Thursday, October 28

Ain't Capitalism Grand?

Airbus, the new kid on the block out of Toulouse in France and representing Europe ... takes on Boeing, the old Seattle Washington favorite

In the post Ethiopian Airlines Works we took a look at the Boeing - Airbus battle for dominance within the airliner industry.

It matters because these are the only two companies left in the world that make intercontinental passenger planes that are in demand by airlines. Tupolev, of Russia, also manufactures airliners and while its technical standards, particularly with respect to safety, are approaching Western norms, the baggage of the Soviet past restricts competitiveness on the international scene.

Embraer, of Brazil, makes smaller, but worldclass, airliners often for the commuter market. Bombardier, of Canada, which also owns Learjet, also commands a healthy portion of the world market for regional jets.

The Economist discusses how recently the
U.S. trade representative filed a formal complaint to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) alleging billions of dollars of “unfair” subsidies were paid to Airbus. Within an hour, the EU said that it would file a counter-claim about equally large sums of unfair aid going to Airbus’s rival, Boeing.

Boeing has been smarting ever since Airbus snatched the lead in the civil jet market last year by delivering more aircraft for the first time. Airbus is still in front this year, with 224 deliveries to the end of September, compared with Boeing’s 218. The Americans’ beef is that Airbus, which is 80% owned by EADS, a European aerospace group, and 20% by Britain's BAE Systems, still gets soft loans from the governments of Germany, France, Britain and Spain.

This finance comes in the form of repayable loans, known as launch aid, for the development of new aircraft. Some $3.7 billion of it enabled Airbus to launch its new A380 super-jumbo, which will eclipse Boeing’s venerable 747 when it enters service in 2006. Boeing complains, quite reasonably, that nowadays Airbus is a profitable, successful company and as such should no longer receive this help.

An earlier trade row was settled in 1992 with a bilateral agreement that limited Airbus’s launch aid to 33% of the development costs of a new plane, while indirect support to Boeing (from the Pentagon and NASA) was restricted to 4% of its turnover. Now Boeing and the American government want to replace that deal with a new agreement that bans all state aid.
The number of Aerospace businesses has shrunk even as the prospects of longterm market growth seem healthy. The major cause of this trend is the post-Cold War slashing of defense budgets during the 1990s in the U.S. that caused a massive reshuffling in defense dependent businesses.

Even at the height of Boeing's Cold War era in the 1950s and 1960s, U.S. government involvement was not as direct as the current relationship between Airbus and certain European governments. For obvious reasons, the fact that Boeing developed the necessary technology and built the B-47 and B-52 bombers certainly helped when the time came to work on the first successful civilian jet airliner, the Boeing 707.

However, Boeing was not getting a free ride. It still had to deliver value for money in its military business where exceptionally high standards were demanded by General Curtis LeMay's Strategic Air Command (SAC) charged with the entirety of America's nuclear deterrent.

Boeing took a substantial risk investing its profits in the Dash 80 which become the 707. In the 1960s when the 747 was being developed Boeing was saved from bankruptcy by an early contract for jumbo jets from Pan Am.

Boeing remains a major defense contractor despite its loss of the multi-billion dollar contract to manufacture the Joint Strike Fighter to Lockheed, the only other American company that can make jet fighters. This makes its continual health vital to American security policy. However, the Boeing relationship with its government does not approach the level of intimacy and dependence that Airbus has with European governments.

After all, if Boeing persistently makes bad business decisions it would very well go out of business. Even if saved by a last minute Congressional bailout it will survive in am unrecognizable form that will not please its fired management but may please its investors. It is hard to imagine any circumstances in which concerned Europeans would let any such fate happen to Airbus. The story of many American airlines is illustrative from Pan Am to United.

Despite the appearance given by billions of dollars in post 9/11 bailouts, American airlines have historically gone bankrupt on a regular basis when they screw up and other more efficient carriers rise up. Europe, despite much deregulation of late, has numerous prestige 'dinosaur' national carriers draining national budgets whose fate is associated with national pride.

Airbus is also becoming even more important to Europe in defense matters. However, anemic E.U. defense budgets will dilute the Airbus-military connection for some time to come even though the EADS consortium that owns 80% of Airbus also builds the next generation Eurofighter for several European countries. With interests in space, defense and transport EADS alone is a massive establishment.

Barring a devastating 9/11 size Al Queda attack in France or Germany proper, two important European countries will continue to bluster about American 'hyperpower' and arrogance while carefully appeasing globally anti-Western forces through inaction. All the while they are silently counting on the U.S. to defend essential Western interests worldwide. This post-Cold War American subsidy of European defense and the ailing European welfare state indirectly aids Airbus even though the size of European defense industry growth is by strategic choice, quite limited.

One underappreciated part of the Boeing-Airbus rivalry is that given the often incestuous nature of 21st century globalised business, each company enrichens major subcontractors on both sides of the Atlantic and worldwide. There are numerous American businesses that delight in Airbus success and many European ones who pray for Boeing success.

The Economist argues, somewhat unconvincingly to us, that in addition to tax breaks by actors such as Washington State, where Boeing assembles some airplanes, that
the grandaddy of aid going to Boeing comes from Japan. This emerged last November when Airbus persuaded the EU to investigate a $1.5 billion subsidy that the Japanese government is, in effect, putting into the 7E7. A consortium of three companies, the heavy-industry parts of Fuji, Kawasaki and Mitsubishi, will make the wings and fuselage wing box for the 7E7. This is the heart of any plane, and the fact that Boeing has decided to outsource it to the Japanese is highly significant.

Boeing has always resisted Japanese requests to get their hands on important aircraft-making technology in return for Japan’s airlines buying from Boeing. But to win a big launch order for the 7E7 and get financial help, it has had to let the Japanese become key suppliers. All this makes for a tangled web of claim and counter-claim for the WTO to get to grips with, even before it begins to affect other trade issues.
Note that several Japanese COMPANIES are helping Boeing out for their own interests while Airbus is supported by European GOVERNMENTS for potentially local political reasons and bureacratic interests.

Boeing seems to be taking a calculated business risk in Japan. Namely that the competition from an independent Japanese aerospace industry empowered by Boeing technology - in the long term - is worth getting the 7E7 off the ground. It is more likely that Japanese firms will end up as a Boeing partners in competition with Europe.

Why not? Japan and the U.S. look to remain sincere allies for a while yet and from the Japanese perspective the Europeans certainly can't be trusted with security matters in case of trouble with China, Russia or North Korea. Globalisation seems like the way to go. Otherwise, even for multi-billion dollar companies that are part of multi-trillion dollar economies ... new products become too expensive to develop.

This seems like a preferable development for a productive competitive world economy than simply figuring your local parliament will bail you out of trouble. However the basics are worked out by the WTO and despite the extra security matters involved, the usual cut-throat competition between all the actors is a sign of good health all around. Hopefully for the entire confluence of reasons given above both companies will prosper while always looking over their shoulders or ahead ... scared that they have to do ever better to survive.

The oppressive capitalist class is the victor in all of this corrupt capitalist intrigue and exploitation! Right? No, the oppressive capitalists certainly stand to make some money but others benefit as well ...

Stockholders, also known as the 'people' and the 'workers' are a part of the capitalist class in most modern economies worldwide and benefit by their hundreds of millions when they invest their money to enable new technologies and good management. Their choices will make money via pension funds, bank accounts and direct stock ownership.

Aerospace and Airline Workers everywhere benefit from a diffusion of skills and techniques that bring efficiency and higher salaries.

National Economies benefit from increased resources made available by improved means. This means more tax money for things like education, highways and healthcare.

Most important of all the Citizen-Consumer gets more money in hand for faster personal computers, homes and whatever else they may need or just plain want.

The Consumer-Flyer makes out like a real bandit from all of this. She gets to fly all over the world with ever increasing safety, comfort and economy just because the capitalist system somehow gets billions of dollars, euros, pounds and yen spent productively and millions of people organized efficiently just on the odd chance that she will someday end up on a plane built in Toulouse rather than one from Seattle.

Ain't Capitalism Grand? It makes life better for more folks than any other system mankind has yet got to work.

Tuesday, October 19

Gutenberg to Berhanenna Selam

Below is a portion of an Addis Tribune article by Richard Pankhurst about the introduction of the printing press to Ethiopia.
The coming of the Printing Press was, as we all know, one of the great technological innovations that changed the world. Though printing, like so much else, originated in China, it may be convenient to focus today on Europe, or more precisely on Germany, and, more precisely still, on the German printer Johannes Gutenberg, whose famous printed Bible appeared in 1455.

Ethiopian civilisation, like that of medieval Christianity in Europe, was largely based, it should be recalled, on hand-written manuscripts: Biblical and Qorantic texts from which the youth learnt: largely by rote, virtually without the availability of newly composed texts, or much in the way of a living literature. Literacy in Ethiopia before the advent of printing was fairly restricted: perhaps only ten per cent of the population was able to read and write - just as in Europe before the revolutionary advent of the printing press

And yet printers' type for printing in Ge'ez, or Ethiopic as it was called abroad, was designed in Europe within little more than fifty years from Gutenberg's invention. This enabled another notable German printer, Johannes Potken, to produce the first printed Ge'ez or Ethiopic Psalter in Rome in 1513. This was only 58 years after the printing of Gutenberg's Bible.

Only four years later, in 1517, a remarkable Italian would-be innovator, the Florentine merchant Andrea Corsali, whose name we should honour today, tried to introduce a printing press in the country.

That, you will appreciate, was only an historical whisker in time from Gutenberg - illustrating that Ethiopia, over the centuries, was so often abreast, or almost abreast, of modern technology.

But to return to the proposed Ge'ez Printing Press. The idea seems to have appealed to the then Ethiopian ruler, Emperor Lebna Dengel. We find him writing in 1521 to King Manoel I of Portugal asking him to send "craftsmen in type-founding to make books in our characters".

This was no passing whim, for on Manoel's death the Emperor wrote to the latter's successor, King João III, repeating his request for "artificers to make printed books".

Nothing came of the idea, perhaps on account of the fighting which had by then begun on the Horn of Africa, and was soon to gather increasing force over the whole area. The fact remains, however, that it had taken no more than sixty-six years from the printing of Guttenberg's Bible to Emperor Lebna Dengel's request for a printing-press.

The failure to implement the ideas of Corsali and Lebna Dengel meant that Ethiopia for one reason or another fell out of printing - and publishing - history for over three hundred years.
The first Amharic newspaper was printed in 1902 and the Berhanenna Selam Printing Press that brought publishing to the masses was started in 1923 by the future Emperor Haile Selassie.

Friday, October 15

On the Origins Of The TPLF

the TPLF according to ethiopundit

The Mengistu regime was overthrown by the TPLF (Tigrayan People's Liberation Front) in 1991. The TPLF is ostensibly one of a number of ethnic political parties that make up the ruling government coalition called the EPRDF (Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front). The leaders of the TPLF, once a liberation front and later a political party with a potent army, now rule Ethiopia.

The mid 1970s origins of TPLF have never been clear to party outsiders beyond the broadest sketches. As a consequence, those impressions probably reveal as much about observers as they do on the current Ethiopian government itself.

Much of this mystery was purposeful because liberation fronts worldwide have a marked tendency to be secretive just to survive in their early stages. In addition they often continually rewrite their own history as various revolutionary and ideological needs, personalities and events ebb and flow.

The movement began among the Tigrayan ethnic group in the northern province of Tigray. The Tigrayans remain an essential element in the current and historical existence of Ethiopia in any form but it has been TPLF policy to estrange them from their fellows so that its base is more secure.

The successful rule of the Tigrayan Emperor Johannes in the latter 19th century was cut short in battle by invading Mahdist forces from the Sudan. The centuries old competition with the Amhara and the Oromo, the other principal ethnic groups, for control of the Empire remained.

In the 20th century the relative disenfranchisement of Tigray by the central government was widely resented because other provinces such as Shoa, the center of rule, and Eritrea, the prodigal province returned from Italy, were the major targets for the national budget.

Regional grievances always abound in Ethiopia. However, in Tigray the combination of the above factors with grinding rural poverty on farmland long past its prime, famine, the brutal depridations of the Mengistu regime after 1974 and the adoption of Marxist-Leninist ideology led to the creation of a force rooted in both the old and the new that took over the center.

what does someone who intimately knows the previously unwritten history of the TPLF have to say?

Ever willing to learn ethiopundit will take a look at an important paper that has been written on this subject by Aregawi Berhe that goes far beyond the introductory paragraphs above. It is called, of course 'The Origins of the TPLF' (found via Ben's News Page).

Aregawi Berhe was recently a Visiting Research Fellow at the African Studies Center of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. According to the website of the University his research focuses "on the political history of the TPLF, its formation and struggle against the Derg and other rival forces. It also looks at the TPLF in power and offers general insight into the political situation in the Horn of Africa."

His insights may be particularly valuable because as a founding member of the TPLF leadership and a past military leader he can penetrate the culture of secrecy that remains a defining element of the Ethiopian government and governance. The entire paper is worth reading but below are some excerpts and piece summaries beginning from the end of the five year Italian occupation. With the leadership of Haile Mariam Reda
in 1942–43 peasants in central and southern Tigray began to rebel out of desperation, they were met with a harsh response. Haile Selassie’s government in collaboration with the British Royal Air Force (RAF) ... on 6 October 1943, devastated the region including Mekelle, the capital of Tigray, throughout the rest of that month. This quelled the Tigrayan peasant uprising, known as Woyane, meaning ‘revolt’[Woyane is the popular name for the TPLF]. Thousands of defenceless civilians lost their lives as a result of aerial bombardment.
Punitive measures included a sharply increased tax burden and the imposition of tighter central rule from Shoa that caused "(g)enerations of Tigrayans grew up with deep feelings of desperation".

In "The Consequences of the British Occupation of Ethiopia During World War II" Theodore Vestal has this to say
The "Woyane" revolt arose essentially out of dissatisfaction with imperial rule over Tigre province after the war. The Emperor's regime was faulted for maladministration, excessive taxation, official corruption, and consequent brigandage. Tigreans were traditional and historic rivals of the more numerous Amharas, the ethnic group of Emperor Haile Selassie. Tigrean nobility, who perceived their position as to be endangered by the central government's growth, were joined in armed insurrection by the peasantry, who felt victimized by government officials and their militias. The leaders aspired to separate from Ethiopia and unite with Eritrea, then under British military administration.

For almost five months, the Woyane movement blocked roads and controlled most of Tigre. Units of the new regular Ethiopian army with British advisors were sent to reinforce the territorial troops in the area. In the ensuing Battle at Amba Alagi, government forces were attacked by rebel forces of up to 5,000 men. The situation was serious enough for the British advisors to ask for bomber support for the 8,000 government troops and 6,000 territorials. Ammunition was in such short supply that the government forces nearly had to retreat. The British Foreign Office believed that this would probably cause the fall of the Emperor and judged it necessary to agree to the request for bombers. In addition the British military argued that the north road passing through Amba Alagi was vital to their communications in the continuing war against the Axis.

Three Blenheim bombers from Aden flew a number of missions. On the first runs, only pamphlets containing threats from the Emperor and the Ichege, the head of the Ethiopian Church, were dropped as the British originally refused to allow bombs to be used. Under pressure to relieve the British advisors and their troops, the RAF eventually carried out bombing raids, culminating in a raid on Makelle where seventy were killed and 200 wounded. Even so, most killed were in the market place and were not combatants. The air raids had the desired effect. Government troops were able to advance on Amba Alagi, and the opposition "melted away." Mopping-up operations were carried out on a broad scale by the Ethiopian military, and their harsh methods created further resentment of imperial rule. The Government exiled or imprisoned the leaders of the revolt, and the Emperor took reprisals against peasants suspected of supporting the Woyane. The Emperor had taken the Woyane movement seriously, due to the danger that an uprising of this type probably would have received British support if it had succeeded [what a strange tangled web this world is].

The Woyane of Tigre have never forgotten the ruthless, wide scale punishment inflicted upon their people by the Amhara rulers. When the Woyane came to power in Ethiopia as the TPLF in 1991, their resentment was manifested in official and unofficial discrimination and harassment of the Amhara. Indeed, one aspect of the ethnic federalism of the FDRE is but a thinly disguised license to encourage hatred of the Amharas. The role of the British in crushing the Woyane revolt and in bombing civilians remains in the collective memory too.
Popularly, the rebellion has also been partially understood as a competition for Ethiopian rule between the Amhara and Tigrayan nobility. The last hereditary governor of Tigray (whose role Aregawi Berhe de-emphasizes) was intimately involved in the rebellion and might yet lay claim to popular support in an unfettered Ethiopian or Tigrayan political system.

As we shall see, the role of 'modern' radical students matches the role of the 'traditional' nobility in highlighting the essential elitist nature of Ethiopia's history of internal warfare.

Several factors came into play to give impetus to the Tigrayan movement.

Gessesew Ayele (nickname or nom de guerre of Sihule) was one of several Tigrayans who had contacts with Idris Awate who founded the seccessionist Eritrean Liberation Front in 1961. Many Tigrayans appreciated the example of armed struggle that the Eritreans represented but often clashed with its aims.

The situation in Tigray worsened after the 1974 military takeover by the Dergue. The subsequent military regime "which adopted Marxism as its ideology, was even more brutal than the imperial administration in its dealings with" all Ethiopians and Tigrayans in particular. Soviet aid supported the Dergue in all its policies.

Beginning in the 1960s at the national university "many university students from Tigray played ... a prominent role in the struggle against Haile Selassie’s feudal regime. Their aim was not the restoration of Tigrayan hegemony over the whole of Ethiopia as some politicians have presented it".

Touche, except for the politician part ... but the TPLF did get hegemony in the end though

Different strains of dissatisfaction flowed together
The persistent call of the young educated class — basically students and teachers — for radical change, with the self-determination of Tigray as a rallying slogan, inflamed popular aspirations. The imposition of central control, domination by the Showan-Amhara ruling class, heavy taxation, and the failure of leaders to improve the wretched life of the people, including that of the Showan peasantry whose life was no better than that of the rest of the peasant population, were sources of complaint in every forum. It has been said that ‘The most painful cut of all was the banning of the Tigrai language in a region where, as late as the mid-1970s, only 12.3 per cent of the males claimed to speak Amharigna and only 7.7 per cent could read it’.

Marxist-Leninism came stealthily to the fore during this period.
clandestine groups were organized to study Marxist dialectics, the class struggle, the national question and other revolutionary issues of the time. These study groups used every legally permitted opportunity in their activities to disseminate their revolutionary ideas with the aim of raising the level of consciousness of the people as a whole. The dissemination of nationalist revolutionary ideas was carried out through leaflets, songs and informal discussions, which were carefully crafted so as not to antagonize the conservative peasant society of Tigray. No mention of Marxist rhetoric was made outside the young educated revolutionaries. In those days everyone seemed motivated to exchange revolutionary ideas advocating change. The call for armed struggle to get rid of the oppressive feudal regime was entertained more often than it was mentioned.
In a previous post ethiopundit had this to say about this ideology and its messianic overtones
Lost in a veritable supermarket of Traditional, Western and other ideas (some of which actually worked) much of a generation of educated Ethiopians never found their way past the ideological crap aisle.

It is tragic and terrifying that a glib catechism, itself the detritus of the West, could make so many otherwise bright people become utterly delusional. Ultimately, even opposition to the post-1974 Marxist-Leninist military dictatorship was largely an argument over who the 'true communists' were.
ethiopundit's reaction to Marxist-Leninism is like that of Van Helsing to vampirism. In every case countries that flirt with it are poor and undemocratic in direct proportion to how seriously they take it.

It is understandable why so many otherwise legitimate groups and individuals are drawn to Communism because its promise is like that of a conventional religion's heaven. It provides a logical and spiritual shortcut away from experience all the way to desire without stopping.

It is also a blueprint for getting and keeping power at any cost with absolute justification for any choice or policy already built in. After all, how can anyone compromise when reaching for paradise? Or at least saying you are reaching for paradise, anyway.

That visceral reaction out of the way for now let us return calmly to Aregawi Berhe. A number of organizations were formed in the early 1970s and drew the unwelcome attention of succesive security agencies. The TPLF evolved from the Tigray Nationalist Organization (TNO) one of many "Tigrayan ethno-nationalist groups unwilling to negotiate with such a regime, but determined to assert their rights through the ‘barrel of the gun’."

A fateful meeting took place in a small cafe located in the upscale shopping district of Piazza.
The TNO was established at a meeting held on 14 September 1974, attended by seven university students ... [including the author].

The aim of the 14 September meeting was, first, to reach a common understanding of the nature and disposition of the Derg’s regime with respect to the self-determination of Tigray and the future of democracy in Ethiopia; second, to reflect upon what form of struggle to pursue and how to tackle the main challenges that would henceforth arise; and third, to outline how to work and co-ordinate activities with the Ethiopian left which hitherto had operated according to much broader revolutionary ideals. These grand ambitions were not new. Those at the meeting had previously been reflecting on these matters informally. Thus, by the end of the day they had drafted a two-page general guideline.

The guideline declared that:
• The strategy of the movement is the formation of a democratic Ethiopia in which the equality of all nationalities is respected.
• A national armed struggle should be waged that would advance from the rural areas of Tigray to the urban areas.
• The movement should be led by an urban-based organization known as the Tigrayan National Organization until such time as the armed struggle could begin.

It was unanimously understood that the TNO was a preparatory stage for the armed struggle.
Again, without the ideological baggage and its compartmentalization and organization nothing might have been achieved. However, when people at the ends of the political spectrum use words like 'democratic' they really mean fancy words like 'revolutionary democracy' which in turn really mean 'dictatorship of the proletariat' which finally translates into just plain old totalitarian dictatorship.

Words like 'democratic' sound great but what about when used by ideologues usually mean the opposite.
As Lenin described it, democratic centralism consisted of "freedom of discussion and criticism, unity of action". The democratic aspect of this methodology describes the freedom of members of the political party to discuss and debate matters of policy and direction; but once the decision by the party was made (by majority vote), all members were expected to follow that decision unquestioningly. This latter aspect represented the centralism.
Don't trust the freedom of those debates chaired by Lenin either. Purges resulting in imprisonment at best and often death can result from disagreeing too often or even at all with revolutionary leadership at any point. Here is what Lenin had to say about the next stage of the 'democratic' program the honestly described dictatorship phase of building paradise on earth
The scientific concept, dictatorship, means neither more nor less than unlimited power resting directly on force, not limited by anything, not restrained by any laws or any absolute rules. Nothing else but that.
Submission to revolutionary authority must be total. In its embryonic stages, such as the cafe meeting, the proto-TPLF was likely an actually democratic organization but once its struggle had begun could not, by design, remain so.

Accomodation is made with tradition
The presence of the elderly Sihule as a leading figure also helped to popularize the nationalist stance of the movement and divert attention from the Marxist posture of the students. Almost every Tigrayan, even the feudal lords and the clergy,who might have to lose some of their privileges after the revolutionary struggle, seemed to approve of the call for self-determination, the vision of the educated young generation, and their efforts to realize it. It was in these circumstances that the TPLF emerged.
This article draws us deeply into the profound sense of injustice suffered and the call to arms felt by those founders and the thousands who followed ... and the article leaves us feeling that the 'revolution'was already being betrayed right there in Piazza with the invocation of best forgotten ghosts and demons of the past. Sure, any statement with the words 'betrayal of the revolution' is a sure cliche but it is clear that the Tigrayan people had no idea that they were part of a Communist Revolution in the initial stages. Later on the ravages of the Dergue and the strong arm of the burgeoning TPLF gave them no choice but to go along.

Marx, a ghost called upon by the founders, was a curious but deservedly obscure writer who attempted to come up with the unified theory of every aspect of humanity and succeeded as well as anyone would have expected such an endeavor to. When everyone owned nothing history would end and we would all live in eternal paradise ... yeah, right.

Lenin, the demon, took Marx and used him to begin a war against humanity. He saw men as pegs whose bodies and souls could be terrorized into unnatural shapes to fill whatever holes in realilty denied him absolute power. According to the author
The experiences of the Bolsheviks’ Russia, Maoist China, Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam and Che Guevera’s internationalism were espoused as guiding precedents to redeem Ethiopia from its predicament. The revolutionary student generation of that time was, as it later proved, ready to make any sacrifice to undo the grip of imperialism and feudalism in the country. This revolutionary fervour was part of the international wave of the 1960s. Marxist revolutionary ideals were thought to be impeccable, the only appropriate guiding tenets through which the country was to be transformed from its backwardness.
How could those men at that table in piazza in 1974 or any even casual student of history not have known about the genocidal human cost of the Soviet gulag and Stalin's collectivization, of his purges, Mao's mass murder under the guise of the great leap forward that continued under his failed cultural revolution, of Ho Chi Minh's bloody North Vietnamese land reform or even of Che's lonely death in a Bolivian 'people's revolution' that the people wanted no part of?

At a minimum did they not see the obvious fact that streams of refugees never headed into Communist countries but rather out of them and that their might be some lessons to be learned from that reality?

A short answer is that reality, suffering and history did not matter as much as their collective vision of paradise and the role that they, as the vanguard of the anointed revolutionary class, would have in mankind's march to perfection . That such a scenario would guarantee absolute power to those who managed to survive the brutal Darwinian jungle of revolutionary politics must have been attractive as well.

Was there another way out besides defunct ideology and manipulation of ethnicity?

The author continues his analysis with an account of the role of leftist ideology in all aspects of the student movement including in particular the views of Marx, Lenin and Stalin on ethno-national movements. These ideas were used to redefine Ethiopia. The words of Wallelign Mekonen (an Amhara from Wollo region)in 1969 reflect the feelings of many of the era's educated youths "Ethiopia was not a nation, but a collection of nationalities ruled by the Amharas. To be an Ethiopian, you will have to wear an Amhara mask".

The ethno-national struggle was to have far reaching implications far beyond that envisioned from ideology alone.
Those who saw the ethno-national struggle as a tactic to achieve equality within a united Ethiopia and not as a strategy for secession were unaware of the turns and zigzags that ethno-nationalist mobilization could take. They were not able to see that ‘The more politicized ethnicity becomes, the more it dominates other expressions of identity, eclipsing class, occupational, and ideological solidarities’, and that ethnic struggles can become ominous. The young revolutionaries focused only on the positive contribution of ethno-nationalist mobilization as the most effective and shortest way to uproot the oppressive system. Their attitude was in conformity with Horowitz [?], when he wrote that ‘Ethnic affiliations provide a sense of security in a divided society, as well as a source of trust, certainty, reciprocal help, and protection against neglect of one’s interests by strangers’.
Remember how the Soviet Union fell apart in mere months as soon as its guns were holstered despite generations of Soviet 'solidarity'? This is rather obvious to the author and to the reader today but to ideologues at any time ethnicity is something easily toyed with by new definitions and interpretations of sacred texts.

Ethnicity is far stronger and more fundamental to all peoples than that ... and far more dangerous to manipulate.
At the foundation of the TPLF, ‘self-determination’ was understood to mean autonomy or self-rule for Tigray in a democratic, poly-ethnic Ethiopia. Later, in the early days of the struggle, self-determination was interpreted by an ultra-nationalist group within the emerging TPLF to mean secession from the Ethiopian nation-state, with the aim of establishing an independent republic of Tigray, as declared in the TPLF manifesto of 1976. This standpoint of an independent republic was included in the manifesto by the group that had been given responsibility for drafting and printing it, which incidentally happened to be the core of the ultra-nationalist section
The Dergue struck out viciously at all students and targeted the proto-TPLF which caused many to flee to rural areas where they began the next phase of the war. More informative discussion follows detailing early relations with the Eritrean movements and the first formal military training with the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) in January of 1975.

With the commencement of small scale military operations the TNO became the TPLF and armed struggle officially began in February of 1975. In addition to providing the first rifles and rations, Gessesew Ayele (Sihule)made crucial contributions to the struggle based upon the respect he commanded among peasants who had elected him to the Emperor's Parliament in the past.
From the start, Sihule gave the TPLF the legitimacy and popularity that none of its other members could provide. So it was that an organization with its roots in a provincial tradition of armed resistance was able to equip itself with a sophisticated political ideology and eventually to take over state power.
The author finishes with this analysis of one of the main points of criticism that many have of TPLF, namely is onetime call for Tigrayan independence and its current constitution guraranteeing seccession to all ethnic comers.
(A) wedge that was to emerge within the TPLF in the early 1980s was that caused by the development of an ultra-left ideological brand of Marxism-Leninism (Stalinism specifically) which culminated in the formation of a group called the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray (MLLT) in 1986. Although the MLLT seems nowadays to be out of sight, the ideology it extolled was the source of divisions and defections that by and large have been racking the organization from within to this day. The inclusion in the current Ethiopian Constitution of a right to secession for every nationality (article 39.1), and the adoption of ‘revolutionary democracy’ as a guiding ideology by the current government, are intrinsically linked to both the ethno-nationalist and ultra-leftist stances of the faction led by Meles Zenawi, who governs Ethiopia today.
We found this article to be a fascinating and essential history of modern Ethiopia. Aregawi Berhe deserves thanks for shedding light on this hidden subject.

The origin story also sheds light on the current government's climate of secrecy, of unforgiving often vicious reactions to criticism, of eternal intrigue / manipulation / suspicion and above all of the desperate need to see all Ethiopians everywhere formally to submit to its authority.

Yet again humanity has proof that the people who can create and lead revolutionary movements to victory are often the last folks that the 'people' need to have in charge when the struggle is over.

The harsh habits of ideological guerrilla struggle apparently die very hard and are not suited to the management of civil society in a time of peace.

One striking aspect of this history is the question of inevitabilty. The TPLF victory wasn't assured and was won by pure effort. Ethiopians owe much to the Tigrayan people for the battles they fought and for their bitterly won struggle against the Dergue.

The leadership, despite the presence of many well intentioned individuals, was part of a larger student movement of many groups from every tribe that formed a veritable alphabet soup of Marxist-Leninist fronts and parties(some of which may have been formed at the next table in that same piazza cafe) all with equally dedication to a 'glorious' future. Some chose to advise the Dergue on how to set up a communist state in Ethiopia. All the politically potent forces of that deluded generation shared the basics of ethnic division, absence of private property and the concentration of all power in the hands of a 'vanguard party'.

The TPLF is certainly an improvement over the Dergue but that is very far from enough to justify their rule at this late date. Indeed, given the Marxist-Leninist worldview shared by the Dergue and the TPLF, when both were established in the very midst of the Cold War, it is not clear how different TPLF policy would have been from the disastrous social and economic policies of the Dergue.

After all the decision to have even a minimal public relations level retreat from the the communist ideal was made by both the Dergue and the TPLF at about the same time in the setting of the collapse of the Soviet Empire and their shared appreciation that no one in the 'new world order' would tolerate their mutually treasured ideology.

Here is what Mao had to say about opportunistic political mutability
The concept of People varies in content in different countries and and in different periods of history in a given country... During the Japanese war all classes and social groups opposing the Japanese invasion were People; Chinese collaborators with the Japanese were the Enemy. During the war of liberation, US imperialists and their running dogs were the Enemy, those opposed to them were the People. In the present stage the social groups which favour the cause of socialist construction are the People, and those who resist are the Enemy.
One would hope that even today that the leadership could overthrow the long putrid dead weight of ideology that they have slung around their own necks and the necks of millions of other so that they can fulfill the promise that millions of desperate Tigrayans and other Ethiopians invested in them.

overall, ethiopundit has learned to see more in the TPLF than an incarnation of communism

A final thought ... the Anuak people of Southern Ethiopia can justifiably see the same history of oppression by the TPLF government that the founders of the TPLF saw in the Dergue and in Haile Selassie's government. This site and these links about the genocide of the Anuak makes their grievances clear.

The Anuak people aren't alone in their suffering. Is there a new Oromo / Amhara / Sidamo / Gurage / Tigrayan People's Liberation Front beginning its long march to war and power today? Surely that battle can be avoided.

Wednesday, October 13

Menelik meets Skinner

Doig's Ethiopia Stamp Catalogue has a rather complete pictorial history of stamps dating from 1895, images from a scrap book of a 1913 Russian / French visitor, and even a selection of brewery labels from the 1960s!

One fascinating thing to see at this site is the 'Star of Ethiopia' medallion and ribbon given by Emperor Menelik to the members of the first American mission to Ethiopia as well as images and the story behind the event.

The arrival of Menelik and his entourage

The American party leaving in military parade
Meetings with Emperor Menelik II were most cordial, being held in the Aderach, or audience hall [of Menelik's palace, even today the seat of government]... The meeting was likely Ethiopia's first with an outside power that was only interested in commerce, with no hidden political agenda. The first Treaty was signed between Ethiopia and the United States on December 27, 1903.
The story is told by Robert P. Skinner, Commissioner to the mission, in his book "Abyssinia of To-Day", subtitled "An Account of the First Mission Sent by the American Government to the Court of the King of Kings (1903-1904)". The text of the treaty is on the same page.

Ethiopian-American relations certainly grew more complex over the course of the 20th Century but this glimpse of mutual innocence is interesting.

Monday, October 11

War Makes Folks Poor

war makes folks poor ... and kills so many too.

Mr. Kim Sang Yoo, the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Ethiopia was interviewed by The Reporter in March of 2003. The interviewer questioned him about the prospects for increased economic ties between the two countries and the Ambassador gave some frank responses. Let us join them part of the way through...

You mentioned the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The Border Commission's decision is not implemented yet. Have you talked to the government officials? What has been Korea's role in resolving the issue peacefully? How much do you work on this issue?
The first important thing is peace. I think without peace you can’t achieve any economic development. It is clear you should settle the matter peacefully through dialogue. Even if it takes time you need to make efforts to settle the issue peacefully.
The Ambassador returns to the necessity for peace several times in reference to ethnic conflicts and other events and discusses Ethiopia's potential
It is clear that Ethiopia has enormous potentials for economic development. If Ethiopians concentrate on economic development and make their best efforts to transform its great potentials into reality for several decades without interruption, Ethiopia will surely succeed.

It took almost 40 years for Korea to raise its per capita GDP in US Dollars by 100 times. If Ethiopia continuously achieves 10% of annual economic growth rate, how much will its GDP be after 40 years? If so, Ethiopia will surely become one of the advanced countries in the world.
What is missing now?
The Ambassador hammers in the point
You have lost four decades. When Koreans were working hard what did you do? There was civil war ... you must make the efforts to develop your country. You have to conserve your energy for economic development and you've to work hard for peace and stability.
It must be pointed out that while South Korea's 'neighborhood' is quite dangerous, especially given the aggressive hell on earth just across the DMZ, Ethiopia might have done better in terms of war and peace with an American nuclear umbrella overhead. Ultimately, most of the credit goes to the South Korean people for what they accomplished and to successive governments for providing for the rule of law and for creating a climate friendly to good old fashioned capitalist development. Given the opportunity Ethiopians could do so as well.

The link between peace and development seems to be an obvious one but it always needs emphasis. Tragically, modern Ethiopian history is largely defined by war and rumors of war. Here is a partial list of just the bloodiest internal ones and their aftermath that have consumed the past four decades and caused a steady erosion of per capita GNP.

Eritrean War of Independence 1961-1993 After a long colonization by Italy that Ethiopia was spared, Eritrea was federated then absorbed by Ethiopia. Many Eritreans resented the strictures of the reunion early on. However, it was the coming of the Marxist military dictatorship, the Dergue, and its bloody depridations from 1974 on, that pushed the conflict from one of occasional banditry to a full scale war for independence.

Ethiopian Civil War 1974-1991 The current Ethiopian government, an ostensibly ethnically based group adherent to Marxism, was allied with the regionally based Eritrean rebels and together they overthrew the Dergue.

Now for a list of the external wars being fought in the same time period.

The Greater Somalia Movement and Ethiopian-Somalian Border Clashes 1960-2004 The Somali flag chosen upon independence in 1960 held a five pointed star. Each point represented a 'Somali' region but only two of them were in Somalia. Thus from birth Somali governments were dedicated above all to the conquest of all of Djibouti (now independent and under French protection, then a colony of France), North-Eastern Kenya and almost a third of Ethiopia covering large swathes of territory in the Ogaden region and the South. Under the guise of liberation movements Somali irregulars and the Somali army began a campaign of continous destabilization of Ethiopia (which was apparently given the honor of first place on the list of star points to color in on the Somali flag). Somalia's current chaos is largely due to its flawed national mission decided upon by its leaders at birth. The border conflict continues today as occasional Somali Islamist groups with designs on Ethiopia are often pursued across the border.

The Ogaden War 1977-1978 Somalia figured its moment had come in 1977 when an Ethiopia weakened by the disruptions of Dergue misrule and the Eritrean war was attacked. This led to a game of international musical chairs. Although well on the way to becoming a strategic enemy of the U.S., the Dergue turned solidly towards the Soviet camp by expelling American military advisors and signing deals for billions in arms with Moscow. The Soviets who had bankrolled and encouraged the Somali aggressions since the early 1960s did not mind when Somalia expelled them fron their bases. Attempts by the Somalis to reach out to the Carter Administration were not successful. Along with massive shipments of Soviet arms came up to 15,000 Cuban clients of Moscow who along with a mobilized Ethiopia solidly defeated the Somali invaders.

Ethiopian-Eritrean War 1998-2000 This fierce border war ended in an Ethiopian victory on the battlefield and afterwards both parties agreed to arbitration on the common border. Through arbitration Eritrea gained a victory at the conference table that the Ethiopian government has (not surprisingly) refused to accept. The conflict can also be partially understood as a contest between the erstwhile partners, the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments, over control of Ethiopia.

At one point in 1977-1978 Ethiopia was fighting two of the bloodiest wars in the world. To this ignoble list must be added the war that the Dergue was fighting against its own people to remain in power. A Civil War raged in the cities between the White Terror and the Red Terror (aptly named after the same period in Russian history) that consumed much of a generation of educated youth in an ongoing orgy of mass killings and perpetual violence. Rural uprisings against the dictatorship, famine as an instrument of state policy and genocidal resettlement programs add to the toll.

The human cost of all of this conflict was staggering. The excellent site Death Tolls for the Major Wars and Atrocities of the Twentieth Century (scroll down to Ethiopia section 11)attempts to quantify the losses that along with war related famine and political murders number into the millions.

The link between war and development is also obvious to interested parties such as Alemayehu Geda from the Department of Economics at Addis Ababa University. In his excellent article Does Conflict Explain Ethiopia’s Backwardness? Yes! and Significantly, the author
draws on the growing literature on conflict and post-conflict societies to examine conflict and economic backwardness in Ethiopia.
and the article
examines the causes and costs of major conflict and the modality of their resolution. It argues that conflict in Ethiopia is primarily the result of pursuing violent power-sharing mechanism, has detrimental impact on economic performance and made the state unproductive and militaristic. This, it is argued, is one of the root causes of the countries backwardness.
After an academic and theoretical review of conflict and its economic consequences the author delves deeper into the Ethiopian experience. He discusses a view by Gebre-Hiwot Baykedagne expressed in his 1917 book "The State and Public Administration" that
the major internal constraint to development in the Gebre-Hiwot model is war and/or banditry. He, in fact, ranks banditry over and above natural or environmental constraints. For him, the source of banditry is the capacity of certain individuals to unleash violence so as to ensure a regular flow of income without directly engaging themselves in the production process...

[Gebre-Hiwot] underlined that the ruling class of each ethnic group wages war using peasants. The sole objective of this war is accumulation of wealth by plunder.
Ato Alemayehu carefully notes that while the country is divided into many ethnic groups and religions that most historical conflicts were not of an ethnic or religious nature and indeed that
The existence of a large number of ethno-linguistic groups notwithstanding, Ethiopians are considered as a culturally homogeneous people due to the continuous interaction through intermarriages, trade, migration, war and other social activities for thousands of years thus creating unity in diversity, which has helped resist the pressure from internal disintegration and external aggression.
Three types of conflict are noted.
One is competition for positions of power.
Second is popular revolt.
Third is conflict between ordinary people for resources.
Most of the conflict that has rendered the country unstable was motivated by competition for power (Type I). This corresponds to the conflict that is referred to as crucial in Gebre-Hiwot (1924). No ruler in Ethiopia has vacated office of his on free will and few naturally died while holding office in recent years.

Each aspirant revolts against the government in power, mobilizing people by appealing to the oppression meted out to them by those in power. The new usurpers, treat the people no better, and often worse, than those they unseated. This is the major cause of conflict in the country. This cycle of revolt and conflict, seen in the context of the long history of the country, apparently looks ethnic though was essentially regional and class-based.

Evidence is provided in (a) the ‘king of kings’ system where the strongest regional-based king became the king of all regional kings and occupied central power. The king of kings normally comes from one regional group and maintains power by drawing its officials from different regions (usually tying regional lords through marriage to his off-springs), and (b) the subjugation of all peasants from all ethnic groups by the ruling elite.

This argument in no way denies the historic domination of the northern highlander’s language and culture over the others but takes it as secondary.
The author sees popular revolt and war between peoples as being far more rare and in the case of the latter driven by competition over occasional competition for resources and not by ethnicity.

The author then defines and describes the conflicts of the three modern historical periods and analyzes them in terms of their causes and results. The first was during the reign of Haile Selassie before the 'revolution' of 1974. The second was during the bloody rule of the Marxist military junta, the Dergue, and the period of civil war that lasted until 1991. The third and current period is from 1991 during which a war broke out with Eritrea from 1998-2000.

In each period using economic data the author shows how conflict had a devastating impact on economic growth. Despite the introduction of a seemingly new factor in the form of leftist ideology the conflicts retained their nature of elites in an endless contest for power played out with the lives of their disenfranchised countrymen.

On the subject of hopes for conflict resolution the author notes that
Conflicts that are motivated by political interests [competition for positions of power] of one kind or the other are the difficult to resolve amicably. Seldom do leader die peacefully while in office, the usual practice being decided in war. Attempts at peaceful resolution of issues are difficult under the circumstances.

For example the most recent civil war was resolved in Military Junta losing to the rebel forces after international mediation to resolve the issue peacefully failed. The reasons behind the peaceful resolution of conflict are that the motivating force lies in the ambition of the parties to power.

When we examine this issue across the three regimes in Ethiopia (the Imperial, Dergue and the EPRDF[current government]) one observes certain pattern – a pattern that the modality employed to resolve one conflict saw the seed for another round of conflict.
In conclusion the author notes that
Conflicts and their violent resolution seem to be an enduring characteristic of the Ethiopian polity. Recently, periods of peace have been short lived; new regimes have failed to learn the lessons of their predecessors. In Ethiopia power is absolute, despite the reforms of each incoming administrations.

The problem is that the laws are not applied and it is the whim of leaders that rules the country. This is the substance from which recurring instabilities are made. The only way that the country can end the vicious circle of conflict and instability is when the leaders become accountable to their people.
One point must be made clearly. 'The people' don't make wars, even ethnic ones. Governments and strongmen make wars, often manipulating ethnicity and regional issues, to their own ends.

The principle danger, of course, lies in the degree of variance of interests between 'the people' and the few people who actually have power. In some extreme cases leaders actually want war. For example, in 1982 the Argentine junta led by Leopold Galtieri invaded the Falkland Islands and began a losing war with the United Kingdom with the poorly thought out aim of distracting attention at home from the myriad failures of his dictatorship.

Most prefer to get what they want without war or shy away from the prospect of defeat. A unifying element in this calculus is their own personal fate. Saddam, for example, cared little for the suffering he caused Iraqis as long as he was personally secure. A look at recent Ethiopian history does not reveal such a drive to external wars that were not imposed on them* but they do seek to manipulate internal fissures to maintain their grip on power.

(*Although in a party rally once while pumped up with Communism and the pleasure of blaming every problem on Washington, Mengistu did threaten to invade the U.S. ... when he had a powerful enough military. Sadat is reported to have hoped that "Mengistu won't trample Egypt on the way to America". About the same time, after the Camp David accords, Sadat also stated that “(t)he only matter that could take Egypt to war again is water” - a threat clearly directed at Ethiopia which is the source of most of the Nile's water. The Nile and the potential for Egyptian-Ethiopian war will be the subject of a future post.)

Mengistu would certainly have prefered a peaceful reign but quickly latched on to the potential fissures of tribe and religion in combat with the Tigrayan and Eritrean forces that ultimately fed the insurgencies and the likelihood of his overthrow. Patriotism was also used as when convenient especially in the war with Somalia despite the fact that his adopted Marxist-Leninist ideology in its purest form viewed such emotional calls as corrupt bourgeoisie remnants. Early in his struggle for power Dergue members who identified as 'narrow nationalists' were executed for a lack of zeal in pursuing Soviet aims in national and international policy.

The current government, though far less bloodyminded and far more clever, is even more chameleon-like in its espoused aims as the situation dictates. It began as an ideological movement exploiting tribalism and a desire for independence. By the time power was won they were New Jack 'African Rennaisance' market capitalists and democrats who identified the Ethiopia they ruled as a Leninist 'prison of nations' (ethnic and regional groups) that they would somehow unite by dividing. When the war with Eritrea began they championed patriotism and called on the 'glory' of Ethiopian history that they had always been hostile to. After the first victories that emotional call to arms was quickly forgotten.

The essential nature of conflict based upon competition for power between selfish elites that is described above by Ato Alemayehu always dominates and manipulates ethnic and regional resource seeking conflicts. Policies that lead to peace and development are often threatening to governments that are not based on the popular will. Thus the next war is always just around the corner and poverty becomes a tradition.

The most likely seeds of the next war aren't on the Eritrean border. Even years from now angry grumbling from Eritrea on the worldstage and quiet Ethiopian patience from a position of strength will lead to occasional palls of smoke but no fire.

The current Ethiopian government's policy and indeed constitution based upon ethnic division to support its power represents a grave danger. The disenfranchisement of the population as landless serfs will also ensure ongoing poverty and the potential for rebellion that can be harnessed by new contestants for power. Which will in turn lead the government to gather in even more power ... which will make the country only temporarily more secure ... and on and on.

The prospects for a long term peace to achieve even a fraction of what was done in South Korea is in danger because of the most basic policies of current governance. But as ethiopundit has pointed out before - the drive to power trumps all other considerations.