An all-inclusive national dialogue is set to begin soon with the historic mandate to deal with the accumulated problems Ethiopia is now facing and the way out of the present impasse in a way that will lead to a national consensus and a way forward. Ethiopia’s accumulated problems mainly emanate from history, from ideology and from political mess created by successive governments at least over the last 45 years.
The imperial system had its own share of mistakes and missteps. The Derg had its own negative impacts on the political process and nation building in Ethiopia. These problems came to a head with the accession to power of the TPLF that played the lion’s share in taking Ethiopia to its present conundrums. The political elites from the various regional ethnic groups were also co-opted or forced into carrying out TPLF’s vision into the otherwise stable constituencies. These elites or the educated class also certainly carry the burden of responsibilities for the cumulative effects of the crises that emerged at different stages of Ethiopia’s recent history.
The people of Ethiopia as a whole may also be responsible for the long silence they maintained in the face of oppression and atrocities and for accepting everything they are told to do without questioning or opposing when necessary. The political disempowerment of the broad masses was the single most powerful factor that paralyzed the true players from the political discourse and prevented action for positive change.
Although passivity or patience may be a virtue, the people had on many occasions rose up to change the status quo but every time they rebelled and managed to remove the bad men from government, the fruits of their victories were taken away by the elites who used their monopoly of violence to impose their will on the entire country. In the process, the TPLF emerged as the most brutal, most damaging and most irresponsible political entity that cheated, deceived and misled the popular masses by pretending to defend their interest but in reality destroyed their hopes and turned them into anon fodders for its interminable wars and conflicts it manufactured in the last 30 years.
The TPLF gave itself various deceptive titles to win the hearts and minds of the people. It called itself “liberator” while it is in reality the most oppressive political group. It called itself revolutionary while it is the most reactionary force in Ethiopian history. It paid lip service to the demands of the revolution for land and freedom. In 1974, the people of Ethiopia rose against the monarchy and overthrew feudalism. The Derg hijacked the revolution and turned land into the property of the state. The TPLF came out of the bush and consolidated land as the property of the “whole people” which was a deception as it turned out sooner than later.
The TPLF turned land into a powerful machine for wealth creation and enrichment of the TPLF elites. The key slogan of the revolution was land to the tiller. The TPLF killed any aspiration of the peasants for land ownership by turning it into the property of the ruling elites who used it for self-enrichment and generation of wealth to line their pockets. Hundreds of billions of dollars worth property was generated by land speculation and abuse by the TPLF elites but the farmers are still as poor as they were before the revolution. TPLF’s lies, deceptions and unfulfilled promises are so any they can fill a thick volume. Our purpose here is not to preset a list of TPLF’s abuses.
In order to camouflage these deceptions and lies, the TPLF invented an ideological camouflage known as Revolutionary Democracy but unknown anywhere in the world. However, in essence, what the TPLF calls Revolutionary democracy is an illusion for cheating the farmers of their lands. The TPLF’s social base is the urban petty bourgeoisie and the class of former landlords. They key leaders of the movement trace their lineage to the land owning class in Tigray. As such, it is natural that the TPLF does not care about the peasants’ demands for land ownership.
By the same token, the TPLF established what it called a Marxist-Leninist party without having anything to do with the Ethiopian working class. None of them have a background in labor activity or trade union militancy. They discovered the theory from books they did not even understand and used it as a deceptive tool to cover their anti-working class policies. They took the most violent aspects of the Marxist-Leninist theory they found a perfect recipe as a cover for their narrow ethnic policies and practices. They selectively used the most violent aspect of the theory to destroy their opponents and consolidate their rule.
At one point they called themselves MLLT, without having and iota of working class tradition of struggle. They had not a single member with working class background. Yet, who cares, the TPLF is so ruthless and so irresponsible that they pick up whatever garbage they think promotes their goals of setting up their dictatorial system. Around the end of their rule, they picked up what they called “Developmental state” theory they copied from foreign books and presented it as their own original invention.
Of all their copied and pasted theories, what stuck the most is Stalinism about which they preferred to keep silent and use it as their “secret weapon” for dictatorship. It goes without saying that all reform-minded Ethiopian politicians of all hues and colors are unified in their unconditional rejection of the ideology that is known as “revolutionary democracy” which was the source of all the political tragedies of the last 40 years in Ethiopia.
It was from the poisoned chalice of Revolutionary Democracy that the equally poisonous drink known as ethnic federalism, the repressions, the cult of personality and the illegal enrichment of the ruling elites and their ethnic associates, the corruption of Ethiopian politics and economy, the fake economic growth,…all flow into the consciousness of the Ethiopian people.
The consequences of Revolutionary Democracy on the collective conscious of Ethiopians were diverse and fatal. Fear was institutionalized. Mutual suspicious was the order of the day. Politics was turned into a minefield on which anyone can step on and get blown up. It controlled the people’s subconscious minds and turned them into docile and fearful subjects. The country was turned into a vast gulag where all other ideas were condemned to languish in and dissenting opinions were repressed and silenced.
The EPRDF was bracing for a long stay, perhaps a century or more. The Second Republic would be a hereditary plutocracy where the elites of a single ethnic group, namely Tigrayans would continue to flourish while all other groups would perish slowly and leave the field to the selected few. The children of the TPLF old guard were sent to America and Europe to learn the tricks of governance as well as Machiavellian tricks that would carry them forward to the following generation of rulers well versed in deceptions, lies, falsification of historic facts and fabrication of counter-facts.
If we look at the matter very closely, we realize that Revolutionary Democracy in traces its parentage from Stalinism, an ideology that ruled supreme in communist countries from 1924 until Joseph Stalin died in 1954. Stalinism was an extreme form of communist ideology. It was embraced by the Albanian communist under Enver Hoxa. The TPLF copied Stalinism from Albania and created its own version with Marxist Leninist League Tigray (MLLT).
From its very inception, the TPLF was obsessed with political power. And Stalinism fitted well into its strategy. The dream also evolved from dominating Tigray to dominating Ethiopia. It used selectively some of the key theses it found useful to promote its drive for state power. It dropped the theory of proletarian dictatorship which is at the core of Stalinist ideology and adopted Revolutionary Democracy which is in a way a caricature or a more degenerate version of the original Stalinism. In place of the dictatorship of the proletariat, TPLF changed it into the dictatorship of one ethnic group over the other ethnicities. Instead of internationalism, the TPLF adopted narrow ethnic nationalism.
TPLF justified its pre-1991 policies on the basis of Leninist-Stalinist theories of armed struggle, one party hegemony and democratic centralism. When it captured state power, it changed it into ethnic struggle for domination and one party rule and preserved central control or democratic centralism because it suited its ethnic dictatorial aspirations. Later on it dropped state control of the economy and replaced it with what its chief ideologue Melles Zenawi called “white capitalism”. It did this because state-controlled economy was unpopular both in their and practice and the TPLF wanted to deceive its western backers primarily, the US and the international monetary institutions in its bid to consolidate its power with generous loans and assistance. The TPLF has never been a genuine popular and revolutionary movement. It was an ethnic-based, narrow nationalist and dictatorial movement disguised as MMLT or Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray because the party was established when socialism was popular and the party sought to secure the support of Russia or China by disguising itself as a “revolutionary” movement.
TPLF’s ideology was eclectic, a mix of ethnicity, nationalism and a bit of fascism because it dreams of imposing the dictatorship of one minority ethnic group over the others with a single party domination and a “strong” leader enjoying absolute power. It promotes territorial expansion using force and indiscriminate violence. Serbia’s communist-turned fascist-nationalist Slobodan Milosevic and the other Balkan communist leaders adopted fascism disguised as nationalism as soon as they dropped their communist mantles they kept when Yugoslavia was one united entity. What happened when they turned fascists and nationalist is a long history of cruelty and tragedy. The TPLF is in a way working to repeat the Balkan tragedy in Ethiopia and in the Horn of Africa in general.
An ideology that oppressed the people for so long as the TPLF did cannot of course be overcome overnight. It has infiltrated their subconscious and dictating their actions. The kind of ethnic federation the TLF wanted and worked so hard to institutionalize was a system whereby it becomes the perpetual ruler of the country and collapses when it leaves office. The country is actually going through this phase. Deep inside, the TPLF knows it cannot return to power.
The remaining option is to turn the country and the region into another Balkan conundrum. It relies on foreign forces, as they did in the Balkan back in the 1990s, to dismantle the old federation and carve out smaller and weaker entities out of the former Yugoslavia. The Balkan people were previously subverted by ethnic nationalism and fascism that led to numerous acts of genocides. The same is promoted by the TPLF in Ethiopia.
The threat of US military intervention in Ethiopia from its base in Djibouti is a reflection of the intentions of foreign and domestic forces eager to repeat the Balkan tragedy and destroying Ethiopia through ethnic fragmentation. The ideology of Revolutionary Democracy is responsible for creating the false consciousness of separatism or war and any discussion of the fate of Ethiopia should start with the rejection of this ideology as anti-Ethiopian and a weapon of metal subversion that led to the present impasse. Back in 1954 When Joseph Stalin died, Russians started a new phase by exposing and rejecting this notorious ideology. Exposing the evils and crimes of Revolutionary Democracy should be the starting point for any kind of renewal. Knowingly or unknowingly the country is still hostage to an ideology that has long proved bankrupt. Communists say that religion is the opium of the people. It is Revolutionary Democracy that served as opium of the people for the last 30 years.
BY MULUGETA GUDETA
THE ETHIOPIAN THURSDAY 27 JANUARY 2022