(CV #33, March 25, 2004)
. The following leaflet is from Detroit Workers' Voice, October 15, 1994. It relates some of the history that shows why Aristide gained the support of most of the Haitian poor. It also pointed out that there wouldn't be freedom in Haiti unless the conditions of the toilers improved, and yet Aristide had agreed to the privatization and austerity demanded by the Clinton administration and the World Bank. This set the stage for the subsequent tragedy. Aristide did abolish the Haitian army, but Haiti was bound hand-and-foot by the international aid agencies and the agreement of Aristide to neo-liberal reforms. He eventually established a personal rule, and his "lavalas" movement became a fetter on the activity of the toilers. Thus the masses did not come out into the street in his support during the recent coup as they had earlier. (See the article "Down with US intervention in Haiti" on the coup of March 2004.)
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Who is for Haitian freedom?
Imperialism and Haiti
What do the Haitian toilers wants?
The Aristide movement
Support the Haitian toilers
. For three years the Haitian workers and poor suffered torture and murder under the rule of the military dictatorship that overthrew President Aristide on Sept. 30, 1991. Today the Haitian toilers hope for something different. They are bravely coming out in the streets to denounce the thugs that for years murdered them at will. Workers and other progressive people in the U.S. are cheered by the sight of poverty-stricken Haitians raising their heads again.
. The American establishment mass media say there's little for the Haitian masses to do except to cheer on the U.S. occupation. Sometimes they say that, now that Cedras [head of the former military regime--CV] and some other military leaders have stepped down, Haiti already is pretty free from the old tyranny. The American occupation is supposed to have given democracy a chance.
. But Haiti has seen interludes of parliamentary democracy before. Ever since the Duvalier dictatorship was overthrown, Haiti has seen one coup and one atrocity after another. Aristide was elected by an overwhelming majority of Haitians only to be overthrown by Cedras. Today Cedras has stepped down, and Aristide is scheduled to come back. But what guarantee is there that another assassination, another atrocity, another coup won't take place?
. Even today, it requires courage for the Haitian toilers to go into the street. One day, a paramilitary thug throws a hand grenade into the middle of a pro-Aristide demonstration. The next day, a member of FRAPH drives a van into the middle of a demonstration, killing 14 people. Army leader Cedras may have stepped down, along with chief of staff Philippe Biamby, but the military and police apparatus is still there. And the paramilitary thugs are still armed.
. It is not sufficient to have a lull in the killings in order to have freedom. Only the action of the
Haitian toilers can cleanse Haiti of the reactionaries. The American troops are under orders to
keep things quiet. But only if the Haitian toilers succeed in sweeping away the military and
paramilitary thugs, improving their social conditions, and breaking the power of the old Haitian
elite, will freedom com to Haiti. Only then will the Haitian toilers enjoy rights that enable them
to live with their heads up, that further open up the fight against the exploiters, and help them
organize for complete liberation.
Who is for Haitian freedom?
. The American government says it occupied Haiti to ensure freedom. And today many Haitians believe this to be so. But as time goes on, a different story will emerge.
. In fact, in occupying Haiti, the U.S. has removed leaders who were fostered with American money. The American bourgeoisie never really liked Aristide who sounded too radical to them. So although the American government may have been uneasy about the overthrow of Aristide's government three years ago, many of the people who staged the coup were on the CIA payroll, and the CIA continued its contacts with them. The notorious organization FRAPH, which murders Aristide supporters and Haitian toilers, was organized and led by a CIA contact, Emmanuel Constant. And this CIA connection continues to the present.
. The U.S. hoped that it would just remove a few military leaders, stop the worst excesses, and the masses would be passive. It wants to dictate the limits of Haiti's economic and military policies, and who are acceptable leaders of Haiti's government. But Haitian toilers are using the occasion to put forward their own idea of freedom. By coming out in the street, the Haitian toilers are making a brave stand. Even if many Haitians now think the U.S. supports them, they will learn differently as time wears on. They have seen the U.S. military commander arm-in-arm with Cedras. On Sept. 30 they saw the U.S. troops stand aside for hours and refuse to intervene as FRAPH thugs shot at the big demonstration in the Haitian capital. Port-au-Prince, on the anniversary of the coup. The masses' view of the occupation will change rapidly as soon as the U.S. troops turn on them.
. Whatever they think now of the occupation, the Haitian toilers are seeking to take things in their own hands when they come into the streets, when they beat up the reactionary thugs who are still armed and oppressing them, and when they denounce the so-called "honorable" generals. In practice, they are going against the wishes of the occupation. Eventually, to continue doing this, they will have to consciously realize the contradiction between their interests and those of the American occupation.
. The Haitian toilers will only get the liberation that they themselves fight for.
Imperialism and Haiti
. For the real U.S. interest in Haiti has never been freedom.
. The American government is interested in Haiti because it is a low-wage sweatshop for American corporations. 100,000 Haitians labor for a variety of international firms for rock-bottom wages. Aristide's proposal to raise the minimum wage by another $1 A DAY (NOT hour) was one of the reasons that the Haitian elite overthrew him. The Clinton government wasn't comfortable with the military rule of Cedras, but it wants to see the low wages continue.
. The American government is interested in Haiti because it regards the Caribbean as its own "backyard". Imperialism is alive and growling in Washington, and it believes that the U.S. bourgeoisie can determine the big decisions of other countries. Congress debates whether Aristide should be president of Haiti -- not whether he is supported by the Haitian masses. It debates whether Aristide will impose an austerity program on Haiti -- not whether the Haitian masses want this program. The Republicans oppose the occupation -- but only because they thought that the Cedras way of shooting down demonstrators was a sufficient guarantee for U.S. interests.
. The American government is interested in Haiti because it believes it has the right to invade and bully other countries in its "backyard" at will. It has invaded Panama, waged a dirty war on Nicaragua; propped up a decade-long civil war in El Salvador; overthrown the government of Grenada; etc. Now American troops are in Haiti. The U.S. may have a "liberal" president, and maybe a "conservative" Congress after the next election, but both are imperialist. Both Democrats and Republicans believe in the U.S. as world cop -- they simply disagree sometimes over which country to invade.
. The American government is even interested in Haiti for racist reasons: in order to prevent a flood of Haitian immigrants. Welcoming black Haitian immigrants clashes with racist immigration policy. The government is more interested in keeping out black Haitians than in Haitian freedom.
. The Clinton government wants a parliament in Haiti, but it wants a conservative parliament.
The workers are to continue slaving at low wages. The reactionary army is to be reorganized, not
swept away. One day the American plan is to "retrain" the thugs who have the blood of Haitian
laborers on their hands. The next day they promise to bring in new people. And the day after,
they promise something else. Basically, the foreign occupation is obsessed with training new
police and miliary forces to ensure that the people will not be too free, will not be boisterous, will
not be active in their own interest.
What do the Haitian toilers want?
. The Haitian laborers and poor want freedom. They want the right to say what they want, to demonstrate as they choose, and to organize as they please, without fearing torture and rape and murder.
. And they can only achieve this by cleansing Haiti of the military and paramilitary thugs.
. From 1957 to 1986 the infamous Duvalier dictatorship ruled Haiti: first "Papa Doc" Duvalier, then "Baby Doc". They relied on an organization of murderers called the Tontons Macoute. But the Haitian masses fought back and eventually "Baby Doc" Duvalier had to flee. The masses wanted to punish the Tontons Macoute through such movements as the "dekouchaj" (uprooting) and, later on, the "lavalas" movement. But they only accomplished part of this. And so the old terror apparatus continued to exist, and was revived. Cedras overthrew Aristide and relied on "attaches"(plainclothes murderers "attached" to the army and police) and on FRAPH, a reorganized form of the Tontons Macoute. If there is to be freedom now, the military and police apparatus and the paramilitary thugs have to be disbanded, disarmed, and punished for their many murders and crimes.
. The Haitian laborers and poor want a decent life. They want schools and health care and clean water. They want higher wages so they can eat and have reasonable housing.
. The Haitian elite supported dictatorship in order to enforce utter poverty and destitution on the Haitian laborers. There can be no freedom in Haiti unless the Haitian laborers have a better life. A "democracy" that rules over a nation of semislave serfs is a sham and a fantasy. The Haitian laborers need human living and working conditions.
. The Haitian laborers and poor want to break the stranglehold of the old Haitian elite. It is the
material interests of these parasites that were reflected in the military government. The military
ruled, but its leaders weren't the only ones who raked in the money.
The Aristide movement
. The Haitian laborers and poor rallied behind Aristide because he preached against their miserable conditions. He also denounced the American role in oppressing Haiti. He called for social reform, and he persisted despite violent repression against him and his supporters. This is why the poor risked life and limb to support him.
. But Aristide had a reformist idea of how to accomplish this. He believed he could reconcile the laboring poor with a apart of the Haitian elite who, he hoped, would agree to reform. He might call for a movement of the people, but he would try to keep it calm. He was elected President at the end of 1990, and his reforms would have been of use to the people, but he could not bring them about. He was accused by American politicians of wanting a reign of terror against the old order, but this is precisely what he did not do. Despite his distrust of the old military apparatus, it wasn't dismantled. The old order remained in Haiti, just under the surface. And the old order staged a coup. It is said that the Haitian wealthy paid many millions of dollars to various army units to buy this coup. Aristide was overthrown by the Lieutenant General Cedras, whom Aristide himself had appointed as army chief.
. Today Aristide has bowed to the American economic plan of privatization and misery. A plan circulating among his ministers calls for drastic steps and talks of creating a good investment climate. At the same time, Aristide says he is for reforms in education and health care. But how would he pay for it if World Bank-ordered austerity is the watchword? And Aristide still tries to calm the toilers down, rather than preaching the need for military action of the toilers: he calls for "reconciliation" and "no vengeance". At the same time, he says "no to impunity", i.e., that he is not for a total amnesty for Cedras and the other killers. In short, his interests are different from those of the Clinton government or the Haitian right wing, but he still thinks he can reconcile the masses with the elite and with the international bourgeoisie.
. The Haitian toilers are going to have to go beyond Aristide, if they wish to free themselves of
the Haitian terror apparatus. If they are to achieve even the reforms Aristide originally promised,
they will have to go beyond Aristide and Aristide's deals with imperialism and the wealthy. If
they even want a chance to block the austerity plans, the toilers will have to take to the streets.
They have to organize in their own interest.
Support the Haitian toilers
. The sight of the Haitian toilers in the street cheers every worker with the least concern for the plight of the workers abroad. It used to be that every day brought another story of Haitian bodies piling up in the streets of Port-au-Prince. Today the Haitian toilers are fighting back. They are still shot at, but now they sometimes shoot back (as they did on Sept. 30 in Port-au-Prince). They are still attacked by thugs at night, but they often seek them out and beat them up in the daytime. The paramilitary organizations like FRAPH still exist (despite a well-publicized American raid on its Port-au-Prince headquarters), but the toilers have their eyes on them.
. Will the Haitian toilers succeed in getting rid of the reactionaries? Will they succeed in getting better conditions for themselves? Or will the poorest people in the hemisphere be tortured by yet more misery and cutbacks? And will Haiti be doomed to go through another cycle of brief relaxation and then more terror?
. The Haitian toilers face a difficult task. They must overcome not only the Haitian elite but the attempts of the occupation to restrain them. They must succeed in developing a wave of struggle throughout Haiti, from the rural villages to the streets of Port-au-Prince, despite the advice of Aristide to stay clam and avoid "vengeance". They must organize, despite the loss of so many activists over the last few years. And they must not be disheartened as they learn the true nature of the occupation and of Aristide's reformism.
. But whatever the outcome of the next round of battles, the Haitian toilers are the real heroes of the struggle for freedom in Haiti. We should support them against the occupation. We should support their attempts to go beyond Aristide's recommendations and build a militant movement in Haiti.
. And we should study their struggle, learn from their daring and learn from the weaknesses in their struggle. If the Haitian toilers must go beyond reformist leaders, in the U.S. we must break out of the bounds put on our struggle by pro-capitalist trade union leaders and by Democratic Party politicians. If the Haitian toilers must contend with an American occupation which wants to preserve low-wage exploitation in Haiti, we must organize against U.S. imperialism and its warfare state. If the Haitian toilers display daring and initiative, we must learn to show initiative in developing workers' organizations here too.
Freedom for the poverty-stricken Haitian toilers!
Only the Haitian masses can rid Haiti of local tyrants and foreign occupiers!<>
Last modified: April 13, 2004.