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Albert Goldman

Where We Stand

(5 April 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 14, 5 April 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

For the Independence of Ethiopia

With the expulsion of the Italian imperialist army from Ethiopia, the people of that country should lose no time in demanding the immediate retirement of all British troops and complete independence. And, what is more important, they should prepare their forces to conduct a serious struggle to win those demands.

One can be absolutely certain that British imperialism will hold on to Ethiopia as long as it possibly can and will not grant independence to the Ethiopian people unless it is compelled to do so.

When in 1935 Mussolini sent an army to subjugate the Ethiopians, the Trotskyist movement unhesitatingly came out in favor of the Ethiopian people against the Italian imperialists.

Some people were surprised at the fact that we took such a position. How could a revolutionary party representing everything that constitutes progress defend a backward country like Ethiopia? It was asserted, and the truth of the assertion could not be challenged, that feudalism and slavery characterized Ethiopian society and that Haile Selassie, the “Lion of Judah,” was nothing but a cruel slave-driver.

There were those who argued further that the conquest of Ethiopia by an advanced capitalist country would be progressive because its backwardness would thereby be destroyed. Others, recognizing the imperialist aims of Italy, were unwilling to take sides in the struggle, also offering the backwardness of Ethiopia and the cruelty of its ruler as justification for their attitude of neutrality.

Revolutionary Marxists brushed away all these arguments as superficial and presented the basic Marxist contention: that in the modern world imperialism constitutes the most reactionary force because it is imperialism that prevents the growth and further development of the productive forces. Consequently the struggle of any group, even though living in a backward country, against any section of the imperialist world is progressive in character and must be supported.

We did not support Ethiopia against Italian imperialism because we preferred the Ethiopian backward economy to the capitalist economy of Italy but because a victory of the Ethiopian people would have been a blow at the whole system of imperialism.

There was of course, and there can be, no danger whatever that a victory of the Ethiopians might lead to the supplanting of capitalist economy by the feudal and slave-owning economy of Ethiopia. Capitalist economy can be replaced only by a socialist economy and a defeat of Italian imperialism at the hands of the Ethiopians would advance the interests of the future socialist economy.

At the time of the invasion of Ethiopia by Italy, British imperialism was willing to permit the subjugation of the Ethiopian people by a rival imperialism. The British imperialists were not exactly overjoyed at the spectacle but still did not consider Mussolini’s venture of such danger to themselves as to justify going to war about it. Under the leadership of Eden a small section of the British ruling class favored taking drastic measures to teach Mussolini a lesson, but Eden was overruled. The loss of independence of the Ethiopians was a matter that did not disturb the British imperialists. All they did was to give the “Lion of Judah” asylum in London, no doubt thinking that he might come in handy in the future. Sure enough Churchill and Eden had a chance to dust off the Lion of Judah. When the British imperialists found themselves at war with Mussolini they shipped Haile Selassie back to mobilize the Ethiopians against the Italian army.

The Ethiopian tribesmen, not belonging to the leftist sects that plague the revolutionary movement of the advanced capitalist countries, but being practical people, decided that it was perfectly proper to accept guns from the British imperialists and use them against the Italian imperialists. The main enemy were the robbers who had actual possession of the house and. it was necessary to utilize all means to kick them out.

The Fight Against British Imperialism

And now that the Italian exploiters have been compelled to get out, the Ethiopians should turn their attention to the British who helped the Ethiopians not out of any altruistic motives but because it served British imperialist interests to do so.

The leaders of British imperialism have already announced that they will take the Ethiopians under their tutelage and grant them independence only after a period of preparatory training.

That the Ethiopian people require help to develop their country is something, that cannot be denied. But that the Ethiopian people require training by the British imperialists in order to be independent is disproved by the fact that they have been independent for centuries without the aid pf the British imperialists.

It would be perfectly possible for Great Britain to help the Ethiopians develop their country industrially without subjecting them to any period of tutelage. But that ife but of the question for the British ruling class which is not interested in the progress and independence of the Ethiopians. It is interested only in exploiting the Ethiopians.

Only a socialist regime in England would grant independence to Ethiopia and at the same time help the Ethiopians develop their country industrially. Under a socialist regime it would be to the advantage of the English people to see to it that all industrially backward countries received their help. Under socialism the standard of living in one country rises to the extent that all countries are fully developed. That is why the colonial and semi-colonial peoples must join the revolutionary proletariat of the advanced countries in the struggle against imperialism.

Whereas the Lion of Judah can come to some agreement with the British Lion and thus obtain some crumbs for himself, the Ethiopian people have no other recourse than to demand complete independence from the British imperialists and to struggle for it with all weapons at their disposal.

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