HAITI, October 28 — Sometimes all it takes is for someone to stand up and say no, for the whole system of exploitation and oppression to reveal itself. The rebels might get some crumbs from the bosses’ teeming table for his trouble. They might go back to being resigned to the bosses’ state power for ever. Or they might be radicalized by the experience and spend the rest of her life fighting for the working class.
But whatever the outcome of a reform struggle, once people stand up, and organize themselves, and then stand up stronger in numbers and conviction, and take the streets and march to the seat of power together, to the men with guns and money — then all bets are off, and it’s a teaching moment. It’s a moment when our action unmasks the power relationships that hold us in chains.
Such moments are when revolutionaries are born and it’s not about crumbs any more but the whole loaf. If a few communists are in the crowd, especially ones of different colors, genders, countries, and languages, it can be a prophetic moment. One in which we glimpse the guns and money abolished, the bosses thrown into the sea. Then it’s time to organize to make that revolution happen. If many more become communists, it does happen eventually.
Teachers in Haiti want a living wage and a decent public school system and an end to cholera. Just a few crumbs from the billions gambled away in one day on Wall Street. They are re-organizing themselves for a nation-wide two-day strike November 12-13, undeterred by Hurricane Sandy’s washing out their first strike date last week. They are standing up. And given the pressure-cooker of rage and political desire that is Haiti at the moment, and the presence of revolutionary communists in PLP, many can be won to revolution.
More specifically, in the open-air auditorium of a, run-down school, they were shouting: “Teachers are tired! Teachers are tired!”
Tired of a pittance that barely covers transportation, a leaky-roof lodging, a few sets of clothes, two meals a day, and our own kids’ school fees this month.
Tired of a hundred noisy, frustrated teenagers packed so tight into a room that only the first row can hear you try to teach. Tired of seeing the few full-time, half-secure teaching jobs in a country of 80% unemployment going, not to the qualified young coming full of hope out of the Teachers’ Colleges, but to cynical incompetents put there by politicians who see a teacher’s job simply as a paycheck to reward a client with.
So when a union speaker asked journalists not to interview her but the teachers themselves, what sprang from their hearts in a singing chant led by the sopranos was: “Teachers are tired! Teachers are tired!” Eighty teachers had come through the torn-up streets of this small port town to an organizing meeting called by their union.
The teachers’ meeting began. The left-wing national union and student leaders took the mike and speakers from far away told of their own desire to build the strike with international support. “You are not alone,” they heard from someone who worked in the Chicago strike. They heard of the campaign in the U.S. to end cholera, and the lift their union had given this campaign by making that a strike demand, by far the most significant action of the campaign so far. This town is seeing a spike in cholera deaths, predictable after heavy rain.
Then the witnesses from the teachers’ assembly came to the front and spoke their piece. There was a debate, to be resolved by the union exec meeting the next day, about which date to re-launch the strike.
It was a good meeting, a glimpse of the nation-wide structure of rank-and-file assemblies and a fifty-strong leaders’ group the union has spent a year building. Women took the lead at some points, gaining confidence by sitting together, leading the singing.
But after a wage increase, what? After the end of cholera, which new preventable illness will cut workers down? As long as capitalism remains, these struggles will go on endlessly.
Hurricane Sandy Can’t Wash Away Haiti Teachers’ Strike
Support the Nation-Wide Teachers’ Strike in Haiti and Internationally!
National march in many Haitian cities to launch the strike, Monday November12
Strike all the schools November 12-13, 2012
To see the strike demands, the union’s call for support, and where to write letters and send donations to the strike fund: http://psc-cuny.org/unnoh.
Write letters of support from unions, churches, student and community groups, professional asssociations
Organize forums on the strike in union halls, schools, campuses and churches
March and rally to support the strike at Haitian consulates, U.S. government offfices, the U.N. and the World Bank.