Ideological Wasteland (Part II)

“A House divided against itself cannot stand,” Abraham Lincoln

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”   Abraham Lincoln

In the late 1980’s, TPLF cadres were interviewed on BBC advocating for Albanian-style reclusive communism.  The next day Dergue cadres began telling Ethiopians that if they were fed up with Dergue’s communism, imagine what life could be like under communist Woyanes.   Understandably, TPLF, and affecting EPLF in broad brush, had to engage in quick footwork to douse the public relations fiasco.

When EPLF’s head was screwed right, it used to be able to feel the prevailing wind in the world of changing politics and adjust its own political sails accordingly.  Two years before the Berlin Wall came down signaling the end of the Cold War and the Soviet Union as superpower, EPLF announced during its 1987 2nd Congress that it would pursue mixed economy as its economic policy.  Not that it mattered what policies it pursued at that time because it was still engaged in armed struggle and its economic policy is simply academic.  However, it indicated its understanding of where the world was heading.

Twenty years later, the remnants of EPLF tell us that they are still caught in the discredited ideological wasteland of the early 20th century. editorial on Nov. 15, 2006 titled “Food Security: Prime target life” reflects the ideological wasteland that PFDJ finds itself.   Naturally, it is always a debate whether to critique such articles.  After all, an editorial staff that unleashes its editorial wrath against the West for infringing on media autonomy when PFDJ itself pursues the most repressive anti-media policy – not only against internal media but now against external media as well – is not only hypocritical but exposes the mental state of the regime.  Much has already been written exposing this particular shabait editorial [on media autonomy] and thus this writer will spare my readers from repeating what others have eloquently refuted. 

An old adage says, “Trying to be More Catholic than the Pope”.  PFDJ can’t be any more communist than the mother of all communist countries – the People’s Republic of China.

The China Africa Economic Summit is quintessential example of the impracticality of communist ideology, and instead proves the timelessness of the messages of “Animal Farm” – i.e. when the liberated become the oppressors themselves.

It is a long way from China’s “Great Leap Forward” – China’s Warsai Yekealo.  At least to the credit of Chairman Mao, and unlike PFDJ, he abandoned the ill-fated campaign within two years when food production fell and people began to starve.  Stalin’s collective farming ended with utter failure – ultimately costing the lives of millions of people in the Soviet Union.  But again Stalin believed that killing one person is a murder, and that killing many is only statistics – thus he murdered in the millions.  One wonders if PFDJ has the same ideological inclination. 

Fast forward to the world in Year 2006 – every true communist must be turning in his grave.  The mother of all communist states – a nation that still bears the Communist Party as its sole flag bearing political organization – is the one meting out exploitation against its own people.  Let us look some of the ironical developments of Chinese ideological 180 Degree turn around,

1.      Imperialism exploited the third world directly through colonization for the past two centuries, or through neo-colonization as some may claim we are currently experiencing.  The interesting development of the 21st century is that the Chinese communist party itself is actively engaged in the exploitations of the proletariat class – the very same class that the communist parties were created to protect.  Multinational Corporations pay less than $2 for goods produced in China that sell over $150 in Western markets – and the communist party, the vanguard of the proletariat class, is facilitating the exploitation of its own people by its own capitalists and imperialists (which it campaigned to allegedly destroy throughout the better of the 20th century).  But again, communists believe natural resources are more important than human lives and freedoms.

2.      Chinese peasants are being forcibly driven out of their farmlands and their lands given to commercial and industrial interests, i.e. land stripped away from peasants and given to capitalists – imagine that in Communist China.  Those peasants are left without any source of livelihood and are forced to migrate to cities to lead miserable lives.  The Chinese are now doing what the process of industrialization did to its workers in capitalist/imperialist Great Britain.  21st Century China is now proving what Great Britain had to do over 150 years ago to embark on its path towards industrialization is the only way towards that objective.  

3.      The biggest irony is that those Chinese businessmen that were considered ‘reactionaries’ and ‘bourgeois’ and persecuted for many years under Mao’s China, and thus fled to other countries to make their fortunes in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore are now suddenly, but quietly, given free access to run China’s new exploitive economic policy.

4.      As a result of the explosive Chinese economic growth, the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, i.e. between the rich and poor Chinese, is wide and growing.  The gap between the rich and poor in the West is much narrower than in so called communist countries.  If the ideals of communism ever flourish to some degree, it must be in the West.

Some might justify the Chinese exploitation of its proletariat class on behalf of Walmart is for strategic reasons only.   They say it is the communist world sneaking through the backdoor, playing by the same rules of the imperialist world until it wins.  But this is only convenient thinking by those who benefit from the current arrangements.  In the meantime, the Chinese slave labor policy is benefiting the few in China while destroying Africa’s cottage industry, thus Africa is sliding backward into becoming natural source exporter to China.  For clarity, it should be understood that this writer’s concern to Chinese economic growth policy is that China should liberalize its domestic politics in order that workers are free to pursue market wages for their efforts.  Otherwise, when China is engaging in slave labor to dominate the world trade, it implicitly exports its intolerant politics, exploitive labor market, and other negative factors in its products. This may mean that African countries, for instance, must exploit their workers and engage in similar Chinese politics to remain competitive.  This can only lead to socio-economic downward spiral into hell.  

After the turbulent politics of communist dictatorship that engulfed the better part of 20th century, China abandoned all its ideological hang-ups and pursued economic policies that other Asian countries had pursued since the 1950s – the policy of allowing ‘imperialists’ or ‘Western exploiters’ to take advantage of cheap labor in South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia.  Now, Vietnam, the icon of 20th century guerilla movement, Thailand and others have jumped on the bandwagon of the five tigers. 

The communist dictators wrecked their economies, but worse was the way they destroyed their societies.  They achieved nothing!  They destroyed their social fabrics in their reckless social experiments.  There wasn’t a single positive outcome as result of communist dictatorship.  Again, although communism has its appeal in theory, in all practicality, it was an ideological wasteland.  Fortunately for Eastern Europe wasted away in communist dictatorships, the “capitalist West” has absorbed them into their ‘capitalist’ vibrant economy.  Many of these countries absorbed into EU are experiencing certain socio-economic hardships through their transition phase but that is the legacy of communist dictatorship and they will overcome it.

It is also fortunate for China that its economy is being rescued [or rather for mutual benefit] by Japan and Western countries which are experiencing such high post-second world war economic boom that they need additional labor to satisfy their needs.  Hence China has become both the producer and consumer nation for the West.  China is now surrounded by booming economies in South East Asia and couldn’t afford to be left behind in its ideological wasteland.

PFDJ’s recent backtracking to old, discredited and discarded ideological wasteland can’t be viewed as genuine.  The current wave of PFDJ propaganda can only be viewed as desperate acts by a regime unable to get traction on its socio-economic and, esp., one-man political efforts.  Unlike former Communist Eastern Europe which are now being rescued by European Union and China that is being rescued by capitalists Japan and the West (be it for the capitalists gain but ultimately ‘win-win’ for everybody), it is questionable if PFDJ will have such rescuers.  Moreover, the continued destabilization of the Horn of Africa region will only discourage foreign investment.  Eritrea can never become an island of economic growth when countries around it are burning in political inferno.  PFDJ’s desperate acts manifesting themselves in kindling political infernos in the Horn will only delay or stifle the economic resurgence of the region for yet many more decades.  PFDJ’s interference in the Somali internal politics is just one more example.  The Somali political development is to some degree a replica of Afghanistan, which experienced political hardship under warlord system in its political structure, which was subsequently swept away by the Taliban.  Afghanistan is now back to the warlord system, thus oscillating between two unsustainable systems.  The aspiration or pursuit of creating religious-based societies isn’t the problem per se.  Instead, it is the age old game of mortal man’s pursuit of dirty political power masquerading as campaign for religion that has been the root of political instabilities.  As such, Somali’s ICS’s belief in establishing Sharia based system in Somalia isn’t the problem per se, but inherently rigid political structures such as PFDJ or ICS don’t contain within them the flexibility to incorporate dissents within their political system, and thus must always seek out external conflicts to divert internal conflicts until internal conflicts are resolved through dire methods.  As PFDJ must pursue external conflicts to divert PFDJ’s internal dissents and the general public’s dissatisfaction with PFDJ’s rule, ICS must do the same.  Moreover, those who attain power through force have the tendency to resort to what they know best – more force.   ICS’ future political path is as predictable as history can tell us about similar movements.  In the end, even if ICS is to win and establish Somalia’s government, its next target will be Somaliland, and then widening its conflict to its other neighbors as necessitated by its own [ICS’] internal organizational and national political turbulence.  It is the old game of seeking external conflicts as the most convenient instrument of pacifying internal and domestic conflicts.        

The current PFDJ campaign against the West in the form of regurgitating old communist battle cries of the imperialists exploiting Africans, the dangers of food aid, and other communist slogans is designed to reach out to veteran tegadelties who were once indoctrinated to such ideologies and who may still romanticize the now defunct old communist ideologies and propaganda.  PFDJ feels that the battle for its survival remains intricately tied to ensuring that veteran fighters remain on its side – bribed, coerced, brainwashed, imprisoned or by any other means.  

Of course, in shabait’s world of exploitation, exploitation can only be in the form of the depletion of gold and diamonds and other natural resources of Africa, but the exploitation of human beings and the deprivation of the rights of human beings for unknown or failed policies have their ideological justifications.  

The thrust of the editorial is to advocate for the importance of food security – but that is only stating the obvious.  If the obvious needs to be stated and restated then one can add few more to the list; the rule of law, good governance, and many other factors that ensure that a country becomes a viable nation.  If there is to be governing a nation lesson 101 [most basic], without good governance and rule of law, there can’t be food security.

The editorial blames the Western colonization for Africa’s failure to achieve food security, and warns against food dependency.  Let us look at shabait’s trek through the ideological wastelands of the legacies of colonization and problems of food security, when in reality the problems are the followings

  1. After independence, Eritrea’s food production had grown to a level of some 70% of its domestic need by 1998.  Instead of shabait’s resorting to the excuses of the old colonial legacy, the question is, aside from 1998-2000 border conflict, why haven’t we returned to pre-1999 food production level 6 years after the end of the border conflict?


  1. The editorial states that “many farmers were compelled to abandon agricultural activities”.  In Eritrea, a large number of the Warsai-Yekealos are dragged away from their farmlands.  The question remains, how does Eritrea achieve food security at a time when PFDJ is itself responsible for abandoning agricultural activities by conscripting and tying down in unproductive Warsai Yekealo projects servicemen who are taken away from their farms?  


  1. What are the circumstances that lead to temporary or permanent food aid dependency?  Could it be because of current failed or failing socio-economic and political policies, rather than blaming colonialism?


  1. In the West, only 2% of the population produces food for the 98% of the population.  In Eritrea, 60% of the productive force produces less than 40% of Eritrea’s food needs, i.e. we are starving.  The editorial blames our inability to achieve food security due to old farming methods.  The Eritrean agricultural sector needs either public or private investment infusion to achieve higher mechanization to achieve higher food production.  A country that has banished its private sector, that has failed to exploit its natural resources, and that uses every penny it earns to buy weapons to arm every opposition in the region can’t afford to embark on developing its agricultural sector. 


  1. The irony of PFDJ’s Eritrea is that PFDJ is creating its own socio-economic stress.  Before the Warsai-Yekealo Campaign was launched, 75% of the current servicemen  were engaged in subsistence living (which reflects the population demography) as farmers (food or livestock), thus didn’t need government help.  In other words, subsistence farmers who make up 75% of the population are now forced off their land to serve in Warsai-Yekealo projects of idleness and made to depend on the State for their existence.  This creates the only possible scenario, with falling food production or higher dependency on the State, the government itself must beg for food aid and divert whatever food it produces to feed the dependents it created [i.e. Warsai-Yekealo] and thus leaving the remaining population to starve.  PFDJ is responsible for uprooting largely self-sufficient Eritreans and making them dependent on the State through its failed Warsai-Yekealo slavery campaign.  PFDJ remains solely responsible for creating a dependency based socio-economic system.


  1. The Eritrean government, under the strong leadership of Min. Petros Solomon as Min. of Marine Resources, much strides was made to encourage Eritreans to consume nutritionally rich and vastly available fish products.   What happened to these efforts?   Or did the colonizers interfere in this effort too?  Or more likely, did PFDJ interfere in Min. Petros’s efforts?


  1. We can’t tell what shabait editorial staff learned in the Kulu N’Tif’at School of Business at Mai Nefhi, but they must be dusting and recycling old books from the forgotten ideological era.  The editorial staff are taught that Africa is exporting so much of its natural resources and yet unable to feed its people.   In the world of ‘comparative advantage’, international trades are conducted to obtain goods that are needed in a nation but can’t produce itself.  Eritrea can sell its fish, salt, or other products and use the hard currency earned to buy the food it needs, and to facilitate private investment in order to achieve higher mechanization in the agricultural sector.   This is the new Chinese motto of milking international trade – and what is good for mother of all communism can only be good for its pseudo-followers such as PFDJ.      


This editorial should a send chill down the spines of those who intend to invest in Eritrean mining sector.  The message is that developing the mining sector has no national benefit other than serving Western interests, and that a nation should only exert all its effort for achieving food security to the exclusion of everything else.

Other thoughts

On Challenges of Resistance against Dictatorship

Many fellow Eritreans complain that the general Eritrean public remains highly passive against such severe repressions and gross violations of human rights.  Although our propaganda will remain an effort to agitate and mobilize the public to demand for its God-given rights and freedoms, but examining the lessons of history throughout time we can easily learn that reaching critical mass required for public reaction is not easy to attain.  The history of man is the bondage of man by series of dictators.  PFDJ’s Eritrea is no exception.

Over 500 million people under the Soviet Union, over 1 billion people under communist China and other similar states in the region experienced decades of exterminations, starvations, and gross violations of human rights – yet none of the general public in these countries managed to engage in successful public uprising. Instead, Soviet Union collapsed under its own unsustainable socio-economic and political policies and China quietly abandoned its disastrous old dogma.  What is also similar in their transformations is that the old dictators had to die before these countries were able to transform their societies.  Leonard Brezhnev died to be replaced by reformer Mikhail Gorbacev.  Chairman Mao died to be replaced by Deng Xiaoping who put China on its new economic path.  Some of the Communist Eastern Europe experienced slightly different outcome.  With the collapse of the Soviet Union, some of the communist dictators that thrived under Soviet military protection to ensure their grip to power, transformed themselves to embrace the change of political wind.  Poland’s Wojciech Jaruzelski is one such example.  Other dictators that were propped up by the might of Soviet Union collapsed under very different dynamics that befell such dictators as Col. Mengistu Hailemariam.   In Africa, the main flavor for regime change used to be military coups – and hardly grassroots movements.

Examining the Eritrean case, PFDJ’s current severe repressive measures are tacit acknowledgments that the vast majority of Eritreans are against PFDJ’s leadership, and have a high potential for public uprising.  The continuous ‘giffa’, scattering university and technical school students to all four corners of Eritrea, the repressive economic policy, and depriving the public of their basic necessities are designed to ensure that the public isn’t able to come together to challenge PFDJ’s grip.  If PFDJ had felt secure in its power grip, it wouldn’t have engaged in such repressive measures because when over-applied, these repressive measures may backfire against the regime.  In order to avoid dissent from reaching critical mass, the regime will continually apply repressive measure to boiling point, then relent a little bit – say by holding public discussions on democracy – then will return to higher levels of repression, then relent a bit, until such time it feels absolutely in control.  In the end, Eritrea may end up in history as one of the few countries where true grassroots movements may bring about true political changes.

Generally, dictatorships have long lives.  What has thrown a monkey wrench into PFDJ’s long life is its belief bordering on paranoia that the border must first be demarcated before any socio-economic and political progress is to begin in Eritrea.  The regime needs the victory of Badme to restore its severely damaged domestic reputation, to salvage its legacy and to hopefully destroy the reputation of the reformers and the reform movement.  The regime feels that without the requisite border victory it won’t get the respect and loyalty of its people.  As a result the regime is locked in a life-and-death political and military siege mentality that may engulf the entire region.  The PFDJ regime has reached a political stage that it must gamble away its life.  We should never lose sight of the fact that PFDJ’s paranoia is a manifestation of its fear of the people of Eritrea.  PFDJ knows that the public’s anger is boiling just under the surface – and no one should be fooled by the surface that appears calm.

On Transparency International

Transparency International has put Eritrea at a better rank than many countries.  Based on my interpretation of transparency, I agree placing Eritrea at much higher rank than many countries.  After all, PFDJ’s Eritrea is highly transparent in its abuse of power, severe mistreatment of political prisoners and prisoner’s of conscious, the incorporation of corruption into its state apparatus and meddling in other countries’ politics.  By abusing its power in such flagrant manner, it is the most transparent government in the world.  Heck, PFDJ should be given the most transparent government in the world, or at least at par with the North Koreans.

On Opposition Leadership

There is much criticism of the opposition leadership, of which this writer is one of them.  But a couple of astute opposition critics have pointed out that many of those leaders who are campaigning against the regime are the very same brave men who fought for independent Eritrea.  They gave up 30 years or longer of their youthful lives for independence of Eritrea and are still being asked to continue to give up their remaining lives for next generation cause.  By all rights, these brave leaders should have been rewarded with peaceful life in Eritrea, enjoying the company of their kids and grandkids.

These brave veteran opposition leaders became active for Eritrean cause in their late teens and early twenties.  For some, their parents campaigned for union with Ethiopia while the children disagreed with their parents and pursued the struggle for independence.  The children had to chart their own course.

Democratic Eritrea won’t be established by the simple removal of the current regime.  It is an evolutionary process that requires the full and dedicated involvement of the youth – much like the Eritrean youth in the fifties, sixties and onward.

None of the established opposition parties in Diaspora are preventing the youth from participating in determining the future of Eritrea.  The Diaspora youth can pursue its political agenda that it is comfortable with and is consistent with its beliefs.  But the most important factor is the requisite continued political activism on the part of youth to ensure that the new democratic Eritrea is inherited by those who have both the ideological and practical experience to properly manage the country.  The efforts of EMDHR and many youth movements in the West must be encouraged – and better still must be nurtured.  Efforts must be made to organize under-40 World Conference of Young Eritreans for Political Change in Eritrea.  It is never easy, but again establishing democratic Eritrea will never be easy.  As their parents did, the younger generation must chart its own course.

On Solving the Conflict with Ethiopia

One possible solution is to agree with the Ethiopia to give us their finest 5,000 men and 5,000 women and then marry them to our finest men and women as a part of the border deal.   The most desirable would be to marry those who live in the border area.  Why build the Berlin Wall – a wall of intolerance, a wall of hatred, a wall of division – when we can share our blessings.  Why not follow the eternal wisdoms of our forefathers?

Berhan Hagos

November 18, 2006

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