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Port-au-Prince , November 21 2008

Note #2 for LRP

 

This note is addressed to the LRP. It is meant as a follow up to the previous exchanges, with the intent to help advance our relations in the interest of the working class internationally. We think we should try to resolve the contradictions that have emerged because, objectively, we have a role to play in the development of the international working class movement. Certainly, many erroneous practices have occurred and they have not led to this kind of exchange of ideas and positions. The fact that this ongoing exchange is developing without intellectualism means that we ought to take it seriously and approach it in the spirit of unity-struggle-unity, guided by the interest of the working class.

In their respective autonomy, each organization has its own evaluative criteria. There can be differences in political positions, different appreciations, and divergent positions. We should start from the unity that exists between us to resolve these differences, without opportunism or wishful stubbornness. Our political practices will eventually lead us to a resolution, as long as it is possible or necessary.

We have issued a statement concerning the Solidarity Center (SC). It would be good to take it into account. It is an added element to this subject. We had announced for some time that we would be issuing this statement, but other priorities prevented us from doing so until very recently.

Taking into account our previous exchanges, we can focus on three main points:

1-     The question of the Solidarity Center and funding,

2-     How one should view Aristide, the military intervention and the occupation,

3-     Solidarity, and the struggle against “big brands.”

Before we proceed, not to justify some of the positions we have taken, we should take into account that in our political practices and in our political theory, we distinguish the level of democratic struggles from the level of revolutionary struggles. We do not put a union or a broad student organization on the same level as an organization that sees itself as being a revolutionary organization. That is, even if in the democratic level there should be no opportunism or sole focus on limited economic gains. That being said, Batay Ouvriye functions on the level of democratic struggles.

 We have already issued our positions with regards to the funds from the SC. And the positions the LRP has taken on its website also have summarized these positions. There is no need to revisit this question. But we should mention that we knew who we were dealing with. We were well aware of the past practices of AIFLD and how the Solidarity Center was filling in its role. We discussed this internally and made our decisions knowingly. We were vigilant to ensure that taking the funds would not interfere with maintaining our complete autonomy and would have no adverse effect on our struggles with respect to the SC and the AFL-CIO along with all the corrupt labor federations they always support. We focused on using them as much as possible, where we could and where we needed. We were successful in doing so, particularly in the context of their campaigns against major brands, in the Ouanaminthe Free Trade Zone for example. This had a positive effect, even if they were not the only ones intervening. We were also successful in taking the funds and using them in the struggle against the imperialists and the ruling classes. And we knew they would distance themselves from our struggles and eventually break with us. On that level, we think that we were able to achieve our goals. But we cannot look at this only from the point of view of our own direct struggles. This course of action led to a confusing situation. It enabled some to use it to try to weaken us. It reduced the level of unity between the anti-imperialist forces on the international level, (regardless of their actual strength or their relative organizational weakness.)

 It is in that context that some political tendencies accused us of taking money from the NED, an imperialist agency. In some instances, we think this vigilance was legitimate, in others, we think there were willful negative interventions. A clear delimitation could have been made between these two cases and holding an open debate between the tendencies with which there was a minimum level of unity to enable a fruitful debate could have enabled it. But this did not take place. And we fell into diatribes that eventually played into the hands of the imperialists. Examples of this are statements like “BO is on CIA payroll!” Nonetheless, there was a limited level of discussion and exchanges. We were able to silence the opportunist detractors on the Haitian political scene and their operatives. But the debate is still open with organizations with which we have relations. But we should be aware that throughout all these debates, BO’s interventions remained on the democratic level while many of the criticisms leveled at BO were directed at a revolutionary level. We need to take into account the limit of BO’s political line and the level at which BO functions, as reflected in all of BO’s public interventions. Nonetheless, there are 3 points we would still like to address.

 1- Our attitude with regards to Aristide, the US and Aristide, and the GNB (the mostly right wing opposition to Aristide). Our positions on this matter have been clear and, once again, they were summarized by the LRP. We think that principles are very important, but that they should not be made into dogma. We should examine the concrete reality carefully. Haiti has been subjected to several interventions/occupations. Aristide solicited the 1994 intervention in a context where his political line of “marriage with the army” had laid the groundwork for the 1991 coup. Nothing was done to build up a popular force to support the government at a time when the potential for popular mobilization made for a situation that was favorable to the popular movement and difficult for the dominant classes. This led to the 1991 coup that eventually led to the US intervention that Aristide asked for, with 20,000 marines. We should be aware that long since that time, Aristide had already dropped all positions and practices of opposition to imperialism. It was the result of his opportunist maneuvering, the overriding pursuit of his individual interests combined with his own limited capacities, that led the same forces that had taken him away to bring him back to power through an occupation. We should ask ourselves, using the same logic, when the US imperialists arranged Duvalier’s ouster in 1986, should we have also mobilized against this?

We were against the 1994 intervention that Aristide asked for. We were opposed to all the imperialist conspiracy, planning and participation in the 1991 coup. But we were also opposed to any imperialist military intervention to bring Aristide back to power. We were opposed to the Aristide who was saying: “Thank you Mr. Clinton!” and who dropped all opposition, even verbal, to US policies.

We analyzed the transformative processes under way in Haiti , the reconstruction of a reactionary bureaucratic bourgeoisie with the help of an anti-popular paramilitary force. We analyzed the various anti-popular repressive measures (Guacimal, for example) and the complete selling out of Haiti to imperialism (the 18 free trade zones) by the Aristide administrations.

The contradictions between Aristide and imperialism must be seen for what they were. The rebuilding of a bureaucratic bourgeoisie was not part of the imperialist agenda. This was something that was taking them back to era of Duvalier (they had already dumped Duvalier) in a new social context where the social crisis had deepened and the potential of surging popular struggles was much higher.

It is from this standpoint that the imperialist interventions can be best understood. In this context, we believed and we still believe that the fundamental most important goal to strive for was building up the autonomous mass popular movement, even as the influence of populism on the movement was already very negative and made the development of this autonomous movement even harder. We were never neutral! We took a clear stand vis-à-vis both fractions of the enemies of the people. One was apparently nationalist, the other more openly pro-imperialist, but in final analysis, both were: “two rotten buttocks in same torn trouser.”

With regard to the occupation, we not only took very open positions opposing it, but this stand had a place in our mobilizations and we have led and taken part in several campaigns against the occupation. We have an international position on this matter. We have analyzed the reality of the masses and their current level of consciousness, and we have taken these into account in defining our political line. We believe that major struggles will be needed to end the occupation in the interest of the masses. But on top of that, these must come with the necessary level of consciousness or else the struggles will always be limited, easily deviated and recuperated.  We believe we must move forward with the battles that will advance the struggles of the masses, and that these struggles will force the occupation forces to unmask themselves and will push them out. This must also be accompanied by ongoing anti-occupation campaigns inside the occupying countries themselves. That is the direction in which we are engaged.

Regarding the funding question and the SC: Our actions have not been without effect. There are other political tendencies that also disagree with what we did. Although we prioritized standing up to our detractors, we also took note of the preoccupations of all those who expressed their reserves or disagreements. We have stopped all relations with the Solidarity Center and we hope to have a constructive debate with the political tendencies that were opposed our actions. This note is part of this process. Even if we still hold that we are justified in accepting funds from any source as long as we can maintain our autonomy and our ability to struggle against our enemies, as you can see, at this time we are giving priority to the unity of anti-imperialist forces. We have better conditions to know them and move forward with them. We acknowledge that we underestimated the negative impact of our practices with the Solidarity Center . We mostly focused on their utilization.

We also prioritized defending ourselves against our detractors, against the CIA-like practices. Our relations with our real allies took second place and we did not consider them as we should have. This affected their development. This means that we must give greater emphasis applying internationalism in our evaluations and our analyses.

This leads to considering an even greater issue: the need to count on our own strength. We have always acknowledged this need and agreed with its necessity. We are working, with great difficulty, to achieve it. But this also means looking at international solidarity from a political and material standpoint. At this level, there are many problems. Imperialist domination is brutal. We must dare to consider this question. There must be an open debate around it and concrete practices must be undertaken. We must move forward in this debate and we must learn from the way things used to be done during the days of the USSR and its allies, and all the problems that existed around these practices.

We must avoid false debates. Some people have denounced BO’s acceptance of funds from the SC but, at the same time, they support a government that served imperialism by wholly enabling the neoliberal agenda, a government that took funds from the imperialists to engage in wholesale corruption and in anti-popular repressive practices. Without any serious research, without any serious reflection, they proclaimed: “BO is on the CIA payroll”… More thought must be given to these questions, to what needs to be done on an international level, without dogmatism. 

There is a danger: struggles in dominated countries need funds. There are various ways to obtain those funds. We must avoid all moralist attitudes in this matter. There are serious difficulties and they need solutions! There are principles. And practices must conform to the real nature and interest of the working class.

There is a relationship between the two previous points. BO and the LRP have different political positions regarding the Aristide government. We also may have a different understanding of the occupation and of how to struggle effectively against it. We respect the positions of the LRP and the debate can go on, even if we must take into account the limitations of BO’s role in it. BO will contribute to it on its own level and others may contribute to it from a revolutionary perspective.

There is one more aspect that needs to be considered, without arrogance or tit for tat. This debate needs to also weigh in on the development of the struggle inside imperialist countries. All the various agencies of imperialism are functioning without any opposition. While some denunciations have been made, they have only had marginal effects. For them to be effective, it might mean that they need to be part of mass struggles. At this time, the ability to confront these agencies is limited. We understand that we will only surmount these limits with the upsurge of struggles on the whole. We say “we” because we consider ourselves a part of this struggle. Within the limits of our possibilities, we must contribute to the struggles of immigrants and to the struggles in the imperialist countries on the whole. We believe we must also look at these questions even though, as stated, we believe the organizations in dominating and dominated countries must delimit themselves clearly from all negative forces and must find the best ways to do this. They must oppose them frontally, finding the best way to do so, whether confronting local organizations (the corrupt union federations), or confronting imperialist agencies concretely on the ground. But they must also take into account the international unity of anti-imperialist forces.  We have acknowledged problems with our past actions regarding this last point. Regarding the others, we have always applied this line and will continue to do so in our practices on the ground.

Regarding the struggle against “big brands”: For us, this is also a form of struggle against imperialism. We are conscious that it is only a limited form. But it should not be ignored or misrepresented. It needs to be put in perspective as part of the evolution of productive processes inside imperialist countries, as part of the displacement of manufacturing processes towards dominated countries with lower wages… This is part of the democratic struggles. One can try to avoid it or one can pretend to take part in it under false pretenses (SC) to achieve other goals. But it is still a necessary struggle. If there is to be a truly internationalist workers struggle waged around this issue, it should be the truly progressive and revolutionary organizations that should take it in hand. But that is not the case. The organizations that we encounter in this struggle are Charles Kernighan’s NLC (in the struggles against Disney), and the Solidarity Center is active in several countries around this issue. Certainly, there are other organizations such as the WRC, but they are related in one way or another to the SC or Kernighan. We have always acknowledged the contributions of these organizations, but when we have had to, we have also criticized them thoroughly.

From the standpoint of workers interests, from the standpoint of the interests of the working class, it is necessary to take all these questions into consideration, keeping an open mind.

On a last note, we should mention that many people, including some who are close to us, have shown that our previous letter was not conducive to advancing this debate. Some have even said it was sterile. We are taking these criticisms into consideration. We are not sure that this note will achieve more, but that is our intention.  Without dogmatism, without arrogance and with a spirit of unity, as long as there is a base for unity, let’s put the interests of the working class and of laborers at the forefront. 

 

                                                                                              

Ps. We hope that like the previous letter, this note, along with the LRP’s reply will be posted and that the debate will advance.

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