In relation to the short article on Band Aid in Issue 4, I would like to add a few remarks.
The miners had been on strike for the best part of a year by the time Band Aid started. Contrary to most ‘official’ histories of the strike, the miners were in fact winning. Stockpiles of coal laid in by the government had dwindled much faster than previously planned, and plans to import replacement stocks had been foiled by the solidarity actions of workers in other countries.
The British government had been reduced to importing low quality coal from countries where coal is mined by forced, slave, child and convict labour, and loaded onto ships literally at gunpoint (eg, Peru and Colombia). Nuclear and gas-fired power stations were forced to exceed safety and design limits to keep industry supplied with electricity so that the Tories could claim that the strike was having no effect, but even so they were forced to introduce voltage reductions, usually during the period 12.00-6.00am, when they hoped nobody would notice.
The press maintained a total blackout on strike-related matters in order to starve the miners of the ‘oxygen of publicity’, but the public was starting to ask questions, and the government desperately needed something else to fill up the papers and divert the public attention away from the strike – to literally make them forget the strike was happening. This is a central part of why Band Aid came along when it did. It may as such have played a significant role in the defeat of the strike.
Secondly, we should take a closer look at the famine that Band Aid targeted. In 1974 there was a revolution in Ethiopia. One of the oldest established monarchies in the world, led by the feudal emperor Haile Selasse, was overthrown and was replaced by the Democratic Ethiopian Revolutionary Government (DERG), led by Colonel Mengistu.
Mengistu immediately began one of the biggest and most comprehensive programmes of land and wealth redistribution ever seen. This horrified the governments of the West who, afraid of another ‘bad example’, immediately launched measures to bring the DERG down, beginning with a proxy invasion via Somalia in 1977. When that was beaten off (with help from the USSR and Cuba), the West armed and financed the ‘Eritrean Liberation Front’, an armed force of bandits, mercenaries, criminals, malcontents and anyone else they could bribe or buy and who could hold a rifle the right way round.
Given the unlimited resources they were supplied with, it was not long before the ELF won control over the eastern half of the country. In so doing, they drove the entire population off their farms and land, while at the same time preventing them from leaving the so-called ‘liberated’ zone of ‘Eritrea’ and escaping to Ethiopia. This large dispossessed population were the people who were identified as ‘starving’ by the infamous report from the BBC’s Michael Burke that ‘alerted’ the world to the famine. Unfortunately, the hype failed to mention the true cause of the situation.
In the western half of Ethiopia, still at that time controlled by the DERG, there was no famine, but the people of the West were not allowed to know that.
Finally, it should be noted that, such was the extraordinary incompetence of the Band Aid organisers, practically none of the millions of pounds’ worth of food bought actually reached the victims. Ultimately, the ‘aid’ amounted to a few pop stars posing with starving orphans.