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Filmmaker Raoul Peck on “The Young Karl Marx,” James Baldwin, U.S. Interventions Abroad & More

Web ExclusiveFebruary 27, 2018
Media Options

Extended discussion with world-famous filmmaker Raoul Peck about his new film, “The Young Karl Marx,” his Oscar-nominated film about James Baldwin, “I Am Not Your Negro,” and much more.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our conversation with the world-renowned filmmaker Raoul Peck, who is releasing a film today in Los Angeles and New York on the life and times of Karl Marx. It’s called The Young Karl Marx. Raoul Peck is an acclaimed Haitian filmmaker, a political activist. His documentary I Am Not Your Negro has just won the top documentary prize at the British Academy Film Awards, or BAFTA, on Sunday. It was nominated for an Oscar last year. His previous films include Lumumba: Death of a Prophet, Haiti: The Silence of the Dogs and Sometimes in April, about the Rwandan genocide. Raoul Peck also briefly served as Haiti’s minister of culture in the 1990s.

It’s great to have you back to continue this conversation.

RAOUL PECK: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to play, one more time, Wayne LaPierre. We played this in the first part of the conversation. He’s head of the National Rifle Association. You have his comments attacking the student-led movement for gun control after the Parkland massacre, where a young man, trained by the military and the NRA, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, has been charged with murdering 17 people, 14 of them students, three teachers and coaches, as he went into his alma mater, his old school, and gunned people down. It wasn’t a week before the head of the NRA, one of the most powerful lobbying institutions in the United States, has broken their silence and has gone after those who want to do something about gun control. This is Wayne LaPierre.

WAYNE LAPIERRE: On college campuses, The Communist Manifesto is one of the most frequently assigned texts. Karl Marx is the most assigned economist. And there are now over 100 chapters of Young Democratic Socialists of America at many universities, and students are even earning academic credit for promoting socialist causes. In too many classrooms all over the United States—and I know you think about this when you decide where you’re going to kid—send your kids to school, and your kids think about it, too—the United States Constitution is ignored, United States history is perverted, and the Second Amendment freedom in this country is despised.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Wayne LaPierre. You have chosen to look at The Communist Manifesto, Raoul Peck, to look at the life of Karl Marx and talk about its significance in shaping history of the world. Wednesday marked the 170th anniversary of the publication of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ seminal text, The Communist Manifesto. May 5th marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx. Is Wayne LaPierre right that all over the United States people are learning The Communist Manifesto?

RAOUL PECK: Well, what I would say, first, is to try to take a little bit distance to this actuality going on right now. In fact, if we lose too much time trying to decipher what this man just said in this clip, you know, that’s how they get us. You know, they set up the agenda, and usually an agenda full of ignorance, because half of what is said is the result of total ignorance. The same way, unfortunately, the president is totally ignorant on a majority of subjects. And so, we lost that battle, that what I call the rhetorical battle, because they—it’s easy for them to just say a lie or say a totally ignorant comment. And then we usually try to deconstruct that comment, but usually you don’t have the time to do that. So, I will not go into whatever he said, which is totally ignorant.

And why I choose to tell that story of the young Karl Marx, young Engels and young Jenny Marx is it’s the beginning of it all. It’s the beginning of the alienation that goes with capitalism. Capital is—at the center of capitalism is the making of profit. And there is nothing wrong to produce merchandise, but there is something wrong when your production is just toward profit. Marx called that not the alienation, but the—you know, that you follow profit as an only goal, you know, and at the stage where it doesn’t matter what damage it does to a community. It doesn’t matter, like in the case of Florida. You know, young people were killed, and you still go on TV or in front of the press and say, “We don’t care. What is important is still being able to sell guns and to make money and make profit.” This is the total fetishization—I was looking for the term—of profit, you know, where you don’t even know why you want to make so much money. And so, it’s important to come back to Marx, who did analyze that particular historical society, which is the capitalist society, which now have gone global.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to the trailer of The Young Karl Marx.

KARL MARX: [played by August Diehl] How do you do?

FOUNDRY OWNER: Nice to meet you.

UNIDENTIFIED: Zunela [phon.] owns foundries. He employs many workers, including children.

KARL MARX: Child labor in factories.

FOUNDRY OWNER: But we have no choice. Without child labor, we’d price ourselves out of the market.

KARL MARX: And where would a society without exploitation leave people like you? You would have to work, too. Wouldn’t that be horrible?

UNIDENTIFIED: [translated] We must fight the establishment. Soon the old world will crumble.

WILHELM WEITLING: [played by Alexander Scheer] There are two kinds of men: men who’ve been forged by manual labor and men who profit from the fruit of that labor.

FACTORY OWNER: This has got to stop! It’s intolerable! Count yourselves lucky I don’t sack the lot of you.

KARL MARX: I hate and despise gentlemen. They are swine who grow fat on the sweat of laborers.

FACTORY WORKER: We are fit for the scrap heap. Is that what you’re saying?

UNIDENTIFIED: You heard him. Get out.

UNIDENTIFIED: [translated] They can try to stop us, but they cannot stop our minds!

KARL MARX: [translated] A few nights in jail will do us some good. Gentlemen, I’m all yours.

UNIDENTIFIED: [translated] Karl, allow me to introduce Friedrich Engels.

FRIEDRICH ENGELS: [played by Stefan Konarske] [translated] Have you read my work? I’ve read yours. You’re the greatest thinker of our times.

UNIDENTIFIED: [translated] Happiness requires rebellion.

KARL MARX: [translated] Everything can change. Nothing lasts forever. We’ll overthrow the old order.

FRIEDRICH ENGELS: [translated] It’s time to wake up!

KARL MARX: [translated] Until now, philosophers interpreted the world, but it must be transformed.

UNIDENTIFIED: The bourgeois and the workers, are they brothers?


FRIEDRICH ENGELS: No, they are not. They are enemies.

KARL MARX: [translated] To free minds and free spirits!

UNIDENTIFIED: [translated] By the order of the prime minister, you are expelled from France.

UNIDENTIFIED: [translated] What name stirs in the veins of such inspired writing?

KARL MARX: Karl Marx.

AMY GOODMAN: The trailer for The Young Karl Marx, that is just being released in the United States, in Los Angeles and New York. Again, a film that is set in the factories and ferment of Paris, of Brussels, Prussia, England of the 1840s. But people don’t actually, unlike what Wayne LaPierre said, learn very much about Karl Marx in the United States, in classes.

RAOUL PECK: For good reasons, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us his story.

RAOUL PECK: Well, basically, Karl Marx comes from a very long tradition of rabbis. His father had to convert to Christianity, because at the time in Germany, to get some certain job, you couldn’t be Jewish. And very early on in his life, he was revolted, because, don’t forget, it was a Europe of repression. It was a Europe of censorship. Most kings and queens in Europe were family, and they got together to keep the whole continent under their power.

AMY GOODMAN: And we’re talking about the mid-19th century.

RAOUL PECK: Yes, exactly. And, you know, there was a time where you had famine in Ireland, you know. That’s why, you know, when this country, America, refugees came, they were trying to find a new life, because they were dying by the hundred thousands. So, in this time, you see those people who come from middle class. Engels came even from a very rich family, industrial family. Engels’ father had factory in Germany and factory in Manchester. Manchester was really the city where capitalism really developed—the first mill, the first textile factories, and also exploitation. You know, in that same city, they were producing incredible amount of wealth, and at the same time Manchester was like a slum in Brazil or in Haiti. People were barefoot—men, women, children—in winter, in that same city that was, you know, the center of wealth in the 19th century, eight—yes, 19th century.

So, and those young people, they start documenting that. And they start working on that to explain, you know, this is not the way we should continue to live. And they start organizing. And they start, more importantly, to research that. You know, Marx spent a lot of time in the libraries, reading every economist that existed, reading every philosopher that existed. His teacher said of Marx, when he was 19—he had his Ph.D. at 19. The man was a genius. His teacher said, “Well, if you want to meet Diderot, Voltaire, Hegel in one man, you should meet that young man.” So, it’s an incredible story of coming of age, adult age, of three young people in the Europe of the 19th century.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about how Karl Marx meets Friedrich Engels.

RAOUL PECK: Well, when Karl Marx had to leave Germany and go into exile to Paris to start a new newspaper and—because he believed in education. He believed in, you know, it’s not about putting people in the street to protest. It’s first about educating them, you know, why are they fighting for and what are they fighting for and what kind of society they are. And Engels used to send articles to that same magazine. And one day he came to Paris, and they met. And it was the beginning of a long story, but they stayed 10 full days drinking, laughing, playing chess, writing and making projects. And that’s the beginning—

AMY GOODMAN: Engels is the son of an industrialist, a factory owner.

RAOUL PECK: Of the industrial, yes. And Marx was in Paris, already married. He was a young newlywed. And they just had their first child, Jennychen, a young girl. And they became inseparable. And they, I find, each one recognized in the other the role they could play together.

AMY GOODMAN: So, set up this clip for us. This is from The Young Karl Marx, and this is a scene between Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Marx’s wife Jenny, who is—they’re coming up with a title for the book that would later be The Communist Manifesto.

RAOUL PECK: Yeah, and the scene before is that they spend the whole night drinking, discussing and coming late at home. And, of course, Jenny had to take care of the baby, as it usually is. And in the morning, she cannot really curse at them, but at the same she’s making fun at them a little bit. And that’s the scene at—the breakfast scene in Jenny’s kitchen.

AMY GOODMAN: This is a scene from The Young Karl Marx.

JENNY VON WESTPHALEN-MARX: [played by Vicky Krieps] [translated] You’re leaving already?

FRIEDRICH ENGELS: [played by Stefan Konarske] [translated] Thank you for your hospitality, your generosity. Matters to see to.

KARL MARX: [played by August Diehl] [translated] Matters of the heart. Don’t forget our matter.

FRIEDRICH ENGELS: [translated] How could I? We didn’t just drink last night. We took notes. We’re going to write a book together.

KARL MARX: [translated] A critique of Stirner, Bauer, those sentimental Berlin socialists, the writers of the so-called Critical Critique. We’ll bring things to a head, Jenny.

JENNY VON WESTPHALEN-MARX: [translated] To a head? Sir. And the title?

FRIEDRICH ENGELS: [translated] We’re just starting.

JENNY VON WESTPHALEN-MARX: [translated] I imagine a title, looking at you both: Critique of Critical Critique.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s a scene from The Young Karl Marx, where Jenny Marx recommends, OK, the title of the book should be Critique of Critical Critique. Talk about this—what it meant when this book was published. Where were they?

RAOUL PECK: Well, we are 1848, and at that time Engels and Marx were summoned by the League of the Just, which was one of the biggest organization of artisan, because at the time, you know, what we call today the working class did not really exist and was not really organized. The people who were organized were the artisan—you know, the tailor, the woodworker and all those guys who were their own—you know, their own bosses. And they were the revolutionary of the time. But the workers, they were like treated like animals. So, at the beginning of this, the Ligue des Justes started to shift, and Marx and Engels were like young people starting to work with them, and they asked them, you know, “We need a book that will explain to our followers what is the fight we are making and having.” And so, they had to write it in a form that any workers could understand it. And they finished, and that’s the end of the film, where they write that famous Communist Manifesto, which became the most read book in the whole history of humankind, by the way, still today. Yesterday, it was the 170th anniversary of this particular book.

And so, they were in—right in 1848, there was, right after that, a revolution. Of course, the book was so new, nobody had ever read it. But historically people think that the manifesto created the revolution in '48, which was almost in every country in Europe at the time, from France to Belgium to Italy to Germany. And it was the first big revolution, and, we can say, of workers rebelling against the powers. But it wasn't until, you know, the beginning of the 20th century that the book, the manifesto, became really well read everywhere, because it’s basically the description of what is capitalism and what is it it is causing and what is at the center, meaning the curse to for-profit. And Marx and Engels even describe what we have today, that capitalism have no limit. And it will invade the whole world, and it will continue until something happen and make it explode. But you can read the whole first chapter of this manifesto and really have a description of what’s going on today with globalization.

AMY GOODMAN: With change, you rarely see the grassroots mechanism that caused the change.


AMY GOODMAN: And I wanted to turn to another clip from The Young Karl Marx. This is the meeting, the meeting of the league, the League of the Just. Well, you set it up, Raoul Peck.

RAOUL PECK: Well, I think it’s the meeting, the first meeting that Mary Burns, Engels’ working-class girlfriend, managed to get them, because those guys, they were really in hiding. In fact, their activities were hidden behind cultural activity, because at the same—they were looked after by the police, etc. So Mary—

AMY GOODMAN: Marx was thrown out of France.



RAOUL PECK: Yes, he was expelled at one point, because he wrote another article that the German and the French didn’t like, and the German asked the French to expel him. So he went to Belgium. So, that particular scene takes place in Manchester, where Marx and Engels went there to meet the leader of the League of the Just, which was the biggest organization. And they knew if they want to organize, they didn’t want to start from scratch. They knew that they had to enter whatever the big organization was and try to change it from the inside. And the scene is the first meeting with the head of the League of Just.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to that clip.

MARY BURNS: [played by Hannah Steele] Here are the men. Friedrich, you’ve seen before. And this is Karl.

KARL MARX: [played by August Diehl] Karl Marx.

WILHELM WEITLING: [played by Alexander Scheer] Sit down. For the league’s purposes, there are two kinds of men: men who’ve been hardened and forged by manual labor and men who profit from the fruit of that labor, the bourgeoisie. By the look at you, lads, you’re not in the first group.

FRIEDRICH ENGELS: [played by Stefan Konarske] I described in my book the—

LEAGUE OF THE JUST MEMBER 1: You described from the outside, not from experience.

PIERRE-JOSEPH PROUDHON: [played by Olivier Gourmet] Have you experienced poverty? Prison? Persecution?

KARL MARX: Excuse me, but if you rule us out before we’ve even said a word, what is the point of your motto, “All men are brothers”?

PIERRE-JOSEPH PROUDHON: It’s an ideal, our ideal.

WILHELM WEITLING: It’s what we’re fighting for.

LEAGUE OF THE JUST MEMBER 1: It’s our New Jerusalem.

FRIEDRICH ENGELS: [translated] God, what are we doing here?

WILHELM WEITLING: The league needs real men, not eggheads trying to tell it what to do and think.

KARL MARX: Yes, but you want to spread your ideas, don’t you? So test us. And throw us out if you think we’re not useful.

LEAGUE OF THE JUST MEMBER 2: Did someone said “useful”? Marx? [translated] I knew you’d been expelled from France, too. Here you are.

KARL MARX: Yeah. [translated] I’m in Brussels for now.

LEAGUE OF THE JUST MEMBER 2: [translated] Brussels. I’m giving talks there this autumn. A step on this long road leading to our one goal: the abolition of money. Let me look at you. You’re thinner. You’ve suffered. Me, too. I was shackled and beaten. Look what they did to me. But they couldn’t break my soul.

AMY GOODMAN: That is a clip from The Young Karl Marx, that has just been released in the United States, now showing in New York and Los Angeles. So, in that scene, you have the speaker, who you can identify, who talks about the league’s purposes, talking about there are these two kinds of men.

RAOUL PECK: Weitling, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Those harmed and forged by manual labor and men who profit from the fruit of that labor.

RAOUL PECK: Well, the film is a film also about the evolution of ideas. And it was important for me to show that there wasn’t just one movement. There were many thinkers, many leaders, who were fighting for the same cause, but who had different positions.

And in the film, you see what Marx is bringing, because Marx was bringing a more scientific socialism. But you had at one side the more populist socialists, like Weitling. You know, Weitling didn’t care about who would make the change. He said at one point he would even use criminals, you know, put them in the street to topple the government. And on the other side, you had Proudhon, who was a more—what Marx called utopist socialist. And Marx was not for—you know, we need to analyze what is really happening. We need to understand what are the structures of that particular system. And that’s why he called it scientific socialism.

So, in the film, I had to find a way to at least explain those three different directions, which we can still today see. You know, we would put Bernie Sanders more into a more populist, although it’s not the same populist as Trump. You know, I prefer a hundred times more the populist of Bernie Sanders. But those categories still exist some way in all the movements worldwide.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you talk about these two men and the influence of them on your life, and I wanted to segue right now into the previous film you made, a most remarkable—one of the most amazing documentaries I have never—I have ever seen. Wait, I want to say that again, I’ve never seen. You talk about Karl Marx and James Baldwin, which your previous film was about, for which, just on Sunday, you won the BAFTA. And congratulations for that, the British Oscars, for I Am Not Your Negro, a stunning film about James Baldwin. Talk about Karl Marx and James Baldwin.

RAOUL PECK: Well, as I said before, they were important mentor to me somehow. They teach me—they taught me how to think, how to analyze, how to take sometimes distance to, you know, the day-by-day occurrence, and in politics, as well. And for me, they were important and are still important, because, as well as Baldwin, when you read those lines I use in the film—you know, he wrote like 40 years ago, and you felt he was talking about what was happening in this country today. And the same with Marx, you know, you can—what they wrote in the 19th century about how that capitalism is what’s functioning, the type of blindness or mystification that is around making profit, you know.

How can money be at the center of your life? And money not—you know, to earn a living is normal for everybody. We need money to live. But to make profit over profit over profit, with no other justification than the accumulation of capital—you know, when you look today’s—you know, the little group of billionaires, what can somebody do with a hundred billion on his bank account? What sense does it make? And you could say, “Well, he have hundred billions, and he can go home and stay home.” No, he want more. You know, he will close down a factory, you know, and putting 5,000 people in the streets, just to get 0.1 point in Wall Street. So that means important decision to the life of people are taken for this blind god that profit is. And that’s the same, to come back to the NRA debate. You know, they don’t care how many people will die, because they will stick to the fact that we need to make more profit. That’s all that counts. And Marx totally deconstruct that thing that they have been building, century after century.

AMY GOODMAN: That fact, that figure that the world’s eight richest men control as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity. We’re talking three-and-a-half billion people.


AMY GOODMAN: Eight men, three-and-a-half billion people.

RAOUL PECK: Yes. And that’s where, if you take those numbers, it doesn’t make sense. And that’s the thing that—where we are today. It took a sort of acceleration that nobody’s controlling. It’s like a huge train wreck that is going down the drain, and people are just watching, you know. And it’s just terrible, you know?

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to the trailer for I Am Not Your Negro.

JAMES BALDWIN: If any white man in the world says, “Give me liberty, or give me death,” the entire white world applauds. When a black man says exactly the same thing, he is judged a criminal and treated like one, and everything possible is done to make an example of this bad nigger so there won’t be any more like him.

NARRATOR: “The story of the Negro in America is the story of America. It is not a pretty story.”

JAMES BALDWIN: Most of the white Americans I’ve ever encountered truly have nothing whatever against Negroes. That’s really not the question. Really, a kind of apathy and ignorance. You don’t know what’s happening on the other side of the wall, because you don’t want to know.

NARRATOR: “In America, I was free only in battle, never free to rest.”

MALCOLM X: We need to take action, any kind of action, by any means necessary.

JAMES BALDWIN: They needed us to pick the cotton. And now they don’t need us anymore. Now that they don’t need us, they’re going to kill us all off.

There are days when you wonder what your role is in this country and what your future is in it. I can’t be a pessimist, because I’m alive. The question you’ve got to ask yourself, the white population of this country has got to ask itself, is why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place. And I’m not a nigger. I am a man. But if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need it, and you’ve got to find out why. And the future of the country depends on that.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the trailer for I Am Not Your Negro. As you come to the United States, Raoul Peck, talk about James Baldwin. We see a clip also of Malcolm X. We just passed the 53rd anniversary—


AMY GOODMAN: —of his assassination, on February 21st, 1965. And what he means for today?

RAOUL PECK: Well, as I was watching the clip again, I was thinking that both these men were in fact educators, you know, because their work was always to help us understand what’s going on. And today more than ever, those words are important, because what have happened is an acceleration of everything, through the internet, through the press, through everything. Young people today are bombarded with information, images, sound. Even today we have the terms “fake news.” So, how do you take some distance to realize that maybe not only you—instead of being just a consumer, you can also be an actor.

And again, to come back to those young children in Florida, this is what they are doing. They are becoming actors. And that’s highly important. And they understand, even if they didn’t read Marx or didn’t open a Baldwin book. What they understood is the relationship between an organization like the NRA, the killing in their schools, from a young man who could buy a gun, who have access to that gun, and then also to people building those gun and selling them. And they understood that the only thing in the middle that prevent big change is that they still want to sell guns. And they are ready to say anything they can to prevent a real discussion about that. You know, I mean, I hardly can follow any discussion with some of those guys. You know, they always have a last excuse to explain why they cannot do something. So, there is—and you can’t indulge in that discussion, because you have to reduce it to to what it is. It is about: How can I still make more profit, no matter what happened, you know.

And both Marx and Baldwin are people who try to tell us, “You know, take a step back and try to understand the whole system, how it function.” And those two films, for me, it’s a way to tell young people, in particular, go and take a book and read and try to understand your world, because without understanding it, you can’t fight.

AMY GOODMAN: I think about James Baldwin speaking after the Birmingham bombing of—what? September 15th, 1963, when the four little girls died.


AMY GOODMAN: The rage of James Baldwin, and how he went from the United States to try to escape the racism of this country and lived in France, where you live now, Raoul.

RAOUL PECK: Yes, yeah. Well, yes, it’s—Baldwin, in fact, understood his country when he left it, because what he says—you know, he was totally under pressure all the time, because he was afraid to lose his life. You know, he was 19, 20, and he knew, living in Harlem, working in the Village—and he knew that he would either die because, you know, a police will control him. He was abused by a policeman when he was 12. So, it was his daily life to watch out not to be abused again. And he also knew that one day he might react with anger and get killed for that and get shot. So he decided he needed—because he wanted to be a writer, he decided to leave France and—to leave to France.

And Paris at the time was a sort of a home, a sort of Bohemian home, for many black American writers, musicians, artists. And so, Richard Wright was in Paris. So, there was a group of people who could help him. And the distance was necessary for him to regain his—you know, who he was, that he was not just a victim, but he was a human being. He wanted to be an artist. He wanted to be a writer. So, sometimes leaving your country is the best way to understand it better. And that’s why. And then, when he returned to take part in the civil rights movement, he had the necessary ammunition for its fight.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to the world-renowned filmmaker Raoul Peck. His latest film is just out, hitting the silver screen in New York and Los Angeles. It’s called The Young Karl Marx. Just won a BAFTA, the equivalent of the American Oscars in Britain, for I Am Not Your Negro, about James Baldwin. James Baldwin, Karl Marx, seminal influences, teachers, for Raoul and for so many. But I wanted to go to current politics and get your response, as not only a filmmaker, but as a Haitian activist, who lives now in Paris, about—

RAOUL PECK: And in Haiti and in the U.S., as well.

AMY GOODMAN: About President Trump’s comments, calling Africa, Salvador, your country, Haiti, “s—hole countries.” That first part of “—hole” rhymes with “hit.” And your response when you heard this?

RAOUL PECK: Well, my reaction was, first of all, I was not surprised by that type of comment. I mean, if you’re old enough, you have heard similar comment from this particular man. So, I’m at the stage where my concern is all the people who are in this administration, all, some of them, very decent people, the Republican leadership. You know, how far are they willing to go to preserve their interests. Because that’s the real question, because it’s not one man that, you know, engage in some reckless declaration. It’s the most important part of it are the enabler, the people who should know better, the senators, the representatives in Congress, because they are accomplices. That’s how I see it. You know, the same way Baldwin say if you don’t speak up against racism, you’re not only an accomplice, but you’re a criminal. And I’m seeing more and more criminal in this country, who have been elected, who are officials. And they are tolerating that for partisan reason. That’s unacceptable. What is the model you’re giving to your youth? And that is my concern. You know, whatever the president say, it’s—today it’s unimportant. You know, he is capable to say one thing, and the next day, the contrary.

AMY GOODMAN: But specifically what he was reported to have said—


AMY GOODMAN: “Why do we want all these people from Africa here? They’re lawmakers”—he says, “They’re s—hole countries. We should have more people from Norway,” he said, and talked about people going back to their countries.

RAOUL PECK: Let me tell you, that’s—yeah, that’s the proof of profound ignorance. He doesn’t know that Haiti was the first free country in the Americas, that it was thanks to Haiti, who stopped the army of Napoleon and created a new nation, that the French had to sell one-third of America, the central third, from New Orleans up to the big lake. They had to sell it for little money, because the Haitians have beaten them up. So, if you don’t even know that—

AMY GOODMAN: Haiti born of a slave uprising, the only country in the world, 1804.

RAOUL PECK: The only in history, yes. And it’s thanks to Haiti that the whole Latin American continent was liberated, because in the Haitian Constitution, anybody who set foot—any fugitive who set foot on the island became a Haitian and had support from the Haitian leadership. And Simón Bolívar, who liberated the whole Latin American continent, he came to Haiti. Haiti gave him weapons, ammunition, merchandise, a ship and soldiers.

AMY GOODMAN: And isn’t it true that Congress wouldn’t recognize the independent country of Haiti for so many decades because they were afraid that that slave uprising—

RAOUL PECK: Of course.

AMY GOODMAN: —would inspire the people who were enslaved in the United States.

RAOUL PECK: Of course. The United States took 65 years to recognize Haiti independence. Haiti was the only black country in the whole world, with Ethiopia. And we were the bad example. All the superpowers still had slavery. So, it was impossible for them to accept that. You know, Haiti was the equivalent of Cuba in the ’50s.

AMY GOODMAN: While President Trump may change his comments on different countries, clearly, in the case of Haiti, he’s not, referring to it as an “s—hole” country and then talking about policy, the Trump administration announcing it will revoke a special immigration program for nearly 60,000 Haitians, including many who came to the U.S. after the devastating earthquake of 2010. Trump administration now saying they’re temporary protected status, or TPS, will end in July of 2019. I just wanted to play a clip of Marleine Bastien, who is the director of Haitian Women of Miami, speaking on Democracy Now! last year.

MARLEINE BASTIEN: It is in the best interest, national interest of the U.S., for the 50,000-plus Haitians to remain here, continue to contribute, socially, financially and otherwise, and then keep these remittances flowing, so that people will not risk their lives to come here as a result of these, you know, waves of deportation.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Marleine Bastien of Haitian Women of Miami. But the significance of now sending tens of thousands of Haitians back?

RAOUL PECK: Well, that’s irresponsible. And again, it’s a lot of ignorance, when they are putting, you know, in front like, “Well, we are sending back criminals.” But this have been going on for 30, 40 years, sending people who have been in prison, sometimes not because they’ve killed anybody, but because they did, you know, have a traffic accident, and they are sending them back to countries who are incapable to solve those new arrivals. And it continues up to today, after the earthquake, that—you know, sending back more than 60,000 people, which I think it’s impossible to do, by the way.

But it’s about putting terror on the life of those people, who have been living here for so many years, because that’s the consequence of that. You know, it’s like a lottery. You don’t know when you are going to throw in a bus and sent back to a country you hardly know sometimes. So, it’s—I see it as not only as a Haitian problem, but a problem of this administration, who think that the solution is to build walls, is to designated—you know, they are the culprit of every problem in this country, when it’s the contrary. Those people are helping this country being the great country it has been.

AMY GOODMAN: And then the latest news that is rocking Haiti, the sexual abuse scandal of Oxfam. So, Haiti has suspended Oxfam Great Britain’s operations as it investigates claims of sex crimes by senior aid workers in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake. Oxfam has been hit with dozens more misconduct allegations involving a slew of countries in the days since The Times of London broke the story. On Tuesday, Oxfam’s leadership was questioned by British lawmakers and apologized for its failure to report sexual misconduct to Haitian authorities. Prostitution illegal in Haiti, but Oxfam refused to report the activity of its aid workers to Haitian police. This is the British Parliament’s International Development Committee questioning Oxfam’s chief executive, Mark Goldring.

PAULINE LATHAM: Prostitution is illegal in Haiti. Shouldn’t Oxfam have reported the matter anyway?

MARK GOLDRING: Oxfam should have reported the matter to the Haitian authorities. It wasn’t for Oxfam to decide whether a crime had been committed or not, but something that was serious and undermined the rule of law and public confidence in Haiti, should have been reported to the relevant Haitian authorities. I make—I can only apologize that Oxfam did not do that.

AMY GOODMAN: On Monday, Oxfam released its own internal report into the sex scandal, concluding senior aid workers at Oxfam, including the country director in Haiti, hired prostitutes at Oxfam properties in Haiti, then tried to cover it up. And then you have Goldring, who we just saw, when doing an interview with The Guardian, saying, “It’s not as if we murdered babies in their cots,” and then he later apologized for that.

RAOUL PECK: Yeah. Well, that’s unfortunate, but I’m afraid that we are mixing a lot of things together, and I’m not sure it’s the right way to go. I spent two-and-a-half years of my life making a documentary about the way humanitarian organization, the way countries, including the United States, France, Canada, are doing business in Haiti, about the role of the U.N. in Haitian politics, about the role of Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, in the politics of Haiti. And the film came out and did not have—because it was not juicy enough. But I recommend people, because this whole story, including the cholera epidemic—

AMY GOODMAN: Cholera epidemic brought in by U.N. forces.

RAOUL PECK: By the U.N., etc. And until today, the U.N., although they recognize that, their responsibility, refuse to do reparation to the more than a thousand people who died, and their families, who are still suffering from it. So, I did two films, by the way. I did one called Fatal Assistance—the title said it all—and another one called Murder in Pacot. One is a documentary. The other one is a narrative. And by the way, both touches to that very specific context, including the sexual exploitation of young Haitians.

AMY GOODMAN: Is Haiti still paying reparations to France for becoming independent?

RAOUL PECK: No, but that could have been, because Haiti paid from basically the start, 18—I would say the agreement came 1832, until after Second World War. Haiti paid more than 27 billions to France.

AMY GOODMAN: For becoming independent.

RAOUL PECK: Of course, because it’s as if the American slave, when they were freed, had to pay back the plantation owner for their freedom. And Haiti, of course, that toppled the economy of Haiti for many a hundred years. And that’s why when people say, “Well, Haiti is a poor country,” that’s also part of ignorance, because there is a history behind that. Haiti was not born poor. Haiti was providing more than one-third of French riches in the 19th century. That little island was providing one-third of French income. So, and we were the victim. I mean, it’s like the whole Western powers punished Haiti for being Haiti, you know, to have the guts to become independent, as a black country, in a world where slavery was everywhere for the next hundred years. This was unacceptable, and that’s why they tried to silence Haiti for more than a hundred years. And that continue until today, you know, because it’s part of—Haiti feel as part of the modern world, because we played a major role in the constitution of the modern world, even in the constitution of this country. You know, without Haiti, America would be two side of—you know, two-third of a country that it is today. You know, that’s a fact. That’s not speculation.


RAOUL PECK: Because of the fact that Haiti blocked France. One-third of the United States belonged to France by treaty. You know, you’ve heard of the Louisiana Purchase. And Napoleon had to sell those territories, because they thought they would establish slavery back in Haiti and continue to colonize the country they own, per treaty. But they were blocked by the Haitian revolution. And they lost. Most soldiers died in Haiti. The head of the mission, General Leclerc, died in Haiti. And so the French had to settle. And the Americans just wanted to buy the territories around New Orleans, and the French said, “No, no, no. You can have it all.” You know, the whole one-third of the United States, from New Orleans to the lakes, was sold for little money. So that changed the whole geopolitical of the world, you know, and of the story of this country.

AMY GOODMAN: Raoul Peck, I know you’re going to have to leave soon, because your film is just being released in the United States, but I wanted to end by asking you about the outrage in the United States at the conclusions the U.S. intelligence agencies have come to about the United States, about Russia interfering with the elections in the United States. And I wanted to turn this around. You have done a number of films. For example, Lumumba: Death of a Prophet. You have done Sometimes in April. And I wanted to talk about what the U.S. has done in other countries, in interfering with the leadership there, whether it was the—in Iran, the overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953, moving right on to overthrowing the Guatemalan democratically elected government of Árbenz in 1954. But you write about Lumumba. That is not talked about as much, at least here in this country, Patrice Lumumba. And what the—and you investigated the U.S. role in what happened there, the founding president of the Congo, of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

RAOUL PECK: Yeah. Well, that’s the irony of it all, you know, that Donald Trump managed to make the CIA become the good guy in that story. But, unfortunately, we in the Third World have a different take on the role that particularly the CIA had, you know, in the middle of the Cold War, what they did in Congo, killing Lumumba, the first elected prime minister of Congo, somebody who just wanted a real independence, without having the Belgian, the American and the French on his back. And they kill him for that. And you see today, 60 years later, Congo is still at war, you know, because they are still exploiting it, they’re still having a puppet, and they are still supporting that puppet in power because it allows them to still, you know, get the coltan, get the uranium, get—you know, Congo is mineral—

AMY GOODMAN: Coltan used in everyone’s cellphones.

RAOUL PECK: Exactly. So, it’s the same story going on. And again, if you see the whole story of Latin America, you know, how many dictatorships were supported by American administration, how many leaders were killed, even in Washington, when we think about the Letelier killings in the middle of Washington. They put a bomb in his car.

AMY GOODMAN: The Chilean diplomat—

RAOUL PECK: The diplomat.

AMY GOODMAN: —killed along with Ronni Moffitt in 1976—

RAOUL PECK: Exactly.

AMY GOODMAN: —on Embassy Row in Washington.

RAOUL PECK: Exactly. And in my own country, we had a dictatorship for 35 years. And who was the main supporter of that dictatorship?

AMY GOODMAN: Of the Duvaliers.

RAOUL PECK: Of the Duvalier regime. The American administration. You know, when I was a student, I studied in Germany. But my goal, like many of my friends and colleagues, was to go back in Haiti and fight the dictatorship. And the generation before me, they did the same, and they were killed, because the CIA had told the Duvalier regime, you know, “Beware. There is a group of young people coming from Europe, going to, you know, do some sort of guerrilla in the country.” So, and Duvalier used that all the time. You know, when he wanted more money from the United States, he just invented some sort of a communist assault against the country. So, we from the Third World tend to have a different view of the roles of the administration, in that sense.

AMY GOODMAN: And in the case of Lumumba, the film you did, Lumumba: The Death of a Prophet, for people who aren’t familiar with who he was and what was the U.S. role, that you could ascertain?

RAOUL PECK: Yeah, well, Lumumba was part of the generation who wanted to get away from having to choose between the U.S. and the Soviets. You know, they were trying to find a third place and get organized. And that didn’t go well. And Lumumba, who really wanted a real independence for his country, was—you know, we know that Eisenhower allowed the CIA to work toward an assassination of Lumumba. They didn’t work that way, and they used Mobutu to arrest him and send him to his enemy, Tshombe. And he was executed in Katanga. And by the way, the killing of Lumumba, in front of the whole press. You know, the whole international press was filming his arrestation—his arrest. And when he—they realized that he was killed, those were the beginning of the biggest demonstration worldwide, that these were the demonstration before 1968, where there was the student revolt. But the first real demonstration, political demonstration of student all over the world, was after the assassination of Patrice Lumumba.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn for a moment to a clip about the life and legacy of Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected leader of what’s now the Democratic Republic of Congo, as Raoul is speaking about, the Congo being a colony of Belgium since the late 1800s, ruled over it with brutality while plundering its rich natural resources, Patrice Lumumba rising as the leader of Congo’s independence movement, in 1960 elected prime minister. Lumumba’s Pan-Africanism, his vision of a united Congo, gained him many enemies, both Belgium and the U.S. actively seeking to have him overthrown or killed. Would you say the proof is in that the CIA ordered his assassination, Raoul?

RAOUL PECK: Oh, yes. One of the former CIA heads, a station head, wrote about it, you know?

AMY GOODMAN: But couldn’t complete the job when they did it.

RAOUL PECK: Couldn’t complete the job, because there were too many conspirators, and one of them managed to do it, with the help of Mobutu. But there were—you know, there were example of trying to use—by the way, as they tried to do with Castro, you know, to use some—his toothbrush, to use some poison, etc. There were many attempts, and that have been clearly documented by former CIA chiefs, station chief in Congo.

AMY GOODMAN: The United States and Belgium covertly funneled cash and aid to rival politicians, who seized power, arrested Lumumba. This is how it was reported in a Universal Studios newsreel in December of 1960.

NEWSREEL: A new chapter begins in the dark and tragic history of the Congo with the return to Leopoldville of deposed premier Lumumba, following his capture by crack commandos of strongman Colonel Mobutu. Taken to Mobutu’s headquarters pas a jeering, threatening crowd, Lumumba—Lumumba, but promised the pro-red Lumumba a fair trial on charges of inciting the army to rebellion. Lumumba was removed to an army prison outside the capital, as his supporters in Stanleyville seized control of Orientale province and threatened a return of disorder. Before that, Lumumba suffered more indignities, including being forced to eat a speech, which he restated his claim to be the Congo’s rightful premier. Even in bonds, Lumumba remains a dangerous prisoner, storm center of savage loyalties and equally savage opposition.

AMY GOODMAN: On January 17th, 1961, after being beaten and tortured, Patrice Lumumba was shot and killed. And I wanted to go to the trailer of your film, Lumumba: The Death of a Prophet.

PRIME MINISTER PATRICE LUMUMBA: [translated] When they belittle Lumumba, Lumumba is only a scapegoat. What they are attacking is the future of the Congo.

AMY GOODMAN: So, from the Congo and Patrice Lumumba to Sometimes in April, your film about Rwanda, where the U.S. chooses not to intervene or even trigger mechanisms of the U.N. to intervene, by not calling what happened there in 1994 a genocide.

RAOUL PECK: Well, you know, those are the two biggest legacy—negative legacy that Bill Clinton left. One was Haiti. The second one was Rwanda, because the Americans could have prevented Rwanda. Everybody knew about the massacre which were coming. And by the way, the murderers were not hiding. They were saying it every day on the radio. And the U.N. stayed still. The Americans stayed still. And even when the massacres started, the order of the administration was “We will not intervene.” This was a few months after Mogadishu, the totally disaster of American troops inside Mogadishu. So the decision for Bill Clinton was “We do not want to intervene.” And they pushed back and back until more than 800,000 people were killed and butchered. And so, that’s an important moment in the history of the whole continent and the history of this country.

And making Sometimes in April was an important film for me. And I made this film with the Rwandese. And HBO, who was financing the film, allowed me to have all the freedom I wanted to tell that particular story. And by the way, that was Idris Elba’s first film. And HBO accepted the fact that I wanted that the main characters would be Rwandese. They should be the one telling their own stories.

AMY GOODMAN: Interesting that you also brought in black actors for The Young Karl Marx.

RAOUL PECK: Yes. Well, thatwas a very hard reality, because, of course, in Europe, like here, black characters are not the one you call first. So I had to fight with some of the casting directors to make sure that there are black people in this film, including at one point I had to put a costume myself to play a character, because—

AMY GOODMAN: Wait, You were a cameo?

RAOUL PECK: Yes, I did a cameo

AMY GOODMAN: In The Young Karl Marx.

RAOUL PECK: Yes, I did a quick cameo, because I wanted to have that image of—because in the 19th century, you know, Haiti had diplomats everywhere. That’s another thing people don’t know, you know. So we had diplomats in Germany in the 19th century, in France. We had businessmen, merchants in all those countries, because Haiti was the only black independent nation in the whole world. And we had a convention with every country. Haiti is a co-founder of the U.N., you know? And at the time, that it was the only country, with Ethiopia, to have that position. It was a Haitian who, you know, presided over the first human rights convention.


RAOUL PECK: You know, so it’s—you know, we have a long legacy and history in the, you know, history of the world. And that is what we are trying to do today and to bring back this story. One of my projects is Toussaint Louverture, to really show to a wider audience what is the real story of that nation.

AMY GOODMAN: Toussaint Louverture, the freedom fighter of Haiti.

RAOUL PECK: Yeah, and the one that they called the Black Jacobin and who was the equivalent of a black Napoleon.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to end with where you’re headed next. Yes, your film, The Young Karl Marx, is just being released in the United States, but you’re already working on your next.

RAOUL PECK: One of my next projects is a film about Frantz Fanon. I think people here, academics, might know him. He was a French doctor from Martinique who basically revolutionized the way—how do you say?—folly was treated. And he became involved in the Algerian War, because he was a doctor in Algiers, sent by the French during the revolution, the Algerian revolution. And at one point he decided to side with the revolutionaries and became an incredible theorist who wrote about the need for revolt and revolution. He is—

AMY GOODMAN: You’re saying a theorist, a Marxist theorist.

RAOUL PECK: A Marxist theorist. But his specificity was about—first of all, because he was a psychiatrist, you know, he wrote about the way—you know, he treated people who were under tortured, and he treated the people who were the torturers. And he wrote about that. And the writing of Fanon were used in all the liberation movements that came after—you know, the apartheid struggle, Namibia, part of Latin America, as well. He was—you know, he is a man who died very early. He was 36. And he had written three books, and all those three books became classics. You know, one being—

AMY GOODMAN: The Wretched of the Earth.

RAOUL PECK: The Wretched of the Earth. The other one is Black Skin, White Face. Those are classics that are being taught in American universities. So, and I think this story needs to be known, as well, because—

AMY GOODMAN: So you’re dramatizing the story?

RAOUL PECK: Yes, it’s going to be a narrative, but, as all my films, really based on reality, really well researched. And, you know, I make film not because I want to tell stories. What I want to do is, you know, bring the real stories, with real facts, on the big screen. And so—and it’s not a contradiction. People sometimes think because you do a biopic, you have to invent a lot of things that were not totally true. I think it’s the contrary. And I think in all my film you could put at the beginning, “This is a true story.”

AMY GOODMAN: And so, how do you decide whether to do a documentary, as in the case with I Am Not Your Negro, and, oh, a dramatic film, like The Young Karl Marx or your film on Fanon.

RAOUL PECK: Well, it depends of the moment and the content and what I feel is more impactful with the subject. And by the way, I often end up doing both, you know, doing a documentary and a narrative. I did that for Lumumba. I did that for Fatal Assistance and Murder in Pacot, because those are different side of the same story. And for Baldwin, I may do a narrative piece on Baldwin, because it’s really going totally immersed in the subject and make it understood from different aspect and point of view, and make it stronger.

AMY GOODMAN: So, as we wrap up, and why you’re here in the United States right now, you run, in Paris, the Fémis. Can you explain what it is?

RAOUL PECK: La Fémis is the French national film school, is basically one of the three best film school in the world. And I was nominated to be its president. And I’ve been doing that for the last nine years. And it’s a really—it’s an elite school, but we manage to make sure that people who would not have access to that school still can be taken. It’s very demanding. We have like 1,500 applicants every year, but we only take 48. So it’s a very, very specific type of school. And you can learn everything, from directing, producing, writing, you know, a director of photography, sound, etc. And we—three years ago, we opened the first department ever in the whole world for writing for television series. So, we—and we are quite proud of that.

AMY GOODMAN: So, finally, you’re here to promote The Young Karl Marx. And what do you hope people take away from that, especially in this time, in this era of Trump?

RAOUL PECK: Well, you know, like for the Baldwin, the main word for me is “ignorance.” And if a young person can go and take a book, after watching I Am Not Your Negro or watching The Young Karl Marx, my job is done. It’s really about know your history, learn where you come from, learn the history of your country, because that’s the only way you can really fight, and you can really fight ignorance, because now you have all sort of people coming in the media. Anybody can tweet whatever you want, without being—having a response to respond for that. So, the only tools and power you can have is to take your own history in your own hands and read a few books. You don’t need to do much, you know. And find a space for that, because we have little and little time every day. You know, between Twitter, Facebook and whatever you’re watching on TV, you have less and less time to really reflect about what’s going on. You know, it’s like you’re searching for the next news, the next piece of discussion, and you are losing the bigger picture. And then they can just bring you anywhere they want, once you are just a puppet.

And I believe in education. I believe that there is a fight against ignorance. The fact that today somebody who spent 40 years of his life experimenting, learning about climate change, can be put at the same level than a president who said climate change is a hoax, that’s where we are. You know, how can we accept that, you know, to put at the same level an opinion which is not proven, which is not—which is just the idea of a man, and the work of researchers who have spent their whole life working on an issue? So, against that, it’s only books, learning from your teachers, learning from your elders. And I believe in that.

AMY GOODMAN: And watching the film, The Young Karl Marx

RAOUL PECK: Yes, if possible.

AMY GOODMAN: Raoul Peck, acclaimed Haitian filmmaker, political activist. His new film, The Young Karl Marx. His documentary I Am Not Your Negro just won the BAFTA, the documentary prize at the British Academy Film Awards. Last year, it was nominated for an Oscar. Among his other films, Lumumba: Death of a Prophet, Haiti: The Silence of the Dogs and Sometimes in April, about Rwanda. Raoul Peck briefly served as Haiti’s culture minister in the 1990s.

To see Part 1 of our discussion, go to democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.

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