Monday, January 18, 2021

“An Essential Contribution”: A Book Review

I am pleased to share the following book review from a veteran of the 1970s struggle. Ordering information for my book follows afterwards. I am available for telephone or zoom interviews...leave a comment to inquire.—ISH

Foreign Languages Press, Paris, 2020, by Ian Scott Horst

Book Review by Tariku Debretsion

I am a veteran of the Ethiopian Student Movement (ESM) and the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Party (EPRP), and I find this book to be a comprehensive documentary analysis of the Ethiopian Revolution of 1974. With 502 pages and 889 extensive citations, the book is an essential contribution to the study of the Yekatit Revolution.

The book is unique in that instead of writing his own narrative or analysis, the writer chose to present the complex development of the revolution through the participants’ own narratives, thoughts, and analysis. For this, he used massive documents published by the Ethiopian Student Unions over the 25 years that preceded the revolution and a decade of the Ethiopian left parties’ and their antagonist the Derg’s publications. Vivid testimonies of the individuals who participated or were caught in the revolutionary tempest are extensively cited. Even secret documents from the CIA and KGB are uncovered to present the assessment and involvement of the superpowers. The Yekatit 1974 Ethiopian Revolution was a classical revolution in the spirit of the French and the Russian revolutions. The writer has succeeded in presenting a very incisive and comprehensive picture of this epochal, albeit tragic, revolution: the gallant struggle of the Ethiopian Student Movement over two and half decades; the frantic effort of the leftist parties that morphed from ESM to play a vanguard role to the revolution and their fatal internecine fights; the treachery of the fascist Derg faction led by Mengistu Hailemariam in hijacking the revolution; the intervention of soviet imperialism that sealed the fate of the revolution; and the orgy of violence that was the devastating massacre of a generation of the country’s educated Youth.
Ian Scott Horst, as a true revolutionary, has been able to grasp that the Yekatit revolution is part of the international struggle for the emancipation of the oppressed and exploited classes. As Ethiopian revolutionaries extensively studied international revolutions to guide them in their struggle, they in turn have--through their successes and shortcomings--contributed worthwhile experiences that need to be studied and examined by all internationalists. Inter alia: how the first socialist revolution ends up landing the crushing blow to a popular revolution; how Marxism/Leninism can end up as a cover ideology to a fascist military regime; the fate of international solidarity in the present era; the role of armed struggle in modern age social revolutions and more. After the Soviet revolution and the rise of Stalin, Marxism changed from an instrument of revolution into a canonized dogma. This splintered the leftist forces into followers of Stalinism, Trotskyism, Maoism, Enver Hoxha, etc., and expended much of their energy in squabbling among themselves. Unfortunately, this was the reality of European and American revolutionaries in the 70s as well.
I was a student activist in the early 70s in Germany and had strong relationships with many leftist organizations. Mostly they were student revolutionaries like the Ethiopians. The Ethiopian students used to watch with bemusement how much time and energy these groups spent manifesting their ideological purity and superiority versus other groups and by their propensity to splintering. This was a manifestation of their alienation from the working classes which they aspired to lead.
The experience in the ESM was different in that Marxism-Leninism was regarded as an instrument to study and analyze the actual situation and a guide for action. The Ethiopian students were voracious readers of revolutionary literature and most of their writings were supported with heavy doses of quotations from the Masters. However, the focus was on the actual situations on the ground and actual courses of actions to take. As a result, there was minimal splintering in the movement, and those that occurred were based on the assessment of the existing situation in Ethiopia rather than on ideological interpretations. Current Ethiopian activists, regardless of their political ideals, need to study this book as a comprehensive guide to the revolution for two main reasons. First, because the current conflicts are a continuation of the unresolved revolution. One cannot understand properly the current struggle without studying its roots. Secondly, when current activists look back to this time it is too often to assign blame and settle scores rather than gain insight. Name-calling and finger-pointing are not a substitute for knowledge to be gained from the introspective study of past experiences Ian didn’t try to tell us what the revolution was about or what it should be, rather he lets the protagonists tell their own stories and readers derive their own conclusions. 

Like Ho Chi Minh! Like Che Guevara! is available from the Foreign Languages Press storefront. The cover price is low and the shipping from France is reasonably priced and inexpensive. Order here!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

We Get Good Press!


 My book has been (favorably!) reviewed in the independent leftwing website Counterpunch!

Historian Doug Enaa Greene concludes in the article published this week

This review can only scratch the surface of this book. There are many debates that gripped the Ethiopian left crossing its pages such as the relation of national liberation to socialism, the role of imperialism, and the nature of fascism. All the questions discussed in this book make this more than a work of history, but a work informing revolutionary struggles of today. As the example of the EPRP reminds us, courage and dedication are not enough to realize socialism, but a revolutionary strategy is needed.

Like Ho Chi Minh! Like Che Guevara! is a book that deserves a wide audience for its rigorous research and fierce partisanship. It is a worthy tribute to the martyred revolutionaries of Ethiopia.

He also had kind things to say about my publisher, the Foreign Languages Press, despite not himself being any kind of Maoist. Thanks, Doug! After a decent interval I will copy this review in full over here, but for now check it out at the source here.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Foreign Languages Press Book Launch Video

My book officially launched on Sunday, August 30, with a virtual global event. It features presentations by me, another author releasing a book the same day, Comrade Ajith of the Indian Maoist movement, plus Christophe Kistler of Foreign Languages Press and comrade Joshua Moufawad-Paul, one of today's most exciting communist theoreticians based out of Canada, whose work is also featured by FLP.

Anyway, here's the video from the event. Mine is the first book presentation, following a little promo video they did of me, and then after Comrade Ajith speaks, we answer some audience questions.

Direct link for Like Ho Chi Minh! Like Che Guevara! is here.


Thursday, September 10, 2020

Socialism and Democracy in Africa


In the course of writing my book, I found a wonderful article in the only issue of Ethiopian Marxist Review that the EPRP published in Rome in 1980. Entitled "The Struggle for Democracy in Africa," it was bylined "F. Gitwen." Well it turns out that was a pseudonym for Iyasou Alemayehu, one of the few longtime surviving leaders of the EPRP who features prominently in my just-published book.

The good comrades at Cosmonaut have consented to republish the entire article, previously only available in the super rare original journal or more recently on a PDF buried in the depths of the Marxist Internet Archive's Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism Online.

Here is the first paragraph of this article. Visit Cosmonaut to read the whole thing including an introduction by yours truly, or check out my new book to see how this point of view is contextualized in terms of the Ethiopian struggle.


In many parts of Africa where the word “socialism” has more or less become a shibboleth, Lenin’s affirmation that “proletarian democracy is a million times more democratic than any bourgeois democracy” seems to have a bizarre ring to it. In fact, it is precisely in those African countries where the regimes claim adherence to “Marxism-Leninism” that one notices the virtual absence of democracy and the existence of rule by terror. In countries ruled by such regimes and actually in greater parts of Africa, the ruling classes consider “democracy” as a tainted word, “un-African and western” and, at best, as “the unrealistic demand of hyphenated or De-Africanized intellectuals.”
continued here

Monday, August 31, 2020

My Book Is Out!

Presenting... Like Ho Chi Minh! Like Che Guevara! The Revolutionary Left in Ethiopia, 1969-1979, by Ian Scott Horst. The book is now fully orderable at a very reasonable cover price with reasonable shipping costs. Here's a direct link. Last night I shared a virtual transcontinental platform with another author and the publisher of Foreign Languages Press to launch the book. It is not available at Amazon.

As a tease, the table of contents are reproduced below. Almost 500 pages, almost 1,000 source notes. Chock full of information. I hope you will consider ordering a copy. 

I will continue to update this blog; the research (and the struggle!) always continues.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Books, Books, Books

I have been alerted to a relevant new memoir by Tadelech Hailemikael, the wife and partner of the late Berhane Meskel Redda, a founder of the EPRP murdered by the Derg during the so-called Red Terror. She was imprisoned by the Derg in her own right, and in the post-Derg regime served as Minister of Women's Affairs. It seems to be published only in Amharic right now, which frustrates an illiterate like me to no end, but it looks fascinating and informative. See news about this book at Tadelech’s website, which is maintained by her daughter. I wish the book well!



coming soon from Palgrave
The second edition of the Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism, edited by Immanuel Ness and Zak Cope, is currently available for pre-order. While it’s a pricey volume from Palgrave/Macmillan for the academic market, it contains a wealth of information on anti-imperialist struggles around the world. It will be available in both digital and physical media formats.

I am excited to announce that this second edition contains an essay commissioned by Palgrave from me on imperialism in Ethiopia, entitled “Ethiopia, Revolution, and Soviet Social Imperialism.” It extends the discussion of Soviet involvement in Ethiopia beyond the way the topic is introduced in my own new book; as is my style it presents a bunch of period documents and sources to make its case.


Finally just another pitch for my own new book Like Ho Chi Minh! Like Che Guevara! The Revolutionary Left in Ethiopia, 1969-1979, by Ian Scott Horst, soon to be published by Foreign Languages Press in Paris. It’s shown here with another book being released the same day, part of FLP’s ground-breaking New Roads series: Critiquing Brahmanism is an important new study by Comrade Ajith, a leader of the Indian Maoist movement. These two books will be available for order soon!

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Book Announcement!

I am excited to announce that the Foreign Languages Press of Paris, a relatively young publishing house based in the Maoist (MLM) movement, will be releasing my book Like Ho Chi Minh! Like Che Guevara! The Revolutionary Left in Ethiopia, 1969-1979 on September 1, 2020.

FLP is named in tribute to the classic publishing house of revolutionary China which spread revolutionary literature around the globe in the 1960s and 1970s. My book, over 500 pages with almost 1,000 footnotes, is a documentary history of the Ethiopian revolution, with focus on the story of the two main civilian left parties, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party (EPRP) and the All-Ethiopian Socialist Movement (Meison), whose differing visions of revolution and socialism were at the core of the unfolding events of the 1970s which ended in bloody tragedy. I present extended excerpts from period documents, classic Marxist writings, eyewitness histories, and declassified spy memos to tell the story of the politics of the period.

The book will be available to order from the FLP's web shop as soon as it is formally released; the cover price and shipping costs will be accessible to most. A virtual online booklaunch event will take place the evening of Sunday, August 30 (USA time). See the FLP website for details.

 I will have more information on the volume and other new writing after release.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

I’m featured on Cosmonaut!

I’m excited to report that the independent leftist website "Cosmonaut" has commissioned and published an article by me on the Ethiopian revolution. Of course it's shorter and more superficial than my book, but it's a rough outline of my book's perspective, minus the hundreds of original extended citations that make up my manuscript. I've framed the discussion of the Ethiopian revolution as a discussion about solidarity and internationalism, timely for this era of global protest.

The article is entitled "Which Side Are You On: The Challenge of the 1974 Ethiopian Revolution," and the full article can be accessed for free at the Cosmonaut website. Eventually I will repost the entire article here; for now, here is one of the introductory paragraphs:

“The phrase “Solidarity Forever” may have originated in radical trade unionism, but it was a damned effective compass for orienting one’s place in a combative world divided into potential comrades and bloodthirsty enemies. As leftist watchwords, the phrase reinforces an intuitive impulse growing out of the human experience of living and working together in a class-divided world, and neatly reinforces the deeper ideological explorations of theoreticians in the Marxist tradition. As a concept it rightfully suggests a deep connection between the daily struggles to survive, as experienced by the unpropertied classes and the political prescriptions of communist ideology. So why does it seem that so many of today’s heirs to Marxist tradition have discarded this time-proven compass when it comes to orienting themselves in today’s world of struggle? How did it happen that the first impulse of wide swathes of the Marxist left is to oppose the masses turning out into the world’s streets and avenues?”

Read the whole article and let me know what you think.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Guest Post: Ethiopia, The Farce of a Nobel Peace Prize, by HAMA TUMA

Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopian PM and recipient of 2019 Nobel Peace Prize

Readers here know I have focused entirely on the history and politics of the late 1960s through the 1970s, avoiding the turbulent Ethiopian story after the tanks of the EPRDF rolled into Addis Ababa in 1991. A casual observer can tell that Ethiopia remains plagued by a host of political problems despite the rapid growth of its economy; the so-called ethnic federalism of the TPLF/EPRDF regime has clearly failed as a model for solving questions of national oppression in a country like Ethiopia, and Ethiopia remains a playground for world imperialism, now including not only the United States but countries like today’s post-Mao China and even Saudi Arabia. Anyway, in the course of my research I have been pleased to make the acquaintance of a precious few veterans of the events I have attempted to record, and one of them is the brilliant writer Ato Hama Tuma, who under another name was a key player in the EPRP and its founding. He has sent me this sweeping condemnation of the award just given to the current Ethiopian Prime Minister, and so I share it with readers as a reminder that the struggle always continues.—ISH

An Ethiopian proverb states that first witness for the rat is the small bird. The Ethiopian charlatan of a Prime Minister, who got awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, was given praise by the antiquated body called the Nobel Institute. I will come to the reasons they gave to justify their condemnable decision later but first what is the relevance of the prize in real terms? Why is it considered a farce played on Ethiopians and the world by professional pettifoggers in Oslo.

It is not the first man time Norwegian veteran politicians have used the prize to sell dictators and war mongers. In the past Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin were all nominated while the Nobel board writhed and screamed not to allow a German political prisoners as a candidate. Understandably, Theodore Roosevelt of the USA, a man not that much in love with peace, was one of the earliest prize winner. It had to do with Norwegian politics and signaled the ever continuing subservience of the small Scandinavian country to the USA. It began the politicization of the Oslo prizes. Kissinger, a war criminal and the butcher of Indochina and the master of the Pinochet fascist coup, was given the Nobel Peace prize. So was Menahem Begin who led the Irgun/Haganah gang and made war on the Palestinians. It also awarded Gorbachev who betrayed his country for the benefit of the West along with Anwar Sadat and Lech Walesa. The latter had worked secretly with the CIA and the Vatican to overthrow the regime in Poland. The Burmese prize winner has now proved herself how much of a woman of peace she is. Obama was just elected when he got the Noble peace prize without ending a war ongoing by America. He used Africa into a drone and military base center and continued to bomb and kill until he left the White House. The Nobel Institute is but a political machine perpetuating a farce and awarding killers and war mongers. It would rather honor unknown white writers than the likes of Ngugi wa Thiongo or Nurredin Farah.

And so is the case with the unelected prime minster in Addis Abeba. He won while the drab men in Oslo because of political reasons shunned the environmentalist young girl Greta Thunberg. They awarded the lt. colonel who served the totalitarian and repressive regime of the late Meles Zenawi for 27 years being part of his spying and repressive apparatus. Groomed by the NSA, for which he worked for years, he was propelled unto power with Washington to stop a popular revolt that threatened to sweep away the pro America regime of the ruling TPLF/EPRDF. Within this apparatus, the colonel was part of a narrow nationalist satellite group called the Oromo People's Democratic Organization, now in power and engaged in a brutal ethnic cleansing, and just today engaged in a sweeping round up and jailing of activist youngsters about to make a demonstration tomorrow to declare their opposition to the ethnic definition and name changing that the colonel and his acolytes have planned for Addis Abeba.

The Nobel committee said we award the PM the peace prize because he ended the war with Eritrea, bla bla. The war in Eritrea had ended a decade or more ago though the war situation had endured. Is the so-called peace agreement, made by the colonel of his own free will or is it a result of pressure made by America and Saudi Arabia to bring in tyrant Isayas Afewerki away from the sanctions cold? And what is the benefit of the agreement, anyway? The isolated regime of Isaias Afewerki war reaching the end of its line and its shameful support of the Saudi war on Yemen, the lease of its Assab port to become a UAE military/air force base had made it kosher for those concerned, State Department official was becoming a frequent visitor of Addis Abeba, Asmara and Dubai to work out a US sponsored agreement between the regime in Addis Abeba and the tyrant in Asmara. Up to today no Ethiopia or Eritrean knows the details of the deal and the PM's solitary decision to cede Ethiopian territory (for which close to 100,000 had died in the border war) has not met with approval in Ethiopia. The so-called deal had a flaring honeymoon for a while with Eritrea buying cement, coffee and staple Teff but the border points are now closed and though the two regimes dance together for PR purposes, the conflict has not ended in a satisfying and enduring manner. Isayas Afewerki still represses his people with no mercy and has not released even one political prisoner.

The coming to power of the PM was a plot by foreign forces intending to end the popular struggle for system change. Soon as he came to power the prepared propaganda PR campaign, the selling of a PM was launched and we could not hear voices against the person. Even today even the likes of the New York Times write of a young boy whose mother had whispered to him he will be in the palace. This preposterous claim was fanned by the knave himself and has made the one who loaded the dice a laughingstock in Ethiopia. The deceptive campaign to sell the PM confused many people in and outside Ethiopia. They hailed him for freeing thousands of political prisoners but three fourth of the 45,000 political prisoners are still behind bars and since he came to power some five thousand have been imprisoned.. The labor camps at Zwai, Dedesa, Bir Sheleko, etc and the open and secret prisons in the towns and the city are still open and crammed. The many disappeared have not been found or accounted for. Even favorable human right organizations have testified that the system continues, the illegal Constitution of the Tigrean regime persists and the anti-people draconian laws decreed by the Tigrean dominated regime are still in place. What change? It is all an orchestrated propaganda charade. The legalization of outlawed groups concerns only those groups allied with the PM and genuine patriotic forces are still considered illegal.

The PM embraced from the start criminal hate mongers calling either for the breakup of Ethiopia or the slaughter of Amharas and Orthodox Christians. The ethnic cleansing and burning of churches has gone on for the past year without a pip from the Western governments or China. Crime pays and the PM is laughing in the palace considering that his one year plus rule has produced over 3 million internally displaced (the most in the world), that he is trying to open parks as millions of children starve, that his regime had committed a massacre in Burayu, Ataye, Legetafo, and in many other places like Dembidollo, Beni Shangul, Shashemene, in Afar land etc. Awarded for not only bad governance and ethnic chauvinism but for failure. Who wouldn't be “humbled and thrilled” by this? It is not surprising that the UN secretary general, the insensate man who praised the TPLF as a force for peace and stability , congratulates the deceitful PM. Not surprising either if the AU, Kagame, Buhari and others of their cut join the chorus. Kagame was a first for appointing powerless female ministers (the PM has done the same and made an opportunist woman president of the country). It would be foolish to imagine the Western media which ignores mammoth protest demonstrations even in Addis Abeba, is unaware of the truth. The point is sure he is an SOB, but he is our SOB. And the age old imperial contempt for Africans.

Besieged by a growing internal protest and wobbling together with his Oromo extremists, the man needs help. SOS. And Oslo has responded. His international image is expected to be beautified, improved dramatically but alas this is not to be. His Oromo extremist stance and inability to even address the basic problems of Ethiopia makes him a lame duck which no prize can make stand stable. He is not confronting problems as he tries to reform for there is no serious reform but the continuation of ethnic tyranny under a new guise. He himself is the obstacle of change, an ethnic chauvinist, a servant of neocolonial and imperialist powers. Himself and his close extreme allies are the ones spreading hate and terror on ethnic grounds as they try to fulfill their land expansion and ethnic dominance plans. Over 85% of the army and the bureaucracy is presently composed of the followers of the ruling ethnic party selected on ethnic and religious grounds. TPLF domination replaced by OPDO domination. The people's demand for basic change and a democratic transition is denied and fake rigged election process that has haunted the people for the last 28 years is sure to be repeated next year with the winners known already. A sad charade, a continuing tragedy.

The Nobel committee should have done better if it gave the prize to Greta, or to the people who deserved it but then again they must have wanted someone to accompany the list of hailed war criminals like Kissinger.

So far, so very bad.

All this is if one takes the Nobel thing seriously and gives it more importance than it deserves. The truth is that the fetid reality of a brutal dictatorship cannot be covered by any prize in the world.

Friday, August 30, 2019


First, I must apologize to the readers of this blog for the substantial period of silence. I realized many months ago that the time I was putting in to this blog was time I could be spending researching and writing the book project that this site spawned, so I temporarily ceased posting new material here.

Shortly after making that decision, my elderly mother's lung cancer advanced and she became quite ill. I realized for my own well-being I needed to put my own personal priorities on hold. I put this project away and even quit working for a few months, while focusing on my mother's health and its ramifications for my own life. She passed away in March of 2018 at the age of 85. She had a long and full life, teaching me a lot including the importance of standing for something. I realized I needed to spend the rest of 2018 getting my head right and prioritizing my mourning, so I continued to delay finishing my draft.

A few months into 2019 I was finally able to return to work on my draft. I am happy to announce that just this week I have completed a first draft of my manuscript. It's quite hefty, at 150-thousand words including almost 900 source notes. I will reserve my working title for now, but I have described it as a "documentary history" of the Ethiopian revolutionary left, 1969-1979. It has a narrative by me, but is largely based on extensive citations from original documents and eyewitness testimonies. I'm very excited by it, excited and proud.

Its audience is initially the American/European far left, reintroducing them to a subject that they largely got wrong at the time. Since I am not Ethiopian, I hesitate to put myself in the role of someone teaching Ethiopian people their own history, but I have brought my decades of experience in the organized socialist left to bear in exploring the ideological debates in the Ethiopian left, and in that regard I am confident that I have brought something to the table. I hope Ethiopian readers will find something of interest in it, and that my representations have not strayed from recognizable truth.

First things first, I will now be shopping my manuscript to a suitable publisher. I will post any news of any resolution to that quest here. If you are a publisher who might be interested in reviewing my manuscript, leave a comment with your contact info marked "Not for publication" and I will see it and respond. (Comment moderation is on so nothing becomes public without my permission.)

Meanwhile, I hope to occasionally resume posting here, albeit probably on an irregular basis.