Thursday, March 31, 2016

Scenes from the “Red Terror”

"We admit that we are terrorists"

This hearbreaking photo shows young men and women, presumably EPRP suspects, being rounded up, wearing signs accusing them of being terrorists, agents of imperialism, and CIA agents. We don't know if this photo was the prelude to these activists being shipped off to prison, or to being summarily executed with their bodies dumped on the street, or eventually both. The repressive violence against EPRP was eventually declared by Colonel Mengistu to be a campaign of “Red Terror.”

“The killing grows from one plateau to another. Several dozen independent leftists were seized in the fall of 1976 and executed a few months later. In March 1977, local neighborhood associations and militia conducted house to house searches in the early hours of the morning (midnight to six o'clock in the morning) looking for EPRP supporters, presumably identified by the presence of leaflets, weapons, typewriters and binoculars. Dozens were executed nightly—some for having leaflets, some by error, some to settle personal grudges...As more people are killed, EPRP's charges that the government is a military dictatorship becomes increasingly a self-fulfilling prophecy.”Monthly Review, July/August 1977

Two more photos showing reputed EPRP members captured with leaflets, banners, weapons.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

From the Ethiopian Student Movement

FORWARD! Newsletter of WWFES, Feb 1977
Before 1974, the worldwide Ethiopian Student movement was home to a vital and extremely political community of young people. Especially in Europe and North America, Ethiopian students debated, and ultimately planned, revolution in their homeland. Exposed to the ideas of Marxism-Leninism, then wildly popular on college campuses, especially in its “New Communist Movement” or Maoist, form, the publications of this movement took on the language of the revolution in earnest. Both EPRP and Meison — as well as figures like Senay Likke — seem to have come out of this movement. When the revolution began, many of these students went home, where they became the leaders of living revolutionary movements. Those who remained behind transformed their organizations into support vehicles for the revolution: The majority of these student groups after 1974 clearly lined up behind EPRP. Here are a number of the publications of these groups.

The “Handbook on Elementary Notes on Revolution and Organization” came out in 1972, published by the Ethiopian Student Union in North America (ESUNA). It's a manual for clandestine revolutionary organizing, then under the rule of Haile Selassie but soon to be put to good use under the military regime.

The World Wide Federation of Ethiopian Students (WWFES) was quick to support the EPRP, and quick to warn of the impending violence against young Ethiopian revolutionaries by the Derg. This small pamphlet was produced in 1976.

Forward! was the mostly English-language journal of WWFES. It featured lots of news of events in Ethiopia, and sharply-worded Marxist-Leninist analysis of what was happening.

While WWFES was not formally a youth organization of EPRP, it clearly aligned itself with EPRP, witness the ad box on the back cover of this issue of Forward!. Actually at some point chapters of WWFES like ESUNA developed differences of political line with EPRP, especially over divisive but crucial questions like Eritrea and the nature of the Soviet Union.

ESUNA's own publication was Combat, published in out of Madison, Wisconsin. ESUNA was definitely a battleground for various US Marxist-Leninist tendencies. The climax of the revolution, 1976-1977, was a period of foment after Mao Zedong's death and a leadership coup in China brought about the end of the Cultural Revolution and a strong realignment of Chinese policy toward world revolution. The unsettled ideology of this period in what would eventually divide into Maoist, Hoxhaist and Dengist factions of the world left movement was quite evident.

Another issue of Combat. This one is full of statements of support to the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Army of EPRP.

Other publications of this student movement included Zena, Struggle and Challenge. I don't know what the publications of Ethiopian students in Europe were, organized as ESUE. Research update: I'm adding two important works about the role of the Ethiopian student movement in the revolution to my reading list.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Lapel Solidarity

Considering that EPRP was largely a clandestine organization in Ethiopia, this pinback badge or button was suitable for wearing only in Europe or North America, where it was produced by the WWFES, the Worldwide Federation of Ethiopian Students. It bears the EPRP's version of the hammer and sickle logo.

“Victory to Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party”

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Trip to the Library

Programme of EMALEDH, 1977

I took a research visit today to the famed Tamiment Collection at New York University. The “Reference Center for Marxist Studies Pamphlet Collection” consists of a substantial pamphlet archive donated to the library by the Communist Party USA’s New York City offices. Since this archive was donated by the arch-revisionist CPUSA, today openly engaged in a discussion of whether to endorse right-social-democrat Bernie Sanders or neo-con Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party primaries for the 2016 election, the Ethiopia portion of this archive is entirely material sympathetic to the Derg, the military committee that hijacked the popular 1974 revolution and ruled with great brutality until it was overthrown in 1991.

Nevertheless, it's a fascinating collection of a few dozen pamphlets — required reading for balanced research — and I'm happy to show a few of the covers here.

Above is the cover of EMALEDH's program from 1977, an English translation of an issue of Yehibret Dimtse. EMALEDH was the first of several attempts by the Derg at creating a united front of civilian left groups loyal to the government en route to creating an official ruling party in the image of the communist parties controlling the other countries of the Soviet bloc. (I will leave for another day any discussion of whether those countries earned their socialist credentials.) Eventually the Workers’ Party of Ethiopia was formed after Mengistu worked his way through and eliminated all competition to his own version of a communist party. The cover of that party's program, from the 1980s, is shown next.

Next are two fascinating pamphlets from “United Progressive Ethiopian Students Union in North America,” apparently a pro-Derg split from the much larger and more dominant ESUNA, which was pro-EPRP. The first pamphlet is a length polemic against EPRP entitled, “Petty Bourgeois Radicalism and Left Infantalism in Ethiopia: The Case of EPRP,” from 1977. I'm guessing that Meison was the actual force behind UPESUNA, and this pamphlet rehashes debates from the Ethiopian student movement going back to the 1960s. The second UPESUNA item also dates from 1977, a periodical entitled “Ethio-Inform” which consists entirely of clips about Ethiopia sympathetic to the Derg from the Soviet Press. 

The cover photo of this piece is fascinating. Above the caption “Revolutionary Ethiopia or Death,” a crowd of Ethiopians carries a Meison hammer-and-sickle banner, a well-known Chinese portrait of Joseph Stalin, and a Chinese cultural revolution-vintage poster of Lenin. It's put together in classic low-tech 1970s leftist style.

“The Men-in-Uniform in the Ethiopian Revolution” from 1978 dates from the period after Meison outlived its usefulness to the Derg, it includes a section accusing Meison of “deserting” the revolution. This pamphlet, about the armies and militias of Ethiopia, is one of several in the collection reflecting the increased nationalism and militarism necessitated by the war against Eritrea and the invasion by Somalia that marked the later part of the 1970s.

“The Ethiopian Revolution (Tasks, Achievements, Problems and Prospects)” is attributed to Senay Likke. It's plain, undated and bears no reference of publisher. Likke was the chief civilian leftist advisor to Mengistu, representing his own group Waz League. He was killed by an EPRP sympathizer in retaliation during Mengistu's 1977 internal coup. Likke was educated in the United States.

Finally here, a pamphlet celebrating May Day, from 1977, issued by the Derg's own information ministry. There was plenty more in the collection, so I'll need to make a second trip!

A reminder that I am looking for archival materials like these, more especially materials in English issued by the EPRP and the sections of the student movement sympathetic to it: publications like Forward, Combat, Challenge, Struggle and Zena. If you have something available, either original, photocopy, or pdf, please contact me. You may leave a comment marked "not for publication" with your contact info and I will get back to you.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Ideological Combat

EPRP demonstration, ca. 1975 or 1976

The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party mobilized, a rare photo. I’m told the signs translate as follows: “We will not go to war with Eritreans” and “Hang Haile Fida, Senay Likke and Their Dogs.” Haile Fida was the leader of Meison, and Senay Likke was the leader of Woz League. Both were allies and ideologues of the Derg; neither survived the 1970s. Note the hammer and sickle banner lower left.

(Photo courtesy of the facebook group "Historical photos from the Horn of Africa")

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

8 Study Questions on the Ethiopian Revolution

Popular demonstration during the February 1974 Ethiopian Revolution; photo from the Italian Communist newspaper L'Unita

I have finally immersed myself in enough readings to start identifying issues and asking questions. I thought it would be useful to organize my thoughts into the following “questions,” identifying themes and patterns for further reading, thought, analysis, and ultimately, writing. I am neither a trained historian nor academic, but as someone who has been a leftist activist for a large portion of my adult life I find a surprising depth of relevance in the story of the Ethiopian revolution to themes which continue to confront any movement for revolutionary change.

It's extraordinary to find this exciting, heartbreaking, fascinating history told not a century after the fact but with the immediacy of eyewitness observation from participants in living memory. And in a leftist culture dominated by Eurocentrism and the increasingly arcane minutiae of early 20th-century Europe, it's refreshing to find this relevance and inspiration hiding in plain sight in the relatively recent history of sub-Saharan Africa.

Some of these questions are intended to be provocative. As I have written before, I do not consider myself an impartial observer but a partisan of actual liberatory socialist revolution. After my initial research I find my initial loyalties to the EPRP “side” fundamentally unchallenged, but I think there are some hard issues that shouldn't be ignored. My investigation has definitely revealed some sad chapters and difficult questions that I think it would be dishonest not to address. Some of these questions I obviously have preliminary opinions on.

Read my original statement of intent about this blog here.
Follow my reading list here (A work in progress).
(A short key to abbreviations for the unfamiliar appears at the end of this document)


1. Ethiopia before and during its 1970s revolution bore a stark resemblance to a telescoped version of Tsarist Russia and the Russian revolution. Unlike the rest of Africa, the failure of colonialism to subjugate most of Ethiopia for an extended period left a highly organized indigenous feudal empire intact, containing the growing seeds of capitalist development in a starkly evident class society where both an urban proletariat and a rural peasantry were suddenly becoming self-aware. The revolution snowballed during the lives of one young generation, forcing that generation to invent political praxis for itself in a country with very little political tradition. Suddenly exposure to the global Marxist-Leninist left and the civil rights/Black power movements in the US blossomed into the need to make life-or-death strategical decisions. The EPRP, organized clandestinely and abroad in 1972 and formally revealed in 1975 is said to be Ethiopia's first political party of any sort. Ethiopian revolutionaries reached out to China, to the Palestinian resistance, to the socialist countries of the Soviet bloc, and to Arab nationalist regimes for assistance, receiving guns, training, books...and heavy introduction to the internal contradictions of the world's socialist movements. But in the Ethiopian February revolution, it was as though Kerensky himself remained at the helm, simultaneously hijacking and repressing the revolution to prevent an Ethiopian October. What does the ultimate failure of the revolution teach us about the application of lessons of classical Bolshevism and other communist trends? Was this the last possible revolution of this classical type?

2. The Western left’s not-yet-successful reliance on strategies for socialism involving the development of mass, essentially reformist workers parties has been historically counterposed in practice variously by those influenced by Maoism (in favor of people’s war and rural armed struggle); by those in a Soviet orbit (in favor of military bonapartism and ex post facto development of mass organizations); and by anarchists/autonomists (in favor of urban insurrection or autonomous parallel development). The EPRP —attacked as “anarchists” by their enemies, though adhering to Marxism-Leninism — found success as a mass, clandestine urban party, yet sought unsuccessfully to become a guerrilla movement. The EPRP deeply influenced mass organizations like trade unions (CELU, teachers), the Zemacha campaign (mass literacy movement), student groups (especially in the diaspora); organized clandestine fractions in the military (Oppressed Soldiers Organization), inside the Derg, inside Kebeles (formal community centers), inside the police, an underground revolutionary trade union (ELAMA), an underground youth organization (EPRYL), and urban and rural military units. It published several regular underground journals with mass national distribution and readership and participated where possible in public discussions in the legally sanctioned press. What does the EPRP’s experience of organizational models and strategies teach us?

3. Thousands and thousands of young revolutionaries died at the hands of the Derg regime and its leftist allies, and targeted assassinations by the EPRP took many lives. Did the EPRP's insistence on armed struggle provoke the “Red Terror” or was it the correct response to particularly vicious repression? The EPRP vacillated between calling the Derg and its civilian leftist allies “fascists” and pondering overtures of unity with those forces. Was there ever a basis for unity? Was the Derg “fascist”?  What is the verdict on the lethal sectarianism of the Ethiopian left: EPRP vs. Meison/POMOA, EPRP vs. anja (factions). What are the historical verdicts on the cases of Fikre Merid, Getachew Maru and Berhanemeskel Reda; Senay Likke and Haile Fida; Tesfaye Debessay?

4. The competitive EPRP and Meison originated organically in the Ethiopian left/student movement, especially in the diaspora, and found favor in segments of the urban proletariat and petit-bourgeoisie. Yet both were outflanked by Colonel Mengistu, who seems to have had no history on the left before the February 1974 revolution. Mass action drove the revolution while political power was confined to a relatively small collection of players inside the government and later the military. The relationships between (and inside) the Derg, the government, the military, and the civilian left were far more complex than revealed at first glance. How did the Derg successfully coopt the revolution and check the civilian left? Where did Mengistu's ideology come from? Mengistu seems to have followed scripts first from Meison/POMOA and later the Soviet bloc, launching legitimate (if incomplete) revolutionary reforms like literacy and land redistribution, while consolidating his personal power through repeated purges and coups inside the ruling body. LeFort says his mobilization of the lumpen and declassed peasantry was the key to his social base outside the military. The one reform he resisted, and what might be considered the primary demand of the EPRP, was popular democracy. In a country where most of the competitors for power claimed to be for socialism, what does this battle over democracy suggest? Here the Maoist doctrine of “New Democracy” found itself in direct contradiction to “National Democratic Revolution.” How was EPRP's call for revolutionary popular democracy against what it saw as the repeating phenomenon of the African military dictator different than counterrevolutionary democracy movements in other socialist countries? In an ongoing revolutionary situation, who or what is the State? How did the class struggle actually combine and unfold in the revolution? (Peasantry, Proletariat, Urban Petit-bourgeoisie, Rural landowning class, Feudal class/Royalty/Comprador Bourgeoisie, Lumpen Proletariat, National Bourgeoisie). (Side note: ponder Nicaragua where an assortment of civilian left groups maintained shifting levels of opposition and critical support to the post-revolutionary Sandinista regime in the 1980s).

5. If politics were underdeveloped in Ethiopia, nationalism was not. Ethiopia resisted Italian invasion twice, losing its self rule only for the period of 1936-1942. Ethiopia’s revolution was deeply connected to the struggles of national minorities. Like Russia, Ethiopia is a country of diverse national identities historically dominated by a single ethnic group. Rene LeFort calls Eritrea (and the relationship of Eritrea to Ethiopia is up for discussion) the “crucible” of the Ethiopian revolution, citing a more developed political tradition in colonial Eritrea and noting the dominance of ethnic Eritreans in the general Ethiopian radical milieu. Wallelign Mekonnen’s groundbreaking paper on the national question is virtually the founding document of the Ethiopian civilian left (and Wallelign's death in a 1972 airplane hijacking is a portent of future tragedy). EPRP attempted to negotiate this minefield, and yet ultimately found itself at odds with TPLF and EPLF, despite endorsing Eritrean independence. Today’s Ethiopian federalism, widely seen as the oppression of the whole nation by the Tigrayan minority ethnic group, makes nobody happy: unrest involving national minorities like the Oromo people is today again dominating headlines. Upon the overthrow of the Derg, newly independent Eritrea promptly found itself at war with its long-term allies in the former TPLF. What are the lessons here regarding self determination, multi-ethnic states, and the relationship of political to ethnic conflicts? Is there any conflict between the consciousness of national liberation and the consciousness of socialism?

6. Ironically, the avowedly socialist Derg remained military supplied by the United States for its first two years in power. After it eliminated the civilian left, the Derg thoroughly coopted socialism in a statist model a la Eastern Europe, only to abandon socialism as the Soviet Union floundered, on the eve of itself being displaced, in the very late 1980s. The Derg was overthrown by the TPLF, the core of which was the cadre of MLLT, which upon assuming power in turn abandoned Marxism-Leninism and allied with the United States. Though some argue little continuity with the classic EPRP suppressed by the Derg remains, today's EPRP factions have officially renounced socialism. EPLF-ruled independent Eritrea is ranked (at least by its enemies) as among the most repressive states on the planet. The “People's Republic” of China is developing a massively predatory relationship with Ethiopian industry and agriculture. What are the legacy and prospects of three failed attempts at socialist power for the liberatory project promised by socialism to the future of Ethiopia? By 1978, the two main wings of the civilian left now both in opposition to the Derg (as well as to each other), and the ruling Derg itself, all used the iconic hammer and sickle as their symbol. Addis Ababa's massive Lenin statue, built by a regime that arguably had little in common with Lenin's actual ideology, was pulled down by crowds in 1991 celebrating legitimate liberation from tyranny. Is the well poisoned?

7. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that imperialism has wreaked havoc on the Horn of Africa for well over a century. Did Italian imperialism import class consciousness and post-feudal political consciousness via Eritrea? The Ethiopian royalty earned respect for its resistance to Italian imperialism in both the 1890s and the 1930s, and used that reputation to attempt to outflank “African socialism” as a pro-American pole in continental politics during the independence wave of the 1950s and 1960s. The royalty's domestic reputation began to fail only in the late 1960s, collapsing in the wake of famine in the early 1970s. US imperialism and the Soviet Union abruptly swapped sides between Ethiopia and Somalia in 1976-1977; and then the US switched sides again after the fall of both the Ethiopian and Somali regimes in the early 1990s, turning Somalia into a collection of failed states, ethnic enclaves, and bases for reactionary Islamic fundamentalists, and turning Ethiopia into a proxy for regional US military power. Chinese capital (imperialism?) appears a significant motor force in Ethiopia today. Cuba’s intervention in Ethiopia against Somali invasion was decisive, yet not extended to the Eritrean front, eventually resulting in Eritrean secession. Leftist opposition groups in Ethiopia in the 1970s found themselves in the middle of a hot battle in the Cold War, ideologically challenged by being targeted by both imperialism and the Soviet bloc. What are the prospects for independent national struggle in a world dominated by neocolonialism, imperialism, social imperialism, and neoliberalism?

8. Many people, unfortunately, in my opinion, including far too many leftists, view history as the progression of actions of great (or terrible) men. To look at the Ethiopian Revolution as merely the story of Mengistu Hailemariam is I think to make a serious misjudgment of how history happens, of how, in this case, the Ethiopian revolution unfolded. He was a key figure, for sure, and certainly for a moment triumphant, and more than a little villainous. But what Marxism teaches us about the people being the motor force of history, this is actually true: What the focus on Mengistu reveals to me, at least, are all the ideological weaknesses of what I would call revisionism (and let me say here clearly that I reject out of hand the term “Stalinist”): the post-war Soviet top-down method of socialism by directive, military force, and the willful wishful thinking of too small a political minority. This unfolded repeatedly (and ultimately unsuccessfully and often tragically) in the third world: South Yemen, Afghanistan, Benin, Burkina Faso, Madagascar, etc. It's true that 20th-century socialism was ultimately politically outgunned by Western imperialism, but I think that the broadly-defined pro-Soviet project of state socialism also collapsed worldwide under the weight of its own contradictions. (Ironically given what, in my opinion, is socialist Cuba's problematic role in Ethiopia, I think the survival of Cuban socialism into the 21st century is in fact a positive counter example of how important mass popular support for a revolution actually is). It seems that EPRP's leaders were too busy living their moment of history in a fiery flash to deliver ideological or theoretical innovation at their high watermark, at least from the perspective of my initial investigations, and without knowledge of Amharic. Few survived to have the benefit of hindsight. Survivors writing today have focused on righting the historical record, or apologizing for their actions, or preserving the memory of what was lost: most seem pretty adamant in their ideological renunciation of the old EPRP's values. So the final questions are left to us, observers from a geographic and historical distance: Is there an overarching lesson from the Ethiopian revolution for the revolutionary project as a whole? What would actual revolutionary democracy look like? How, next time, do the good guys win?

I would be interested to exchange ideas with anyone who has studied this revolution.

EPRP: Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party
Meison: All-Ethiopian Socialist Movement
POMOA: Provisional Office of Mass Organization Affairs
TPLF: Tigray People's Liberation Front
EPLF: Eritrean People's Liberation Front
MLLT: Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray
CELU: Confederation of Ethiopian Labor Unions
Derg: Amharic for “committee,” a group of military officers who seized power in 1974

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Goh Magazine (Dawn)

Cover of GOH Magazine, Nehasse 1968 EC (1976 CE)
“In early 1976 EPRP and Meison engaged in a sizzling debate (without claiming authorship) in the government owned Amharic daily Addis Zemen — New Era — and Goh —Dawn — magazine over the kind of democracy needed at that particular point in time.” —Hiwot Teffera, Tower in the Sky, p.149
Cover of GOH Magazine, Miyazia 1968 EC (1976 CE)
EPRP's Democracia was widely circulated and influential, but it was an illegal, clandestine publication. Goh apparently skirted press restrictions and acted as a forum for left discussion and debate. Former EPRP member Mohamed Yimam, who was a staff writer at Goh, tells the story of the journal in his memoir Wore Negari. Here are a few excerpts:
Goh came into being right after the February revolution. It was founded by two enterprising women, Sara and Mulu.... Goh became the magazine of choice for Zematcha students, teachers, and the most educated section of the population....

Goh had to pass government censorship to be published. While the situation was relatively liberal at this time, no one would write anything that was openly critical of the government. Goh, under the editorial guidance of Mezy, was pushing the envelope and testing the limits of the available freedom by writing more and more radical pieces that would have been unthinkable in previous periods....

[Later] the party had very much control of the magazine through the four of us. Neither Sara nor Mulu was ever bothered by what was now becoming an obvious association of the paper with EPRP, or if they did, they did not raise any objection.”Wore Negari, pp. 75-80.
Cover of GOH Magazine, Sene 1968 EC (1976 CE)
I was blown away to discover an archive of Goh Magazine online at the website Yatewlid (The Generation), in downloadable PDFs. The covers shared here are from their archive. Even though I am only beginning to learn the Amharic alphabet, I've been excitedly rifling through these PDFs. I'm so happy these have been preserved!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Ethiopian Revolution Investigation Reading List

Here's my beginning reading list on the Ethiopian Revolution. Despite my own sympathies I am trying to read a variety of perspectives. If you've stumbled across this list, I'm happy to receive additional recommendations or sources. Also, I am actively looking for original copies of Ethiopian left diaspora publications like Abyot and Forward.

  • Tim Bascom, Running to the Fire: An American Missionary Comes of Age in Revolutionary Ethiopia. Sightline Books/University of Iowa Press, paperback 2015
  • Gizachew Tiruneh, On the Run in the Blue Nile: A True Story. Self-published paperback 2014
  • Rebecca Haile, Held at a Distance: My Rediscovery of Ethiopia. Academy Chicago Publishers, 2007 paperback
  • Hiwot Teffera, Tower in the Sky. Addis Ababa University Press, 2012/2015
  • Makonnen Araya, Negotiating a Lion’s Share of Freedom: Adventures of an Idealist Caught up in the Ethiopian Civil War. Self-published paperback, 2004
  • Makonen Getu, The Undreamt: An Ethiopian Transformation, Christian Transformation Resource Center, 2004 paperback
  • Nega Mezlekia, Notes from the Hyena’s Belly. Picador paperback, 2000
  • Mohammed Yimam, Wore Negari: A Memoir of an Ethiopian Youth in the Turbulent '70s. Xlibris/Self published 2013 paperback
  • Taffara Deguefé, Minutes of an Ethiopian Century, Shama Books, paperback, 2006/2010
  • Taffara Deguefé, A Tripping Stone, Ethiopian Prison Diary, Addis Ababa University Press, paperback, 2003
  • Worku Lakew, Revolution, love and growing up: Stories from Ethiopia and the UK, New Generation Publishing paperback, 2016
  • Andargachew Tiruneh, The Ethiopian Revolution (1974 to 1984), Doctoral Dissertation, LSE 1990.
  • Babile Tole, To Kill a Generation, Free Ethiopia Press (PDF), 1989/1997
  • Bahru Zewde, editor, Documenting the Ethiopian Student Movement: An Exercise in Oral History, Forum for Social Studies, Addis Ababa 2010, paperback
  • Dawit Shifaw, The Diary of Terror, Ethiopia 1974 to 1991. Trafford, paperback 2012
  • Dawit Wolde Giorgis, Red Tears: War, Famine and Revolution in Ethiopia. Red Sea Press hardcover 1989
  • Fentahun Tiruneh, The Ethiopian Students: Their Struggle to Articulate the Ethiopian Revolution, Fentahun Tiruneh/Nyala Type, 1990
  • Ryszard Kapuscinski, The Emperor, Vintage International paperback, 1978/1983
  • Kiflu Tadesse, The Generation – The History of the EPRP. Red Sea Press paperback, 1994
  • Kiflu Tadesse, The Generation, Part 2 – Ethiopia Transformation and Conflict. University Press of America hardcover 1998
  • Valentin Korovikov, Ethiopia — Years of Revolution: Fifth Anniversary of the 1974 Revolution, Novosti Press Moscow, 1979 (English edition)
  • Solomon Ejigu Gebreselassie, The Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party: Between a Rock and a Hard Place, 1975-2008. Red Sea Press paperback, 2014
  • Oiecha Onni-Onne, The Road of No Return. Undated self published PDF, 12pp
  • Blair Thomson, Ethiopia, The Country That Cut Off Its Head: A Diary of the Revolution, Robson Books Limited paperback, 1975
  • Raúl Valdés Vivó, Ethiopia's Revolution. International Publishers paperback, 1978
  • Bahru Zewde, The Quest for Socialist Utopia: The Ethiopian Student Movement c. 1960-1974, James Currey 2014
  • Daniel Fogel, Africa in Struggle: National Liberation and Proletarian Revolution, ISM Press, 1982
  • Fred Halliday and Maxine Molyneux, The Ethiopian Revolution. Verso New Left editions 1981 paperback
  • Edward Kissi, Revolution and Genocide in Ethiopia and Cambodia. Lexington Books paperback 2006
  • Gebru Tareke, The Ethiopian Revolution: War in the Horn of Africa, Yale Library of Military History, 2009
  • René Lefort, Ethiopia: Heretical Revolution? Zed hardcover 1981/1983
  • John Markakis and Nega Ayele, Class and Revolution in Ethiopia, Red Sea Press, 1978
  • David Ottaway and Marina Ottaway, Afrocommunism, Africana paperback 1981 
  • Marina and David Ottaway, Ethiopia, Empire in Revolution, Africana/Holmes & Meier, 1978
  • Jean Louis Peninou, Eritrea: The Guerrillas of the Red Sea, EFLNA, 1975
  • Jacob Wiebel, “Let the Red Terror Intensity: Political violence, governance and society in Urban Ethiopia, 1976-78” Durham University research paper, 2015
  • Northeast African Studies, Volume 16, No. 1, 2016, The 1974 Ethiopian Revolution at 40
  • Abyot Special Issue, February 1978 “On Some Points of the Armed Struggle Waged by the People Under the Leadership of the EPRP.” EPRP Foreign Section, Europe.
  • Combat, Vol. V, No. 2, special issue “The National Question in Ethiopia: Proletarian Internationalism or Bourgeois Nationalism?” Ethiopian Students Union in North America, reprinted Oct. 1976
  • Ethiopian Student Association in North America, The Liberation of the Imperial Ethiopian Government Embassy, 1969
  • Ethiopian Student Union in North America Executive Council, Hand Book On Elementary Notes on Revolution and Organization, ESUNA, 1972
  • Senai Likke, The Ethiopian Revolution (Tasks, Achievements, Problems and Prospects, undated pamphlet ca 1976-1977
  • Wallelign Mekonnen, On the Question of Nationalities in Ethiopia, 1969 (reproduced on pdf) 
  • Women in the Ethiopian Revolution, Prepared by the Foreign Section of ISEANE (Ethiopian Women Revolutionary Movement) July 1980, distributed by UPESUNA (pro-Meison)
  • Yabiyot Mestawot, Petty Bourgeois Radicalism and Left Infantalism in Ethiopia: The Case of EPRP, in Unity and Struggle, Vol. 1 No. 2, July 1977, publication of the United Progressive Ethiopian Students Union in North America
  • Not yet catalogued: various issues of Abyot, Challenge, Combat, Forward, Zena, Vanguard (EPLF) as well as EPLF, EFLNA bulletins; Derg pamphlets
  • Dierdre Griswold, Eyewitness Ethiopia: The Continuing Revolution. World View Publishers (Workers World Party), 1978, pamphlet
  • Ernest Harsch, The Ethiopian Revolution, Pathfinder Press (SWP US), 1978, pamphlet
  • The People's Herald, Ethiopia — Revolution in the Making, Progressive Publishers, NYC 1978
  • Workers World Newspaper, The Ethiopian Revolution and the struggle against U.S. imperialism, World View Publishers (WWP), 1978, pamphlet

  • Maaza Mengiste, Beneath The Lion's Gaze, Norton 2010


English language pamphlets from Ethiopian (and Eritrean) Left sources (Abyot, Combat, Forward, Zena, Vanguard, Resistance); publications from pro Derg organizations (Senay Likke's, Yehibret Demtse, Meison). English language publications from the Derg itself. Copies of the Communist Labor Party's The People's Tribune, 1970s. Scans, pdfs, photocopies, originals.

Graphic design images, photos especially of EPRP.

(To communicate with me personally, leave a comment and include your email address. Feel free to label any private communication "Not for Publication" and I will respond privately without publishing the comment. —ISH)

UPDATED April 2, 2016 
UPDATED April 13, 2016
UPDATED May 23, 2016
UPDATED June 15, 2016
UPDATED June 22, 2016 
UPDATED July 1, 2016
UPDATED July 18, 2016
UPDATED September 12, 2016

Monday, March 7, 2016

Investigation Update

I started this blog a year and a half ago and promptly neglected it. The good news is that I have not actually neglected the investigation that I promised I was undertaking in my original Statement of Intent. I've compiled a lengthy reading list and acquired most of the books I have tasked myself with reading. I've been working my way through the stacks, really amazed at what I've been reading. I will publish that reading list soon.

My readings have thus far included historical accounts of Ethiopia and its revolution, participant memoirs, original sources, and the two extraordinary volumes of detailed internal EPRP history by Kiflu Tadesse entitled The Generation. I'm part way through the second volume of this as I write. Each reading answers many of my investigation questions and opens up more.

I've identified a number of key issues in understanding the revolution. While a sense of tragedy overwhelms me when I think of how the revolution ultimately unfolded, I find myself incredibly inspired by the young revolutionaries inside Ethiopia in the mid-1970s, and frankly shocked that the world left has failed to examine what happened there. The Ethiopian Revolution strikes me as nothing less significant than the Russian Revolution of the early 20th-century, with many of the historical events unfolding in remarkably patterned ways. The experience of the EPRP in struggling to combat the military's hijacking of the revolution should be studied and examined by anyone interested in drawing lessons from the generations of failure of African socialism and the all-too-common phenomenon of military despotism across that continent.

One of the central tragedies of the Ethiopian revolution, of course, is the sectarianism within the civilian left, especially that between EPRP and MEISON, the All-Ethiopian Socialist Movement of Haile Fida et al. This sectarianism is all too often unfairly blamed on the EPRP, and leads to the argument, incorrect in my opinion, that the EPRP was in fact responsible for provoking the "Red Terror." I wanted to share a brief and central insight from Kiflu Tadesse that I find to be incredibly useful in understanding what happened. I have never seen this set to paper so clearly:

"Because of POMOA/MEISON's involvement [in the Derg government—ish], the main differences that separated radicals themselves became the concern of the state power and apparatus." (Kiflu, v2. p.69)


Anyway, I hope to write more thorough reviews of the material I've been reading and to occasionally publish other revelatory excerpts. Stay with me. Your comments are appreciated.

Sunday, March 6, 2016


Democracia, vol. 5, 1970 Ethiopian Calendar (1978 CE)

Democracia was the underground newspaper of the EPRP, founded in 1974. An amazing near-complete archive of copies of this influential journal is hosted by the youth group of today's reorganized and no-longer Marxist-Leninist EPRP, in easily downloadable PDFs. Life goal: learn Amharic so I can read these!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Women's History Month: Martha Mebrahtu

Martha Mebrahtu was an Ethiopian/Eritrean student revolutionary who was killed during a failed hijacking attempt in 1972. This was when airplane hijackings were propaganda actions not designed to take innocent life. On the eve of the attempt, she wrote a manifesto of the beliefs behind her action:

‘We, women of Ethiopia and Eritrea, have made our life ready to participate in a struggle and we would like to explain the nature of our struggle to our sisters and brothers all over the world.
‘Our struggle demands a bitter sacrifice in order to liberate our oppressed and exploited people from the yokes of feudalism and imperialism. In this struggle we have to be bold and merciless. Our enemies can only understand such a language.

‘We, women of Ethiopia and Eritrea, are not only exploited as members of the working classes and peasants, we are also victims of gender inequality, treated as second class citizens. Therefore, our participation in this struggle must double the efforts of other oppressed groups; we must fight harder, we must be at the forefront.

‘We must equally participate in the struggle for economic and social justice that our brothers have waged. We have a responsibility to become a formidable force in the revolutionary army.

‘The rights for freedom and equality are not manna from heaven. We, women, have to be organised and have to make ourselves ready for any armed struggle. This fight will need financial, material and moral support of progressive international women's associations. We reach out to our sisters in other parts of the world so you can help us achieve this goal; we hope your support will reach us as we need it.

‘We affirm our full support for the oppressed people of the world who are struggling to free themselves from imperialism, colonialism, neocolonialism and racism! We stand by the freedom fighters in Vietnam, Palestine, Guinea-Bissau and in other African and Latin American countries; we also support the civil rights leaders in North America.

‘Victory to the popular struggle of the people! May the people's movement for freedom in both Ethiopia and Eritrea live forever! My sisters and my brothers, let's keep on fighting!’

This manifesto, and some biographical notes on Martha Mebrahtu, appeared in Pambazuka News in 2011.