Communist neighbours in crisis: Haiti and Cuba’s divergent paths to failure – Andrew Kenny

Haiti and Cuba, separated by less than 80 kilometres, share histories rife with upheaval. Haiti, boasting the most successful slave uprising in 1804, now grapples with violence, displacement, and economic woes, labelled a “failed state.” Cuba, under white communist rule since 1959, faces similar turmoil. As South Africa’s foreign aid reaches Cuba, questions arise about aiding Haiti’s black regime. These neighbouring nations, once rich in promise, now struggle, begging the world to ponder their divergent paths to failure.

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By Andrew Kenny

Less than 80 kilometres separate Haiti from Cuba. In Haiti in 1804, a large group of black men staged the most successful slave uprising in history. In Cuba in 1959, a small group of white men staged a coup that led to communist rule. The black descendants of the freed slaves still rule Haiti. The white communists still rule Cuba. Both countries are in an awful mess. They are probably the two poorest countries in the Caribbean. It is interesting to look at their histories and wonder what went wrong in each case.

Haiti is in the news now. Thousands of people have been killed in gang violence, 360 000 are internally displaced, there are crippling shortages of food, medicine, and water. Electricity is scarce. Haiti is said to be becoming a “failed state” (that term is never well defined). Turmoil and instability have followed the murder of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021.

The South African minister of foreign affairs, Dr Naledi Pandor, is visiting Jamaica, which is far more prosperous than either Cuba or Haiti. I wonder if she will discuss those countries there. She recently announced South African foreign aid to the white dictatorship in Cuba. Will she soon announce South African foreign aid to the black regime in Haiti? I find myself thinking she will not.

The slave rebellion in Haiti 220 years ago was the culmination of a long, bloody, and complicated history involving wars between European states, colonial conquest, and racial strife between whites, black Africans, native Americans, and mixtures of each. In October 1492, Christopher Columbus, an Italian sponsored by the Spanish crown, crossed the Atlantic in three tiny ships and landed somewhere on the north coast of what is now the Dominican Republic but which he called Hispaniola (“Spanish Island”). Today the island consists of Haiti in the west and the Dominican Republic in the east.

The indigenous people (often called “Indians”) he encountered there were the Taino, whose local enemy were the Caribs. Almost immediately Columbus set in motion the conquest and annihilation by Europeans of the local people who had been living in the Americas for over 12 000 years. The Europeans brought smallpox and other diseases to which the locals had no immunity and which exterminated most of them. In 1501, in a spirit of high Christian piety, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel of Spain allowed black African slaves to be sent to Hispaniola to work the mines and farms. Centuries before, black Africans had come into contact with the animals that the Europeans had domesticated and which had infected them with smallpox and other diseases; both Europeans and Africans had acquired immunity. Black slavery began in the Americas, first by Spain and Portugal in the south, and then by France and Britain in the north.

Brutal treatment

In the 17th Century, the French began colonising the west of Hispaniola, which they considered the most fertile part. They fought the Spanish over it and won. They renamed the island Saint-Domingue. It developed a booming agricultural economy based on sugar, coffee and indigo, entirely dependent on black African slaves. A third of all trans-Atlantic slaves went to Saint-Domingue. By 1789, there were 500 000 African slaves and only 32,000 French. The slaves were so brutally treated, with bestial tortures, and kept in such vile conditions, that they could not sustain their population and fresh slaves had to be continuously brought over from Africa, thus keeping African culture and religion alive on the island.

The native Americans had been almost all wiped out but there was a sizeable population of mulattoes (mixed race people). The French Revolution added hope, violence and confusion. In theory, slavery had become illegal in all French possessions; in practice it had not. Some factions in France and Saint-Domingue fought to end slavery, some to keep it, some for Saint-Domingue to become an independent country, some for it to remain a French colony – a French slave possession. Finally, Napoleon, the heir to the revolution, sent out an armed force to crush the slave uprising and its hopes of independence. He used the most horrible brutality against the black men. He failed. Moreover, he had become distracted by the war against Britain. So, he gave up Saint-Domingue. The black slaves won. In 1804, they declared independence and called their new country Haiti – mean “Land of Mountains” in Taino. They also did something which as far as I know black Africans had never done before or ever did since.

They massacred the white men who remained. The French had tortured and slaughtered them; they now tortured and slaughtered the French. They killed over 3 000. As far as I know this is the only time that black Africans have ever massacred a large number of white people. In Africa, whites have massacred large numbers of blacks (as in King Leopold’s Congo and Germany’s South West Africa), blacks have massacred large numbers of blacks (in innumerable countries, including South Africa) but blacks have never massacred large numbers of whites. The worst killing of whites by blacks was probably in the Congo after independence but the numbers were not high. (In Europe, of course, whites had been massacring whites in huge numbers for thousands of years.)

In the following 220 years, Haiti’s fortunes have gone up and down – with the emphasis on the down. (In 1844, the larger eastern part of the island broke away from Haiti and became the Dominican Republic.) There have been some good rulers with decent policies and goodwill towards their subjects. Unfortunately, there have also been many tyrants, crooks and misfits, such as Papa Doc Duvalier, and his son, Baby Doc Duvalierwho together ruled from 1957 to 1986.

Voodoo

Intervention by the USA from time to time unsettled things even more, although it was not always bad. Haiti has many interesting characteristics such as Voodoo, a local religion with a mixture of Christianity, African animism, and other magic beliefs. The official language is French but the main spoken language is a Haitian creole, which is apparently full of colour. (English has some of the linguistic features of a creole, a trading language used by countries with different languages trading with each other.) But the general fate of Haiti is failure: a poor, violent, unhealthy, unhappy country with poor infrastructure, where most people’s greatest ambition is emigration.

Why has it failed? White racists would answer that black African cannot rule themselves. They failed in post-colonial Africa and they failed in Haiti. I do not believe race is the reason for either failure. I think geography, history, and institutions are the reason, but it is a complicated reason. However, I strongly believe that we cannot ignore either failure, as white liberals are inclined to do. (They screamed against every crime of apartheid but are silent on the crimes of black Africa.) We must face up to them and try to understand them. Otherwise, how can we make a better world? Meanwhile, 80 km away, white people have shown that they, too, can make a country fail.

Cuba was visited by Columbus in 1492 after Hispaniola. Spain then conquered it, colonised it, and ruled it for nearly four centuries. It became the world’s biggest sugar exporter. Thanks to British pressure, Spain had abolished slavery in Cuba by the end of the 19th Century. After the Spanish-American War in 1898, Spain withdrew from Cuba, which became independent in 1902. Cuba was heavily economically dependent on the USA.

In 1933 there was a coup by Fulgencia Batista, a working-class man, a half native American (“Indian”), whose father had worked on the sugar plantations, as he did himself. The USA thought him a dangerous radical, of communist tendency, and began trying to undermine him. Actually, Batista was really just a gangster, although the Cuba economy did quite well under him. Cuba then was riddled with men with guns, including the students at Havana University, including a rich student called Fidel Castro. Castro was quite different from Batista. He was lily-white, of pure conquistador blood. His father owned a farm with 500 workers. Castro had no ambition except for power and violence. He raised a gang of rebels to seize Cuba by force. The USA helped him by denying arms to Batista, and USA journalists mainly supported Castro and decried Batista. In 1959 Castro took power and Batista fled. There had been very little fighting and very much propaganda, and Castro won the propaganda contest thanks to help from the USA. Castro then proceeded to terrorise and enslave Cuba.

Convert to Marxism

Castro became a communist, a convert to Marxism. He crushed all democracy, banned all political parties, stopped all freedom of speech, killed opponents, crushed the working classes, and took over the Cuban economy. Progressive people in the West just loved him for this. He and his pretty, sadistic sidekick, Che Guevara, become the idols of Western university students. He shared many characteristics with Hitler but one he definitely did not share was sexual behaviour. Whereas Hitler was sexless, Castro was highly heterosexual. He grabbed any woman he wanted; it is said he insisted on sexual intercourse twice a day, with different women; he is said to have hundreds of children all over Cuba. Naturally feminists in the West adored him. He persecuted homosexuals – maricones (“faggots”).

He turned Cuba from one of the richest economies in Latin America to one of the poorest. Ordinary Cuban people – those who could – fled Cuba in their hundreds of thousands. They fled the tyranny, the deprivation and the hunger of communism. While Castro ignored the plight of ordinary people, he put huge resources into his armed forces. He became a white imperialist, helping Russia to overthrow old African governments, such as Ethiopia’s under Haile Selassie, and to install brutal communist ones, bringing subjugation and famine to black Africans. In Angola he helped install one of the most corrupt governments on Earth, although his plans there where somewhat stymied by a small South African army action in 1986, which brought him to the negotiating table.

As you would expect, the ANC loved Fidel Castro, and loved his brother who took over when he died, and loves his white successor. (The racial mix in Cuba is contested, but is often given as 64% white, 27% mulatto, 9% black.) The ANC might fairly say, “We don’t hate all whites. Look how we loved Fidel Castro!” What it hates is not white people but the West. It also loves Vladimir Putin. Dr Pandor recently announced that the South African taxpayer will be sending money to Cuba in foreign aid. In South Africa, thanks to the ANC, 27% of children (mainly black children) have had their brains permanently damaged by malnutrition. But Dr Pandor would rather spend money on Cuban dictators than food for starving South African children. Actually, we have been sending aid to Cuba in a disguised form for years. When we spend a fortune importing Cuban doctors and engineers, rather than using our own, cheaper, better doctors and engineers, we are really just giving Cuba foreign aid. The ANC says in the same breath that Cuba is a wonderful success story that we must emulate and that Cuba is a miserable failure we must send money to.

Haiti, Cuba, and the USA are all short distances from each other. People from Haiti do not want to go to Cuba. People from Cuba do not want to go to Haiti. People from Cuba and Haiti want to go to the USA. People from the USA do not want to go to Haiti or Cuba. Black Americans do not want to go to black-ruled Haiti. Socialist Americans do not want to go to socialist Cuba.

What made Cuba fail? Communism. Communism always results in oppression, inequality, and economic decline, and often in famine. What made Haiti fail? Not so obvious. It is not clear why different ruling races produce different outcomes for countries. This is of the highest importance to investigate.

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This article was first published by Daily Friend and is republished with permission

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