PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI, October 17 — If “a strike is a school of revolution,” as Lenin said, then this October 25-26 in Haiti a national school of revolution may be on the class schedule. The teachers’ union UNNOH (a union of the graduates of several Haitian teachers’ colleges) is not a revolutionary organization. But, like the Chicago Teachers Union which just carried out a successful teachers’ strike in Chicago, UNNOH’s strike-call and nine strike demands have many progressive features which can drive our class, the working class forward. All workers internationally should support this strike.
Four demands refer to teachers’ own needs — back pay, a minimum living wage of $1,185/month, credentials giving job security, and a say in social insurance policies. These improvements lifting teachers above abject poverty and insecurity will also benefit their students because teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions.
But the imperialists have absolutely no interest in, and no intention of, granting such massive reforms (the wage demand is for a 70% hike.) Poverty is their racist plan for the schools of Haiti and all who teach and study in them.
In addition to these just demands, UNNOH is issuing its strike call to the entire teaching body. It appeals to students, parents, college students and teachers, other workers in education and other industries to support the strike. Its call for international solidarity, with all the strike demands, is posted in English at www.psc-cuny.org/unnoh and asks for letters of support.
Progressive teachers in UNNOH know that the unity and numbers of the whole working class are a source of the strength they need way beyond their own numbers. That’s why UNNOH is a key part of the federation of left-leaning unions, the CTSP (Confederation of Workers in the Public and Private Sectors), who came to march with UNNOH, students, and other teachers’ unions in Port-au-Prince in a stirring 1000-strong demonstration on October 5, World Teachers’ Day.
The union of part-time college professors, STAIA, also stands with UNNOH in this strike. Such class unity — against the bosses’ preaching of everyone for themselves — is hard to create, to mobilize, and to sustain, and that too is part of learning in a school of revolution.
Other strike demands are clearly mainly for their students and for the whole working class. These include a hike in the education budget to 30% of the national budget (for K-12) and 4% (for public colleges, who now struggle along on 0.55%), which clearly benefits all students and their parents; a free, quality, public school system; cafeterias in all schools and colleges guaranteeing one hot meal a day to all students, teachers, and school workers; and a program to end the cholera epidemic, starting with vaccination of all school and college students.
These class demands are the foundation for advancing the struggle beyond trade unionism to a mass fight for communism. As capitalist ideology has preached to them all their lives, many UNNOH teachers right now are more focused on their own salary and security than on a universal public education system or ending cholera, let alone revolution. Everything in a struggle that advances class consciousness and class unity will move our whole class one step further up the road to revolution. (See adjoining article)
“In this bitter struggle national and international solidarity is essential,” says the UNNOH call. They have worked since last November to create a national network of union branches, each attempting to integrate teachers with other workers, in all ten departments (regions) of the country. Out of those trips they have built a national leadership body of fifty members.
In the mass demonstrations of September 10 and October 5, following mass meetings of the teachers, there were hundreds of teachers marching on the same day in each of eight towns on September 10 and in twelve on October 5, and these numbers doubled between September and October.
The strike call is therefore not for a “Hollywood strike” or fake strike, but built on a solid foundation of organizing. It will be combined with mass action in the streets in the militant Haitian tradition. It is also a test of the teachers’ organization and strength.
PLP salutes these teachers who know that “power concedes nothing without a struggle.” They are fed up with inaction in the face of a cynical government and a fascist regime imposed by the imperialist troops in the U.N. MINUSTAH force and are standing up to fight.
Win, lose, or draw in this strike, may they learn the lessons of revolutionaries before them (starting with the bold fighters who ended slavery in Haiti), and come out of this important and risky moment stronger for the battles ahead. We stand alongside them and will learn along with them.