Mar 16, 2020
Translated from Combat Ouvrier (Workers’ Combat), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.
Armed police protested violently in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on February 17 and 19, to demand better working conditions and union recognition. Armed civilians joined them. When the government did not respond, the following week they burnt down carnival stands, attacked army headquarters, and demanded that President Jovenel Moise resign. In the clashes a police officer, a soldier, and a person walking past died.
To calm the police, the government set up a commission that met with union leaders a few days later. In ongoing negotiations, police demand that five fired officers including their union secretary be reinstated. Workers and some young people support the police, who are fighting against their chain of command and against the government.
Many police and their families lead miserable lives in poor neighborhoods in and around the capital. Some others joined with organized crime to escape their poor living conditions.
They all are used by the police high command to suppress their class brothers and sisters. They are a state body in the service of the wealthy classes. The bourgeoisie and the politicians in their service hold the majority of the population in abject poverty by using these armed bodies—some legal, others illegal.
Some workers say they want police to change their attitude. Some police might be sensitive to the demands of organized workers, day laborers, the unemployed, and poor farmers. Some might be tired of using brute force against workers to benefit bosses, greedy politicians, and drug lords who are just as contemptuous of them. Challenging their hierarchy, these police might want to be on the side of the exploited masses, on the side of the working class.
Workers can wedge open that gap that might be opening between police leaders and the rank and file. In their neighborhoods, families and neighbors of police can put pressure on them. Friendly pressure for those who behave correctly. Harder pressure for those who are hostile to the population.
Responding to the police in this way may be possible for people. In some neighborhoods, workers who led workplace struggles gained the habit of organizing. Their pressure is a weapon to disrupt the police and push them as much as possible to the workers’ side. Otherwise, before long, all the police will stand on the side of the exploiters.