Revolution #190, January 31, 2010

The Earthquake in Haiti—an Event in Los Angeles

We received the following letter from a reader:

The event was held Sunday, January 17, 2010 at Full Gospel Apostolic Church in Los Angeles. This is a small, storefront church in Central LA, apparently the main Haitian church in LA (Los Angeles has a relatively small population of about 10,000 Haitian people—there are approximately 530,000 Haitians living in the U.S.). Usually, it looks like one or two score may come to church on Sunday's (more or less), but on this day there were several score during the service and then attendance swelled to about 250-300 in this small church once the 1 pm program began, featuring U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters. There was a lot of media.

The statement from the Editors of Revolution newspaper "The Haitian People Need Emergency Assistance—NOT Suppression and Domination" was warmly welcomed, and had a significant impact on the event. This was definitely the place to be in LA on this day. The moment the religious service ended we got up and distributed 250 leaflets to every single person in attendance.

People were very hungry for this information and exposure. Many people came up to us and wanted to talk and said they liked the statement, including pointing to certain parts of it, such as: "The Haitian people themselves must be assisted and not suppressed..." and people told us "there is all this 'surface talk' in the media" but never do you hear why people are so poor and specifically the history of U.S. domination, and what this history specifically and directly has to do with the magnitude of the loss of life from the 7.0 earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince on January 12.

In the church, a roomful of Haitians applauded when Maxine Waters hailed the Obama regime for its efforts to help the Haitian people. Then, conversely, after we spoke some truth to them about the history and present-moment reality of what the U.S. is doing, with its military and media for example, people spit outraged bitterness about U.S. imperialism's role over this past century, and two, wanted to discuss what we thought needed to be done. Right now, there is a battle for the truth to wage intensely in the face of powerful forces who want to absolve the U.S. of not only 200 years of domination and suppression, but of what the actual priorities of the U.S. government have been, and are, since the quake hit: not rescue, not water and food, not medicine and fighting to save lives; actually, just the opposite: preventing tens of thousands of lives from being saved and committing towering crimes so horrendous they should, for many, many people pose anew, or pose for the first time, the urgent necessity for revolution and a new society here and around the world.

We met a number of Haitian people and spoke at length with some of them: ministers, professionals, artists, grassroots types, writers, and athletes. There was an intense thirst for the materials we had. People knew of the history of imperialist domination—and there was among some seething anger during the discussion of the magnitude of the loss of life—however, among others, there was some confusion over Obama and thus, by extension, the role of the U.S. right now—and not a crystal clear understanding of the role of the ruling class media either. At the same time everyone agreed that they hadn't heard on TV or radio or seen in print truthful reporting on decades of U.S. domination (except on alternative radio like Pacifica). People very much appreciated how the materials broke down the actual history of embargo and economic strangulation of Haiti by France and the U.S. after the successful Slave Revolution of 1804; the intervention and occupation of Haiti in the early part of the 20th century; the support—more precisely the installation—of tyrants "Papa Doc" and "Baby Doc" Duvalier from 1957-1986 (including, during this period as well as after, the U.S. backing of reactionary paramilitary TonTons Maucoutes and death squads); and the kidnapping of democratically elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide just six years ago.... This history tells us why people are so poor in Haiti. People had personal stories, such as one professional athlete (a karate champion), who spent time in detention in this country as an "illegal alien," and who now wanted to tell his story to everyone he could. This subject looms large as the U.S. now plans to "capture" and place Haitian's leaving the destruction by boat—people who are fighting to survive—into concentration camps in Guantánamo.

We had substantive discussions with a couple of artists about revolution and communism and distributed the Bob Avakian Revolution on-line DVD palm cards to those in attendance. With some there was spirited, friendly and contentious discussion, for example with a special guest at the event, a Haitian Catholic Bishop, about the need to face squarely the U.S. role all these years, and right now. We listened, but also made our understanding and position clear on how the earthquake, scientifically, occurred (it was "not the will of god") but also how the extent of the lives lost has everything to do with this capitalist-imperialist system and that what is unfolding urgently points to the need for revolution in this world, and a genuine communism, not belief in the supernatural or in a god that will somehow take care of things and make Haiti and the world a different and better place. In other words there was friendly philosophical debate in the midst of this crisis that has bearing on truly understanding what is the problem and the solution.

The statement not only brought people some welcome truth, but objectively contended with the central thrust of U.S. Congresswoman's Maxine Waters' comments about the U.S. government and the role of U.S. imperialism right now, at this moment, in the immediate period since the earthquake. Congresswoman Waters spoke of being very "proud" of the U.S. response. She exposed historical wrongs. However, Congresswoman Waters actually obfuscated current realities that let U.S. imperialism off the hook for their responsibility for the horror that is transpiring in Haiti. Her talk made clear she has programmatic differences, at times, with certain imperialist policies, for example U.S. imperialism's kidnapping of Aristide and more overall efforts to degrade the influence of his Lavalas social base in Haiti ("Lavalas" is Creole for "the flood" or "avalanche"—a biblical reference—Lavalas is the political party, and social movement, headed by Father Aristide). But her comments at this event, and in the media since the earthquake, uphold and even extol Obama, Hillary (and Bill) Clinton and the overall role of the U.S. This is not true and is doing harm.

On the one hand, Maxine Waters exposed how Haiti is "paying the price" for the successful slave revolution of 1804 up to today. Truthful, progressive literature on Haitian history thematically discusses how Haiti has "paid the price" for it's successful Slave Revolution, or as Randall Robinson and others have put it, is being "punished" from that time of 1804 forward until today for the only successful Slave Revolution in the history of the world. Ms. Waters also spoke of the "taking out of an elected President" and told the story of her accompaniment of Aristide with Randall Robinson back to the Western Hemisphere (Jamaica) after he was kidnapped by the U.S. and taken to the Central African Republic by U.S. operatives in 2004. She spoke of her conversations with Haitian President Préval, insisting that he "open up opportunities for all political parties to participate" and discussed her own role in debt relief for the country.

However, she said she was "proud" of Obama and Hillary Clinton. There is clearly a theme overall of the U.S. imperialists making efforts to "get over" Katrina, with Obama an important focus. Maxine Waters said "if Bush and Clinton can get together god has given us another chance after Katrina" (!) Then, she made clear—from her perspective—the U.S. necessity to take over the airport right now; of USAID to take over coordination of the overall effort; she said the Haitians didn't wait for the U.S. and had fought to dig themselves out; however, food and water hadn't actually yet reached the people—so, there is a necessity for USAID, State Department, and the Army to be there "for food distribution and not security" (which is patently in conflict with reality).

We'll write again soon and report as we take the Revolution newspaper out into society during these urgent, heart-wrenching times.

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