Enver Hoxha – On the Intellectuals

Vilson Kilica - In the studio

Vilson Kilica – In the studio

More on Albania …..

Introduction

I came upon these theses of Enver Hoxha‘s (which I first read many years ago), when I was researching and considering the points to discuss in the post on the ‘Evolution of the Albanian lapidars‘. Although during a Socialist ‘Cultural Revolution’ it is the workers and peasants who should be leading things the role of the intellectuals (both ‘old’ and ‘new’) also gets pushed to the front.

(In this introduction I will refer principally to the situation and experiences of sculptors as being the representatives of the ‘intellectuals’ as this relates directly to the post on the evolution of the lapidars.)

‘Intellectuals’; who they are; what role they have in a Socialist society; how they should be ‘moulded’ as well as how they should ‘mould’; what levels of freedom they should, or shouldn’t, have and their relationship to the State and the workers and peasants, have been a bone of contention since the first days after the success of the October Revolution in Russia – even before the future of the new Socialist state was secure (ish) after success in the War of Intervention (Civil War) of 1917-1922.

The problem starts with the ‘old’ intellectuals – not necessarily by age but those who had been educated in a pre-Socialist society – bringing with them the baggage of that old society and often that can affect their thinking when it comes to adapting the the new social, political and economic environment.

As an example of this I would point to the some of the work of the sculptor Odhise Paskali, and especially his sculpture ‘Shokët – Comrades‘ in the Permët Martyrs’ Cemetery. The comparisons with Christian imagery are obvious as soon as you see the sculpture. This was one of the very earliest sculptural lapidars (1964) and I don’t think it would have been used if it had been created four or five years later.

Obviously, it’s not just the ‘intellectuals’ that being with them the baggage of the past – all those born and who have lived under capitalism cannot but carry some of the negative and self-interested traits of that social system. However, unlike the workers and peasants who have been living the harsh reality of capitalism ‘intellectuals’ were often insulated from the extremes of capitalist rule – artists starving in a garret notwithstanding.

But matters aren’t straightforward with the ‘new’ intellectuals’, i.e., those who had been fully brought up in a Socialist system, either. In the very early days of Socialist Albania, when there was a huge level of illiteracy amongst the adult population, it would mean that those who first went into higher education and the University system would have been those who had come from relatively privileged backgrounds.

That doesn’t mean that these were necessarily and consciously people who were working against the Socialist system. What it did mean, and this is one of the issues that Enver highlights in this piece, is that they should spend a great deal of time living with, working with and understanding the lives of the workers and peasants if they were then to produce works of art that would have any meaning to the vast majority of the population.

The other aspect of the lives of ‘intellectuals’ is that they have, in a Socialist society, a relatively easy time. They don’t have to get to a place of work at a particular time every day, they are not governed by the clock and the nature of their work is not as repetitive as it is for those who work in a factory or in agriculture. Physically it can also be less demanding.

Again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The aim of Socialism is to eventually improve the conditions of labour so that there is some evening out of the work load throughout society. But that cannot happen on day one. There will be differentials and the life of workers can be hard, even more so in the early days after the Socialist Revolution when, normally, there’s a great deal of rebuilding needed to get to a situation that had existed some years before – historically revolutions occur in societies after wars and those bring with them untold destruction in terms of population as well as material and infrastructure loss.

The issue that then arises in such a situation is that there has been a tendency, historically in all countries which attempted to construct Socialism, for the ‘intellectuals’, both the ‘old’ and the ‘new’, to see themselves as a group apart, as being special and better than the rest of the population. That is why, in any Socialist Cultural Revolution, it is not just a question of instilling within the workers and peasants a desire to work for a new society it is also a time to remind ‘intellectuals’ of their role in society and, in a sense, their ‘place’ in that society.

This criticism and self-criticism of ‘intellectuals’ – in all spheres of live – was taken to its highest point during the Chinese Great Socialist Cultural Revolution. Here it wasn’t only the writers and artists who were asked to examine their own ideas but also those within the Party, the government and in the management of public and state enterprises.

This happened to a lesser extent in Albania, perhaps that was a mistake.

I intend to post other contributions on the role of writers and artists in a Socialist society, written by Enver Hoxha, at a later date.

 

ON THE INTELLECTUALS¹

[March] 1958

The early forms of division of labour in Greek Antiquity:

Plato and his ideal ‘Republic’².

Manual work and mental activity.

Mental activity – the privilege of the archons, the ruling classes.

Placing the question of society on such a basis must lead to idealism, which creates the idea of the independence of thought, that thought ‘predominates’ over material and practical reality, that thought is prior to matter.

The feudal regime preserved the philosophical idealist concepts and consolidated the division of mental labour from manual labour.

The nobles, the men of the sword, commanders, leaders. The clerks, the intelligentsia of that time, the representatives of philosophical and scientific thought.

Serfs and artisans, manual workers.

The capitalist regime caused the intellectuals to form a more homogeneous stratum, and the functions of the intellectual began to expand.

Various categories of intellectuals in the service of capital, like technicians, engineers, economists, judges, teachers, professors, and others, develop along with capital, not only because needs for them increase but because the capitalists, to make life easier for themselves, drop their technical functions.

The greater the number of intellectuals the more they become dependent on the capitalist economy.

From the economic standpoint, the intellectuals can be grouped into these categories: functionaries, salary earners in capitalist enterprises, judges, officers, and others of this kind; teachers, professors, and philosophers, whom the capitalists utilize to spread bourgeois ideology, but:

1) the decadence of the bourgeoisie;

2) Malthus’s economic theory³ which characterizes decadence;

3) the critical spirit of the latter category of intellectuals, which makes the bourgeoisie sacrifice culture to the interests of the army, the police, aggravate the situation of the intellectual, causing him to reject the capitalist yoke, and the bourgeois state to violate the traditions of alleged ‘university freedoms’.

The decadent bourgeoisie and its ideology reject rationalism, and trample the national honour underfoot. This makes the conscientious intellectual understand more clearly that the bourgeoisie can no longer be the sole leader of the nation and its culture.

The characteristics of the engineers and technicians:

The bourgeoisie leaves in their hands the management of equipment and the management of cadres, that is, direction and command of part of the workers. Although they enjoy better material conditions, spiritually they are close to the workers, living nearly the same way as they do.

The technicians of medium training live under poorer material conditions, they are in daily contact with the proletariat at work, hence they are in still closer spiritual contact with them.

The allegedly independent work of the artisan intellectuals, artists, and others, brings them closer to the bourgeoisie, but the sale of their works, which is subject to speculation, turns them towards the working class.

What is typical about the doctors is that they do not owe their existence to capitalist development. They try to maintain their traditional status quo, their individual character. This turns them into a closed caste, reluctant to admit elements from the proletariat into their ranks. But contact with the deplorable conditions of the working class makes them gradually aware of the actual situation of the decadence of the bourgeoisie and brings them closer to the working class.

Hence the intellectuals, who until yesterday were with the bourgeoisie and were used as its tools, begin to gain a better understanding of things.

Certain subjective considerations prevent the intellectual from becoming conscious quickly:

1) The vacillations which are typical of the middle and petty-bourgeois classes from which he comes.

2) Certain special illusions.

The abstraction, the division of mental from manual work means that he is not in conctact with things but with their symbols. This brings about idealist illusions.

His position between the classes makes him think that he is not prompted by any class interest and that everything is subject only to his judgement and knowledge. That is why he thinks that the ‘ideas’ that set the intellectual in motion are independent of the class relationships. He thinks he stands above the classes, and represents a morality independent of the economic forces and class antagonisms.

This idea, detached from manual work, from life, makes him think that he is the supreme power of the world order. This takes the intellectual out of the sphere of reality and makes him think that all the contradictions should be solved not by violence but by intellectual conciliation, by peaceful evolution.

These views predispose him to opportunism.

Herein lies the source of his reluctance to accept communism, because the concept of morality independent of class relationships and the abstract objectivity are diametrically opposed to historical materialism, and that conciliatory opportunism is in flagrant contradiction to the revolutionary concept of the class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Another illusion is his individualism. The intellectual is not opposed to the proletariat. He is not a capitalist. He has no work implements like the medium bourgeois or handicraftsman. He is obliged to sell the product of his labour, and therefore, capitalist exploitation weighs heavy on him. But with regard to his living conditions he is nearer to the bourgeoisie than the proletariat.

The intellectual does not fight with physical force but with arguments. His means of production are his personal knowledge, his personal convictions, and he cannot create a position for himself except through his personal qualities. Therefore, he thinks he can achieve his ends only by expressing his individuality.

He does not accept discipline for himself but only for the masses. He places himself among the ‘elite’, ‘above the common man’, Nietzsche’s theory⁴.

Lenin says that the stratum of intellectuals is characterized by its individualism, by its inability to organize itself, and by instability. The proletariat should take them by the hand, and teach them the dangers of anarchic individualism, because individualism makes them hesitate, vacillate, and so on.

It is necessary for the intellectuals to shake off bourgeois ideology and become imbued with Marxist-Leninist ideology.

When a worker becomes a communist, he feels that something that had been latent in him is now flourishing, he discovers a culture which enlightens him on what he had been dimly aware of, he finds in Marxism the clear assertion of himself, becoming aware of what had existed in his subconscience. Hence when a worker becomes a communist, he builds and consolidates himself.

When an intellectual becomes a communist, events do not develop as in the former case. At every step of the triumph of socialist consciousness, the intellectual is compelled to destroy something from his past. Thus, he destroys and builds, and in the first steps he takes he has the impression not of creating but of a struggle against himself.

When the worker becomes a communist, he knows that he will fight, that he will go on strike, come into conflict with capitalism, and may even be killed, but he has only one enemy and this enemy is an external one, capitalism, while the intellectual must wage a battle on two fronts, against himself, that is, against his petty-bourgeois hangovers and against the external enemy, capitalism.

For an intellectual to acquire socialist consciousness he must be guided, tempered in practical work, re-educated and imbued with Marxist-Leninist theory. This constant work with him will be done by the working class and its Party.

Our National Liberation War and the struggle to build socialism have brought about a major transformation among our old intellectuals and have created a new intelligentsia, from the working class and the working peasantry, loyal to the working class and to socialism. We have created, kept up, and developed this process. We are successfully developing it even further.

But it would be mistaken self-satisfaction for us to say that our old and new intelligentsia have escaped from, or have been cleansed of, all the petty-bourgeois survivals, views which hinder them from linking themselves completely with, or from finding, the road to the complete formation of socialist consciousness.

First of all, our intelligentsia escaped from the capitalist yoke, escaped from exploitation. Our country won its freedom, independence, sovereignty and national dignity, and is guided by the progressive class, the working class. Entirely favourable conditions have been created for the development and flowering of culture, education, and so on, in the service of the working people. Thus, all the basic objective conditions have been created for the education of our intelligentsia along correct lines and for the elimination of the petty-bourgeois survivals from their consciousness.

This is the aim of the Marxist-Leninist education of our Party.

The capitalist countries are ruled by capital, the capitalists, the bourgeoisie; the state is in the hands of .he bourgeoisie, whereas in our country the dictatorship of people’s democracy, the dictatorship of the proletariat, has been established, the state is led by the Party of Labour, state power is in the hands of the working people, in the hands of the majority. In our country there are the state, the weapons of the dictatorship, the friendly classes of workers and peasants, there are officials, engineers, technicians, teachers, professors, artists, students, there are limited strata of medium and petty-bourgeoisie in the cities, new and old intellectuals, there are kulaks and remnants of the reactionary bourgeoisie, as well as elements of the expropriated feudal class.

But our new state is quite different from the state of the capitalists and the bourgeoisie, and the economic, moral, and political situation of all these strata has radically changed. Our duty is to educate the intellectuals, not only to grasp how this revolution has been effected, but also to feel for it and fight to strengthen it.

But we must pose the question: has the raising of people’s consciousness and the purge of petty-bourgeois remnants kept pace with the major reforms made in our country? Of course, the answer must be, no! But the changes are immense as compared with the countries dominated by capitalism, especially among the intellectuals and the petty-bourgeoisie. The changes are very positive in the uplift of socialist consciousness, first and foremost, among the working class, which is being tempered day by day, because it becomes conscious more rapidly than the other classes and strata, and it influences and immeasurably assists the other strata through its leading role in the state. On the other hand, it is true that in our country there has never really been the influence, in the true sense of the word, of an organized bourgeoisie, with its roots deep among the people, which would have systematically created an extensive caste of intellectuals to serve it efficiently in all directions, as has occurred in the capitalist countries. In our country the existing semi-intelligentsia, in certain given directions, had just taken the first steps in life, and these in daily struggle against the survivals of feudalism and semi-feudalism. Most of the officials of the old regimes were either without schooling or trained in the old Turkish schools, and very few of them in western bourgeois schools. Cadres had just begun to come from the western bourgeois schools, specialized in a few professions, especially in law and medicine, and very few in industry (for there was no industry and not even the prospect of it). Agriculture, of course, was considered a sector of slave workers by the feudal regime and despised by our commercial and intellectual bourgeoisie. Very rarely were boys of the bourgeoisie sent to higher agricultural or technical schools. Cadres trained for studies in natural or social sciences could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Hence these few intellectuals of higher training were destined to serve the regimes as state officials. Many of the doctors, sons of the bourgeoisie, formed, so to say, a caste of speculators. The teachers and professors formed a good group of intellectuals who, to a certain extent, served the requirements of the old regime. With the exception of a certain number of old professors, the teachers lived very much closer to the people, and their living conditions, although not very low, still left a lot to be desired. As to artists, they were very few, and I am speaking about painters; as to professional actors and musicians, they were either non-existent or extremely few, and they had become school teachers, so that there can be no talk of their free profession. As you see, this was the intelligentsia we inherited from the past, and such was their economic and social standing.

Our people’s revolution changed the form and substance of the regime and undertook the great task of developing the national economy on a new basis, it began building socialism. Parallel with this the cultural revolution also began. We started and will continue to work in two directions, namely, to train new cadres for all sectors, and to educate the old cadres in the socialist spirit and socialist consciousness. The formation of the young cadres of the socialist intelligentsia is going ahead at a rapid and satisfactory rate in all the fields of human activity, and the re-education of old cadres is not doing badly either.

But we must always keep in mind that neither the new people’s intelligentsia nor the old are immune from the old bourgeois and petty-bourgeois survivals, or from the influence of the propaganda of the bourgeoisie and bourgeois ideology. These survivals show up in the life and work of both the new cadres and the cadres of the old intelligentsia. They appear, first and foremost, in their method and style of work, in their way of family life, in their attitude towards common socialist property, in collective work, in their lack of proletarian discipline and morality, in individualism, self-importance and haughtiness, in arrogance and pseudo-independence, in stereotyped work, in their lack of perspective and creativeness, and in many other manifestations.

Hence, while recognizing such a situation, knowing these difficulties of growth and of training, it is impermissible for us to underestimate or belittle them, either to be content with what we have achieved so far, or to become alarmed, but we should build such a program of work and education for our people’s intelligentsia which will always bring up young and sound cadres, and will cure the others, too, as well as to continually purge young and old of bourgeois vestiges.

He who should be considered a good educator, a good propagandist, is not the one who is satisfied to deliver a theoretical lecture on Marxism-Leninism, copying phrases from the texts of the classics and reading them to the listeners, but the one who makes his lecture on Marxism-Leninism alive and concrete, who gives it vitality, choosing words and examples suitable to the different categories of the people of his audience. To deliver dry Marxist lectures is of little use, and it is a fact that few people come to listen, not because they do not want to, but because they fail to understand them. But to me, he who delivers such lectures is an ignoramus, a semi-intellectual divorced from practical life. He does nothing but repeat phrases from the classics of Marxism which, after all, the listeners can read for themselves. The main thing which our propagandist of Marxism-Leninism is ignorant of, and without which he cannot give a stimulating lecture, is that he doesn’t know the make-up of his audience, what sort of people they are, where they work, what they think about, what outlooks they have in their heads, what they have grasped clearly, dimly, or wrongly. Both sides are afraid of each others’ questions, and of free discussion. One fears lest he cannot answer, the other that his question may be taken amiss.

Thus, both parties work automatically. The listener often abandons the course because he fails to find in it what he wants, while the educator or propagandist thinks and pretends that he is in order, because he has his lecture prepared, as we have already said, in his pocket, goes to read it, but the course fails.

For cultured people the study of Marxist-Leninist theory may be easier, it may also be hard, and it may even become incomprehensible.

We must strive to have our propagandists cultured, or to have them acquire culture. Those who are cultured should weed out whatever is rotten in their old culture, that is, they should apply the thermometer of Marxism-Leninism to everything they have learned and when they see their temperature rise, when they have fevers, so to speak, about certain views, they should cure them. There are some who cure them, and Marxism-Leninism becomes a real guide. They are not easily misled and know how to teach this unerring method to other people. Those who do not act in this way, who have rubbish left in their heads, pose as if they understand Marxism, deliver stereotyped lectures, and often, although they speak about Marxism, they themselves do not accept it. Of course, in this case they are dangerous or harmful.

But not all our propagandists are cultured people. We are far from what is required. Then what is to be done, should we have fewer courses of education? No! but we must train propagandists, we must teach them the fundamental principles of Marxist philosophy, linking them closely with life, with practice. They themselves should realize that these principles of philosophy are not ‘bogies’ but things that can be learned. Who will make these principles clear to these propagandists? First and foremost, life, struggle and their daily work.

Along with the courses of Marxist-Leninist education, a large number of lectures and discussions are conducted dealing with politics, technological problems, ethics, and so on. These are conducted wherever people work, create, strive. Though these lectures and conferences are a bit watery, it is here that the Marxist-Leninist education of the people and the intellectuals should begin. It is here we should link the process of daily work, of teaching at school, operating on a patient, diagnosing his ailment, rationalization, norms, pay, playing a role on the stage, and so on and so forth, with the principles of our Marxist-Leninist philosophy. If we link these problems properly, then the education courses will be much easier for the audience as well as for the lecturer. But the Party fails to attach the necessary importance to this problem. The party cabinets stand quite aloof from these problems, thinking that the education courses will solve everything, and finally they issue a statistical report. Likewise, the propagandists are not as interested as they should be in this preliminary and fundamental kind of education, and are not interested to test in life, in the practice of socialist construction, the Marxist formulae they have managed to remember. This is extremely serious. People say that these meetings become boring, and this may well be so. Hence, their nature must be changed. From boring they must become interesting. Who will do this? Of course, the Party. Not only those of little or no culture, but also the cultured ones will find it hard at first to grasp the Marxist-Leninist philosophy. But if theory is linked with practice, with life, then this is not difficult. There are very few among us who have a thorough knowledge of Marxism-Leninism and of the formulae as Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and others stated them, but there are many who work, apply, create and do not make mistakes because they are guided by Marxism-Leninism. What does this mean? This means that the Party has taught the cadres Marxism-Leninism, that it has made it their sole means, their glorious weapon for leadership and action. This means that these hundreds and thousands of people in Albania are no strangers to Marxism-Leninism. They know it, they are guided by it in whatever they do, they cannot live, build or create without it. It is a fact that colossal things have been done, that we have a strong, a very strong Marxist-Leninist Party of the new type, that we have a Party that had a correct line and which stands loyal to Marxism-Leninism. The Party is made up of people, of vanguard people who are no strangers to Marxism-Leninism. Thus, the Marxist-Leninist education of our cadres, of our intelligentsia, must be strengthened even more, and we must not have a narrow view of this, that is, reducing it to the party courses, because if we think of it like this, we would be forgetting life, the struggle, the realization of our aim, and deal only with its theoretical aspect. This must be well understood by those who are engaged in agitation and propaganda in the Party, by the leaders of the Party in factories, cooperatives, schools, and hospitals; this must be well understood by the leaders of youth wherever people work, strive, and create. It is there that theory will be tested, it is there that the greatest aid will be given to the cadres to arm themselves with Marxist-Leninist theory.

There is a great possibility that neither the doctor nor the professor, both cultured persons, will understand a theoretical lecture on dialectical and historical materialism. Speak to them first about their own practice, about their own science, link certain fundamental principles of materialism with this practice, and they will understand very quickly. Then deliver a purely theoretical lecture, and they will certainly understand it this time.

This is also the case with the factory worker who is well aware of wages, prices, norms, and so on and so forth, with which and for which he wages a daily struggle and fights along Marxist lines. When you give a lecture about these things, don’t forget to link certain principles of Marxist philosophy with these problems, and they will understand it better. Then, speak to them later on the theory of surplus value, and you can be certain that this time they will understand, and understand so well that one might even say better than the agitator or propagandist. And this holds for all things and in all sectors.

We have comrades who, when theoretical matters are mentioned, hold up their hands and never fail to say, ‘These are difficult matters, political economy is difficult, this and the other are difficult!’ But in reality this is not so. These are comrades of great seniority in leadership, they have colossal experience in economic problems. They know political economy in life and practice better than in books, and can even leave the teacher behind. But they are scared by both the book and the teacher; or better, they are scared of phrases. Elegant phrases overwhelm them. It is enough for the Party that the people know the essence, to know how to use it correctly and well in life. Let the teacher keep his phrases. Let him keep well in mind the sequence of things, as he should, for that is his business, but he must not forget that it is also his business to make the theory understandable, simple, related to life, to practice, and not frighten people off with heavy philosophical phrases. I do not say that philosophy is an easy thing but neither is it a ‘bogey’. For us communists everything is understandable, but efforts are called for in this as in everything else.

[Enver Hoxha, Selected Works, Volume 2, pp725-738]

Notes:

1 Theses drafted for discussion at the meeting of the Bureau of the Party Committee for the city of Tirana which, on March 21, 1958, was to take up for consideration the report ‘On the work for the education of intellectuals’. Comrade Enver Hoxha did not deal exhaustively with all these theses at that meeting.

2 In his treatise ‘The Republic’, Plato described an ‘ideal state’ based on the division of work among castes of free citizens: 1) leaders (philosophers), 2) fighters, 3) artisans and farmers. Each caste, according to Plato, should carry out only its specific tasks without interferring with those of the others; the fighters were denied the right of private ownership and of creating a family so that they might deal exclusively with the defence of the state.

3 According to the anti-scientific and reactionary theory developed by Malthus (1766-1834), the impoverishment of the workers does not result from their oppression and exploitation by the rich classes, but is allegedly the consequence of the permanent disproportion between the arithmetical progress of the growth of the means of subsistence and the geometrical progress of the growth of the population.

4 From F. Nietzsche (1844-1900), bourgeois reactionary theoretician of the transitory stage from capitalism to imperialism, on which fascism was founded. According to this theory, will is the determining factor in society because the development of history depends on the will of the individual aspiring to power, while the masses are only ‘serfs’, the ‘mob’, destined to obey and submit to the ruling classes for ever.

More on Albania …..

Enver Hoxha returns to Tepelene

Enver Hoxha with the people of Tepelene

Enver Hoxha with the people of Tepelene

More on Albania

Enver Hoxha returns to Tepelene

although he probably never left, just ‘hiding’ for a while.

Almost thirty five years after his death and thirty years since the reaction was able to gain control in Albania it is very difficult to come across public images of Enver Hoxha, the leader of the country for just over forty years. In the 1990s the reactionaries needed to personalise any difficulties in the country and someone who had been dead for five years was an ideal candidate – even to the extent that Comrade Hoxha was considered responsible for events that had happened after his death. So he had to disappear from view.

This was not something new and peculiar to Enver Hoxha or Albania. Joseph Stalin was held personally responsible for anything considered untoward whilst leader of the Soviet Union. How a single person can be held personally responsible for everything that happens in a country that covered one sixth of the Earth’s land mass is something I have never understood. At the same time this ‘superman’ with God-like qualities is denigrated by Trotskyite neo-fascists as being an ignorant Georgian peasant.

Some of the ignoramuses who state things would have developed differently in the Soviet Union if Vladimir Ilyich Lenin had not died (partially as a result of the part of an assassins bullet still being lodged in his brain) prematurely in 1924 just don’t understand either the man or the Marxist-Leninist ideology. Such people who indulge in these ‘what if’ scenarios are often superficial in their approach and especially in the case of Lenin display a total ignorance of what a strong leader he was and how he knew – long before Chairman Mao put it in poetic language – that ‘a revolution is not a dinner party’. Hard acts and decisions are needed to reverse centuries of exploitation and oppression and the stultifying effect this has on the thinking of those on the receiving end of such treatment, i.e., the vast majority of the world’s population.

But it is always easy to blame an individual and even more so when they are not around to defend themselves. It’s also useful for reactionaries (and here I’m talking about both the ‘capitalist roaders’ – to use another term from Chairman Mao – who might have hidden themselves within the Party structure just waiting for a chance to show their true colours and the reactionaries who had hidden themselves in some hole just waiting for the chance to get their revenge on a system that had deprived them of their wealth and power – the latter group always having assistance and support from those countries of the so-called ‘capitalist west’) to personalise matters as that means there’s no real discussion about ideology, either the past or the future.

Successive governments in Albania – when the country wasn’t at its own throat in an almost open civil war or depriving a huge number of relatively poor people of whatever savings they might have had due to criminal pyramid/ponzi schemes – have displayed an unbelievable propensity for corruption. And to divert attention away from their criminal activities of the past and present (and they hope for the future) they heap all manner of calumnies upon the leader, and ruling Party, of the past.

But after thirty or more years blaming everything on persons who are either dead or out of any position to determine events starts to wear thin.

The first Socialist state (which was established in Russia in 1917 and which became known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics – USSR) was established in a world where the overwhelming majority of the population had been oppressed and exploited by various social systems for thousands of years. Changing the relationships of the people to the means of production was a difficult enough task but to change ideas was even more so. Yet within a matter of months, in the new Soviet state, those peasants who might have taken advantage of the chaos that accompanied the Civil War were pointed at and highlighted as ‘Communists exploiting the situation’. (Here I’m referring to photographic images with captions such as ‘Communists selling human flesh’ during the worse days of the Civil War – if not caused by certainly sponsored by the previously warring parties of the 1914-1919 War.)

The stupidity of such an assertion – that those who had never encountered Socialist ideas before and more than likely were illiterate would become clear thinking and committed Communists in a matter of days – shouldn’t really need to be refuted. However, the world is full of stupid people who will lap up such dross as a hungry dog eats its own vomit.

But when those Socialist societies tragically collapse (due to a mixture of both internal and external contradictions) and the world is ‘opened up’ to the population of those countries to enjoy the ‘benefits of capitalism’ they find that all that was promised on the other side of the rainbow is not quite what they expected, in fact it was all a con.

There was a price to pay for all those promises and when it was paid the wherewithal to achieve the capitalist dream was denied to huge sectors of the population. From being members of a Socialist society where they were the owners of all they became mere cogs in the capitalist machine where a privileged few were in real control and only a mere handful could ‘raise themselves from their menial position’ and get to have a real feed at the trough. But the more the few stuffed themselves the less there was for the majority.

In Albania, apart from taking out their frustration on statues of Enver Hoxha, especially in Tirana and Gjirokaster, the population (probably egged on by foreign supported neo-fascist forces) decided to destroy virtually all the means of production. This resulted in factories being looted of anything of any value and in every town and city, now 30 years later, there are still the empty shells of these one time thriving factories.

When I first went to Albania in 2011 I couldn’t really understand this. I couldn’t, and still can’t, get my head around why, if people for whatever reason don’t like a social system they then destroy the places where they used to work. If they thought the Party of Labour of Albania wasn’t allowing them the full rights to control their factories why didn’t they take them over and run them themselves? If they were tired of having the responsibility of making decisions and having to think for themselves why didn’t they just turn the factories over to those who would be quite happy to exploit the workers ‘in the good old fashioned capitalist manner’. Then at least they would have work.

One argument given to me as some sort of excuse for such actions was that the machinery was old and needed replacement. That might well have been the case due to the country’s forced isolation but that doesn’t mean the solution is to loot everything and leave a useless shell. That doesn’t make sense in any society. This was especially so as in the 1980s workers in Britain were occupying factories when the owners wanted to close them down. Why this great divide between the intentions and activities of the workers in the two different countries?

In Albania they just destroyed the means of production and then realised there was nothing for them to do but leave the country in order to be able to keep their families alive. So in the 1990s vast numbers of workers went to various neighbouring countries but mainly (at least initially) to Italy and Greece. And this continues to this day – although the crisis that followed the capitalist disaster of 2008 has had an effect on that once reasonably easy form of making a living.

But thirty years on capitalism has not turned Albania into a thriving country – as was ‘promised’. But then capitalism never has, doesn’t now and never will provide for the vast majority of the population. Even in the countries of the so-called ‘prosperous industrialised world’ we see vast differentials in the incomes of their populations and the next capitalist crisis is always around the corner – each one more severe than the last.

So a generation after the ‘fall of Communism’ (six generations if you are a Scottish nationalist) some people are starting to think that perhaps they threw out the baby with the bath water in the 1990s.

This is not just a recent revelation. In my travels in Albania since 2011 I have met a number of people who bemoan what they allowed to happen. Yes, they were isolated (I would argue that was not Albania’s fault but the hostility of the capitalist and revisionist world which was annoyed that such a small country held on to its principled stand in the face of such fierce and overwhelming opposition) and yes, perhaps they didn’t have all the consumer goods that seemed to be falling from heaven in the capitalist countries.

But they did have a functioning and effective health system free for all, they did have an equally free education system, there were guaranteed jobs – which came with apprenticeships and training – they had a society that was functioning and where the majority of the family would be in the country, they did have enough to eat (although toward the end of the 1980s the chaos that was being whipped up by reactionary elements meant that supply routes were continually being disrupted).

This has been a long introduction to a post which announces that Enver Hoxha is now starting to appear in (still a few) public locations in the country. The damaged large, white, marble bust that appeared behind the National Art Gallery a couple of years ago has now been unwrapped – even if the sculpture does have a broken nose. And the general area is now easily accessible to visitors (after years of me having to time my approach when the security guard was otherwise engaged) and the area is generally clean. That doesn’t mean that the ‘well-informed’ local guides don’t spout the same anti-Socialist, anti-Communist, anti-Hoxha line but visitors can appreciate some of the culture of the Socialist era.

And in 2020 the picture at the head of this post was visible to any visitors to the Tepelene (in the south of the country) historical museum.

Right at the back of the museum, attached to the room that commemorates the struggle of the Albanian people in the War of National Liberation against the Italian fascists and then the German Nazis, is a small room (I am almost certain in its original condition, i.e., pre 1990) which contains this picture of Enver Hoxha during a visit to the town of Tepelene. As well as the painting there are boards pinned to the wall that celebrate the achievements of the Albanian people in various fields such as industry, agriculture, health, education and social well being.

The painting bears the name of Aljosha Billbilli and is dated 1985 which indicates it could have been commissioned following Comrade Enver’s death in April of that year. It shows the leader of the Party looking down across the Vjosa River with the mountain range that separates Gjirokaster and Permet in the background.

Across the river can be seen terraces which had been constructed in the Socialist period, now no longer in use as individual, small holder farming (which is what exists in the vast majority of the country) doesn’t allow for the labour power to maintain such collective systems. Terraces also need irrigation which is another collective enterprise.

As is often the case in Albanian Socialist paintings there is a representation of the different ethnic backgrounds of the people of the area. This is shown primarily through their dress but also by their physical characteristics. Being a small country Albania presents a huge variety of ethnic types.

It’s not possible to exactly place the location of the picture but there’s a lapidar alongside the road that skirts the town of Tepelene which offers a very similar aspect to the one in the painting.

So if you are in the vicinity of Tepelene (and most visitors to the country will be as Gjirokaster, one of the most visited towns is a mere 30 minutes or so down the road) then call in to the Tepelene Museum, just up a few steps up the hill on the left where the road, on entering the town, widens on the approach from Gjirokaster or Permet.

Unfortunately opening times of the museum can be slightly erratic but it should be open during the early part of the day from Monday to Friday.

Tepelene Historical Museum - Pickaxe and Rifle

Tepelene Historical Museum – Pickaxe and Rifle

One other aspect of the museum building which is quite unique is the symbol of the Party of Labour of Albania on the facade, just above the main entrance.

This is a metal image of a Pickaxe and Rifle (which can also be seen on the top of the building which used to be the Party’s headquarters in Peshkopia). The idea here is that Socialism will be built by the labour of the workers but the new social system needs to be prepared to use arms in order to defend what has already been gained. Capitalism never rests when it sees that it’s control of various parts of the world has been, is and will be challenged and a strong and determined response is crucial for the survival of the Socialist system. Joseph Stalin and Enver Hoxha were very clar and united on this matter.

That’s why, to repeat what I’ve already stated above, ‘a revolution is not a dinner party’ and once down the road of the construction of Socialism there are certain steps that need to be taken if the attainment of Communism is to be achieved.

More on Albania

Everything you want – or need – to know about Albania ….

Guardians of the country - 1969 - Spiro Kristo

Guardians of the country – 1969 – Spiro Kristo

Everything you want – or need – to know about Albania ….

…. or almost. If not already it is hoped in the not too distant future to be able to answer many questions people might have about the small Balkan country that has been the centre of conflict for centuries.

What follows are links to pages or posts that try to fill in the gaps of peoples’ knowledge of a country that was vilified for trying to maintain a real independence in the face of severe difficulties caught up, as it was, in the ideological struggle within the International Communist Movement which saw breaks first with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1961 and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1978.

Socialist Albania

The overwhelming emphasis is upon the period from the beginning of the National Liberation War against fascism in 1942 to the success of the counter-revolution in 1990. Here you will find links to material that tells you about the history of Albania; the history of the Party of Labour of Albania (the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party that led the Albanian people in the fight against the fascist invaders and then towards the construction of Socialism from 1944-1990); documents produced by the Party of Labour of Albania which give an idea of how the party saw the construction of socialism in an Albanian context as well as comments on the developments within the International Communist Movement; the writings of Enver Hoxha, the great Marxist-Leninist leader who led the Party and the country after liberation in November 1944 until his death in April 1985; be able to read many (still unfortunately not all) of the issues of the monthly political and informative review Albania Today, from 1971 to 1990; various issues of the bi-monthly, large format, political, social and cultural illustrated periodical New Albania; views of Albania and its efforts to construct socialism whilst under great threat from the encircling capitalist, revisionist and imperialist countries from fraternal parties and friendship organisations in countries throughout the world; articles and speeches of (the later to be disgraced) Mehmet Shehu; and some of the writings of the last leader of the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania, Ramiz Alia.

Art as a means of promoting Socialism

All those countries that achieved a socialist revolution – and were led by parties that followed the Marxist-Leninist ideology (and for me there are only really four; the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania (PSRA) and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV)) – realised the importance of art as a propaganda tool to promote socialist ideals and to counter the propaganda of capitalism. Each country produced that art with their own national characteristics and that produced in Albania was particularly unique and extensive, covering many aspects of the plastic arts.

Enver Hoxha – On the Intellectuals

Theses drafted for discussion at the meeting of the Bureau of the Party Committee for the city of Tirana which, on March 21, 1958, was to take up with the consideration of the report ‘On the work for the education of intellectuals’.

Socialist Realist Art in Albania

When I first visited Albania in November 2011 I hadn’t been there too long before I realised a number of things about the monuments that had been constructed during the socialist period (1944-1990). The first was that there were a lot of them – at that time I didn’t realise just how many. Secondly, that some of them were quite remarkable, and unique, examples of Socialist Realist Art and, thirdly, they were all in danger, whether it be through ignorance, simple neglect or vandalism – be it ‘official’ (as an expression of political hatred, as has already happened in a number of cases, such as the Five Heroes of Vig in Shkoder and more recently The Four Heroines in Mirdita) or ‘unofficial’ – some people destroy because they are themselves unable to create.

The Albanian Lapidar Survey (ALS)

This was the most comprehensive survey ever carried out which documented as many as possible of the lapidars (monuments) that were still in existence at the time of the survey in March 2014. The survey recorded the physical state of the monuments (some badly damaged and neglected) and added any other pertinent information available – such as artists involved, date of inauguration, exact location using GPS technology, etc. – as well as creating an extensive photographic record of their condition at the time.

Following the survey three volumes were published, both in physical form as well as a downloadable pdf. Volume 1 contains a number of articles introducing the concept of the lapidars and their role within Albanian Socialist society. These articles appear in both Albanian and English. This volume also contains the information of the 659 lapidars that were recorded at the time. (A number of others have since been added.)

Volume 2 includes one or two photos of each lapidar in the northern part of the country, Volume 3 in the southern part – the dividing line being set at N40º42’38”.

There are links to descriptions and photos of the lapidars as well as information of the sculptors and architects involved in this vast artistic project.

The lapidars here are listed in the order they appeared in the list of the ALS.

ALS 5 – Vojo Kushi, Sadik Stavaleci and Xhorxhi Martini

The representation of the last military action of Vojo Kushi, Sadik Stavaleci and Xhorxhi Martini in Albanian Socialist realism is an interesting one as it has been depicted in a number of formats so offers a (possibly) unique opportunity to compare how the event has been presented to the Albanian people, history and posterity. Although the sacrifice of the three is commemorated it is Vojo Kushi who is in the forefront of these representations, his last action of storming an Italian tank being an act of bravery that has transcended even the counter-revolution of the 1990s.

ALS 8 and 12 – National Martyrs’ Cemetery – Tirana

The National Martyrs’ Cemetery, Tirana, is the most important monument to those who fell in the struggle against Italian and German Fascism between 1939 and 1944. It’s also the location of one of the largest examples of Socialist Realist sculpture in the country – Mother Albania.

ALS 13 – Monument to the Artillery – Sauk

Although the plan is to attempt to record all the monuments from the socialist period in Albania’s history there are, and will be, occasions when I will have arrived too late. Either the ‘democrats’ (a mixture of monarchists and neo-fascists) have got there first and destroyed the works of Socialist Realist art as it represents all that they despise and fear – such as any of the statues of Enver Hoxha – or those lumpen elements who see only scrap value in a piece of metal – that has led to the damage to the statue of the Five Heroes of Vig in the northern city of Shkodër. Destruction and vandalism has been the fate of the Monument to the Artillery in the hills to the south of Tirana, close to the town of Sauk.

ALS 17 – Monument to Heroic Peze

Looking like a cross between a pistol and a huge road sign, the Monument to Heroic Peze sits at the junction to the village of Peze, along the old road between Tirana and Durres. This huge block of concrete, in its imagery and words, tells the story of the important role that this small village played in the war against fascist occupation (both Italian and German), the formation of the National Liberation Front and the concept of People’s Power.

ALS 19 – Monument to the 22nd Brigade – Peze

The Conference of Peze, which took place in September 1942, was only possible as the Peze Çeta (Partisan Guerrilla Group) was so feared by the fascist invaders that they could provide a safe environment to enable the discussions on the formation of a National Liberation Front to take place. This was in a location only 20 kilometres from the capital of Albania, Tirana. As the war developed the organisational structure of the People’s Army changed and became more organised. After final liberation the efforts of these men and women started to be recognised throughout the country and hence the Monument to the 22nd ‘Shock’ Brigade.

ALS 20 – Peze War Memorial

The third major monument in the Peze Conference Memorial Park is the cemetery to those from Peze who fell during the anti-Fascist war of Independence. The Peze War Memorial is a short distance from the main area of the park and you could be excused for not knowing it’s there.

ALS 21 – Peze Conference Memorial Park

The Peze Conference on 16th September 1942 was important in establishing the organisational structure for the forthcoming struggle for liberation against the Fascist invaders, first the Italian and then, when Italy fell to the Allies, the Germans. This important meeting took place in the home of Myslym Peza who had a large house and land on the edge of the small village of Peze, about 20 kilometres south-west from Tirana and this is now the location of the Peze Memorial Park.

ALS 34 and 34 – Librazhd Martyrs’ Cemetery

Like many of its kind in Albania the Librazhd Martyrs’ Cemetery sits on a high location over the town. This is both to give due reverence to those who gave their lives in the National Liberation War as well as to reflect that the war itself was very much one that was won and (for the Fascists) lost in the mountains.

ALS 38 and 39 – Qukës-Pishkash Star

There are some of the lapidars in Albania that can truly be called monumental in all meanings of the word. One of these is the massive and impressive Arch of Drashovice and another is the Qukës-Pishkash Star, to the side of the road from Librazhd to Përrenjas, just opposite one of the impressive viaducts of the, now, sadly neglected Albanian railway system. The sheer scale of the star can be appreciated when you look at the picture above which includes the team who catalogued the Albanian lapidars in the summer of 2014.

ALS 98 and 100 – Monument to the First School and a Martyrs’ Lapidar – Proger

As is the case in many towns and villages in the UK (and also in Western Europe) where it’s common to come across a war memorial (originally for the war of 1914-18/9, the ‘War to end all wars’ but which became only Part 1) this is also the case in Albania. At the time of the National Liberation War from 1939-44 the population of the country was a little more than a million and so it’s no surprise that the ‘Martyrs’ (as they are known in Albania) came from even the smallest places. Progër is no different in that case. What makes the village different is the substantial lapidar commemorating the First Communist Party Cells. This small village, off the main road, also has a Monument to the First School and a Martyrs’ Lapidar.

ALS 99 – Proger – First Party Cell of the PKSH

The majority of the lapidars throughout Albania celebrate the events of the National War of Liberation and those who fought and died in that struggle. Others celebrate and commemorate events in the period of the construction of Socialism but there are few (probably a surprise to many) that are specifically devoted to the Communist Party of Albania (later the Party of Labour of Albania). One such – I only know of one other and that’s on the facade of the museum in Ersekë – is to the First Party Cell of the PKSH in the small village of Progër, close to Billisht and Korçë, not far from the border with Greece in the south-east of the country.

ALS 121 – Martyrs’ Cemetery, Korçë

Many of the martyrs’ cemeteries in Albania are situated on hills above the towns and villages and this is certainly the case with the Martyrs’ Cemetery, Korçë, where the highest point is a fair hike from the centre of the town below. However, it’s worth the effort as, on a clear day, you have a fine view of the town, the fertile valley below and the mountains to the west as well as a fine example of Socialist Realist Art.

ALS 166 – Resistance – Monument to the struggle against Fascist invasion in Durres

Being the main port of invasion by the Italian Fascists on 7th April 1939 it’s not a surprise that in commemoration of that event, and especially the resistance that was shown by a significant proportion of the population (but not the self-proclaimed ‘King’ Zog who ran away as soon as the Italian ships came into sight) that there are a few monuments to this, constructed in the Socialist period. One is to the individual sacrifice of Mujo Ulqinaku (that used to stand close by the Venetian tower at the bottom end of town) and the other is to the general principle of ‘Resistance’ in Durrës, which is located right next to the waterfront and very likely one of the places the Italian fascists would have landed.

ALS 167 – Mujo Ulqinaku – Durrës

The first shots in Albania’s National Liberation War (although it wasn’t called that at the time) were fired on 7th April 1939 when the Italian Fascist forces invaded the port city of Durrës (as well as other locations along the coast). For years the country, ruled by the self-proclaimed ‘King’ Zog I (even before he was dead he was planning a dynasty!) had been a puppet state of the Italian Fascists and when the invasion did take place no official structure was in existence to defy the invaders. It was therefore left to brave individuals, such as Mujo Ulqinaku, to take up the banner of resistance. His sacrifice is commemorated by a monument close to the coast where the invasion took place.

ALS 168 – Durres War Memorial

The overwhelming number of Socialist Realist monuments in Albania are constructed from either concrete or bronze. However, there are occasional variations from this norm and there are a few mosaics (though not on the massive scale of ‘The Albanians’ on the National History Museum in Tirana) including those in Bestrove, Llogara National Park and at the Durrës War Memorial.

ALS 194 – Lushnjë Martyrs’ Cemetery

Many of the Martyrs’ Cemeteries throughout Albania have a statue of one or more Partisans to stress that those commemorated were those who died in the National Liberation War of 1939-44. Sometimes there’s just one male Partisan, as in Korcë or Ersekë, sometimes there will be both a male and a female, as in Librazhd, sometimes (though rarely) there’s a group of three, as in Pogradec but there are also times when the symbol of sacrifice is in the form of a single female, as in Saranda and Fier. There’s a certain commonality between many of these statues, having been constructed at a similar time, but the statue of the female Partisan at the Lushnjë Martyrs’ Cemetery is quite unique in style and presentation.

ALS 244 – Shoket – Comrades – Permet

Shoket – Comrades – was one of the early sculptures to be placed in the Martyrs’ Cemeteries throughout Albania, a simple monolith (lapidar) being the most common form of monument. It is the work of Odhise Paskali and was inaugurated in 1964, the same time as the monument to the Permet Congress was unveiled in the main square of the town.

ALS 263 – Partisan and Child, Borove

The statue of a Partisan and Child, just beside the main road passing through the small village of Borove in the south-east of the country, is one of the most charming of Albanian monuments but its charm obscures a much darker story. That story is less obvious now than it was in 1968 when it was created, in a different location and part of a bigger tableau.

ALS 294 – ‘Skenderbeu’s Wars’ bas-relief in Gjirokaster

Many of the lapidars in different parts of Albania have suffered from vandalism and neglect. This is sad as it is displays a lack of respect of the Albanians for their heritage. Those with a particular Socialist message have suffered the most, attacked by the monarcho-fascists when the country was going through a period of anarchy in the late 1990s. Caught up in this denial of the past are also some of the monuments dedicated to the country’s ancient ‘national hero’, Skenderbreu, and a bas-relief called ‘Skenderbeu’s Wars’ the ‘stone city’ of Gjirokaster has likewise being ignored and allowed to fall into decline.

ALS 306, 307, 308 and 309 – Fier Martyrs’ Cemetery

Many of the Martyrs’ Cemeteries throughout Albania are situated on hills, sometimes quite high hills, in the vicinity of the cities and towns. This is the case with the Fier Martyrs’ Cemetery which, when it was constructed, would have been clearly seen from the centre of the town, the area around Sheshi Pavarësia (Independence Square) and the Bashkia (Town Hall). Up to the 1990s the buildings weren’t that tall but subsequent construction of high-rise flats has meant that you don’t really see the cemetery until you’re almost upon it.

ALS 376, 392 and 393 – Martyrs’ Cemetery, Gjirokaster

There are a lot of mountains in Albania and they played a role in the success of the Communist led Partisan çeta (guerrilla groups) in defeating first Italian and then German Fascism. For that reason most of the Martyrs’ Cemeteries in Albania tend to be high above towns, in the surrounding hills, as is the case in Tirana. On my first visit to Gjirokaster I was, therefore, scanning the hills above the old town looking for the tell-tale signs of a white lapidar indicating the location of the cemetery.

ALS 395 – Education Monument – Gjirokastra

There’s a unique lapidar in Gjirokaster, in southern Albania, which was erected to commemorate the struggle for education in the Albanian language when the country was occupied by the Ottoman Empire. This monument to education is an obelisk in the shape of a stylised scroll, or a certificate rolled up, upon which are carved images depicting the struggles of the past as well as the intentions for the future. Its official name is ‘Obelisku kushtuar pionierëve të arsimit shqip’ (‘Obelisk dedicated to the pioneers of education in [the] Albanian [language]’.)

ALS 398 – Partisan Memorial – Gjirokastra

Most of the monuments in Albania are not complex works of sculpture. Many are simple columns, with inscriptions, some of those being quite small. These are known as ‘Lapidars’ in Albania. (‘Lapidar’ doesn’t have a direct translation into English although ‘monolith’ is a possibility – and might even have a German root.) In between the monumental and the columns are stand alone statues and structures and the Partisan Memorial – Gjirokastra, is one of those.

ALS 414 – Saranda War Memorial, Albania

Through its monuments and memorials you can tell a lot about a country, its history, its heroes, its respect for itself, the class relationships, the political balance of power, even the state of the economy.

ALS 416 – Five Fallen Stars Rise Again – Dema Monument

The monument at Dema (Manastir), just outside of Saranda in southern Albania, to those who died in the war of liberation against Fascism returns to something close to its original condition.

ALS 424 – Sarandë’s Martyrs’ Cemetery

A number of Martyrs’ Cemeteries have a single female partisan as the principal statue, Fier and Lushnje are two that immediately come to mind. This was also chosen as the case in Sarandë’s Martyrs’ Cemetery.

ALS 438 – Arch of Drashovice – Introduction and Statue

A journey along the valley of the Shushicë River is interesting under any circumstances, the road is rough in places (most places) but the view of the mountains and the countryside is astounding and makes the effort worth it. When you add the Arch of Drashovice 1920-1943 it’s almost an obligation.

ALS 438 – Arch of Drashovice 1920

The magnificent Arch of Drashovice is such an amazing structure with so much to tell us that I’m breaking the description up into three parts. This is the second and addresses the images relating to the battle in 1920 against the Italian invaders, a battle (and war) fought by an irregular army of peasants, workers and intellectuals against a heavily armed imperialist force.

ALS 438 – Arch of Drashovice 1943

If victory was only temporary in 1920 (due to the betrayal by the despot and usurper ‘King’ Zog) the success in 1943 led to a situation where, really for the first time in Albania, the people had the opportunity to build a life and a country for themselves, by themselves. With the expulsion of the Nazis at the end of November 1944 the country gained true independence and it was then for the people to take their own destiny into their hands. No longer could they put the blame on others. The battles that took place in September and October 1943, and which are depicted on the Arch of Drashovice, played a major role in that final victory.

ALS 477 – Bestrove Mosaic

Mosaics play a small part in the history of Albanian lapidars but when they do appear they do so in an impressive and memorable manner. Although not strictly a lapidar the most impressive is the huge the ‘Albanian’ mosaic on the facade of the National Historical Museum in Tirana. Also interesting and worth a visit is the mosaic in the Martyrs’ Cemetery of Durrës. Each of these have their distinctive aspects and the mosaic, near the village of Bestrovë close to Vlorë, is another unique monument in its own right.

ALS 504 – Mushqete Monument – Berzhite

In the last days of the fight for the National Liberation of Albania by the Communist led Partisan army a crucial battle took place along the road from Elbasan to Tirana, south-east of the capital. To commemorate this battle the Mushqete Monument was erected at Berzhite.

ALS 675 – Bas Relief and Statue at Bajram Curri Museum

The early Albanian lapidars were relatively simple affairs, uncomplicated memorials to those who had died in the National Liberation War against Fascism and for Socialism. Come the Albanian ‘Cultural Revolution’ – starting in the late 1960s – the intention was to use such monuments in a much more educational manner as well as establishing a distinctive Albanian identity. This meant that artists who had been educated and trained under the Socialist regime were encouraged to depict events and memorials in a much more figurative manner. Examples of this approach are seen in the Musqheta monument in Berzhite and in the Peze War Memorial. As the Cultural Revolution moved into the 1980s a new approach developed. This was one where the monument told a story which had developed over time, showing a continuum of the struggle. This is seen, in a truly monumental manner on the Drashovice Arch (close to Vlora) and in the Albanians Mosaic on the façade of the National History Museum in Tirana but also on the more modest, at least in size, bas-relief and statue in the north-eastern town of Bajam Curri – although it also presents some new questions of the meaning of Socialist art.

ALS 675 – Five Heroes of Vig – Skhodër

Celebrating solidarity and the willingness towards self-sacrifice in the common cause the statue of the Five Heroes of Vig once stood in one of the central squares of Skhodër, in northern Albania. After a period ‘out in the wilderness’ – close to the city rubbish dump and subject to crass, petty thievery it has now found a new permanent home in the centre of a roundabout to the north of the city.

As time went by that search for, and recording of, the Albanian lapidars grew into a more general search and recording of other artistic works in the public domain. This included mosaics, bas-reliefs and group statues. On top of that were the works of art in the (few) remaining museums and art galleries.

Mosaics and bas reliefs

In order that the ALS didn’t become open ended many public works of art that had been created during the Socialist period (1944-1990) were not recorded. However, in my travels I have encountered many of these and have treated them in the same, hopefully, thorough manner as I have the ‘official’ lapidars.

‘The Albanians’ Mosaic, National Historical Museum, Tirana

‘The Albanians’ mosaic on National Historical Museum, Tirana, is one of the finest examples of late Albanian Socialist Realism still to be seen in the country.

Political Vandalism and ‘The Albanians’ Mosaic in Tirana

The wonderful and impressive ‘The Albanians’ Mosaic, which has looked down on Skenderbeu Square, in the centre of Tirana, from above the entrance of the National Historical Museum since 1982, is starting to show it’s age. Less it’s age, in fact, but really the signs of intentional neglect which is tantamount to an act of political vandalism.

The bas reliefs and mosaics of the Vlora Palace of Sport

Although they are being neglected, and sometimes need dedication and determination to view them, there are still a number of artistic works from the Socialist period on many of what would have been public buildings. The most impressive (and becoming one of the most neglected) is the grand mosaic on the facade of the National Historical Museum in Tirana. Another example, which can easily be missed, is the bas-relief on both the north and south sides of the Palace of Sport in the town of Vlora. Even more easily missed are the two interior mosaics on either side of what would have been, in the past, the main entrance to this sports centre.

Bashkia Mosaic – Ura Vajgurore

The more I see of them the more I like the mosaics that were created in the Socialist period of Albania’s history. In many ways they capture a feeling of optimism and hope for the future which other art forms just can’t achieve. Yes, paintings can do that but the very scale of mosaics, out in the public view all the time, just seems more immediate. Mosaics have been around for a long time but in the past representing non-existent, mythical goods or the ‘rich and famous’. Those created in Albania in the 1970s and 1980s put the working class and peasantry into the forefront, showing that their lives are important and, if they but know it and chose to take on the task, that a better future will be theirs. Such is the mosaic on the façade of the Bashkia (Town Hall) of Ura Vajguror, between Berat and Kucove, in the centre of the country.

Radio Kukesi bas-relief

Socialist Albania was a colourful place in its time. Banners would decorate cities on anniversaries of important occasions, such as the Day of Liberation from Fascism, and when conferences and congresses were taking place banners and posters would celebrate these events. Slogans, often quotes from Marxist-Leninist leaders, would call upon the people to work to build Socialism in opposition to a hostile world surrounding the small Balkan country. Many of these symbols of the building of a new society were temporary and would be replaced when another anniversary arose or a different meeting was taking place. However, there were a number of more permanent works of art transmitting this message and one of them is the bas-relief over the main entrance to the local Kukesi Radio Station in the eastern town of Kukes.

Krrabë Miners Panel

There are more than six hundred lapidars so far listed by the Albanian Lapidar Survey but they are not the only examples of Socialist Realist Art that tell the story of the country, especially after Independence in 1944. Although a considerable number of lapidars are in a sorry state, whether due to neglect or outright political vandalism, there seems to be a move, at present, to ‘preserve’ those which are still in existence. However, I’m not aware of a similar programme (whether nationally or locally organised) that pays attention to the many statues, mosaics and panels that celebrate the achievements of the people. The panel to the miners in the small village of Krrabë is one such example.

Tobacco Factory – Durres

The work of the Albanian Lapidar Survey, in documenting and quantifying the monuments throughout the country, has produced an invaluable resource for those who have an interest in the Albanian version of Socialist Realism. However, due to time, resources and the difficulty of identifying the vast amount of examples of a new form of popular expression (made even more difficult with the criminal destruction of the archives of the Albanian League of Writers and Artists) many unique pieces of art were not part of the survey. The concrete bas-relief on the facade of the (former ‘Stamles’) Tobacco Factory, close to the seafront in Durrës, was, therefore, one of those not documented and now it has gone (unless someone with foresight was able to save it) forever.

Gjirokastra College Bas Relief

This small relief, at the bottom of the stairs into a high school in the old part of Gjirokastra, commemorates an event in 1942 when the local students from the gymnasium (college), together with their teachers, demonstrated against, and clashed with, the occupying Italian fascist forces.

Paintings, murals and sculptures

As with the mosaics and bas reliefs there are still many other examples of Socialist Realist art which it is possible to appreciate throughout the country. Sometimes they are on permanent show as they are out in the open air, others are in museums and art galleries. Many of these public areas of exhibition were vandalised post 1990 but there seems to be a trend, slow and often partial, to renovate some of these old exhibition spaces and to show what had been shown in pride of place in the past.

There are also a few reprints of articles published during the Socialist period. These have been reproduced in an attempt to give a wider view of the role of art in a Socialist society.

1971 National Exhibition of Figurative Arts – Tirana

The article below was first published in New Albania, No 6, 1971. It discusses the general idea of art in a socialist society, how the Albanians saw ‘Socialist Realism’ with mention of a handful of works (out of 180) that were displayed at the National Exhibition of Figurative Arts in Tirana in the autumn of 1971.

Traditional Wedding Mural in Peshkopia

There’s a perception by some (normally the ignorant and anti-socialist) that any work of art created during the construction of Socialism is necessarily ‘Socialist Realist’ art. They don’t understand, or refuse to accept, that the construction of Socialism is a long task. When it comes to art this involves asking the people to challenge their view of what is going around them and to look at artistic works in a critical and thoughtful manner and that this involves the unmasking of the hidden messages in a painting, sculpture, film or any other creative endeavour. One such work that needs to be seen in this light is the Wedding Mural which covers one of the walls of the Korabi restaurant in the hotel of that name in the town of Peshkopia.

‘Death to Fascism’ Mural in the National Historical Museum, Tirana

The mural that covers the whole of one wall in the room of the National Historical Museum in Tirana that’s devoted to the War of Liberation against the invading fascists of 1939 to 1944 is one of the few which can still be appreciated at leisure by any visitor.

National Art Gallery ‘Sculpture Park’ – Tirana

Each time I’ve been to Tirana I’ve made it a point to visit the impromptu ‘sculpture park’ that has been created behind the National Art Gallery, just down from the main Skanderbreu Square in the centre of Tirana.

No, Vladimir Ilyich and Uncle Joe, you shall not go to the ball

No, Vladimir Ilyich and Uncle Joe, you shall not go to the ball seems to be the message given out by the pro-Western government in Albania. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and Joseph Stalin are covered up by the Albanian reactionaries in an attempt to prevent them from spoiling their Independence party at the end of the month.

A new look, and a new resident, to the National Art Gallery ‘Sculpture Park’, Tirana

The ‘Sculpture Park’ behind the National Art Gallery in Tirana, has a new resident. Well, not so much a new resident but one who has been there for a few years but it is only recently that the authorities at the Art Gallery have decided to, literally, take off the wraps and reveal his presence to the world. The new resident is none other than Enver Hoxha, up to his death in 1985, First Secretary of the Party of Labour of Albania, Chairman of the Democratic Front of Albania and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

Socialist Realist Paintings and Sculptures in the National Art Gallery, Tirana

This post will consist of images of the paintings (and a few sculptures) from the Socialist period of Albania’s past. The first floor of the National Art Gallery is almost now solely (with one notable exception, which I’ll come to later) devoted to the period before 1990 when things fell apart.

Mother Albania Expelling The Priest and The Military

There are fine examples of Socialist Realism in the Armaments Museum in the Castle in Gjirokastra, but you might have to ask to go upstairs to enter this older part of the museum – especially out of the summer season. ‘Mother Albania Expelling The Priest and The Military’ is one such sculpture.

Emblem over Party HQ, Peshkopia

Originally my project to describe, in detail, the magnificent examples of Socialist Realist Art that are embodied in some of the lapidars throughout the country has now expanded as I’ve encountered other incidences of the unique manner used in Albania in its attempt to impart the message of Socialism. Whereas some of these are truly monumental in all senses of the word, such as the Drashovice Arch, many others are, if not actually hidden, difficult to find unless you are looking for them or, as in this case, are directed towards it by a knowledgeable local. The emblem over what used to be the Headquarters of the Party of Labour of Albania, in the mountain town of Peshkopia in the north-east of the country, is one such example.

Liri Gero and the 68 Girls of Fier

Many monuments, statues and lapidars from Albania’s Socialist period have suffered over the years, through outright political vandalism or just neglect. However, there has been a bit of a sea change in recent years but this has not come without its own problems. Here I want to develop the ideas of Albanian Socialist Realist art by looking at two works produced to commemorate the life of a young partisan woman, Liri Gero, and also a work in commemoration of 68 young women who also left their home town of Fier to join the partisans fighting the Fascist invaders.

The ‘Hanged Women’ of Gjirokastra

Tucked away at the top end of Sheshi Çerçiz Topulli (Square) in the old part of Gjirokastra is a small statue which you could easily miss. Next to the potted plants in front of the Tourist Information Office is a white stone statue, of the upper body, of two women. This is a representation of Bule Naipi and Persefoni Kokëdhima who were executed by the German Nazis in 1944. From that time they became known as the Hanged Women of Gjirokastra.

Traditional Musicians and Dancers

Although there are many monuments and statues that are overtly political, in that they commemorate events or people involved in national liberation struggles (whether that be against the Ottoman Empire or the Italian and German Fascists of World War Two) other aspects of Albanian life are also represented in various locations throughout the country. As Gjirokastra, in the Socialist period, had become the centre for periodic folklore festivals it’s not surprising to find a frieze depicting traditional musicians and dancers located there.

Enver Hoxha returns to Tepelene

although he probably never left, just ‘hiding’ for a while.

Almost thirty five years after his death and thirty years since the reaction was able to gain control in Albania it is very difficult to come across public images of Enver Hoxha, the leader of the country for just over forty years. In the 1990s the reactionaries needed to personalise any difficulties in the country and someone who had been dead for five years was an ideal candidate – even to the extent that Comrade Hoxha was considered responsible for events that had happened after his death. So he had to disappear from view.

Albanian Socialist Literature

As of this time this is a very thin section. The hope is to include other examples in due course.

The Mother – a Socialist short story

It wasn’t just in the plastic arts that Socialist Realism had a role to play in the construction of Socialism. Putting the role of the working class and peasantry in the forefront of all that happened in society, in the post, present and future, was also a task of writers of short stories and novels. For those interested in this aspect of Albania’s road to Socialism the various foreign language publications (especially the large format, monthly colour magazine, New Albania) provided translations from the Albanian language in English, Russian, French, Chinese and Arabic. The story below appeared in New Albania, 1971, No 6.

Albanian folklore – music and dance

This is also, presently, a thin section. More will be added as material becomes available.

Albanian traditional musical instruments

The article below, written by R Sokoli, first appeared in issue No 5, 1971 of the magazine New Albania. It is reproduced here (slightly edited) to aid a greater understanding of some of the works of art that were produced during the Socialist period (1944-1990) of Albania’s past. Although folklore hasn’t been totally abandoned in the present-day capitalist Albania traditional dress and culture don’t hold the same important role in Albanian society as in the past.

Post Socialist Albania

The counter-revolution in the 1990s destroyed virtually all the industry and seriously damaged the rail infrastructure. What ‘modern-day’ capitalist Albania produces, in spades, is religious buildings of all denominations – Orthodox Christian, Roman Catholic and Islam. But what I find interesting in some of the paintings that line of the walls of these religious spaces, in particular the Roman Catholic variety, is the artistic link it has with the style of socialist realism.

Religion

Anti-Communist paintings – Shkodër Franciscan Church

Religion is interesting in Albania. Travelling around you can’t help but notice the new mosques and churches (both Catholic and Greek Orthodox) that are appearing everywhere. Whether there’s a real need for so many is debatable, I’ve hardly seen any evidence of what could be called a ‘religious revival’. However, the Catholic Church, in particular, is on the offensive and that can best be seen with the anti-Communist paintings in the Franciscan Church in Shkodër.

Resurrection of Christ Greek Orthodox Cathedral – Tirana

There doesn’t seem to be any money to improve the infrastructure in Albania but plenty for building churches and the new Resurrection of Christ Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tirana has taken a big chunk of that budget.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Tirana

Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Tirana displays new and interesting murals to replace the frescoes of the past.

Panagia Monastery Church – Mother of Christ – Dhermi, Albania

The rear wall of the Panagia Monastery Church – Mother of Christ – in Dhërmi, Himara province, southern Albania, warns sinners of what’s in store for them if they don’t repent.

And if the obscurantism of the three religious denominations isn’t enough, the Albanians have good back to ancient superstitions as well – perhaps hedging their bets.

The dordolec, the ‘evil eye’ and superstition in Albania

You think that when someone buys a soft toy or a blow up Tele Tubbie it’s destined for a baby or a young child. In Albania it could well be for another purpose. This is all part of the ‘tradition’ of the dordolec, the ‘evil eye’ and superstition in Albania.

Post-revolutionary points of interest

All post-Communist societies have a problem when it comes to history. The ruling capitalist and imperialist lackeys don’t want to remind the people of the time of Socialist construction – they might wonder why they ditched the socialist past in favour of the capitalist present which offers them little hope – unless you are one of those ‘lucky’ enough to have your snout in the corruption trough. That dilemma has resulted in a number of ‘interesting’ items about which I have written.

‘King’ Zog’s remains return to Tirana

The ‘democratic’ government of Albania embraces the country’s reactionary, feudal and fascist past in a ceremony marking the return of the remains of Ahmet Zogu.

German Fascist Memorial in Tirana, Albania

A German fascist memorial in a country where more than 30,000 died in the struggle to liberate themselves from the scourge that was devastating Europe.

The English Cemetery in Tirana Park

On Sunday 11th November 2012 the British Embassy organised a Remembrance service at the English Cemetery in Tirana Park, behind the State University, in the centre of the city. There were few people in attendance, as the English community in Tirana is relatively small, but included the British Ambassador and the Prime Minister of Albania, Sali Berisha.

Albanian town planning – drastic measures taken

Some building developers rub someone in authority up the wrong way and they find their building plans didn’t go quite as they expected.

What does Independence mean in Albania today?

Any visitor to the country will soon become aware of the schizophrenic approach the people and government have towards the idea of ‘independence’. Images of the 15th century national hero Skenderberg are everywhere. November 28th is still a national holiday as it celebrates independence from the Ottoman Empire. November 29th – which is the day of the liberation of the country from the fascists in 1944 – is not. Yet NATO troops and vehicles are more evident than the national army and the government does nothing of note unless it gets the green light from external capitalist masters. And like many others throughout Europe who call for ‘independence’ – such as the Catalans, the Basques, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish – Albania begs to become a member of the European Union. I find that a bit of a contradiction but these ‘nationalist’ groups don’t. For the ordinary Albanian they see membership as a lifeline and a means of getting an improved infrastructure, for those in real control it’s an opportunity to get their noses into the trough.

A hundred years of Albanian Independence?

Today, the 28th November, Albania celebrates the 100th Anniversary of it independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912. The streets and buildings throughout the country are festooned with red bunting and representations of the black, double-headed eagle but how independent is Albania really?

29th November 1944 – the date of true independence for Albania

For such a small country, in terms of geographic size and population – yet big in the sense of having taken on the challenge of the building of revolutionary socialism – Albania has two days on which it celebrates its independence. The first was from the Ottoman Empire on 28th November 1912 but by far the most important and significant is that of the 29th November 1944 – the date of true independence for Albania.

Foreign interference in Albania’s internal affairs

I have also, briefly, looked at efforts of capitalist nations (principally the United Kingdom) to undermine the construction of Socialism in Albania after the ending of World War II (the National Liberation War for the Albanians).

Reasons to be suspicious – Albanian-British Relationships in the 1940s

After liberating their country from the fascists Albanians were under continual external pressure from hostile government forces. At this time Albanian-British Relationships were at an all-time low. In not bowing down to this the Albanians were criticised for being ‘isolationist’ and ‘xenophobic’ whereas their actions were more a matter of survival.

Politics and ideology within International Communist Movement

Although a small country in the ‘socialist camp’ – when such an entity existed – the Albanian Party of Labour, and its leader Enver Hoxha, played a major part in the struggle against revisionism within the International Communist Movement. How this was fought out can be seen in the writings of Comrade Hoxha himself and it the material produced by the Party throughout its existence.

The definitive split between Albania and China, 1978

In July 1978 the Party of Labour of Albania published (in an open and public forum, that is, as a supplement to the July/August, No 4, edition of Albania Today) a letter which the Party had sent to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. This letter was promoted by the sudden – though not totally unexpected – move of the Chinese to remove all support, materially, financially as well as personnel, from Albania, a country which, up to that time, had held the closest fraternal links with the much bigger Party, country and people.

Travelling in Albania

A number of posts provide some information for those travelling around various parts of the country. This includes information on transport as well as a number of specific locations.

Rinas – Nënë (Mother) Tereza – Tirana International Airport

Tirana International Airport is officially known as Nënë Tereza but is still referred to locally as Rinas, the name of the nearest village.

Corfu to Saranda ferry – a travellers’ view

One of the best ways into Albania is via the ferry from Corfu to Saranda in southern Albania. What follows is the practical information of what you need to know to make that process easy and – hopefully – trouble free.

The Bus from Bajram Curri to Tirana

One of the joys of travelling is the unexpected. Well, I suppose, many people have come across a form of the unexpected they would rather not have experienced but those unpleasant situations can happen in your own country. The unexpected that I’m talking about is the experience when something happens, something changes, something develops in a manner that was totally unforeseen at the beginning, but all ends up well.

Impressions of Saranda, Southern Albania

At one time a quiet port in the south of the country, the Albanian town of Saranda gets the Benidorm treatment.

Walking from Valbona to Thethi in north-eastern Albania

Two attempts at the walk between Valbona and Thethi in north-eastern Albania and still don’t make it. The reasons why not and perhaps the reasons why the next time.

Komani Lake – The most impressive ferry trip in Europe?

I’ve done the Amazon, the Yukon and the Zambesi but you have to go a long way to beat the beauty and splendour of the Lake Komani ferry journey from the hydro-electric dam at Koman to the port of Fierza, on the way to the town of Bajram Curri – and it lasts for less than three hours.

Butrint – a Greek and Roman story in southern Albania

An archaeological site that goes back almost 2500 years, Butrint has the imprint of both the Greek and Roman civilisations. Important for its location to both those cultures it was also pivotal under Venetian rule, its decline only really beginning after it fell to Napoleon’s armies at the end of the 18th century.

Syri i Kalter, the Blue Eye

Syri I Kaltër, the Blue Eye is one of the natural attractions in the Saranda area in southern Albania, especially if you are not interested in the beach or are looking for a change. A visit here can also be put together with a day trip to Gjirokastra from Saranda.

Visiting Enver Hoxha’s grave in Tirana

After his death on 11th April 1985 Enver Hoxha was buried next to the Mother Albania statue in the Martyr’s Cemetery overlooking Tirana. However, the counter-revolution that took place in 1990 allowed his political enemies to take their revenge by denying him a place of honour in the country’s history and he was reburied in the main public cemetery of the city.

Bus travel from Tirana to Istanbul

– with, hopefully, some practical information (including surviving the first couple of hours or so) and some observations.