In Foreign intervention, Haiti, Imperialism, UN

Jamaica Observer: John Maxwell

Published on Black Agenda Report, Sept 28, 2022:

The late Jamaican journalist John Maxwell on imperialism, underdevelopment, and the foreign love affair with Haiti’s misery. This article originally appeared in The Jamaica Observer, April 5, 2009.


One after one they spoke, representatives of nations who make up the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), at a special meeting on Haiti, held during the 77th annual General Assembly meetings. France, Canada, Ireland, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Norway, Kenya, the United Arab Emirates, Albania. All of them asserting that the “crisis” in Haiti was because of “gang violence,” “gang warfare,” “organized crime,” with calls for the need for “pacification” and “capacity building” – the typical, racist buzzwords from representatives of a bloated, hierarchical, and undemocratic institution masquerading as a global organization. It is a wonder that Albania, a poor country at the edge of Europe whose people will certainly continue to suffer economic and political decline in the coming months, had a representative trying to assess what ails Haiti. Or to have Ireland, a country still trying to claim full independence, do the same. Most amusing for us was hearing the representative from Kenya speak of Haiti as a “failed state.”

What was not addressed was the fact that Haitian people have entered their sixth week of protests against both the U.S.-backed puppet government of Ariel Henry and the continued occupation and meddling of the Core Group and the UN itself. With all the talk of Haitian “lawlessness,” one would never know that the other main reason for the protests was the illegitimate government’s decision, under IMF austerity dictates, to cut fuel subsidies, amid spiraling inflation and economic insecurity.

What the UNSC performance around Haiti demonstrated was a commitment to the organization; for those on the Council to validate their positions – that is, the position of the UN as the vehicle of western imperialism. China’s position was most surprising because its representative seemed almost hurt that Haitians could hate the organization that has oppressed them for decades. We suppose he didn’t remember how the UN occupation soldiers brought cholera to Haiti, killing thousands and how the UN’s Ban Ki Moon responded to Haiti calls for restitution with contempt.

Haiti, “hold tight to your screams!” This is what John Maxwell suggests we do in the face of this moment of induced crisis and hopelessness. Maxwell , a great Jamaican journalist and long-time friend of Haiti and the Caribbean who passed away in 2010, understood well that the calamities inflicted on Haiti by the West and its minions are both long-standing and consistent. In the 2009 commentary, excerpted below, Maxwell takes on the callous duplicity of the US government, the National Endowment for Democracy, the US Black, African, and Caribbean political elite, and especially the UN. Haiti’s only problem, Maxwell argues, “is that there are people who want Haitians to remain in the misery they have been made to embrace.”

Let’s hold tight to our screams!

The Audacity of Hopelessness

John Maxwell

Hold on tight to your screams!

Ban Ki Moon, secretary general of the United Nations, an otherwise excellent human being I am sure, is among those, like the burbling boobies of the World Bank and other international financial agencies (IFA), who believe that what ails Haiti is simply a case of distorted economic development and that there is a simple formula to fix things. Free zone development and regular voting will be sure-fire cures.

The poorest country in the Western hemisphere got that way, according to an eminent gaggle of politicians and private sector experts, by native mismanagement and the incompetence of the black Haitian population and its leaders.

Among these are Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and their advisers including the toxic spawn of Jesse Helms – Roger Noriega and Otto Reich and the International Republican Institute, and before them were Thomas Jefferson who defined blacks as three-fifths human and William Jennings Bryan, three-time Democratic party candidate for the presidency of The USA and who, as Secretary of State, was astonished at the pretensions of the Haitians whom he saw as a bunch of “Niggers speaking French”.

Hold on tight to your screams!

In the New York Times last week Ban Ki Moon noted: “Yes, Haiti remains desperately poor. It has yet to fully recover from last year’s devastating hurricanes, not to mention decades of malign dictatorship. Yet we can report what President René Préval told us: ‘Haiti is at a turning point.’ It can slide backwards into darkness and deeper misery, sacrificing all the country’s progress and hard work with the United Nations and international community. Or it can break out, into the light toward a brighter and more hopeful future.”

Last August the secretary general was full of hope: “The time has come to rebuild the institutions that have been destroyed by years of neglect, corruption and violence, to strengthen them so that the State is able to deliver the services that the people need.”

In his latest visit Ban said: “It is easy to visit Haiti and see only poverty. But when I visited recently with former President Bill Clinton, we saw opportunity. My special adviser on Haiti, the Oxford University development economist Paul Collier, has worked with the government to devise a strategy. It identifies specific steps and policies to create those jobs with particular emphasis on the country’s traditional strengths – the garment industry and agriculture; creating the sort of industrial ‘clusters’ that have come to dominate global trade; dramatically expanding the country’s export zones, so that a new generation of textile firms can invest and do business in one place. By creating a market sufficiently large to generate economies of scale, they can drive down production costs and, once a certain threshold is crossed, spark potentially explosive growth constrained only by the size of the labour pool.

That may seem ambitious in a country of nine million people, where 80 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day and half of the food is imported.”

Can anyone really be so ill-informed? Can anyone believe that a country of nine million poverty-stricken people living on less than $2 a day and importing half their food can generate thriving markets for anything but subsistence production? Ban Ki Moon is our new Dr. Pangloss: All is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.

Hold on tight to your screams!

“It is easy to visit Haiti and to see only poverty.” It probably isn’t much harder if you live there and, like a parish priest named Jean Bertrand Aristide, become inflamed with the idea that you and your people are going to change things, to “build utopia on a dung heap.”

The only problem is that there are people who want Haitians to remain in the misery they have been made to embrace. The facile American journalistic explanations for Haiti have always been lies, launched by no less than Thomas Jefferson and sedulously cultivated by generations of racists intent on keeping Haitians in their proper place.

The Haitians were always presumptuous: two hundred years ago they fought above their weight and won, abolishing slavery, destroying France’s ambitions in the New World, doubling the size of the USA and above all, being the first nation anywhere to enshrine the rights of man, woman and child, the fundamental universal rights of human beings, in their constitution.

The almost contemporaneous American and French revolutions did not do what the Haitians did. Slavery persisted in France and in the US, and 30 years ago the US gave up trying for an Equal Rights Amendment a few years after narrowly forcing through a voting rights act to give all Americans title to their democracy. The Haitians were a serious threat to American slave-based capitalism, promising freedom to any person who set foot in Haiti, naming a main street after John Brown and arming Simon Bolivar to go liberate Latin America. Like the Cubans a century and a half later, the Haitians needed to be contained.

The Americans and the French went about solving the Haitian problem in a very businesslike way. The Haitians had sugar to sell, but their only real market was the US. The US agreed with the French that they would buy nothing from the Haitians unless the French recognised Haitian independence. This extortionate double play worked. The Haitians would starve unless they could sell their sugar.

Hold on tight to your screams!

The solution guaranteed the Haitians would starve anyway, committing themselves to pay a ransom equivalent to US$120 billion to the French, buying their freedom in cash having bought it in blood, pauperising themselves for another century. When they defaulted – as they had to – the Americans and their accomplices intervened, seizing the Haitian Treasury and Customs services, abolishing the Haitian constitution, dive-bombing the Haitian peasants when they rose to assert their rights, stealing Haitian land, cutting down Haitian forests to plant sisal, installing a fascist army to maintain the rule of a minority – light-skinned elite who despised the black Haitians upon whom they battened and fed.

They had great plans, the elite and their foreign friends. They were going to revolutionise pig-rearing in Haiti, but first they needed to get rid of the native Haitian pigs. The experts replaced the Haitian pigs with large white hogs, pigs that needed better housing than the Haitian peasants who supposedly owed them. The experts, in the interest of cheap food, then completed the ruin of the Haitian peasantry by importing subsidised American rice, destroying the Haitian market in hill rice.

Then, when the Haitians were once again pauperised, the experts and their elite allies introduced the nearest thing to slavery known to this century – free zones, where Haitians laboured for the price of less than one Jamaican patty a day. The women were injected with drugs which stopped their monthly periods so they wouldn’t need time off to have babies. They were prohibited from joining unions.

Hold on tight to your screams!

This is the new dispensation of Mr. Ban Ki Moon and of Mr. Collier, of Mr. Zoellick, of the World Bank and the IDB, of Mr. Kofi Annan and Mr. Colin Powell, of Mr. Patterson and Mr. Manning.

It will be led by a most unsavoury collection of those George Soros describes as gangster capitalists, who paid for the terror that has murdered thousands, driven thousands more into exile, used rape as an instrument of political enforcement and twice destroyed the Haitians’ desperate attempts to recover their rights – the rights they were the first in the world to proclaim, a century before the UN, that every human being is entitled to the same rights and privileges as every other.

The security situation is fixed, according to Mr. Ban Ki Moon. Gangs of convicted and unconvicted murderers and rapists in concert with so-called UN peacekeepers and child molesters will again control Haiti in the interests of the largely expatriate elite, the market makers whose older brothers have brought the world to the brink of moral and financial disaster, people with the divine right to be rich and to suck the blood of the poor.

Haiti’s democracy was beheaded in a conspiracy between the US State Department, John McCain’s International Republican Institute, and the governments of France and Canada. They shut down the development process, destroyed the nascent medical school, and blocked Haitian access to clean water. In an initiative reminiscent of King Leopold’s intervention in the Congo a century ago – a kind of mission of the Red Cross as Leopold described it, they set back development in Haiti by half a century. They didn’t kill quite as many people as Leopold.

Hold on tight to your screams!

And the poor, as Condoleezza Rice points out, can always vote. It won’t do them much good but will provide Western journalists with a deep sense of smug self-satisfaction. Meanwhile, to… the Haitians we can say: Hold on tight to your screams! One day, somebody may hear them. They may not know what they mean – but they may make a paragraph in the New York Times.


EDITOR’S NOTE: We remind our readers that publication of articles on our site does not mean that we agree with what is written. Our policy is to publish anything which we consider of interest, so as to assist our readers in forming their opinions. Sometimes we even publish articles with which we totally disagree, since we believe it is important for our readers to be informed on as wide a spectrum of views as possible.

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