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Le Saut Falls, Sodo, Haiti

douard Jean. Toussaint Dirige Vers la Bataille



Aristide: An Autobiography

In response to the accusations that he is a communist Aristide writes, "Rather than searching for models, I prefer to welcome those ideas that rest on the values of beauty, dignity, respect, and love" (1993, p. 126). And he explains, "Marxism is not a source of inspiration for me. Instead, the texts of Marx constitute one tool among others to which I may have recourse" (1993, p. 68). As Plummer writes, "The logic of Christian ethics formed the moral basis of his discourse" (p. 232). It is, indeed, a sad fact of the legacy of anticommunism--a worldwide, mindless bequest largely of the United States--that one need only be labeled a communist to have one's life put in danger; the several times that paramilitary groups and hired thugs tried to assassinate Aristide they were heard to be shouting "Communist!"

Aristide's program during his 1991 months in office was hardly radical, however, containing, for example, support for an increase in the minimum wage, a massive literacy campaign, some land reform, the abolition of the notorious rural section chiefs, the collection of taxes from the rich, attempts to stop drug trafficking and other smuggling, and a crackdown on corruption in public administration. These original policies were, furthermore, based on the belief that the old system was too corrupt to support any change, and this belief gave opponents of Aristide the chance to label him as rigid. In the book written after his ouster he did state, "There was an absolute break between those expert in the theology of liberation and those who hoped for a compromise with the system they served" (1993, p. 66), but this is more a statement of fact than a disclosure of rigidity.

Also, the perception of Aristide as anti-American can be easily drawn from his writings, which contain phrases such as "the land of snow has exploited my beloved country" (1990, p. 7). The perception of him as socialistic can be based on phrases he uses such as the "deadly economic infection called capitalism" (1990, p. 6). And his attitude toward both the United States and its policies of "developing" the Third World is clear in such passages as: "The cold country to our north, and its allies . . . send us more money and food. Of course, that money and that food corrupt our society: The money helps to maintain an armed force against the people; the food to ruin our national economy; and both money and food keep Haiti in a situation of dependence on the former colonizers" (1990, p. 47).

The perceived anti-Americanism is, however, merely the necessary accompaniment to a pro-Haitianism; the socialism, a counterforce to the core-peripheral relationships of the First World to the Third World; and the anti-developmentalism, a recognition that development policies are simply effective and pervasive mechanisms of neocolonialism. Further understanding, then, of the Haitian challenges requires a close examination of U.S.-Haitian relationships.

Reviewed by Robert Lawless (1)
From: Robert Lawless: lawless@twsuvm.uctwsu.edu
Published in 1994 as "The Challenges Facing Haiti (and the United States)"
in Journal of Third World Studies 11(2):473-498.

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