Haiti: The Failure of Politics

By Brian Weinstein; Aaron Segal | Go to book overview

which President Salomon had once offered to Washington. France played the role of major creditor, but the National City Bank of New York pushed its way into a partnership in the new Haitian National Bank. What little economic progress that took place was confined to Port-au-Prince and the elites.

The first century of independence left Haiti with a legacy of economic stagnation, inability to build or to rebuild a capital base, social conservatism, and a corrupt and disorganized army, but a distinctive culture as well: a land tenure system based on individual small holdings, Creole as a national but unofficial language, and a Voodoo religion shared by most.

By 1915 patterns in Haitian politics had also emerged clearly. In the 111 years between independence and occupation the first world, with very few exceptions, ruled the second world the way pirates control a captured ship. In this system of private politics the black and brown families at the top of the political and economic systems extracted as much as they could from their victims, the peasants; their greed was unrestrained, partly because they felt that they must maximize their profits while holding on to power and partly because they did not view peasants as citizens. Meanwhile, the peasants, who realized they could expect no benefits from their rulers, sought ways to limit the depreciations and to protect themselves from the worst. Poor systems of communication permitted isolation and limited central government control while favoring regional leaders who, supported by friends and neighbors, threatened revolt. Although Haiti's original revolutionaries battled in the name of universalist principles of freedom, equality, and justice, the military men who sought and won power during the first century were moved more by the attractions of personal gains and did little to hide that sad fact. Thus, the political system located in Port-au-Prince produced president after president overthrown regularly from within elite ranks. Instability, increasing foreign (particularly German) interests, U.S. expansionism, and events elsewhere in the Caribbean opened the door to U.S. intervention.


NOTES
1.
David Patrick Geggus, Slavery, War, and Revolution: The British Occupation of Saint Dominique 1793-1798 ( Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), p. 41.
2.
Ibid., p. 6.
3.
Alex Dupuy, Haiti in the World Economy: Class, Race, and Underdevelopment since 1700 ( Boulder and London: Westview, 1989), p. 184.
4.
Ira Lowenthal, personal communications.
5.
Jean-Jacques Honorat, Enquête sur le développement ( Port-au-Prince: Imprimerie Centrale, 1974), p. 219.
6.
Alfred Métraux, Le Vaudou haïtien ( Paris: Gallimard, 1968), p. 117. Authors' translation.
7.
Cited by J. Michael Dash, Literature and Ideology in Haiti 1915-1961 (Totowa, NJ: Barnes and Noble, 1981), p. 4.
8.
James G. Leyburn, The Haitian People ( New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966). Originally published in 1941. Sidney Mintz wrote an introduction to the 1966 edition.

-21-

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Haiti: The Failure of Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - Politics in Haiti 1
  • Notes 21
  • 2 - From U. S. Occupation to Duvalier Family Rule 25
  • Conclusion 49
  • Notes 50
  • 3 - Government by Franchise 53
  • Notes 76
  • 4 - Economic Hopes and Realities 79
  • Notes 101
  • 5 - Haiti: The First Third World" State?" 103
  • Notes 126
  • 6 - Can Haiti Survive? 129
  • Notes 145
  • 7 - Prospects for Democracy 147
  • Notes 168
  • 8 - Conclusion: Shaking Off the Past 171
  • Notes 185
  • Suggested Readings 187
  • Bibliography 189
  • Index 195
  • About the Authors 204
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