The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

The Population Confronts the Gangs

Feb 12, 2024

The political news in Haiti these days is dominated by demonstrations across the country demanding the departure of Prime Minister Ariel Henry. In the space of a week, around ten people have been killed and many injured by the police, who are powerless to stop the bandits. In power for over two years, following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, the Prime Minister has done nothing since to counter the terror of the gangs, with whom he makes a good bedfellow. The country is plunged into indescribable chaos. But the politicians of all stripes who aspire to power—from Guy Philippe to Moïse Jean Charles—have no plan of their own to rectify the situation. They simply want access to the public coffers to continue looting with their cronies. “It’s my turn now": That’s what they’re all about!

Below are two articles from Voix des Travailleurs, published in Haiti by the Organization of Revolutionary Workers (OTR-UCI). They are taken respectively from the last two issues: 313 and 312.

February 7, 1986: Masses in Revolt Toppled Duvalier and his “Tontons Macoutes"

On February 7, 1986, uprisings by the underprivileged urban masses put an end to one of the region’s most bloodthirsty dictatorships and ushered in a period of hope for the poorer classes. It will also be through their revolt that the masses will overthrow the dictatorship of armed gangs imposed on them by the wealthy classes today.

The end of the bloodthirsty dictatorship supported by some 40,000 Tonton Macoutes [Duvalier’s militia] and army soldiers on February 7, 1986, should remind the population that gang dictatorship can and must come to an end. This will not be the work of any government or military intervention, as the government claims. It will be the work of the revolt of the workers and the laboring masses in general, just as the fall of Duvalier had been after thirty years.

The first signs of this anger began after the murder of three young schoolchildren in Gonaïves. Demonstrations and riots then spread to all the towns, involving more and more sections of the poor population. Duvalier had no choice but to flee into exile aboard an American military plane.

The Tonton Macoutes militiamen, who indulged in all manner of crimes, theft, plunder, and rape, had no such option. Many of them were punished.

This movement, which created a political awakening among the masses, could have led to a change in their living conditions. But to achieve such a goal, the masses would have had to organize themselves into a party to defend their interests to the bitter end.

Today, the population’s living conditions are deteriorating, reaching an untenable level. Admittedly, the gangs’ dictatorship—unlike that of the Duvaliers—is not centralized through a leader whom they all recognize and obey. But to get out of this situation, the working masses can only count on their own strength to fight.

Popular Resistance to Gangs

Since the fall of Operation Bwa Kale last summer, it is clear that the balance of power has shifted back in favor of the gangs, who are growing ever stronger and continuing to wreak havoc, mainly in the West Department. Were it not for the resistance of the population, through isolated but heroic acts, the bandits, who are besieging and controlling most of the capital, would already have extended their tentacles into most of the provincial towns.

During the month of December, the inhabitants of Tiburon, in the South Department, put out of action more than twenty bandits who were rampaging through the commune. On December 10, the inhabitants of Tiburon and Les Anglais mobilized en masse to counter the criminal actions of thugs who had set up shop in the area. The vigilance brigades, having already located their hideouts, directed the crowd, aided by a few police officers, to proceed with the uprooting of the criminals. More than fifteen thugs were killed.

Also in Tiburon, on the night of December 23, four other bandits from the same gang were surprised by local residents and left for dead. Speaking to a journalist, members of the local population made no secret of their satisfaction, arguing that the commune was becoming increasingly unlivable due to acts of kidnapping, robbery, and rape. Several families had been evicted from their homes by this gang to consolidate its base. Last November, the mayor of this commune also sounded the alarm, fearing that Tiburon would become like Port-au-Prince, the capital.

In Lyancourt, local residents put up strong resistance to bandits on several occasions during 2023. There were deaths and injuries on both sides. Police officers from the area’s sub-police station fled at the first attack by the gangs. It’s a truism to say that these men in uniform are only as strong as the unarmed poor claiming their rights.

In La Croix St Joseph, in the Northwest Department, during 2022, the inhabitants of this village completely dismantled a gang that had been terrorizing the population for over a year.

In most cases these acts of resistance have not been reported by the press. But the information is circulating by word of mouth and on social networks. Gang leaders in Port-au-Prince have made numerous attempts to set up branches in provincial towns, but have failed miserably in most cases, thanks to the vigilance, intelligence and fighting spirit of the masses.