—by Dumas Fils Lafontant
Three forces, Convergence Democratic, Centre for Free Trade and Democracy, and Four Friends of Ayiti take great pains to make certain that the majority of Ayitians, that is, the poor, are excluded from the affairs of the Nation-State.
Circa 1984, the Convention that established the value of the gourde, Ayiti’s national currency, ended, effectively submitting the gourde to the law of the market. The national production decreased in disparaging proportions in volume as well as in commercial value. The trade deficit grew and the lack of currency impeded the debt service. The semi-feudal and semi-capitalist State was bankrupt. The poor were at the mercy of the merchants. To this day, the State continues to function mainly through international aid.
On 6 February 1986, popular discontent against the Duvalier regime forced Baby Doc to flee to France. The institutional void that ensued led to a National Council of Government (CNG), and the voting of a Constitution on 29 March 1987. The rich merchants, however, did not want to obey national laws, and the more profits they made the more they found the restrictions intolerable. Dependence on democracy was blocking the economic development or the profit margin of the merchants. They decided to circumvent the constituted power and finance a coup d’état. On 30 September 1991, the Army forced President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to exile, crushing a popular government that was elected just nine months earlier.
Ayitians residing both in Ayiti and the Diaspora or so-called 10th department demanded the restoration of the constitutional government. George Bush, the then president of the United States, resisted the demand, supposedly because he did not want to intervene in the internal affairs of Ayiti. The Ayitian community in New England mobilized more than 5000 people to demonstrate against Bush at a campaign rally in New Hampshire. Finally, the next president of the United States, William Clinton, acquiesced. In September 1994, alleging the Armed Forces of Ayiti was a threat to democracy, Clinton sent approximately 20,000 soldiers from the United States to prepare the way for the return of President Aristide.
Although a few months after his return Aristide dismantled the Army, he would implement the policies of neo-liberalism. Ayitians call this economic tyranny: “sap and suck,” which has brought them privatization and poverty.
However, the necessity to implement a market economy does not exclude the possibility to stand for liberty and the country. But the experts on neo-liberalism have the ear of the government. They decide which projects to be funded and how the job placement should proceed. The international aid they approve is strictly to service the debt, to pay government employees and to purchase gas. This economic system, like a noose around the neck of the working-poor, gets tighter day in and day out. And further, Aristide does not oppose neo-liberalism; he merely wants to raise Ayitians out of misery to poverty in dignity. One quarter of the population is completely unemployed, another quarter enjoys temporary work, the number of unemployed accrues at a speed never seen before, misery is expanding and famine appears periodically. “All who cannot reconcile their personal comfort with the resolute power struggle lend charmed ears to the theory of a ‘dépassé’ Marxism” (Jacques Stephen Alexis).
The Four Friends of Ayiti will not agree with any change to the neo-liberal plan. For them, it is all or nothing. This intransigence is the dash linking the merchants and the so-called Four Friends of Ayiti. Moreover, capitalist interest in Ayiti is not small. For example, the bateys in San Domingo depend on Ayitian labor. Prosperity is not a moral question and the justification of the bateys is prosperity. It might be one reason that explains an Organization of American States resolution which would permit military intervention anywhere in the region to reestablish order, specifically, in the case of civil unrest, human rights violation and so on.
A spark, with unexpected swiftness, will drag these eloquent human rights defenders out of the stimulating excitement of philanthropic propaganda and place them face to face with the economic reality of the working-poor. This spark is growing exponentially. Some people talk openly about Revolution, but for almost a century the same thing had been said and no one has done anything. How can anyone seriously fear for such a system? The merchants appear invincible and profits are mounting. But as C.L.R. James said in Black Jacobins: “Economic prosperity is no guarantee of social stability. That rests on the constantly shifting equilibrium between the classes.”
Indeed, in Ayiti, the historic task facing us is to accomplish the national-liberation movement for the purpose of establishing a power that can sustain new development from the existing productive forces. The Convergence Democratic, that is the opposition coalition, was the first to press the button. While the opposition led the assault on the one-person one vote system at home, the Electoral College nominated George Bush Junior president of the United States. The ambassadors of the United States and France, two of the Four Friends of Ayiti, pledged to steer their countries’ assistance to Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO). But in the context of the Ayitian crisis providing assistance to NGOs is tantamount to supporting a shadow government.
The opposition’s “States-General” met and boldly nominated its own “parallel” president, Gerard Gourgues. From all over the country the cahiers, or lists of grievances, poured in. However, Ayiti’s civil society, like the vast majority of other civil-societies today, has too many grievances of its own to be concerned about the suffering of the poor. So, no one demanded that all enterprise owners simply become specialists in their enterprises and that all workers earn equal pay. Equality for the merchants is ruin.
The Four Friends of Ayiti and their Ayitian internal collaborators have yet to realize what they have done; they somewhat tied the economic destiny of the world to a people in revolution and henceforth the history of democracy and worker equality are one and indivisible.
This is Ayiti in 2001, the first Republic of the New World; to the casual eye the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere; to us a society torn by contradictions. And further, the existence of the Republ’ic of Ayiti is marked by duality: Everyone knows the story of the Folk of Ayiti who fought against European colonists for its emancipation in 1804. The Folk of Ayiti swore “L’Union Fait la Force.” An Assembly was formed to elect the leader. The election was rigged, which led to a dispute and fighting. What is the cause of all the hullabaloo? Two brothers are fighting, was the answer. It has been like this since they killed Emperor Janjak I, the first leader of independent Ayiti; they seem intent on killing each other and neither would stop or tell us the reason for the fight. Why do you two brothers make a public spectacle of yourselves in this manner? Four Friends of Ayiti came to show our people how to govern. They insisted that there be an opposition, said the first brother: I proposed power to the people. The other brother insisted power to the most able. Both of you are right, but what is essential is power in its totality.
The pioneers and the patriots, poets, political theorists, novelists, essayists and so on are the total whirlwind of Ayiti. The nation’s history comprises the human practice, class struggles and creative activity as well as the individual praxis, scientific, artistic, revolutionary and so on. These divers stages of the total movement of the Ayitian society interlock one unto the other and reciprocally contradict or complement each other. Ayitians of action, conscious of the struggle of the time, constantly working in the struggle are expending the field of knowledge and happiness; they are the demiurges of the liberation philosophy accomplished.
In philosophy humankind is the species that can best explain nature and humans. Ideas led to substantial progress. Society went from the ax to the tractor, from the carriage to the plane, from subsistence farming to world-export. But all this change was only quantitative, that is to say lots of progress have been made, but nothing changed.
Now, the relation of humankind to nature is to transform society. You could say, it is a new age, one that produces no new product, but rather a change that is qualitative. We would expect humankind to cease to see nature and fellow humans, as asset, a “thing” to possess, rather part of a biological, societal equilibrium which fosters reverence from human to human. This is no new idea since none of us by thinking can add one centimeter to our respective height. It is an expression of the movement that carries humanity toward its outlook or finality.
Dumas Fils Lafontant is a researcher and commentator on the weekly radio program, Caribbean Forum, on WZBC, 90.3 fm, Newton, Massachusetts. For more information, please contact: DFL.firstname.lastname@example.org