Socialism or barbarism: where is Haiti going?

The following article explains the situation in Haiti, where President Jovenel Moïse is hurtling towards naked dictatorship. With parliament dissolved in January, he is ruling by decree (with the support of Haiti’s capitalist mafioso and foreign imperialism), murdering and terrorising all opponents to his authority. The workers, youth and poor must organise on a class basis to overthrow this rotten system! Please read, share and add your organisation’s name to this solidarity statement.

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Under the pressure of the global economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, Haiti continues to slip further into a deep economic, political and social crisis. Economic and health crises have wreaked havoc around the world, helped in no small part by the indifferent greed of the capitalist class and the incompetence of their governments.

These crises have not only ravaged the dominated countries of the so-called developing world. The advanced capitalist countries, particularly the United States and Britain, have graphically revealed the inability of the capitalist system to deal with the situation.

The economic crisis is forcing the rapid dissolution of the old political framework of bourgeois rule in our country. The status quo is disintegrating under the increasing intensity of the class struggle. The capitalist class can no longer rule as they did in the past. This is why they and their representative, President Jovenel Moïse, are seeking novel ways to rule and to establish a new status quo. The façade of democracy in Haiti is disappearing as the capitalist class and their state reveal their true nature – that of a vicious mafia.

The continued crises in the country have led to a dangerous situation for the working class and the poor. Parliament was dissolved in January of this year after it was unable to approve the electoral law required for the holding of elections, which were supposed to take place in October 2019. Because these elections were never held, the mandates of one-third of the Senate and the entire Chamber of Deputies expired. Jovenel Moïse now rules by decree and has been viciously consolidating power through Haiti’s powerful gangs.

The parliament has been dysfunctional for years. The 119 seats in the Chamber of Deputies were divided among some 20 political parties. Corruption and bribery are rampant among the deputies, who really only represent the interests of the ruling elites. Moïse, a totally illegitimate president due to his fraudulent electoral victory and his involvement in the Petrocaribe scandal, has been incapable of forming a majority or building any sort of political unity in parliament.

Ominously, Moïse has said that he sees the dissolution of parliament and his rule by decree as an “opportunity to stop the permanent crisis”. He has publicly called for a new constitution, which naturally would concentrate even more power in his hands as president. Moïse is putting himself forward as the “strong man” that can protect the rule of capital in Haiti, and he has the support of the Haitian ruling class and the imperialists.

On 22 September, Moïse, on his own authority and against the opposition of the supreme court, installed a new Provisional Electoral Council. This new council, loyal to Moïse, has been mandated to organise the upcoming election and a referendum on a new constitution. Despite the fact these measures are all unconstitutional, he has the support of the United States, the Organisation of American States and the United Nations.

The gangs and assassinations

Seeing the end of its mandate approaching on 7 February 2021, the PHTK regime of Jovenel Moïse is even more determined to sow a climate of terror and criminality in the country. Moïse and the PHTK are leaning on the G9, a powerful union of gangs, to terrorise popular neighbourhoods.

All the latest events show the level of complicity of the regime with armed gangs to assassinate citizens. The Haitian state is the main producer of insecurity in the country. It is increasing its political crimes to intimidate the population; sowing fear so the people do not revolt against the state’s mismanagement.

The recent assassination of the head of the Port-au-Prince bar association, Monferrier Dorval, on the evening of 28 August at the entrance to his residence at Pèlerin 5, close to the president's home in what is usually a highly secure area, is a heinous political crime showing the extremely high level of insecurity and the depth of the division between the ruling class and part of the political establishment.

On the evening of this murder, the police cars on daily duty in the neighborhood were not there. At the same time there was a momentary power cut and an eruption of fireworks, while the assassins shot their victim.

Just a few hours before his assassination, Mr. Dorval had given an interview to one of the radio stations in the capital, in which he clearly expressed his disagreement with the position put forward by Moïse, who wanted to set up the Provisional Electoral Council at all costs, against the will of the various sectors of the population. Mr. Dorval had refused the president's request to send a representative of the bar association to this council, which the population and other sectors of the establishment and civil society were already opposed to.

Dorval severely criticised excesses of power and disrespect for the constitution. Two other assassinations followed that of Mr. Dorval that same weekend, including a journalist from Radio Télévision Caraïbes (RTVC), and the owner of a large restaurant in the Pétion-Ville area.

In other provincial towns, several additional victims have been identified, including a graduating student from the State University of Haiti's Faculty of Agronomy and Veterinary Medicine, who was killed by police and mercenaries, supporting the powers that be, who were driving around in cars while he was in Saint Marc leaving a demonstration. People were killed and burned alive by armed gangs in the areas of Petite Rivière. State violence has continued unabated. Grégory Saint-Hilaire, a student at the State University of Haiti, was killed on 2 October during a demonstration where students demanded the implementation of an agreement, signed with the Ministry of Education, regarding their internship and appointment in public education institutions. Another demonstrator died during a demonstration on 5 October after being shot in the head.

Terror in working-class neighbourhoods

The wave of state crime in Haiti has reached a spectacular peak, sparing no one in the civilian population. People in poor, working-class neighborhoods are suffering tremendously on a daily basis under the constant fire of armed gangs.

The policies of the PHTK regime remain a total fiasco. They have been mainly aimed at the proliferation and politicisation of armed gangs in the different working-class neighborhoods and at turning the country's police force into a group of mafioso gangsters, increasing criminal and repressive acts towards the people out on the streets demonstrating peacefully.

The formation of the gang G9 an Fanmi e Alye (G9 Family and Allies), who are terrorising working-class neighborhoods, is living proof of the perversion of the Haitian state: a radical expression of all its rot and inhumanity.

Several massacres have already been perpetrated in working-class neighborhoods, including the massacres in Carrefour-Feuilles, La Saline and Martissant. Again on 6 September, the same criminal gangs of the G9, equipped with police equipment and uniforms, and led by the criminal Jimmy Chérizier, a former police officer, attacked the Bel-Air neighbourhood near the National Palace. This operation took the lives of more than a dozen young men and women, injured several people and saw several houses set on fire. People deserted the area in droves to take refuge in the Champ-de-Mars to save their lives.

Three days later, on 9 September, several areas in Bas Delmas, Cité Soleil and Tabarre were thrown into chaos when shots from automatic weapons were fired during a confrontation between various gangs working on behalf of the government and the security forces.

The PTHK regime must be overthrown

The crises in Haiti are piling up, and the government has no credibility or legitimacy in the eyes of the population to redress the situation. On the contrary, all the conditions are increasingly ripe for the population to overthrow this government. Crime, theft and mismanagement are the norm in this country under the PHTK.

If at first these accusations seemed to be mere allegations, today all the investigative reports have clearly proven and confirmed that Jovenel Moïse and many others in positions of authority in his government are thieves and squanderers of public funds. This includes two reports of the Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes, made public on 31 May and June 2019, respectively, as well as the third part of the report released on 17 August 2020.

In addition, armed gangs regularly receive funds, automatic weapons and ammunition, even though Haiti does not manufacture weapons or ammunition and the country is under an arms embargo. There can be only one ultimate source for these funds and weapons: the PTHK regime of Jovenel Moïse.

We need to understand why the cannibalism and cynicism of the PHTK regime has managed to go so far. The mafia that Jovenel represents in Haiti is an organisation made up of conservative neo-Duvalierists, and members of the Haitian and foreign private business sector, subject to the control of American imperialism.

Two elements constitute the main motivations of this mafia: power and money. In reality, this mafia network has been able to enrich itself further in recent years and gain political power, which was about to fall under popular control at the beginning of Jean-Bertrand Aristide's rise to power – that is, of course, before he became disoriented in terms of the real demands of the people.

Thus, the PHTK mafia managed to completely recover political power and radically destroy the other powers (legislative and judicial) by ignoring any legislation that could have prevented it from continuing the theft of public resources.

After Martelly, Jovenel was the one designated by this mafia to manage political power. In such a framework, Jovenel Moïse, as head of state, is not his own master. He cannot rule as he pleases, and must respond to the needs and demands of the mafioso ruling class. The eye of the mafia is far-sighted, and it exerts a great deal of power over the institutions and economy of the country. If Jovenel Moïse fails to manage political power effectively until the time comes to pass it to the next stooge designated by the mafia, he could see himself and his whole family disappear.

Thus, finding himself very close to being overthrown, he is willing to sacrifice everything, and get rid by any means of every obstacle in order to save his mandate; and thus also himself, not only from prison, but from punishment by his own mafia organisation. Jovenel Moïse sees his end approaching. Feeling the fire of popular anger, his cynicism and brutality towards the people is increasing in his desperation to hold onto his office.

Socialism or barbarism

With parliament dissolved and Moïse ruling by decree, it would appear that he is consolidating and increasing his power. This is true to a certain extent, but there is another process at work here as well. Moïse is in fact weakening himself at the same time.

Haiti socialism or barbarism 2 Image fair useThe state’s armed bodies of men play an important role in capitalist society, and Moïse is losing control over them / Image: fair use

Despite the fact that it was dysfunctional, Haiti’s parliament did play a certain role in legitimising Moïse’s rule – or at least, it provided legal and political cover for his rule. In any case, the persistent disunity and the political deadlock in parliament provided a constant distraction and diversion from the real political issues that need solving: the economic crisis and the rising costs of fuel and living in general, rising poverty and collapsing infrastructure, the Petrocaribe scandal and corruption, etc.

The state’s armed bodies of men play an important role in capitalist society. They provide the ideological and legal support for the rule of the capitalist class, but also act as a buffer between the ruling class and the people. With parliament dissolved, Moïse rules directly by decree. Having lost the confidence of the police, Moïse has lost control over them. He has also lost the support of other key pillars of bourgeois rule: the supreme court and numerous organisations of civil society (the Catholic Church, the Protestant Federation, private sector associations, presidents of universities and human rights advocates, etc.) This means that Moïse has lost the support of the most important buffers between himself and the ruling elite on behalf of whom he governs on the one side, and the masses on the other.

In this sense, with each step Moïse takes towards consolidating his personal power, towards establishing the naked dictatorship of the ruling class, he also takes one step closer to a confrontation with the popular movement and the masses.

Moïse is moving in the direction of bonapartist rule. But he is in an extraordinarily weak position. Naturally, Moïse has plenty of support from the imperialists and Haiti’s ruling class. He has bought an alliance with the G9 gangs, but outside of this he has very little support. Moïse has no base of support among the popular movement or the masses in general. This means that he will find it difficult to enforce his rule and the interests of the ruling class. Moïse has no room to manoeuvre between the classes, and hence it will be difficult for the state to raise itself above society to the degree that it can play the role of ultimate arbiter in the class struggle.

While the Moïse regime is very weak, the current situation is very dangerous for the working class and poor of Haiti. The popular movement in Haiti is under attack. However, it has not yet been defeated. In order to establish the naked dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, Moïse must first defeat the popular movement. This will be easier said than done.

While a slow descent into naked dictatorship is possible, there will be major turning points along the way. The masses will have opportunities to organise, to fight back, and to change the situation in their favour. The G9 gang alliance represents a well-armed and dangerous foe, but also reveals the isolation and weakness of the regime.

The popular movement must meet this threat head on. Bel-Air and other popular neighbourhoods that are threatened with attack should begin to organise neighbourhood defence committees, under the democratic control of labour and community organisations. This will be the only way to stop the attacks of the gangs.

The assassination of Mr. Dorval, the killing of students, and the murderous actions of the gangs have already led to significant protests and demonstrations around the country. The mass, insurrectionary movement that has flared up numerous times over the past several years against the cuts to the fuel subsidy, the fraudulent elections, corruption and the Petrocaribe scandal clearly show that the masses are prepared to fight. What is needed is a revolutionary leadership prepared to lead the way. The recent protests can be seen as a continuation of this movement of the masses, and we must do everything we can to ensure this movement continues and grows.

Shortly before he was assassinated, Monferrier Dorval said:

“The government is dysfunctional and that is why we are suffering. We must change the government and we must do this via the constitution… The objective should be to reorganise Haiti so we can regain the [national] pride that we lost long ago. We are constantly in crisis, relying on foreigners to tell us what to do. This country is not truly governed.”

This expresses, albeit in a legalistic way, the desire of the Haitian people for freedom from the rule of imperialism and for genuine democracy. However, these things cannot be achieved through the constitution, nor can they be achieved under capitalism. History itself shows that the Haitian ruling class is incapable of solving these problems or developing the country under its rule. The Constitution of 1987 solved nothing, why would another, similar endeavor be any different?

In Haiti, it is truly a question of socialism or barbarism. As long as the bourgeoisie rules Haiti, the country will be dominated by imperialism. The crushing poverty and all the ills of capitalism will persist. The Haitian people will never be free under these conditions. The only way forward will be for the masses themselves to overthrow the rotten ruling elite and reorganise Haiti, not in the interests of a tiny minority of exploiters or the imperialists, but in the interests of the masses themselves.