Abyot – The Lost Revolution
I ran across a series of remarkable documents on Wikileaks that reveal a fascinating moment when both the Derg and US imperialism were taking action to suppress the radicalization of Ethiopian workers.
An early June, 1975, cable from an Addis Ababa diplomat back to his boss in the State Department, reveals a US Charge d’Affaires Parker Wyman positively freaking out about developments within CELU, the Confederation of Ethiopian Labour Unions. In following a chain of self-referenced cables on Wikileaks, an incredible story is revealed which I haven’t actually read in this amount of detail anywhere else.
CELU was founded in 1962, assisted by pro-imperialist forces in world labor (aka the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations, AFL-CIO) hoping to create a captive, docile labor organization with whom the “business community” could cooperate to forestall more militant working class organizing while claiming to promote the free organization of labor. Of course Ethiopian law forbade strikes, and it wasn’t CELU’s original intention to challenge that. It’s not for nothing that the AFL-CIO is jokingly referred to worldwide as the “AFL-CIA.”
However, bad timing for the AFL-CIO in Ethiopia: The development of an organized urban working class in Ethiopia coincided with revolutionary times, and Ethiopian leftists quickly identified CELU as a valuable conduit for expanding their influence among workers. CELU seems to have been beset by factionalism between its original leaders and younger revolutionaries, but joined EPRP May Day activities out in the streets in 1975. Shortly afterwards the Derg closed it down, and arrested a handful of its leaders. But by the end of May, the Derg relented and allowed CELU to continue to function. The younger generation seized the moment to win leadership of CELU.
Kiflu Tadesse, in the first volume of his landmark The Generation history of EPRP, tells the story in more detail of how the leftists, mainly from EPRP but also from Meison and Senay Likke’s WazLeague, gained control of CELU from its old guard. But he doesn’t tell a key part of the story of what was actually an impressive, albeit temporary, EPRP success. Let’s piece it together.
Here are excerpts from the cable, which reveals palpable panic over sudden communist subversion of CELU:
“IN SESSIONS JUNE 2 AND 3 NEW CELU PROVISIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE BEGAN CONSIDERATION OF NUMEROUS PROPOSED CHANGES. FIRST ACTION TO BE TAKEN WAS VOTE TO SUSPEND OLD CELU CONSTITUTION…. FIVE POINT RESOLUTION NEXT CONSIDERED…. DEBATE INCLUDED EXTENSIVE CRITIQUE OF AMERICAN LABOR RELATIONS WITH “SOCIALIST COUNTRIES” GOING BACK AS FAR AS BOLSHEVIK REVOLUTION. AFL-CIO ESPECIALLY CONDEMNED FOR ALLEGED ANTI-SOCIALIST ACTIONS IN CHILE IN RECENT YEARS. PRESENTATION WAS IN SUCH GREAT DETAIL THAT IT WENT FAR BEYOND KNOWLEDGE OF LABOR GROUP PARTICIPATING IN DEBATE. CONCLUSION PROBABLY THAT MATERIAL WAS FED IN EITHER BY CELU STAFFERS GIRMACHEW LEMMA…AND/OR KIFLU, WHO SPENT SEVERAL YEARS STUDYING JOURNALISM IN RUSSIA. IN ANY CASE, THIS WAS FIRST SPECIFIC APPEARANCE OF COMMUNIST LINE AND CONTENT WAS DISTINCTLY RUSSIAN.”
|Germatchew (Girmachew) Lemma, EPRP labor leader|
Germatchew Lemma and Kiflu (Tadesse), were two former student activists who had become leaders in the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Party. At this point in 1975 EPRP was largely underground, and while its “Democrasia” paper was widely circulated, the name “EPRP” was not yet publicized until later that year.
Germatchew was a respected activist. In his memoir Wore Negare, former EPRP activist Mohamed Yimam recounts, “He was an electrifying speaker who mesmerized the audience. Charismatic and towering, he had a commanding presence that that eclipsed anyone who stood near him…. In Girmachew I saw a leader that I was instantly attracted to and seemed capable of leading people to do anything that he wanted them to.”
Kiflu is of course the author of the definitive Generation books we’ve just cited. While he did go to university in the Soviet Union, to attribute his intervention here to Soviet subversion shows how clueless the US embassy was about the dynamics on the ground. While the USSR was not yet in 1975 fully the patron of the Derg, it was then — and ultimately — completely disinterested in the civilian left, and in the end backed the Derg’s state-controlled labor federation.
Back to the cable, again full of insinuations that a dark communist conspiracy is at hand:
MARKOS HAGOS, NEW CHAIRMAN, WAS NOTIFIED LATE JUNE 2 THAT HE APPOINTEDORER DELEGATE TO ILO GENEVA CONFERENCE. FACT THAT HE COULD COMPLETE HEALTH, PASSPORT, TAX AND ALL OTHER FORMALITIES TO ENABLE HIM TO DEPART NEXT DAY SUGGESTS HE MUST HAVE BEEN PREPARED WELL IN ADVANCE….IT IS BECOMING MORE APPARENT THAT STRATEGY OF MAY 31-JUNE 1 MEETING WAS CAREFULLY PRE-PLANNED. SEVERAL INFORMANTS, RELIABLE IN PAST, BELIEVE THAT PRIME MOVERS WERE GIRMACHEW LEMMA OF CELU STAFF AND GETACHEW AMARE WHO SUPPOSEDLY OBTAINED SUPPORT OF LT. COL. ATNAFU ABATE, 2ND VICE CHAIRMAN OF PMAC, AND LEFT-WING GROUP IN DIRG. FORMER OPPOSITION LEADERS, MAINLY FROM SMALL UNIONS, ARE SAID TO HAVE JOINED IN ENTHUSIASTICALLY AND WERE REWARDED WITH SEATS ON PROVISIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE.
|Markos Hagos, leader of CELU in 1975.|
Markos Hagos, the new leader of CELU, was in fact an EPRP member. He was not a former student leader, but came out of the rank and file of insurance company workers. CELU staffer Getachew Amare seems to have also been EPRP, at least he was accused of being so when he was put on a Derg deathlist in 1977 (Kiflu, v1, p.144). Atnafu Abate was one of the three leaders of the Derg in 1975. The reference here is curious: while Atnafu seems to have often disagreed with eventual Derg sole leader Mengistu — indeed he was eliminated by Mengistu in late 1977 — but I have yet to see a source corroborating communication between EPRP and Atnafu at this time, only later after Mengistu’s first, early 1977 purge.
The cable goes on to urge its distribution to US agents attending the upcoming ILO conference to be on the lookout for CELU radicals.
FOR GENEVA: PLEASE PASS FOREGOING INFORMATION TO PAT O’FARRELL AND JERRY FUNK OF AALC ATTENDING ILO CONFERENCE.
AALC is the acronym for “African American Labor Center.” Here’s a brief background on AALC from Beth Sims’ Workers of the World Undermined: “The African-American Labor Center (AALC), founded in 1964, is active in some 31 countries ranging from Angola to Zimbabwe. Its founder and first director was longtime labor activist and CIA operative Irving Brown.’ He molded the institute into an anticommunist organization that spread the doctrine of labor-business harmony and bread-and-butter unionism to its African beneficiaries. Under Brown, the AALC became a vehicle for funneling U.S. aid to procapitalist, economistic African trade unions, a role which it continues to play today.”
The US embassy was so clearly concerned about the presence of revolutionaries within CELU, it wanted to keep an eye on the CELU organizer during his trip abroad. And so the relationship between the US government and advocates of labor peace is exposed.
As mentioned, it wasn’t just the US embassy that was worried about CELU and worker radicalization. The U.S. Embassy was watching the Derg’s repressive moves against CELU with optimistic caution. A previous cable is fascinating. From May 1975:
6. COMMENT: IF CAUSE OF RUCKUS IS — AS ASSERTED — SIMPLE EXASPERATION WITHIN DIRG WITH CELU IN-FIGHTING AND MOVE TRIGGERS REASONABLY STRAIGHTFORWARD ELECTIONS, LABOR MOVEMENT COULD CONCEIVABLY EMERGE STRENGTHENED FROM THIS EPISODE. HOWEVER, IF RADICALS HAVE THEIR WAY, THE STRENGTH TO OVERRIDE OPPOSITION IN AT LEAST SOME UNIONS, AND THE MOMENTUM TO PRESS AHEAD WITH ATTEMPT FOIST MORE PLIANT LEADERSHIP ON CELU IN PREPARATION FOR ITS TRANSFORMATION, DIFFICULT DAYS COULD LIE AHEAD.
That May, Derg representatives went to workplaces where the workers were represented by CELU to justify trying to shut down the confederation. Another cable discusses a confrontation between EAL workers (Ethiopian Airlines, organized by CELU) and the Derg:
DIRG CAPTAIN THEN TOOK FLOOR AND WENT THROUGH EXPLANATION ON REASONS FOR CELU HEADQUARTERS…. CAPTAIN PLACED EMPHASIS ON “CAPITALIST ORIGINS” OF AND SUPPORT FOR CELU. HE NOTED THAT SUCH A CELU HAD NO PLACE IN SOCIALIST ETHIOPIA. THIS ELICITED IMMEDIATE REJOINDER FROM SEVERAL EAL EMPLOYEES WHO NOTED THAT CELU HAD BEEN IMPORTANT TO THEM; ASKED BY WHAT AUTHORITY DIRG HAD CLOSED IT; AND DEMANDED TO KNOW WHAT DIRG PROPOSED PUT IN ITS PLACE. “WE HAVE SUPPORTED CELU WITH OUR VOTES AND OUR MONEY* WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR US?” OTHER EMPLOYEES THEN REPORTEDLY SPOKE UP TO SAY THAT DIRG HAD DISSOLVED STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS WHICH HAD SUPPORTED ITS RISE TO POWER AND TO NOTE THAT DIRG NOW SEEMED BENT ON DOING SAME TO UNIONS. DIRG SPOKESMAN REJOINED THAT “CIA” HAD FINANCED CELU AND IT OBVIOUS THIS COULD NOT CONTINUE. SEVERAL EMPLOYEES THEREUPON IMMEDIATELY RESPONDED THAT DIRG WAS FINE ONE TO TALK ABOUT AMERICAN SUPPORT. IT WAS BEING SUPPORTED BY AMERICAN FUNDS AND AMERICAN SUPPORT FOR ETHIOPIA WAS SURELY NOTHING NEW. DIRG MEMBERS THEREUPON WITHDREW. NEW EAL GENERAL MANAGER TRIED CONCLUDE SESSION ON PATRIOTIC NOTE EMPHASIZING NEED FOR DISCIPLINE. EMPLOYEES TOLD HIM THAT EAL WAS DISCIPLINED ORGANIZATION, BUT THAT DID NOT MEAN EMPLOYEES UNPREPARED SPEAK THEIR MIND TO HIM OR TO DIRG.
And so the Derg’s attempt to use a left-wing posture to justify its repression of CELU was rebuffed, and as noted, the Derg at least temporarily relented.
Yet here is the meat of the US concern, and actually the Derg’s concern as well. In the resolution at that June meeting, the workers of CELU under their new, revolutionary leadership, actually did the right thing and formally renounced ties with the AFL-CIO. This gets at the heart of the competing socialist strategies in the Ethiopian revolution: the Derg attempted to impose its will, the EPRP went to the people. The text of this amazing resolution is reported in another cable:
WHAT IS AFL-CIO?
1. THIS ORGANIZATION SHOWED ITS TRUE REACTIONARY NATURE BY SEVERING ITS RELATIONS FROM THE WORLD WIDE LABOR UNION WHICH WAS LED BY PROGRESSIVES AND FROM THE SOCIALIST RUSSIAN LABOR UNIONS ESTABLISHED IN THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY. 2. THIS ORGANIZATION WAS ANTI-BOLSHEVIK AND WORKED AGAINST THE ANTI-REACTIONARY CAMPAIGN WHICH WAS CARRIED OUT IN THE WEST WHEN THE GREAT BOLSHEVIK REVOLUTION CRUSHED THE REACTIONARY ELEMENTS. 3. THIS IMPERIALIST ORGANIZATION REFUSED TO RECOGNIZE THE RUSSIAN PROGRESSIVE GOVERNMENT EVEN AFTER PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT TRIED TO ESTABLISH RELATIONS WITH THE NEW REVOLUTIONARY GOVERNMENT OF RUSSIA. 4. FROM EARLIEST TIMES, WHEN AMERICA DECLARED WAR AGAINST SPAIN THE MADE THE PHILIPPINES ITS COLONY, THIS ORGANIZATION SUPPORTED THE INVASION IN THE NAME OF THE WORKING CLASS AND IS THEREFORE ANTI-WORKING CLASS. 5. THIS ORGANIZATION SUPPORTED THE AMERICAN INVASION OF VIETNAM, WHICH CAUSED THE DEATH OF OVER TWO MILLION PEOPLE. 6. THIS ORGANIZATION HAS SOUGHT TO RULE OVER THE THIRD WORLD AND HAS BEEN A SABOTEUR ESPECIALLY IN AFRICA, THROUGH SUCH ORGANIZATIONS AS THE AALC. 7. THIS ORGANIZATION SUPPORTED THE PREVIOUS LEADERSHIP OF CELU AND CHANNELED ALL ITS MONEY TO REACTIONARY ELEMENTS. THEREFORE, CELU HAS SEVERED ITS TIES WITH THE AFL-CIO AND IS READY TO FACE ANY HARDSHIPS WHICH IT MAY ENCOUNTER AS A CONSEQUENCE.
It’s a remarkable statement, clearly contextualizing AFL-CIA activity within the aggressive agenda of imperialism. Of course this is not an accident: it was written by the EPRP.
In yet another cable the embassy’s informants describe the authors of this resolution, again worriedly insinuating the authors are agents of the Soviet bloc. It’s clear the embassy is unaware of dynamics out on the street, highly confused about the nature of the opposition to the Derg. Their red-baiting is obvious, but their finger pointed at the Eastern bloc is laughable. It is again interesting that they tie the authors to Atnafu: One might note by implication that the embassy saw political stability in Mengistu’s wing of the Derg. Indeed in 1975 the Derg was still being armed by the United States. From the cable:
MESFIN GEBRE MIKAEL, ONE OF ORIGINAL FOUR FOUNDERS OF CELU, NOW WITH ILO, TOLD EMBOFF JUNE 7 THAT THE FOUR “TECHNICAL ADVISORS”LED BY KIFLU AND GIRMATCHEW WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR DRAFTING RESOLUTIONS PASSED BY CELU….HE ALSO BELIEVES THAT KIFLU, “THE BRAINS” OF THE GROUP, WHO HAS FOUR YEARS JOURNALISM EXPERIENCE IN RUSSIA, SECURED FINANCING FROM MOSCOW CHANNELED THROUGH HUNGARY AND BULGARIA AS WELL AS FROM “CHRISTIAN TRADE UNION GROUP-IN BRUSSELS TO PAY ORGANIZING EXPENSES…. PUBLISHED DOCUMENT IS ACTUALLY SECOND DRAFT. FIRST DRAFT WAS VERY RADICAL AND ANTI-DIRG…. GEBRE SELASSIE GEBRE-MARIAM, ANOTHER OF CELU’S FOUR ORIGINAL FOUNDERS AND NOW ADVISER TO MININT, AGREED THAT FIRST DRAFT WAS WRITTEN IN STRONG LANGUAGE AND ATTACKED DIRG…. HE IS FAIRLY CONFIDENT, HOWEVER, THAT ELECTION WAS CONTROLLED THROUGH ABOVE-CITED TECHNICAL ADVISERS WHO, HE ASSERTED, ARE IN TURN CONNECTED TO DIRG FACTION LED BY LT. COL. ATNAFU, PMAC SECOND VICE-CHAIRMAN.
Here is the coup de grace: This final cable, dated June 11, 1975, also recommends that AALC operations in Ethiopia be terminated because of CELU’s new, anti-imperialist position. And so, even in the face of suppression by the Derg military government, EPRP successfully drove US imperialism out of the Ethiopian trade union movement. Wow.
Unfortunately, CELU was finally banned by the Derg in September of 1975, leaving the newly radicalized CELU only a few months to organize. The Derg set up its own pro-government trade union association, the All Ethiopia Trade Union (AETU). A new labor code did not guarantee the right to strike. And so the “socialist” Derg continued the tradition of labor peace. The EPRP meanwhile continued to organize clandestinely in the working class, setting up an underground revolutionary union, the Ethiopian Workers Revolutionary Union, or ELAMA.
Markos Hagos went underground in 1976. Sources conflict on his fate: Kiflu says he was publicly executed as part of the first wave of the Derg’s “War of Annihilation” in 1977. The April-May 1977 issue of Forward, journal of the World Wide Federation of Ethiopian Students, says he was “killed on March 24 in a gun battle with fascists, who attempted to arrest him. In the fierce gun battle, the valiant revolutionary fighter had finished off well over 20 of the search squad soldiers before his death.”
Germatchew Lemma went underground with the rest of the EPRP leadership. Kiflu tells the story in vol. 2 of The Generation how Derg surveillance identified several EPRP safe houses in June of 1977. After a half-hour gunfight, Germatchew and a number of other party members escaped the initial raid. But Germatchew was killed attempting to reach a fallback safe house. Unbeknownst to him it had also been raided and Derg soldiers lay in wait. He “was killed on the spot.”
|Atnafu Abate in 1975|
Derg member Atnafu Abate, suspected by the embassy of being connected to the CELU rebels, was executed by Mengistu in November of 1977. Ironically Mengistu accusations against him included “consorting with CIA agents.”
Monday, April 25, 2016
|“Ethiopia In Revolution,” Ethiopian Revolution Information Center, 1977|
More pamphlets from various publishing arms of the Derg: some of these were also scanned during my NYU Tamiment Library visits already reported on, others I’ve collected elsewhere. These all represent Derg attempts for making its case, largely, one may presume, to the international left. By 1978, the focus of these pamphlets becomes increasingly more focused on the military conflicts with Somalia and Eritrean secessionists. Since the world left, including the Soviet bloc, had a tradition of supporting the Eritrean national liberation movements, the Derg was compelled to persuade that left that such struggles were now somehow “pro-imperialist.”
I scanned the insides of many of these, and will occasionally present worthy excerpts in the future.
|“The Ethiopian Revolution and the Problem in Eritrea,” Ethiopian Revolution Information Center, 1977|
|”Revolutionary Ethiopia Fact Sheet,” ERIC, 1978|
|“Ethiopia: Women In Revolution,” 1984|
|“Programme of the National Democratic Revolution”|
|“Fourth Anniversary of the Ethiopian Revolution,” Speech by Mengistu, 1978|
|“The National Revolutionary War in the North,” 1978|
|“PMAC Chairman And The World Press” Speech by Mengistu, 1978|
|“Ethiopia’s Development Campaign,” Central Planning Supreme Council, 1980|
|“Support the Just Cause of the Ethiopian Peoples,” 1978|
Saturday, April 23, 2016
|Meison contingent in a pro-Derg rally; possibly May Day 1977|
Below I am pleased to reprint an editorial from Abyot, the English-language publication of the Study, Publication and Information Center of the Foreign Committee of the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Party, from the February–March 1978 issue. The editorial is a bitter, angry polemic against the All-Ethiopia Socialist Movement, known as Meison or Meisone, the EPRP’s primary competitor on the civilian left. This editorial is really evocative of the political discourse of the time.
Meison sided with the ruling military Derg against the EPRP, and its members were among those leftists who trained the military cadre of the Derg in Marxist-Leninist concepts. Meison seems to have integrated itself into the security apparatus of the state, and at least according to the EPRP and its survivors, the initial phase of the “red terror” was directed by Meison instigators working inside that apparatus, and correspondingly, EPRP urban military operations were often directed against specific Meison members who assisted the forces of repression. This polemic dates from the period after Meison and the Derg fell out, when Meison was added to the list of targets of government “red terror.” The conflict between EPRP and Meison, rooted in political differences first nurtured in the student movement abroad that evolved into lethal sectarianism after 1974, was the central tragedy at the heart of the early years of the revolution. Yet, it must be said that the true nature of the Derg is best revealed by its evolving relationship with the civilian left. Shortly after this period, the Derg turned against all remaining civilian left groups, leaving Colonel Mengistu’s party Seded to transform itself into a state socialist party. Meison leader Haile Fida, mentioned in this text, was eventually executed by the Derg. Despite the optimistic tone at the end of this article, by this time the majority of the EPRP leadership in urban Ethiopia had already been brutally eliminated.
- Meisone undertook a wide campaign against the formation of a provisional peoples government and struggled for the maintenance of the military regime. It labelled this popular demand for the formation of the provisional peoples government as a “reactionary petty-bourgeois demand.”
- Meisone not only pushed for the banning of the Confederation of Ethiopian Labour Unions, the Ethiopian Teachers’ Association, the Ethiopian Women Coordinating Committee, etc but it zealously worked to form a pro-Derg, Derg-controlled trade union, women’s union, etc.
- Maison spearheaded the ferocious villification campaign against the EPRP and labelled the EPRP as an “enemy organisation that must be destroyed by force imeediately”.
- Kebede Mengesha, Chairman of the .Addis Abeba POMOA and central Committee chairman of Meisone was the first to propose the carrying out of house to house searches in Addis Ababa. His proposal presented to the Derg in a written form were later applied causing the loss of so many lives amidst the people.
- Long before the Derg declared total war against the EPRP (September 1976), the central committee of Meisone gathered to vote death sentence on a list of EPRP members and sympathisers. The list was forwarded to the Derg and served as the first base for the massive man-hunt carried in Addis Ababa and other places.
- The members of Meisone organised within the POMOA and within the Kebeles carried out direct repression on the masses. The examples are many but suffice it to mention that the central committee member of Meisone, Negede Gobezie, led the assault on assembled university students and personally killed scores of students. Abdullahi Yususf, a leading Meisone member, brutally tortured and killed scores of workers and students in Harar, Dire Dawa, etc.
- On the eve of May Day 1977, using an anti-Derg demonstration as a pretext, Meisone armed groups roamed according to a predetermined plan killing more than 1000 people, majority of whom were young anti-Derg militants.
- The Meisone leaders evolved the Peasant March project on Eritrea and the EPRA areas in Tigrai in 1976. This project, code named Raza Project was defended by Meisone leader Negede Gobezie (in a talk to Ethiopian Ambassadors in Bonn) as a revolutionary action against “reactionary separatists”.
- When the Derg members restructured the Derg and reduced the dictatorial powers of Mengistu and tried to curb the killing spree undertaken by Meisone, Haile Fida and his clique schemed and plotted with Mengistu and stage a coup d’état in the palace and executed Major Moges, Teferi Benti and others.
Saturday, April 16, 2016
|Mao’s works were distributed worldwide in inexpensive, accessible formats.|
“[W]ithin EPRP at first there were not what one would term hardliners. For example, there were no Maoists among the nine members of the [original 1972] Central Committee. Amazingly, within the Algerian [exile] group, Gezahegn Endale was a Trotskyite. The others…had a critical outlook and did not espouse either the Moscow, or the Albanian or Peking line. It is possible that this was to be a problem when they later merged with the ‘Abyot’ group…. [In] ESUNA [the Ethiopian Student Union in North America], as time went on…it degenerated into a Maoist sect. As things worsened, ‘Bejing Review’ became the sole approved reading material. On the battlefield, fighting would break out among guerrillas belonging to one or other school of thought. This proved to be a thorn in the side of the Foreign Relations Committee.’’ —Melaku Tegegn in Bahru Zewde, Documenting the Ethiopian Student Movement, pp. 148-151)
“[Originally] Chinese books on socialism flooded the streets with Mao’s red books for everyone in the cities especially for those who could read English….[Eventually] the Soviets advised Mengistu to burn Chinese communist books and condemn Maoism. They also instructed cadres to burn valuable historical books on Ethiopia, published in the West….While playing a role of destroying Ethiopian and Chinese books in the country, the Soviets advised the cadres to observe Soviet holidays, such as Lenin’s birthday, Soviet Armed Forces Day, and the Bolshevik Revolution Day.” —Dawit Shifaw, The Diary of Terror, p.110, 117
“Mao Tse Tung has said it is good when the enemy attack us, paints us black and accuses us wildly. The fascist junta [Derg], continues to wildly accuse and smear the name of the EPRP. It has called the EPRP ‘fascist,’ ‘feudal,’ ‘CIA agent,’ ‘anarchist,‘ etc. And now, as if it has found another food label, it has started to label the EPRP ‘anarchist and Trotskyite.’ That these two tendencies are not the same does not worry the junta. The EPRP, which is a Marxist-Leninist Party, had a clear stand on Trotskyism long before even the junta’s top dogs heard the word ‘socialism.’ As a Marxist-Leninist Party opposed to all anti-Marxist trends (like Trotskyism, anarchism), the EPRP has emerged as the undisputed vanguard of the proletariat and no amount of vilification and name-calling is going to change this. We say with Enver Hoxha ‘The other truth has been proved right once again. They are enjoying empty phraseology, labeling us as Trotskyites. We tell them openly it is they who have fallen into the bog of Trotskyism.” — Study, Publication and Information Center of the EPRP Foreign Committee, in Abyot, Feb-March 1978
Sunday, April 10, 2016
|Ethiopian students in West Berlin, Germany, demonstrate in solidarity with the EPRP, 1977.|
This is a widely held view about the generation of young Ethiopian student revolutionaries of the 1970s-era:
“Because of their singular preoccupation with immediate seizure of state power, both [factions of the student movement] mistook the trees for the forest. One side [EPRP] thought violent opposition to the Dergue would secure them state power, while the other [MEISON], which did not have much of a following inside Ethiopia, thought that tactical alliance with the Dergue would bring them to power, after using and then disposing of the soldiers. Both failed in their respective adventures.
“What needs to be underlined is that between 1970 and 1974, the vast majority of rank and file students at home or abroad were not aware, at least for a good while, that they were being used as puppets of two underground communist parties that were struggling for hegemony of the student movement, and through it, of the revolutionary process in Ethiopia. After coming out of the closet in 1974–75, both parties continued to use the student movement as their social base. No revolution has ever succeeded with students as its social base. As such, it was inevitable that the student-based communist parties would fail in their quixotic efforts to seize state power. The tragedy is that they used students as cannon fodder for their blind ambitions. As I used to say at the time, the leaderships of these parties have criminal responsibility for the thousands of students who died needlessly.” —Professor Alem Habtu, 2015. (Alem was a leader in the expatriate Ethiopian Student Movement in the very early 1970s in the United States, and the brother of Mesfin Habtu)
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