Posts tagged Colonialism

Pigs as a Paradigm

This is a quote from Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s book, Eyes of the Heart, as quoted by k gallagher, who was in turn quoting Sabina England. I’d been meaning to repost this for some time, but some re-posting on the C4SS listserv reminded me of it to-day.

The history of the eradication of the Haitian Creole pig population in the 1980s is a classic parable of globalization. Haiti’s small, black, Creole pigs were at the heart of the peasant economy. An extremely hearty breed, well adapted to Haiti’s climate and conditions, they ate readily-available waste products, and could survive for three days without food. Eighty to 85% of rural households raised pigs; they played a key role in maintaining the fertility of the soil and constituted the primary savings bank of the peasant population. Traditionally a pig was sold to pay for emergencies and special occasions (funerals, marriages, baptisms, illnesses and, critically, to pay school fees and buy books for the children when school opened each year in October).

In 1982 international agencies assured Haiti’s peasants their pigs were sick and had to be killed (so that the illness would not spread to countries to the North).[1] Promises were made that better pigs would replace sick pigs. With an efficiency not since seen among development projects, all of the Creole pigs were killed over a period of thirteen months.

Two years later the new, better pigs came from Iowa. They were so much better that they required clean drinking water (unavailable to 80% of the Haitian population), imported feed (costing $90 a year when the per capita income was about $130), and special roofed pigpens. Haitian peasants quickly dubbed them prince a quatre pieds, (four-footed princes). Adding insult to injury, the meat did not taste as good. Needless to say, the repopulation program was a complete failure. One observer of the process estimated that in monetary terms peasants lost $600 million dollars. There was a 30% drop in enrollment in rural schools, there was a dramatic decline in protein consumption in rural Haiti, a devastating decapitalization of the peasant economy and an incalculable negative impact on Haiti’s soil and agricultural productivity. The Haitian peasantry has not recovered to this day.

Most of rural Haïti is still isolated from global markets, so for many peasants the extermination of the Creole pigs was their first experience of globalization.

–Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Eyes of the Heart: Seeking a Path for the Poor in the Age of Globalization (Common Courage Press, 2000). 13-15.

This insanely destructive scorched-earth massacre of indigenous pigs — carried out by an alliance of multi-national inter-government agencies, and followed by a reconstruction project that amounted to a context-ignorant, centrally-directed forced march towards neoliberal modernization — is a near-perfect illustration of colonialist logic and its real-world effects. The results were a massive ratcheting up of the fixed costs of living for peasants; the violent destruction of locally-based, resilient sources of capital; a massive subsidized transfer of capital and trade into the hands of corporate managers; and the attempted, government-driven remaking of an agricultural economy along lines dictated by the business models of the Metropole. The ruling elite in the U.S., their allies in the international development racket and in the ruling elite of the government that controlled Haiti destroyed local economies, forcibly remade markets in their preferred image, and then called the results progress and integration into global markets. It is of course globalization of a sort — the sort practiced by Alexander or Caesar or Genghis Khan. Whether or not it has anything to do with markets, depends on what it is you think that you are defending, or criticizing, when you talk about markets. If self-organizing markets are going to be worth anything at all, they have to mean more than a cash-nexus yoked to human relations by any means necessary and kept on there no matter the cost to the people’s livelihoods or to the lives of people, animals and the earth. Where markets are valuable, they are valuable precisely because of basic respect for human-scale ownership and evolving patterns of trade, and the people-powered, decentralized, informal and adaptable sorts of relationships like those that emerged around raising and keeping creole pigs — not because of engineered commerce, or the formalized, centralized, high-overhead, government-driven models of industrial agribusiness hog-production.

And if you think colonialism, neoliberalism and forced modernization are only about what happens outside the borders of the U.S., think again. This parable has wings, and colonial reconstruction knows no borders. It’s not the first time that the U.S. government has massacred pigs as a matter of policy; and it applies to lots of other kinds of small-scale personal capital and localized markets, in the internal as well as the external projects of colonizing governments. See, for example, Scratching By, Enclosure Comes to Los Angeles, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, etc. etc. etc.


  1. [1][Aristide is referring to the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture’s program to eradicate African Swine Fever in Haiti — by eradicating the pigs. There was an outbreak in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which began in the Dominican Republic. The military dictatorship controlling Haiti at the time attempted a quarantine which slaughtered 20,000 pigs in the area of the Dominican border; they did not pay any compensation to the farmers. IICA, with the collaboration of USAID, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the military dictatorship in Haiti, began the extermination campaign in the 1980s. IICA planned to compensate farmers US $40 for each pig they slaughtered, but when the dictatorship announced the program they made no mention of compensation; so middle-men frequently bought the pigs at a fifth of the fixed compensation. See also Phillip Gaertner, Whether Pigs Have Wings. –CJ.]

Wednesday Lazy Linking

  • Marketplace (May 9, 2013): Does fair trade clothing help the consumer and the retailer?: NPR’s Marketplace features a short story on Fair Trade certification for clothing, and efforts to address the working conditions in Bangladesh sweatshops. Along the way, there’s a couple quotes from my co-editor on Markets Not Capitalism, Gary Chartier, about the supply-chain practices that many clothing-industry TNCs use to displace responsibility and insulate themselves from accountability for lethal working conditions in their factories.

  • Cathy Reisenwitz @ Sex And The State (May 15, 2013): Fighting Sexism, Sexily I’ve long contended that libertarians have a habit of downplaying or denying certain problems when they don’t like the proposed solutions. For example, when people talk about sexism, or the wage gap, it’s common for a libertarian to retort that the wage gap isn’t real, or can be explained by individual choices. I understand this desire to avoid the coercive solutions many people suggest for fighting sexism . . . The thing is, Rothbard was super bothered by a state monopoly on force. We libertarians need to get really bothered by sexism. And then we need to come up with cultural, and not state, solutions. . . . (With an example of creative thinking and guerrilla theater, featuring a cheesecake pin-up poster of Bro-sie the Riveter.)

  • Marja Erwin (May 2, 2013): Trans Politics and Colonialism: A Few Questions?. Read the whole thing.

  • Marja Erwin (April 23, 2013): I still think market anarchism has a lot to contribute to the rest of anarchism. This too. I think it’s important to have a system where people can communicate what they need, and what they want, and what they don’t need, and what they can do to help, and I think it’s important to have systems where people can work things among themselves, if for some reason they can’t work things out through the community or union or federation orgs. . . . (Against all monopolizations of social capital.)

  • Mark Stoval @ On the Mark (May 7, 2013) claims that he is going to take A look at Mutualism. In comments, Roderick Long points out that he ought to have looked harder. Or, really, tried looking at any mutualist writing at all, rather than just doing what he seems to have done, which was to scan ahead until he reached a fixed phrase (labor theory of value, occupancy and use) that convinced him that he already knows everything that he needs to know about the rest of the book. Nearly everything that Mark claims about Mutualists is a ridiculous travesty of Kevin Carson’s views; and evidence that he knows nothing about Mutualists other than Kevin Carson. But Roderick’s intervention in the comments section is right-on.

  • Forbes (May 15, 2013): Suit Alleges IRS Improperly Seized 60 Million Personal Medical Records. You know what the worst part of this story is? The part about having an Internal Revenue Service, to surveill daily expenses and seize personal data, all in order to investigate and police tax payments. Seriously, there is no possible way to square that with basic civil liberties, and it ought to be abolished.

  • BBC (May 6, 2013): Lauryn Hill jailed for tax evasion. Partly this is a story about the government’s tax-policing. Partly it’s a story about the financial traps that are imposed by the structure of state capitalism, and the ways in which tax structures systemically confine people — both very wealthy people, like Hill, and very poor people as well — to high-liquidity, cash-producing business and employment. The Grammy-winning singer, 37, also faces three months of home confinement, after pleading guilty last year. Hill failed to pay taxes on about $1.8m (£1.2m) of earnings between 2005-07. In a statement to the judge, Hill said she had intended to pay the taxes but could not after withdrawing from public life and ending her music career to raise her children. . . . I am a child of former slaves who had a system imposed on them, Hill said in court. I had an economic system imposed on me. Free Lauryn Hill and all political prisoners.

  • Dominic Gover, International Business Times (May 7, 2013): Lauryn Hill Blames Slavery as She’s Jailed for $500,000 Unpaid Tax Bill. Oh by the way, did I mention that the judge is also forcing Lauryn Hill to undergo counselling because of her conspiracy theories [sic] as a condition of her plea? Where conspiracy theories means political dissent from the status quo.

  • Jim Epstein @ (May 7, 2013): Government Assault on the Chinatown Bus Industry Fueled By Bogus Federal Study. In which the government takes care of Greyhound’s competitors for them, using an error-ridden bogus safety study, which uses Greyhound’s own crashes to prove that their curbside competitors are less safe. The study is like a matryoshka doll of clumsy errors and statistical malpractice; every time you spot them one error and set it aside for the sake of argument, you find another error, just as atrocious as the last one, nested inside of it.

  • Home School Legal Defense Association (May 14, 2013): German Family Denied Asylum, HSLDA Appeals. The judge’s decision to deny asylum is appalling. From the press release: The court said that the Romeikes had not made a sufficient case, and that the United States has not opened its doors to every victim of unfair treatment. Well no, no they haven’t. But they say that like it ought to be a problem for the victims of unfair treatment. Actually, it is a problem with the United States, which needs to stop acting as a gatekeeper and get out of the way. It is appalling that any peaceful immigrant should be turned away, for any reason. Solidarity with all people without papers, and all immigrants without status.

  • Free Adam Kokesh (May 20, 2013): Adam Kokesh Accused of Felony Assault on Federal Officer — No Bail Yet: It looks pretty clearly like he is being held on a vacuous detained-by-will-of-the-cop charge — in this case, resisting arrest and assault on a federal officer — for getting himself shoved by a Federal Officer and then grabbing the arm of the dude who was physically attacking him. His hearing is set for Thursday; in the meantime he is in contact with his attorney but has been denied the opportunity to make phone calls (content warning: Alex Jones links, feh).

  • DinoGoss (May 11, 2013): The Validity of Lambeosaurus — Anybody Know A Good Lawyer? I Am Not A Taxonomist, but I’m inclined to think that if your system would throw out Lambeosaurus at this point in favor of Didanodon altidens that’s probably a problem with your naming system not a problem with current use of Lambeosaurus.

  • Lucy Cooke @ Vimeo (February 8, 2013): BUCKET OF SLOTHS. Exactly what it says on the tin.