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Interview: Haiti’s long struggle for freedom


July 24, 2015

To punish Haiti for its slave revolution and Black Republic won in 1804, imperialist powers have repeatedly invaded and occupied. July 28 is the centenary of the start of the first US occupation, and takes place more than a decade into the ongoing UN occupation that began after a coup organized by Canada, the US and France. 

“Haiti is a country of misery, in Fort National you breathe misery,” says David Oxygène. He is a progressive militant in MOLEGHAF (the movement for freedom, equality, and fraternity for every Haitian citizen) and one of the leaders of KOD (Dessalines Coordination) a new political party that has been created to support the masses in the class struggle.  

Oxygène is always happy to discuss Haiti’s situation. Socialist.ca’s Jose Hiriart spent the afternoon with him to talk about the problems his country is facing and the ongoing fight to solve them.

Let’s start by addressing the obvious question: Why is Haiti so poor?

Well, first you have to know that Haiti was not always like this. Even as late as the 1980’s, Haiti was a country without misery when we compare it to the misery we currently live in.  There were hardships but now there are more. It is true that at the time, we had a dictatorship; Jean Claude was ruling the country but the land was fertile, we had plenty of food. People could feed their children back then.

We need to take a look at the cause of the hunger, the origin of the suffering—it’s the big imperialist countries, like France, Canada, and the United States. They are applying something called neoliberal politics. They and their multinational companies steal all our wealth. They are stealing all that we have under the soil.

This neoliberal plan consists of several things like dispossessing the peasants from their land. We are no longer able to produce food. The imperialists import their leftovers here, like saying, “you have to depend on us, you have to consume; buy our products only, not produce.” So a lot of people come from the countryside to the city. If the children of a country can’t eat, go to school, and develop; then that country is condemned to misery.

Another aspect of the neoliberal plan is turning public institutions into private institutions. There where about ten thousand mothers and fathers working in public institutions whom they have fired; they ruin these people. The neoliberal plan, what has it created? It creates a hegemony of capitalism; the capitalist, don’t forget, makes his wealth from the exploitation.

Today Haiti is in a difficult situation, economically, politically, socially, culturally, because we are abandoning our culture to adopt a foreign culture. You can notice it, we are adopting the culture of the United States; we have abandoned the voodoo, we have abandoned our habits, our customs, we have abandoned a lot of things to adapt to the will of a foreign country.

In 1980 there was misery during the dictatorship but the misery has increased more and more, every day, with the presence of all these new things entering the country. With the presence of all the smuggling, with all the problems we didn’t have before the neoliberal plan. This forces a lot of us to travel to the Dominican Republic or Brazil. Those who have an education and could help Haiti, leave the country for Canada, the United States and France. 

Now, we are poor and in a difficult situation especially after the earthquake. It is as if we were paying for something. What are we paying for? We are paying for being close to the United States. We are paying for the big fight we have been leading against imperialism. We are paying for defeating the army of Napoleon. We are paying for the behavior of Charlemagne Peralte, Batravil, Pierre Sully and Acahos in 1915. We are paying for ousting the great dictator Jean Claude Duvalier in 1986. It’s as if the big countries don’t want Haiti to stand tall before all the nations of the underworld.  We have to fight hard against those countries.

Haiti has a history of defeating empires, could you tell us a little bit about that?

You have to remember how Haiti became independent. Was it easy? Our independence came from a great fight led by our ancestors. And where did our ancestors come from? After the colonists exterminated the Tainos (the native inhabitants of this land) the colonists then started to bring people from Africa with the only objective of putting them in slavery. They were from different tribes and couldn’t communicate amongst themselves because they spoke different languages. They suffered all kinds of exploitation but they managed to organize themselves; they evolved during the exploitation. Eventually, in late August 1791 the Congress of Bois Caiman took place. The slaves became conscious of their own situation and the uprising began. They united to revolt against their oppressor.

In those days it was all about the relationship between the master and the slaves. Slaves in one part and masters in the other; he is the one who took me from Africa, he has the right to me, he is my master, he is my chief, he is the one who has power over me. By fighting and mobilizing against the greatest armies of the time—England, Spain, and, in particularly, France—we won our independence on January 1, 1804. 

During one of the decisive battles against the French, our founding father, Dessalines—who was a great general—said, “whoever wants to be the slave of the Frenchmen, it’s true that we are surrounded, get out from the fort to join them and whoever wants to die as a free man come and stand beside me.” This still makes me happy to this day, because all the mass of slaves were bound from one ideological rope, one behavior. They said, we all want to die for liberty, not even one went out to the Frenchmen. 

Respect for Dessalines the father of the nation; who was a slave, a man of dignity who never sold his conscience—in contrast to Pinochet in Chile who sold his conscience to attack Salvador Allende. We became the first Black Republic in the World: a model of liberty. Haiti, a little country on a little parcel of land defeated the biggest armies of the time. We taught a lesson of liberty, we taught a lesson of revolution, we taught a lesson of dignity, of unity. We took our independence by fighting—not by kissing, not by making love, not by asking for forgiveness.

We must remind people too that two years later the enemies of the masses plotted against the father of the nation (Dessalines), who asked “will there be anything left for these people whose parents are living in Africa?” Some people had problems with the land reform Dessalines was advocating. They fought against him and eventually killed him. The fight continues. There were different presidents who put the country in a difficult state; we can say they went to the backdoor of history. But there where also a lot of presidents who where on the side of the masses. 

How has the struggle evolved? What needs to be done to change things today?

The solution is communism. We have to change the state and get popular democracy, not the democracy of the bourgeoisie we have now.  It’s very hard. To go from capitalism to communism we need first to send people to school; to create a consciousness and educate all the minds of the individuals that want a revolution. Also, we need to have a very strong social movement and a press of our own.  

So, you think that the revolution needs to be peaceful?  

The bourgeois always talks about the peaceful revolution. The revolution is the revolution, without adjectives. The only adjective you could put before the word is “strong,” the strong revolution. Here we are looking towards the revolution, in any way it comes.  

What is it like to be a communist in Haiti?

When you are a socialist you will have to fight for real. You will be sent to jail. I’ve spent a lot of time in prison. About eight times I’ve been sent to jail, sometimes for three, four months and others for five, seven days, without trial. Why do they send me to jail? Because I am defending the cause of the poor. They beat me. There are a lot of MOLEGHAF militants who have been sent to jail for the fight we are leading, but we do not lose hope. We keep going forward to help the poor. 

And us, as socialists, we don’t have any complexes. We have no problem talking to a foreigner here. You came in contact with me and now you are here. My father was a bricklayer and my mother used to sell some stuff on the market. I am very poor. I was born in this neighborhood. And you are here. I have no problem with that. I am a true communist. And I don’t have any complexes. Everyone around here knows me. 

What about Martelly, the current president?

We can say Martelly was put in power by the international community to protect their interests, as a great diplomat named Ricardo Seitenfus pointed out. I don’t have any personal problem with Martelly. I knew him when he was a musician although I’m not a music lover. I didn’t dance to his music but I knew who he was. I recognize him as a human being but Mr. Martelly is not bringing the revindication of my class. I do not agree with his politics because in Haiti there is a struggle of classes, there’s a class that is fighting against another class and I am part of one of the classes. I am part of the dominated class. I’m fighting against the other class, which dominates me, which dominates the peasants, the slaves, poor men and women of the popular neighborhoods.

Today we must ask, can Martelly hold elections? Me, I think, elections are not only impossible with Martelly in power but also with the UN occupation in place.

How long has the UN occupation been going on? And how do they justify it?

The MINUSTAH (UN stabilizing mission for Haiti) came after the 2004 Coup with the objective of containing the masses.  In one day they shot 22,000 bullets just in Cité Soleil, the biggest slum of the country.

Today we see that legally MINUSTAH´s presence in the country can’t be justified by the UN’s own internal rules. Haiti is not at war, there is no genocide going on, Haiti is not a threat to other countries. That was also true in 2004. What justifies the presence of MINUSTAH in the country? Everyone can see that the soldiers of the UN are here to protect the interests and wealth of international community. In political terms, Haiti has been an independent country independent since a long time ago; we cannot let foreign boots violate our territory. The presence of foreign troops violates our constitution and principles as an independent nation. Don´t forget that after the Coup of 2004, MINUSTAH has helped organize all the corrupt elections.

And speaking on a social level, in October 2010, after the earthquake of January 12th, MINUSTAH, infected us with cholera, a disease that we didn´t know and that has now killed more than 8,000 people and sent more than 800,000 others to the hospital.  How did they infect us? The Nepalese soldiers came with it and the UN didn’t meet their basic sanitation standards. That is why we are asking for the UN to pay reparations to the families of the victims of this disease.

Finally, what can people from other countries do to help MOLEGHAF?

When we say we are fighting against the international community, we mean those who are doing the work of the bourgeoisie and the imperialists countries. We need international solidarity to change things in Haiti. If any other organization from another country wants to get in touch with MOLEGHAF to help us in solidarity they can send us an email to moleghaf17@yahoo.fr

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