Comments on Meles Zenawi’s Death

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 26JAN12 – Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia speaks during the session ‘Africa — From Transition to Transformationy’ at the Annual Meeting 2012 of the World Economic Forum at the congress centre in Davos, Switzerland, January 26, 2012.

8 May 1955 – 20 August 2012

U.S. Neocolonial Ruler Dies; Question arise about alleged communist “Marxist-Leninist” past

Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi is dead. Wiki defines him as “one of Africa’s strongmen, he was also an ally of the United States’ War on Terror.”

A little-known fact about the pro-Western neocolonial dictator is that he once claimed to be Marxist-Leninist. Although his ruling coalition is the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, which is mainly made up of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, a guerrilla group fighting the Ethiopian Civil War, a group of which Meles was also a member, Meles Zenawi was also one of the founders and leaders of the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray, which was apparently pro-Albania.

Wiki says,

“He graduated from the General Wingate High school in Addis Ababa, then studied medicine at Addis Ababa University (at the time known as Haile Selassie University) for two years before interrupting his studies in 1975 to join the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Aregawi Berhe, a former member of the TPLF, notes that in their histories of the TPLF both John young and Jenny Hammond “vaguely indicate” that Meles was one of the founders of the TPLF. Aregawi insists that both he and Sibhat Nega joined the Front “months” after it was founded. While a member of the TPLF, Zenawi founded the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray. His first name at birth was “Legesse” (thus Legesse Zenawi, Ge’ez: ለገሰ ዜናዊ legesse zēnāwī). However, he eventually became better known by his nom de guerre Meles, which he later adopted in honour of university student and fellow Tigray Meles Tekle who was executed by Mengistu’s government in 1975.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meles_Zenawi

About the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray (MLLT), Wiki says,

“The Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray (MLLT) was a semi-clandestine Hoxhaist Communist party that held a leading role in the Tigrayan Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF) in the 1980s. The majority of the TPLF leadership held dual membership in the MLLT, including the current Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi.

[….]

Posing as orthodox defenders of Marxism-Leninism and allying itself with the communist current associated with the hard-line Enver Hoxha regime in Albania, the MLLT saw its goals as spreading Marxism-Leninism throughout the world and “engaging in a bitter struggle against all brands of revisionism,” which they defined using the parlance of the Albanian ruling Communist Party of Labor, as including “Khrushchevism, Titoism, Trotskyism, Euro-Communism and Maoism.”

Zenawi fought against the Soviet-backed Derg military regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam in Ethiopia. His group eventually overthrew him. But Ethiopia is far from socialist. Ethiopia is ruled by capitalists and big landowners, and Zenawi became a Western ally, supporting the War on Terror and helping to send U.S. troops into Somalia.

What explains this change of character from an apparent Marxist-Leninist to a Western ally and puppet?

Here’s one explanation:

“After the defeat at Shire, the Derg abandoned all of Tigray to the rebels, and the EPRDF’s expanding guerrilla alliance started the military and political manoeuvres that would end in the takeover of Addis Ababa two years later. The Soviet bloc was close to casting Mengistu adrift. No belated acts of liberalization would save him. For his part Meles Zenawi, barely known outside Tigray, began introducing himself to a wider world.

An early encounter with the western press led to an observation that has dogged him ever since. He told an interviewer at the end of 1989 that the Soviet Union and other eastern bloc countries had never been truly socialist and added, ‘The neatest any country comes to being socialist as far as we are concerned is Albania.’ As Meles set off in 1990 on his first venture to the United States, his aspiration to the mantle of Enver Hoxha and to run Ethiopia on Albanian lines did not inspire much confidence.

In Washington he met the veteran Ethiopia-watcher Paul Henze. Henze was as impressed by Meles as many foreigners have been in the years since, and he made detailed notes after two long conversations. Meles had to deal first with the Albanian connection. ‘I have never been to Albania,’ Meles told Henze. ‘We do not have any Albanian contacts. We are not trying to imitate in Tigray anything the Albanians have done.’

Meles was equally keen to reject the Marxist tag. ‘We are not a Marxist-Leninist movement,’ he said. ‘We do have Marxists in our movement. I acknowledge that. I myself was a convinced Marxist when I was a student at [Addis Ababa University] in the early 1970s, and our movement was inspired by Marxism. But we learned that Marxism was not a good formula for resistance to the Derg and our fight for the future of Ethiopia.’

As the EPRDF moved out of the countryside to take over the towns and the cities, it emerged into a post-communist world, and a rapid political make-over was needed. ‘When we entered Addis Ababa, the whole Marxist-Leninist structure was being disgraced,’ said General Tsadkan. ‘We had to rationalize in terms of the existing political order . . . capitalism had become the order of the day. If we continued with our socialist ideas, we could only continue to breed poverty.'”

(Peter Gill. Famine and Foreigners: Ethiopia Since Live Aid. New York: Oxford University Press. 2010. pp. 74-75.)

The sides of the Ethiopian Civil War were very opportunist. In the book “Talk of the Devil,” a series of interviews of former leaders by Riccardo Orizio, Mengistu admitted that he would have been either pro-U.S., pro-Chinese, or pro-Soviet; whoever gave more aid.

2 responses to “Comments on Meles Zenawi’s Death

  1. Sharine Tilanee

    Another case study of someone apparently at first staunchly Marxist-Leninist who then turns — a good argument against those who argue the absolute impossibility of Old Bolsheviks turning in the 1930s.

  2. He was one of the African dictators who took democracy in Ethiopia 10 inch back, a cruel man and a killer. Why Ethiopians mourned for him? To tell the truth, citizens in every corner of the country have been forced by the cadres to mourn and contribute money for the ceremony

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