Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment

By Gros, Jean-Germain | Journal of Haitian Studies, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment


Gros, Jean-Germain, Journal of Haitian Studies


Damming the Flood: Haiti,Aristide and the Politics of Containment. By Peter Hallward. London, New York: Verso, 2007. ISBN: 978-1-84467-106-9. 442 pp. $110.00 cloth, $29.95 paper.

Damming the Flood is the latest book on the travails of Haiti from the last decade of 20th century to 2007. Written by Peter Hallward, a philosophy professor at Middlesex University in the UK, Damming the Flood is an overwhelming friendly account of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his Lavalas (Flood) movement's rise and fall from power. The book's central argument is that Aristide and the Lavalas epitomized the victory of the Haitian masses in politics in post-Duvalier Haiti. Such a development potentially meant that Haitian inequity in wealth ownership - one percent of the country's population ostensibly controls over half of its assets - would at last be addressed by a popular government. For Haiti's tiny elite and its foreign allies, in particular the United States but also France and Canada, this was unacceptable. Consequently, they conspired, respectively, by making spurious claims about human rights violations, corruption and election infractions under Aristide, and attempting to turn the people against Aristide through a punishing informal "embargo" that lasted from the mid-1990s to early 2004. When this strategy failed to overthrow Aristide, they fomented a "popular uprising" led by former elements of the defunct Haitian army and death squad leaders. When this effort, too, seemed unlikely to dislodge Aristide, his external enemies had to come and extricate him from Haiti. They did just that when they "kidnapped" him on February 29, 2004.

In Professor Hallward's narrative, therefore, Aristide and the Lavalas were the victims of U.S. imperialism and its reactionary local allies. Thus, Professor Hallward locates events in Haiti in the larger historical context of Big Power diplomacy. More than once, he compares the Lavalas experience with that of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, among other cases. However, Professor Hallward does not despair. He sees in the dénouement of Aristide's overthrow the rejuvenation of a movement less dependent on the charisma of Aristide and better able to carry on the political struggle, which is at heart, once again, a class struggle between the tiny minority of the rich and the vast majority of the poor, in which the latter is vastly outspent and outgunned.

For all of the excruciating and, I must say for Professor Hallward, impressive details contained in this relatively massive book, the thesis is not new. I say impressive because Professor Hallward freely admits that he has not spent that much time in Haiti and his interest in the country is fairly recent. However, the compliment, I should hasten to add, is a double-edged sword, but I leave its trenchant side for later. Class-based analyses are one of at least nine schools of thought that have dominated Haitian scholarship practically since the morrow of independence in 1804. Haitians and non-Haitians alike, from Jacques Roumain to Randall Robinson and Noam Chomsky, have interpreted the Haitian imbroglio from a similar analytical vintage point. A book, or for that matter any work of scholarship, may be assessed on the basis of its theoretical premise and factual premise. In the first instance, it may be asked, how well does its explanation or theory stand up against other explanations or theories; in the second, how well does its purported facts, upon which it hopefully relies for developing the explanation or theory, correspond to reality? This review attempts an assessment of Damming the Flood based on both of these approaches.

Lavalas, or Flood, is essentially a post-Duvalier phenomenon, as is for that matter Aristide. Long-time students of Haitian politics would be hard pressed to find use of the word Lavalas beyond its conventional meaning before 1986; it simply was not part of the Haitian political lexicon. Likewise, Aristide was not an actor on the Haitian political scene from the crucial years of 1978 through early 1986.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.