The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

From a rich history to a poverty-stricken present

Mar 1, 2004

Haiti was once a rich French colony called Saint-Dominique. During the 1600s and 1700s the French plantation owners brought in black slaves who were forced to turn sugar into profit. Starting in 1791, the slaves of Haiti revolted. They fought the French until 1804, when Haiti became the first black republic in the Western hemisphere.

But the French extracted a price for this bold defeat of their colonial forces. Haiti faced the equivalent of a blockade. With few resources, without materials coming in trade, the country was in no position to develop. The population was driven further into poverty, their only crops were sugar and coffee. The French who remained played an important role in the economy. But for the vast majority of the population, there was nothing but desperation, and the French supported one brutal dictator after another to maintain control.

The U.S. ties go back at least as far as 1915, when the government of Woodrow Wilson sent in U.S. troops to help reinforce dictatorial rule. These troops occupied the country for 20 years. The U.S. has reinforced dictatorships ever since.

Haiti has been forced to pay for 200 years, gaining nothing from the French or the Americans except for the ongoing exploitation of its impoverished work force.