THE INTELLECTUAL BACKGROUND
My interest in the Ethiopian student movement goes back to 1968, the year of the global student revolution. It was then, whilst I was still a third year student at Haile Sellassie I University, that I contributed an article to the Journal of the Political Science Association, entitled ‘Some Thoughts on Student Movements: With Special Reference to Ethiopia’. I revisited that article recently, after composing most of the chapters of this book, and I was struck by the similarity of a number of the conclusions in both works. Appropriately enough, as promised in the title, the article began with a survey of the global student movement; rather ambitiously, it concluded with some bold recommendations. The article argued that the student movement was essentially ‘an adolescent rebellion’, underscoring the permanent tension between ‘the idealism, impatience, social vision of youth and the cool and settled attitude of adults’. Class origin, it went on, had little to do with student revolt, as was particularly evident in the Latin-American case, where a number of the student activists came from upper class families. Ultimately, so the global survey concluded, students lack the power to bring about the change that they so ardently desire, thereby being forced to rely on some other organized force like the army. This proved uncannily and tragically prophetic in the Ethiopian case!
Unlike the current book, which deals with both the domestic and foreign components of the Ethiopian student movement, the article focused entirely on the domestic scene. Interestingly enough, very much like the current study, it identified the years 1961–63 as marking a watershed in the history of the movement heralding its increasing radicalization.