Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:00:17]:
Hi. Patrick here. The following 12 close to 12 minutes you’re about to hear is the conversation I had with, Robert Faton doctor Robert Faton, and I asked him permission to include it because it occurred after the formal interview. And I think it’s an extremely, extremely important, piece that I’ve I’ve flipped and put it in the front of this episode In order to give the context to the book, for my non Haitian Creole speaking audience, Please, if you don’t have a Haitian friend, make one because it’s conducted primarily in Creole in French and a little bit of English mixed in. It’s it’s a very important segment. It puts The rest of the episode in context, and it’s one of those gems where, you know, the gods are down and, Robert, the man, the Haitian, is talking about Haiti, and, And it’s a it’s a very instructive. I learned a lot from it, and I think you will as well.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:06:10]:
Absolutely dehumanizing. Yeah. You know, it destroys, you know, what it is that human beings should be. You know? You said there is. You know? Minimum things. It’s not even you’re asking for minimum thing that people people have enough to eat. No.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:06:59]:
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:07:40]:
You don’t know where we are going. It’s so you know? I need to border piece and piece You know? As I said, you know, We can’t resign then ourselves. Yeah. You know, I’m outside of the of the country. I’m living in the United States. I have a comfortable life, etcetera. So I always feel up to that extent to that, conflicted because who am I to To say certain things. But on the other hand, you know, as an intellectual, you have to do so even to, well, You are not suffering the same way that people in Haiti are suffering, let alone people, who are already at the bottom of the social structure.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:08:33]:
I can’t understand their Potential experiences. I’m too far removed, but but I sympathize. I I want to believe that, You know, you can give to people at the bottom a certain degree of humanity that anyone of, With a certain amount of consciousness, would want to see for all, human beings. This is Why we are human beings is not to inflict punishment on people and see them in conditions that are totally, As you said, dehumanizing. So we need to confront those those realities in order to change them. Otherwise, by saying, well, they Exploiting visor. They belong well too.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:09:28]:
Yeah. It is happening.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:09:30]:
Anyone who goes to Haiti, you see it. You go to the airport. You you see the poverty. You see that something is deeply wrong with the country. You don’t need to go very far. It’s it’s it’s it’s very painful. You know?
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:09:48]:
So so to what extent, professor, brain drain happen during the idea. To what extent I get to sense sometimes Go go sense the guilt.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:10:04]:
Well, it sounds like we are received, you know, Excuse my condition to tell my They con they’re condition on that election. I this company, Doug. You see? Dog dragon. I think dragon. I can’t. You know, I’m an intellectual. I am not to some extent, I I don’t I don’t understand people, of my own social class. I don’t understand how they can leave a country in those conditions.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:11:04]:
I don’t understand how they live there and See it. It’s that also is revolting. You know? So to some extent, No. Makes it, rupee. The shock for a month game. The I forgot what the NID would would debut solely. What the heck is going on there? Mhmm. How people can continue to believe it under those conditions? So So hope.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:11:55]:
The question is whether they’re going to be swallowed by the system. And once you’re swallowed by that system, it’s difficult Mhmm. To to To have my hope. You know, I I have plenty of friends who went back to Haiti after Duvalier. I almost went back after Duvalier. And, you know, many of those guys some of them left again, But many of those guys stayed, and, frankly, without naming names, they become also, Part of what some nations have called. So Wow. So that’s sad too.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:12:34]:
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You know, I have a friend who said, no. It’s a moon. Where did you came up? I have no response, but it’s it’s a very sad thing, because In order to get that kind of money, you need to be part of. So, You know? But I’m here in the United States. Good salary, all of that stuff, living comfortably.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:13:17]:
So it’s difficult to give lessons of morality when you are living in a very different kind of environment, which is to be very privileged, especially when you compare it to Haiti. Yeah. So
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:13:50]:
The book we are going to discuss today, this is kind of part 2, is the guys of Exceptionalism unmasking the national narratives of Haiti and the United States. Mhmm. So you write you write it, being Haitian and American frees you to be, Quote, ruthlessly, unquote, critical of Haiti and America. Yeah. Why why do you think you have to be ruthless about it?
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:14:27]:
Well, she won’t be allowed need to We need to see reality as it is and not continuously embellish it. And this is not just for Haitians. It’s for Americans. Anyone who’s living in a nation state as a form of exceptionalism. And it starts from very early when you are in primary school. The history that you learn about your country, it’s not necessarily false or fake, but it is so embellished That it literally erases the critical parts. And the critical parts are fundamental to understand the problems that the country is facing Right now. Because we can’t go for it.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:15:27]:
For instance, in the case of Haiti, you can’t go back continuously to 1804. This is obviously a glorious revolution, A major event in world history, but there were problems with the revolutions. There were problems With the leaders of the revolutions as it were the founding fathers. Mhmm. You know, you you take system. You take system problem the class. And those 2 problems have continuously besieged Haiti. And in addition to that, you need to look at the international system.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:16:14]:
And Haiti was the 1st and only Black nation of slaves to emancipate themselves through a revolution. And when that happened, The white supremacist order that was dominant at the time really could not cope with that reality. So we were essentially banished. We were relegated to a nation with sanctions. And then, as you know, the huge problem created by the French so called indemnity, under president Boire. So all of those things have to be taken into consideration and how they crystallize at the time. And when we look at that story, we see the glorious aspects, but we have to see the problematic aspects of the revolution and its consequences. The
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:17:17]:
American ex exceptionalism and and the Haitian one.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:17:21]:
Yeah. Well, as I say in the book, exceptionalism is really a very, embellished Narrative of one’s national history. In other words, what you’re doing, you’re emphasizing a narrative That is deeply rooted in the glorious, emancipatory aspects of that national narrative. And you are essentially ignoring the critical parts, the problematic parts, etcetera. So if you look, for instance, At American exceptionalism, you have the declaration of independence, which is Fundamentally, an emancipatory kind of document. You have, the constitution, Etcetera. And all of those documents present the founding of the United States as the ultimate achievement of, mankind. In other words, this is the republic that is free, that is Egalitarian where you have, the city on the hill.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:18:31]:
God is essentially Manifesting, himself through the creation of the republic. But at the same time, you ignore all of the other Critical elements, the problematic elements. You know, the United States was a slave society, was a white supremacist society. Even within the white population, it was deeply divided along class lines. Women were excluded totally from, the political system. So you had a reality at the beginning, which was really one where you had, For all practical purposes, the plutocracy. In other words, all of the leaders of the republic of the early republic were white men, and, many of them were slave owners. And if you look at George Washington when he became the leader, the president of the United States.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:19:26]:
He was the wealthiest man in the United States. So there’s a deep divide between The narrative as a republic where everyone is equal, etcetera, and the ugly realities of white supremacy, Slavery, class divided, gender divided. So it’s a history, therefore, that emphasizes The beauty of particular aspects of the founding, but ignores totally the realities of that founding. On the other side of it, if you look at Haiti, we have similar problems. I mean, 18/04 is a glorious revolution. It’s, as I’ve said, It’s an emancipatory event in human history. It, for the first time, denies race As a marker for inferiority, for slavery, etcetera. So it’s really a major revolution, but You have to look also at the divisions within the Asian society between the military leadership of the revolution and the rest of the population.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:20:35]:
When the revolution occurs, you have a deeply divided society along class lines And along racial lines, essentially, the as we say in 18, like, Those 2 things are fundamental In the early beginning of the republic, we have a very deep authoritarian, manifestation In the constitution that we’ve had, you’re talking about an emperor. You’re talking about someone, if you look at the Celine, Was the right to essentially decide whatever he wants to decide? So you have serious problems in terms of Democratic aspects of the early days of the republic. You have the business of the division between The upper military echelon of the revolutionary forces and the vast majority of Haitians who essentially were peasants. And the problem for the leaders, you know, of the Haitian revolution was how do you recover from a bloody, revolution. I mean, you know, 140,000 people died in the revolution. The economy was destroyed, And the economy, as we know, at the time, was based on the plantation system. Now the plantation system was basically a system where you exploited labor, Where you had slaves doing the labor, and you were extracting from the slaves the profits that, We’re rooted in the export of sugar, a fundamental element in the world economy. When with the revolution, The sugar economy, the plantation system is destroyed, not surprisingly, because the slaves hated the plantation.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:22:25]:
It was the home of atrocities. It was the home of exploitation. But the leaders wanted to Revive the economy. So what did they do? They essentially sought to, create again the plantation. And not surprisingly, The only way you could do that was by authoritarian measures. So you have, you know, what what what something something really look called le Code rurale. All of the, leaders of Haiti, the Dessalines, Pétion, Christophe, Boyer, the early leaders to say, obviously, They all wanted to reimpose the plantation economy. Now if you reimpose the plantation economy, You may not you may not need slaves, but you need course labor, forced labor.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:23:11]:
The peasantry would not take that. You know, you fight for the revolution, And then they tell you you’re going to go back to essentially the same conditions. So the the the vast majority of the Haitians said, hell no. We are not going to take that. So what happens therefore is that you have the peasantry that withdraws essentially from, the economy and creates its own, space where it can function. So you have the emergence of that peasant economy separated from the state and pays and to look at the state As an exploitative, institution that only wants to cause them, extract resources from them, Tax them, want them to work for free, etcetera. So you have that reality. And, therefore, it’s a very different history when you look At the authoritarianism, the productive system, which essentially wanted to be again, anchored in the exploitation of the vast majority of Haitians who had just been liberated.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:24:18]:
And as you know, you know, the the the the slaves Prior to the, prior to independence in 1804 were themselves divided. You had the so called Bossales, And the Bosales were those slaves brought from Africa who were not born in Haiti, and they represented the majority of Haitians. Then you had the other slaves who had been born in Haiti, and those represented to some extent, you can say privilege, but, You know, they are they are certain rights that the others didn’t have, and that deeply divided They both south of what was called the. Then you had the. You know, the the were mostly, they were obviously, black, non Bossales People involved in that. I mean, one of the pragmatic example of that is obviously Toussaint Louverture sell, Who, as you know, was a slave then was free. They be then he became a slave owner, Then he abandoned slavery altogether and fought against slavery. So you have all of those divisions, and you have the divisions of the 17 nineties between, You know, people like Dessalines and Petion and Christophe.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:25:44]:
There was a a war, between the forces of Toussaint, and, and Dessalines and Petur against the forces of the Afroasi, essentially light skinned Haitians related to, led by Rigaud and by. Dessalines won that battle. And what is interesting is obviously that Once Napoleon came to power, he wanted to reestablish slavery, and you had diffusion of, old enemies, and Dessalines. And one of the reasons I have that, picture on my book, this is where you see, Petiot and Desalines, to some extent, reconciled in order to fight for, independence and establish, the Haitian Republic.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:26:40]:
Who are organic intellectuals?
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:26:45]:
Well, organic intellectual is a term that is used by very famous, Italian, Marxist by the name of Gramsci. And what he argues is that every ruling class has organic intellectuals. And what he meant by that Is that they were the one elaborating the narratives that would serve the interest of that ruling class. So from his perspective, if you want to, destroy as it were the hegemony of the ruling class, the hegemony of The official narrative, people from below, whether they be slaves, whether they be the working class, in in other words, subordinate, people, they need to invent their own narratives. They need their own organic intellectuals. And this is an extremely Difficult process because the educational system to a large degree is bent on Recreating the narrative that serve the purposes of, that ruling class. So organic intellectuals are, to a large degree, allies of, the dominant groups in society. They create, the ideology that to a logic degree legitimate, the existing order.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:28:09]:
That’s what is meant by organic intellectuals. And any group that aspires to become dominant needs its own organic intellectuals because you need to create a narrative that can ultimately be perceived as The narrative of the whole community that you’re trying to rule. So it’s a complicated process. And, obviously, not all intellectuals Actually, organic intellect I mean, not all organic intellectuals are allied of the ruling class because you have counter, narratives counter hegemonic forces in society. But, basically, the organic intellectual is the intellectual which is attached, either willingly or unconsciously to the dominant narrative of the ruling class.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:29:00]:
Okay. So, so in Haiti, who would you throughout our history, who would are there any consistencies and who Who the organic intellectuals are?
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:29:12]:
Well, we have some organic intellectuals, but to a large degree, when I look at Haiti, because of the dominant role of the political class, I essentially look Are the leaders and the constitutions that were promulgated by those leaders. There are great intellectuals in Haiti. You know, you have, Genevieve, for instance. You you you have Bryce Mars, and some of them are counter, hegemonic intellectuals, some of the literary figures that we have, for instance, is a counter, a Germanic intellectual is not an organic intellectual, but all of those people are tend to be in a minority. Then you have if you look at the the movements that eventually led to, the ascendancy of Duvalier, You had Duvalier as an organic intellectual with, what’s his name again? And they promulgated an ideology That was very much based on race and on the primacy of the black race. And those things Form to, to some extent, what has been called, the movement which was seeking to legitimize the rule of the black middle class in Haiti, which was fighting against the traditional. And then that its own intellectuals and your you know you know, that slogan of the which is In other words, they don’t really allude to to, to race or to color, But in their mind, they are the because they are essentially light skinned. So so you have Those ideologies that are formed to serve the interest of those who are running the show.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:31:10]:
And you have moments like that, for instance, on the list. Everything that was, attached, to, Africa or to subordinate groups like Vodou. Those things were literally perceived as enemies of the nation. You needed to destroy And you needed to create as it were an ideology that was much closer to white, Western society with the supremacy of Christianity, etcetera. So you have different, elements, depending on who’s in power. But what I’m arguing for Haiti is that whether you had the mutilator groups in power or The black groups in power, it was basically the same story that they control the state for their own Particular advantages. They use the state as a means to, illicitly accumulate wealth and to protect their particular interest. This is the story of Duvalier.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:32:14]:
This is the story of Lisco. This is the story of. No earlier on. So it’s a story that repeats itself irrespective of those who are really in power.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:32:27]:
You, you use a few German words to describe America. One of them is a democracy. Can you give us an explanation? And, also, I actually looked at one of your footnotes, you you gave. You say since, Yeah. America’s inception up to pre 19 sixties, its existence. That to me, that comes up to about 80% of US history, As a Herringvault democracy, can you give us a definition of that?
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:32:57]:
It’s essentially the idea that the whites are in power. There are divisions within the white group, but, it’s the moral community of the nation is basically white people. The and racism is very functional in that system Because what racism does is to prevent any possible alliance between, poor whites And, you know, the black population. And the other element that is important in that system Is that the poorest white, they feel superior, to any blacks. So there is a divide that is very functional for those who run the show because it divides and rule. And this is a system that Many ruling classes have accepted. In other words, all of the rights were essentially rights given to the white population and not to All whites. It was a very gradual process.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:34:06]:
The franchise is gradually given to whites and then eventually, to white woman, but it’s only in the, you know, in the 19 sixties with the civil right movement That you truly have the capacity to see black people get getting the minimal kind of voice in the political system, which is to vote. So the, system is a white supremacist system Where whites are given privileges by v o two of their color. This is something that you had also, obviously, in countries like South Africa, Under apartheid. And to a large degree, the the US was, especially in the south, To a lesser degree, was an apartheid society based on race as a dominant divide, but also As a system that allowed for white people, the ruling class to, lord, it all were poor whites. And what is interesting if you look at the history, of the south in particular, Prior today, real consolidation of the white supremacy system, you know, black and white, poor poor whites and blacks were very much, mixing. There were marriages, And it’s only when racism asserted itself as an ideological system that, there is a prohibition, of marriage across racial lines. This is an interesting phenomenon. It is that prohibition comes as a result of the fact That prior to the prohibition, it existed.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:35:55]:
So you want to crystallize the division legally, and all of the legal mechanisms Up till the civil war, literally enforce that kind of racism. The civil war for a very short period tries to destroy race, but it can’t. And Jim Crow is, instituted, and it’s not slavery, but it’s a system of racial domination, particularly in the southern part of the United States.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:36:28]:
So another German word, you use you attached to United States, to describe its expansionist tendencies is, Quote, America’s Lebenstrom. People don’t have pronunciation. I have I have those words known
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:36:44]:
and term. It comes from German. What’s that? I I don’t speak German, but I know the term is a Germanic, term. Yeah. It’s essentially the idea that you need territorial expansion, and, this is the story of the United States. And it’s a story which is Very much connected to the history of Haiti, and and the, paradigmatic example of that Phenomenon of of Lebensrom is, the, it’s the the, purchase of Louisiana by the United States. Louisiana the purchase of Louisiana that was, Materialized under Thomas Jefferson, was the result of the Haitian revolution because, And most Americans don’t know that. But it’s a fact that Napoleon said his his Army, some 50,000 people with the conviction that he would go to Haiti, reestablish very quickly slavery, and then All of those troops would march into, the the part that is now the western Part of the United States, the Louisiana purchase.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:38:03]:
But the defeat of Napoleon or compelled Napoleon to sell At a very cheap price, the whole western part of the United States, it doubled, You know, the, total territorial entity of the US at that time, and it’s a result of the Haitian Revolution. And what is paradoxical about it is that one of the fundamental achievement of Jefferson, who was a white supremacist, And we impose all kinds of nasty, embargoes on Haiti. Well, it’s the result of the the successful The American Republic. Because when the settlers arrive, they essentially say, well, those lands are unoccupied, Which is clearly a fascinating thing to say when, you know, the indigenous population was there, but they considered it Unoccupied. So you could take it, grab it. And if there was opposition, well, you would essentially, destroy that opposition. You would basically commit genocide, and that’s exactly what happened, with, the indigenous, American population, the so called Indians, they were wiped out and then sent into reservations. So this is the history Of a country that needs expansion.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:39:38]:
I mean, very much, in the words of Jefferson, he calls it The empire of liberty. Well, the empire of liberty is essentially the empire of the ruling groups in the United States who just happen to be, You know, white slave owners at the time.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:40:14]:
You write that Haitian exceptionalism has become nothing more than a Symbolic invocation of the revolutionary passed hiding the country’s dependence on foreign actors. The the dependence on foreign actors part is what I’d like for you to kinda expand on a little bit.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:40:33]:
Yeah. Well, if you look in particular in the, in the last 50 years or so, there is a very strong nationalistic, discourse, which is completely, and there’s no other word to use it, obliterated by The realities of the political economy of Haiti. All of the governments, and that starts, I mean, very early On are dependent on external forces for the maintenance of their rule. You look at Duvalier in spite of the fact that he had problems with the United States. Duvalier would never have been, in power, and his son for, you know, from 1957 to 1986 if it weren’t for the support of the US, sometimes covered, sometimes very open. And what I mean by that, first of all, Duvalier, was kept in power by the US government, by the Johnson administration, the Kennedy administration, the Nixon administration, Reagan, etcetera, Because this was the cold war they needed. They needed, you know, a a government that would be right wing and that That would be opposed to communism. It’s not that the US particularly liked the, Haitian government.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:42:00]:
It’s not necessarily a fact that like the United States, but there was a fusion of interest. 1, to keep the area, safe so called for for democracy and the other to keep power. So the US, you know, Found the, information about the insurrectionary groups at the time in the sixties, Duvalier Armed the Duvalier under Jean Claude, they created the neo power. They consolidated the, the army. So there is a fusion of interest. It’s an opportunistic Fusion of interest. The most pragmatic case of that dependence comes obviously, with, Jean comes to power. He’s elected.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:42:48]:
He’s obviously the most popular figure in modern Haitian history. But then when he’s overthrown, is compelled to exit the country, and all of his anti imperialist, vision and narrative Literally disappears. You have someone who was continuously critical of the American empire, and then He is compelled to accept 25,000 marines as the means to get back to power. He’s condemned to sign agreements with the World Bank and the IMF, which were contrary to his visions. So there is a dependence On external forces, there is a dependence on those forces to keep power or to get back to power. And that dependence It emasculates whatever nationalistic project you may have. So you can use, you know, a rhetoric of nationalism. You can, talk about but the reality is that you’re back in power because you have 25,000 American marines who say, okay.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:43:55]:
Now it’s fine for you to get Back to power. And this is one one of the paradoxes. You look at the most recent history of the Of the country, when you have the assassination of Jovinal Moiz, you have in the first instance, what’s his name? Who became prime minister, the former prime minister Of, as Rubenel know, he’s, I forget his name, Claude Joseph, who’s announced on a tweet By the international community as the leader of Haiti. And then 4 days afterwards, they said, no. No. No. No. We don’t like you.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:44:37]:
We want we want Ariel, in power. So what what happens then, You know, Claude Joseph is compelled to exit the prime minister position, and Ariel becomes the prime minister. Those are things that are Very clearly illustrative of the underdependence of the country for, of the country, for the ruling class To stay in power. So those are very clear examples. The fact that the country was, to a large degree, occupied by Pied by minister is another manifestation of that. So we are a very dependent nation, And the nationalistic rhetoric that our leaders are continuously invoking, well, that that rhetoric doesn’t match The reality of Haiti. And the current government, for instance, would not be in power if it weren’t because, the international community has said That is a legitimate government of Haiti. So we have that sad reality that nationalism Is to a large degree a rhetorical kind of manifestation of powerlessness.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:45:52]:
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:45:53]:
the Duvalier pair use the same thing, especially during, you know, communism, the fight When when the the Western world was fighting against communism, how did he use that? Well, behind the scenes, he was being propped by,
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:46:08]:
Well, he was clearly being brought by the United States. I mean, they were several at taps, for instance, to overthrow, Francois Duvalier. And most of them were actually, attempts that that were foiled to a large degree of the United States supported Duvalier. And United States fed Duvalier with the information that those groups were coming. And the US armed, Francois Duvalier and sig significantly more on, Jean Claude Duvalier, baby doc. So there is a clear relationship. I mean, you have the the one of the, most, famous example. That’s when the US and Organization of American States, decided to, expel Cuba from, the organization of American States.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:47:00]:
And Duvalier wanted money. He wanted to build, you know, the airport. So He essentially sold his vote for $1,000,000, and that led to the construction of what is now, But that’s part of the story. So Duvalier used the United States, but the United States obviously was Much more powerful actor in in that relationship, and the United States protected Duvalier because of the cold war. As as Americans as American policymakers like to say, we may not like the guy, but he’s our own bastard. Mhmm. And that’s the reality. You know, they are continuously talking about our backyard.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:47:49]:
You know? In a funny way, Biden changed the term. I don’t know if you heard that a few weeks ago. He said it’s not the backyard. It’s the front yard. So I I assume that we’ve been promoted. I don’t know if that’s what that entails, but it’s basically the same idea. With the Monroe doctrine, You know, that’s in America and the Caribbean are basically under American, influence. This is this fear, of, domination of the United States.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:48:19]:
So whatever happens there is of significance with the United States. And if United States doesn’t like it. It’s not going to happen.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:48:29]:
You’re right that the the phenomenon of maroonage occupies is a privileged pay place and Haitian exceptionalism in history, but it has a complicated relationship to freedom, resistance, And accommodation to regime regimes of subjugation. How so? How can be both, and I quote from your book, a form of resistance And the type of accommodation to the existing system of predations. And you also write that the use of are multiple and contradictory. So Yeah. You got a lot a lot going on there.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:49:04]:
Yeah. Well, as you know, it started, on under the slave system. And what the did, they wanted to escape, slavery, so they created, as it were, communities of freedom Outside of the plantation. Now in order to survive, you needed to accommodate at the same time, yourself To the realities of the, of the plantations. You would leave the plantation alone so that the plantation would not the plantation owners would not, in or no. Fight against you. So you had that kind of reality. You escape not because it’s the ideal situation, because But simply because it’s the it’s the most convenient possibility if you want to have some freedom.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:49:58]:
But at the same time, you’re not completely free because you can’t do much to help the people who are under, the slave regime. So there is the accommodation between slave owners and. They exist, in some form of confrontation, but at the same time, they exist In some form of accommodation, so the don’t continuously attack the plantation, and the plantation don’t, condition owners are not going to attack Is, de Maro. So there is that coexistence, but there are agreements, as to the limits of emancipation And the limits of the plantation owners to destroy, the Maron. So you have that bizarre, tension between slave who escape, they become the and the slave owners. Now This becomes the history to a large degree of Haiti. The fact that Haitians, they are always trying to escape The predation of the state. After independence, as I’ve said, peasants are not going to put up, with the system of the plantation.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:51:19]:
So what do they do? They retrench into their private plots, small plots, And but they don’t like the state, because the state is perceived as a predatory state and for very good reasons. So you have people who are exiting the system, but they are not fully free because the state is still there. And the state is continuously waging Some sort of warfare against the interests of the people who exited, you know, this is the state itself. This is the relationship of Haitians with the state. You need some protection, but on the other hand, the state has never been, your friend, it’s always especially especially if you are poor. You are taxed, you know, under the you, to a large degree, beaten up. So you you have a system where there is a tension between escaping the system in order to preserve some degree of, of emancipation, some degree of freedom, but it’s not ideal. It’s the way you exit.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:52:27]:
Mhmm. And has taken all Kinds of all the forms, for instance, when Haitians, deal with, foreign powers. They say one thing, but they want another. They say one thing to the population, but they say another. So you are in a constant state of. You are behaving in contradictory ways In order to preserve whatever you have at that moment, and it’s it’s an interesting phenomenon, and I think it’s a phenomenon That is deeply embedded in the Haitian culture and from the very beginning of, the creation Of the slave economy, even before, obviously, independence because it starts with, And it takes that, very political cultural, character in, the political, system of the republic.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:53:27]:
You also said that, the the elites also have their own form of.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:53:34]:
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:53:35]:
That took me by surprise, actually.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:53:37]:
No. Because they do contradictory things. I mean, Sometimes they have a nationalistic, you know, narrative, but then they don’t they don’t do anything that Correspond to that narrative. You have also the phenomenon of exit. I mean, if you look now at The Asian elite in particular since, the nineties, those are people who are in a No. They are kind of in transit in Haiti. What I mean they are in transit in Haiti is that they place their money elsewhere In, you know, in the United States, in France, in Switzerland, they have houses in Miami. They have houses in the Dominican Republic.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:54:21]:
So whenever, there is a problem, they can always exit. They they are they are they are, and what they say today, the United States is very different, than what, they really think at the same time. There’s a very peculiar relationship Because even the elite, they don’t like, you know, the because the is treating them as, you know, expendable commodities Even if you are part of the of the Haitian elite, and that dates back in particular to the American occupation from 1915 to 1934, Where even if you’re an elite, you are not really tolerated by the American occupiers. And and that becomes something that is deeply Anchored in the mentality of Haitians and of the Haitian elite. They have to deal with the powers that be, United States, different from the Canadian, etcetera, but they don’t like them. There is kind of a bizarre, Love hate relationship with them. They need their support, but they don’t particularly like it. But they have to accept it in order To remain in power.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:55:33]:
You see that, for instance, right now, in the negotiations between the international community, The the the the government of our and all of the other opposition parties, whether it be the Montana group or the, Penn group, All of those people are saying we don’t want the blow. But when the blow arrived, they all sit around him. Mhmm. So there is that tension, and they say, well, we don’t want your involvement. But then it says, okay. You you can’t recognize that party. You have to recognize us. So it’s a Complicated story.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:56:07]:
It’s a contradictory, history, and I was deeply involved in that, You know, from being an entire imperialist and coming back to power, on the back literally of 25,000 marines And then being overthrown the 2nd time by the very forces that had put him back to power, the US, and the French And, obviously, the internal Asian opposition. So you have those contradictions are part of, The history of Haiti. If you look at the indemnity, the so called indemnity, you know, it’s always represented as A complete imposition on the part of the French so that the government would pay, you know, that indemnity. There is a truth to that Because, you know, the boats, the war machine of France was in the Bay of, and knew That if he didn’t sign that, that agreement, well, he was in deep trouble. But what wanted too is recognition on the part of the French power, And he wanted that recognition so that his own property and the property of the elite in Haiti would be recognized as being illegal. So once you pay the indemnity, you accept that you literally, confirm the fact that you own that property. So you pay an indemnity, and it’s not the elite really with the indemnity. The indemnity was paid To a large degree by tuition to taxation and by more and more debts, and the elite benefited from that because it was legally And, it was legally protected by the international community once it paid that indemnity.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:58:02]:
So you have the interest of the Haitian elite and, obviously, the interest of the imperial power. And they tend to coincide in a very opportunistic way.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:58:15]:
You are I I correct me if I’m wrong. I could have sworn I read somewhere. That kind of blew me away. I read so much stuff On that you said there is no cause and effect between and the Haitian revolution. Am I am I reading did I did I
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:58:33]:
read that right? Well, could have existed without leading to the revolution. I mean, existed Said in Jamaica, you never had the same revolution.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:58:42]:
Yeah. So yeah. So so can you talk about because I I somehow, I keep reading other who somehow tried to make the connection between and Haiti, The whole system that that, you know, preceded our revolution as somehow, you know, if by implication leading to the revolution. Do you think, You know?
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:59:05]:
I think, yeah, I think this is a form of Haitian exceptionalism Yes. In the sense that Haitians like to think that way. But when you look at, you know, if it’s cause and effect, there is a problem with that narrative because other slave, communities Never achieved the revolution. There were revolts, but they never achieved the revolution. Now, led to communities of liberties, if you wish, and those had an impact On how they conceive the larger society. And the fact that they were met That they could not and they would not put up with slavery. But from that fact to lead to a revolution It’s not, you know, a linear progression. Haiti is the only country that achieved that.
Dr. Robert Fatton [01:00:04]:
So Haitian intellectuals and historians have tended to put that kind of link. I think, There is a link, but it is not a unilateral link. Otherwise, all of the Caribbean societies and even Brazil Would have had a revolution and a successful revolution. It’s a very complicated business. Now one of the realities, though, of Haiti is that If Haiti achieved, its independence, it also created an example that The white supremacist states at that time would not tolerate. So there is fear that the Haitian revolution is going to spread. So that meant that white supremacists and slave owners, whether they be in Jamaica, whether they be in the south of the United States, would be extremely careful about destroying those communities and containing them. So in other words, the success of Haiti was, a precedent that white supremacist forces We’re not willing to tolerate and to see, expand.
Dr. Robert Fatton [01:01:24]:
And you see that in the southern part of the United States. You see that in Jamaica. And there is historians who have looked at, the Haitian revolution say that one of the paradoxical effects of the revolution is that you have a sec a second slavery. What they mean by that is that slavery becomes more vicious in Cuba, becomes more vicious in the southern part of the United States Because you do not want to see the Haitian example, spread. Mhmm. It’s it’s seen by white supremacists as Something that is an existential threat. You read the documents of of of the time. Haiti is really dangerous.
Dr. Robert Fatton [01:02:07]:
Mhmm. And you want to suppress it?
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [01:02:11]:
About, Carlos Silas, who wrote that the assassination and mutilation Of, was, quote, a true right of desecration, unquote. And then you write that, this desecration Symbolize also the extremely frail basis on which Haiti’s exceptionalism rested. Can you expand on that A little bit? What you meant by that?
Dr. Robert Fatton [01:02:36]:
Yeah. When when I talk about exceptionalism and when when when you have a very strong exceptionalism, You need to have what what many, theories have called the hegemony of the ruling class. And what is meant by the of the ruling class is that they are more or less in agreement Over everything. There there might be divisions, but but their very interest, and their very narrative Leads to hegemony. In Haiti, we didn’t have that, and it dates back from the revolution. You you had the division between, you know, you go on the one hand and to say, this Aline and Christophe alluded to that. And not surprisingly, those divisions, Which were to a larger degree, ignored during the revolution itself that have led to 1804 and the Fear that Napoleon was going to reestablish slavery. All of those guys get back together again.
Dr. Robert Fatton [01:03:47]:
But once you have The, you know, the republic established. Once you Haiti is established, the divisions reappear, And you can see that, with the assassination of Diceline. The assassination of Diceline, is truly That moment where you have the destruction of that hegemony. You as the assassination of leads to the Partition of Haiti. Yeah. We have the south and the north. So you have, you know, in French, So the the so that kind of division, was embedded in the at the very moment of independence, and no one could contain it because there were different forces, different interests, and different visions of what, Haiti should be, and more importantly, from the perspective of the leaders, what the ruling class, should become. And there was no agreement.
Dr. Robert Fatton [01:04:54]:
And there was no agreement, not only because there were political divisions and, like, Christian de Colleur was part of that, But also because of the fragility of the economy. You could not reestablish the plantation. The economy Was to a large degree, very, very, very weak. And you can’t have a ruling class Literally, presiding over a nation if the economy is so fragile. It leads to the fragmentation of the elite. It leads to internal divisions, internal, warfare because you have, the economic surplus is very small, And you want to fight for it. And that’s the problem that has plagued Haiti since 1804 that, you know, even said that, you know, you could diplomat, the the the chicken the chicken, but you shouldn’t do it do it too much. In other words, you could steal a lot from the government, but not too much because That would lead to a crisis.
Dr. Robert Fatton [01:06:06]:
The problem is that there was so little, and this is the constant problem of Haiti that Everyone is fighting to control the state in order to accumulate wealth. The state is the primordial way Through which not only you ruled society, but through which you can appropriate resources, maintain those resources, and coercively. So there is a fight within the ruling groups for control of the state. The fight that leads to those kinds of, You know, assassinations, those kinds of divisions, etcetera, etcetera. And that’s part of the Haitian history from the beginning up till now. I mean, you know, Haitians if you look for instance at more, at recent history, I remember the carnival, I think it was of 1990 9. It was called, and was essentially the phenomenon that politicians want to control the government in order to steal. And is a phenomenon that has been part of our history way before, That carnival and continues to inform practices now.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [01:07:24]:
I, my final question to you is, I Think, it’s a I think, yeah, it’s beautifully written, and I wanted to to sort of make sure I quote at length, to ask you sort of this final question. You’re right. Quote, the constant and hollow invocation of exceptionalism Leads to its other and ultimately to its incapacity to mobilize and convince. The invention of reality that rulers deploy from exaggerated claims of exceptionalism becomes so grotesque that they can no longer recreate history by extending its reach and imagining events. In such circumstances, exceptionalism drops its mask. The emperor has no clothes and stands naked, unprotected. Those in power lose their legitimacy, and an overwhelming cynicism Overruns society, unquote. How do you keep yourself, doctor Vaton, from being cynical? Is and is the answer in your final dedication in this book to your 1st grandchild, Frey? You included him in that last paragraph was, some might surprising to me because, Fato, You know, accept exceptionalism’s hanging judge seemed to disappear for a little bit and replaced by a more hopeful grandfather.
Dr. Robert Fatton [01:08:57]:
Yeah. Because, you know, when you look at
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [01:09:02]:
Oh, you’re hopeful. I guess it’s despite all this This I like to my view.
Dr. Robert Fatton [01:09:08]:
I I am, cautiously pessimistic. That’s the best I could I could say. You see, we’ve had events in Haiti when you thought that history was to Was going to change and change utterly. I mean, when Duvalier fell, this was a moment of great Hope. A moment where you thought that people could imagine a different society, And we know that that didn’t happen. Then you had another moment with the election of Aristide in, 1990 and became, Officially present in 91 where you have again a moment where you think this is going to change and it’s going to change dramatically. And we see what happens. There is a coup, and it destroys
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [01:10:05]:
Dr. Robert Fatton [01:10:05]:
and it leads to, You know, murders in the slums of Haiti where the popular sector is really suffering Untold, violence. Then you have the return of Aristide, and that becomes Both hope and, problematic. Hope because he comes back, but problematic because it it Because of the way he comes back. It’s difficult to have a new narrative. It’s difficult to establish a new system When you come back because of 25,000 marines. Now maybe there was no other option, But the fact is that that’s the way he came back. That immediately, undermines whatever emancipatory project you may have. Then you have his 2nd election, which leads to a disaster.
Dr. Robert Fatton [01:11:04]:
Occupation, minister, etcetera. Then we have another moment of tragedy and a moment of potential hope. It and that’s the earthquake of 2010. Horrific, event. As you know, something like 200 to 300,000 people died in a matter of A few, seconds. And the country faces a disaster of Great magnitude. And for a while, there is a feeling that, well, this is the time To rebuild the nation, this is the time to heal. This is the time of reconciliation between different sectors of society.
Dr. Robert Fatton [01:11:52]:
And I think that for about 2 or 3 months, I was extremely hopeful. I thought this is really going to change because when you see what happened, you see What has to be done in order to reconstruct a nation that has been destroyed, not only by political, factors not only by human beings literally so totally, Interested in defending their corporate interest. Well, destroyed by a natural catastrophe That maybe people are going to start thinking that maybe there is going to be a moment of national unity. Nothing fundamentally revolutionary, But progressive. And we see that that very quickly disappears. It disappears With, the type of reconstruction that is suggested by the international community. And to some extent, the international community hijacked Whatever national project there might have been. The type of foreign assistance that we got, Which was a foreign assistant that really privileged nongovernmental, associations and organizations, which were dominated by foreigners, and very little went to the government to reconstruct the functioning state.
Dr. Robert Fatton [01:13:15]:
So, ultimately, when you see those events where hope was a was a possibility, then, that became, very problematic. So I think that when I sit down cautiously pessimistic is because I don’t want to give To to give up hope, I want to think that Haitians may in fact be capable of imagining A new, type of beginning. The very current crisis that we have now, I think, is fundamentally A a crisis in the sense that it opens up a a possibility for emancipation, but it also is a moment of danger Where we might indeed fall again into old practices that are very authoritarian and democratic, etcetera. So, I have a certain amount of hope, but it’s very limited. On the other hand, I know that history Is in fact, something that is full of surprises and sometimes very good surprises, and sometimes they it It leads to moments of catastrophe, so I’m hesitant. But I don’t want to give up hope entirely because there’s always something That can surprise us. And, in the case of Haiti, the very fact that, that slaves could produce a revolution, Whatever may have been its limitations is a factor also of of hope. Mhmm.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [01:14:46]:
Would you say the Post occupation, period was also, you saw some glimmer of hope?
Dr. Robert Fatton [01:14:56]:
To some extent, yes or no. I mean, because, occupation, to a larger we created the The centralization of power in progress, and that meant that the state became increasingly, predatory, and had more power to do so. Previous to that, we are regional power. So there was a limitation to decentralization of Power. But the reaction, the nationalistic reaction, was to some extent something that could have led to, they, to some sort of hope, but it was very quickly eclipsed with, military regimes and with the Duvalier’s regime. So, hope is always limited because of the constraints, the material constraints that the country faces And also the political constraints that are part of being, in the global system Where major powers are continuously interfering in our own affairs and not for the interest of Haiti, but for their particular strategic or economic interest. Well,
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [01:16:09]:
it’s another another great segment, professor.
Dr. Robert Fatton [01:16:14]:
Well, thank you so much. I enjoyed it. So, hopefully, we’ll have another occasion to talk to you.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [01:16:21]:
So, this has been very as usual with you, I I walk away with, you know, 50 things I didn’t know before. You know? That’s it. Okay. So I’m looking forward,
Dr. Robert Fatton [01:16:33]:
And, can be be contact. Okay, brother. Bye bye.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [01:16:38]:
Bye bye. I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I did. Please follow us On Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at podcast.
- Decoding Intellectual Power: Unmasking National Narratives in Haiti & the United States
- The Guise of Exceptionalism: Peeling Back the Layers of Haiti & the United States
- Intellectuals and Power: Exploring Haiti’s Narrative of Nationalism and Dependency
- The Struggle for Control: Haiti’s History of Power Dynamics and State Appropriation
- From Exceptionalism to Cynicism: Unveiling the Complexities of National Identity in Haiti
- Organic Intellectuals and Dominant Narratives: The Role of Thought Leaders in Haiti’s History
- Politics of Survival: Division and Unity in Haiti’s Struggle for Reconstructing the Nation
- Unveiling the Promises and Pitfalls: Nationalism and Reality in Haitian Politics
- The Paradox of Nationalism: Exploring Haiti’s Historical Battles for Power and Autonomy
- Intellectual Struggles and Revolutionary Ideologies: Narratives of Freedom in Haiti’s History
intellectuals, Haiti, Jean-Louis Janvier, Jean-Price Mars, counter-hegemonic, dominant political class, Duvalier, organic intellectual, race, black race, black middle class, traditional ideologies, light skin color, Ariel, Claude Joseph, ruling class, external support, dependent nation, occupation, nationalism, rhetorical expression, deep divisions, revolution, authoritarianism, democratic aspects, peasants, bloody conflict, economy, plantation system, hope, new beginning, old authoritarian practices, history, Haitian revolution, limitations, franchise, white supremacist system, apartheid, US, expansion, Thomas Jefferson, indigenous population, love-hate relationship, imperialism, opposition, French indemnity, ruling groups, cynicism, exceptionalism, control, peasants, international community, reconstruction, national unity, political economy, US support, Cold War, organic intellectuals, narratives, educational system, divisions.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:00:00]:
What I mean by journey into my own roots is really related to the intellectual and emotional Travis of studying and writing about my own country. See, when I was a graduate student and I had to pick a subject for my dissertation, I immediately thought that would write about haiti. But at the time, and this was in the late 1970s, I was very concerned about the consequences of writing about haiti and the duvalier dictatorship. My family was in haiti at that time. I intended to go back to the country, and I knew that if I had written about the country, then obviously I would probably be in deep trouble. This was a nasty dictatorship where the idea of criticism was not accepted. So I initially really changed my subject. And I did work on sub saharan Africa, and in particular at the initial stages on South Africa and the apartheid regime.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:01:13]:
And I was mostly interested in the resistance to white supremacy in South Africa with movements like the African National Congress, the Black Consciousness Movement, the Pan africanist Congress, and the South African Communist Party. So that was my dissertation subject. But by the late 1990s, the country had had a transition, and I said it’s an unending transition to democracy. I decided that ultimately it was time to write about haiti. And this is why I wrote that first book on what I called haiti’s predatory Republic. And what I meant by my own roots was also related to my personal experience as a haitian coming from the elite. So this is what I wrote in the book, and I think it’s a good thing to read it because it summarizes better than just ad living what I was really trying to get at. And here we go.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:02:28]:
Born into the haitian elite and having deep personal ties of affection to it, I am well acquainted with its behavior, mentality and prejudices. I’ve been privy to its hidden discourse and know what it really thinks. I have heard its unspoken thoughts. I thus know the chasm separating the words whispered in the intimate salon of petrionville from those publicly voiced. I am disturbingly familiar with the elite’s profound contempt for the public. I know it fears democracy, and I know the hostility it harbors towards the full exercise of universal suffrage. It is not that the haitian dominant class is the most repugnant elite, as the US. Embassy would have it.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:03:23]:
It is simply that if it wants to keep its position at the top of the social pyramid, it has little room in which to maneuver under present conditions. Democracy, if it has any meaning, would inevitably challenge the structure of power and property rights. And this the dominant class knows and finds unacceptable. Its behavior differs little from that of any other dominant class confronted by an overwhelming and hostile popular wave. Thus, as one member of the old mulato aristocracy told me, we may be repugnant, but we are not the most repugnant elite. We are equally repugnant. Where? There we are. I’m not sure whether aristid coined the term tutmoon semoon.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:04:31]:
On the other hand, he popularized it. This was part of his main speech during the election and afterwards. And it’s a very powerful slogan. It’s a very powerful one, because in the context of haiti, the idea that tutmun semoon, that all human beings are human beings, is really a revolutionary concept. Because, as we know, the vast majority of haitians were never treated really as human beings. They were totally excluded from the moral and political community of the elite and maybe of the middle classes. So the bulk of the population has been marginalized. So the notion that tutmun semoon, the person who comes from the peasantry, from a little village, is the same as someone who lives in patriot or in Keshkov, in the privileged houses of the elite, then that is powerful.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:05:43]:
It indicates a desire to get things right and to transform the social structure, so that haitians are indeed full citizens, that they count as one individual, and that the class differences, the racial differences, are not what matters. What matters is that every human being is a human being. So in the context of the hazy, the late eighty s, that was revolutionary, and it is still revolutionary, because, as we know, the structures of the country have remained profoundly unequal. And in spite of the coming to power of the lavalas movement, those structures are still very much embedded in the daily livelihood of haitians. When you look at what’s happening now in haiti, when you look at the proliferation of gangs at the really very poor population of haiti that has a hard time feeding itself and feeding their kids, you really can understand. Why the idea of Tutmoon semoon is such a revolutionary concept and why it is still a very powerful term that many haitians would like to see really realized in the context of the political and the economic system of the country. The period following the fall of jeanclaude du valier and the duvalier dictatorship was a period that was indeed full of hopes. And yet those hopes some 20 years afterwards, were completely dashed.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:07:41]:
What I mean by that is that in the aftermath of jeanclaude du valier’s departure into exile, we had the idea that the country could change and change utterly. There was a feeling of extreme hope, exhilaration. I remember talking to haitians, both in haiti and in United States, saying, this is it. We have a new chapter. This is the moment where the promise of 18 four is going to be finally realized. So we were indeed, in a moment of euphoria, many of my friends, even I, considered going back immediately after the fall of duvalier 1986, thinking that we could change the country. And there were significant changes. For a short period of time, one has to remember the constitution that was created and elaborated, and ultimately voted by the haitian people.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:08:46]:
This was really something that was quite remarkable, a very democratic constitution with checks and balances, so you wouldn’t have, again, an opportunity for a demagogue or a dictator to reassert his or her power. So that was a moment, really, that haitians cannot forget, that haitians cannot forget the fervor and the euphoria that had gripped the country. But very quickly, there were warnings that things might, in fact, not unfold as we might have expected. And indeed, there was the first initial election that ended up in a bloodshed, and that was a significant warning. And then we have a number of coups within the coups. And finally, as you know, by 1880, 919, 90, you have the rise of the lavalas movement, and you have the elections that lead to the ascendancy not only of la balas, but of his charismatic leader, Jean Bertrade. So we are in 1991 and we think that power is going to be completely changed, that the population is going to have a say in its own affairs, that the poor would no longer be as poor, that the elite would have to deal with its exploitative practices, that a moment of genuine democratic practice was going to be generated. And very quickly, again, we saw that that was much more complicated than we might have expected.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:10:35]:
First, there were clearly warnings against the type of reforms that isteed wanted to implement. You have calls by the military to calm down by the elite that this is not acceptable, but yet the lavalas movement move on, and ultimately those warnings materialize with the very bloody coup that removed aristid and sent him to exile. So that was the first moment where the hopes were completely dashed. In other words, the expectations, the exhilaration that we had, that was gone. And yet there was a struggle to fight against the military dictatorship. That struggle was a very complicated struggle, and as you know, it ended up in a very paradoxical fashion. Here we had aristid who claimed that he was an anti imperialist, anti capitalist leader who wanted to empower the people, and who did put back aristide in the national palace. That was the United States.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:11:54]:
That was the marines that had been seen for a very long time in haiti since the occupation of the early 20th century as a really exploitative and repressive force. So we have that contradiction, a leader who in fact says that he’s anti imperialist, anti capitalist, and he comes back to power with the marines, 20,000 marines that change the situation and compel the military dictators in haiti to exit. So that was a very difficult moment, because on the one hand, there was hope that with the reestablishment of the lavalas movement, then we would have again, a period of change. But there was a significant price to pay because aristid came back, but he had to compromise a lot. In other words, in terms of its economic program, the economic program was nothing but a program of neoliberal economics. So that was a contradiction, a fundamental step backward in terms of changing the country. Then we had the political problems. The avalanche movement starts to fragment.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:13:19]:
People in the lavalas movement start to be worried about Aristid’s tendencies to be a demagogue and to be somewhat of an authoritarian leader. So the very movement starts to fragment. And we see that with the election. That happens in 1995. And although preval rene preval was elected, things started to fall apart within the lavalas movement because, on the one hand, preval was to a large degree, accepting some of the reforms that were imposed by the international financial institutions, the World Bank, the If, Usciid, et cetera. But on the other hand, aristid wanted to reestablish his credential as that anti imperialist leader, and that really fragmented lavalas. And we see that fragmentation in the five years of rene preval, the forced regime of rene preval, where the government couldn’t do much, there was paralysis. There was a feeling that nothing could be done, and there was the beginning of violence in haiti and kidnappings that really starts at the very end of the trival government.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:14:41]:
Then we have the elections of 2000, very controversial elections, as far as I’m concerned. There is no doubt in my mind that whatever 1 may think of aristid, he was the most popular leader at that time, and he won the presidency, and would have won the presidency with or without any kind of dubious electoral practices. The problem came in the legislative election, where the opponents of aristid really wanted to say that the labelast regime had totally corrupted those electoral practices. That may have been the case, but it was certainly not that which led to ultimately the departure of aristid in 2004. What you had at that point was a country that was deeply divided between former lavalas people would join with some of the more I don’t even know if you can call it that way, but more progressive members of the bourgeoisie in haiti and with some other organizations and claim that haiti was on the way to another dictatorship, et cetera. And that group allied itself with the United States and the French to really impose all kinds of problems for aristid. Economic restrictions, economic sanctions, et cetera. And the government of aristid became, to a large degree, very much like previous governments.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:16:25]:
There was a significant amount of corruption, nothing that departed from the norm, but it was still becoming corrupt, and people were starting to criticize this. 1 may remember the great haitian journalist Jean claude Dominic, who was jean Dominic, who was actually one of the initial supporters of lavalas and of aristid, starting to doubt the results of the second coming of aristide. And that really symbolized the fracture of the left, if you wish, in haiti. And it created the vacuum within which the opponents, the traditional opponents of aristid, as well as the international community really started to sap the foundations of aristid. And eventually, as you know, the old military came in with the support of the United States, the support of the French, and compelled the departure of aristid, who left. So you have, from 1986 to 2004, a period where you have exhilaration because you have hope. You have the idea that, as it were, tutor le mon vashonje. And then a series of events that clearly eliminate that hope and that exhilaration, culminating in the very depressing sight that in 2004, when we were celebrating the bicentenary of our independence, the country was taken over by American and French troops for a while and then by the UN troops.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:18:18]:
So we have a complete reversal, as it were, of what had been hoped for. And finally, that kind of reversal has generated the sense of cynicism, a sense of despair, so much so that even when you talk to haitians, the memory of the dictatorship of duvalier is not as salient. And some people who are not friends of the duvalier are saying now, well, perhaps we need another strong man. My hope is that we don’t go that way. But that feeling really generates that sense that things have fallen apart and that the country has not ultimately changed. As the people who had overthrown duvalier, the people who had put iced in power in 1991, that all of those hopes, that those dreams, as it were, have ultimately collapsed, and that we are now, in 2022, really in a nightmare instead of in that kind of rejuvenated society where everyone would be equal. And as I steed himself, had hope. That toot.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:19:45]:
Moon Simon so this is what I meant by exhilarating and depressing account of that period. Well, a politic devonte is to a large degree a form of governability that is based on the acquisition of personal wealth through the conquest of political power. In other words, if you are in the government, you are going to use the public institutions in order to enrich yourself. So it’s a system where there is a high degree of corruption. Politics is basically then a business. You get into politics in order to make money. So that leads to all kinds of perverse phenomena. In other words, if you have political power, you’re expected to steal money in order to govern, and in order to govern by way of spreading, as it were, the corruption.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:21:03]:
So you buy your adversaries, you literally, obviously rewards your constituency and your friends. So politics is generalized corruption. Now, one of the fundamental reasons behind la politic duvat is the reality that in very poor countries like haiti, if you do not come from the privileged, wealthy elite, there is virtually no other avenue to acquire wealth. So politics is the synequin for acquiring that kind of illicit wealth, especially on the part of those who are not part of the elite. Now, the elite itself is totally corrupt because it uses its financial power, its economic power, to put people in position of governance so that their governance will actually respond to their interests. So lapolitic duvant is something that leads to what we have called also in aeg le gram maje grammar. In other words, the people who take power, they are senators, they are presidents, they are cabinet members, they are mayors, and they become grandma Joe because their very position allows them to literally steal the public treasury. So this is, in a short way, what politic duvant is.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:22:56]:
It’s a phenomenon that we find particularly in poor country, because politics is the key avenue to acquire that wealth that is so necessary in order to leave wealth. So la politicuque leads to a systematized pattern of corruption, and it is something that inevitably leads to cynicism. It leads to a feeling that power is not responsive at all to the needs of the vast majority. And that is a very problematic consequence of la politic devot, because if you acquire power and you intend to change the system, you’re going to be confronted with that reality that to really express power in that context, you need to actually get to the public treasury and reward your friends. It is also something that is important in poor countries like haiti, because those who come to power, if you look at the elections of the last 30 years or so, they do not usually come from the privileged group. So once they are elected, then the temptation to get the rewards of the public treasury, as it were, are immense. And there is the phenomenon of creating a constituency, of talking about and thinking about the next election that requires a lot of money. So even in haiti, which is a poor country, to get elected, you need money.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:24:55]:
And that money traditionally comes from the wealthy elite, but it comes also from the previous acquisition of illicit wealth, of the public treasury. And that phenomenon is a phenomenon, as I’ve said, that it tends to be universal in the so called Third World. The first time I encountered the term la politic guzak while I was studying sub saharan African politics, and it’s very similar. You take political power, you take office, you use that office to enrich yourself. And that, in turn, has a very significant and unfortunate consequence. It means that if you have acquired political power, you do not want to relinquish that political power. So you’re going to have in the political system a fight literally to the death in order to keep that power or in order to take it away from those who have it. So there is a zero sum game.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:26:04]:
Politics is a business. It’s a very corrupt business. Now, one can to some extent justify this. I mean, if you read, for instance, the early reports of the early period after independence in haiti, then you have people like desaline, like tuce, like pizza, who essentially are saying, well, we can take part in that kind. Of illicit acquisition of wealth from the public treasury, provided that it does not destroy the country. Provided that the treasury is not going to be completely exhausted by that corruption. But the problem is that once you get into that practice, it becomes in fact, la machine affernal. You get into power, expectations are that you have to do it if you want to keep it and if you want to reward your constituencies.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:27:11]:
So La machina fernand is a system that derives, as it were, from la politic duvat. But it has very negative consequences on the morality of politics and on the consequences for the economy of such a system because corruption in that system is not really productive. It is simply stealing the money from the public treasury. And that money is in fact responsive only to the taxation in particular of fairly poor people like in haiti. So you have a system that rewards corruption, that rewards, obviously, those who have money and that punishes those who do not. And the very few who tend to emerge from the generalized poverty that exists in Asian society usually come to a status of well being through politics. So elections are, in a peculiar way, a way of exiting your conditions of poverty and making it into the economic system. One further element that needs to be also mentioned is the fact that the cynicism is such that if you acquire political power, expectations are that you are bound to behave in the system of the politic devot.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:29:00]:
If you are an honest person, people will look at you and literally decide that, well, this person must be an idiot because the function of political power is to a large degree to become a grandmother. And when we are talking about grandmother, it’s not just merely the idea of stealing, but it’s also the image of opulence, of being a big man, as it were. So we have very negative consequences stemming from la politic duvat. And la politic duvat itself is to a certain extent a consequence of the generalized pattern of poverty. So you have kind of a circular, vicious kind of process whereby society is poor. The people who take power use that power to acquire illicit wealth and that generate systematic corruption which in turn undermines any type of economic development that might be conducive to a very different political system where a politic devot is not the rule, but the exception. My Nandlo yeah, initially the notion of politic the Dublin was a concept that applied to the racial composition of the government. In other words, the idea was that in haiti the elite was to a large degree, initially was a mulato elite and that they ran the show.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:31:05]:
In other words, that they had political power and economic power, but they needed someone who was not emulator to have some sort of paravo, some sort of simulacrum that the majority was in power. So you had the black, as it were, government, the black president. And in the background, the people who were really running the show were the emulators. Now, the politic de Blue changed its meaning with time. In particular, it started to change with the prevalence administration because the assumption was that, well, prevale is president, but ultimately there is aristid in the background running the show, pulling the strings from tabar. And tabar was the residence, the area where aristid lived. So while preval was president, aristid could actually prevent the implementation of, if you wish, the programs and the politics that were adopted by the prevale government. And that leads inevitably to a sense of crisis and paralysis because if you have a power behind the legitimate power, then the legitimate power, if you wish, the elected power does not have the capacity to implement its program and the system falls into gridlock and into political paralysis.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:32:46]:
And finally there is another element of the politic du du Blue, and that is that you may have haitians who are actually in power. In other words, that you have a haitian president, haitian government, prime minister, but ultimately power resides in the international community. And this is something that has become increasingly the case in the last few years. If you look at the government in haiti, its budget is to a large extent a budget that is subsidized by the international community. You have with the United Nations, you had the minusta presence you had immediately after the form of aristid in 2004, the presence of French and American troops on the soil of haiti. So what we are talking about is a government that is composed of citizens of haiti. But ultimately the people who really have power are the people in the international community, whether it be the United States, the French, the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. So it is literally that those who have been elected are really large degree, they are puppets of those who control the financial and military institutions of the country.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:34:27]:
So politics, Deweyo, to put it very simply, is the reality that those who are in the national palace, those who are in parliament, don’t have the power to dictate, if you wish, the nature of the policies of the country. They are ultimately decisions that are taken elsewhere. The shukarj is the creole word for uprooting. In other words, if you want to put it in French, deracina. And what was meant by uprooting or deracina is simply the idea that the deep structures of the dictatorship, in particular what was called Makutism, and the makut, as you know, the Juvalier regime relied extensively on a paramilitary group, civilian militia as it were, to enforce its dictatorship. So when jeanclaude duvalier fell, the idea was that we needed to desucate the system. We needed to take apart the Makutism, the ideology that if you have a gun, then you have power. And that you needed also to literally eliminate the makuts.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:35:53]:
And there were violent episodes immediately after the fall of jeanclaude du valier, where makuts were killed in very nasty way. That was, as it were, popular, violent justice. The makuts were not to be tolerated. So that’s one aspect of the shukash. The other aspect of the shukash was really about the social structure of the country. In other words, that those structures had to be uprooted. And I steed slogan that tutmun semoon, in other words, that every human being is a human being, that there is equality applied to that aspect of the dishukash, that there was to be an element of redistribution of wealth, redistribution of power, and that the elite would need to accept those transformations. So deshukaj was a really significant element of the transformation and radical transformation of haiti that the lavalas movement had in mind when it took power.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:37:09]:
Now, one thing is to talk about deshukage. Another is to do it effectively. And what I mean by effectively, what are the best methods, as it were, to disucate the country? And the aristid government never had real time to think about those things, because as we know, they were in power for a very short period of time, seven months the first time. So whatever they may have really wanted to do with the shoekage never occurred. And when they come back, the idea of deshukash was no longer the main idea behind the iced and the lavalas movement, as we’ve talked before. So deshukage ultimately succeeded at one level. Most of the makutu were eliminated from the system, but a lot of the big makut managed to escape, or they remain, as it were, in the country. And many of them were eventually involved in one way or another in the coup that was engineered in 2003 2004 to remove aristid.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:38:32]:
So the dishukash did not really function as one might have expected. Another element of the dishukash that didn’t change is the mentality, if you wish. And I have another book where I talk about the abitus. And what I mean by that is that a very well known French sociologist put forward to indicate that there is kind of a material tradition that governs, as it were, the reflexes of society that governs how we think about things. And that habitus, for me, is the authoritarian habitus. In other words, since the very beginning of the republic, we’ve had that authoritarian abidus. And if you have an authoritarian habitus, then it’s very difficult to really change the system because you usually fall again into those kinds of authoritarian dictatorial reflexes on the part of those who govern. So even when you remove the dictatorship, even when you remove the dictators, the new crowd behaves in some fashion in a very similar way to the previous crowd that had imposed a dictatorship.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:39:59]:
dictatorship meant that if you wanted to transition to democracy, that you had to deshouque that habitus. That tradition, and haiti has failed as we know to do it. We can see the results up to now, where many of the leaders that followed our Esteed, in spite of themselves, tended to have authoritarian reflexes. Fortunately, we never fell completely into a dictatorial regime like the duvalier period. But on the other hand, we’ve had problems with elections. We’ve had problems with terms that were never ending, the opposition thinking that they were always cheated out of power. Those who won wanted to win, and not only win, but win absolutely. So the kind of instincts that we have in the authoritarian habituce have not been totally removed.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:41:05]:
They still inform the political system in the country up to this day. Well, the military in haiti are really the creation of the American occupation in the early 20th century, 1915, 1934, when the United States invaded haiti, they wanted to impose order. They wanted to settle the country in such a way that there would be a centralization of power in Pope. And the best way to do that was to create a military that would enforce the rules of the government. So that’s one aspect of it. The other more important aspect is that the haitian military were to a large degree some sort of link between the imperial power of the United States and haiti. They were the guarantor, as it were, that the United States interest in haiti would prevail. So therefore, the United States would not need to invade again because they had to a large degree, an institution that was ultimately dependent on its power.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:42:27]:
So that’s one aspect. The other aspect is that clearly the military within the local political system represented the repressive power of the ruling groups. In other words, if there were challenges coming from below that were very serious, then the military would repress those challenges and would ultimately, if need be, take power to reestablish the status quo ente. So the military were the major institution defending the elites in haiti. Now, when aristid comes to power, the military had not fundamentally changed in terms of that mission. What we see, therefore, is not only that the military supported a series of coups before the election of aristid because they feared that the population would ultimately take control of the government if there was indeed a democratic dispensation. So the military were very fearful of anyone who would be elected with a mandate to change the structures of the country. And not surprisingly, when aristid came to power and started to talk about fundamental change, and that toot.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:43:56]:
Moon Simon then at that point, the military got scared and the elite got scared. So both the elite and the military decided that it was time to end that experiment. And what we saw clearly was the very bloody coup of 1991. Now, the fundamental transformation that happened after the return of aristid was the abolition of the army. In other words, when aristid came back, he decided. That you need to stop those military coups. So the military were disbanded, and that was a significant transformation. But it also created problems because the centralized apparatus to establish some semblance of order was gone.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:44:49]:
And we can see the consequences of that now. There is a very fine line, obviously, between a military that serves the interests of the elite and a military that simply serves the interests of the general population. And unfortunately, we never had that military in the country. So the historical roots of the military in haiti, of the modern military, are deeply embedded in the American occupation and the creation of an institution that was bet on preserving the interests of the United States in haiti and on preserving the rule of the elite. And that is the result of a deeply divided political system where you have a small elite and where you have a large population that is excluded, as it were, from the benefits of full citizenship. I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I did. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook at negmawa podcast. That’s mao with a W.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:46:06]:
Not in. Let’s stay on this path a little bit longer. Tell us more how the haitian revolution challenged the west’s concept of itself.
In this episode of the Nèg Mawon Podcast, we delve deep into the roots of Haiti’s complex political landscape with Dr. Robert Fatton. From its foundation, Haiti has grappled with a social, economic, and political apartheid system that has marginalized the majority of its population. Dr. Fatton discusses how this system, rooted in divisions of color, class, and colonial hierarchy, has led to exclusionary practices in education and culture.
Our guest emphasizes the economic basis of this system, calling for a more democratic and egalitarian society that meets the basic needs of all Haitians. He critiques the simplistic savior narrative often applied to Haiti and explores the historical context of the country’s authoritarian tradition, advocating for a revolutionary transformation of both politics and the economy.
Join us as we explore the persisting issue of authoritarian governance in Haiti, the challenges faced after the revolution, and the potential for a more inclusive and accountable society. This thought-provoking discussion sheds light on the structural forces shaping Haiti’s past and present, offering crucial insights into the complexities of its history and the path to a more inclusive future.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:00:02]:
Professor Robert, welcome again to the show. The book we are going to discuss today is titled The Roots of Haitian Despotism. Is this book a sequel to the last book we discuss Hades, Predatory Republic. You said this one is more ambitious. How so?
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:00:23]:
Yes. The roots of Asian despotism is, to some extent, a sequel, but not really. Because what it seeks to do is to put in historical perspective the authoritarian tradition that we’ve had in Haiti since the period of independence. Whereas Predatory Republic was to a large degree, text that concerned the event surrounding the fall of, Jean Claude Duvalier, the rise of, the Lavalas movement And our jean bear tomorrow is steed, and show that in spite of all of the complicated, struggles that we had during that period, Haiti still had some form of authoritarianism. The root of Asian despotism looks at the historical, record, as it were. And my argument is that you have since the period of, independence, the authoritarian habitus. And I use the term habitus because it’s derived from, the, sociologist, well known French sociologist, who argued that the arbitrage is not just culture. It’s much more than that.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:01:53]:
It’s a series of, phenomena that are grounded in the material basis of society. In other words, when you look at the authoritarian habitus in Haiti, you have to look at the context within which the Haitian revolution occurred, how the revolution, which was a very violent episode in our history, how that violent episode, really generated the system of command and control That was absolutely essential for the, victory in that revolution. But, nonetheless, it left that kind of legacy whereby the leaders ordered the population. So that’s one part of the equation. The other part is obviously the whole system the on which the Asian economy rested at the time, and that was the plantation economy. Independent economy, was not a system that could work without forced labor and almost slave labor. So when we have independence, the leaders of the Haitian revolution who want to restart the economy are facing that dilemma that was never resolved. The dilemma is essentially how do we reestablish the plantation economy And how do we force people to work in a system where they are totally exploited? And all of the leaders at the period, whether it be to say whether it be Dessalines, Patio, or Christophe, at that issue that led to a series of code royal, which to some extent, was a form of, forced labor.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:03:42]:
And, obviously, the Haitian population at large, which had just fought, for its emancipation, was not ready to submit again to the dictate of the Haitian leaders. So they essentially escaped, from the system of the state, and they created, their little, kind of peasant economy with some small plots and cultivating for themselves is kind of a subsistence economy. So you had an attempt to reintegrate the Haitian economy into the world system, on the part of the Haitian leaders and on the part of the large population of Haitians that had just read itself from slavery, an attempt to resist that and to create their own kind of system of production that would satisfy their needs and satisfy, their, their lifestyle. So that’s the 2nd element. There’s a 3rd element, which is also rooted in the kind of messianic vision that all Haitian leaders have had. And when you read the the text by Diceline or about Toussaint or Petrieux or Christophe. There is an an amazing degree of missionism in there. And what I mean by that is simply that those leaders, they saw themselves as anointed as the by God to rule over the country.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:05:15]:
Any anyone who would resist that rule would ultimately have to face the very nasty power of the state. So you have missionism, you have the economy, and you have the, legacy of the revolution, that all contributed to that Haitian, habitus, which is a authoritarian habitus. And we have never been able, to extricate ourselves from that very habitus. One of the things that has contributed to the nurturing of that habitus is the incapacity of the economy to generate modicum of wealth or middle class. So we have and I argued, that in the book, Predatory Republic, that we have a zero sum game. So politics becomes really a business, and you try to get, you know, control of the political system in order to enrich yourself. And since there are very few other avenues to obtain that wealth, politics becomes very nasty business. A fight to the death.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:06:29]:
You have power, and you don’t want to give it up. And that is very symptomatic of that Haitian despotism. So, the roots of Asian despotism is indeed kind of a natural, follow-up, if you wish, of the republic, but it’s much more historical. It argues that what we have now is really something that existed at the very moment when we started our revolution and when we got our independence, and we have yet to really eliminate that author authoritarian habitus. It is still infecting, if you wish, the system and all of the leaders of Haiti, and there are very few who have not followed that rule. Once they take power, they see themselves as God driven, rulers who are going to resolve all the problems of Haiti. They are indispensable individuals if you wish, and that is a serious problem for any system that wishes to become more accountable to the general population and more democratic. You write that the
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:07:40]:
Haitian revolution succeeded in one aspect, but failed to fulfill its promise in the end. You talked about the rise of an enduring, authoritarian habitus. First, can you define this authoritarian habitus. And secondly, can you trace it trace trace it as as a kind of through line within the context of post independent hate.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:08:09]:
I will give you the definition that I give in the Preface of the book. So let me just read that. The habitus refers To a complicated repertoire of practices, attitudes, and behavior that are grounded in the material foundation of society. This repertoire can acquire a life of its own and, in turn, influence and shape material force. Habitus and Political Economy, exists therefore in a dialectical relationship of continuous and mutually conditioning interactions. And I contend that in the specific case of Haiti, and I’ve mentioned that already, the legacy of slavery and the plantation economy inherited from the predatory French colonial system engendered a powerful authoritarian habitus, which has in turn shaped decisively the country’s form of governance, and that authoritarian habitus has persisted. It has persisted Because the economy has been absolutely stuck as it were in a dependent situation vis a vis the world system. And the system has not been able to create really, productivation bourgeoisie we could have hegemony in the system.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:09:41]:
So what you have is a political class and an economy class that are totally unproductive. And that has meant that the economy in general has failed to really generate a significant, productive, force. So the poverty that exists in Haiti is a reflection of that, And it is also something that nurtures further the authoritarian habitus. And as I’ve said, if you have a very poor society like in Haiti, and you have very few avenues to, obtain wealth, then politics becomes the business, and then politics becomes a zero sum game. And once you have power, you want to keep it, thus the authoritarian habitus. So this has persisted, and I can’t see it, being eliminated if you don’t generate some sort of really significant economic, productive force in the country. And that, as we know, is extremely difficult. So there is continuity in the authoritarian habitus, and I don’t see it changing unless we have not only a political revolution, but also an economic revolution and a system that is much more responsive to, the well-being of the vast majority of Haiti.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:11:18]:
In the context in which we live today, it’s a system that really, to put it crudely, screws that majority and therefore generates increasing poverty and all kinds of morbid symptoms, and we see them now with the rise multiple gangs that are controlling to a large degree the existence of the republic.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:11:44]:
Can you talk about how the have fared throughout Haitian history in terms of their mobility or immobility.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:11:57]:
Well, the are the outsiders, but it’s more than outsiders. They are totally marginalized people was being consistently exploited by the teeny political class and economic class of Haiti. So you have a system of apartheid, social apartheid, economic apartheid as it were in the country that has, to a large degree been present since the foundation of the republic. Now, the is a vast concept in the sense that there are all kinds of categories within the moon of New York. Because in Haiti, in that date from the colonial period, we’ve had a hierarchy in terms of the social structure. In the colonial period, obviously, you had the the, you know, the colonialist, and you had the, that is to say, those who didn’t really have a a large plantation. Then you had the, were to a large extent people of light skin, color. But on the other hand, there were also, people who are black.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:13:07]:
I mean, the, pragmatic phenomenon of, that class is, for instance, Toussaint, who was first a slave, then a slave owner, And then he became the leader of the revolution that abolished, slavery. So you have those divisions that are along the question of color. You have the divisions along the question of class. Those who control the, if you wish, the levers of the economy and those who are completely, marginalized from that control. And then you have, from the very beginning, even within the slave, society, you’d have the so called Bosal and those who were born in Haiti, the slaves were born in Haiti, the Creole. So that kind of, system is a system that is really anchored in our history. Even the slaves were divided. Then you have after the revolution, the issue of those who had the power, of the state and those who didn’t.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:14:13]:
And that, again, is part of the authoritarian habitus. So the are the vast majority of the population who has been, really excluded from the moral, community of the nation. They are the people who are, to a large extent, for a long period of time. There were the vast majority of the pays entry. And then now you have, obviously, the marginalized, lepen proletariat in the cities, and that class has a significant impact on the creation of the gangs. So you have divisions and divisions in Haitian society that has really created a system, as I’ve said from the very the very beginning, is kind of a social, political, and economic apartheid. You are part of the ruling class, both political and economic, and you exclude, the overwhelming majority of Haitians. So this has been a persistent phenomenon in Haiti, and we see it now.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:15:20]:
We see it with the division of society between a tiny failure well off, group of people, and then we see it also in the fact that, the, morbidity of the system has generated, those gangs, which eventually are struggling for some sort of presence in the system, but they are doing it in a very, destructive way. So the system is, to that extent, a zero sum system, and it is very difficult to create, out of that reality, a nation where every group would feel that it is in fact, part of the moral community of the republic. We haven’t done that, and this is an issue, that has remained, to a large extent, the guardian knot of the history, of hate.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:16:24]:
Is your definition of different from the Haitian sociologist slash historian, Jean Casimir’s definition
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:16:35]:
of. Yes. I think there are similarities between, Jean Casimir’s notion of, and mine. But I’m much more of a materialist, I think, than Jean Casimir. In other words, I looked at the as a fundamentally economic phenomenon. Now as I’ve said, when you have, such a phenomenon, there are also interactions with the rest of society. So if you exclude people because, you you want to exploit them, and that’s what I think, Munoz Dior is all about. You are creating a culture that is necessarily a culture of exclusion.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:17:19]:
And in order to create a culture of exclusion, you have to portray those who are excluded as not educated, as kind of barbarians, as people who do not deserve to be recognized in the moral community of the country. It’s a it’s a system that dehumanizes the. So it generates all kinds of, ideological fantasies about, the nature of the. As I’ve said, he’s a barbarian. He is not educated. And then in Haiti, you also have the phenomenon that, is excluded because of its, cultural roots. In other words, Creole is spoken by everyone, but not, but French is not. So French, for instance, has been a way to exclude.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:18:14]:
So there are cultural phenomenon there. And it is also in the psyche of, many of the members of the ruling class, a group of people that are 2nd class citizen by all considerations. And that in turn means that it’s not just the people who are in the city. It’s people who in the, also in the rural areas. So when you look at the situation currently, the is basically all of the people who live in the slums, all of the people who are. So you have, some sort of continuity in terms of the between, urban and, rural classes that have been thoroughly marginalized and exploited by the ruling groups in Haiti. So the, in my mind, is really a phenomenon that has to be explained by the exploitative economic system that we’ve had in Haiti since independence. That in turn has generated a very different culture, a very different perception of the world that has further divided the ruling groups and the vast majority of Haitians.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:19:35]:
So the question of color becomes also significant. The question of, as I’ve said, the language is significant. And the type of, educational opportunities that are offered is another sign, of further marginalization since the vast majority of Haitians do not have, the capacity to, be educated because the state has marginalized them. So the moulin d’Or is cultural, yes, but it is deeply rooted in the economic fabric of Haiti, since, the colonial period, and I mentioned it already. Even the slaves divided themselves between Bosal and Creole. And there was a vision on the part who of the slaves who had been born in Haiti that they were superior to those who had just arrived in the country. We have the same thing between the emulator groups. We think that they are superior to the black majority.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:20:36]:
So the system has generated all kinds of matters that are generating exclusionary phenomena, cultural, material, and even religious, the division between, people who practice, voodoo and those who do not. And that is another, cultural division. So you have all of those, phenomena that are very much part of the current system in Haiti. Yes. Well, at the moment, I don’t think we can have kind of a utopian vision of democracy in Haiti, that is not on the agenda at the moment, but we should, nonetheless, keep, that vision of a really democratic, egalitarian society as something that would be a marker and that we would try, to strive for. But what I mean by accountability here is really very basic. In other words, that you have a system where, the so called would be integrated in the political structures of society and in the benefits generated by that society. So, at the very basic level, that would mean that you would have a system that satisfies the elementary needs of the population.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:22:18]:
And what I mean by that, education, feeding the population, creating an agriculture that can do so, generating a culture that is not exclusionary and generating a political system where there is a system of accountability. And the way you can do that, obviously, is by having elections that are much better than those that we’ve had. In other words, that voted that votes are counted properly, that people who participate in the electoral process are vetted by the population that they are not just, people who accumulate wealth and they just run for office without regard for, the overall population. So it’s a system that that is more or less democratic, and I say more or less. Because if even if you have elections that are, properly conducted. You have to deal with the other fundamental issue and that, the, the issue of the economy. The vast majority of Haitians are excluded. How do you reintegrate them? How do you give them some benefits so they have a stake in society? And that’s where you need a certain redistribution of wealth, a certain redistribution of the land where you also need, to concentrate your resources on those, factors that are so crucial for, generating, that humanization, if you wish, of the and that is to say, you generate, a budget that is responsive to agriculture.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:24:05]:
You generate a budget that is responsive to the education of the population, you generate a budget that is responsible to the health of that population. Those are very basic issues. This is not utopian. This is achievable. But it is complicated given the situation that we have now, because we have a situation where you have the prevalence of gangs, of violence, and the are even more excluded from the system now. So you would need to reestablish a system of security where people are not confronted by the daily violence of the gangs. So you need some political order, and you need not in order to do so, you need to create, again, a system of security which is accountable to the population. So those are complicated things.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:24:57]:
Even the basic, transformation of what we have, which is a predatory republic, into the more accountable republic. If we manage to do that, and I hope that we can in the sense that we are confronting crisis now that are so profound that if we can’t find the energy and the the necessary imagination to create such a system that is more accountable, then we are doomed. This is a critical moment, a critical juncture for Haiti, to think about what is to be done at this very, juncture in the history of the republic. We need to generate a compromise. We need to generate a compromise between all of the different sectors of society, a compromise that will privilege the reintegration or, I should say, the integration of the into the political system. And that means that you would need to change, the economy. You would need to change a political system. And then there is obviously and this is another, issue, but this is, the big elephant, if you wish, in the room, and that’s the international context.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:26:17]:
It’s very difficult to do so given the international context. As we know, the United States is, to a large to be a very conservative force in the history of Haiti. They do not want fundamental change. They want moderate change within the neoliberal economic order. And I would contend that if you want to have a more accountable political system, you need to break up the, control that that neoliberal system has had on the economy of Haiti. We need to rethink the economy. We need to, obviously, look at the realities, and this is a complicated business. How do you, deal with the powers that be in the international economy and at the same time, create your own particular version of an economic system.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:27:23]:
I’m about to have another scholar do a review of, Haiti, the state against nation, and I’m just wondering if you see what are some of the similarities or differences between, your book, The Roots of Haitian Despotism and.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:27:47]:
Yes. Well, Rolf Trouillot’s book, Haiti State Against Nation, which is really a classic and a very critical book to understand the realities of Haiti, was written in the late or even early eighties and was translated in English, I think, and it reflected a certain reality in terms of what meant at that time. At that time for to your was mainly the peasantry. And he looked at the as that majority of the population that was excluded and marginalized from the nation. It was kind of external to the nation. So, yes, the peasantry has been excluded, But there is a very fundamental transformation in Haiti now. Whereas when Trudeau was rising, Haiti was overwhelmingly a peasant society, with more than 60% of the population engage in the rural areas. Now that has changed drastically.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:29:06]:
Now what you see in Haiti is that we have an urban population which represent something like 60% of the total population of Haiti. So while Toujeot looked at the peasantry as the critical ingredient, if you wish, of the. He neglected. And that was not his fault because we weren’t there yet.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:29:31]:
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:29:31]:
neglected, to some extent, the urban population. And what we have now is the which is very much urban and rural. So in other words, the divide between the ruling groups and the rest of the population has been significantly expanded and which represent a further problem in the creation of a decent society in the country for Trujillo, and I will quote what he said. He said that the critical issue facing Haiti is what he termed the paysantry is donation, and this is something that had to be acknowledged and that would lead to the transformation of Haiti. Now we have an additional issue. It’s not just the peasantry, which is part of the. It’s the urban population, the lumpen that really is found in, in Cap Haitien, in the major cities of the country. And this has been the class, if you wish, that has been totally excluded, marginalized, and exploited.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:30:50]:
And as no jobs, as very little prospect of advancing in the social hierarchy, and that group is the group that is at the very core of the gang explosion. They have nothing to lose. They are manipulated by certain leaders, And they join. So the now is not just the peasantry, but also the vast urban population, in particular, the lumpen, the poor urban population. Now when I say that they are divided, there is something that has to be very clear. The division between the and the dominant groups is a division that doesn’t mean that the peasantry and the urban poor are not part of the economic system, they are actually totally exploited economically. They’re surplus labor. So they have a function.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:31:49]:
They generate, to some extent, taxes, work, etcetera. So the exclusion of that group doesn’t mean that they are excluded in the sense of being part of the system of economic exploitation that still exist in the country. So to your definition of is one that I would accept up to a point. It was written, the different time in history, I think it has to be expanded. And it is not just a rural phenomenon. And that means, therefore, That when we envisage the future of Haiti, it is not just the peasant question that is critical. It is also now the urban questions. How do we reconcile both is the critical issue that faces Haiti.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:32:41]:
And it’s a fundamental divide, the divide that is linked to the economy and to the transformation of the that economy to the neoliberal system that has marginalized further the urban population, that has forced massive migration from rural areas to the urban areas and which has meant that the population has been further and further excluded while it was more And more exploited economically, or at least was a surplus population created by the activation of the neoliberal system that we’ve had since the early 19 eighties.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:33:26]:
You write a lot about Haiti’s never ending democratic transition, I think is what you call it. Do you Do you have a sense of I wanna get a sense of, from you of progress or regress along this sort of continuum, transitory continuum, but, you know, when do you see Haiti’s 220 year history? What do you see this what are these markers for you that, you know, whether the hate is get getting closer, in the spectrum to to the ideal of a republican form of representative type of government or, you know, the back and forth between progress and regress. Can you give us a sense of that, some of those markers?
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:34:15]:
Well, Haiti’s history is marked by great moments of freedom as it were. What I mean by that, if you look at our history, 18/04 is one of the world event in the sense that it generated a clear idea that all human beings, irrespective of race, were equals. That is a phenomenal transformation in the thinking of people. 1 has to realize that that event is indeed something that has marked the history of humanity. So this is a moment of freedom. But it is a moment of freedom that was not ultimately fulfilled in the sense of generating a democratic dispensation for all Haitians. We’ve talked about it. And those difficulties that were facing the leaders of the revolution have to be acknowledged too.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:35:19]:
You have the reality that the world economy for Haiti at that time was one that depended on the reactivation of the plantation economy. And reactivating the plantation economy meant that you would try to reinforce the idea that workers, essentially, the peasantry, would be subjugated again. And that meant that you had
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:35:45]:
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:35:45]:
tremendous contradiction immediately after the revolution. Its contradictions is simply that the economic survival, economic well-being of Haiti depended on something that would undermine its democratic essence, and that is a problem that was never resolved. That’s 1 issue. The second issue is really that that moment of freedom was limited by the world system at the time. All of the white powers were clearly antagonistic to the Haitian revolution, and they did everything to really destroy, the notion of the black republic. So that’s the other phenomenon, an external, dimension that has continuously plagued the transformation of Haiti. The third is really the fact that our notion of freedom, was a notion of freedom that was, to some extent, undermined by what I have called already the authoritarian habitus. That is to say, the kind of missionism that most of our leaders have had throughout history, not just at independence, but afterwards.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:37:03]:
Whether you’re talking about Toussaint or Dessalines or Petiot or Christophe or more recently about, Francois Duvalier or, other leaders that were very different, like Jean Bertrand, Aristide, or Martelli, they have a vision of themselves as if they are saviors of the nation, and that’s a very dangerous notion and one that undermines the prospect of democratic practice. So you have those limitations with democracy. But we have, as I have said, moments of freedom. Moment of Freedom in the Modern Era is the collapse of the Duvalier dictatorship, the rise of La Valas. It generated an illusion that, we were on the verge of fundamental transformations, and that did not occur. The RAVALAS movement was ultimately, blocked in terms of its full development by the Haitian elite, by the Haitian army, and by external forces, And also by the divisions within the Lavalas movement itself and by the, if you wish, difficulties in creating within Lavalas a democratic movement in the strong sense of democracy. Lavalas was, as it were, you know, what what might be called the flood. But the flood was ultimately controlled by very few people And, indeed, by 1 leader.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:38:36]:
And that, again, is a problem if you want to establish democratic practice. And, obviously, more recently, you’ve had the continuous foreign interferences in Haiti that have, to some extent, generated patterns of dependence that have, in turn, isolated the, Haitian population from the dominant levels of power. And what I mean by that is that foreign interference was not a question of just, getting into the electoral process. Obviously, that was there. Many of our leaders were selected by the foreign, international. And we also have, the reality that foreign interference is deeply, present in the economic, programs that the country has unleashed on the population. The World Bank, the IMF, USAID have programs that, in my mind, have undermined the possibility of the development of democracy. Now we have a crisis and probably the most, difficult crisis that the country has faced because we have no legitimate leader, no legitimate institutions.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:40:03]:
The constitution has been totally violated, and we have a regime currently which is a de facto regime, and it stands as a regime simply because it is recognized by the international community. So what we have now is a fundamental crisis of legitimacy. All of our institutions are basically gone. And we are facing a massive security crisis, which undermines further the possibility of extricating the country from, that kind of de facto regime, which is to a large degree, a soft dictatorship, if I may use that term. So, we’ve had moments of freedom, but those moments of freedom have continually faced, foreign intrusion, foreign opposition, internal divisions, and the authoritarian habitus that I have talked about. So you have those things that have contributed to, the unending transition of democracy. We started with the magnificent revolution, and its promise was not fulfilled. Same thing happened in, after the fall of Jean Claude Duvalier.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:41:20]:
We had the promise of a constitutional republican, vision of society where we would resolve through compromise and through elections, differences that never really materialized. So now we have to look at the situation, and it is an extremely difficult one, because we don’t have the institutions. We do not have a compromise among the Haitian, dominant groups. We don’t have an extension of, the democracy, if you wish, towards The vast majority of the population. So we are in a situation of utter crisis, and it is difficult to see how we can extricate ourselves from that crisis. It is not that, it is impossible, but it’s extremely difficult. And one of the problems that we are going to face is that I think it’s inevitable that we are going to see another foreign intervention. That for an intervention may create a modicum of political order and stability, but that doesn’t mean that that modicum of political stability will lead to a historic compromise between the different sectors of Haiti and the beginning of the creation of a democratic republic.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:42:41]:
So we are at a turning point, but the turning point is a difficult one, and it is full of morbid symptoms, but we have to hope that this time, given the acuteness of the crisis, that all Haitians will ultimately try to move beyond their narrow, selfish corporate class interest and move into a situation where there is indeed some sort of unity between the different sectors of society. This is not an ideal democracy, but it is the beginning of a democratic dispensation where we can start to talk about the problems of education, the economic problems, how to really reintegrate everyone into the political system. In other words, how can we create full citizens? Citizens that make the government accountable. That is the 1st step that we have to take. It’s a difficult one, not impossible, but it is full of detours and full of really, incredible, difficulties.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:43:59]:
You seem to have a problem with the, the savior narrative in the literature on Haiti, this is what you said. With few exceptions, the literature in Haiti has tended to emphasize the role of individual leaders in the making of the country’s politics. This tendency has also led many to assume that the crisis confronting Haiti is nothing but the consequence of quote, unquote bad leaders, and, thus, the solution to the crisis is the coming to power of quote, unquote good rulers. This book rejects these assumptions, they tend to be simplistic and tautological. Can you, tell us more about that? And, do you have any particular books in mind that stand out and you critique?
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:44:56]:
Yes. When I’m talking about rulers that have been caged by the authoritarian habitus, what I mean is that when you look at the crisis of governance in the country, it is not just a question of leaders. There are structural issues that confine the leader to particular forms of behavior. This is not to say that particular leaders don’t have their personalities, which might in fact enhance, the possibility of moving away from the authoritarian habitus or personalities that would in fact, put us even further into that, authoritarian habitus. What I’m trying to say is that when you look at the role of the economy, when you look at the existing social divisions in the country, when you look at the external situation, when you look at the class polarization that exist in Haiti, once you take power, then there are certain structures that may force you, whether you like it or not, to behave in particular ways that would ultimately lead to a more authoritarian situation. We look, for instance, as as the founders of the nation. Whether you look at Toussaint, Dessalines, Petion, Christophe, etcetera. They were all besieged by the economic question.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:46:28]:
At the time, it was the plantation economy, as I’ve said, and that led to certain, patterns of behavior. You wanted to force the patient tree again into, forced labor. And when you do that, then, obviously, you undermine, the, the possibility of having a democracy. But those leaders also, when you look at what they said, were seeing themselves as unique individuals who would save, the country from everything. I mean, Toussaint, Dessalines, they are the vision of themselves at the center of everything. And not only at the center of everything, but they would see descent as something that was treacherous. And this is a phenomenon that persisted. You look at Francois Duvalier, very much the same thing.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:47:24]:
He declares himself president for life with the capacity to pick his successor, which he did. And he saw himself as as he put it once as the person who was overlooking the city that was sleeping. He had a vision of himself above the city as a savior, someone who would transform the country. And that is pathological. And it leads to all kinds are really, very dangerous forms of behavior. And we know that, during Francois Duvalier, the were created in order to literally squash dissent violently. And that’s part of that vision. If you think that you are the only leader And if you think at the same time that only you, is possessed of the truth, then it becomes a dangerous path.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:48:19]:
We have other phenomenon phenomenon like this if you look more recently. I think that, Jean Pierre had also that problem of seeing himself as, someone who was, chosen ultimately by god and who had a mission. And that has to be seen as a significant issue if you want to generate a more democratic dispensation. But then you have the external conditions. And as we know, the external conditions, generate patterns of behavior that may be also conducive, to more repressive, forms of governance. If you look at the regime of, Jean Bertrand Aristide, he was confronted by the elite, the local elites, and by the international, powers, and they didn’t like it. They didn’t want him in power. So in order to survive, he started to have to generate, some sort of repressive apparatus to curb, the power of those that he saw as enemies, and that generates more problems and eventually, led to the crisis that we had, not only, in 1919, 91, but also the crisis in 2004.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:49:46]:
So most of our leaders have engaged by the authoritarian habitus. What I want to emphasize again is that individuals, when they come to power, do not necessarily, want to become dictators. But the conditions that surround, their governance in terms of the economy, the divisions of society, the class struggles, the color question, all of those things, really make that governance increasingly repressive. It’s very difficult to avoid that. And in order to avoid that, you would need to create certain institutions that would check the ultimate power of the president, and we haven’t had that. Even when we have them, they tend to be circumscribed, and decisions are made by executive Fiat and by 1 man. And I say 1 man because most of our leaders have been men. But I think that even if you had a woman, the problems would be the same.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:50:50]:
So the authoritarian forces people into patterns of behavior that are, given the structures of Haiti, increasingly authoritarian. You would need to fix the economy. You would need to fix the type of institutions that we have. And if you can do that, maybe there is a chance for someone, and for a movement to emerge that would ultimately, be able to move the system away from that or authoritarian habitus. And as I’ve said previously, the current crisis offers an opportunity. I mean, crises are not just things that that create a disaster. They’re also something that generate possibilities to create a different, future. And that is my hope, that that moment of crisis, that we are live living now is a moment to try to develop the type of institutions, the type of leadership that would change the nature of the economy, the nature of our institutions, and move gradually towards a more open society.
Dr. Robert Fatton [00:52:09]:
And what, I mean, you ask about, people who talk about good leaders. Well, it’s a refrain that you hear. If we only had good leaders, you may have perfectly decent people in power, but the condition under which they live generates very different individual once they have power. And it is that transformation that has to be really analyzed as not only something that has to do with individual psychology, but that has to do with the very structures of the system, the structures that to some extent, cage you into patterns of behavior, and that is an extremely, complicated, if you had a reality for anyone who would come to power at the moment. You quote James
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:53:04]:
here and, let me read the quote. Great men make history, but only such history as it is possible for them to make. Their freedom of achievement is limited by the necessities of their environment to portray the limits of those necessities and the realization, complete or partial, of all possibilities that is the true business of the historian. What are you trying to get at here? So does this form of of individualized strategy of marronage, reflect the the deep anarchic, soul, if you will, of the of of of the individual Haitian. They just will not submit to the state. You write that Haiti’s legacy of authoritarian politics is not rooted in some kind of African revenge against the new world, though though you acknowledge that our ancestors brought with them their own type of African habitus, you you found you found the following framings of our origin too reductive or useful. One one is that, Haitians establish, a quote, American, or that we were founded as the embodiment of of of of of is another one. You you, you know, pushing back against, if you will.
Patrick Jean-Baptiste [00:54:50]:
Right? You you reject that. You also dismiss the racist notion that Haitians were these irrational believers in this supernatural battling. You ground our origin story in hardware, it seems, not software, and very concrete, material structures that you think are still, in in in operation today.
00:00 Haitian revolution created authoritarian command and forced labor.
03:42 Haitian population resistant, created subsistence economy, messianic vision.
09:41 Haiti’s unproductive political and economic classes perpetuate poverty.
11:57 Haiti’s marginalized people face apartheid, social exploitation.
18:14 Haiti’s cultural and economic division explained briefly.
22:18 Improving education, feeding the population, inclusive politics.
24:57 Transform predatory republic into a more accountable system.
29:31 Urban-rural divide widened, excluding and exploiting populations.
30:50 Urban poor join gangs due to exploitation.
37:03 Haitian leaders as saviors; challenges for democracy.
41:20 Haiti faces political crisis, foreign intervention likely.
44:56 Leaders are confined by structural issues.
48:19 Struggles with power, governance, and external pressures.
50:50 Authoritarian patterns in Haiti can be changed.
53:04 Historian describes limits of great men’s achievements.
Primary Topic: The Origins and Persistence of Apartheid System in Haiti
- Dr. Fatton discusses the social, economic, and political apartheid system since Haiti’s foundation
- Divisions based on color, class, and colonial hierarchy
- Exclusion and marginalization of the majority
- Economic basis leading to exclusionary cultural and educational practices
- Advocacy for a more democratic and egalitarian society
- Focus on accountability and meeting basic needs of the population
- Fair and transparent elections
- Redistribution of wealth and resources
Primary Topic: Contradictions and Challenges After the Revolution
- Economic dependence undermining democracy
- Opposition from white powers
- Authoritarian habitus among leaders
- Moments of freedom like the collapse of the Duvalier dictatorship and the rise of the Lavalas movement
- Hindrance from internal and external forces leading to a legitimacy crisis and security issues
Primary Topic: Authoritarian Habitus and Historical Roots
- Historical roots of authoritarian habitus
- Violent Haitian revolution and the plantation economy
- Messianic vision held by leaders
- Definition of authoritarian habitus as shaped by material foundations of society
- Connection to the lack of productive bourgeoisie and economic stagnation
- Persistence throughout Haitian history and connection to widespread poverty and rise of gangs
- Need for both political and economic revolution to address the issue
- The mobility or immobility of the habitus throughout Haitian history
Primary Topic: Structural Issues and Economic Forces
- Critique of the savior narrative in Haitian literature
- Role of structural forces and economic issues
- Relationship to the lack of productive bourgeoisie and economic stagnation
- Politics becoming a zero-sum game
- Continuity of the authoritarian habitus and its connection to poverty
Primary Topic: Creating a New Order and Society
- Prioritizing budgetary resources for education and healthcare
- Establishing a secure political order accountable to the population
- Creating a compromise between different sectors of society
- Integrating the urban population into the political system
- Changing the economy to address urban exclusion and exploitation
- Addressing neoliberal economic system’s impact on urban population
Primary Topic: Transformation and the Future of Haiti
- Addressing authoritarian governance and repressive behavior
- Need to fix the economy and institutions for change
- Transformation through crises, new institutions, and leadership
- Grounding Haiti’s origin story in material structures rather than supernatural beliefs
- Influence of these structures on Haiti today
The Legacy of the Haitian Revolution: “How do we reestablish the plantation economy And how do we force people to work in a system where they are totally exploited?”
— Dr. Robert Fatton [00:03:13 → 00:03:23]
Haitian Economy and Reintegration: “So you had an attempt to reintegrate the Haitian economy into the world system, on the part of the Haitian leaders and on the part of the large population of Haitians that had just read itself from slavery, an attempt to resist that and to create their own kind of system of production that would satisfy their needs and satisfy, their, their lifestyle.”
— Dr. Robert Fatton [00:04:16 → 00:04:43]
The Impact of Authoritarian Habitus on Haiti’s Governance: “The habitus refers To a complicated repertoire of practices, attitudes, and behavior that are grounded in the material foundation of society.”
— Dr. Robert Fatton [00:08:20 → 00:08:31]
The Impact of Economic Factors on Authoritarianism: “So what you have is a political class and an economy class that are totally unproductive. And that has meant that the economy in general has failed to really generate a significant, productive force.”
— Dr. Robert Fatton [00:09:41 → 00:09:58]
Viral Topic: Democracy in Haiti
Quote: “I don’t think we can have kind of a utopian vision of democracy in Haiti, that is not on the agenda at the moment, but we should, nonetheless, keep, that vision of a really democratic, egalitarian society as something that would be a marker and that we would try, to strive for.”
— Dr. Robert Fatton [00:21:16 → 00:21:43]
Rebuilding Haiti: “And the way you can do that, obviously, is by having elections that are much better than those that we’ve had.”
— Dr. Robert Fatton [00:22:37 → 00:22:45]
The Future of Haiti: “If we manage to do that, and I hope that we can in the sense that we are confronting crisis now that are so profound that if we can’t find the energy and the the necessary imagination to create such a system that is more accountable, then we are doomed.”
— Dr. Robert Fatton [00:25:06 → 00:25:27]
Haitian Politics and Democratic Practice: “They have a vision of themselves as if they are saviors of the nation, and that’s a very dangerous notion and one that undermines the prospect of democratic practice.”
— Dr. Robert Fatton [00:37:20 → 00:37:29]
Haiti’s Political Crisis: “It is an extremely difficult one, because we don’t have the institutions. We do not have a compromise among the Haitian dominant groups.”
— Dr. Robert Fatton [00:41:40 → 00:41:48]
The impact of structural issues on leadership behavior: “The Impact of Structural Issues on Leadership Behavior: ‘When you look at the crisis of governance in the country, it is not just a question of leaders. There are structural issues that confine the leader to particular forms of behavior.'”
— Dr. Robert Fatton [00:45:04 → 00:45:19]
- How has the historical development of Haiti’s authoritarian habitus influenced the country’s current economic and political landscape?
- Dr. Robert Fatton emphasizes the need for a political and economic revolution in Haiti. What steps can be taken to initiate this transformation, and what obstacles might be encountered along the way?
- In what ways do societal divisions and external conditions contribute to the persistence of the authoritarian habitus in Haiti, and how might it be possible to change this ingrained structure?
- Is there a potential for a compromise between different sectors of Haitian society in order to create a more inclusive and accountable political order and restructure the economy? If so, what might this compromise look like?
- How has the urban population in Haiti been marginalized and exploited, particularly in the context of the neoliberal economic system, and what measures can be taken to integrate urban communities into the political system?
- What historical markers and moments of freedom does Haiti possess, and how have they shaped the nation’s ongoing struggle towards establishing a democratic dispensation for all its citizens?
- How do the economic dependence undermining democracy, opposition from white powers, and the authoritarian habitus contribute to the challenges in developing democratic institutions and leadership in Haiti?
- Dr. Fatton criticizes the savior narrative present in Haitian literature, emphasizing that the country’s issues are deeply rooted in structural forces and economic challenges. How might this more complex understanding of Haiti’s history and origins foster realistic and tangible solutions for the nation’s problems?
- What role do crises play in providing an opportunity for developing new institutions and leadership to transform the nature of Haiti’s economy and institutions, and what specific changes could potentially arise from such moments?
- How might a more concrete and contextual understanding of Haiti’s origin story, grounded in material structures rather than supernatural beliefs, shape present and future narratives about the nation and its potential for change?