A response to an article by Yohannes Aberra (PhD), which goes by the title
“Blessing or Curse: Proliferation of parties in Tigray”
(G Axumawi ) May 18, 2019
First of all, I would like to present my gratitude for the writer really cared to take his time to reflect on the first ever press release of our party – Salsay Woyane. Though it is a bit disappointing for the body of the article didn’t deliver what its title intended to summarize, the article gives the impression that the writer seems to worry about the fresh political developments in Tigray; it is, at least, what is expected of a concerned Tigrian.
The writer forwarded some important messages though; that there should be inter-party negotiations before going public, so as to guard the national interest of Tigray without creating divisions within the people; to focus on indigenous political ideologies (I wonder if we have anything like that except the bygone feudal order) rather than sticking with imported ideologies; that newly formed parties should always use the past as a basement and should stand on ‘the shoulders of giants/history,’ if they ever intended to see further and shine brighter.
Sparing these few acceptable advices and genuine concerns, I would rather conclude the whole article is research impaired and misinforming to some extent. I believe, a glimpse of the program document of TPLF, a little reading on the pillars of social democracy, and a careful look into Salsay Woyane’s press release, its program, and the interviews which followed would have helped the writer to present his article in a better way. Anyways, without further ado, let me dive into the points in the body of the article which are solely of concern to SalsayWoyane.
In its press release, Salsay Woyane has made it clear that it is the first ever Tigrian nationalist party which aimed to carry the aspirations and the true causes for the struggle of the people of Tigray. This is due after passing the following rigorous processes:
a) SalsayWoyane had deeply assessed the history of Tigrian struggle including the status quo, and carefully differentiated those which were a success and those which are a failure
b) SalsayWoyane had deeply studied what the aspirations of Tigrians really are, how does the current generation imagine the future Tigray, and whether those aspirations and imaginations can be satisfied by maintaining the status quo or not
c) SalsayWoyane had looked for any Tigrian party which follows the nationalistic approach
As a result, SalsayWoyane has concluded TPLF, an inherently Marxist-Leninist party, was/is not a true Tigrian nationalist, since its inception; it is pro internationalist socialist solidarity, just as any party which chose the Marxist-Leninist venue. As per its manifesto, TPLF’s magnum opus, the core reasons for the formation of TPLF were national and class oppression. Therefore, in the house of TPLF, by propagating the national oppression, Tigrian nationalism was skillfully and tactically used as a temporary tool (ladder) to mobilize the people of Tigrayand then Ethiopia against the common enemy, but this nationalistic behavior was doomed to be forsaken soon after the fall of Derg. It was only the class struggle that has gained momentum after victory.
Strong evidences which confirm that TPLF was not nationalist at heart can be found inside TPLF’s program and many other internal magazines and documents, like መይደይ, on which the overall tactics and strategies of the party were explained in a detailed manner for the high-level cadres and leaders of the party. Later, after victory, TPLF/EPRDF had announced that its political ideology is revolutionary democracy, and this happened to be the best ideology to guard the entrenched Marxist-Leninist ideals, which it originally fought for, with in a democratic atmosphere and capitalist economy.
Here, one can argue that TPLF had succeeded in answering some of the national questions of Tigrians and other Ethiopians by establishing the federal system and the constitution, but one should also ask and analyze what has come after the federalism and the constitution? Does the TPLF see the whole Ethiopia and the world through the eyes of socio-economic and security interests of Tigray, or is it trying to address them just as part of the whole (Ethiopia)? Does Tigray, as a national region, have an adequate national autonomy to solely decide on its political, socio-economical, historical, security and territorial issues? What were the fundamental causes of the recent racial slurs, ethnic-based attacks and vindictive security threats that Tigrians forced to bore? Answering these questions would help to have a clarity regarding the status quo.
To conclude: what the writer and other respected readers should know is: the main issue that was conveyed on the press release was not about whether TPLF did something good or bad for Tigray, it is whether TPLF is inherently nationalist party or not, and whether it has a program that can carry and accommodate the aspirations of our generation and address the interests of Tigray without any harmful compromise.
Concerning social democracy:
To begin with, what SalsayWoyane did was not merely choosing from the available ideologies, rather it listed out all its needs, aspirations, clear goals and strategies,and studied why others were not successful in achieving them. It was only then it looked for a kind of worldly known ideology which can best fit and accommodate its interests.To my dismay, I found it embarrassing, to say the least, for the writer understated social democracy as “an ideology which takes from the rich and gives to the poor, instead of empowering the poor to walk on its feet.” This might have emanated from a shallow understanding of social democracy; hence the reductionism. Social democracy is not only about distributing an accumulated capital in a fair way, but also it indirectly creates it. It is about realizing economic and social security; it is about de-commodifying the labour; it is about equalization of life chances and working conditions; it is about regulating the market based on not only profit and capital accumulation but also the society’s needs; it is about conserving culture and featuring an integrationist type of nationalism; it is about providing infrastructure, healthcare, education, child & elder care to the society, etc. Generally, it is about building a healthy, happy and civilized society. A healthy, happy and civilized society enables everyone, including the poor, to stand on its feet, thereby increasing productivity.
About Baytona (a splinter of Arena):
The truth is, before SalsayWoyane made the press release, it has announced itself by creating a page and posting a manifesto on social media. It was after two or three days that Baytona managed to suddenly announce about its formation there – on social media. Before that specific time, SalsayWoyane has no means to know about Baytona, rather the founders of Baytona were known as high-level leaders of Arena party; hence the difficulty to know their thoughts of creating a new nationalist party. As was clearly stated in the press release, Salsay woyane didn’t contact the founders of Baytona not because they splinter Arena, but because it had no means to know their existence. To be fair, it should have been Baytona’s duty to contact the founders of Salsay Woyane before it announced itself to the public. But it is not that much worrisome and “disconcerting” as both parties, including others, still have enough time to discuss, to settle if there is any dissonance, and decide on their own fate.
Finally, I would like to say, there is new idea and new strategy behind every new party. Thus, sprouting ideas should rather be discussed, argued, and then rejected or supported based on concrete reasoning, instead of judging them at face value.
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