Haiti earthquake: capitalist governments are all criminals!

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Murderers. Capitalism, its states, its bourgeoisie, are nothing but murderers. Tens of thousands of people have just died because of this inhuman system.

Tuesday, at 16.53 local time, an earthquake of 7 on the Richter scale ravaged Haiti. The capital Port-au-Prince, an octopus like slum housing nearly two million people, was purely and simply razed to the ground. The toll is terrible. And it's getting worse by the hour. Four days after the catastrophe, on Friday 15 January, the French Red Cross has already estimated 40-50,000 dead and "a huge number of grave injuries". According to this charity, at least three million people have been directly affected by the earthquake[1]. In a few seconds, 200,000 families lost their ‘houses', often made out of rough bits and pieces. Large buildings also fell like a house of cards. Roads, already decrepit, the airport, the ancient railway tracks: nothing stood up to it.

The reason for this carnage is revolting. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. 75% of its inhabitants survive on less than two dollars a day and of them 56% on less than one dollar a day! On this side of a poverty-stricken island nothing at all has been done to face up to earthquakes. And yet, Haiti is a well-known earthquake zone. All those who claim today that this quake was of an exceptional and unforeseeable violence are lying. Professor Eric Calais, in a geology course delivered in Haiti in 2002, pointed out that the island was traversed by "fault-lines capable of producing quakes of a magnitude of between 7.5 and 8"[2]. The political authorities in Haiti had been officially informed of this risk, as proved by this extract taken from the website of the Bureau of Mines and Energy (which is linked to the ministry of public works): "all of the last few centuries have been marked by at least one major earthquake in Hispaniola (the Spanish name for the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic - ed): the destruction of Porte au-Prince in 1751 and 1771; the destruction of Cap Haitien in 1842, the earthquakes of 1887 and 1904 in the north of the country with major damage to Porte-au-Prince and Cap Haitien, the earthquake of 1946 in the north east of the Dominican Republic accompanied by a tsunami in the region of Nagua. There have been major earthquakes in Haiti, there will therefore be major earthquakes in the future every few dozen or hundred years: this is scientifically evident"[3](our emphasis). And so, faced with something so scientifically evident, what measures have been taken? None! In March 2008 a group of geologists drew attention to the considerable risk of a major earthquake in two years time; and in May of the same year certain scientists even held a series of meetings on this question with the Haitian government[4]. Neither the Haitian state, nor all the states which are now crying crocodile tears and calling for "international solidarity", the US and France above all, have taken the slightest preventative measure to avoid this predictable drama. The buildings erected in this country are so fragile that they don't even need an earthquake to collapse: "in 2008, a school in Pétonville collapsed for no geological reason, killing nearly 90 children"[5].

 Now that it's too late, Obama and Sarkozy can announce a "great international conference" for "reconstruction and development"; the Chinese, British, German or Spanish states can send all their food parcels and their NGOs. They are still criminals with blood on their hands.

If Haiti is so poor today, if its population is deprived of everything, if the infrastructure is non-existent, it's because for more than 200 years the local bourgeoisie and the bigger Spanish, French and American bourgeoisies have confronted each other over the resources of this small island, over who controls it. Through its daily paper The Guardian the British bourgeoisie is even quite capable of pointing out the responsibility of its imperialist rivals: "The noble ‘international community' which is currently scrambling to send its ‘humanitarian aid' to Haiti is largely responsible for the extent of the suffering it now aims to reduce. Ever since the US invaded and occupied the country in 1915, every serious political attempt to allow Haiti's people to move (in former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's phrase) "from absolute misery to a dignified poverty" has been violently and deliberately blocked by the US government and some of its allies.

Aristide's own government (elected by some 75% of the electorate) was the latest victim of such interference, when it was overthrown by an internationally sponsored coup in 2004 that killed several thousand people and left much of the population smouldering in resentment. The UN has subsequently maintained a large and enormously expensive stabilisation and pacification force in the country.....The international community has been effectively ruling Haiti since the 2004 coup. The same countries scrambling to send emergency help to Haiti now, however, have during the last five years consistently voted against any extension of the UN mission's mandate beyond its immediate military purpose. Proposals to divert some of this ‘investment' towards poverty reduction or agrarian development have been blocked, in keeping with the long-term patterns that continue to shape the ­distribution of international ‘aid'"[6]

And that's only part of the story. The USA and France have been fighting for control of this island through coups, violence and armed militia that terrorise men women and children on a daily basis.

The media circus around ‘international solidarity' is therefore unbearably repulsive. The different states are making all the publicity they can about ‘their' NGOs. ‘their' food parcels, showing the best pictures of the people ‘their' aid workers have saved from the ruins. Even worse, while bodies pile up, France and America are involved in a ruthless war for influence. In the name of humanitarianism, they have sent in their military fleet to take control of operations under the pretext of the need for coordinating the operations.

As with every catastrophe, all the declarations about long term aid, all the promises about reconstruction and development, will amount to nothing. Over the past ten years, in the wake of earthquakes, there have been:

-          15,000 dead in Turkey, in 1999

-          14,000 dead in India, in 2001

-          26,200 dead in Iran in 2003

-          210,000 in Indonesia in 2004 (the under-water earthquake having given rise to a gigantic tsunami which claimed victims as far away as Africa)

-          88, 000 deaths in Pakistan, in 2005

-          70,000 dead in China, in 2008

Each time, the ‘international community' has been suitably moved and sent in miserable amounts of aid, but never real investments aimed at bringing lasting improvements to the situation, by erecting anti-earthquake buildings for example. Humanitarian aid, real support for the victims, prevention, are not profitable activities for capitalism. When it exists, humanitarian aid is used as an ideological smokescreen to make people think that this system of exploitation can be human after all,  if it's not directly an alibi for justifying the dispatch of military forces and gaining influence in this or that region of the world.

A single fact reveals the bourgeois hypocrisy of the humanitarianism and international solidarity of the states: the French minister of immigration, Eric Besson, has just decreed the "temporary" suspension of deportations of illegal immigrants back to Haiti. That says it all.

The horror striking the population of Haiti can only engender tremendous feelings of sadness. The working class will, as after each hecatomb, react by responding to the various calls for financial aid. It will show once again that its heart beats for humanity, that solidarity has no frontiers.

But, above all, such a horror must feed its anger and its will to fight. The real responsibility for the 50,000 or more deaths in Haiti lies not with nature or fate but with capitalism and its states.

Pawel, 15 January 2010             

[1] Libération , http://www.liberation.fr/monde/0101613901-pres-de-50-000-morts-en-haiti-selon-la-croix-rouge

[2] Libération (http://sciences.blogs.liberation.fr/home/2010/01/s%C3%A9isme-en-ha%C3%AFti-les-causes.html).

[3] http://www.bme.gouv.ht/alea%20sismique/Al%E9a%20et%20risque%20sismique%20en%20Ha%EFti%20VF.pdf

[4] Científicos alertaron en 2008 sobre peligro de terremoto en Haití sur le site Yahoomexico (Assiociated Press du 15/01/2010)

[5] PressEurop (http://www.presseurop.eu/fr/content/article/169931-bien-plus-quune-catastrophe-naturelle).

[6] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jan/13/our-role-in-haitis-plight