Originally: Foreword: Many Crosses to Bear
I consider myself an observer of Haitian politics. As such, I record my thoughts and share them in different contexts: journal articles, lectures, debates, or interviews with the press, for example. This book contains a selection of the texts I have written since 1995. However, the work presented here cannot be considered a simple collage. These writings have been revised, improved and arranged as a coherent unit. As I wrote in the preface to my book Une constitution dans la tourmente (not yet available in English), I have learned to mistrust political analysis, particularly in a context where unstable information, ferocious partisan confrontations and reversals and inconsistencies in the actors
I consider myself an observer of Haitian politics. As such, I record my thoughts and share them in different contexts: journal articles, lectures, debates, or interviews with the press, for example. This book contains a selection of the texts I have written since 1995.
However, the work presented here cannot be considered a simple collage. These writings have been revised, improved and arranged as a coherent unit. As I wrote in the preface to my book Une constitution dans la tourmente (not yet available in English), I have learned to mistrust political analysis, particularly in a context where unstable information, ferocious partisan confrontations and reversals and inconsistencies in the actors* positions tend to cast doubt on the relevance of different interpretations. That is why I delayed this project while continuing to record my observations. I recently resumed work on the project on the urging of several close friends whose passions are stirred by current debates on the national crisis.
I have to admit that in the face of great patriotic speeches, populist professions of faith and insane politics, a certain amount of courage is necessary to withstand the condescending smiles of those who have seen, heard and understood it all before, and to avoid the temptation to remain silent. It is challenge enough for one person to preserve the capacity to reflect and to remain clear-minded amidst heated passions, cries of resentment and outright blackmail. I really do not know if what I have to say is truly thought-provoking. I firmly believe that nothing is more difficult to shake than prejudices, set ideas and oversimplified perceptions. I persevere nonetheless, since I think that the ethics of intellectual work carry certain obligations: maintaining a staunch independence and abstaining from a climate of ideological intimidation; consciously being a critical counterweight to dogma, fanaticism and a charged environment; remaining unafraid to swim against the tide of triumphant rhetoric; and not seeking to be popular. Those who wish only to believe do not really want to know.
In politics, it is very often the perception of reality that counts, not reality itself. That is why many governments are skeptical of transparency and prefer to blur reality. That is also why lies, rumors, half-truths and defamations are used cynically as fighting tactics. In a situation I would qualify as disastrous, intellectuals* mission?though not their only one? is to monitor confusion and populism, to refute oversimplification and miserabilism, and to reject perverse ideologies that breed resentment. Our mission is also?just as it is for citizens, democrats and teachers?to fight against nonsense by taking the time to think? that is, to explore the complex in order to extract meaning from it. The responsibility to think can sometimes be a real challenge.
To get to the heart of the fifteen-year crisis in Haiti you have to understand what is at stake: the issue at hand is the democratic normalization process, which is in fact the modernization of the Haitian state. A new era began on February 7, 1986 and with it came a newfound belief in the future. It also ushered in tremendous uncertainty. Although Duvalier*s departure constituted a great stride in the struggle for democracy in Haiti, it also gave rise to social and political problems on an unprecedented scale. In light of the collapse of traditional institutions, popular turmoil, razor-sharp contradictions, entangled interests and a radically changed international context, traditional patchwork solutions were no longer viable.
Duvalier*s departure marked the beginning of a critical phase entailing questions surrounding the reconstruction of the state, the stakes of political power and the redefinition of the relationships between internal and external social and political forces. Moreover, a sweeping popular movement was presenting a multi-claim platform in which civil rights took center stage. In this post-dictatorial environment, which persists despite advances toward normalization, we freely admit that democracy is only a goal to be attained. However, democracy can be understood as comprising a huge set of elements and covering a vast field of action. Is it simply the political system in which power is conferred through free universal suffrage and exercised in the name of the people? Is it primarily a question of implementing a judicial system to protect the historically marginalized masses? Of the transition of the state to the rule of law, and of the oppressed to the status of citizens? Is it necessary to prioritize the protection of fundamental human rights, which are themselves highly extensible? An understanding of the Haitian question starts from a consideration of all these questions and many others.
There is, of course, a close link between the unfolding of the crisis ? whose social and economic dimensions are as daunting as the political ? and the democratic project. The crisis is the uprooting of the regime and the loss of traditions; it is the clash between the old, unwilling to die, and the new, struggling painfully to define itself. The “old” is not simply the overthrown macoute dictatorship, whose pervasive residues still poison the environment. The old is found in the culture and behavior of the actors, as well as in social arenas and other areas of life. These behaviors are incompatible with the demands of true change and effective democracy. (Hierarchy of social contempt, sub-racism, obscurantism, intolerance, violence, suspicion, sectarianism, black-marketeering, superstition, tradition of political improvisation, etc.)
Recent history reveals the extent to which the Haitian struggle is complex and profound. The battle for democratic values started before and became more vigorous after Duvalier*s departure in 1986 following nationwide mass protests. It continued with numerous jolts, with some pauses and great moments; there were gains and losses until powerful protector states (notably the United States) and the international community intervened decisively in an attempt to rectify the drift. First, they helped conclude the normalization phase with the 1990?91 general elections. Then, in 1994 they reestablished the constitutional order that had been overthrown by the 1991 coup. Yet, to this day, the country seems unable to extricate itself and find a solution respected by all of the actors and forces implicated in the crisis.
Apart from the anti-colonial and antislavery revolution of 1791?1804, no other great transitional upheaval in our history has lasted so long. The revolution of 1843 ended in 1844 when the ruling classes quickly overcame the peasant uprising. The great crisis that began in 1867 kept society and all political and military structures in upheaval until 1870. The withdrawal 1930?34) was done in orderly stages within a politico-institutional framework, despite the power struggles that accompanied it. More recently, the 1946 Revolution began in January and quickly ended with normalization along noiriste lines in August of the same year. Finally, the social and political upheavals following the fall of Magloire in December 1956 undoubtedly affected the country*s very foundations even more clearly than in 1946; yet less than one year later they resulted, despite a series of provisional governments, in the rise of Duvalier, who implemented a process of dictatorial normalization.
And what of the post-1986 situation? Today*s crisis, impressive though it may be in its scope and duration, has not resulted in the total destruction of the economic and social systems, as did the crisis from 1789 to 1804. It nonetheless touches all aspects of national life and the problems to be dealt with are multiple and complex. And of course, all of this is occurring in a divided society, a disorganized country that is totally dependent and reduced to living off international assistance. Some Haitians feel as though the country were cursed and they have no choice but to surrender to the inability, or unwillingness, of their leaders to come to grips with the problems plaguing the entire nation. In this context, the political struggles take on a dramatic dimension that attracts the dominant powers, specifically the USA and Haiti*s other neighbors; they are alert to regional security and to the effects of the long-lasting crisis on migration patterns.
The complex internal situation, combined with a particular international political climate, brought forth the extraordinary events that we must come to terms with to face the future. For the first time in a century, in 1990, a charismatic Haitian leader professing faith in revolution was elected president. In the process, he proved that it was possible for the masses to identify with a leader of their choice. Overthrown by the military, this very same popular, nationalist, anti-imperialist leader*s legitimacy was reestablished by the external forces usually allied with the dominant classes when imposing political solutions to crises. Never before had the Haitian armed forces been so brutally cast aside and in such a radical manner, even though this operation was not the action of a Haitian revolutionary army.
In these disconcerting times, one could be baffled by what appears to he a wrong turn in events and be tempted to think that the democratic project is threatened. But first we must examine precisely why today is different from yesterday. We have noted:
a) A greater capacity for popular mobilization and marked advances in socio-political awareness;
b) The deepening of the crisis of the state and the weakening, decline and ultimate defeat of the army;
c) The firm establishment of the democratic movement, in spite of its failures and its inability to respond to the political and organizational requirements for the construction of a new democratic order;
d) Foreign intervention following the overthrow of the old world order and the rise of a new international standard that rejects dictatorship, recognizes the operational need for democracy, and promotes human rights through the mobilization of solidarity and new means of communication.
These four factors, along with the dynamics inherent to the various power struggles, explain the critical dimensions of the Haitian problem.
The present work is, first, an analysis of the state of the Haitian democratic project within a context of generalized crisis and political stalemate. Second, it is intended to be a rigorous and sober contribution to the much-needed debate on the true stakes of democratization in Haiti. The following proposition is the starting point for this contribution: we are far from the beginnings of state-guaranteed democratic rights; that is, we are far from being able to guarantee the success of a new regime that will provide opportunities through the normal functioning of institutions; we are far from having a state founded on the democratic rule of law. Starting from this assumption, I will examine the main actors that are most likely to influence the evolution of the democratic project: first the various elements of the democratic movement ? for a while largely dominated by the charismatic leadership of Aristide. Then, I will describe the superpowers through their multi-faceted intervention in Haiti. In this sense, Many More Crosses to Bear follows two earlier publications. The first, Repenser Haiti, which I co-authored with Emile Ollivier in 1992, deals with the vicissitudes of the democratic movement up to the
coup in 1991. The second, entitled Une Constitution dans Ia tourmente, examines the perverse effects of the coup in 1991 not only on the constitutional process, but also on the whole political normalization process.
For over two years, so much noise has been made about Aristide?s coup de force that it seems as though the entire Haitian drama consists only of Lavalas?s illegitimate grip on power. It is only with difficulty that we dig deeper to understand the Haitian situation, and that we look beyond to prepare for the future. It is not possible to develop a true understanding of the complexities of the current situation without tracing the unfolding of events since 1994. For this reason, it is essential to go back into recent history. If we discount the impact of key moments, we will miss the true meaning of what is occurring today. Regardless of his specific personal attributes, Aristide is a pure product of the democratic and popular movement. The question facing us today is how can this movement hope to carry the torch of Haitian society*s future if it does not understand how and why it failed with Aristide.