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.

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

The new group

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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.

A vandalised Enver Hoxha

A vandalised Enver Hoxha

However, the years since the neo-Fascist Counter-Revolution of 1990 have not been kind to the large sandstone bust of Comrade Enver. The fascist thugs who attacked this particular statue were not particularly efficient and all they succeeded in achieving is a somewhat radical nose job, with some scarring around the eyes and mouth. Unfortunately (to date) I have no idea of the provenance of this statue – not from where it originally was placed nor who the sculptor might have been.

Enver Hoxha - the nose always get attacked

Enver Hoxha – the nose always get attacked

The last time I was able to visit the ‘Sculpture Park’ was in the autumn of 2016 and at that time the bust was covered in a heavy, white tarpaulin. Local people I knew said that it was rumoured to be that of Enver Hoxha but as an outsider there was no way I was able to confirm or deny this.

Why the statue was even brought to this location in the first place is a bit of a mystery. If the thugs who attacked it (presumably in the early days of the counter-revolution, now almost 30 years ago) were not able to destroy it then such vandalism is well within the bounds of a modern state – which marches further and further, at each passing day, away from anything which Comrade Enver and the Party he led hoped for the people of their country. I think it’s quite amazing that it even exists at all. This is especially so in the present cultural environment where lapidars are being destroyed if they stand in the way of ‘modernisation’.

Independence comes at a price and eventually enough of the population of the country didn’t want to pay that price. Because the road was long, tortuous and hard they handed their country, their collective wealth and their fate into the hands of those who were quite happy to sell all of that to the highest bidder.

Having long been a thorn in the side of capitalism, especially the likes of Britain in Europe (who in the immediate post-WWII years considered Albania as tantamount to a British colony) those who were prepared to tear the country apart, regardless of the consequences for the people of the county, were not slow in coming forward.

Albanian Symbol and Leader

Albanian Symbol and Leader

Reactionary forces, both within the country and those who had been in effective exile since 1944, were promoted and through a series of social, political and economic manoeuvres, shenanigans and disasters virtually all those gains of Socialism were swept away. Industry and agriculture were effectively wiped out and even the savings of ordinary Albanians were stolen by mafia criminals through the likes of pyramid and ponzi schemes.

Enver would have be furious at the way the people were robbed of all they had achieved in 40 long, hard years of the construction of Socialism so perhaps it was best he had died before it all fell apart. As such the destruction of the country would not have happened if Enver had still been alive. What happened in Albania after the death of such a clear thinking leader is that which unites him to the two other great Marxist-Leninist thinkers and leaders with whom he now shares the not really salubrious location of the back entrance of the National Art Gallery.

The people of the nascent Soviet Union were fortunate that with the premature death of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin in 1924 ( precipitated by an attempted assassin’s bullet in 1918) there was another strong willed, determined and fearless champion of the working class (and peasantry) waiting to take the country into an uncertain and dangerous future. That leader was Joseph Vassarionovich Stalin.

The 'Albanian' Uncle Joe and Comrade Enver

The ‘Albanian’ Uncle Joe and Comrade Enver

Now those three leaders are united in art in a way they never were in real life. And it is sad to say that although Enver has gone through the wars it is Vladimir Ilyich who has suffered the most since being removed from his plinth just a few metres from where he is now. With Lenin the reason for his shortage of limbs is more due to greed than political antagonism, which is the reason for Enver’s lack of nose. Many of the monuments throughout Albania have had those parts that are easy to saw off removed for the simple reason of being weighed in as scrap metal. On the other side of the coin it is Uncle Joe who has survived the best.

The 'Russian' Stalin

The ‘Russian’ Stalin

Both the black, distinctively Russian, Stalin, presented to the people of Albania by the Soviet Union just after the death of the great leader in 1953, and the equally distinctive Albanian Stalin (that almost certainly used to stand on a plinth outside the textile factory that bore his name in the town of Kombinat, to the west of Tirana along the ‘old’ road to Durres) are in an almost perfect condition. (This is also the town in which Comrade Enver is now buried after his removal from the National Martyrs’ Cemetery.)

Of the group Enver is also the only statue that is made of stone. This is a slight move away from the traditional lapidars throughout Albania and perhaps was a move that took place after Enver’s death in 1985. The overwhelming number of Albanian public statues are of bronze.

It is true that many of the early manifestations of the early lapidars were originally made of plaster but that was more to do with cost than anything else and many, like the Five Heroes of Vig, were replaced with bronze versions when the resources became available. A number of the really large lapidars, such as the Arch at Drashovich and the Berzhite monument were made of concrete. Carved stone is a rarity when it comes to such public sculpture.

As well as the addition of a new visitor the whole area now looks a lot less neglected than it did a few years ago. Considering it is the National Gallery, and therefore a supposed show case for the country, the back of the building looked more like what you would expect from a building due for demolition.

Firing from the mountains

Firing from the mountains

But the cleaning up of this area might also have something to do with the growing ‘regeneration’ of the central Tirana area. The central market is nothing like you would normally see in a Balkan country and has the sterile feeling of some of the markets in London – as well as higher prices and consequently fewer people.

The tragically neglected Dajt Hotel – which, by all accounts, was a masterpiece of Socialist Realist decoration which was just left to rot – is now under renovation. This means the general area is being cleaned up and that has spread over to the ‘Sculpture Park’.

Another change is that there’s no security guard always around to prevent the casual visitor from getting up close to these statues. It was one of my games in the past to get behind the guard without him realising – and then feigning ignorance when he eventually caught sight of me.

There’s also advantage of these statues being in their new location. You can actually get up really close and touch them, fell the texture of the metal, and now the stone, of the art works. You can see them from all sides and also appreciate how big these statues are. They were all originally designed to be standing atop a tall plinth. If the actual statues in that location were not much bigger than life size they would have seemed out of proportion. (Refer to debates about the proportions of the ‘David’ of Michaelangelo in Florence.) In the ‘Sculpture Park’ you truly look up to these giants of Communism.

Also, on this visit, I was able to see that the ‘Russian’ Stalin actually has been ‘signed’. This ‘discovery’ was not too pleasant. On many of the posts I have made in the recent past about Albanian lapidars I have made a point of stating that I like the idea the works of Socialist Realist sculpture weren’t signed. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that this started to change, as in the Martyrs’ Cemetery in Lushnje and the bas relief in Bajram Curri. I will have to look in to the way public statues were presented in the Soviet Union to see how this different approach developed – when I get the time.

The signature on the 'Russian' Stalin

The signature on the ‘Russian’ Stalin

But before leaving the ‘Sculpture Park’ I should not omit to make mention of the wonderful Liri Gero – the courageous Communist Partisan murdered by the German Fascists whilst she was still in her teens.

Liri Gero on her own

Liri Gero on her own

The Communist Heroine Liri Gero

The Communist Heroine Liri Gero

She still stands in the location she has held for a number of years – facing the group on the other side of the courtyard, alone, yet with a dignity and steadfastness that truly represents the young People’s Heroine. A young woman prepared to take up arms for her own liberation and for that of her country. Instead of being a ‘role model’ (the current ‘in’ term that’s used for shallow so-called ‘celebrities’) to young Albanian women I would doubt if many of them in their teens now would even know who she was. As a consequence their lives are likely to be as shallow as those of the celebrities they so admire.

If there were enough reasons to visit this ‘Sculpture Park’ in the past, the presence of Enver (the only public statue of him I’ve seen in the country) is yet another.

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