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#5049: Re: #4780: The Haitian press and the police : Ives replies to Simidor

From: "K. M. Ives" <kives@gateway.net>

Generally, I am not in the habit of explaining the editorial
positions of Haïti Progrès. But Daniel Simidor and others on the
?ultra-left? are mounting a veritable disinformation campaign
charging that the paper has ?sold out? by running police minority
recruitment ads, so I want to clear up any questions in the minds
of list members.

It is not the first time that Haïti Progrès has had political
differences with Daniel Simidor and the political current with
which he is aligned. Despite periodic alliances against issues
like foreign aggression, AIDS discrimination, and police
brutality, HP has repeatedly clashed with certain Haitian ?super-
revolutionaries? because of their sectarian and doctrinaire

The friction is not new, nor is it Haitian. In any country over
the past century or so, you will find this ?ultra-left,? whose
principal target is always the ?left,? which, in the developing
world, usually takes the form of an anti-imperialist democratic
nationalist movement like the Sandinistas, the New Jewel
Movement, the ANC, the PLO, or the Lavalas... or, in this case,
Haïti Progrès.

In the 1980's, for example, Simidor?s current was often
disruptive of anti-Duvalierist demonstrations sponsored by the HP
sector. Nowadays, their vitriol is directed, not at Washington?s
meddling or Haitian putschists and their allies, but at Aristide
and his party, who Simidor carefully smears as  ?alleged dope

After the Dorismond shooting last March, HP sat down with
different community groups and individuals to form the Haitian
Coalition for Justice, which has organized important
demonstrations and actions in New York against police brutality.
The HCJ based itself at the l?Heure Haïtienne Information Center
(SELA), a sort of ultra-left headquarters in New York.

Initially the HCJ spanned diverse tendencies, including members
of the Lavalas Family, who commendably put aside political
differences to sit on the ultra-left?s ?turf.? But following a
series of SELA radio attacks on the Lavalas, this sector began to
fall away.

 Today, the ultra-left?s bugaboo is HP?s decision to run police
minority recruitment advertising in its pages. The ?outrage?
isn?t logical. HP has run such advertizing before, back in 1997,
following the Louima incident. (When the NYPD announced the first
ad run, the Rev. Al Sharpton demanded that those advertising
dollars be channeled to the minority community media, papers like

This makes Simidor?s charge of ?opportunism? particularly ironic.
HP has often opened its columns to ?sometime contributor? Simidor
and his cohorts, despite their past provocative behavior. Why did
they publish their texts in Haïti Progrès, which had published
police ads? Where were their ?principles?? Or was this the real

Haïti Progrès is above all a political organ, but in a capitalist
country, it is faced with economic realities. Paid advertising is
what allows HP to survive as a progressive media source, fighting
against police brutality and for a democratic sovereign Haiti...
and providing free advertising and full coverage to countless
worthwhile efforts (like the HCJ).

Ultra-left attacks, like rightist ones, also tend to be ad
hominem. Simidor rails against ?CEO Ben Dupuy,? accusing him of
?autocratic mood swings? and "switch[ing] sides on issues without
so much as a warning or goodbye to his former allies, often
leaving the editorial staff of the newspaper with no other option
but to walk."

A seductive ?argument,? and sadly too familiar. One always hears
this from the right. The US establishment demonizes the leaders
of any countries or movements which resist it. This is the reason
for the ad hominem attacks on Saddam Hussein, Milosevic,
Kadhaffi, Mugabe, Chavez, Castro, and Aristide. But the real goal
is to thwart the national aspirations of the masses which those
leaders symbolize.

The ultra-left and anarchists also dislike the leaders of
hierarchies and democratic centralism, the organizational method
of most liberation movements and of Haïti Progrès. Ultra-left
groups are anarchic and tiny, often one or two people, without
constituents or auto-criticisms and discussions.

As to the charge of autocratic side-switching. First, editorial
decisions at Haiti Progrès have always been made democratically
by the editors. Second, the paper has always and will always
oppose police brutality. Thirdly, in 17 years, no editorial staff
has ever ?walked? because of any ?switching sides.? Simidor is
probably referring to the paper?s strong criticism of Aristide?s
decision to sanction a US/UN intervention in Haiti in 1994. In
that case, HP didn?t switch its position; Aristide did. Likewise,
when Aristide became an outspoken critic of neoliberalism in
1996, again incurring the wrath of Washington and the mainstream
media, HP came to his defense, as it still does. Again, no
switch. Just consistent anti-imperialism.

Simidor also suggests that the police ad campaign ?is an attempt
to avert a threatened Federal oversight of the New York City
police.? Seems he thinks Federal oversight is a solution. We
don?t. Why chastise some capitalist institutions and not others?
The police are only capitalism?s first line of defense, made up
of ?cannon fodder.?. They are directed and coached by greater
institutions, like Federal agencies and establishment think-
tanks, like Columbia University, for example. So Simidor takes
the shadow for the prey. Logically, he should first attack
l?Heure Haïtienne for enjoying Columbia?s largesse over the past
20 years by broadcasting every Sunday morning on the college
station WKCR.

Finally, we believe that police brutality is systemic to
capitalism. We fight to keep it at bay, but its disappearance
lies only in changing the larger system of exploitation,
oppression, and inequality. In the meantime, whether they like it
or not, the ultra-leftists will have to continue to deal with
institutions like the police: calling them when robbed, getting
sound permits, paying traffic violations and parking tickets. The
ultra-left?s position, ?We don?t deal with the police!?, is
hypocritical bluster. They do.

It is sad to see Daniel spending his time on sophism against a
progressive paper, rather than lambasting the macoute rag Haiti
Observateur or the new voice of the bourgeoisie, The Haitian
Times... or helping out with much needed HCJ press releases and

It is hard to survive as a progressive newspaper in a capitalist
metropole, or even as a progressive country, in this moment of
capitalist triumphalism. Even an exemplary country like Cuba has
had to make compromises to survive, opening its doors to limited
foreign investment and market reforms. Do Simidor and his allies
think that Cuba has therefore betrayed its revolution and
embraced capitalism?

Such a conclusion would of course be foolish, and one hopes that
Simidor and other ultra-leftists will settle down and stop doing
what is -- objectively -- the work of the right-wing: sowing
division in the anti-police brutality movement and, more
generally, in the Haitian democratic movement as a whole.

Kim Ives