We received this article from ELAPRE, a group of revolutionary youth in Haiti. Haiti has experienced the same intensification of the class struggle we have seen in many countries around the world. In recent years, the masses in Haiti have fought to change society and could have overthrown the Moïse government many times. But his government is saved by the ruling class and the reformist leadership of popular movements. Seeing no way forward on this basis, ELAPRE was formed to study the ideas of Marxism, learn the lessons of the past, and to build a revolutionary organisation capable of leading the struggle for socialism.
Haiti’s economic and social situation has been steadily worsening since Jovenel Moïse came to power. It is a real descent into hell, planned by the tiny minority of bourgeois families as the holders of the majority of the country’s wealth. These include the Apaid, Boulos, Bigio, Mevs, Abdallah, Deep, Brandt, Braun, and Accra families.
To generate large amounts of money, these bourgeois families occasionally employ the mafioso and abominable machine of exploitation, theft and corruption. These bosses were the main backers of Jovenel Moïse during his 2016 election campaign to become the holder of the executive power in the country. Thanks to financial support from the private sector, the Haitian Tet Kale Party (PHTK), where Jovenel Moïse came from, was able to bribe members of the 2016 Provisional Electoral Council, bribe gang leaders, and buy the media. Jovenel Moïse’s presence marks a more radical continuation of the country’s liberal right-wing mafioso policy, characterised by widespread corruption and waste of public funds.
Strong protests have often taken place since Moïse’s arrival at the National Palace. The events that took place on 6-7 July 2018 due to the increase in the price of petroleum products to more than double their value were a real expression of anger against the government and the ruling class. It was a clap of thunder from the popular classes, who ransacked public buildings and some businesses. Around August of that same year, several large demonstrations took place involving the Petrochallengers, as well as opposition political parties and organisations, whose main demands were the following: the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse, justice, and the recovery of the Petrocaribe funds embezzled by the authorities at the highest levels of the state. Another wave of protests completely paralysed the country at the end of 2019. During three months of so-called lockdown, even the presidential convoy, when it was not blocked in at the President’s residence in Pétion-Ville, was forced to change course to reach the National Palace.
Popular mobilisations challenge the liberal and corrupt policies of the government. Indeed, despite the discontent of the people, the measures adopted by the government remain superficial and propagandistic, not at all capable of mitigating the scale of the crisis. One of the measures preferred by the government is to replace one individual in the government with another from the same clan, who is often even more stupid and incompetent or involved in scandals with the misappropriation of public funds.
The extreme right-wing government of Jovenel Moïse carries with it all usual the rottenness and trivialities. It is a destructive regime, and seems to be particularly hostile to popular demands.
While the health situation of families deteriorates, the political measures adopted wear them down all the more. Far from working to slow the spread of COVID-19, Jovenel instead used this period of uncertainty during the quarantine to put into effect absurd and anti-popular restrictions in his decree of 16 June 2020. In one of the measures in this decree, he even made it compulsory for citizens to pay a fine totalling one fifth of the monthly minimum wage if you are caught by the police on the street without the new standardised national identity card. There is protest among the population against this measure due to its demagogic character, and because it has come about in a context of corruption and serious institutional irregularities.
Jovenel’s power politics trample on the weak rights acquired by Haitian society in order to give everything to the bourgeoisie and the men close to his party. At a time when the spread of the COVID-19 virus is in full swing, the government has allowed the bosses of the textile factories to have the workers return to work. These workers were sent home in mid-March because of the spread of the virus, yet adequate sanitary arrangements have not been made within these factories.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, no drastic measures have been taken to protect the population against infection, except for daring manoeuvres, propaganda based on lies, and false statistics used by the state authorities to lie about the true reality of the disease. On the other hand, all the latest information shows that the amount of infections is rising at a dizzying rate.
This poor management of the risks of the disease has also been marked by the misappropriation of funds and the theft of health equipment and supplies received as donations by state officials. More than $150 million has been released, while not even one well-equipped quarantine centre has been placed in each of the country’s departments. Out of mistrust, the sick have preferred to stay at home and seek treatment with traditional medicine. The state is happy to see more victims because this climate calms the mobilisations against the government. The state is therefore taking the opportunity to strengthen its policy of repression against people who express their discontent in working-class neighbourhoods.
In Haiti, the state plans poverty. All the institutions are weakened and kept in a state of incompetence, racketeering and total deregulation. They are incapable of offering quality services to the population. On the other hand, these institutions are profitable for the privileged layers. This is because they can manipulate institutional laws in order to offer dirty bribes and produce irresponsible people who are ready to blindly serve the corrupt and mafioso bureaucracy. The poor functioning of public institutions increases the state deficit. In a statement made by the current Minister of Economy and Finance, Patrick Boisvert, he mentioned that the Haitian state has recorded a loss of more than $1.7 billion in its sales of petroleum products in recent years. However, what he is unable to say is that most of these funds are being embezzled by him and his team in power. The audit reports of the Court of Accounts and Administrative Litigation have already shown the depth of the literal theft of assets by leaders at the highest levels of the state.
On 5 June 2020, the Council of Ministers, in the absence of a functioning parliament, adopted the budget for the fiscal year 2019-2020, and provided for a total amount of 198.7 billion gourdes. Of this amount, a total of 90 billion gourdes is expected to come in from the country’s tax revenues. However, this amount is significantly lower than what should have generated in the tax base. But the bourgeoisie involved in the imports sector is organising massive fraud in the Customs Administration, the General Directorate of Taxes, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and other public institutions. In addition, they enjoy a series of tax exemptions and significant state subsidies. These facts show that Jovenel Moïse is the docile child and faithful servant of the ruling class, responding to their every whim.
On the other hand, the Haitian bourgeoisie and the imperialist bourgeoisie exploit the working class with a minimum wage of around $4 per working day, which is sometimes up to 15 hours. These bosses are in the wholesale trade, as well as in the retail trade and they dominate the country’s banking system. The country’s central bank is under their total control. These national tycoons come together in a cartel to form private banks such as the Unibank group, Sogebank, Capital Bank, Banque Union Nationale (BUH). The latest circular from the central bank (circular number 114-1) proves the state’s desire to increase the bosses’ total stranglehold over the economy by giving transfer houses the right to pay transfers in dollars in the national currency (the gourde), which legally allows the bosses alone to keep the dollars while the economy is dollarised.
All misfortunes are brought about to worsen the lives of the poor population of the country. Hunger is at an extreme level. Insecurity is in full swing and leads to many shooting deaths in the poor neighbourhoods of the country. Even the investigative report by the head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), Helen Meagher la Lime on 15 June 2020 has proven the upsurge of intentional homicides and kidnappings in Haiti during the first four months of the year. She reported a 33 percent increase in police-recorded killings, going so far as to say Haiti is a threat to stability in the Caribbean. Yet, all those who spend their daily lives in the country’s poor neighbourhoods clearly know that the reality of insecurity, and its planning, is far more complex than what is presented in the official reports. In the eyes of all international organisations, the state finances neighborhood gangs as agents and weapons for carrying out crimes against those who oppose its policies. Senators, members of parliament, and other government personnel are often caught red-handed carrying out acts of kidnapping, drug smuggling and with mercenaries in state cars, but they go unpunished. The international community, especially the United States, is blind and deaf to all of this, and continues to applaud and support the regime despite its dishonesty.
On the issue of insecurity in Haiti, the human rights organisation “Fondasyon Je Klere” (FJKL – The Bright Eyes Foundation) highlighted the seriousness of the situation in its report of 22 June 2020, drawing attention to the recent formation of a coalition called “G9 ak alye” (G9 and Allies), composed of the most notorious gang leaders associated with the government. The report clarified the mission of the G9: to attack the bastions of resistance to the government, and to eliminate the youth who are organising in working-class neighbourhoods. The PHTK government, before the next elections, is going to great lengths to organise the gangs into government militias, which will have to execute its macabre plan, based on state terrorism and organised crime in order to maintain the regime and allow it to continue. By force of arms and money, this discredited government, rejected by the population, still intends to maintain itself and remain in power.
Haiti’s economic problems have reached a critical point. These problems are a vicious circle of poverty for the population, driving the people between disaster and despair, but also anger, indignation and revolt. Trotsky formulated a remarkable phrase: “the molecular process of revolution'”. He understood dialectics as an essential tool for developing his social theory and to understand what was really happening in the society of his time. He explained that the process of a change in consciousness of the masses is normally gradual. It develops slowly and imperceptibly but also inexorably until it reaches a critical tipping point where quantity is transformed into quality and things turn into their opposite. This formulation of Trotsky’s invites us to use dialectical materialism to comprehend the evolution of the events that are taking place. In Haiti we can see that the accumulation of anger, rage, and frustration is still taking shape beneath the surface, where each time it reaches an inflection point, it suddenly leads to a powerful popular movement. Thus, this time too, with the extreme cannibalism of the bourgeoisie and its ruling PHTK lackeys, these movements are like the tremors that herald the imminence of a powerful earthquake.
Thus, the impoverished people, awakened in their anger and revolt, still represent a real revolutionary potential. From the beginning until today this social force has remained in the factories, in the countryside, in the working class neighbourhoods, attacking the corrupt and parasitic bourgeois order, at times that no bourgeois, petty bourgeois, or social engineering expert can predict. The only problem is that with each assault on the system, the so-called left has absolutely failed to develop an organised expression of the revolutionary feeling of the masses.
Building a revolutionary socialist alternative in Haiti
There has always been a left wing in Haiti, acting as a vanguard in the revolutionary actions of the various popular movements. From the struggle of the slaves for independence, from the movement of the Cacos and armed groups in Charlemagne Péralte’s insurrection against the American occupation to 1934, when the first attempts were made at building socialist organisations by revolutionaries such as Jacques Roumain and Jacques Stephen Alexis, there has always been a left seeking and driving towards a future that was uncertain until then. Events followed one another to lead to the formation of several trade unions and popular organisations in the 1980s in the fight against the Duvalier dictatorship. The popular movement succeeded in defeating the dictatorship in 1986, but struggled to truly develop into an organised force around revolutionary socialist ideas, which alone is capable of breaking radically with the parasitic bourgeois economic structure that has been in place to date in Haitian society.
The popular revolutionary potential in the struggle from these years to the present day has not managed to avoid or protect itself on the one hand from bourgeois infiltration and on the other hand from petty-bourgeois opportunism gaining a good position in the leadership of political parties, popular and peasant organizations, and even the trade unions. As a result, there has been a rise in populist tendencies and liberal reformism in the recurring wave of popular struggles. Each time the movement is victorious, we see only new compromises with the parasitic bourgeoisie along with a recycling of the same reactionary policies, which are sometimes mediocre and absurd. However, so far no real and frank socialist revolutionary alternative has materialised that can profoundly affect the critical state of the living conditions of the impoverished masses of the country.
Thus, in the so-called Haitian left, there has been a gradual disintegration, a divorce from the line of proletarian socialism in favour of focusing instead on the basis of petty-bourgeois reformism and vulgar nationalism. In the tradition of the Haitian left, the culture of elitism and opportunism of the leaders of political parties, peasant organisations, popular and student organisations has prevailed. It has encouraged political activism instead of developing action on a strong organisational basis with a tradition of struggle subject to a real revolutionary rigour and discipline. Today, this Haitian left is scattered across several small groups which have become dated in their isolation.
Today, in the face of the powerful attacks of the bourgeoisie and of the Jovenel government against the population, it is all the more urgent that the radical and revolutionary left reconstitute itself in a more organised manner, before it is able to join the population in the conquest of its rights and achieve the transformation of its living conditions. A coalition between the parties and organisations of the revolutionary left needs to be strengthened to pursue common goals through coordinated methods and strategies, one of the most necessary of which is reconnecting the revolutionary popular, worker and peasant organisations with the masses for the conquest of political power and the realisation of a proletarian programme at the head of the country.