The Destruction of Haiti

31 01 2008


Haiti is today a country broken by poverty, destitution and hopelessness. A country which was once the biggest source of colonial plunder – providing France with £ 11 million out of its total trade of £ 17 million in 1789 – is today the poorest country of the Western Hemisphere, eighty percent of whose population lives below the poverty line. The country, whose slave army repeatedly defeated the mightiest European armies of the 18th and 19th centuries, is today without an army of its own. A land famous for its forests and agricultural produce is today denuded of all its forests and can’t grow enough to feed itself. The Haitian State itself verges on the brink of collapse and cannot survive without the crutches of Aid dollars and the UN military force.

How did the first colony of the modern world to free itself come to this sorry pass? Read the rest of this entry »

The Successful Failure of Haiti’s Revolution

23 01 2008


As this column recounted last week, Haiti was the first colony of the modern world to win freedom. What is even more astounding is that when Haiti declared independence from France on January 1, 1804, its army – composed of slaves who had been brought from Africa – had defeated the armies of France, Great Britain and Spain in the span of 13 years.

I would argue that Haiti was the completion of the process that began with the American War of Independence about three decades earlier. The American War of Independence was fought on the principle of self-rule and against colonial subjugation. It raised the slogan of “No taxation without Representation” and stated that all countries were equal and one could not subjugate the other. The French Revolution extended this principle of self-rule, which the American War of Independence had established between countries, to the domestic sphere. The French Revolution stated that not only were all countries equal to one another, but all people residing inside the country were also legally equal and free. There could be no political authority on earth that was higher than the citizen. While these revolutions have justly been hailed as the pioneers of our modern regime of rights and freedoms, what is forgotten is that these revolutions remained confined to the white man and did not extend these rights to either the non-whites or to women. Read the rest of this entry »

The First Revolution of the Third World: Haiti

15 01 2008

“Won’t you help to sing

These songs of freedom…”

Haiti, the western third of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbeans, is today one of the poorest countries in the world. The State itself is weak, without any army and crumbling infrastructure, Haiti practically lives of the sharp philanthropy of Western Aid agencies. But hidden behind the poverty, destitution and fragile State which presents itself to the contemporary visitor, lies one of the greatest anti-colonial struggles of the third world. When Haiti won independence from France in 1804, it was the first colony of the modern world to win freedom. Read the rest of this entry »

The Coming Revolution in Pakistan – II

9 01 2008


Last week this column had posited that Benazir Bhutto’s assassination was the culmination of a long series of failures by the Pakistani ruling class to manage the contradictions inherent in a State based on strong landed property with a weak industrial base. The column argued that such conditions created a predilection for the use of brute repression (the strategy of the stick) to deal with popular demands and undermined the possibility of democratic institutions gaining ground. The column further argued that this predilection was conditioned by the structural limitations that landholding imposes on the political strategy that a ruling class can adopt vis-à-vis the demands of the masses.

These structural limitations are the falling rate of return on primary products in global trade and the physical difficulty of dividing landed wealth among new aspirants to the ruling class. Read the rest of this entry »

The Coming Revolution in Pakistan – I

1 01 2008


Benazir Bhutto’s assassination is perhaps as significant a turning point in the history of Pakistan as was the assassination of her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and of Pakistan’s first Prime Minister, Liaqat Ali. In a sense these three killings form three significant watersheds in the political history of Pakistan and each represent the culmination of the failure of the country’s ruling class to successfully manage the contradictions of their time. What is particularly significant is that each assassination, built as it was on the failure of the previous attempt to overcome contradictions, has been more calamitous for the country than the previous one. Today, in the opinion of this columnist, it’s a situation of do or die for Pakistan as a nation and its citizens as a people. Read the rest of this entry »