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Bridging the class divide

Dr. Ron Daniels | 4/12/2011, 4:45 p.m.

One could make a case that, ever since the Haitian Revolution, there has existed a great divide between the masses of peasants, workers and the poor and the privileged economic elite that controls the vast majority of the land, wealth and resources of Haiti. This is largely true as well of the "political class" who have been sponsored or accommodated by the elite to run the affairs of state (often at the behest of external forces). For the political class the reins of government have provided access to resources and the opportunity to leverage their limited power to escape the fate of the masses of Haitian people who have perpetually lived in misery. This is not to say that there have been no enlightened leaders among the elite or the political class, but, by and large, the upper crust of Haitian society, with its appendages, has been self-interested, self-serving and self-aggrandizing to the detriment of the Haitian masses and ultimately the nation as a whole.

It is among the Haitian masses, those who have borne the brunt of the struggle for independence with their sacrifice and blood, that one finds an incredible energy, resiliency and will to fight for a better future. We witnessed this resiliency in the tent communities in the aftermath of the earthquake, where the people organized committees to govern themselves with virtually no help from the government or international agencies. It has been the masses, along with reform-minded and radical intellectuals and disaffected individuals from the political class who have consistently resisted dictatorship and authoritarianism in the quest for genuine self-determination, political and economic democracy. And at every turn the interests and aspirations of the masses have been deterred by the elite and political class (again, often at the behest of external forces).

If indeed a new Haiti is to ultimately rise from the ashes of the January 12, 2010 earthquake, this internal contradiction must be overcome. The class divide must be bridged and the enormous energy of the Haitian masses must become the central focal point for the creation of a just, humane and prosperous society. As has been the case in the past, the masses will continue to harbor legitimate suspicions of the intentions of the economic elite and a mistrust of a political class who have all too often failed to engage workers, peasants and the poor in the process of building a better nation. In fact, while the international community has often failed to do right by Haiti, it is also the case that the economic elite and political class have been characterized by incompetence, corruption and a callous disregard for the Haitian masses. While external factors are certainly a principal reason for Haiti's underdevelopment, it is also true that the lack of physical and social infrastructure to serve the interests of the nation is a function of cronyism, mismanagement and ineptitude within the elite and the political class. For example, I can find no plausible reason why Haiti's roads are chronically in a state of disrepair.