By Yossi Schwartz, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, 17 August 2016, www.thecommunists.net
With every passing day living history is proving that we live in an historical revolutionary period. As the economic crisis of the world capitalist system continue the working class and the oppressed are moving into the centerfold of history proving that they are not ready to accept the miserable conditions the capitalists try to force on them in order to maintain the decaying system of profit. While the workers and the poor are struggling they lack a revolutionary working class leadership. In the last account the crisis of humanity is the crisis of a working class leadership. (1)
For years the capitalist propaganda has presented Ethiopia as an economic miracle and an example for all Africa. Yet the masses in Ethiopia have exposed the secret of this economic miracle that is based on the super exploitation of the workers and the poor peasants.
Super-Exploitation by US and Chinese Imperialism
In the time of slavery corrupted chiefs assisted the slave traders in capturing slaves for the plantations in the "new world" these chiefs are now replaced by corrupt governments that act as police for the super exploitation of the imperialist firms. Ethiopia is a clear case.
In an interview to a South African Journalist this June, Hailemariam Desalegn said: "We see China becoming expensive, but Africa being unready to take advantage, partly because the continent’s labor costs are expensive. But in Ethiopia,” says Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, “to achieve our advantage in light manufacturing, we have kept such costs low " This he said in a country which is one of the fastest growing – perhaps the fastest growing – of Africa’s economies but where 30% of the population live under the poverty line.( defined as less than 1.90 dollar a day ) Farmers make up 80% of Ethiopia’s population.It is among the top five global suppliers of flowers, second only to Kenya among African producers and exporters. Revenues from flowers were $265-million in 2015, based on the super exploitation of 75,000 workers. The government offers low-interest loans to investors, a duty waiver on inputs and capital goods, and a five-year tax exemption for exporters. workers minimum salaries are 420 ETB (ET Ethiopian birr-1 Ethiopian Birr equals 0.045 US Dollar) US investment alone into Ethiopia, between 2013 and 2015, was $4-billion, including a $200-million investment in a flower exporting company, and a $250-million expansion by Coca-Cola.” (2)
The government is creating industrial parks. For example, forty kilometers out of Addis is the eastern industrial park with, by 2016, more than 20 Chinese investors, attracted by low or zero tariffs on imported manufactured goods, and free tax holidays for seven years. Located in this park is the Chinese Huajian Group’s “Shoe City”, employing 3,200 workers making 180,000 pairs a month for export. Ethiopian workers' salaries on average is one-tenth the price of those in China for example, Addis’s shoe factories paying between 700-800 Birr ($30-35) a month.
The Uprising started in the Oromo Region
However, these days the East African government, the darling of US and Chinese imperialism, is facing the largest protest movement in decades. This in a country where anyone who has dared to criticize the government simply has been locked in the dungeons.
It began in the Oromo region. The Oromo are Ethiopia's largest ethnic group, making up more than 30 percent of the population of about 100 million. The Amhara are the second biggest group.
Table: Ethiopia's ethnic make-up (3)
The center of the uprising is Adama which is one of the largest cities in Oromia. The Oromo ethnic group have taken to the streets in recent months to protest their political marginalization and economic exploitation in spite of government spies and brutal goons of the security forces. The so-called developing industry that attracts the super-exploiters has resulted in displacement and disrupted millions of lives. The protest began in November 2015 in response to the government’s master plan to coordinate development in Addis Ababa with nearby towns in Oromia which meant stealing the lands for the benefit of the foreign investors and their local comprador bourgeois. Like much of the country, the vast majority of Oromia are small-scale farmers that hardly survive. They had enough and went out to the streets to protest the government taking lands for very little or no composition at all.
The government security forces violently suppressed the protests, firing into crowds of protesters with little or no warning, they arrested students as young as 8, and they tortured the protesters in detention. According to human right groups the military and police have killed several hundred peaceful protesters since last November.
“The United Nations Human Rights Commission said on Wednesday that the regime in Ethiopia should allow international observers to probe into the killings of hundreds of peaceful protesters in the Amhara and Oromo regions. According to ESAT (Ethiopian Satellite News) At least 200 people were shot and killed this weekend alone as regime security forces rained bullets on peaceful protesters in the Amhara and Oromo regions who called for regime change. Hundreds of people were also detained. An estimated 700 people were killed in the Oromo region in the last 9 months of protest and tens of thousands have been detained.” (4)
However, even if the UN will be allowed to investigate the massacre, it will not change the regime that must be brought down!
Israel provides Training and Weapons for brutal Repression
The security forces are trained by and receive equipment from Israel as a report by American Ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Y. Yamamoto, which has been revealed by WikiLeaks, shows.
"The Ambassador has discussed with the Israeli Ambassador and his staff their relationship with the Ethiopian military and the programs they have developed. The Israeli Ambassador, who has a terrible relationship with his Mossad representative, noted that the Israeli Embassy primarily uses military contractors rather than direct Israeli government officials to support Ethiopia. In some cases, however, like personal security advice and training and the security for large events, like the millennium celebrations last year, Israel has been forward leaning in providing direct assistance to Ethiopia. But from our interaction with the GoE, the Ethiopians avoid informing us what the Israelis do in Ethiopia and the Israeli Embassy has provided only general ideas of what they do in Ethiopia. As our mil-to-mil relationship with Ethiopia expands we will come to better understand what Israel, Russia, China, North Korea and other countries provide the Ethiopians. End comment. YAMAMOTO report.” (5)
The repression brings to mind the repression by the Butcher Assad in Syria that sent his military to shoot the peaceful demonstrations in March of 2011. This led to the bloody civil war between the Assad regime against the Syrian people. In spite of the fact that the Ethiopian government is the sole owner of the telecommunications provider and has the power to shut down signals and block opposition websites, brave activists have managed to send video and photographic evidence of abuses to the outside word. Journalists have been detained by officials for attempting to report in some of the worst- brutal actions of the army and the police members of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a political party from the northern region of Tigray that dominates the government’s security and intelligence agencies.
Like other repressive governments that claim that “enemy agents are inciting the population”, the government accused Eritrea's agents as the ones who infiltrated the ranks of the protesters and were responsible for the current violence.
After two months of violent demonstrations, in January the coalition government announced that it was scrapping the master plan. This coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), is made up of four regional parties, including the TPLF and the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO). However the government lost credibility in May, when the EPRDF and allied parties won 100% of parliamentary seat in a national election, which for most Oromo people was a fraud.
In spite of its promises to institute democratic reforms and scrape the plan the government has continued to rely on its powerful repressive security apparatus and arrest member of the opposition. That led to other demonstrations.
“What began as a protest in the Oromia region last November have now sprung up in the Amhara region as well - the homelands of the country's two biggest ethnic groups. Dozens of protesters have been killed this week end in Oromia and Amhara according to Al Jazeera, Police fired tear gas and blocked roads to several towns in the Oromia region as demonstrators took to the streets after a call from a spontaneous social media movement. The state-owned Ethiopian News Agency said that "illegal protests" staged by "anti-peace forces" had been brought under control, but it did not mention casualties.” (6)
Since 9/11, the imperialists went beyond technical and financial support to providing diplomatic cover to massive repression and creating phony stories that Ethiopia is a democracy and an economic success story. In July this year during his visit to Ethiopia the US President Barack Obama said: “We are opposed to any group that is promoting the violent overthrow of a government, including the government of Ethiopia, that has been democratically elected.” (7) For the imperialist terrorize the people is a sure sign of democracy.
Ethiopia under the Derg Regime
In 1974 in similar situation Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown by a wave of demonstrations, workers strikes mutinies and uprisings. He was replaced by a cast of young officers influenced by Stalinism. Mengistu Haile Miriam emerged as their leader. He expelled Americans exploiters and institute some economic reforms nationalized major companies and distributed land to the poor peasants
It was called Ye-Itiopia Hibretesebawinet (Ethiopian Socialism). The Land Reform of March 1975 abolished tenancy and put peasants in charge of enforcement. No family was to have a plot larger than ten hectares, and no one could employ farm workers. In January and February 1975, the Derg nationalized all banks and insurance firms and seized control of practically every important company in the country. However, retail trade and the wholesale and export-import sectors remained in private hands.
Toward the end of the 1980s, several crises, including famine, economic collapse, and military setbacks in Eritrea and Tigray, confronted the Derg. In addition, the Soviet Union and East Europe went through changes that would lead them back to capitalism and it became evident that Addis Ababa no longer could rely on its allies for support. (8)
Ethiopia under the Derg was not a workers state but a form of state capitalism similar to the Nasser regime in Egypt or the Yemeni Socialist Republic. (9)
While the organized workers in the CELU labor federation (The Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions) participated in overthrowing Emperor Haile Selassie, and allied itself with the Derg it demanded shop-floor control over production. As a reaction, the Dreg closed the CELU headquarters and in January 1977, it replaced it with state controlled trade unions the All-Ethiopia Trade Union with a total membership of 287,000. Today the reorganized CELU is a state controlled trade union.
In December 1979, the military cast set up a commission to study the formation of a Stalinist party, under the name a workers' party which was set up in 1984.The seven members of the military council were named to the party's 11-member Politburo. The size of this party was estimated as 30,000. Of these, some 15,000 people were described as paid party workers. (10) It was not a workers party but a bureaucratic machine to control the workers.
In the end, the Derg regime collapsed in 1991 faced with popular unrest.
While the Dreg was not a workers government but an officer cast that tried to replace the impotent capitalist class and solve the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, the revolutionary wave that they rode on proves that a socialist revolution was possible in Ethiopia in 1974 even when the working class is relatively small.
Forward with the Ethiopian Revolution!
To bring down the pro imperialist dictatorship it is necessary to organize a general strike of the workers combine with massive demonstrations of workers and peasants. It is urgent to free the CELU from the control of the government and replace the corrupted bureaucrats with truly committed leaders to the cause of the socialist revolution, or if proven impossible to build independent trade union federation.
Activists must organize groups that will defend the workers and the peasants. It is necessary to build local and national democratically elected bodies of the workers and the poor peasants to lead the revolution.
Most importantly it is necessary to build a workers' party based on a revolutionary program. Such a party will fight for a workers and peasant government. A successful revolution may ignite a huge wave of uprisings in Africa and around the world that will help the workers in Ethiopia to build a socialist society.
(1) On the RCIT’s analysis of the historic revolutionary period which opened in 2008 we refer readers to e.g. RCIT: World Perspectives 2016: Advancing Counterrevolution and Acceleration of Class Contradictions Mark the Opening of a New Political Phase. Theses on the World Situation, the Perspectives for Class Struggle and the Tasks of Revolutionaries (January 2016), Chapter II, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-perspectives-2016/part2/ as well as Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South. Continuity and Changes in the Super-Exploitation of the Semi-Colonial World by Monopoly Capital. Consequences for the Marxist Theory of Imperialism, Chapter 14(i), RCIT Books, Vienna 2013, pp. 372-394, http://www.great-robbery-of-the-south.net/great-robbery-of-south-online/downloadchapters-1/chapter14/
(2) Greg Mills Ethiopia’s Hailemariam Desalegn: Growth has to be shared to be sustainable daily maverick, Daily Maverick, http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2016-06-07-ethiopias-hailemariam-desalegn-growth-has-to-be-shared-to-be-sustainable/#.V7QjqON8thE
(3) Source: CIA World Factbook estimates from 2007, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/et.html
(4) ESAT News, August 11, 2016, http://ethsat.com/un-to-probe-killings-of-ethiopians-by-tplf
(6) Al-Jazeera: Dozens killed in Ethiopia protest crackdown, 9 August 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/08/30-killed-ethiopia-protests-opposition-160808105428331.html
(7) The Guardian: Obama criticised for calling Ethiopia's government 'democratically elected', July 27 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jul/27/obama-urges-ethiopia-end-crackdown-political-press-freedom
(8) See e.g. Global Security Org: "The Dreg" http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/ethiopia/history-dergue.htm; Fred Halliday and Maxine Molyneux: The Ethiopian Revolution, Verso Editions, London 1981
(9) See on this e.g. Yossi Schwartz: Was the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen a Deformed Workers State? in: Revolutionary Communism No. 42, August 2015, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/south-yemen/; On the issue of degenerated workers states see also Michael Pröbsting: Cuba’s Revolution Sold Out? RCIT, Vienna 2013, www.cuba-sold-out.net/
(10) The New York Times, September 11, 1984, http://www.nytimes.com/1984/09/11/world/ethiopian-communist-party-is-set-up-with-mengistu-at-the-helm.html