|FORWARD, newsletter of WWFES, January 1977|
In late 1976 the Derg was rife with internal conflict. Following the elimination of Major Sisay Habte in the summer, tensions increased between Mengistu and his backers in Meison and WazLeague on the one hand, and others in the upper echelons of the Derg including General Teferi Benti, head of state, vice chairman Atnafu Abate, and others including Alemayahu Haile. A number of the regime's reforms seemed to be faltering, and despite a dramatic uptick in violence between the military and the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Party following a failed assassination attempt on Mengistu Hailemariam and the assassination of a number of Meison figures by the EPRP's urban guerrillas, nobody seemed to be decisively winning the war for public opinion.
At the end of the year, the Derg announced a number of internal changes it hoped would start to cool things down. Although Mengistu, still the Derg’s number two, was not to be completely defanged, his allies in POMOA like Haile Fida and Senay Likke were given notice that POMOA was not necessarily the vehicle for future civilian power its members hoped. These reforms culminated with the late January 1977 speech by Teferi Benti that precipated Mengistu's move against him when he called for national unity and refused to demonize the EPRP. At the beginning of February, Mengistu had Teferi, Alemayahu and several others executed, and Dr. Senay Likke was shot by a disgruntled Derg member in a palace shoot out.
The February events were a watershed moment when Mengistu seized total control of the military government, and when the most disastrous period of repression against the EPRP was begun. This article, from the January 1977 issue of Forward, published by the World Wide Federation of Ethiopian Students and representing the pro-EPRP Ethiopian student diaspora in the United States and Europe, seems to have been written after the internal reorganization was announced, but before the fateful events that would change everything at the beginning of the new year.
The polemical and rhetorical flourishes here are vivid: yet within the dated language and what we know now to be the misplaced certainty of its revolutionary optimism, this article contains some clear insights into the differences between the Derg and the EPRP opposition, including some clear explication of the realities of class rule in the new “Socialist” Ethiopia. The article, and accompanying cartoons, doubles-down on the characterization of the Derg as “fascist.”
I have retyped this article from the original, without editing or correcting mistakes in the original printed piece except for a few minor instances for clarity.
JUNTA “REORGANIZES”: IT IS ANOTHER FRAUD YET!
from FORWARD, Vol. 1, no. 3, January 1977
|Cartoon accompanying this article from FORWARD|
Any action of a government is determined by the nature of the state and the class it represents. The state in any society is not a body that stands above classes or reconciles class differences, but rather an organ of class rule by which a definite class exercises its dictatorship over other classes. The different kinds of states obtaining in the world today can be categorized broadly into two types of dictatorships — revolutionary dictatorships and counter-revolutionary dictatorships. In the former case, we are referring to the people‘s democratic dictatorship based on the alliance of revolutionary and democratic classes and social strata under the leadership of the working class and its party as well as the state system of the dictatorship of the proletariat (i.e. socialist states). By counter-revolutionary dictatorship, we mean to refer to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and all other reactionary classes over the broad masses. This could assume a multitude of forms.
The present day Ethiopian state, controlled as it is by the fascist military goons and the social-fascist petty-bourgeois propagandists, both serving the bureaucratic and compradore bourgeoisie, falls within the latter category. Despite the fact that it has meticulously attempted to hide its counter-revolutionary nature by persistently masquerading behind high-sounding "socialist" phraseology and pompous pronouncements and slogans, and this thanks to the Haile Fida-Senai Likke clique of social-fascist intellectuals, it remains to be a puppet of imperialism, especially that of U.S. imperialism, and is used as an instrument for oppressing and exploiting more than 90% of the Ethiopian peoples.
Why are we then being bombarded with such proclamations? What is their real nature? The answers are quite clear. When reactionary classes are besieged, they are led into hypocrisy and into utilizing dual tactics of repression and deception. Hence, they steal the slogans of the masses in order to benumb and confuse the masses so as to preserve their class rule, if only in a new form. Even the notorious Hitler has to masquerade himself as a ‘national socialist,’ as a ‘friend of the working people,’ etc. But Hitler, if it is to be remembered, came to no good end. The military clique and its cohorts are of the same stuff. In their own stupid way they try to sound ‘revolutionary while practising counter-revolution. The words of the great proletarian leader and teacher summarize all of this. “The victory of Marxism in theory,” said he, “compels its enemies to disguise themselves as Marxists; this is the dialectics of history.” (Lenin, “The Historical Destiny of the Marxist Theory”).
In light of the above as well as the unequivocally proven fascistic nature of the Ethiopian junta, how should one see this latest decree about the "new" organizational structure? Under this proclamation, the derg consisting of all its members is called the "Congress" which will have a "central committee" of 40 and a "standing committee" of 17. Such a reorganization, we are told, is in line with "Marxist-Leninist principles"! And whether one likes it or not, what the junta would like us believe is that it has finally emerged as a Marxist-Leninist organization! But one may be inclined to think that a mere regrouping and change of names cannot transform reality; if this hadn't been so, Ethiopia would have been a socialist country two years ago. One "need' not ask such a question though as one would then become "anarchist", "anti-revolutionary" and what not — labels that the Junta so lavishly attaches to revolutionary and democratic forces.
The other parts of the proclamation deal with the “powers” and "responsibilities" of each of the organs of the derg — its chairman, vice-chairmen, committees, the "congress" and their relations to the council of ministers. Let us just take a pick at their duties proclaimed therein. “The PMAC members assigned to various posts will have the responsibility of tracking down economic saboteurs, bringing them justice...," says one. "The duties of the PMAC members concerned include the disarming of reactionaries both in rural areas and urban centers and arming defence squads guarding the revolution...", says another. We all know, of course, that when the Junta says tracking down economic saboteurs", it means massacring revolutionary workers; when it says "disarming reactionaries, it means disarming the peasants and arming the feudalists and its own hitlerite storm troops; and when it says "guarding the revolution", it means guarding the counter-revolution. All of these is borne out by the 2-1/2 years of ·its fascist rule! What this reorganization does, in sum, therefore is legalizing the already practised rights of each and every member of the Derg.
But why come at such a time? Since it usurped power, the junta has been beset with contradictions and factions even within its own ranks. Attempted coups and counter-coups, rumours of impending coups, are not unusual these days. Recently, for example, the Abune (the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church) had to interfere in order to avoid "bloodshed" of an impending coup, and to "safeguard the revolution' (!). Recent dissatisfactions amongst members of the armed forces which are expressed through mass defections as well as low morale are also shaking the very foundations of its power. Hence this proclamation is an attempt to cover up this state of desperation and to hoodwink the people into believing that there is a "collective" leadership, that the derg is a "democratic" body, etc. But facts are facts and nothing can be further from the truth. Teferi Benti or mengistu, Atnafu or any other demon can not change the nature of the state by decree!
|Another cartoon from the January 1977|
issue of FORWARD.
What sort of a working class party can they possibly talk about? You have guessed it all: a “working class party” without the working class, no doubt!! The heroic Ethiopian proletariat, which has unequivocally supported, embraced and defended the EPRP, has already passed its verdict on such manoeuvres of the junta when it resolved in its September, 1975 Congress as follows:
"...such being the reality and when the government has suppressed and trampled upon democratic rights, condemned and persecuted the organization of the masses, a party which is formed by the government for its own interest with hand-picked individuals who are neither elected by nor represent in any way the broad masses is unacceptable. Such a party cannot fulfill the interests, needs and objectives of the oppressed masses and as such cannot be supported by the oppressed masses in general and the proletariat in particular. Such a party is a device by which those who are thrown out through the front door worm their way in by the back door. Such a party cannot safeguard and promote the rights and interests of the masses. On the contrary, as its very creation is meant to dupe and lord over the masses, the proletariat vehemently opposes such devious aims and devices." (CELU Resolution)And it is such a working class which is called "unconscious" of its class interests! And it is its vanguard — the EPRP — which is called "anarchist" and whose liquidation is the principal preoccupation of the junta and its hired intellectual boot-lickers!!
Seen with this in mind their talk about "facilitating the establishment of a working class party" is simply a fraud designed to deny what is already common knowledge. The so-called "All-Ethiopian Socialist Movement", composed of an assortment of social-fascists, agent-provocateurs, declared CIA agents, most of whom have long years of experience in subversion and sabotage within the Ethiopian Student Movement and were ignominiously expelled from it at one time or another, has already been established. It only remains to be declared, "officially" that is . Then why the attempt to cover it up? For a change of name, perhaps!
A few more words about some other aspects of the junta's decree remain to be said. The junta claims that it has a "historic responsibility of preparing the masses and handing over power to whom it belongs — the people." A lofty and welcome move, indeed — if it were not just bubbles, that is! But we all know that this is just wild talk! "Preparing the masses" can only be taken to mean preparing the necessary public opinion for the declaration of their phoney party. Otherwise the masses are already prepared under the leadership of the EPRP to overthrow the dark rule of the fascist junta.
Further, "handing over power to whom it belongs" can only mean handing over power to their "party" — to themselves, that is! "Handing" over power to oneself is called handing over power to the people. What a weird logic! But historic for its weirdness and absurdity nevertheless!!
Such are the features of this perfidious scheme. It is doomed to fail. As these fascists and social-fascists cannot reconcile themselves to their class enemies, i.e. the broad masses of the Ethiopian masses, they have to go on making attempts after attempts, manoeuvres after manoeuvres. How true it is that reactionaries never learn from their mistakes: they make trouble, fail; make trouble, fail again; again and again til their doom! This is the logic of all reactionaries. And these Ethiopian fascists and their intellectual mentors cannot go against this logic!
– end of original text –