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Lecture 9

Lecture 9: Haiti

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Political Science
Paul Kingston

POLA90 – Lecture 9 (March 13) Explaining Haiti’s Predatory Politics/Democracy Highlights of Haitian History  Located in the island of Hispaniola – with Haiti being on its western part called Saint-Domingue…  It was the first European settlement in the „New World‟ and was under French colonial control - it becoming France‟s most valuable and efficient slave colony – providing 2/3rds of all of Europe‟s tropical produce…  Made of predominantly of African slave population, Haiti became independent in 1804 after a long and bloody but successful slave revolution that had started 13 years earlier…  Since independence, Haiti has had a troubled history…. o Island has been subjected to terrible environmental stresses: hurricanes, earth quakes, famines and food insecurity, diseases, serious environmental/land degradation – the worst consequences of which have been the result of human decisions o Haiti‟s has also been a overwhelmingly poor, peasant based society - this despite being one of France‟s prize colonial possessions that produced 60% of the cthfee consumed in the Western world in the late 17 century along with sugar, cotton, tobacco, cocoa, indigo, etc.  Similar to Congo in the sense that it has a large amount of nature resources. o Haitian politics has been subject to chronic instability, repression, and violence o Finally, exacerbating all of these processes and predicaments has been Haiti‟s long-standing history of external economic dependence and foreign interference… Selected Poverty Statistics for Haiti  Per capita GDP is $660  Almost 80% of Haitians live in poverty, making less than $2 per day  More than 50% live in conditions of extreme poverty making less than $1 per day  Over 66% of the workforce do not have formal employment  Life expectancy is 61 years of age  40% of the population are illiterate  50% of primary aged children are not enrolled in school  Over 50% of children under 5 are malnourished… Deeply-Rooted Political Violence – Why? Endemic, Widespread Corruption – Why? Enduring Haitian Poverty – Why?  Long term process that was marked by an increasing structural disjuncture between the state and society  Sources of these structural inequalities: o the emergence of a state captured by a small and fragmented powerful elite class – especially apparent during the period of Duvalier rule under „Papa‟ and „Baby‟ Doc! (1957-1986). Contributed to endemic violence in the country’s history… o unequal position of Haiti in the world economy that contributed to an inequitable and exploitative economic system and inhibited the emergence of popular power and made the country’s political system vulnerable to corrupt practices Haitian Historical Legacies  Historically-Rooted Elite Class Exploitation  History of External Interference and Dependence Michel-Rolph Trouillot - Haiti: State Against Nation – The Origins and Legacy of Duvalierism (1990).  Class dynamics of Haitian politics epitomized by title of Trouillot‟s book, State Against Nation  He also described Haiti, however, as a country that “poorly fitted into the world system”  “No longer a colony yet a country standing outside the international political order conceived by the West, Haiti could not fully benefit from its hard-gained independence in a world that was not ready for the implications of its existence” (p. 58). Haitian History  1804: slave revolution achieves independence  1804-1915: unstable system of elite rule  1915-1934: USA Occupation of Haiti  1934-1957: return to unstable system of elite rule  1957-1986: dictatorship of the Duvalier family – Papa and Baby-Doc!  1990: popular mobilization (Lavalas) and the election of Aristide o Aristide wins the election and brings the popular class ideas  1991: overthrow of Aristide by Haitian Armed Forces  1995: return of Aristide  2004: re-exiling of Aristide and the entry of an UN peacekeeping force  2010: Haitian earthquake and the „humanitarian occupation‟ of Haiti (Podur) Historical Legacies  Authoritarian Political Tradition o Two predominant ruling groups  the original political/military oligarchy  roots in the old landowning elite whose original wealth based upon plantation agriculture had started to decline  Trouillot writing of “a continuously disintegrating landlord class” - and who now looked to the state for their sources of power and wealth)  foreign-dominated merchant families/classes  whose wealth was on the rise o Alliance grounded in relations of economic production – property relations, labour relations, relations of distribution (ie. how money as extracted from the peasantry and redistributed among the elite) that was supported by strong economic relations with the West through which the the main revenue of the state (export/import duties) depended… o Yet, it was an uneasy/unstable class, characterized by serious factionalism… o Featured:  struggles over succession  struggles between different regions of the country  tremendous violence and brutality as elite factions fought against each other.  One author described Haitian elites as “climbing over one another for power” (p. 42, Sprague) th o Struggles in the 19 century also influenced by racial conflict – the mulatto political factions competing with black political factions o Resulted in a continuous process of changing constitutions and regimes – often at the hands of military leaders who effectively governed the country from 1804 to 1913 (prior to the US Occupation) o Rival factions would also often mobilize their factions of clientelized peasants as a way overthrowing rival oligarchic factions from power o At the same time factions would unite militarily in the face of any form of popular insurrection from below  The elites would get the peasants to fight their battles.  Very unstable, but brilliant way to maintaining their power  Unequal Balance of Class Power o The inequality came because the elites decided to make revenue for the state by taxing the peasants. Not directly though. The state taxed agriculture by taxing the exports. o Rooted in the historical extraction of surplus from Haiti‟s peasant society. Why? o When it became independent, a major debate was whether the country would continue to promote agricultural production for export (reviving the plantation economy being pushed by the leaders which Trouillot called „militarized agriculture‟) versus agricultural production for food through land distribution to promote small scale peasant production o Issue largely revolved around where state revenues should come from – landowners or peasants - with the decision being taken to leave plantation agricultural alone and tax the trade (through a system of export duties) in those commodities (coffee rather than sugar) produced by the small holding peasantry th o By end of 19 century, more than 95% of state revenues came from the indirect taxation of coffee exports – and, hence, directly and negatively affected peasant livelihoods o Trouillot describes Haitian politicians as having “condemned the peasants to refill, day and night, the Treasury‟s bottomless pit” o What happened with the income?  Not invested in infrastructure and/or the productive capacity of small peasant agriculture  Hence, productivity of Haitian agricultural stagnated – contributing to a system whereby Haiti‟s peasantry “worked more and more but produced less and less, as population increased and the availability of fertile land decreased” (T, p. 84)…  Moreover, well into the 20 thcentury, for example, Haiti has never had a national educational system nor a national health system…  Instead, income was either:  Siphoned abroad as a result of Haiti‟s dependent position in the world order and in world market. Leaving Haiti all together.  it was wasted by the country‟s narrowly- based political elite, heavily influenced as they were by a dominant foreign merchant community. Unproductive expenditures.  As the urban populations and the state apparatus grew, it was wasted away on the growing ranks of what Trouillot called “parasites”…  In short, there was limited local accumulation, let alone productive investment, of indigenous capital in Haiti‟s political economy o Consequences  Trouillot: “The state was spending, but it was the peasant who was footing the bill” and “the trick of indirect taxation…is that its injustice is built into the system and hence is not easily visible; thus, it rarely occasions the interminable debates to which income taxes, for instance, give rise” (p. 62)…  Hence, as Trouillot argued it, “the state had chosen to live at the expense of the nation”, adding that “in this choice lay the seeds of future divisions” (p. 64).  Moreover, having started out as Europe‟s most prosperous colony, Haiti ended up being “the poorhouse of the Western hemisphere”…  The result were powerful and marked class distinctions and social inequality within Haitian society thom the time of its independence in the early 19 century…  These sharp social divisions further exacerbated by debates over color  lighter skinned called „ancien libres‟ (leadership and plantation owners)  darker skinned called „nouveaus libres‟ (petty bourgeoisie and peasants)….  The use of French by Haiti‟s political class was described as further institutionalizing the peasantry‟s marginalization and “silence” (p. 87)…  Combined with the complete absence of political and/or civil institutions through which the interests of the peasantry could be represented, T describes the Haitian peasantry as “increasingly [withdrawing] from the political arena” (p. 86)…  Indeed, Trouillot reveals that Haiti‟s peasants used to be referred to by its urban elite classes as “the people outside” of the state  All of this has contributed to Haiti‟s chronic social and political instability throughout its history o Unfavorable Position Within the World Economy  Birth of Haiti was seen as a major threat to rulers in the West – hence treated in a retaliatory, extractive, and neo-colonial fashion  Hence:  imposition of severe indemnity by France – not paid off until after World War Two (1947) and which Farmer described as “devastating”, trapping Haiti in overseas financial obligations “that could never be satisfied”  Forced them to pay back $21 billion for it to enter into the world trading system on an unequal basis.  loans from France trapped Haiti even deeper in international patterns of debt  use of power – warships menacing off the coast! - to carve out increasing opportunities for foreign merchants within Haiti while constraining Haitian overseas commerce  From France to the USA  By the later 19 thcentury, the US had replaced France as foreign power with the strongest influence over Haiti:  ran an increasingly large trade surplus with the country (in the late 1980s, accounted for over 2/3rds of Haitian imports);  American merchants and capital secured dominant role in the country leading Trouillot to describe the US as launching “an offensive against indigenous Haitian commerce and craftsmanship” (p. 56);  culminated in the US Occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934 in which the US coercively pursued its economic and strategic aims  US Occupation of Haiti: 1915-1934  Exacerbated all of Haiti‟s political and economic problems – or as Trouillot argued, it “worsened all of Haiti‟s structural ills” (p. 107)… o Facilitated the concentration and centralization of power within the narrowly-based state  Basically supported the poltical elites. o Accentuated Haiti‟s economic dependence o Led to the further alienation of the majority of the country‟s citizens aka the rural-based peasantry  Between the USA and Duvalier  Trouillot described Haiti as experiencing an on-going and perpetual “crisis of hegemony” among its ruling elites o More wealth being generated, more trade and production BUT more poverty and the political elites can‟t get their act together. o No one can step into Haiti to establish stability.
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