by Jan Makandal
Since capitalism reached the stage of imperialism, many imperialist countries have initiated and developed relations with Haiti. From the onset, these have been nothing but relations of domination.
This analysis divides that history into three periods, with an emphasis on the third:
1) The period from our independence to 1915
2) From 1915 to the 1960s
3) From the 1960s to the present
The first period:
Before 1915, the relation of Haiti with imperialism was mostly based on trade. This trade relation was always unequal, with Haiti in the subordinated and disfavored position. Haiti was compelled to sell its products at an undervalued cost, while buying products from imperialist countries at an overvalued cost. This systematically held back the development of Haiti.
In addition to unequal exchange, imperialist countries used other tactics to continue the pillage of Haiti: for example high-interest loans, which Haitians call “Kout Ponya.” Also, imperialist forces intervened militarily many times, and forced Haiti to pay indemnities (in 1850, 500 million dollars to the US; in 1872, 18 thousand Deutschmarks to Germany; in 1877, 682,000 British pounds to England; in 1874-84, 179,750.00 francs to France; and in 1914, the US pillaged the Haitian National Bank).
During this period, imperialist countries did not really invest in Haiti. All of these practices (unequal exchange, loans with high interest, and forced indemnities) blocked the development of Haiti‘s economy, and caused an atrophic and deformed type of capitalism to develop there.
There were many reasons for Haiti’s unequal economic relation with imperialism. Two stand out as the most determinant:
First and foremost, anti-national, anti-popular social classes held political power inside Haiti, and allowed and facilitated its domination by imperialism.
The second reason was the direct political domination of Haiti by imperialism. This took many forms, the most humiliating of which was constant and repeated military interventions.
We must also note that during this period, there was inter-imperialist competition over the domination of Haiti. Imperialist countries such as France, Germany and the US were in a constant struggle among each other for hegemony. During this first period until 1915, France was the main dominator.
The second period:
The second period witnessed some important developments with enormous consequences. To more systematically cover this timeframe, it helps to split it in two: 1915 to 1934, and 1934 to 1968.
1915 to 1934:
This is the duration of the first US occupation. Imperialist hegemony had changed hands: the US dethroned France and became the main dominator of Haiti until today.
Contrary to some assertions, the US did not occupy Haiti because it wanted to make Haiti pay for the insolence of being independent. It was also not because we were the first “Black nation” or “Black people.” To believe these were the reasons indicates a pretty limited understanding of the nature of imperialism.
Instead, this domination was based on the politics of US imperialism toward what it referred to as its “back yard.” While European imperialist countries were engaged in their first inter-imperialist war (I refuse to call it a “world war,” which is a totally arrogant bourgeois concept), the US took the opportunity to seize control of most of Latin America and the Caribbean. The effort to dominate peripheral countries was one of the constant drivers of inter-imperialist rivalry.
The direct investments made in Haiti by US imperialism increased considerably. They were geared toward capitalist enterprises, and facilitated the development of the capitalist mode of production in Haiti. But because of the existing structure of domination, the particular form of capitalism that arose was not able to destroy the feudal mode of production, even though the latter had begun to deteriorate and decompose. Instead, these two antagonistic modes of production existed side by side. This condition fostered a constant state of crisis in the society as a whole, but in the final analysis benefited imperialism and the Haitian dominant classes.
Imperialism restructured the state apparatus to defend its interests and guarantee the political domination of Haiti. The reorganized state apparatus carried out the repression of the nationalist and patriotic forces led by Charlemagne Peralte and Benoit Batraville.
US imperialism consolidated its relations with the Haitian dominant classes, creating a social base that solidified the US domination over Haiti even after the patriotic resistance forced them out physically.
Meanwhile, the US totally decimated the newly emerging national bourgeoisie, using political means: both repression and judicial measures. One law passed in 1918, regarding the production of alcohol, bankrupted more than one hundred national businesses. This period of imperialist domination sparked the first wave of migration to other countries (such as Cuba).
With US imperialism dominating Haiti, direct investment continued to increase. To cement economic domination, the imperialists brought additional mechanisms to bear, such as concession contracts and aid.
These methods were connected to changes in US imperialism. Finance capital was slowly but surely replacing industrial capital as the principal form of extracting surplus value. Rather than relying on production, capitalists increasingly began seeking profits through the circulation of capital.
Meanwhile the Haitian state apparatus became more dependent on imperialism, openly defending imperialist interests with an advanced sycophantism.
During this period, the imperialist powers continued their inter-imperialist struggle for control. US imperialism had hegemony over Haiti’s economic and political structure, while French imperialism was dominant in the cultural realm.
Again, we must emphasize the collaborative role that the Haitian dominant classes have played in facilitating and allowing imperialism to dominate Haiti. We are insisting on this point because there is a prevalent political position, dominant on the left, to look at only one aspect of imperialist relations with dominated social formations.
The Haitian dominant classes were anti-national and anti-popular. US imperialism consolidated its relations with these reactionary classes, especially the comprador bourgeoisie, in order to facilitate their economic and political line in Haiti. At the same time they were aggressively dismantling the national bourgeoisie that had just begun to develop in Haiti. With US backing, the comprador bourgeoisie was established as the hegemonic fraction of the dominant power bloc.
Although the imperialists favored the ascension of the comprador bourgeoisie, and assisted them in supplanting the hegemonic position once held by the feudal landlords, at the same time they also maintained some strong relations with the feudal landlords for political balance.
Toward the end of this period, from 1957 to 1968, a new fraction within the bourgeoisie became a class by itself: the bureaucratic bourgeoisie. This resulted in certain contradictions between imperialism and the Haitian government (the center pole of the state apparatus). This was the Duvaliers’ era.
Even when these contradictions appeared acute at times, they were always very secondary to the underlying relationship of cooperation. The Haitian Left misinterpreted the nature of these contradictions, and assigned them a role not corresponding to the objective reality. This resulted in an opportunist line, which totally degenerated into a revisionist line.
Imperialism dominated Haiti as a whole by dominating its ruling classes (the bourgeoisie and feudal landlords, both allies of imperialism). For 19 years, the US marines aggressively repressed the patriotic forces and the masses who did not accept occupation. The Haitian dominant classes collaborated with them. They organized marches demanding occupation, and leaned on the petit bourgeoisie to participate. In unity with the dominant classes, US imperialism built a solid state apparatus that was for the most part capable of organizing anti-popular repression. Whichever government was heading it, the state apparatus was going to defend their interests—the interests of the dominant classes as well as imperialism, mainly US imperialism.
After the occupation, the anti-national and anti-popular Haitian dominant classes continued to allow imperialism to dominate Haiti. The interests of these classes and imperialism coincided, and the same state apparatus defended both. The Haitian ruling classes not only accepted domination; they contributed to it and to its consolidation.
Even when the state apparatus was already defending the interests of imperialism, the US continued to play a direct role in the political life of the country. During the Duvalier era, the CIA fomented coups, and used incidents such as attempted coups or invasions by the opposition, in order to put pressure on the government and the dominant classes.
During the two aforementioned periods, Haiti was subjected to many atrocities by imperialism, mainly by France and the US. This was due to the nature of imperialism—humiliation is necessary in order to enforce domination. Imperialist centers can only exist by dominating peripheral social formations—they are driven to do so by their need to export goods and capital, to extract raw materials, and to exploit labor based on the international division of labor. The nature of imperialism explains such relations with dominated countries.
Haiti is a perfect example. After 95 years of imperialist domination, the Haitian social formation is in worse shape than it has ever been. During this period, many different governments have run the state apparatus, but all have done so in the interests of the dominant classes and imperialism.
We need to point out that the ways these various reactionary governments served imperialism and the Haitian dominant classes have not been identical. The many reasons for their differences include internal struggles among the dominant classes, plus the effects of popular struggles. Notwithstanding their differences, we must refrain from representing any one of these governments as being less reactionary, less anti-popular, less anti-national than the others. The differences between them were secondary to the fact that in all cases, the whole state apparatus was totally domesticated for imperialism, and served as the instrument of organizing the dominant classes against the popular masses. As many governments came and went, the nature of the state apparatus remained the same throughout: an anti-popular and anti-national institution.
During these first two periods, the popular masses didn’t remain idle in the face of imperialism. They resisted. The most advanced form of resistance was the armed struggle of poor peasants and small farmers under the leadership of Peralte and Batraville. Students protested as well. Workers organized themselves to resist exploitation by capitalist enterprises in the sugar cane industry. Intellectuals, progressives and revolutionaries all resisted.
While upholding these struggles, we also need to recognize their limitations. The popular camp was not unified. The working class—the only class under whose leadership the goal of liberation can be achieved—was not organized, either at the mass levels or at the revolutionary level.
Still, the popular resistance did play a fundamental role in kicking imperialist forces out of Haiti, although imperialist domination remained. One fact must be reinforced: we can’t understand imperialist domination without grasping the complimentary roles of the reactionary government, the anti-national, anti-popular state apparatus, and the reactionary dominant classes.
The third period (1968 to the present):
This latest period is the most important. Many phenomena occurred during this period that were completely different from previous periods, because imperialist domination was consolidating, and the general situation of the social formation was reaching a more critical stage.
Two important conditions marked this timeframe. The Haitian dominant classes, especially the bourgeoisie, totally aligned themselves with the Duvalier regime. This rallying occurred between 1961 and 1965—a period of extreme, extensive and consistent repression against the working class movement, as well as against the progressive cultural movement. Soon after, from 1967 to 1969, the Duvalier regime organized another period of heightened repression against progressives and communists.
The secondary contradictions between Duvalier and imperialism were slowly being resolved, and the American government consolidated its relations with the regime. Imperialism resumed economic and military aid. Bolstered by this new relationship, the Duvalier regime consolidated itself in relation to the dominant classes.
Developments at the international level also had a profound effect on Haiti. American imperialism was taking heavy blows from countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and Chile. In addition, other imperialist countries were regaining influence after the second inter-imperialist war. They were able to engage with increasing aggression in a new re-ordering of peripheral countries under their domination, seriously challenging the hegemony of US imperialism. The emergence of Russian social imperialism also challenged the hegemony of US imperialism in various parts of the world. These new conditions had a pertinent effect on the relation of Haiti with other imperialist countries.
In general, from 1968 to 1980, imperialist domination of Haiti firmed up with the continued utilization of the same methods. Imperialists gave “aid” to the dominant classes, as well as increasingly to the government. Historically, the amount of this “aid” was incomparable to that imposed during any other period in Haiti.
We need to assert firmly that this so-called “aid” had nothing to do with assisting Haiti. Instead, it only benefited the dominant classes and made them even more receptive to imperialist policies. This aid facilitated the penetration and domination of imperialism . Without it, the Haitian dominant classes would have been totally powerless. (Their fundamental powerlessness, by the way, opened the door for many occupations).
Without this aid, imperialism would not have been able to exploit our natural resources, such as bauxite. They would not have been able to super-exploit the working class. This aid was necessary for Haiti to balance its budget. It was essential in solidifying the state apparatus in the interest of imperialism and the dominant classes. It was necessary to reinforce the dominated relations of the sycophant Haitian ruling classes (in addition to their state apparatus) to imperialism.
In reality, this aid didn’t help us. Objectively it only made Haiti even more dependent. Often this aid came under the cover of humanitarian assistance, even using natural disasters as the ostensible reason. But even though in some situations this aid may have been truly needed in the short term, coming from imperialism, with the conditions attached to it, it has had extremely negative consequences in the long term.
Today, for Haitians to eat, food has to be imported. This is a consequence of “aid.“
Aid has been a means to block the development of Haiti, by allowing the reactionary retrograde structure to maintain and reproduce itself. Imperialists have used NGOs directly connected to imperialist institutions—such as Food for the Poor, PAM (UN World Food Programme)—to actively pursue their objectives in Haiti. Free food distribution has been in direct competition with peasant agricultural production. One of its consequences has been to increase unemployment, as well as to create more conditions for total dependency on imperialism. These types of aid are no solution at all. Instead of helping, they are chains keeping us in domination and totally blocking us from coming out of these abject conditions. WE HAVE 95 YEARS TO PROVE IT.
Imperialist investments began increasing in 1968, but this had a very negative impact on Haiti. Imperialists sought oil, copper and other resources. They invested in factories—all assembly sweatshops.
It is important to point out that their investment in industry was (and still is) detrimental to the Haitian social formation. These sweatshops are only contributing to the development of a stunted, totally dependent form of capitalism in Haiti. The factories are not connected to the economy as a whole. They have no relation to agriculture or to other spheres of production. They are justly called assembly industries. They are units of production extracting surplus value in an exceptionally inhumane way (not that there is a humane way of making profits). Workers are forced to labor in the most wretched conditions, for wages that correspond to slavery. Their most basic human needs are systematically denied.
From Jean Claude Duvalier to all the Lavalas-led (Aristide or Préval) governments in unison with the bourgeoisie, the only thing being peddled was the cheap labor Haiti had to offer. The surplus value extracted from this was not being reinvested in Haiti.
To argue that sweatshops create jobs is a political position propagandized simply to benefit the bourgeoisie and imperialism. In fact, sweatshops are fake employment. The workers sell their labor at far less than its value. In Haiti today, a worker needs at least 500 gourdes ($12.50) per day to provide subsistence for a family of four. Just recently, the daily minimum wage was adjusted from 70 gourdes ($1.75) to 200 gourdes ($5), in violation of even the reactionary Haitian Labor Code’s cost-of-living adjustment provision.
Imperialism also invests in tourism. Club Med was one of their most well known resorts in Haiti. They have big plans to continue this type of investment. It is an anti-national type of investment, with no plan for the creation of any support industry. It is a model already proven to be a failure, the parasitical creation of an oasis in the middle of a desert hell for the masses.
Imperialism is also forced to make investments it would rather not make, such as building infrastructure, but only for the purpose of penetrating deeper into the country. The Haitian state apparatus sits idle, preferring that imperialism (rather than itself) makes these types of investments.
In addition to all these investments, banks are sprouting like mushrooms in Haiti, penetrating the countryside. With the intensification of domination, a lot of capital is circulating in Haiti, making all these banks necessary. They are not subject to the regulations of imperialist countries, and are able to do international transactions.
For the past two decades, the monopolistic bourgeois fraction has formed conglomerates to acquire banking institutions. Two of these institutions were acquired during the reactionary, anti-national, anti-popular embargo demanded by Aristide, benefiting them during the occupation. All the capital required to maintain the troops went through these financial institutions. All the funding for NGOs is passing through them. All the aid money is going into these banks.
Even as imperialist economic interests are accruing, they also must defend them. In reality, these interests are not translating into the development of Haiti. They are investments made from an anti-national objective, in an atrophied economy, with no intention to positively stimulate the economic potential of Haiti. For example, when the imperialists extracted bauxite, they took the top soil and exported it to Jamaica—leaving Haiti with nothing when the bauxite had been exhausted. They even took the light bulbs as they were leaving. No processing plants are anywhere to be found that could exploit our natural fruits. Instead, we have Coca Cola plants producing beverages for local consumption.
All this capital circulating in Haiti only benefits the dominant classes, mainly the bourgeoisie. The masses can’t even smell that green; they only hear about it through the airwaves. On the contrary, they are paying heavily for this capital circulation: inflation is forever increasing, while the cost of living has quadrupled in the past decade.
At the political level, domination increased and has been consolidated. Imperialism has objectively been managing Haiti since the 1980s. The relation of the imperialist state to the Haitian state became more strict, and the Haitian state apparatus became increasingly dependent. What existed was an objective de facto “mise sous tutelle” or protectorate.
Since the mid-1980s, it has been evident to many proletarian revolutionaries that the Haitian social formation has been facing two alternatives. Due to the incapacity of the Haitian dominant classes, and due to the failure of the state apparatus, Haiti faced two realities: 1) occupation by imperialism, or 2) a takeover by the popular masses under the leadership of the working class to defeat the dominant classes, change the course of Haiti, and prevent it from falling into the abyss.
US imperialist influence remains dominant and hegemonic. The influence of other imperialist countries remains very weak, though French influence has been slowly growing. France participated in the consolidation of the state apparatus and the government. It functions in relative autonomy even as its role in Haiti is coordinated under the hegemony of US imperialism. Of course, this reflects the perpetual inter-imperialist struggle.
In the aftermath of the January 12th, 2010 earthquake, French imperialism was quickly reminded, even in its relative autonomy, who the real boss was. France was stopped from taking any independent role, and their aid effort was blocked unless put under US control.
One of the spheres of inter-imperialist struggle is at the cultural level. French imperialism is attempting to reclaim control by using the existence of similarity at the level of culture between France and Haiti. They are actively participating in opening schools in Haiti (as is the US). In 1977, they founded the National Institute of Professional Formation. They opened a publishing company called Edition Caraibes. The French control the entire education system throughout Haiti. But with frequent immigration to the US, the competition for influence in Haiti seems to be an uphill battle for the French. HBO is accessible in Haiti; the popularity of hip-hop and rap are growing fast. Frankly, from an imperialist world outlook, the French seem to be at the losing end of this ongoing war of influence.
To understand imperialist domination in Haiti, it is imperative that we examine two contradictory aspects that exist in unity:
1) The competition that exists among imperialist countries for influence and for hegemony. Sometimes this struggle is resolved through armed conflict, or sometimes simply by taking over where another imperialist left off (such as occurred with Vietnam). Each imperialist country strives constantly to expand its zone of influence, but they are also aggressively seeking their own little pieces inside a social formation. The struggle for influence is, at this time, not antagonistic. The imperialist countries use bilateral agreements to get their respective pieces of the pie: the French in Jacmel, Israel in Bas Bohen, Germany in Plaine du Nord. US imperialists have participated in very shady business deals, such as trade in human blood, corpses, and urine. They used (and tried to use more of) Haiti as a dump for toxic waste. They employ NGOs as a front to use the Haitian masses as guinea pigs for pharmaceutical experiments, or for introducing their products in the Haitian markets. They sell powdered milk while marketing it as superior to mother’s milk. Many Christian NGOs have participated in tryouts of contraceptives on women from the popular masses.
2) The unity existing amongst imperialists to dominate Haiti. They all have the same political project to dominate Haiti. They all coordinate their political practice, while at the same time each tries to present itself as the lesser evil.
A) They all support the reactionary government, and even coordinate their actions. Both the French and American ambassadors were present at the departure of Jean Claude Duvalier. Both were present in the National Palace during the first coup against Aristide. Both tried to block the first election of Aristide (and might have succeeded had it not been for the tenacity and the determination of the masses).
B) They all maneuver to consolidate the state apparatus.
C) They all work to maintain a certain stability of bourgeois democracy, as window dressing for the masses. The only form of participation of the masses is to look at the illusion of democracy as if from outside a glass window, by putting a piece of paper in a box.
D) They all pressure the government to stop corruption and to regulate their administrative practices. They push the government to adopt the policies they want, by promising or withdrawing “aid.”
These points, all from a proletarian problematic, show that no self-determination can be achieved in Haiti if our struggle is not an anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist struggle. No international solidarity is worthwhile if it is not guided from an uncompromising anti-imperialist stand.
Imperialist domination and the effect of domination on the classes.
The anti-national nature of the Haitian dominant classes, and the state apparatus as their political organization, enable and determine the imperialist domination of Haiti. It is important that we also look at the flip side of the coin: the pertinent effect of domination on the classes in Haiti.
Since 1979, modifications were underway in the alliance between the Haitian dominant classes. The bureaucratic bourgeoisie leaned on the feudal landlords to achieve consolidation and affirmation. By 1980, this bureaucratic bourgeoisie was leaning more and more on other fractions of the bourgeoisie, particularly on the comprador bourgeoisie.
The political practices of imperialism played a role (a secondary one), in facilitating these new relations among the dominant classes. US imperialism initiated aid, began to coordinate its practices in Haiti, and started reinforcing the state in the interests of the power bloc Imperialism renewed its support of the Duvalier regime in 1968, objectively consolidating the Duvalier government in its own interest. Meanwhile there were struggles amongst the Haitian dominant classes around impeding bourgeois democracy and the implementation of bourgeois democratic rights, both affected by the weakness of the bourgeois democratic structure at the time, plus the fact that feudalism is not really too fond of bourgeois democracy. This objective reality put Haiti in a constant state of crisis.
The massive aid, in the midst of constant crisis, in fact only served to sustain the dictatorship of the dominant classes over the popular masses, particularly the fundamental masses. Imperialism is obligated to give this support to the Haitian dominant classes and the state apparatus, because without it, the Haitian dominant classes cannot sustain their rule. It has been clear since that time, that the country was facing an occupation. As the recipients of all that aid, the Haitian dominant classes were clearly showing that they have mastered the concept of failure. They have adapted to the notion that capital accumulation is possible through crisis management.
Imperialism consolidated its relationship with the bureaucratic bourgeoisie, and with other fractions of the bourgeoisie. Of course, with some minimal nuance, with the bureaucratic bourgeoisie, the consolidation was mainly political, achieved through direct political relations between Haiti and imperialist countries. The bureaucratic bourgeoisie controlled the principal institution of the state apparatus: the government. They played a fundamental role in selling the country wholesale and piecemeal. All the multilateral and bilateral agreements came through this fraction. All this consolidated the relation of imperialism with the bureaucratic bourgeoisie. On top of that, all aid was channeled through the bureaucratic bourgeoisie, facilitating their enrichment. Since that time, it has became of utmost importance to not only fight corruption, but also to point out that the aid has also been a means of capital accumulation, principally by that fraction.
With the comprador bourgeoisie, imperialism consolidated its relation through import-export trade. The comprador bourgeoisie is the local affiliate of imperialism in the assembly industry, as managers, sub-contractors, and as partners. The comprador bourgeoisie acts as brokers for imperialism.
So, the ties of imperialism with both these fractions of the bourgeoisie solidified during the 1980s to 1986, and up to the second occupation. These two sectors of the bourgeoisie unified in the mist of struggle during that period, which allowed imperialism to easily dominate Haiti. Imperialism is a crutch for the dominant classes. They modernized the repressive apparatus system of the state—the army and spy networks—and trained the military in torture tactics. All this was to render the dominant classes and the state apparatus more effective in exercising repression and keeping the masses disorganized, in order to maintain their dictatorship over the popular masses.
Parallel to that, not in contradiction to but in accordance with their overall objectives, imperialism built other forms to dominate the masses through a more passive form of control. They participated in the establishment of “communal council/cooperatives” (now called NGOs), sometimes under religious cover, to control and expand their reach into the popular masses. All these political practices were aimed at consolidating the political power of the dominant classes and imperialism.
Imperialism played a role in setting up bourgeois democracy in favor of the dominant classes. Because of the way bourgeois democratic practices are applied, Duvalier as “president for life” became a hinainst the bureaucratic bourgeoisie. The objective of the comprador bourgeoisie was to become the principal hegemonic force in the alliance of the dominant classes.
This struggle among the dominant classes enhanced the capacity of imperialism to maneuver. They used the struggles waged by the petit bourgeois representatives of the comprador bourgeoisie to put more pressure on the government. They also organized a total of 12 pre-failed CIA-led invasions, to put pressure on the Duvalier regime. Shortly after the last invasion, Marc Bazin (one of the Chicago Boys, nicknamed Mr. Clean) was appointed as Minister of the Economy, with the task of limiting or ending corruption.
The bureaucratic bourgeoisie organized repression mainly on the popular masses, while at the same time (secondarily and selectively) repressed the bourgeois opposition. Imperialism and the dominant classes counted on them to do this, but at the same time they were having problems—very deep problems—with the way the bureaucratic bourgeoisie (BB) accumulated capital. The state, and state-owned enterprises, had become their ATM machines. The comprador bourgeoisie (CB) resisted the trickle-down capital that was going to their coffers. Imperialism openly supported the CB while playing one side against the other.
The hegemony of the BB was very effective in waging the anti popular repression, but at the same time their administration was very inadequate. They didn’t seem too keen on reforming their administration, which would have meant class suicide. The way the administration functioned was quite suited for thievery. Corruption was institutionalized.
Since the mid-1980s, imperialism feverishly applied a political line to make the CB more effective, and to eventually become the hegemonic force. Imperialism supported the struggle of the CB representatives for political pluralism, a form of structure whereby many bourgeois sectors could debate.
The country was in a constant state of crisis, and imperialism found itself stuck between a rock and hard place. The revolutionary potential of the masses needed to be constantly defused. The BB was very effective at that; but at the same time, for their plan to fully function, they needed their type of window-dressing democracy.
The bureaucratic bourgeoisie, because of its mode of capital accumulation, maintained some level of relative autonomy from imperialism. This was demonstrated by their resistance to fully comply with structural adjustment programs, especially at the level of privatization. Under Aristide, in his attempt to reconstitute the BB, he showed the same resistance (though in another historical conjectural context of the Haitian social formation). Either way, their resistance should not at all be considered a manifestation of a progressive type of nationalism worthy of progressive and revolutionary support. (Such positions were taken by many opportunist trends supporting Aristide).
This nationalism of the BB under Duvalier, and then under Aristide (while attempting to rebuild the BB), is a reactionary nationalism only serving the narrow interests of the bureaucratic bourgeoisie. But from the interest of the masses, especially the fundamental popular masses, this form of nationalism is actually anti-national and anti-popular.
The struggle against privatization, and against structural adjustment in general, is a popular democratic struggle that must led by the autonomous masses under the leadership of working class, if it is not to be reduced to being a reformist struggle benefiting a fraction of the dominant classes.
Soon after the departure of Jean Claude Duvalier in 1986, a new set of crises arose and imperialism played a role, through various embassies, in attempts to stabilize the situation. Several elements should be pointed out:
Jean Claude’s departure was a very big blow for the bureaucratic bourgeoisie. That fraction of the bourgeois class lost its autocratic figure capable of cementing its unity and its ability to maintain its hegemonic role at the head of all the ruling classes. In 1988, another blow was dealt to this fraction: the constitution barred them from political participation for ten years. Their internal struggle for a new autocratic figure (with many potential godfathers for this small market) became an open struggle, and severely hindered its capacity to maintain hegemony. The bureaucratic bourgeoisie dominated all the junta. The Haitian army functioned as their political party until the second occupation, which was another non-lethal blow to this fraction (contrary to the myth of Lavalas supporters and Aristide fanatics who give Aristide credit for disbanding the army).
The social structure producing the bureaucratic bourgeoisie still exists in Haiti. They are the product of that atrophied and deformed capitalism. The flow of aid is their breeding ground.
A factor in Aristide’s demise was actually his attempt to reconstitute that fraction under his autocratic rule. The Gran Manjè (Big Eaters) became the new potential bourgeois bureaucrats. He tried to take control of the national police by recruiting gangs and “chimè” (the Lavalas version of Tonton Makouts) to the force. The comprador bourgeoisie and its representatives vehemently protested. One of the outspoken representatives of the comprador bourgeoisie, Jean Dominique (a pro-Lavalas but turned anti-Aristide and close to Préval), was assassinated. Although institutions were created to stop corruption and capital accumulation by the Préval administration, the potential for the reconstitution of the bureaucratic bourgeoisie is still great, an ever-constant element in the ongoing crisis in Haiti.
The BB temporarily lost its hegemonic control of the state apparatus, but the potential is ever present and strong for this fraction to regain control. An ongoing struggle is constantly brewing among the dominant classes. Their incapacity to resolve their internal contradictions (and their overall incapacity to function as administrators of society) resulted in all the occupations Haiti has gone through so far, which have served their interest to safeguard their domination over the popular masses. The 2010 earthquake also revealed their incapacity, but most importantly proved their anti-national and anti-popular nature. Since the 1970s, Haitian proletarian revolutionaries have insisted on recognizing the incapacity of the ruling classes and have been warning, from the proletarian problematic, of a possible occupation and an eventual protectorate.
Today we are still facing two possibilities, one in the interest of the dominant classes, and the other in the interest of the popular masses guided by the working class. The working class and the rest of the popular masses need to defeat imperialism and the Haitian dominant classes. The working class needs to build autonomous organizations at all levels, unify the people’s camp under its leadership, to defeat the dominant classes and imperialism: OUR ONLY WAY OUT OF THIS MESS THEY HAVE PUT US IN.
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In consolidating the Haitian dominant classes and their state apparatus, imperialism plays both a direct and an indirect role in maintaining the dictatorship of these dominant classes over the masses. Imperialism intervenes directly in class struggles inside the Haitian social formation. Its principal form of intervention is the consolidation of repression and oppression over the popular masses.
Imperialists directly employ many structural apparatuses to divide and control the popular masses. For example, they use religious apparatuses which are mainly under the control of the US embassy. In popular zones, they use all kinds of NGOs, political gangs, drug gangs, smuggling gangs and paramilitary forces to control the popular masses. The leaders of FRAHP were on the CIA payroll, and Aristide appointed one of these leaders as Mayor of Cité Soleil, a major slum in Port-au-Prince. Under Duvalier, the leaders of the second Haitian Communist Party (PCH), were CIA agents or in contact with the CIA. The PCH called for the unity of the “middle class” with the Duvalier regime against the comprador bourgeoisie, and any members who disavowed that line were either assassinated or exiled.
French and US imperialists have tried to control the popular masses politically and ideologically. During the mid-1960s, in particular in 1965 during the general strike by university students (coinciding with heightened anti-communist repression), Francois Duvalier dropped all nationalist pretensions by promoting rock-and-roll in opposition to cultural alternatives that were being offered by communists and progressives at the time. Radio stations such as Radio Haiti and Radio Metropole introduced and pushed imperialist culture and cultural agents such as Elvis Presley of the US and Johnny Holliday of France, while simultaneously ignoring the repression and silencing the alternatives offered by the popular movements.
Imperialists also worked ardently in the countryside to control the masses. Catholic and Protestant churches were (and still are) popping up like wild mushrooms, introducing a brutal form of capitalist penetration through so-called non-profit ventures. These cooperatives, now called NGOs, transform the peasants into workers by using use the land of the peasant as part of a totally deformed capitalist productive force. They introduce a capitalist mode of production in parallel to the existing feudal mode of production, into the same process and the same units of production.
The peasants, under the camouflage of cooperatives, are led to donate part of their land to build roads and schools—bypassing the state apparatus, which masks the failure of the state to fulfill these functions. The peasants become workers producing honey, arts and crafts, and peanut butter, but they have only minimal control (or none) over the distribution of these goods.
The director of the NGO gets the initial capital investment through grants, and continues to receive grants while controlling the process of distribution. As a result of that arrangement, a new, very parasitic, dependent and totally domesticated breed of capitalist—a new type of comprador bourgeoisie— emerges and expands. Although there are hints of industrial production, the result is tantamount to producing a fully domesticated breed of capitalism and dependent form of capital accumulation directly connected to grants outside the state apparatus (but not in the same form and manner as the bureaucratic bourgeoisie). A study of that new breed of capitalism, which is arising due to imperialist domination, is still at a level of empirical analysis; more study is needed to achieve a better rational understanding of it. Still, it’s important to mention these observations at this moment, even if we are not yet able to draw many conclusions.
It is essential to note that since 1990, with the ascension of Aristide as head of state, it is this breed of capitalism that has dominated the political scene. With some minor exceptions, they headed most of the governments. They are very present in various state institutions such as in the Parliament and in cabinet offices.
This breed of capitalism propagated by NGOs is also present, in its own format and type, in the non-productive sector. There it is also utterly dependent on foreign donations. Partners in Health, once directed by Paul Farmer (who is now UN special envoy), has 4,000 employees. These institutions are among the largest private employers in Haiti.
Again it must be said: even though they provide employment, even if they pay a decent wage, and even if they do provide much needed help, the presence of this type of institution is totally detrimental to the Haitian economy. Through it, the country’s dependency is reproduced and reinforced every day. The drugs are not being produced in Haiti. Materials for basic healthcare, such as cotton swabs and alcohol, are not being produced in Haiti. Not only is the dependency reinforced every day, this type of institution also offsets the responsibilities of the state apparatus and the dominant classes.
In addition, it consolidates the policies of structural adjustment, mainly privatization. Healthcare is being objectively privatized. State responsibilities are constantly and increasingly being alleviated, and this facilitates privatization. In fact, the less that the state takes responsibility for the needs of the population, the more the conditions are created for NGOs to pursue this objective of serving as crutches for the state apparatus. Ironically, the capital for these endeavors comes not only from public funding, but also (and sometimes principally), from private funding by people with good intentions wanting to show solidarity with the popular masses. Thus imperialism takes on a humanitarian cover with other people’s money to mask its policies of destruction.
In general, churches are mostly American Protestant sects that receive help from American imperialism, and that are politically and ideologically surrounding the masses. They are spreading the belief that communism is the devil. Andrew Young, during his visit to Haiti while in the Carter administration, noted the important role of these churches in popular neighborhoods.
Imperialist practices have had other negative effects on the masses. Many people (even among the masses) are saying that imperialism is bringing jobs, that it is helping poor people. Even so-called progressives, in their defense of the Lavalas regime, are repeating like parrots that imperialism is creating jobs. The same ideas are being circulated among the ultra-reactionary pro-imperialist opposition. They are the opposition simply because they are the ones domestically serving imperialism.
It is an objective fact that more factories, in some cases, are opening their doors. We have already argued that these factories have nothing to do with Haiti’s real development. Even a blind person would be able to see that.
Now we need to examine their effect on the masses.
This new employment is enlarging the working class. This enlargement should not be overestimated (or underestimated). Though positive, this is a very limited enlargement. The new added labor force is very unstable. In many cases, the span of employment is very short. This type of unstable enrollment is allowing imperialism to super-exploit workers. Most of these factories are run as sweatshops. It’s a quick way to make a buck, since the state apparatus (through high-interest loans or aid) provides most of the initial investment. This results in maintaining a high level of unemployment.
The Haitian working class is super-exploited. Workers sell their labor power far below the cost required to reproduce it, as many studies have shown. Based on many studies by state agencies, in 2010, Haitian workers required about $20 a day to provide for a family of four. Yet they currently receive a mere $3 a day for working in the assembly sector. In spite of the assertions of our peddlers of false hope, imperialism does not bring work. It brings exploitation and misery.
In many cases, finding work doesn’t translate to any money in one’s pocket whatsoever. One of the super-exploitative practices of imperialism is to demand a period of unpaid training. This period can last up to 6 months, and after these 6 months these workers can be quickly let go to be replaced by another crew of free labor. In addition, for this free labor to get to work, they have to spend money, and often fall into debt. In these repetitive instances, again, imperialism does not bring work. All it brings is misery.
Imperialism also spreads techniques of high intensity exploitation, called quotas and modules. Quotas are established for workers to produce a certain amount of goods in exchange for their salary. These quotas are inhumane, and usually impossible to meet during an 8-hour shift. Even after a decree was passed by the Aristide government guaranteeing the daily minimum wage, the bourgeoisie and imperialism openly violated it by posting signs at their factory entrances declaring, “WHAT YOU DO IS WHAT YOU GET.“ No bourgeois elements have ever been penalized for violating this law, even after many written complaints by combative worker organizations to the Haitian labor institutions (which remained unanswered), denouncing this practice as well as their refusal to pay new adjustments to the minimum wage.
Many potential workers—dispossessed peasants, poor peasants, agricultural workers leave the countryside to find jobs in the new factories in Port-au-Prince—are left with their arms hanging. They will enlarge either the ranks of potential workers, the permanently unemployed, or the most disfavored sector of the petit bourgeoisie.
Again, when a peasant in the countryside is being expropriated, it is usually in favor of imperialist multi-nationals. The two factors of pauperization and displacement have affected mostly the poor peasant fraction of the peasantry. Many poor peasants transfer to the sub-proletariat (permanently unemployed, poor street peddlers and day laborers), and are forced to endure a sub-human lifestyle in the slums of Port-au-Prince, Cap Haïtien, and Les Cayes.
Imperialist domination has played a big role in the migration of sectors of the popular masses out of the country. This migration is contributing to the degradation of the masses’ living standard, but it is coupled with imperialist propaganda that their own social formation is paradise, that in the imperialist centers money grows on trees. The content of imperialist propaganda corresponds to the historically determined contradictions they face at various conjunctures. For example, during the US war against Vietnam, the US border was open for young Haitian men, who were seen as potential recruits for the US anti-national anti-popular imperialist army, and for Haitian women as potential recruits as workers for their garment industry.
External migration has played another role benefiting imperialism and the dominant classes: it has appeased the antagonistic social and class contradictions inside the Haitian social formation by making them less acute. The explosive social contradictions became less intense while at the same time emigration served as a totally mythical alternative for the masses, enticing them with the possibility of a better life in another social formation. The migration process—whether by boat, or as tourists with the intent to stay, or applying for “legal” documentation—is not in the interest of the masses even if it temporally ameliorates the conditions of a few.
In the final analysis, it is in the interests of the dominant classes and imperialism because it creates a false sentiment of escapism, a fictitious hope for a better life without having to transform society. It leads to the question: why struggle? Why resist? Additionally, it releases tensions from the powder keg of class conflicts. The migration process also functions in a contradictory reality, creating explosive contradictions in the receiving imperialist countries—especially during the period of crises that the imperialist system is currently undergoing.
Immigrants, in their vast majority, mostly face exploitation and humiliation in the new social formation. It is the responsibility of the proletarian revolutionary movement inside the imperialist centers to organize immigrants who are integrating into the masses, so that these immigrants can become integral participants of the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggles inside their new social formation.
In fact, whether in Haiti or in the new social formation, it is the same international bourgeoisie, in unison with the Haitian dominant classes, that is exploiting the masses. The proletarian revolutionary movement needs to develop a political line that encompasses these two aspects—struggles in both the dominated and in the imperialist countries—in order to coordinate and plan our common struggle against the dominant classes and imperialism on a global scale.