haiti: reflections on a revolution in historical and contemporary perspectives
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This article was downloaded by: [University of Cambridge]On: 18 December 2014, At: 03:32Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office:Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK
International Journal of African RenaissanceStudies - Multi-, Inter- and TransdisciplinarityPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscriptioninformation:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rars20
Haiti: Reflections on a revolution in historicaland contemporary perspectivesFrancis KornegayPublished online: 10 Oct 2008.
To cite this article: Francis Kornegay (2008) Haiti: Reflections on a revolution in historical and contemporaryperspectives, International Journal of African Renaissance Studies - Multi-, Inter- and Transdisciplinarity, 3:1,113-117, DOI: 10.1080/18186870802321632
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/18186870802321632
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International Journal of African Renaissance StudiesVol. 3 (1) 2008
ISSN (Print) 1818-6874ISSN (Online) 1753-7274 University of South Africa PressDOI: 10.1080/18186870802321632
Francis KornegayCentre for Policy ResearchJohannesburg, South Africafrancis@cps.org.za
, by Peter Hallward, Verso, 2008. 442pp.
, by Madison Smartt Bell, Pantheon Books, 2007. 333pp.
Haiti, only the second country to gain its independence in the Western hemisphere at the turn of the nineteenth century, remains to this day the most enigmatic of mysteries in the political history of the Americas and this, in spite of its central place in this early history of the hemisphere. Perhaps this can be understood as Haiti having been something of a proverbial nigger in the woodpile in the transatlantic Age of Revolution whose fate was intimately and inconveniently intertwined with that of the thirteen young, post-revolutionary former colonies on the American mainland to its north and, across the Atlantic, to the French revolution which triggered the beginning of Saint Domingues traumatic transformation into Haiti. In a very real sense, the case of Haiti is also a case of victors history written from the vantage point of the dominant socio-racial and class forces that came to dominate the political, economic and cultural relations of the Euro-American transatlantic, with particular reference to the early post-colonial United States (US) conceived in birth as half slave, half free and post-revolutionary France. And
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114 Francis Kornegay
yet, much of transatlantic and inter-American history is only dimly understood in the absence of an in-depth understanding of the black revolution on Saint Domingue and how Franco-American collusion strangled it in its crib, and how this crib-death has resonated down through the ages in distorting and stunting Haitis national development
Haitis slave insurrection was an unwelcome departure from the script of Franco-American democratic transformation which was not intended for the benighted black race who were consigned to being beasts of burden in the transatlantic plantation-based political economy and the world the slaveholders made from the southern former colonies of the American mainland, on down throughout the Anglo-French-Spanish Caribbean basin of which Saint Domingue was the crown jewel, into the southern mainland of Iberian America shared by Portugal as well as Spain. Besides Saint Domingue, this revolutionary-challenged colonial geography brought into play the slave-holdings of Jamaica and Cuba impinging on the security interests of the metropoles and on that of Americas southern slavocracy. This contradiction would ultimately lead to the Haitian successor republic to the former Saint Domingue becoming the hemispheres
the colonial powers led by the US and France, followed by its transformation into the
of African independence. The idea behind this ruthlessness was the Franco-American and wider European colonial security interest in containing the Haitian revolutions resonance within the slavocracies of the antebellum American South, and elsewhere throughout the Caribbean. Herein, therefore, lay the early nineteenth-century roots of American and general Western foreign policy responses to the Third World anti-colonial
the Cuban revolution of 1959 would epitomise and, like revolutionary Haiti, inspire a similar ruthlessness in an attempt at isolation and containment.
This background sets the stage for Peter Hallwards comprehensive study of Haitis contemporary predicament revolving around the turbulent political career of Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide as Haitis off-and-on head of state interacting with American and French diplomatic agendas vis--vis one another, as well as with regard to Haiti and the Caribbean. The problem, however, is establishing the historical link between Haitis current predicament (as laid out by Hallward) and the antecedents of todays politics in the complicated socio-racial class dynamics which animated the Haitian revolution and
when it comes to what Hallward depicts as the Franco-American-backed elite compulsions to dominate Haitis political and economic agenda residing in a collection of social
industrialists, professionals, intellectuals, academics and journalists how do they relate to the old colonial racialclass/caste structure which confronted Toussaint with a very complicated terrain for managing while balancing an equally challenging diplomacy
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involving France, the US, Britain and Spain? And how did, in class terms, the beheading of the revolution in Toussaints capture set Haiti upon the ill-fated historical course it has pursued up to the present, under its current peacekeeping occupation by MINUSTAH,
among between blacks and whites, complicated further by a buffering mulatto-cum-coloured middle class or by Madison Smartt Bell (Pantheon, 2007) is particularly informative in surveying this terrain and how it interacted in the unfolding of the revolution on Saint Domingue. Toussaint, himself an had to navigate intra-black class differences between established black freedmen like himself and the so-called and masses of black slaves and peasants who, in turn, were further broken down into creolised slaves born on Saint
structure were the loyalists to the monarchy and the sympathisers
among blacks and coloureds. The type of authoritarian presidency that Toussaint would have wanted to install (and
which was actually contemplated in the young American republic on the mainland) as
republic, was not to be with his demise. And, as seems clear from Bells account, Toussaint was in class of his own in being able to manage and navigate these inter- and intra-racial
historical evolution of Haitis complicated socio-racial class structure into its current socio-political terrain at the root of the countrys endemic instability and chronic vulnerability to
history is much too brief (in summarised form) to shed any light on how the islands socio-racial class dynamics inform the turbulence of the Aristide era, resulting in the
politics of containment says it all in terms of the historical and contemporary continuity,
transatlantic power politics of the US and France. Here, represents
up,Haitis post-Duvalierist status quo; one that stood Americas Cold War regional interests in the Caribbean in good stead as a bulwark against the kind of anti-imperialist nationalist radicalism epitomised by Cuban Fidelismo and later transformative bids such as that of
intervention under the Ronald Reagan administration. Clearly, Washingtons prevention of yet another revolutionary regime coming to power
in the Caribbean, alongside its Cuban nemesis, seems reason enough for the manner in which both Democratic as well as Republic