Jacobin Betrays the Black Jacobins’ Descendants

Robert Fatton Jr’s article “Killing Haitian Democracy” appears on the Jacobin website with the following subtext: “The US’s repeated imperialist interventions in Haiti have left a legacy of despotism.” This certiainly an accurate assessment but what’s bizarre about this article are its flagrant omissions. American most recent interventions — in 1994 and 2004 — as well as the resistance to them are completely and inexplicably glossed over.

It’s as if the struggle of the Haitian people against American imperialism and capitalism was a past, historical phenomenon rather than an ongoing battle.

In Operation Uphold Democracy, the U.S. helped overthrow a military regime and reinstalled Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide, the leftist leader of the Lavalas movement in exchange for accepting the terms put forward by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The best introduction to the fateful events of 1994 might be Stan Goff‘s Hideous Dream since he participated in the invasion as a Special Forces soldier before he became a left-wing radical.


In 2004, the Bush administration overthrew Aristide to punish him for doing things like raising the minimum wage. The song rapper Joell Ortiz put out after the 2010 earthquake devastated the country and killed thousands did a more thorough job covering the 2004 U.S.-led coup than this article written by a scholar did.

Furthermore, there has been a small but ongoing Haitian solidarity movement in the U.S. and Canada for some time now. They deserve better than to be whitewashed out of the history of their own struggle by a magazine named after their predecessors, the Black Jacobins, no?

But the point of the article isn’t to promote solidarity with the Haitian people and their actually-existing struggle for freedom and social justice but to condemn U.S. military action as always the worst option for all peoples and countries in all cases without exception. Since Aristide clearly did not agree, he is simply erased in the ‘Jacobin‘ historical narrative. Since nearly 250,000 Haitian expatriates demonstrated in New York City in 1994 to demand the U.S. restore Aristide to the presidency, they simply do not exist in the ‘Jacobin‘ rendering of their struggle for democracy.

Better to ignore these difficulties and contradictions than confront them openly and explicitly seems to be the ‘Jacobin‘ approach here.

Unconditional opposition to any and every U.S. military action is understandable and — given America’s long history of backing tyrants, fascists, and other reactionary scum the world over — more than justified. But that opposition can’t possibly be effective if it is grounded in ignoring inconvenient counter-examples or invovles robbing the very people we are supposed to be in solidarity with of their own histories.

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