Born in Gjirokastër, southern Albania, on 16 October 1908, Enver Hoxha was involved in politics from a young age – at just 16, he became secretary of the Students Society of Gjirokastër, an anti-monarchist movement. A highly capable student, he won a scholarship to further his studies in France, where he spent the early 1930s. There he found an active communist movement, and started to immerse himself in communist activity and Marxist literature, reading such works as Marx’s Capital and Engels’ Anti-Dühring.
Hoxha returned to Albania in 1936, becoming a school teacher. He was dismissed from his post when, following the Italian invasion of 1939, he refused to join the Albanian Fascist Party. Driven underground, he became actively involved in the communist movement, and, at the founding conference of the Communist Party of Albania (later renamed the Albanian Party of Labour) on 8 November 1941, he was chosen as a Central Committee member.
In the remaining years of the second world war, Hoxha emerged as a most able and inspiring party member, working tirelessly all over the country. He played a crucial role in organising the armed struggle of the united front against fascism, leading the Army of National Liberation. He was also the main inspirer of the new forms of underground popular power that were emerging – the National Councils of Liberation. In March 1943, Hoxha was named First Secretary of the Communist Party.
After the partisans forced the withdrawal of German troops in November 1944, Enver Hoxha became head of government of Albania. In March 1946, the Constituent Assembly proclaimed the birth of the People’s Republic of Albania, and nominated Hoxha as its prime minister.
Comrade Hoxha was a key figure in devising Albania’s path to socialism – an immensely challenging task, given that Albania had long been the most backward country in Europe. Pre-war Albania was characterised by regular famine and disease, almost complete illiteracy, feudal property relations, chronic underdevelopment and the prevalence of such charming feudal traditions as the blood feud.
One of the first acts of the post-war government was to pass the Agrarian Reform Law, which turned the land of the large landowners over to the peasants. Albania’s first university was established in 1957, and new educational institutions sprang up at every level. Literacy grew to 99 percent, and life expectancy grew to over 70. Electricity was made available throughout the country. The blood feud was banned. A comprehensive national healthcare system was implemented, and malaria, the most widespread disease, was wiped out. An extensive socialist industry was built up.
These were remarkable achievements, especially if you consider that, on the one hand, Albania was subjected to constant infiltration and plotting by the western imperialist powers, and, on the other, Soviet aid to Albania was effectively ended by the early 1960s.
Mehmet Shehu, then premier of Albania, summarised the victories of Albanian socialism in the following terms: “The health service is free of charge for all and has been extended to the remotest villages. In 1960, we had one doctor per every 3,360 inhabitants; in 1978, we had one doctor per every 687 inhabitants, and this despite the rapid growth of the population. The natural increase of the population in our country is 3.5 times higher than the annual average of European countries, whereas mortality in 978 was 37 percent lower than the average level of mortality in the countries of Europe, and the average life expectancy in our country has risen, from about 38 years in 1938 to 69 years. That is, for each year of the existence of our people’s state power, the average life expectancy has risen by about 11 months. That is what socialism does for man! Is there a loftier humanism than socialist humanism, which, in 35 years, doubles the average life expectancy of the whole population of the country?” (‘The magnificent balance of victories in the course of 35 years of Socialist Albania (Speech)’, 28 November 1979)
Battle against revisionism
Socialist Albania recorded great victories in the fight for socialism, and Enver Hoxha deserves to be remembered as the principal architect of these victories. However, we must not ignore the tremendously important role he played in the world communist movement. Of all the communist leaders of eastern Europe, it was only Enver Hoxha who had the courage, the independence and the tenacity to reject the diktat of Nikita Khrushchev and his cohorts, who were in the business of making ‘fraternal’ aid dependent on total acceptance of revisionist Soviet ideology.
In response to Khrushchev’s denunciation of Joseph Stalin, his turn towards market socialism and his negative attitude towards other socialist countries, Hoxha correctly labelled Khrushchev a “revisionist, anti-Marxist and a defeatist”, saying “the Albanian people and their Party of Labour will even live on grass if need be, but they will never sell themselves ‘for 30 pieces of silver’ … They would rather die honourably on their feet than live in shame on their knees.”
In the 1960s, Hoxha formed an alliance with the Communist Party of China to defend Marxism Leninism from the vicious attacks of Soviet revisionism. (For reasons that are beyond the scope of this article, relations between Albania and China soured in the 1970s, leading to a diplomatic breakdown that can only be described as a historic blow for the international proletariat.)
Hoxha argued vociferously against the ideas of market socialism that were starting to dominate the Soviet economic discourse. Hoxha also refused to fall in line with Khrushchev’s extraordinary and baseless attack on Stalin, which turned out to be nothing but a cover for an attack on the dictatorship of the proletariat and the socialist planned economy. Writing in 1981, on the occasion of the centenary of Stalin’s birth, Hoxha wrote:
“Stalin’s whole life was characterised by an unceasing fierce struggle against Russian capitalism, against world capitalism, against imperialism and against the anti-Marxist and anti-Leninist currents and trends which had placed themselves in the service of world reaction and capital. Beside Lenin and under his leadership, he was one of the inspirers and leaders of the Great October Socialist Revolution, an unflinching militant of the Bolshevik Party.
“After the death of Lenin, for 30 years on end, Stalin led the struggle for the triumph and defence of socialism in the Soviet Union. That is why there is great love and respect for Stalin and loyalty to him and his work in the hearts of the proletariat and the peoples of the world. That is also why the capitalist bourgeoisie and world reaction display never-ending hostility towards this loyal disciple and outstanding, resolute co-fighter of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.” (‘With Stalin’, 1981)
Albania since counter-revolution
Hoxha died on 11 April 1985. The cause of Albanian socialism was greatly weakened by the loss of its architect, and, tragically, Albania was not able to withstand the wave of counter-revolution that swept the USSR and eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Albania is, of course, a small country, and its ability to develop socialism was hampered by numerous internal and external factors. Nonetheless, life in socialist Albania was immeasurably better than it was before 1945 and has been since 1992.
Post-socialist Albania, much like the rest of eastern Europe, has suffered dreadfully from the dodgy goods it was sold, ie, the ‘free market’ and privatisation. It is now once again one of the poorest countries in the world. The diverse industry developed under socialism has been all but completely neglected, as the western privateers are predominantly interested in Albania as a source of raw materials. Unemployment stands at over 30 percent. The only ‘industries’ in which Albania has been allowed by its US allies to thrive are the drugs trade, prostitution and human trafficking.
The blood feud has returned in rural areas, after an absence of more than 40 years. According to The Telegraph of 3 June 2007, “more than 20,000 … live under an ever-present death sentence because of such blood feuds”. (‘Thousands fear as blood feuds sweep Albania’)
Since 1992, at least 6,000 Albanians have been killed owing to blood feuds. Nicola Smith, in The Times of 20 January 2008, writes: “According to the National Reconciliation Committee, more than 1,200 children are without schooling because of feuds. Figures … show that since the end of the communist dictatorship in 1990, more than 20,000 families have been affected by blood feuds and 6,000 lives have been lost. The tradition, which dates back to the 15th century, was banned by Enver Hoxha, the Stalinist dictator, but took hold again in the chaos after the collapse of communism.”
Naturally, this bourgeois journalist cannot resist the temptation to slander Hoxha, Stalin and all things red; nonetheless, she is forced to admit that vendettas did not take place in socialist Albania.
We are confident that, in time, the Albanian workers and peasants will realise the gravity of their mistake in allowing the restoration of capitalism in Albania. Capitalism is long past its sell-by date; it has nothing to offer the masses of the world except death, poverty, war, exploitation, repression, unemployment and a bit of escapism in the form of drugs and TV.
May the Albanian people take inspiration from the heroic example of their patriots in the second world war and from the remarkable successes of socialist construction led by Comrade Enver Hoxha.
Forward to socialism.