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Philosophical Perspectives on the History of African Socialism  

Ajume H. Wingo

The heyday of African socialism as the animating force behind African political developments has passed. Yet, like other political doctrines of great revolutionary movements, its name and principles continue to be invoked by political and social leaders today. As recently as 2005, the Rev. Johnson J. Chinyong’ole of the University of KwaZulu-Natal argued that the principles of African socialism should guide the Anglican Church’s efforts in reducing poverty in Tanzania. As part of the zeitgeist of early postcolonial Africa, the traditions and principles of African socialism have had a profound impact on how Africans have seen and shaped their world. An understanding of the central tenets of African socialism helps to explain the unique ways in which Africans have responded to and appropriated features of Marxism, socialism, and capitalism, as well as to illuminate distinctly African traditions of communalism, philosopher-kings, aestheticism, and perfectionism in politics.

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Marxists of the Maghreb: Leftist Parties and Movements of North Africa  

Matt Buehler and Matthew R. Jones

In the 21st century, scholars of North Africa—known as the “Maghreb”—have focused on predicting variation in the political fortunes of Islamist political parties and social movements, some of the most potent opposition forces to the region’s authoritarian regimes. Less researched, however, are the region’s leftist political parties and social movements. Historically, such socialist or socialist-inspired groups have also played a key role in the Maghreb’s domestic politics since decolonization. They often have similar origins in the anticolonial struggle, social constituencies of support, and understandings of conflict in society. They diverge, however, in their relationship to political power: Whereas in Tunisia and Algeria the leaders of socialist-inspired political parties became autocrats, the leaders of such parties in Morocco and Mauritania remained oppositionists. Over time, nearly all traditional socialist parties of the Maghreb have declined in political influence and popularity, becoming either sclerotic ruling parties or co-opted and weak opposition parties. The traditional leftist parties’ waning influence has opened space for the emergence of new, more confrontational leftist groups from civil society. While some of these splinter leftist groups emphasize traditional socialist material concerns (e.g., economic inequality, class relations, and unemployment), others stress nonmaterial issues, like the human rights of political, ethnic, and sexual minorities. Splintering the Maghreb’s leftists in this way has created a colorful mosaic of groups that have taken up a diverse variety of progressive causes in contemporary politics.

Article

The Ethiopian Red Terror  

Jacob Wiebel

The Red Terror was a period of intense political and inter-communal violence in revolutionary Ethiopia during the late 1970s. This violence erupted two years after the revolution of 1974 and was concentrated in the cities and towns of Ethiopia, particularly in Addis Ababa, Gondar, Asmara, and Dessie. In the struggle over the direction and ownership of the revolution, opposition groups of the radical left violently opposed a military regime that itself came to embrace and promulgate Marxist-Leninist language and policies, and that relied heavily on the use of armed force to stifle dissent. While much of the violence was carried out by security personnel, the delegation of the state’s means and instruments of violence to newly formed militias and to armed citizens was a defining feature of the Red Terror. The number of casualties and victims of the Red Terror remains heavily contested and is subject to divergent counting criteria and to definitions of the Terror’s scope in relation to other concurrent conflicts in the region, such as the Eritrean and Tigrayan civil wars; plausible figures suggest more than 50,000 deaths, in addition to many more who were subjected to torture, exile, personal losses, and other forms of violence. To this day, the Red Terror constitutes a period that is remembered in Ethiopia as much for the forms of its violence as for the extent of its harm. Its ramifications, from the support it triggered for the ethno-nationalist insurgencies that overthrew the military regime in 1991, to its role in the emergence of a sizeable Ethiopian diaspora, make the Red Terror an episode of defining and lasting significance in the modern history of Ethiopia.