Communist Ethiopia — Is It Succeeding?

by Paul B. Henze

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The 1974 revolution in Ethiopia was a genuine popular uprising supported by intellectuals and the small urban segment of the population, out of a desire for accelerated economic development and broader political participation. Instead, the military junta which took charge of the revolution and deposed Haile Selassie quickly locked the country into Moscow-style "socialism." Radical land reform was not a response to demands by the peasants, but was the regime's strategy to create a reliable political base. The tactic did not work. Ethiopian leader Mengistu obsequiously imitated Soviet practice in all areas except those in which the immediate consequences would be disastrous, but the Soviet Union was unable to create any dependable pro-Soviet centers of strength in Ethiopian society. Antipathy to military-imposed "socialism" alienated large parts of the country that were in rebellion. The regime's economic hold over many outlying areas was weak. Famine spread while economic development almost came to a halt and population continued to grow, leaving Ethiopia to face a major systemic crisis.

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