Haiti's interim government, led by men of genuine good will, is now struggling to keep its balance. The Duvalier family is far away, but most of its friends and former beneficiaries are still in Haiti. The interim government has been making some progress in dismantling the monopolies and privileges that enriched them all those years -- and you will not be greatly surprised to hear that some of the recent demonstrations seem to have been instigated and subsidized by the threatened monopolists. Other demonstrations are attempts by people living on the edge of destitution to seize the higher wages they thought their revolution promised. Both sides are resorting to the streets in the only kind of political expression in which they have any faith.
The head of the government, Gen. Henri Namphy, was until February the commander of the country's 7,700-man army. He now confronts, with great uncertainty, the urgent need to start some sort of a political process in a country that has had very little experience with honest elections, or political parties, or parliamentary representation. In the Philippines, it was a well organized opposition under strong and dramatic leadership that pushed the Marcos regime into exile. In Haiti, it was a true grass-roots movement, leaderless and with no clear structure, that brought down Jean- Claude Duvalier. There's a certain romantic appeal to the idea of a spontaneous popular movement, but there is hardly any political vehicle less likely to have the cohesion and stamina to endure.
What can the United States do? It can speed up shipments of aid, particularly food -- as it is already doing. The House of Representatives is to vote shortly to earmark more of this year's foreign aid money for Haiti. The bill includes a small amount of military aid; the House ought to support it. The money is mainly for trucks and radios. Particularly in the countryside, the army is the only counterforce to the bloody-handed Ton-Ton Macoutes, by no means all of whom have been disarmed and disbanded.
Beyond food, what the country needs most is time -- time enough to go through the unfamiliar exercise of organizing parties, writing a constitution and then holding elections. The danger is that, before an orderly political life can develop, the pres will degenerate into real chaos, and frightened people will retreat into another dictatorship that promises at least a measure of stability. That has been the Haitian pattern across a long history. The United States can give support to the Haitians who are trying to change that tragic pattern, but inevitably any real change will have to come from within the country itself. To maintain the present momentum toward democracy is going to take a desperately difficult struggle that is only now beginning.