Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

Other Worlds

Other Worlds is an economic justice group that supports economic and social alternatives around the world.

February 11th, 2010 11:15 AM

Fighting Like Hell

The pioneering labor organizer Mother Jones said, “Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living.”

That pretty much sums up the priorities for Haiti today.

The fighting like hell has always been fierce in the nation that was once called the “pearl of the Antilles,” the wealthiest of all Caribbean colonies – the wealth derived from Africans slaves for French colonialists. In the 1790s, the slaves began a rebellion that merged subterfuge on the plantations with guerrilla warfare by escapees from the plantations. In 1804 they won, thus creating the only successful slave revolution ever, the first Black republic in the world, and the second independent republic in the Western Hemisphere.

Though liberated from France and from slavery, neither they nor their descendants ever really became free. Self-proclaimed emperors and presidents-for-life exploited the poor for their own behalf, as well as for the large landowners and commercial sector. State neglect of citizens’ needs, feudal agricultural practices, and violent security forces kept people trapped in vicious poverty and suppression of their rights. Concentration of land and resources has further devastated the vast majority, 54% of whom today live on less than $1 a day.

Foreign governments have contributed to this state of affairs. The independent nation was born with a crippling debt to the French equivalent to $21 billion today (France threatened to invade if Haiti didn’t compensate it for its loss of 'property'). As soon as Haiti became free, too, the U.S. slapped on a decades-long embargo to ensure that word of the revolution didn’t reach slaves back home.

The role of foreign powers in the Twentieth Century has been no kinder. It has included a 20-year U.S. occupation (1915-1934) during which the Marines killed many. The U.S. also created a vicious new security force, the precursor to the Tontons Macoutes. Later the U.S. strongly supported the brutal three-decade dictatorship of Papa and Baby Doc (1957-1986). More recently, the superpower helped oust the democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide not once, but twice (1991 and 2004).

Contemporary economic policies of the U.S., IMF, World Bank, and others have aggravated what Haitians call the ‘development of underdevelopment.’ Free trade has destroyed agricultural production, in turn contributing to a food crisis and growing a sweatshop economy with farmers forced to emigrate to Port-au-Prince to search for work. The original foreign debt to France has been replaced by a current $1.05 billion debt to the IMF and others. The international financial institutions will surely never get back the capital, but their creditor role does allow them to largely control the Haitian government’s economic policies.

Throughout the constant political and economic oppression has run another constant. It is a highly organized grassroots movement which has never given up the battle its ancestors began more than 200 years ago. The movement is composed of organized women, peasants, clergy and laity, workers, and others. Its mobilization, protests, and advocacy have brought down dictators, staved off some of the worst of economic policies aimed at others’ profit, and kept themselves from ever fitting into anyone else’s plan. Haitian society has been able to keep alive a rich culture and a solidarity economy, in which neighbors and strangers care for each other’s needs.

The Haitian people may not yet have gained the rights and economic justice they deserve, but neither have they given up. Yolette Etienne, director of Oxfam Haiti, said years ago: “Bamboo symbolizes Haitian people to a T. Bamboo takes whatever adversity comes along, but afterwards it straightens itself back up.”

Already, after one of the worst natural disasters in world history, they are straightening themselves back up. Here are the priorities that nineteen people’s organizations articulated in a joint statement on January 27, quoted directly:

• To contribute to defending the main gains made by the popular and social movements, now threatened by the new situation;

• To respond to the urgent immediate needs of the people by setting up community service centers to respond with: food, primary health care, medical and psychological assistance;

• To take advantage of the presence of the international press in our country to present a different image to that disseminated by the imperialist forces; and

• To establish new ways of overcoming the isolation and separation which are among the key weaknesses of our organizations.

You go, Haitians. Fight like hell for the living.

As Mother Jones knew, we in the U.S. have much to learn from you.


You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law Donna Smith Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? Donna Smith We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa Nick Turse Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch Donna Smith The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Enron billionaire John Arnold thinks everyone should believe him when he says we've got to cut pensions because he's so incredibly rich: John...

Mar 5th
4:20 PM
Read More

More in David Sirota's continuing series on the billionaire takeover of PBS: More PBS conflict woes as activists move to eject David Koch from board of...

Mar 3rd
12:35 PM
Read More

Ukraine: One ‘Regime Change’ Too Many? Ray McGovern Is “regime change” in Ukraine the bridge too far for the neoconservative...

Mar 2nd
9:25 PM
Read More

Latest from David Sirota on Enron billionaire John Arnold smuggling anti-pension propaganda into "neutral" institutions like PBS and now, the...

Mar 1st
12:58 PM
Read More

Second Guessing a Life: US Health Care System Robs Security and Human Dignity Donna Smith The dysfunction of the US health care system...

Feb 27th
1:40 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles