Class analysis of a crisis
by Kim Ives
International Socialist Review,
This past week [end of November, 2002]
saw dueling demonstrations between thousands of pro- and anti-government
marchers in Haiti. Political tension, violence and lawlessness
are growing. Telephone calls and Internet chat rooms are filled
with rumors and speculation about how events will unfold.
To understand the nature of the crisis
shaking Haiti today, it is essential to understand the class forces
The destabilization campaign against the
Haitian government is being led by the George W. Bush faction
of the U.S. bourgeoisie, which is arch-reactionary and hostile
to regimes which even pay lip-service to a progressive agenda,
as Aristide once did. Two conservative retreads from the previous
Bush administration, Undersecretary of State for the Americas
Otto Reich and Ambassador to the Organization of American States
(OAS) Roger Noriega, are spearheading the campaign to uproot Aristide,
whom they charge is becoming an "illegitimate president"
of a "pariah state," even as other OAS states stand
by wringing their hands at the plight of the besieged president.
Meanwhile, the majority of the Haitian
bourgeoisie, as represented by the Association of Industries of
Haiti (ADIH), the Chamber of Commerce and of Industry of Haiti
(CCIH) and, more globally, the Civil Society Initiative (ISC),
has allied itself with the forces of its age-old rival, the landed
oligarchy or "grandons," whose purest recent political
manifestation was the Duvalier dictatorship (1957-86). The armed
expression of the grandons under the Duvaliers was the Tonton
Macoutes, who were the eyes, ears and fists of this class. The
remnants and descendants of this brutal corps live on in Haiti.
Neo-Duvalierist political representatives are often referred to,
in Haitian political parlance, as the Macoute sector.
This "Macoute-Bourgeois" alliance
is embodied in the Democratic Convergence opposition front, which
is funded by Washington's National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
Social democratic groups like the Struggling People's Organization
(OPL) of Gerard Pierre Charles, the National Progressive Revolutionary
Party (PANPRA) of Serge Gilles and the National Congress of Democratic
Movements (KONAKOM) of Micha Gaillard and Victor Benoit represent
the bourgeois current, which favors taking power through political
wrangling facilitated by the OAS and Washington's diplomatic muscle.
The Macoute current favors the "zero
option," code for the violent overthrow of Aristide. The
Mobilization for National Development (MDN) of Hubert DeRonceray,
the Christian Movement for a New Haiti (MOCHRENA) of Pastor Luc
Mesadieu and, increasingly, the Democratic Uniq Confederation
(KID) of Evans Paul are the foremost representatives of this tendency.
Despite Washington's backing, the Convergence
has very little support among the masses across Haiti. But two
weeks ago, it found collaboration from former soldiers, as represented
by former putschist colonel Himmler Rebu. Aided by intense media
coverage and increasingly desperate living conditions, the Convergence/Rebu
alliance was able to pull several thousand people in its train
during a November 17 march in Cap Haitien (see Haiti Progres,
Vol. 20, No. 36, 11/20/02).
Since his emergence as a firebrand priest
from Port-au-Prince's La Saline slum, Aristide has had his principal
base in Haiti's growing lumpen proletariat. The ranks of this
dispossessed, desperate class have swelled as falling prices for
coffee, cocoa and sugar, cheap food dumping from the U.S. and
neoliberal reforms have driven peasants off the land and into
Haiti's miserable slums. Aristide's populist sway over this volatile
class is the essence of his power, and it is precisely what the
Haitian ruling class fears and U.S. officials distrust.
Aristide has attempted to sell himself
to Washington as the intermediary who can control and reign in
this explosive underclass in exchange for a few crumbs from the
ruling-class table. Hence he periodically whips up the lumpen
masses, and then soothes them, as a demonstration of his power.
On the other hand, he has also sought
to reassure the U.S. and Haitian ruling classes by integrating
businessmen and Duvalierists into leading positions in his government
and party, pushing it even more to the right. The Lavalas Family
party has sold off state industries, begun the sale of Haitian
territory for free-trade zones, cracked down on union organizers,
and acquiesced to treaties allowing unilateral U.S. penetration
of Haitian territory.
While the Clinton administration was willing
to gamble on using Aristide to control Haiti, the Bush administration
is not. C)n the contrary, they have counterattacked. Working through
the OAS, Washington has pushed through two resolutions which compel
Aristide to arrest the popular organization leaders who effectively
coordinate the slum masses into a political force. Aristide is
being forced to saw off the branch on which he sits.
By blocking some $500 million in international
aid and loans to Haiti, Bush has worked to discredit and trap
Aristide, who made rosy campaign promises to the masses now suffering
and hungry as never before. Disillusionment with Aristide is growing
as he fails to deliver.
Meanwhile, other political forces have
begun to emerge. For years, the National . Popular Party (PPN)
has focused its organizing in the Haitian peasantry, which is
still Haiti's majority. In May and October, the PPN organized
two mass 3; marches in Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien to propose
a "popular alternative" to the Convergence and Lavalas
Family (see Haiti Progres, Vol. 20, No. 8, 5/8/02 and Vol. 20,
No. 32, 10/23/02).
The Convergence may rend into rival factions
as the crisis matures. Already, one hard-liner, Leslie Manigat
of the Assembly of Progressive National Democrats (RNDP), broke
away earlier this , year from the Convergence because of its continuing
negotiations with the Lavalas Family. Tensions are likely to grow
as Washington, ultimately, decides whether to try OAS-controlled
elections next year or the zero option sooner to remove Aristide
and his party from power.
It is ironic, but historically predictable,
that the bourgeoisie is collaborating with former soldiers and
Macoutes. In 1987, the neo-Duvalierist sector, working :: through
and with the Haitian Army, massacred Haitian voters to block the
i~ election dreams of the bourgeoisie, united at that time in
the "Group of 57." The bourgeoisie may come to rue today's
alliance. "The Macoutes never share power with anybody,"
the PPN's Secretary General Ben Dupuy warned in a November 21
Similarly, Aristide's decline has resulted
from his foolish notion that he could somehow appease Washington
through concessions. He cannot, a lesson Nicaragua's Sandinistas
learned during the 1980s.
Aristide's party will likely provide little
support or defense as the crisis grows, and it may also fracture.
Many of the Lavalas Family's elected officials are archetypal
petty bourgeois opportunists, intent only on snagging a government
post with which to enrich themselves through corruption or personal
projects like radio stations, bus lines or supermarkets.
Unfortunately for Washington, it has no
viable alternative to Aristide in Haiti and no Haitian Army (disbanded
by Aristide in 1994) through which to make a coup, as was done
in 1991. The only standing military force on the island is the
24,500-man Dominican Army, to which the U.S. is now sending 20,000
M-16s as part of a multimillion dollar military aid package (see
Haiti Progres, Vol. 20, No. 36, 11/20/02). Some 1,000 U.S. soldiers
will also be stationed in the Dominican Republic, supposedly for
training purposes. Most certainly, both U.S. and Dominican forces
will be poised for a military intervention into Haiti if and when
the moment comes. Ironically, this scenario looms as Haiti prepares
to celebrate the bicentennial anniversary of its January 1, 1804
Despite this ominous outlook, the Haitian
people have managed to foil Washington's best laid plans repeatedly
over the past 16 years since the fall of the Duvalier regime.
Whatever unfolds in the weeks ahead, the Bush administration and
its Haitian allies can expect fierce resistance from a nation
and a generation which has learned many lessons and shed many
illusions on its march toward democracy and independence.
Reprinted from Haiti Progres, November