A Bitter Anniversary

VOC’s President and CEO, Dr. Eric Patterson, writes for World Magazine on the Ethiopian communist revolution that led to mass starvation and death.

As Dr. Patterson writes, “This spring marks the 50th anniversary of a communist revolution that some readers may not know much about. It occurred in a country that was the former Soviet Union’s closest ally in Africa, as well as the longest established communist regime on that continent. 

Ethiopia’s communist revolution was led by a group with a villainous-sounding name—the ‘Derg,’ which imposed the principles of Marxist-Leninism. Beginning in 1974 the Derg could have seen and avoided the disastrous economic, agrarian, and fiscal impact of communist ideology in the Soviet Union and China. Instead, they accepted the communist playbook from A to Z. 

Following the coup d’état that started the revolution in Ethiopia, the Derg abolished religious freedom, despite the fact that Ethiopia had a highly religious population and that the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, in particular, was an important social institution. Indeed, it was directly due to the pride of place in Ethiopian life and history that the church had, that it was immediately caught in the crosshairs of the Derg. The other institutions of civic life, such as a free economy, private property ownership, and the rule of law, all came under assault. Ethiopia’s long-time monarchy, freedom of the press, the right to assemble, and the right to private ownership of land, as well as other fundamental freedoms were all put on the chopping block. 

The draconian measures that the leaders of the Derg were willing to take to subjugate their own citizens resulted in years of civil war as many different groups resisted the regime’s policies. This ultimately resulted in the breakaway and formation of a new country, Eritrea, and long-lasting rivalries that we’ve seen re-erupt in recent years, in the Tigray region and among Ethiopia’s Oromo population. 

Ethiopia’s communists utilized the typical revolutionary tactics, beginning with burning down the old institutions of society by what Lenin called an ‘elite vanguard,’ then imposing a new structure from the top-down. The Derg expected absolute allegiance, so other forms of loyalty, such as religious faith or allegiance to Ethiopia’s king and constitution, were signs of disloyalty.”

Read the full article in World Magazine.

Dr. Eric Patterson is President and CEO of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.