Pre­fer­ring Light­ning To Light: The Case Of Haiti

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - OPINION -

IN 1790, the Amer­i­can diplo­mat and politi­cian Gou­verneur Mor­ris com­pared the French and Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tions, say­ing that the French ‘have taken Ge­nius in­stead of Rea­son for their guide, adopted Ex­per­i­ment in­stead of Ex­pe­ri­ence, and wan­der in the

Dark be­cause they pre­fer Light­ning to Light’” Com­ment on es why should there be a new or­der at all, if the old or­der is still in or­der!?

In some rev­o­lu­tions though, the old or­der be­comes so prom­i­nent that sooner or later it changes things sup­pos­edly new to the old or­der, and you get a restora­tion. This hap­pened in the case of the French Rev­o­lu­tion in which the king was killed, and then the king was re­stored, which must have taught the French their say­ing that the more things change the more they re­main the same!

Restora­tion also hap­pened in the case of the English Rev­o­lu­tion (1688) in which the king had been be­headed, and a com­mon­wealth was de­clared un­der Oliver Cromwell. Well, the king was re­stored af­ter the death of Oliver Cromwell and Cromwell was ac­cused of regi­cide, a crime for which his body was ex­humed and he was hanged!

Given the num­ber of hu­man lives lost in the vi­o­lence which ac­com­pa­nied and then fol­lowed th­ese rev­o­lu­tions, did they die in vain since the old other was re­stored?

The case of the Chi­nese

Rev­o­lu­tion must make hu­man­ity shud­der. Launched in 1948 the Rev­o­lu­tion was to take the ba­ton from the Rus­sian Rev­o­lu­tion and achieve the dream of the end of cap­i­tal­ism and the dawn of the class­less so­ci­ety. The var­i­ous fail­ures of the Chi­nese state un­til the in­ter­ven­tion of Deng Xiaop­ing “with far-reach­ing mar­ket-econ­omy re­forms” show that ul­ti­mately, rev­o­lu­tions are not nec­es­sary! No­body read­ing

by Frank Dikot­ter and lis­ten­ing to Chi­nese peo­ple grum­ble about their loss dur­ing that cul­tural rev­o­lu­tion would not wish that the cul­tural rev­o­lu­tion had not hap­pened. To­day, China is more cap­i­tal­ist than the United States of Amer­ica. Why would you go through the hor­rors of the var­i­ous at­tempts to leapfrog into devel­op­ment only to come back to a mar­ket econ­omy?

Two rev­o­lu­tions wiped out the old or­der com­pletely with dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences for their coun­tries. The first rev­o­lu­tion is the Rus­sian Rev­o­lu­tion. Those who know in de­tails the his­tory of the serfs in Rus­sia say that it was a sys­tem that ri­valled the slav­ery of the South­ern States of the United States of Amer­ica. There were serf re­volts that were bent on de­stroy­ing the Rus­sian aris­toc­racy long be­fore the Bol­she­vik Rev­o­lu­tion of Oc­to­ber 1917. Be­tween that date and the death of Stalin in 1953 the Rus­sian aris­toc­racy was wiped out and their prop­erty stolen. Un­for­tu­nately, the new or­der set up could not com­pete with the cap­i­tal­ism that it set out to dis­place. It col­lapsed in 1989 to be re­placed by chaos which will take some time to con­vert to a mar­ket econ­omy.

What was the use of the death of mil­lions to the state of Rus­sia in all th­ese years?

The other rev­o­lu­tion is the Haitian Rev­o­lu­tion. From 1789 to 1804 450,000 African slaves fought 39,000 white plan­ta­tion own­ers and man­agers to free them­selves from slav­ery and the plan­ta­tion sys­tem in the Caribbean is­land of San Domingue. There were 27,500 per­sons of mixed race ready to go to ei­ther side de­pend­ing on which side was win­ning. Out of the fear that Napoleon was go­ing to re­store slav­ery, the lead­er­ship of the African Free­dom Fighters killed ev­ery white man, woman and child in Haiti in Jan­uary 1804.

The in­fra­struc­ture of the plan­ta­tion sys­tem was de­stroyed - the ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem, the sugar cane crush­ing ma­chines and the other ma­chin­ery were de­stroyed. The exslaves swore never to go back to the plan­ta­tion again. In­de­pen­dence was de­clared. The blue-white-red French flag was torn up, the white in the mid­dle thrown away and the flag of Haiti was blue and red. Later the blue was re­placed by black.

In an at­tempt to have some sort of econ­omy the lead­er­ship asked Haitians to go back to the plan­ta­tions and work them for their own ben­e­fit just as they had worked them for the ben­e­fit of the whites. But they re­fused. The land was di­vided into small-small por­tions for use by each Haitian fam­ily. This would for­ever make plan­ta­tion econ­omy im­pos­si­ble.

Un­like Soviet Rus­sia that de­stroyed its pat­ri­mony of gov­er­nance knowl­edge, in­dus­trial skills and civic ed­u­ca­tion, Haiti had no prior his­tory of state­hood. By wip­ing out those who had the knowl­edge of state­hood, the skills of work­ing an econ­omy and the plan of so­ci­etal ed­u­ca­tion, it had noth­ing to fall back on. The Africans of Haiti might have be­gun their re­volt against the French slave-own­ers by call­ing on the help of Ogun, the Yoruba god of war and strug­gle, but they did not re­mem­ber the Yoruba proverb that says the eyes of your tears must, at the time of tears, also be­gin to see things be­yond your tears. Two hun­dred years af­ter that mad­ness of mass mur­der of whites, Haiti re­mains poor and im­pov­er­ished and mis­er­able.

Un­like the other rev­o­lu­tions whose va­lid­ity we ques­tion here, it is im­pos­si­ble to say that the Haitian Rev­o­lu­tion was not nec­es­sary. But was the mas­sacre of the whites in­evitable? Was there no other means of putting the fear of God into Napoleon and his mes­sen­gers of en­slave­ment?

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