Comrade Chairman’s Manual

In the past few weeks, this writer had written how PFDJ has backpedaled to the ideological wastelands of few decades ago.  Upon discussion with some friends over this issue, a friend suggested that I read the following book,

“Mao, the Unknown Story”

By Jung Chang and Jon Halliday


Unfortunately, instead of reading books that could help us to live and compete in today’s global village, we, as Eritreans, are being forced to dig up and revisit old books and old ideologies.  However, the history of man repeats itself, packaged and repackaged but with the same aim and same results.  Despite the rapid technological changes around us, human nature remains the same as the caveman.

This book, in hard cover, was published last year, and the soft cover was only released few weeks ago.  What distinguishes this book from old Mao stories is that this is probably the best researched and most comprehensive story on Mao due to declassifications of volumes of documents in China and Russia.  In addition, the relatively liberal governments of post communism world have allowed former dissidents and survivors of those brutal years to share their experiences.  The unknown story is well researched and easy to read.  The book doesn’t engage in philosophical debate and instead presents a chronological history of the revolution and Mao’s devious and diabolical methods of achieving his personal ambitions. 

For those who were involved or were closely associated with the Eritrean struggle for independence, this book is simply the reincarnation of that experience.  The split and intrigues that took place between the two Eritrean liberation movements and all the modus operandi to eliminate the other movement was pre-written in Mao’s manual.   I began highlighting the book to compare similarities, but few pages into the book I understood the futility of highlighting – there was so many similarities that I was highlighting every other line.  At the end of the book, I was glad I stopped highlighting after few pages because I would have ended up highlighting the whole book.

Whenever someone decides to write a historical account of the Eritrean struggle and post-independence period political intrigues, this book can be used as a guide.  One may even be able to copy the entire book, but only change the characters to our own.  Just to wet the appetites of my readers, let me just highlight some of the similarities …

[Note:  the methods or modus operandi used to attain and maintain power are exactly the same between Chairman Mao, the Master, and Chairman PIA, the Pupil who spent some three years in China during the sixties.]

1.      The modus operandi used to orchestrate the split between the two liberation movements [EPLF and ELF] was the same as what Mao did,

2.      In building the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Mao purged intellectuals and purposely created multi-layered privileged classes within the Red Army.  Mao himself pretended to live and dress like the rank-and-file tegadelities.

3.      Mao and PIA appear to have similar personal interests and extra-curricular activities.  Neither prescribes to ideology other than pure personal ambition, attaining power, and using any means to maintain that power.

4.      From time-to-time, Mao purged any possible foes under the guise of ‘Yemanawiyan’, ‘Anti-Bolsheviks’, etc… Mao had secret parties.

5.      In order to keep Stalin on his side, Mao would have pictures taken of himself while reading Stalin’s books etc…

6.      “At the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War there was a Red Cross team in Yenan, which had been sent by the Nationalists.  It treated local residents as well as average communists.  But the regime [Red Army] set about driving it away.  Rumors were put about that its medicines were poisonous…”

7.      In 1937, “Shao and Mao had concocted the idea of publishing a Mao autobiography portraying Mao as good and kindly man …”   This type of promotion, personality cult, would continue throughout Mao’s tenure to power.  Especially, after the Great Purge, the Chinese population was bombarded with Mao’s pictures, interviews and quotations on state media.

8.      Strategic alliances with external forces in order to eliminate internal opponents.  In fact, Mao was backstabbing the Chinese Nationalists Party which was occupied fighting the Japanese.

9.      Some of the myths of the Long March, CCP’s struggle against the Japanese and People’s War in order to enhance Mao’s image.

10.  Signing away Badme [same as Mao signing away Outer Mongolia to Soviet Union]

11.  “Mao was viscerally hostile to law, and his subjects were utterly shorn of legal protection.  He described himself to Edgar Snow in 1970 as “ a man without law or limit”… Instead of laws, the regime issued edicts, resolutions and press editorials…  There was a paper façade of law, which formally allowed the “right of appeal,” but exercising it was treated as an offense, a “demand for further punishment,” as one ex-prisoner put it, which could result in one’s sentence being doubled, for daring to doubt the wisdom of “the people””.  “… Flatterers had suggested that the document should be named the “Mao Tse-tung Code,” clearly with the Napoleonic Code in mind.  Mao rejected the idea.  He was averse to law, and wanted there to be nothing that could bind him.  Indeed, hopelessly feeble as it was, the Constitution was soon to be discarded altogether.”

12.  Ploys were used to ignite conflicts … for instance, to spark conflict with the Nationalists, Mao sent a small army unit into Nationalist held areas fully knowing that they would be killed by the Nationalists, which then gave him an excuse to launch his plan.  Was this what happened on May 6, 1998 in Badme?

13.  “Mao himself did not embezzle in the conventional way, like lesser dictators who kept Swiss bank accounts.  But this was simply because he didn’t need to hedge against losing power.  He just made absolutely sure such a day would never happen”

14.  In late 1951, Mao started a campaign known as ‘the Three-Antis’ targeting embezzlement, waste and “bureaucratism” [meaning slacking’].  This was followed by the ‘Five-Antis’ a couple of months later.  PIA gave us his ‘Three Antis’ in 2001 – Corruption, AIDS, and Woyane.  We are still waiting PIA’s ‘Five-Antis’ which must be waiting for the right moment to be unleashed.

15.  “The first pool built for him [Mao] was in Jade Spring Hills, right in the middle of the Three-Antis Campaign [Note 14 above].  By Mao’s account, the pool cost 50,000 yuan, which was five times the amount that would condemn an embezzler to the execution ground as a “Big Tiger””. 

16.  “To defuse the bitterness that clung on in many hearts, Mao performed a few public “apologies” in spring 1945 … What he typically did was to take off his cap and bow or salute his audience.  But he would carefully present his apology as generously taking responsibility for others (“On behalf of the Centre, I apologize…”) and spread the blame – even to his victims themselves.”  Other times, Mao would blame low-level cadres for zealous activities, Russians and other foreigners and natural calamities.

17.  Mao unleashed most of his inhumane treatment and punishment on peasants.  They were forced to give up most of their food production to the regime, forced to work in labor camps and summarily executed.  In fact, Mao used terror as a means of attaining and maintaining power.  Mao’s simple rule of thumb was that 100,000 must be denounced, 10,000 must be arrested and 1,000 must be executed in every region of the country.  Based on the same calculation, some 3,000 have been executed within the Eritrean Defense Forces, and another couple of thousands from the remaining population.  The same ratio applies for arrests.

18.  “Peasants were not even allowed to move to another village except with special permission (e.g. if they got married).”

19. Mao never cared about its people, esp. peasants.  “Having only tree leaves to eat?  So be it.”  “Throughout his reign, peasants had to fend for themselves when it came to housing.  The state provided no funds.  Even in urban areas, other than apartments for the elite and residential blocks in industrial complexes, virtually no new dwellings were built.”

20.  The Red Army had barely won over the Nationalists and taken over the central government when Mao began itching for more conflicts.  After prodding Stalin, Mao would get embroiled in Korea, India, Indonesia [indirectly], Vietnam and other neighboring and distant nations.  Eritrea had barely won its independence when we were embroiled in neighboring and distant nations such as Rwanda and DR Congo.  PFDJ continues the same foreign adventurism to present day.

21. “Mao was not interest in posterity.  Back in 1918 he had written: “Some say one has a responsibility for history.  I don’t believe it …. People like me are not building achievements to leave for future generations …”

22.  “Chou told Stalin in September 1952 that China could also “collect” up to 1.6 Billion Pound Sterling plus US$200m over five years, “mostly” through what he called “contraband””

23.  In fact, Mao would then proceed to grow opium and use it to finance his operations.  This also has become PFDJ’s new cash crop [‘qat’]

24.  While the Chinese population was staving, Mao kept sending “food aid” to other Eastern Communist countries which had more food for their own population.  PFDJ is now sending food to Somalia, while Eritreans are lining up for bread.

25.  During the Korean War, Stalin asked Mao if we should fear third world war.  Mao replied, “If a war is inevitable, then let it be waged now, and not in a few years’ time…”

26.  “Zeng Zhi knew that Mao’s “Friendship” and protection could vanish as soon she did anything that displeased the Great Helmsman.”

27.  ““That was the danger with Mao,” the Dalai Lama told us, “everything he said – half true! Half true!””

28.  “Every day, at the interminable meetings, Mao’s simplistic formula was hammered in: for everything wrong in the Party, blame others, for every success – himself.  To achieve this end, history was rewritten, and indeed stood on its head.” 

29.  “Mao mostly traveled with three sets of transport – train, plane, and ship (when applicable).  Even if he was using only one kind of transport, the other two would follow wherever possible, just in case.”

30.   “When he [Mao] met the Dalai Lama in 1954 -55 he told him there were too many monks in Tibet, which, he said, was bad for reproducing the labor force.  Now lamas and nuns were forced to break their vows of celibacy and get married.”

31.   During the Cultural Revolution, which was also the time of Great Purge, Mao characterized Peking as “not chaotic enough …” which has been translated to Asmara – “Asmara had become a jungle, a hiding place …”  In fact, many of Mao’s remarks continue to be used in PFDJ’s language.  PIA has taken other direct quotations from Mao.  For instance, Mao once said, “What do they [Russians] have?  No more than 50 million tons of steel, 400 million tons of coal, and 80 million tons of oil … Big deal!”   PIA used same language to accuse Egypt of same, “What do they have … they can’t even feed half their population …”

32.  The physical and mental tortures meted out against Mr. and Mrs. Liu, Mr. Liu being No. 2 in CCP until fallout with Mao, and consequently what happened to their kids is just being duplicated in Eritrea.  But despite the physical and mental abuse, the Lius remained strong [especially Mrs. Liu] depriving Mao the pleasure of breaking their spirits.

33.   “Let a hundred flowers bloom” was a few months of public freedom to express one’s views and frustrations.  The targets were especially intellectuals who would express such views.  “Few guessed that Mao was setting a trap, and that he was inviting people to speak out so that he could then use what they said as an excuse to victimize them.  Mao’s targets were intellectuals and the educated, the people most likely to speak up… One of the very first things challenged was the Communist’s monopoly of power, which one critic described as “the source of all ills… many called for the rule of law.  Another vice-minister called for the independence of the judiciary.  Another administrator said he wanted to be able “just to follow the law, not the orders of the Party”  Foreign policy, too, came in for questioning by some of the elite who had access to partial information.  The regime’s secretiveness also came under attack.  “All absolute economic statistics are state secrets.” protested one critic.”   The purge then followed.

34.  “Funding for education was already minuscule.  Now it was to be cut back even further.  Mao’s approach was not to raise the general standard of education in society as a whole, but to focus on small elite, predominately in science and other “useful” subjects, and leave the rest of the population to be illiterate or semi-illiterate slave-laborers.” 

35.  “As part of his Leap, in 1958 Mao also tried to turn the cities into slave-labor camps by organizing urban communes.  His plan was to abolish wages and put the whole society on a non-cash barracks system.  This did not work out, as the slave system could not be made to fit other modern cities, where life had more complex dimensions.”

36.  “… Mao wanted to destroy existing cities on a massive scale and build industrial centers on the ruins.  In 1958 the regime did a survey of historic monuments in Peking.  It listed 8,000 – and decided to keep seventy-eight.  Everyone who heard of the scheme, from the mayor down pleaded against this level of destruction.  Eventually, the order was not carried out so drastically – for a while.”  “Ancient monuments, the visible signs of China’s long civilization, fell victim too.  Mao had started having city walls and commemorative arches knocked down indiscriminately soon after he came to power, by the end of the 1950s the vast majority were destroyed.”

37. “A more urgent concern for Mao in September 1961 was the chance of losing power at a Party congress.  Mao’s “biggest worry” Lin Biao wrote in his diary, “is whether he can get the majority in a vote.”  And a congress was due that very month…. As far back as 1959, Mao had sensed profound discontent towards him among the top echelon.” 

38.  “Mao later laid into all books: “The more books you read, the ore stupid you become.”  “You can read a little.”  He would say, “but reading too much ruins you, really ruins you.”  This was unashamedly cynical, as he himself was well-read, and loved reading. 

39.  As a particular hate figure, Mao built up Khrushchev, on the grounds that he practiced “revisionism.”  The Chinese press was flooded with polemics demonizing the Soviet leader, which the population was forced fed at weekly indoctrination sessions.  It was thus drilled into people’s mind that Khrushchev and other “revisionists” were villains (like murderers in a normal society).  Eventually, the other shoe would drop” Mao would condemn Liu Shao-chi as “China’s Khrushchev. And disobedient Party officials as “revisionists”.

40.  In June 1966, “Mao intensified the terrorization of society.  He picked as his first instrument of terror young people in schools and universities, the natural hotbeds for activists.  These students were told to condemn their teachers and those in charge of education for poisoning their heads with “bourgeois ideas” – and for persecuting them with exams, which henceforth were abolished…  The seeds of hate that Mao had sown were ready for reaping.  Now he was able to unleash the thuggery of these infected teenagers, the most malleable and violent of society.  To make sure that students were fully available to carry out his wishes, Mao ordered schooling suspended from 13 June.”  The rest of the story was yet another brutal history of Mao’s China, which I leave for my readers.

41.  During the Great Purge/Cultural Revolution, “The replacements for the ousted cadres came mainly from the army, which Mao ordered into every institution in January 1967.  Altogether, over the next few years, 2.8 million army men became the new controllers, and of these 50,000 took over the jobs of former medium- and high-ranking Party officials… The army provided the core of new enforcers – at the expense of doing its job of defending the country.”

42.  During the entire Mao’s tenure to power, only one top party official [politburo member and military leader] died under mysterious circumstances.  Officially, his death was attributed to being killed during a military operation.  But eye witness reports indicate that the area that he was killed was involved in minor skirmishes and that he wasn’t in any direct danger of being killed.  However, the two men that accompanied the top official were security men.  Is this the story of Ibrahim Affa?   

43.  Etc… etc… The similarities are endless.

“There was other truly heroic resistance from ordinary people.  One was a remarkable woman of nineteen, a student of German called Wang Rong-fen, who had attended the Tinamen rally on 18 August 1966, and whose reaction to it showed astonishing freshness and independence of spirit, as well as courage. … she got hold of four bottles of insecticide and drank them outside the Soviet embassy, hoping the Russians would discover her corpse and publicize her protest to the world.  Instead, she woke up in a police hospital.  She was sentenced to life imprisonment.  For months on end, her hands were tightly handcuffed behind her back and she had to roll herself along the floor to get her mouth to the food that was just tossed onto the floor of her cell.  When the handcuffs were finally removed, they had to be sawed off, as the lock was jammed with rust.  This extraordinary young woman survived prison – and Mao – with her spirit undimmed.”

The book addresses in detail how ‘purges’ and ‘midiskal’ was used by the Mao regime.  It addresses why most of the top party officials kowtowed Mao although they privately disagreed and disapproved Mao’s methods and objectives.  It is also an interesting coincidence that the gravest threat to Mao’s health was when he came down with malaria.  Mao, who was an avid reader, developed his ruthless methodologies by reading the histories of the Greeks, Romans, Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Lenin, Stalin and every other philosopher and dictator throughout time and adopted it to his country’s conditions.      

During Mao’s reign, over 50 Million Chinese lost their lives either by man-made starvations or by summary executions.  Mao used these methods to maintain total control over the population.  PIA may not be averse to using these methods, but there are a number factors that helped Mao to engage in such atrocities which aren’t available to PIA.

  1. Mao lived during a period when communication beyond very limited geographic area was nearly impossible.  Mao’s atrocities couldn’t easily be publicized.  PIA lives in an age of instantaneous communication.
  2. Mao was protected by a superpower, Soviet Union, which itself was engaged in similar executions and purges.  Soviet Union experienced the same brutality under Lenin [Red Terror] and Stalin [Gulags, Ukrainian massacre, etc…]. 
  3. PIA may lose whatever support he may receive from Diaspora Eritreans if there were massive and public executions and starvations.  There will always be very small group of higdefawiyans who will either deny or justify any form of PFDJ atrocities.  Mao largely relied on the Soviet Union and its own ‘requisition policy’ to meet its financial requirements.
  4. There are now many international human rights organizations which have become adept at publicizing and influencing Western governments.   There were hardly any such international organizations during Mao’s time.  Since the late 1990’s, the International Criminal Court was established to address such genocides and atrocities.     


Unfortunately, we have to examine and re-examine history, ours and others, past and current, to understand what kind of political intrigues are being played out, and then to formulate our strategies to reflect these realities.  Despite the immense atrocities meted out against the Eritrean people, we have to ask ourselves, what factors will allow the people to rise up against the regime.  What factors will allow Warsai-Yikealo to say ‘Yiakl’ and to rise up?  Mao managed to subdue 1 billion people for decades with significantly worse atrocities than PFDJ. 

But the fact that Mao managed to subdue 1 Billion people despite atrocities doesn’t necessarily mean that PFDJ will have much easier time to subdue 4 million people.  We have to be cautious in making such extrapolations in our analysis.  In fact, one might say that the fact the China had 1 billion population under Mao may have exactly helped Mao to maintain tight grip on power.  We can also examine Cuba which has much smaller population, the Soviet Union and every communist nation in-between.  Although there many underlying similarities, there are also as many differences. 

PFDJ doesn’t live during Mao’s time.  There are many factors in today’s world that make Chairman Mao’s manual difficult to implement, if not obsolete.  It may work for sometime due to certain human nature, but it won’t keep one in power for decades as Mao did.  In addition, we must take into consideration certain Eritrean unique traditions, cultures and history in extrapolating other people’s experiences.  However, there is one factor that remains consistent throughout human history, which is that without strong opposition leadership and clear vision, change can’t be brought about other than through natural course of history, such as the death of a dictator.  It is pretty safe to say that no one can give any historical examples where monumental changes have been brought about by faceless committees.  By nature, committees are designed to pass around blames and not to exude leadership.  Committees are necessary for managing but not for leadership.   

At this point in time, PIA’s Achilles’ heel remains the border conflict.  Mao used his brutal ‘requisition policy’ to siphon off every penny from every Chinese for his war efforts, for his superpower program and for every other cockamamie projects.  PIA is now engaged in his own ‘requisition policy’ to wage his internal and external conflicts.  “Requisition Policy” has dual purpose: first to raise funds, and second to control a population.  Can PIA continue this ‘requisition policy’ without any boomerang?  The other scenario is what would happen if the border conflict was settled?  PIA would have to face a call for the implementation of the Constitution, demobilization of Warsai-Yikealo and many other challenges.  All these calls and tasks will pose immense and immediate risks to PIA’s grip to power.  PIA will have no choice but to continue to follow “Comrade Chairman’s” manual to maintain his power.  If border is finalized, Eritrea will plunge into its darkest period yet.  In order to avoid such scenario, PIA will try to achieve his absolute power control in Eritrea before the demarcation is complete so that he doesn’t have to engage in massive oppression and purges to maintain power after the finalization of the border demarcation.  Again we must be cautious in our analysis because immense risks to PIA’s power may not necessarily translate to immense risks to a nation.  Higdefawiyans may have vested interest in drawing such correlations, but this is only self-serving power politics.      

This is a strongly recommended book for those who want to understand what happened during the Eritrean struggle, what happened during 1991 to 1998, what happened between the PFDJ and Woyane regime over Badme and what happened after the end of the conflict with Ethiopia.  Mao’s modus operandi/methods were copied and applied by PIA during the armed struggle and continues to use it to present day.  Moreover, one can predict what PFDJ’s next moves will be.  I recommend this book particularly to young Eritreans who want to understand the Eritrean situation.  This is PIA’s manual for governing Eritrea.

One last observation is that it is interesting that PIA told ABC’s reporter [“Death of an African Star”?] that he has no intention of retiring from power.  During Washington Post interview on December 14, 2006, PMMZ was asked if he had plans for third term.  PMMZ’s answer was “And me personally, I think I’ve had enough”.  No one can tell what is in their minds.  But, it shows their approaches to politics.  Can their frame of minds and political approaches be compared to mind sets and political approaches of Nationalist Party’s Chiang vs. CCP’s Mao?  It is also interesting to note how the Americans treated Chiang’s Nationalist Party and Mao’s CCP as compared to Soviet’s treatment of these two organizations.    


A couple of days ago, someone expressed his frustration over one of the Eritrean opposition websites over EDA’s failures to communicate that EDA has postponed its year-end congress.  Although EDA didn’t fix any specific date, still the end of the year means before December 31, 2006.  In my view, organizations aren’t primarily judged by their grandiose plans that may or may not materialize but by the little things that they do today, and everyday, that gives one confidence that they can achieve their challenging objectives.  Without professionalism, code of conducts/ethics, strong rapport with the public and other seemingly small things, everything else isn’t worth the paper they are written on.  In an age of instant communication, there is hardly any reason why there shouldn’t be continuous updates.  The bigger challenge for EDA is that ultimately no one owns it.  Can we say the same for our nation?

Conflict in the Horn  

There is no doubt that Somalia has become a ground for proxy war between Eritrea and Ethiopia.  One scenario is that Ethiopia doesn’t want a Taliban-style government next door that threatens its own internal security by extremist ‘political’ elements.  However, the immediate problem isn’t an “anti-Ethiopia” Islamist government next door per se.

The most likely scenario is that PFDJ wants to install a puppet government in Somalia.  This will have two particular purposes,

1.      PFDJ will continue to train and arm the Oromo Liberation Front, and then set up their base camps on the border between Somalia and Ethiopia.  Similar bases would be set up for Somali movements.  This is similar to Eastern Sudan movements and SPLA.  PFDJ would then be able to fly or ship necessary armaments and replenishments over Somali territory.  PFDJ’s objective might be to disrupt the Djibouti-Addis Ababa train line or disrupt truck movements to coffee growing areas of Southern Ethiopia.  In a war of attrition, PFDJ feels it can only weaken Ethiopia by targeting Ethiopia’s export revenues and directly destabilizing Ethiopia in the South.  Eritrean special forces will get involved in operations inside Ethiopia, as they did/do in Sudan.

2.      As Mao had used opium to replenish his financial requirements, PFDJ would be able to earn hard currency from its new cash crop, while depriving the Ethiopian government hard currency over this lucrative export business.

These clandestine activities can severely curtail Ethiopia’s main exports – coffee, qat, and hides.  This is a ‘war of attrition’.

The UIC won’t be able to backpedal its allegiance with Eritrea once [if and when] it gains power.  UIC is comprised of wide ranging interest groups who can be pulled in any directions once in power.  PFDJ will only coerce any one of the dissenting groups within UIC by assisting the other groups within UIC.  As Korea’s Kim and Vietnam’s Ho were political hostages of Mao’s power politics, UIC will become PFDJ’s political hostage until PFDJ has achieved its aims.  Mao had no qualms laying waste anything, domestic or external, that got in his ways.   

Based on the second possibility, Ethiopia can’t allow Eritrean-backed UIC to establish itself because otherwise Ethiopia will find itself fighting worse sabotages within its own territory.  The best scenario for Ethiopia is to create a ‘no-win’ situation – a dead-lock – as the warlords remain weak.  This would create a very protracted low-level conflict.  In a ‘war of attrition’ that is hemorrhaging PFDJ, this would further bog-down PFDJ at a time it can’t afford to remain bogged down.  If PFDJ intends to finance its operations through ‘qat’ exports to Somalia, then Ethiopia has many options to undermine that operation.    

It is also interesting to speculate if growing ‘qat’ was formulated in conjunction with PIA’s strategic thinking [i.e. well ahead of time, say after the border decision in 2002] that Ethiopia wouldn’t accept the border decision, and that PFDJ must quickly bring down the PMMZ regime by widening the conflict with Ethiopia.   The ‘qat’ operation followed by the ‘Somali Working Paper’ formulated and publicized by the PFDJ regime must have been in the works for months before it was publicized and well before UIC began its full assault on the transitional government.  In other words, could PFDJ have been working on the Somali project for at least over four years?  But again this is part of “Comrade Chairman’s” manual.    

Best Wishes for the New Year!

Berhan Hagos

December 22, 2006

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