Questions for Ethiopian Cdes re: EPRP

Ghebremichael Woldeselassie ghebremichael at
Fri Dec 17 19:17:25 MST 1999

>From: "João Paulo Monteiro" <jpmonteiro at>
>Reply-To: marxism at
>To: marxism at
>Subject: Re: Questions for Ethiopian Cdes re: EPRP
>Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1999 22:11:23 +0000

Joao Paulo Monteiro writes wonderfully on aspects of Ethiopian history in a
far briefer way that we would, should we try.  The book by Joseph Ki-Zerbo
sounds wonderful - it would be good to have it and to be able to read
French.  On his call to us to abandon ideas of dismemberment and for
unification, we can only say that his advice is the only way forward.
However, it cannot be achieved simply by 'democratic' means - we are not
stageist in our views.  What we try to say is that fighting for a unity in
practice - essentially against the division by market, surplus value and
capital, and for direct exchange of use-value between town and country, and
between the various regions of the Horn (not exclusively within Ethiopia) -
immediately brings conflict with the bourgeois democrat residing in
nationalist and also regionalist forms.  Also, to be realistic, when the
jingoist war with Eritrea finally grinds to a halt - negotiation will not
stop it and militarily it is stalemate, since Eritrea will not invade
southwards and holds impregnable defensive positions, and nor can PFDJ/EPLF
give up Assab as a sop to TPLF/EPRDF without popular fury there - quite
probably both EPRDF and PFDJ will fall, the first most likely.  There will
indeed be an atomisation, against which we are powerless.  Resolving that
is, like struggle anywhere today, between socialism or barbarism, and
directly confronts not merely us, but all of you too, in all your countries.
  Whatever we can do, it must be in alliance with socialista nd workers of
the advanced countries - not just empty messages of solidarity.  There has
to be a material relationship that develops, even in the most haphazard
fashion.  That is what we hope to be a part of , as well as our own internal

Turning to Mengistu, Joao Paulo is correct.  Mengistu literally bought
weapons, including the most barbarous things, with cannon food for the West
Bank, in the form of 'exporting' the Jewish Falasha - long here in Ethiopia,
before most of the Hebrew books of worship.  Just two example will do.  The
Israelis supplied a form of cluster bomb that instead of fragmenting into
many small bombs contained booby traps in the form of pens and little toys
designed to maim children.  These were used in Eritrea and Tigray.  The
Israelis sent special religious people to examine the Falasha to see if they
were Jews, and to classify them!  A measure of the cynicism and opportunism
of the PFDJ in Eritrea is that they turn now to Israel for assistance in
many things.  Also, you should know that EPLF supported the 'Allies' in the
Gulf War, and even publically asked why such a force could not be sent to
deal with Mengistu - again opportunism, for at the time, Mengistu was
doomed.  EPRDF was EPLF creation, because they could not take Asmara without
400 000 hostages there would have been wiped out by the 80 000 occupying
Derg forces.  Fighters, and weapons poured to TPLF and OLF and ALF were
encouraged by EPLF to join forces with TPLF to form the EPRDM, which quickly
advanced south and took Addis in May 1991, thereby forcing the flight of the
Derg from Eritrea to Sudan, when many of the conscripts died of thirst in
the desert.

We have the highest esteem for the fighters of that war, most of whom in
both Ethiopia and Eritrea were disarmed and disbanded because of the threat
that they posed to the leaderships that took on the guise of ruling castes.
What is happening now is not what the veterans fought for - until quite late
in the anti-Derg war the fighters were united on popular democracy and basic
socialist issues - eg land to the tillers and communal management.  From a
position where both TPLF and EPLF had socialist programmes, by 1988 both had
switched to bourgeois democratic programmes - no different from that of the
rump EPRP mentioned earlier.  The PFDJ/EPLF put all land under state
ownership in 1995 (we think that was the year), thereby destroying that
basic rural demand, so even the farmer tied to land is dissatisfied with
such things.  Likewise in Ethiopia, there has been attempt to force nomadic
people, like the Afar into employment as workers for agrobusiness, and into
settlements (also among semi-nomadic people in Eritrea).  This is the source
of what is at present a resurgence (in fact for the first time mostly) of
Islamic fundamentalism among the poorest but most fierce people in the Horn.
  (Just to lighten this - the Afar have the habit of removing the testicles
of their enemies and hanging them dried from their tents - so watch out Ato
Mark Jonas that we do not persuade some to join your several enemies!)
Promises of health and education provision by both regimes have been
abandoned.  Here these are the questions, the immediate needs of the people,
together with unemployment levels in the cities and towns that are as high
if not higher than in Haile Selassie's days.  The war does nothing for any
of this, but drives poverty upwards.  Our fight has to be against the war,
for land, for employment, and for basic health and education measures, but
since neither government allied with foreign capital can resolve any of
them, that fight has to be openly for seeking socialist measures as the only
means for ordinary people.

We do still hope that such matters will be issues of discussion on this list
- what is the flesh on the bones of socialist ideas?


Gheb for all.

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