July 28, 2015
July 28, 2015 will mark the 100th anniversary of the first US occupation of Haiti. The occupation lasted 19 years, from 1915 to 1934. It was a turning point in the history of Haiti, a turning point that jolted the country into a steeper downfall under the boots of US imperialist domination. These days, because of this centenary, we have the opportunity to reflect more thoroughly on these events. While we are engaged in these reflections, as we are condemning all the aggressions, murders, expropriations, repression, exploitation, abuse and criminal injustice of the occupying forces, it would also be worthwhile to ponder what factors facilitated the occupation, how the degradation of the Haitian social formation opened the doors to the occupation: “even rotten teeth can chew soft food”.
On July 28, 1915, a squadron of about 400 marines (who had been aboard a US warship in the bay of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital) landed in Bizoton, close to the capital, and took over the country. According to Suzy Castor’s book “The US Occupation of Haiti”, the Haitian military’s resistance was sporadic and limited to just a few places. The vast majority of Haitian forces surrendered. In all, the occupation began with a force of 2,200 marines. This force was reduced to about 1,000 soldiers for most of the occupation. It was supplemented by a local gendarmerie of about 3,000 Haitian recruits under the command of US officers. This gendarmerie was the main force responsible for the US occupation.
It was the Cacos (mostly poor peasants, poorly armed mostly with machetes) under the leadership of Charlemagne Péralte and Benoit Battraville, who waged the main resistance struggle against the occupation forces. Even though there were many other fields of resistance, particularly from workers in plantations that were set up by US agro-industrial firms (Plantation Dauphin, SHADA, HASCO…), or workers in the ports loading and unloading products, and even petty bourgeois intellectuals who stood up and denounced the occupation (mostly in the cities), it was really the poor peasants who waged the strongest resistance against the occupation. Poor peasants were mobilized because they were expropriated from their land, and they were forced to work in slave-like conditions in chain gangs building roads for the occupying forces. In the South, there was the resistance of the Lamontagne and Marchaterre regions, but there was resistance everywhere against the exactions of the occupation forces. The North, the West and the Central Plateau were the main areas of resistance where the armed struggle of the Cacos was rooted.
This armed struggle lasted for three years, from 1917 to 1920. The tactics of this guerrilla were: permanent movement, obtain weapons and munitions from defeated enemy forces, wage surprise attacks with superior forces, defend poor, exploited laborers and build relationships with local populations. The Cacos would release captured Haitian gendarmes as long as they would agree to abandon the Gendarmerie, but they would execute all captured US soldiers. The Cacos mobilized about 5,000 troops. They managed to stage several attacks to try to take control of some major cities such as Hinche (1918) and Port-au-Prince (October 1919 and January 1920).
On November 1, 1919, a squadron of 16 Haitian gendarmes commanded by Sergeant Hanneken captured and killed Péralte in the Grande Rivière du Nord locality. They exposed his corpse publicly on a door in front of the cathedral in Cap Haitien, and they buried it in the Chabè concentration camp, where nowadays the Caracol Industrial park has been built. Peralte was betrayed by Jean Baptiste Conzé, a local landowner, for $9,600. Benoit Battraville, aka ti Benoit, took over the leadership of the Caco army after Péralte’s assassination.
The occupation forces “hunted down the Cacos like pigs” (as quoted from Smedley Buttler, one of the commanders on the occupation forces). To reinforce their campaign of terror against the peasants, the US occupation forces built airstrips to land planes and helicopters in Saint Michel, Hinche, Maissade, Thomond and Mirebalais. Additionally, they had 2 hydroplane bases in Bizoton and Gonaïves. They rained bombs and explosives on top of defenseless peasants to provoke a reign of terror in the rural population. An estimated 14,000 Haitians were killed in theses campaigns. About 5,500 were killed in the Chabert concentration camp. On the side of the occupying forces, according to official statistics published by the US military, 13 US soldiers were killed along with 27 Haitian gendarmes.
Divisions within the Haitian ruling classes had weakened them. But, mainly, these ruling classes, the big import-export traders (comprador bourgeoisie) and the big landowners, collaborated with the occupation. This is also the case nowadays. The current ruling classes are still collaborating with the MINUSTAH occupation and with imperialist domination. The ruling classes put themselves at the service of the occupation and looked to profit from the occupation to further exploit the Haitian masses, under the boots of US marines. In 1918, these ruling classes and their representatives voted a new constitution which open the way for the expropriation of more than 845,000 acres of land owned by poor peasants and the pillage of concession contracts offered to US companies for agro-business ventures (sugar cane, banana, sisal, rubber, trains and trolleys…).
What happened to the Haitian revolutionary army that barely one hundred years earlier had defeated the major world powers of that time (Spain, England, France…)? What happened to revolutionary cry of “Liberty or death?” What happened to the “heroes of 1804?” What happed to “Strength through Unity?”… If we can’t understand this, we won’t be able to understand 1915. And we won’t be able to draw lessons from our past to understand what is happening today in Haiti.
The main motor of the revolutionary war of 1791-1804 was the rebellion of plantation salves against slavery and their brutal, inhuman exploitation. The struggle against slavery was the fundamental contradiction of the revolutionary struggle. Plantation slaves only survived their hardships and mistreatments an average of four and a half years.
It was during this revolutionary period that the major commanders in the revolutionary army, Toussaint’s generals as well as Toussaint himself, appropriated major landholdings and plantations formerly held by expelled French slave holding colonists. They formed a new class of big landowners, which took control of the revolutionary war. The freed slaves did not win the revolutionary war. It was this new feudal class of big landowners that won the war and proceeded to divide former plantations amongst themselves, even as many of these plantations had been burned down in the “koupe tèt, boule kay” (chop their heads off and burn down their houses) revolutionary campaign. The principal contradiction facing the newly established Haitian State was that of maintaining its independence, a contradiction that directly opposed this new feudal class to the imperialist powers of the day. It was no longer the contradiction that opposed the masses of former slaves seeking their liberation to their former colonists and the imperial powers that sponsored and protected them.
The “liberated” former slaves went from being brutally exploited under slavery in the plantations of French colonists to still being exploited in under the domination of this new oligarchy of feudal landowners under a system of agrarian servitude in the plantations of revolutionary army officers alongside the growing practice of share cropping in these landholdings. The class of formerly “freed slaves” (“affranchis”) allied itself to the new ruling feudal class to dominate the masses of liberated slaves. Very few of the former slaves were granted any land. Some took to the hills, in the practice of marooning, but most were forced to work on these new plantations, under the guise of working to protect their newly gained “independent nation.”
As soon as this new social order was established, the main motor of resistance against colonial exploitation was also eliminated: slavery had been eliminated, therefore the poor peasants (former slaves) no longer were involved in the resistance (except in the struggle against the re-establishment of slavery). But, on the other hand, at the dawn of 1804, this new ruling class of Haitian feudal landlords were pitted against the aggression, embargo and invasion plans of all the existing imperialist colonial powers in the world: France, England, Spain, Germany, the United States… Quite soon, this newly formed Haitian feudal class transformed itself. It went from a revolutionary nationalist class to a collaborator with colonial imperialist powers in order to re-establish the lucrative export of goods under the same previous model of colonial exploitative trade: coffee, sugar, indigo… This trend had roots in the revolutionary period, in the struggles between Toussaint and Moïse (his nephew, whom he eliminated). Moïse advocated the production of food for the well being of the population rather than the production of export goods for the profit of landlords, rooted in the colonial model. The return to the colonial model of trade led to the rise of a class of bourgeois traders based in the port cities, the “boujwa bòdmè” or comprador (“seaside”) bourgeoisie, closely affiliated with their imperialist trading partners.
Together, these two classes, the oligarchic feudal class of big landlords and the comprador bourgeoisie ruled the Haitian social formation in accordance with their interests: to ruthlessly exploit poor peasants and slowly trade away Haitian independence in return for small concessions from imperialist powers, until the Haitian social formation returned completely under imperialist domination.
This newly formed class of feudal landlords wanted to reconcile with their former colonial masters in order to engage in trade. They wanted to abate the threats of invasions and eliminate the trade embargos and isolation of Haiti. Under these conditions, in 1825, Boyer (the president of Haiti at that time), practically signed away Haitian sovereignty by agreeing to an indemnity pact with France. In return for French recognition of Haiti’s independence, Haiti would pay 150 million francs back to France in compensation for its loss of colonial holdings. This debt represented ten times the gross national product of Haiti at that time (about $20 billion US dollars today). This debt was structured with yearly payments and accruing interest. These payments fell on the back of poor peasants who had to be ruthlessly exploited even further to ensure that the taxes collected to fund the debt payments would not harm the profits of the feudal landlords or the comprador bourgeoisie. Each year, until 1947, about one third of the worth all the goods produced on the island went to pay back this debt to the former slaveholders. This had a great negative impact on the Haitian economy and severely restricted its growth.
We can clearly see how the anti-national class interests of these two ruling classes (the feudal oligarchy and the comprador bourgeoisie) are the fundamental reason for the systematic degradation of the Haitian social formation since its independence.
Now that we have established the historical responsibility of these reactionary ruling classes in the progressive decline of the Haitian social formation, we can turn our focus to the 1915 occupation.
The 1915 US invasion and occupation removed the dominance of French imperialism on the Haitian social formation and replaced it with a dominant US imperialist domination. This domination was implemented on three social levels: political (including military), economic and ideological. The historical development of this domination has been unfolding since 1915 and has gone through several stages. This imperialist domination has also been conditioned by US imperialism’s developing worldwide hegemony through the years and its emergence as an uncontested superpower.
Politically, the US invasion and occupation put the Haitian State under control of the US State. The US occupation forces formed a Haitian Gendarmerie with Haitian soldiers under the command of US officers. They forced the Haitian Parliament to adopt a convention (1916) and 2 new constitutions (1918 and 1922), which granted full powers to the invaders.
Economically, they pillaged all the financial resources of the Haitian State, including its gold reserves. They took over the banks. They took over customs and the receipt of import and export duties, which was the major source of funding for the Haitian State. They used their political power to grant preposterous advantages for US companies investing in Haiti, taking over land, expropriating peasants, plundering natural resources and the labor power of Haitian workers. Concession contracts were gifted to US companies, funded by loans taken on by the Haitian State, which further increase its debts and dependency to US imperialism. US companies used these funds to further their own interests, building roads, trams, train tracks (…) to enhance their profitability and service their needs. The occupying forces reinstated forced labor drafting poor peasants into work gangs to build roads for US troops.
At the level of commerce, the US capitalist system became dominant over the entire social formation: products were imported from US companies, which were granted unimpeded access to the Haitian market, and most export goods were exported through US companies. A neo-colonial system of preferential trade relations was established, based on the unequal exchange of manufactured goods imported from companies based in the US, purchased at full value, and raw materials and agricultural products exported from Haiti and sold at depreciated prices. All decisions on investment (which business were allowed to function, which investors and for what purpose could access financing…) were made under imperialist control and to benefit the interests of US imperialism. This led to a model of capitalist “development” characterized by its subordination to US interests, stunted in its growth, parasitic in nature, deformed, dependent, vicious, rapacious and anti-national…
This vampire like system is at the root of the Haitian social formation’s economic dependency and subordination to imperialism, and is a key factor we need to gauge each time we ask ourselves: “Why can’t there be a real capitalist economic development in Haiti? Why are we, in the popular masses, subjected to such abject misery?” These days, reformist-populist-opportunist petty-bourgeois politicians, based abroad and in Haiti, would like us to believe that “they can reform this capitalist system and put it on another track.” But, not only is there no “other track” (as former British PM Margaret Thatcher, champion of neoliberal policies, famously proclaimed: “There is no alternative” – TINA), there is only one capitalist economic model of exploitation in this era of imperialist capitalist globalization. Even within the dominant imperialist social formations, this system is based on the same rapacious model of worker exploitation and repression. This means that for us workers and laborers, for us in the dominated popular masses, we only have one interest: we need to confront not only the imperialist domination at the root of this system of intolerable misery, but we must also stand up against capitalism itself.
On the ideological level, US imperialist domination in Haiti had to contend with the extent of French ideological domination on the social formation, incorporated in the educational system, the Catholic Church, occidental culture, the media, and all the rites, customs, ways of life, preconceptions and prejudices which had been firmly established over the years. In order to consolidate their rule, US imperialists used racial discrimination to establish their superiority. They implemented policies to systematically humiliate people of darker color. They established a system of racial segregation that mimicked the practice of “Jim Crow” in the US, which excluded Blacks from certain establishments and places. In the context of their alliance with the ruling classes in Haiti (the mostly dark-skinned feudal oligarchy and the mostly lighter skinned comprador bourgeoisie), they privileged the lighter-skinned mulattoes and increased the racial divides in the Haitian social formation. They used this approach to further divide and dominate the Haitian ruling classes.
Quite naturally, these policies provoked, in reaction, a surge of reverse racialism, promoting Black superiority. But this ideology of Black superiority was not rooted in its opposition to the ideological domination of US imperialism, nor in opposition to racial segregation. It developed mostly within the feudal oligarchy of big landowners in opposition to the comprador bourgeoisie, rather than in opposition to US occupation. This is the ideological current that promoted ideologues such as Jean-Price Mars and politicians such as Estimè (1946) and Duvalier (1957). Clearly, the ideology of Black supremacy has only served to camouflage the relations of exploitation and domination in the Haitian social formation, enabling the Haitian ruling classes to further their domination and exploitation of the Haitian popular masses. Just like their lighter skinned counter parts in the ruling classes, the advocates of Black supremacy were just as eager to ally with imperialism in the service of US domination to further their own interests, always at the expense of the further exploitation and domination of the popular masses.
The lesson we must draw from this experience is that the ruling classes set up racial divides and always use them to their benefit. Our own strength in the popular camp must be based on class analysis and class alliances based on our autonomous class interests, in the framework of working class internationalism, which throws away all these divisive prejudices into the garbage can of History.
The political project of the 1915-34 US occupation of Haiti was one of pillage and domination. It was not a project of annexation or assimilation of the Haitian social formation. That is why, at the ideological level, US imperialism was content to simply establish its superiority and use the existing ideological structures to further its goals and interests.
After 19 years of occupation, the US imperialists withdrew their occupation forces. They had come to realize that they no longer needed a military occupation to enable their domination. On the contrary, direct military occupation was provoking a surging popular resistance against the abuse and ruthlessness of the occupying forces. This was becoming a thorny issue internationally and nationally in the US. They also came to realize that they could count on the Haitian ruling classes, on the politicians they had put in power, on the Gendarmerie they had set up (Garde d’Haiti) to control the popular masses and repress them as needed in order to guarantee their exploitation and continued US imperialist domination.
It is easy to see how these same principles apply in the current conjuncture of MINUSTAH occupation.
After their military occupation, the US imperialists left behind all their economic structure of servile-subjugated-stunted-dependent-deformed capitalism. They left behind all the ideological weight of exacerbated racial discrimination and prejudice. They left behind all the political structure of a dependent-dominated state, shackled by debt to imperialist institutions, they left behind the Haitian occupation forces they had groomed, the Garde d’Haiti, with all their US trained soldiers and officers, all servants of US imperialism. Just like today.
It is precisely this Gendarmerie, the “Garde d’Haiti” that was renamed the “Haitian Army.” Today, it’s the “National Police”. Each time, this is the repressive apparatus whose role is to guarantee the implementation of the imperialist project while the ruling classes continue to serve as the social base and allies of US imperialism, whether in 1915, or today, in 2015, after 100 years!
That is the foundation of the domination, at three levels, political, economic, and ideological, that the occupation was able to setup. That is the base that has continued to enable and promote US imperialist penetration and domination over the Haitian social formation.
We will not be looking at the different phases and periods in the development of US imperialist domination of Haiti in this document. From WW2, which led to a new division of the world, to the 1946 political crisis, to the “Cold War,” to the formation of a bureaucratic bourgeoisie in Haiti (starting with the Duvalier dictatorship, as a new fraction of the bourgeoisie, rooted in autocratic hegemonic state power), the implementation of neo-liberal policies starting in the 70’s, the uprooting of the bureaucratic bourgeoisie starting in 1986 with “dechoukay” campaign, the rise of populist-opportunists, the 1991 coup d’état, the embargo, the repression of popular movements, the 1994 MINUAH occupation, the systematic policies to degrade and disempower the Haitian state, the rise of “granmanjè” populist opportunists, the transformation of the relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the 2004 MINUSTAH occupation, the 2010 earthquake, the rise of neo-duvalierist rightwing populism… There are a lot of historical factors to be considered, but our main focus in this document is to expose the effects of imperialist domination in the current situation in Haiti.
At the economic level, the US imperialist penetration and domination has been one of the key factors in the degradation of the Haitian social formation. The 1915-34 US occupation put Haiti under a neo-colonial domination that stunted the growth of national capitalism. As previously mentioned, this imperialist domination set up a model of capitalist development that was subordinated to US imperialist interests, parasitic in nature, deformed, dependent, vicious, rapacious and anti-national. In the capitalist “free market” context, an investor will not risk investing in setting up a tomato paste factory in Haiti as long as he/she can import tomato paste, sell it and realize a similar (and safer) profit.
This is the underlying logic that has stunted all industrial development in Haiti. Local industries cannot compete with big multi-national imperialist monopolies (or even their Dominican counterparts!) without state protections (protective tariffs, import quotas and restrictions…) and state subventions (tax exemptions, duty free imports of equipment and raw materials, low interest loans…). But these are precisely the kind of state protectionist capitalist measures that are strictly prohibited by the neo-liberal agenda. The neo-liberal plan (the Washington Consensus, the IMF plan, the CBI (Caribbean Basin Initiative), CAFTA-DR, HOPE (1 & 2), HELP…) is enacted through all the structures and legal framework (legal engagements with the IMF, the World Bank, BID and the USAID to enact “Structural Adjustments,” commercial treaties, WTO participation, Bilateral trade agreements…). The dog-eat-dog, no holds barred, bigger-dog-wins framework of “free market” capitalism is set up precisely to leverage and expand the advantage of giant multi-national imperialist monopolies.
This neo-liberal agenda has been implemented in various ways since the 1970’s. This has been done through the systematic reduction of the state (reducing the number of state employees, cutbacks in state provided social services, the privatization of state owned enterprises and of state rendered services), currency devaluation and destabilization, the elimination of protective tariffs and quotas, the promotion of export geared agro-industry and mining ventures, the promotion of tourism (exclusive hotels, resorts…), policies to maintain low wages (“Haiti’s comparative advantage is its low wages,” and the impunity granted to business owners who blatantly violate workers rights and suppress unions…). On top of all this, there has been an aggressive policy to promote “foreign investment” (i.e. imperialist capitalist penetration) through the privatization of state services and industries and in assembly manufacturing, particularly through the effective reduction of the minimum wage (via inflation) and through fiscal subsidies, tax and import-export duty exemptions granted to foreign investors.
While this “structural adjustment” was being implemented, the IMF Plan also promoted various projects to destroy and restructure Haiti’s economy according to the neo-liberal model: sweatshop assembly manufacturing, agro-industry for export, mineral extraction and tourism.
Towards these objectives, they first had to destroy (“re-structure”) local production. For example, the imperialists used the pretext of an epidemic of “porcine fever” to try to eliminate all the native pig population in Haiti. The objective was to destroy the economic base of poor peasants primarily engaged in food agriculture, because their pigs functioned as their savings accounts. At the same time, the goal was to promote the raising of imported pigs, along with imported feed, imported vaccines, and the switch to export crops and all the GMO seeds, fertilizer, insecticides promoted by agro-industrial giants such as Monsanto, to promote the dependency on these products and facilitate their market penetration in taking over Haiti’s “restructured” agricultural production.
Clearly, the main goal of this neo-liberal plan is to facilitate the market penetration of giant multinational companies and to leverage their “economies of scale”, i.e. their monopoly power. This is a program that shackles dominated-dependent social formations within and under an economic model that is completely subservient to the needs and interests of imperialist economies. That is how rice cultivation was destroyed in Haiti resulting in Haiti’s dependency on importing rice from the US (Bill Clinton’s Arkansas rice farmers). The imperialists have restructured Haiti’s economy to produce what they need to take from us and to force us to buy what they want to sell us.
How were the imperialists able to impose these economic relations? In previous times, this was done mainly through wars, blockades, invasions and occupations. Nowadays, this is mainly implemented through the pressure of debt and supplemented by wars, invasions and occupations. State indebtedness to international financial institutions (International Monetary Fund [IMF], the World Bank, The Inter-American Development Bank [BID], USAID…) that have a monopoly on international financing, provides the leverage (through the imperialist control of these financial institutions) to impose “structural adjustments”. These institutions are the lenders of last resort when the Haitian state (like states in all other dominated-dependent social formations) falls behind on payments to its creditors, so they get to set the rules of “structural adjustment” as preconditions to financing.
In the period after WW2 (1939-45), (when the Keynesian economic model advocating state intervention in the economy was in vogue in imperialist circles), imperialists promoted the model of “import substitution industrialization” in “developing” countries. Governments in these countries were encouraged to borrow from international finance institutions and private banks to fund infrastructure and industrial development projects (highways, dams…). During this same period, in the emergence of the “cold war”, US imperialism intervened in all the dominated-dependent countries they could target to put in power “US friendly” governments, most often corrupt dictatorships, willing to repress popular movements in the name of “anti-communism”. These corrupt dictatorships systematically pillaged their state coffers.
Using manipulated elections, coup d’états and invasions, US administrations intervened in most of the countries in Latin America, including Cuba, Haiti, Guatemala, Honduras, EL Salvador, Panama, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, to put in power corrupt autocratic dictatorial regimes. The state debt piled up under these regimes (known as “odious debt”) put these states into positions of financial dependency vis-à-vis the international finance institutions controlled by US imperialism.
Leveraging this debt, US imperialists (principally), used the framework of neoliberal “structural adjustment programs” to impose on these dominated-dependent social formations all the reforms that are advantageous to imperialist expansion, market penetration and domination. Since governments in these dominated-dependent social formations had no other financial alternative, they were compelled to comply with the structural adjustment reforms mandated by the IMF, World Bank, IDB (…). Resistance to these mandated reforms was met with coup d’états, embargos, invasions and occupations.
If we take the example of Haiti, we can clearly see how this scenario was implemented. Sham elections were held to put Duvalier into power, Haiti went into debt to build the Péligre hydroelectric dam and the Delmas highway, several sate industrial projects were promoted (ENAOL, Ciment d’Haiti, Régie du Tabac et des Alumettes, TELECO, EDH…). This was the base of the Haitian’s state’s indebtedness, along with the financing of trade balance deficits, while at the same time this was providing the economic base for the upsurge of a new fraction in the bourgeoisie, the bureaucratic bourgeoisie, which used its hegemonic power at the head of the state and its autocratic dictatorial power to enrich itself through the corrupt manipulation of state owned industries.
In the neoliberal phase of imperialist globalization, the emergence and hegemony of this bureaucratic bourgeoisie challenged some parts of the neoliberal agenda, particularly the privatization of state owned enterprises and trade liberalization (which would drastically reduce state revenues generated though tariffs and import-export taxes). At the same time, the eventual bankruptcy of these programs based on institutionalized corruption led to rising discontent in the popular masses who were victimized by these policies and also were subjected to the systematic degradation of the Haitian social formation. A fraction of the petty-bourgeoisie who had been left out of the circles of corruption, also joined into the rising tide of opposition, and was mobilized by the comprador bourgeoisie who lobbied US imperialism as an alternative to a failing bureaucratic bourgeoisie at the helm of the Haitian state. All these factors contributed to the “dechoukay” (uprooting) of the bureaucratic bourgeoisie from its hegemonic position of state power, starting in 1986.
The neo-liberal plan promotes the establishment of “puppet democracies” in order to facilitate imperialist market penetration, financial investment in taking over privatized state enterprises (monopolies) and foreign investment in sweatshop assembly manufacturing, mining and tourism ventures, all through the “free market”. After the bureaucratic bourgeoisie was removed from power in 1986, through US intervention and a popular uprising, imperialists made several attempts to put their candidates in power through sham elections.
Since the mid 1980’s, the Haitian social formation and the Haitian state have been in a political crisis: a crisis of legitimacy, a crisis of representation, a crisis of governance, and a crisis of repressive capacity to contain popular uprisings. This is a political crisis that neither the Haitian ruling classes nor the imperialists have been able to resolve. On the one hand, the pressure brought about by rising popular discontent has to be met with an effective repressive capacity, on the other hand, each time they attempt to hold elections to reconstitute the dismembered Haitian state, the popular masses invade that process to put populist candidates into power. At the same time, these elected governments, once in power, attempt to reconstitute themselves into a new bureaucratic bourgeoisie, while they use the drug trade and contraband to finance themselves. The practices of corruption and “mafia” have become institutionalized in the Haitian state. Moreover, even the MINUSTAH and the embassies are taking part in these illicit practices!
To facilitate the implementation of their policies, the imperialists (mainly US imperialism) have systematically plotted and brought about the dismembering and disempowerment of the Haitian state, through imperialist sponsored coup d’états, embargos, invasions, occupations and the dissolution of branches of the Haitian state (the army, the VSN [macoutes], the Leopard corps…). They substituted the Haitian state with NGOs and the MINUSTAH occupation forces. But to no avail, their plans are still mired in failure. As we all can clearly see, they can’t control the infirmed failed Haitian state apparatus, they can’t control the 10,000 NGOs they have set up, they can’t control the mafia they have themselves joined, nor can they deal with the even more fundamental contradiction opposing the ruling classes along with their sate apparatus, and the Haitian popular masses.
A chronic political crisis has ensued in the Haitian social formation that at its root continued economic degradation but which also reflects the contradictions involved in the restructuration of the Haitian state, in the context of the political transformations mandated by and necessary by imperialist capitalism. On the one hand, there is an intolerable and explosive situation of misery for the popular masses and blatant wealth inequity threatening to ignite at any moment. On the other hand, each time there is an attempt to use the electoral process to put a new government in power, the popular masses invade that process to elect populist candidates at the detriment of the “chosen, preferred” player for imperialism. So, the imperialists are having a hard time rebuilding the Haitian state they took and dismantled. On the one hand, they must maintain a repressive capacity that can contain the popular masses; on the other hand, they must try to prevent the reconstitution of a bureaucratic bourgeoisie that would imperil structural adjustments and the masquerade of democracy they require to maintain their legitimacy.
Currently, imperialism is attempting to build-up “civil society” in order to provide a more stable base for the implementation of this masquerade of democracy. The World Bank, the EU, USAID, the NED (National Endowment for Democracy)… are investing billions of dollars in various projects aimed at building up “civil society”. Towards this agenda, they are promoting the establishment of rural cooperatives and community projects in rural areas, they are promoting yellow unions tied to their representatives (for example, the Solidarity Center, set up by the AFL-CIO, a sold out yellow union federation in the US, is engaged in co-opting workers struggles all over the world). They are promoting all kinds of civil society institutions and associations to enlarge and shore up the foundations and internal structures of imperialist domination. And they are recycling all these projects in the elections. They are circling around while the Haitian social formation’s degradation is speeding up.
All the while, the economic crisis is worsening. The Haitian social formation is incapable of providing food for its population, most foodstuff are imported, deforestation has bleached the topsoil from the land, there are no roads, there is no electricity, water is scarce, there is no sanitation, there are no health services, workers can’t make ends meet with the misery wages they earn and inflation is rapidly increasing the cost of all primary goods for subsistence. The neo-liberal plan offers no solution for these problems. There is no way for capitalists to make profits from resolving these problems. The capitalist system cannot resolve the problems of deforestation, unemployment, hunger and starvation, lack of healthcare, lack of potable water, lack of infrastructure… There is no way for “free market” capitalists to resolve these issues and make competitive profits. In effect, THEY HAVE NO SOLUTION!
Their marching order is: “workers and laborers must make sacrifices in order to make sure that foreign investors can reap the greatest profits from their labor, in order to attract this investment. Don’t forget that Haiti’s comparative advantage is its cheap labor!” And in order to implement this: misery wages, no unions, impunity for the bosses! But in the end, the best plans of mice and capitalists… What awaits them in the hell they want to confine us in, “Antoine on top of the gommier tree (very tall tree) did not see it coming.”
Everything we have talked about so far as a consequence of US imperialism had its starting point in 1915! From 1915 onwards, (US) imperialist penetration and domination have always been a cancer, a vampire sucking all our blood, all the marrow of the country’s productive forces. Not only was all “national” investment blocked or critically constrained, but also foreign products invaded and took over the internal markets while internal production was progressively degraded and diminished. Compounding the establishment of a subservient, infirmed, deformed, parasitic and rapacious form of capitalism, the archaic agrarian oligarchic feudal system was also degraded and confined to diminishing progressively. The successive division of landholdings over generations yielded tiny plots of land, deforestation, topsoil erosion, lack of irrigation, the impoverishment of small peasants and sharecroppers indebted to big landowners until they can no longer afford to buy seeds or fertilizer nor improve their cultivations… all these problems rendered the land infertile, small peasants lost their lands and were forced to migrate either to the cities or try to emigrate on frail boats on the open seas or to the DR…
In turn, each year there are more unemployed, more people that have no hope of finding a job. And the capitalists use this “reserve” of workers to maintain the pressure to keep wages at a sub-subsistence level.
Nowadays, Haiti’s economy is based on the drug and contraband mafia, the remittances from the diaspora sent to their relatives, the misery wages earned by sweatshop factory workers, the money the NGOs spend on themselves, the money the Haitian state gets from foreign sources (BID, USAID, EU, IMF, Petrocaribe funds…) either through grants or through loans. In this context, imperialism is promoting more assembly sweatshops (sub-subsistence wages), touristic development (foreign companies throwing peasants off their lands to build exclusive resorts…) agro-industry (foreign companies producing export goods, reducing food production) mining ventures (foreign companies expropriating poor peasants, ripping off its resources and polluting the land). It is clear to see how this kind of “development” is in fact contributing to internal economic degradation.
At the same time, these imperialist plans are failing miserably. At the economic level, all the major economic indicators point to a failing and degrading economy. Even bourgeois capitalist economists have logically demonstrated how these austerity plans of structural adjustment are doomed to fail even when we look at them from their own paradigm of “development”. In reality, this is because economic development is quite secondary in the imperialist project. We need to understand this very clearly, whether in 1915 or today. The principal and overriding imperialist objective is political domination. Haiti is a weak link in the imperialist chain of domination. The priority for imperialism is to maintain its domination under the very same paradigm of neo-liberalism and its prescriptions of the structural adjustment austerity model, the model where Haiti’s comparative advantage is cheap labor, therefore sub-subsistence misery wages. In fact, the priority is maintaining the enforcement of the model, because the model cannot tolerate exceptions and the model itself is key to capitalist globalization and global imperialist expansion. That is why they are ready to deploy their military forces to enforce its application.
Let’s take as an example, the setting up of the Caracol Industrial Park. Imperialism (USAID, the State Department, the Clinton Foundation, IDB…) “invested” more than $100 million dollars in setting up Caracol, under the pretext of reconstruction after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The Haitian state provided the land. Hillary Clinton personally lobbied the Korean company (Sae-A Trading Ltd) that was recruited to start up assembly manufacturing sweatshops in Caracol. Promises, guarantees and sweetheart deals were made to this Korean company to get it to agree to set up in Haiti, not withstanding the country’s poor infrastructure and chronic political instability. To this day, there are only four companies that have set up in the Caracol Industrial Park, even though they can take advantage of the comparative advantage of misery wages. This is far lower than projected estimates.
Quite clearly, on a strictly short-term economic level, this $100 million plus dollars that was invested in Caracol has not been profitable, either for US companies or for the USAID. But what is also clear is profitability of global sweatshop assembly manufacturing-outsourcing for the US capitalist imperialist system. That is the context for the establishment of “HOPE 1 and 2” legislation, the CBI, and CAFTA-DR. If the plan for the establishment of 40 Free Trade Zones in Haiti ever comes to fruition, this would be indeed very profitable for US companies. But this is not indispensable, as long as there are other countries in the Caribbean and in Central America where these sweatshops can be run. The principal importance of the Caracol Industrial Park for imperialism is that it supports the worldwide model of sweatshop assembly manufacturing-outsourcing, while also supporting its implementation in Haiti.
2015 marks 100 years since the first US occupation of Haiti in 1915. We have seen how 2015 was enabled by what happened in 1915. This centennial provides an opportunity for a lot of people to reflect on the evolution of the Haitian social formation over the years. Many of these reflections have compared the 1915-34 occupation to the current MINUSTAH (US proxy) occupation. Since both involve foreign boots on Haitian soil, we have seen an upsurge of nationalist fervor that has led many to confuse and conflate (reduce) the MINUSTAH occupation with imperialist domination.
To be more clear, just like the withdrawal of the US occupation forces in 1934 did not end US imperialist domination of Haiti, likewise, the withdrawal of the MINUAH occupation forces did not signal the end of imperialist domination in 2000. This is also true for the presence of MINUSTAH forces in Haiti today.
Nowadays, the level of weakening of the Haitian state compounded by the level of imperialist domination on the Haitian social formation have enabled this new kind of military occupation: the proxy occupation via UN forces. This new kind of military occupation is very flexible: these forces can “invade at will, and stay on as long as they want to.” They are multi-faceted, they have police, soldiers, and various branches of the repressive apparatus. They can be increased or reduced “at will” in very short order, under the directives of the US dominated UN Security Council. There are many factors that underscore this military occupation and we need to consider all these factors when we struggle for its ouster, in particular, we should consider the contradictions that the imperialist system itself are faced with, all the crises it is trying to contend with.
In the current infirmed condition of the Haitian state that is begging foreign donors and lenders for over 60% of its budget, a state apparatus that does not have an army, that has its forces under direct imperialist supervision, a state whose leaders take their policy directives directly from the US embassy, a state that cannot even finance its own elections (…), the current level of UN troops stationed in Haiti is just a relative indicator of the required repressive strength estimated contextually to maintain “social order”, i.e. prevent a coup d’état or a popular uprising. Besides, everyone was able to observe the relative incapacity of MINUSTAH troops (popularly derided as Tourista) to deal effectively with the consequences of the 2010 devastating earthquake. US imperialists were forced to dispatch 20,000 troops immediately to take control of the situation, and these troops did not ask anybody’s permission to invade.
So, even though we must demand the withdrawal of the MINUSATH forces with all our strength and we must raise our voices to do so, we must also understand that the withdrawal of UN troops is just a straw in the complex structure of imperialist domination. The main focus and objective of our resistance and struggle must be the total uprooting of imperialist domination.
Only a radical and revolutionary transformation of the Haitian state can effect the relations of power necessary to uproot the political, military, economic and ideological imperialist domination over the Haitian social formation. The Haitian ruling classes (the agrarian feudal oligarchy, the comprador bourgeoisie and the bureaucratic bourgeoisie) have clearly demonstrated their incapacity to resolve the current political crisis (from which they are benefitting, as the junior partners of imperialism). As for petty-bourgeois populists, they have already shown their failure and their willingness to be co-opted and recuperated by imperialism, due to their opportunist nature. The masquerade of elections in 2015 has even more clearly demonstrated this. Many “progressive” petty-bourgeois politicians have inserted themselves into the electoral process as candidates to restructure the Haitian state to safeguard capitalism “willy-nilly”, and its viciously repressive engine of terror directed towards the popular masses.
We must draw lessons from 25 years of opportunist populism where the Haitian petty-bourgeoisie has shown its worth. We must not forget that it was Aristide and his Lavalas party that opened the door for the 1994 occupation and was readying to repeat this again in 2004. Aristide’s 1994 surrender of national sovereignty set the international precedent that is being used today to justify imperialism’s “humanitarian interventions” all over the world and for repeated interventions in Haiti, under that same mandate. We must use our anti-imperialist consciousness to demarcate ourselves from all opportunist petty-bourgeois tendencies that are using pseudo-nationalist rhetoric to mobilize the popular masses behind their candidacy in order to get into office, to join in rebuilding the bureaucratic bourgeoisie once more and serve as lackeys to imperialist domination.
Faced with the abject failure of all these classes, we must state that in reality: the interest of the country is the interest of workers and laborers. These are the only classes that have country’s interest at heart. Furthermore, in the context of the continuing and accelerated process of proletarianization stemming from imperialist capitalist penetration, joining the working class has become the common destiny of all the popular masses, and as a popular camp, we are destined to dig imperialism’s grave. That is why only a popular revolution, with the laboring classes as its pillar, under working class leadership, can bring the kind of transformation so sorely needed. There are no other classes that, through their innate capacity, have the potential to bring about this kind of radical transformation.
Why single out the working class? It is not because of individual character. It is because its unique class condition is rooted in the structure of capitalism: we are the only class that has been completely dispossessed and alienated from its labor while workers are exploited in a collective setting where our collective struggle is our only way to emancipate ourselves. We have been completely dispossessed from land, tools, raw materials, machinery, buildings, (…), forced to sell our labor power, dispossessed from what our labor produces, and subjected to the alienation of repetitive mass production. Capitalists attempt to rule our every movement while we are working and constantly try to force us to produce more, faster and better. History has shown clearly that these very conditions engendered by capitalism are also the birthplace of the struggle for its eradication. History has shown clearly that the working class (while only in existence for less than 3 centuries and far less in most social formations), has demonstrated by far and away the highest capacity to organize itself in collective struggles.
The only way for the working class to emancipate itself is by eradicating capitalism and building a new society free from any form of exploitation or domination. This ultimate objective is also beneficial to all exploited and dominated classes, enabling the working class to unify the all dominated laborers in this common struggle. Our experience gained, through our collective struggles over the years, has taught us many valuable and costly lessons. That experience, and our collective debates are the key to the scientific approach we are building collectively, through a process of political rapprochement, to unify our struggles internationally.
In 1915, the working class had just begun to exist in Haiti. There was a lack of coordination between various fields of resistance against the US occupation, isolating and weakening them, whereas the occupation forces themselves had a centralized command. There was a lack of organization; there was a lack of a clear political line that could rally the classes in the popular camp and guide their struggle. In 2015, we need to overcome these failures.
This year, because the centenary of the first occupation coincides with the holding of elections in Haiti, the question of “national development” is a common theme in the political discourse that has taken over the media. Many “progressive” petty bourgeois have joined in with fervor and conviction. But in reality, they are serving as spokespersons of a tiny fraction of a “local bourgeoisie”, (along with the petty bourgeois who aspire to join them) which is structurally dominated by imperialism and losing ground to the invasion of foreign companies, particularly Dominican construction companies. But we must understand that their fundamental interests are tied to the capitalist system and that their contradictions with imperialism are secondary when compared to their contradictions with the working masses. Their proposed “nationalist reforms” are more like mirages that have no objective base, and they are a platform that can be easily recuperated by imperialism, just like all the social-democrat platforms.
These are just dead ends, unable to mobilize and struggle against capitalism or imperialism, forced to compromise and capitulate to the mandates of “those who write the rules”, the imperialists. These are the capitulations that we see happening over and over around the world (in struggles led by the petty bourgeoisie), as these movements “play by the rules” and fail to mobilize the popular masses to overthrow the system and change it radically. But this radical political orientation is fundamentally that of the working class.
Therefore, progressives should use their anti-imperialist consciousness to align themselves with the working masses, the pillars of all societies, under working class leadership.
Nowadays, only working class leadership, in the context of international proletarianism, can effectively uproot imperialist domination, not only in Haiti, but also throughout the world. Only the working class has the capacity to confront the imperialist system and build a new world free from exploitation and domination. The working class has the capacity, internationally, to draw historical lessons from our past struggles over more than 200 years and bring down imperialism.
Today, that is the historical responsibility that the Haitian working class has inherited from our ancestors. We bear all of life’s burdens, but our future is in our hands. Together with the popular masses, victory will be ours.