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Influence of Karl Marx on Ethiopian Society (Fall 2012)

        I initiated to write my historpidia paper on the influence of Karl Marx in Ethiopia history because he played a significant role in world history in relation to socialism. Ethiopia is one of the countries which exercise socialism from 1974 to 1991, so the influence of Karl Marx on Ethiopian history is vital. In History class we studied historpidia  entries are most influenced by different history forces among them role of specified individuals and ideas are my focus area, since Marx as an individual who influence Ethiopian history during socialism and also his idea socialism, proletariat internationalism, Marxism Leninism etc. were ideas that influence the country during those periods of socialism.

        During my young age, I have a chance to see socialism in my country Ethiopia.  I remembered that in my day to day life I have a chance to see and hear about Karl Marx and other socialist leaders through newspapers, mass media and conversation of people. Beside these Karl Marx’s statue was erected in Addis Ababa the capital city of Ethiopia In front of Addis Ababa University (AAU). It exists until I left Ethiopia in 2006; I hope it will exist until now. In addition to the statue, his big pictures together with Fredric Engels and Lenin were posted in different cities main squares. Moreover in every part of the city it was usual to see his ideas in the slogan that say, “Marxism Leninism is our policy”, “Socialism is our ideology” , “Proletariats internationalism” and other mottos. Radio and Television broadcast at least two Marxism songs daily. Although now the ideology of my country has been changed and most of his pictures and slogans disappeared from the seen, when I take history class I can able to recognize his long time influence, and that in turn forced me to write this historpidia paper. In general, I tried to write about Karl Marx and how he and his idea Influence the history of Ethiopia.

        What is the biography of Marx? What is the good and bad influence of Marx to our world and particularly to Ethiopia? According to www.Spartacus.School.net.Co.UK/TUmarx.htm Karl Marx was born in Trier, Germany, in 1818 from a lawyer father called Hirschel Marx in later days his name changed from Hirschel to Heinrich. After schooling in Trier (1830-35), Marx entered Bonn University to study law. At University he spent much of his time socializing and running up large debates.  His father Heinrich Marx died in 1838. Marx now had to learn his own living and he decided to become a university lecturer. He completed his doctoral thesis at the University of Jena. In 1843 Marx article about government and poverty banned by Prussian (German) authority. After this time he warned that he might be arrested. After he married Jenny Von   he went exile to France, Canada, Belgium and England at different time. While in Paris he becomes a close friend of Friedrich Engels. Engels shared Marx’s views of capitalism and after their first meeting; Engels wrote that there was virtually “complete agreement in all theatrical fields”. Marx and Engels decided to work together. Friedrich Engels helped to financially support Marx and his family.  Marx while he was in Belgium concentrated on writing The Communist Manifesto. Based on a first draft produced by Friedrich Engels called Principles of Communism, Marx finished the 20,000 word pamphlet in six weeks. Unlike most of Marx’s work, it was an accessible account of communist ideology.  The Communist Manifesto Begins with the assertion, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” And it was published in February; 1848. Marx was encouraged by the formation of Paris commune in March 1871 and the abdication of Louis Napoleon. Marx called it the “greatest achievement” since the revolution of 1848, but by May the revolt had collapsed and about 30,000 communards were slaughtered by government troops. This failure depressed Marx and after four years Karl Marx died on March 1883. 

        The biography of Marx impressed many young revolutionaries in Ethiopia and encouraged them to fight against the existing Emperor government and gave energy to the formation of socialism. The 1974 student movement and revolution is the prove for the above statement.

        Karl Marx based on Hegel’s theory that a thing or thought could not be separated from its opposite and the unity would eventually be achieved by the equalization of all opposite by means of the dialectic (logic progression) of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. He can able to show the clear example. “Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinctive feature: it has simplified class of antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up two great classes directly facing each other: bourgeois and proletariat”. (Engels,Marx 35). Here Marx put the main antagonist class of capitalism correctly and explained that as capitalism developed, the number of cheap labor increased and he believes that this force will be victorious against bourgeois and equalizing will be created. Same thing explained in history class reading material “The Classless Society” as follows In The communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels predicted the creation of classless society as the end product of the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. This is the main idea that my country adopted from Marx during the period of socialism. At the beginning it seems good and operational since it intended to empower proletariat and to strength the existing week labor union but finally it failed before it hit the target. According to Marx from instruction for the Delegates of the Provisional General Council, August 1866(MGC64-66,PP.347-49)  Trades’ unions originally sprang up from the spontaneous attempt of workmen at removing or at least checking the competition, in order to conquer such terms of contract as might raise them at least above the condition of slaves. Here although the beginning of trade unions is spontaneous gradually improved its way of movement and help proletariats to get improved working condition. The above statements clearly explained in class by “ Discipline In New Factories” and how this factory rules leads for the formation of trade unions.

        The other ideas implemented in Ethiopia are Marxism Leninism and socialism. The existing curriculum revised and those new ideas are included instead of the previous ethics class starting from elementary to university. Factories and government workers will be forced to attain every Friday Marxism study. Youth and women’s are organized and study Marxism and Leninism. According to http://countrystudies.us/ethiopia/105.htm the tasks of social, political, and economic reconstruction facing the new regime in 1974 were formidable. To meet these challenges, the regime attempted to fashion a new ideological foundation for society. The Provisional Military Administrative Council favored a Marxist-Leninist development model because of the organizational power it promised. The above statement will prove that the governments focus toward Marxism and socialism ideology or ideas.

        In his time Marx predicted that the growth of capital increase the abundance needs of cheap labor and the prevalence of this cheap labor will in turn be the gravedigger for bourgeois. According to Living Ethics “The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariats in to a class, over throw of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat…” (Minch471). As contrary to Marx’s prediction now a day the needs of cheap labor increased tremendously and the bourgeois for the need of this cheap labor they are taking measures like removing the factory or the plant from a country of expensive labor to the country whose labor is minimum. This kind of industrializations can be considered as globalization. Here we can easily observe the increase of capital will strength the capitalist and help them to widen their scope globally. To support my idea of globalization, according to Mirror for Humanity, On June 24, 2005, The New York Times reported that IBM was planning to hire more than 14,000 additional workers in India, while laying off some 13,000 workers in Europe and the United States (Lohr2005). These figures illustrate the ongoing globalization of work and the migration of even skilled jobs to low- wage countries (Kottak203).

        When I returned back to my countries experience at the beginning that is when we started  to follow socialism  being inspired  by Karl Marx and his idea, like other socialist countries such as, Soviet Union, East Germany, Cuba and others, most Companies and factories were taken from the private ownership to government control.  As Marx proposed, government was trying to make proletariats the owner of the means of production, but  most of state owned factories productivity decreased other factories can run with government subsidy. In general the change of economic system from free market to command economy rather than improving the country it led to worst situation. Because of this in the later time the government make privatized those companies and factories again for investors.

        The formation of totalitarian and genocidal regimes who inspired by Marx are considered as his ill influence. Here the communist party control the  whole power and the relation in the party are not simple rather it is highly centralized and strictly disciplined beside this not being communist was considered as crime and some states took genocide  on their people. The situation happened in Cambodia can be considered as an example. According to my discussion with one of my co-worker called Soreth Phann, a Cambodian who left his country during Kamer Rouge regime “At 1975 the country fall under control of communist  their attempt at agricultural reform becomes a cause for wide spread famine and their self-sufficient principle led to a thousand of  people’s death   due to simple curable diseases. The people do not have right to acquire their own property except two pair of dark color kaki clothes. If you try to leave your country you will be killed. I am lucky to escape and came to USA.” Here we can see how the countries attempt to practice Marx’s principle cause death of so many innocent people. Similar situation happened in Ethiopia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Red_Terror_(Ethiopia)    Following the deposition of Emperor Haile Selassie 12 September 1974, the Derg had been faced with a number of civilian groups competing for control of Ethiopia, most notably being the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party (EPRP). During September 1976, EPRP militants were arrested and executed, in tandem with the EPRP's assassination campaign against ideologues and supporters of the Derg. Here we can see how Marx and his idea leads to internal fight with in the country.

        Finally I would like to conclude my paper by appreciate Marx for his works and his lifelong devotion of fighting with bourgeoisies and enhancing the unity of proletariat. Some of his works ideas and theories such as democracy, liberation, social justices, and trade union movements are constructive and they are the base for development for the world. My country also benefited to have better trade unions and a sign of democracy today.  On the other hand the situation happened in some socialist countries including Ethiopia that is totalitarian and genocidal can be considered as his draw back. 

Works Cited
  1. Country  Studies: http://countrystudies.us/ethiopia/105.htm
  2. Engels, Marx “The communist  Manifesto to a modern edition” © Erichbsbawm1998.
  3. Kottak “Mirror for Humanity” McGraw.Hill. NewYork,NY10020.2008.
  4. Lapides, Kenneth “Marx and Engels  On the Trade Unions” International publisher. NewYork: Praeger,1987.
  5. Minch, Weigel, “Living Ethics” Cengage Learning: © Wardsworth 2009.
  6. Spartacus Educational: Karl Marx- http://www.Spartacus.School.net.CO.UK/TUmarx.html
  7. Phan, Soreth Personal Interview 7 Nov. 2012
  8. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Terror_