The Children of San Souci, Dessalines/Toussaint, and Petion.

Author:Mocombe, Paul C.
Position:Contemporary representations of class struggle through ideological positions of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Toussaint L'Ouverture, Alexandre Petion and other leaders of Haitian Revolution - Report


Since 1986 with the topple of the Haitian dictator, Jean-Claude "Baby-Doc" Duvalier (1951-2014), whose family ruled Haiti for almost thirty-years, the rallying cry of Haitian protest movements against dictatorship and American neoliberal policies on the island has been, "the children of Dessalines are fighting or stand against the children of Petion." The politically charged moniker is an allusion to the continuous struggles over control of the Haitian nation-state and its ideological apparatuses between the Africans who are deemed the descendants of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the father of the Haitian nation-state; and the mulatto elites (and more recently the Syrian class) who are deemed heirs of the mulatto first President of the Haitian Republic, Alexandre Petion.

Since his assassination in 1806, Jean-Jacques Dessalines's (1758-1806) name has been invoked by the Black, educated, Haitian grandon (landowning merchants) class whenever Haiti is threatened by outside forces or during the American occupation (1915-1934) when the name, La Dessalinienne, of the national anthem, written by elitist liberal Justin Lherisson in 1903, was adopted and the myth, also penned by Lherisson, surrounding the Haitian flag was reinforced. In the case of the flag, the myth, which is now taken to be an historical fact, is that Dessalines tore out the white of the French tri-colors and had Catherine Flon, a mulattress, sew the blue and red vertically together with her hair. Both the myth, which were part of Haitian history texts penned by Lherisson and Windsor Bellegarde, surrounding the flag and the composition of the national anthem named after Dessalines were reinforced to foster nationalism amongst the masses in the face of the American occupation (1915-1934).

Contemporarily, in the age of globalization under American hegemony, Dessalines's name is invoked by the Black grandon and petit-bourgeois classes once again as they fight against United Nations (UN) occupation and American imperialism. The ideological moniker, children of Petion v. children of Dessalines, has been made famous, more recently, by former Haitian Senator Jean-Charles Moise and Assad Volcy, the coordinator of the political movement, Platfom Pitit Desalin, who were waging a political struggle against the American backed Michel Joseph Martelly right-winged government (2011-2016) and his political party, Pati Ayisyen Tet Kale (PHTK). This work, using a structurationist (phenomenological structuralism), structural Marxist understanding of practical consciousness constitution, explores the origins and basis of this Haitian protest cry, "the children of Petion v. the children of Dessalines."

Although viewed within racial terms, with Petion representing the practical consciousness of the mulatto elites and Dessalines the African masses, for a long time, this work suggests that the moniker, contemporarily, as utilized by the educated Black grandon and petit-bourgeois classes, has come to represent Marxist ideological categories for racial-class (nationalistic) struggles on the island of Haiti against dictatorship, the Haitian oligarchs, and American neoliberal policies: the ideological position of Petion representing the neoliberal capitalist views of the Arab minorities, mulatto elites, and petit-bourgeois Blacks of merchants, hotel and factory owners, and executives; and Haitian nationalism, economic reform, and social justice representing the ideological position of Dessalines as articulated by the grandons, the landowning, professional, and drug-dealing Black classes of Haiti, claiming to speak for the African masses, i.e., the children of Sans Souci, the Congolese-born revolutionary leader of the Haitian Revolution. In this work, I conclude, however, that the moniker, as currently utilized, neither represents the position of Dessalines, nor that of the African majority, i.e., the children of Sans Souci. It is simply political rhetoric utilized by the children of Toussaint Louverture, the petit-bourgeois Black grandon class, seeking to integrate into the class structure of the capitalist world-system via their control of the Haitian nation-state and its ideological apparatuses at the expense of the Arab, mulatto, and petit-bourgeois Black oligarchs, i.e., the children of Petion, and the African majority, the children of Sans Souci.

The moniker in the final analysis is a truncated understanding of Haitian identity constitution and their oppositions. Supplemented with the metaphor, the children of Sans Souci, I conclude that the moniker becomes an allusion to the practical consciousnesses that would come to constitute the Haitian nation-state following the Haitian Revolution: the children of Sans Souci representing the African majority and their practical consciousness (the Vodou Ethic and the spirit of communism) and the children of Dessalines/Toussaint representing the embourgeoised practical consciousness (the Catholic/Protestant Ethic and the spirit of capitalism) of the free and creole Blacks, which is no different from the practical consciousness of the children of Petion, the mulattoes, whites, and Arabs of the island.

Background of the Problem

If the African and diasporic experience as encapsulated in slavery, colonization, abolitionism, and decolonization dialectically represents the intent of formerly enslaved African people to be like their masters amidst racism, slavery, colonization, and their structural differentiation, the Africans of Haiti who met at Bois Caiman, August 14th, 1791, and other congresses to commence the Haitian Revolution attempted to do the contrary (Mocombe, 2009, 2016, 2017). That is, they, anti-dialectically, rejected not only their enslaved status, racism, and colonization, but the very practical consciousness of their former enslavers for their own structuring structure or form of system and social integration, i.e., the Vodou Ethic and the spirit of communism social class language game (Mocombe, 2016, 2017). Their discourse and discursive practices would eventually be supplanted by the practical consciousness or language game of the Affranchis, free (creole) Blacks and mulatto, gens de couleur, bourgeoisies, seeking, like their liberal bourgeois Black counterparts in America and the diaspora (the Black Atlantic), equality of opportunity, distribution, and recognition with their blanc counterparts within the capitalist world-system via the Haitian state and its ideological apparatuses. Prior to this usurpation, however, the Vodou and Kreyol ceremony or congress at Bois Caiman under the leadership of Dutty Boukman, Edaise, and Cecile Fatima, the Vodou manbo priestess, is a rejection of both enslaved status and European civilization, and cannot be, contrary to Susan Buck-Morss's (2009) work, Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History, and others, conceptualized within the framework of Hegel's master/slave dialectic or within postmodern, post-structural, or postcolonial theories. Whereas the purposive-rationality of the two bourgeoisies, free landowning Blacks and mulatto elites, can be conceptualized within a Hegelian dialectical, postmodern, post-structural, and postcolonial struggle, that of oungan yo (Vodou Priests), manbo yo (priestesses), gangan yo (herbal healers), and granmoun yo (elders) of Bois Caiman, who would assume the leadership of the masses of the provinces and mountains, cannot. The purposive-rationality of the latter was not a structurally differentiated identity as found amongst the creole Blacks and mulatto elites.

Oungan yo, manbo yo, gangan yo, and granmoun yo of Bois Caiman offered an alternative structuring structure (form of system and social integration) for organizing the material resource framework and the agential initiatives of social actors, and must not be enframed within the structurally differentiating dialectical, postmodern, post-structural, and postcolonial logic of the West and the Affranchis (today's Haitian mulatto, Arab oligarchy, and petit-bourgeois Blacks) (Du Bois, 2012; Mocombe, 2016, 2017).

Essentially, when the Haitian Revolution commences in 1791, there are three distinct groups vying for control of the island: the whites (blancs), free people of color and mulattoes (Affranchis), and the enslaved and escaped (maroon) Africans of the island. The latter, over sixty-seven percent of the population, were not a structurally differentiated other. They had their own practical consciousness, what Paul C. Mocombe (2016, 2017) calls the "Vodou Ethic and the spirit of communism," by which they went about recursively (re)organizing and reproducing the material resource framework. The former two, free Blacks and gens de couleur (Affranchis), were interpellated, embourgeoised, and differentiated by the language, communicative discourse, mode of production, ideology, and ideological apparatuses of the West and shared the same European practical consciousness, the Catholic/Protestant Ethic and the spirit of capitalism social class language game, as the whites. The latter social class language game stood against the Vodou Ethic and the spirit of communism social class language game of the majority of the Africans who were interpellated and ounganified/manboified by the language, communicative discourse, mode of production, ideology, and ideological apparatuses of oungan yo, manbo yo, gangan yo, and granmoun yo (James, 1986; Fick, 1990; Du Bois, 2004, 2012; Ramsey, 2014; Mocombe, 2016, 2017). (1)

The whites were divided between large plantation owners, grand blanc, and petit-blancs, i.e., managers, drivers, artisans, merchants, and teachers. The former, grand blanc, were independent-minded and like the American colonists, wanted political and economic independence from their mother-country, France, where their rights and economic interests were not represented in the National Assembly. The petit-blancs were more racist and feared the alliance between the larger landowners and the...

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