Haiti: It’s Time to Stop Seeing Elections as a Panacea

By Henry Boisrolin
Translated by Sara DeLorenzo

They always recommend that before making any sort of judgment or taking a political stand regarding the situation of a people, one makes a deep analysis of the causes that led to that situation.

And today, in a generalized situation of political and humanitarian crisis, it’s extremely important to analyze and put a name on what happened and what is happening in Haiti.

None of the many articles published by big media that call, after Hurricane Matthew, to urgently donate to the altruistic efforts of so-called “humanitarian aid” mention, for example, that Haitians are fighting in order to free themselves from the yoke of colonial domination, which has become worse since 2004, when the country was occupied by the United Nations Stabilization Mission In Haiti (MINUSTAH) under the guise of humanitarian aid. But it’s extremely rare to hear about that.

But 12 years later, the occupation is still in force and inside the MINUSTAH there are troops that come from countries whose governments have taken several anti-imperialist measures and know about the evils of imperialism because they suffer them themselves. Bolivia and Ecuador are two examples of this regrettable incoherence.

In trying to understand this contradiction, Haitians usually offer one of these two explanations: either that it is a consequence of the ideological and political shortcomings of those governments, or that the leaders of those countries are not aware of what’s going on in Haiti.

None of those arguments can serve as an excuse to violate the sovereignty and the right to self-determination of the Haitian people.

Those governments must try to stop being useful to the UN’s imperialist invasion in Haiti. It’s not about changing their discourse but their conduct.

But Haitian progressivist and revolutionary forces also have a great share of responsibility in changing the situation: they must abandon the strategy they are using, which is exclusively based on participating in elections and rejects any other means of action. This strategy was created after the fall of Duvalier’s dictatorship in 1986 and it defeats the purpose of revolutionary transformation that they uphold.

Furthermore, to believe that remotely fair elections can be held in Haiti is not only delusional but also leads these organizations to a political suicide. Because, in the big picture, this strategy involves the subordination of their own goals of transforming reality and give power to the people to the tactical goals of the enemies of the Haitian people.

This, of course, creates contradictions between the overall goal and the method. In fact, for over 30 years, all the struggles and mobilizations have been oriented to accumulate a critical mass of popular power that is then funnelled towards the electoral strategy and diverted from other methods, such as insurrectionism.

That explains the alliances between very dissimilar political organizations, and the divergences and ruptures between them. Meanwhile, the neocolonial system remains intact.

In sum, this strategy is not only useful to imperialism, but it equates to surrendering to it and to the dominant sectors of Haitian society.

The old regime, which many declared to be dead after dictator Jean Claude Duvalier fled the country in 1986, is alive and breathing. The presidency of Michel Martelly (2011-2016), a self-proclaimed neo-Duvalierist, is proof of that. His victory was a political defeat for the people and a serious blow for the electoral strategy and for the pacifist-only struggle.

In this situation of permanent crisis and failure after failure, it’s time for us not only to question the strategy we’re adopting but also to fundamentally demystify the idea of elections as a panacea. We must dismantle the modern Western idea that the best and only way to govern is to have an Executive with a President, a Parliamentary power and a Judicial power.

Of course, the colonization of power, knowledge and market, wants to make the whole world believe that this is the best way we can possibly have of governing a society. And, by adopting this strategy as the only possible way to change reality, the great majority of Haitian popular organizations are entrapped in the colonial matrix of power.

But there’s also another “interesting” aspect in Haitian politics, one that is so pathetic it’s almost funny. As it turns out, the Haitian state has no idea about the exact number of people that live in the country, and therefore they can’t make an electoral register that is in accordance to the rules made by the countries that some admire and pose as models of civilization.

The ritual of elections becomes tragic and insulting when after the hurricane that, according to Haitian authorities, killed almost 300,000, state organisms didn’t even care enough to clean up the electoral register they had submitted. And it’s the same now after hurricane Matthew.

Curiously, government authorities were quick to inform the exact number of dead animals after hurricane Matthew, but not the number of missing and dead people. Now, after several weeks, they say there are over 400 dead and they acknowledge the humanitarian crisis of incalculable magnitude, especially in the Sud, Nippes and Grand’Anse departments.

In the first 15 days of October,, there were 1,424 cases of cholera in those departments. And the rest of the country has also been affected. The whole country is suffering, not only because of the natural disaster, but because of the lack of response by the state, who doesn’t care enough to protect and alleviate the suffering of the immense majority.

In this context, it’s ridiculous to think about performing well in the elections if we want to change anything. It disrespects the millions of people that are suffering lack of water, food and housing.

The future of the Haitian popular movement depends on a deep revision of its political strategy. We must keep in mind that the left-wing, revolutionary agenda has to be different from the agenda that is controlled and manipulated by US imperialism and its lackeys. And understand that electoral democracy will never be enough to break a colonial regime. We need to retake the historical struggle that our ancestors led to break the yoke of slavery.

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