Title of Course: Black History 201: The History of Haiti

Instructor: Mba Mbulu

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Class #20: Haiti's Importance / Toussaint and Fidel [ Audio Version]

Read the Essay below. Be able to answer and expound on the following questions.


(1) List several historical facts that point to the importance of Haiti in world affairs.
(2) Did the revolution in Haiti turn the political order of things upside down? Explain.
(3) What did Fidel Castro do that made him a complete revolutionary leader?
(4) Who had the more difficult obstacles to overcome, Toussaint L'Ouverture or Fidel Castro?
(5) Is it likely that Fidel Castro learned from the experiences of Toussaint L'Ouverture?

Class #20 Essays (1) HAITI'S IMPORTANCE (2) TOUSSAINT AND FIDEL

(1) HAITI'S IMPORTANCE
It is important that We, Black People, understand the San Domingo Revolution in its proper historical perspective. To help Us to do this, We should refer to the affect of the Revolution on the development of the United States (see Lesson #4 of my book Ten Lessons: An Introduction to Black History), and give serious thought to the following points.
(1) The San Domingo Revolution was the only successful slave revolt in the Americas. By successful, I mean it turned the political order of things upside down. It proved that Black Power can not only frustrate white power, it can defeat it. It also proved that the Black masses have the ability to cripple white power in a way the white masses can not. No where at any time have the white masses successfully rebelled against their governments; not even those who participated in the failure known as the French Revolution. But the Black masses have done so, over and over again. The San Domingo Revolution is one of the most outstanding examples of this.
(2) The San Domingo Revolution inspired the Blacks in the United States to intensify their efforts to get freedom. Most of the major revolts that took place in the United States did so after the rebellion in San Domingo was in full swing. Gabriel Prosser, Denmark Vesey, David Walker, Nat Turner , Harriet Tubman, and so many others were all influenced by the Revolution in San Domingo.
(3) The San Domingo Revolution was the first concrete step in the revolution of the people of the Caribbean against white power. Immediately after Haiti declared its independence, Sebastián Francisco de Miranda started Venezuela's independence movement. Miranda's initiative was adopted by Simón Bolívar, the most revered Venezuelan, and José San Martín of Argentina. By 1821, Columbia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala and El Salvador had taken up the mantra and declared their independence. By 1824, only Cuba and Puerto Rico remained under Spanish control, and Mexico and Venezuela were ready to help Cuba obtain its independence. Because of the activities of Black People in Haiti, the foundation was set for the emergence of leaders like Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and a multitude of other Caribbean leaders who were willing to confront white power governments in the interest of people of color.
(4) The San Domingo riches led to the abolition of the African slave trade by England, which was the undisputed queen of the seas at this time. This declaration did not stop the slave trade but it cut into it deeply and set the stage for the general acceptance of an end to the trade.
(5) The San Domingo Revolution also made Americans more receptive to the idea of abolishing the slave trade. After the Revolution in San Domingo, the fear of slave rebellions in the United States increased dramatically. Americans definitely no longer wanted any slaves coming to the United States straight from Africa.
(6) San Domingo is proof of how slavery was the basis of the European economy and European development. Political and economic decisions that would affect four continents rested on developments in San Domingo. San Domingo determined which European countries would get in a position to control the politics of the world.

TOUSSAINT AND FIDEL
There were several differences between Toussaint L'Ouverture and Fidel Castro, with Castro facing more favorable conditions at every turn. Castro did not have to overcome as powerful a military or as highly concerted political hurdles as did Toussaint, but that does not make what Castro accomplished any less remarkable. Toussaint could have accomplished more than he did, but what he accomplished is amazing nonetheless.

(1) In the revolutionary sense, both Toussaint and Fidel were reactionaries when they took on the leadership of their people's struggle. In the beginning, Toussaint was willing to trade in freedom for all in exchange for favorable conditions for himself and a few other leaders. Only after the French refused to bargain with him did he resolve that it would be freedom for all or freedom for none. In the beginning, Fidel's intention was to replace Batista and make life better for the people of Cuba, but he had not thought seriously about replacing the entire system Batista represented. Both men, therefore, were made memorable by their revolution. Then, they took different routes.

At some point Fidel began to let the revolution educate him and guide him. Fidel allowed the revolution, the people, to make him complete. He embraced the masses, recognized their greatness, and believed in their ability to work themselves through, to create better conditions, better institutions and better times.

Toussaint, on the other hand, remained tied to a frame of reference that was anti him and anti Haiti, one of "great" men making decisions for "lesser" masses. At no point did Toussaint allow the revolution to guide him, to complete his growth. That is why he got caught up in a dilemma that never would have existed if he had developed the confidence in the people that makes history so rewarding to a revolutionary leader.

Whereas the revolution prepared Castro to look at Cuba and the world from an entirely different set of parameters, Toussaint continued to see Haiti trapped in a world view that revolved around white power and commerce. Toussaint idled and plummeted; Castro surged forward and helped a new world order evolve.

(2) Toussaint was the leader of a Black revolution. There was a racist perspective that pervaded white power's response to the Haitian Revolution that was not present during Cuba's revolution. All of Toussaint's close neighbors were white power colonies and countries; all hostile to Haiti and not disposed to help her. Castro did not represent the threat to white power's mythology of race supremacy that Haiti did, so a fanatic element of the resistance that Toussaint and Haiti were confronted with did not confront Castro and Cuba.

(3) The internal conflicts that confronted Toussaint were much more embedded than those that confronted Fidel. The very elements that needed to cooperate in Toussaint's Haiti were opposed to each other in ways that defied logic. Fidel had to fight against and placate internal contradictions that are common to humans during conflict. Toussaint had to fight against abnormal internal contradictions that were based in racist myths, racist emotions and unreal unreason. Such contradictions are the most difficult to penetrate, and the most lethal.

(4) Fidel emerged during the Cold War between the United States and Russia. He received a mountain of economic and military support from Russia. Russia, in turn, was also the focus of much of white America's response, which reduced the amount of pressure that could be focussed on Cuba. No superpower or major nation provided economic or military support to Toussaint. Therefore, the major countries could concentrate as many of their resources as needed on frustrating whatever Toussaint and his successors attempted to do to improve the condition of his people and make Ayiti a normal nation.

(5) By the time Fidel emerged, most of the Spanish colonies had become aware of their differences with Spain and similarities with each other. Fidel, therefore, was surrounded by countries that felt a sense of brotherhood with Cuba, and they were disposed to trade with Fidel's Cuba as much as they could. When Toussaint led the Haitian Revolution, the territories close to him were still colonies dominated by the superpowers. The white colonial leaders, like the leaders in the mother countries, were not disposed to help Haiti develop. Toussaint and his people would have to go it alone for the most part, and he mistakenly did not think they could do so successfully.

END OF CLASS

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