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


  1. What happened to this blog? It was a very good initiative but we don't see new items.

  2. Hello friend! Well, I have been busy with writing the book that this blog was set up to help out, as well as with my day job. Unfortunately, I have not had time to also make regular posts. I apologize. Please don't give up on me! There will be more content in the future. I appreciate your comment.

  3. It is really hard to understand the Ethiopian Revolution, the role of Derg etc as an outsider. Did they claimed to be Marxist from begin on, or was t like in Benin where they "forgot" 1972-74 to be "Marxist"? I still dont know certain things like: Who was the real vanguard? What character did the Derg have? I see them like a "better Benin", antiimperialist, nationalist military with a bit left-leaning like Baathism, but absolutely not Marxist at all (that was, like in Benin, only to get Soviet support). Socialism had in my view just a formal character in Ethiopia, it was schematic, but not peoples democratic at all
    Was EPRP the vanguard? Why did they turn revisionist in 1984? (because they were isolated intilligentsia? That caused often revisionism, the wavering attitude of petty bourgeoisie). Ethiopia seems to have been a mess of concurrating Marxist groups in the 70s.

    I would thank you for some basic info in general, your posts are awesome but unfortunately just single stones of a mosaik and its very hard to get an overview on the situation.

    Red Salute from Germany

    For the case you still need the help for translating stuff from German to English ;)

    1. Hey friend, thanks for your comment. These are the central questions I wanted to ask in my research, and now that I am part way done with my book manuscript, I feel like I'm closer to understanding these questions; for a full answer to your questions I will have to suggest patience, and hope you will check out my book when it is published, which of course will not be for some time. But here are a couple quick answers for you:

      1) the Derg did not start out claiming to be Marxist Leninist. Some factions adopted ML due to the influence of civilian leftists, and eventually, through close contact with USSR. In my opinion, the Derg was closer to what the EPRP labelled "fascist" than "socialist," and this is a complicated story of the class nature of the military officer corps, the nature of their reforms, their relationship to the state and the people, and their (revisionist) vision of socialism as a means of popular control. The revolution that broke open in 1974 was a real thing, and the revolutionary tide that the Derg tried to steer and ultimately hijack, was real until about 1978, when its independent life was snuffed out by repression.

      There were three main civilian left currents in Ethiopia, EPRP, Meison and WazLeague. All three were eventually eliminated by the Derg. All started out in the late 1960s student movement which was very Mao influenced but none of these groups were exactly Maoist. Two of the three groups supported the Derg, at least for a while; the EPRP never did. I believe the EPRP was correct to call for a "popular provisional democratic government" as opposed to the military regime. I think their politics were quite good and their 1975 program (available on line, I can link it if you can't find it) is good. But their military efforts largely failed, and after 1977-78 their leadership had been devastated in the Terror. By the time of their change of line in the early 1980s, it was a very different organization, and having been forced out of urban areas, lost their main base through repression. These are inadequate answers but they are a start.

      I will drop you a note about translation...yes I have a couple more things I would love to get translated. Thank you!

  4. Does the posting work? I wrote some passages and they were not published at all...

    1. I have comment moderation turned on to prevent spam. Thanks for your comments!