What is the source of TPLF Wisdom?

Ethiopian News and Views
April 20, 2007

What is the Source of TPLF Wisdom?

    Although serious work was being done in anthropology at the time, the field was heavily peopled with untrained adventurers and armchair philosophers. Racial bias and bigotry was rampant, and the gathering of information was sometimes haphazard and riddled with an assortment of bias. It was common practice to use small scraps of information, or preconceived pet theories, to further prognosticate on the "nature of man."

    What Boas brought to the field was the methodology of the natural sciences and the belief that one could formulate theories and conclusions only after thorough and rigorous collection and examination of hard evidence.

    - biography of FRANZ BOAS - (founded modern social anthropology in the United States)


Where does the governance theory and knowledge of the TPLF come from? Its leaders are not trained social scientists. They did not rise up through the ranks of an existing government, absorbing the experience of those that had gone before them. They did not receive their inspiration from the traditional social structure of Tigray. Instead, the TPLF arrived in Addis Ababa as a very young group of people, inexperienced in governance, and ignorant of the many competing theories of social science.

Thus, the TPLF in 1991 had only a poor understanding of the critical knowledge needed to run a modern state. They have gained some experience over the last 17 years, but they remain isolated from, and hostile to the academic world. (They have a special hostility towards most Ethiopian academics). Thus they continue to be largely ignorant of major advances in social theory/knowledge.

This new knowledge is accessible to open-minded younger generations of Ethiopians. It is time for these younger generations to take over the country and use this new knowledge to lift the country up out of poverty. The TPLF cannot be reformed. Its leaders are fossilized; lost in old, unproductive ways of thinking. Its theories, its knowledge, its style, --- almost everything about the TPLF is obsolete.

The TPLF inherited the Collected Works of Marx and Lenin. Meles found all the guidance he needed here. But this “inherited wisdom” stopped them from asking the basic questions. These questions would have led them into a deeper understanding of human nature and human society. It would have opened their minds to the revolution in social science that was taking place in the 1970s and 1980s – the very time they were memorizing obsolete details of Marxist-Leninist theory, and selecting the deranged Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha as their intellectual hero.

This note simply asks the readers to explore four areas of social science that have experienced dramatic change in recent decades, and identify ways in which these developments can affect Ethiopian political worldviews. The four areas suggested are:

    1) Cognitive Neuroscience (how the human brain supports thought, perception, affect, action, social processes, and other aspects of cognition and behavior, including how such processes develop and change in the brain and through time)

    2) Behavioral science (investigates the decision processes and communication strategies within and between organisms in a social system)

    3) Evolutionary human genetics, geography & history

    4) Ethnicity and Nationalism<>

Why these areas? Because the theories that underpin TPLF politics are based on wrong, outdated models of how human beings think, how human beings form societies, and how human beings have developed.


During the 1980s, factional conflicts within the TPLF were resolved in favor of Meles. One of these involved criticism of Meles’ opponents as “empiricists.” Empiricism, a philosophical term, in the Marxist sense defines a way of conceiving the world. Meles by contrast, as a doctrinaire follower of Marx (1810-1885) could not accept this deviation. Meles believes in strict application of political theory. He doesn’t believe in learning by trial-and-error. He is basically, a Marxist “idealist”. Marxism is a fully developed theory of society. It arose from the German Idealist philosopher Hegel (1780-1830)– who outlined many of the ideas that Marx later revised.

Philosophers try to answer the big questions of life – who are we, what is the world, what is consciousness, etc. Although Hegel and the German Idealists made heroic efforts to answer these questions, they were greatly hampered by the rudimentary state of science at the time. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection was decades away. Genes were unknown. Neuroscience didn’t exist. Even modern anthropology and sociology did not exist.

The German Idealist theories were largely a reaction to world events such as the French Revolution (1789) and the beginning of the industrial revolution (approx. 1750). They were a reaction to the English Empiricists who were advancing a different line of philosophy. They are theories that belong to a particular time and place, and are cannot serve as the philosophical basis for governing Ethiopian society.


Meles is an intelligent and capable individual, but he is no genius. His application of Marxism-Leninism to Ethiopia has not shown much innovation. On taking power in 1991, the TPLF launched what it called the “New Economic Policy” (NEP) that allowed some free market activity. (Actually this was just a continuation of a trend Mengistu had started out of desperation in 1989). The NEP was copied directly from Lenin’s experience in the early years after the Russian Revolution. Strict adherence to Marxist principles had disrupted economic production and produced a famine. The NEP was Lenin’s adjustment. The TPLF copied even the name, and Meles continued turning to Lenin for guidance in the following years.

TPLF wisdom is derived from the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray (MLLT); a close-minded madrassa-type institution established by Meles in the 1980s. Although the MLLT has supposedly been dissolved, the Collected Works of Marx and Lenin continues to occupy the primary position in the library of Meles and his TPLF colleagues. We know this because in 2001, Meles used a work by Marx; The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon to write his Danger of Bonapartism pamphlet and rescue his threatened position as TPLF leader. In 1999, he used the example of Lenin’s actions during the war between Germany and Russia, to justify his recommendation that Ethiopia sign a peace treaty with Eritrea while Eritrea continued to hold Ethiopian territories it had invaded.

The TPLF/EPRDF’s hijacking of the 2005 elections also has direct precedence in what Lenin did when his Bolshevik party won only 23% of the vote in the first (and only) free election after the October Revolution in Russia that toppled the czar.


Aside from the direct copying of Leninist styles and methods, the "wisdom" of the TPLF has greatly impoverished the Ethiopian political environment in many fundamental and subtle ways.

It is left to the reader to use the advances in human science to further critique Melesian socialism and other Ethiopian political philosophies, that underlie the current political environment.

Ethiopian News and Views