Ethiopia: The Unknown Revolution

Vivo, Raul Valdes

Published by Social Sciences Publishers, Cuba, 1978



■M I"- 



By Raul Valdez Vivo 

New York 

Originally published in 1977 as Etiopia, la revolucion 
desconocida by Editorial de Cienias Sociales 
Translation © 1978 by International Publishers Co., Inc. 
First edition, 1978 

Printed in the United States of America 

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data 

Valde's Vivo, Raul. 

Ethiopia’s revolution. 

Translation of Etiopia; la revolucion desconocida. 
1. Ethiopia— History— Revolution, 1974. I. Title. 
DT387.95.V3413 963'. 06 78-16388 

ISBN 0-7178-0558-5 pbk. 

In Ethiopia they have adopted very 
radical measures. In a feudal country 
where the peasants were slaves, they 
nationalized the land and distributed it 
among the peasants. They carried out an 
urban reform, allowing only one house to 
a family. They organized a powerful 
movement in the cities, a form of 
organization they called the kebele. That 
is, they organized the families in the 
poor urban areas. They nationalized the 
principal industries of the country , 
revolutionized the armed forces, 
politicized the soldiers, created Political 

Although the Ethiopian Revolution 
faces powerful enemies, the people are 
determined to fight, for no true 
revolution can easily be defeated. We 
believe that the success and 
consolidation of the Ethiopian 
Revolution have enormous importance 
for Africa. 

March, 1977 


Foreword • 9 

1. The Emperor Is Arrested • 15 

2. A Revolution Seeking Its Ideology • 31 

3. When Haile Selassie Fought for Power • 41 

4. A Glance at the Revolution • 59 

5. Roots of Spontaneity • 69 

6. The Work of the Revolution • 77 

7. Objectives of the Revolution • 101 

8. Motor of the Revolution *111 

9. Diary of the Revolution *115 
About the Author • 125 


THE NEWEST and a most thoroughgoing revolution 
has taken place in the oldest country in the world: 
Ethiopia. In three days a three thousand year old 
monarchy was toppled. This revolution has propelled 
aged Ethiopia from a society of oppressive feudal- 
bourgois backwardness into the orbit of socialist 
countries with rocketlike speed. 

Raul Valdes Vivo has written about this and more: 
The revolution, its beginnings, its victory over the 
Haile Selassie regime on a September morn in 1974; 
and its confrontations with recurrent waves of coun- 
terrevolution. He tells how the workers and peasants 
took its banner to their hearts and arms to their hands 
to defend the revolution and carry it forward to ac- 
complish unprecedented radical agrarian and urban 
social reforms, nationalization of industry, banking 
and commerce, and the conversion of urban proper- 
ties into public ownership. Valdes Vivo describes 
how the revolution smashed caste-privileges and na- 
tional exclusiveness, and opened the way to the de- 
mocratization, organization, and politicalization of 
the popular masses of civilians and soldiers alike; 
and how it is addressing the widespread problems of 
poverty, illiteracy, disease, prejudice, etc. 

Raul Valdes Vivo shows us the steps the revolu- 
tionary process has taken which brought it to its 
logical connection with the true ideology of modern 
social revolution — Marxism-Leninism. He discloses 



how the complex problems of leadership contributed 
to and in turn found basic solution in the emergence 
of an outstanding revolutionary talent-Lieutenant 
Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, Socialist Ethiopia's 
brilliant leader and builder of its Marxist-Leninist 
vanguard party. 

Frederick Douglass, the great 19th century anti- 
slavery liberator, appealing to his youthful readers to 
join with Maceo’s rising for the liberation of Cuba 
rom the Spanish yoke, invoked the great principle of 
internationalism, of the common bonds that unite the 
victims of tyranny against a common oppressor. “A 
blow struck for freedom anywhere, is a blow for free- 
dom everywhere," Douglass wrote. As it was with 
Cuba, so it is with Ethiopia. The victory of the Ethio- 
pian Revolution will most favorably influence the 
reiation of forces on the African continent. It is a 
mighty blow to colonialism, neo-colonialism and im- 
perialism in general and will constitute a great in- 
™° n and source of support to the peoples of 
S ° u * hern Africam battle for their national liberation. 

Ethiopia is the situs of the biblical land of ancient 
Abyssinia, of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba 

nnfn !f^ reS , Pr0minently in the ieli Sious and ethnic 
foT! ?L re r e r renCe ° f the thirt y million Afro-Amer- 
wm h°m d Stat6S - The Ethi °Pian Revolution 

Tt soft r !n eCial intereSt f ° r the Black P e °Ple who 
nr*!, h ff r? 11 manner of discrimination and racial 
' message ’ that ^e path of socialism is 

^ Way t0 soclal Progress in our times, will 

and militancy of peoples of color who 

the ex P erie nces of racist indignities and na- 
tional oppression. 

"f ^ m P erial ism was supportive in every way to 
Haile Selassie's backward repressive regime. It 
counted upon manipulating the prestige of this oldest 
in ta e f in ltS design for neo-colonialist domination 
!nnl K 1Ca Where the old ' st y le colonialism could no 
ger be maintained by imperialism. It hoped to 


divert the anti-monarchy upsurge into safe channels 
by virtue of U.S. influence in the higher echelons of 
the military and the government bureaucracy— hav- 
ing provided the training for their top cadres. Disap- 
pointed in realizing these expectations, U.S. 
imperialism put its considerable resources at the 
service of counterrevolution in Ethiopia. It inspired 
attempts at coups, assassinations of leaders, the or- 
ganization of subsidies— military and financial— to 
secessionist provincial nationalist movements. It 
conspired with Siad Barre and pledged support and 
material aid to the Somali expansionist adventure. 
The armed forces of Somalia drove 700 km. into the 
Ogaden Province of Ethiopia before they were finally 
stopped and routed by the armed forces and peoples 
militia of revolutionary Ethiopia. The ability of the 
Ethiopian Revolution to meet the treacherous invas- 
ion from Somalia was greatly aided by the heroic 
measures undertaken to render necessary material 
support to its defense effort by its allies— the Soviet 
Union, Cuba, the Peoples Republic of Yemen, and 
other socialist lands, as well as Kenya and other 
front-line countries. 

The leader of the revolutionary forces of Ethiopia— 
Lieutenant Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam— has 
said that: 

We have emerged triumphant in the Ogaden 
war waged against the reactionary Somali rul- 
ing class, and although we're marching along 
the correct path, the long and bloody struggle of 
the Ethiopian masses has still a long way to go. 
Imperialism and Arab reaction are now guiding 
and fully supporting the secessionist rebellions 
(of Eritrean groups) in the North. 

Mengistu expresses confidence that the forces of 
justice, peace and progress the world over will arise 
to the support of the just cause of the Ethiopian Revo- 


John Reed's book. Ten Days That Shook The World, 
was a volume of reportage that gave millions an on- 
the-scene acquaintance with the event that ushered in 
a new epoch in human history-the October Revolu- 
tion. Raul Valdes Vivo, in his Ethiopia’s Revolution, 
has written a wonderful, insightful sequel to the 
latest (but by no means the last) offspring of that 
pioneer of modern revolutions— Great October. It de- 
serves to reach the hands, hearts and minds of the 

James E. Jackson 



The Emperor 
Is Arrested 

AT 8:00 A.M. on September 12, 1974— Maskaram 2, 1967 , 
or September 2, 1967, In the Ethiopian calendar, ac- 
cording to which the days are only 12 hours long (as 
long as there is daylight, that is)— a small white 
Volkswagen raced through the vast gardens of tall 
eucalyptus trees and gigantic rare flowers (the ones 
that cluster on a single stem and are sometimes many 
different shades of red and yellow) and stopped short 
at the main entrance to the Imperial Palace of Addis 
Ababa. Very few people knew that the occupants of 
the car were about to arrest Emperor Haile Selassie I, 
King of Kings, the Chosen One of God, Lion of Judah, 
direct descendant of the Queen of Sheba and King 

The operation had been very carefully planned; it 
was truly “top secret.” The three soldiers chosen to 
carry out the operation were not informed of its objec- 
tive until minutes before arriving at the palace in the 
VW. The arrest and removal of the sovereign had been 
demanded of the generals and colonels by an anony- 
mous captain, the one who on June 28 had set up the 
headquarters of the Coordinating Committee for the 
Armed Forces, Police and Territorial Army in the 4th 
Military Division. 

There is no official explanation of why such a small 
car was used. Unofficially, however, it has been 
rumored that there was no other car available; that 
they wanted to teach the Emperor a lesson; that they 


did not want to arouse the displeasure and possible 
anger of a people who, although involved in a mass 
spontaneous uprising, were thought to have omitted 
Haile Selassie from the list of the guilty. Impelled by 
the most primitive fanaticism, with which they had 
een well inculcated, the people might well have at- 
tempted to liberate their everlasting political and 
religious chief, absolute dean of power in the world 
the sovereign who had survived kings, presidents! 
Popes and patriarchs since the time of World War I. 

Suddenly, however, the secret was out. As the car 
took the corner near the Djibouti railroad crossing at 
ful! speed someone recognized the august person- 
the frail, shrunken body, all that was left of a dynasty 
that was three centuries old, a body wracked by the 
nausea of fear, yet still hoping for a miracle-and 
screeched at the top of his voice: “It’s the Emperor! 

1 hey ve arrested him!” Everyone, including those 
who couldn t have had time to see him, saw him. Even 

t n h!vw UrPr i S u ng ’ Pe ° ple ° n the streets alon S whi ch 
the VW sped began to shout out loud something that 

‘•Tt m f?*? r ^ Chiefs hadn’t even dared to whisper: 
Thief! Murderer! Monster!” These were the same 
people who had gathered each afternoon on street 
corners where soldiers and policemen had been sta- 
tioned waiting for the big bullet-proof vehicle to 
make its customary stop, in the hope of delivering 
their naive petitions to the Emperor; the people 
whose supreme ambition had been to have their sons 
and daughters see the personage on the wide avenue 
* ront of the Ad dis Ababa Hilton and be blessed by 
and receive some money from his sacred hands— 
sometimes after a traditional Sunday Coptic wed- 
ding; the people who once every 15 days had repaired 
to the paiace to attend the Emperor’s hearings-also 
en e y the nobles, for whom, of course, seats 
were provided in the great hall. 

Em P eror ’ s rulin S s in hearings on lawsuits be- 
tween rich and poor, and between the poor them- 


selves, were final. Hearings involving only the rich 
took place without too much of a crowd, in closed 
circles of elegant, perfumed courtiers, with their sa- 
laams and veiled smiles. But sometimes the hearings 
attracted many people, as when the Alfa Negus (liter- 
ally “breath of the king”) was invoked; this was the 
final appeal in cases which the Supreme Tribunal 
decided to leave to the sublime judgment of Ethiopia’s 
pure giver of justice. Generally, the shouts of laugh- 
ter coming from those seated in the hall drowned the 
tears of those standing, but no record was kept, and 
faith did not dwindle. The people continued to believe 
that the Emperor was good; the bad ones were his 
aides, his judges, his ministers— the evil spirits he 
would someday vanquish. How could it be otherwise, 
when Ethiopia was governed by a demigod whom the 
young people of the country believed to have no phys- 
iological needs? (I was told this by journalists on the 
Ethiopian Herald. There are grounds, then, for think- 
ing that this was the reasoning not only of ignorant 
peasants but of children of the bourgeoisie with con- 
siderable educational background. When it occurred 
to one of them to doubt this (at about the age of 13) and 
he asked the teacher about it, he was told in no uncer- 
tain terms, “Of course he has no need to urinate. And, 
if he dies one day, the sun will stop shining. Who 
doesn’t know that?”) 

Yet, as the VW sped away, feelings toward the Em- 
peror had changed. “Thief! Murderer! Monster!” At 
some street corners, coins rained on the roof, win- 
dows and windshield of the car— fractions of birs, 
bearing the likeness of the Emperor, now a frightened 
bird, no longer able to fly so proudly on high and 
pluck out entrails. Black, bony hands, sometimes 
leprous hands, pulled coins out of goatskin bags, out 
of old tin cans, out of top hats recovered from the 
garbage can of some mansion or other, and hurled 
them at the vehicle. Had the car slowed down, it would 
have been stopped once and for all by the populace. 


and the Emperor would have perished at the hands of 
the beggars he had so wantonly created. 

The arrest of a monarch who had been lord and 
master, judge and executioner, for the past 50 years 
snapped the last ideological shackles in the most 
spontaneous people’s revolution in the history of Af- 
rica, and perhaps of the whole world. The Revolution 
had first broken out on February 13, 1974, set off by 
someone’s protest in some Addis Ababa garage or gas 
station over the rise in the price of gas. It is said that it 
was a taxi driver who was so enraged that he got out of 
his car and set off down the street, shouting much as a 
street vendor would. Others soon joined him, their 
shouts generating a sudden and unexpected demon- 
stration. Dozens, hundreds, thousands, marched 
through the streets chanting: "Down with the gas 
price rise!” When the crowd reached the entrance to 
the university, two opposing contingents swelled the 
ranks of the demonstrators: first the students and 
then the police, who had been stationed around the 
university and who found it difficult to break up what 
was by then a street riot by wielding their billy clubs 
and firing into the air. A second demonstration, 
staged by students, met with the same opposition. 
However, a third, held on the 16th, was permitted, and, 
according to eyewitnesses, nearly 100,000 people 
were involved in this one. So, on February 23, for the 
first time in half a century, the imperial government 
retreated, rescinding the price increase that had start- 
ed the protests. By then, however, Addis Ababa had 
been turned upside down, and no way could be seen of 
restoring the peace. On the 18th, the teachers had gone 
on strike, uncharacteristically opposing the so- 
called Revision of the Educational Sector, a measure 
that went directly against their interests. On the 20th, 
the students and workers were out on the streets 
again with the first openly political demands of the 
incipient uprising, accusing the government of be- 


vingthe Emperor. This demonstration was hailed 
hv the taxi drivers who, 48 hours earlier, had them- 
selves gone on strike-a strike that was ended only 
after the government rolled back the increase in the 
price of gas. Horns honked gaily, and, amidst the 
shouting crowd, revolutionary songs of the interna- 
tional proletariat were heard for the first time in 
Ethiopia— mingled, of course, with the ritual cries of 
"Long live the Emperor!” 

The Emperor sat in the back seat of the VW, which 
was driven by a soldier with a clean-shaven baby face 
that seemed solemn because of a diagonal scar. On the 
Emperor’s left sat a second soldier; next to the driver 
was another. Haile Selassie clenched his teeth, held 
his breath-cold as the early morning air-not daring 
to think, as if all this were happening to somebody 
else, as if it were the moment in a nightmare to say: 
“It’s only a dream.” Only when the high iron gate at 
the end of the central avenue opened did he fully 
realize that this time the gate was not being opened 
just for him, because nobody saluted him. Perhaps no 
one knew who was in the car or . . . impossible! Even 
then his instinctive reaction was not a dramatic one. 
His thoughts centered on the fact that never before in 
his 80-odd years had he even considered traveling in 
such a small car. He remembered that he had made a 
gift of several such cars to his grandchildren a few 
weeks earlier and that even a 6-year-old great grand- 
son had demanded, and received, one too to the 
laughter of all, including the servants, althoughh had 
scolded the child somewhat. . . . These were his 
thoughts when he heard the shouts and the beating of 
coins on the roof and windows of the car. “My God, 
they’ve all gone mad!” Almost miraculously the 
small car with the little man inside made its getaway. 
The great revolution could now proceed peacefully, 
without violence or bloodshed, which was what its 
anonymous military leaders wanted. 


now general alarm over the news of famine, after six 
years of continuous drought and official indifference. 
Demonstrations and strikes gave vent to the petitions 
of each and every sector of the country: from trans- 
portation workers to civil servants, from soldiers to 
firemen. It was as if everyone— except the Emperor- 
had something to demand, and urgently. 

In the midst of this chaotic situation, Prime Minis- 
ter Aklilou Habte-Wolde had had to hand in his resig- 
nation on February 27. He represented the decrepit 
feudal oligarchy, whose power had still seemed im- 
pregnable on February 12. 

Revolutions will occur when the masses at the bot- 
tom can no longer tolerate to live in the old way and 
the rulers on top, in crisis, can no longer rule in the 
old way. This law, discovered by Marx and which 
guided Lenin in the October Revolution, was operat- 
ing in Ethiopia. 

Under these circumstances, on February 28, En- 
dalkatchew Makonnen made his appearance on the 
scene as Ethiopia's new Prime Minister, sprouting 
high-sounding populist phrases. It was he who first 
declared that it was a time of change. Furthermore, as 
if heralding the setting up of an imperial government 
“as good as" the Emperor himself, a commission was 
appointed on March 25 to investigate scandals re- 
garding the misuse of public funds and property, the 
sudden enrichment of state officials, and cases of 
obvious miscarriage of justice. Several members of 
the previous Cabinet were placed under house arrest, 
while the new Cabinet seemed to accept the judgment 
of Parliament (where no one had ever said anything 
against the government) that the former military of- 
ficers who had been arrested for sympathizing with 
the first outbreak of popular protest, and for refusing 
to repress it, should be released. 

Now, to the surprise of the skeptical military chiefs, 
on July 3 the new government agreed to work with the 
Coordinating Committee, just one week after the lat- 


from the private quarters of the Emperor to the Minis- 
try of National Defense. Immediately afterward, the 
clean-up reached right under the imperial carpet: at 
the peremptory request of the military, the National 
Resources Development Share Company (an ideal 
cover for the rich to get richer) became public proper- 
ty. and two days later— on August 27— the Ambassa 
(Lion) Bus Company, which filled the coffers of the 
aristocracy for 21 years, met the same fate. However, 
it wasn't until September 5 that the dirt was found on 
the supposedly spotlessly clean boots of the Emperor: 
upon inspecting the books of the nationalized St. 
George Brewery and the Haile Selassie Prize Trust, it 
was discovered that the brewery had provided the 
King of Kings with 11 million birs in dividends. The 
people followed the news in the press; even the illiter- 
ate scanned the papers that soon sold out at the news- 
stands and from newsboys’ hands. The initial “He? 
Impossible!” now gave way to doubt. The doubt in- 
creased when the mysterious accounts of the Charity 
Trusts came to light. It was known that the Trust 
consisted of five hospitals, three clinics, two or- 
phanages, two homes for the aged and other similar 
enterprises. Then it was revealed that it also owned 
several hotels, other buildings and agricultural en- 
terprises. Gradually, it became clear that the Em- 
peror was a demigod obsessed with money. Finally, it 
became known that his vast personal fortune might 
well be one of the largest, if not the largest, in the 
world. Soon it was also disclosed that he had deposi- 
ted money in Switzerland. 

On September 11, the Coordinating Committee invi- 
ted the Emperor to bring that money home to help 
solve the serious economic crisis the country was 
going through. He was shown the figures compiled by 
the Economic Committee for Africa and the UN Eco- 
nomic and Social Council. These figures revealed 
that, since 1970, Ethiopia’s Gross National Product 
had grown only 1.6 percent annually. Since the per- 


centage increase of the population had been 2.8, there 
had been a net loss of 1.2 per inhabitant in terms of the 
GNP. In agriculture alone, the figure was just about 
zero: 0.4, to be exact. In money terms, income per 
inhabitant was less than $90 a year. 

The Coordinating Committee then appealed to the 
sentiments of the Emperor, who cared little about 
figures not related to his own bank accounts. It was 
already known by then that the fortune he had deposi- 
ted in Switzerland amounted to billions of dollars. 


was impossible for an Emperor to retract. “I’m really 
sorry/ he said. 

On September 12, at 7:30 A.M., Mengistu and his 
fellow officers carried out the legal overthrow of the 
diminutive big thief. 


The Ethiopian Revolution, bent on preventing 
bloodshed at all costs, didn’t even spill that of the one 
most to blame for the mountains of bleached bones 
along the dusty roads, the bones of at least 200,000 

The worst punishment for the Emperor, Mengistu 
argued before the Coordinating Committee, would be 
to place Ethiopia in the hands of those whose efforts 
for centuries had built it without its ever belonging to 

It wasn’t easy, however, to make the people their 
own master. 

Haile Selassie lost all his titles but he left behind 
him an incredible record of iniquities and eccen- 
tricities: his tricomered hat a la Trujillo; his habit of 
ordering his ministers to come before him every mor- 
ning — not to see him, for they had to approach him 
bowing with heads bent, but so that he might see them 
before they sat at their posts compelling others to 
suffer the very humiliation they had just suffered at 
his hands; his after-breakfast order to the four bu- 
glers he called into the dining room to sound their 
bugles from the corners of the palace roof and an- 
nounce to all the kings of the world that their King 
now gave them leave to have breakfast; and other 
similar eccentricities, such as the one the author 
himself witnessed when Haile Selassie arrived in 
Cambodia for an official visit in 1969. After being 
greeted by Prince Sihanouk, when the band began to 
play the Ethiopian anthem the Emperor made a ges- 


ture for it to stop until Lulu, the royal dog, had de- 
scended from his personal Boeing jet. The Cambodian 
chief of state later confessed to some ambassadors, 
that he had been tempted to ask, “Your Majesty, may 
we start, or must we wait until the little dog has 
relieved herself?” 

Naturally, when Lulu died, the Emperor shed the 
tears he had never shed for the 200,000 victims of 
famine in Wollo Province. Imperial funeral rites ac- 
companied Lulu to her final resting place under a 
tombstone bearing her legendary name and dates of 
birth and death inscribed in gold. It must be admitted 
that the people also cried, with just as much sincerity. 
They cried with their Emperor, sharing his sorrow. 
The moment was photographed and filmed, and tales 
were told of it from mouth to mouth. 

Gold, like that on Lulu’s tomb, is also one of the 
wonders adorning the 200 palace chambers; it comes 
from the mines the Emperor secretly owned in 
Sidamo Province. Work at the mines was done by 
slaves, recruited by force, hunted down as in former 
times, when slave traders hunted Blacks in Africa for 
the European colonies of the Americas. ... A con- 
struction worker, returning to his hut made of bare 
boards and a tin roof after 12 hours of toil for a wage 
scarcely double what some fortunate beggar might 
make— or one of the unemployed, roaming the streets 
at dawn, afraid that the police might beat him up, 
huddled in old newspapers to protect himself against 
the cold— might well be grabbed suddenly and thrown 
into a closed truck without windows. He wouldn’t see 
the light of day again until he arrived at the mines. 
There he would spend the whole day bent over a creek, 
stopping only to eat his prison rations. Then, at night, 
believe it or not, he would be compelled to take a 
purgative, just in case some gold nuggets had gotten 
into his mouth while he was sifting sand. Special 
gendarmes then poked around in the feces, and if 
something glittered there, the culprit was sentenced 
without appeal. 


The most striking thing is that the people as a whole 
re not aware that hundreds of men were kidnapped 
pverv year, and not one of those who did know sus- 
pected that the Emperor could possibly know about it, 
much less be the one responsible. 

In his palace, with its 800 servants, the rugs on 
which he stepped every morning at around 11:00 
o'clock were embroidered with gold. His toilet seat 
was solid gold, as were the bicycle frame for his daily 
exercises, the washstand and the bathtub. His clothes 
were something else; it depended on who was going to 
see them. There wasn’t much gold on his clothes for 
evening outings, but those he wore when receiving 
ambassadors, or at official receptions, or on trips to 
other countries had as much gold as possible, with no 
limits dictated by even the most elementary good 

The Emperor had an insatiable appetite for gold, 
and it didn't let him rest. I have been told by intellec- 
tuals who were in frequent contact with him as inter- 
preters for visits of foreign rulers (whose con- 
sciences are clear with regard to crime and abuse) 
that Haile Selassie was also obsessed by two fears: 
old age and death. On this score, he didn’t turn to 
intellectuals educated in Home or Paris. 

“For such things, in Africa— our own ways.” 

He was referring to Ton Kuai, the witch doctor. 
Before Ton Kuai all his repressed pride, his believing 
himself to be the Elected of God, dissolved like the 
autumn mist that envelops Addis Ababa. On his 
knees, utterly sincere in his humility, bowed before 
his spiritual master, the physical master of all the 
people offered his pagan prayer and begged for 
strength and life. 

A unique Cuban woman lives in Addis Ababa, at 
Kebele 08-0312, number 845. Rogelia Emiliana Leon 
(ID number 12) had a Congolese grandfather and is 
how an Ethiopian citizen. She was born and brought 
up in Guanabacoa but emigrated to Ethiopia in 1952 


after marrying a young Ethiopian who had been 
taken to Cuba to study there, by a Cuban veterinarian 
named Barreras. Nobody quite knows when or how 
Barreras began to work on the Emperor’s stud farm, 
The young man’s father had foreseen the war of 1935 
(when Mussolini attacked Ethiopia) and had per- 
suaded his friend Barreras to take his son back to 
Cuba with him and have him trained as a rural teach- 

The wedding (they are now divorced) took place in 
Guanabacoa. In Addis Ababa, Rogelia learned 
Amharic and became Ethiopian by dint of destiny, but 
she didn t forget the socialist ideas her parents had 
taught her when she was a little girl. She told me a 
story that seems to have come out of a film like The 

I remember as if it were today, the day the 
principal of the school where I worked as a 
cleaning woman brought in 12 little Black girls, 
blacker than I, blacker than all the Ethiopians I 
have known in 25 years. They were so black you 
could hardly see their hair. This race lives on the 
Sudan border. It is a strong race. The girls were 
strong, too, and beautiful. Their ears hadn’t been 
pierced, because they were Muslims, not Chris- 
tians. When I saw them arrive, I thought they 
had been sent to school to be educated, to learn 
Amharic, since they spoke a dialect. I imagined 
that they would someday become the mistresses 
of some figure at the Court— maybe of the Em- 
peror himself, who knows? But one day the prin- 
cipal told me the truth. Every year in December 
two of them were taken to the palace for the 
Emperor’s birthday. Not this palace, the one in 
Bishoust, some 60 kilometers from here. The 
Debre-Sait Palace. Those two would never come 
back. When they left the school, all perfumed, 
they looked so pretty in their white dresses! 
When they got to the palace they were sacrificed, 
and their blood was cast into the palace lake. 
Then, alone, the Emperor bathed naked in that 


water and drank of it. Then he allowed the ser- 
vants and other people who were around to 
nlun&e into the lake. The girls were so naive 
that when they saw the portrait of the Emperor 
with the “three Selassies”— what’s it called? . . . 
the Holy Trinity! . . . the Emperor was the fourth 
saint or something like that— they bowed and 
said “Father.” This went on for five consecutive 
years, each December. I don’t know what they 
told the ones who remained in the school; possi- 
bly they had the girls believe that the others had 
returned to their hamlets. When there were only 
two left, the principal couldn’t stand it any long- 
er, and she decided to save Debritu, the heavier 
girl who was very intelligent, and the other, 
whose name I’ve forgotten, who was even pret- 
tier, and slim. In mid ’73, or ’72, she had their ears 
pierced, as if they had been baptized. This way 
they were of no use for the blood bath. And as far 
as I know, no one said anything, because the 
Coptic religion was so strong that even the 
Crown respected it. ... A year ago I found out 
that Debritu had finished the twelfth grade and 
the other, the ninth. . . . As for the blood bath, 
well, the explanation was that the Devil lived in 
the lake, and he wanted the Emperor to grow old 
and frail. To appease him, they had to give him 
Muslim blood, the blood of that pure, innocent 
race. I don’t know. . . . But I do know that the 
Emperor came to the throne through muider. 
The Queen was married to Y asu, a prince. Haile 
Selassie wanted to be king. He poisoned the 
prince at a dinner and married the widow. They 
say she was already pregnant and that that ex- 
plains why the Emperor despised his eldest son, 
who wasn’t his, and preferred Makonnen, his 
second son, who died in an accident though it s 
also said that he was killed by a jealous pilot. I 
worked also as a cleaning woman in the hospital 
at night, to earn more money. They didn’t let the 
doctor or anybody see the corpse. I know many 
stories like this. The Emperor was a terrible 
man, a real monster. 

A Revolution 
Seeking Its Ideology 


THE 1974 Ethiopian Revolution has no precedent. 
There have been countless spontaneous uprisings, 
but the classes in revolt, though they groped instinc- 
tively for an ideology to explain their origins and 
actions, had not— right from the outset— embraced 

Notwithstanding the reactionary political ideas of 
Hegel and Feuerbach, Marx saw in their philosophies 
the earliest roots of the ideology of the proletariat. 
Neither Hegel nor Feuerbach, in spite of their genius, 
would have been able to discover these roots — let 
alone develop them, thereby defying the social order 
they served. It was Marx and his alter ego, Engels, 
who were far more profound thinkers and of purer 
hearts, who were to become the teachers of the class 
destined by history to bury along with its chains all 
slavery, all humiliation and all fear. The fathers of the 
revolution predicted that the working class would 
overthrow bourgeois rule and, after the period of its 
own inevitable dictatorship, consolidate its victory 
a nd build a new society without exploiters, making 
the transition to a humanized mankind, with no class- 
os. frontiers or state. 

Lenin said and proved that the proletariat had to act 
ln alliance with other exploited classes, first and 
foremost with the peasants. 

Marx and Engels believed in a single world revolu- 
tion. Lenin, having drawn attention to the uneven 


development of capitalism in different countries and 
areas, made it quite clear that the proletarian revolu- 
tion could take place and triumph in certain places 
before others— in those where the contradictions were 
most sharply developed and where there were forces 
capable of resolving and eliminating those contradic- 
tions. The awareness that revolution was knocking at 
the door came from acting on the working-class ideol- 
ogy set down for the exploited and the oppressed by 
scientists who were not born in the working class. 

The fusion of the working class with its class ideol- 
ogy takes place through the work of the Party. With 
the appearance of the Party, the working class begins 
to change from a “class in itself— one that doesn’t 
know what it wants and is blindly exploited — to a 
class for itself," that already works for its total 
liberation. This process culminates in the taking of 

Marx and Engels founded the first party of the 
proletariat in several countries at the same time: 
namely , the First International, a tremendous feat in 
itself. Even though the First International didn’t 
guide the tactics of or even foster the 1871 Paris Com- 
mune— that incredible, surprising “assault on the 
heavens" which threw off the bourgeois yoke for the 
first time, though only for three months and in only 
one city— it was in the International that the heroic 
Communards learned the strategy of beginning so- 
cial change by taking political power. 

Lenin specifically created the new-style party as 
the general staff of and for the revolution. Afterward 
he led it to victory in the Great October Socialist 
Revolution, which gave birth to the first worker- 
peasant state in history, and affirmed that the time 
had come for workers to free themselves. 

The Soviet Union— an infant barely out of the cra- 
had to mature quickly and become strong, dar- 
ing and wise, in order to assert its existence through 
blood, sweat and fire. It faced its supreme test against 


fascist aggression, the cruelest imperialist response 
to socialism. 

The main result of that encounter was that social- 
ism crossed the barrier of national frontiers: social- 
ism became one of two world systems, now engaged 
in final struggle. For the first time in history, it look- 
ed as if there were a hope of imposing peace on earth. 
History records at least 14,000 important wars, in- 
cluding two world wars. With the establishment of the 
socialist camp (which declared the death sentence for 
the old colonial system and weakened the base of 
world imperialism), the possibility emerged of hav- 
ing a revolution without its being the product of war. 

Ethiopia shows something else, as well: without the 
way being prepared openly by ideology, in Ethiopia 
the people first made their Revolution— using the 
means created to prevent it (that is, the old army)— 
and then their Revolution began to discover itself and 
its ideology. 

This doesn’t mean that the ideological factor can be 
dispensed with in making the revolution. On the con- 
trary. It means that, today, Marxist-Leninist ideology 
penetrates so deeply everywhere, in all circles 
throughout the world with such strength, that it 
reaches even those places where books are burned 
and popular parties are considered to be as criminal 
as the reading of revolutionary works. It is like 
breathing unconsciously through one’s pores after 
having been ordered to cover one’s nose and mouth. 

As Fidel indicated during his visit to Ethiopia, its 
Revolution proves the truth that class struggle rules 

We shouldn't express wonder at this advance of 
Marxism-Leninism in a country where there were no 
Marxist-Leninists anywhere. There were workers; 
there were the peasant masses; there was a people 
e *ploited to the hilt, beaten, crushed, offended and 
tricked; and even though the people had been deceived 
f or decades into accepting their fate and adoring the 


leader of their class enemies as if he were a god, on^ a0 s and Cambodia have finished off such lies for 
day the water overflowed and became the torrent thagood and all. 

is the revolution, as Julio Antonio Mella put it. Next, the people of Angola, like the people of 
The Ethiopian Revolution has been spontaneous iiMozambique before them, were victorious in their 
the sense that nobody determined in advance the dat-struggle against NATO-buttressed Portuguese colo- 
on which it was to break out; therefore, there were ntnialism and backed the MPLA when Agostinho Neto 
advance preparations in terms of organization anproclaimed true independence. Then the people had to 
education. prepare to withstand invasion by imperialism’s big 

When, all of a sudden, conditions are ripe for revolugendarme in Africa, the racist-fascist Pretoria re- 
tion, it is obvious that the revolution stands on muclgime, and its small gendarme and clown, Mobutu, 
firmer ground when a vanguard force of workers anHaile Selassie's emulator and Zaire s satrap both 
peasants is organized and educated to recognize thentrenched behind forces encouraged and armed by 
right moment — the one that, as Lenin said, can bthe Peking regime, itself a traitor to socialism, 
neither a minute too early, for then it would be prema Cuba gave internationalist support to the Angolan 
ture, nor a minute too late, because the opportunitresistance, and here, as in Vietnam, Soviet solidarity 
might be lost — for the mass of workers and peasantconfronted the imperialist resources that were 
to take the offensive. thrown on the side of oppression. 

Ethiopia confirms completely that the 20th centur} Ethiopia follows the same process but in a 
can be the last to have societies divided into antagtjualitatively new way. 

onistic classes. The exploited, the oppressed, thosi Vietnam had a Leninist Party forged by Ho Chi 
who have nothing to lose but their chains, can defeaMinh to guide the various stages of the resistance 
their enemies. against colonialism and neocolonialism and turn it 

The spontaneous nature of the Ethiopian Revoli>nto a socialist revolution, 
tion confirms the fact that the moment for change ha: In Cuba, in the midst of a century of struggle, first 
arrived. Even where no storm is forecast, where trou l Sainst Spanish colonialism and then against 
ble clouds seem very distant, a hurricane may de^ a nkee neocolonialism, a party of the proletariat was 
velop from a single flash of lightning or from som^n after Lenin's October Revolution which was to 
first invisible whirlwind and sweep everything away llarc h forward to meet the movement that was to give 
The 2,000-year-old empire vanished in three days. hrth to the Revolution on July 26, 1953, with the attack 
One by one, the myths that paralyze the masses o Jn the Moncada Garrison. From this battle emerged 
prevent them from achieving total victory die. ’^ e leader of the Revolution and the tactical program 
With the triumph in 1959, of the Cuban Revolutioir hat brought together and mobilized all the people on 
led by Fidel Castro, not only did socialism reach tii' he one path on which they could be educated collec- 
Americas, but a double myth based on geography wa ,lve ly. 

shattered; it held that no revolutionary sun could las In the incomparable school of their own revolution- 
in the shadow of the United States and that no socia^y experience, the Cuban people adopted the 
ist state could be created far from immediate gec^ ar xist-Leninist ideas that Fidel had searched for 
graphical contact with the USSR. With their revolted held since his student days. Two of those ideas 
tions directed against the US armed forces, Vietnartf^hhed him more than any others: those of relying on 


the masses and of winning true revolutionary power 
with and for them. 

That party, the movement and the anti-imperialist 
student organization that had been created to fight the 
dictatorship were fused to form the Communist Party 
of Cuba, which constitutes the heart and mind of the 
present process of building socialism. Seniority 
within the Party is rightly counted from the time of 
the invasion at Playa Giron, the Bay of Pigs, in 1961, 
an open confrontation between revolutionary Cuba 
and counterrevolutionary imperialism. 

In Angola, the liberation struggle was headed by a 
movement, the MPLA, which is being turned into a 
party of the working class and socialism. Something 
similar is happening in Mozambique with FRELIMO, 
founded by Eduardo Mondlane, the leadership of 
which was taken up by Samora Machel after 
Mondlane’s death. 

In Ethiopia, however, there was neither a classical 
Marxist- Leninist Party nor a civilian revolutionary 
movement. There wasn’t even any secret military 
group, such as Nasser’s Free Officers in Egypt or, 
later, el-Qaddafi's in Libya — which were connected 
with the Muslim religion and tended to reach toward 
the people. 

The head of the Ethiopian Revolution, Lieutenant 
Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, has said that, due to 
the fact that the Revolution broke out spontaneously, 
at a time when there was no working-class party (“the 
firmest guarantee of the Revolution"), it wasn’t possi- 
ble to avoid many of the bitter struggles now ram- 

How could a revolution possibly triumph without a 
party? How could there be a revolution without some 
organized revolutionary movement? 

The answers to these questions provide a truly 
great lesson in dialectics. The objective conditions of 
poverty and oppression pushed the popular masses 
into action with growing determination, which in- 


creased at the same rate as the imperial government 
maneuvered and drew back. The process of gestation 
didn’t even take nine months: after eight, Haile Se- 
lassie was dethroned and the Revolution triumphed 
once and for all. 

The initial character of the popular uprising was 
the usual one of a national democratic revolution; as 
such, it was antifeudal, anti-imperialist and opposed 
to the bureaucratic bourgeoisie. The soldiers joined it 
en masse. But the right-wing officers in the army had 
been conspiring since February 13, 1974, to hold back 
the revolution. At first they tried to limit the revolu- 
tion to simple reform; later, they resorted to outright 

The right wing began by trying to reduce the change 
to a simple attempt to modernize the old state organi- 
zation, which had broken down through anachronism 
and corruption. As a general who did not wish to 
identify himself ironically declared in March 1974, to 
a correspondent of a foreign capitalist news agency, 
the old state had fallen apart “at the shouts of a few 
taxi drivers, students and workers." 

Apart from its mass, spontaneous nature— which 
could only be upheld on the basis of a class struggle 
which, though not recognized as such by the classes 
engaged in it, existed and increased until it reached 
the boiling point— the most surprising thing about 
the Ethiopian Revolution was that the leadership was 
taken by the armed forces. Such a surprise had a 
hidden logic: it had to be the army or no one. If not, 
Ethiopia would have become a society without any 
social order at all. 

The objective situation of a country lacking a true 
government when it most needed it, with the mass of 
the people having no ideological or organizational 
vehicle that could implant a new social order, gave 
the army — the only institution still on its feet amidst 
the uprising, economic disaster, famine and confu- 
sion— a sort of mandate to rule. 


But to rule in whose name? At the service of which 
class? In alliance with which of the two large interna- 
tional forces operating in the world? 

It is evident today that, although it is true 
that Marxism-Leninism in Ethiopia hadn't pene- 
trated strongly enough to create a party or a move- 
ment, the universality of socialist ideas had indeed 
reached the middle officer class. One of them, the son 
of a slave, had experienced racial discrimination in 
the United States, even though he had been there as a 
cadet of a monarch pampered by Washington. He had 
also known about the war in Vietnam, the Detroit fires 
started by the Black masses, the student rebellion and 
the general unease that, later on, led to the Watergate 
scandal. Through his experience in the United States, 
Mengistu began to get a clear view of the present 
world with its irrepressible increase of revolutions, 
rebellions and conflicts. 

Upon his return, that young captain encountered 
the abyss between imperial luxury and the hunger of 
the masses of his country. 

The language in which The Communist Manifesto 
was written became the essence of truth to him. With- 
out any hesitation, he sided with the exploited, the 
oppressed and the humiliated in Ethiopia, and when 
he saw them spontaneously taking to the streets in 
raging protest in Asmara and Addis Ababa, he felt 
himself one with them. What is more, he decided to 
promote a movement for making demands within the 
armed forces and, above all, to promote the revolu- 
tionary idea that soldiers should not fire on the peo- 
ple. This gave a particular stamp to the Coordinating 
Committee of the Armed Forces which the army 
chiefs didn't dare to oppose, for they realized that 
hanging on to the Emperor and his dying regime was 
tantamount to holding on to a sinking ship on the high 
seas in the midst of a storm. These chiefs, not without 
the advice of some of their 300 US military advisers, 
willingly became members of the Coordinating Com- 


At the same time, perhaps through fear of violating 
the hierarchy, which would have wreaked havoc with 
the only institution that had managed to escape social 
anarchy. Lieutenant General Aman Mickael Andom, 
chief of the armed forces, was named President of the 
Coordinating Committee. 

Despite this, the Revolution was still weak, since 
the man appointed to be the leader of the Revolution, 
though indeed a leader, was not a revolutionary. 

The Ethiopian Spinola did everything within his 
power to control the spontaneous process that had 
raised him to his post. He hid his sword in demagogi- 
cal words, holding it ready to strike treacherously 
from within. 

His recent crimes, together with many others that 
had helped him to attain his position under someone 
like Haile Selassie, finally led him, together with 60 
other high-ranking officers, to the firing squad. That 
was on November 24, 1974. 

The military roster then gave the leadership of the 
PM AC to Brigadier General Teferi Bente, with Men- 
gistu as First Vice President and Lieutenant Colonel 
Atnafu Abate as Second Vice-President. 

The struggle for power continued, since Bente was a 
hidden but determined enemy of the ideology being 
adopted by the Revolution. Led by that enmity, rooted 
in the prejudices and ambitions of the exploiting 
class, he took up the threads of the conspiracy of 
Andom to weave with them the shroud for the revolu- 
tionary process he had joined at the last minute. 

Three years minus ten days after the outbreak of the 
Revolution, Mengistu took over the leadership, and it 
was then that the Revolution finally took the route 
that was to lead it to final and lasting victory. 

What is this Revolution, and what does it consist of? 

To answer this question, the first step would be to 
analyze Ethiopia's history, economy, society and pol- 
itics, and this would have to be done by analyzing the 
man who believed himself a demigod and whose de- 
thronement resulted in the Revolution. 

3 When Haile Selassie 
Fought for Power 


IN 1916 a palace coup d’etat in Addis Ababa dethroned 
a child emperor. 

Emperor Lij Yasu, grandson of Menelik II, the 
founder of the Ethiopian state, was dethroned— al- 
though, actually, he was so young that he hardly 
wielded any power. The coup was really directed 
against the regent, Ras Taffari, an ambitious young 

In the absence of a male in the line of succession, 
Zauditu, the daughter of Menelik II, then came to the 
imperial throne. 

The regent, who was the son of Ras Makonnen, a 
victorious general in the Italian-Ethiopian war of 
1895-96, did not accept this loss of the power he had 
held until then, and, in effect, maintained a second 
organ of rule. 

This duality of power reflected the acute contradic- 
tion that was developing within the ruling classes 
rather than a clash of personal ambitions. 

On the one hand, the most conservative circles of 
the feudal nobility rallied around the Empress. They 
were the large landowners and the high clergy, who 
favored formal rather than effective state unity, thus 
Presenting the country to the world as a single coun- 
try, while actually it was divided into numerous re- 
gions, each under a small emperor, or ras (governor, 
military chief). The Coptic churches and monasteries 
owned large plots of land and feared centralization. 


On the other hand were the commercial petty bour- 
geoisie and the few intellectuals who had emerged in 
Ethiopia. Their motto was “One Ethiopia,” implying 
a strong central government. Their movement was 
called the Ethiopian Youth, and their leader was Ras 
Taffari Makonnen— he, who, driven by a lust for 
power, had become regent. 

A third faction, somewhat neutral, was the army. 

This political struggle was waged against the back- 
ground of a most contradictory society, in which slav- 
ery was interlaced with a primary form of feudalism 
and tribal holdovers. To make this already crowded 
picture complete, a voracious incipient capitalism 
had been tacked on. 

Although deep-rooted and ruthless, the political 
struggle being waged on high was not everything; nor 
was it the essential thing. A fundamental class strug- 
gle was developing in a spontaneous and sometimes 
violent form between the peasants and the cruel, all- 
powerful feudal masters who exploited them. For a 
long time, the communal peasant land had been di- 
minishing; indeed, only a few isolated patches in 
faraway regions were left. Each peasant had to work 
from 90 to 120 days a year for the owner (the feudal 
lord or the church) of the poor plot of land allotted 
him. The peasant also had to give payment in kind 
(either a part of the crop or some cattle, depending on 
the type of economy), perform certain duties and com- 
ply with certain whims. To this exploitation and op- 
pression were added state taxes and any other taxes 
the landowner chose to levy. 

Two kinds of crown taxes were particularly severe: 
the dergo and the gabar. 

The first placed the peasant under an obligation to 
feed and serve all nobles, officers and public officials 
who might be traveling through or camping out in his 
region. It sufficed for them to say they had an order to 
this effect from the ras. 

The gabar supported the military and state appara- 


tus even more directly. Peasant families had to guar- 
antee the upkeep of local garrisons and administra- 
tions. The gabar levied increased with the recipient's 
rank. Thousands of peasants were obliged to pay 
gabar dues to governors and other high-ranking per- 
sonages. Each family had to support at least one 
soldier as well as surrender its sons to the army. 

However, oppressed as they were, the peasants 
were not the worst off in Ethiopian society. The slaves 
who worked in feudal homes and, to a lesser extent, in 
the fields had an even worse life. It must be noted, 
however, that their number in the '30s was not as high 
as the Mussolini press made out in its attempt to 
justify Italy’s fascist attack. 

The three court movements all agreed on maintain- 
ing feudalism, but the Ethiopian Youth, trying to 
piece things together and centralize the state, favored 
development of the productive forces and a certain 
degree of modern civilization. This group advocated a 
growing home market, elimination of slavery and of 
the subsistence production practiced in conservative 
sectors, and the introduction of a money economy. In 
this sense, they moved with history; this movement 
was, relatively speaking, the most advanced. 

Atone point, this movement concentrated its efforts 
on demanding the abolition of slavery, knowing that 
the Empress would stubbornly oppose it even though 
the decline of slavery was inevitable. Already, by the 
middle of the 19th century, Theodore II had abolished 
the slave trade; toward the end of the century, Menelik 
II decreed that only prisoners of war could be made 
slaves, and later he limited slavery to a period of 
seven years. In 1924 another decree defined the cate- 
gories of slaves to be freed and established how and 
when this was to be done. This decree also stated that 
slaves serving in the army were to be freed imme- 

In practice, such conditions lent themselves to the 
“later or never” syndrome and tended to suppress 


overt slavery, letting covert slavery exist; nonethe- 
less, the conservative and the clergy deemed them 
revolutionary. The Empress used to say, “If some- 
thing changes in some respect, everything might 
change in every respect.” 

In 1926, when the undeclared struggle between the 
regent, Ras Taffari Makonnen, and the Empress re- 
garding slavery and how to abolish it was nearing the 
breaking point, the Minister of War died; this favored 
the regent by allowing him to take control of the 
army. As a result, he was able to quell two rebellions 
which the Empress openly encouraged against him 
two years later. In 1930, after the failure of a third 
attempt, headed by her former husband, the Empress 
died. Even though she had not held any real power for 
a long time, her funeral was magnificent. And Ethi- 
opia had a new Emperor in its long and tortuous 3,000- 
year history. The regent appointed himself Emperor, 
with the name of Haile Selassie I. On at last coming to 
the throne he had coveted, little did he imagine that he 
was destined to be the last of the Ethiopian emperors. 


The new monarch energetically set about complet- 
ing the expansion of feudalism, but within very pre- 
cise boundaries, now established from Addis Ababa. 

This process had begun during the previous 
century, toward the end of which international impe- 
rialism, scarcely out of its cradle, had proceeded to 
the Repartition of Africa at the famous Berlin Con- 
ference of 1895. Europe was hungry for raw materials, 
markets, spheres of influence and cheap labor. The 
efforts at centralization in Ethiopia served also as a 
barrier to European expansion. 

What was the picture under these circumstances? 

The feudal aristocracy in Ethiopia conquered its 
opponents in the north and was ready to fall upon the 


nth in order to have the whole country ruled by one 
S ° te Haile Selassie speeded up the achievement of 
ihis purpose in order to counter the imminent reparti- 
fon of the country by European governments. Conse- 
quently he needed the people's backing— though, for 
Hass reasons, he didn't look for popular support 
through any form of democracy but rather inculcated 
absolute submission, complete fanaticism and total 
imperial control. “I am Ethiopia,” was the way his 
mind ran, and he tried to make all Ethiopians think 

the same way. ,. . . „ 

Julio Antonio Mella referred to the Cuban dictator 

Machado as a tropical Mussolini. Haile Selassie was 
a feudal Mussolini, aspiring to be a demigod. 

In order to become the undisputed political chief, 
Haile Selassie first became regent and then military 
chief. Once he had a firm political grip, he tried to 
ensure himself lasting power by making himself the 
spiritual leader of the people. 

The Coptic Church in Ethiopia had split off from the 
Roman Catholic Church in the 5th century but, once 
freed from the Vatican, had fallen under the pa- 
tronage of Egypt. All but one of its bishops were 
Egyptians and were appointed by the Patriarch of 
Alexandria. Since England controlled Egypt at that 
time, the British had an excellent indirect way of 
interfering in the internal affairs of Ethiopia. 

It was only in 1929 that Addis Ababa reached an 
agreement with Cairo whereby the rules of the game 
were changed: in the future, the Patriarch would only 
appoint the Abuna (Archbishop), whereas the Ethio- 
pian bishops would be chosen from among the local 
clergy. Some 20 years later (in 1951), Ethiopia suc- 
ceeded in appointing the Abuna as well. All this cre- 
ated an ideal climate for imbuing the personality cult 
of the Emperor with a certain aura of mysticism. His 
Portrait was hung in the churches. Prayers in his 
honor preceded sermons. Even phrases and actions 
attributed to Christ were held to be those of Haile 


Selassie. Well-known German artists painted scenes 
depicting Christ with the poor, giving Christ the Em- 
peror’s face, and these paintings were hung in full 
view. Even on altars, the Holy Trinity was supple- 
mented by the kind, well-shaven face with half-closed 
eyes of the man who had added the title of God’s 
Elected to that of Emperor. In addition, official pro- 
paganda, in an effort to please all, compared him with 
David, King of the Hebrews. 

Haile Selassie purported to be a descendant of the 
Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. Right from the 
cradle, Ethiopian children were told the legend of how 
they met: how, at the beginning, the Queen, being very 
chaste, refused to marry the King; and how he, a sage 
among sages, made a wager with her that if she got up 
in the night to drink some water, they would be mar- 
ried. Of course, Solomon fixed it so her thirst would be 
stronger than her iron will to remain a virgin. 

Finally, claiming the antiquity of the Ethiopian 
monarchy — the oldest on earth — and the victory of 
Emperor Theodore over Islam in 1855, the royal offi- 
cial title came to include that of King of Kings, which 
undoubtedly made many a European monarch smile, 
though none of them dared quarrel with the Emperor 
over such a trifling vanity, quite unimportant when 
compared to Ethiopia’s riches and geographical posi- 


In social terms, Ethiopia experienced no substan- 
tial changes during the half century of Haile Se- 
lassie’s autocratic rule. 

His work as a ruler consisted essentially in 
carrying through the process of consolidating the 
power of the feudal aristocracy which had started at 
the beginning of the 19th century. In order to achieve 
this, it was necessary to win over other, less intel- 


ligent sectors of the aristocracy that were more 
firmly attached to frankly anachronistic forms of 
production and ways of thinking. Haile Selassie was 
a sort of Bismarck, but without abandoning the class 
positions of feudalism. He became as little bourgeois 
as possible. He feared, and rightly so, that capitalist 
economic development would lead to the develop- 
ment of the working class, open the country to revolu- 
tionary ideas, and further the growth of the intel- 
ligentsia, who would first wonder at but later find 
repugnant his deification and greed for riches, power 
and personal glory. 

At the same time, Haile Selassie’s firm opposition 
to the European colonial powers’ dismembering the 
country was to contribute to his being accorded max- 
imum authority by the nation. The egotism charac- 
teristic of his class, his self-idolatry and his tyrant’s 
greed were to lead him to abuse that authority. 

Haile Selassie was a true representative of the feu- 
dal lords who, since 1880 (and even before), had op- 
posed European incursions into the southern, 
southwestern and eastern parts of the country, thus 
preventing its falling under foreign control, and who 
had also been gradually centralizing state power 
through a complex process subsequently completed 
by Haile Selassie himself. As such, there is a logical 
thread to his policy, accounting for the stand he took 
in the face of fascism and for his international reputa- 

Internally, the system was feudal through and 
through; it couldn’t be anything but that, and there 
was never any intention of its being otherwise. As 
feudal rule advanced from the north toward the center 
and south of that enormous country, measuring more 
than a million square kilometers (the tenth largest 
country in the African continent), the condition of the 
Peasants became worse and worse. The peasant com- 
munity saw itself sentenced to death, despite the pa- 
ternalism of the weaker lords. 


The peasant masses became serfs— slaves, in fact. 
Haile Selassie abolished the enslavement of pris- 
oners of war, only to have the mass of the working 
people toil under slave conditions. 

In fact, in 1931, an imperial decree appeared grant- 
ing immediate freedom to slaves at the funeral of 
their master. Four years later, slavery as such was 
declared abolished. In compliance with this decree, 
1,427 slaves were freed in 1933, and 3,647 the follow- 
ing year, according to official figures. Nevertheless, 
there were many who died as slaves long after 1935. 
The government did not enforce the abolitionist laws 
with any great zeal, and the- lords, the church, the 
merchants, high-ranking officers and public officials 
did everything they could to let the chains rust in 

The reformation of feudal institutions was an even 
slower process than the abolition of slavery and was 
always handled so as to retain the essentials of 
feudalism: the idea was simply to give it attributes 
more in accord with the triumph of the bourgeoisie in 
the world as a whole. 

It was only in May 1935 that the Ethiopian Youth, 
then in power, decided to pass a law eliminating the 
gabar system, which had been promised from the time 
they were in the opposition 20 years before. Only in 
one province did this new law become effective, and 
there only because the constant angry activities of the 
peasants threatened to develop into uprisings. The 
dergo, too, was suppressed more in theory than in 

Reforms in the political sphere were somewhat 
more effective. These were favorable to the ruling 
feudal class, because they made order much more . . . 
orderly. The reforms didn’t benefit the people in any 

The first Constitution of the Ethiopian State (1931) 
made its centralization binding. The capital was 
Addis Ababa — which, in turn, centered around the 


Emperor. A Parliament with two houses was cleverly 
designed so as not to overshadow the absolute mon- 
arch: he alone could appoint the senators. The mem- 
bers of the lower house were elected by and from 
among the noblemen, but always subject to prior 
consultation with the Emperor. In any case, the 
powers of this ornamental Parliament were limited to 
approving imperial decrees. 

Like any modern state, Ethiopia required a profes- 
sional army. After searching for a foreign power that 
wouldn't covet Ethiopia, the Emperor asked Belgium 
for military advice. The first pilots were trained by 
Belgium while the first airport was being built and 
the first military planes were being purchased in 

After 12 years in power, Haile Selassie had no rea- 
son to be proud of his work in the field of education. 
Nevertheless, he was. The 30 elementary and second- 
ary schools that existed in 1930 appeared to him to be a 
lot. When he was overthrown in 1974, after ruling for 
half a century, 95 percent of the population could 
neither read nor write, and there were only about 6,000 
university students in a country of 30 million inhabi- 

On the other hand, the capital was conveniently 
remodeled. The cold heights of Mount Entotto, (alti- 
tude over 8,000 feet), with a river and an extraordinary 
beautiful, lush landscape, were just the right setting 
for erecting a shell of luxury: wide avenues and pal- 
aces, where the surrounding slums wouldn't be 
noticed by guests at the centrally located modern 
hotels, such as the splended Hilton. 

In 1887 the capital had been named Addis Ababa 
(“new flower” in Amharic). It was claimed that it was 
the resurgence of Ababa, the capital established sev- 
e ral centuries before in another part of the country. 
Menelik II, who established the title of Emperor, was 
a lso the founder of a single capital for the whole 


Some archaeological discoveries came to the sup- 
port of the sick self-idolatry of Haile Selassie. One of 
the theories on the birth of mankind maintains that 
this could have taken place in or around Ethiopia. A 
village was unearthed in Gambore which was 
thought to be about one and a half million years old; 
fossils, tools and other objects were found, including 
the skeleton of a young woman about 20 years old who 
was thought to have lived about 4 million years ago. 

The country has its own official language: Am- 
haric, whose alphabet is of hieroglyphic origin, dat- 
ing from the time of the Queen of Sheba. This 
language, as well as those of other countries in the 
region, goes back to the 4th century B.C. It is a Semitic 
language derived from Geez, the language of the Cop- 
tic Church, whose scripture it uses, but to which 
vowels were added to enable it to be spoken by the 
illiterate masses. The second language is Afan 
Oromo, or Galla, which 16th century migrations 
spread through Ethiopia. Since the Gallas are more 
numerous than the Amharas, their language is the 
one most widely spoken; the Amharas, however, have 
always been the dominant group. Actually, there are 
dozens of languages and dialects spoken among the 
80-odd nationalities in Ethiopia. 

Haile Selassie not only didn't solve the national 
problem; he made it worse. As a representative of the 
most powerful group, of Amharic origin, he always 
tried to discriminate against and oppress the other 
nationalities. This was more than just a struggle of 
interest: it was an attempt to take attention off the 
only true division— that between the classes. 

The Revolution would inherit the national problem, 
primarily that of Eritrea and Ogaden. Imperialism, 
Arab reactionaries and internal counterrevolution- 
ary class forces viewed this problem as the Achilles’ 
heel of the only historical process that could solve it: 
the revolutionary, socialist process. 

Haile Selassie found and left a country which was 



predominantly agricultural. What little industrial de- 
velopment there was in Ethiopia (it should be remem- 
bered that this contradicted the myth of a demigod 
with no material interests) had taken place for the 
personal advantage of the Emperor. As a king of 
feudal lords, he was practically the only bourgeois in 
the ruling class. 

In 1974 industry contributed only 8 percent or less of 
the Gross National Product. Agriculture accounted 
for over 90 percent. But, paradoxically, only a fifth of 
the arable land was being tilled. One of the reasons for 
this was social: feudalism. Theother was climatic: the 
higher lands were preferred. The rural population 
has been concentrated from time immemorial in the 
northern and central regions. The density of the popu- 
lation there is far greater than in the south. 

Haile Selassie found and left a large mass of land- 
less peasants (at least 2.4 million out of a total 6 
million); these peasants had had to settle under feudal 
conditions on the lands of absentee owners. They 
handed over 50 to 75 percent of their agricultural 
produce in rent. When the great drought in Wollo 
Province killed 1 percent of the population, the sur- 
vivors realized that the blame lay with the typically 
feudal system of land tenure, which didn’t allow the 
peasants to build up stores for such eventualities, and 
that it was this that kept them undernourished, half- 
naked, working 14 hours a day with wooden hoes used 
centuries ago. This was another blow dealt the sink- 
ing empire, one that made the man who personified it 
hated even more. 

The misery, poverty and helplessness of the masses 
was in sharp contrast to the opulence, waste and 
luxury at the other end of the scale. 

A single family of landowners, the Biry family, in 
Harer Province, owned about 20 million hectares of 
land and ruled over the lives of 700,000 peasants. 

Was it strange, then, that in 1976 the head of that 
family fell in combat while leading what amounted to 


a private army, after having burned, killed and en- 
gaged in all kinds of sabotage, in opposition to an 
agrarian reform that didn't acknowledge his late fa- 
ther's title of ras and that made the peasants who had 
been his father's serfs their own masters? Was it, 
then, surprising that the peasants hunted him day and 
night until they captured him, as if he were one of the 
wolves that haunt the outskirts of Addis Ababa? 

Naturally, back in the time of the fascist aggres- 
sion, the Emperor in exile had had to make promises 
to the people in order to strengthen their heroic resis- 
tance— in which they never gave the enemy any re- 
spite and put an end to the fascist occupation four 
years before the fall of fascism as such. 

After the victory over the Italian invader, the mass- 
es demanded that the promises be kept; in their politi- 
cal naivete, they believed that the Emperor was their 
best friend. They saw him not as a part of the system 
but above it: a good master to all, somewhere between 
heaven and earth, between God and man. 

In 1942 new decrees were issued, ratifying the aboli- 
tion of slavery. In 1950 there were no slaves to be seen, 
but those who had once been chained simply became 
poor peasants and servants subjected to all kinds of 

At last the gabar system was buried along with 
slavery. In the future, money from the national bud- 
get would be set aside for keeping up the local mili- 
tary establishments, and officers would receive set 
salaries from Addis Ababa rather than commandeer- 
ing the scanty food of peasant families. But eternal 
poverty remained, and the peasants continued to sup- 
ply funds for the public treasury. Ethiopia was still 
the old Ethiopia, though it was becoming modernized. 

The tax system was also changed somewhat. A 
money tax was levied not only on cultivated land but 
also on land that was lying idle. This led to the growth 
of a rural bourgeoisie. In some cases, merchants and 
bureaucrats from the cities puchased idle land. In 


ther cases, the landowners increased the amount of 
their land that was planted to crops. Occasionally 
they returned to the state land which they had taken. 

Haile Selassie was the state, so he could be gener- 
ous in distributing large plots of land among the 
incipient rural bourgeoisie, largely made up of his 
friends from the Ethiopian Youth and in the admin- 
istration. Since the Emperor encouraged the large 
landowners to become bourgeois, showing them that 
it was easier to get agricultural wage laborers than 
peasants and that they could obtain higher dividends, 
the changes were accepted without too much protest. 

The official propaganda that flooded Africa pre- 
sented Haile Selassie as a father of agrarian reform. 
The church constituted the biggest obstacle. The cler- 
gy opposed all change until the Emperor bribed and 
thus controlled it. The position of the church was that 
feudalism should go on exactly as before. 

Thus, capitalism made some inroads in Ethiopia 
without, however, doing away with the two basic 
classes in its history: the exploiting feudal lords and 
the exploited peasants. Haile Selassie managed to set 
himself up as supreme arbiter, above the struggles 
for power and conflicting interests. All turned to him. 

In 1950, tired of waiting for the Emperor to learn 
about their misery — he complained it was the court- 
iers who didn't tell him the truth— the peasant masses 
in Go jam Province openly rebelled against their feu- 
dal masters. They could hardly believe it when the 
troops of the imperial army were ordered to fight on 
the side of the landowners and against them. The 
same thing happened in the south, at the end of the 
’50s. Hundreds of peasants died crying “Long live the 

While mercilessly crushing revolts, Haile Selassie 
perfected the art of shedding tears over the abuses of 
good children who paid no attention to his advice or to 
Christian rules. He counseled the feudal lords to be 
Moderate and even set up a Special Committee to 


administer justice on the agrarian question, which ' 
had become uppermost on the agenda. 

The relief measures— only skin-deep— included the 
distribution of state-owned plots of land among the ; 
hungriest peasants and the granting of loans. In 1961 
some of the state land in Arussi Province, near the 
capital, was distributed among the men who worked 
it, and they were offered loans with which to purchase 

Continuing with his theatrical performances, in 
1965 the Emperor put his signature to a law establish- 
ing a maximum of 50 percent of the crops to be paid as 
rent in kind, and then only if the peasant used draft 
animals and seeds supplied by the landowner. The 
law also forbade the feudal lord from drawing upon 
the pockets of “his” peasants in order to pay his own 
taxes. After this law was signed, peasants throughout 
the country and students in Addis Ababa acclaimed 
the Emperor. The House of Representatives soon pas- 
sed the law, but the Senate vetoed it. The Emperor 
promised that he would go on fighting for his peasant 

In 1955 a new Constitution had been introduced 
which differed from the former one in form only. The 
language was more refined and demagogic, and it 
certainly contained promises— later to be embodied 
in supplementary laws— as to certain social changes. 
Of course, the essence of the system remained un- 
changed. Imperial power was becoming even more 
entrenched. Thus, the lower house was to be elected by 
universal, secret ballot, to render it more sensitive to 
popular pressure. The Senate would still be appoint- 
ed by the forefinger wearing the most dazzling jewels 
in the world. 

Nevertheless, the 1957 electoral campaign provided 
an opportunity— albeit very small— for public debate, 
an innovation of great importance in a country which 
had never had any at all. On various platforms and in 
newspapers, the agrarian reform that was sup- 


was advocated. In 
the officer named 
Mengistu broke out in Addis Ababa. It failed but it 
offered a novelty: its slogan was that of imposing 
reform, and it was the forerunner of the 1974 army 
revolt against the Emperor. 

Haile Selassie then wanted to proceed on less dan- 
gerous grounds: education. You can’t say that he did 
much, or even all that was possible, but he did do 
something. In 1950 he opened a university— for the 
sons and daughters of the rich, naturally. He gave it 
the name which he regarded as most honorable and 
magnificient— his own— and some good buildings. He 
also allowed young people to study abroad, es- 
pecially in the United States. 

In addition, he founded a library, a few theaters and 
some movie houses. 

A figure was reached that seemed a record to him: 5 
percent of the child population could attend elemen- 
tary school. 

Finally, he created the post of Prime Minister, so 
that people abroad might appreciate the fact that his 
policy evolved in accordance with the times. 

He particularly wanted to be “accepted” by the 
United States, whose protection he sought, being sus- 
picious of the old European colonialists and also of 
the Soviet Union. It was impossible for him not to 
have diplomatic relations with the latter, because of 
the help it had given against fascism, but the Soviet 
social regime obviously scared him. The Emperor 
didn't feel safe until he had made his country Wash- 
ington’s most loyal military ally in Africa. 

As far as the economy was concerned, the postwar 
period was distinguished for a process that the 1974 
Revolution had to put a stop to at once. Feudal Ethi- 
opia opened its doors to foreign capital, particularly 
from the United States. 

Haile Selassie was trying to build a permanent 
connection with the West, to save himself from the 

posedly sponsored by the Emperor 
December 1960, the revolt led by * 


upheavals that Nasser’s rebellion had given rise to in 
the region, and later from the revolutions breaking 
out from Vietnam to Cuba, at a time when the USSR 
and the rest of the socialist world were growing in 
importance and when ideas concerning far-reaching 
social change were shaking the so-called Third 

All of this set off a paradoxical process not un- 
known in history: Haile Selassie was misunderstood 
all down the line and criticized by “right” and left. The 
surrender of military bases to the United States and 
the facilities provided to encourage it to bring in its 
dollars and its “way of life” created discontent among 
the most aristocratic social circles and among the 
poorest of the poor. 

The current of fresh air encouraged by the timid but 
undeniable increase of capitalism had allowed for the 
emergence of Marxist ideas among some intellec- 
tuals and students, and had objectively made it easier 
for protest actions to develop among the most op- 
pressed masses, which irritated the nobility. Of 
course, both phenomena bore the seal of spontaneity 
and didn’t go beyond a struggle against the immedi- 
ate enemy: master or landowner. The state, at the 
service of the exploiting classes, went unchallenged, 
and its absolute chief even more so. The more conser- 
vative elements didn't like having their power whit- 
tled away by foreign competitors and preferred to 
keep on “shuffling along” in the old way, without too 
much modernization in the forms of exploitation. 
Moreover, the Coptic Church didn’t much care for the 
idea of allowing other practicing religions, such as 
the Protestant religions which predominate in the 
United States. 

A real pro at doing a balancing act, Haile Selassie 
always knew the right words to fit the circumstances. 
In the League of Nations he had been famed for his 
pronouncements against fascism, which undoubt- 
edly stemmed from the fact that it was in his interest 


to fight it, as the Ethiopian people were doing with 
such heroism. Although in defending that kind of an 
Ethiopia they were defending the ruling regime that 
suffocated, crushed and stultified the mass of their 
people. During the postwar period, Haile Selassie 
built up his empire, giving it certain trimmings of 
formal democracy. His active postwar foreign policy 
was of the same style. While granting bases to the 
country that was following in the footsteps of fascism 
with its anti-Sovietism and the worldwide crusade 
against communism, Haile Selassie tried to cloak his 
treason by making Addis Ababa the headquarters of 
the Organization of African Unity, and the imperial 
government presented itself as nonaligned, a lover of 
peace and even progressive. 

When all the demagogic whitewash is removed, it 
can be seen that the minimal economic growth 
achieved under Haile Selassie took place in exchange 
for important concessions to imperialist capital. The 
United States and West Germany received conces- 
sions that allowed them to prospect for and extract oil 
for half a century in Ethiopia, especially in Ogaden. 
The entire rare minerals mining industry also fell 
into foreign hands. The same thing happened to com- 
munications and air and land transportation. Vir- 
tually all of its industry was divided up among 
various foreign powers: the sugar industry went to 
Holland, textiles to Great Britain and Belgium, the 
chemical industry to Japan, and energy to France. In 
short, Ethiopia, a feudal country with an embryonic 
form of capitalism, became neo-colonialized. Soon it 
was deep in debt, with no real prospects for develop- 

Out of a total population of 30 million, there weren’t 
even 200,000 workers in Ethiopia. 

The Emperor took great pride in having created a 
national banking system. In fact, the only thing he 
took back from the British, when they were forced to 
Withdraw in 1954, was the banking concession they 


had obtained in 1905. Menelik II had introduced the 
first paper currency in 1915, through the so-called 
Bank of Abyssinia, but Haile Selassie's national mint 
not only printed currency bearing his picture sur- 
rounded by typical Ethiopian flora and fauna— the 
Revolution did away with these bills— but also al- 
lowed him to amass a fortune and bank it in Switzer- 
land; the exact amount isn't known, but it is 
undoubtedly one of the largest ever amassed by any 
one individual. 

As a consequence, right from the start, the Revolu- 
tion had to be not only antifeudal but also anti-imperi- 
alist and against the bureaucratic bourgeoisie. 


THE REVOLUTION that overthrew Haile Selassie 
stands in sharp contrast to him. 

When Mengistu Haile Mariam once again ex- 
plained the reasons why the Revolution took place, 
this time on the third anniversary of its victory, in the 
square that had at once been renamed Revolution 
Square, he said, "The fact that the Ethiopian economy 
lacked a base and was mocked everywhere served to 
open the way for struggle. The other factor that help- 
ed bring on the Revolution was the awakening of the 
broad masses to Ethiopia’s political, economic and 
social shortcomings and to the fact that all the 
sources of profit and wealth were owned by the feudal 
lords and those connected with them through self- 
interest and personal gain.” 

Later on he emphasized, “The world knows that it 
isn't easy to overthrow a monarchy that has lasted 
3,000 years. Nor was it easy to suppress the feudal 
lords, who had consolidated their power over the 
years, and the bourgeoisie, which had vested inter- 
ests in power and authority. The task of dismantling 
the monarchical rule and its countless reactionary 
hangers-on, who were both astute and politically on 
the ball, required a hard struggle, but the broad mass- 
es of Ethiopia had learned what kind of fight they 
would have to put up in order to overthrow monarchi- 
cal rule, and they had also learned that the united 
force of the oppressed masses could demolish the 


consolidated ranks of reaction. Here I would like to 
emphasize the point that this Revolution pertains to 
no one individual, group or segment in particular, 
The Revolution belongs to the oppressed masses, 
Therefore, there can be no conflict among us over who 
was the first to promote the Revolution and be cred- 
ited by history as such.” 

Then he added, “Having uprooted and dismantled 
the old order that was the source of oppression, our 
Revolution hasn't fallen prey to somnambulism. It 
has a definite purpose and objective, which guides the 
broad oppressed masses and protects their basic in- 
terests. Its guiding principle is Marxism-Leninism, 
the beacon of hope for all oppressed peoples.” 

The basic factors which contributed to the volcanic 
eruption of this Revolution that took the world by 
surprise, precisely because in the contemporary 
atlas of social struggles there seemed to be no vol- 
cano in this zone, may be summed up as 

1. the spiraling cost of living; 

2. the abominable system of land tenure; 

3. the sudden spread of hunger, which became a 
famine, particularly in Wollo Province; 

4. the sudden loss of political control by the 
authorities, leaving the country with no effec- 
tive government; 

5. the spontaneous uprising of the mass of 
workers and peasants and city intellectuals 
against the feudal-bourgeois regime; and 

6. the realization by members of the armed for- 
ces that they were a part of the people rather 
than a tool for oppression. 

To this day, Ethiopia is an exceptional case in that 
the general social crisis not only became a crisis 
within the armed forces but made of them a factor for 
its solution. On many other occasions, from Nasser’s 
Egypt to el-Qaddafi’s Libya (though el-Qaddafi was 
a political conspirator who deliberately joined the 
army in order to plot against the power of reaction). 


a nd including Peru and Portugal, the armed forces 
have been the pivotal point for anti-oligarchic 

However, there are two aspects of the Ethiopian 
situation which are worth noting. First, it was not a 
military but a people’s revolution, a mass, spon- 
taneous revolution, to which the armed forces gave 
direction in the absence of a revolutionary party or 
movement. Second, this factor, far from diminishing, 
holding back or detracting from the Revolution or 
disregarding the masses, has led to a deeper, broader 
revolution, to more participation by the people, to 
having the proletariat set up its dictatorship in al- 
liance with the peasants, to uniting military and 
civilian revolutionaries within a Marxist-Leninist 
Party that provides the kind of general staff that all 
revolutions need. 

Of course, not all the commanding officers in the 
armed forces approved of this road at heart; but, dur- 
ing the early days, none dared to go in search of 
another road, because the collapse of the old order had 
been such that there was no alternative to joining the 
revolution of the masses or being swept away by it. 

The inevitable process of every class finding its 
own level was soon to take place. Spinolas are not 
made by wearing haughty monocles or by virtue of 
their colonialist, fascist mentality. Their distinguish- 
ing feature is that they represent the interests of the 
ruling classes. 

General Andom was made chief army commander 
because the Emperor and all the powerful financiers, 
the landholders and the church approved of him. He 
could just as easily have become a banker, a noble- 
man or a bishop. 

The case of Teferi Bente, his successor as President 
of the PM AC, who was also executed for treason, was 
somewhat different in form but not in essence. Bente 
e ven went so far as to espouse the socialist transfor- 
mation of the Revolution, but he developed a tremen- 


dous personal ambition for power, as well as a na- 
tionalistic point of view and a fear that the people 
would demand not only that there be more and more 
profound and rapid change but that he become the 
protagonist of victory. Teferi Bente thus came to 
work with the CIA and other secret services (there are 
documents to prove this) to stage a coup on February 
3, 1977, at 9:00 in the morning. The true revolution- 
aries, headed by Mengistu, were one step ahead of 
them, effecting a countercoup, just one hour earlier, 
that saved the country tremendous bloodshed and 
safeguarded the popular nature and direction of the 

In both cases, of course, the plotting leader had his 
group of followers, and these, too, had to be curbed by 
revolutionary justice. 

Ethiopia becomes less of a unique case if the peas- 
ant problem is properly analyzed; in this, Ethiopia 
comes closer to a prerevolutionary France than to 

Jose Perez Novoa, the first Cuban Ambassador in 
Addis Ababa, has written in an unpublished work: 

In Africa, colonial domination imposed fron- 
tiers— -which, for the colonialists, were the 
boundaries of their areas of domination— and 
baptized them with the name of state. Neverthe- 
less, these boundaries didn't really define states 
in accordance with the existing population, nor 
were any efforts made to create national homo- 
geneity. The more powerful advanced as far as 
their forces permitted against their colonialist 
opponents. The lines of demarcation, then, were 
the frontiers of domination; they didn’t take into 
consideration the nationality or tribe inhabiting 
the area. As a consequence, a given nationality 
or tribe might be split up in the areas that were 
parceled out, which were called countries. 

In the economic field, the colonial system 
didn’t integrate the inhabitants of a country in a 
common development plan but rather main- 


tained the socio-economic formation character- 
istic of each tribe. Most of these tribes had a self- 
sufficient form of life and, hence, had no connec- 
tion with capitalist trade relations. Through- 
out colonial rule, tribal individuality, the tribal 
structure, was uppermost; there was no feeling 
of being an integral part of that superimposed 
state or nation. Their state, their nation, is the 
ethnic group to which they belong. Above all, 
they are Bacongos, Fulas, etc. 

It’s even very difficult to define a peasant, 
because this concept can’t be based only on liv- 
ing in the countryside; many Africans reap what 
they consume, but their place in economic pro- 
duction isn’t that of a peasant. 

To sum up, colonial rule superimposed its 
structure of domination on African ethnic de- 
velopment, neither destroying nor developing it 
further, but simply freezing it in time. 

Ethiopia is something else. The same author 

This country had a state structured to serve a 
national ruling class, the product of a long his- 
torical process. Starting in the last century, the 
Amharics gradually conquered all the other na- 
tionalities and set up a structure of state domi- 
nation, with all its state bodies. During the three 
years following the February, 1974, triumph, the 
struggle necessarily had to be defined in class 

What was happening in Ethiopia was that the 
peasant masses and workers, the oppressed peo- 
ple, were fighting against the ruling feudal class 
and its state apparatus; first and foremost, then, 
it was a struggle between oppressors and op- 
pressed within a national framework. This is 
one of the reasons why the Ethiopian Revolution 
had a sharp concept of the class struggle and 
possibly why it developed into one of the fiercest 
class battles in all the African continent. 

What may be observed when analyzing the workers’ 


added fuel to the fire. Practically all the members 
of the small underground Marxist groups, most of 
which were cut off from the working class, came from 
the students. These groups were reminiscent of the 
early Marxist groups in Russia at the end of the 19th 
century, before Lenin brought them and the proletar- 
iat together to create a new kind of party. 

There is one essential difference though. In 1900, St. 
Petersburg had large concentrations of industrial 
workers, whereas Addis Ababa in 1974 did not. In 
spite of this, Lenin had pointed out that, as a whole, 
Russia under the czars suffered not so much from 
capitalist development as from its insufficient de- 
velopment. Equally czarist Ethiopia was suffering 
from an amazing (for our day and age) development of 
feudalism. On March 14, during his visit to Ethiopia 
only six weeks after the revolutionary leaders had 
removed the treacherous rightists from power, Fidel 
correctly said that the Ethiopian Revolution was a 
mixture of the French and Bolshevik Revolutions. 

With regard to the students, more and more of them 
are coming to take an active part in the revolutionary 
process, but there is no doubt that they, too, are going 
through a process of class polarization, much like the 
one within the armed forces. 

It must be remembered that only aristocratic, feu- 
dal, capitalist families had been able to send their 
children to secondary school, not to speak of the 
university, either in Addis Ababa or abroad. More- 
over, Perez Novoa also brings out another factor: “As 
opposition to Haile Selassie was taking root, the 
main repressive force was the army: this meant that 
there was soon a clear antagonistic contradiction 
between the army and the students. Since it is the 
army that is carrying the main weight of the present 
revolutionary process, subjectively there is a large, 
hard-to-bridge abyss between students and leaders.” 

It should also be noted that a great many students 
have adopted an entrenched antimilitarist stance, one 


that could only be justified if the armed forces had 
taken the side of the oppressors; in effect, because of 
this, many students have themselves ended up on the 
side of the oppressors, whether or not they want to 
admit it. The so-called Ethiopian People’s Revolu- 
tionary Party (EPRP), that engages in counterrevolu- 
tionary terrorism in the cities, originally drew its 
ranks from the students. As was only to be expected, 
they had a source of inspiration in Maoism. For fear of 
joining the military, who only yesterday were at the 
service of reaction, and failing to understand that the 
army today serves the Revolution, these former stu- 
dents have fallen into the hands of ousted landowners 
and into the network of plots engineered against the 
Ethiopian Revolution by international imperialism 
and Arab reaction. Of course, also present is the petty 
bourgeoisie’s loathing of discipline, organization 
and giving way to the masses— even though it invok- 
es their name at all times as the principal driving 
force in history. 

One must not exaggerate, however. The truth is that 
more and more students are joining the Revolution, 
and more will do so as more children of workers and 
peasants become students, an opportunity they didn’t 
have before. Also, life itself shows honest students on 
which side the Revolution stands, and on which side 
the counterrevolution. Thirdly, the hateful actions 
sponsored by the leaders of the EPRP, such as the 
murder of workers’ leaders, have opened the eyes of 
many who had been taken in. All this explains the 
recent split within the EPRP, with the appearance of a 
wing that is abandoning counterrevolution. 

Almost as soon as the Revolution came to power in 
December 1974, the National Work Campaign Pro- 
gram was launched. Some 60,000 high school and 
university students, teachers and soldiers were sent 
to rural areas to teach the poor, stultified masses how 
to read and write and to organize them in peasant 
associations. Their mission was also to teach some- 


thing decisive in Ethiopia: the alphabet of all revolu- 
tionS _that is, how to distinguish between friendly 
and enemy classes, between revolutionary and coun- 
terrevolutionary forces. 

The principal motto of the campaign is an antidote 
to petty bourgeois bragging: “Learn from the masses 
and, in turn, teach the masses.” 

The author has met many of those who took part in 
the campaign who have said that this was how they 
became Marxist-Leninists. 

5 Roots 

of Spontaneity 


TO UNDERSTAND more clearly why the surprising 
explosion of February 1974 occurred, it is useful to 
have an overview of Ethiopia's very complicated his- 

The first thing to point out is that it was the only 
African state that managed to remain independent in 
the period when the great capitalist powers entered 
the stage of imperialism and finished dividing up the 
world, at the end of the 19th century. 

There were numerous attempts to cut up and con- 
trol Ethiopia, but the people's armed struggle in an 
isolated, mountainous area made it possible to pre- 
serve Ethiopian state independence. Only Eritrea— a 
kind of cap over Ethiopia's head, with two ports 
providing access to the sea — wound up being set 
apart at that time. It fell to Italy, which gave it that 
name in 1890. 

Ethiopia's history has been truly complex. Between 
300 and 570 B.C., the Ethiopians ruled southern Ara- 
bia. History changed that equation. In the last quarter 
of the 6th century A.D., the Arabs invaded and con- 
quered all of the Middle East, northern Africa and 
southern Europe. They ruled for 11 centuries. In the 
first quarter of the 16th century, their empire declined 
and collapsed. It then became a bone of contention 
between Turkey and Portugal, rivals at opposite ends 
of the Mediterranean, whose confrontation took place 
in the Middle East and the Indian Ocean, directly 
threatening Ethiopia. 


Turkish forces began their march to the Red Sea in 
1520. Some 50 years later (in 1572), the Ottoman 
Khedive, who ruled Egypt and controlled the port of 
Mesewa, near Asmara, established garrisons on the 
low-lying western coast. When the Khedive's forces 
were beaten by the Ethiopians at Gundet three years 
later and that victory was repeated at Gura in 1576, the 
Turks decided to withdraw. However, another sword 
was poised over the country, held by Italy. 

With the imperialist era of world history openly 
under way by 1896— coinciding with the Cubans’ final 
war against Spain and against US intervention aimed 
at taking over Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, 
whose peoples were also fighting for independence— 
Italy pounced on Ethiopia. 

The famous Battle of Adwa saved the Ethiopians 
from falling under Italian domination. Ethiopian pa- 
triots have always found a source of encouragement 
against foreign aggression in Adwa. 

Almost 40 years later, Mussolini tried to wipe out 
that defeat by occupying the whole country. 

On December 5, 1934, in Ogaden, near the reservoir 
of the Wal Wal Oasis, some 100 kilometers from an- 
other traditional border, that of Somalia, which was 
then an Italian colony, Rome’s troops clashed with 
those of Addis Ababa, but it was only a minor border 
incident involving the passage of caravans. 

However, Mussolini whipped up passions to fever 
pitch with his bellowed boasts from his famous bal- 
cony on the Piazza Venezia in Rome; and, having 
infected the entire Italian nation with chauvinism, he 
refused to apply the arbitration measures provided in 
the 1928 Treaty that the League of Nations had spon- 
sored for solving problems between the two coun- 
tries. Rome immediately demanded that the Wal Wal 
Oasis be added to its colonial territories in Somalia. 

Italy sought to annex western Ethiopia in order to 
consummate its long-time project of a railroad to link 
its possessions in Ethiopia and in Somalia. Here it 


rivaled France, mistress of the port of Djibouti and of 
the Djibouti-Addis Ababa railroad. Fascist Rome had 
sought an alliance with London in order to confront 
Paris, and this was agreed to in 1925. For their part, 
the British wanted permission to build a dam on the 
Blue Nile, at Lake Tana, and a highway linking the 
dam area with the Sudan. Thus, British imperialism 
would be the major beneficiary of the economy of the 
Nile basin countries. 

At that time the Parisian Foreign Minister was 
Pierre Laval, an open servant of the Nazis, who didn't 
hesitate to sign an accord with Mussolini in 1935, a 
month after the incident at the Wal Wal Oasis oc- 
curred. Laval, in turn, wanted Italy to help him soften 
the sharpening contradictions France had with Nazi 
Germany. In return for French support, Italy re- 
nounced its claims to Tunisia and other French colo- 
nies. Meanwhile, Rome received 20 percent of the 
stock in the Djibouti-Addis Ababa railroad line and 
the eagerly sought certainty (by secret agreement) 
that France would back its conquest of Ethiopia. 

Entire nations were shamefully and cynically 
carved up before the eyes of the world. Britain de- 
clared herself indifferent to the Ethiopian situation as 
long as her rights to Lake Tana were recognized (she 
was equally indifferent, later on, to the plot against 
the Spanish Republic). The US Congress adopted a 
similar position with its passage of the Neutrality 
Act in August 1935, which forbade the sale of arms to 
both aggressor and victim. Ethiopia’s fate was sealed. 

The Soviet Union was the only country that clearly 
and firmly supported the independence of Ethiopia 
(then called Abyssinia) and world peace, which was 
seriously threatened by the conflict. 

Under these circumstances, Mussolini declared 
that the Italian- Abyssinian problem had ceased to be 
a “diplomatic conflict" and had become a “historic" 
conflict— whose solution required “the use of arms." 

On the night of October 2, 1935, Italian troops sta- 


tioned in Eritrea and Somalia invaded Ethiopia. Haile 
Selassie’s government urgently asked the League of 
Nations for help. On the 7th, thanks to the USSR’s 
staunch position, the League was forced to conclude 
that Mussolini’s government had resorted to war, in 
violation of the provisions of Article 12 of the 1928 
League Convention, and called for the imposition of 
sanctions, as provided in Article 16. The sanctions 
were never applied, however, for all the imperialist 
powers joined in sabotaging any such attempt. 

On December 9, British and French Foreign Minis- 
ters Hoare and Laval proposed a new plan for solving 
the problem. It couldn't have been worse: that Ethi- 
opia cede to Italy the western part of Ogaden and the 
area between Ogaden and Eritrea— Danakil and 
Tigre. In “compensation,” Ethiopia was offered the 
Eritrean port of Aseb — at a previously established 
high price! Of course, London could lend it the money, 
provided the Ethiopian economy fell graciously into 
its hands. As if the spoils weren’t enough, central 
Ethiopia, including the capital, would be placed 
under the control of League of Nations “advisers” 
designated by Britain, France and Italy. Ethiopia, 
naturally, refused to commit suicide. 

In the face of the crime thus perpetrated, the USSR 
and people throughout the world mobilized to aid the 
poorly armed African state then under attack. Com- 
mittees for the Defense of Ethiopia appeared in many 
countries, particularly in Africa. Volunteer bat- 
talions were organized in South Africa, Egypt and 
Syria, as was a Support Committee from among 
Black trade unionists of the United States. 

The Communist International had foreseen— in Di- 
mitrov’s and Togliatti’s reports to its 7th Congress— 
that fascism would move to open aggression and had 
called for a united front and action. Now, it threw 
itself into the passionate defense of Ethiopia. 

Meanwhile, Mussolini got the backing of the Cath- 
olic Church, which in that period was very sympa- 


thetic to colonial interests in Africa and Asia. The 
Vatican also hoped that an Italian victory would lead 
the dissident Coptic Church to return to the fold. 
Cardinal Idelfonso Schuster [Milan] described the 
war as “a national and a Catholic mission.” 

The Ethiopian people rallied with real patriotism to 
the just struggle for independence. The heroism of the 
barefoot masses who fought with lances, fore- 
shadowed that of the Spanish, who fell victim to fas- 
cism shortly thereafter. However, with only a few 
guns, no central military command and fighting on 
two fronts— north and south, Ethiopia couldn’t hold 
out. Its regular army was small, and regional recruit- 
ment was extremely hurried and was handled by the 
ra s, whom the people detested for their abuses as 

Superiority in weapons, uncontested control of the 
air and the use of asphyxiating poisonous gases gave 
fascist Italy a fairly easy victory. For example, in the 
battle of Azebo Galla, Mussolini lost 100 soldiers, 
while Ethiopia lost nearly 20,000. Another negative 
factor for the Ethiopians was their poor military lead- 
ership. Haile Selassie refused to change tactics, even 
when it was impossible to withstand the Italian as- 
sault. He wouldn’t listen when his military advisers 
urged going to the mountains and waging a stubborn, 
mobile, guerrilla war. 

On May 5, 1936, General Badoglio sent Mussolini a 
telegram announcing the seizure of Addis Ababa, 
Harer and Dire Dawa. Military superiority had been 
coupled with treason on the part of Haile Selassie 
Gugsa, the Emperor’s son-in-law and rival. 

On May 9, Mussolini announced to the Great Coun- 
cil of Fascism, with his customary theatrical pose, 
“Ethiopia is Italian! Italian in fact and in law. With 
the population of Ethiopia, peace is a foregone con- 
clusion. The new Emperor of Ethiopia is King Victor 

On June 30, the League of Nations reviewed the 


Ethiopian Government's motion against recognizing 
the Italian conquest. Only the USSR supported it. 
There were 23 votes against and 25 abstentions. 

Mussolini immediately wanted to send half a mil- 
lion Italians to work the mines and fertile lands of the 
new possessions of the “Italian East Africa Empire 
in order to secure the conquest. He also sought to 
make Ethiopia a stategic base, but the plan had to be 
abandoned because the Ethiopians went on fighting 
even long after all the members of the imperial gov- 
ernment had left. 

The fascist occupation was as brutal as could be 
expected. More than 400,000 Ethiopians were mur- 
dered, 300,000 died of hunger, and 35,000 perished in 
concentration camps. 

The Italian colonial authorities also resorted to all 
kinds of intrigue and maneuvers in their efforts to 
dominate the Ethiopian people. They incited the Ti- 
gres and Galas against the Amharas, and the Somalis 
against the Danakils; they fomented discord between 
Muslims and Christians, made thousands of prom- 
ises, etc. 

All to no avail. After five years of heroic, constant 
resistance, the partial occupation was defeated as the 
Allied troops carried forward their East Africa offen- 
sive. The basic factor in the liberation, however, was 
the struggle of the Ethiopian peasant guerrillas. 
Addis Ababa was liberated on May 5, 1941, and there 
were no invaders left in the country by the end of the 
year. The loss of Ethiopia marked the beginning of the 
end for Mussolini’s regime and dealt a severe blow to 
the global strategy of the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis. 

For Ethiopia however, and particularly for its peo- 
ple, the victory over the fascist invaders didn’t mean 
real independence. Britain sought to take advantage 
of the presence of her troops, as an allied force, to 
become a new occupier, and, in spite of the Ethiopian 

Government's protests, the British remained until 

This prolonged battle explains the Ethiopian peo- 
ple’s patriotism, that has been magnified by their 


RIDICULING the fencing among exploiting ruling 
class heads and parties, lords of the land and of 
banking, in mid-19th-century Europe-before com- 
munism, like a specter filled with reality, brought the 
proletariat’s defiant face on stage— Marx wrote. The 
so-called revolutions of 1848 were nothing but small 
episodic events, slight fractures and fissures in the 
hard crust of European society. However, they were 
sufficient to show the abyss that lay below. They 
demonstrated that, beneath that surface, so solid in 
appearance, there were veritable oceans that had only 
to start moving to make entire continents break up 
into bits of hard rock.” 

That same analysis is applicable to 20th-century 

If the most honest plebiscite had been conducted in 
Ethiopia in 1970, the Emperor would undoubtedly 
have had his immense power ratified. With very few 
exceptions, all the people not only believed in him 
blindly but adored him. 

This was the fruit of centuries of feudalism, during 
which very few advances were made in the means of 
production, while progressive social ideas penetrat- 
ed even more slowly. It was also the result of sys- 
tematic propaganda, designed with the most modern 
publicity techniques and aimed at deceiving the 
masses and preventing them from thinking for them- 
selves, leaving everything up to the Emperor. 


Although his absurdities, whims and abuses— vis- 
ited even on his children and close followers— weren’t 
always easily swallowed by the more Europeanized 
elements of the two ruling classes, the latifundists 
and bureacratic capitalists, they accepted Haile Se- 
lassie and promoted his myth because it provided the 
surest guarantee anywhere in Africa against the rev- 
olutionary changes advocated following the death of 
fascism and, with it, of the old colonial system. 

Suddenly, all that submission went down the drain. 
The masses stopped believing in the Emperor and 
began to believe in themselves. Without an oppressed 
class that could take command, without even factions 
of it grouped in parties or movements, there was a 
vacuum. Only the army could fill it, and that was 
when the other characteristic emerged— which, as 
much as the spontaneity, evokes admiration and also 
apprehension for present-day Ethiopia. 

It is interesting and worthwhile to analyze this 
characteristic— the military factor. 

For a long time, the question of what the army could 
do in power was a legitimate one. 

Now, today, it is a matter of analyzing what it has 

Naturally, just as the means of production are 
nothing without people, even automatic machines 
need someone to dream them up, build them and intro- 
duce them in the creative process, so the Ethiopian 
people have been and are behind the army. 

Gradually, the people are replacing the army as the 
Revolution’s most decisive element. Ethiopia is be- 
coming more and more “civilian.” 

This means that peasants and workers, a majority 
of the urban petty bourgeoisie and certain middle- 
level sectors of the bourgeoisie, as well as many 
intellectuals, have become the true protagonists, in a 
conscious and organized manner, of the Revolution. 

The army hasn’t returned to its garrisons. Not only 
is it fighting on the eastern border against the invad- 


e rs, or defending Asmara against the blows of the 
separatist forces encouraged by the Arab reaction 
and imperialism, but it is also developing the con- 
sciousness that it belongs to the people and must 
serve them. 

A marvelous process of revolutionizing soldiers 
and command cadres is taking place in the midst of 
the Revolution. Urban and field workers come en 
masse to the training centers and join the militia, now 
the basic defense force. The militiamen go to the 
trenches with minimal training in handling weapons 
and fight alongside their brothers, the professional 

The same thing is true with respect to the economy, 
education and the law. 

As “boys with new shoes,” the masses, feverish 
with the joy of feeling more than free— masters— 
organize, discuss, study, learn, lead and ignore no 
aspect of social life, for none is beyond their scope. 
What has happened? 

It was also Marx who discovered: “In all manifesta- 
tions that are disconcerting to the bourgeoisie, to the 
aristocracy and to the poor prophets of regression, we 
recognize our good friend Robin Goodfellow, the old 
mole who knows how to excavate the earth so quick- 
ly, that worthy sapper called Revolution. ’ 

There are the allegedly dispassionate observers 
who, offhandedly and without having been in Ethi- 
opia since February 1974, still believe it to be in the 
midst of the social chaos that existed at the time the 
old regime fell or in the subsequent period of high- 
level coups and countercoups. 

There’s no point in asking them what they want. 
From the French Revolution to the revolution that 
may be taking place right now, anywhere, that is 
always the rule rather than the exception. 

However, if violence persists and increases in Ethi- 
opia, the guilty ones are the enemies of its popular 


that deprive them of freedom, dignity, land, food, 
shoes and other clothing, health and hope. 

The Revolution has made more changes in Ethiopia 
in just three years than were previously made in three 

A list of the chief gains the masses have won thus 
far is impressive, though they aren't the most impor- 
tant from the point of view of future perspectives. 
Those will include overcoming the abysmal under- 
development, industrializing, increasing well-being, 
and forging a new, educated and advanced Ethiopia. 

It is impossible to draw up a list of its achieve- 
ments, because how do you measure the feeling of 


The Ethiopian Revolution’s first act was to depose 
Haile Selassie and end his regime of absolute feudal 

The fall of the Bourbons heralded for the French the 
possibility to develop the modern nation of France. 

For Ethiopia, such a process has an even deeper 

Any analysis must start from the fact that Ethiopia 
had official, marginal slavery up to 1950; until just 
three years ago, it had arrogant feudalism, with lati- 
fundists who owned areas larger than the island of 

It must also be considered that, in the third quarter 
of the atomic and space flight century, the belief that 
the Emperor ruled “by divine right" was not only 
accepted by the masses; it was the only concept that 
could enter minds closed by a total fanaticism im- 
parted almost like a family heritage and reinforced by 
sermons from the cradle to the grave. 

Up to February 1974, Ethiopians viewed Haile Se- 
lassie as the nearest thing to a god, immune to human 
foibles, egoism, greed and cowardice. 



Any number of philosopher-novelists have de- 
scribed the kind of cataclysm that occurs in the minds 
of many believers who, through a better understand- 
ing of nature, come to feel that “God is dead.” Some- 
times it isn’t easy to find the road leading to that new 
conviction— which, in any case, isn’t absolutely nec- 
essary in order to struggle against social evils. 

What could have led Haile Selassie’s 30 million 
idolizers to lose confidence in him, deny him, scorn 
him and hate him with as much force as they had 
previously adored him? 

In a single night, millions of pictures of “God’s 
Elected” were set on fire by the same hands that had 
formerly touched the ground he walked on, as the 
subject knelt. The same eyes that once shone with 
tears when the supreme face appeared in the distance 
burned as they watched the flames turn to ashes the 
image that was now a symbol of evil and hypocrisy. 

Something much more intense than a flame must 
have kindled in the soul of the Ethiopians. It’s easy to 
say “consciousness,” but, in addition to making such 
ignorant and ignored people understand it, how was it 
possible to make each one feel it for himself, discover 
it on his own, amidst the tangled thicket of prejudice 
and obscurantism? 

I had a very revealing experience. I asked a night 
watchman— one of those who has guarded a building 
for 20, 24 or 30 years — who made him believe in the 
Revolution when he used to believe in the Emperor? 
And this watchman, with skin as black and lined as a 
campaign boot, answered, “Nobody.” 

Then, apparently fearing I wouldn't believe his 
change was a sincere one, he corrected himself and 
exclaimed, “Everybody!” 

That is the secret! 

That is, the disbelief in the myth, the detoxification, 
happened in the only way possible: at the same time, 
for everybody. 

With their collective awakening synchronized by 


terrible blows that made class identification possible, 
all the peasants understood that hunger was the re- 
sult not of the earth's lack of water but of the latifund- 
ist’s existence and that the latifundist to beat all 
latifundists was the Emperor. 

The taxi drivers, the railroad, telegraph and public 
office workers, the newspaper peddlers, and the un- 
employed, all suddenly saw that the worst culprit was 
the one they had thought of as father and friend. 

He was a semidevil, not a semigod. 

Then the shouts of “Down with the Emperor! 
which might once have come from bold students at the 
entrance to the University, ceased being the voice of 
evil and madness and became the voice of goodness, 
truth and reason. 

It is impossible to determine who was the first 
Ethiopian to become a revolutionary between Febru- 
ary and September 1974. It must have happened to 
many at the same time. 

When the wave began to pound at the garrisons, and 
the soldiers and policemen began to form committees, 
as the workers and peasants had done, and to present 
their demands for wage increases — and especially 
when the officers joined in the spontaneous protest 
action — those who still believed in Haile Selassie 
became the defeated members of a silent minority. 

The highly complex question of consciousness- 
raising, which undoubtedly had a thousand and one 
variations, can be illustrated by what I was told by 
someone who is now a colonel and an important per- 
son in the process. 

He explained to me that, one day in March 1974, he 
learned that a commission had been created in his 
unit to demand higher wages to meet escalating pri- 
ces. He decided to say nothing and pretend not to 

Nevertheless, he immediately found himself 
among the privates and sergeants selected in mass 
meetings to present the demands at the Ministry of 


Emperor!" that followed was the loudest ever heard, 
a nd the sincerity of those who shouted it seemed 


However, prices began to soar even higher, which 
prompted the soldiers to visit the Emperor a second 

This time he smiled less, but he enunciated another 
“We. God’s Elected,” and the promise of another wage 

Three weeks later, a totally different scene took 
place, when the Fourth Division Committee ap- 
peared, not only with its own demands but also with 
those of sectors— the teachers, railroad workers and 
small businessmen— none of whom had been received 
by their respective ministers, much less by the Em- 
peror. With an outward show of exaggerated patience, 
while bridling with ill-concealed ire, Haile Selassie 
said, “How much more? I don’t have any more money. 
I can't go on pay ing wage hikes. The last one came out 
of my own pocket 

The colonel told me that the “Long live the Em- 
peror!” at the end of that interview was a murmur— or 
a curse— and that everyone— the Emperor, the ser- 
vants who were present and all the members of the 
Committee— interpreted it as such. 

As far as the colonel is concerned, when he heard 
“I” rather than “We, God's Elected, and that business 
of “my own pocket,” that was the end. 

“Quite simply, I began to hate him." 


Once Haile Selassie was deposed from the soul of 
the people and from his throne, then what? 

Then and there, the unanimity within the social 
forces that had fostered or accepted the bloodless 
overthrow of the Emperor was broken. 

Particularly dramatic and decisive was the differ- 
entiation that began to take place almost auto- 


matically within the force that removed that century, 
old obstacle from the road to Ethiopia’s historical 
development. The army, the only institution operat- 
ing, began to break up into rival factions. 

There is no doubt that personal aspirations explain 
the immediate reasons why any general, colonel or 
captain followed a particular line and joined one of 
the many groups that began to operate politically 
within the military, operating as a balance force pre- 
cisely because of its alleged apoliticism. At a time 
when the entire hierarchy— starting at the very top- 
is crumbling, it is logical that the military should 
replace “I obey” with ‘‘I command.” But, when all is 
said and done, there were also reasons for this atti- 

Personal ambition was induced by or identified 
with class ambition. General Andom not only wanted 
to be the Bonapartist dictator of the young revolution 
but also felt the greatest repugnance for the idea that 
private ownership of land, finances and factories 
should disappear. He was horrified to think that a 
popular, socialist Ethiopia might emerge from the 
Ethiopian convulsion. 

General Andom’s blue blood curdled in his veins 
when he heard his captains speak, in the meetings 
called at any hour in the garrisons, of the need to 
study Marx and Lenin. For him, with his indoctrina- 
tion from Washington, it was clear that this meant the 
beginning of the century’s terrible epidemic that was 
leading to the death of the sacred right to own the 
wealth produced by other hands and other human 

Why, then, was Andom at the head of the Provision- 
al Military Administrative Council? 

The explanation is very simple. What began spon- 
taneously on February 13 with cries of protest and 
then became angry action after learning of the hunger 
in the provinces was initially a rebellion, not a revo- 
lution. It became a revolution due to its mass force. It 


began as something similar to, yet enormously dif- 
ferent from. May 1968, in Paris. Haile Selassie wasn t 
n e Gaulle, and this kind of protest doesn’t have the 
same sense and force when it starts in the heart o 
Europe as when it happens in Africa. Both show up 
the system’s illness, but the feudal system was weak- 
er than the imperialist one— so much so that its in- 
stitutions fell down like a row of dominoes or a house 
of cards. 

In such a situation, the army had only two alterna- 
tives: to smash the protest that was becoming more 
and more like an uprising-or to join it. 

The General Staff chose the latter. 

Of course, it tried the former first. In many places, 
the army repressed demonstrations, strikes and 
meetings in the usual way. This was another point at 
which Mengistu showed himself to be not just a cap- 
tain, but a political leader the Revolution needed. 

It was he who pushed the idea of not firing on the 
people, of supporting their demands as well as those 
of the military and of setting up committees in the 
units to do so. This was what led to the creation of the 
Coordinating Committee of the Army, Police and 
other military sectors and finally to the formation oi 
the PMAC, ready to become a supreme state body. 

Taking great care that the personal ambitions of so 
many generals and colonels not be attributed to him, 
Mengistu never opposed the idea of grafting the en- 
tire militry hierarchy onto the trunk of the Revolu- 
tion. With Andom as military chief, he could head the 
revolutionary process. Wasn't it true that, for months, 
there were many soldiers— as well as many people 
from the grass roots— who thought the Emperor him- 
self could head the renovation? Perhaps it would be 
enough to return spiritually to the days of the Ethio- 
pian Youth movement. 

Really, Andom wasn’t a traitor— just a deceiver. 
From the very first, he acted to slow down, weaken, 
adulterate and, in the end, kill the Revolution. 


Immediately after coming to power, he made secret 
contact with the latifundist party, the Ethiopian Dem- 
ocratic Union (EDU), which, without losing any time, 
used all the enormous energy that Lenin noticed in 
the overthrown classes to launch a civil war in re- 
sponse to the Revolution that was trying desperately 
to be peaceful, nationalist and reasonable. 

The EDU hadn’t been a strong party when the Em- 
peror was a party all by himself, but, when he fell, it 
understood that it was now or never and devoted itself 
to organizing armed detachments of backward peas- 
ants with a slave mentality, priests and all kinds of 
servants to fight, first of all, against the agrarian 
reform that would inevitably be decreed. 

What most annoyed Andom about the agrarian re- 
form was Mengistu’s idea of nationalizing the land 
rather than simply dividing it up— which would whet 
the appetite of the rural bourgeoisie, who, to a certain 
extent, would replace the latifundists, so that, in the 
end, the two classes would join in opposing the Revo- 

Without a doubt, for both Andom and Mengistu, the 
agrarian problem had become the key and basic ques- 
tion of the Revolution. 

In addition to his secret involvement with the EDU, 
Andom wanted to abolish only certain gross man- 
ifestations of feudalism, modernize it and make it 

Already holding Marxist-Leninist positions, Men- 
gistu wanted to end the system of feudal exploitation 
once and for all and prevent the plague of new exploi- 
ters from appearing in the countryside. 

Mengistu’s plans constituted a challenge! 

Africa had never known such radicalism. There had 
been more moderate stages in the Chinese, Viet- 
namese and Cuban Revolutions, but the only antece- 
dent as drastic in all world history was the agrarian 
program of the Bolshevik Party in 1917. 

Of course, this wasn’t just a matter of somebody’s 


W him. It reflected the depth of the internal class 

For centuries, the Ethiopian peasants had strug- 
gled for the land. More than a few latifundists’ heads 
had rolled before the humble, starving workers lost 
their own. Those isolated successive protests some- 
times reached the level of revolts, but never of revolu- 
tionary moments. Moreover, the peasants’ looks of 
hatred never encompassed the Emperor. On the con- 
trary, he was their last hope. 

Nor was it easy to find formulas for a reform that 
was to be definitive and applicable throughout the 
country. The problem to be solved was very complex, 
very crucial and very involved, because feudalism in 
Ethiopia was administered in regions, each of which 
contained more than a hundred different forms of land 
tenure. A general, uniform revolutionary solution 
couldn’t be found without a concrete regional under- 
standing of the relations of production established 
among feudalists, agrarian bourgeoisie and peasants 
of every type and condition. It was very, very diffi- 

In the south and most of the central part of the 
country, more than 85 percent of the rural population 
lived in the worst circumstances. Barely 10 percent of 
them had any land at all. In the north and the remain- 
ing central part of the country, there was a system 
based on the age of family members, regulating the 
use only of the land. This led to its increased fragmen- 
tation and the creation of minifarms, supplied to 

Long lines of peasants bearing petitions, appeals 
and demands related to the land were to be seen at the 
entrances to courts all over the country. 

Feudalism’s design in Ethiopia had certain outlines 
that existed in many other countries of tropical Af- 
rica a century ago, but even then these features were 
behind the times. In the present century, they couldn’t 
be found anywhere in Latin America, either. 


1. Millions of peasants lacked land. This was 
their fate generation after generation. They 
owned a bare 5 percent of all the country’s 
arable land. 

2. Sixty-five percent of the land was owned by a 
nobility composed of a handful of families. 
The most powerful and wealthy, of course, was 
the Emperor’s. 

3. Thirty percent of the remaining land be- 
longed to the higher orders of the Orthodox 
Church of Ethiopia. 

4. The main objective of production was 
consumption rather than the accumulation of 
capital. This meant that the vast army of peas- 
ants constituted a veritable human herd at the 
level of domestic servants. It didn’t matter if 
they died of hunger. Their mission, decade 
after decade, was simply to support the ex- 
travagant lifestyle of the parasitic oligarchy. 
This explains why the peasants had to hand 
over up to three fourths of what they produced 
with such difficulty. 

5. Manacled as a consequence of the fact that 90 
percent of the country’s population was linked 
to this type of agriculture, which didn’t use 
fertilizers, chemicals, modern tools or irriga- 
tion, the national economy was one of the 
poorest in the world. Ethiopia was more back- 
ward than Haiti, and that’s saying a lot. Per 
capita income (which, with such vast social 
differences, doesn’t reflect the reality) was 
only $60 a year— less than the $90 figure given 
by the UN. A few years before the Revolution 
burst forth, a timid attempt was made to mod- 
ernize agriculture, but it left very few traces. 
The imperial government financed projects 
that favored importing fertilizers and some 
tractors to raise productivity per area and per 
man. This meant, of course, that members of 
the royal family and its few associates who 
were engaged in the business of producing and 
exporting coffee were the beneficiaries. 


6. Ethiopia exported a great deal of coffee, 
which provided 60 percent of its foreign ex- 
change income and tied it to the fluctuations of 
the world market. Year after year, its foreign 
debt increased. The balance of payments defi- 
cit has been chronic for a long time now. 

Andom and Mengistu represented the battle be- 
tween the opposing interests and ideologies of feudal- 
ists and peasants. 

General Andom’s counterrevolutionary plot had to 
be defeated on November 24, 1974, in order to make 
possible the historic declaration of March 4, 1975, 
which abolished the feudal system of land tenure and 
declared that land was the collective property of all 
the people. 

Land nationalization also included the few modern 
farms that raised coffee, since most of such rural 
commercial enterprises were in the hands of the bour- 
geois latifundists and their allies, the imperialist 
monopolies and the big Ethiopian bourgeoisie. 

Nationalization, however, wasn’t enough. It was 
then necessary to perform the huge task of giving the 
land to the peasant masses free and clear, so they 
could put it to work. 

At that time, the revolutionary group around Men- 
gistu and Abate— who later turned traitor— conceived 
the zemech a campaign for mobilizing thousands of 
people— students, teachers and soldiers, all volun- 
teers — to work in the countryside, helping the peas- 
ants set up associations and cooperatives. Each 
family had the right to work ten hectares of land, and 
every 80 families could establish an association. 
Peasants who had owned less than ten hectares of 
land were given additional land to meet that figure 
and joined the associations if they so desired. 

Over 24,000 associations and cooperatives had been 
created as of September 1977, grouping more than 7 
million peasants at the local, district, provincial and 
regional levels. 


Work is now being done to create an All-Ethiopi a 
Peasant Association, which will give the country's 
nationalities more facilities for exercising regional 

Through their organizations, established on abso- 
lutely democratic bases, the rural masses exercise 
their political, economic and social rights and are the 
real owners not only of the land but also of political 

The peasants' first victory was to eliminate hunger 
from the countryside. The second, also of interest to 
the urban population, is that great, collectively work- 
ed areas are beginning to appear, and these must 
produce for commercial exchange. New work and 
living habits are being created, step by step. 

Freed from worry about “where” they’ll be ex- 
ploited, since all exploitation is ended— as is the 
anguish over lack of land— the peasants base them- 
selves on their associations and cooperatives, look- 
ing for better seeds, fertilizers and better work tools. 

When you visit an association, however, it isn’t just 
the work done in common that arouses admiration. 
According to the law, they, the members of an asso- 
ciation, can apply the law. There are courts whose 
judges they elect to rule on minor infractions. They 
have also had to confront feudal assassins, who have 
attacked the peasants in their houses by night and 
burned their stables and their planted fields. Hence, 
every association and cooperative has its own militia 
to defend the new revolutionary homeland, now that 
the land is in their hands. 

The highest proof of how democratic the process is 
lies in the fact that more than 300,000 peasants have 
joined the militia and the number will soon reach half 
a million, or a million — as many as may be required 
for the victory of their Revolution. 

The revolutionary power has already trained tens 
of thousands of these volunteer militiamen and con- 
siders the peasants' and workers’ militias to be the 


bulwark of the defense of the country and the Revolu- 


In Ethiopia, feudalism also penetrated the cities. 
The feudal-bourgeois ruling class’s ownership of 
more than 80 percent of the urban land gave it another 
handle for plundering the masses. 

The housing problem was very serious: landlords 
grabbed a large part of family incomes. The capital 
and other cities were ringed with slums where indi- 
gents lived without water or light, like rats, in gar- 
bage dumps. 

In addition to the need to find a radical solution to 
this economic tragedy, a political factor was in- 
volved. Since the same people (or their relatives) 
owned land in the countryside and in the cities, land 
nationalization led them to use their urban property 
for counterrevolutionary activities. Thus, there was 
no alternative but to respond positively to the popu- 
lar demand for nationalization of urban land and of 
the “surplus houses” — those not personally inhabited 
by their owners. 

Finally, the PMAC acceded to that demand. Men- 
gistu defended the interests of the poor, opposing 
those voices of high officers, the sons of landlords, 
who were against it. And the law appeared, to the 
people’s great joy. 

It made city land the property of the nation and 
reduced house rents by 50 percent. The “surplus 
houses” became collective property. August 7, 1975, 
was the day chosen to approve the measure. 

When it proceeded to nationalize the urban estates 
and houses held in reserve, the PMAC discovered 
things that would have been astonishing had there 
been any room for astonishment after the discovery of 
the virtual slave labor that went on in the Emperor’s 



other part of the world. Of an estimated 8 to 9 million 
school-aged children, only 500,000 could attend 
school. Most of these, of course, were in the urban 
areas. Only 3 of every 1,000 young people over 15 
years of age attended any kind of school— and almost 
all of them, naturally, came from more or less well-off 

In this panorama, those few students who managed 
to reach the university level (university enrollment 
was under 6,000 in the single university in the capital, 
which had limited facilities and faculty) were trained 
to become efficient bureaucrats, who identified body 
and soul with the feudal-capitalist system. To aspire 
to be a scientist was nothing short of heresy. 

In spite of such adverse conditions, the student 
masses constantly came out against the regime they 
were supposed to serve, particularly each time the 
peasants rose up against their bosses. 

Thus, the Revolution had to act in many areas, from 
launching literacy campaigns— in which it ran up 
against the fact that many of the 80 nationalities and 
ethnic groups in the country had no alphabets 
for their spoken languages— to building schools and 
training teachers. 

In the midst of a virtual civil war unleashed by the 
latifundists, faced with counterrevolutionary terror- 
ism in the cities and fighting regular wars on various 
fronts, the Revolution carries out its offensive in 

Spectacular results are out of the question, but 
there have been admirable and promising gains. The 
measures concerning educational content are par- 
ticularly important: no more detailed studies of the 
lives of the kings— which included learning by heart 
their pompous titles, their genealogical tree, and 
everything about them from their childhood measles 
to their numerous medals, bestowed by other kings 
simply for parasitism. Today, schools teach the histo- 
ry of the masses, the class struggle and the objectives 
and causes of the Revolution. 

that Haile Selassie was the biggest landlord of them 
all, and that he and the 9 other members of the royal 
family, 10 high-ranking nobles, 10 very wealthy but 
non-aristocratic state officials and 20 capitalists 
owned 2,150 hectares of urban land in the capital 
alone. This included almost all the houses. 

Of that enormous total area, 41 percent was owned 
by the 10 members of the royal family and 54 percent 
by the 10 feudal nobles not related to the monarch; the 
rest was divided among the other big landlords. Only 
8 percent of the land was left for a million people. This 
land had all the low-rent housing located in the outly- 
ing areas, with unpaved streets and no sewers— good 
neighborhoods for the poor. 

With great fanfare, the Emperor began expensive 
urban renewal projects that were really designed to 

THERE WAS a profound revolution in the educational 
system, as well. Its purpose was, first of all, to elimi- 
nate feudal and bourgeois ideas and guarantee that 
scientific socialism would become daily educational 
fare for those who face the future and must build it. 

In Ethiopia, there was still everything to be done in 
this area. The starting point was even below zero. 

A UNESCO study showed that, in 1974, between 95 
and 98 percent of the population was illiterate, a 
figure matched by no other country in Africa or any 


Marx urged constant “education of the educators.’’ 
That is what the new Ethiopia is doing, and not only in 
the classroom. Thousands of future teachers are 
going to the countryside with their own teachers, who 
are, at the time, reeducated in the best possible peda- 
gogy: life and the mass struggle. 

As part of that singular army of volunteers, they 
carry out a “campaign” involving enormous efforts 
to foster the peasant cooperatives and associations; 
to create mass consciousness in those whom the 
church and ruling classes inculcated with the belief 
that God wanted them to suffer on earth in order to 
gain a passport to heaven; to teach children and 
adults to read and write; to build dams and roads; and, 
finally, to contribute to the peasantry's military or- 

The Amharic name for the “campaign” is zemecha, 
and now zemecha has gained general respect. Many 
of its participants have died (as Conrado Benitez died 
in Cuba), murdered by counterrevolutionaries who 
can t bear the thought that the masses are being 

Ethiopia is also revising where it sends its scholar- 
ship students for study abroad. Now they will go not 
only to imperialist countries, as was the case under 
the Emperor, but to socialist countries, as well. Be- 
fore, only a few went to those countries, because there 
wasn't any interest in having young people know 
about advanced social systems. Haile Selassie didn't 
want anything but intellectual slaves. 

The Ethiopian Revolution also immediately started 
organizing the people on the neighborhood level. As- 
sociations called kebele were created as a first 
step toward achieving self-government. By Septem- 
ber 1977 more than 2,000 of them had been established 
in the cities and some 600 in rural towns. The average 
size of a kebele ranges from 3,000 to 5,000 families. 

In October 1976 democratic elections were held, so 
the masses could choose their own leaders. 


According to their laws, they elect at least 15 mem- 
bers to local leadership, at least 26 to regional leader- 
ship and 30 to the central leadership. 

The capital has an association that includes 291 
grassroots and 25 regional kebele. 

The kebele are more like soviets than the Cuban 
Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. They 
are bodies of people’s power. The Central Committee 
of the Association, chosen from the lower bodies, 
appoints the mayors of the most important cities 
from among its members. 

The kebele ' s responsibilities in activities for the 
well-being of the people, in defense operations and in 
the administration of justice are well defined. 

A proclamation issued in October 1977— -promoted 
by Mengistu— gave them the power to establish their 
own courts of justice and defined the scope of those 
courts and their procedures in civil and criminal 

The same proclamation also described very clearly 
the other organizations of people’s democracy: the 
associations of workers, women and young people. 

January 1977 will go down in the history of the 
development of the Ethiopian workers' class con- 
sciousness. That was when the first step was taken, 
the founding of the All-Ethiopian Trade Union. The 
second, culminating step, will be the formation of the 
Marxist-Leninist Party so the proletariat can carry 
out its great tasks in alliance with the revolutionary 

A month later, the factory militias appeared, and, 
after three weeks of preparation, their members went 
directly to the battle fronts. Thus, a tradition of work- 
ers’ resistance— at times intuitive— was continued. 

It is true that there had been a trade union organiza- 
tion, the CELU, since 1962, but its action was limited 
by the fact that it had to coexist with a reactionary 
government that tried in every possible way— par- 
ticularly through the relations imposed by the US 


AFL-CIO and the ICFTU— to make them trade unions 
without class content, its leaders, at best, beggars for 
crumbs, willing to lull the workers’ spirit of rebellion. 

Now the young, free, trade union movement has its 
own schools, that teach socialism— which has be- 
come the ideal and goal of the entire Ethiopian work- 
ers' movement. 

Lenin’s thesis that, in a revolutionary period, the 
masses learn in days what it would take them years of 
normal struggle to learn, is clearly evident in Ethi- 

From the spontaneous strikes of February 1974, the 
workers have gone on to protect the factories and 
enterprises that have been nationalized; to become 
directly involved in economic activity, with all the 
difficulties and errors this implies; and to form trade 
unions as living schools for communism, the ideol- 
ogy of the revolutionary proletariat. Finally, the pro- 
letariat has reached the point of creating its own 
militias and priding itself on its heroism in battle. 

There is a well-defined correlation in Ethiopia be- 
tween the process of socializing the basic means of 
production and the penetration of socialist ideas in 
the consciousness of the working masses; although 
there, too, a phenomenon common to all revolutions 
has arisen: economism, the eagerness of certain sec- 
tors to achieve higher salaries and better living con- 
ditions without waiting until the country’s economic 
development permits it. Trotskyite elements fan this 
negative phenomenon, just as they try to take over the 
leadership posts in the kebele in order to use them, at 
some point, against revolutionary power. These 
Trotskyites are firmly rejected by the working mass- 
es, but the harm they can do should not be underesti- 

At the beginning of 1975 the banks, the insurance 
companies, and a total of 65 big enterprises in light 
industry, the food industry and transportation were 
nationalized. These were the only industries the 
country, a victim of underdevelopment, had. 


Revolutionary power’s record on behalf of the 
workers is impressive. 

As society took for its use what had been produced 
with social work, the workers became freer. For the 
first time, political firings— which, until 1974, had led 
to the concentration camps or forced labor in the 
Emperor’s gold mines— were ended, and wages were 
set at a level which, while still low, is at least above 
starvation. In December 1975 came the Labor Pro- 
clamation, which caused the old workers to heave a 
deep sigh of relief. It established books listing the 
number of workers, enterprise by enterprise, to avoid 
the situation of "I don't know you, so get out,” as well 
as precise and detailed job descriptions, pay adjust- 
ments and working hours. 

For the first time, as well, the 8-hour day and 40- 
hour week, with overtime for extra hours, was ap- 
proved. And what about the paid vacations, ranging 
from two weeks to thirty-five days, depending on 
years of service? Or the full payment for a month s 
illness— the first month— partial payment for the two 
succeeding months, and no pay, but the right to return 
to work, if the illness continues for a longer period? 

In an Ethiopia where being a worker used to mean 
being nobody, the workers now elect representatives 
to the administrations of the nationalized enterprises 
and must be consulted and heard in disputes with the 
many private bosses who still exist in minor 
branches of the economy. 

Slogans reflecting the great change that has taken 
place are visible on the walls of factories in Addis 
Ababa: “Fight while producing, produce while fight- 
ing” and “Everything for the front! Everything for 

An equally complete transformation has been 
Wrought in the status of the Ethiopian woman. 

When you think of what she was like before the 
Revolution, the word “slave” would be applied not as 
an adjective but as a noun, in the fullest sense of the 



In the countryside, the woman had to carry the 
water, cut the firewood and carry incredible weights 
on her back and head for many kilometers every day. 
As the anthropologist R. Forbes has noted, there 
"Each type of work is exclusively masculine or femi- 
nine. There is nothing like it in any other part of the 
world.” She gives this example: 

No male, even at death’s door, could take the 
grain and grind it between the huge rocks used 
by his mother or wife. The woman prepares all 
food and drink, but she wouldn’t dream of killing 
even the smallest bird or beast for the kitchen. . . . 
Throughout Ethiopia’s changing fortunes, the 
peasant woman always retained the same anom- 
alous position of flesh for the brothel, with no 
rights to anything except overwork and under- 

At the very bottom of the social pyramid that 
rose higher than the Ethiopian mountain peaks, 
crushed by everyone for every purpose at every 
moment, the Ethiopian woman was forced to 
suffer under the crudest male chauvinism. Her 
husband frequently sold her, exchanged her or 
gave her away. 

All the evil that the feudal lord visited on the 
male slave, he in turn visited on the woman. 

Is it surprising, then, that the women’s associations 
should be what they are? That they are fully devoted 
to the Revolution that liberates them completely? 

Naturally, many women have become members of 
the militia and participate actively in the detach- 

The people tell of a number of cases of women who, 
after nursing their small children, have seized the 
heights around Dire Dawa from the enemy at bayonet 

As for the Ethiopian young people, their fervor is 
everything their age and hopes imply, and their or- 
ganization is also steadily advancing. 

of the Revolution 

THE SIGNIFICANCE of Haile Selassie’s fall from 
power might be better understood if seen, for a 
moment, through the eyes of the same aristocracy he 
so eminently represented, in the lament of an indi- 
vidual such as "King" Simeon of . . . Bulgaria! He is 
one of those mummies who isn't ashamed to present 
himself as the monarch of a country that went 
through not only the republican period but also a 
revolution, some time ago, after the defeat of fascism. 

In an article in Madrid’s ABC, this “king” writes: 

There are times when we can’t remain com- 
fortably silent. I’m referring to the situation in 
Ethiopia, a legendary country, the only one with 
a millennial history, easily attested to by its 
many monuments of Black Africa. Who hasn t 
read about the Queen of Sheba and King Sol- 
omon? Or the mysterious Prester John— of the 
12th century— or Portugal’s influence in Gondar, 
or the strange and silent obelisks of Axum, 
sadesert plain of Danakil, lower than the level of 
These monasteries tell us of the eight centuries 
during which the church of Abyssinia remained 
separated from the rest of Christianity. . . . Eight 
centuries in Africa gave this church its sui gen- 
eris characteristic: its strength for having 
struggled against paganism in the south and 
Islam in the north and its archaism, the result of 
its having been unable to evolve with the rest of 
the Christian world. The Coptics are Mono- 



physites. For them, Christ has only one nature— 
the divine— a belief condemned as heresy in the 
Council of Calcedonia in 451. 

This uniqueness is also characteristic of the 
passing of various cultures, reflected in the ge- 
ography of this great country. . . . From the 
legendary mountains of the north, with their 
4.900-meter-high peak of Has Dashan, where 
Emperor Theodore decided to be crowned Em- 
peror of the world in the mid-19th century, to the 
desert plain of Danakil, lower than the level of 
the torrid Red Sea, and from the fertile valleys of 
the southwest through virgin forests to the des- 
erts of the east, it is a robust, legendary, poor, 
glorious, rich, sad, wise, savage, ancient coun- 
try — 

When we think of Ethiopia, its foremost figure, 
the protagonist of it all and a personality pro- 
jected far beyond that country’s extensive 
boundaries, we see a man physically small but 
spiritually as great as his titles. The King of 
Kings, 225th Emperor since the Queen of Sheba, 
Lion of Judah and God’s Elected, who, as the 
head of the church like the Russian Czars, took 
the name Haile Selassie— which in Amharic 
means Strength of the Trinity — when he as- 
cended to the throne. 

The provoked fall of a monarch, especially if it 
is unjust, may sadden me— because of our af- 
finity of position, some readers might justly 
say — but what astounds me and should interest a 
greater number of people is the speed with 
which it occurred and how little it took to bring it 

The fall of Haile Selassie was just the beginning of 
the beginning of the Revolution, a Revolution in 
search of its own course. 

April 20, 1976, marked a qualitative leap in the 
Revolution's level of consciousness and that of all its 


people: the adoption and enthusiastic popular ap- 
proval— in meetings of anywhere from a few to al- 
most a million people— of the Program of the 
National Democratic Revolution. 

That Program can be summed up in two main objec- 

1. establishment of the People’s Democratic Re- 
public of Ethiopia and 

2. construction of a socialist society, free of the 
system of man’s exploitation of man, and free 
as well of the oppression of nationalities and 
antagonisms among them. 

To achieve both objectives— so meaningful for the 
future and always involving difficulties, though 
much more so in a country such as Ethiopia, whose 
present was the rest of the world’s past — the Ethio- 
pian revolutionary leaders, headed by Mengistu, are 
working to bring together all genuinely democratic, 
antifeudal and anti-imperialist forces in a single 
united front, based on the above Program, and to fuse 
all the organizationally dispersed Marxist-Leninists 
in a proletarian Marxist-Leninist Party. 

Since February 1974 the forces of the Revolution 
have been the proletariat, the poor and oppressed 
peasants, the progressive wing of the petty bour- 
geoisie— particularly revolutionary students and in- 
tellectuals— the military, and other patriotic sectors 
of the country. 

What homage is due the heads of the armed forces 
who, in spite of their generally petty bourgeois class 
origins, are doing everything possible to hasten the 
day when the Party will be the collective leader of the 

Civilian workers already hold highly responsible 
Posts in the city and the countryside, along with 
representatives of the radical wing of the military; 
the presence of these soldiers is in no way militaris- 
tic, however, but is rather the guarantee that, despite 
the errors and complexities inherent in every strug- 




gle for a new society that must also be defended at all 
costs against attack by its internal and external en- 
emies, the advance toward a real and true socialist 
society continues. 

The counterrevolution has also been organizing 
during this dynamic process, in which everything 
that had endured for 30 centuries collapsed in just 
three years. 

The counterrevolutionary forces are the toppled 
feudal lords and bourgeoisie, agents of foreign impe- 
rialism— particularly US imperialism— such as the 
merchant and bureaucratic bourgeoisie. From the 
very beginning, the reactionary forces of the Arab 
world have joined the counterrevolutionaries' ag- 
gressive strikes. 

Prince Fadh, ostensibly the second-ranking official 
of Saudi Arabia, though first in terms of actual power, 
has openly declared, “Ethiopia should be carved up 
and its revolution drowned in blood." 

The Prince has conjured up a number of specters 
(that an independent, revolutionary Ethiopia pre- 
vents the Red Sea from being an “Arabian lake,” one 
controlled by the oil-producing reaction; that a popu- 
lar, strong Ethiopia would aid democratic Yemen, 
firm bulwark of the revolution in the area; etc.), but 
the Prince has said more than that to his closest 
colleagues, and some of them have passed his words 
along to indiscreet Western journalists: “In our King- 
dom, too, we have many potential Mengistus waiting 
to see what happens to this one. He has to be elimi- 
nated so we can go on living in peace.” 

Anxious to protect their oil route, but, above all, to 
prevent the triumph of the revolution where the 
chance of its catching hold seemed so improbable and 
remote, Arab reaction and imperialism are making 
plans for direct intervention, which might be hidden 
behind the proclamation of an Arabian or Muslim 
republic in Eritrea, which would then ask for foreign 
aid. At the same time, they are encouraging the two 


counterrevolutionary parties by financing and arm- 
ing them. One is the Ethiopian Democratic Union 
(EDU), the typically fascist spokesman for the lati- 
fundists, headed by the prince and heir who was left 
with the fortune the Emperor had stolen and the de- 
sire to succeed him. The other is the Ethiopian Popu- 
lar Revolutionary Party (EPRP), made up of members 
of the right wing of the petty bourgeoisie. 

The EDU wages war against the peasants from 

The EPRP specializes in urban assassination at- 

One enemy tactic has been to provoke numerous 
right wing coups d’etat— which fortunately, have 
been put down. 

Ethiopia has not been Africa s Chile, but it is pre- 
pared to be its Vietnam, Mengistu has said. 


The National Democratic Program of the Revolu- 
tion faces truly extraordinary difficulties, objective 
and subjective, that threaten not only its aims but 
even the existence of revolutionary power. 

Although the economists who study Africa, Ethio- 
pian economists among them, are accustomed to 
describing what existed there up to 1974 as an eco- 
nomically backward feudal-bourgeois system, this is 
really a very general way to put it, according to 
Mengistu. Feudal forms were really predominant; 
capitalism had scarcely appeared, and, where it did 
exist, it was deformed. The country was really much 
more backward than the rest of Africa. 

In 1974, agriculture was so bound to the most rigid 
feudal practices that its surplus production almost 
never reached the market; it was used to maintain 
feudal parasites. Even so, it accounted for 50 percent 
of the country’s Gross National Product. The indus- 


trial sector contributed only 16 percent, and this in- 
dustry was confined to small-scale manufacturing 
and artisan enterprises. 

As for the work force, agriculture monopolized 80 
percent of the workers, while the incipient industrial 
sector accounted for less than 8 percent. Low pro- 
ductivity was characteristic of both sectors. 

Thus, even though Ethiopia was an agricultural 
country, with 85 percent of the population living in 
the countryside and with tremendous natural re- 
sources, the Ethiopian people usually went to bed 
hungry, and every drought brought long periods of 
famine. It couldn't have been otherwise, for the coun- 
try wasn't even self-sufficient in the most basic 
foodstuffs. The growth rate in agriculture was con- 
stantly below that of the populations. 

Foreign trade also reflected this situation. Agricul- 
ture accounted for 90 percent of total exports, while 
industry didn't even come up to 5 percent. 

Because most industries were owned by foreigners 
and produced consumer goods (it was unthinkable to 
have even one factory that produced means of pro- 
duction), and because these industries had no rela- 
tionship to the country’s agricultural base, they 
depended entirely on raw materials and semifinished 
goods that had to be bought abroad. Thus, foreign debt 
was as inevitable as famine. 

Haile Selassie liked to pretend to tourists and rep- 
resentatives of the various international organiza- 
tions whose headquarters were in Addis Ababa that 
the population wasn’t hungry and that the poverty 
wasn’t as pervasive as it really was. Therefore, con- 
sumer goods were available in the urban shops. Of 
course, only the aristocrats and the well-paid civilian 
and military bureaucrats could afford to buy any- 
thing in those stores. 

The same depressing characteristics pervaded 
every facet of life. 

There were only 3 kilometers of roads for every 


10,000 people, and 7 kilometers of passable routes for 
every 1,000 square kilometers of land. 

You can imagine the situation in the social ser- 
vices, health, education and housing. Fidel told the 
world, “Imperialism and neocolonialism left in Ethi- 
opia— I repeat this because we have to learn these 
figures by heart— 150,000 people with leprosy, 450,000 
with tuberculosis, 6 or 7 million with malaria and 14 
million with eye infections; 90 percent illiteracy and 
undernourishment. That’s what imperialism and neo- 
colonialism left in Ethiopia! Plus 125 doctors, who, for 
the most part, were trained in foreign universities 
and lived in the capital. As is frequently the case in 
Africa and in underdeveloped countries in other parts 
of the world, nobody could make them move one kilo- 
meter out of the capital.” 

Even under the best of circumstances— with domes- 
tic peace (which is impossible after a revolution) and 
the affected international monopolies taking a posi- 
tive position and even helping out — it would have 
been very difficult for a country such as Ethiopia to 
overcome all that. 

It has to be all uphill for a people who must confront 
such backwardness, poverty and underdevelopment 
in the midst of a civil war provoked by the latifundists 
in the countryside and imperialism’s terrorists in the 
cities, in addition to fighting on four of its borders and 
throughout its largest regions! 

Industry was nationalized in Ethiopia because it 
had served a few privileged people. If this step— 
along with that of nationalizing the land and allowing 
the peasants to work it for their own benefit— hadn’t 
been taken, the Revolution would have resulted in the 
toppling of a crown, but not in the rising of a people. 

Nevertheless, many of those factories have had to 
close down, because the imperialists have imposed 
the same kind of blockade the United States imposed 
on Cuba: refusing to sell raw materials and spare 
parts; pulling out technicians; and, through the CIA, 


engaging in sabotage pure and simple— including the 
use of dynamite. 

In the countryside, the latifundists have tried 
everything: recruiting mercenaries to burn ware- 
houses, homes and the crops in the fields; pushing 
slander campaigns; and printing counterfeit money 
in order to instill lasting suspicion in the new trade 
relations between the peasants’ associations and the 
urban warehouse organizations that can no longer be 
supplied with imported canned goods. 

The agrarian reform in Ethiopia is justified, first of 
all, on the basis of its great achievement in wiping out 

At the same time, it has created new needs that have 
to be satisfied to maintain the enthusiasm of the most 
backward sectors of the peasant masses. Naturally, 
the peasants are interested in having shoes and other 
clothing, sugar, matches and even certain household 
goods. Historically, these desires are positive, be- 
cause they create a market for expanded production 
and contribute to breaking through the “natural” feu- 
dal economy of producing for consumption rather 
than for sale. 

The violent shattering of social structures occurred 
before the right conditions had been created for build- 
ing new structures. As the head of the Cuban Revolu- 
tion has pointed out many times, imperialism and 
capitalism couldn’t afford to train workers and peas- 
ants as technicians and administrators who could 
manage things for themselves and build a socialist 
system. Far less so could feudalism! 

Ethiopia is, therefore, being run by people who 
must fight to defend their country while at the same 
time learning how to administer it, how to direct its 
economy, how to efficiently set in motion a pro- 
ductive apparatus. 

Concentrating on its own defense, and conscious 
that a counterrevolutionary victory would subject the 
country to a bloodbath (the vengeance of the former 


exploiting classes can be gauged by their never-end- 
ing crimes today), the Revolution hasn’t been able to 
put into operation all the measures it would like to 
use to stimulate the economy and the social services. 
Instead, it has had to assign food, medicine and trans- 
portation to the front. This has been one of the great- 
est proofs of mass revolutionary patriotism. Not only 
do the people accept these sacrifices, but the struggle 
to overcome them involves men, women, veterans 
who fought against the invader once before, and bare- 
foot children— people who take up their posts with the 
same fervor with which they work the land that is now 
theirs and who, once they run out of shells, go on, 
knife in hand, to attack the enemy’s machine-gun 

None of the negative aspects of the situation have 
dampened hopes. 

Ethiopia's greatest wealth, now completely its own, 
is its masses. Fortunately, the country also has many 
natural resources. Three harvests a year are possible 
in most places. Its many lakes and rivers abound with 
fish and birds. Underground resources (oil, natural 
gas, such precious metals as gold and platinum and 
other products) are also plentiful. 

In 1965, Ethiopia produced 246 million kilowatt- 
hours of electricity. In 1974, the country was already 
producing 684 million, 70 percent of which came from 
hydraulic sources. 

At the same time, naturally, per capita use of elec- 
tricity was one of the lowest in the world: 18 kilowatts. 
Only 35 percent of current capacity is utilized, be- 
cause of problems that have paralyzed most of the 
existing industry. Only 7 percent of the population 
has access to electricity, and it is almost unheai d-of 
in the countryside. 

Ethiopia’s admirable efforts in the area of defense 
are matched by its efforts in the economic field. Its 
economists are studying, with revolutionary opti- 
mism, how to plan, receiving cooperation from the 


Soviet Union and other socialist countries. The future 
builders of the new society are also being trained in 
those countries. 


8 Motor 

of the Revolution 


SEPTEMBER 12, 1977: I am looking at the crowds that 
have turned out in the streets of Addis Ababa. 

Cuban eyes have seen many social changes, and 
there isn’t much that should surprise them, but the 
word surprise will do here for lack of a better one. . . . 
This parade is the mirror of an Ethiopia that, more 
than being simply new, would have been unimagina- 
ble just three years ago. All of it! It's as if we were to 
say that, three years from now, in 1980, there would be 
socialism in the United States and a parade like this 
one. Inconceivable! 

No description could do justice to the great parade 
in this other Revolution Square, and it isn’t necessary 
to set down every detail. These are only brief impres- 
sions. . . . 

Elementary school students lead the parade, some 
of them still lacking the standard blue uniform and 
others without shoes, but all winning everyone’s ap- 
plause as they march in military formation, their 
arms extended as if holding guns, then breaking 
ranks for a dance we’re told is typical of the southern 

The thousands of schoolchildren, lined up in ranks, 
do something we attribute to their age but later real- 
ize is the special touch throughout the parade: after 
their military maneuvers and their dancing, they sud- 
denly run up to the presidential dais. 

The taxi drivers, identifiable by the cars that pre- 


cede and follow their march, carry all kinds of cloth 
banners bearing the most combative slogans. You 
can’t help thinking that perhaps they were the very 
ones who, three years ago, sparked the disintegration 
of the empire. 

Each of the trade unions has a float symbolizing its 
work, and each also has its own dance group, some- 
thing like in our carnivals, and all of them wind up 
with that characteristic race up to the center dais and 
then away. Later we became aware that the eight-hour 
parade would have been twice as long without that 
finale, since, for every spectator seated in the Square, 
there were more than a hundred people parading — in 
spite of the climate. At 10:00 A.M., there’s biting cold 
from the mountains; at 1:00 P.M., a penetrating sun 
that would peel the skin off those who came without a 
hat or cap; around 5:00 P.M., rain and wind, both of 
them so strong that the diplomatic corps was unable 
to march up and greet the members of the PM AC and 
leaders of the country’s two religions, Coptic and 
Muslim, all seated in the very center of that human 
sea that, throughout those eight hours, only stopped 
moving and roaring once — to listen in silence to Men- 
gistu’s 45-minute speech, delivered just after the 
event started and before the parade began to move. 

Their agitation became delirious in the presence of 
the veterans of the campaign against Italy, backs now 
bent with age, their chests laden with medals, some 
with wooden lances and lions' skins on their heads 
(presented to exceptional warriors by the best hunt- 
ers, who also have a right to wear them) and many 
brandishing swords tallerthan themselves, with 
which they pounded the ground as if in a state of 
ecstasy, delivering fiery harangues against the new 
invaders. It must be said that these old warriors occa- 
sionally flung themselves at Mengistu without his 
personal bodyguards’ flickering an eyelash; in fact, 
the guards were nearly forced to go with them to 
where the rest of the comrades were frenetically danc- 
ing and yelling. , . . 



There were trucks decorated to depict current 
events. One of them showed the literacy campaign, 
with a child teaching an old man how to read. An- 
other, representing the plotting of imperialism and 
Arab reaction, had a very fat man, in a frock coat with 
a dollar sign on his back, and a very fat veiled lady 
with a half moon on her head. Together, they pushed a 
huge wooden saw across a cloth map of Ethiopia until 
it split apart in the center and armed militia members 
burst forth, waving the national flag. Another truck 
showed the planting and picking of coffee. . . . 

The high point came when, in a downpour, the peas- 
ant militias, including some all-women units, began 
to march past in their camouflage uniforms, followed 
by the recently formed workers’ militias dressed in 
gray tweed. The bad weather in no way dampened 
their martial gait, mastered in just three weeks. More 
bothersome were the boots worn by those accustomed 
to walking barefoot, sometimes even preferring to go 
into battle that way. The wind beat furiously against 
the huge pictures of Marx, Engels and Lenin but failed 
to dislodge them from their posts of honor, while the 
militia members turned their faces toward them and 
saluted the head of the Revolution as he stood on the 
dais. ... A high-ranking PMAC official told me why 
everyone applauded so loudly and continuously: 
from Revolution Square they would march directly to 
the battle front. Swinging along at double time, they 
reached the trucks that awaited them a hundred 
meters farther on, their drivers already at the wheel. 


This is Ethiopia today. 

This is how you might picture it, comparing the 
country’s leap into the void left on September 12, 1974, 
by the passage through its bloody scene of an anti- 
humanity man, and the parade this past September 12, 


1977, of an entire humanized people. Will it fall into 
the abyss, perish or reach the other side? 

The world is now so revolutionary that such leaps 
are possible, but it’s not so revolutionary that victory 
can be assured in advance. 

The motor, or the struggle, will determine the re- 

Various forces are fused in that motor. First, the 
heroism of the Ethiopian masses, who, in addition to 
ridding the country of the farcical and cruel demigod 
who occupied it, also discovered the greatest of all 
history's secrets: their own role. Then came the unity 
of the revolutionary groups and the wisdom of the 
leaders of these masses, whose “giant stride” can no 
longer be stopped. And, finally, the encouragement of 
the masses elsewhere in the world. Wherever they 
have a voice, support is shown through the position 
their state takes and by the action of those govern- 
ments that cannot ignore them. 

The countries of Africa and of the rest of the “Third 
World" have a special responsibility. 

If Ethiopia does not collapse and fall into the abyss 
opened by its enemies— the traffickers in oil, arms, 
gold and blood — if it succeeds in reaching its goal, the 
children of this vast forgotten world will have leaped 
ahead at least two generations. 

Ethiopia’s leap leaves behind feudalism, neo- 
colonialism and capitalism, and also says: “If Ethi- 
opia could do it, everyone can.” 

This is the time, then, to feed the motor. 

It is fitting here to recall the beautiful, passionate 
words of Karl Marx at a meeting of the International 
Working Men's Association held in The Hague in 
1872. He said, “Citizens, let us think of the fundamen- 
tal principal of the International, solidarity! It is by 
establishing this vivifying principle on a strong 
basis among all the working people of all countries, 
that we shall achieve the great goal we have set 


of the Revolution 


February 13, 1974 Gasoline prices increased. 

February 18, 1974 Ethiopian teachers and taxi driv- 
ers went on strike. 

February 20, 1974 Students and workers in a peace- 
ful demonstration in Addis Ababa against the 
government; made political demands for the 
first time. 

February 23, 1974 The government was forced to 
roll back the gasoline price increase. Opposi- 
tion gained momentum when it became appar- 
ent that the government had cheated them to 
justify its gasoline price increase. 

February 27, 1974 The feudal, oligarchial Cabinet of 
Akilou Habte-Wolde was toppled by popular 

February 28, 1974 The feudalistic government put 
on a new mask with the appointment of En- 
dalkatchew Makonnen as Prime Minister. 

March 25, 1974 The Commission of Enquiry legally 
established to investigate alleged misuse of 
public funds and property, unlawful enrichment 
and maladministration of justice. 

April 26, 1974 Members of the former Cabinet de- 

June 28, 1974 A Coordinating Committee of the 
Armed Forces, Police and Territorial Army was 
established to work with the new Cabinet. 

July 4, 1974 Dejazmatch Tsehayu Enko-Selassie, 



Chief Administrator of Kaffa Province under the 
Haile Selassie regime, killed in Selale region 
after refusing to surrender to the Coordinating 
Committee of the Armed Forces and to the Ethio- 
pian people. 

July 6, 1974 The Coordinating Committee ordered 
former officials to hand over government prop- 
erty, and secured amnesty for political pris- 
oners and refugees. 

July 8, 1974 The Coordinating Committee issued a 
statement containing 13 points explaining the 
aims and objectives of “Ethiopia Tikdem”— 
Ethiopia First. 

July 9, 1974 Ethiopian political refugees invited to 
return home from abroad. 

July 22, 1974 The Cabinet of Endalkatchew Makon- 
nen dissolved, and, as demanded by the Coordi- 
nating Committee, Lij Mikael Imru became 
Prime Minister. 

August 16, 1974 The Coordinating Committee abol- 
ished the feudal Crown Council; the Imperial 
“Chilot,” which used to review court cases ap- 
pealed to the former Emperor; and the “Chilot” 
Judicial Review Commission. 

August 22, 1974 A freeze on house and shop rents 

August 24, 1974 Administrators and officials of the 
“Bejirond Office” (Treasury) forbidden to autho- 
rize withdrawal of public money without the 
approval of the Ministry of Finance. 

August 25, 1974 The National Resources Develop- 
ment Share Company transferred to public 

August 27, 1974 The Anbassa Bus Transport Com- 
pany transferred to public ownership. 

August 31, 1974 Government financing for training 
abroad is henceforth to be granted on a competi- 
tive merit basis. 

September 5, 1974 The St. George Brewery and the 

Haile Selassie Prize Trust transferred to the 
Ministry of Finance. (The former Emperor had 
earned more than $11 million in dividends from 
the brewery.) 

September 11, 1974 Institutions run by the Welfare 
Trust came under government supervision- 
five hospitals, three clinics, two orphanages, 
two homes for the aged, hotels, buildings and 
agricultural estates. It was disclosed that the 
former Emperor was unwilling to bring back to 
the country fortunes he had amassed in foreign 

September 12, 1974 Haile Selassie was deposed. 

The 1955 Constitution, which gave complete 
power to the Emperor, was suspended. Parlia- 
ment, established on feudal and nobility class 
lines, dissolved. 

Guidelines for Ethiopia’s new foreign policy 

September 15, 1974 The Provisional Military Admin- 
istrative Council assumed the functions of head 
of state; the duties and functions of the PMAC’s 
President were made public. 

September 22, 1974 Establishment of a Civilian Ad- 
visory Body to work closely with the Provision- 
al Military Government. 

October 4, 1974 Import of luxury cars forbidden. 

October 5, 1974 Members of the aristocracy and 
former officials ordered to pay tax arrears on 
urban houses and vast rural farmlands. 

October 17, 1974 Municipal Councils abolished. 

October 18, 1974 Establishment of Zemecha, the 
National Work Campaign for Development 
through Cooperation, announced. 

October 19, 1974 Establishment of Special General 
and District Courts-Martial to try former offi- 
cials for alleged corruption, maladministration 
and unlawful enrichment. 

November 4, 1974 Government buildings, cars and 


villas illegally given to members of the aristoc- 
racy and officials transferred back to the gov- 

November 13, 1974 Commission of Enquiry dis- 
closed names of officials against whom crimi- 
nal proceedings should be brought for breach of 
official duties in connection with the disastrous 
famine in Wollo Province. 

November 23, 1974 Lt. Gen. Aman Mickael Andom 
relieved as President of the PMAC. 

November 24, 1974 Lt. Gen. Aman Mickael Andom 
and other officers executed for attempting to 
divide members of the Armed Forces, and 
provoking bloodshed in the country. 

November 28, 1974 Brig. Gen Teferi Bante appointed 
President of the PMAC. 

November 30 — December 2, 1974 The PMAC took 
measures to protect public safety and served 
stern warning against criminal elements fol- 
lowing bomb explosions at Municipality of 
Addis Ababa and Wabe Shebelle Hotel and at 
Bole Airport. 

December 13, 1974 A delegation of the International 
Committee of the Red Cross issued a statement 
saying that it was impressed with the treatment 
of detained former officials. 

December 20, 1974 The Provisional Military Gov- 
ernment declared policy guidelines on Ethio- 
pian socialism, stating that the common good 
takes precedence over the pursuit of individual 

Resources that are either crucial for economic 
development or are of such character that they 
provide an indispensable service to the commu- 
nity are to be brought under government con- 

Strengthening of cultural development on the 
basis of equality among various ethnic groups 
in the country. 


The right to self-administration and popular 
participation of the people without foreign in- 
terference in the country’s internal affairs. 

In foreign policy, noninterference in the do- 
mestic affairs of independent nations and Ethi- 
opia's readiness to promote the advancement 
of African development and freedom were 

December 21, 1974 National Work Campaign for De- 
velopment through Cooperation launched 
throughout the country. 

December 23, 1974 Public holidays designated with- 
out religious bias. 

December 27, 1974 Radio Ethiopia for the first time 
began nationwide broadcasts in the Oromo lan- 


January 1, 1975 Three commercial banks, three other 
financial institutions and 14 insurance com- 
panies transferred to public ownership. 

January 4, 1975 The Provisional Military Govern- 
ment issued a statement on efforts to find a 
peaceful solution to the Eritrean problem. 

February 3, 1975 Seventy-two privately owned in- 
dustrial and commercial companies brought 
under government control. 

February 4, 1975 Amnesty announced for persons in 
hiding for crimes committed during the former 

February 8, 1975 Visiting members of Amnesty In- 
ternational briefed on the set-up and procedures 
of the Special General Court-Martial trying for- 
mer officials. They also attended a session of the 

February 15, 1975 State of emergency declared in 
Eritrea administrative region to ensure public 
safety and maintain law and order. 



February 16, 1975 Mass demonstrations in Addis Ab- 
aba condemn perpetrators of disorder and coun- 
terrevolutionary acts in Eritrea. 

February 17, 1975 New national emblem to reflect the 
spirit of Ethiopian socialism while maintaining 
the historical heritage of Ethiopia. 

March 4, 1975 All rural land in Ethiopia proclaimed 
the collective property of the people, thus put- 
ting an end to the feudal system of land tenure. 

March 5, 1975 Close to 800,000 persons in Addis 
Ababa in mass rally supporting nationalization 
of all rural land. 

Temporary surtax introduced to raise more 
funds for drought relief and rehabilitation. 

March 21, 1975 Asfa Wossen’s appointment as king- 
designate annulled; all royal titles abolished. 

April 6, 1975 For the first time, the actual Victory 
Day marking the end of the 1936-41 Italian fas- 
cist occupation of Ethiopia was observed 
throughout the country. May 5 used to be ob- 
served, to glorify the day the former Emperor 
returned to Addis Ababa from exile. 

May 1, 1975 May Day was officially observed for the 
first time in Ethiopia. 

May 8, 1975 A deputation of the Afar people ex- 
plained their sufferings under the feudal regime 
to the PMAC’s President and Vice-President, 
who, in turn, briefed the Afar people’s represen- 
tatives on the policies of the new government. 

May 16, 1975 Private aircraft companies and all 
light aircraft in the country and a number of 
supermarkets in Addis Ababa belonging to ex- 
patriates transferred to public ownership. 

May 24, 1975 Science and Technology Commission 

July 26, 1975 All land and “surplus houses” in urban 
centers throughout the country were na- 
tionalized effective August 7, 1975. 

September 29, 1975 Private schools brought under 
government control. 


December 6, 1975 New labor law proclaimed. 

December 13, 1975 A proclamation strengthening the 
farmers’ associations was announced. 

December 29, 1975 Proclamation regulating private 
* capital announced. 



January 3, 1976 Tax on the use of land and agricul- 
tural produce proclaimed. 

April 20, 1976 The Program of the National Demo- 
cratic Revolution was announced. Proclamation 
establishing the Provisional Office for Mass Or- 
ganization Affairs. 

May 16, 1976 A 9-point policy declaration on peace- 
fully solving the Eritrean problem announced. 

The Yekatit School of Ideology established. 

July 7, 1976 Special Commission dealing with af- 
fairs in the Administrative Region of Eritrea 

July 17, 1976 Nationwide celebrations marking the 
end of the first phase of the National Work Cam- 
paign— Zemecha— observed. 

August 21, 1976 Two hundred and nine political pris- 
oners who had been under detention pardoned 
and released. 

September 23, 1976 An attempt made to assassinate 
Comrade Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, Presi- 
dent of the PMAC. 

October 9, 1976 A proclamation for the consolidation 
and organization of urban dwellers' associa- 
tions and reform of the organizational set-up of 
municipalities issued; it defines the duties and 
functions of the kebele, higher and central asso- 
ciations and the interrelations among them. 

November 26, 1976 A proclamation establishing a 
Road Transport Authority was issued. 



January 13, 1977 A proclamation establishing a 
Higher Education Commission and specifying 
the objectives of higher education in the country 

February 3, 1977 The Provisional Military Admin- 
istrative Council foiled an attempted counter- 
revolutionary coup against it. The counter- 
revolutionaries, Brig. Gen. Teferi Bante, Lt. Col. 
AsratDesta, Lt. Col. Hiruy Haile Selassie, Cap- 
tain Mogus Wolde-Michael, Captain Teferra De- 
neke, Captain Alemayehu Haile and Corporal 
Hailu Belay, were executed the same day. 

February 11, 1977 A newly revised proclamation de- 
fining the powers and responsibilities of the 
PMAC and the Council of Ministers issued. In 
line with the provisions of the proclamation, 
Comrade Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam ap- 
pointed President of the PMAC, and Comrade Lt. 
Col. Atnafu Abate, Vice-President. 

March 14, 1977 Fidel Castro arrived in Addis Ababa 
on a three-day visit to Ethiopia. 

April 12, 1977 Comrade Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mar- 
iam, President of the PMAC, addressed the Call 
of the Motherland to the nation, urging the Ethi- 
opian people to defend the unity and territorial 
integrity of the country, now being violated by 
foreign invading forces in the north and the east. 

April 14, 1977 Nearly half a million people gathered 
at Revolution Square to demonstrate their anger 
at foreign armed intervention in Ethiopia and to 
declare their determination to safeguard their 
Revolution, unity and territorial integrity. 

April 21, 1977 The Revolutionary Administration 
and Development Committees were replaced by 
Revolution and Development Committees with 
broad mandates to help expedite the progress of 
the ongoing Revolution in urban and rural 


April 23, 1977 Four American organizations in 
Addis Ababa— the Kagnew Station, Military As- 
sistance Advisory Group, Naval Medical Re- 
search Unit, United States Information 
Service— closed down by order of the Ethiopian 
government. The foreign staffs of the organiza- 
tions ordered to leave the country within a 
week’s time. 

May 3, 1977 Comrade Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mar- 
iam left on an official and friendly five-day visit 
to the Soviet Union, at the invitation of the Gov- 
ernment and Communist Party of the USSR. 

May 28, 1977 The Defense Attaches’ offices of the 
United States, Egypt and Britain closed. 

Two thirds of the Marine guards of the US 
Embassy also ordered to leave the country. The 
United States Embassy instructed to reduce its 
diplomatic staff by half. 

June 25, 1977 Ethiopia’s 300,000-strong People’s Mi- 
litia was launched at a mammoth parade in 
Addis Ababa, in which 100,000 representatives 
of the Armed Forces and the People’s Militia 
participated. The parade was watched by half a 
million people. 

July 14, 1977 A proclamation defined the relations 
between the Standing Committee of the PMAC 
with the POMOA and the Political School. 

August 20, 1977 Comrade Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile 
Mariam, PMAC President, made a call for gener- 
al mobilization to the Ethiopian people. 

August 24, 1977 A mammoth mass rally was held in 
Addis Ababa in support of the total mobilization 
call addressed to the people. 

August 27, 1977 The National Revolutionary Opera- 
tions Command (NROC), with five sector com- 
mands in the north, south, east and west 


September 12, 1977 Parade for the third anniversary 
of the Revolution. A million Ethiopians— workers, 
students, soldiers and workers’ and peasants’ mili- 
tias— participate. 

About the Author 

CURRENTLY a member of the Secretariat of the Cen- 
tral Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, in 
charge of foreign affairs for the Party, Raul Valdes 
Vivo, born in 1929, has had a truly protean career as 
novelist, poet, journalist and diplomat. “Revolution- 
ary" is the qualifying word for him in each of these 
fields. As a youth he was imprisoned for his editor- 
ship, underground during the Batista dictatorship, of 
the magazine Mella. He led the Communist students 
at the University of Havana. When the revolution 
triumphed in 1959 he became an assistant editor of 
Hoy. Between 1967 and 1974, he served in a succession 
of diplomatic posts, including the ambassadorship to 
the then Kingdom of Cambodia; to the NLF and 
the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South 
Vietnam (in their jungle headquarters); and, finally, 
to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. 

As an author he has written two novels. The Blind 
Blacks and The Brigade and the Maimed Man. His 
other works include: Angola: An End to the Merce- 
naries Myth, Stories from South Vietnam, Embassy 
in the Jungle and Before: the 17th Parallel, 12 Viet- 
namese Short Stories; a play— Oranges in Saigon; 
and many poems which have appeared in various 
books and periodicals. 



For centuries the broad masses of Ethiopia have fought a 
bitter, protracted struggle against the colonialists, arrogant 
invaders and racist powers to defend themselves against 
these anti-people and anti-peace forces. This long history 
of struggle of the Ethiopian masses furnishes firm and 
dependable foundations for the present Democratic Re- 
volution. . . . Our program of the Ethiopian National Demo- 
cratic Revolution, which is our guide, clearly explains that 
by abolishing exploitation, oppression, nepotism, bribery, 
and tribal, religious and sex discrimination we aim to estab- 
lish a society in which justice, equality and peace prevail. 
These are prerequisites for the transition to collective prog- 
ress and at the same time reflect the hopes and aspirations 
of the oppressed Ethiopian masses. 

Lt. Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam 
Chairman of the Provisional Military 
Administrative Council 

For a complete catalog write 


381 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016 

Photographs (£: Eastfoto 

4 ® 

Cover by Karin Batten 


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