The magnificent BURN! -- a 1969 film directed by Gillo Pontecorvo is based on the Haitian revolution of the 1790s. The film reminds us that there is so much more to Haiti than what we watch horrified today:
As the slave revolt leader, José Dolores, says in the film:
In contrast Sir William Walker,a British mercenary, played by Marlon Brando, explains succinctly the ABCs of the means of production and in effect sums up the history of the class struggle of the 18th and 19th centuries:
"No dear soldier it does not work like that friend, If a man gives you freedom it is not freedom.Freedom is something that YOU, you must take for yourself,Do you understand?" (young soldier shakes his head)Well you will on day, you have already started to think about it."
Read this discussion of the film in the context of the exploitation of nature and the metabolic rift generated by capitalism :The Ecology of Destruction by John Bellamy Foster.
Sir William Walker: Gentlemen, let me ask you a question. Now, my metaphor may seem a trifle impertinent, but I think it's very much to the point. Which do you prefer - or should I say, which do you find more convenient - a wife, or one of these mulatto girls? No, no, please don't misunderstand: I am talking strictly in terms of economics. What is the cost of the product? What is the product yield? The product, in this case, being love - uh, purely physical love, since sentiments obviously play no part in economics.
Sir William Walker: Quite. Now, a wife must be provided with a home, with food, with dresses, with medical attention, etc, etc. You're obliged to keep her a whole lifetime even when she's grown old and perhaps a trifle unproductive. And then, of course, if you have the bad luck to survive her, you have to pay for the funeral!
Sir William Walker: It's true, isn't it? Gentlemen, I know it's amusing, but those are the facts, aren't they? Now with a prostitute, on the other hand, it's quite a different matter, isn't it? You see, there's no need to lodge her or feed her, certainly no need to dress her or to bury her, thank God. She's yours only when you need her, you pay her only for that service, and you pay her by the hour! Which, gentlemen, is more important - and more convenient: a slave or a paid worker?
But then Delores reminds us:
Sir William Walker : “that is the logic of profit....One builds to make money and to go on making it or to make more sometimes it is necessary to destroy.”
Then watch these montages....and think of Toussaint l'Ouverture, the Vietnam War and what Foster tells us about the new promise:
“If a man works for another, even if he’s called a worker, he remains a slave. And it will always be the same since there are those who own the plantations and those who own the machete to cut cane of the owners.” [Although] “they may know how to sell sugar, but we are the ones who know how to cut the cane"
At the end of Pontecorvo’s film José Dolores is killed, but his revolutionary spirit lives on. The strategy of destroying nature to enslave humanity, we are led to believe, will not work forever. Today Latin America is reawakening to the revolutionary spirit of Bolivar and Che—a spirit that has never perished. But we now know—what was seldom understood before—that a revolutionary transformation of society must also be a revolutionary restoration of our metabolic relation to nature: equality and sustainability must coevolve if either is to emerge triumphant. And if we are to survive.