January 13, 2010 -The Socialist Party USA stands in solidarity with the people of Haiti after the devastating earthquake that hit the island. Estimates of the dead are more than one hundred thousand and significant parts of the capital city Port-au-Prince’s infrastructure have been destroyed. The full extent of the damage will not be known for days and the country seems certain to be thrust into a humanitarian crisis even more serious than the one that exists on a daily basis.
While this disaster has natural origins, it occurred within a nation that had already been ravaged by capitalism. Haiti is a model case for the failure of the neoliberal economic model and the negative legacies of US militarism in the region.
After coming out of the vicious dictatorship of ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier in the late 1980s, the country was saddled by massive debt payments to the IMF and World Bank. When the “people’s priest” Jean Bertran-Aristide was elected to the presidency in 1990 new hopes for change were raised. Aristide promised to move beyond a government of the elites and to challenge the IMF free-market model. His administration was then brought down by a violent military coup backed by the US military. After a direct US military occupation, Aristide returned to office, agreed to implement the IMF plans and was again removed by a military coup. The already weak Haitian economy spiraled, creating mass unemployment and suffering.
As multinational companies exited the country, they left behind ecological and economic devastation. Large swaths of the countryside have been de-forested rendering them useless for cultivation. Even before the earthquake, the urban infrastructure was in decay, suffering from a lack of investment for decades. In a final humiliation, a few months before the earthquake, a group of multinational investors assembled in Port-au-Prince to create a plan to return to exploiting the population.
Despite all of this, the Haitian people have continued to struggle for justice. In their trade unions, cooperatives and women organizations, poor and working Haitians have kept alive the legacy of struggle born in the great Haitian Revolution of the 18th century. Such grassroots democratic struggles offer the best hope for the future of the island.
The Socialist Party USA encourages our members and supporters to get involved with efforts to provide relief to earthquake victims. There are many organizations engaged in this effort including the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund which has supported grassroots democratic struggles in Haiti since 2004. The history of Haiti offers a reminder that democratic socialism must offer a vision that transcends national borders in order to create a global society based on solidarity, compassion and justice.