “majority of protesters [in recent violent demonstrations] had voted for Aristide,” an assertion which I can find nowhere else in the press. Can you cite a source? If not, you must understand that this gives the impression that Aristide’s supporters are turning against him, which is clearly not the case. In fact, the AP reported on Sunday that only 1,000 people took part in what was to have been a major anti-Aristide rally.

Please, Mr. Raspberry; the situation in Haiti is very serious. I agree with you that Haiti is a mess, but Aristide is no Duvalier. Please don’t mislead the American people with unsubstantiated allegations. Please don’t advocate against democracy in Haiti. I beg of you, take another look at the facts and write another editorial correcting the wrong impressions you have left with your readers.

Stuart Maxwell
Seattle, Washington

More from James… to page 56

This is the kind of thing about C.L.R. James’ writing that I have problems with: In a section where he writes of the horrific punishment meted out by a paranoid planter named LeJeune, this statement appears:

p. 23, “The judges, after a thousand delays, returned a negative verdict.”

Okay, I know the writer is showing disdain for the one-sided justice of the day, but the hyperbolic prose weakens his usefulness as a source of information. Were there really 1,000 delays? Did this extend for days, weeks, years? What kind of delays? What was their nature?

I know this seems like a minor point, but after James has presented more than a page of details about the case, encountering a sloppy statement like this feels rather jarring.

Aside from that, I’m appreciating James more as he sets the stage for the revolution. Through page 61, he is describing the political and economic forces that led up to the French and Haitian revolutions.

In Haiti, among the plantation owners, James describes a culture of indulgence and mercantile tunnel-vision. Plantation owners were anxious to squeeze every drop they could out of Saint Domingue so that they could earn enough money to retire to France. This intentionally rootless existence gave rise to a singular debauchery that has overtones of the squalor that is extant in Haiti’s cities today.

The flow of money and the virtual isolation from the homeland produced a wave of corruption so powerful that even priests were swept up in it, some openly living with mistresses.

Many nationalities co-existed here, and many of the residents were criminals or failures in their own lands. In Haiti simply having white skin meant respect and the opportunity for a clean start.

Of course, the issue of one’s “whiteness” was complicated when mulatto children started becoming numerous. To preserve the white’s superior status, mixed-breeds were classified through a system of 128 gradations of Negro. A man could be 127 parts white and 1 part black and still be considered black. “In a slave society, the mere possession of personal freedom is a valuable privilege, and the laws of Greece and Rome testify that severe legislation against slaves and freedmen have nothing to do with the race question. Behind all this elaborate tom-foolery of quarteron, sacatra and marabou, was the one dominating fact of San Domingo society – fear of the slaves.”

James’ description of the Mulattoes’ growing influence reminds me of the Scots and the Jews. Like them, the Mulattoes came to dominate economically by being thrifty, smart, and by quietly acquiring wealth and property and squeezing out the whites who were struggling to keep up. Though James doesn’t mention it, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mulattoes didn’t also give preferential treatment to others of their group.
Continue reading More from James… to page 56

Another Quote from James

The Black Jacobins, by C.L.R. James, p. 21
“An uninstructed mass, feeling its way to revolution, usually begins by terrorism, and Mackandal aimed at delivering his people by means of poison.”