The following statement was published in Proletarian Revolution No. 70 (Spring 2004).
Whether or not President Aristide was kidnapped and thrown out of his country by a U.S. military escort, as he has claimed, it is clear that his ouster was engineered by the U.S. government. Along with its French and Canadian imperialist allies, the U.S. openly backed the allegedly “democratic” bourgeois political opposition. It also encouraged and armed the thugs – led by death-squad members from the former Duvalierist military – who had taken over much of Haiti during February.
Aristide had fulfilled his mission for the Haitian capitalists and their imperialist masters. Over the years he encouraged the working class, peasantry and other poor to stop striking and organizing their own communities and to depend instead on the resource-starved and imperialism-dominated Haitian state. He had convinced many workers and peasants that electing him would bring them bread and work.
Where he couldn’t persuade or wear down the workers, he repressed them, even if less harshly than previous Haitian regimes. Up to twenty unionists sat in Aristide’s jails at his ouster. Land reform has been non-existent. And the pro-Aristide “Chimère” militias spent more time harassing his political opponents than fighting for the demands of any workers or peasants.
The late-January revolt against Aristide of one such militia, the “Cannibal Army” street gang in the city of Gonaïves, signaled the downfall of his regime. Within days, hundreds of disciplined, well-equipped and well-armed men came over the Dominican border and quickly took over the major cities and towns of northern and central Haiti. Their leaders included notorious mass murderers from the time of Haiti’s military dictatorship.
Aristide was first elected president in 1990 as a radical-talking Catholic priest. Even though he never backed his words with action, the Haitian army and bourgeoisie didn’t trust him to shut down the movement of general strikes and other mass struggles that had started in 1986 with the revolutionary overthrow of the father-and-son Duvalier dictatorship.
In 1991, the army chased Aristide out and started taking vengeance on their real foes: politically active workers and peasants as well as street peddlers and other poor people. The army and a fascistic group, FRAPH (Front for Advancement and Progress in Haiti), tortured and murdered over five thousand people. Many FRAPH leaders, it turned out, were on the payroll of the CIA.
During the military regime, Aristide in exile continually bargained with racist U.S. imperialism to get reinstated. The Repub-lican administration under Bush I was unwilling to cut even a phony leftist like Aristide any slack, fearing that he couldn’t repress the Haitian masses with sufficient ruthlessness. Clinton’s Democratic administration, however, thought Aristide could do the job with proper training. At any rate, the murderous military regime was becoming an embarrassment to the imperialists while failing to enforce “stability” in Haiti. Washington needs “social peace” for the continued super-exploitation of Haitians and to stop more Black refugees from coming to the U.S.
Clinton got Aristide to agree to the important imperialist demands: privatization and social service budget cuts in Haiti, accelerated loan repayments to the IMF and other imperialist banks, layoffs, etc. On conclusion of this agreement in 1994, Clinton sent Aristide back to Haiti to resume his presidency, escorted by 20,000 U.S. Marines and surrounded by Haitian capitalist politicians.
Aristide dissolved the Haitian army, but the U.S. refused to disarm the thugs. The worst criminals went to the Dominican Republic to re-arm and re-group, in all likelihood with U.S. aid. They laid low during the governments of Aristide and his front-man Préval from 1994 till this year. Thus support of right-wing mass murderers and racist oppression and exploitation have been bipartisan U.S. policies.
Aristide in power tried to balance between the capitalists and the masses. To back up the bourgeois opposition, the U.S. under Clinton and then Bush II issued an embargo on aid to Haiti, supposedly in order to restore democracy. In reality, the imperialists objected to Aristide’s refusal to privatize all Haitian state-owned industry and his promise to raise minimum-wage earners from “misery to poverty,” in his own words. They also resented the organization of the chimères, which harassed anti-Aristide movements.
Though Aristide’s reforms were too much for the Haitian and imperialist bourgeoisies, they were too little for the masses, who sank ever deeper into poverty and hunger. Aristide’s cronies and government officials, on the other hand, flaunted the wealth they had gained from obvious graft. The workers and peasants increasingly saw Aristide’s regime as an ordinary, corrupt Haitian government – which it was. When the counterrevolution struck, they didn’t rally to Aristide in any numbers.
Apologists for Aristide insist that his government did as much as it could for the Haitian masses and still keep the imperialists and their allies happy. In fact, the Haitian events show that no improvement is possible for workers under imperialist capitalism, particularly for terribly poor and exploited countries like Haiti. The ongoing global economic crisis requires the capitalists to remove all barriers to intensified exploitation. Any capitalist government must enforce these attacks.
There is no solution in Haiti short of workers’ revolution, spreading first of all to the Dominican Republic and then throughout the hemisphere. Faced with the brutality of imperialism’s economic and military attacks, workers’ general strikes and uprisings have already occurred in the Caribbean and Latin America. But they will not gain and keep state power without a revolutionary proletarian party leading the struggle. Building such parties is the prime task of revolutionaries in every country. The Haitian workers are now paying for the lack of a committed and organized revolutionary leadership.
March 2, 2004