The Virginia branch of CPUSA strongly condemns any notion of U.S. intervention and occupation of Haiti. The Biden administration has upheld U.S. imperialism, most recently in the form of state troopers on horsebacks whipping immigrants legally seeking asylum. This history shows that U.S. imperialism, exemplified by the current administration, is the problem in the recovery and process of self-determination for Haiti.
The Biden Administration’s Record of Imperialism
With the withdrawal of U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan, we may see more U.S. troops begin to occupy the beleaguered nation of Haiti. After the assassination of Jovenel Moïse, with the full details only now coming to light, Haiti’s bourgeoisie have asked for American intervention and occupation of their own country in what can only be to prevent the Haitian proletariat from spilling out into open rebellion against the corrupt government. While the mainstream media has conveniently hemmed and hawed about the minor protests in Cuba, the near-revolt of the Haitian population against the capitalist elite and imperialist systems of the West has been swept under the rug for many that primarily get their news from the mainstream media.
“We’re only sending American Marines to our embassy to make sure that they are secure and nothing is out of whack at all,” President Joe Biden said in a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He continued: “But the idea of sending American forces into Haiti is not on the agenda at this moment.”
The phrase “at this moment” does not inspire confidence, given the U.S.’s history of foreign occupation and intervention on flimsy excuses. There is much that can be used as a pretext of further involvement in the Haitian affair. Depending on how the situation swings in Haiti, whether the people continue to rebel in the streets or whether the situation dies down, will determine if or when the United States will intervene militarily. Biden’s record on foreign policy has not at all been stellar, getting a D- in international relations from the CPUSA’s International Commission.
The Biden administration has shown itself to be dangerous internationally. It has engaged in vaccine imperialism by enforcing an export ban on India, under the Defense Production Act, on the materials needed for vaccine production, ensuring that thousands of Indians will die each day. The President ordered the U.S. Air Force to bomb Syria shortly after stepping into office. Under the current administration, the Biden administration has refused to condemn the U.S. blockade of Cuba, voting against it in the UN, and has emulated the Trump administration in continuing the blockade and sanctions against the country. All three of these examples were explicitly condemned by the CPUSA.
The investigation by the FBI has received little apparent attention and comment from the current administration. This is in spite of the fact that some of the Colombians involved have “previously received U.S. military training” and that some of the suspects were “a former Drug Enforcement Administration informant nicknamed “Whiskey,” an opposition politician, Colombia mercenaries and Haitian Americans from South Florida,” all of which raise questions about the extent of the involvement of the U.S. bourgeoisie in the coup. It would not be surprising if, in ten or so years, more was revealed about American involvement in the coup, whether it would ultimately be authorized by the government or not.
It should be noted that in the current geopolitical environment, the U.S. may have a motive or fear of the Haitian people electing a leader or toppling the current regime, which may result in whosoever takes Moïse’s place aligning with the Russian Federation or China. Coupled with the fact that many Haitian politicians have expressed a desire for the United States to intervene militarily and this leaves a real possibility that the United States may indeed get involved. It is why we as communists should pay close attention to Haiti.
A General History of Haiti And Why It Matters
Ever since the 1791 – 1804 revolution led by Toussaint Louverture, Haiti has paid the price with blockades, coups, occupations, and so on, all in the name of Western capitalism. In the early 19th century, Haiti would face the threat of invasion from France unless they paid an indemnity to the French empire, which amounted to 150 million francs. As Westenley Alcenat writes for the Jacobin in The Case for Haitian Reparations:
“Decades later, an investigative report issued by the US Congress, An Inquiry Into the Occupation and Administration of Haiti, noted that fear of ‘the continual expectation of the offensive return of the French [navy] and weary of maintaining the country [hostage] for more than twenty years in a state of war the Government of President Boyer accepted the arrangement of the King of France.’ The report went on to note that the French stipulated very painful conditions for how the first debt payment would be issued: ‘By means of a loan of 24,000,000 francs issued at Paris at the rate of 80 percent and bearing 6 percent interest to which was added 6,000,000 francs paid in specie by the Haitian treasury the first installment of the indemnity was paid.‘
In other words, Haitians had to borrow from French banks to then pay their former masters, interests included. According to the US Congress Select Committee on Haiti, the balance of the loan of 24,000,000 francs and the indemnity were known as the double French debt.”
Rejection of the indemnity meant war with France, and Haiti would end up paying “10 times” its annual budget. As Professor of Africa Diaspora Studies at the University of Virginia Marlene Daut writes in her article, “When France extorted Haiti – the greatest heist in history” (The Conversation), the independence debt that was extorted from Haiti at gunpoint was “directly responsible not only for the underfunding of education in 20th-century Haiti, but also lack of health care and the country’s inability to develop public infrastructure.” The cost would not be paid off in full until 1947. Famed French economist Thomas Piketty has even said that France should have to repay $28 billion in US dollars to Haiti as reparations.
The United States would later invade Haiti in 1915, leaving “financial control and political influence” after withdrawing in 1943, according to Reuters. Human rights abuses were committed under the U.S. occupation, with scholar-activist W.E.B. Du Bois demanding accountability from the Wilson administration, saying that it must assure to “Americans of Negro descent that [the Marines] have no designs on the political independence of the island and no desire to exploit it ruthlessly for the take of selfish business interests.” This was never so much as taken up by the Wilson administration in any way and Du Bois was ignored. Later, the Duvalier political dynasty, beginning with Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier declaring himself “president-for-life” in 1957, would end nearly 30 years later in 1986 through popular revolt. Both Duvalier dictators, father and son, were backed by the United States.
Haiti was left shaky after all these years of turmoil. In the aftermath of the Duvaliers’ fall, Jean-Bertrand Aristide would win election victory in a landslide in the winter of 1990 but be deposed by a military junta with some ties to the CIA. Pushed by the Congressional Black Caucus, President Bill Clinton’s administration would intervene militarily in Haiti to restore Aristide to power. What happened after 1994 reveals a history of economic sabotage on the part of the United States. According to TIME:
“American support for Aristide’s return was contingent on his sighing an agreement with the IMF and the World Bank, which bound him to their structural adjustment policies, which opened up Haiti’s market to foreign trade with the result that Haiti had to import most of their food. Haiti’s elite, despite having to face a U.S. embargo during the military junta rule and having their wealth frozen by the U.S., still had a lot of economic power after Aristide’s return. The reformist and radical programs he had planned fell apart.”
About ten years later, in 2004, Aristide would be deposed in a coup d’etat, which he says was conducted by the United States. Even had this not been true, the United States and the United Nations stood by even while occupying the country as the armed gangs and rebels forced him to flee the country to safety. The UN peacekeeping mission is a good example of a more recent occupation extending from 2004, when political violence engulfed the country, to 2019. It’s yet another reminder that occupation of Haiti wasn’t that long ago and that the U.S., its allies, or both, could easily start another occupation if they so desired.
In that time, during the foreign occupation, Aristide’s own political party would be banned (Fanmi Lavalas), more transnational corporations would further exploit the country’s proletariat with even less protections and safety than they had before 2004, and the country would be left with Jovenel Moïse as President. Human rights abuses were committed by the occupying armies in the 15 years that they were there. More egregiously, the 2010 earthquake would leave Haiti with even more instability, even as most of the aid to the country went to wealthy or were funneled back to transnationals. Given the US’s record on Haiti, including frequent occupation of the country on and off, we shouldn’t forget what’s at stake here.
General History of U.S. Occupations, Interventions, and Coups
Through the occupation of Indigenous lands and the enslavement of African peoples, the United States began as a colonialist power ever since its first colonists arrived in the 17th century. But even into the 20th century, this continued for foreign countries such as the Philippines and Cuba at the beginning of the century. Consider also the frequent interventions in Latin America and the Caribbean; or the US occupations during the Cold War such as the one in South Vietnam. The occupation of Haiti in 1915 is one of many.
In the 21st century, the United States plans to end an occupation in Afghanistan in September of this year, in what will be nearly 20 years since it started. In addition, the United States continues to occupy Iraq. The United States likewise has a military presence in at least 74 countries. As reported by Quartz:
“According to official information provided by the Department of Defense (DoD) and its Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) there are still about 40,000 US troops, and 179 US bases in Germany, over 50,000 troops in Japan (and 109 bases), and tens of thousands of troops, with hundreds of bases, all over Europe. Over 28,000 US troops are present in 85 bases in South Korea, and have been since 1957.”
In addition, the United States has committed coup d’etats and installed right-wing governments loyal to it. During the Cold War, the United States would back right-wing coups against Guatemala in 1954, Chile in 1973, and Argentina in 1976. Even afterward, the United States would support a coup in 2002 against Venezuela’s democratically-elected government. More recently, the United States also supported a coup in Bolivia back in 2019. Oftentimes, U.S. private interests, government officials, the CIA, or a mix of all three were involved in these occasions.
In Africa, organizations such as AFRICOM, dominated by the United States, have stationed their own troops on the continent, or troops trained by AFRICOM that follow the its lead. AFRICOM has been involved in combat situations, supposed counter-insurgency operations, and outright occupation in the countries that it is involved in. This is in itself military intervention without the fanfare. There are troops still stationed in Syria’s eastern geographical region while the United States has been open about supporting “moderate rebels” in Syria such as the terrorist al-Nusra Front. Ten years ago, Libya would also be bombed in a joint coalition headed by the United States and France; ten years later, open slavery is being conducted brazenly in the country.
The United States has also intervened in other ways such as covert operations and weapons dealing with reactionary governments. But it must be emphasized that the United States has a record that makes it distrustful. Biden has so far not shown himself to be any different in this regard. It is imperative that the working class be imbued with anti-imperialist ideas, as seen in the anti-war movement of the 1960s to 1970s against the War in Indo-China or even the 2000s against the Iraq war.
It is always good to stop and remind ourselves that immigrants arriving in the United States, who are really just refugees in most cases, are here because we were there. That is to say that people end up leaving their country due to the precarious position that they’re put in by the United States interfering in their affairs, whether that be through economic warfare or outright invasion and occupation. It may be that the United States may not interfere in Haiti, whether that be through occupation or assistance in propping up the reactionary government that’s left after Moïse’s death. However, the opposite may very well happen as well and that is why we must remain vigilant in this case.
An anti-imperialist position can only strengthen us, not divide us. It is a strength of the international communist movement and one that, historically speaking, has given us more power in tackling domestic issues at home. Internationalism with all the proletarians of the world means that we give our support to them and work with them, especially for the liberation of their own country. Indeed, internationalism is one of the main traits of the communist movement.
Therefore, the Virginia branch of CPUSA takes the position that the United States recommencing an occupation of Haiti or in any way interfering to prop up the right-wing government is unconscionable and should not in any way happen. We say “Hands Off Haiti” as much as we say “Hands Off Cuba” or any other country under imperialist assault. Another military invasion of the beleaguered country should not transpire. In general, we say no to U.S. imperialism.