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17622: This Week in Haiti 21:42 12/30/2003 (fwd)
"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
December 30, 2003 - January 05, 2004
Vol. 21, No. 42
TO REBEL IS JUSTIFIED
CUBA, HAITI AND JOHN BROWN
(First of two articles)
by Sara Flounders
Haiti's bicentennial is finally upon us. January 1, 2004 is being
marked by official celebrations... and marred by the continued
war of former slave-owning powers against the descendants of
Haiti's liberators. Haiti's propertied classes and their agents,
rather than show solidarity with their compatriots, are siding
with the formerly slave-owning and colonialist powers in an
effort to destabilize and overthrow Haiti's popularly elected
government. It is but one more episode in two century's of
punishment that the U.S. and Europe have inflicted on Haiti for
its vanguard role in the Americas.
But the roots of Haitian resistance run deep. They are traced in
a new book, Haiti: A Slave Revolution, co-published by the Haiti
Support Network (HSN) and the International Action Center (IAC).
We present here, in the first of two installments, a chapter from
that book, which traces the effects of Haiti's revolution on the
U.S. and the echo the U.S. abolitionist movement had in Haiti.
The author, one of the book's editors, is also a co-director of
the IAC. Footnotes have been omitted.
Why is the main boulevard in Port-au-Prince named for John Brown?
Revolutionary ideas carry across vast miles and through
centuries. Those resisting brutal oppression draw inspiration
both from living struggles and from historic examples.
Just as Cuba is today considered liberated territory by so many
of the world's peoples, who live in societies of enormous racism
and repression, Haiti in the 19th century shone as an example and
a beacon of hope. It was the only liberated territory - in a
region where chattel slavery was still the dominant social
Today, although Cuba lacks rich natural resources or great
military capability, its very existence continues to be seen as a
threat to U.S. imperialism. The blockade and the threats have
continued through Republican and Democratic administrations.
Cuba's survival for 43 years is a challenge to total U.S.
domination of Latin America and of the globe. Two hundred years
ago this is how revolutionary Haiti was viewed.
The many U.S. efforts to overthrow the Cuban revolution through
economic sabotage, blockade, sanctions, and encirclement,
military aid for invasions, efforts to capture or assassinate
Fidel Castro and other Cuban leaders are well documented.
All of these same tactics were used against the Haitian
revolution in an age when Haiti had no allies and survived in
extreme isolation. The slave owning President Thomas Jefferson
imposed sanctions on Haiti in 1804 that lasted until 1862. These
decades of sanctions cut Haiti off from the world and even from
the rest of the Caribbean. Every ship that docked from a European
country or from the U.S. could be an invasion or carry new
demands for onerous concessions. Without normal trade or economic
relations, the Haitian economy contracted and withered. But the
very fact that Haiti survived was a challenge and the nightmare
of every slave master - especially in the U.S. slave South.
In this epoch Cuba at great sacrifice has politically and often
materially aided the struggle for liberation by giving safe haven
to political prisoners and resistance fighters while providing
thousands of doctors, technicians and soldiers throughout Africa
and Latin America.
Haiti, although ravaged by years of war and sanctions, played a
vital role in the liberation of all of Latin America from Spanish
colonial rule. Ships, soldiers, guns and provisions from their
meager supplies were provided to the Great Liberator - Simon
Bolivar - in the hour of his most desperate need.
Brutal class rule survives by ensuring that there is no
alternative. The ruling class of every age well understands that
ideas and example are enormously powerful. Nothing is more
dangerous than success. It is their doom - staring at them.
A living example of how connected revolutionary Haiti was to the
abolitionist movement in the U.S. and how Haitians viewed the
struggle against slavery in the U.S. can be seen in how the raid
at Harpers Ferry in 1859 and the execution of John Brown and his
co-conspirators were viewed in Haiti.
The bold attempt of John Brown to seize the arsenal and armory at
Harpers Ferry was not much different in planning or in its
disastrous outcome than Fidel Castro's bold attack on the Moncada
armory 50 years ago. Both leaders had hoped that their action
would trigger an insurrection. Both defiantly used their trial as
a public forum to put the system itself on trial.
While the slave owners branded John Brown a lunatic and a madman
for the armed raid of the Federal Armory, the bold effort to end
slavery through armed resistance and through Black and white
participation had impassioned interest in Haiti.
The Haitian French language newspapers, Le Progresse and Feuille
de Commerce, were filled with commentary on Harpers Ferry and on
the trial and execution of John Brown and the other participants
in the raid at Harpers Ferry, reflecting the interconnection
between the struggle of enslaved people for freedom in Haiti and
in the United States.
The slave master of the U.S. had reason to fear the revolutionary
example of Haiti. Haiti was not an isolated uprising of slaves.
It was a living reality - whenever there was opportunity and
capacity. Constant armed slave rebellions were attempted in the
slave states of the U.S. south. Gabriel Prosser (1800), Denmark
Vesey (1822) and Nat Turner (1831) led rebellions involving
thousands of slaves. An entire military machine of militias,
patrols, guards and slave catchers, using the most brutal forms
of torture, was created in an effort to stop the conspiracies,
uprisings and escapes.
The fervor to abolish slavery through the first half of the 19th
century was a surging political movement. Abolitionists in New
England organized huge rallies of tens of thousands and held
international conferences. They built an underground network to
give escaping slaves safe passage. Harriet Tubman, an escaped
slave herself, lead more than 300 enslaved people to freedom.
Hundreds of safe houses were maintained. Black and white
abolitionist broke into jails and attacked federal marshals to
free escaped slaves to prevent their forced return south.
To be continued
To purchase Haiti: A Slave Revolution, call Haïti Progrès at
718-434-8100 (US) or 222-6513 (Haiti) or the International Action
Center at 212-633-6646. Order on-line at www.leftbooks.com.
All articles copyrighted Haiti Progres, Inc. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED.
Please credit Haiti Progres.