Saturday, April 15, 2017

Quote of the Day: Dead Giveaway


Ayalew Yimam arrived in Addis Ababa in the late 1960s to go to university. “Outside, I came across a few young boys who carried lustro-shoeshine boxes. I turned to one of the boys and asked, ‘Where can I find books?’…. ‘Are you a university student?’ the second boy asked. ‘I'm going to start now.’ ‘Oh, communist books are in the alley that way,’ the first boy said.” (From Ayalew Yimam, Yankee Go Home)

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The More Things Change....The More They Stay the Same


This is a page from a 1969 pamphlet issued by the Ethiopian Student Association in North America about its occupation of the Ethiopian embassy in Washington DC. The caption with these photos is worth reprinting in full:

"1 & 3) It is shown that in spite of the ban, Ethiopian students carry the demonstrations to expose the tyranny their people endure. 2) It is ironic that the Ethiopian whom the policeman is strangling, is charged with 'assault on a police officer.' 4) The Ethiopians are forbidden to stage a peaceful demonstration in spite of America's claim of freedom of expression."

Several student activists were arrested.

(Note: I apologize for letting posts lack here. I've been spending my free time, which I have less of due to a full work schedule, on research and writing my book project, and have neglected posting things here. I am glad to hear from readers and I will try not to leave such long absences of new posts. But above all my book, which is coming along nicely, is very exciting and will be worth the wait and worth the dearth of new material here. Stay with me! —ISH)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Quote of the Day: Power and the State


“[T]he attitude of Marxists toward reform and fundamental change is very clear and unequivocal. Marxists are not against reforms as long as the ‘reforms’ do not create obstacles to the strategic aims of the proletariat; peoples’ democracy and socialism. Similarly; we are not against the Dergue’s decree on land. What we are saying is the hard fact that Lenin taught us on the one hand and what the practical reality in Ethiopia has shown on the other; namely the decree alone won’t be the solution so long as it is devoid of the political power of the popular masses. The Dergue’s decree is simply equalised land tenure, which Lenin castigated as petty-bourgeois utopia and more over, ‘useless.’ Land reform cannot be carried out without the political power of the proletariat and peasantry and against their political participation. History has many cruel examples where attempts to use the feudo-bourgeois state, which is an instrument of enslavement, as an instrument of liberation brought untold sufferings…. It is for the building of the proletarian-peasant dictatorship through a revolution from below to resolve the agrarian question in a revolutionary manner that the EPRP stands.”
From “When Ethiopian Opportunists Are in Trouble Their European Counterparts Also Make the Loudest Noise” by Kelisen Belew, Abyot, Published by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party Foreign Section, Vol. 2, Number 4, March 1977

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Quote of the Day: Prescience


“The demand for the creation of a provisional government is not an idyllic dream as the RIGHT OPPORTUNIST trend in our movement miserably try to blabber but is dictated politically by the urgent need of a popular organ of power to execute and implement these immediate tasks of the revolutionary movement…. What miserable pedantry and lack of political vision that this impotent clique in our movement cannot provide a concrete political alternative to this transition of power and the proper organ necessary that could be instrumental in its execution, except that frantically shrieking the strategic slogan ‘Down with imperialism and feudalism’. It should be observed that the position of RIGHT OPPORTUNISM in our movement contains a dangerous liquidationist character. By evading the concrete issue of transition of power, it disarms the masses politically and exposes the revolutionary movement to the swindling and usurpation of its legitimate right by a self-styled military junta…. In our eyes, the decisive battle between revolution and counter-revolution both within the Armed Forces and in the political life of the country at large will be decided by the urgent political question whether the popular will triumphs in the constitution of a provisional democratic government or in its defeat to be replaced by a rabid cry of ‘law and order!’” —Editorial, Bulletin of the World Wide Federation of Ethiopian Students, Vol. 2, No. 1, Oct. 1974, (published in Geneva, Switzerland)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Quote of the Day: Democracy


“...the Derg cannot fulfill the democratic demands of the people because what the people demanded is not to have a babysitter (guardian of power) but to elect their own representatives, to have freedom of speech, of the press and to organize political parties. A body (the Derg) which has undemocratic policies and working methods cannot guarantee democracy…. If demanding democracy is considered as turning back the wheels of history, then what the Derg is saying is that the solution is to move from the autocratic dictatorship to a military fascist one. In this case it (the Derg) has no other solution but to rely on its brute force.”Democracia, August 23, 1974, as quoted in Babile Tola’s To Kill A Generation, p. 26

(“Babile Tola’s” excellent book can be downloaded for free as a PDF from the website of today’s no-longer Marxist-Leninist EPRP.)

Monday, October 31, 2016

1977: Sectarianism in the Student Movement


I posted a review of Makonen Getu’s memoir a few months ago. I ran across a short article in the March, 1977 issue of Forward, published by the pro-EPRP World Wide Federation of Ethiopian Students, that is a short, mocking diatribe against Makonen. There’s an anecdote in Makonen’s memoir that recalls his run ins with political opponents in Europe, so it’s quite interesting to read about it from the other point of view. The hostility between the pro-EPRP and pro-Meison wings of the student movement (WWFES with its largest member ESUNA were pro-EPRP, ESUE was pro Meison), was certainly understandable given the mutual violence taking place back home, but it’s still something to see the hostility expressed so viscerally. Here is the short article, in full. I’m going to leave the spelling as is, including the unusual “Fidda” for Meison leader Haile Fida:

ABOUT THOSE LITTLE FACTS:
From Forward, Newsletter of WWFES, Vol. 1, No. 5, March 1977

The handful of social-fascist clique which, after having been ignominously expelled from ESUE in August, 1975, managed to put its members in the payrolls of the junta’s embassies in certain European countries has recently been located in Sweden carrying out its usual dirty agent provocateur work. Led by a certain maggot called Makonnen Getu, whose skills in feudal intrigues and ability to compose lies and fascist propaganda (as a good disciple of his ill-famous teacher, Haile Fidda) has earned him a handful of followers, this clique tried to stage a pro-junta demonstration in Sweden on March 26 in open cooperation with the junta’s embassy there.

The long-planned and organized showdown ended in fiasco: not only that not a single organization or group showed up but its own paid members and sympathizers boycotted it! All counted 13 people turned out! Well, the junta and the Haile Fidda clique better have this many paid agents!


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Quote of the Day: Strategy

Wallelign Makonen
“And how do we achieve this genuine democratic and egalitarian state? Can we do it through military? No!! A military coup is nothing more but a change of personalities. It may be a bit more liberal than the existing regime but it can never resolve the contradiction between either classes or nationalities…. To come back to our central question: How can we form a genuine egalitarian national-state? It is clear that we can achieve this goal only through violence, through revolutionary armed struggle. But we must always guard ourselves against the pseudo-nationalist propaganda of the regime.”—Wallelign Makonen, On the Question of Nationalities in Ethiopia, 1969 (originally in Struggle, journal of USUAA)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Quote of the Day: Armed Struggle

“We choose armed struggle knowing it to be the most difficult, the one that calls for the greatest sacrifices, the one that most infuriates the feudalists and imperialists, but at the same time the one that constitutes the highest form of the popular struggle, the one that shatters the skepticism, fatalism, defeatism, obscurantism, fear and deception that have afflicted the masses, the one that brings all the positive qualities of the masses at present submerged under corruption, exploitation and injustice, the one that restores the feelings of national pride and confidence, a bright future, the one that is the only reply to the reactionary violence of the ruling class. We choose armed struggle because it is the only way that leads the broad masses of the people (led by the working class) to power.”
Hand Book On Elementary Notes on Revolution and Organization, prepared by the Executive Council of ESUNA (Ethiopian Student Union in North America), August 1972

Friday, October 28, 2016

Quote of the Day: Fascism



“The military junta in Ethiopia is the personification of a rightist victory, a miscarriage of the February revolution, pre-occupied in concretizing fascism. Our military junta has deserved the title of Fascist because of its political and economic undertakings that are akin to the meaning of the term. Fascism is not used here as an adjective of abuse; because fascism is not merely a system of reprisals, of brute force and of police terror; but also a particular governmental system based on the uprooting of all elements of proletarian democracy at a moment when proletarian or new democracy is a possibility.”
(From editorial “Mussolini Unabridged,” The Proletariat, labelled Vol. 1 No. 1 1974 but actually Vol. 2, 1975, published by the Ethiopian Students’ Union in Holland)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Research Update



I just wanted to post a note here to say that my research is going ahead full-steam, and I am actually putting together a book-length manuscript about the Ethiopian left. That's meant I have had less time to prepare posts here on the blog. I think I'm going to go ahead and try to post smaller, less-ambitious posts to keep this ball rolling. I'm overdue preparing a book review of Worku Lakew's new memoir which should be up soon, and in the interim I will try posting daily quotes from my research.

The Dutch solidarity poster above is from the collection of the International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam, which has been a really helpful source of original materials. Thanks to readers for coming through with leads and PDF copies.

Please see my posts on "research materials needed" for information on how you can help my project and contact me.

—ISH