February 2006   

Form Committees of Working and Poor People to Expropriate the Bourgeoisie
and Drive Out U.N. Mercenaries! No Confidence in Préval – Workers to Power!

Attempted Election Theft in Haiti

Lavalas supporters set up flaming barricades in streets of Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince to
protest election-rigging by rightist ex-coup plotters and U.N.
(Photo: Eduardo Muñoz/Reuters)

FEBRUARY 14 – A week after Haiti’s presidential elections, no victor has been proclaimed and the Haitian masses are rising up in angry protest. Exit poll surveys conducted by international observers indicated that René Préval had won with 54 to 55 percent of the vote. Préval is a liberal who was endorsed by the bulk of the Fanmi Lavalas party of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the populist ex-priest who was removed by the U.S. two years ago and forced into exile. However, after two days of vote counting, the electoral commission (dominated by right-wing forces) suddenly fell silent, while circulating figures that had the frontrunner slipping under 50 percent. If no candidate receives an absolute majority, a runoff election would be required. Although Préval’s campaign was financed by leading industrialists, and he received more than four times as many votes as his nearest rival, the hostility of Haiti’s rich toward Préval and Aristide, and the bourgeoisie’s visceral hatred of the impoverished plebeian masses who follow Lavalas, is such that it is likely that the other 32 candidates would overcome their squabbles and use their control of the electoral machinery to block Préval.

So on Saturday and Sunday, February 11 and 12, hundreds of thousands of people poured out of the slums to march on the presidential palace demanding, “Give us results!” and “Préval forever!” In the vast shantytown of Cité Soleil, community activists called on the 300,000 inhabitants to mobilize, which they did. By Monday, barricades of burning tires and the hulks of wrecked cars had gone up in cities and on main roads around the country. More than 100 roadblocks were reported on the highway from Cap-Haïtien in the north to Port-au-Prince. A crowd of several thousand Lavalas supporters crashed through the gates of the luxurious Hotel Montana in the bourgeois suburb of Pétionville, where the election council was headquartered, demanding to see vote tallies. At roadblocks that virtually paralyzed the capital, Préval backers shouted, “We will burn the entire city unless they give us the results.” United Nations occupation troops opened fire on a crowd, killing at least one demonstrator. Summoned by the U.N. to tell the masses to go home, Préval instead declared that there had been “massive fraud” and called on Haitians to “continue demonstrating,” while saying barricades should be taken down.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the vote counting has been rigged. The Haitian masses immediately sensed this, and there is plenty of evidence to back them up. While the electoral commission stalled in releasing figures, dissident commissioners said that Préval had received 52 percent of the vote and there had been deliberate “manipulation” of vote totals. Two percent of the 2.2 million votes cast never even arrived at the tabulation centers. Another 7.5 percent of the votes were invalidated as improperly marked – pretty difficult since all voters had to do was put an “x” over a candidate’s picture. Tally sheets from 254 of the 9,000 polling stations were destroyed when right-wing parties attacked provincial polling centers. Votes from over 500 centers have not been tabulated, supposedly for lack of certain codes; 25,000 of these uncounted votes were from the slum districts of the capital where support for Préval was running over 90 percent. Now Haitian TV is showing boxes with thousands of ballots marked for Préval, many partially burned, in a garbage dump. Up to 15 percent of the ballots are missing or have been thrown out, and 128,000 blank ballots, an unusually high 4.5 percent of the total, were added to the total, making it much harder to obtain an absolute majority.

Spokesmen for Washington have made it clear that they can “work with” Préval. Indeed, U.S. and U.N. officials asked him to run in order to entice Lavalas supporters into the “political process.” But the result may not be to their liking, with a veritable landslide (lavalas in Creole) for the stand-in for the president they hustled out of the palace in 2004. Dumarsais Simeus, a Haitian-American business tycoon who was prevented from running for president because of his dual citizenship, is planning to work with Préval. Yet the country’s business elite is suggesting that they will stop at nothing to keep out Préval. They didn’t mount a coup and invasion to overthrow Aristide only to see his former protégé come back. Sweatshop boss and presidential also-ran Charles Henri Baker declared, “I cannot let this guy get into power.... He is the worst thing that could happen to Haiti if he gets into power” (Miami Herald, 13 February). Meanwhile on the barricades, slum dwellers on the barricades are vowing, “we’ll bring the guns out,” if Préval is blocked from taking office.

As a showdown looms, the U.S. imperialists are scrambling to find a way out of the impasse. With open confrontation in the streets over the attempt by right-wing reactionaries to steal the election, revolutionary Marxists stand on the side of the vast mass of poor black Haitians against the U.N. occupation forces and Haitian police on the other side of the barricades, while giving no political support to Préval and Aristide. We warn against illusions in these bourgeois liberal populists, who have been put in office by the U.S. Marines in the past and can be removed by Washington if they cause problems. What is needed is a class mobilization in the factories on both sides of the Haiti/Dominican border, to lead the urban and rural poor against their exploiters and oppressors. Trotskyists would have opposed voting for “Préval prezidan,” or for any of the capitalist candidates, while calling today for the formation of committees of working and poor people to expropriate the bourgeoisie and drive out the U.N. mercenary occupation forces. No Confidence in Préval – Build a Haitian and Dominican Trotskyist group – Workers to Power! n

Imperialist Occupation: Massacres and Sham Elections

United Nations “peacekeepers” keep voters from slums of Haiti's capital out of voting station, February 7.
U.N. troops fired shots to “calm” the crowd.  Drive the U.N. out of Haiti!
(Photo: Tyler Hicks/New York Times)

FEBRUARY 10 – On February 7, Haitians went massively to the polls in an election that the United Nations occupation forces hoped would bring stability to the turbulent country. People rose well before dawn, put on their best clothes, and at many voting stations in the capital more than half the voters were lined up by 6 a.m. The authorities had refused to set up ballot boxes in the huge slum neighborhood of Cité Soleil, with more than 60,000 registered voters, yet people poured out of the shantytown and walked for kilometers to cast their vote. The leading candidate in the presidential race, far ahead in early returns, is René Préval, formerly the protégé of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the populist ex-priest who was seized by U.S. invaders two years ago and hustled into African exile. Préval, who was earlier president between 1996 and 2001, was endorsed by the majority of Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party and was the clear favorite of the poor. But despite all the hoopla about “democracy” and illusions in Préval, the president will only be a front-man for colonial occupation, beholden to the U.S. and the rapacious Haitian bourgeoisie, and will not raise the Haitian masses out of desperate poverty.

In the run-up to the election there was widespread fear that the vote would be disrupted by violence. Haitians recall the 1987 election day massacre when dozens were gunned down by police. Placing polling stations far from Cité Soleil, a bastion of support for Aristide, raised suspicions of an attempt to curtail votes for Préval, and possibly to lure Lavalas militants into a trap where they could be arrested. The failure of those particular stations to open for almost four hours led to noisy turmoil and a protest march on the presidential palace. But the turnout was so huge that repression or openly preventing people from voting risked setting off a social explosion that would have consumed the capital of Port-au-Prince. Moreover, even in affluent suburbs such as Pétionville, some polling stations registered 70 percent for Préval, to the consternation of more right-wing candidates. When the frontrunner’s lead fell from 61 percent to just over 50 percent a day later, raising the possibility of a runoff vote if he fails to get an absolute majority, there was widespread grumbling about possible fraud by the election commission.

Préval ran on the Lespwa (Hope) ticket, yet the Haitian masses’ hopes in him will be in vain. In fact, as the New York Times (10 February) revealed, “Mr. Préval was sought out by the United States and governments leading the United Nations Stabilization Mission struggling to restore order.” Far from calling for the removal of the U.N. occupation forces, he has called for them to stay for two years or more, and to increase the number of police. The virtual president-elect has adopted mildly populist language, saying “Reconciliation isn't the real problem for Haiti. The real problem is poverty.” At the same time, he bragged that he was “the only candidate who promises nothing,” and said that at best it would take a decade to raise living standards to the level they were in 1980. His U.S. patrons have made it clear that they expect “reconciliation” with the bourgeois elite, and according to the same Times report, Préval “said that much of his campaign had been financed by the elite, and that he would appoint a prime minister from the political party that wins control of the parliament, which is highly unlikely to be his own.”

No elections are going to provide “stability” for Haiti or resolve any fundamental issue, any more than did the election of Aristide in 1990, which quickly led to a military coup, or his reelection in 2000, which was boycotted by the right-wing opposition, ultimately leading to the 2004 coup/invasion. The political turmoil is a reflection of the explosive social conditions in a country with a tiny minority of “gros mangeurs” (big eaters) and a huge majority of “ventres creux” (empty bellies). The violence and gangs in Cité Soleil are the direct result of poverty, of a population condemned to live in squalor strewn with garbage and sinking in mud, where more than three-quarters of the adults have no job. The statistics for the nation as a whole are no better: a majority that survives on less than $1 a day, life expectancy of 53 years, a quarter of all children suffering from chronic malnutrition, 80 percent lacking schooling. Foreign aid won’t change that, nor will adding a few more jobs at starvation wages in “free trade zones.” It will take nothing less than a thorough-going social revolution to overcome these inhuman conditions.

Bourgeois “democracy” will solve nothing in Haiti, and is impossible in a country with such a vast social chasm, where the weak local ruling class has for the last century depended on its U.S. godfathers for survival. Those leftists who talk of “two-stage” revolution are peddling deadly lies: the “democratic” first stage is invariably a fraud, and the second stage is usually a massacre of the toilers. A permanent revolution is required to secure real democratic rights and the rule of the oppressed majority, in which the working class, led by a revolutionary-internationalist workers party and backed by the peasantry and urban poor, takes power and proceeds to expropriate the Haitian bourgeoisie and break the stranglehold of imperialism. Such a revolution cannot take hold and secure lasting victory unless it is immediately extended, in the first instance to the Dominican Republic, with which Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola, and throughout the Antilles, and ultimately to the imperialist center. Haiti on its own cannot “pull itself up by its bootstraps,” but as part of world socialist revolution this impoverished Caribbean island can flourish as never before.

Imperialist Occupiers Stage “Demonstration Election”
For the last 23 months, Haiti has once again been under imperialist occupation, for the third time in nine decades.1 This time colonial rule of the Caribbean black republic has been sanctioned by that imperialist “den of thieves,” the United Nations. The U.S. expeditionary force that kidnapped Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide on 29 February 2004 and occupied the capital of Port-au-Prince was immediately joined by French and Canadian troops. It was an ostentatious show of imperialist “solidarity” with Washington despite differences over the 2003 invasion (but not the subsequent occupation) of Iraq. Yet the Pentagon needed its troops in the Near East, where it faces a tenacious Iraqi insurgency, and the French and Canadians were needed to patrol Afghanistan. So they brought in “United Nations” troops in blue helmets under the command of a Brazilian general. The 9,300 U.N. “peacekeepers” are a murderous imperialist occupation force, using troops and cops from semi-colonial countries as mercenaries, which should be run out of Haiti.

The U.S./“U.N.” occupation of Haiti has been a horror show from the beginning, leading to the utter devastation of what was already the poorest country in the hemisphere. Under puppet president Gérard Latortue, the past two years have been filled with one massacre after another, carried out by right-wing paramilitaries (called “freedom fighters” by Latortue), the Haitian police and U.N. forces alike. This slaughter was punctuated by natural disasters such as Hurricane Jeanne (September 2004) that left thousands dead in the flood waters, while the occupying forces stood by and did nothing. The economy is a wreck, thousands of factory jobs have disappeared, schools, hospitals and other state services are barely functioning, with many institutions shut down completely. Kidnappings for ransom are rampant, often by slum gangs but in many cases by elements of the police, businessmen and politicians. Now right-wing businessmen are demanding of the U.N. mission (known as MINUSTAH), “When are you going to finish Cité Soleil? When are you going to destroy Cité Soleil?” (Miami Herald, 4 February).

Amid this chaos, misery and terror, the colonial occupiers staged a counterfeit election, after being postponed several times. For Haitian poor and working people, all of the candidates represent the interests of the insatiable Haitian bourgeoisie. Open Lavalas candidates were banned and prominent pro-Aristide spokesmen (including Prime Minister Yvon Neptune and Father Gerard Jean-Juste) imprisoned. Préval, the presumptive president-elect not only accepts and relies on the U.N. occupation, when he was president previously as Aristide’s hand-picked successor he implemented the anti-worker policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. So did Aristide after he was restored to office by U.S. troops in 1994, and again after his reelection in 2000. Loyally serving their imperialist masters, the former “priest of the slums” and his “twin brother” Préval ordered widespread privatizations, leading to layoffs of thousands of workers at state-owned companies, the gutting of vital social services and the ruin of Haitian farmers. In this election Lavalas split, with its right wing supporting Marc Bazin, a former official of the World Bank trounced by Aristide in the 2000 election. What all this shows is that despite the illusions of many leftists, Lavalas has been a bourgeois party from the outset.

The rest of the presidential line-up was a rogue’s gallery of Haiti’s brutal exploiters and mass murderers. Among them was Leslie Manigat, a conservative former supporter of the dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, who was briefly president as a front for the military in 1988 until they dumped him. The favorite of the business elite was Charles Henri Baker, a U.S. resident and sweatshop owner. Another notable candidate was Guy Philippe, a former police chief of Delmas (where his cops summarily executed slum dwellers) reputedly tied to drug traffickers and the CIA, who campaigned with Louis Jodel Chamblain, a death squad chief responsible for the 1994 Raboteau massacre. Evans Paul, Aristide’s one-time campaign manager, became leader of the U.S.-funded Democratic Convergence and greeted Philippe when the military “rebel” leader arrived in the capital in March 2004. Franck Romain, another presidential hopeful, was a top army officer and leader of the dreaded Tontons Macoutes killers under Duvalier; as mayor of the capital, he carried out the 1988 massacre at St.-Jean-Bosco church where Aristide was preaching. Himler Rebu is a former army chief in the junta that ousted Aristide in 1991, whose troops and paramilitary “attachés” were responsible for thousands of killings.

The League for the Fourth International warns that every one of the candidates in this sham election is an enemy of the workers and the vast impoverished masses of Haiti’s population, and that any “elected” president will only be a figurehead for the continued imperialist occupation. Organizing “demonstration elections” to mask colonial rule is a standard ploy of U.S. imperialism, from the Dominican Republic and Vietnam in the 1960s to Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti today. Revolutionary Marxists in Haiti would have urged Haitian working people and opponents of imperialism not to vote for any of the capitalist candidates, and instead to organize mass worker-peasant resistance to defend areas under attack by the U.N. military/police forces and the Haitian puppet police and to kick the imperialist occupation forces out of Haiti.

U.N. Occupation: Massacres and Misery

As soon as the U.S. Marines landed on 29 February 2004, supposedly on a mission to “restore order” and a “sense of stability,” the revenge slaughter began in earnest. During the three weeks leading up to the U.S. invasion, a band of 200 right-wing former members of the disbanded Haitian Army had crossed the border from the Dominican Republic, seized several northern towns and headed south. During their march on the capital, the “rebel” army left a trail of blood, slaughtering hundreds of supporters of Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas movement. After they arrived, the killing escalated. According to a National Lawyers Guild fact-finding mission, the director of the state morgue admitted that 800 bodies were dumped and buried in a mass grave on March 7, and another 200 bodies were dumped on March 28. Members of a second delegation organized by the Quixote Center reported that after a 10,000-strong March 5 demonstration against the occupation, the Marines went into the neighborhood of Bel Air firing, killing dozens (death toll estimates range from 60 to 78).

In the first days after the U.S. invasion, paramilitaries drove around the capital in pickup trucks kidnapping people considered to be enemies. Hit lists of Lavalas activists were read over the radio daily. Hundreds were thrown into jail, where they remain to this day. As the U.S. and later U.N. occupation forces established themselves, random terror was replaced by periodic raids on the poor neighborhoods. Although some MINUSTAH officers speak French, including CIVPOL (civilian police) commanders from Quebec, none speak Creole. Thus they cannot communicate either with local residents or with the Haitian police they are supposed to work with (and the troops and cops from 43 countries can barely communicate among themselves). In neighborhood operations, members of the U.N. forces say, their operational guidelines are “shoot before you get shot.” A MINUSTAH official admitted, “Too often the military patrol in their armored vehicles, helmets on, fingers on the trigger, which reinforces the perception of an occupation army” (Le Monde, 8 February).

When Lavalas supporters from Cité Soleil tried to join a protest demonstration on 30 September 2004, they were met with a fusillade from local gangs bought off by the bourgeois right wing. The demonstration of 10,000 itself came under fire by the Haitian police, while MINUSTAH troops stood by observing. In the following days, there were repeated incursions into the Bel Air and Fort National districts by police and U.N. forces. Tens of residents were killed and dozens arrested. When a couple of cops turned up beheaded, the bourgeoisie claimed that a mythical “Operation Baghdad” had been launched by pro-Aristide gangs “linked to drug trafficking.” This outcry was intended to cover the very real operation underway against Lavalas strongholds.

Meanwhile, the army has begun reorganizing as guard dogs for the bourgeoisie. Hundreds of heavily armed men in camouflage uniforms with FADH (Armed Forces of Haiti) insignias are quartered in Pétionville, where they are “advised” by English-speaking, U.S.-trained soldiers in civilian clothes. From there they periodically launch forays against slum areas. “FADH” bases are also reported in Cap Haitien, Ouanaminthe, Fort Liberté, Jérémie, Petit Goâve and Jacmel.

A human rights mission sponsored by the University of Miami School of Law visited Haiti in November 2004. There the observed the regrouping of the FADH, a force known for coups and massacres, and its incursion into the slum of La Saline, as well as raids by the Haitian National Police, often masked, in poor neighborhoods:

“There are dead bodies in the street almost daily, including innocent bystanders, women and children.... The violent repression by police and former soldiers ... with the UN forces visibly acting as support for, rather than a check on the official violence, has generated desperate fear in a community that is quickly losing its young men to violent death or arbitrary arrest.”

In Bel Air, community activists showed them a list of 100 residents killed in a month and a half, listing names, dates and places where they were killed. The mission reported a massacre in broad daylight of 12 young men by uniformed police in the Fort National neighborhood; it published photographs of the police execution of five young men in Delmas. At the Port-au-Prince General Hospital, they observed doctors refusing to treat patients lying in pools of blood because they had no money. At the State Morgue, they showed photos of dead bodies strewn about being consumed by swarms of maggots, their skin and even faces eaten away in the space of a few days (“Haiti: Human Rights Investigation: November 11-21, 2004”). The scenes are like a horror movie, making the torture photos from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq seem antiseptic in comparison.

Despite numerous reports by human rights groups, the slaughter has continued. On 28 February 2005, a mass protest march was held on the anniversary of the coup. Haitian police fired on unarmed demonstrators as U.N. forces stood by, taking photos of demonstration leaders. On 27 April 2005, a demonstration of over 10,000 Lavalas supporters was again fired on by police. Several demonstrators were killed by shots in the back. Police planted a gun in the hand of one of the dead men, demanding that photographers take pictures. A Haitian police spokesmen called the nine dead “bandits,” while Canadian spokesman for the U.N. CIVPOL denounced the march as an “unauthorized, illegal demonstration.”

On 6 July 2005, some 350 “peacekeepers” launched a classic “search and destroy” assault on the slum district of Cité Soleil. The MINUSTAH surrounded the area with 18-20 armored personnel carriers before dawn, blocked off the entrances with shipping containers, and began combing through the neighborhoods. Their main target was Fanmi Lavalas community leader Emmanuel “Drèd” Wilmé, whom they called a “gang leader” and “outlaw.” With a barrage of gunfire, including from a helicopter overhead, they managed to assassinate Wilmé and four other youth, while shooting into houses and gunning down people on the street, leaving another 19 civilian dead and two dozen wounded, mostly women and children. Brief accounts of this massacre dribbled out later in the bourgeois media, minimizing the number killed while emphasizing pervasive “street violence” and violent gangs in the slum districts.

U.N. officials said they were “unaware” of civilians killed, and called the dead “bandits.” However, a delegation from the San Francisco Labor Council was in Port-au-Prince at the time and visited the area the next day. They talked with residents, viewed videotapes of the slaughter and concluded there “there was indeed a massacre conducted by UN military forces in Cité Soleil on the morning of July 6th.” Brazilian general Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira called the operation a success, since Wilmé was killed. Two days after the Cité Soleil massacre, an additional dozen people were killed in the Bel Air slum by Haitian police firing randomly into homes. As a result of the outcry over the July 6-8 bloodbath, the U.N. promised an investigation. Five months later a summary was leaked admitting that some civilians were killed but claiming they were “caught in the crossfire,” and that “UN troops fired only in self-defence” (Independent [London], 10 January).

On 21 August 2005 came the most brazen massacre of all. A soccer match had been sponsored by the U.S. in Gran Ravin/Martissant, a poor working-class district, to promote “peace.” During a break in the game, in front of 5,000 spectators, a group of police and paramilitaries in red shirts armed with hatchets and machetes marched onto the field, fired a few shots, ordered men to lie on the ground and then hacked them to death. A videotape captured the scene of horror. Up to 50 victims were reported, with at least ten confirmed dead, as U.N. forces stood guard. Killings by police and U.N. forces continued throughout the fall, reaching a crescendo at the end of November, when the Jordanian battalion of 750 soldiers that patrols Cité Soleil day and night opened fire in the Pele neighborhood and machine-gunned the population, leaving 15 dead. This provoked fighting that continued for three days. In mid-December, at least three students were shot by police during demonstrations against the visit of Dominican president Leonel Fernandes over the persecution of Haitian immigrants in the neighboring country.

The MINUSTAH/police siege of slum districts reached a fever pitch around Christmas, after a Canadian policeman and Jordanian soldier were killed. U.N. troops went into Cité Soleil and the Drouillard district, and on 25 December 2005 they reportedly attacked celebrations (described as “gang feasts”), machine-gunning homes and even churches. Meanwhile, the wave of kidnappings kept mounting. Rightist businessmen of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry used this to call on the U.N. to occupy Cité Soleil in force. A private sector shutdown was called for January 9 to push this demand. It had the unmistakable odor of the bosses’ “work stoppage” (lockout) in Venezuela in December 2002 aimed at toppling the Chávez government. U.N. envoy Valdes promised to “intervene in the coming days. I think there'll be collateral damage but we have to impose our force,” according to Reuters. It was in this context that the Brazilian MINUSTAH commander, Gen. Urano Teixeira da Matta Bacellar, was found dead in his hotel, reportedly a suicide. Reuters cited U.N. sources saying that Bacellar “had opposed Valdes’ plan.” The U.N. and U.S. chiefs apparently decided: first the elections, then the crackdown.

For Working-Peasant Resistance Against Imperialist Occupation!

This horrendous repression is carried out in the name of combating gangs, gang violence, drug-trafficking, gun-running, kidnapping and the like. Of course, the drug- and arms-trafficking kingpins are not living in impoverished slums in the sweltering, garbage-strewn flatlands near the sea but in luxurious flower-bedecked villas in Pétionville nestled in the hills above the capital. The head of the national police declared that “25 percent” of his force were involved in the narcotics trade, gun-running and kidnapping for ransom. Scions of the bourgeois elite have been implicated in acts of kidnapping, and some of the kidnap victims have been Lavalas supporters. On the other hand, there are certainly plenty of gangs, violence, drugs and guns in places like Cité Soleil and Bel Air, as there are in all shantytowns of desperately poor people surrounding the major cities in semi-colonial capitalist countries. Permanent unemployment spawns whole layers of what Marx called the “lumpenproletariat,” the proletariat in rags, from which criminal elements are easily recruited.

In Cité Soleil there were such gangs, such as the one led by Thomas Robinson (“Labanyè”), based in the Boston neighborhood, which terrorized the entire district. But his gang was protected and financed by Group of 184 leader Andy Apaid, the sweatshop owner, who bought their loyalty for $30,000, and police were ordered not to arrest him. On the other hand, there were numerous “popular organizations” affiliated with Aristide’s Lavalas. Pictures of their leaders were published by the police on “wanted” lists, with “Drèd” Wilmé on the top of the list. These were who the bourgeoisie referred to as “chimères” (variously translated as ghosts or monsters).

There are doubtless criminal gangs operating out of areas considered Aristide strongholds, and some may overlap with Lavalas organizations. But what the bourgeoisie and U.N. call “gangs” are frequently Lavalas-affiliated community groups, which hardly “intimidate” the population. When Labanyè was killed by U.N. forces last May, there was a celebration in Cité Soleil, as people were overjoyed to be freed from his terror. When Wilmé was assassinated by the MINUSTAH in July, hundreds came out to march in the funeral procession, mourning the death of a popular leader. And on February 7, tens of thousands of residents of Cité Soleil voted, 92 percent for the Lavalas-endorsed candidate.

The desperate conditions of Haiti pose difficult situations for those who fight for the interests of the working class. Politically, genuine communists give no support either to Lavalas or to their bourgeois opponents. In the period leading up to the 2004 invasion/coup, it was necessary to oppose both the populist Aristide government and the Group of 184. In the recent elections, fighting for the class independence of the proletariat meant opposing all the bourgeois parties and candidates.

Two years ago, we pointed out: “Aristide’s chimères, recruited from the lumpenproletariat of the unemployed, would attack proletarian revolutionaries as quickly as they beat up students and ‘civil society’ marchers.” But we added, “faced with the threat of the return of the death squads and the military/police mass murderers, Haitian workers and peasants should seek to organize their own class organs of self-defense, which would make a temporary military bloc with the pro-Aristide ‘popular organizations’ to halt the forward march of the ultra-rightist reaction.” Today, revolutionary Marxists would seek to organize mass worker-peasant opposition to the U.N. occupation, that could draw in slum dwellers behind the working class.

Several labor organizations in Haiti have, on the contrary, lined up with the bourgeois erstwhile “opposition,” including the FOS (Federation of Unionized Workers) and CATH (Autonomous Haitian Workers Confederation). These outfits are basically empty shells left over from the 1980s and ’90s and financed by the U.S. government through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center in order to provide a “labor” component to their “unpopular front.” There is nothing more to be said about them: they are not workers organizations but cat’s paws of U.S. imperialism, and should be smashed.

A labor grouping with leftist origins, Batay Ouvriye (B.O. – Workers Struggle), has had a different trajectory. During the decade of Lavalas rule under Aristide and Préval, B.O. sought to organize agricultural workers on plantations in northern Haiti, as well as workers in free trade zone garment plants. As a result, they were the objects of repression by Lavalas mayors. As we noted in our article on “The Struggle for Workers Revolution in the Caribbean” (The Internationalist No. 18, May-June 2004), at the end of 2003, as the anti-Aristide mobilization was escalating, Batay Ouvriye declared that “Lavalas and the bourgeois opposition are two rotten legs of the same torn pair of pants.” However, while calling to “thwart the bourgeois orientation within the anti-Lavalas mobilization,” B.O. urged workers, poor peasants, students, the unemployed and “consistent progressives” to “build their autonomy” as the “camp of the people” representing the popular masses “within the general movement of struggle.” What this amounts to is that Batay Ouvriye tagged along behind the bourgeois opposition while claiming to be building “autonomy” within the “general movement of struggle” leading up to a U.S.-sponsored coup d’état.

At a November 25 forum in Brooklyn featuring a speaker from Batay Ouvriye, supporters of the Internationalist Group/League for the Fourth International raised these criticisms of B.O.. The latter responded that after December 2003, Batay Ouvriye distanced itself from protests run by the bourgeois opposition. But, at least from its internationally distributed statements, B.O. did not call during February 2004 for mobilization against the invasion and coup by ex-military and death squad leaders. Nor did it call in March 2004 for explicit resistance to the U.S. occupation, but simply for a continuation of the workers’ struggles for democratic and labor rights. Yet the day after the Marines landed, strikers at the Ouanaminthe free trade zone led by the May 1 Workers Struggle Labor Federation affiliated with B.O. were the victims of repression by both the Dominican Army and remnants of the Haitian army (see “Stop Persecution of Haitian Workers in the Dominican Republic!”).

Revolutionaries cannot be neutral in the face of an imperialist occupation, no matter how politically reactionary the forces opposing the occupiers. Thus we call today to defend the Iraqi peoples and hail blows against the U.S.-led colonial occupation, even when they come from Islamic fundamentalist and Iraqi nationalist organizations that communists politically oppose tooth and nail (and who have killed thousands of Communists). The fact that Aristide was installed by the U.S. in 1994 and sought Washington’s support against right-wing rebels in 2004 cannot be an excuse for evading the fight against actual U.S. intervention!

Similarly, in Panama in 1989, it was necessary to resist the U.S. invasion, even though Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega was a former U.S. puppet and CIA “asset.” In Ethiopia in the 1930s, it was necessary to defend the struggle led by Emperor Haile Selassie, a slave-owning autocrat who presided over a feudal society, against the invasion by Italian imperialism under the fascist Mussolini. As Leon Trotsky wrote, this was not “a conflict between two rival dictators,” that the political form is not decisive but “rather, it is a question of the relationship of classes and the fight of an underdeveloped nation for independence against imperialism” (“The Italo-Ethiopian Conflict,” July 1935).

Today, Batay Ouvriye says it calls on Haitian workers to “fight the occupation, the foreign troops’ presence in the country, on the basis of their own interests” (B.O., “2005: A Year ending in Repression and Terror for the Popular Masses,” 2 January). Yet until recently it hardly protested repression against Lavalas strongholds in the Port-au-Prince slums, nor have we seen any specific calls by B.O. for mobilization against the U.N. occupiers. Now another, vital issue has arisen. Last year, Lavalas supporters accused Batay Ouvriye of accepting funds from the AFL-CIO’s American Center for International Solidarity (ACILS) which originally came from the U.S. government via the National Endowment for Democracy. Initially, what was reported was a $3,500 contribution to support workers fired at Ouanaminthe. But it was subsequently charged that Batay Ouvriye was the intended recipient of US$99,965 from the NED, which lists the grant in its summary of projects approved for FY (fiscal year) 2005 (Jeb Sprague, “Batay Ouvriye’s Smoking Gun,” Haïti Progrès/This Week in Haiti, 4-10 January).

In a January 9 response, Batay Ouvriye admits that it received $20,000-plus from the ACILS, and would like to see the rest. Furthermore, it says that “we are prepared to accept any amount, even if it were a million dollars (!) coming from wherever it may come.” B.O.’s defense is that all money is dirty; that it has no direct relation with the NED, State Department or USAID; that where the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center gets its money is “their problem, not ours”; that this is a partial payback of money looted by the imperialists, and that they haven’t changed their political positions in order to receive the funds. Leaving aside the fact that Batay Ouvriye’s supporters for several months argued (and believed) that B.O. had only received $3,500, that the Lavalas supporters accusing B.O. are only upset that they aren’t receiving the largesse from Washington (as they once did, when Aristide was being financed by the U.S. government), and that Sprague fingers B.O. supporters by revealing names, the bottom line is that accepting funding from U.S. imperialism is a betrayal of the interests of Haiti’s working masses.

There should be no illusions about where this money comes from and what it represents. The ACILS is the continuation of the notorious American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), which was known throughout Latin America as the “AFL-CIA” for fomenting anti-Communist coups in Guyana, Chile, El Salvador and elsewhere. They finance death and destruction of the workers movement. Like the AIFLD, the ACILS is a front for, and is directly controlled by U.S. intelligence agencies. In the period before the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union, the “AFL-CIA” used to fund only right-wing and social-democratic anti-Communists. Today, via the NED, they bankroll a host of “non-governmental organizations” and a wide range of opponents of governments the U.S. opposes. No doubt the NED is interested in Batay Ouvriye for its opposition to Aristide and Lavalas, just as the ACILS finances right-wing “labor” outfits like FOS and CATH.

This money is poison. It is CIA money. The fact that it is sent via the AFL-CIO “Solidarity Center” makes no difference. This is what intelligence agencies call a “cut-out,” designed to disguise the origin of the funds. Some of B.O.’s supporters have recognized this. If others believe they can manipulate U.S. imperialism, this is a dangerous opportunist illusion. Without formally “changing its political line,” B.O. has already been compromised by accepting funds from the U.S. government, the very force behind the “United Nations” occupation that is terrorizing the poor people of Haiti. And ultimately, as the old saying goes, “he who pays the piper calls the tune.” The fact that B.O. was conspicuously silent for many months about the depredations by U.N. troops and police in the Port-au-Prince slums at the very least made it more attractive to the ACILS/NED. Bottom line: being on the payroll of U.S. imperialism is incompatible with fighting against imperialism. In El Alto, Bolivia, at the height of the uprising last June, the workers movement voted to run out out “NGOs” funded by USAID, another imperialist front.

For Haitian/Dominican Trotskyist Groups, to Fight for Permanent Revolution!

We must draw a sharp line between right-wing opposition to Aristide/Lavalas and revolutionary opposition to these bourgeois populists. In the first place, it is necessary to mobilize working-class struggle against the imperialist occupation in U.N. blue helmets. Our comrades of the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil have campaigned in the unions calling for the Bazilian workers movement to fight to throw the Brazilian contingent out of Haiti, where it oppresses the impoverished black population. At the initiative of the LQB, the Brazilian National Confederation of Educational Workers (CNTE) passed a motion at its January 2005 congress “authoriz[ing] the CNTE to call on the workers and their organizations to aid the Haitian working people in expelling the invading Brazilian troops. If there is any transport of military armament, we must issue a call on the Brazilian working class to boycott arms shipments” (see “Drive Brazilian Troops Out of Haiti!” The Internationalist No. 20, January-February 2005).

In Haiti, the struggle of the working class cannot focus simply on strict trade-union demands. Workers and peasants self-defense groups must be formed to resist attacks by the bosses, the Haitian police, U.N. forces and right-wing militias. Class-conscious workers must seek to provide proletarian leadership to the struggle against imperialist occupation, drawing the impoverished slum population and the peasantry behind them. Revolutionaries engaged in labor organizing should expose the role of U.S. agencies who infiltrate the workers movement and divert it from struggle against the Haitian bourgeoisie and its imperialist overlords. Facing plantation owners such as the manufacturers of Cointreau and other liqueurs, as well as local political bosses who brutally oppress the smallholding and landless peasants, communists call for agrarian revolution in the countryside in conjunction with workers revolution in the cities. Above all, the central fight must be to forge a revolutionary workers party to lead this struggle, starting from the immediate demands of the hard-pressed Haitian masses and leading to the fight for power.

Today we must begin by seeking to cohere a Leninist-Trotskyist nucleus, not only in Haiti but also next door in the Dominican Republic. Given the desperate conditions on the island, a key place where this work can be undertaken is an the centers of emigration, particularly in the United States and New York City, where hundreds of thousands of Haitians and Dominicans live in close proximity. Here it is easier to overcome a century and a half of nationalist animosities, and wage a fight against a common imperialist enemy. While thousands of Haitians are deported from the Dominican Republic, hundreds of Dominicans are deported from the U.S. And here Haitians and Dominicans are both subjected to racist abuse, as in one documented case last year, where an NYC elementary school official called Haitian children “animals” and ordered them to eat on the floor without utensils. By acting as a “tribune of the people” and champion of all the oppressed, demanding full citizenship rights for all immigrants, opposing imperialist intervention down the line, and fighting for joint Haitian/Dominican workers revolution, even small revolutionary forces can lay the basis for future struggles uniting working people throughout the Americas. n

1 Haiti was occupied by the United States in 1915, under Democratic president Woodrow Wilson,  and remained under U.S. occupation until 1934. The U.S. invaded again in 1994, under Democratic president Bill Clinton, to restore President Jean-Bertrand Aristide who had been overthrown in a 1991 coup d’état by CIA “assets” in the Haitian military under Republican president George Bush I. George Bush II invaded Haiti a third time in 2004, this time to remove Aristide from the presidency, and spirit him off to exile. See: “Haiti: U.S. Engineers Death Squad Coup,” in The Internationalist No. 18, May-June 2004.

To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: internationalistgroup@msn.com