By Jacques Depelchin
Since the time when the Africans, forced against their will to live in Saint Domingue (Haiti), revolted to end slavery (1791-1804) without the endorsement of abolitionists, these latter, and the allies of those who lost that battle, organised so that the emancipation of humanity would happen according to their will. In light of this, it is no exaggeration to conclude that it has always been a matter of a deadly, vengeful and predatory will that has a greater interest in the liquidation of humanity than in its emancipation. Therefore there is also an interest in the liquidation of the history of the struggles for emancipation as well.
In a context where there is an ill-disguised submission to predation as a way of life, it will be difficult if not impossible to have the curiosity to discover what it is that fuels this desire to amass power in all its forms. How does one describe the meeting between Europe and Africa? It took place in the wake of the discovery of the Americas and at the beginning of the American genocide (David E. Stannard, The American Holocaust). It is from there that the process of the accumulation of power (both military and financial) began and which continues even today. It is this process that will establish as a principle, now increasingly evident, the reduction of justice to the law of the strongest.
It is worth noting some of the more memorable events during this process: von Trotha in South-West Africa (now Namibia), organiser of the Herero and Nama genocide; Léopold II and his agents in the Independent State of the Congo (Red Rubber) ; Armenia, Nanking, Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Gulag, Guantanamo, open warfare, low intensity wars, secret wars, colonial and neo-colonial dictatorships, economic and financial crises, always resolved in favour of the most powerful and the richest, who will never be punished (except in those rare cases of scapegoating to give the impression of justice).
In the subconscious of these latter the main theme of such a path can be summarised in these words: ‘We are above impunity, the worse our crimes against humanity are the greater will be our profits.’ If there is any doubt, one needs only to observe against whom and for whom those organisations, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), and the international financial institutions (World Bank, International Monetary Funds) function. It is true that, from time to time, qualms of conscience appear that deserve to be mentioned, such as ‘Our Major Slave-Trading Family, in the “Deep North”’1. There are other examples, often invisible, but it is questionable, taking into account the blocks in place at all levels, if these qualms are equal to the crimes against humanity that have never stopped and which appear determined to self-perpetuate.
The revolution of the Africans in Haiti for the emancipation of humanity went even further than the French Revolution of 1789. It was the Africans who helped the French’s First Republic to abolish slavery (1792-1794). This brief inversion of history seen and told by the France of Napoleon and his successors will never be forgiven by the Africans of Haiti. Once Napoleon was in power in France, the beneficiaries of slavery organised their revenge by imposing compensation payments upon the newly independent state of Haiti. In the memory of Haitians, this compensation should never have been paid. Why do the Haitians find themselves so forsaken despite its ties to Africa, despite a revolution that does honour to the history of humankind constantly struggling for freedom?
The arrival of Aristide to power coincided with a reactivation of the true history of the emancipation of humanity. The distant heirs of slave owners and of plantations reacted like the powerful and the rich have always reacted when they are caught failing in respect and in justice vis-à-vis human beings. In 2004, Aristide and the Haitian people celebrated the bicentenary of a revolution that does credit to all of humankind. Of all the African Heads of State invited, only Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa attended; while in 1989, at the bicentenary of the French Revolution organised by Mitterrand, almost all the African Heads of State were present.
The isolation, the insults, and the demonization of Haitians in the struggle for emancipation can be explained in a number of ways. However, all converge towards the realisation of a cherished objective of the powermongers: first, to present themselves as the only viable representatives of humankind and secondly, to eliminate humanity and/or reduce it to its market term: humanitarianism. Because in the name of humanitarianism, the liquidators of true humanity seek to present themselves as the virtual saviours of the human species, of the principle of life, of nature, thanks to a complete and total monopoly over all avenues to emancipation.
Therefore, in order to promote themselves, African leaders continue to turn their backs on their own history while praising that of the West. The Haitian Revolution said ‘No’ to the commodification of humanity. More than two centuries later, with the help of African leaders, the commodification of humankind has progressed to the point that instead of talking about humanity it is preferable to speak of humanitarianism, a charitable act that hides the contradiction with difficulty. On the one hand, come to the aid of human beings, and on the other hand eliminate those who are considered to be disposable since they are useless in a world in which human beings no longer give value to mankind. Now, stock prices determine the so called humanitarian interventions to be taken.
This charitable act with the English acronym ‘R2P’ kills two birds with one stone. Right to Protect is the right of military intervention which has been granted to the greatest military powers on the planet in order to protect their interests under the guise of protecting against violations of human rights. In reality, these so-called humanitarian interventions enable the sales of arms and the maintenance of arms production industries (known generically today as ‘security’, an emotionally manipulable concept of the survival instinct, but one that works well to liquidate humanity collectively.)
These military interventions enable, at the same time, the liquidation of those members of humanity considered to be superfluous. Furthermore, these wars are essential to maintain, in people’s minds, the idea that life is only possible by submitting to the law of the strongest. However, Haiti and the rebellions against slavery (later colonisation and globalisation) showed that the maintenance of humanity is contrary to the imposition of the law of the strongest. However in the political and ideological framework imposed since the end of the Second World War, the most powerful forces on the planet behave as though they are accountable to no one. In this context, it is always feasible to get rid of people like Jean Bertrand Aristide, the elected president of a sovereign state, in a world in which the only recognised sovereignty is that of the markets.
As was the case of Toussaint l’Ouverture, Aristide was sent into exile in South Africa. Among other reasons: Aristide revived the framework of a history rooted in the rebellious consciences such as Kimpa Vita (burnt alive on 2 July 1706 in the Kongo Kingdom for having criticised the king and his allies, the Italian Capuchins missionaries, for being collaborators of the slave drivers), Makandal, Boukman, Toussaint l’Ouverture, Dessalines, etc.. In the name of these heroes, among others, Aristide demanded the reimbursement of this compensation (demanded by the French State in 1825) stating that there was no question of reparations. Aristide was not alone. He expressed the bicentennial purpose, a search for truth and justice organised around, and by, Fanmi Lavalass, the distant heirs of the rebels of Saint Domingue.
The story of Haiti represents that of the Africa of today: trying to stand up, to reconstruct, to rebuild, she stumbles, hesitates, and sometimes retreats in the face of threats from the watchdogs seeking to liquidate humanity and replace it with a substitute known as humanitarianism. In the wake of this liquidation of humanity, these gravediggers are also trying to erase the history of humanity. It cannot be said often enough: the eradication of slavery in Haiti does not concern only the Haitians and/or the Africans. Understanding what happened in Haiti in 1804 followed by 200 years of vengeful impulses expressed by all means possible, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki both of which continue to be a very strong signal of the commitment to liquidate humanity.
Some will say that there is no connection between the violence of Atlantic slavery and that which happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In one as in the other, the objective was humanity. Those responsible for the decision to drop the atomic bombs might argue that they did not realise it, but violence as a means to control, to subject humankind to a system founded on its systematic violation is that which leads to slavery; from its alleged abolition to a slavery even more violent, modernised, and explained by the exculpatory arguments of its beneficiaries. The arsenal of the powerful include proponents of all types ranging from philosophers to lawyers, from financiers to chaplains, from bankers to industrialists, from linguists to anthropologists, from courtesans to propagandists, from servicemen to militarists, from journalists to historians.
If Haiti, its history, its people and its willingness to carry out the revolution of 1791-1804, did not scare the greatest military power on Earth, how does one explain that, after the January 2011 earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince and killed hundreds of thousands of people, this same military power made use of the automatisms that have become typical since Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Because it considers itself to be the only one capable of making the distinction between the enemies and the benefactors of humankind, the greatest military power in the world relies on heavily militarised humanitarian expeditions to ensure its control over humankind through force. Inevitably a living, vibrant humanity will be perceived as threatening by a power founded on the will to monopolise and dictate to all humankind how to live life, liberty and peace.
Aristide is not a dog. How many times must we remind the watchdogs of a system that continues to torture and to liquidate humanity, that the poor of Haiti (and elsewhere) are not dogs? Aristide is not a dog. Undoubtedly, these watchdogs would have liked Aristide to disappear like a dog that has been run over, without any newspapers ever writing about it, and without any grave marker, just like what happened to heroes such as Patrice Emery Lumumba, Osende Afana, Ruben Um Nyobe and so many others whose remains are scattered on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
Now that Aristide is back in Haiti, the propaganda that had been used to get rid of him is happening once again. The accusations are the same: corruption, drug trafficking, etc. Some charges are no different from those that were made against, for example, the head of Hezbollah, Sayyid Nasrallah.
On the side of the accusers, the motivation remains the same: keep in place the system that made Saint Domingue the economic pearl of the French colonies, through the use of slavery. And there are voices rising, from Haiti, to preach to the heirs of all those who put an end to slavery, the following: ‘Look at Haiti today the poorest country in the Western hemisphere’. This poverty is part of the war organised by the rich and powerful to force any member of humankind that rejects the modernisation of slavery, to beg in order to survive.
A prominent Haitian who joined in the propaganda to demonize Aristide once stated that Aristide was not Mandela. He was told at the time, certainly there is only one Mandela just as there is only one Aristide, as there was only one Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Kimpa Vita, Harriet Tubman, etc. The list of people who have significantly contributed to the emancipation of humankind is infinitely long, too often unknown and/or misunderstood by those who should stand with these figures.
With World War II, a system personified by evil collapsed without losing any of its financial, mental or memorial structure. As with the abolition of slavery, the beneficiaries of Nazism were not affected. As Alain Resnais depicts very well in his film (Night and Fog), large industrial groups such as Krupp continued to prosper. The lesson of the Second World War was so well learned that those responsible for the pursuit of the liquidation of humanity and its history have proclaimed themselves to be its only defender by inventing humanitarianism and R2P (Right to Protect). In accordance with this argument, the impunity of the United States was established as a non-negotiable principle by the Government of the United States.2
Resnais’ film was made in 1955, during the war in Algeria, with the explicit hope of the director that a film about the camps would lead the French to make the connection between what happened in Nazi Germany to what was happening in Algeria, and, hence, react. We are in 2012. How many people know that the title of the film by Resnais, unknowingly reproduced the title of a decree of 7 December 1941, the ‘Night and Fog’ Decree (Nacht un Nebel Erlass)?
While reading the content of this decree, it is hard not to think about the context that led the United States not only to put itself beyond the reach of the International Criminal Court, but also to put in place a system of police control that supported its ambitions to be a global power.
In light of the message that Alain Resnais wanted to get across, it is reasonable to wonder, as did Aimé Césaire in his Discourse on Colonialism and Frantz Fanon in The Wretched of the Earth, if there has ever been a real awareness of the dimension of the enormity of the crimes against humanity, during, before and after the Second World War. In light of the current behaviour of the world’s superpower and its allies, questions will continue to be asked, but the necessity of appropriate responses to the crimes against humanity call upon all of humankind with increasing urgency.
Humanity is all-inclusive and non-discriminatory. It does not have to be reinvented under the guise of selective humanitarian missions against individuals who are then taken before an international criminal tribunal which appears to function largely as a court of law of the strongest in order to get rid of those who defy such a situation. In order for there to be real justice for all humankind, we must eliminate the practices that make the law of the strongest an instrument of justice in the service of the strongest military power ever seen. We must finish with a court of law of the strongest that manifests itself through the media which is completely under the control of the most powerful forces in the global hierarchy.
Aristide is the voice of the Africans, the Haitians, and the cursed of the Earth who want to heal the wounds from which humankind suffers, a wound that has mutilated the consciences and the wills of those faithful to justice and truth. He also speaks for people in other parts of the world seeking to be heard above the hell of punitive wars waged against human beings who want to thrive and not just survive by being forced to accept charity from the powermongers. The more the voice of Aristide troubles their consciences the more the powerful should pay attention to him and not accuse him of invented crimes.
Jacques Depelchin is executive director of The Otabenga Alliance.
* This article was translated from French for Pambazuka News by Lorraine Thompson.