Friday, July 7, 2017

Senay Likke’s American Connection

Clip from The People’s Tribune with a photo of Dr. Senay Likke

The People’s Tribune was the journal of the Communist Labor Party of USNA, an American left party that was led by veteran communist Nelson Peery. The paper is still published even though the CLP itself no longer exists by that name. The CLP was formed in the early 1970s by the California Communist League, part of the burgeoning New Communist Movement that channeled so many people radicalized by the late 1960s student and anti-war movement into new communist organizations that looked more toward the leadership of Mao and People’s China over the ossified and reformist pro-Soviet Communist Party or the parties of the Trotskyist tradition.

Dr. Senay Likke was a leader of the Ethiopian student movement in the United States, but also a cofounder of the CLP. Upon his return to Ethiopia in the early 1970s, he was one of the chief conduits of Marxist-Leninist ideology to the Derg, and became a staunch supporter of the military regime. He became one of the leaders, with Meison’s Haile Fida, of POMOA, the Provisional Office of Mass Organizational Affairs, the so-called Politburo of civilian leftists who were Mengistu Haile Mariam’s advisors and supporters. Senay had long been a political opponent of the wing of the Ethiopian revolutionary student movement that would coalesce into the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party; the enmity carried forward after 1974 would morph into a lethally antagonistic relationship. The EPRP would accuse Senay Likke of being one of the chief architects of the Derg’s violent repression against the EPRP that began in earnest in late 1976. In a coup d’etat on the morning of February 3, 1977, Derg vice chair Mengistu executed the Derg’s chairman, General Teferi Benti, and several others, seizing full control of the military government for himself. That same day a disgruntled officer named Yohannes Mitike, who may or may not have been influenced by the EPRP, retaliated by assassinating Senay Likke in his offices, along with Derg security chief Daniel Asfaw.

Here is an obituary from Senay’s CLP comrades featured in the People’s Tribune of February 15, 1977. Ironically, Senay Likke’s followers would be purged and largely exterminated by the Derg in 1978 as Mengistu moved to eliminate leftists whom his Soviet advisors accused of being influenced by Maoism. Despite that fact — and the murder of more of its Ethiopian comrades — the CLP continued to politically support the Derg regime.

A short pamphlet by Senay Likke can be downloaded here. I find its politics somewhat horrifying, but for all the details on that, you’ll have to read my book.

Thanks to the editors of the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism Online for this newspaper clip. The original text follows.


Long Live the Ethiopian Revolution

Word has been received, confirming the murder of Comrade Senay Likke, Vice-Chairman of the Political Bureau of the governing Dergue, in Addis Ababa, February 3.

The Political Bureau of the Communist Labor Party expressed to the party cadre, and to all progressives, our profound grief and deep sense of loss.

Comrade Senay, a soon of poor peasants, was a revolutionary of exceptional intelligence and capabilities. After winning a scholarship, Comrade Senay came to the U.S. to complete his education. During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Comrade Senay selflessly contributed his considerable talents to the formation of a real Marxist-Leninist party in the US. His theoretical clarity, principled activity, and ideological firmness, was of great value during the struggle to consolidate our Party. A devoted patriot, Comrade Senay returned to Ethiopian and plunged into revolutionary activity. 

Our Party pauses in this moment of sorrow to reaffirm our commitment of comradeship and support to the valiant Ethiopian people and to their history-making revolution.