RESPONSE TO "HAITI INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNAL" SLANDER - ANNEXES
Urgent Solidarity - Fired SOKOWA/CODEVI Free Trade Zone Workers - Grupo M’s Last Card: A War of Attrition
Dear Solidarity Friends,
The situation in Haïti’s first free trade zone has reached a dramatic point. Let us recall that we have here a precedent - the Drouillard and Laffiteau free zones are already under construction. In this sense, the new Haitian government bears the national responsibility of it’s outcome. After the entirety of the union (that, at the price of courageous efforts, had managed to implant itself in the factory last February) was fired on March first, our meetings with Grupo M confirmed the deliberate and entrenched character of this measure. Despite over two thousand solidarity letters addressed to Grupo M, its main buyer Levi-Strauss and the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank (IFC), the company continues to maintain this characterized, despotic and illegal measure.
Starting with the announcement of the union’s establishment and that of its dismantling, which followed very closely (Feb. 10th and March 3rd, respectively), several groups implicated themselves fully in the situation. These were, on one hand, the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF), close to “UNITE” (a US based needle workers union) that, itself, contacted the Washington-based Workers’ Right Consortium (WRC) as well as the AFL-CIO’s American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS). Both of these organizations maintained tight contact with Levi-Strauss, in an effort to demand that it respect the terms of its own social Code of Conduct. This choice to pressure Levi-Strauss was all the more justified as Grupo M is notorious for its disrespect of union rights in the Dominican Republic (where it is the largest employer with over 12,000 workers in its factories) and the IFC had already declared itself openly the Grupo’s “partner”. Both the WRC and ACILS had participed in the campaign leading to the first collective bargaining convention in Dominican free trade zones, that of the BJ&B, linking relations then with the Fedotrazona union federation, itself in struggle with Grupo M concerning this same subject…
ARCHIVE: Codevi Ouanaminthe Free Trade Zone Files
VICTORY IN THE STRUGGLE FOR THE REINSTATEMENT OF THE SOKOWA WORKERS ! BUT VIGILENCE AND MOBILIZATION ARE STILL IN ORDER!
… Mobilization of the workers still present at the Codevi factory ; interventions (towards the factory workers in general, those in difficulty; the union and its committee, the Ouanaminthe population, national and international press, groups in solidarity and the public in general, the Haitian government…); permanent orientation of Batay Ouvriye; active solidarity (letters, presence in the field and, at times, within the very negotiations, debates, financial support…), as well from local union federations (OGITH) and foreign ones (ACILS, FEDOTRAZONA…) and from support organizations (Batay Ouvriye Solidarity Network, Haïti Support Group, Réseau-Solidarité - Peuples Solidaires, WRC, Maquila Solidarity Network, Clean Clothes Campaign…) have allowed, finally, the reinstatement of the workers that Codevi’s management in the Ouanaminthe free trade zone, in the North-East of Haiti, was trying to illegally fire.…
Dec. 20th, 2003
At Batay Ouvriye, the framework of our everyday struggles as members of the working class, workers of all sorts, popular masses in general, made it already quite clear: the Lavalas leadership, by contributing to destroy all the popular components of the large 1984 -1990 mass movement, had become a totally anti-popular power. And, within this very evolution, frankly reactionary; consequently, necessarily, more and more repressive, to the point of becoming outright criminal. We’ve been facing this since a long time.
Indeed, on large landowner’s properties, at the Ministry of Labor, at the Ministry of Justice… always, this power has taken sides against the peoples’ struggles claiming their legitimate rights! All around us too, by its exactions on the poor in neighborhoods, small merchants, drivers, cooperative shareholders, school and university students, press workers, everywhere, indistinctly, always the same objective: to dismantle the demanding peoples’ struggles, annihilate free speech! And, to fight the working classes’ interests, those of the poor peasants, workers, and popular masses in general, this repression is always more complete, more ruthless. We’ve been denouncing this since way back!
Nevertheless, like everything in this society we’re living in, only when this power has arrived to the point of also repressing the petty bourgeoisie, civil servants, intellectuals and bourgeois, has this situation become “unacceptable”…!
Today, having managed to repress all these classes and social categories, the political crisis has become general and the heights of repression attained by the government indicates clearly the beginning of its end. Almost the entirety of the democratic space previously attained has been abolished and the whole population is crying its complete disagreement with this state of things, demanding the elimination (or, at least, the changes at the summit) of this power.
But, on the other hand, an understanding based on the people's real interests imposes a differenciation amongst the numerous social classes, categories and protesting sectors. Few of these regroupings or individuals really carry the interests of the large popular masses. And we can even say, frankly speaking, that : many stand against the popular interest. Which renders the situation at once complex and complicated.
We, at BATAY OUVRIYE, intimately know the haitian bourgeoisie and its profoundly anti-worker, anti-people nature. The daily occurings in the factories, workshops, businesses, large and small…. It is we, workers, working-class of various types, who endure them! We are those who can testify as to the breadth of its contempt, the humiliations it imposes, its overwhelming domination and repression of the haitian workers in order to deploy the unlimited exploitation it wishes to generalize throughout the territory, in perfect class accord with the multinational imperialists. Similarly, its class representatives (political and intellectual bourgeois) ceaselessly denounce the slightest protests, work stops, strikes, mobilizations… whatever form they may assume, as long as they claim the workers’democratic rights, under pretext that these “unrests” result in income losses for the “country”!
We also know how much it is the very Lavalas regime that has always guaranteed these classes total IMPUNITY in all of their exactions and crimes against the working class, poor peasants, workers in general. We’ve always denounced and fought against this impunity, with the political and economic alliances underlieing it. If, presently, the bourgeoisie is fighting Lavalas, this is due to the fact that this power, given its chronic incapacity and archaic contradictions, obstructs its clear administration of the State, as well as the development of its hegemony for the establishment of a full and whole exploitation. Finally, if it is presently forced to present itself personally, this is due to the dominant classes’ crisis of representativity, which we have referred to often.
Lavalas has pounced upon this open presentation in order to present itself as the greatest popular power in the world. LIE OF LIES!
- Lavalas has always granted the bourgeois the most wonderful advantages, not only in conflicts opposing the bourgeoisie and workers, but also in all of the country’s profound elements of political economy: financial capital (banks flourishing everywhere), all sorts of big business, the free trade zones being the main example.
- Lavalas is also bourgeois too, and in business with the largest monopolists. Only its avoids showing it publicly.
- Lavalas is the main agent of corruption (in the government, drug traffic, contraband rice, zinc roofing, cooperatives… scandals).
- They are the worst theives and have consequently received the people’s title of Gran Manjè » (“Big Eaters”).
- So : never have they tried to satisfy the popular demands, not to mention structuring a power on this basis.
- With the bourgeois, their counterparts, Lavalas keeps speaking of “giving work”… But we say, ourselves: during the colony, the french colonialists, “gave work” too! But: in slavery! To “give work” is one; in what conditions, an another!
- Lavalas is the greatest State destructor, privatizing State institutions one after another, granting big business (local and foreign) the largest avantages, making profits with that which should be guaranteed public services.
- Finally, Lavalas is the summits of country-selling! Water, land boundaries, zones… free trade, are neither owned, nor under the control of local authories, but rather controlled by the U.S. government, or under the Dominican bourgeoisie and army’s strict control.
So we repeat it once again : LAVALAS AND THE BOURGEOIS OPPOSITION ARE TWO ROTTEN ASS CHEEKS IN A SAME TORN TROUSERS !
Within the general protest movement against Lavalas, which is fundamentally and deeply just, fortunately other tendencies than that of the bourgeoisie have begun to appear, progressively imparting their traces. Despite the bourgeois Opposition’s attempts to recuperate it, this level is trying to define itself. It should deepen this conscious initiative and progress towards a more concentrated level in order to, within the Anti-Lavalas mobilization itself, put in question and even thwart frontward the bourgeois orientation (which includes a supposed “state of rights” which refuses to name, talk about attacking, bosses’ impunity, but which, as we know perfectly well, defines itself as completely dependent of the economic imperialism).
Organizations or individuals belonging to the true people’s camp should, within the struggle itself, convey the basic demands of the people: working class, poor peasants, workers of various sorts, poor school and university students, all consequent progressives, that is: the PEOPLES’ CAMP and, progressively, build their autonomy, always under the direction of the true peoples’ interests.
Presently, the ruling classes are aiming to confuse the popular masses’ interests in a question of a simply technical, abstract and hazy “democracy”. Which is why, even as Lavalas prepares to finish closing the last cracks of democratic struggle development, we must be clearly conscious of the basic differences in the interests aiming to reopen it. And that may of them of them are even extremely CONTRARY to ours. We must take into account our experiences made between 1986 and 1990, wherein the popular masses were basically recruited under the direction of the bourgeoisie and its representatives, which limited and diverted the mobilization.
This is why we repeat ceaselessly, in this precise movement of high protest: Within this general movement of struggle, that fundamentally possesses the concrete bases of existence and continuous development, the popular masses and the different levels of organization must develop their concrete autonomy and must manage to take their own initiatives, where the popular interests, interests of workers, are also clearly definite.
In this sense we even anticipate: one should expect a serious and maybe even equally terrible repression from the large land-owners and bourgeois under imperialist orders (directly or through the intermediary of intellectual or political representatives) as soon as this phase succeeds and we’ll be truly advancing in the defense of our own true interests.
It is insofar, in the framework and the development of the struggle itself, as we’ll be able to organize ourselves independently, that we’ll FORM AND CONSOLIDATE THE PEOPLES’ CAMP, THAT WE’LL TRULY DEFEND OUR OWN INTERESTS AND CONFRONT ALL THOSE WHO MAY PRESENT!
DOWN WITH THE BLOODTHIRSTY LAVALAS THIEVES, CRIMINALS!
DOWN WITH EXPLOITATION OF ALL SORTS!
LONG LIVE THE INDEPENDENT ORGANIZATION AND MOBILIZATION OF THE PEOPLES’ CAMP, TO CARRY AND DEFEND ITS’ OWN INTERESTS, WITH WORKERS AS THE CENTER POST AND UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE WORKING CLASS!
On the basis of the struggles we have waged, Batay Ouvriye has obtained various forms of solidarity coming from different organizations or groups. For a better relation with all, we find it useful to circulate this statement that will allow all our friends following our practices and wishing themselves also to offer their support, to understand our positions, our practices, in the framework of these relations.
- As a first principle, we feel it is possible to sit down and discuss with all organizations who wish to do so as long as this presents is beneficial to the struggle of the workers in their own interest. First of all, we inform those we are in discussion with of our stands and practices and, if we have an opinion on theirs, we communicate it to them in the same spirit. If, on this basis, they wish to initiate or continue a relation with us in the interest of the workers’ struggle, we are disposed to do so in the respect of mutual independence.
- In doing so, the theme of solidarity is invoked. Sometimes, to approach it, we are asked how, from a foreign country, to support Batay Ouvriye’s struggles. In this sense, our answer is always clear: the main element, for us, is militant support, given our political line which sets the problem of imperialist domination (even if it is sometimes deformed, since we are often discussing with organizations having a humanist orientation) while also setting that of exploitation (here again, and for the same reason, at times limited to it’s forms and scope). Also, as soon as possible, in approaching this question, we insist on presenting, as much as possible, that material contributions help the workers’ struggles in their own interest but that these contributions are of a different nature than militant support. Certain organizations, given their own nature, have more capacity for the militant support we give priority to. Others, rather, can contribute more to the workers’ struggles with material support. Some, finally, have the capacity to operate at both levels. What is important, in all cases, is to clearly show that political independence will always remain the fundamental principle guiding us in all forms of articulation.
- On this angle, we always insist on specifying that the workers’ struggle occurs in a dominated social formation thus, the latter have tremendous difficulties to survive, given the ferocious exploitation they undergo. Naturally, this gives rise to important struggles but, once again, one of the key elements to carry them out is material capacity. We have no delusion: this support can be very useful in this sense. Nevertheless, in the framework of the construction of the workers’ movement’s material independence, we will always try to count on our own forces, but, especially, material solidarity should have no negative incidence on our line or our practices. On another hand, imperialist domination causes a value transfer from dominated countries towards imperialist ones. Thus, a return of transferred valued must occur without, once again, putting our independence in question.
On these bases, we even manage to develop relations with organizations who would like to “help”. Sometimes, within a lapse of time, this “help” is cut off. We consider this normal; since we are aware of the political limits of such an approach, we anticipated such a possible development. However, in other cases, these relations manage to reproduce themselves: this is because the solidarity base was more real and solid. Despite all of this, practice reveals that the organizations in support often also have their limits. Here again, we consider this normal.
Another important solidarity axis is the development of relations between dominated countries where their struggles are developing. Here, where militancy takes the form of coordination, our practices remain limited and much must be done. We need to work in this sense with all the means we have towards this end.
One of the contradictions we face is where the funds some of these organizations wishing to help us come from. We respect their independence: our relations are of a bilateral nature, the most important aspect being the respect of our independence and, in this sense, our capacity to take all politically necessary stands, our capacity to develop all struggles going leading towards the exploited workers’ interests, nationally and internationally. We are aware of the fact that this has sometimes been the cause of the support’s “cutting off”; but this again remains secondary for us: the struggle for the advancement of the workers’ struggles must remain before all independent, even when rendered very difficult by this cause. It even happens that sometimes these organizations’ financers convey these “support” funds in the logic of worldwide imperialist development. We see through this clearly. Nevertheless, within these relationships, our stands remain the same, on the principle of complete political independence, while we accept all support, solidarity or even “help” as long as it goes in the workers’ independence.
This carries consequences. It may occur that the organizations give us “support” and that this places them in contradiction with their own financers. In this case, it’s important they realize that we are in no way implied in this contradiction. Even if we accept to discuss the point, it is their responsibility. And, from this moment on, if their solidarity was real, then they will decide on the basis of this fundamental stand.
As we mentioned, many comrades are following our practices. This is positive. We also believe this stand may help them. To avoid all forms of dogmatism, however, we consider it important for them to follow our practices, for them to take position on the basis of the stands here taken. We are always open to debate these questions, as much as possible.
The practice of solidarity, just like social phenomena in general, is complex and should be considered in the framework of this complexity, with a clear line guiding in which the essential remains the firmness of a position always corresponding to the exploited workers’ interests, particularly in their struggles and starting from their general interests. In this sense, the most important is the permanent respect of political independence. Nevertheless, we must always consider all other aspects that may help to specify tactical orientations. This is especially valid for solidarity, militant before all. Amongst workers’ organizations, it will be approached in one way, with others, differently, with inherent limits.
Extract: “Sobre Sindicato”
El obrero está en el sindicato por su propia determinación y está allí únicamente porque ve la necesidad de luchar, todos, unidos, para defender intereses comunes, en base a su conciencia. Y una de sus responsabilidades es hacer que el sindicato esté más fuerte, más sólido, para enfrentarse al enemigo de los obreros todos: el patrón y su estado que lo defiende. Para sostener este papel, el sindicato debe de tener una estructura profunda, concentrada y amplia, firme y flexible, de núcleos y abierta. Capaz de responder a todas las responsabilidades que se presentarán. Así, se necesitará de una dirección, ella también con varias responsabilidades, varios niveles de responsabilidad. Pero, al mismo tiempo, existe la asamblea de obreros, que igualmente tiene toda su importancia. Muchos dirigentes sindicales piensan que son ellos el sindicato, algunos obreros también piensan que la dirección es todo el sindicato. Esa es una mala concepción. No permite tener un sindicato fuerte. Hasta podemos decir que no permite tener sindicato del todo. Esa mala concepción, la debemos de denunciar y enfrentar en medio de nosotros. Al contrario, debemos trabajar para que los obreros entiendan y tengan conciencia de que el sindicato somos todos los obreros sindicalizados, dirección y asamblea.
Todos los demás miembros forman la asamblea del sindicato. Con la democracia que debe de existir dentro del sindicato, la dirección no puede decidir de nada sin que no sólo esté al tanto la asamblea sino también que lo apruebe. Dirección y asamblea deben de trabajar juntos, donde la asamblea es la última palabra, el lugar de decisión. La asamblea tiene pues una importancia tremenda. Entonces, para poder concretamente y seriamente jugar este papel (tener la responsabilidad de este papel), todos los obreros deben de estar concientes que tienen que jugar este papel. Eso exige pues una actitud extremadamente conciente, responsable, activa de parte de cada obrero. La dirección, junto con los obreros concientes, debe de hacer un trabajo serio, profundo y constante para que cada obrero esté más y más conciente de su papel y se responsabilice por ello, en la vida como tal del sindicato.
De hecho, varios obreros piensan que con dar su nombre en el sindicato y su cotización semanal, basta: la dirección se responsabilizará por lo demás. Hasta que hay direcciones que no sólo tienen ellas mismas esa concepción, la divulgan y llegan a hacer que los obreros se comprometen al respecto. Esa concepción del sindicato no es nada buena. Es equivocada. Es cierto, el sindicato debe de saber cuales son sus miembros, por eso hay que tener listados los nombres de los miembros. Es cierto, el sindicato debe de poder hacer frente a sus obligaciones económicas dentro de la misma lucha y en su vida global como tal, y la única manera, la más confiable y autónoma, es con las cotizaciones de los miembros. Pero queda tan cierto que todo obrero sindicalizado tiene otros papeles que jugar, otras responsabilidades que tener.
Un sindicato que defiende los intereses obreros tiene que de arrancada estar claro sobre lo que es la colaboración con los patronos, precisamente para no caer en esa trampa traicionera. Debe de estar claro que los intereses obreros y patronales son diferentes, contrarios y hasta antagónicos. Nunca debe de caer en la trampa de considerar la fábrica como “bien de todos”, como a menudo nos quieren hacer tragar los patronos, o dejarse llevar por la propaganda estatal que pretende que por el hecho de trabajar “juntos”, obreros y patronos tienen sus intereses “en común” y, así, son “partenarios”! Debe de ser de arrancada claro que patronos y obreros son enemigos (basta con ver con que crueldad tratan los patronos a los obreros que quieren defender sus derechos ¡justos y legales! - para sentir fácilmente lo que estamos avanzando) y como tal, las negociaciones no son del todo “diálogos” sino una forma específica que por este momento coge la lucha. Todo obrero conciente debe obrar para que el sindicato entero esté conciente de y activo con esa concepción fundamental.
Con eso en mente, ¿qué clase de lucha puede / debe llevar un sindicato? Para empezar, en caso de estudiar este tema, primero que nada, no se debe dejar llevar por lo que cuentan los capitalistas al respecto. Debemos ser concientes que los burgueses nunca nos dejarán derechos lo suficiente como para poder luchar de veras. (En cada país, las leyes laborales están siempre muy por debajo de lo que necesita la lucha concreta de la clase obrera en cada momento dado. Y esto va empeorando.) Al contrario, las leyes existentes están siempre allí para frenar las luchas obreras.
Para bien saber qué clase de lucha deben de llevar los obreros, qué clase de lucha debe de llevar el sindicato, debemos considerar dos cosas: la primera es que el sindicato debe de luchar dentro de lo que le permiten las leyes para defender los derechos obreros. Así podrá uno ser mejor y mejor organizado y, a la vez, preparar la situación donde se podrá entonces sacar más derechos de parte de la burguesía en el poder. La segunda es que la forma de lucha a escoger siempre debe depender de las relaciones de fuerza y como estimamos su posible evolución en la lucha misma. Al estudiar el código de trabajo, podemos decir que está hecho principalmente para bloquear los obreros en su lucha. Si un sindicato piensa pues quedarse dentro de estos límites, nunca podrá defender sus intereses realmente. Por eso, gran parte de las luchas obreras deben proponerse ir más lejos que el código de trabajo. De arrancada hay que ser concientes que cada vez que sea posible, llevaremos luchas dentro de las leyes burguesas pero, cuando consecuentes, las luchas tendrán siempre como tendencia superar esas leyes. Por eso, uno de nuestros más importantes trabajos es precisamente hacer que se llegue a superar esas leyes. Para eso, esperar decisiones de los ministerios laborales, de justicia, o del estado en general, no servirá de nada: sólo nuestra movilización, otra vez, será nuestra garantía. Paros laborales, huelgas (bien preparados, planificados, donde todos los obreros participan activamente y de una manera conciente), manifestaciones frente a la fábrica, frente a la zona misma, frente a los ministerios responsables, en toda calle… en una palabra: ¡MOVILIZACIÓN!
Como podemos darnos cuenta, lo que piensa - y divulga - mucha gente (que el sindicato está allí nada más que para llevar algunas negociacioncitas, o para establecer buenas relaciones entre obreros y patronos), no sólo no tiene que ser así, sino que es globalmente falso. Los sindicatos que consideran ese tipo de colaboración o de auto censura como límites u objetivos, son los que finalmente defienden los intereses patronales en medio de nosotros los obreros. MOVILIZACIÓN y LUCHA obrera son para nosotros las mejores garantías no sólo del respeto de nuestros derechos sino también de su ampliación.
The AFL-CIO Crisis, Its Role Nationally and Internationally, the Present Crisis with respect to Working Class Interests
From Batay Ouvriye, Haiti - June 2005
The extraordinary development of English capitalism, the most advanced of its time, found in the colonization of the Americas the circumstances allowing the creation of conditions which, in the future U.S. especially, fomented great leaps ahead prefiguring, through its own laws of internal evolution, the present’s global imperialism.
It is no accident if these were the first colonialists to claim independence from their “old world”. No accident either if this forceful transforming gust managed to concentrate its military, political and economic spheres into the most powerful in the world.
However, this development was of course accompanied by the fierce resistance of the working class, its antagonistic opposite. Indeed, during the whole 19th century, the American working classes struggles were amongst the most constant, fierce, combative: exemplary. The Haymarket martyrs left us the May First celebration, of the highest emotional level for all conscious workers today. From them, the working class in the whole world benefits of the 8-hour workday and so many other extremely important social conquests and, most importantly: the battle itself as the working classes’ means of expression of struggle to wrest its rights.
But, in light of this battle, the ruling classes not only utilized all the State apparatus to repress the struggle movements and physically eliminate the worker combatants, not only sought to corrupt certain lackeys, but more profoundly, deviated, took the direction of certain tendencies in this movement and even established its own yellow unions at their service. This would mark the historic evolution of the working class organizational movement in the U.S.A.
Consequently: the AFL-CIO is completely submerged in this problem. Worldwide, critics have denounced this organization’s corruption, its subservience to the ruling classes and its active participation in dominating projects: this is most often the position and practice of capitalism and imperialism within the working class. Internationally, denunciations have flowed readily, with reason, on its role in Latin America and the entire world, where this federation has conveyed directly and openly imperialistic stances. There have even been criticisms linking this role to the CIA.
All of these practices have quite precise characteristics and illustrations.
- Within the apparatus itself, a flagrant antidemocratic aspect appears, in which main orientations are uniquely taken from above
- Which gives an extremely bureaucratic and elitist functioning
- Explaining, therefore, the predominance of paid bureaucrats, often never having had the slightest contact with the working class; in this sense, the composition of the apparatus is fixed, without the possibility of a foreseeable change. Even when working class origin employees attain this employment, they are cut from their roots and have no possibility of organically conveying this chain.
- This orientation is also passed on to the establishment of the unions through sector federations also reproducing the same practice
- Reaching finally the grassroots organizations, set up through recruitment, home visits and signatures in which the workers, in order to be a part of the union, submit themselves to the union leaders’ negotiations.
The AFL-CIO’S bureaucratic functioning blocks the worker’s organization’s real construction, it impedes the workers being truly responsible for themselves, it eliminates all laborers’ mass struggles, all active and conscious mobilizations, and, then, aborts - from the start - the workers’ movement qualitative accumulation: it weakens and gangrenes it. This appears clearly.
Batay Ouvriye, in a text we circulated called “On Unions”, opposed this orientation firmly and sought to play a role in denouncing it and transforming it, although we’re quite aware that this is not where our main actions to counteract this practice in the field should be concentrated.
The infiltration of ruling class positions within the AFL-CIO and the nature it thus has developed explains that, nationally still, it has the same kind of practices:
- By the simple and permanent practice of negotiations through bureaucrat leaders, the field is open, finally, for an inevitable class collaboration, and, from there, decisions that the working class, unrepresented, doesn’t control (and is always prepared to denounce);
- Since there are no permanent, on-going assemblies or structured working class organization which might allow space for the working class force to recognize itself and its capacities, since there isn’t mobilization as a principal and permanent method of struggle, even the demands are themselves, at the start, minimal and flat, atomized, and especially thwarted from the start of the energy necessary to elevate themselves to social and political demands.
This form of life thus causes the reduction of the workers’ movement, its static and sterile nature. Two important characteristics follow:
- The fact that the leader-bureaucrats fight and set aside all contrary wills, i.e. those of independent organization, permanent mobilization and struggle as principle mechanisms and finally, development of a higher political and systematic consciousness. They even arrive in situations of struggle to expel comrades who were conveying this consciousness and level of organization to the battle;
- All of this translates into an inevitable junction with the bourgeois apparatus, especially the political parties, particularly the Democratic Party. Even when stating that they are aware that this is a bourgeois party, that they are supporting the lesser of two evils, they back it. However, the vast amounts of funds and energy necessary for this support, and, especially, their own bureaucratic form and nature, as illustrated above, causes them to reproduce these parties’ ideology, the bureaucratic bourgeois functioning and, finally, the mystifying ideology that causes to believe that workers should engage behind parties who, in the context of the lesser evil, would give them more possibilities of fighting.
On the international level, the AFL-CIO’s functioning, also found in its organ destined for this level, that is the Solidarity Center, causes the reproduction of these forms:
- They have a first tendency with regard to all of the organizations contacted by them to organize training and install the same devious mindsets within them
- The bureaucratic aspect naturally conveyed by them structurally renders easy this very deviation with all the characteristics mentioned above: elitist leader functioning, negotiations in offices and uniquely at high level as a major practice, lack of interest in mobilization and even, at times, allowing local levels in contact with them to disavow grassroots mobilizations
- They even manage to be obliged to support very difficult struggles in dominated countries with the objective of recuperating them and, internationally, coordinating them themselves, instead of establishing grassroots working class organizations
- Organizationally, they convey the principle by which unions exist to defend their members instead of developing the international working classes’ interests as such
- Their close relationship with bourgeois political parties in the United States and, in fact, the State Department, explains they always seek to hinder the union movement from being responsible and taking in hand the working classes’ political organization
- When they enter in action with unions or federations involved in political situations, their relationship with these parties in the U.S. and the State Department cause them to support, help organize, and even enter into struggle with completely reactionary currents or federations. The most flagrant example is the Solidarity Center’s involvement in highly financing and supporting the bourgeois union federations in Venezuela against the Chavez government.
- Presently, the AFL-CIO has a policy of reinforcement with regard to governments critical of the United States or with a nationalist character or popular, such as Cuba, or, again, Venezuela. In these cases, the CIA is naturally involved.
- When the State Department decides to get rid of governments previously associated with it (even disguised as reactionary populism) but that have evolved as impediments to imperialism’s advance (by technical or historical incapacity), the AFL-CIO plays the role of contacting fake union federations, linking them with (and especially under) bourgeois opposition and, under this orientation, leading the mobilization against these governments.
It is therefore evident for us that the AFL-CIO, an apparatus integrated within the United States establishment, in this regard continues to pursue objectives against peoples’ struggles worldwide.
US capitalism’s offensive nationally and internationally in the recent phase in which they are seeking to establish their global hegemony causes that, as in the world, within the US the working class is losing the conquests it had managed to wrestle through dire struggle during the past centuries. On the other hand, that which allows the workers’ to revolt and wish to abandon the AFL-CIO: effectively, recently record numbers of abandonment have been reached. That which shows in fact their general lack of agreement with present policies. At the last congress, numerous criticisms were registered with regard to their bureaucratic centralism, with the fact grassroots organizations can’t disagree and record these disagreements. Furthermore, minority groups and Blacks in particular showed their increasing marginalization within the organization. Others yet expressed the lack of articulation with neighborhoods. Finally, certain criticisms advanced the fact that, engaging in the democratic party process was totally negative for the American working class and would take them to their loss. In all of this, certain important branches that were a part of this movement such as UNITE, did not participate in the congress; others, such as the Teamsters actually drew out.
Even if the open debates occurring show the various currents operating within the AFL-CIO, even if, at present, these internal struggles show clearly the negative aspects of this bourgeois orientation within it, at the same time, they don’t manage to withdraw from the general anti-worker / collaborationism problematic. Worse, the imperialist role played by the AFL-CIO has never been truly debated and it is no accident that the Solidarity Center hasn’t given its opinion on this international role.
Capitalism’s globalization, and in particular the delocalization of the textile industry (from North America and Europe towards the South and China) explains that the large federations of these countries have concrete interest in participating in the dominated countries’ struggles, in order to convey an increasingly equilibrated resistance, to reinforce the internationalism of the working class, that which in turn represents the interests of industrialized countries workers. Yet, in spite of all, we continue to believe this apparatus is at the service of imperialism, generally. Because of their need for more vigorous struggles in the dominated countries, they’ve changed orientation from their old support to federations at the service of the feudal oligarchies, now they support organizations truly in struggle.
We have, ourselves, a clear position with regard to these types of solidarity (see our Statement on this subject). Succinctly: in order to be able to accept solidarity coming from anywhere in punctual struggles, we need to pursue and consolidate the line of workers independent struggle as a base principle, assemblies and the structuring of the workers as a main mechanism and the representation of the interests of the working class generally and historically as a unique guide. In this sense, in the field, we’ve always opposed (as we are doing it in this precise case) the elitist, collaborationist and / or anti-popular line of any organization wishing to carry out a practice with us.
Internationally, we still have to face major contradictions. They are presently even more complex. The struggle against all the deviations of AFL-CIO must continue and their real role in the establishment, in the fundamental defense of capitalism and imperialism should be denounced everywhere and always. A true condemnation must occur nationally within the context of the struggle itself and internationally at all possible levels and instances of debate. However, this denunciation shouldn’t be superficial, mystifying and masking precisely the absence of practices of those putting it out.
Concretely, we should realize that the relationship between the various practices conveyed by certain members of the AFL-CIO, particularly with respect to international solidarity, is contradictory, given the very internal crisis occurring and the need for an obligatory globalization of the struggles. We should take these contradictions into account in the working class’ interest and at all levels. However, we should also be very clear that it is an apparatus controlled, in the final analysis, by the ruling classes in the United States. The solidarity they vehicle will take - and takes - specific forms. Given the “solidarity” practices have reached the point of being able to be in relation with grassroots workers organizations, they are attempting to manipulate them in various forms in order to recuperate them. So, we need to correctly manage these relations in the working class’ interest and on a permanent basis.
The U.S. working class, given its position in globalization, has a large role to play in the workers international struggles. It is of fundamental importance to wage, there, a struggle against all currents conveying deviation and recuperation in the interest of the ruling class. Battle must be waged outside and inside of all organizations to attain the necessary independent, international working class organization based solely on its interests. In this sense, our positions form a whole, a totality that is mainly based on our independent practices and our open criticisms in the interest of the working class.
We are quite conscious that during all of its administration, Lavalas accomplished nothing. Quite the opposite, if they did, all they did was negative: theft, corruption in general. We waged important battles against this. The Casec and Asec local authorities accomplished nothing other than violating peoples’ rights. We fought that too. Repression against various sectors: here again, we organized to be able to face it as we could and our capacity need to keep growing.
But we can’t move forward from Lavalas to fall into the toilets. We experienced 1986. We knew a little of what we didn’t want but we weren’t sure of what we wanted and how to fight for it. That’s what led us to the mess we are in presently. We’ve had experiences. After the sickness, we know its cures.
Today, after a new format coup, THE COUNTRY IS OCCUPIED. We can say that this is where the ruling classes, with their old recycled politicians, whether Lavalas or of the Opposition, have led us. Terror and repression are becoming even more widespread. All democratic rights, if they haven’t already been trampled, are becoming so. We see this, for example, in the Ouanaminthe Free Trade Zone where the big Dominican bosses are taking advantage of the political vacuum to exploit even more severely the workers, as they repress their rights without hesitation, particularly rights to unionize. We find this as well in various bourgeois factories where these vampires are taking advantage of the vacuum to trample all over the workers even more, while doing their best to be, themselves, at the head of everything happening in the major cities! We find this in all the countryside too, where the big landowners, with the assailants (“rebel army”), are terrorizing the small peasant to be able to steal the lands they’ve been working, along with their harvests. This is true throughout the country. THE STRUGGLE HAS JUST BEGUN AND IT’S VERY TIGHT!
The Lavalas problem equaled one single thing, TERROR, which covered us throughout the country. The big politicians never mentioned it but we, in the masses, were undergoing it every day more. THAT’S GOT TO BE SOLVED! Nobody’s going to solve it for us. We should know very clearly: the occupation forces have come here to solve the imperialists’ and the archaic dominant classes’ interests over here, nothing else! We have to take our responsibilities in hand to defend ourselves in this new situation, in all the cities, all the communes, every neighborhood, every town, every region. WE’VE GOT TO PUT IN PLACE OUR WORKERS’ INTERESTS DEFENSE ORGANIZATIONS!
The opposition, with the imperialists, think they’ll come to build-rebuild the rotten state on our backs. They aim at reestablishing the same state apparatus without any real change, without any deep transformation, without the slightest mechanism for popular control. We have to block that or at least hinder it, with our independent struggles. It’s through our battles we can attack both of these problems, the present repression and the identical state they’ve decided to ram down our throats again. Today, delimitation has to be crystal clear. No technocratic bourgeois government can’t make us dream or deviate us.
Excerpts from News Bulletin 2
… The period of union organizing following the embargo revealed a reality of which we were already aware: that the assembly industry cannot be an orientation to develop the economy. It’s too fragile! And the bourgeoisie involved in it is an anti-national one, totally dependent (i.e. lackey) to the imperialist powers. But it revealed too, that it is only through tremendous struggle for the working class to be able to wrestle its rights, particularly union rights. Batay Ouvriye worked to establish several unions, amidst important confrontations with the anti-democratic bourgeois who keep smashing unions left and right, sometimes outright from the start. We won’t dwell upon several examples but we’ll indicate the most serious ones, like Mrs. Bayard and Classic Apparel, or Michel Liautaud and Megatex. If we signal these cases, it’s because, at two different moments, these were the bourgeois at the forefront, in major positions of responsibility in the boss associations and they were speaking everywhere, pretending to be democrats publicly, while, within their own industries, they were making workers’ lives hell, trampling workers’ rights on a regular basis and rising their bloody exploitation permanently. Which show us how the battle to wrestle union rights and, from there, manage to wrestle all of our rights, is an on-going struggle, even if, despite the bourgeois’ attacks, the workers always manage to obtain a few settlements…
Practices are developing in the assembly industry and in the factories for local production. In the assembly sector, organization is advancing in Richard Coles’ factories, in those of Apaid, at Madsen’s too. There are organizations developing in the factories producing garment for GILDAN (REC, ALLIANCE, GILDAN, AGC, Mrs. Pierre’s, etc.). At the same time, organizations are developing in factories producing for direct distribution within the country. Finally there are committees to wrestle union rights at SOGA, ACE BASKET (which changed names without warning the workers, it’s only present struggles that have allowed us to know this), LA COURONNE, LARCO, BRASSERIE NATIONALE, MIRAGE INDUSTRIES, ECEM, ACIÉRIE, amongst others. We can say that in several of these factories, there already exists the legal capacity for them to begin as unions, in order to force these owners to negotiate. But we feel it is preferable to continue assembling strength and to organize more concretely a general movement or wrestle political rights which is union rights and the collective bargaining convention. This movment must coordinate its practices amongst various places, while the practice continues to grow more and more. Certainly, Batay Ouvriye is present in more factories than those mentioned here, but to not hinder the practices in some of these places that have just begun, we find it better not to mention them yet.
Organized presence is one thing: it allows a view of the organizational work being carried out. But in our line, it is accompanied from the start with struggle. Everywhere we are present, there are always struggles, denunciations, demands happening. Leaflets circulate permanently to point out various problems, mobilize, lay the basis for the organization’s expansion and, in this way, for us to be able to fight better to obtain better work conditions within the factories and to fight against the permanent repression in this setting. Very often, people consider more the political repression, they single out insecurity in the streets, but we can say, ourselves: the factories of Port-au-Prince are the places where not only are poor living and work conditions systematized, but furthermore they are the places where repression and a form of permanent insecurity is also systematized. These questions, in general, don’t interest the media’s “wider public” and that’s why the press almost never mentions them although we try to send this information to them on a regular basis. Nevertheless, not only are they essential questions for many workers presently but furthermore, if indeed more ‘employment’ arrives in Haiti, then these questions will only gain even more importance for workers. As you can already perceive, it is with these bad conditions, combined with this very unbounded repression, that the bourgeoisie intends to introduce its economic redressment!
Take a place like SOGA, for example, a local production factory : there aren’t even clean toilets and drinking water is in a battered old stinking drum. In Cap Haitian, at Novella’s, the same thing the workers even found earthworms wriggling in the water! The workers had to all rise together to put a stop to this situation. At Junior Boulos’ Ace Basket, the same thing. At La Couronne, still the same. And so many others of the assembly industry: we could cite, for instance, Chevalier and Marca, where the water workers are drinking are full of larvae. Yes indeed, we are before a filthy bourgeoisie who believes these are the conditions in which it should make its workers toil!
As for repression within the factories, it continues to be very strong. The supervisors, in many cases, are the tormentors there to organize the sapping of the workers’ blood. Just recently, these torturers innovated with the MODULE system which has slightly reduced the supervisors’ role. But the modules cause the very workers to put pressure on other workers in the modules, for them to work quicker to meet production quotas. And since these quotas rise every day, themselves workers become those demanding a greater production, that is: the heightened exploitation! This is another form of repression, more subtle but even more terrible! Not only is it a “natural” form to spread out the repression, but it divides the workers and creates a climate of total distrust, when it isn’t outright dog eat dog. Another form yet: in the Apaid factories, for example, workers aren’t allowed to enter the factory with written papers. This is to stop them from keeping any sort of leaflet or newspapers militants might be distributing outside and that might go in the sense of their interests. So now when leaflets are given out in front of the factory, the workers can’t even read them or take them. This is why Apaid and his supervisors organize a number of lackeys to watch who might take a leaflet and they fire them without even severance pay! Useless to say that at Apaid’s, union rights are a dream!
At the GILDAN factory in Tabarre, 5 workers were fired without reason. But on closer scrutiny, we note that these are the workers who played a role in fighting for the factory to pay transportation in coming and going from the factory (which is actually stipulated in the Labor Code!). At first, Richard Coles, a close Aristide ally, was the main production responsible for Gildan in the country. But Coles lost the contract and Apaid is the one who came to play this role. Presently, several bourgeois in the assembly industry are producing for Gildan. All use the module production to exploit the workers, as described above, with repressive control embedded in the production structure itself… Gildan, however, is the most sadistic exploiter of the module production systems. That’s why struggle at Gildan is a concentration amongst others that has great importance presently.
Another example is that of Baker, him and his partisans, they went to photograph militants and the car plates of people who had come to leaflet or to talk with the workers! This same Baker would later use the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor to not pay the workers he fired during the month of March, after the departure of Aristide. These examples already allow us to understand quite clearly. They already exist from within the factory itself. And, as soon as the bourgeois feel it is necessary, they mobilize the state apparatus to beat workers and follow them all the way to their homes. Here again, the most recent example is this same Baker, once again, who called the SIMO SWAT teams to come beat workers!
This repression is accompanied by impunity. Of course, this impunity is the necessary condition for the repression to be able to spread as it wishes. Without this, the bosses would have to have a certain restraint…
Excerpt from Batay Ouvriye’s Press Release concerning the judgment of two SOCOWA workers against CODEVI
When we consider the way in which Haitian management, then through their association of industrialists - ADIH -, their columnists and economists all went in the same orientation reacting in the conflict, defending tooth and nail the Dominican capitalist against the Haitian workers, even when a truth was largely proved, arguing then - and up to today - that Batay Ouvriye’s denunciations were mere lies! When we remember the unjust and humiliating treatments incurred against Haitian workers!... We rejoice that the illegally fired workers’ final reinstatement and the collective work convention they are presently negotiating gives us perfect reason, just as did the report of the delegation of the Union of Haitian Physicians concerning the non-understandable doses of “two flasks” vaccines! Now, the various cases in justice are exposed in broad daylight.