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#12: beginnings of talk about democracy : Conde comments

Title: Re: beginnings of talk about democracy : King comments
"Liberal political discourse" in 19th cent. Europe sounds quite counter revolutionary. Indeed, it was the rhetoric behind concrete efforts to defeat the French revolution. On the other hand, had I not read the whole sentence, I would have thought that some specimen in the fauna of contemporary Haitian "democratic" politics had made that argument.
The term revolution was embraced by the slaves of St. Domingue, not as political discourse, but rather as it was meant by the French masses: violent, radical structural changes and proportionate representation of the people (themselves) in the political system. The term has been widely used by Haitian politicians throughout the later part of the 19th century, as every insurrection, every government overthrow and every civil war over the national palace as a means to resolve critical social, economic and political cleavages opposing sectors of the ruling class, was named a revolution by the perpetrators. The concept was perhaps introduced by President Fabre Geffrard in 1858, when he and his revolutionary army, with fanfare and all, came to knock on Soulouque's door.
The use of the term is deeply rooted in Haitian political culture. It describes the circumstances of the violent overthrow of not only Soulouque, but Geffrard himself, subsequently that Salnave, Michel Domingue,,Salomon, Hyppolythe, ect as their fall from power were named revolutions by insurgent leaders. Even Elie Lescot, in the post US occupation era, Dumarsais Estime, Paul E. Magloire, JC Duvalier were overthrown by "revolutions". In other words, Duvalier did not invent anything by using the word. He was just repeating what had been said for 100 years before he came to power. Only, he used it in a different historical context, that of US anti-communism. That was a way for him to keep US dollars coming in, for it was it was in the interest of the US to have a so-called revolution in the Caribbean without communism. Of course the joke was on us, as Duvalier laugthed all the way to the bank and the US had peace of mind.
After Duvalier, when Haitians began to look for appropriate solutions for their probelms and when massive military "aid" began to arrive, when the Haitian army regained its infamous status of defender of US interests in Haiti, is when the discussion over whether or not the American revolution was true became really tired. It became so because of two factors. One is abuse of it by American officials trying to force its fruits down people's throats as though they are the ultimate example of the apogee of human social and political organization, and their profound disdain for anything else. The second one of course is the reality of social relations within the United States, including enormous disparities in the re-distribution of wealth, racism, de facto segregation of the Native Americans into so-called reservations, in other words Americanized Bantustans, racial profiling by police departments throughout late 20th century urban America, the disproportionate numbers of African American And Hispanic inmates in jails and prisons all over the country , Louima, Diallo, and so on. There is a lot to be done here, and it is about time that teaching by example replaces tired lectures.
Alix Conde
>From: Robert Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
>To: Bob Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
>Subject: Re: beginnings of talk about democracy : King comments
>Date: Thu, Jun 24, 1999, 2:03 PM

>From: Stewart King <stumo@teleport.com>
>> perhaps i should have stated my question more
>clearly......my question
>> being: at what point in the 20th century did
>Haitian leaders begin
>> using the term democracy as part of their
>political rethoric?
>Democracy was not a positive concept in political
>discourse until the middle of the 19th century.
>Up until then, liberal political discourse held
>that a republic was a good form of government but
>that democracy was inherently evil as it led to
>demogogy and ultimately tyranny -- they'd all
>read Plato and Xenophon.
>Haiti, of course, never made much of an effort to
>implement political democracy, occasional
>elections aside, but economic democracy was in
>some sense an enduring achievement of the Haitian
>Revolution. Over substantial opposition from
>Toussaint, Christophe, Dessalines, etc., who
>wanted to impose a system on the newly-freed
>slaves much like the infamous "black codes" in
>the American south post-civil war, the Haitians
>moved onto land, especially in the mountains, and
>became peasants. This informal land reform was
>profoundly democratic and made Haiti, along with
>many other post-slave societies, democratic in
>culture, outside of its cities, at least.
>But politicians only started talking about
>democracy when it became identified with good
>things that might come from outside. I remember
>in the immediate post-dechoukaj era when many
>Haitians equated democracy with prosperity and
>expected great things from their elections --
>"two chickens in every pot," but not a thought
>about what self-government might really entail.
>Stewart King
>Mt. Angel Seminary