The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Unnecessary Misery in Haiti

Aug 30, 2021

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

Haiti has just experienced a new earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.2, in the south of the country. The provisional toll is terrible: more than 1,900 dead and 9,900 injured. More than 30,000 homes are destroyed, and thousands of residents are homeless.

This earthquake is less deadly than that of 2010 because it affected less urbanized areas and spared the capital, Port-au-Prince. In 2010, more than 280,000 people had been killed and more than 300,000 injured, for a population of nearly 10 million at the time. Les Cayes, the city most affected today, is the southern prefecture of the country.

However, it is clear that comparable earthquakes in Japan claim far fewer victims. Last February, an earthquake with an amplitude of 7.3 in Fukushima left around 100 people injured.

In a developed country, earthquake-resistant constructions prevent houses from crashing into inhabitants. Nothing is planned in Haiti. Worse, reconstructions rarely take earthquakes into account.

And once again, it is the inhabitants who, left to their own devices, organize solidarity, without state aid, and in the midst of gangs who extort. These are the inhabitants who cleared, often with their bare hands, to try to find victims under the rubble. There were many who did not even dare to enter the few intact houses because they feared aftershocks, even as a tropical storm approached.

In this situation, Western aid is for the moment non-existent. Only Mexico and Chile sent aid, medicine and food. However, American imperialism is very present in Haiti in the form of numerous industries of textiles, packaging materials, electronic components. The American state guarantees the profits by intervening with the Haitian government. The press has thus revealed that, to please textile bosses Levi Strauss and Hanes, the Obama administration, in 2011, pressured the Haitian government to maintain wages at 31 cents an hour while the latter wanted to raise it to 61 cents.

Imperialism has every interest in leaving the Haitian population in poverty to promote exploitation. It bears the responsibility for the backwardness of infrastructure, construction, and therefore ultimately for the deaths of the earthquake.