Haiti, a classic expression of putrefying capitalism

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The situation in a number of countries, particularly in Central America, is a monstrous caricature of how society is mired in the putrefaction of the capitalist world. The most extreme case is certainly Haiti, which is going through yet another crisis, even more tragic than the last.

Violence and brutality have intensified dramatically in recent months, and appalling living conditions have led to a mass exodus of tens of thousands of Haitians.

Since the end of February, a whole series of terrible events has taken place. Prisons have been stormed, leading to the escape of several thousand inmates, and hospitals and police stations have been attacked by gangs. The "humanitarian crisis" is worsening, food shortages and hunger are growing, and cholera has made a comeback. In 2023, 3,334 people were killed and 1,787 others kidnapped, with 1,000 deaths last January, many of them victims of the gangs that are carrying out a reign of terror; but a number were also killed during the police suppression of demonstrations against former Prime Minister Ariel Henry and his government

Criminal gangs now control 80% of the capital and the surrounding roads, as well as the port. According to the International Organisation for Migration, 362,000 people, half of them children, are currently displaced in Haiti. But in reality, these are not simply gangs, as is usually understood, but armed militias that have been recruited and set up by successive governments, most recently that of Ariel Henry, as auxiliary forces to suppress popular revolts against corruption and poverty, in addition to their mafia activities. For example, a demonstration in 2018 against the high cost of living and the voracious class in power led to the "repression of a popular mobilisation" - which called for the prosecution of ex-president Moïse, who was cleared of any wrongdoing - but which was savagely repressed in La Saline, a shantytown in Port aux Princes. On that occasion, 71 people were murdered and mutilated, women raped and bodies burned. One of the perpetrators of the massacre, Jimmy Cherizier, alias "Barbecue", owes his nickname to this vile act. A practice designed to spread terror in the cause of social order, using the grave for the benefit of the bourgeoisie and the dominant gangs. This is a practice that is widely known to the “international community” and the UN, which, apart from declarations of good intentions that still allow such a daily hell, does nothing. A UN report quoted in Le Monde clearly points to the political and criminal collusion and its breeding ground: a "situation of oligopoly over imports" and "controlled by a relatively small group of powerful families, who put their competing commercial interests above all else". The gangs, the report stresses, are "used by the political and economic elite as well as by senior civil servants", and "the siphoning off of public resources bears witness to endemic corruption", with deliberate sabotage of the judicial system. Impunity is total. But the report, which seems bold at first sight, is careful not to mention the abuses of ex-president Moise, who was assassinated in 2021, or the unpopularity of recently resigned prime minister Ariel Henry, whose record was catastrophic and who enjoyed the unconditional support of the "international community", which has hidden behind the interminable delays in the investigations...

For the people of Haiti, the first country to be freed from a colonial power, from France in 1804, this is nothing new, as they have for decades been prey to clashes between rival gangs that have reigned through terror throughout the country.

A long history of corruption and repression

Since the succession of military juntas that followed the American military occupation between 1915 and 1934, the infamous paramilitary militias of the "Tontons Macoutes" in the pay of the unshared power of the Duvalier family ("Papa Doc" and then "Baby Doc"), which emerged from these juntas between 1957 and 1986, have been followed since the "re-establishment of a democratic regime" by bloody struggles between rival gangs and clans for the conquest of power.  The waves of massacres and terror unleashed by the gangs have become permanent since 2004, plunging the poorest country in the western hemisphere ever deeper into terrible poverty (more than half the population lives below the poverty line and suffers from chronic food insecurity). This situation has been exacerbated by the ravages of appalling and devastating recurrent disasters, including the 2010 earthquake which killed more than 300,000 people. The country has become one of the areas most vulnerable to particularly deadly climatic disturbances (a succession of cyclones, hurricanes, earthquakes and drought), with the overwhelming majority of the population already plunged into extreme poverty and totally unhealthy living conditions, This has encouraged the return of deadly epidemics such as cholera, under the stony and complicit gaze of the guarding powers such as France, the former colonial power, and the United States, the former occupying power, which, despite everything, support the local bourgeois factions likely to provide a semblance of political stability.

Prime minister Ariel Henry resigned in response to a number of pressures, and was dropped by the United States... but also under pressure from armed gangs, one of which is led by "Barbecue", promising to escalate the civil war if he did not.

For one Haitian researcher, "Barbecue, a former policeman, is the Frankenstein [monster] who has freed himself from his master", and considers that the armed gangs "are more powerful than political power and the forces of law and order" and have finally "decided to become autonomous". In fact, it could be said that this type of alliance and abject behaviour, fascinated by wealth is a pure product of the putrefaction of capitalism as expressed in the periphery of capitalism. This provides a caricature of what the ICC means when we speak of the bourgeoisie's loss of control over its political apparatus.

Over the last forty years, Haiti's political life has been shaken by coups d'état, foreign interference, army insurrection and electoral farces, a political instability which has plunged it into the current chaos.

After the prime minister resigned, a transitional presidential council was appointed from Jamaica under the leadership of the United States to choose a new prime minister, but the gangs have already declared that they will not accept any agreement from abroad. This time the United States does not want to deploy its own forces on the ground and is relying on the promise of Kenyan police to "maintain order", but this only exists in rhetoric.

All this is first and foremost the consequence of the economic crisis and a mode of production in decomposition which has led to the incompetence of the fractions of the ruling class, tearing each other apart and fuelling tensions heightened by the political game played by the major powers. This situation, far from being unique, has similar manifestations in other parts of the world, such as Central and South America, and a growing number of countries on the African continent.

In countries already overwhelmed by poverty and decomposition, reality shows that it can always get worse. Some countries that had not yet reached this stage are now seeing the threat become clearer. This is the case, for example, in Ecuador, hitherto presented as a "haven of peace" in Latin America, where the bourgeoisie and its state apparatus are facing an accelerated process of fragmentation, finding themselves totally implicated in and compromised by the drug trade and its dominance of the national economy in the face of its competitors. Already in 2023, the spectacular rise in violence has resulted in an 800% increase in homicides compared to the previous year, i.e. 7,800 murders, affecting 46 out of every 100,000 inhabitants. Ecuador has become a hub for exports linked to drug trafficking, and its organised crime gangs are at the crossroads of various competing mafias vying for control (Mexican cartels such as Jalisco and Sinaloa, as well as Peruvian and Colombian gangs linked to the supplier country, and other mafia gangs of Albanian, Russian, Chinese and Italian origin). Since the State is already heavily plagued by corruption and is itself linked to the country's most powerful agribusiness group, which is also involved in drug trafficking, its attempt to regain national control of the drug trade resulted in an unprecedented outbreak of violence at the beginning of 2024, with clashes in the streets between the army and organised gangs, We also saw the hostage-taking of journalists from a public television channel, the escape of two gang leaders, multiple revolts in gang-held prisons and a brutal crackdown that only served to exacerbate tensions and social contradictions. For the working class, this militarisation of society has resulted in a 15% increase in VAT, which has led to a sharp rise in consumer prices. The wave of protests that followed was harshly repressed by Daniel Oboa's new government.

We could go on and on with examples of how these situations are leading to increasing gangsterisation, which is becoming more and more endemic in countries such as Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where gangs are wreaking havoc on the population, forcing them into mass exoduses (the incessant flow of caravans of migrants trying to reach the United States by any means necessary via Mexico), and whose successive governments have been swimming in widespread corruption for years, and in Mexico itself, where gangs control entire regions of the country. The same situation has characterised East African countries such as Somalia, Sudan and Libya for years, to mention only the most obvious examples. However, this phenomenon of uncontrollable armed bands or paramilitary militias fighting for power or control of territory is also spreading to the western part of the continent, whether they are made up of mercenary troops, manipulated by one power or another, inspired by religious fanaticism (Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, Al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb etc.) or driven by mafia interests.

This is not to mention the arrival or return to power of totally irresponsible populist regimes among sections of the bourgeoisie, which are part of the same general dynamic expressing the putrefaction of the capitalist system, as is the trend towards the proliferation of indiscriminate attacks used by all sides to strike at populations, as in Moscow in March. The gangsterisation of states, instability and chaos, the growing outbreaks of murderous imperialist conflicts and the proliferation of terrorist attacks all threaten to plunge ever larger sections of humanity into a bottomless ocean of barbarism, misery, chaos and irrationality. 

Such a situation is the product of the rotting of society, the pace of which is accentuated by the whirlwind of calamities that are hitting the world.

However serious and dramatic it may be, this situation, a grave threat to humanity’s future is not inevitable. There is only one solution, and that is the development of the struggle of the world working class, the only class capable of opening up the prospect of transforming social relations from top to bottom, of eradicating exploitation by overthrowing capitalism.


Gangsterisation of society