Monday, August 29

Revolutionary Democracy Recycled

21st Century Maoism - CDs on sale now in Addis Ababa, Pyongyang and Havana
(Images are from a Fark photoshop contest.)

Revolutionary Democracy is the guiding ideology of the Ethiopian ruling party, the government and the overwhelming economic power they represent. Each is indistinguishable from the others. The original entry (1) Revolutionary Democracy discussed the Marxist - Leninist - Maoist roots of the ideology and found it to be essentially a grab bag of silly but deadly mantras justifying the dictatorship of a few.

With kind permission we are serializing over a number of posts, Chapter 7 of Dr. Theodore Vestal's remarkable book Ethiopia: A Post-Cold War African State. The chapter in question deals with the the ruling party's 'Revolutionary Democratic Goals' based on internal documents of the party that were published as "TPLF/EPRDF's Strategies for Establishing its Hegemony & Perpetuating its Rule," in Ethiopian Register Magazine.

The second entry (2) Revolutionary Democracy Redux was the first part of Chapter 7 that looked at the overall strategy of the ruling EPRDF, its own view of Revolutionary Democracy and the overall political goals that the program was to achieve. This entry, continues Chapter 7 as (3) Revolutionary Democracy Recycled, and examines the economic aspects of the party program.

Next up, (4) Revolutionary Democracy Returns, will go on with Chapter 7 and note the political strategies of the party for ensuring permanent hegemony and the rules various actors in society will play or be forced to play in forcing eternal rule.

Finally, (5) Revolutionary Democracy Reloaded will include the conclusion of this revealing and stunningly frank blueprint of a revolutionary vanguard party to reach its aim of permanent dictatorship while convincing the whole world otherwise.

All this at whatever cost to the 70 million hostages of the tiny revolutionary feudal aristocracy in power. It remains important to understand revolutionary democracy, because it is as fundamentally destructive as any policy that came out of Mengistu's Dergue.

The big difference is the need to accomadate the imperialist camp (donor nations) which won the Cold War with the pretense of freedom and free markets. Another fundamental difference is that this government is far more intelligent (not necessarily a good thing) than the Dergue while sharing its destructive totalitarian worldview.

Indeed, one of the interesting features of the internal document is the obstacles put forth by 'imperialists' (the donor community) to the program and how to manipulate them inot financing what is essentially an economic plan for eternal poverty, begging and lack of freedom.



Using the hackneyed vocabulary of Marxist-Leninism, the strategy document advocates building an economy that promotes self-sufficiency and speedy growth while maintaining a balance between the economic sectors and geographic regions. The characterization of the beneficiaries of the EPRDF goals reveals much about the attitude of the Front towards various sectors of society. The document also immodestly proclaims that "our revolutionary democratic goals are the only guarantee for the survival of the country." In the language of the true believer, the implementation of EPRDF goals is described as "the only means of bringing about fast growth and transforming our backward country...the only option for improving the livelihood of our people and effecting social justice." According to the document there are no other options to improve living standards and survival of Ethiopia as a nation.

A relatively independent economy based on a large local market is central to the EPRDF's scheme. Such an economy is preferable to one based on foreign markets and dependent on imperialism with its varying needs for raw materials. In the EPRDF economy, the government's revenue and fiscal policy will be used to promote social justice by taxing the wealthy and allocating a higher budget to the sectors representative of the "oppressed masses."

The main beneficiary of the Front's economic policy is the peasantry, the largest sector of society with 85 percent of the country's productive manpower. The goal of government policy should be to develop human resources of peasants and improve their living standards. This can be accomplished by creating a climate which enables peasants to produce more and thus benefit from development of agriculture and growth of the local market.

The EPRDF is less trusting of the urban sectors. The Proletariat, although relatively small in number, is the Front's most reliable supporter among urban groups. The achievement of revolutionary democratic goals should improve workers' job opportunities and living standards.

Among urban groups, the Urban Petty Bourgeoisie, involved in small-scale production and petty trade in goods and services, will benefit the most from the EPRDF's economic goals. Progress in rural-based development will expand the sphere of the bourgeoisie's activities. The intelligentsia is included in the EPRDF's categorization of the Urban Petty Bourgeoisie and is seen as a vacillating group that could align itself with enemy forces. The intelligentsia favors a multi-party system that protects the privileges of the ruling classes. Furthermore, they advocate the rights of the individual at the expense of the rights of the people and are antagonistic to the Front's political goals.

The National Bourgeoisie also stand to benefit from the goals of revolutionary democracy, but the group's vacillating nature prevents it from becoming a firm supporter of the

Front. According to the strategy document, the national bourgeoisie seek economic autonomy from imperialism but want to promote its interests at the expense of those of the people. The lower stratum of this section probably can be won over by the Front. The upper stratum should be neutralized so that it will not obstruct the realization of EPRDF goals.

Imperialists and the comprador class are the declared enemies of revolutionary democracy. These groups seek to impose a dependent economy on the country, and their political interests are incompatible with the Front's political goals.


In enunciating the Front's economic strategies for implementing its goals and describing the main economic forces that play a role in this process, the EPRDF wandered farthest from its Marxism-Leninism roots. In the post-Cold war world, the Ethiopian economy would no longer be largely or entirely in public ownership. Creative communists in the name of "revolutionary democracy" have established variations of "private ownership" under EPRDF control to further party goals. Regardless of the ownership of the dominant sectors of the economy--whether industry, finance, or transport--all their activities were organized under a national economic plan and for the primary benefit of the party.

To achieve the objectives of agricultural and industrial development, the country must produce the necessary manpower. To accomplish this, the strategy document proposes changing the present education system which emphasizes academic studies to one with a "production-oriented" curriculum.

Heading the list of economic activities are those benefiting the peasantry and centered on the land. To guarantee that peasants have access to land, the EPRDF follows the principle that land should never be sold or exchanged. Such a scheme guards against peasants selling land during hard times and thus getting mired in landless poverty.

Land redistribution will be undertaken "over a long period of time" and when the local people believe it essential. Peasants will be provided with fertilizer, improved tools and seeds, and training to increase their production. An infrastructure of feeder roads, primary schools, health and other services will be developed.

The motive forces of the Front's economic strategyi nclude the government, investors, and revolutionary democratic forces. The role of government has changed considerably since the First EPRDF Congress. At that time, government was the principal actor regulating the economy by unning state enterprises in finance, energy, mines, and industry, while private investors played little role.

According to the strategy document, in current global economic thinking, governments are not expected to be involved in production activities, and when they are involved, they should be guided by the profit motive. Yet without being widely involved, the Ethiopian government could play a decisive role in the economy by controlling, among other things, the distribution of foreign currency, the import of fuel, the export of coffee, and the regulation of transport. The State also could remain in control of key industrial and agricultural enterprises that affect export earnings or the livelihood of large numbers of people. In the EPRDF plan, these include rail, air and sea transport, electricity, telephone, and water supply services, the textile industry, engineering works, the chemical industry, metal foundries, and mining. If such enterprises cannot be kept under State monopoly, then joint ventures might be created with the State having a higher share. The State also can use fiscal policies, including taxes, budget allocations, and regulation of interest rates, to influence economic activities. But the Government's involvement in economic activities is opposed in Ethiopia by representatives of imperialism, the comprador class, and the vacillating national bourgeoisie.

The Role of Investors

In the Front's plan, revolutionary democratic associations, organizations, and individuals will join the national bourgeoisie as major forces in investments. In certain economic sectors where the State cannot directly be involved, these revolutionary forces can play "a special and irreplaceable role." To redirect the economy in the direction of revolutionary democracy, action by such forces, envisioned "as a self-sufficient force," is necessary.

The Role of Revolutionary Democratic Forces

The objectives of investments by this force are 1) to supplement or carry out the role of the state; 2) to regulate and influence the activities of private capitalists; and 3) to serve as a source of income for revolutionary democracy.

In areas where financial and administrative restraints or external economic factors prevent the state from directly regulating the economy, "revolutionary democratic forces should take over the role of the State and invest as one individual in those economic sectors which have no direct State influence."

Revolutionary democratic forces can regulate and influence the activities of private capitalists by acting as a powerful private investor. In this role, they can demonstrate modern business practices to small businessmen while putting pressure on larger businesses so as to strengthen the State's leadership role.

The EPRDF needs large amounts of money to carry out its programs, and investors under the banner of revolutionary democracy can be a source of income. In the countryside where the Front is strongest, such forces should monopolize rural credit services and their resources. Where ever possible, they should become involved in rural trade, transport, imports and exports, rural banking services, production of agricultural raw material, the manufacture of fertilizer and other modern agricultural inputs, and invest in mining. In urban areas, investment forces should establish wholesale trade, transport, banks, insurance companies, small-scale industries, and service cooperatives.

To achieve these objectives, revolutionary democratic forces should select economic spheres outside the direct purview of the government that play a crucial role in development and strive to control them or to hold an upper hand in their processes. EPRDF investors should strengthen ties with petty producers and seek ways to guide their development. In the work place, the forces should create an environment to facilitate participation of individuals with a strong revolutionary democratic outlook. The overarching goal is for the forces to become "absolutely profitable."

Role of Local Investors

Local investors also can play an important role in the economy. They should be encouraged more than foreign investors to develop their assets, but they "should be directed by and disciplined to follow the direction of Revolutionary Democracy." Priority should be given to what the strategy document calls the "lower stratum" of this section, those involved in small-scale production and services. The lower stratum gets its resources locally and easily can be guided by revolutionary democratic forces. To enhance their role in the development process, lower stratum investors should be supported with credit facilities and favorable governmental policies and services.

Role of Foreign Investors

The strategy document declares that prevailing global economic conditions require the EPRDF "to give more access to foreign capital." The document makes clear, however, that certain spheres of the economy are off limits to foreign capital. Basic services, such as telephone, electricity, and train transportation; financial services, including banking and insurance; and small-scale industry are specifically mentioned as not being open to foreign involvement. The document warns that "if the major international financial institutions or banks are allowed access to the economic sector, they will twist the state's arms and those of Revolutionary Democracy."

Foreign investors would be allowed access to investment spheres where they could bring in more hard currency than the amount they take out, and they would be encouraged to invest in joint ventures with the State. If foreign investors adhere to government policies, they will provide the Front with access to expanded international markets and enable the EPRDF to build local capacity with which eventually to replace foreign capital.

The government's fiscal policies would be used to direct the involvement of investors in the economy. State incentives would encourage the growth of targeted economic spheres and forces. Conversely, the state's fiscal instruments would be used to "destroy those that are not in line with the goals of Revolutionary Democracy." For example, the power to tax could be used as the power to destroy. As the strategy document indicates, the government "will reduce or write off for some years the taxes due from those forces or economic spheres" which the Front supports and "pile up the tax burden" of those the EPRDF does not support.



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