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maandag 27 september 2021

#WORLD #WORLDWIDE #FRANCE #ANARCHISM #News #Journal #Update - (en) #France, #UCL #AL #318 - Sudhir Hazareesingh (historian): "The abolition of 1793 was imposed by the black revolutionaries" (ca, de, it, fr, pt)[machine translation]

Mauritian, anglophone and francophone, Sudhir Hazareesingh is a researcher at the
University of Oxford. A specialist in the French Revolution and the First Empire,
he recently published Toussaint Louverture (Flammarion, 2020), a monumental
biography using unpublished sources. He answered a few questions from Alternative
Libertaire. ---- During the Domingo insurrection of 1791, we saw multiple leaders
emerge - Halaou, Makaya, Hyacinthe, Jean-François, Biassou, Lamour Dérance...
What did Toussaint Louverture stand out for? ---- Sudhir Hazareesingh: Toussaint
stood out for his charisma (his supporters venerated him), his remarkable talent
for civil and military organization (he was a true leader), his moral and
intellectual qualities (he was equally nourished by the culture of the
Enlightenment of the political and spiritual traditions of Africa and the West
Indies), the scope and fluidity of its networks (he had contacts in different
circles, even among his opponents), his ecumenism (he could address both
rebellious slaves than to whites and people of color), his desire to transcend
the ethnic and geographical cleavages that separated his 500,000 black brothers
and sisters (the majority of whom were born in Africa), and finally and above all
by his strategic vision for the regeneration of Santo Domingo,founded on the
great republican principles of equality and fraternity.

Civil commissioners Polverel and Sonthonax resigned themselves to abolishing
slavery in August-September 1793. Yet Toussaint waited until May 1794 to join the
republic. Why this delay?

Sudhir Hazareesingh:Toussaint was rightly suspicious of the commissioners,
because when they landed in Santo Domingo they refused to recognize the
legitimacy of the insurrection of 1791, which they wanted to fight. They declared
that they did not want to abolish slavery, even going so far as to translate the
Black Code into Kreyòl. The abolition of 1793 was imposed on the commissioners by
the black revolutionaries. The Spaniards, for their part, initially treated
Toussaint and his men with much more dignity and respect. Louverture finally saw
General Étienne Laveaux as an interlocutor to really trust, and it was then that
he felt sufficiently reassured to change sides. But I would say that it was not
he who went to the French: it was they who rallied to the ideas of the insurgents
in Santo Domingo.

Why didn't Toussaint try to export the anti-slavery revolution, especially to
Jamaica?

Sudhir Hazareesingh: For five reasons. First, he always acted cautiously, and
only committed when he thought he could succeed. Second, he saw the expansionism
of the Directory[1]as a metropolitan strategy unsuited to West Indian realities,
where the naval domination of the British was unavoidable. Third, he knew that
the Directory wanted to weaken its power by sending it to war outside. Fourth, he
did not want to give the English or Spanish imperialists a pretext to attack
Santo Domingo. Quinto, he believed that insurgencies could only succeed if they
were anchored in the mentalities and practices of local societies. Robespierre
had said that no one liked the "armed missionaries"; I don't know if Toussaint
knew this sentence, but he fully shared this feeling.

"It was the French who rallied to the ideas of the insurgents in Santo Domingo"
It is commonly said that Toussaint Louverture was an excellent warlord, but that,
when peace was established, he greatly disappointed the peasantry. Do you share
this opinion?

Sudhir Hazareesingh: I do not dispute that the last years of the Louverturian
regime disappointed the peasantry. But we have to put things in context, and look
at the situation from an objectively revolutionary point of view. In 1795, after
four years of revolt in the plantations, agricultural production had completely
collapsed in the colony. Without it, Toussaint was aware that Saint-Domingue and
its revolution would perish: fine principles are not enough in themselves. The
only way to restart the agricultural economy quickly was to restart the
plantations, and Toussaint applied this policy with method and rigor.

The economic successes, indisputable, allowed Santo Domingo to revive fully from
1799-1800, in particular by exporting its products to France and the United
States. It was thanks to this economic revival that Toussaint succeeded in
rallying the white settlers, in avoiding the diplomatic isolation of the
revolution, and in obtaining the political and military support of the United
States from President John Adams.

There was certainly a political price to pay: Toussaint imposed a regime of hard
work, with an almost military discipline that forced agricultural workers to
remain on the plantations - while being paid of course. But there was no viable
alternative in the short term: if Toussaint had confiscated and redistributed the
land to the peasants, there would have been no economic recovery after 1795, the
settlers would have left (taking with them the know-how necessary for
agricultural production), and the revolution would have been wrecked.

It is difficult to understand why and how the skilful Toussaint allowed himself
to be stopped by the French in 1802, instead of going into the maquis while
waiting for the rainy season to regain the advantage. What is your hypothesis?

Sudhir Hazareesingh: I admit that I still don't quite understand how he got
caught. Perhaps he thought he had done enough militarily to impose a lasting
truce, which would ultimately work in his favor with the onset of the rains. He
had also undoubtedly underestimated the treachery of the French soldiers -
Toussaint conceived "the honor As the noblest of virtues - but also the
compromises of his own subordinates, in particular Dessalines, who clearly made a
pact with the French to satisfy their own ambitions. I have Haitian friends who
think that Toussaint let himself be taken, having led his own revolution to its
end, to pave the way for the general insurrection. It's a bit of a romantic and
fatalistic view, but maybe there is some truth to it.

Let's do some story-fiction. According to you, what could have happened for the
rest of the revolution if Toussaint Louverture had not been captured? If it was
he, and not Dessalines, who had led Haiti to independence?

Sudhir Hazareesingh: That's a great question. I first note that the strategy that
led Santo Domingo to independence is the one that Toussaint himself had developed
in the first months of 1802: the retreat inland, the scorched earth policy, the
political unification of the various components of the resistance, in particular
the alliance between blacks and people of color. It is this policy that
Dessalines will put into practice. But the latter was much more sectarian than
Toussaint: he eliminated those from his own camp who could give him offense (like
Sans-Souci), and after the final victory, the white population was put to death.

Toussaint Louverture, for his part, would have sought to continue his policy of
"national" cooperation between whites, people of color and blacks, and therefore
to build a multiracial republic where power would have been shared between a
black political elite and a white economic elite (a much like post-apartheid
South Africa). It would have been necessary to compromise with the white owners,
and without doubt it would have been difficult and painful. But Toussaint would
have tried this experiment, and perhaps he could have carried it to the end, like
Nelson Mandela.

Sudhir Hazareesingh, Toussaint Louverture, Flammarion, 2020, 576 pages, 29 euros.
It should also be remembered that the solution adopted by Jean-Jacques Dessalines
will ultimately lead to a confrontation with France, which will demand and
obtain, in 1825, the payment of a heavy indemnity by Haiti (150 million gold
francs) as compensation to the French colonists for the loss of their slaves - a
shameful diktat which will completely plague the economy of the black republic
until the end of the XIX Ecentury and beyond.

We can therefore imagine another road, louverturienne, towards Haitian
independence, more consensual and potentially richer in possibilities. Napoleon,
exiled to Saint Helena, himself admits that he was wrong to send the military
expedition of 1802, and that he should have trusted Toussaint. A letter to this
effect, naming him "captain-general" of the colony was moreover ready (I found it
in the archives); it was never sent.

If Bonaparte had listened to his reason rather than his racism and the cries of
the colonial lobby, and had forged a lasting alliance with Toussaint, what an
interesting prospect would have opened up in 1800: one can imagine a Louverturian
regime in which the coexistence between different ethnic groups would have taken
place. imposed, and the colony would have slowly but surely emancipated itself
from the metropolis, leading to independence in fact if not in reality (one of
Toussaint's favorite Kreyòls proverbs had "slowly gone far" ).

And the most attractive in this scenario: no reestablishment of slavery in the
French colonies, because Toussaint Louverture, allied with the French, would not
have allowed it. The contradiction between the French Revolution and slavery
would therefore have been overcome in a more creative way, giving an even
stronger impetus to abolitionism across the Atlantic world, notably in the United
States and Great Britain. And instead of being founded on white power and racial
hierarchy, French colonialism could have taken a rather different turn.

Interview by Irène (UCL Haute-Savoie), Benjamin (UCL Marseille) and Guillaume
(UCL Montreuil)

https://www.unioncommunistelibertaire.org/?Sudhir-Hazareesingh-historien-L-abolition-de-1793-a-ete-imposee-par-les
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