Western nations, led by the United States, have cited “humanitarian” concerns and the threat of “criminal gangs” to justify the move. But this intervention would be far from Haiti’s first. It follows a centuries-long pattern of invasion, regime change, and plunder — part of a long punishment for Haiti’s successful revolution against colonialism.
Haiti’s oppression is woven firmly into the fabric of capitalism. Christopher Columbus first came upon the island in 1492, seeking gold. “From gold comes great wealth,” he wrote to Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. “And with it whoever possesses it can do whatever in the world that he wishes.”
Columbus’s invasion exterminated the native population of the island, which was soon replaced by slaves shipped from Africa. In these acts of brutality, a social contract was formed: Europe, enriched by its colonies, would do whatever in the world it wished; its colonies would live in enslavement and permanent underdevelopment.
In the centuries that followed, Haiti came to represent the vanguard of the movement against that violent status quo. The Haitian Revolution of 1791 – 1804 tore through the fabric of time, defeating the French colonizers, liberating the enslaved, and establishing the world’s first Black republic.
That victory gave life to internationalism as a political project. Haiti supported its neighbor Santo Domingo, where rebellions had erupted from the sparks of its revolution. Haitians fought alongside Simón Bolívar, liberating Gran Colombia from Spain and freeing its slaves. The Haitian General Benito Sylvain fought Italian colonizers seeking to expand their reign into Ethiopia; with Haiti’s support, the invading forces were defeated, and Sylvain went on to co-organize the First Pan-African Conference in London in 1900.
Haiti would pay dearly for these crimes of resistance. For 122 years, at the barrel of a gun, it paid to France the “debts” of its liberation. In 1915, the US invaded Haiti and occupied it for 19 years, leaving in its wake a series of violent puppet regimes that served exclusively the interests of US monopolists.
But the Haitian revolution marched ahead. In the 1980s, it found expression in the Lavalas mass movement that drove the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. For thirty-five years, the story of Haitian politics has seen the power of the Lavalas movement face relentless domestic elite and foreign military attempts to destroy it.
As president, Aristide demanded colonial reparations from France and implemented reforms that made great strides toward improving conditions for the Haitian people. For that, he would be overthrown twice: in 1991 and, the second time under the flag of the United Nations, in 2004, when Canada’s Task Force 2 took control of Toussaint Louverture International Airport while US Marines kidnapped Aristede and flew him to the Central African Republic. North American leaders and their stenographers sought to create humanitarian motivations for their actions. But a WikiLeaks cable published in 2008 revealed the true motivation of US interventionism in Haiti: to prevent “resurgent populist and anti-market economy political forces” from taking hold.
In the wake of that coup, the institutions of the Haitian state were systematically dismantled. Foreign-financed NGOs took their place, at one point providing 80% of all public services, while sustaining and profiting from the misery they promised to confront.
In 2009, the Haitian parliament sought to increase the minimum wage to $5 a day. The US intervened on behalf of the interests of companies like Fruit of the Loom, Hanes, and Levi’s, blocking the bill. The wage hike, a US Embassy official said, was an unrealistic measure aimed at appeasing “the unemployed and underpaid masses.” In 2018, sanctions imposed by the US against Venezuela forced it to cease shipments of discounted oil to Haiti through the PetroCaribe scheme. Fuel prices rose sharply, triggering a wave of protests that has continued to this day.
We demand an urgent end to interventionism in Haiti. The crisis in Haiti can only be repaired by following the basic demands of the Haitian people: an end to foreign meddling, an end to the brutal foreign-imposed austerity policies that sustain hunger and destitution, and support for Haiti’s full self-determination. The Haitian people have done nothing more, and nothing less, than resist an unjust colonial order built on their oppression — a struggle shared by the “unemployed and underpaid masses” everywhere. We honor that struggle, defend Haiti’s sovereignty, and support its people’s right to determine their own future.
Progressive International Cabinet