Ghebremichael Woldeselassie ghebremichael at
Fri Dec 3 12:44:50 MST 1999

Our comments

Some detail is true, but some is wrong

First, the Ethiopian Revolution of 1974 was a popular uprising against
feudalism as news of the famine denied by Haile Selassie filtered to Addis.
Spontaneously, the peasants removed their feudal lords and agrobusiness set
up with the greatest corruption.  They did not debate matters, simply taking
land and sweeping aside any resistance swiftly.  Eritreans in particular
left in thousands to join the liberation fighters in the north, certain that
now was their hour for determining their own lives.

Mengistu and the Derg began as the 'Council' - direct translation - a
clandestine group of junior officers whose slogan was Etiopia Tikdem
(Ethiopia First), AFTER these events - this is crucial to understand..  In
Addis, the only place where there could be said to be a working class in
Ethiopia, except for Asmara in Eritrea province, the masses centred their
demands around socialism.  But there were thousands of different voices,
particularly from students who had been in Europe, and a host of
organizations sprang up, most important being the Ethiopian Peoples'
Revolutionary Party (EPRP - students) and Me'Ison (All Ethiopian Workers
Party - rough translation - workers).  Some turmoil!

The decisive change was not within Ethiopia but in Somalia, where Siad Barre
- formerly Soviet client - was wooed to US support.  Part of the problem of
Ethiopia is that it was an imperial state in its own right, probably 60% of
its land and population having been annexed and brought under Amhara rule,
with Ras's appointed to rule - long story!  The Ogaden was part of this -
populated mainly by ethnic Somalis.  Barre took the opportunity to invade
the Ogaden and pushed almost as far as Djibouti in rapid order, with popular
support.  All was diasarray.  To cut a long story short - we do not have
tiime just now, but hope to post a lengthy article, perhaps too long for
e-mail - the Soviets stepped in to replace the US, massive Cuban forces
arrived and Barre was flung back.

It was only at this time that the Derg became 'socialist' (never in its
histroy Marxist or Leninist!).  Previouly, all its members ahd been trained
in the US and were willing defenders of US strategic interests - the Kagnew
satellite tracking and intelligence relaying station in Asmara (Eritrea)
especially.  Not one of them knew Marx from a donkey.  This is how it was.
IN order to bring themselves to the fore and prevent the troops going over
to the people in tens of thousands they had no choice but to pretend to be
'socialists'.  No one knew what they were, because they said nothing at
first.  Me'Ison fell for that and aligned organised labour and lumpens with
PMAC.  EPRP saw the danger, but instead of committing to a big political
battele, they turned to terrorist tactics, especially againsst Me'Ison.  The
solution was the Red Terror to liquidate EPRP and intellectuals.

The story from the book Louis Proyect kindly supplied, is that.  We were all
too young to follow clealy at the time, but have since come to know.  The
story fits 'events' neatly into some model, to somehow prove a 'socialist'
regime - how its author must have cried when we sent Mengistu in 1991!  If
anything he was Ethiopia's Bonaparte, destroying the first popular, truly
social revolution in Africa and putting all under the heel of something
different from feudalism, but without doubt not a 'Marxist-Leninist' regime.
  There could not have been socialism in our poor country, and to try to
impose it name and organization destroyed millions in 1984-5, let alone
crippling such economy as it had.  Our mess today stems from that, but it is
better than the Derg.

Yet no-one talks of socialism outside small groups of friends, because the
people hate the word, not knowing what it should be.  Fighters from the TPLF
and EPLF lived as socialist in the 'field' - a cashless economy and a
turmoil of free discussion and ideas.  Both TPLF and EPLF had to also
pretend to be 'socialist' in order to stay in the lead.  They were not, as
you can now see, and each in its own way is a lesser Bonaparte.  This border
war is a terrible surprise to the fighters on both sides, and they hold back
their convictions because they are not clear and are loyal to their
respective regimes, because they led the 1991 victory.  That will change as
they have to think.

Thank you

All here

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