We dare to expect Guyanese working together
TODAY is New Year's Day 2004.
January 1, 2004
This day is also a key reference point for millions of people in the Black Diaspora, Europe and the Americas.
The Republic of Haiti marks the Bicentennial (200 years) of its Independence with important national observances in Port-au-Prince. Leaders from the Black Caucus of America, from the Caribbean Liberation Movement as well as South African President Thabo Mkebi, have travelled to Haiti to be part of this truly historical observance.
At the same time, within the nation-state itself a political crisis has been entrenched for more than two years since the resignation of the government headed by Rene Perval that led to constitutionally ordained elections and victory for Bernard Aristide.
Haiti during the era of the Atlantic Slave Trade was known as Saint Dominique or Santo Domingo. The French rulers occupied North San Domingo in 1697. Later, the entire island fell under the rule of Louis XIV and the monarchy at Versailles. After a successful slave revolution, Haitians 'incorporating the ideals of the 1789 French Revolution' and under the leadership of former slave, Toussaint L'Overture, proclaimed the first Afro-American republic on January 1, 1804.
Toussaint, a mulatto, was the most prominent leader, who in collaboration with the 'new masters' of the colony, and who included among their supporters all the rebel "Maroons" opposed to slavery, as well as, Europeans who though domiciled in Saint Dominique were strong allies of the French revolutionaries, created the first 'nation state' outside of the control of Europeans in the Americas.
The historian Georges Lefebvre notes in his French Revolution (1962) that objectively, the Haitian Revolt reformulated history in the Americas and checkmated European expansionism. In the course of its development the 15th century Haitian process proceeded under the influence of the French Revolution, sustained in large measure by the Jacobin clubs and committees.
The Persians had envisaged that from its very origins the anti-monarchial forces would establish "common interests" with dominant social and political interests in the West Indies in the Overseas Colonies (or Fiscal Districts called 'generalities').
It was under the impetus of the Uprising and radicalization characterized by Toussaint's movement that important concessions were wrested from the land-owning and propertied 'aristocracy' in France by the followers of Maxi milieu Robespierre. The assumption that colonial property would enhance the mother country (metropolitan France) and the third state against the interests of the influential planters of Santo Domingo). In fact, especially in terms of monarchial state capital investments and loans to the big French kulaks, constituted, as events were to prove, the most crucial contradiction that was answered by Haitian liberation.
Later, after decades of independence, Haiti was to 'compensate' the French state in excess of 100M francs for the "loss of property" (land and slaves in Haiti).
Guyanese who are familiar with their history have read that it was the Berbice Revolt of 1763 that was the forerunner to the Haitian Revolution. What is not so generally and consciously understood is that British Crown Colony intervention during the 19th century and up until the 1930s (especially in Jamaica), was a direct reaction of imperialists to the "dangers" of another Toussaint or Christophe "tyranny."
Haiti's Independence did not lead to the complete abolition of "forced labour" and slavery continued in parts of that country. In fact even today Haitian 'migrants' and 'illegals' who make their way to the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and some other countries, are often placed in concentration camps not very dissimilar to the slave quarters of Saint Dominique.
Today, 200 years after, Haiti remains underdeveloped, its institutions eroded and the state apparatus almost completely undermined by corruption.
We in Guyana are extremely fortunate to have a government that respects the rights and freedoms of the Guyanese people.
We dare expect that in spite of the rhetoric of those who have an innate dislike for the government, all Guyanese who have a stake in their country's future will work together in love and harmony to overcome many of the obstacles that now block our unimpeded march on the road to national growth and prosperity.
A Happy New Year to all!