Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

Haiti: The Streets Come Alive

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The liberation of Haiti does not depend on the United Nations, but on the Haitian people.”

The people of Haiti are in motion, and the U.S.-installed government is responding with tear gas and bullets. Demonstrations have erupted across the country, denouncing the regime of “Sweet Mickey” Martelly for corruption, demanding jobs at livable wages and the basic services that states are supposed to provide, and calling for an end to the eight-year occupation of the country by the United Nations.

UN soldiers took over from U.S. Marines after Washington’s coup against the democratically elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide, in 2004. Since then, Aristide’s party has been effectively banned. Former U.S. president Bill Clinton holds no public office in his own country, but he rules like a viceroy as the UN’s Special Envoy to Haiti. The country has been reduced to a kind of protectorate of the UN – which, for all practical purposes, translates as a colony of the United States.

Because Aristide’s Lavalas party was excluded from the voting, most Haitians did not even go to the polls in April of last year, allowing “Sweet Mickey” Martelly to win the presidency with the support of only a small fraction of the Haitian population. That means politics in Haiti is mainly the politics of the street. And the streets of virtually every large Haitian city and town have been alive with demonstrations in the past few weeks. Teachers in Port-Au-Prince demanded a living wage equivalent to $1,200 a year. Slum dwellers in Cite Soleil protested deplorable conditions. In Fort Liberte, residents demanded a shipping facility. More protests are planned in Cap-Haitien and the capital city, this week.

The whole country is standing up.”

Haitians and their supporters demonstrated last week at the United Nations, in New York, asking the UN Security Council to pull its troops out of their country. Instead, the Council voted to extend the so-called peacekeeping mission for another year, although the force’s size will be reduced. One of those that met with UN peacekeeping officials was Haitian Senator Jean Charles Moise. At a meeting in a Haitian neighborhood of Brooklyn, Moise said he understood “the game that is being played” at the UN, but will continue to insist that the foreign soldiers be withdrawn, that security be turned over to an enlarged Haitian police force, and that reparations be paid to the families of the 5,000 Haitians that have died from cholera introduced into the country by UN troops.

Senator Moise is known for riding a white horse at anti-Martelly demonstrations. He says the liberation of Haiti does not depend on the United Nations, but on the Haitian people. “The whole country is standing up,” he said, “so I had to come into the street, with the people. You have to be with the people when they are in motion.” Then the senator rushed to the airport to rejoin the protests.

Bill Clinton and the multinational corporations he represents have other plans for Haiti. Clinton says Haiti’s greatest advantage is its low wages, to better attract foreign capital. In other words, Washington’s goal is to keep Haitians desperately poor, so that they will take any job, at any wage. But Haitians are determined to win back their national sovereignty, and set the terms of their own development.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20121017_gf_Haiti.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:46am EDT

What Happened to South Africa’s Freedom Charter

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The official voice of labor, COSATU, cannot credibly claim to represent the interests of working people when it is a partner of the ruling party whose police kill, beat and imprison workers.”

In 1994, the African National Congress of South Africa made a deal with the devil. There would be one-person, one-vote, majority rule of electoral politics. But corporate power over the South African economy would not be tampered with, and white civil servants would be guaranteed they could their well-paying jobs, for life. The ANC also set itself another goal: to create a class of Black millionaires.

Much earlier, the ANC had made a solemn commitment to the broad masses of people. It’s called theFreedom Charter, adopted in 1955, which served as the unifying document of the struggle against apartheid that culminated in the elections that brought the ANC to power. The Freedom Charter promised that “the national wealth of [the] country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people;” that “the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole;” that “all other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people; all the land re-divided amongst those who work it to banish famine and land hunger;” and that “all shall have the right to occupy land wherever they choose.”

Yet, none of this has come to pass. The Freedom Charter is absolutely incompatible with the deal the ANC made for a peaceful transition to Black majority rule. If corporate privileges are untouched, there can be no collective ownership of the mineral wealth, the soil, the banks and industries. And social systems that breed new Black millionaires – or millionaires of any kind – cannot possibly give priority to the well-being of the masses of people.

The Freedom Charter is absolutely incompatible with the deal the ANC made for a peaceful transition to Black majority rule.”

South Africa was one of the most unequal places in the world in 1994, and it is at least as unequal, today – because of the deal cut by the ANC. The covenant with white privilege and corporate power was also entered into by the ANC’s partners: the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions, COSATU. Thus, the three pillars of the liberation movement agreed that they would not upset the existing corporate framework, and they would not implement the clearly socialist aims of the Freedom Charter. Instead, they nurtured a tiny, Black capitalist class made up largely of ANC insiders. Union leaders became rich men, while conditions for the poor and working classes deteriorated.

These chickens have now come home to roost, especially following the massacre of 34 miners at Marikana. The mining industry is in turmoil, with 41 percent of South Africa’s gold output shut down. Hundreds of thousands of municipal workers will go on strike this week to protest poor pay and corruption. Yet the official voice of labor, COSATU, cannot credibly claim to represent the interests of working people when it is a partner of the ruling party whose police kill, beat and imprison workers.

This fundamentally corrupt arrangement has run its course. There will be nothing but mass bloodshed at the end of this journey unless the African National Congress breaks the pact that it made with corporate power, in 1994. The ANC stands at a crossroads, and must make a turn. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20121017_gf_SouthAfrica.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:28am EDT