Questions for Ethiopian Cdes re: EPRP

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky gorojovsky at
Mon Dec 13 06:08:44 MST 1999

Dear Tsegai, Gheb, and Ethiopian group  (would you mind my
calling you 'Ethiopians'?), I will answer to what I believe can
be useful for you here.  This posting has two parts, a political
first part, and an "administrative' second part.  I am enclosing
both in one mail  because I suppose that in a certain sense I am
doing moderator job here (sorry Lou Pr. I cannot do it on L-I
since our Ethiopians are not on it, out of their own will).

Tsegai says:

:We are ... surprised to find - we think, but are not sure from
:wording - that Ato Nestor seems to have thought that Mengistu
"from afar
:looked less terrible than Gheb and group tried to explain"
Perhaps he
:thinks that because Mengistu called himself a Marxist and a
socialist that
:he was such.

I have a built-in, personal distrust for people "calling
themselves Marxists" in Third World countries. As a Marxist, I
have a long experience with myriads of tiny groups of people who

a) canvass their petty bourgeois frustration into "Marxist"
parties. These are, at best, Proudhonian economist groups lacking
usually any real connection with the traditions and living
experience of the actual, flesh and blood, workers.  At worst,
when they get to lead a group of workers, they tend to preside
over sad and terrible defeats, either at the workshop -as on the
Bagley factory three hundred meters from where I am writing now,
or in my own job at the INDEC- or on a national scale -such as
happened with the group of Lora in Bolivia during the early 70s.
Or else,

b) vomit quotations generated by undigested and thoughtless
reading of reams of every page written by the GREAT LORDS OF OUR
MIGHTY MARXIST RELIGION.  These are less harmful, since they are
seldom understood by the workers, but it is a pity that
interesting youth such as these (they are, as a rule of thumb,
University undergraduates) get lost into these labyrinthine
debates, and sterilized for any serious political action.  It is
my experience, also, that this brand of self-appointed Marxists
generally matures into managers of imperialist concerns in the
countries where they were born and have a deep longing in their
souls to abandon these countries forever and become members of
some affluent First World society.

What I have said on my previous posting was that from the point
of view of the general struggle against imperialism, and from the
little info I could gather in my South American environment, I
had a vague idea that Mengistu was a problem for the United

He also had support from Cuba and the USSR, a second kind of
information that I have never found very definitive: I used to be
wary at the reasons why the fSU supported certain regimes; in
fact, they even came to somehow  support the Argentinian Junta
for at least five years because Argentina supplied them with much
needed cheap wheat and corn (I still remember the militants of
our local Communist Party explaining that the butcher Videla was
not the worst option). I also think that sometimes the
internationalist militancy of the Cuban leaders during the years
when they belonged to the "Eastern bloc" wasn't always the most
reasonable policy to follow.

But what I would ask, then, is _what_ has replaced the military
regime of Mengistu. Was it a more 'progressive' regime?  Was it
not?  From what I have read (and understood) our Ethiopian
comrades do not view as a problem the actual Balkanization of
Ethiopia. Am I right? Am I wrong?  When they speak of the history
of the Ethiopian working class, seemingly pointing to the workers
in Asmara, that is rooting their history in the history of the
workers in an imperialist outpost and not in the deep popular
traditions of Ethiopia, something I have always been
uncomfortable with (granted, I may be translating my own limited
point of view: my uneasiness is forged through my own experience
with this kind of "portuary'socialism that dismisses the
'backward' people of its own country, a brand of 'socialism' that
has had an opportunity to flourish fully in the lower River Plate
basin). They seem to dismiss the fact that it was the very
Selassies who, at the turn of the 20th Century, attempted -weakly
but clearly- to try an independent path, before full colonization
by Italian and British capitals, in what seemed to have been an
aborted intention of turning Ethiopia into the Japan of the Horn
of Africa. That is, the feudals who ruled Ethiopia (a country of
arrested development, wrote Samir Amin, not a semicolonial
country as yet) tried to spare the country from the fate of
becoming a colony, turning to a self-reliant capitalist
development. Were they wrong? Was this "reactionary"?  Is Samir
Amin a liar?  Did they enjoy popular support, or not?

Our Ethiopian friends seem to be very vocal when it comes to
describe Ethiopia as a mosaic of diversified cultures, which I am
certain it is, and which makes it at least twice as fascinating.
But they do not tackle the question (the Balkan question, the
Serbian question) of whether it is right or wrong for the
Amharics to mould the country and to attempt to unify it. It
seems to perspire from their writings that they consider this
path an undue path, I am not _that_ sure.

Of course, all the above must be read with the following proviso:
"Nestor Gorojovsky knows almost nil on the country he is talking
about, and is highly interested in historic and social data which
may help him learn something'.

But I do still remember, however, that in 1983, when the
wishy-washy Argentinian "progressive" petty bourgeoisie came to
power with President Alfonsín, they allowed many political
refugees, protected by the United Nations, to enter my country
(this I do not consider a shame, it was a tradition with
Argentinian politics).  Among them, I recall, there were some
Ethiopians and Somalis. Marvels of this unbelievable world, I met
two of them on Avenida de Mayo, a well known street on the
fringes of downtown Buenos Aires, and out of curiosity began to
talk with them on the reasons why they had been exiled, and so
on. Will tell you, my Ethiopian friends, that I did not get a
good impression. My sad conclusion was that sepoy leftists were
not a peculiarity of the River Plate left, but a universal
phenomenon in the Third World.  I have once stumbled, on these
lists, with a group of "Marxists", nay, Trotskyists, who
struggled against the bourgeois regime in Iran --from a radio
program of The Voice of Israel!

Now, these are serious flaws (to say the least). And the
Ethiopian refugee I had met was, more or less, on the same line.
So that, though I do not care a damn for Mengistu and whether he
was a Marxist or not, I humbly feel I have a right not to be
impressed by a criticism of his which, on the main, may risk
running the same line that the imperialists'. This is all that
there is to my very, very humble opinions on recent Ethiopian
events. I publicly declare myself an ignorant on these, but I do
not think that I am worse off than many "leftists' from within
Ethiopia or from within Argentina who, ignorant of the
consequences of their own deep ideas, tend to agree with the
imperialists on basic matters and during the turning points of
history. I am not accusing anyone, and less of all you, Tsegai
and Ethiopians (by the way, I like the way this name Tsegai
sounds). But I am pointing to a serious problem that haunts all
of us revolutionaries in the Third World:  in the same manner
that, in general, economism is a widespread disease among us
rebels FROM WITHIN CAPITALIST FORMATIONS (and thus asks us to be
particularly aware of this danger), sepoy thinking is a
widespread disease among us rebels FROM WITHIN SEMICOLONIAL
COUNTRIES (and also asks us to be particularly aware: if you ask
me, I believe it is one of the favorite weapons of our enemy).

Now, on to some more 'administrative' matters.  I do not know if
Ato means Mr. or Comrade, but I prefer the latter, so that while
I am not clarified I will suppose I can answer to "Ato Tsegai and
group" when they say:

:With respect to Ato Nestor's accusing us of breaching
confidence, we are not
:aware that Marx was in favour of private property, especially as
:political opinion.

It is not a matter of private property, my dear Ato Tsegai and
group. Ideas are the most socially generated stuff in the
Universe, so that in the end nobody can claim their ownership.
What I am talking about is not ideas, but manners. We are
revolutionaries, or like to think that we are, so that we must be
more careful and observant with our own morality than we expect
any bourgeois should be with hers or his own. A "private mail" is
not a "private property" of Mark Jones or me: if you understand
it this way, then you are infected with the capitalist
cathegories of thought, where privacity does not have to do with
human relations but with property relations. But, well, neither
our Ethiopians nor me are born English speakers so there may be
some large field for misunderstanding here.

Now, you bring Marx to the debate. Marx was not in favour of
private property of political opinion, but he definitely was for
high standards of loyalty in political relations. These standards
included the elementary consideration that, if one is approached
in a personal -not a public- way, one should keep the
relationship at that level. Turning it public unilaterally is not
only a breach of confidence, it is also to misbehave. And I feel
it is not necessary to quote Marx in order to understand such
elementary an issue. You simply did not act with the loyalty that
is expected in a revolutionary, it is not a matter of 'spies', it
is a matter of self-respect, which is projected onto the respect
we have for our counterpart. And it is also not a matter of
'the letter we included was highly disrespectful' or not, Ato
Tsegai and Ethiopians: what was disrespectful, and for yourselves

Ato Nestor.

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