Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1999 22:56:13 -0400
Message-Id: <>
From: Stan Goff <>
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] A Brief Account of Haiti
Precedence: bulk

A brief account of Haiti

By Stan Goff <>, 22 October 1999

In the latter decade of the 18th Century, the British attempted to wrest control from the French of the richest colony in the Americas, Hispanola. The French Revolution was considered a window of opportunity by the British. The Revolution and the British incursion combined to destabilize Saint Domingue-the French half of the island. This created the conditions necessary for the only successful slave revolt in modern times, and the only successful slave-led revolution in history, the Haitian Revolution.

Haiti was only the second independent nation in the Americas-after the United States-and the first independent modern African state.

The Revolution was complex and turbulent, and characterized by a series of shifting alliances. The bourgeoisie in France was wrestling the feudal aristocracy overboard, and that struggle was reflected paradoxically in the colony, with feudal Loyalists supporting slave rebellion.

Both the French maritime bourgeoisie and the plantation-based colonial bourgeoisie had powerful vested interests in the institution of slavery-the former in the actual slave trade and the latter in the profit margin they sweat out of free labor. Loyalists of the French monarchy in the colony formed an alliance of convenience first with free blacks and mulattos, and finally with rebel slaves, for added strength to resist the rebellious bourgeoisie.

It should not surprise anyone who understands history that the revolutionaries of France and America fought for their economic emancipation from feudal monarchs at the same time the clung ferociously to the institution of slavery on which they had built the very fortunes and power they needed to overthrow feudalism.

The former slaves who fought for their freedom in St. Domingue were not historical materialists, and the question of whether capitalism was progress over feudalism did not enter their thinking. They knew who supported them-even for cynical purposes-and who tried to put them back in chains. Consequently, when Jean-Jacques Dessalines lashed the revolution forward to independence, he declared a kingdom, and a semi-feudal economic system was adopted. This system has been internally responsible for the persistently backward development in Haiti.

The terrifying example-from the point of view of slave holders from the United States to Brazil-of a slave revolution, and the dismemberment of slavery’s supporting ideology by this dazzling display of African brilliance in the systematic defeat of three powerful white European nations, led slave-dependent Britain, France, and the United States to economically isolate Haiti. This further stifled Haiti’s economic development, and rendered Haiti vulnerable to a variety of forms of economic blackmail that continually drained her treasury. This was the first in a series of external factors contributing to backward development in Haiti.

Haiti’s post-revolutionary economic system placed a vast number of peasants on land owned by gentry. Landowners collected a share of the land’s produce in exchange for tenancy-a sharecropping system. In many respects, it was a system like that in the Southern United States.

To understand political forces in Haiti today, it will be helpful to draw some further comparisons to the history of the Southern United States.

Former slaves in the South who adopted sharecropping were beholden to a land-holding class in a relationship that was feudal in the sense of the tenant proffering a share. Wage labor was not employed in the production process. The instruments of production were simple, and the rate of accumulation remained slow to stagnant.

As industrial production was more rapidly introduced into the South, a conflict developed between the up-and-coming industrial bourgeoisie and the planter class over access to labor. There was a period of rapprochement in which planters were ceded black labor on tenant farms and poor whites were the province of industrial capital. But industrial capital is restless. Like a shark, if it stops it expires, and eventually industrial capital needed to reach into a new pool of black labor.

This struggle took on a political character and two tendencies developed in Southern politics-what Paul Leubke, in Tar Heel Politics, has called the modernizers and the traditionalists. The former sought to develop the instruments of production for industry and to modernize agriculture, and the latter sought to protect the traditional privileges of the planter class. The latter tendency has also waged a fierce battle for the social norms that were rooted in the planter economy-especially racism, sexism, and a general cultural conservatism. Those tendencies are still visible in the South, with the struggle only lately asserting itself in two separate political parties instead of one political party with two factions.

In that political struggle, the capitalist-modernizer tendency has steadily gained supremacy over the semi-feudal-reactionary one. In the specific competition for black labor, the industrial capitalists had a dilemma with both sharecroppers and black landowners. Mechanized industry requires wage labor. People who have the option of returning to some form of subsistence farming have proven reluctant to submit to the rigors of industrial production. So over time, through variety of political initiatives, black workers were driven off the land to force them into the mills. South Africa used the same tactic to force workers into the gold mines. And Haiti, likewise, was subjected to American industrial capital at the turn of the century, whereupon peasants were separated from their ability to subsist on the land.

Pan-Africanist assertions of a shared history between Africans in a great diaspora are more than merely an emotional appeal for solidarity. Since the advent of colonialism, capitalist development has had a profoundly racial character. Racism and capitalism are bound together inextricably. African peoples have been subjected to a distinct form of oppression within that development that has remarkably similar economic, social, ideological, and political characteristics throughout the diaspora. One of the points we want to make here is that, contrary to popular notions purveyed by news and entertainment media, Haiti is not unique.

With the introduction of industrial sugar and sisal production in Haiti by giant American companies like the Haitian American Sugar Company (HASCO), peasants were driven off their land and forced to work in the fields and factories of the American companies-for a wage. Haiti had made the transition from a semi-feudal to a semi-capitalist system.

A rebellion against the conditions imposed by American companies led to a Marine Corps invasion and occupation that lasted 19 years, from 1915 to 1934. In that period, the Marines oversaw the reintroduction of a form of unpaid labor-slavery, renamed the courvier system-which was used to develop infrastructure for American companies, including roads, bridges, and electrical grids.

The Marine Corps put down the nationalist rebellion by the Cacos, an insurgency led by Charlemagne Peralte, who they eventually captured and killed. The defeat of the rebellion was brutal, led by openly racist Marine officers who only after a public outcry over reports of Marine massacres led initiatives to inhibit the widespread and gratuitous killing of Haitians for little more than sport by marines.

Smedley Butler, a marine major in the Caco counterinsurgency, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor twice, once for the anti-Caco campaign, eventually became a general. When he retired, he became openly critical of the U.S. intervention in Haiti and other countries as well, saying: War is a racket. Our stake in that racket has never been greater in all out peace-time history. It may seem odd for me, a military man, to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent 33 years and 4 months in active service as a member of our country’s most agile military force--the Marine Corps.... I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras ’right’ for American fruit companies in 1903... Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents.

This passage has particular significance for me, since I retired from active duty with Special Forces in February 1996, after serving in Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, Somalia, and of course Haiti. Reflection on my own experience had begun to crystallize with a vengeance by the time I was assigned as a member of the invasion task force in Haiti in 1994. My shifting political sympathies got me a ticket home and made me the subject of a punitive and sometimes bizarre investigation where I was interrogated about whether I had perhaps (1) become too pro-Haitian, or (2) had become Haitian. In fact, what I had become was anti-capitalist.

One of the reasons I am taking the trouble to write this is that I have a unique perspective from inside the belly of the beast so to speak. I feel it is important to take away one of the key weapons of the beast, the exoticization of Haiti that lends credence to the notion that Haitian society and politics are perverse and unknowable and essentially cultural. By extension, this means that Haitians are perverse, unknowable, and trapped in culture.

I found nothing in my experience during the invasion of 1994, or on subsequent visits to Haiti, that was either exotic or incomprehensible. The U. S. was behaving in a manner consistent with an imperialist power, and Haitians were behaving in a manner consistent with subjugated, exploited, and colonized peoples.

This implicitly racist exoticizing serves capital by encouraging potential anti-imperialist allies in the U.S.-especially African-Americans-to turn their backs on what appears to be an intractably exasperating and impenetrable situation. Pan-African solidarity has always alarmed capital. Capital spares no effort in subverting it. The systematic effort to de-couple issue of race from economic exploitation at home and abroad was begun in conjunction with McCarthyism, when the U.S. government was in the process of silencing people like DuBois, Robeson, and Hunton, with the Committee on African Affairs. Unfortunately, that effort was largely successful, helped along in part by opportunism in the Civil Rights movement.

Haitian society has been shaped by development of productive systems and instruments. Every society is. So don’t look to this account for lurid and false descriptions of African religion (voudon) as what is essentially Haitian—the counter-revolutionary analysis from the right—or for accounts of Haitian cultural simplicity, charm, and victim-hood—a counter-revolutionary caricature from the infantile left. Haiti, like all societies, must be understood first by its economy.

Just as the introduction of more modern methods of production in the U.S. South created friction between landed semi-feudals and industrial capitalists, a contest for political power developed in Haiti between grandons-or planters-and compradors-the Haitian middle-men who profited from the export of commodities. The key difference, of course, is in the global status of the respective ruling classes. American capitalists lead a regional imperialist combine, and Haitian compradors constitute only a kind of colonial surrogate class.

These axes of economic interest-with grandon xenophobia and comprador dependence-account for the frequent flare-ups of nationalism among the grandons who have identified their future security with an element of insularity from international economic forces which they rightly fear will displace them.

This begins to clarify the antecedents of the current relationship between the U.S. and Haiti.

Popular accounts of the Francois Duvalier regime-the only regime most Americans are aware of in Haiti-have tended to commit the error of the right, in simply calling Papa Doc anti-Communist, or the error of the left, dismissing Papa Doc as some kind of mad dog on the right’s leash. Duvalier was problematic to the United States, because he was a grandon nationalist. The CIA attempted to organize a coup against him shortly after he took office.

Anything but mad, Duvalier was masterful at tapping into an emerging black consciousness movement to build support among the masses, based on long standing resentment against white and light-skinned Haitian privilege, and fear and loathing for blanc, the foreigner. He deployed that sentiment as a form of nationalism on behalf of the grandons, who have consistently opposed further U.S. interference in Haitian economic life.

The famed Ton Ton Macoutes were in fact a palace guard and secret police. Duvalier had studied his Machiavelli well, and needed a force personally accountable to him to offset possible comprador loyalties in the army. He was also shaken by the U.S. attempt to instigate a coup. It was in the wake of that botched coup conspiracy that the Macoutes drastically increased the level of repression.

Under relentless pressure from the U.S., Papa Doc finally cried uncle and opened the door to increased U.S. economic activity in Haiti. He sealed an agreement with emissary and Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller, in 1969, then died less than two years later. His son, Jean-Claude Duvalier, hardly more than an adolescent at the time, succeeded him as President.

Jean-Claude was not the political operator that his father was. He liked fast cars, women, and bundles of money to indulge his interests in both. Nor did he share his father’s loyalty to the grandons. So when the U.S. began to offer assistance with the bothersome business of governance, and sweetened the deal with money, Baby Doc quickly acquiesced to the demands of U.S. capital. One of those demands was the appointment as Finance Minister of a very smooth, very articulate Haitian technocrat who worked with the World Bank, Marc Bazin. We shall see Mr. Bazin again... and again.

What neither Baby Doc nor the U.S. had counted on was the continued class loyalty of the Macoutes to the grandons. The Macoutes remained a formidable force, who might be reasonably compared to the militias used on behalf of the caudillos in other parts of Latin America.

They attempted to whisper in Baby Doc’s ear about minimizing the influence of Americans in Haitian economic life. When Baby Doc demonstrated a hearing deficit, Marc Bazin left his office one day to find his limousine completely covered with human feces-a crude but clear missive from the Macoutes that they intended to be heard. Bazin resigned for health reasons, and Baby Doc began to waver in his commitment to the U.S.

When popular discontent with repression from both the Army and the Macoutes, and with Baby Doc’s venality and incompetence, and with deepening poverty, gave rise to a popular insurrection in 1986, the U.S. opted to stand back and let the dust settle before deciding their next move. They graciously assisted Baby Doc in his departure from Haiti.

What followed was a dechoukage, an uprooting, of the Macoutes, who had become the focal point for popular rage. The People’s Justice was allowed for a short time by the Army. Much of the Army’s leadership was more than willing to be relieved of the counter-weight the Macoutes represented to their own power. When it had gone far enough, the military re-introduced control.

It’s time to digress again, lest we get caught up in the palace intrigues and lose sight of the further evolution of class relations, both in Haiti and abroad.

Bazin’s appearance on the scene not only represented a change in the power structure of Haiti, but a change in the structure of capital worldwide. Bipolar alliances growing out of the Cold War that had led to an embrace between the U.S. State Department and any number of crony capitalists, kleptocrats, and aspiring fascists. But consistent with Lenin’s prescient thesis on imperialism, international financial oligarchies (now the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) were consolidating power at a remarkable pace, and an element of consistency was being imposed by the lenders on capitalist development globally, as economies were further and further integrated. A more urbane, more cunning, and more technocratic class of rulers were shouldering aside the culture of the maverick robber barons and industrial capitalists.

That tendency has been reflected in Haiti, where the Macoutes-who have degenerated more and more into an organized crime syndicate as their grandon patrons have lost ground-and their traditional antagonists, the compradors, are suddenly finding that they might both be irrelevant. Haitian radicals for several years have been referring to them both as dinosaurs, an epithet formerly reserved for the grandons and Macoutes.

The brightest and most ambitious opportunists in Haiti have seen the handwriting on the wall, and they are aligning with the financial technocrats... like Marc Bazin. This technocratic, transnational, economic managerial class is often referred to popularly as neo-liberal. It will resort to the gun, but its weapons of choice are debt and economic blackmail.

Once the military re-asserted control after the ouster of Baby Doc, under General Henri Namphy, a succession of leaders found themselves caught between the demands of the Northern big brother and the nativist Macoutes. Each time they wavered against the U.S., the U.S. used professional coup-maker Prosper Anvril to unseat them. One of the key bones of contention between the U.S. technocrats and the Macoutes was the issue of elections.

The U.S., then and now, felt that it could exercise control of both politics and public perceptions more effectively under cover of elections. The Macoutes, citing nationalism and fearing still further incursions against their native power, adamantly opposed elections. Resources matter, however, and the U.S. had vastly more than the Macoutes. The U.S. finally compelled the Haitian government to schedule elections for 1990.

The U.S. was casting around for a good leader, someone who could manage the transition to an elected government of technocrats, and bring Haiti on line with the rapidly globalizing economy. The State Department decided that Marc Bazin, World Bank technocrat extraodinaire, should become the first democratically elected president of Haiti. During the preceding four years of relative instability, as they crisis-managed their way through one coup after another, the State Department was spending an enormous sum through various proxies to extol the savior status of Marc Bazin to the Haitian masses.

To further ensure the palatability of Bazin, the State Department quietly supported the opposition candidacy of a widely loathed organized crime boss named Roger Lafontant. The U.S. wanted Bazin to be as obvious a choice as possible on a deliberately limited list.

The Macoutes were no longer the only dissatisfied sector with the imposition of the New World Order. A developing petit bourgeois strata who were being subjected to extortion schemes from the Macoutes also felt uneasy with the implications for their own futures of a national economy that exported the majority of its capital in the service of massive external debt. Progressive elements within that strata, epitomized by Antoine Izmery, had begun to propose social democratic solutions to the persistent poverty, and articulate resistance to IMF-World Bank mandates. Relationships were established with the Ti Eglise, or Little Church, as the social gospel tendency of the Catholic Church had come to be called, particularly with an energetic and charismatic priest named Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Discussion among peasant organizations, progressive among the petit bourgeoisie, and leadership in the Ti Eglise, led to the last minute decision to offer an electoral alternative.

In 1804, Haiti had shocked the world by triumphing in a slave-led revolution.

Haiti shocked the New World Order neo-liberals in 1990. Aristide was offered up as a candidate for president under the banner of the Lavalas Movement-meaning The Flood. Lavalas was a potent coalition between the peasants and the petit bourgeoisie. Aristide won with such overwhelming numbers, and with such a late candidacy, that the U.S. Embassy was helpless to adjust the results. Aritside was a liberation theologian. He was a populist. And he was a nationalist. No combination of tendencies could have alarmed the U.S. more-unless Aristide had declared himself a Marxist in the bargain... which he is not.

A thoroughly chagrined U.S. delegation, including neo-liberal messiah Jimmy Carter, stalked away from the elections and began busily plotting.

In December, after the election, but before Aristide was to take office (in February), Roger Lafontant led an aborted coup and landed in jail. During the successful coup less than a year later, he was killed in his cell. Anti-Aristide demagogues try to blame it on Aristide loyalists, but the fact is that Lafontant had such a checkered past and so many enemies that solving his murder could be the stuff of an Agatha Christie novel. There are questions, however, about whether the ubiquitous CIA might not have put Lafonant up to the klutzy coup plot, figuring they had nothing to lose. Lafontant was a perfect fall guy.

But Aristide did take office. He held it for eight months, and in that time he said two things that sealed his fate. He demanded land reform, alienating the weakening but still powerful grandons, and he demanded that corporations pay their back taxes, thereby igniting the wrath of the bourgeoisie.

Though the U.S. had repeatedly denied having taken any part in the coup d’etat of September 30, 1991 against Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the Lavalas Movement, Defense Intelligence Agency representatives were reported to have been in Army Headquarters at the time of the coup. The DIA and the CIA maintained close relations with the Haitian Army before, during, and after the coup-even as President George Bush (former director of the CIA) was energetically denouncing the coup for the benefit of the American public.

One of the coup’s principle beneficiaries was a crack head on the CIA payroll, named Emmanuel Toto Constant. He led a political network of death squads called FRAPH, which ended up doing a good deal of the dirty work for the coup government. Constant is currently being protected from extradition by the U.S. government, presumably to keep his mouth shut, and lives in Queens, New York.

Constant emerged as a public figure around 1993. His successful incorporation of many former Macoutes into the network, and his diligent bending of the organization to the needs of the de facto government, along with his status as a CIA employee, caused his star to ascend rapidly.

The oppression of Raoul Cedras’ de facto regime differed markedly from that of Papa Doc. It was fiercer, more systematic, and more widespread.

While Duvalier’s knockout punch was delivered in the massacre of the Haitian Communist Party leadership at Nazon in 1969, Cedras and the FRAPH, with substantial help from the Army, killed over 5,000 people in the three years from 1991-1994. Petit bourgeois Aristide confidentes, brothers George and Antoine Izmery, were felled in the streets in highly publicized assassinations, but the leadership of every popular and peasant organization was killed as well-or driven deeply underground.

In June, 1992, the coup government invested Marc Bazin with the title of prime minister. He accepted. In June, 1993, just four days after the U.S. announced sanctions against coup supporters, Bazin resigned.

When Clinton inherited the American presidency, he had already suffered one foreign policy embarrassment on Haiti. Originally declaring his opposition to the Bush policy of concentration camps and forced repatriation, Clinton was confronted with a powerful combination of corporate pressure and racist xenophobia, and he signed onto continuation of the Bush policy.

Ever the neo-liberal technocrat non pariel, Clinton began studying ways to bring an election to Haiti. A deal was struck between the Clinton Administration, Aristide (whose arm was mightily twisted), and the Haitian de facto government in June, 1993 at Governor’s Island, New York. It was a masterpiece of neo-liberal sophistry. It called for reinstatement of Aristide, but also called for a number of questionable parliamentary reforms and blanket amnesty for the military. Cedras was offered a golden parachute. Aristide was required to be reinstated by October, 1993.

Ben Dupuy, Ambassador-at-Large for Aristide and Secretary General of the APN (National Popular Assembly) warned Aristide that the agreement was a trap. This was the first time Aristide openly and unequivocally consented to the idea of U.S. military intervention in Haiti.

The conflict between the technocrats and dinosaurs that had so affected the political dynamic of Haiti, remember, had its own reflection in the United States. If Clinton is the emblem of the technocrats, Senator Jesse Helms is emblematic of the reactionaries. Paradoxically, as the U.S. set the stage for it’s triumph against socialism at the beginning of this decade, the intelligence community and the military, formerly controlled by a technocratic faction, committed more of their budgets to covert operations in the intelligence community, and special operations in the military. The experienced operatives in both fields tended to be red-meat Cold Warrior reactionaries who identify with Helms and despise Clinton. As covert and special operations budgets increased, so did the reactionary domination of the U.S. intelligence and military apparatus.

When the gay-loving, draft-dodger, Clinton, began to talk about the reintroduction of Aristide, there was a strident reaction from Helms, publicly, and from the CIA, privately. The notion of an Aristide return, even a co-opted Aristide, who they considered a communist, was absolutely unacceptable. A drumbeat of anti-Aristide propaganda was begun. Helms was in the forefront, and the CIA leaked disinformation to the press about Aristide’s mental illness. The CIA actually briefed Congress in a special closed session, in 1993, on Aristide’s mental illness.

The CIA thirsted to hand the liberal Clinton another foreign policy embarrassment. They got their chance on October 13, 1993, in what has come to be known as the Harlan County Incident.

Clinton had dispatched a number of military and police advisors, called monitors, to Haiti, to prepare Haiti for democratization. They were aboard the USS Harlan County. In a surreal interlude, the ship was met at the dock in Port-au-Prince by a group of theatrical, lightly armed FRAPHists, some too skinny and old to be reasonably referred to as thugs, but trying to appear thuggish nonetheless.

After a puzzling standoff of less than four hours, the U.S. Embassy ordered the USS Harlan County to steam back to the United States.

In the middle of the whole peculiar melodrama, calm and half-smiling, sat John Kambourian, the CIA chief of station for the U.S. Embassy. When one journalist asked Kambourian why he didn’t seem alarmed, with the deputy chief of mission sitting in her limo in the middle of the danger, he said simply, Ahh, they don’t mean any harm. Remember, now, that the FRAPH chief was then on the CIA payroll.

At around the same time, I was still on active duty with the Army, still a member in good standing of the Special Operations community, and we had been briefed that we were preparing to invade Haiti. This was 1993. The Harlan County incident might have tipped the scales for an invasion that year, but another operation I was involved with gave the President pause. We had attempted to capture Mohammed Farrah Aidid, the Somali strongman, and his militia had handed the U.S. military a crushing defeat in the streets of Mogadishu. Clinton wasn’t about to get too adventuresome too fast with the military again that year.

Somalia and Harlan County had combined to highlight Clinton’s inadequacies. This stung particularly in Haiti, because U.S. presidents before him had all managed to keep the backyard tidy.

Haiti presented Clinton with more than an embarrassment, however. It presented him with an interlocking set of dilemmas.

Aristide was overwhelmingly identified by the Haitian masses with the dual aspirations of popular democracy and sovereignty. His ouster and the subsequent brutality of the Cedras regime had only magnified Aristide’s standing as the embodiment of Haitian popular aspirations.

The Clinton Adminstration was desperate for a military success, and it was coming under increasing pressure at home from members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Haitian-Americans, and groups like Trans-Africa, to do something about the situation in Haiti and about restoring Aristide’s presidency. Clinton’s principle patrons, however, the transnational corporations, were not the least bit comfortable with Aristide.

Behind the scenes, there was frenetic haggling with Aristide.

Not an experience political operative, he paused in a conversation with his Ambassador-at-Large at the time, Ben Dupuy, and asked Dupuy if he thought the CIA might have been involved in the coup. Dupuy responded that the reason there had never been a coup in the United States was that there was no U.S. Embassy there. Aristide would later, after gaining more experience in his negotiations with the Clinton Adminsitration, repeat Dupuy’s quip publicly and again knit the eyebrows of the neo-liberal establishment with consternation.

Clinton knew that there was no option to intervene militarily without Aristide on his arm. A violent intervention without Aristide might not only clear away the Cedras clique, it might inflame barely suppressed Haitian anti-imperialist passions against the United States. The very nationalism that had gone underground with the Cedras onslaught against Lavalas might resurface against American occupation troops and hang Clinton with another grotesque foreign policy mess.

Even as neo-liberals worked tirelessly in the U.S. to co-opt Aristide, American reactionaries worked tirelessly to undercut both Clinton and Aristide. The U.S. press was thoroughly taken in by the reactionary propaganda, and began to uncritically regurgitate lurid tales of Lavalas murders by necklacing and other diabolical excesses. Many of these stories were planted by the CIA.

The U. S. military, in particular, picked up the reactionary rhetoric. Virtually every intelligence summary I was privy to on Haiti, prior to and during the invasion, emphasized stories of voodoo and powders and even that old racist standby of intrinsic African deviancy, cannibalism. For anyone who had ever been there, or even who had a little common sense, it was of course the most contemptible nonsense. But it was designed to fan racist stereotypes and ensure a lack of identification between American soldiers and the Haitian masses.

Military reluctance to reinstate Aristide was open. When we received our pre-mission briefing at Guantanamo Bay in September, 1994, just two days before the actual invasion, General Potter, commander of the Special Operations contingent, told all of us, I don’t like it any better than you do-pulling another weak president’s cookies out of the fire. But we’re gonna follow orders and perform like good soldiers.

It’s important to reiterate, however, that neither the Clinton technocrats nor the Helms reactionaries had any interest in the welfare of the Haitian masses.

The multiple dilemmas which plagued Clinton, then, were: The question of support at home in the face of an onslaught of right-wing propaganda; the pressure from the Black Caucus and others to rectify what appeared to be (and was) a racist immigration policy; the question of how to conduct a military operation that could certainly succeed at getting in, but may evolve into a struggle directly against Haitian popular resistance; and the question of how to include Aristide-the key to resolution of at least two of the preceding questions-but defang his ability to sway the masses in an anti-neoliberal direction on economic questions.

The last issue was particularly important to many members of the Black Caucus, a predominantly bourgeois gathering that largely supported an Aristide-legitimized technocratic (read: neoliberal) solution. Jesse Jackson Jr.. while on tour in Haiti, had opined that Haiti needed McDonalds to provide jobs there.

Clinton’s navigation of the situation was masterful.

We (the military) spent months allegedly preparing for a full-blown, direct military intervention. Aristide had finally consented to the Faustian deal. When the balloon went up, in military parlance, the 82nd Airborne had taken off from Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina, preparing to leap out over the tarmac at Port-au-Prince International and start a shooting war with Cedras’ forces.

Miraculously, a delegation consisting of Jimmy Carter (again), Sam Nunn, and Colin Powell secured the rather mysterious last minute capitulation that authorized the permissive entry of U.S. troops with the signature of an illegitimate Haitian President, Emile Jonaissant. The credulous U.S. press never questioned the miraculous-ness of this whole episode.

Having written almost an entire book on the actual occupation, I will spare readers that account here.

The critical point is that now, in 1999, with the alleged departure of U.S. troops (I just came back from Haiti this September after the announcement of troop withdrawal, and can assure readers that the 82nd Airborne is still flying its colors at Port-au-Prince Airport, and the country is riddled with Special Forces, Civil Affairs, and Psychological Operations teams.), the U.S. has recently succeeded, for the second time, in gerrymandering the upcoming Haitian elections.

U.S. pressure to prevent Aristide’s candidacy in 1995, along with an election supervised by an invading nation, led to a massive boycott of the election. Only five percent of the eligible voting population went to the polls for the election of President Rene Preval, and only 15 percent went to the next round to vote for members of parliament.

The Lavalas movement fractured along class lines. The peasant majority leaned toward Aristide’s Famni Lavalas (the Lavalas Family), and the petit bourgeoisie threw in the towel and supported the OPL (Lavalas Political Organization) in its acceptance of the neo-liberal mandate to privatize, shift taxes onto the poor, quash labor unrest, and shred social services-all to service the external debt.

Opportunism is the order of the day, and many of the petit bourgeois are now aiming to become technocrats.

While factionalism has led to maneuvering from above, and the press had dutifully reported that the government is paralyzed by these maneuvers, the fact is that the stalemate in the government is directly attributable to popular pressure from below. Much of the leadership may be confused, but the masses are still violently opposed to neo-liberal policies, which are referred to euphemistically as structural adjustment. The masses not only correctly perceive it to be a formula for further worsening their poverty, but as a direct attack on Haitian national sovereignty and self-determination.

In the upcoming elections, the U.S., fearful of an Aristide-led government that might buck the neo-liberal orthodoxy (which may be an unfounded fear, given Aristide’s waffling of late), has initiated a new tactic. Through backchannel funding for the notorious Reaganite National Endowment for Democracy, the U.S. is spending money like a drunken sailor to cobble together a coalition that enough of the Haitian bourgeoisie can get behind to win a US-designed election.

This is important because assassination of either Aristide or Preval (both of which could disqualify Aristide, due to peculiarities in Haitian election law) constitutes an extremely risky maneuver at this juncture. The suffering of the majority of Haitians has slowly deepened, and the economic, social, and political situation is like an open container of gas in a very small room. One match-like an assassination-could blow up everyone in the room.

The U.S., in particular, must tread very lightly. Neo-liberals will resort to the gun, as we saw in Iraq and the Balkans, but they prefer to fight with money and elections.

The latest tactic, which appears to be a fait accompli, is the simultaneous development of Esapce de Concertacion, the aforementioned bourgeois coalition-funded and developed by an alphabet soup of front foundations associated with the National Endowment for Democracy-and the introduction of a new rule: Picture ID cards for every eligible voter, made and distributed by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

It is next to impossible, of course, to ensure the distribution of these voter ID’s to every adult in the country. The vast majority of the population is peasantry, widely distributed, in often remote areas, frequently inaccessible by vehicle, and without electricity. Vast numbers of Haitians lack even a birth certificate.

Accessible areas have been heavily targeted by the NED and AID front organizations for candidate recruitment under a baffling array of political banners. These phony political organizations are being built up alongside a tidal wave of disinformation designed to mislead or at least bewilder Haitians. It combines inaccurate news, exploitation of local controversies, and incessant rumor-mongering.

The hope is that the Esapce coalition can gain enough seats for a parliamentary majority.

An anti-neoliberal president can exercise a mandate with a solid parliamentary block, but the president it required to select the Prime Minister from the majority party in Parliament. If that is not his or her Party, the president becomes a figurehead, since the real executive power is vested in the Prime Minister. An Espace majority could nullify any chance an Aristide might have to exercise power against neoliberalism.

The reason this tactic is proving successful is threefold. First, of course, there is the level of monetary commitment to Espace-who some observers expect to nominate none other than Marc Bazin for the Presidential race. Secondly, a number of the formerly militant popular organizations, like Tet Kole and the MPP (Papay Peasant’s Movement) have been slowly co-opted by the steady trickle of project dollars flowing through the almost interminable list of non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) infesting every corner of Haiti. But finally, there are the flawed organizational structures of larger organizations, particularly Fanmi Lavalas, which have no reliable mechanisms for developing and then following a clear, principled political line.

Fanmi is essentially horizontal. It consists of chapters called Ti Fanmi (Little Families), each of which is in fact a local clique. There are no intermediate structures that allow for systematic discussion of positions or agendas, and so that responsibility devolves solely on the leader-in this case, Aristide. Aristide’s Foundation for Democracy constitutes a kind of resource distribution point around Port-au-Prince-one carrot he has to offer loyal subjects-and the other, bigger carrot is the possibility of jobs to hand out if he is elected. So the organization is riddled with factionalism and backbiting to win the favor of the great man.

This clientelle-ism gives rise to extraordinary aberrations. It is now common to listen to the radio and hear one Fanmi representative declaring on a position one day, and being contradicted by another Fanmi representative from somewhere else two days later. The Ti Fanmi leader in Jacmel today is a former Macoute.

Fanmi is highlighted here because it claims the largest following. But this rudderless patron-client structure is widespread in popular organizations, and is often wrongly believed to be somehow democratic, simply because it is non-hierarchical.

The purpose of the PPN (National Popular Party), formerly the APN (National Popular Assembly), for the last decade, has been to remedy exactly that problem. Secretary General of the PPN, Ben Dupuy, describes the PPN’s agenda simply. We say no to foreign occupation, no to neoliberalism, and no to U.S. engineered elections.

What makes the PPN unique on the Haitian political scene is that it is making this fight for political and economic sovereignty with a disciplined and accountable structure. It’s assemblies are organized within and corresponding to existing political subdivisions, from ville, to communal section, to commune, to department, to the national level. They exercise assessment periods for the study of changes in the political conditions, then carry evaluations through each level via delegates who gather regularly. This process is followed by a similar series of meetings to approve resolutions for PPN’s work. Resolutions approved at the national level are referred to an executive committee, who then does the grunt work to ensure that assemblies at every level can carry out their work plans consistent with democratically determined positions and goals.

The PPN led the successful boycott of the 1995 elections (then as the APN), and they are calling for a boycott again.

Says communal delegate, Janelle Cheri, who hid for three months in sugarcane fields during the coup to escape assassination, It is absurd to ask the Haitian people to yet again validate this so-called process. They want us to accept economic blackmail and call it development, and now they want us to accept a receipt from a thief so he can claim nothing was stolen.

Asked what the alternative is to voting, Cheri says The PPN will continue to spend our limited time and resources to take the issues where the people are. The people are not in the Parliament. They are in the mountains and the streets. Asked what the issues are, the response is simply: Self-determination.

PPN’s counterpart in the United States is the Haiti Support Network. HSN spokesperson and U.S. editor of the trilingual Kreyol-French-English newspaper, Haiti Progres, Kim Ives says with regard to the current situation in Haiti, In this one superpower age, it’s important to identify those struggles which have the most capacity for effective resistance. Haiti is one of those places. Not only because it is the home of the world’s first successful slave-led revolution, but because today the Haitian people have been able to maintain the will to resist on every level, politically, culturally, and economically. Through a combination of both high-intensity and low-intensity warfare, the will to resist has been diffused for the time being throughout most of the Americas. But in Haiti, despite the intervention of the world’s most powerful military, the U.S. has still failed to impose and implant the neo-liberal agenda.