On the eve of the earthquake anniversary, the capital’s streets look little different than they did 12 months ago. An estimated 810,000 people – a majority unemployed – continue to live in 1,150 camps. – Christian Science Monitor
NOTE: Text in black is directly quoted from Wikipedia. Text in brown is written by myself. Photos from Google Images.
At the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, the
colony of St. Domingue, now Haiti, furnished two-thirds of France’s overseas
trade, employed one thousand ships and fifteen thousand French sailors. The
colony became France’s richest, the envy of every other European nation. This
plantation system, which provided such a pivotal role in the French economy, was
also the greatest individual market for the African slave trade
The slave population on the island totaled almost half of the one million slaves in the Caribbean by 1789. Two thirds were African-born and much less inclined to submission than those born in the Americas.The death rate in the Caribbean exceeded the birth rate, so imports of enslaved Africans were necessary in order to maintain the numbers required to work the plantations. The slave population declined at an annual rate of five percent: that is, 25,000 of them died every year – twenty-five thousand planned, anticipated, essential murders. Meanwhile, French revolutionaries were preaching the mantra of universal equality for which they will forever be famously associated.
Yes, it was the Age of Enlightenment – and all over the world, peoples of African descent who had no doubts regarding their equal worth nevertheless seized upon Enlightenment language, analyzed it, pointed out its profound contradictions, and most of all, gauged its implications for themselves. People of European descent, propelled equally as far from their countries of origin by imperialism, were no less aware of the impossibility of reconciling Enlightenment principles with their own economic self-interest.
They all tried. Their biggest big shots, thinkers who remain revered to this day, gave the problem their best shot. When they couldn’t do it, they were smart enough to more or less shut up. However, black people everywhere – whether enslaved, free, Maroon, escaped, or being educated by their white fathers at Europe’s leading universities absolutely refused to drop it. So did their abolitionist allies. Free African-Americans in Boston, New York, and Philedelphia wrote treatises on the topic and smuggled them south to slaves via ships along the Atlantic seaboard. The fact that slaves were forbidden to learn to read proved absolutly useless to slaveholders. No slave community lacked literate people. In fact many slaveholders remained unaware that all of their field hands had memorized David Walker’s Appeal, before they themselves had even gotten a copy.
In August of 1791, the first organized black rebellion ignited the twelve-year
San Domingo (Haiti) Revolution. The northern settlements were hit first, and the flood
that overwhelmed them revealed the military strength and organization of the
black masses. Plantations were destroyed, and white owners killed.
Some of the rebellion’s leaders include Boukman, Biassou, Toussaint,
Jeannot, Francois, Dessalines, and Cristophe. These men would help to guide the
Revolution down its torturous, bloody road to complete success, although it
would cost over twelve years and hundreds of thousands of lives. Many of those
leaders themselves would fall along the way, but the force of unity against
slavery would sustain the revolution.
Because the plantation owners had long feared such a revolt, they were well armed and prepared to defend themselves. Nonetheless, within weeks, the number of slaves who joined the revolt reached some 100,000. Within the first two months, as the violence escalated, the slaves killed 4,000 whites and burned or destroyed 180 sugar plantations and hundreds of coffee and indigo plantations.
By 1792, slaves controlled a third of the island, and France dispatched 6,000 soldiers to Haiti – a year later, only 3,500 troops remained
Finally, after twelve bloody years, France’s revolutionary National Convention abolished slavery. Haiti was a sovereign state.
350,000 Haitians and 50,000 European soldiers had died.
That’s how much France wanted to keep using half a million human beings as beasts of burden. The whole world knew that its new government could have stopped the blood bath at any time. U.S. slaveholders watched in terror and tightened their grip on slavery for another 70 years – when they sacrificed an entire generation in their own frenzy of greed and fear.
The earthquake that hit Haiti was as much a man made as a natural disaster. No nation lacks the most basic, simple and fundamental ability to respond to public emergencies by mistake, coincidence, ignorance, or choice. No people remain so completely vulnerable and defenseless 220 years after half a million of them conducted a highy organized 12-year military campaign against a world power – one that had been giving Great Britian, Spain , Portugal and the Netherlands a run for their money for a few centuries.
This condition is a force. It’s a force imposed on a people by interests more powerful than all of their combined will and courage. Never mind blaming it all on Haiti’s history of brutal dictatorships – that’s a classic legacy of colonialism that happens to suit developed nations just fine. Since when have the western powers suffered the temerity of any small upstart nation that gets in our way? We’ve proven over and over that we’ll prop up any brutal dictator that will play ball with us – and if there isn’t one immediately available, we’ll go recruit one.
Freedom and democracy becaome obscene insults when paired with names like Pinochet, Batisata, Peron, and Duvalier,
Haiti has always been packed with plenty of people who know exactly how to run a democracry. We could have backed them any time we chose. We didn’t want to.
That’s because we’ll choose cooperative facists over stubborn socialists – and we’ll do it every time.
In 1973, the CIA sponsored an horrendously violent military coup against the democratically elected socialist president of Chile, Salvador Allende. He had one last chance to speak to the people before the troops of brutal criminal, and CIA tool General Augusto Pinochet, came for him. Just before the end, as the sound of automatic rifles exploded in the background, Allende said:
| “Soon the radio will be silenced, and my voice will no longer reach you. It does not matter. You will continue hearing it. I will always be next to you.
The people must defend themselves, but they must not sacrifice themselves.
Go forward knowing that, sooner rather than later, the great avenues
will open again where free men will walk to build a better
society. Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the
workers!”Seguimos oyes, querido Salvador. Siempre vamos a te escucho.
We hear you, dear Salvador. We will always hear you.
¡Viva Haití! ¡Vivan los trabajadores! ¡Viva el pueblo!