Trying to Justify Support for U.S. InvasionSL Twists and Turns on Haiti
Humanitarian aid workers? Hardly. Paratroops of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division patrolling Port-
au-Prince, January 19. IG said: No to imperialist occupation! U.S./U.N. Troops get out now!
Photo: Moises Saman/Panos Pictures
Since the mid-1990s, following the wave of counterrevolution that brought down the Soviet Union and swept through East Europe, the Spartacist League (SL/U.S.) and its international tendency, the International Communist League (ICL), have undergone a process of degeneration. Step by step, the SL/ICL has abandoned key elements of the program of revolutionary Trotskyism it championed for three decades. Seemingly at every crisis or major turn of events, another plank would go: opposition to popular fronts (defined out of existence in Mexico, the United States, etc.), calls for defeat of their own imperialist rulers in wars on semi-colonial countries (trashed in the wake of 9/11), the demand for unconditional independence for U.S. colonies (dropped). The list goes on and on.
Recently, in the wake of the earthquake that devastated Haiti’s capital, as Washington sent thousands of U.S. combat troops and a naval armada to secure the country, the SL/ICL ostentatiously declared it was not calling for withdrawal of U.S. and United Nations military forces. Going further, the SL newspaper Workers Vanguard (No. 951, 29 January) justified the presence of imperialist occupation forces in Haiti, falsely claiming they were engaged in – and indeed essential to – distributing aid when in fact the U.S. military was actively blocking relief flights and refusing to release what aid was arriving. In contrast, The Internationalist put out a statement, “Haiti: Workers Solidarity, Yes! Imperialist Occupation, No!” (20 January), saying “Washington Exploits Earthquake to Reoccupy the Country.” The Democratic Obama administration in Washington reinvaded the island under the guise of emergency relief, and the ex-Trotskyist SL bought the cover story.
In order to hide its grotesque capitulation to the pressure and propaganda of the U.S. rulers, in the same article and in three subsequent issues, WV hysterically attacked the Internationalist Group, claiming that our call for imperialist forces to get out of Haiti “would result in mass death through starvation.” In response, we issued a statement, “Spartacist League Backs U.S. Imperialist Invasion of Haiti” (30 January). The SL’s apology for the U.S./U.N. “humanitarian” occupation of Haiti was “social imperialism,” we wrote, such as what was denounced by Lenin during World War I, who excoriated those who claim to be socialist while in fact backing imperialist war. The SL came back with a frenzied response, “Haiti: IG Conjures Up Revolution Amid the Rubble” (WV No. 952, 12 February), and a follow-up going after the misnamed Bolshevik Tendency for belatedly calling for imperialist troops out, “The BT on Haiti: Postscript to IGiocy” (WV No. 953, 26 February).
Strikingly, WV portrays Haiti in the same way as the propaganda spewed out by the bourgeois press, which paints Haiti as nothing but violent slums with no working class. The imperialists then use this caricature to justify the “need” for U.S. and U.N. troops to maintain “security.” Yet international observers were unanimous in remarking on the near absence of riots and the low level of looting, except for people desperately seeking food during the early days when the U.S. was blocking aid. In fact, the SL’s line on Haiti bore an uncanny resemblance to that of the right-wing Washington Times (25 January), which editorialized on “The Upside of Yankee Imperialism in Haiti”: “America's critics are claiming that the United States is using the pretext of earthquake relief to take over Haiti. The Haitians should be so lucky.... The United States deserves credit for this humanitarian effort, not blame for imagined invasions,” wrote this mouthpiece for Sun Myung Moon’s sinister Unification Church. Still, despite a similar line, the latter-day Spartacists are not a bunch of Moonies, but opportunist leftists bowing to the pressure of “their own” imperialist rulers.
Finally, after squirming for weeks to justify its support to the U.S. military “aid,” two months later the SL tries to slither out of its predicament by calling for “All U.S./UN Troops Out of Haiti Now!” (WV No. 955, 26 March). Sure, now, when U.S. troops are securely entrenched on both sides of the capital, and some are even being withdrawn, but once again they denounce the IG for demanding troops out when the Yankee imperialists were moving in and it was necessary to combat illusions in their role in Haiti. This recalls Trotsky’s remark about the anarchist “theoreticians” who found it necessary to abandon their principles during the Spanish Civil War: “Such revolutionists bear a close resemblance to raincoats that leak only when it rains, i.e., in ‘exceptional’ circumstances, but during dry weather they remain waterproof with complete success.” So it is with the SL’s sometime “opposition” to U.S. occupation of Haiti.
The SL’s claims are the usual subterfuges of opportunists seeking to justify the unjustifiable. It is one thing to read old polemics about the abandonment of Marxist program by once-revolutionary groups, of their zigs and zags as they sink deeper into centrism and outright reformism – and something else to see it happening before your own eyes.1
SL Amalgams and Straw Men
Groups that pretend to be socialist while apologizing for imperialism have to resort to myriad lies and distortions seeking to obscure the glaring contradictions. The Spartacist League today is no exception, dismissing reality and dispensing with intellectual honesty and even rudimentary logic in order to obscure the spectacle of an ostensibly revolutionary organization supporting a military occupation by its own imperialist government.
Take WV 952’s claims that “in its two articles on the earthquake, the IG has only oblique and passing references to [Jean Bertrand] Aristide” and “the IG largely sidesteps the issue of Aristide.” They allege we avoid confronting illusions in the populist former cleric who was elected Haitian president in 1990 and 2000. Nonsense. All one has to do is look at our denunciation of the U.S. invasion of Haiti in 1994 “under Bill Clinton, to put in Aristide as Washington’s man in Port-au-Prince,” and our statement “Even former Liberation Theology priest Aristide dutifully carried out Washington’s dictates,” to see that this is false.
Moreover, a second article included in our January 2010 special issue of The Internationalist, “Haiti: Battle Over Starvation Wages and Neocolonial Occupation,” stressed that, “in forging a revolutionary consciousness, it is vital to combat illusions in petty-bourgeois and bourgeois nationalist forces.” Referring to current Haitian president Préval who was elected as a stand-in for Aristide, we noted that, “both Aristide and his former protégé [have] been loyal enforcers for the Haitian bourgeoisie and the imperialist overlords.” So WV’s charge is a flat lie. Both articles are available on the Internet, so interested readers can see for themselves.
Or another claim: WV No. 952 writes, “By the IG’s logic, workers in the U.S. should be actively blocking any aid being shipped to Haiti by the U.S. military.” Once again, these inventers of straw men dream up positions for us in order to make a phony (and particularly stupid) polemic. The fact that we demanded the opposite, “Stop Blocking Aid to Haitian People – U.S./U.N. Forces Get Out!” is never mentioned – not once in four articles – by these professional prevaricators.
What’s more interesting is why the SL resorts to transparent falsifications. It is desperate to make an amalgam between the Internationalist Group and various pro-Aristide nationalists, such as the newspaper Haïti Liberté and the Stalinoid Workers World, which regularly hails Third World nationalists.2 Never mind that the IG uniquely called to resist the imperialist coup that ousted Aristide in 2004 but explicitly not to reinstall him as president.3 Never mind that we called on Haitian workers to fight attempts by U.N. and right-wing Haitian forces to overturn Préval’s 2006 election victory, but not with the aim of installing Préval as president.4 The SL makes this false equation in order to assert that “the IG’s shrieking about the supposed imperialist ‘invasion’ of a country already under imperialist occupation” ... “essentially portrayed Préval and his predecessor Aristide not as quislings of the imperialist powers but as the embodiment of national independence.”
So the IG “largely” ignores Aristide and “essentially” hails him as the embodiment of Haiti’s independence? How blithely WV drops in those weasel words to serve as an escape hatch for its conscious, deliberate falsification! The SL lies about our position on Aristide so it can construct a tangled sophist argument according to which our opposition to the U.S. imperialists’ renewed occupation of Haiti somehow equals “nationalism.” They falsely claim we prettify Washington’s former puppet in hopes of distracting readers from their support for the imperialist puppet-masters.
But they have a little problem: we have repeatedly denounced the imperialist occupation of Haiti by Brazilian and other mercenary troops wearing U.N. blue helmets over the last six years, calling to drive out U.N. troops. Writing, as we did, that Aristide was “Washington’s man” and that he and Préval were “loyal enforcers” for the “imperialist overlords” hardly portrays them as representatives of Haitian independence. Our opposition to the recent reoccupation of Haiti by the U.S. military had nothing to do with support for Préval and Aristide. Rather, it was because the U.S. action was, as we wrote, “not intended to deliver aid, but to put down unrest by the poor and working people of Haiti.” In contrast, the SL social-imperialists justify the dispatch of up to 20,000 U.S. troops to impose “order” on the Haitian people in the name of disaster relief.
The 82nd Airborne as Humanitarian Aid Workers?
The central claim by the SL apologists for the U.S. imperialist takeover of Haiti in WV 951 (29 January) is that “The U.S. military is the only force on the ground with the capacity – e.g., trucks, planes, ships – to organize the transport of what food, water, medical and other supplies are getting to Haiti’s population.” This is almost word-for-word what Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said on January 27, when he told reporters: “No one can provide the kinds of assistance we can.... We have to provide the kind of security that will facilitate a safe, secure flow of food, water, medicine.” Morrell also laid out the U.S. rationale, saying that this shows “we are a force for good and try to provide assistance to those who need it around the world.” Belying the pretense of emergency aid, he added: “we envision that there will be a role for the United States military for some time to come in Haiti.”
We answered WV’s bogus claim in our earlier (30 January) article. Since we noted that the U.N. claimed to have fed up to 310,000 people, a drop in the bucket considering that agencies estimated 3 million people were in daily need of emergency food supplies, WV writes, “the question of how those hundreds of tons of supplies got to Haiti remains a mystery.” It’s no mystery. For starters, the U.N.’s World Food Program alone had 15,000 tons of emergency food supplies stockpiled in Haiti in warehouses around Port-au-Prince filled with rice, beans and other foodstuffs, most of which were not seriously damaged (many didn’t have concrete roofs). One of them is in the huge slum area of Cité Soleil. But the U.N. “peacekeeping” occupation troops, MINUSTAH, ordered international agency personnel not to distribute these supplies for a number of days out of fear of “crime” and unrest.
Beyond that, particularly since the terrible food shortages of early 2008, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has operated a Logistics Cluster in Port-au-Prince, with an elaborate operation trucking in supplies from the Dominican Republic. You can see it on the Internet at http://www.logcluster.org/ops/hti10a and http://wfplogistics.org/haiti-earthquake-2010. You can look at the daily updates going back to January 13 showing conditions of the roads, reports of space available, forms to submit for donated shipments, and the like. This is how the vast bulk of the food and other aid arrived in the Haitian capital. For a panorama photo of a warehouse of the Bureau de Nutrition et Développement warehouse stocked to the brim with bags of food, see http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/world/haiti-panoramas.html#/4.
Statistics? The U.S. Department of Defense reported on February 17 that it had brought in 7,000 tons of bulk food to Haiti; the United Nations reported that Venezuela alone had donated 10,000 tons of food, Thailand donated 20,000 tons of rice. The WFP reports it has delivered 45,000 tons of food to Haiti since January 12. The DOD said it had delivered 60 tons of medical supplies; Médécins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) alone brought in 1,400 tons of medical supplies. The “meals ready to eat” (MRE) brought by the U.S. military were not for the Haitian population but a six-week supply to feed the troops and U.S. embassy personnel. The fact is that the vast majority of food and emergency supplies distributed in Haiti after the quake were not brought by the U.S. military, but through various governments, international agencies and so-called “non-governmental organizations.”
Not that we’re praising the work of this “humanitarian” aid apparatus. The NGOs, of which more than 1,000 were at work in Haiti before the earthquake, are funded by governments, international agencies and foundations. They are a means by which what used to be government functions are semi-privatized under prevailing “neo-liberal” policies of “free market” capitalism. They and the International Red Cross, the U.N.’s WFP and various church programs have for years distributed aid in Haiti since the U.S. has refused to let the Haitian government touch the money. Some agencies, like the various national Red Cross groups, are stand-ins for imperialist governments. The head of the American Red Cross is named by the U.S. president, Médicins sans Frontières was founded by French foreign minister Kouchner and provided medical aid to the CIA-financed anti-Soviet mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The International Red Cross kept silent about torture at U.S. military prisons in Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.
The point is not that these agencies are “good guys,” but simply that the aid is not being distributed by the U.S. military. Clearly, our demand that U.S. and U.N. forces get out of Haiti does not equal calling for mass starvation, as the SL cynically contends, but would have speeded up rescue missions and delivery of relief supplies. It is also interesting, in view of claims that they are supplying emergency relief, that U.S. forces (along with their Canadian allies) took over all of Haiti’s ports, including in the north (Cap Haïtien and Môle St. Nicolas, a deep-water harbor just across the strait from the Guantánamo Naval Base the U.S. stole from Cuba), far from the earthquake-devastated capital of Port-au-Prince.
The U.S. mission in Haiti was and is “security,” not aid. The U.S. military made its aims clear from the outset. Gen. Douglas Fraser, commander of SOUTHCOM, in his January 13 Pentagon news briefing defined the Haiti mission as a C3 operation: “we’re focused on getting command and control and communications.” More recently, the house organ of the U.S. military, Stars and Stripes (15 March) wrote, “Marines in Haiti training for Afghanistan.” The article reports that “the Marines from 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment have been honing warfighting skills” in anticipation of their Afghan deployment. It quotes one corporal saying, “I want to kill the terrorists and get rid of the bad people.”
The idea that the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division 2d Brigade Combat Team or the Marine Amphibious Unit of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit are humanitarian aid workers delivering MREs to a starving population is grotesque. Anyone (like the Spartacist League) who pretends they are is peddling imperialist propaganda. These units, which were deployed to Haiti after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, are combat forces. Any incidental aid they hand out in order to gain good will is no more “humanitarian” than are “civic action” medical teams in counterinsurgency operations.
Baits, Non Sequiturs and Smokescreens
Among the diversionary arguments raised by WV are the following:
Again, what we have here is an exercise in what stage magicians call “misdirection”: a bluff in order to draw attention away from what is really going on. With its reasoning, the latter-day Spartacist League has simply wiped out Haiti’s independent existence with a few keyboard strokes. What does it matter to the SL if thousands of U.S. troops occupy another country? “Haiti has been a UN protectorate in all but name” anyway, dixit WV, so what’s the big deal if the U.S. nails it down? Well, it is a big deal if you are a Haitian worker facing U.S. soldiers of the 82nd Airborne with their M16s, even if some leftist flacks for the Pentagon claim the troops are there to provide aid and succor. And it is a threat to the entire region, since strengthening U.S. imperialist control over Haiti provides another precedent for Washington’s intervention throughout Latin America.
“Non-Existent” Haitian Working Class:
The other centerpiece of the SL’s “argument” for the presence of U.S. troops is its claim that Haiti has “virtually no working class,” hence proletarian revolution is supposedly impossible on the island. At a February 24 forum in New York City on “Haiti Earthquake: Capitalism, Occupation and Revolution,” sponsored by the Internationalist Club at Hunter College, we responded that SL supporters in the audience could look at our newspaper where a large photo shows thousands of Haitian workers marching on Haiti’s parliament to demand a raise in the minimum wage last August. Or if they refused to believe their eyes, they could check out the clothes they were wearing, since most Hanes and Fruit of the Loom brand underwear is made in Haiti, as are Levi’s jeans and clothes from The Gap, Banana Republic, DKNY and other fashion houses. As we have stressed: “In a country with a numerically weak proletariat such as Haiti, throwing off the imperialist yoke can only come about as part of a struggle spanning borders from the island of Quisqueya [Hispaniola] to Brazil to the United States” (“Haiti: Battle Over Starvation Wages...”) But revolutionary struggle could certainly break out there.
This is fundamental to Trotsky’s perspective of permanent revolution, which holds that in the imperialist epoch achieving revolutionary democratic tasks such as agrarian revolution, national liberation and democracy “is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat as the leader of the subjugated nation, above all of its peasant masses,” led by a communist party, that “grows over directly into the socialist revolution” while extending internationally to the imperialist centers (Leon Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution ). Although WV quotes from this work, it is in order to deny that the permanent revolution applies to Haiti – due to the supposed lack of a working class. It quotes a single sentence out of context to claim the authority of the co-leader of the Russian 1917 October Revolution for writing off countries like Haiti. What Trotsky meant, however, was quite different. Here is what he wrote:
“Under the conditions of the imperialist epoch the national democratic revolution can be carried through to a victorious end only when the social and political relationships of the country are mature for putting the proletariat in power as the leader of the masses of the people. And if this is not yet the case? Then the struggle for national liberation will produce only very partial results, results directed entirely against the working masses.”
The SL falsifiers leave out Trotsky’s reference to the maturity of the “social and political relationships” (our emphasis), as well as the very next sentence, which reads:
“In 1905, the proletariat of Russia did not prove strong enough to unite the peasant masses around it and to conquer power.”
Was Trotsky saying that the proletariat in Russia was non-existent or numerically too weak to carry out a revolution? Obviously not. Yes, there are economically extremely backward areas that have “virtually no working class.” But Haiti, with 9 percent of its labor force in industry and thousands of workers employed in modern plants in export processing zones, is hardly the same as the pastoral society of Mongolia in 1920 or semi-feudal conditions in Afghanistan in the 1980s. So what is the SL’s program for Haiti? What’s a (supposedly non-existent) Haitian worker to do? Emigrate to the U.S. or Canada is the SL’s answer, referring to “a sizable Haitian proletariat in the diaspora, which went unmentioned in the IG’s revolution-mongering around the earthquake.” We have already pointed that this ignores our article on Haitian workers printed in the same special issue of The Internationalist which ends with an entire paragraph on the vital role of Haitian and Dominican workers in New York City.
Then there is WV’s claim that “In the IG’s fantasyland, the earthquake placed workers revolution on the immediate agenda in Haiti.” Did we say that? We did not. What we wrote was that “particularly at present where the machinery of the capitalist state is largely reduced to rubble and a few marauding bands of police,” Haiti’s “small but militant proletariat can place itself at the head of the impoverished urban and rural masses seeking to organize their own power.” We referred specifically to the experience of the Mexican earthquake of 1985, when “tens of thousands of Mexico City working people who were left homeless organized independently of and against the government whose soldiers prevented them from rescuing their neighbors and relatives.” We stressed that “leadership was key,” noting that in Mexico “various self-proclaimed socialist groups that took charge of the organizations of those affected by the quake turned them into agencies for channeling government welfare funds, thus squandering an opportunity for revolutionary mobilization.”
This is hardly saying that “now is the time” for Haitian working people to “rise up in revolution,” as the SL claims we say, but that Haitian workers can take the lead in organizing the vast poor population “independently of and against the government,” which lay in tatters. Ah, but “the real state power” in Haiti for the last six years has been the imperialist occupiers, says the SL. Yet the MINUSTAH was also laid low by the quake and barely functioning. History shows that natural catastrophes that reveal the incapacity of the bourgeois regime to provide even minimal conditions for survival of the population, and whose toll of death and destruction are vastly intensified by conditions created by capitalism, can spur revolutionary organizing. The 1972 earthquake that leveled Managua, Nicaragua was a key factor in setting off struggles that eventually brought down the Somoza dictatorship. But what does today’s SL care? It would no doubt write off Nicaragua as yet another country without a working class, like Haiti, Bolivia, etc.
Shades of Shachtman
With their refusal to call for U.S./U.N. troops out of Haiti and their justification of the U.S. military forces as supposedly saving lives, the SL borrowed a page from the followers of Max Shachtman who became notorious as “State Department socialists.” (Secretary of State Clinton was said to be “mortified” at accusations that the U.S. was using earthquake aid to reoccupy Haiti.) Some decades later, anti-Soviet Cold Warriors and “neo-cons” from the Shachtmanite Social Democrats U.S.A. staffed the upper echelons of the Reagan administration, including U.N. ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick (a fan of “moderately authoritarian regimes” such as the Shah’s Iran); Carl Gershman, head of the National Endowment for Democracy (which replaced the CIA’s covert funding of international subversion) and Undersecretary of State Eliott Abrams (a key figure in the Iran/Contragate scandal). But for now the SL/U.S. remains a centrist outfit, albeit one that is lurching precipitously to the right.
The closest parallel to the Spartacist position is that of the British Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL) of Sean Matgamna, whose article on Haiti could have been lifted from the pages of Workers Vanguard. Matgamna and his AWL are the main current partisans of Shachtman’s brand of pro-imperialist “socialism” on the left, notorious for their support to Israel. The AWL writes:
“The basic accusation of much of what passes for the far-left is that the US/imperialism is in the process of occupying Haiti under the pretext of aiding the relief effort. Some even add to this ‘analysis’ slogans about the troops.... The logistics of the operation cannot be met by ‘civilian’ agencies.
“At the moment any ‘US troops out’ message, directly or by implication, means ‘Let the Haitian people starve and heal themselves’.”
–“Haiti, emergency aid and the left,” Solidarity (4 February)
Like the SL, the AWL claims that in Haiti “the working class, as a class, has been scattered and put out of work.” It also admits that “the US has an appalling history of bullying and bossing its poor neighbour,” and makes some noises about not endorsing U.S. policies, similar to the SL’s lame disclaimers about the “piggish” way the U.S. dispenses aid. But according to these avowed Shachtmanites, “the nature of its intervention, now, in Haiti, is not motivated by the need to ‘control Haiti’ through military occupation. Why would the US need to invade to ‘control Haiti’?” it asks. The answer: while Haiti may lack oil, it has one thing in common with Iraq – strategic location, just off Cuba and within striking distance of Washington’s current nemesis in Latin America, Hugo Chávez’ Venezuela.
SL’s Path to Social-Imperialism
Since the time of the Monroe Doctrine, the U.S. has considered the Caribbean an American lake and vigilantly kept other powers away from its Latin American pawns. It’s notable that the U.S. reoccupation of Haiti comes after the Obama administration’s complicity in the overthrow of Honduran president Manuel Zelaya last June. Spurred on by the Reaganite right, the Democrats in power are moving to encircle Venezuela. In light of the SL’s support for U.S. occupation of Haiti (since the country was already occupied), and its call (along with the U.S. State Department and pro-imperialist forces) for a “no” vote on Chávez’ December 2007 referendum (we called for a blank ballot), it is curious indeed that WV has not seen fit to print one word, much less an article, against the U.S. backed Honduran coup.
The SL’s line on Haiti also recalls its shift on Puerto Rico in 1998, when it suddenly “corrected” its longstanding position of advocating independence for the U.S.’ main Caribbean colony. Instead it only called for recognizing Puerto Rico’s right to self-determination, as every recent U.S. president has done, including George Bush II. This is no minor matter, as one of the famous “21 Conditions” for admission to the Communist International under Lenin and Trotsky required that: “Any party wishing to join the Third International must ruthlessly expose the colonial machinations of the imperialists in its ‘own’ country, must support – in deed, not merely in word – every colonial liberation movement, demand the expulsion of its compatriot imperialists from the colonies....” In that case as well, the SL’s “correction” – refusing to call for the expulsion of U.S. imperialism from Puerto Rico just as it recently refused to call for the expulsion of the imperialists from Haiti – came in a polemic against the IG which continues to uphold the Leninist position of unconditional independence for colonies (see “ICL Renounces Fight for Puerto Rican Independence,” The Internationalist No. 6, November-December 1998).
The SL’s justification for not opposing the U.S.’ “humanitarian” occupation of Haiti boils down to: there is/was no alternative. Former members of the Spartacist League who were active in the 1970s have written to us that they were struck by the parallels between the SL’s current line and the arguments of the Socialist Workers Party in 1974 justifying its demand that U.S. troops be sent to defend blacks in Boston against anti-busing racist mobs (i.e., that the armed fist of the ruling class – the main enforcer of racist oppression – be pressured into “defending” the oppressed). Just as the SL today vituperates against “deranged and grotesque fantasies” of the Internationalist Group when we call for Haitian working people to “organize their own power” independently of and against the bourgeois state, the SWP’s Peter Camejo railed against calls for workers defense guards in Boston, saying: “The Black Community lives in the real world, and it demands real, meaningful solutions, not unrealistic slogans” (Militant, 1 November 1974).
Unlike the latter-day SL and before it the SWP, the Internationalist Group and League for the Fourth International polemicize against positions that groups actually hold rather than inventing policies for them. What’s at stake here is far more important than the tawdry and dishonest point-scoring that the SL revels in. As we noted in our January 20 statement, under Barack Obama, the U.S. imperialist rulers have switched gears to posture as defenders of “human rights.” And as we pointed out, from Woodrow Wilson to Bill Clinton, both of whom invaded Haiti, this is standard operating procedure for Democratic presidents. The purpose is to reel in liberals and reformists, like those who supported Clinton’s two wars on Yugoslavia in the name of defending the rights of Bosnian Muslims and Kosovar Albanians. What’s striking in this case is that a centrist group, the Spartacist League, has taken the bait. While support to imperialist occupation is a small step for reformists, who only seek to modify imperialist policies rather than to bring down the imperialist system, in the case of the SL/ICL it should be harder to digest – unless the membership is already so inured to careening down the revisionist road that they can’t see they just went over a cliff.
The SL disingenuously claimed in its initial article that “We have always opposed U.S. and UN occupations in Haiti and everywhere – and it may become necessary to call for U.S./UN out of Haiti in the near future” (WV No. 951, 29 January). We noted that this meant that these pseudo-Trotskyists-become-apologists-for-U.S.-imperialism were not opposing the U.S./U.N. occupation in the here and now, as U.S. imperialist troops were arriving in Haiti in the guise of providing emergency aid. As for past SL “opposition” to U.N. occupation of Haiti, this was hardly of any great import: up to 2010 WV had one brief article at the time of the 2004 U.S./French/Canadian invasion – the only article on contemporary Haiti it published since the founders of the Internationalist Group were expelled by the SL/U.S. in 1996, compared to 20 in the decade before then. The SL’s newfound “opposition” to the occupation is just as chimerical as before, it only exists on paper, like the rest of its politics as it flees the class struggle. Its supreme disinterest makes clear that the SL’s main concern over Haiti is to denounce the IG.
For our part, the Internationalist Group and League for the Fourth International have done our level best to fight the U.S. occupation of Haiti. In the U.S., the IG helped organize protests on January 21 and February 4 outside the U.S. mission to the U.N. We put out a special issue of The Internationalist headlining “Haiti: Workers Solidarity, Yes, Imperialist Occupation, No!” We have sold well over 100 copies in the Haitian areas of New York City, as well as going to weekly meetings with Haitian activists in Brooklyn and speaking on February 20 on Radyo Panou in a program that was rebroadcast in Haiti. We organized a February 24 panel discussion at the City University of New York together with Haitian and Dominican leftists, where we put forward our different programs of what should be done. In Brazil, the LFI section, the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil, put out a special issue of Vanguarda Operária with a collection of articles on Haiti calling to mobilize to drive Brazilian troops out of Haiti and out of the slums of Rio de Janeiro. The LQB also demonstrated in the city of Salvador with a banner calling for U.S./U.N. and Brazilian troops out. In Mexico the LFI section, the Grupo Internacionalista, put out a 38-page supplement to El Internacionalista of articles on Haiti.
So now, two months later, Workers Vanguard No. 955 announces that the SL is calling for U.S. troops out of Haiti. It claims that in WV 951 it “made clear” that “we were not for the U.S. military going into Haiti” – an outright lie, they never said it – but they would not call for “the immediate withdrawal of any forces there were supplying such aid as was reaching the Haitian masses.” No, WV swore that the U.S. military was providing such aid, whitewashed the U.S. military takeover as a “supposed imperialist ‘invasion’,” and opposed withdrawal of U.S. forces, which were in fact “securing” Haiti for imperialism. This is a pure case of the “cynical phrasemongering” the SL falsely accuses us of. But the bottom line is that when the Pentagon invaded, when it was necessary to take a stand, to expose the Obama administration’s humanitarian pretensions and demand it stop blocking the aid, these fakers went for the U.S. justification for occupation, hook, line and sinker.
This is a sharp turn, but it didn’t come out of the blue. Following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the IG put out a 14 September 2001 statement, “U.S. Whips Up Imperialist War Frenzy, Drives Toward Police State,” calling to defeat the U.S./NATO war drive and defend Afghanistan. At the same time, the SL put out a statement (see WV No. 764, 14 September 2001) that went on for paragraphs denouncing terrorism, yet didn’t call to defend Afghanistan nor to defeat the U.S. war. When after a few weeks, it came out for defense of Afghanistan, it coupled this with denouncing us for allegedly pandering to “anti-Americanism” for upholding the Leninist position (which the SL precipitously dropped) of being for the defeat of “one’s own” imperialism in a war on a semi-colonial country. We encourage people to read both the SL and IG statements, as well as our response to WV’s ominous “anti-American” baiting of the Trotskyists.
To justify its support to U.S. troops in Haiti, WV 951 cited an article by Trotsky, “Learn to Think: A Friendly Suggestion to Certain Ultra-Leftists” (May 1938), in which the Bolshevik leader rightly said that “workers would not interfere with soldiers who are extinguishing a fire or rescuing drowning people during a flood.” WV claimed that this applied to Haiti, even though what Trotsky wrote was that the proletariat does not enter into a struggle in all cases “against its own ‘national’ army.” He wasn’t speaking about an invading imperialist army, and certainly not one that was blocking, not delivering aid. Now WV treats us to a quotation from the then-Trotskyist Militant writing in 1941 about U.S. aid to the Soviet Union in the middle of the imperialist Second World War, while remarking that “the circumstances were different than those in Haiti today.” That’s putting it mildly. This is what’s known in the trade as “baffle ’em with bullshit,” a common practice of opportunist groups trying to cover up their betrayals. The revisionist SL seems to have mastered the technique.
friendly suggestion to certain centrists, like the SL, is, to cite
Trotsky article, “Even Slander Should
Make Some Sense” (August 1933). With its support to Washington’s
invasion, the SL placed itself to the right not only of much of the
left but also of rad-lib types like Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, who
Al Jazeera TV documented how the U.S. and U.N. were blocking aid from
the Haitian population. While WV now
claims that this zig is over, one has to wonder where the next zag will
it. It may still keep twisting and turning for some time in a bizarre
pattern, but Haiti marks a milestone in the SL’s flight from
1 And now the SL is back at it. In its latest issue, WV No. 956 (9 April) attacks the Internationalist Group yet again, this time over – what else? – a panel discussion on public education. Here WV conjures up an “alliance” between the IG and “scabherders” that exists nowhere but in the SL’s fevered imagination. It all reeks of desperation, and it’s oh-so predictable: one of the first rules in Mudslinging for Dummies is to just keep on slinging mud, never mind the content, in hopes that some of it will stick. But after a while it dawns on observers that it is the mudslingers themselves who are covered with it.
2 Stalin used the technique of the amalgam (mixing up diverse elements) frequently against Trotsky, equating the Trotskyists with Francoist forces in the Spanish Civil War, and notably in the murderous Moscow Purge Trials, claiming an identity between Trotsky (as well as other Bolshevik leaders, including Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin) and counterrevolutionaries seeking to overthrow the Soviet Union – and on that basis executing every remaining member of the Bolshevik Central Committee of 1917.
3 See “Combat the Coup Plotters – No Political Support to Aristide! Organize Worker-Led Resistance Against Death Squad Invaders!” The Internationalist leaflet, 28 February 2004.
4 See “Attempted Election Theft in Haiti: Form Committees of Working and Poor People to Expropriate the Bourgeoisie and Drive Out U.N. Mercenaries! No Confidence in Préval – Workers to Power!” The Internationalist No. 26, April-May 2006.
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