Few areas of the world have presented such complex problems of appraisal for socialists as the Horn of Africa in the past three years. Many factors have contributed to this: geographical and cultural inaccessibility; war-time conditions limiting the circulation of individuals and the availability of information; opaque institutional specificities of the political scene in Addis Ababa, Mogadishu and Djibouti; the intersection of national with social conflicts, and of each with shifting international alliances. Amidst many uncertainties, however, two facts are salient and indisputable. First, and of far the greatest significance for the long-run future of the region, is the profundity of the social revolution unleashed in Ethiopia with the overthrow of the imperial dynasty in 1974—a process whose dynamic is still unfolding, yet whose final outcome remains highly unpredictable. Unlike the overwhelming majority of black African states, Ethiopia possessed an age-old feudal aristocracy, of mediaeval privilege and rapacity. The depth of the popular upheaval which finally erupted against it was commensurate with the rigidity of a traditional social hierarchy unknown anywhere else on the continent. Ethiopian politics under the Republic has, for all its military capping, owed its turbulence essentially to the explosive awakening of the rural and urban masses. The trim procedures of rule in Somalia, by contrast, are those of a country with a visibly shallow political experience.

Secondly, it is clear that the Somali régime launched a concerted invasion of Ethiopia in 1977—an enterprise of another order from the prior national conflicts in the region. The ethnic composition of the Ogaden was no different in 1967 or 1970. Yet the tyranny of Haile Selassie never attracted a comparable attack: the rulers of Mogadishu have reserved their irredentist armour for the fledgeling republic that liberated Ethiopia from it. The international result so far is well known. Somalia, once an ally of the ussr, is now firmly tied to Iranian and Saudi interests—indeed is frantically seeking any counter-revolutionary or imperialist backing; while Ethiopia, in Haile Selassie’s day Washington’s best friend in the region, is now fighting for its survival with Soviet and Cuban assistance. Internally, meanwhile, the socio-economic developments which have transformed the old order in Ethiopia have not been adequately charted by Marxists outside the country, nor has its peculiarly intricate political terrain been intelligibly mapped or interpreted; while the form of a comprehensive and socialist solution of the nationalities problem—of which the most serious and intractable remains that of Eritrea—has yet to be determined.

We print below two documents of interest, published in the daily newspaper of the Italian Communist Party Unit`, on the situation in the Horn of Africa. It is explicable that the Italian Left should have been more concerned than that of any other Western country with events in the region. The Italian ruling class after the Risorgimento colonized Somalia and coveted Abyssinia, as it was then known. Its ambitions later culminated in Mussolini’s conquest of Ethiopia in 1935–6 and an Italian occupation which lasted until 1941; while Italian control of Somalia persisted until 1960. In the recent conflict, the pci initially leant towards the Somali government, with whom it had traditionally enjoyed good relations. The dispatch of Gian Carlo Pajetta, the foreign affairs spokesman of the pci—a veteran of the Comintern and a representative of the Left within the party—on a mission of enquiry and mediation to the two countries, has led to a change of emphasis: the interview with Pajetta printed here strikes a more judicious note, and is noteworthy for a new sensitivity to the nature and direction of the social process under way in Ethiopia. The accompanying report by Emilio Amadè of Unit`, another member of the pci delegation, gives a vivid and instructive account of what can be seen even on a short visit to Addis. The initiative of the pci in the Horn is to be welcomed, asn internationalist intervention beyond the potentially provincial horizons suggested by the term ‘Eurocommunism’.

The course of events in the Horn of Africa poses two problems for revolutionary socialists elsewhere. The first is to assess the stage which the class struggle, and the institutional forms it has thrown up, have reached in Ethiopia—to assess the point at which they could be said to have moved qualitatively further against capitalism and its state machinery than, say, in Algeria under Ben Bella or Portugal under Gonçalves. The second is to define a just and reasonable position on the national question, in its regional context, without accommodation to any form of chauvinist intransigence. The two texts presented here are intended to assist this necessary process of clarification.