Rasin Ganga


Part five

Peasants class versus the State

 The Peasant Class creates mechanisms that render establishing a state with a ruler in the leadership position virtually impossible. Haiti has not set for a ruler to follow and fight against it. Following our independence, two parallel social projects emerged: 

1) The society of affranchi structured according to the Western world.

2) The peasant class which has been living autonomously, while keeping them at a distance as much as possible, yet its very existence cannot be ignored.

One must understand that the logic of the peasant class is fundamentally opposed to being static, both in its philosophy and operation. For the affranchi state to function, it must take under consideration the peasant class. In that situation, we should not confused the peasant class with maniipulation of the Cacos. through large landowners. Frankly, that has nothing to do with them.

Throughout the 19th century, the affranchi state. comprised of two branches:  freed mulattoes on one hand, and freed blacks on the other. The free blacks were mostly the former generals during the War of Independence. Since Boyer, these two branches that form the ruling class have always been in conflict with each other. They have been mobilizing the Cacos from time to time; an action mainly done by black affranchi. Throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th century, power struggles were quite common, and the Cacos frequently marched to Port-au-Prince and assaulted the national palace to establish one of their own in power. Often, it was a large landowner or a notable peasant among the former black generals of the War of Independence. This phenomenon is known as the instrumentalization of peasants in the conflict between two ruling class factions. 

Traditional songs frequently include themes that reflect Haitian peasant’s resistance to the state. For instance, in Haiti’s cultural traditions, a spirit known as Zaka represents the peasants. The simple presence of a state official can drive Zaka away. Moreover, invoking the spirit of Zaka and then mentioning the state can prompt the spirit to depart. 

Rural civilization, commonly known as andeyò, literally signifies outside of.  it is outside the state system. Soon, we will observe three forms of political authority the state assumes: autonomous governorship, independent national state, and affranchi state. The alternative to these systems, representing the fourth form, is the anti-static peasant society. 

The peasant resistance against capitalism 

The final significant resistance of the peasants to the onslaught of capitalism manifested through imperialism. This segment of history merits retelling, even though Roger Gaillard has previously chronicled about it in a series. US archives contain numerous documents that illustrate the significant scale of the Cacos’ resistance, which instilled panic in the heart of American troops, particularly when it manifested in unfamiliar ways to them. Similar to Panphile De Lacroix, providing testimony during the War of Independence is truly remarkable. By whatever name we call traditional science made a considerable impact on the French. They said that one of the biggest problems they had encountered was that they used to see people who had been killed back on the battlefield fighting them again — the phenomena we call zombies. This signifies that it remains an indisputable fact that Haitians possess a science that enables a person to be buried dead and return back to life.

Three forms of political authority assumed by Haitian State 

Three political stages in the evolution of the Haitian state:

1) Toussaint’s Era/Self-Governing

2) Dessalines’ Era/Sovereign Nation

3) Petion’s Era/Emancipated Slave State

1) Toussaint’s Era/Self-Governing

The first form of politics registered in the genesis of the Haitian state is the one pursued by Toussaint, aiming for an era of self-governing, post racial, within the French empire. This is what Toussaint was aiming for. This indicates that within the French empire, Toussaint had ambitions of becoming the governor-general for life, as he was working on. However, his ambitions extended beyond Saint Domingue. Toussaint aimed to govern the entire French presence in the Americas. He was not just fighting for independence; he was striving for a broad and comprehensive era of autonomy where the problem of racism would be completely eradicated. There are several contentions floating around regarding Toussaint. There are those who claim that he did not fight against slavery. Meanwhile, others compare Toussaint to Moses within a social class analysis. Some compare him to Dessalines. However, what is crucial to grasp in the history of Haitian people, is that all these events occurred in a very short period of time. Historians frequently have to reflect on the brevity of the periods they study. Discussing history and its evolving trends cannot be done in a definitive maner, especially when involved in an ongoing conflict-laden with contradictions. One may analyze trends, such as the inclinations displayed by Toussaint or Dessalines. Specifically, Dessalines’ term in governance lasted a mere two years. A state that laid out all aspects of its existence and very well-defined is  the affranchi state ,the emancipated slave state. The emancipated slave state is still in operation, and its demise is currently unfolding before our eyes. We must also recognize that the emancipated slave state will cease simultaneously with the Western world system. 

It is evident that Toussaint was fighting for the abolition of slavery. But, in a feeble attempt to tarnish his worth, some historians refer to documents that state Toussaint actually owned slaves. However, these analyses do not stand on solid ground. Firstly, it was a slave Toussaint bought and freed.  Secondly, it was his son-in-law, a black afflranchi, who married his daughter. He had a small plantation with thirteen slaves. When his son-in-law went to fight in Savannah, GA in USA, Toussaint cared for his plantation during his absence. History reports that Dessalines was among these thirteen people. Toussaint and Dessalines knew wach other back then. According to one version of history, Dessalines was another of his sons-in-law who married the same daughter, Marie Marthe, who is  less known through history.  It is true that we only know of Isaac (born of his wife Suzanne)  and Placid (adopted by Toussaint and raised as his own), but Toussaint had other children: Gabriel, Toussaint, and Marie Marthe. He had a first wife named Cecilile before Suzanne.

Toussaint was accompanied by Dessalines. Unfortunately, historical records have not yet documented the identities of the remaining twelve men who were enslaved and under Toussaint’s supervision for a span of two years. I am interested to find out the remaining twelve other men on this plantation to know how many of them, among the high ranks, became part of Toussaint’s army and were fighting. One could assume that Toussaint had been organizing these men to fight for freedom at that time. So Toussaint was not fighting solely for independence; rather, he was fighting for the general freedom of all slaves. It would be very interesting to read the declaration of the port of Cantirèl, where he made a proclamation asking every black person to join with him.

Among the French colonists, some have fought for their autonomy because some of them had issues with the exclusive system, and they needed to persue trade with all other countries. During the war of independence, they conspired with the English to seize control of the colony. This is what prompted Toussaint to resist all imperialist forces at that time.

The question of Toussaint/Moses has been extensively discussed yet still deserves further exploration. Most only remember that Toussaint killed his nephew Moses. However, there are many historical accounts showing that Toussaint took various actions, such as writing letters to defend Moses when white settlers in the north accused Moses and sought his arrest or death. Toussaint made multiple attempts to protect Moses. During the last moments, when things became very heated, he suggested to Moses to flee in the mountains and continue the battle with the maroons. But, he disagreed. However, he made several proposals. One could easily argue that Toussaint killed Moses, but it’s important to consider the context. In times of war, such events occur, similar to how Fidel Castro was involved in the death of General Ochoa. The reasons behind Castro’s decision to kill General Ochoa remain unclear. This Cuban general had been a staunch defender of the revolution in Cuba, but circumstances led to the revolution having to take his life.

The International Community has a tendency to embrace Toussaint more than Dessalines because Toussaint, at the time of his death, was a French general. This has been the exact cause of the ideology of Western supremacy. For them, Dessalines has appeared to represent something not Western enough; they painted him as a representative of African barbarism.

We need to compare Toussaint’s politics through the prism of the four dimensions of the world order: economic (capitalist system), ideological (racial superiority, white/Western supremacy), political (colonial vision), and anthropological (conception of people).

       We need to consider: Where do Haitian people stand in this project? It is evident that Toussaint appeared rather disconnected from the philosophy of Bwa Kay Imam. The main directive from this philosophy (we have failed to adhere to and which has led us to our current situation) is to: “Reject the image of the pale face god and heed the call for freedom within us.”

To challenge the ideological and anthropological dimensions of the world order can lead to their collapse, precipitating the disintegration of the remaining two dimensions. These words should not be heard and understood in a religious context. When one gains knowledge of these symbolic languages, it becomes clear that they suggest moving far away from steadfast belief in and adherence to this civilization.The Toussaint project is unrelated to these statements. It signifies that, even in religious affairs, he was recognized as a devout Catholic who preached and taught catechism. Some settlers even criticized him for dedicating excessive amount of time to catechism instruction for the people.

Consequently, the Toussaint project does not challenge Western dominance, akin to several contemporary left-wing individuals who believe in Western superiority. Additionally, it remains unaligned with the principles of the Bwa Kay Imam’s Oath. However, the current emerging left is beginning to challenge said notion of white supremacy. 

The end of part five

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