In the last two weeks, the United Nations has published two devastating reports about Haiti: one on worsening hunger and another on the increase in sexual violence stemming from paramilitary activity. Both reports address the disproportionate impacts these crises are having on Haitian women and children and how their compounding impact has resulted in a dire situation. However, in both reports, the United Nations totally fails to address the root cause of the crises facing the people of Haiti: imperialism. As progressive people have come to expect, the largely empty solutions proposed by the two reports either miss the mark entirely or would only serve to exacerbate the crises.
Over recent years, in the midst of political instability and a vacuum of effective leadership, paramilitary violence has created an alarming situation for Haitians. Large sections of the country are currently controlled by paramilitaries that are actually deeply embedded into the military, police and political elite of Haiti—making life unbearable for the masses of people already struggling to survive. Since August 2021, there has been a 40% increase in reported cases of gender-based violence stemming, in large part, from increased paramilitary presence.
The U.N. report notes that “gangs use sexual violence to instill fear.” It is the horrific truth that paramilitary forces are using sexual violence as a terror tactic against women, children, LGBTQ people and vulnerable men in Haiti. But these are not “gangs” engaged in random violence; they are organized political actors using sexual violence for political aims. To understand the political role of paramilitary violence in Haiti requires a class analysis that the U.N. report totally neglects. In Haiti, sexual violence is organized and perpetrated by armed elements, linked to elite interests, in order to bolster their positions of power and expand and consolidate control over poor and working class areas of the country.
Egregious acts of rape and other forms of sexual abuse are deliberately used against kidnapped women, girls and children to corner families into paying ransom. In many cases, for safety, women and children are pressured to remain in their homes, preventing them from attending school and to work-related responsibilities. But simply staying home isn’t effective in the face of paramilitary home invasions. Family members have been forced to watch their loved ones be violated, and in some cases be killed. Further compounding the crisis, the Haitian healthcare infrastructure is ill-prepared and poorly equipped to respond to the basic needs of its population, let alone provide specialized medical care for victims of sexual violence.
Widespread impunity has enabled paramilitaries to continue to commit acts of sexual violence and other human rights abuses against the Haitian people. The influx of high-caliber weapons into Haiti is further fueling the epidemic of sexual violence under the Henry regime. But these weapons don’t materialize out of thin air. The weapons used by Haitian paramilitaries come mainly from the U.S. and through ports linked to major industrialists. Indeed, there is a long history in Haiti of paramilitaries linked to various elite interests and political actors, propped up by US imperialism, allowing for the expansion of terror.
With many women unable to work for fear of their safety, family incomes have been drastically impacted. This all comes within a larger context of extreme economic vulnerability; under the current and former U.S.-backed administrations, poor and working class Haitians face increasing poverty and food insecurity, fuel shortages and the crushing devaluation of the national currency. Inflation has soared as high as 26%, resulting in drastic price increases for essential commodities and basic services, and food inflation has soared up to a whopping 52%. As an import-dependent country, importing nearly 70% of its food needs, Haiti is suffering from the global war-spawned food crisis. It doesn’t need to be this way. Haiti is an agricultural hub, but imperialist economic policies have left it dependent on imports rather than free to develop food sovereignty.
Over the last few years, the number of people across Haiti in need of humanitarian assistance has nearly doubled—from 2.6 million to 4.9 million. Around 4.7 million people are facing acute hunger in Haiti, and for the first time ever, nearly 20,000 people are considered, by the United Nations, to be facing catastrophic levels of hunger. This unrelenting series of economic-related crises, coupled with the increased levels of violence, further depriving Haitians of access to work, markets, health and nutrition services, has left vulnerable Haitians trapped in a cycle of growing desperation. Women and children have been experiencing the sharpest impacts of these crises.
Political Instability in Haiti
The U.N. report draws important attention to compounding crises that are making life unlivable for the Haitian people. But it refuses to name U.S. support for the misleadership, corruption and exploitation of the current government as the root cause of the worsening conditions.
In just the last week, hundreds of thousands of Haitians have taken to the streets of Port-au-Prince to denounce the harsh reality festering under the current administration of Ariel Henry. Henry, appointed as Prime Minister and de-facto President of Haiti by the Core Group in the aftermath of the assassination of former President Jovenel Moïse, has no popular legitimacy among the Haitian people. The demand on the lips of Haitians in the streets is for Henry to step down from power. Henry only remains in power because of the support he is receiving from Washington.
Neither Henry nor any of his U.S.-backed predecessors have made any meaningful strides to resolve the crises plaguing the people of Haiti. Most recently, Henry requested military intervention from the United States and other foreign powers as a means of “addressing” the challenges facing Haiti. In reality, the hunger and violence facing women in Haiti is caused by the long history of occupation, intervention and propping up of misleaders by powerful Western outsiders.
Another military intervention would only bring more weapons, more repression and more foreign military fighters to an already violent situation in Haiti. It would further prop up and stabilize Ariel Henry’s regime and serve to further oppress Haitian women amongst others.
A brief review of the United Nation’s history in Haiti would show that any intervention would bring no humanitarian relief at all. The United Nations is no friend of Haiti. While the organization acknowledges the scale of the humanitarian crisis, it fails to name either the true cause or any viable solution to the crises, giving cover to U.S. and other Western imperialist intervention efforts.
The future of Haiti must be a future for Haitians, and no foreign intervention will ever bring Haitians the sovereignty they need and deserve. Only by uplifting the demands of the Haitian people against Henry and intervention, and by respecting Haiti’s right to sovereignty and self-determination, will the women, children and people of Haiti see relief from these cascading crises.
September 16, 2022 8:29 pm
Today caps a week in which elite politicians from both parties shamelessly used abortion rights as a political football to secure short-term gain at the expense of women’s equality. From the Senate to the White House to the campaign trail, the bought-and-paid-for representatives of the ruling class have made it clear that they have no principles on the matter.
Perhaps the most high-profile example of this was the bill unveiled by Senator Lindsey Graham. On Tuesday, Graham held a press conference where he announced he would be pushing legislation to ban abortion nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Graham pledged if Republicans, “take back the House and the Senate, I can assure you we’ll have a vote on our bill.”
Graham and other right wingers have long sought to make their anti-choice politics more palatable by cloaking them in the rhetoric of states’ rights. Roe v. Wade should be overturned, this right-wing talking point argues, because the issue should be handled on a state-by-state basis rather than at the federal level. As early as this June, Graham said on CNN “states should decide the issue of abortion.” But as soon as he got the opportunity, Graham moved to impose harsh restrictions nationally. Whether it happens at the state level or the federal level, the thing that actually matters to politicians like Graham is that women lose the right to control their own bodies.
But for top Democrats, Graham’s bill was cause for celebration. An article in Politico titled “Lindsey Graham saves Biden’s big day” captures this attitude:
“A higher-than-expected inflation report was threatening to black out President Joe Biden’s big celebration Tuesday of party-line legislation designed to bring down prices. The subsequent plunge of markets seemed to ensure a painful head-meets-wall day inside the White House. And then, Sen. Lindsey Graham offered an unexpected soft landing. The South Carolina Republican’s 15-week national abortion ban immediately diverted and divided Republicans and left Biden’s aides shocked at the political lifeline they’d just been handed.”
The Democratic Party elite is rooting for the most extreme anti-abortion, far-right candidates and proposals to prevail because they believe that this will help them in the mid-term election. Having abandoned nearly all of their campaign promises for progressive change that would benefit working people, Democrats have almost nothing left to campaign on other than the fact that their opponents are even worse.
For this reason, the Democrats have been paying for campaign ads to boost dangerous far-right figures running against more “moderate” Republicans in primary elections. One of these extremists, Don Bolduc, prevailed in his race this week. After the announcement of the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, Bolduc issued a statement saying, “As a pro-life candidate, I believe the Supreme Court made the right decision.” The Senate Majority PAC, a key Democratic Party campaign tool that spends tens of millions of dollars per cycle, supported Bolduc by running TV ads attacking his opponent Chuck Morse using talking points designed to energize Trump supporters to turn out to vote.
Bolduc prevailed by an extremely narrow margin of less than 2,000 votes, meaning that support from the Democrats could very well have made the difference in his victory. Bolduc is also a high-profile election conspiracy theorist, claiming that Trump was the true winner of the 2020 election (before reversing his position two days after the primary in an obviously fake attempt to appear more “moderate”). Attacks on abortion rights and attacks on the concept of democracy itself go hand-in-hand.
But perhaps most cynical of all is the Democratic Party’s continuing refusal to pass a bill legalizing abortion. The Democrats control both houses of Congress and the White House. If they were willing to eliminate the undemocratic “filibuster” rule in the Senate, then they could legalize abortion immediately without needing a single Republican vote. But instead, they are using the issue to fundraise and hoping that the threat of an even further curtailment of abortion rights will boost turnout in November.
The struggle over abortion rights is hugely consequential – is anything a more basic democratic right than the ability to control one’s own body? But even still, the politicians will only take abortion rights seriously if they are forced to. A mass, fighting women’s movement could galvanize all those under attack and turn the tide against the erosion of fundamental rights.
Every person who works on the magazine is a full-time or retired worker or student. We are all activists and organizers in our communities. We are revolutionaries, members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. We are people from a broad spectrum of nationalities, LGBTQ and other oppressed communities. We are mothers and daughters and nieces supporting our families and our communities in a myriad of ways.
The women of the Party for Socialism and Liberation have:
Unions are popular. Strikes, collective actions and worker organizing are on an upswing as workers are learning through their own experiences that organizing works. The pandemic, which hit women workers hard, also proved the value of the union, of collective workers’ organizations, as unionized workers retained more benefits, safer working conditions, stability and higher salaries than non-unionized workers in this period. Concentrated ruling class attacks have whittled down union representation to only a fraction of workers in the United States. But unions continue to be powerful organizations because of their position in the ongoing class struggle and their fundamental class character. At the moment, the possibilities for expanding worker power vis-à-vis the unions, and the labor movement, seem great. Moreover, the anticommunism used by the ruling class historically to undermine the labor movement is largely fading as socialism rises in popularity again. Women are playing a larger role than ever in the leadership of unions. The expanded organizing of women workers has the potential to bring class struggle front and center to the women’s movement in ways that have been repressed and elided over the last several decades. What do these developments mean for women workers in the struggle for socialist liberation? How do we utilize our history, a vast history of women’s leadership and initiative in the labor movement, to inform our work in the current context?
This issue includes:
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