chapter  11
25 Pages

State, Society and Political Institutions in Revolutionary Ethiopia

Though evidently sharing many features of the common Third World experience, Ethiopia is distinguished from virtually all other African states (though not from a number of Asian ones) by a pattern of state formation and a consequent dynamic of political change which are overwhelmingly indigenous rather than colonial in origin. It is further distinguished from most (though again not all) Third World states by its commitment since the 1974 revolution to a Marxist-Leninist political trajectory which, especially since the creation of the Workers' Party of Ethiopia (WPE) in 1984, has led to the creation of formal political institutions consciously derived from Soviet models. One obvious concern in discussing Ethiopia must therefore be for the relevance and applicability of such models to the current circumstances of the Third World. This is an exercise from which some useful conclusions can be drawn. Yet generalisation must be approached with caution. Ethiopian socialism (no less than Soviet, Chinese or Cuban socialisms) is marked by distinctive features which must be ascribed to its local setting. With that in mind, I shall look first at'. the bases of Ethiopian statehood, then at the process of revolutionary transformation which has led to the creation of the present institutional structure, and finally at the problems faced by this structure in responding to the all too evident crisis of the Ethiopian state and economy.