Category Archives: Literary Criticism

Thoughts on Georges Soria’s Denunciation of “Trotskyism in the Service of Franco”

soria_trotskyismby Espresso Stalinist

Recently I was reading a PDF of the 1938 pamphlet Trotskyism in the Service of Franco: Facts and Documents on the Activities of the P.O.U.M. in Spain by Georges Soria. Soria was a representative in Spain of the French communist paper L’Humanité and also wrote for the International Press Correspondence of the Comintern. The material for the pamphlet was originally published as a series of articles reporting on the situation of the Spanish Civil War.

Forty years after its original publication, Soria is said to have denounced the work and its contents as a forgery.

The work has subsequently been dismissed as a fabrication for a number of years. It is now cited by Trotskyists as evidence of a “Stalinist” campaign to smear the P.O.U.M. as fascist agents. Jeffrey Meyers, a biographer of George Orwell, called it “a vicious book” and Orwell himself dedicated lengthy passages in his novel “Homage to Catalonia” to blaming the Communists for similar accusations, and for the loss in Spain as a whole. The pamphlet has become a tool to denounce the heroic role of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) in the Spanish Civil War as counterrevolutionary.

The copy of the full pamphlet in its 1938 form on the Marxists Internet Archive (MIA) comes with an editor’s note that cites the original author apparently claiming the work and its contents are a complete forgery:

“Forty years later, in a work about the Spanish civil war (Guerra y revolución en España 1936-1939, III, 78-79), Soria himself stated – without mentioning anything about his own role in disseminating the accusation  – that ‘the charge that the POUM leaders were ‘agents of the Gestapo and Franco’ was no more than a fabrication, because it was impossible to adduce the slightest evidence’ and the whole story was ‘an extension into the international arena of the methods that constituted the most somber aspect of what has since been called Stalinism’” (Marxists Internet Archive).

It’s worth noting MIA are not the first ones to use these quotes to “disprove” the Soria pamphlet. Many scholarly and non-scholarly books have used them as well.

As the MIA editor’s note shows, the original source for these quotes from Soria is the book “Guerra y revolución en España 1936-1939.” This source is not available to me. However, I did find another source that details the full unedited quotes by Soria which are being cited as proof his work is a forgery: the book “Spanish Civil War: Revolution and Counterrevolution” by Burnett Bolloten.

Within this source there is enough information to argue that the way the quotes from Soria are often presented is quite deceptive. Here I will present only what are actual quoted words from Soria, and omit the words and phrases MIA inserted between them. The first quote that is commonly used is that Soria said that:

“[…] the charge that the POUM leaders were ‘agents of the Gestapo and Franco’ was no more than a fabrication, because it was impossible to adduce the slightest evidence.”

The second quote, which MIA and others present as being about “the whole story,” (more on this later) meaning about the entire contents of Soria’s pamphlet, says:

“[…] an extension into the international arena of the methods that constituted the most somber aspect of what has since been called Stalinism.”

These passages in quotes are the only portions of the editor’s note that were actually said by Soria. Now I will present the full and unedited Soria quotes in their original context as cited in Bolloten’s book. All portions in brackets [ ] without the annotation “E.S.” appeared in brackets in the original Bolloten text. The first full quote reads as follows:

“Forty years later however, in an attempt to exculpate the Spanish Communists from responsibility for the death of Nin, he [Soria – E.S.] stated that ‘the accusations leveled against Nin in Spain in the form of the couplet: ‘Where is Nin? In Salamanca or Berlin?’ were ‘purely and simply…an extension into the international arena of the methods that constituted the most somber aspect of what has since been called Stalinism.’”

So Soria was not, in fact, talking about his pamphlet, but rather the story surrounding the disappearance of Andrés Nin, the founder of the P.O.U.M., where he was freed from prison by fascist agents. Soria then blames the NKVD for the death of Nin, which is what he dismissed as “an extension into the international arena of the methods that constituted the most somber aspect of what has since been called Stalinism.”

Bolloten even goes on to condemn Soria for his “attempt…to exonerate the PCE by shifting responsibility for the crusade against the P.O.U.M. and for the disappearance of Nin to the phenomenon of ‘Stalinism’” (507). So the Soria quote specifically speaks of the charges against Nin and one story of his disappearance.

The MIA editor’s note however, frames this quote as being about “the whole story,” implying that it’s about his original work and all charges of the P.O.U.M. acting as agents (either de-facto agents or actual spies) of Franco or Hitler:

“the whole story was ‘an extension…[Soria quote continues as above].”

As we can clearly see however, in this first quote Soria was not talking about his pamphlet or the “whole story,” but specifically about the alleged liberation of Andrés Nin from prison by fascist agents, which Soria recounts in the pamphlet, though he does not mention the involvement of the Gestapo but rather implies that fascist agents may have been involved.

Bolloten then cites the second Soria quote used by MIA in the same paragraph, which contains even greater pronounced differences with the MIA citation. The original says:

“On the one hand, the charge that the leaders of the POUM, among them Andrés Nin, were ‘agents of the Gestapo and Franco’ was no more than a fabrication, because it was impossible to adduce the slightest evidence. On the other hand, although the leaders of the POUM were neither agents of Franco nor agents of the Gestapo, it is true that their relentless struggle against the Popular Front played the game nolens volens of the Caudillo [General Franco]” (Bolloten 507).

So despite Soria claiming that the charges of the P.O.U.M. leadership, including Nin, being fascist spies was without evidence, he still blamed the P.O.U.M. for taking an ultra-left position and undermining the popular front in Spain, which still rendered de-facto service to the fascists. In other words, even if the Trotskyists and ultra-lefts in the P.O.U.M. were completely innocent of all charges and were not agents of the Gestapo or Franco, they “only” offered de-facto, and not de-jure, service to Franco.

The phrasing here says that even though he claims there is no evidence of the P.O.U.M. leadership being fascist agents and spies, Soria does not deny the fact that they rendered service to Franco, using the phrase, “nolens volens,” meaning “whether willing or unwilling.”

The editor’s note on MIA omits this second phrase for obvious reasons. There are a number of other interesting points regarding these full, unedited quotes that are worth pointing out.

In these quotes Soria does not denounce his original work – merely the specific charge that the P.O.U.M. leadership were spies of the Gestapo and Franco. He does say it was “impossible to adduce the slightest evidence,” which can be said to imply that the documents and sources he cites in the pamphlet are, at least in part, forgeries. However, this is not stated specifically. In fact, Soria does not mention his work at all! This is implicitly stated by the editor’s note on the MIA page, which states that Soria spoke “without mentioning anything about his own role in disseminating the accusation.” His “role,” of course, was the pamphlet!

To some extent MIA makes a valid point about Soria never mentioning his own “role” in the charges that he claims was a “fabrication…[without] the slightest evidence.” Assuming the work is a complete fabrication, Soria never claimed to have been coerced to write the pamphlet, and never mentions an outside party forcing him to do so. Therefore, even in the case that it is a complete forgery, until there is proof that Soria authored it under the influence of an outside force, the blame must be placed not on the Soviet Union, “Stalinism” or the PCE, but on Soria the author for allegedly forging the evidence in his articles in the first place, and allowing those articles to be published as a pamphlet.

It’s also worth repeating that though Soria expresses his belief that the charges against the “P.O.U.M. leadership” being fascist spies was false and without evidence, this does not mean everyone in the P.O.U.M. was innocent of such activities, and Soria says explicitly that the P.O.U.M.’s actions still helped Hitler and Franco, even if unwillingly. One must ask then: how does this in any way exonerate the P.O.U.M.?

Furthermore, why Soria should choose forty years after the publication of the original document, long after such a “confession” of forgery could have had any effect whatsoever on the anti-fascist war in Spain or its outcome is unclear, thought it must be pointed out that these words were said after Soria became sympathetic to the Eurocommunism of the PCF, and during the era of “de-Stalinization,” where the virtues of making slanderous statements and denunciations regarding the Stalin era were looked upon with favor both inside and outside the Soviet Union. The pace for this was set by the many utter falsehoods uttered by Khrushchev at the 20th Congress, and the decades of revisionism that followed.

CONCLUSION: Until there is more direct evidence that Georges Soria denounced his articles and the documents he cited in them as forgeries, there is no reason to “dismiss” them from consideration as evidence, and though he later claimed the charges against the P.O.U.M. leadership were baseless and there was no evidence for them, implying that at least part of the original work was false and/or mistaken, the conclusion that Soria admitted his work and all of its contents were complete forgeries cannot be supported by the existing facts.

https://www.marxists.org/history/spain/writers/soria/trotskyism_in_service_of_franco.htm

On Closed Speech of Khrushchev at the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU

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George Gruenthal

Book Review:  Khrushchev Lied, by Grover Furr

Prof. Grover Furr has done a great service to Marxist-Leninists and all revolutionaries and to all those who are interested in historical truth. He has picked out 61 major statements from Khrushchev’s 20th Congress speech, checked them against other material, especially from the Russian archives that have recently been made public, and found that they are all lies. He gives extensive quotes from primary sources, as well as from internet web-sites that give English translations of the source material. Thus, he has made available and translated a wealth of material, especially valuable for those who do not read Russian.

In order to make the book more readable, Furr has divided it into two parts. In the first, with 221 pages, he presents each of 61 statements and the basic material that refutes them. In the second part, an Appendix of 194 pages, Furr presents additional documentation to back up the refutations. Thus, people who want to read the ‘short version’ can read only the first part; those who want the full details may find it easiest to read each chapter together with the corresponding chapter in the Appendix.

I will give several examples of Furr’s revelations to provide an idea of the scope of his book.

1) Khrushchev claimed that ‘Stalin acted not through persuasion, explanation and patient cooperation with people, but by imposing his concepts and demanding absolute submission to his opinion. Whoever opposed this concept or tried to prove his viewpoint and the correctness of his position was doomed to removal from the leading collective and to subsequent moral and physical annihilation.’

There are many facts that contradict this. We will mention only one, by Marshal Zhukov on military matters, which Furr quotes: ‘After Stalin’s death appeared the one about how he used to take military and strategic decisions unilaterally. This was not the case at all. I have already said above that if you reported questions to the Supreme Commander with a knowledge of your business, he took them into account. I know of cases when he turned against his own previous opinion and changed decisions he had taken previously’ (both quotes, Furr, p. 245).

2) Khrushchev implied, without actually stating it, that Kirov was killed by or on the orders of Stalin. Furr points out that very little of the material on Kirov’s murder has been published, or even made available to researchers. He does note that the well-known author on Soviet history, J. Arch Getty, pointed out that several Soviet and post-Soviet commissions had tried and failed to find evidence that Stalin was behind Kirov’s murder. Former Soviet General Sudoplatov, who provided much information (or misinformation) on Soviet activities to the West after the fall of the Soviet Union, stated in 1996: ‘No documents or evidence exist to support the theory of the participation of Stalin or of the apparat of the NKVD in Kirov’s assassination… Kirov was not an alternative to Stalin. He was one of the staunchest Stalinists. Khrushchev’s version was later approved and used by Gorbachev as part of his anti-Stalin campaign’ (p. 274).

3) Khrushchev claimed that Stalin was responsible for mass repressions in the late 1930s. But Furr points out that Khrushchev himself was guilty of mass repressions, both as Party head in Moscow and then as Party head of the Ukraine. Furr quotes from a note that Khrushchev sent to Stalin: ‘Dear Iosif Vissiaronovich! The Ukraine sends [requests for] 17,000 – 18,000 [persons to be] repressed every month. And Moscow confirms no more than 2,000 – 3,000. I request that you take prompt measures. Your devoted N. Khrushchev’ (p. 259). Furr thinks that Khrushchev was responsible for more repressions than anyone else except for Ezhov (Yezhov).

4) Furr points out that Stalin was always in favour of dealing with Trotskyites and other agents as individuals, not through mass repression. He also proposed carrying out political education of leading Party officials. Some of this has been known for a long time to those not blinded by bourgeois-Trotskyite propaganda. Stalin discussed this in ‘Mastering Bolshevism,’ in which he called for each of the leading Party cadre to select temporary replacements for themselves while they attended courses in Party history and ideology (see Furr, p. 280-281). As to the question of mass repression, Stalin stated: ‘how to carry out in practice the task of smashing the German-Japanese agents of Trotskyism. Does this mean that we should strike and uproot not only the real Trotskyites, but also those who wavered at some time toward Trotskyism; not only those who are really Trotskyite agents for wrecking, but also those who happened once upon a time to go along a street where some Trotskyite or other had once passed? At any rate, such voices were heard here at the plenum. Can we consider such an interpretation of the resolution to be correct?

‘No, we cannot consider it to be correct. On this question, as on all other questions, there must be an individual, differentiated approach. You must not measure everyone by the same yardstick. Such a sweeping approach can only harm the cause of struggle against the real Trotskyite wreckers and spies’ (p. 282, Furr’s emphasis).

In this connection it is also worth reading the section of Zhdanov’s speech at the 18th Party Congress in 1939, Amendments to the Rules of the C.P.S.U.(B.), on eliminating mass purges. This is not discussed in Furr’s book, but is available in the archives of Revolutionary Democracy at www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/archive/zhd.htm.

5) After Khrushchev came to power, he and his supporters began a process of ‘mass rehabilitations’ of many high-level officials who had been repressed earlier. Without doing any investigation to see who was actually innocent of any crimes and who was really guilty, people were simply declared innocent. In so doing, crucial statements of people who had admitted their guilt were sometimes totally distorted to make them appear to be claiming innocence.

One example of this is a letter to Stalin written by Gen. Iakir, who had been found guilty of treason along with Marshal Tukhachevskii and was soon to be executed. Marshal Zhukov read from this letter at the CC Plenum in June of 1957 (the Plenum at which the ‘anti-Party bloc’ of Malenkov, Molotov and Kaganovich were expelled from the CC). However, a more complete version of the letter has since been published, in 1994. Zhukov had omitted from the text the words printed below in bold:

‘Dear, close com. Stalin. I dare address you in this way because I have told everything and it seems to me that I am once more that honourable warrior, devoted to Party, state and people, that I was for many years. All my conscious life has been passed in selfless, honourable work in the sight of the Party and its leaders. – then I fell into a nightmare, into the irreparable horror of treason… The investigation is finished. The indictment of treason to the state has been presented to me, I have admitted my guilt, I have repented completely. I have unlimited faith in the justice and appropriateness of the decision of the court and the government. Now each of my words is honest. I die with words of love to you, the Party, the country, with a fervent belief in the victory of communism’ (pp. 214-215).

Zhukov tries to turn an admission of guilt into a proclamation of innocence. It would be hard to imagine a more dishonest example of falsifying a quotation.

6) In 1936, Ezhov took over as head of the NKVD after the removal and later execution of Yagoda for being a member of the Rightist conspiracy. Ezhov had many people, including many who were innocent, arrested and executed from 1937 to 1938. This period was colloquially known as the Yezhovshchina. Ezhov was removed from his post in late 1938 and was arrested and executed the following year. He was replaced by Beria, who put an end to the mass arrests and, after investigations, had many innocent people released from prison. It was this writer’s understanding that Ezhov had been executed simply for taking a heartless, bureaucratic attitude towards these mass arrests.

In the last few years, however, many of the transcripts of the interrogations of Ezhov have been published, and Furr refers readers to the English translations of these on the Internet. They show that Ezhov organised these mass arrests and executions ‘to cover up his own involvement in the Rightist conspiracy and with German military espionage, as well as in a conspiracy to assassinate Stalin or another Politburo member, and to seize power by coup d’état’  (p. 57). Furr includes some 15 pages of documents on Ezhov’s case in his Appendix.

7) We shall shortly move on to areas dealt with in Furr’s book, and particularly some of the fables about Stalin’s behaviour during World War II.

However, we would like to first point out a short but fascinating account of the behaviour of the Trotskyites in the Spanish Civil War. Furr quotes Gen. Sudoplatov:

‘The Trotskyites were also involved in actions. Making use of the support of persons with ties to German military intelligence [the ‘Abwehr’] they organised a revolt against the Republican government in Barcelona in 1937…. Concerning the connections of the leaders of the Trotskyist revolt in Barcelona in 1937 we were informed by Schulze-Boysen…. Afterward, after his arrest, the Gestapo accused him of transmitting this information to us, and this figured in his death sentence by the Hitlerite court in his case’ (p. 269).

Schulze-Boysen was a German citizen who spied for the Soviet Union from within the SS. The Nazi military court which tried and executed him for this espionage confirmed Sudoplatov’s statement.  It declared: ‘At the beginning of 1938, during the Spanish Civil War, the accused learned in his official capacity that a rebellion against the local red government in the territory of Barcelona was being prepared with the co-operation of the German Secret Service. This information, together with that of Pöllnitz,’ [a member of the ‘Red Orchestra,’ the famous Soviet anti-Nazi spy ring] ‘was transmitted by him to the Soviet Russian embassy in Paris’ (p. 270).

8) Let us now take up some of Khrushchev’s lies, since repeated by many others, about Stalin’s actions during the war.

a) The first is that Stalin was not prepared for the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union. There is no question that Stalin knew that Nazi Germany would eventually attack the Soviet Union. The Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact was signed to delay that attack for as long as possible. Furr points out that, in these circumstances, Stalin could not have carried out a mobilisation of Soviet forces, as that would have given Hitler the opportunity to declare war and possibly make a deal with the Western allies. He quotes a statement from a German General-Major Marks in 1940 that ‘The Russians will not do us the favour of attacking us first’ (p. 88). Moreover, the Soviet Union could not rely on British warnings of an impending attack, since Britain clearly wanted to set Hitler against the Soviet Union, and then possibly make a deal with Hitler.

b) Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union in the early hours of June 22, 1941. In his speech, Khrushchev blamed Stalin for allegedly ignoring information about the impending attack. He quoted a statement by a Soviet Captain, Vorontsov, that had contained information from a Soviet citizen, Bozer, that ‘Germany is preparing to invade the USSR on May 14.’ This information is contained in a letter by Admiral Kuznetsov to Stalin of May 6, which has now been published in full. The letter concludes with Kuznetsov’s statement that  ‘I believe that this information is false, specifically directed through this channel with the object of reaching our government in order to find out how the USSR would react to it’ (pp. 344-345).

c) In his speech, Khrushchev also told of a German citizen who crossed the border with the Soviet Union on the eve of the invasion and stated that the Soviet Union would be attacked at 3 AM the following morning, June 22. Khrushchev claims that ‘Stalin was informed of this immediately, but even this warning was ignored..

Furr points out that the warning was not ignored, that the information was transmitted to Moscow as quickly as possible considering the need to find a reliable translator and to verify the information. In fact, after the attack the statement by the German soldier, Alfred Liskow, a self-declared communist, was published by Pravda and made into a leaflet to undermine the morale of the German soldiers by letting them know that there were opponents of the war and Hitlerism, friends of the Soviet Union, in their ranks.

Furr also refutes Khrushchev’s statement, again repeated by many others, that Stalin was demoralised at the beginning of the war and that he had withdrawn from any activities in those first days. Furr points out that the logbooks of visitors to Stalin’s office show that Stalin was extremely active in those days and quotes from Dimitrov, as well as Zhukov and the anti-Stalinists Volkogonov and Sudoplatov, all of whom testified to Stalin’s activity in the first days of the war.

Khrushchev also denigrated Stalin’s abilities as a wartime commander. In response, Furr quotes military figures such as Marshals Zhukov, Vasilevsky and Golovanov, all of whom testified in their memoirs not only to Stalin’s great abilities as wartime commander but also to the great respect felt for him by other commanders at the front.


To conclude, I would like to add a few remarks on Furr’s standpoint, his position and views toward Stalin and Soviet socialism.

Furr is an objective researcher and scholar, although he clearly also is sympathetic to Stalin and the Soviet Union under his leadership. In this way he is different from other researchers such as J. Arch Getty who, although he is not a sympathiser of socialism, was one of the first researchers in the post-Stalin period to dispel some of the myths behind the general anti-communist depictions of Stalin as some sort of ogre.

It is certainly necessary for researchers who adopt a proletarian class stand to start from objective facts; otherwise one becomes an idealist who wants the world to correspond to his ideological views, instead of vice-versa. Throughout the book, Prof. Furr starts from objective facts and follows them to their conclusions, which lead to a clear demonstration that Khrushchev lied throughout his ‘secret speech’ in 1956.

However, Furr does not go much beyond this conclusion. He correctly states that the facts overturn the ‘anti-Stalin paradigm’ that has been basic to much of the anti-communist view of Soviet history, both in the Soviet Union and the rest of the world, since the middle of the last century. But he barely discusses the significance of this. For example, there is little mention of the fact that Khrushchev’s speech was accepted by a large part of the international communist movement, that this led to the split in this movement between Marxist-Leninist forces and revisionists a few years later, and that the struggle between them is still of great significance for the world communist movement today.

Of course, one cannot rebuke Furr for not taking up a task that he had no intention of taking up. Furr does briefly discuss what he sees as the reasons for Khrushchev’s attack on Stalin in Chapter 12: ‘Conclusion: The Enduring Legacy of Khrushchev’s Deception.’ He says: ‘Stalin and his supporters had championed a plan of democratisation of the USSR through contested elections. Their plan seems to have been to move the locus of power in the USSR from Party leaders like Khrushchev to elected government representatives. Doing this would also have laid the groundwork for restoring the Party as an organisation of dedicated persons struggling for communism rather than for careers or personal gain. Khrushchev appears to have had the support of the Party First Secretaries, who were determined to sabotage this project and perpetuate their own positions of privilege’ (p. 200).

He then mentions other so-called ‘reforms’ that were carried out after Stalin’s death. These include: a shift towards ‘market’-oriented reforms; a shift from heavy industry, production of the means of production, towards light, consumer industry; from the Marxist-Leninist view that war is inevitable as long as imperialism exists to the avoidance of war with imperialism at any cost; a de-emphasis on the vanguard role of the working class in the revolution; the view that capitalism could be overcome through ‘peaceful competition’ by parliamentary means; and an abandonment of Stalin’s plan to move towards communism, classless society.

This writer is in agreement with the need to prevent the party from becoming an organisation of careerists. However, it is not at all clear that ‘contested elections’ would prevent bureaucratisation. (Besides, in choosing candidates for the Soviets, there were discussions of different candidates all along this line. For more on this, see the fascinating chapter of Sam Darcy’s memoirs: ‘How Soviet Democracy Worked in the 1930s’, in Revolutionary Democracy Vol. XI. No. 2, Sept. 2005, available at: www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/rdv11n2/darcy.htm.). Rather, this writer thinks it would be more important to reinforce the Party maximum (maximum salary that a Party member was allowed to receive, regardless of what position he held) and limit other material privileges available to Party leaders. Nor is it clear why moving the ‘locus of power’ from Party leaders to government representatives would increase democracy. This writer thinks that it would have been more important to strengthen the struggle against revisionism. For example, the necessary fight against Titoism seems to have been itself carried out in a bureaucratic way, compared to the way the struggles against Trotskyism and Bukharinism were carried out in the 1920s. That may be why the Soviet Union and all the Eastern European countries except for Albania followed the path of Titoism less than a decade later. However, this is all the subject for much further debate.

‘Khrushchev Lied’ is available from Erythrós Press at: www.erythrospress.com/store/furr.html

Source

Grover Furr reviews Robert Thurston’s “Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934 -1941”

As always, the publication of an article does not necessarily imply an absolute endorsement of the entirety of its content.

– Espresso Stalinist.

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by Grover Furr, from Cultural Logic, Volume 1, Number 2, Spring 1998

Robert W. Thurston, Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941. (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996). $30.00.

Anti-Stalinism Hurts Workers, Builds Fascism

1. Billions of workers all over the world are exploited, murdered, tortured, oppressed by capitalism. The greatest historical events in the twentieth century — in fact, in all of human history — have been the overthrow of capitalism and establishment of societies run by and for the working class in the two great communist revolutions in Russia and China.

2. The Russian Revolution was the first of them, blazing the trail for all revolutionaries to come. Its history — its successes and failures — are the essential textbook for all workers and others who recognize the need to get rid of exploitation and build a better world run by those who toil.

3. Naturally the world’s capitalists do not want this learning process to happen! So the ruling class try to spread anti-Communist lies, the purpose of which is to demoralize potential revolutionaries and make us passive. These wrong ideas — wrong both in the sense that they are incorrect AND in that they serve the exploiters’ interests, not the interest of workers — include racism, religion, sexism, and anti- communism.

4. The main form anti-communism has taken for the past several decades has been anti-Stalinism. If workers and others can be convinced that any attempt to build a communist society — one based upon need, without exploitation, run by and for the working class — will end up “as bad as or worse than” Nazi Germany, then we will never really make the attempt. This means we will be reduced to struggling only for reforms under capitalism. This reformism is ultimately acceptable to the capitalists since it leaves them in control forever.

5. A second way the bosses use anti-Stalinism is to justify fascist repression and murder of any workers’ attempts to rebel against capitalism. After all, if “Stalinism” is “worse than Nazi Germany”, and if any attempt to build communism can lead only to “Stalinism”, then any and all repressive measures to suppress revolution are justified, including torture, mass murder, and fascism itself. This anti-communism has been the main justification for imperialist slaughter in the period since World War II, as indeed it had been for the Nazis’ aggression and atrocities.

6. Because it is the main ideological form of anti-communism, fighting anti-Stalinism is therefore a vital, life-and-death issue for the world’s workers — for all of us. This review essay will show how a new (1996) book can be useful in doing just that, and it also outlines some of the limitations of that book.

Strengths of Thurston’s Work

7. Thurston’s main points are as follows:

— The mass arrests and executions of 1936-38 in the USSR were not planned, but were panicked reactions to plots against the Soviet government.

— These events were not intended to, and did not in fact, spread “fear and terror” throughout the Soviet population, but rather were carried out against perceived enemies with the support and often the active participation of the Soviet population.

— They occurred at a time when the USSR was under enormous threat from hostile nations. (In addition, communists the world over were being imprisoned, tortured and murdered by capitalist regimes, though Thurston does not refer to these facts.)

— The numbers imprisoned and executed were far less that the inflated estimates claimed by anti-Communist sources.

— Rather than being cowed and demoralized by mass arrests and police activity, the growing Soviet industrial working class enjoyed an active voice inside the factories, encouraged by Soviet leaders to speak out about conditions in the plants and outside.

— The “acid test” of whether the workers and peasants supported Soviet socialism or were alienated from and hostile to it came with the Nazi invasion. Thurston shows that the Soviet people determinedly repulsed this massive onslaught by rushing either to join the Red Army or the factories to increase military production, while the Red Army fought with a dedication, effectiveness and morale utterly unmatched by the best Western capitalist armies.

8. Thurston’s introduction outlines what he calls the “standard version” (xiv) or “orthodox view” (xvi) of Stalin and the USSR in the ’30s, invoking the name of Robert Conquest — which he will then prove wrong. (Conquest, a former British Secret Service agent, is the foremost anti- communist liar about the Stalin years.) He also points out also how the present capitalist rulers of Russia have every motive to build anti-Stalinism.

9. This chapter also demonstrates that the Soviet legal system was evolving along recognizably capitalist lines in terms of its judicial process during the early ’30s. On the one hand, this contradicts the view of the Cold Warriors that the USSR was “totalitarian”, and this is Thurston’s main point: that the USSR was becoming more “liberal”, giving citizens protection against arbitrary police action, for example.

10. It reveals, however, how much the Bolsheviks relied on Western capitalist models, in the judicial system and elsewhere (education, culture, industry), for models of how to build a communist society. Here, the Bolsheviks’ view of communism was, as we can see now in hindsight, in many respects a “reformed” version of capitalist relationships. Learning from the Bolsheviks’ shortcomings as well as from their own experience, left forces within the Chinese Communist Party later challenged reliance on police and courts with reliance on the working class and poor peasants through political struggle, public trials, and an emphasis on self-criticism and being held accountable to the masses — a process that eventually reached its high point during the Cultural Revolution before it was finally defeated.

11. Chapter Two disposes of some ancient anti-Communist lies. Thurston shows there’s no evidence Stalin murdered either his second wife in 1932 or Politburo colleague Sergei Kirov in 1934. Both of these fairy-tales have been refuted by other scholars before Thurston but are still accepted without question as true by anti-Stalinists. Concerning the three big “Show Trials” of 1936-38, Thurston highlights the evidence that the basic charges against the defendants were in fact true. This was generally accepted even by keen Western observers at the time, like Joseph Davies, sent by President Roosevelt to check out the Soviet government (see his book Mission to Moscow), and confirmed long ago too by staunch anti-Communist scholars like Robert V. Daniels (see his Conscience of the Revolution, 1960).

12. Thurston shows that there was “wrecking” — industrial sabotage — in the economy under Yuri Pyatakov, whose confession to this effect is also shown to have been voluntary, not coerced (46). Even the charges against Nikolai Bukharin, main defendant in the 1938 trial, are shown to have been true in the main, as documents from Bolshevik archives prove (35-42). Thurston also states that some accusations against the defendants were “fabrications”, but he never gives any evidence to support this charge. In fact — though Thurston does not discuss this — it is quite likely that suspicions of “wrecking” were exaggerated by the recklessness built into the industrialization campaign, caused by the emphasis on “increasing productive forces” by sharpening wage differentials, privileges, and therefore class antagonisms: in short, by socialism, the mixture of communist and capitalist elements which communists since the days of Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program had believed was a necessary interim stage between capitalism and a classless society.

13. Finally, Chapter Two also reaffirms that the massive arrests did not take place until after the arrests and executions in June 1937 of the military commanders led by Marshal Tukhachevsky. Stalin and the Bolshevik leadership clearly believed there was a real conspiracy, and there’s much, though not conclusive, evidence that such a conspiracy indeed existed. Chapter Three demonstrates that the Soviet government reacted in panic to the disclosure of such high-placed treason. There’s no evidence at all that Stalin was out to “terrorize the country”.

14. Nikolai Ezhov, the leader of the political police (or NKVD), was the person most directly responsible for the massive arrests and executions. Usually demonized by Cold-War historians, Ezhov was a long-time Communist with an honorable record, a worker since the age of 14, before being entrusted by the Politburo with the task of directly overseeing the repression of what all believed to be a massive counter-revolutionary plot.

15. Ezhov set high quotas for executions, which the police felt had to be met. There were many examples of police arresting and executing people either to “meet quotas” or from outright corruption. Recent research by Thurston ‘s colleagues suggests that between six and seven hundred thousand persons were executed during 1937-38. (See the article by Getty, Rittersporn, and Zemskov in American Historical Review, October 1993).

16. A few comments are in order here. First, the concept of “quotas” for executions appears to come from Lenin’s practice during the Civil War, although Thurston does not say so. After the Bolsheviks revolution privileged and propertied people throughout Russia opposed the Bolsheviks and Red Army, and White (anti-Communist) forces routinely executed Communists, workers who supported them, and all Jews. Under Lenin’s urging the Bolsheviks would take hostages from among the upper classes, threatening to execute them if the Whites opposed them.

17. It should be clear that such “quotas for execution” were completely inappropriate in a situation in which the Bolsheviks held state power and could confine anyone suspected of anti-Communist activity until their cases could be investigated. Such executions, whether of the guilty or, as was inevitable, of the innocent as well, serve no mass political function, as would public trials, investigations, and a concept of justice based upon the direct participation of the working class — an issue noted by Vyshinsky himself.

18. Anti-Communist “scholars” have repeatedly produced fantastically high figures for Soviet executions and jailings during the “purges”. Thurston challenges those inflated numbers with strong archival evidence. On page 137 he explicitly states that the inflated estimates are too high. On page 11 Thurston has a chart showing there were 1,196,439 camp inmates in 1937, a slight decline from the previous year (this included criminals as well as those arrested for political crimes, but does not include prison inmates). For purposes of comparison, we should note that this is much smaller than the US prison population today! While it seems clear to us now that many of those prisoners charged with political crimes (104,826, or 12.8% of the total) were not in fact guilty, that prison population is a long way from the Cold-War anti-Communist “guesstimates” of between 7 and 15 million prisoners — and some guess much higher still, 20 or 30 million!

19. Thurston shows there were, in fact, other real anti-Soviet plots in addition to the “Tukhachevsky Affair” (mass arrests and executions of military officers), including some spies within the NKVD itself. He also provides overwhelming evidence to show that the arrests targeted elite sectors — managers, specialists, intellectuals, party officials, and not “workers or poor peasants, the favored children of the new regime” (76). Naturally communists should not support unjust accusations against anyone, regardless of their class background. What this fact shows is that socialism — the continuation of capitalist relations of production and a capitalist notion of economic development — involved the continuation of class antagonisms under somewhat different forms, class antagonisms that found expression in the mass arrests and executions.

20. Thurston puts these events squarely in the context of the aftermath of the extremely violent years of 1914-21 (the beginning of World War I to the end of the very bloody Civil War) and, more immediately, of the sharpening international situation of the late ’30s, when Nazi Germany and all the imperialist countries were unmistakably bent upon surrounding and destroying the USSR.

21. However, even at that Thurston underplays the danger facing the Communist movement. On pages 34-5, he mentions the German reoccupation of the Rhineland in March 1936, unchallenged by the French who wanted Hitler to rearm, so as to pit him against the USSR. He mentions the start of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936, but not the huge military support given to Franco, leader of the Spanish fascists, by Nazi German and fascist Italy, nor the phony “neutrality” of England, France, and the USA which cut the Spanish Republic off from international aid. He mentions fascist Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in December 1935, unchallenged by the other imperialists, but never the Japanese fascists’ seizure of Manchuria in 1931 or the Anti-Comintern Pact between Germany, Japan and Italy (1936-37), or the Japanese invasion of China (1937). Stalin would later express the Soviet view that the other imperialists were encouraging the Germans to attack and destroy the Soviet union:

“They kept on urging the Germans to go farther and farther east: ‘You just start a war against the Bolsheviks, and all will be well'” (quoted in Alexander Werth, Russia at War, p. 39).

22. Also left out is the Nazi decimation of the German Communist Party, the largest in Europe, beginning in 1934. In 1936, when the Soviet “purges” began, German Communists were being tortured and murdered by the thousands in German concentration camps, and similar treatment was being meted out to Communists and workers in dozens of other capitalist lands — as, in fact, it still is. Little wonder that the Soviets weren’t prone to treat too kindly those it considered to be German spies and agents!

23. And Thurston repeats, time and again, what his sources show him: the Soviet government favored workers and poor peasants over all others in the population, while they were being exploited, killed, etc., in every other country in the world! Thurston’s own evidence shows that the USSR was a “dictatorship of the working class”.

24. Some police agencies treated evidence as very important, though many did not. Conditions in the labor and punishment camps, the so-called “Gulag”, Thurston argues, were bearable both before and after the period 1937 to 1938, but very bad during this period, reflecting the fact that most police, and even prisoners, were convinced those arrested during this time were traitorous conspirators who deserved the worst treatment.

25. By January 1938, Thurston shows, complaints of unjustified repression were flooding the Central Committee, and the Plenum began to demand that expulsions from the Party be reviewed for unfairness. The next month Andrei Vyshinsky, formerly the head prosecutor at the “Show Trials”, complained about conditions in the labor camps and demanded punishment of camp officials who permitted bad conditions. He also insisted that those who fabricated evidence be arrested. In fact a number of trials of such fabricators did take place this year and the next, often with great publicity.

26. The need to pay greater attention to physical evidence, as opposed to confession, was re-emphasized. By the middle of 1938 the great period of panic, mass arrests, and executions was over. Police procedures were regularized; conditions in the camps improved; many of those falsely arrested were released and exonerated. Trials of NKVD men who had tortured and framed people were held, and the NKVD purged of such people.

27. Certainly the Soviet state was justified in acting to arrest preemptively, in times of crisis, anyone suspected of treason. But there was no reason for executing people on the same flimsy basis; they could certainly have been imprisoned pending a serious review of their cases. Had this been done, many or most executions would not have taken place. What is more, well-publicized trials of those who were guilty, with evidence publicly given, would have raised political consciousness, as did the Chinese Communist Party’s public trials of landlords in the period after their seizure of power, in which peasants openly accused those who had exploited and murdered them.

28. Chapter Six, “Life in the Factories”, shows that the Stakhanovite movement was, in fact, a mass movement which gave all workers the opportunity to gain recognition for improving production and technique, rather than a cynical way of “speeding-up” the workers, as it has been described by anti-Communists. Thurston argues that, in fact, Stakhanovism gave workers more power. Workers’ views and criticisms were respected; supervisors and foremen ignored them at their peril.

29. But here too we see that “socialist” relations of production were basically a reformed version of capitalist relations of production. While acknowledging the communist, collective aspects of the Stakhanov movement, we can see in retrospect how it inevitably became associated with speed-up, given the retention of a wage system. Thurston’s book neglects this aspect of the movement.

30. Thurston quotes some American workers who had also worked in the USSR as saying that conditions of work, and the atmosphere in the factories, were better for Soviet workers in the 1930s than for workers in the US (192). But he then undercuts their view — far more informed than his own — in the next sentence, where he writes that “Soviet workers were hardly better off or freer than their American counterparts”.

31. Ironically, he has already cited evidence on page 170 that at least some Soviet workers had shorter working hours than US workers. At the time, many people thought Soviet workers were, in fact, better off than were American workers. One of them was Walter Reuther, later the anti-Communist president of the United Auto Workers, who worked in a Soviet auto factory in the 1930s. In a passage not cited by Thurston, Reuther wrote home:

Here are no bosses to drive fear into the workers. No one to drive them in mad speed-ups. Here the workers are in control. Even the shop superintendent had no more right in these meetings than any other worker. I have witnessed many times already when the superintendent spoke too long. The workers in the hall decided he had already consumed enough time and the floor was given to a lathe hand to who told of his problems and offered suggestions. Imagine this at Ford or Briggs. This is what the outside world calls the “ruthless dictatorship in Russia”. I tell you … in all countries we have thus far been in we have never found such genuine proletarian democracy… (quoted from Phillip Bonosky, Brother Bill McKie: Building the Union at Ford [New York: International Publishers, 1953]).

32. Thurston says nothing about free medical care, cited in many studies of and novels about the Soviet Union in the 1930s. And much of his chapter shows how Soviet workers had a tremendous amount of input and right to criticize. Thurston also doesn’t mention that millions of US workers were unemployed in the ’30s, while the Soviets had a labor shortage. He omits the fact that US workers trying to unionize for better conditions were being violently attacked, and often killed, by the police, the military, and employer-hired goons. Conditions for the working class in Europe generally were even worse, with fascist or virtually fascist regimes, all viciously anti-working class, in most countries.

33. The final chapter deals with the response of the Soviet population to World War II. Here too Thurston concludes that the Soviet regime retained much loyalty and enthusiasm among the population. Soviet soldiers fought against the Japanese in Mongolia with high morale in 1938, where their military leadership was excellent, and against Finland and then the German Wehrmacht in 1940 and 1941, where both political and military leadership was initially poor and led to larger casualties than necessary. In the opening days of WWII, the Red Army fought well, counterattacking against far superior Axis forces, often fighting to the last man, rarely surrendering unless surrounded or demoralized by huge casualties and a hopeless situation. German officers uniformly remarked that the Soviets fought far better than any Western army (215).

34. Civilian morale was generally high in June 1941, even in Soviet-occupied Eastern Poland. The Polish fascist state had been racist towards Jews and Ukrainians in Eastern Poland, and therefore many of the Ukrainian population were supportive when the Soviets marched in, especially since the Soviets mainly repressed the enemies of the workers and peasants — landowners, Polish officers, and police — and did not collectivize the peasantry. But Ukrainian nationalists in Poland had already basically turned towards the Nazis, so many “Western” Ukrainians welcomed the Nazi invasion. German officers recognized that the Ukrainians in Soviet territory were very different, much more loyal to the USSR and often very hostile to the pro-Nazi West Ukrainians, as Thurston shows.

Shortcomings

35. The research reported in this book because it will help to combat anti-communism and lies against Stalin and the USSR generally during his time. However, Thurston’s work also suffers from serious shortcomings. First, while he combats many anti-Communist lies with good evidence, Thurston also makes many statements critical of the Bolsheviks without any evidence. There are many instances of this.

36. Even more serious are Thurston’s historiographical shortcomings. Not a Marxist of any kind, Thurston frames his analysis entirely in bourgeois historical terms. Therefore, Thurston’s book is valuable when, and only when, he bases his conclusions on primary source evidence. Even when he does, this evidence must be put into an historical materialist, scientific framework in order for important lessons to emerge clearly.

37. Like all the other works of the anti-Cold War researchers — called “revisionists” or “Young Turks” — who have helped to refute anti-Stalin and anti-Communist lies, this is a work of bourgeois history. These works of research take capitalism for granted, and so have a capitalist bias from the outset. Though they come up with important evidence, and often use it well, they do so from an academic perspective. They may refute egregious Cold-War lies, but they never reject anti-communism, the fundamental premise of capitalist scholarship.

38. Most important for our purposes, the “revisionists” do not ask the questions which Marxists, and all those convinced that capitalism must be overthrown, need answers to: namely, What can we learn, positively and negatively, from the history of the USSR? What were the Bolsheviksí successes? Why did these dedicated communists fail?

39. Although it can’t provide answers to the questions revolutionaries need to ask, Thurston’s work, like those of other more objective, though bourgeois, researchers, can help us if we use them according to historical materialism, the scientific method of Marxism or communism.

40. After all, to learn the correct lessons, both positive and negative, from the Bolsheviks’ experience, the history of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union and why it eventually turned into its opposite, we need something in addition to the Marxist method of understanding history, or dialectical and historical materialism. We also need an accurate account of what, in fact, happened, not a farrago of anti-Communist lies and horror stories.

41. It is here, in refuting anti-Communist lies, as well as in discovering what did happen in reality, that Thurston’s work, and that of other honest bourgeois historians, can be very helpful. Let me give two brief examples.

1. Capitalist Relations and Class Antagonisms within the USSR:

42. Thurston shows time and again that those most likely to have been arrested and executed during the panic of 1937-38 were officials, leaders, managers, officers, and “higher- ups” in general. This fact shows that there was a considerable divorce between “leaders” and ordinary workers and other citizens. How could this be?

43. Marx recognized that “all history is the history of class struggle”. The Bolsheviks believed that everything must be subordinated to the fight for industrialization and production. After the early ’30s they used “material incentives” to reward workers and managers, developing large wage differentials and, therefore, differences in living standards among workers and between workers and managers, Party leaders and rank-and-file members, and in every other aspect of society. Believing too that productive technique was “class-neutral”, they kept capitalist production relationships in the factories and capitalist relationships of hierarchy and inequality generally in society. Women still did all the housework as well as their jobs, putting real limits on the extent — real, also — to which sexism could be fought.

44. In short, social relationships in the USSR were “reformed” capitalist relationships more than they were truly communist egalitarian relationships. This had to give rise to new class antagonisms and create resistance to the disappearance of old ones.

45. Thurston’s research can help us see that the mass arrests and executions of 1937-38, which were “concentrated among the country’s elite” (232), reflected these class antagonisms at the same time Stalin and the Soviet leadership believed they had abolished class struggle. Without these capitalist relations the “panic” of the late ’30s and, in fact, the future evolution of the Soviet Union towards, first, state capitalism and, as now, “free-market” capitalism, would not have been possible.

2. Elitist Relations within the Party:

46. In 1938 and thereafter specific cases of police corruption, neglect of evidence, frame-ups, and other negligence were publicized and those guilty punished. Many cases of rehabilitation, both of the living and of those unjustly executed, took place. Nevertheless the Bolshevik leadership under Stalin never really underwent a thorough, public self-critical review of how any injustice could have happened, in order to get to the bottom of it.

47. There is also the question of why people like Zinoviev, Bukharin and others were in important positions of power to begin with. They had demonstrated rotten politics for years. Zinoviev had quit the party in fear rather than take part in the October Revolution. Bukharin had lied many times — Thurston documents this — and had even plotted with the Socialist Revolutionaries against Lenin during the Civil War. (The S-R’s then plotted to overthrow Lenin, and very likely tried to kill him.) They had been expelled from the Party.

48. What was the point of handing them major leadership posts? The Bolsheviks should have trained other members to do their jobs and not relied on these particular intellectuals. Perhaps the concept of a party of “professional revolutionaries”, a “cadre” party — Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin and others had worked for the Party all their lives — had not yet been entirely abandoned for the better concept of a mass party of the working class.

Conclusion: Fight Capitalist Lies

49. Thurston’s work is useful in debunking anti-Communist lies. And his work is only one of a growing body of what has been called “revisionist” research on the history of the USSR. These works use the same kind of bourgeois historical methodology, rules of evidence, logic, and documentation, commonly used in less contentious fields of history, but hardly ever in the study of the communist movement.

50. For the first time, an outline of the major events in the USSR during the Stalin years is beginning to emerge, although the anti-Communist “Cold Warriors” — often joined by enthusiasts for Leon Trotsky — are still actively spreading their lies and contesting every bit of research which contradicts their preconceived ideas, what is virtually a “Cold-War Party Line”.This is exciting, and heady, material!

51. But it is for revolutionaries and workers of today to use research like Thurston’s towards this end. Neither this work nor any others like it can provide the historical materialist framework without which human history will not reveal its truths.

Revisionists’ Research on Soviet History: A Brief Bibliographical Note(Note: It is a daunting task to keep abreast of the exciting research into the history of the Soviet Union during Stalin’s leadership. The “revisionists”, of which Thurston is a leading representative, have split the field of bourgeois Soviet history, and there is much animosity on both sides. In addition, it’s very helpful to be able to read Russian, both in order to look at original sources, and to follow the research now being published in Russia that Getty is publishing there, for example. What follows is only a brief introduction.)

1. There are a number of strands in the “new” history of the Soviet Union during the Stalin years. The work of the late E. H. Carr, and of his successors at the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Russian and East European Studies, led by R. W. Davies, and represented heavily in the journal Soviet Studies (since volume 45, 1993 retitled Europe-Asia Studies); the research of Jerry Hough, Sheila Fitzpatrick, and Roberta Manning, the inspiration and, in some cases, the teachers of the younger “revisionists”; and the younger cohort themselves. I will concentrate on this third group.

2. The book under review is an excellent place to begin. But, to my mind, the first and groundbreaking work of this school is John Arch Getty, Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938 (Cambridge University Press, 1985). A much revised version of his Ph.D. dissertation at Boston College, 1979, under Roberta Manning, this work is fundamental. One has to read it to get a feel for how completely the “accepted” version (Conquest-Solzhenitsyn, et al. — what Thurston calls the “standard version” or “orthodox view”) of this period must be rejected, how completely dishonest their “scholarship”, how poor their use of evidence. After Thurston, begin with Getty, and a careful reading of his footnotes.

3. The year after Getty’s book was published, the revisionists achieved recognition as a distinct school within Soviet history with Sheila Fitzpatrick’s article “New Perspectives on Stalinism”, The Russian Review 45, 4 (October 1986), 357-373, which the editors published together with four criticisms by established Cold-War historians, and a reply by Fitzpatrick, “Afterword: Revisionism Revisited”. A year later the same journal published eleven responses to Fitzpatrick’s article, including five by the leading younger scholars (William Chase, J. Arch Getty, Hiroaki Kuromiya, Gábor Rittersporn, and Lynne Viola), two supportive articles (by Jerry Hough and Roberta Manning), and an explicit attack by Conquest.

4. Robert Conquest’s voluminous work is the target, acknowledged or not, of much of the research on this period of Soviet history. Getty leads off his book with a brief exposé of Conquest’s irresponsible methods (Origins, p. 5 and note 12, p.222). The work of Steven G. Wheatcroft on the size of Soviet forced labor camps and number of deaths has developed as a refutation of Conquest and those whose research resembles his, like Steven Rosefielde. This debate continues today, and was launched by Wheatcroft’s article “On Assessing the Size of Forced Concentration Camp Labour in the Soviet Union, 1929-1956”, Soviet Studies 33 (April, 1981), 265-95. Conquest’s typically weak reply, with argument “from authority”, is in Soviet Studies 34 (July 1982), 434-39.

5. Wheatcroft and Conquest continue to criticize each other’s studies vigorously. For Wheatcroft’s research, begin with what appears in Europe-Asia Studies. For example, in “The Scale and Nature of German and Soviet Repression and Mass Killings, 1930-1945”, EAS 48 (December 1996), 1319-1353, Wheatcroft attacks the facile, anti-Communist comparison of Stalin with Hitler. The abstract reads:

     Repression and mass killings carried out by German and Soviet leaderships during the period 1930-45 differed in several respects. It appears that the German leader Adolf Hitler put to death at least five million innocent people mainly because of his antipathy towards Jews and communists. In contrast, Soviet leader Josef Stalin ordered the murder of some one million people because he apparently believed them to be guilty of crimes against the state. He was careful about documenting these executions whereas Hitler did not bother about making any pretence at legality.

6. A few other works which base themselves on recently-published Soviet archival documents and give the lie to Conquest-type horror-stories include: Nicolas Werth, “Goulag: Les Vrais Chiffres”, L’Histoire no. 169 (Septembre, 1993), 38-51; J. Arch Getty, Gábor T. Rittersporn, and Viktor N. Zemskov, “Victims of the Soviet Penal System in the Pre-war Years: A First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence”, American Historical Review 98 (December, 1993), 1017-49; R.W. Davies, “Forced Labour Under Stalin: The Archive Revelations”, New Left Review, 214 (November-December 1995), 62-80.

7. Other works explicitly critical of Conquest include: Jeff Coplon, “In Search of a Soviet Holocaust: A 55-Year-Old Famine Feeds the Right”, Village Voice, Jan. 12, 1988 (on the web at http://chss.montclair.edu/english/furr/vv.html). Coplon interviewed many of the foremost historians of the USSR, including many “Cold Warriors” as well as some “revisionists”; all rejected Conquest’s phony research on the Ukrainian famine, Harvest of Sorrow (Oxford, 1986), incidentally showing how Conquest was paid by Ukrainian nationalist groups which had collaborated with the Nazis.

8. Thurston was, I think, the first and (to date) the only historian of the Soviet Union to dare to attack Conquest in an academic journal: see Thurston, “On Desk-Bound Parochialism, Commonsense Perspectives, and Lousy Evidence: A Reply to Robert Conquest”, Slavic Review 45 (Summer 1986), 238-244.

9. A six-part series exposing the Nazi origins of the Ukrainian famine myth while remaining critical of Soviet actions from a communist viewpoint, can be found at the Progressive Labor Party website at http://www.plp.org/cd_sup/ukfam1.html; read its notes for scholarly references to that time. Another PLP series, this time in four parts, of Stalin, the PBS television series, and the accompanying book Stalin: A Time for Judgment, by Jonathan Lewis and Phillip Whitehead (New York: Pantheon, 1990), begins at http://www.plp.org/cd_sup/pbsstal1.html. These articles contain yet more references to “revisionist” scholarship, and end with a brief bibliography of suggested further readings, at http://www.plp.org/books/biblio.html. An appreciative but critical review of Getty’s Ph.D. dissertation, the basis of his 1985 book, is at http://www.plp.org/pl_magazine/purges.html.

10. This should be enough for anyone interested in studying the latest critiques of the Cold-War lies about Stalin and Bolshevik history, the wars within the field of Soviet history, and the best results of bourgeois historiography, to sink their teeth into.

11. Finally: there is an important theoretical issue which I deal with briefly towards the end of my review, and which is not apparent in any of the social-historical and empirical research of the past twenty years or so. That question is: How can the method of dialectical and historical materialism be brought to bear on the “facts” as we are coming to know them, in order to draw valid conclusions from the Bolsheviks’ successes and errors, so that future communists may build upon the past without repeating its mistakes?

12. These works can help us learn something about what did happen, and help us refute anti-Communist lies. But the task of learning from the past to build towards a communist future is up to us.

Source

American Party of Labor: Insights into Socialist Albania from “Pickaxe and Rifle”

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William Ash’s Pickaxe and Rifle: the Story of the Albanian People is a comprehensive, diversified, in-depth study and explanation of the experiences and the social system of the tiny, formerly Marxist-Leninist Balkan country. Ash was invited to travel to the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania in 1969. He visited again in 1971. He was given the opportunity of visiting the country during the Albanian Party of Labor’s Sixth Party Congress and of checking the draft typescript of his work with historians and state and party leaders, and most important of all, with workers in the factories and on the collective farms.

The 270-page book is divided up into twenty-one chapters, covering just about every aspect of Albanian life, from health, education and the status of women, to the party, state, and mass organizations to the state of the country’s economic development. An entire chapter is also dedicated to expressing the leisure time of the workers and the activities and resorts that are available to them. While examining the situation and lifestyle of socialist Albania’s workers, farmers, and intelligentsia, Ash dedicates the first eight chapters to the history of tiny Albania and the historical struggles for freedom and independence that have been characteristic of the country ever since the days of the Ottoman Empire.

First and foremost, William Ash is a Marxist-Leninist, and as an advocate of scientific socialism and proletarian revolution, Ash never skips a beat in providing a fluid and correct Marxist analysis based. For one example in chapter fifteen, he exposes the Khruschevite coup and the bureaucratic stagnation of the Soviet Union:

“One of the first indications that an entirely different line was being adopted by the Soviet leadership came in May, 1955, when Khrushchev unilaterally rejected the decisions of the Information Bureau and other communist and workers’ parties in respect to Tito’s betrayal of socialism and heading a delegation to Belgrade for the purpose of rehabilitating, without consultation, the Yugoslav leader. Two days before the delegation left Moscow the Albanian Party of Labour was informed of the visit and asked to approve a statement which Khrushchev had drawn up in the name of the Information Bureau without bothering to convene it. This the Albanian Party refused to do on the grounds that there had been no change in the line of the Yugoslav leadership since it has been condemned by the 1948 resolution of communist and workers’ parties represented on the Bureau” (Ash 182).

“The conference of the four great powers, the Soviet Union, the United States, Britain and France, at Geneva in July, 1955, was acclaimed by Khrushchev as ‘a new stage in the relations between nations’ and he described the leaders of the imperialist powers as ‘reasonable people who were trying to ensure peace’ – this on the eve of the Angle-French-Israeli attack on Suez!” (183).

“Instead of challenging the policy of nuclear blackmail which the United States government had used ever since the war to keep the world safe for the operations of monopoly capitalism, Khrushchev was going to use the Soviet Union’s nuclear capacity to get in on the act. This was the case as demonstrated later on when Albania’s opposition to the Khrushchev line prompted the threat from Kozlov, a member of the Central Committee of the Soviet Party, that ‘either the Albanians will accept peaceful co-existence or an atom bomb from the imperialists will turn Albania into a head of ashes and leave no Albanian alive’” (184).

“Class struggle does not cease even after the liquidation of the exploiting classes. It simply takes different forms as the battle between the ideas, customs and habits of the old exploitative society and the ideals and aspirations of the new socialist man is fought out in every sphere of social activity” (101).

These are but a few passages that Ash provides on the topic of the split in the world communist movement. The author pulls no punches in calling out revisionism and injustice, defending the contributions of Joseph Stalin and the resolute fighting spirit of the Albanian Party of Labor. Ash wastes no time getting down to business in the examination of the socialist state structure that existed within Albania. He provides a short history of the first constitution drafted under the surveillance of the people’s democratic government. By providing a comprehensive list of sources from both inside and outside the small Balkan republic, the author describes:

“The whole document of fewer than a hundred articles takes up only 40 pages of a very small book. This conciseness and simplicity stem from the fact that, unlike most constitutions, there are no ruling class interests to be concealed in elaborate verbiage, no complicated divisions of power to the state’s interference in business and finance, no pseudo-democratic formulations designed to give people the illusion of governing themselves” (98).

“All the major democratic organizations which enable the Albanian working masses to exercise state power originated and developed in the heat of national struggle. As they came into being in answer to the national need they were tested in the fires of the liberation war involving the whole people. Out of the National Liberation General Council grew the People’s Assembly; and the National Liberation Committee appointed by the Council became the Government, Prime Minister and Cabinet, elected by the Assembly. The National Liberation Councils at village, district, and city levels developed in the People’s Councils which are the local organs of state power” (99).

“Every citizens having completed eighteen years of age, regardless of sex, economic status, social position, religious belief or any other consideration, enjoys the right to elect and be elected to any elective body in the state. Electors vote directly for their representatives whether as members of a village council, as people’s judges or as deputies of the People’s Assembly itself. Polling is done secretly by sealed ballot in special booths and is under the supervision of electoral committees appointed by the mass organizations of the Democratic Front – trade unions, youth and women’s associations and the working collectives of industrial enterprises, agricultural co-operatives, government ministries, army units and so on. These same mass organizations of workers have the right to present any of their members as candidates” (103).

Throughout the section entitled “Albania’s Socialist Society,” it becomes clear that Ash went to great lengths to study and expound on the social organization of Albania. The author describes the socialist and democratic nature of the whole society, from the mass organizations such as the Democratic Front, the trade unions, the Labor Youth Union, the Albanian Women’s Union and the Union of Artists and Writers to the organization of the Albanian Party of Labor and the structure of the state as a whole. There is vast description of all parts of Albanian life.

In the last section of the book, William Ash describes the quality of life in socialist Albania. Although a relatively poor and tiny country, the sheer amount of progress made since the book was written in 1976 is astounding to say the least. The author provides an objective analysis combined with facts and statistics to show the outside world just how powerful a nation can become once it adopts a Marxist-Leninist political and economic line. In terms of describing the educational system and the consciousness of the youth and women of socialist Albania, Pickaxe and Rifle: the Story of the Albanian People offers insight into how the youth took the reigns of their own future and denounced the feudal practices that were once widespread throughout the country. To offer an example:

“Organizations of youth and women and the trade unions were mobilized in this campaign under the slogan: ‘In order to build we must acquire knowledge and in order to acquire knowledge we must be able to study and learn.’ Tens of thousands of those previously illiterate were enrolled in night schools without giving up production work, graduating first from elementary classes, then from seven grade schools and even completing secondary and higher school courses. By 1955 illiteracy among all those under 40 had been wiped out and not long afterward it was abolished among older people too. The night schools were maintained to consolidate this achievement and to keep people, particularly in the rural areas, from slipping back again” (223).

Compare this type of system, this amount of democracy and freedom of action, this style of liberation to modern-day capitalist Albania or any Western capitalist country. The incredible amount of self-initiative in terms of building relationships and developing the mind is unheard of in any country today, where women are still subjected to the domination of the man and where the youth are constantly being subordinated to the institutionalized curriculum, whether it is productive and popular with those actually doing the learning or not.

“In his great speech to the Fifth Party Congress on November 1, 1966, he stressed the need of linking teaching and education much more closely to life and labour. Speaking not only as a Marxist-Leninist but as one who had been a teacher himself, at the Korca academy before his dismissal on political grounds, he explained the political necessity of an ‘unceasing development of education to meet the demands of socialist society;’ and pointed out that ‘Our schools, for all the improvement in teaching and education, have not yet rid themselves of bourgeois pedagogy and revisionist influences…It is indispensable to revolutionize further the educational system…It is particularly necessary to take radical measures for the improvement of ideological and political education and for educating youth through labour…There is still too much formalism and verbalism, passivity on the part of pupils and stifling the personality of the young on the part of the teachers, too much officialdom in the relations between teachers and pupils resulting in conservative and patriarchal methods of education…There can be no talk of revolutionizing our schools without revolutionizing the great army of teachers who must set the example of a communist attitude toward labour and life’” (225).

The above passage, quoting Enver Hoxha himself, sheds light on what education would look like under a socialist system: the youth and the teachers acting coming together as respectable equals to build and revolutionize a truly democratic and progressive school system. Offering constructive criticism on the subject of socialist education, Comrade Hoxha does not exhibit narrow-mindedness and pessimism on the role of the youth in building and shaping the society that will belong to them. Instead, he encourages them to open their minds and explore their creative will and natural compassion to rebel against reactionary, subordinating teaching methods. How many other heads of state would have said such things in the open?

“In the schools and in the University teachers and professors had to adopt new methods and learn to accept the criticism of students as part of their own socialist rehabilitation. A few found the extension of democratic centralism to the educational system, with students taking an active role in organizing school life, too much of a break with the old academic traditions they had hoped to see re-established. They were released to go into production work, perhaps, to return to teaching when they have learned from workers the socialist ideology of the working class. And students, too, had to learn more thoroughly that socialist education has nothing to do with getting a degree in order to become ‘a man of authority’ or to ‘secure a comfortable post with a fat salary’” (227).

“A student is judged not on the marks he gets in competition with his fellows but on the help he gives others in mastering subjects. So successful has the approach proved that in such places as the Tirana Secondary school of Culture students through mutual aid in lessons have realized a hundred percent promotion rate and earned commendation for the exemplary tidiness and protection of socialist property” (227).

“Courses in Marxism-Leninism were made a living part of the curriculum and not just a routine subject to be got through in a mechanical way. Texts and lectures on dialectical and historical materialism were related to Albania’s own revolutionary history and students and teachers learned to apply the principles of scientific socialism to their own problems and those of their society. And since practice is the essence of Marxism-Leninism, students and teachers began to participate more actively in the political and economic life of the country, leaving their books and laboratories to study the application of theory on the production and social front” (227).

A strong initiative towards learning, acquiring knowledge and conscious discipline on behalf of the students themselves, combined with the life experiences and teaching expertise of the educators must be the bedrock of socialist education.

The social status of women has always been an important topic for those studying Albania’s application of Marxism-Leninism. Before liberation, women were required to be completely subordinate to the demands and wishes of the male. The Code of Lek was the set of rules and guidelines that governed the family in feudal times. Passages such as “the husband is entitled to beat his wife and to tie her up in chains when she defies his word and orders”, and “The father is entitled to beat, tie in chains, imprison or kill his son or daughter…The wife is obliged to kneel in obeisance to her husband” indicate the shear hostility and oppression towards women. Fortunately, these enslaving principles began to be sharply criticized during the liberation war, as men and women stood shoulder-to-shoulder to free themselves of the fascist invaders. As such, Pickaxe and Rifle dedicates a chapter to the role of women in the socialist family by comparing the gains and progress of the national liberation war to the binding feudal culture beforehand.

“In 1938 there were 668 women workers in all Albania, mostly girls of 14 or 16 working a ten hour day for appallingly low wages. By 1967 over 248,000 women, which is 42% of rural and urban workers, were engaged in production work on exactly the same terms as men” (235).

“’Women workers,’ Stalin has said, ‘urban and rural workers are the greatest reserve of the working class. This reserve represents half the population. On whether this reserve of women is with or against the working class depends the destiny of the proletarian movement, the triumph or defeat of the proletarian revolution and the triumph or defeat of proletarian state power’” (235).

In addition to the major gains made towards women’s rights during the years immediately following liberation, the author also carefully documents the continuous progression and enhancement of the status of females in socialist society. Approved in June 1965 and put into action in 1966, a new family code was adopted, which reaffirmed certain rights guaranteed in the Constitution of socialist Albania. This new family code is as follows:

“• Marriage is contracted with the free will of husband and wife and rests on solid feelings of love, equality and mutual respect. Only monogamous marriages are recognized.

• Partners in marriage can choose as their surname that of husband or wife or each may keep his or her original name or add them together.

• A wife can choose her work or profession without her husband’s permission and the handling of the family income is managed by mutual agreement.

• Personal property held by either before marriage remains his or hers and anything acquired afterwards is joint property. All children regardless of sex are entitled to equal shares in the inheritance of joint personal property and the wife is the heir of first rank.

• Divorce is allowed when a marriage has lost all meaning and cohabitation has become intolerable. Causes for divorce are continuous quarrels, maltreatment, breach of conjugal faith, permanent mental illness or punishment for serious crimes. There is no distinction between husband or wife in the right to sue for divorce and the rearing of children is confided to that parent who in the court’s opinion is better qualified to bring them up.

• All parental rights belong to both parents equally and disagreements are settled by tutelage committees or by the courts.

• Single mothers enjoy all due respect and the state guarantees their economic security and protection. Children born outside marriage are equal in every way to those born within.

• Abortions are allowed after consultation with a committee of doctors. Birth control is a matter of personal choice. There is no family planning in the sense of national campaigns to limit births because Albania is an underpopulated country in which all births are welcomed” (238-239).

These progressive family guidelines, set in law, are a happy example of solving family issues the right way in the right social context. It could be claimed that law does not necessarily solve every issue and serve as the final and complete solution, but the fact that such great strides forward have been made in terms of equality of the sexes is definitely a solid indication of the Party and the state’s attitudes towards the role of women in everyday life.

Lastly, Ash focuses a section on what there is to do in Albanian workers’ leisure time. As a generally warm country with multiple beaches and resorts, the author uses the example of the Durres bathing resort to show that workers do in fact have time to relax or take a vacation. Durres stands out in this sense, however, in that it is Albania’s top beach resort and that it is only open to trade union workers, which was comprised of 99% of Albania’s workers. As confirmed not only in Pickaxe and Rifle but in Albania Defiant (1976) by Jan Myrdal and Gun Kessle and translated by Paul Britten, Durres is not open for bureaucrats or tourists. It is exclusive in the sense that the best beach in the entire country belongs to the workers and the workers alone.

Aside from bathing resorts and vacations, there are a number of activities or festivities going on in the streets after the work day is over. Cultural centers, cafes, gymnasiums, and folk centers are open for all Albanians.

“At the end of the day’s work the whole population comes out into the broad boulevards, to stroll about greeting friends, to have coffee or something to eat in one of the many open-air cafes or restaurants in this warm country – whole families to three generations taking the fragrant summer air together or young couples walking hand in hand or, perhaps, happy bands of children weaving in and out of the crowds in some extemporized game” (217-218).

“There is something strange to the visitor from the West in seeing children running about through the streets in such abandon without any surveillance. In his towns they would soon be decimated by traffic. In Albania, after the end of the working day, there are no lorries nor motor cars to be seen and the streets and avenues belong entirely to the people for their communal perambulation which gives each wide thoroughfare the appearance of a fair ground” (218).

“In the sight of so many family groups of grandparents, parents, children and even children’s children walking, talking and taking refreshment together raises the question of why family relationships are so strong and satisfactory, the answer every one gives is that there is no economic restraint whatsoever compelling families to stay together. The only bond is that of mutual love and respect” (219).

“Or the evening crowds may seek various forms of entertainment in the local palace of culture where there are recitals, concerts, pageants or plays. They may go to cinemas where a growing number of the films shown are Albanian. They may enjoy the presentation in some large auditorium of that ever popular form, Estrada, which is the Albanian equivalent of the music hall – with acts by singers, musicians and acrobats, with dramatic sketches and comic turns. And in all these amusements and cultural activities the audiences are not merely passive in their enjoyment. Not only do they participate in the sense that every performance of any kind has developed collectively under the guidance of constructive criticism which everyone feels free to give but also because a large proportion of any gathering will belong themselves to some cultural group which no factory, school, office, co-operative farm or institution of any kind is without” (219).

Constructive criticism is a large part of socialist society, constantly reviewing and keeping what is progressive in the eyes of the people and renewing or doing away with what is not. What makes it especially notable is the fact that this is carried over to cultural and artistic life.

“National holidays celebrating the founding of the People’s Republic, historical anniversaries, victories, in the liberation war or in socialist construction raise to a higher degree the festive feeling to be encountered in the streets of the major towns. The broad tree-lined avenue leading from the statue of Scanderbeg in the centre of Tirana to the University on the outskirts of the city will be filled with representatives of the Democratic Front organizations, of factories and farms, of the armed services and young pioneers, marching past the reviewing stand near the Dajti Hotel under billowing red banners, shouting revolutionary slogans and paying their respects to Party and state leaders and guests from abroad” (219).

“All around the grove are bulletin boards with pictures of the activities of the co-operatives in the area and the achievements of the rural electrification programme. Strung overhead are banners inscribed with such slogans as Rroftë Partie e Punës e Shqipërisë – Long live the Albanian Party of Labor, Shqipëri, ‘land of the eagles’, is the Albanians’ name for their country; and among the dances performed by the men in the course of the merrymaking will be the famous eagle dance. Other banners wish a long life to Enver Hoxha or set out the main themes to be taken up in a brief political meeting by a representative of the Central Committee, perhaps the veteran partisan Birro Kondi whose brother also a great partisan fighter died in an accident after the war – ‘Without unmasking revisionism one cannot defeat imperialism’ and ‘the people of Albania and China’s millions are more than a match for any enemy’” (220).

“Then the vast crowed, more than 20,000, move to the long tables under the trees which are piled high with roast chickens and slabs of lamb, homemade bread, cream cheese, boiled eggs, tomatoes and corn on the cob. Vast quantities of very good cold beer are drunk during and after the feast to the sound of the constantly repeated toast Gezuer! – Good health! There is much moving about and groups at the tables are broken up and reform as old comrades are discovered and greeted affectionately. One of the good survivals of feudal customs, along with the open-handed hospitality one encounters all over Albania, deepened and given a new fraternal significance by socialism, is the close demonstrative friendship between men. Partisans seeing each other after an interval embrace and kiss warmly. Moving about as freely and greeted as affectionately are the Party and State leaders who have come from Tirana to join in the celebrations – the Foreign Minister who is also a deputy from this region, an ambassador, several members of the Political Bureau and Enver Hoxha’s younger sister” (220).

It’s very interesting to take note of the amount of simple pleasures there are to indulge in, and one of the most common joys in Albania involves the simple enjoyment of each other’s company. The workers are disciplined and hardworking, but they are neither puritanical nor austere. The embracing of the dialectical method can have far-reaching progressive consequences when applied to social practice, whether the practice pertains to culture, economics or the political system, or if it is used in simple social interaction.

In conclusion, Pickaxe and Rifle is an excellent, comprehensive account of the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania through the eyes of an eyewitness who has visited the country on more than one occasion. William Ash provides in his work a very well-put-together and very sincere study of the socialist system in Albania by covering nearly every aspect of Albanian life and the amount of freedom and organization the working class gains under proper Marxism-Leninism. Ash’s book, from examining the political and economic system of Albania to the social, artistic and cultural life, Pickaxe and Rifle is a breath of fresh air in a society plagued by lies and misinformation about communist theory and practice.

Reference

Ash, William. Pickaxe and Rifle: the Story of the Albanian People. London: H. Baker, 1974.

Source

Anna Louise Strong: “Stalin”

Anna Louise Strong 1913_UWDigital

by Anna Louise Strong

The Soviets Expected It, The Dial Press, New York, 1941, pp. 46-64

YEARS AGO, when I first lunched with President Roosevelt just after he had seen H. G. Wells, I found that of all the subjects in the Soviet Union the one that interested him the most was the personality of Stalin and especially the technique of “Stalin’s rule.” It is a natural interest; I think it interests most Americans. The unbroken rise of Stalin’s prestige for twenty years both within the Soviet Union and beyond its borders is really worth attention by students of politics.

Yet most of the American press brags of its ignorance of Stalin by frequently alluding to the “enigmatic ruler in the Kremlin.” Cartoons and innuendo have been used to create the legend of a crafty, bloodthirsty dictator who even strives to involve the world in war and chaos so that something called “Bolshevism” may gain. This preposterous legend will shortly die. It was based on the fact that most American editors couldn’t really afford to understand the Soviet Union, and that Stalin himself was usually inaccessible to foreign journalists. Men who had hit the high spots around the world and chatted cozily with Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Franklin D. Roosevelt and even Chiang Kai-shek were irritated when Josef Stalin wouldn’t give them time. The fact of the matter was that Stalin was busy with a job to which foreign contacts and publicity did not contribute. His job, like that of a Democratic National Chairman, was organizing the ruling party and through it the country.

Since the German-Soviet war began, Stalin has become chief of the army and government. He will see more foreigners now. He made a good beginning with Harry Hopkins and W. Averell Harriman. They seem to have been impressed! I know how they were impressed for I also met Stalin. In the light of the impressions that leading Americans and Britons are now going to have of him, the legend of the inscrutable dictator will die. We may even come to hear Stalin spoken of, as a Soviet writer once described him, as “the world’s great democrat”!

When I met Stalin, I did not find him enigmatic. I found him the easiest person to talk to I ever met. He is far and away the best committee chairman of my experience. He can bring everybody’s views out and combine them in the minimum of time. His method of running committees reminded me somewhat of Jane Addams of Hull House or Lillian D. Wald of Henry Street Settlement. They had the same kind of democratically efficient technique, but they used more high pressure than Stalin did.

If Stalin has been inaccessible to foreigners—there were exceptions even to this—that does not mean that he lived in isolation, in a sort of Kremlin ivory tower. There were close to 200,000,000 people keeping him busy. He was seeing a lot of them. Not always necessarily the party leaders. A milkmaid who had broken the milking record, a scientist who had broken the atom, an aviator who flew to America, a coal miner who invented a new labor process, a workman with a housing difficulty, an engineer balked by new conditions—any person representing either a signal achievement or a typical problem might be invited by Stalin to talk it over. That was the way he got his data and kept in touch with the movement of the country.

That, I realized afterwards, was why Stalin saw me. For nearly ten years I had liked his country and tried to succeed there, for nearly two I had organized and tried to edit a little weekly newspaper for other Americans who had come to work for the Five Year Plan. And what with censorship, red tape, and what seemed the wanton emergence of another competing weekly, I wanted to give up. My editor-in-chief was practically blackmailing me that, if I resigned, he would ruin my reputation. Exhausted and angry, I was feeling trapped. A Russian friend suggested that I complain to Stalin. I did. Three days later his office called me up and suggested that I come down and talk it over with “some responsible comrades.” It was done so casually that I almost refused, for the editor-in-chief had finally agreed to my resignation and I was “through with it all.” But I felt that after sending that letter it was only polite to go.

I expected to see some fairly high official at the party headquarters, and was rather stunned when the auto drove straight to the Kremlin and especially when I entered a large conference room and saw not only Stalin rising to greet me, but Kaganovich and Voroshilov too! It seemed overwhelmingly disproportionate. Later I realized that it was not my little problem that chiefly concerned them. I was one of several thousand Americans who had begun to worry them. We had come to the Soviet Union to work in its industries. We were reasonably honest and efficient, but we couldn’t make good. Stalin wanted to know what was the matter with us in our adjustment to Soviet industry. By investigating my troubles he would learn what made us Americans click, or more often not click, in the Soviet land. But if he learned about Americans from me, I learned from him something equally important—how the Soviet Union is put together and how Stalin works.

My first impression of him was vaguely disappointing. A stocky figure in a simple suit of khaki color, direct, unassuming, whose first concern was to know whether I understood Russian sufficiently to take part in discussion. Not very imposing for so great a man, I thought. Then we sat down rather casually, and Stalin was not even at the head of the table; Voroshilov was. Stalin took a place where he could see all our faces and started the talk by a pointed question to the man against whom I had complained. After that Stalin seemed to become a sort of background, against which other people’s comments went on. The brilliant wit of Kaganovich, the cheerful chuckle of Voroshilov, the characteristics of the lesser people called to consult, all suddenly stood out. I began to understand them all and like them; I even began to understand the editor against whom I had complained. Suddenly I myself was talking and getting my facts out faster and more clearly than I ever did in my life. People seemed to agree with me. Everything got to the point very fast and smoothly, with Stalin saying less than anyone.

Afterward in thinking it over I realized how Stalin’s genius for listening helped each of us express ourselves and understand the others. I recalled his trick of repeating a word of mine either with questioning intonation or a slight emphasis, which suddenly made me feel I had either not quite seen the point or perhaps had overstated it, and so drove me to make it plainer. I recalled how he had done this to others also. Then I understood that his listening has been a dynamic force.

This listening habit dates back to the early days of his revolutionary career. “I remember him very well from the early days of our Party,” said a veteran Bolshevik to me. “A quiet youth who sat at the edge of the committee, saying almost nothing, but listening very much. Toward the end he would make a few comments, sometimes merely as questions. Gradually we came to see that he always summed up best our joint thinking.” The description will be recognized by anyone who ever met Stalin. In any group he is usually last to express his opinion. He does not want to block the full expression of others, as he might easily do by speaking first. Besides this, he is always learning by listening.

“He listens even to the way the grass grows,” said a Soviet citizen to me.

On the data thus gathered, Stalin forms conclusions, not “alone in the night,” which Emil Ludwig said was Mussolini’s way, but in conference and discussion. Even in interviews, he seldom receives the interviewer alone; Molotov, Voroshilov, or Kaganovich are likely to be about. Probably he does not even grant an interview without discussing it first with his closest comrades. This is a habit he formed very early. In the days of the underground revolutionary movement, he grew accustomed to close teamwork with comrades who held each other’s lives in their hands. In order to survive, they must learn to agree quickly and unanimously, to feel each other’s instincts, to guess even at a distance each other’s brains. It was in such a group that he gained his Party name—it is not the one that he was born with—“the Steel One, Stalin.”

If I should explain Stalin to politicians, I should call him a superlatively good committeeman. Is this too prosaic a term for the leader of 200,000,000 people? I might call him instead a farseeing statesman; this also is true. Put more important than Stalin’s genius is the fact that it is expressed through good committee work. His talent for co-operative action is more significant for the world than the fact that he is great.

Soviet people have a way of putting it which sounds rather odd to Americans. “Stalin does not think individually,” they say. It is the exact opposite of the “rugged individualist” ideal. But they mean it as the very highest compliment. They mean that Stalin thinks not only with his own brain but in consultation with the brains of the Academy of Science, the chiefs of industry, the Congress of Trade Unions, the Party leaders. Scientists use this way of thinking; so do good trade unionists. They do not “think individually”; they do not rely on the conclusions of a single brain. It is a highly useful characteristic, for no single human brain today is big enough to decide the world’s complex problems. Only the combination of many brains thinking together, not in conflict but in co-operation, can safely handle the problems of today.

Stalin himself has said this a score of times to various interviewers. When Emil Ludwig and, later, Roy Howard sought to learn “how the great dictator made up his mind,” Stalin told them: “Single persons cannot decide. Experience has shown us that individual decisions, uncorrected by others, contain a large percentage of error.”

Soviet people never speak of “Stalin’s will” or “Stalin’s orders”; they speak of “government orders” and “the Party line,” which are decisions produced collectively. But they speak very much of “Stalin’s method” as a method that everyone should learn. It is the method of getting swift decisions out of the brains of many people, the method of good committee work. It is studied carefully in the Soviet Union by bright young men who go in for politics.

For me, the method was emphasized again in the days that immediately followed that first conference. It had seemed to me that Stalin, Voroshilov, Kaganovich, and everybody else had agreed on a certain action. Then the days went by and frothing happened, till the conference seemed almost a dream. I confided my worry to a Russian acquaintance. He laughed.

“That is our ‘terrible democracy,’” he told me. “Of course, your affair is really settled, but technically it must be approved by all the members of the Political Bureau, some of whom are in the Caucasus and some in Leningrad. It will go as routine with a lot of other decisions and none of them will bother about your question because they know nothing about it. But this is our usual safeguard for anyone of the members may wish to add or change something in some decision. That decision will then go back to committee till all are satisfied.”

Stalin brings certain important qualities to these joint decisions. People who meet him are first of all impressed by his directness and simplicity, his swift approach. Next they notice his clearness and objectivity in handling questions. He completely lacks Hitler’s emotional hysteria and Mussolini’s cocky self-assertion; he does not thrust himself into the picture. Gradually one becomes aware of his keen analysis, his colossal knowledge, his grip of world politics, his willingness to face facts, and especially his long view, which fits the problem into history, judging not only its immediate factors, but its past and future too.

Stalin’s rise to power came rather slowly. The rise of his type is slow and sure. It began far back with his study of human history and especially the history of revolutions. President Roosevelt commented to me with surprise on Stalin’s knowledge of the Cromwellian Revolution in Britain as shown in his talk with H. G. Wells. But Stalin quite naturally studied both the British and the American historical revolutions far more intimately than British and American politicians do. Tsarist Russia was due for a revolution. Stalin intended to be in it and help give it form. He made himself a thorough scientist on the process of history from the Marxian viewpoint: how the masses of people live, how their industrial technique and social forms develop, how social classes arise and struggle, how they succeed. Stalin analyzed and compared all past revolutions. He wrote many books about them. But he is not only a scientist; he also acts.

In the early days of the Revolution, Stalin’s name was hardly known outside the Party. In 1923, during Lenin’s last illness, I was told by men whose judgment I trusted that Stalin was “our coming man.” They based this on his keen knowledge of political forces and his close attention to political organization as secretary of the Communist Party. They also based it on his accurate timing of swift action and said that thus far in the Revolution he hid not once guessed wrong. They said that he was the man to whom “responsible Party men” turned for the clearest statement of what they all thought., In those days Trotsky sneered at Stalin as the “most average man” in the Party. In a sense it was true. Stalin keeps close to the “average man”; the “average man” is the material of politics. But Stalin does it with a genius that is very far from average.

“The art of leadership,” said Stalin once, “is a serious matter. One must not lag behind the movement, because to do so is to become isolated from the masses. But one must not rush ahead, for this is to lose contact with the masses.” He was telling his comrades how to become leaders; he was also expressing his own ideal, which he has very effectively practiced.

Twenty years ago in the Russian civil war, Stalin’s instinct for the feeling of the common people more than once helped the Soviet armies to victory. The best known of these moments was the dispute between Stalin and Trotsky about an advance through the North Caucasus. Trotsky wanted to take the shortest military route. Stalin pointed out that this shortcut lay across the unfriendly lands of the Cossacks and would in the end prove longer and bloodier. He chose a somewhat roundabout way through working-class cities and friendly farming regions, where the common people rose to help the Red Armies instead of opposing them. The contrast was typical; it has been illustrated since then by twenty years of history. Stalin is completely at home in the handling of social forces, as is shown by his call today for a “people’s war” in the rear of the German Armies. He knows how to arouse the terrible force of an angry people, how to organize it and release it to gain the people’s desires.

The outside world began to hear of Stalin in the discussions that preceded the first Five Year Plan. (I wrote an article some five years earlier, predicting his rise as Lenin’s successor, but the article went unnoticed; it was several years too soon.) Russian workers outside the Communist Party began to think of Stalin as their leader during the first spectacular expansion of Soviet industry. He first became a leader among the peasants in March, 1930, through his famous article,“Dizziness from Success,” in which he checked the abuses that were taking place in farm collectivization. I have described its effect on the rural districts in the preceding chapter. I remember Walter Duranty waving that article at me and saying, “At last there is a leader in this land!”

Stalin’s great moment when he first appeared as leader of the whole Soviet people was when, as Chairman of the Constitutional Commission, he presented the new Constitution of the Socialist State. A commission of thirty-one of the country’s ablest historians, economists, and political scientists had been instructed to create “the world’s most democratic constitution” with the most accurate machinery yet devised for obtaining “the will of the people.” They spent a year and a half in detailed study of every past constitution in the world, not only of governments but of trade unions and voluntary societies. The draft that they prepared was then discussed by the Soviet people for several months in more than half a million meetings attended by 36,500,000 people. The number of suggested amendments that reached the Constitutional Commission from the popular discussions was 154,000. Stalin himself is known to have read tens of thousands of the people’s letters.

Two thousand people sat in the great white hall of the Kremlin Palace when Stalin made his report to the Congress of Soviets. Below me, where I sat in the journalists’ box, was the main floor filled with the Congress deputies; around me in the loges sat the foreign diplomatic corps; behind me, in a deep gallery, were citizen-visitors. Outside the hall tens of millions of people listened over the radio, from the southern cotton fields of Central Asia to the scientific stations on the Arctic coast. It was a high point of Soviet history. But Stalin’s words were direct and simple and as informal as if he sat at a fireside talking with a few friends. He explained the significance of the Constitution, took up the suggested amendments, referred a large number of them to various lawmaking bodies and himself discussed the most important. He made it plain that everyone of those 154,000 suggestions had been classified somewhere and would influence something.

Among the dozen or more amendments which Stalin personally discussed, he approved of those that facilitated democratic expression and disapproved of those that limited democracy. Some people felt, for instance, that the different constituent republics should not be granted the right to secede from the Soviet Union; Stalin said that, while they probably would not want to secede, their right to do so should be constitutionally guaranteed as an assertion of democracy. A fairly large number of people wanted to refuse political rights to the priests lest they influence politics unduly. “The time has come to introduce universal suffrage without limitations,” said Stalin, arguing that the Soviet people were now mature enough to know their own minds.

More important for us today than constitutional forms, or even the question of how they work, was one very significant note in Stalin’s speech. He ended by a direct challenge to the growing Nazi threat in Europe. Speaking on November 25, 1936, before Hitlerism was seriously opposed by any European government, Stalin called the new Soviet Constitution “an indictment against Fascism, an indictment which says that Socialism and Democracy are invincible.”

In the years since the Constitutional Congress, Stalin’s own personality began to be more widely known. His picture and slogans became so prominent in the Soviet Union that foreigners found this “idolatry” forced and insincere. Most Soviet folk of my acquaintance really do feel tremendous devotion to Stalin as the man who has built their country and led it to success. I have even known people to make a temporary change of residence just before election day in order to have the chance to vote for Stalin directly in the district where he was running, instead of for the less exciting candidate from their own district.

No information about Stalin’s home life is ever printed in Soviet newspapers. By Russian tradition, everybody, even a political leader, is entitled to the privacy of his personal life. A very delicate line divides private life from public work. When Stalin’s wife died, the black-bordered death notices in the paper mentioned her by her own name, which was not Stalin’s, listed her work and connection with various public organizations, and the fact that she was “the friend and comrade of Stalin.” They did not mention that she was his wife. The fact that she worked with him and might influence his decisions as a comrade was a public matter; the fact that she was married to him was their own affair. Some time later, he was known to have married again, but the press never mentioned it.

Glimpses of Stalin’s personal relations come chiefly through his contacts with picturesque figures who have helped make Soviet history. Valery Chkalov, the brilliant aviator who made the first flight across the North Pole from Moscow to America, told of an afternoon that he spent at Stalin’s summer home from four o’clock till after midnight. Stalin sang many Volga songs, put on gramophone records for the younger people to dance, and generally behaved like a normal human being relaxing in the heart of his family. He said he had learned the songs in his Siberian exile when there wasn’t much to do but sing.

The three women aviators who broke all world records for women by their spectacular flight from Moscow to the Far East were later entertained at an evening party at the Kremlin in their honor. One of them, Raskova, related afterwards how Stalin had joked with them about the prehistoric days of the matriarchate when women ruled human society. He said that in the early days of human development women had created agriculture as a basis for society and progress, while men “only hunted and went to war.” After a reference to the long subsequent centuries of woman’s slavery, Stalin added, “Now these three women come to avenge the heavy centuries of woman’s suppression.”

The best tale, I think, is that about Marie Demchenko, because it shows Stalin’s idea of leaders and of how they are produced. Marie was a peasant woman who came to a farm congress in Moscow and made a personal pledge to Stalin, then sitting on the platform, that her brigade of women would produce twenty tons of beets per acre that year. It was a spectacular promise, since the average yield in the Ukraine was about five tons. Marie’s challenge started a competition among the Ukrainian sugar beet growers; it was featured by the Soviet press. The whole country followed with considerable excitement Marie’s fight against a pest of moths. The nation watched the local fire department bring twenty thousand pails of water to the field to beat the drought. They saw that gang of women weed the fields nine times and clear them eight times of insects. Marie finally got twenty-one tons per acre, while the best of her competitors got twenty-three.

That harvest was a national event. So Marie’s whole gang went to Moscow to visit Stalin at the autumn celebration. The newspapers treated them like movie stars and featured their conversation. Stalin asked Marie what she most wanted as a reward for her own good record and for stirring up all the other sugar beet growers. Marie replied that she had wanted most of all to come to Moscow and see “the leaders.”

“But now you yourselves are leaders,” said Stalin to Marie.

“Well, yes,” said Marie, “but we wanted to see you anyway.” Her final request, which was granted, was to study in an agricultural university.

When the German war was launched against the Soviet Union, many foreigners were surprised that Stalin did not make a speech to arouse the people at once. Some of our more sensational papers assumed that Stalin had fled! Soviet people knew that Stalin trusted them to do their jobs and that he would sum the situation up for them as soon as it crystallized. He did it at dawn on July 3 in a radio talk. The words with which he began were very significant.

“Comrades! Citizens!” he said, as he has said often. Then he added, “Brothers and Sisters!” It was the first time Stalin ever used in public those close family words. To everyone who heard them, those words meant that the situation was very serious, that they must now face the ultimate test together and that they must all be closer and dearer to each other than they had ever been before. It meant that Stalin wanted to put a supporting arm across their shoulders, giving them strength for the task they had to do. This task was nothing less than to accept in their own bodies the shock of the most hellish assault of history, to withstand it, to break it, and by breaking it save the world. They knew they had to do it, and Stalin knew they would.

Stalin made perfectly plain that the danger was grave, that the German armies had taken most of the Baltic states, that the struggle would be very costly, and that the issues were between “freedom or slavery, life or death to the Soviet State.” He told them: “The enemy is cruel and implacable. He is out to seize our lands, watered with our sweat . . . to convert our peoples into the slaves of German princes and barons.” He called upon the “daring initiative and intelligence that are inherent in our people,” which he himself for more than twenty years had helped to create. He outlined in some detail the bitter path they should follow, each in his own region, and said that they would find allies among the freedom-loving peoples of the world. Then he summoned them “forward—to victory.”

Erskine Caldwell, reporting that dawn from Moscow, said that tremendous crowds stood in the city squares listening to the loud speakers, “holding their breath in such profound silence that one could hear every inflection of Stalin’s voice.” Twice during the speech, even the sound of water being poured into a glass could be heard as Stalin stopped to drink. For several minutes after Stalin had finished the silence continued. Then a motherly-looking woman said, “He works so hard, I wonder when he finds time to sleep. I am worried about his health.”

That was the way that Stalin took the Soviet people into the test of war.

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Book Review: Bruce Cumings’ North Korea: Another Country

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BY SOPHIA SOLIVIO

Bruce Cumings is the Chairperson of the History Department and Gustavus F. and Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professor in History and the College at the University of Chicago. In 1975, he received his PhD from Columbia University. Cumings’ professional and academic credentials make his compilation of complaints primarily in regard to the United States’ foreign and domestic policies and his fundamental admiration for North Korea in North Korea: Another Country (2004) especially grating to read because presumably he has the professional experience and academic training to produce a more informative, engaging book about North Korea for the general reader.

Cumings has written well-received scholarly books on Korean history, especially the Korean War. With North Korea: Another Country, however, he does not intend to write for other academics. Instead, he focuses on a readership with little or no familiarity with the history of North Korea or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the Korean peninsula, and United States–Korea relations. By the end of Cumings’ 256-page book, that readership may have learned more about the aforementioned topics, but only tangentially and selectively. Unfortunately, Cumings has written a book sidetracked by his supercilious attitude.

In North Korea: Another Country, Cumings seeks to educate “the reader who wishes to learn about our eternal enemy” and wonders “if Americans can ever transcend their own experience and join a world of profound difference.” To help curious readers, even Americans, willingly enter his “world of profound difference,” the author divides the book into six chapters beginning with the brutality, particularly of the United States, during the Korean War and its continuous influence on North Korea; the history of North Korea’s nuclear program and the apparent intransigence of North Korea–United States negotiations over the former’s denuclearization; Kim Il Sung’s life, his fight for an independent Korea, and the appeal of anti-imperialism to North Koreans and Koreans overall; the history of daily life in the northern half of the Korean peninsula and the DPRK; Kim Jong Il’s life and dynamism as a leader; and the crises in North Korea, including floods, droughts, famine, and the collapse of its energy system, following the death of Kim Il Sung in 1994.

Throughout the six chapters, Cumings basically covers the modern history of north Korea and its relations with the United States to show that, contrary to Western narratives about the DPRK, the country is dynamic rather than static and more rational than not. Cumings’ objective, to increase public awareness of North Korea as a somewhat knowable country and to combat perceptions of North Korea as a hopelessly backward, mysterious country, is very worthwhile and admirable. His execution of that objective maybe well-intentioned, but it is also meandering and overbearing. Often, Cumings seems more interested in using North Korea as a lens through which to contemptuously mention and criticize the United States and whatever or whoever else annoys him; this habit frequently detracts from his attempts to educate others as completely as possible, about North Korea.

For example, early on Cumings notes a 1999 CIA study that according to him, “almost grudgingly acknowledged various achievements of this regime: compassionate care for children in general and war orphans in particular; ‘radical change’ in the position of women; genuinely free housing; free health care, and preventive medicine; and infant mortality and life expectancy rates comparable to the most advanced countries until the recent famine.” Rather than clarify whether the CIA study “grudgingly acknowledged various achievements” of the North Korean government in a vacuum, in comparison to other Communist states, or even South Korea, Cumings appears to reference the study mainly to underscore the hypocrisy of the United States, where the government and the press relentlessly pigeonholes North Korea as “our” evil Oriental enemy as, at one point, the CIA documents positive socioeconomic developments in North Korea.

Cumings does not bother to examine, point by point, the trajectory of North Korea’s early achievements in social welfare and gender equality. North Korea’s “compassionate care for children in general and war orphans in particular” led to the creation of Mangyondae Revolutionary School, initially chiefly for the education of the next generation’s political elite, the children whose parents died in the Korean War. In addition, in contrast to South Korea’s post-Korean War policy of “exporting” orphans, resulting in approximately 150,000 adopted ethnic Koreans in more than 20 Western countries, Kim Il Sung encouraged domestic adoption of the country’s war orphans although from 1951–52 at least, an estimated 2,500 North Korean war orphans were adopted in several Eastern European Communist countries, such as Poland, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia, as well as Hungary and Mongolia. However, the recent famine also contributed to the creation of 200,000 orphans, many becoming ‘kotchebis’ or “ wandering swallows,” street urchins living off black markets in North Korea and/or relying on crossing into the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in order to scavenge for food.

Also, while North Korea for instance, on July 30, 1946 announced the enactment of the “Status on Gender Equality” with Clause I stating, “In all areas of the country’s economic, cultural and social political life, women have the same rights as men,” in terms of political power, as of 2001, women represented about 20% of the Supreme People’s Assembly, all in symbolic posts. In 1990, there were only 14 women members of 328 members in the policy-making Central Committee and the Alternative Members of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party. In addition, in the mid-1980s, North Korean defectors claimed about 60–70% of women quit their jobs after marriage.

Yet at the same time, North Korean women may have earned or earn more than 70% of the male income level. Notably, in 2010, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported South Korean women earned 38% less than the male income level and South Korea had the largest income gender gap in the developed world. Similarly, a Beijing Broadcast Agency report on March 6, 1988 announced a gradual increase in the number of highly educated women professionals in North Korea from the 1970s-80s. In 1963, 43,000 of about 294,000 specialists in North Korea were women. In the 1970s, there were 1,310,000 specialists in North Korea and 463,000 were women with about 220 having doctorate or semi-doctorate degrees. Most recently, in 1989, approximately 37% of the 1,350,000 specialists in North Korea are women. Women in North Korea then, are not brainwashed and incapable zombies for non-North Koreans, particularly Americans, to pity or scorn.

Cumings wants to humanize not only North Korean women, but North Koreans in general. Presumably, as a Westerner fortunate enough to have already entered the previously mentioned “world of profound difference,” he thinks and behaves just as, if not more, empathetically and respectfully toward North Koreans as anyone else. His characterization of his experience at the North Korean Museum of the Revolution, however, perfectly encapsulates the contrast between Cumings’ non-stop moralizing and his condescending tone throughout North Korea: Another Country. Commenting on one exhibit of gifts given to Kim Il Sung by foreign dignitaries, Cumings writes,

“My guide, a young woman whose English was less than fluent, paused in front of a glass-encased chimpanzee, and began to instruct me in a sing-song voice that ‘the Gleat Reader’ had received this taxidermic specimen from one Canaan Banana, vice president of Zimbabwe. I dissolved into hysterics and could not stop laughing as she continued to intone her mantra without dropping a single (mangled) syllable.”

Cumings is considered a “progressive” academic. His ostensible liberalism and unique ability to “transcend” his own experience does not make him a less dogmatic, petty person as demonstrated by his paragraph-long mockery of a North Korean woman’s English accent—obviously not up to his standards. Finally, Cumings presents himself as a person and a historian of Korean history (unable or unwilling to speak Korean fluently) who considers Korea and the United States equals culturally and socially, and in an ideal world, politically as well. Following the “cultural exchange” Cumings describes at the Museum of the Revolution, though, who had the privilege of publicly ridiculing and contributing to negative public perceptions of the “Other?” The young, female North Korean tour guide? Or Cumings, an older white guy with a comfortable job at a prestigious American university? …

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JFK secretly freed rapists, drug dealers and Mafia hitmen to kill Castro and curb threat of Communism, claims explosive new book

  • Revelations made by journalist Bill Deane in new book ‘Smooth Criminal’
  • It tells story of alleged CIA spy and ‘one-man crime wave’ Dave Riley
  • Claims criminals allowed on ‘crime sprees’ in US when not working for CIA
  • Deane: ‘Riley was typical recruit: Intelligent, ambitious and without morals’
  • While JFK did not order the programme, Deane says he was ‘aware’ of it

By MATT BLAKE

President John F. Kennedy secretly endorsed the release of hardened criminals to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro to curb the Communist threat, a new book has claimed.

At the height of tensions between America and neighbouring Communist Cuba in the early 1960s, JFK was implicit in the freeing of rapists, drug dealers, and Mafia hitmen through CIA in a bid to recruit ‘untraceable’ spies willing to risk their lives on dangerous missions rather than go back to jail, a new book sensationally claims.

Desperate to remove Castro from power, the president resorted to using dangerous criminals as operatives – rather than CIA agents – to ‘do America’s dirty work’ as they couldn’t be linked back to his administration, it is claimed.

In one failed plot, an ex con was smuggled into Cuba in 1962 to pose as a waiter in Castro’s favourite restaurant where he would drop poison tablets into the revolutionary leader’s soup.

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy appearing on television talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis.
President Kennedy secretly endorsed the release of hardened criminals to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro to curb the Communist threat, experts have claimed.

Height of the Cold War: Desperate to remove Fidel Castro, right, from power, President John F. Kennedy, left, resorted to using dangerous criminals as operatives – rather than CIA agents – to ‘do America’s dirty work’

The explosive claims come in a new book by veteran American Journalist and author William Deane, who claims specially-recruited criminals became ‘untouchable’ and were allowed to embark on ‘crime sprees’ in the US without fear of prosecution.

Deane, former assignment editor at American news networks ABC and CBS, says he uncovered the programme – which he believes is still in operation today – after following the ‘trail of destruction’ left by one such operative.

Though JFK did not order the setting up of the top secret programme, Deane says that as president Kennedy would have ‘been aware’ of it.

‘For over 50 years, the CIA and American government has been systematically releasing dangerous criminals back into society to work for them on secret missions overseas,’ said Deane, whose new book Smooth Criminal details the life of alleged CIA operative and ‘one-man American crime wave’ Dave Riley.

‘The programme started during the Kennedy administration at the start of the 1960s as a clandestine means of dealing with the Communist threat of Castro, and was given the seal of approval by JFK – who was still smarting following the political embarrassment of the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba in 1961.

Journalist and author William Deane
President Kennedy secretly endorsed the release of hardened criminal to assassinate Cubas President Castro and curb the Communist threat

‘One man American crime wave’: The details of the plot were revealed by veteran journalist and author William Deane, whose new book Smooth Criminal, right, details the life of alleged CIA operative and ‘one-man American crime wave’ Dave Riley

‘Criminals were ideal operatives as they were ruthless and willing to risk their lives during missions rather than be sent back to prison. They also couldn’t be officially connected with the CIA so it didn’t matter if they were captured – there was no risk of America’s shady policies being exposed.

‘Riley was a typical recruit. Highly intelligent, ambitious and with no morals. The CIA sent him on many missions abroad, including to Cuba to assassinate Castro,’ added Deane.

‘Between missions he was allowed to do what he liked – which generally consisted of embezzlement, fraud, gunrunning and drug dealing – without fear of being arrested or prosecuted.’

Warning: Deane claims the CIA continues to recruit hardened criminals to 'do America's dirty work' with impunityWarning: Deane claims the CIA continues to recruit hardened criminals to ‘do America’s dirty work’ with impunity

Deane claims to have first encountered Riley back in 1961 while working as a DJ at a radio station in Miami, Florida.

Riley, then in his early 20s and with ambitions of being the ‘next Frank Sinatra’, had connections with the Mafia and used his connections to ‘persuade’ the radio station to play his records.

Though they lost touch, Deane next heard of Riley in April 1962 when working as a cub reporter for a Miami TV station – after hearing he had hijacked a plane to Cuba.

According to news reports, on Friday, April 13, 1962, Riley and an accomplice had forced pilot Reginald Doan at gunpoint to fly them to the communist island, where they planned to defect, only for the Cuban authorities to imprison them before sending them back to Miami.

Deane says he was contacted by Riley prior to the Black Friday Skyjacking trial and during that meeting revealed that he was working for the CIA and had been sent to infiltrate Cuba as a spy.

‘The skyjacking was just a smokescreen conjured up by the CIA after the mission went wrong.

‘Riley confessed that he’d been recruited by the intelligence agency while in prison for extortion of a public official back in 1960, and had been sent to Cuba to carry out a number of assignments – including one to assassinate Castro.

‘He had posed as a waiter at one of Castro’s favourite restaurants and been supplied with Botulinum tablets – an untraceable poison – by the CIA to drop into his soup, but Castro must have got wind of the plan as he suddenly stopped eating there.’

Deane admits that at first he thought that Riley was a ‘fantasist’ and, after the criminal was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the skyjacking by the U.S. Supreme Court in November 1964, largely forgot about him.

Kennedy with military leaders in 1962: The programme started during the Kennedy administration at the start of the 1960s as a clandestine means of dealing with the Communist threat of Castro.JFK with military leaders in 1962: The programme started during the Kennedy administration at the start of the 1960s as a clandestine means of dealing with the Communist threat of Castro. but Deane claims the practice is still in use today

It was only after his retirement from CBS in 2005, when he started writing Smooth Criminal, that Deane discovered that Riley might have been telling the truth about the criminal operatives programme all along.

Deane traced Riley’s whereabouts from the time of the skyjacking trial onwards and found that far from serving his time in jail, he had apparently been back on the streets committing crimes within a matter of months.

The journalist uncovered over 40 newspaper reports of Riley’s various crimes in archives and gained further corroboration of his seeming invulnerability to prosecution after tracking down several of his victims.

He added: ‘Riley was a one-man crime wave who was allowed by the CIA, and indirectly the president, to consistently get away with his crimes in return for his occasional assistance.

‘In the late 1960s and early ’70s he went on undercover missions to Vietnam, Cambodia and other troubled South Asian countries, and back at home got away with embezzlement, fraud, gunrunning, drug dealing and sexual assault among other crimes.

Smoking gun: Deane says Riley had posed as a waiter at one of Castro's (pictured) favourite restaurants and been supplied with Botulinum tabletsSmoking gun: Deane says Riley had posed as a waiter at one of Castro’s (pictured) favourite restaurants and been supplied with Botulinum tablets – an untraceable poison – by the CIA to drop into his soup, but Castro must have got wind of the plan as he suddenly stopped eating there

‘He has left a string of victims across the USA over the last 40 years, but the police and FBI have been powerless to act because he is protected by the CIA. The agency maintains a policy of complete secrecy and doesn’t want to risk compromising operations by having one of their operatives involved in a public trial.

‘One unfortunate woman who came across Riley was swindled out of $20,000 – her life savings – and the deeds to several properties, but the police and Feds weren’t allowed to warn her, and weren’t allowed to stop him.’

Deane says that he has evidence of Riley living in New York in 2005, but after that the scene goes cold.

He claims requests for information from the FBI, CIA, Treasury and other government agencies were ignored and suspects Riley, now in his 70s, is either dead or has been placed into a Federal Witness Protection scheme to put him out of reach.

Deane says he doesn’t disapprove of America’s criminal operatives programme per se, but has written Smooth Criminal to warn the American public about the programme in case they become victims of ‘untouchables’ such as Riley.

He added: ‘America has lots of enemies and security has to be maintained if we are to prevent another 9/11 so I am not against a programme that helps protect the nation.

‘What I do object to is the CIA’s insistence on complete secrecy. The rationale that a few Americans have to suffer for the sake of 315 million is not acceptable.

‘It’s sad and pathetic that totally innocent Americans have lost virtually everything, including their homes and businesses, while the Feds stood by and did nothing but protect their released criminals.

‘The CIA should be capable of controlling freed criminals without exposing their clandestine operations, and if they can’t, should discretely warn potential victims to keep away from these people.’

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Forever in Chains: The Tragic History of Congo

Nsala, of the district of Wala, looking at the severed hand and foot of his five-year old daughter, Boali, who was killed and allegedly cannibalized by the members of Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company (A.B.I.R.) militia. Source: E. D Morel, King Leopold's rule in Africa, between pages 144 and 145

Nsala, of the district of Wala, looking at the severed hand and foot of his five-year old daughter, Boali, who was killed and allegedly cannibalized by the members of Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company (A.B.I.R.) militia. Source: E. D Morel, King Leopold’s rule in Africa, between pages 144 and 145

FRIDAY 28 JULY 2006

The most blighted nation on earth goes to the polls this weekend – more in hope than expectation that stability and peace might result. In Congo, mass suffering has been a way of life ever since the Belgian King Leopold enslaved millions in the 19th century. Paul Vallely traces the story of a people for whom the horror never let up

One picture sums it up. It shows a man named Nsala sitting on the porch of a missionary’s house in the Congo. His face is a portrait of impenetrable sorrow.

Before him lie a small hand and foot. It is all that remains of his five-year-old daughter who has – together with his wife and son – been killed, dismembered, cooked and eaten by soldiers.

The photograph was taken during the biggest atrocity in recorded African history. And it was perpetrated not by Africans, but by Europeans.

No one knows how many people died, but it was at least three million men, women and children. Some historians say it was five million, or 10 million. The Encyclopaedia Britannica has said that as many as 30 million people may have perished.

It is but a single chapter in the long and bloody history of the Congo. This weekend, voters go to the polls in Democratic Republic of Congo for the first elections in 40 years, during which havoc has been wreaked by despotism and war. But will Sunday’s poll do anything to change lives there for the better?

The first that was written of the hot and humid river basin that straddles the Equator on the west of the great African continent came from Portuguese travellers in the 15th century. They had encountered a place called the Kingdom of Kongo and, with its capital city of Mbanza Kongo, it had a population close to half a million people. It was a highly developed state at the centre of an extensive trading network.

Merchants traded all manner of raw materials, the most precious of which was ivory, but which also included a wealth of manufactured goods such as copper and ironware, raffia cloth and pottery. It was also a centre for the buying and selling of individuals captured in war. Long before the arrival of the Europeans, the slave trade existed. The ruler was a king who rejoiced in the title of “Mother of the King of Kongo”.

Not much more was heard of the place in Europe until the great Victorian missionary explorer David Livingstone discovered that quinine was the key to unlocking the African interior. He became a hero and a household name in the second half of the 19th century, but then disappeared into the bush. The New York Herald sent another intrepid Briton to find him, and the young man, Henry Morton Stanley, walked into the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations with his greeting: “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”

Across the other side of the globe, King Leopold II of the Belgians read about it over breakfast in the The Times, which was thrown from the continental mail train into the grounds of his palace each morning. (His butler ironed it before the monarch read it.)

Leopold had been of the opinion for some time that “il faut à la Belgique une colonie”. He didn’t want to miss the chance of getting a good slice of what he called the “magnifique gâteau africain”. But he was having a hard time persuading the Belgian government to agree. So he decided to acquire a colony by himself. In doing so, he ignited what came to be called “the scramble of Africa”.

Stanley’s encounter with the Congo was being hailed as the most important geographical “discovery” ever made in Africa. The king summoned the Welshman and in 1878 commissioned him to go back – under the guise of an international scientific and philanthropic association, which he called the International African Society – to negotiate with the local chiefs.

Over the five years that followed, Stanley concluded some 400 “cloth and trinket” treaties with the Congo chiefs. The Africans thought they were signing friendship pacts, but they were in fact selling their land.

Leopold, who was devious as well as greedy, persuaded the world that he was acting from humanitarian motives. In 1884, the The Daily Telegraph, perspicacious as ever, opined: “Leopold II has knit adventurers, traders and missionaries of many races into one band of men under the most illustrious of modern travellers [Stanley] to carry to the interior of Africa new ideas of law, order, humanity and protection of the natives.”

That year, at the Berlin Conference called by Bismarck to carve up Africa – which no African attended, even as an observer – Leopold displayed some nifty footwork. He persuaded the Iron Chancellor that, in order to exclude Germany’s rivals, Britain and France, from the important new region, it would be best to declare it a free trade area and give it to him. Not to Belgium, not even to the Belgian crown, but to him personally.

Without ever setting foot there, Leopold II had become the owner of nearly a million square miles of unmapped jungle, 75 times the size of Belgium itself. Ivory was what the king had his eye on. And, though plenty of it was yielded, Leopold struggled to make a profit. In 1895, he tried to give the colony to the Belgian government because it was costing him too much.

But then a Scot called Dunlop invented the pneumatic tyre for his bicycle, and the worldwide boom in rubber began. In the Congo, wild jungle vines that yielded the stuff grew everywhere. The natives would slash them and lather their bodies with the rubber. All that Leopold needed to do was to persuade the natives to scrape it off into huge baskets for him.

He did this by setting quotas of both rubber and ivory for each village, for which they were paid a pitifully low fixed price set by his officials on the ground. Each community was told to provide 10 per cent of their number as full-time forced labourers, and another 25 per cent part-time. It was a form of slavery.

Stanley, who supervised all this, became known in Kikongo as Bula Matari (the Breaker of Rocks), a tag the people later transferred to the Congolese state itself. The scheme was a huge success; by 1902, the price of rubber had risen 15 times in eight years, and it constituted 80 per cent of the exports of “The Congo Free State”, as Leopold had dubbed it.

Free is what the people were not. The symbol of Leopold’s rule was the schicotte – a whip of raw sun-dried hippopotamus hide cut into long sharp-edged strips which could quickly remove the skin from a man’s back. The king established a Force Publique to enforce the rubber quotas. Its soldiers were black – many of them cannibals from the fiercest tribes of upper Congo – but they were led by white officers who routinely supervised the burning of non-compliant villages and the torture and rape of those who were struggling to fill quotas.

One local man spelt out what this meant. “Wild beasts – leopards – killed some of us while we were working away in the forest, and others got lost or died from exposure or starvation and we begged the white men to leave us alone, saying we could get no more rubber, but the white men and the soldiers said, ‘Go. You are only beasts yourselves. You are only snyama [meat].’ Many were shot, some had their ears cut off.”

But the routine penalty for failing to bring in enough rubber was the severing of a hand. Soldiers collected them by the basketload, from the living and the dead. A Baptist missionary wrote a letter to The Times about it: “The hands – the hands of men, women and children – were placed in rows before the commissary who counted them to see that the soldiers had not wasted cartridges.” Officers were worried that the men might waste their ammunition on hunting animals for sport, so they required soldiers to submit one hand for every bullet spent. Hands became a grim currency, traded to make up for shortfalls in rubber quotas. “This rubber traffic is steeped in blood,” the letter-writer said.

Other testimony disclosed how Belgian officers ordered their men “to cut off the heads of the men and hang them on the village palisades, also their sexual members, and to hang the women and the children on the palisade in the form of a cross”. This blood-curdling business carried on for more than 12 years before word leaked out. One of the first to blow the whistle was the captain of one of the riverboats that transported the ivory and rubber downstream to port. His name was Joseph Conrad, and eight years later he wrote a book that has shaped the emotional language in which white people discuss Africa.

It was called Heart of Darkness. The atmosphere it conjures is of fetid fever-ridden ports in an Equatorial river basin surrounded by dense tropical rainforest. It is a climate of persistent high temperatures and humidity, as enervating to the soul as to the body. It is a world of madness, greed and violence, centred on a charismatic ivory trader called Kurtz who turns himself into a demigod to the local tribes and gathers vast quantities of ivory. Eventually, he dies – “The horror, the horror,” his last words.

When the book was published in magazine serial form in 1899, it did not just expose what Conrad was to call “the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience”. It also gave backing to the writings of a man whose campaigns on the Congo the public had been reluctant to believe.

ED Morel was a clerk in a Liverpool shipping office who began to wonder why the ships that brought vast loads of rubber from the Congo returned carrying no commercial goods, but only guns and ammunition. He began to investigate the Force Publique and concluded that Leopold’s well-publicised philanthropy was in fact “legalised robbery enforced by violence”. He wrote: “I had stumbled upon a secret society of murderers with a king for a croniman.”

In 1903, the House of Commons debated the Congo atrocities. The British consul in Congo, Roger Casement, was sent to investigate. The year after, he returned with a vivid and detailed eyewitness report, which was made public. His 1904 report, which confirmed Morel’s accusations and suggested that at least three million people had died, had a considerable impact on public opinion.

Even then, Leopold countered with a wicked publicity campaign to discredit the reports. He even created a bogus Commission for the Protection of the Natives to root out the “few isolated instances” of abuse. But he reckoned without another recent invention – the camera. Before long, horrifying photographs such as the one of the man with his daughter’s little hand and foot, were in circulation.

International opinion was outraged. In America, Mark Twain penned a savage piece of sarcasm called King Leopold’s Soliloquy. In Britain, Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired to write the book The Crime of the Congo, which he completed in eight days. Before long, the American President and the British prime minister were pressing the Belgian government to act.

Leopold offered to reform his regime, but few took him seriously. After two years of agonised deliberation, a further report (which confirmed Casement’s) and a general election, the Parliament of Belgium annexed the Congo Free State and took over its administration. It paid Leopold £2m to compensate him for his sacrifices.

Renamed the Belgian Congo (to contrast with the much smaller French Congo, now the Republic of Congo, to the west), the region became a “model colony”. In the decades that followed the transfer of responsibility to the government of Belgium, large amounts of the wealth produced in the Congo were spent there by the alliance of church, commerce and state.

The missionaries built hospitals and clinics to which large numbers of Congolese had access. Doctors and medics achieved great victories against disease, managing to eradicate sleeping sickness. Many villages had medical posts, and bigger cities had well-equipped hospitals. The church ran schools to which 10 per cent of the people were admitted, comparing favourably with the 6 per cent of the population in school in India and the much lower percentages elsewhere in Africa. The colonial authorities built railways, ports and roads. The mining companies built houses for their staff, provided welfare and technical training.

By the Second World War, production and profits had risen to the point where the Congo was Africa’s richest colony. In the 1950s, life expectancy was 55 years (today, it is 51). By 1959, the year before independence, the Belgian Congo was producing 10 per cent of world’s copper, 50 per cent of its cobalt and 70 per cent of industrial diamonds.

What was missing was the development of a Congolese elite to take over the running of the place. The Congolese had no rights to own land, to vote or to travel freely. There were curfews in towns and forced labour in the countryside. There was no higher education, except for those who wanted to become priests. The Congolese were encouraged to become clerks, medical assistants and mechanics, but not doctors, lawyers or engineers.

At independence, out of a population of 60 million, there were just 16 university graduates. Educated Congolese were given the status of Sévolués, but this won them few privileges when what they wanted, wrote Patrice Lumumba, who was to become the first prime minister of what became Democratic Republic of Congo, “was to be Belgians and have the same freedoms and rights as whites”.

It would come eventually, their colonial masters thought, in perhaps another 100 years. When a Belgian academic suggested a 30-year transition plan was needed, he was greeted with derision. But when the change came, on the back of the sudden tide of African nationalism that swept the continent, accompanied by riots, it happened in just 18 months. The Congo was perhaps the least well-prepared of any colony for independence.

It didn’t help that on Independence Day in 1960, King Baudouin arrived to make a speech praising the “genius” of Leopold II, listing the sacrifices that Belgium had made for the Congo and doling out patronising advice. Prime Minister Lumumba responded with an off-the-cuff speech about the “terrible suffering and exploitation” that had been experienced by “we niggers” and promising: “We shall make of the Congo a shining example for the whole of Africa.” It was not to be.

Lumumba was charismatic, with extraordinary powers of oratory, but he was volatile. Within days of the independence ceremonies, rebellions and violence broke out. The province of Katanga declared independence. Belgium moved troops in. So did the United Nations. Feeling betrayed, Lumumba requested Soviet military aid.

The local CIA chief telegrammed back to Washington that the Congo was “a Cuba in the making” and that Lumumba was a “Castro or worse”. President Eisenhower allegedly authorised that Lumumba be assassinated and a CIA hit man came from Paris with poison to be, bizarrely, injected into the prime minister’s toothpaste. (The local CIA man refused to do it.)

The plot thickened with Dag Hammarskjold, the UN Secretary General, dying in a plane crash in uncertain circumstances while trying to negotiate a ceasefire in Katanga. Letters recently uncovered by South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission suggested that South African agents planted a bomb in the aircraft’s wheel-bay. And, not long afterwards, the Marxist guerrilla leader Che Guevara appeared in the Congo with 100 men in a plot to bring about a Cuban-style revolution.

Amid all that, Patrice Lumumba had fallen out with the Congo’s first president, Joseph Kasavubu. As the pair engaged in a power struggle in September 1960, a military coup overthrew Lumumba in favour of the president. The putsch was staged by the 29-year-old army chief of staff, Colonel Joseph-Désiré Mobutu. Five years later, he staged another one, ousting Kasavubu and beginning his own bizarre 32-year rule.

Lumumba was shot in the bush at the command of a Belgian officer. His body was hacked to pieces and dissolved in sulphuric acid, his skull ground to dust and his bones and teeth scattered – some say by a witch doctor from an aircraft along the country’s borders, to make sure he could not come back from the dead.

Things did not get better. Mobutu sent the Russians packing, which greatly pleased the Americans. So did almost everything else he did, for he staunchly followed US foreign policy in all key matters. It was the height of the Cold War and Africa had become a proxy battlefield. Keeping the Soviets out was more important than anything else. As long as Mobutu did that, and supported anti-Communist rebels in neighbouring countries, Washington would turn a blind eye to anything else.

Mobutu made the most of that. He set up a one-party state that tolerated no dissent. In the early years, he consolidated power by publicly executing political rivals. One rebel leader had his eyes gouged out, his genitals ripped off and his limbs amputated one by one before he died.

Later, Mobutu switched to a new tactic – that of buying off political rivals rather than killing them. He did so by elevating theft to a form of government. A new word was coined to describe it – kleptocracy. At first, he had tried simply printing more money to pay the bills for his schemes. He issued new stamps, coins and currency notes with his portrait on.

There were posters and billboards everywhere. His personality cult reached its peak every night when the television news began with an image of him descending through clouds from the heavens. He put the story about that even his walking stick had magic powers.

In the early years, he launched an African Authenticity campaign. He renamed the country Zaire in 1971. He ordered everyone to drop their Christian names for African ones, rebranding himself Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (“The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, will go from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake”). He outlawed hair-straightening, skin bleaching, the wearing of ties and listening to foreign music. He nationalised foreign-owned firms and handed them to relatives and associates.

When the economy slumped, he printed more money. Hyperinflation followed, and even the central bank bought its hard currency on the black market. But he was a Cold War warrior, so the West bailed him out. The more they gave him, the more he stole. Of the $73m education budget one year, schools got only $8m; he pocketed the rest. So it went with every area of government.

Mobutu’s extravagance was legendary. He had villas, ranches, palaces and yachts throughout Europe. Concorde was constantly hired. He didn’t just have Swiss bank accounts; he bought a Swiss bank. He didn’t just get his wife a Mercedes; he bought a Mercedes assembly plant for her. He stashed away nearly $5bn – almost the equivalent of the country’s foreign debt at the time.

Still, the West smiled and paid up to the man Ronald Reagan called “a voice of good sense and good will”. The US gave him a total of $2bn over 30 years. The CIA trained and armed his bodyguards. When rebels attacked him, France airlifted in 1,500 elite Moroccan paratroopers. When that wasn’t enough, a year later Belgium and France deployed troops (with American logistical support).

All the while, the Congo became Africa’s haven for mercenaries, money launderers and diamond smugglers – while its public infrastructure rotted and child mortality rose. Mobutu became the longest-surviving despot of the Cold War era. It was either “Mobutu or chaos”, the US said. But the hapless people of the Congo got both.

Then it was over. The Berlin Wall fell. The Cold War ended. The IMF experts who had been brought in to reform his finances – and left after a year in despair – pulled the plug on his loans. The US would lend no more. Mobutu declared an end to one-party rule, but it was too late.

What finished him off was the decision to back the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide. After the Hutu genocidaires were chased from Rwanda in 1994, Mobutu gave them shelter in Zaire. More than that; he issued an order forcing Tutsis to leave Zaire on penalty of death. They erupted in rebellion. Rwanda and Uganda joined in, invading eastern Congo in pursuit of the genocidaires. When they met no resistance – the Congolese army being more used to suppressing civilians than fighting – they marched on the capital Kinshasa.

Mobutu – the “all-powerful warrior”, the fifth-richest man in the world, who bled the Congo even more efficiently than King Leopold, and who looted the state into paralysis – escaped on a cargo plane with bullets ripping into the fuselage as it took off. After 20 years of Mobutist dictatorship, in the words of the African historian Basil Davidson: “Zaire remained a state without a nation, a geographical concept without a people.” And Kinshasa la belle had become Kinshasa la poubell – the dustbin.

The new man was Laurent-Désiré Kabila. He presented himself as the heir to the murdered Lumumba. Outsiders hailed him as one of the “new breed” of African leaders. Nelson Mandela paid tribute. The US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, stood next to Kabila early on and said that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (or Democratic Republic of Congo as it was re-re-named) would now emerge as “an engine of regional growth”. Those who knew Kabila thought differently.

His critics sneered that all he had ever run was a brothel in Tanzania. Others recalled the judgement of Che Guevara who had concluded three decades earlier that Kabila was “not the man of the hour”. He was too interested in drinking, bedding women and showing up days late. The lack of co-operation between Kabila and Guevara was what had led to the Cuban-style revolution foundering in the Sixties.

He had not, it seemed, improved with age. Kabila turned out to be another petty tyrant. Secretive and paranoid, he had no political programme and just doled out jobs to family and friends. He made his cousin chief of the armed forces, gave his son a top army job and made his brother-in-law the police chief. Worse, he was as cruel as Mobutu, jailing and torturing opponents, but lacking his skill in playing the ethnic card. He promised elections but never held them.

And he did not learn from Mobutu’s mistakes. Put in power by the Rwandans and Ugandans, he decided to distance himself from them by again supporting the Hutus and allowing them to regroup on Congolese soil. Rwanda had learnt the lessons of the past; it immediately flew 2,000 troops to within striking distance of the capital. Uganda joined in. Kabila was only saved because Angola and Zimbabwe came to his rescue, the former fearing that a power vacuum in the DRC would allow Angolan rebels to flourish, the later trying to play the statesman and grab some mining contracts.

The fighting soon stalemated. But no one was bothered; all involved just used the bases they had established inside the DRC to plunder. The war became self-financing as all sides scrabbled for diamonds, gold and timber.

Suddenly, 70 per cent of the Congo’s coltan – an essential component in making mobile phones – was being exported through Rwanda. And Congo gold turned into a major Ugandan export. Rwanda and Uganda even began to fight each other at one point over control of Kisangani and its diamond fields.

What broke the stalemate was a coup in 2001. The plot failed, but Kabila was assassinated. His son, Joseph Kabila Kabange, became President. The Congo’s warlords were happy, assuming that junior would be a pushover.

But Kabila II had done his military training in China and turned out to be an operator. Within a year, he had successfully negotiated an international peace deal that saw Rwanda withdraw and all the remaining warring parties agree to end the fighting and establish a government of national unity.

Peace has returned to two-thirds of the country – there are factions fighting in the east – and Kabila has delivered the referendum he promised and now, on Sunday, the elections. He is, of course, standing and is, of course, the favourite of the 33 candidates.

The country is still in a dire state. Aid organisations say about 1,200 people die daily due to the effects of the conflict, hunger and disease. The DRC has Aids, low life expectancy and a high rate of child deaths. More than two million Congolese are internal refugees. National output and government revenue slumped – and external debt increased – during the five years of fighting, in which perhaps four million people died.

Even so, this weekend’s elections – the first multiparty elections in 40 years – are the biggest and most costly the UN has organised. Another eastern warlord yesterday agreed to lay down arms. Last month, the world’s largest mining company, BHP Billiton, said it would open an office in Kinshasa once the election is over. Other big mining groups may follow.

The prospects look a little brighter. It may be too soon – in the two-steps-forward, one-step-back world of contemporary Africa – to be optimistic. But, in their terrible story, the people of the Congo hope that, at last, it may be that a corner is being turned.

The horror: from Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’

Paths, paths, everywhere; a stamped-in network of paths spreading over the empty land, through the long grass, through burnt grass, through thickets, down and up chilly ravines, up and down stony hills ablaze with heat; and a solitude, a solitude, nobody, not a hut. The population had cleared out a long time ago. Well, if a lot of mysterious niggers armed with all kinds of fearful weapons suddenly took to travelling on the road between Deal and Gravesend, catching the yokels right and left to carry heavy loads for them, I fancy every farm and cottage thereabouts would get empty very soon. Only here the dwellings were gone, too. Still I passed through several abandoned villages. There’s something pathetically childish in the ruins of grass walls. Day after day, with the stamp and shuffle of 60 pair of bare feet behind me, each pair under a 60lb load. Camp, cook, sleep, strike camp, march. Now and then a carrier dead in harness, at rest in the long grass near the path, with an empty water gourd and his long staff lying by his side. A great silence around and above. Perhaps on some quiet night the tremor of far-off drums, sinking, swelling, a tremor vast, faint; a sound weird, appealing, suggestive and wild – and perhaps with as profound a meaning as the sound of bells in a Christian country. Once a white man in an unbuttoned uniform, camping on the path with an armed escort of lank Zanzibaris, very hospitable and festive – not to say drunk. Was looking after the upkeep of the road, he declared. Can’t say I saw any road or any upkeep, unless the body of a middle-aged negro, with a bullet-hole in the forehead, upon which I absolutely stumbled three miles farther on, may be considered a permanent improvement.

Source

“United Fruit Co.” by Pablo Naruda

kurtz-phelan-600

Neruda wrote this poem in 1950 to bring attention to injustices brought upon the native populations of Central and South America that were a result of American companies (and the U.S. government with the help of the CIA) and dictators throughout the region who exploited their labor and forcefully suppressed democratic movements.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

United Fruit Co.

When the trumpet sounded
everything was prepared on earth,
and Jehovah gave the world
to Coca-Cola Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, and other corporations.
The United Fruit Company
reserved for itself the most juicy
piece, the central coast of my world,
the delicate waist of America.

It rebaptized these countries
Banana Republics,
and over the sleeping dead,
over the unquiet heroes
who won greatness,
liberty, and banners,
it established an opera buffa:
it abolished free will,
gave out imperial crowns,
encouraged envy, attracted
the dictatorship of flies:
Trujillo flies, Tachos flies
Carias flies, Martinez flies,
Ubico flies, flies sticky with
submissive blood and marmalade,
drunken flies that buzz over
the tombs of the people,
circus flies, wise flies
expert at tyranny.

With the bloodthirsty flies
came the Fruit Company,
amassed coffee and fruit
in ships which put to sea like
overloaded trays with the treasures
from our sunken lands.

Meanwhile the Indians fall
into the sugared depths of the
harbors and are buried in the
morning mists;
a corpse rolls, a thing without
name, a discarded number,
a bunch of rotten fruit
thrown on the garbage heap.

AS WRITTEN IN SPANISH

La United Fruit Co.

Cuando sonó la trompeta, estuvo
todo preparado en la tierra,
y Jehova repartió el mundo
a Coca-Cola Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, y otras entidades:
la Compañía Frutera Inc.
se reservó lo más jugoso,
la costa central de mi tierra,
la dulce cintura de América.

Bautizó de nuevo sus tierras
como “Repúblicas Bananas,”
y sobre los muertos dormidos,
sobre los héroes inquietos
que conquistaron la grandeza,
la libertad y las banderas,
estableció la ópera bufa:
enajenó los albedríos
regaló coronas de César,
desenvainó la envidia, atrajo
la dictadora de las moscas,
moscas Trujillos, moscas Tachos,
moscas Carías, moscas Martínez,
moscas Ubico, moscas húmedas
de sangre humilde y mermelada,
moscas borrachas que zumban
sobre las tumbas populares,
moscas de circo, sabias moscas
entendidas en tiranía.

Entre las moscas sanguinarias
la Frutera desembarca,
arrasando el café y las frutas,
en sus barcos que deslizaron
como bandejas el tesoro
de nuestras tierras sumergidas.

Mientras tanto, por los abismos
azucarados de los puertos,
caían indios sepultados
en el vapor de la mañana:
un cuerpo rueda, una cosa
sin nombre, un número caído,
un racimo de fruta muerta
derramada en el pudridero.

Lies concerning the history of the Soviet Union

From Hitler to Hearst, from Conquest to Solzhenitsyn: the history of the millions of people who allegedly were incarcerated and died in the labour camps of the Soviet Union and as a result of starvation during Stalin’s time.

Speech by Mario Sousa, KPML (r) Sweden

Translated and presented to the Stalin Society by Ella Rule March 1999.

The Ukraine as a German territory

William Hearst – Friend of Hitler
The myth concerning the famine in the Ukraine
The Hearst mass media empire in 1998
52 years before the truth emerges
Robert Conquest at the heart of the myths
Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Support for Franco’s fascism
Nazis, the police and the fascists
The archives demonstrate the propaganda lies
Fraudulent methods give rise to millions of dead
Gorbachev opens the archives
What the Russian research shows
Labour camps in the penal system
How many political prisoners there were, and how many common criminals
The internal and external threat
More prisoners in the US
How many people died in the labour camps?
How many people were sentenced to death prior to 1953, especially during the purges of 1937-38?
How long was the average prison sentence?
A brief discussion as to the research reports
The kulaks and the counter-revolution
The purges of 1937
Industrial sabotage
Theft and corruption
Plans for a coup
More numerous liars
Let us learn from history
Table of data

In this world we live in, who can avoid hearing the terrible stories of suspected death and murders in the gulag labour camps of the Soviet Union? Who can avoid the stories of the millions who starved to death and the millions of oppositionists executed in the Soviet Union during Stalin’s time? In the capitalist world these stories are repeated over and over again in books, newspapers, on the radio and television, and in films, and the mythical numbers of millions of victims of socialism have increased by leaps and bounds in the last 50 years.

But where in fact do these stories, and these figures, come from? Who is behind all this?

And another question: what truth is there in these stories? And what information is lying in the archives of the Soviet Union, formerly secret but opened up to historical research by Gorbachev in 1989? The authors of the myths always said that all their tales of millions having died in Stalin’s Soviet Union would be confirmed the day the archives were opened up. Is that what happened? Were they confirmed in fact?

The following article shows us where these stories of millions of deaths through hunger and in labour camps in Stalin’s Soviet Union originated and who is behind them.

The present author, after studying the reports of the research which has been done in the archives of the Soviet Union, is able to provide information in the form of concrete data about the real number of prisoners, the years they spent in prison and the real number of those who died and of those who were condemned to death in Stalin’s Soviet Union. The truth is quite different from the myth.

There is a direct historical link running from: Hitler to Hearst, to Conquest, to Solzhenitsyn. In 1933 political changes took place in Germany that were to leave their mark on world history for decades to come. On 30 January Hitler became prime minister and a new form of government, involving violence and disregard of the law, began to take shape. In order to consolidate their grip on power the Nazis called fresh elections for the 5th of March, using all propaganda means within their grasp to secure victory. A week before the elections, on 27 February, the Nazis set fire to parliament and accused the communists of being responsible. In the elections that followed, the Nazis secured 17.3 million votes and 288 deputies, about 48% of the electorate (in November they had secured 11.7 million votes and 196 deputies). Once the Communist Party was banned, the Nazis began to persecute the Social Democrats and the trade-union movement, and the first concentration camps began to fill up with all those left-wing men and women. In the meantime, Hitler’s power in parliament continued to grow, with the help of the right wing. On 24 March, Hitler caused a law to be passed by parliament which conferred on him absolute power to rule the country for 4 years without consulting parliament. From then on began the open persecution of the Jews, the first of whom began to enter the concentration camps where communists and left social-democrats were already being held. Hitler pressed ahead with his bid for absolute power, renouncing the 1918 international accords that had imposed restrictions on the arming and militarisation of Germany. Germany’s re-armament took place at great speed. This was the situation in the international political arena when the myths concerning those dying in the Soviet Union began to be put together.

The Ukraine as a German territory

At Hitler’s side in the German leadership was Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, the man in charge of inculcating the Nazi dream into the German people. This was a dream of a racially pure people living in a Greater Germany, a country with broad lebensraum, a wide space in which to live. One part of this lebensraum, an area to the east of Germany which was, indeed, far larger than Germany itself, had yet to be conquered and incorporated into the German nation. In 1925, in Mein Kampf, Hitler had already pointed to the Ukraine as an essential part of this German living space. The Ukraine and other regions of Eastern Europe needed to belong to the German nation so that they could be utilised in a `proper’ manner. According to Nazi propaganda, the Nazi sword would liberate this territory in order to make space for the German race. With German technology and German enterprise, the Ukraine would be transformed into an area producing cereals for Germany. But first the Germans had to liberate the Ukraine of its population of `inferior beings’ who, according to Nazi propaganda, would be put to work as a slave labour force in German homes, factories and fields – anywhere they were needed by the German economy.

The conquest of the Ukraine and other areas of the Soviet Union would necessitate war against the Soviet Union, and this war had to be prepared well in advance. To this end the Nazi propaganda ministry, headed by Goebbels, began a campaign around a supposed genocide committed by the Bolsheviks in the Ukraine, a dreadful period of catastrophic famine it claimed was deliberately provoked by Stalin in order to force the peasantry to accept socialist policy. The purpose of the Nazi campaign was to prepare world public opinion for the `liberation’ of the Ukraine by German troops. Despite huge efforts and in spite of the fact that some of the German propaganda texts were published in the English press, the Nazi campaign around the supposed `genocide’ in the Ukraine was not very successful at the world level. It was clear that Hitler and Goebbels needed help in spreading their libellous rumours about the Soviet Union. That help they found in the USA.

William Hearst – Friend of Hitler

William Randolph Hearst is the name of a multi-millionaire who sought to help the Nazis in their psychological warfare against the Soviet Union. Hearst was a well-known US newspaper proprietor known as the `father’ of the so-called `yellow press’, i.e., the sensationalist press. William Hearst began his career as a newspaper editor in 1885 when his father, George Hearst, a millionaire mining industrialist, Senator and newspaper proprietor himself, put him in charge of the San Francisco Daily Examiner.

This was also the start of the Hearst newspaper empire, an empire which strongly influenced the lives and thinking of North Americans. After his father died, William Hearst sold all the mining industry shares he inherited and began to invest capital in the world of journalism. His first purchase was the New York Morning Journal, a traditional newspaper which Hearst completely transformed into a sensationalist rag. He bought his stories at any price, and when there were no atrocities or crimes to report, it behoved his journalists and photographers to `arrange’ matters. It is this which in fact characterises the `yellow press’: lies and `arranged’ atrocities served up as truth.

These lies of Hearst’s made him a millionaire and a very important personage in the newspaper world. In 1935 he was one of the richest men in the world, with a fortune estimated at $200 million. After his purchase of the Morning Journal, Hearst went on to buy and establish daily and weekly newspapers throughout the US. In the 1940s, William Hearst owned 25 daily newspapers, 24 weekly newspapers, 12 radio stations, 2 world news services, one business providing news items for films, the Cosmopolitan film company, and a lot of others. In 1948 he bought one of the US’s first TV stations, BWAL – TV in Baltimore. Hearst’s newspapers sold 13 million copies a day and had close to 40 million readers. Almost a third of the adult population of the US were reading Hearst newspapers every day. Furthermore, many millions of people throughout the world received information from the Hearst press via his news services, films and a series of newspapers that were translated and published in large quantities all over the world. The figures quoted above demonstrate how the Hearst empire was able to influence American politics, and indeed world politics, over very many years – on issues which included opposition to the US entering the Second World War on the side of the Soviet Union and support for the McCarthyite anti-communist witch-hunts of the 1950s.

William Hearst’s outlook was ultra-conservative, nationalist and anti-communist. His politics were the politics of the extreme right. In 1934 he travelled to Germany, where he was received by Hitler as a guest and friend. After this trip, Hearst’s newspapers became even more reactionary, always carrying articles against socialism, against the Soviet Union and especially against Stalin. Hearst also tried to use his newspapers for overt Nazi propaganda purposes, publishing a series of articles by Goering, Hitler’s right-hand man. The protests of many readers, however, forced him to stop publishing such items and to withdraw them from circulation.

After his visit to Hitler, Hearst’s sensationalist newspapers were filled with `revelations’ about the terrible happenings in the Soviet Union – murders, genocide, slavery, luxury for the rulers and starvation for the people, all these were the big news items almost every day. The material was provided to Hearst by the Gestapo, Nazi Germany’s political police. On the front pages of the newspapers there often appeared caricatures and falsified pictures of the Soviet Union, with Stalin portrayed as a murderer holding a dagger in his hand. We should not forget that these articles were read each day by 40 million people in the US and millions of others worldwide!

The myth concerning the famine in the Ukraine

One of the first campaigns of the Hearst press against the Soviet Union revolved round the question of the millions alleged to have died as a result of the Ukraine famine. This campaign began on 18 February 1935 with a front-page headline in the Chicago American `6 million people die of hunger in the Soviet Union’. Using material supplied by Nazi Germany, William Hearst, the press baron and Nazi sympathiser, began to publish fabricated stories about a genocide which was supposed to have been deliberately perpetrated by the Bolsheviks and had caused several million to die of starvation in the Ukraine. The truth of the matter was altogether different. In fact what took place in the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1930s was a major class struggle in which poor landless peasants had risen up against the rich landowners, the kulaks, and had begun a struggle for collectivisation, a struggle to form kolkhozes.

This great class struggle, involving directly or indirectly some 120 million peasants, certainly gave rise to instability in agricultural production and food shortages in some regions. Lack of food did weaken people, which in turn led to an increase in the number falling victim to epidemic diseases. These diseases were at that time regrettably common throughout the world. Between 1918 and 1920 an epidemic of Spanish flu caused the death of 20 million people in the US and Europe, but nobody accused the governments of these countries of killing their own citizens. The fact is that there was nothing these government could do in the face of epidemics of this kind. It was only with the development of penicillin during the second world war, that it became possible for such epidemics to be effectively contained. This did not become generally available until towards the end of the 1940s.

The Hearst press articles, asserting that millions were dying of famine in the Ukraine – a famine supposedly deliberately provoked by the communists, went into graphic and lurid detail. The Hearst press used every means possible to make their lies seem like the truth, and succeeded in causing public opinion in the capitalist countries to turn sharply against the Soviet Union. This was the origin of the first giant myth manufactured alleging millions were dying in the Soviet Union. In the wave of protests against the supposedly communist-provoked famine which the Western press unleashed, nobody was interested in listening to the Soviet Union’s denials and complete exposure of the Hearst press lies, a situation which prevailed from 1934 until 1987! For more than 50 years several generations of people the world over were brought up on a diet of these slanders to harbour a negative view of socialism in the Soviet Union.

The Hearst mass media empire in 1998

William Hearst died in 1951 at his house in Beverley Hills, California. Hearst left behind him a mass-media empire which to this day continues to spread his reactionary message throughout the world. The Hearst Corporation is one of the largest enterprises in the world, incorporating more than 100 companies and employing 15,000 people. The Hearst empire today comprises newspapers, magazines, books, radio, TV, cable TV, news agencies and multimedia.

52 years before the truth emerges

The Nazi disinformation campaign about the Ukraine did not die with the defeat of Nazi Germany in the Second World War. The Nazi lies were taken over by the CIA and MI5, and were always guaranteed a prominent place in the propaganda war against the Soviet Union. The McCarthyite anti-communist witch hunts after the Second World War also thrived on the tales of the millions who died of starvation in the Ukraine. In 1953 a book on this subject was published in the US. This book was entitled `Black Deeds of the Kremlin’. Its publication was financed by Ukrainian refugees in the US, people who had collaborated with the Nazis in the Second World War and to whom the American government gave political asylum, presenting them to the world as `democrats’.

When Reagan was elected to the US Presidency and began his 1980s anti-communist crusade, propaganda about the millions who died in the Ukraine was again revived. In 1984 a Harvard professor published a book called ‘Human Life in Russia’ which repeated all the false information produced by the Hearst press in 1934. In 1984, then, we found Nazi lies and falsifications dating from the 1930s being revived, but this time under the `respectable’ cloak of an American university. But this was not the end of it. In 1986 yet another book appeared on the subject, entitled `Harvest of Sorrow’, written by a former member of the British secret service, Robert Conquest, now a professor at Stamford University in California. For his `work’ on the book, Conquest received $80,000 from the Ukraine National Organisation. This same organisation also paid for a film made in 1986 called `Harvest of Despair’, in which, inter alia, material from Conquest’s book was used. By this time the number of people it was being alleged in the US had lost their lives in the Ukraine through starvation had been upped to 15 million!

Nevertheless the millions said to have died of starvation in the Ukraine according to the Hearst press in America, parroted in books and films, was completely false information. The Canadian journalist, Douglas Tottle, meticulously exposed the falsifications in his book `Fraud, famine and fascism – the Ukrainian genocide myth from Hitler to Harvard’, published in Toronto in 1987. Among other things, Tottle proved that the photographic material used, horrifying photographs of starving children, had been taken from 1922 publications at a time when millions of people did die from hunger and war conditions because eight foreign armies had invaded the Soviet Union during the Civil War of 1918-1921. Douglas Tottle gives the facts surrounding the reporting of the famine of 1934 and exposes the assorted lies published in the Hearst press. One journalist who had over a long period of time sent reports and photographs from supposed famine areas was Thomas Walter, a man who never set foot in the Ukraine and even in Moscow had spent but a bare five days. This fact was revealed by the journalist Louis Fisher, Moscow Correspondent of The Nation, an American newspaper. Fisher also revealed that the journalist M Parrott, the real Hearst press correspondent in Moscow, had sent Hearst reports that were never published concerning the excellent harvest achieved by the Soviet Union in 1933 and on the Ukraine’s advancement. Tottle proves as well that the journalist who wrote the reports on the alleged Ukrainian famine, `Thomas Walker’, was really called Robert Green and was a convict who had escaped from a state prison in Colorado! This Walker, or Green, was arrested when he returned to the US and when he appeared in court, he admitted that he had never been to the Ukraine. All the lies concerning the millions of dead due to starvation in the Ukraine in the 1930s, in a famine supposedly engineered by Stalin only came to be unmasked in 1987! Hearst, the Nazi, the police agent Conquest and others had conned millions of people with their lies and fake reports. Even today the Nazi Hearst’s stories are still being repeated in newly-published books written by authors in the pay of right-wing interests.

The Hearst press, having a monopolist position in many States of the US, and having news agencies all over the world, was the great megaphone of the Gestapo. In a world dominated by monopoly capital, it was possible for the Hearst press to transform Gestapo lies into `truths’ emitted from dozens of newspapers, radio stations and, later on, TV channels, the world over. When the Gestapo disappeared, this dirty propaganda war against socialism in the Soviet Union carried on regardless, albeit with the CIA as its new patron. The anti-communist campaigns of the American press were not scaled down in the slightest. Business continued as usual, first at the bidding of the Gestapo and then at the bidding of the CIA.

Robert Conquest at the heart of the myths

This man, who is so widely quoted in the bourgeois press, this veritable oracle of the bourgeoisie, deserves some specific attention at this point. Robert Conquest is one of the two authors who has most written on the millions dying in the Soviet Union. He is in truth the creator of all the myths and lies concerning the Soviet Union that have been spread since the Second World War. Conquest is primarily known for his books The Great Terror (1969) and Harvest of Sorrow (1986). Conquest writes of millions dying of starvation in the Ukraine, in the gulag labour camps and during the Trials of 1936-38, using as his sources of information exiled Ukrainians living in the US and belonging to rightist parties, people who had collaborated with the Nazis in the Second World War. Many of Conquest’s heroes were known to have been war criminals who led and participated in the genocide of the Ukraine’s Jewish population in 1942. One of these people was Mykola Lebed, convicted as a war criminal after the Second World War. Lebed had been security chief in Lvov during the Nazi occupation and presided over the terrible persecutions of the Jews which took place in 1942. In 1949 the CIA took Lebed off to the United States where he worked as a source of disinformation.

The style of Conquest’s books is one of violent and fanatical anti-communism. In his 1969 book, Conquest tells us that those who died of starvation in the Soviet Union between 1932-1933 amounted to between 5 million and 6 million people, half of them in the Ukraine. But in 1983, during Reagan’s anti-communist crusade, Conquest had extended the famine into 1937 and increased the number of victims to 14 million! Such assertions turned out to be well rewarded: in 1986 he was signed up by Reagan to write material for his presidential campaign aimed at preparing the American people for a Soviet invasion, The text in question was called `What to do when the Russians come – a survivalists’ handbook’! Strange words coming from a Professor of History!

The fact is that there is nothing strange in it at all, coming as it does from a man who has spent his entire life living off lies and fabrications about the Soviet Union and Stalin – first as a secret service agent and then as a writer and professor at Stamford University in California. Conquest’s past was exposed by the Guardian of 27 January 1978 in an article which identified him as a former agent in the disinformation department of the British Secret Service, i.e., the Information Research Department (IRD). The IRD was a section set up in 1947 (originally called the Communist Information Bureau) whose main task was to combat communist influence throughout the world by planting stories among politicians, journalists and others in a position to influence public opinion. The activities of the IRD were very wide-ranging, as much in Britain as abroad. When the IRD had to be formally disbanded in 1977, as a result of the exposure of its involvement with the far right, it was discovered that in Britain alone more than 100 of the best-known journalists had an IRD contact who regularly supplied them with material for articles. This was routine in several major British newspapers, such as the Financial Times, The Times, Economist, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, The Express, The Guardian and others. The facts exposed by the Guardian therefore give us an indication as to how the secret services were able to manipulate the news reaching the public at large.

Robert Conquest worked for the IRD from when it was set up until 1956. Conquest’s `work’ there was to contribute to the so-called `black history’ of the Soviet Union – fake stories put out as fact and distributed among journalists and others able to influence public opinion. After he had formally left the IRD, Conquest continued to write books suggested by the IRD, with secret service support. His book `The Great Terror’, a basic right-wing text on the subject of the power struggle that took place in the Soviet Union in 1937, was in fact a recompilation of text he had written when working for the secret services. The book was finished and published with the help of the IRD. A third of the publication run was bought by the Praeger press, normally associated with the publication of literature originating from CIA sources. Conquest’s book was intended for presentation to `useful fools’, such as university professors and people working in the press, radio and TV, to ensure that the lies of Conquest and the extreme right continued to be spread throughout large swathes of the population. Conquest to this day remains, for right-wing historians, one of the most important sources of material on the Soviet Union.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Another person who is always associated with books and articles on the supposed millions who lost their lives or liberty in the Soviet Union is the Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Solzhenitsyn became famous throughout the capitalist world towards the end of 1960 with his book, The Gulag Archipelago. He himself had been sentenced in 1946 to 8 years in a labour camp for counter-revolutionary activity in the form of distribution of anti-Soviet propaganda. According to Solzhenitsyn, the fight against Nazi Germany in the Second World War could have been avoided if the Soviet government had reached a compromise with Hitler. Solzhenitsyn also accused the Soviet government and Stalin of being even worse than Hitler from the point of view, according to him, of the dreadful effects of the war on the people of the Soviet Union. Solzhenitsyn did not hide his Nazi sympathies. He was condemned as a traitor.

Solzhenitsyn began in 1962 to publish books in the Soviet Union with the consent and help of Nikita Khrushchev. The first book he published was A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, concerning the life of a prisoner. Khrushchev used Solzhenitsyn’s texts to combat Stalin’s socialist heritage. In 1970 Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel Prize for literature with his book The Gulag Archipelago. His books then began to be published in large quantities in capitalist countries, their author having become one of the most valuable instruments of imperialism in combating the socialism of the Soviet Union. His texts on the labour camps were added to the propaganda on the millions who were supposed to have died in the Soviet Union and were presented by the capitalist mass media as though they were true. In 1974, Solzhenitsyn renounced his Soviet citizenship and emigrated to Switzerland and then the US. At that time he was considered by the capitalist press to be the greatest fighter for freedom and democracy. His Nazi sympathies were buried so as not to interfere with the propaganda war against socialism.

In the US, Solzhenitsyn was frequently invited to speak at important meetings. He was, for example, the main speaker at the AFL-CIO union congress in 1975, and on 15 July 1975 he was invited to give a lecture on the world situation to the US Senate! His lectures amount to violent and provocative agitation, arguing and propagandising for the most reactionary positions. Among other things he agitated for Vietnam to be attacked again after its victory over the US. And more: after 40 years of fascism in Portugal, when left-wing army officers took power in the people’s revolution of 1974, Solzhenitsyn began to propagandise in favour of US military intervention in Portugal which, according to him, would join the Warsaw Pact if the US did not intervene! In his lectures, Solzhenitsyn always bemoaned the liberation of Portugal’s African colonies.

But it is clear that the main thrust of Solzhenitsyn’s speeches was always the dirty war against socialism – from the alleged execution of several million people in the Soviet Union to the tens of thousands of Americans supposedly imprisoned and enslaved, according to Solzhenitsyn, in North Vietnam! This idea of Solzhenitsyn’s of Americans being used as slave labour in North Vietnam gave rise to the Rambo films on the Vietnam war. American journalists who dared write in favour of peace between the US and the Soviet Union were accused by Solzhenitsyn in his speeches of being potential traitors. Solzhenitsyn also propagandised in favour of increasing US military capacity against the Soviet Union, which he claimed was more powerful in `tanks and aeroplanes, by five to seven times, than the US’ as well as in atomic weapons which `in short’ he alleged were `two, three or even five times’ more powerful in the Soviet Union than those held by the US. Solzhenitsyn’s lectures on the Soviet Union represented the voice of the extreme right. But he himself went even further to the right in his public support of fascism.

Support for Franco’s fascism

After Franco died in 1975, the Spanish fascist regime began to lose control of the political situation and at the beginning of 1976, events in Spain captured world public opinion. There were strikes and demonstrations to demand democracy and freedom, and Franco’s heir, King Juan Carlos, was obliged very cautiously to introduce some liberalisation in order to calm down the social agitation.

At this most important moment in Spanish political history, Alexander Solzhenitsyn appeared in Madrid and gave an interview to the programme Directísimo one Saturday night, the 20th of March, at peak viewing time (see the Spanish newspapers, ABC and Ya of 21 March 1976). Solzhenitsyn, who had been provided with the questions in advance, used the occasion to make all kinds of reactionary statements. His intention was not to support the King’s so-called liberalisation measures. On the contrary, Solzhenitsyn warned against democratic reform. In his television interview he declared that 110 million Russians had died the victims of socialism, and he compared `the slavery to which Soviet people were subjected to the freedom enjoyed in Spain’. Solzhenitsyn also accused `progressive circles’ of `Utopians’ of considering Spain to be a dictatorship. By `progressive’, he meant anyone in the democratic opposition – were they liberals, social-democrats or communists. ‘Last autumn,’ said Solzhenitsyn, `world public opinion was worried about the fate of Spanish terrorists [i.e., Spanish anti-fascists sentenced to death by the Franco regime]. All the time progressive public opinion demands democratic political reform while supporting acts of terrorism’. `Those who seek rapid democratic reform, do they realise what will happen tomorrow or the day after? In Spain there may be democracy tomorrow, but after tomorrow will it be able to avoid falling from democracy into totalitarianism?’ To cautious inquiries by the journalists as to whether such statements could not be seen as support for regimes in countries where there was no liberty, Solzhenitsyn replied: `I only know one place where there is no liberty and that is Russia.’ Solzhenitsyn’s statements on Spanish television were a direct support to Spanish fascism, an ideology he supports to this day.

This is one of the reasons why Solzhenitsyn began to disappear from public view in his 18 years of exile in the US, and one of the reasons he began to get less than total support from capitalist governments. For the capitalists it was a gift from Heaven to be able to use a man like Solzhenitsyn in their dirty war against socialism, but everything has its limits. In the new capitalist Russia, what determines the support of the west for political groups is purely and simply the ability of doing good business with high profits under the wing of such groups. Fascism as an alternative political regime for Russia is not considered to be good for business. For this reason Solzhenitsyn’s political plans for Russia are a dead letter as far as Western support is concerned. What Solzhenitsyn wants for Russia’s political future is a return to the authoritarian regime of the Tsars, hand-in-hand with the traditional Russian Orthodox Church! Even the most arrogant imperialists are not interested in supporting political stupidity of this magnitude. To find anyone who supports Solzhenitsyn in the West one has to search among the dumbheads of the extreme right.

Nazis, the police and the fascists

So these are the most worthy purveyors of the bourgeois myths concerning the millions who are supposed to have died and been imprisoned in the Soviet Union: the Nazi William Hearst, the secret agent Robert Conquest and the fascist Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Conquest played the leading role, since it was his information that was used by the capitalist mass media the world over, and was even the basis for setting up whole schools in certain universities. Conquest’s work is without a doubt a first-class piece of police disinformation. In the 1970s, Conquest received a great deal of help from Solzhenitsyn and a series of secondary characters like Andrei Sakharov and Roy Medvedev. In addition there appeared here and there all over the world a number of people who dedicated themselves to speculating about the number of dead and incarcerated and were always paid in gold by the bourgeois press. But the truth was finally exposed and revealed the true face of these falsifiers of history. Gorbachev’s orders to open the party’s secret archives to historical investigation had consequences nobody could have foreseen.

The archives demonstrate the propaganda lies

The speculation about the millions who died in the Soviet Union is part of the dirty propaganda war against the Soviet Union and for this very reason the denials and explanations given by the Society were never taken seriously and never found any space in the capitalist press. They were, on the contrary, ignored, while the `specialists’ bought by capital were given as much space as they wanted in order to spread their fictions. And what fictions they were! What the millions of dead and imprisoned claimed by Conquest and other `critics’ had in common was that they were the result of false statistical approximations and evaluation methods lacking any scientific basis.

Fraudulent methods give rise to millions of dead

Conquest, Solzhenitsyn, Medvedev and others used statistics published by the Soviet Union, for instance, national population censuses, to which they added a supposed population increase without taking account of the situation in the country. In this way they reached their conclusions as to how many people there ought to have been in the country at the end of given years. The people who were missing were claimed to have died or been incarcerated because of socialism. The method is simple but also completely fraudulent. This type of `revelation’ of such important political events would never have been accepted if the `revelation’ in question concerned the western world. In such a case it is certain that professors and historians would have protested against such fabrications. But since it was the Soviet Union that was the object of the fabrications, they were acceptable. One of the reasons is certainly that professors and historians place their professional advancement well ahead of their professional integrity.

In numbers, what were the final conclusions of the `critics’? According to Robert Conquest (in an estimate he made in 1961) 6 million people died of starvation in the Soviet Union in the early 1930s. This number Conquest increased to 14 million in 1986. As regards what he says about the gulag labour camps, there were detained there, according to Conquest, 5 million prisoners in 1937 before the purges of the party, the army and the state apparatus began. After the start of the purges then, according to Conquest, during 1937-38, there would have been an additional 7 million prisoners, making the total 12 million prisoners in the labour camps in 1939! And these 12 million of Conquest’s would only have been the political prisoners! In the labour camps there were also common criminals, who, according to Conquest, would have far outnumbered the political prisoners. This means, according to Conquest, that there would have been 25-30 million prisoners in the labour camps of the Soviet Union.

Again according to Conquest, a million political prisoners were executed between 1937 and 1939, and another 2 million died of hunger. The final tally resulting from the purges of 1937-39, then, according to Conquest, was 9 million, of whom 3 million would have died in prison. These figures were immediately subjected to `statistical adjustment’ by Conquest to enable him to reach the conclusion that the Bolsheviks had killed no fewer than 12 million political prisoners between 1930 and 1953. Adding these figures to the numbers said to have died in the famine of the 1930s, Conquest arrived at the conclusion that the Bolsheviks killed 26 million people. In one of his last statistical manipulations, Conquest claimed that in 1950 there had been 12 million political prisoners in the Soviet Union.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn used more or less the same statistical methods as Conquest. But by using these pseudo-scientific methods on the basis of different premises, he arrived at even more extreme conclusions. Solzhenitsyn accepted Conquest’s estimate of 6 million deaths arising from the famine of 1932-33. Nevertheless, as far as the purges of 1936-39 were concerned, he believed that at least 1 million people died each year. Solzhenitsyn sums up by telling us that from the collectivisation of agriculture to the death of Stalin in 1953, the communists killed 66 million people in the Soviet Union. On top of that he holds the Soviet government responsible for the death of the 44 million Russians he claims were killed in the Second World War. Solzhenitsyn’s conclusion is that `110 million Russians fell, victims of socialism’. As far as prisoners were concerned, Solzhenitsyn tells us that the number of people in labour camps in 1953 was 25 million.

Gorbachev opens the archives

The collection of fantasy figures set out above, the product of extremely well paid fabrication, appeared in the bourgeois press in the 1960s, always presented as true facts ascertained through the application of scientific method.

Behind these fabrications lurked the western secret services, mainly the CIA and MI5. The impact of the mass media on public opinion is so great that the figures are even today believed to be true by large sections of the population of Western countries.

This shameful situation has worsened. In the Soviet Union itself, where Solzhenitsyn and other well-known `critics’ such as Andrei Sakharov and Roy Medvedev could find nobody to support their many fantasies, a significant change took place in 1990. In the new `free press’ opened up under Gorbachev, everything opposed to socialism was hailed as positive, with disastrous results. Unprecedented speculative inflation began to take place in the numbers of those who were alleged to have died or been imprisoned under socialism, now all mixed up into a single group of tens of millions of `victims’ of the communists.

The hysteria of Gorbachev’s new free press brought to the fore the lies of Conquest and Solzhenitsyn. At the same time Gorbachev opened up the archives of the Central Committee to historical research, a demand of the free press. The opening up of the archives of the Central Committee of the Communist Party is really the central issue in this tangled tale, this for two reasons: partly because in the archives can be found the facts that can shed light on the truth. But even more important is the fact that those speculating wildly on the number of people killed and imprisoned in the Soviet Union had all been claiming for years that the day the archives were opened up the figures they were citing would be confirmed. Every one of these speculators on the dead and incarcerated claimed that this would be the case: Conquest, Sakharov, Medvedev, and all the rest. But when the archives were opened up and research reports based on the actual documents began to be published a very strange thing happened. Suddenly both Gorbachev’s free press and the speculators on the dead and incarcerated completely lost interest in the archives.

The results of the research carried out on the archives of the Central Committee by Russian historians Zemskov, Dougin and Xlevnjuk, which began to appear in scientific journals as from 1990, went entirely unremarked. The reports containing the results of this historical research went completely against the inflationary current as regards the numbers who were being claimed by the `free press’ to have died or been incarcerated. Therefore their contents remained unpublicised. The reports were published in low-circulation scientific journals practically unknown to the public at large. Reports of the results of scientific research could hardly compete with the press hysteria, so the lies of Conquest and Solzhenitsyn continued to gain the support of many sectors of the former Soviet Union’s population. In the West also, the reports of the Russian researchers on the penal system under Stalin were totally ignored on the front pages of newspapers, and by TV news broadcasts. Why?

What the Russian research shows

The research on the Soviet penal system is set out in a report nearly 9,000 pages long. The authors of this report are many, but the best-known of them are the Russian historians V N Zemskov, A N Dougin and O V Xlevjnik. Their work began to be published in 1990 and by 1993 had nearly been finished and published almost in its entirety. The reports came to the knowledge of the West as a result of collaboration between researchers of different Western countries. The two works with which the present author is familiar are: the one which appeared in the French journal l’Histoire in September 1993, written by Nicholas Werth, the chief researcher of the French scientific research centre, CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), and the work published in the US journal American Historical Review by J Arch Getty, a professor of history at the University of California, Riverside, in collaboration with G T Rettersporn, a CRNS researcher, and the Russian researcher, V AN Zemskov, from the Institute of Russian History (part of the Russian Academy of Science). Today books have appeared on the matter written by the above-named researchers or by others from the same research team. Before going any further, I want to make clear, so that no confusion arises in the future, that none of the scientists involved in this research has a socialist world outlook. On the contrary their outlook is bourgeois and anti-socialist. Indeed many of them are quite reactionary. This is said so that the reader should not imagine that what is to be set out below is the product of some `communist conspiracy’. What has happened is that the above-named researchers have thoroughly exposed the lies of Conquest, Solzhenitsyn, Medvedev and others, which they have done purely by reason of the fact that they place their professional integrity in first place and will not allow themselves to be bought for propaganda purposes.

The results of the Russian research answer a very large number of questions about the Soviet penal system. For us it is the Stalin era that is of greatest interest, and it is there we find cause for debate. We will pose a number of very specific questions and we will seek out our replies in the journals l’Histoire and the American Historical Review. This will be the best way of bringing into the debate some of the most important aspects of the Soviet penal system. The questions are the following:

1.What did the Soviet penal system consist of?

2.How many prisoners were there – both political and non-political?

3.How many people died in the labour camps?

4.How many people were condemned to death in the years before 1953, especially in the purges of 1937-38?

5.How long, on average, were the prison sentences?

After answering these five questions, we will discuss the punishments imposed on the two groups which are most frequently mentioned in connection with prisoners and deaths in the Soviet Union, namely the kulaks convicted in 1930 and the counter-revolutionaries convicted in 1936-38.

1. Labour camps in the penal system

Let us start with the question of the nature of the Soviet penal system.

After 1930 the Soviet penal system included prisons, labour camps, the labour colonies of the gulag, special open zones and obligation to pay fines. Whoever was remanded into custody was generally sent to a normal prison while investigations took place to establish whether he might be innocent, and could thus be set free, or whether he should go on trial. An accused person on trial could either be found innocent (and set free) or guilty. If found guilty he could be sentenced to pay a fine, to a term of imprisonment or, more unusually, to face execution. A fine could be a given percentage of his wages for a given period of time. Those sentenced to prison terms could be put in different kinds of prison depending on the type of offence involved.

To the gulag labour camps were sent those who had committed serious offences (homicide, robbery, rape, economic crimes, etc.) as well as a large proportion of those convicted of counter-revolutionary activities. Other criminals sentenced to terms longer than 3 years could also be sent to labour camps. After spending some time in a labour camp, a prisoner might be moved to a labour colony or to a special open zone.

The labour camps were very large areas where the prisoners lived and worked under close supervision. For them to work and not to be a burden on society was obviously necessary. No healthy person got by without working. It is possible that these days people may think this was a terrible thing, but this is the way it was. The number of labour camps in existence in 1940 was 53.

There were 425 gulag labour colonies. These were much smaller units than the labour camps, with a freer regime and less supervision. To these were sent prisoners with shorter prison terms – people who had committed less serious criminal or political offences. They worked in freedom in factories or on the land and formed part of civil society. In most cases the whole of the wages earned from his labour belonged to the prisoner, who in this respect was treated the same as any other worker.

The special open zones were generally agricultural areas for those who had been exiled, such as the kulaks who had been expropriated during collectivisation. Other people found guilty of minor criminal or political offences might also serve their terms in these areas.

454,000 is not 9 million

2. The second question concerned how many political prisoners there were, and how many common criminals.

This question includes those imprisoned in labour camps, gulag colonies and the prisons (though it should be remembered that in the labour colonies there was, in the majority of cases, only partial loss of liberty). The Table in the Appendix shows the data which appeared in the American Historical Review, data which encompasses a period of 20 years beginning in 1934, when the penal system was unified under a central administration, until 1953, the year Stalin died.

From the Table, there are a series of conclusions which need to be drawn. To start with we can compare its data to those given by Robert Conquest. The latter claims that in 1939 there were 9 million political prisoners in the labour camps and that 3 million others had died in the period 1937-1939. Let the reader not forget that Conquest is here talking only about political prisoners! Apart from these, says Conquest, there were also common criminals who, according to him, were much greater in number than the political prisoners! In 1950 there were, according to Conquest, 12 million political prisoners! Armed with the true facts, we can readily see what a fraudster Conquest really is. Not one of his figures corresponds even remotely to the truth. In 1939 there was a total in all the camps, colonies and prisons of close to 2 million prisoners. Of these 454,000 had committed political crimes, not 9 million as Conquest asserts. Those who died in labour camps between 1937 and 1939 numbered about 160,000, not 3 million as Conquest asserts. In 1950 there were 578,000 political prisoners in labour camps, not 12 million. Let the reader not forget that Robert Conquest to this day remains one of the major sources for right-wing propaganda against communism. Among right-wing pseudo-intellectuals, Robert Conquest is a godlike figure. As for the figures cited by Alexander Solzhenitsyn – 60 million alleged to have died in labour camps – there is no need for comment. The absurdity of such an allegation is manifest. Only a sick mind could promote such delusions.

Let us now leave these fraudsters in order that we may ourselves concretely analyse the statistics relating to the gulag. The first question to be asked is what view we should take about the sheer quantity of people caught up in the penal system? What is the meaning of the figure of 2.5 million? Every person that is put in prison is living proof that society was still insufficiently developed to give every citizen everything he needed for a full life. From this point of view, the 2.5 million do represent a criticism of the society.

The internal and external threat

The number of people caught up in the penal system requires to be properly explained. The Soviet Union was a country which had only recently overthrown feudalism, and its social heritage in matters of human rights was often a burden on society. In an antiquated system like tsardom, workers were condemned to live in deep poverty, and human life had little value. Robbery and violent crime was punished by unrestrained violence. Revolts against the monarchy usually ended in massacres, death sentences and extremely long prison sentences. These social relations, and the habits of mind associated with them, take a long time to change, a fact which influenced the development of society in the Soviet Union as well as attitudes towards criminals.

Another factor to be taken into account is that the Soviet Union, a country which in the 1930s had close to 160-170 million inhabitants, was seriously threatened by foreign powers. As a result of the great political changes which took place in Europe in the 1930s, there was a major threat of war from the direction of Nazi German, a threat to the survival of the Slav people, and the western bloc also harbouring interventionist ambitions. This situation was summed up by Stalin in 1931 in the following words:“We are 50-100 years behind the advanced countries. We have to close that gap in 10 years. Either we do it or we will be wiped out.” Ten years later, on 22 June 1941, the Soviet Union was invaded by Nazi Germany and its allies. Soviet society was forced to make great efforts in the decade from 1930-1940, when the major part of its resources was dedicated to its defence preparations for the forthcoming war against the Nazis. Because of this, people worked hard while producing little by way of personal benefits. The introduction of the 7-hour day was withdrawn in 1937, and in 1939 practically every Sunday was a work day. In a difficult period such as this, with a great war hanging over the development of society for two decades (the 1930s and 1940s), a war which was to cost the Soviet Union 25 million deaths with half the country burnt to a cinder, crime did tend to increase as people tried to help themselves to what life could not otherwise offer them.

During this very difficult time, the Soviet Union held a maximum number of 2.5 million people in its prison system, i.e., 2.4% of the adult population. How can we evaluate this figure? Is it a lot or a little? Let us compare.

More prisoners in the US

In the United States of America, for example, a country of 252 million inhabitants (in 1996), the richest country in the world, which consumes 60% of the world resources, how many people are in prison? What is the situation in the US, a country not threatened by any war and where there are no deep social changes affecting economic stability?

In a rather small news item appearing in the newspapers of August 1997, the FLT-AP news agency reported that in the US there had never previously been so many people in the prison system as the 5.5 million held in 1996. This represents an increase of 200,0000 people since 1995 and means that the number of criminals in the US equals 2.8% of the adult population. These data are available to all those who are part of the North American department of justice. The number of convicts in the US today is 3 million higher than the maximum number ever held in the Soviet Union! In the Soviet Union there was a maximum of 2.4% of the adult population in prison for their crimes – in the US the figure is 2.8%, and rising! According to a press release put out by the US department of justice on 18 January 1998, the number of convicts in the US in 1997 rose by 96,100.

As far as the Soviet labour camps were concerned, it is true that the regime was harsh and difficult for the prisoners, but what is the situation today in the prisons of the US, which are rife with violence, drugs, prostitution, sexual slavery (290,000 rapes a year in US prisons). Nobody feels safe in US prisons! And this today, and in a society richer than ever before!

An important factor – the lack of medicines

3. Let us now respond to the third question posed. How many people died in the labour camps?

The number varied from year to year, from 5.2% in 1934 to 0.3% in 1953. Deaths in the labour camps were caused by the general shortage of resources in society as a whole, in particular the medicines necessary to fight epidemics. This problem was not confined to labour camps but was present throughout society, as well as in the great majority of countries of the world. Once antibiotics had been discovered and put into general use after the Second World War, the situation changed radically. In fact, the worst years were the war years when the Nazi barbarians imposed very harsh living conditions on all Soviet citizens. During those 4 years, more than half a million people died in the labour camps – half the total number dying throughout the 20-year period in question. Let us not forget that in the same period, the war years, 25 million people died among those who were free. In 1950, when conditions in the Soviet Union had improved and antibiotics had been introduced, the number of people dying while in prison fell to 0.3%.

4. Let us turn now to the fourth question posed. How many people were sentenced to death prior to 1953, especially during the purges of 1937-38?

We have already noted Robert Conquest’s claim that the Bolsheviks killed 12 million political prisoners in the labour camps between 1930 and 1953. Of these 1 million are supposed to have been killed between 1937 and 1938. Solzhenitsyn’s figures run to tens of millions who are supposed to have died in the labour camps – 3 million in 1937-38 alone. Even higher figures have been quoted in the course of the dirty propaganda war against the Soviet Union. The Russian, Olga Shatunovskaya, for example, cites a figure of 7 million dead in the purges of 1937-38.

The documents now emerging from the Soviet archives, however, tell a different story. It is necessary to mention here at the start that the number of those sentenced to death has to be gleaned from different archives and that the researchers, in order to arrive at an approximate figure, have had to gather data from these various archives in a way which gives rise to a risk of double counting and thus of producing estimates higher than the reality. According to Dimitri Volkogonov, the person appointed by Yeltsin to take charge of the old Soviet archives, there were 30,514 persons condemned to death by military tribunals between 1 October 1936 and 30 September 1938. Another piece of information comes from the KGB: according to information released to the press in February 1990, there were 786,098 people condemned to death for crimes against the revolution during the 23 years from 1930-1953. Of those condemned, according to the KGB, 681,692 were condemned between 1937 and 1938. It is not possible to double check the KGB’s figures but this last piece of information is open to doubt. It would be very odd for so many people to have been sentenced to death in only two years. Is it possible that the present-day pro-capitalist KGB would give us correct information from the pro-socialist KGB? Be that as it may, it remains to be verified whether the statistics which underlie the KGB information include among those said to have been condemned to death during the 23 years in question common criminals as well as counter-revolutionaries, rather than counter-revolutionaries alone as the pro-capitalist KGB has alleged in a press release of February 1990. The archives also tend to the conclusion that the number of common criminals and the number of counter revolutionaries condemned to death was approximately equal.

The conclusion we can draw from this is that the number of those condemned to death in 1937-38 was close to 100,000, and not several million as has been claimed by Western propaganda.

It is also necessary to bear in mind that not all those sentenced to death in the Soviet Union were actually executed. A large proportion of death penalties were commuted to terms in labour camps. It is also important to distinguish between common criminals and counter revolutionaries. Many of those sentenced to death had committed violent crimes such as murder or rape. 60 years ago this type of crime was punishable by death in a large number of countries.

Question 5: How long was the average prison sentence?

The length of prison sentences has been the subject of the most scurrilous rumour-mongering in Western propaganda. The usual insinuation is that to be a convict in the Soviet Union involved endless years in prison – whoever went in never came out. This is completely untrue. The vast majority of those who went to prison in Stalin’s time were in fact convicted for a term of 5 years at most.

The statistics reproduced in the American Historical Review show the actual facts. Common criminals in the Russian Federation in 1936 received the following sentences: up to 5 years: 82.4%; between 5-10 years: 17.6%. 10 years was the maximum possible prison term before 1937. Political prisoners convicted in the Soviet Union’s civilian courts in 1936 received sentences as follows: up to 5 years: 44.2%; between 5-10 years 50.7%. As for those sentenced to terms in the gulag labour camps, where the longer sentences were served, the 1940 statistics show that those serving up to 5 years were 56.8% and those between 5-10 years 42.2%. Only 1% were sentenced to over 10 years.

For 1939 we have the statistics produced by Soviet courts. The distribution of prison terms is as follows: up to 5 years: 95.9%; from 5-10 years: 4%; over 10 years: 0.1%.

As we can see, the supposed eternity of prison sentences in the Soviet Union is another myth spread in the West to combat socialism.

The lies about the Soviet Union: A brief discussion as to the research reports.

The research conducted by the Russian historians shows a reality totally different to that taught in the schools and universities of the capitalist world over the last 50 years. During these 50 years of the cold war, several generations have learnt only lies about the Soviet Union, which have left a deep impression on many people. This fact is also substantiated in the reports made of the French and American research. In these reports are reproduced data, figures and tables enumerating those convicted and those who died, these figures being the subject of intense discussion. But the most important thing to note is that the crimes committed by the people who had been convicted is never a matter of any interest. Capitalist political propaganda has always presented Soviet prisoners as innocent victims and the researchers have taken up this assumption without questioning it. When the researchers go over from their columns of statistics to their commentaries on the events, their bourgeois ideology comes to fore – with sometimes macabre results. Those who were convicted under the Soviet penal system are treated as innocent victims, but the fact of the matter is that most of them were thieves, murderers, rapists, etc. Criminals of this kind would never be considered to be innocent victims by the press if their crimes were committed in Europe or the US. But since the crimes were committed in the Soviet Union, it is different. To call a murderer, or a person who has raped more than once, an innocent victim is a very dirty game. Some common sense at least needs to be shown when commenting on Soviet justice, at least in relation to criminals convicted of violent crimes, even if it cannot be managed in relation to the nature of the punishment, then at least as regards the propriety of convicting people who have committed crimes of this kind.

The kulaks and the counter-revolution

In the case of the counter-revolutionaries, it is also necessary to consider the crimes of which they were accused. Let us give two examples to show the importance of this question: the first is the kulaks sentenced at the beginning of the 1930s, and the second is the conspirators and counter-revolutionaries convicted in 1936-38.

According to the research reports insofar as they deal with the kulaks, the rich peasants, there were 381,000 families, i.e., about 1.8 million people sent into exile. A small number of these people were sentenced to serve terms in labour camps or colonies. But what gave rise to these punishments?

The rich Russian peasant, the kulak, had subjected poor peasants for hundreds of years to boundless oppression and unbridled exploitation. Of the 120 million peasants in 1927, the 10 million kulaks lived in luxury while the remaining 110 million lived in poverty. Before the revolution they had lived in the most abject poverty. The wealth of the kulaks was based on the badly-paid labour of the poor peasants. When the poor peasants began to join together in collective farms, the main source of kulak wealth disappeared. But the kulaks did not give up. They tried to restore exploitation by use of famine. Groups of armed kulaks attacked collective farms, killed poor peasants and party workers, set fire to the fields and killed working animals. By provoking starvation among poor peasants, the kulaks were trying to secure the perpetuation of poverty and their own positions of power. The events which ensued were not those expected by these murderers. This time the poor peasants had the support of the revolution and proved to be stronger than the kulaks, who were defeated, imprisoned and sent into exile or sentenced to terms in labour camps.

Of the 10 million kulaks, 1.8 million were exiled or convicted. There may have been injustices perpetrated in the course of this massive class struggle in the Soviet countryside, a struggle involving 120 million people. But can we blame the poor and the oppressed, in their struggle for a life worth living, in their struggle to ensure their children would not be starving illiterates, for not being sufficiently `civilised’ or showing enough `mercy’ in their courts? Can one point the finger at people who for hundreds of years had no access to the advances made by civilisation for not being civilised? And tell us, when was the kulak exploiter civilised or merciful in his dealings with poor peasants during the years and years of endless exploitation.

The purges of 1937

Our second example, that of the counter-revolutionaries convicted in the 1936-38 Trials which followed the purges of party, army and state apparatus, has its roots in the history of the revolutionary movement in Russia. Millions of people participated in the victorious struggle against the Tsar and the Russian bourgeoisie, and many of these joined the Russian Communist Party. Among all these people there were, unfortunately, some who entered the party for reasons other than fighting for the proletariat and for socialism. But the class struggle was such that often there was neither the time nor the opportunity to put new party militants to the test. Even militants from other parties who called themselves socialists and who had fought the Bolshevik party were admitted to the Communist Party. A number of these new activists were given important positions in the Bolshevik Party, the state and the armed forces, depending on their individual ability to conduct class struggle. These were very difficult times for the young Soviet state, and the great shortage of cadres – or even of people who could read – forced the party to make few demands as regards the quality of new activists and cadres. Because of these problems, there arose in time a contradiction which split the party into two camps – on the one hand those who wanted to press forward in the struggle to build a socialist society, and on the other hand those who thought that the conditions were not yet ripe for building socialism and who promoted social-democracy. The origin of these ideas lay in Trotsky, who had joined the party in July 1917. Trotsky was able over time to secure the support of some of the best known Bolsheviks. This opposition, united against the original Bolshevik plan, provided one of the policy options which were the subject of a vote on 27 December 1927. Before this vote was taken, there had been a great party debate going on over many years and the result left nobody in any doubt. Of the 725,000 votes cast, the opposition secured 6,000 – i.e., less than 1% of party activists supported the united opposition.

As a consequence of the vote, and once the opposition started working for a policy opposed to that of the party, the Central Committee of the Communist Party decided to expel from the party the principal leaders of the united opposition. The central opposition figure, Trotsky, was expelled from the Soviet Union. But the story of this opposition did not end there. Zinoviev, Kamenev and Zvdokine afterwards made self-criticisms, as did several leading Trotskyists, such as Pyatakov, Radek, Preobrazhinsky and Smirnov. All of them were once again accepted into the party as activists and took up once more their party and state posts. In time it became clear that the self-criticisms made by the opposition had not been genuine, since the oppositionist leaders were united on the side of the counter revolution every time that class struggle sharpened in the Soviet Union. The majority of the oppositionists were expelled and re-admitted another couple of times before the situation clarified itself completely in 1937-38.

Industrial sabotage

The murder in December 1934 of Kirov, the chairman of the Leningrad party and one of the most important people in the Central Committee, sparked off the investigation that was to lead to the discovery of a secret organisation engaged in preparing a conspiracy to take over the leadership of the party and the government of the country by means of violence. The opposition, having lost the political struggle in 1927, now hoped to win by means of organised violence against the state. Their main weapons were industrial sabotage, terrorism and corruption. Trotsky, the main inspiration for the opposition, directed their activities from abroad. Industrial sabotage caused terrible losses to the Soviet state, at enormous cost, for example, important machines were damaged beyond possibility of repair, and there was an enormous fall in production in mines and factories.

One of the people who in 1934 described the problem was the American engineer John Littlepage, one of the foreign specialists contracted to work in the Soviet Union. Littlepage spent 10 years working in the Soviet mining industry – from 1927-37, mainly in the gold mines. In his book, In search of Soviet gold, he writes: “I never took any interest in the subtleties of political manoeuvring in Russia so long as I could avoid them; but I had to study what was happening in Soviet industry in order to do my work. And I am firmly convinced that Stalin and his collaborators took a long time to discover that discontented revolutionary communists were his worst enemies.”

Littlepage also wrote that his personal experience confirmed the official statement to the effect that a great conspiracy directed from abroad was using major industrial sabotage as part of its plans to force the government to fall. In 1931 Littlepage had already felt obliged to take note of this, while working in the copper and bronze mines of the Urals and Kazakhstan. The mines were part of a large copper/bronze complex under the overall direction of Pyatakov, the people’s Vice Commissar for heavy industry. The mines were in a catastrophic state as far as production and the well-being of their workers was concerned. Littlepage reached the conclusion that there was organised sabotage going on which came from the top management of the copper/bronze complex.

Littlepage’s book also tells us from where the Trotskyite opposition obtained the money that was necessary to pay for this counter-revolutionary activity. Many members of the secret opposition used their positions to approve the purchase of machines from certain factories abroad. The products approved were of much lower quality than those the Soviet government actually paid for. The foreign producers gave Trotsky’s organisation the surplus from such transactions, as a result of which Trotsky and his co-conspirators in the Soviet Union continued to order from these manufacturers.

Theft and corruption

This procedure was observed by Littlepage in Berlin in the spring of 1931 when buying industrial lifts for mines. The Soviet delegation was headed by Pyatakov, with Littlepage as the specialist in charge of verifying the quality of the lifts and of approving the purchase. Littlepage discovered a fraud involving low quality lifts, useless for Soviet purposes, but when he informed Pyatakov and the other members of the Soviet delegation of this fact, he met with a cold reception, as if they wanted to overlook these facts and insist he should approve the purchase of the lifts. Littlepage would not do so. At the time he thought that what was happening involved personal corruption and that the members of the delegation had been bribed by the lift manufacturers. But after Pyatakov, in the 1937 Trial, confessed his links with the Trotskyist opposition, Littlepage was driven to the conclusion that what he had witnessed in Berlin was much more than corruption at a personal level. The money involved was intended to pay for the activities of the secret opposition in the Soviet Union, activities which included sabotage, terrorism, bribery and propaganda.

Zinoviev, Kamenev, Pyatakov, Radek, Tomsky, Bukharin and others much loved by the Western bourgeois press used the positions entrusted to them by the Soviet people and party to steal money from the state, in order to enable enemies of socialism to use that money for the purposes of sabotage and in their fight against socialist society in the Soviet Union.

Plans for a coup

Theft, sabotage and corruption are serious crimes in themselves, but the opposition’s activities went much further. A counter-revolutionary conspiracy was being prepared with the aim of taking over state power by means of a coup in which the whole Soviet leadership would be eliminated, starting with the assassination of the most important members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. The military side of the coup would be carried out by a group of generals headed by Marshal Tukhachevsky.

According to Isaac Deutscher, himself a Trotskyite, who wrote several books against Stalin and the Soviet Union, the coup was to have been initiated by a military operation against the Kremlin and the most important troops in the big cities, such as Moscow and Leningrad. The conspiracy was, according to Deutscher, headed by Tukhachevsky together with Gamarnik, the head of the army political commissariat, General Yakir, the Commander of Leningrad, General Uborevich, the commander of the Moscow military academy, and General Primakov, a cavalry commander.

Marshal Tukhachevsky had been an officer in the former Tsarist army who, after the revolution, went over to the Red Army. In 1930 nearly 10% of officers (close to 4,500) were former Tsarist officers. Many of them never abandoned their bourgeois outlook and were just waiting for an opportunity to fight for it. This opportunity arose when the opposition was preparing its coup.

The Bolsheviks were strong, but the civilian and military conspirators endeavoured to muster strong friends. According to Bukharin’s confession in his public trial in 1938, an agreement was reached between the Trotskyite opposition and Nazi Germany, in which large territories, including the Ukraine, would be ceded to Nazi Germany following the counter-revolutionary coup in the Soviet Union. This was the price demanded by Nazi Germany for its promise of support for the counter-revolutionaries. Bukharin had been informed about this agreement by Radek, who had received an order from Trotsky about the matter. All these conspirators who had been chosen for high positions to lead, administer and defend socialist society were in reality working to destroy socialism. Above all it is necessary to remember that all this was happening in the 1930s, when the Nazi danger was growing all the time and the Nazi armies were setting Europe alight and preparing to invade the Soviet Union.

The conspirators were sentenced to death as traitors after a public trial. Those found guilty of sabotage, terrorism, corruption, attempted murder and who had wanted to hand over part of the country to the Nazis, could expect nothing else. To call them innocent victims is completely mistaken.

More numerous liars

It is interesting to see how Western propaganda, via Robert Conquest, has lied about the purges of the Red Army. Conquest says in his book The Great Terror that in 1937 there were 70,000 officers and political commissars in the Red Army and that 50% of them (i.e., 15,000 officers and 20,000 commissars) were arrested by the political police and were either executed or imprisoned for life in labour camps. In this allegation of Conquest’s, as in his whole book, there is not one word of truth. The historian Roger Reese, in his work The Red Army and the Great Purges, gives the facts which show the real significance of the 1937-38 purges for the army. The number of people in the leadership of the Red Army and air force, i.e., officers and political commissars, was 144,300 in 1937, increasing to 282,300 by 1939. During the 1937-38 purges, 34,300 officers and political commissars were expelled for political reasons. By May 1940, however, 11,596 had already been rehabilitated and restored to their posts. This meant that during the 1937-38 purges, 22,705 officers and political commissars were dismissed (close to 13,000 army officers, 4,700 air force officers and 5,000 political commissars), which amounts to 7.7% of all officers and commissars – not 50% as Conquest alleges. Of this 7.7%, some were convicted as traitors, but the great majority of them, it would appear from historical material available, simply returned to civilian life.

One last question. Were the 1937-38 Trials fair to the accused? Let us examine, for example, the trial of Bukharin, the highest party functionary to work for the secret opposition. According to the American ambassador in Moscow at the time, a well-known lawyer called Joseph Davies, who attended the whole trial, Bukharin was permitted to speak freely throughout the trial and put forward his case without impediment of any kind. Joseph Davies wrote to Washington that during the Trial it was proved that the accused were guilty of the crimes of which they were charged and that the general opinion among diplomats attending the trial was that the existence of a very serious conspiracy had been proved.

Let us learn from history

The discussion of the Soviet penal system during Stalin’s time, on which thousands of lying articles and books have been written, and hundreds of films have been made conveying false impressions, leads to important lessons. The facts prove yet again that the stories published about socialism in the bourgeois press are mostly false. The right wing can, through the press, radio and TV that it dominates, cause confusion, distort the truth and cause very many people to believe lies to be the truth. This is especially true when it comes to historical questions. Any new stories from the right should be assumed to be false unless the contrary can be proved. This cautious approach is justified. The fact is that even knowing about the Russian research reports, the right is continuing to reproduce the lies taught for the last 50 years, even though they have now been completely exposed. The right continues its historical heritage: a lie repeated over and over again ends up being accepted as true. After the Russian research reports were published in the west, a number of books began to appear in different countries aimed solely at calling into question the Russian research and enabling the old lies to be brought to public attention as new truths. These are well-presented books, stuffed from cover to cover with lies about communism and socialism.

The right-wing lies are repeated in order to fight today’s communists. They are repeated so that workers will find no alternative to capitalism and neo-liberalism. They are part of the dirty war against communists who alone have an alternative to offer for the future, i.e., socialist society. This is the reason for the appearance of all these new books containing old lies.

All this places an obligation on everybody with a socialist world outlook on history. We must take on the responsibility of working to turn communist newspapers into authentic newspapers of the working class to combat bourgeois lies! This is without doubt an important mission in today’s class struggle, which in the near future will arise again with renewed force.

APPENDIX:

From The American Historical Review

Year Prisoners in gulag labour camps Of whom the number of counter-revolutionaries Number dying each year Number released each year Number escaped each year Prisoners held in gulag labour colonies Prisoners held in prisons Total number on January 1st each year
Number % Number %
1934 510,307 135,190 26.5 26,295 5.2 147,272 83,490 510,307
1935 725,438 118,256 16.3 28,328 3.9 211.035 67,493 240,259 965,697
1936 839,406 105,849 12.6 20,595 2.5 369,544 58,313 457,088 1,298,494
1937 820,881 104,826 12.8 25,378 3.1 364,437 58,264 375,488 1,196,369
1938 996,367 185,324 18.6 90,546 9.1 279.966 32,033 885,203 1,881,570
1939 1,317,195 454,432 34.5 50,502 3.8 223,622 12,333 355,243 350,538 2,022,976
1940 1,344,408 444,999 33.1 46,665 3.5 316,825 11,813 315,584 190,266 1,850,258
1941 1,500,524 420,293 28.7 100,997 6.7 624,275 10,592 429,205 487,739 2,417.468
1942 1,415,596 407,988 29.8 248,877 17.6 509,538 11,822 360,447 277,992 2,054,035
1943 983,974 345,397 35.6 166,967 17.0 336,135 6,242 500,208 235,313 1,719,495
1944 663,594 268,861 40.7 60,948 9.2 152,113 3,586 516,225 155,213 1,335,032
1945 715,506 283,351 41.2 43,848 8.1 336,750 2,196 745,171 279,969 1,740,646
1946 600,897 333,833 59.2 18,154 3.0 115,700 2,642 956,224 261,500 1,818,621
1947 808,839 427,653 54.3 35,668 4.4 194,886 3,779 912,794 306,163 2,027,796
1948 1,108,057 416,156 38.0 27,605 2.5 261,148 4,261 1,091,478 275,850 2,475,385
1949 1,216,361 420,696 34.9 15,739 1.3 178,449 2,583 1,140,324 2,356,685
1950 1,416,300 578,912 22.7 14,703 1.0 216,210 2,577 1,145,051 2,561,351
1951 1,533,767 475,976 31.0 15,587 1.0 254,269 2,318 994,379 2,528,146
1952 1,711,202 480,766 28.1 10,604 0.6 329,446 1,253 793,312 2,504,514
1953 1,727,970 465,256 26.9 5,825 0.3 937,352 785 740,554 2,468,524

Mark Twain on the French Revolution

“There were two ‘Reigns of Terror,’ if we would but remember and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are all for the “horrors” of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the guillotine, compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heart-break? What is swift death by lightning compared with death by slow fire at the stake? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror—that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.”

 – Mark Twain, “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”

“My Life With Enver” Nexhmije Hoxha’s Memoirs (Part 4)

12. Towards a free life – in the mountains

After being on duty with the partisans in the mountains, I left Tirana on March 20th; the city I would not return to until its liberation. Along with my joy, I also felt an emptiness in my soul. I was leaving the city in which I had grown up and gone to school, I was really close to the people of Tirana. I had fought with them for their freedom, their happiness and for a safe future for its youth. I had also helped in their struggle for the emancipation of the Albania Woman and for the independence of our long-suffering homeland. Would I ever come back to see a liberated Tirana, free from invaders and spies, without the terror, the curfew, the arrests and the imprisonments?

I was quite sure that this day would eventually come, not only to Tirana, but also to all Albania, because we were fighting a war with the backing of the entire population. However, at this particular moment, was the day of liberation in the near or distant future?

With a false identity card in my pocket and my mind loaded down with all these questions, I took the bus. I left behind the Tirana where, the Party, the guerilla units, and my life as an underground activist had been founded and headed for Korca. With me was a comrade (whom I never met) who was taking a letter from Gogo Nushi and Nako Spiro to Enver. He had been appointed as the courier who made the connections between the Korca district and the Center in Tirana. His name was Arsen Leskoviku.

Our journey took us passed Elbasan and, up to this moment, we had had no problems. However, just before entering Librazhd, we were stopped by an armed patrol. There were three of them; one was a German and the other two Albanians who were wearing the uniform of the Albanian militia. They asked for our identity cards. The German took mine and began moving it in his hands. He raised his eyes, and looking straight at me said, “Yugoslav?” I nearly had a heart attack! The name on my identity card was Vera – a name that the Slavs use as well. I thought that they would ask me to get off the bus and take me for interrogation to the post office nearby and who knows then what would have happened. I hastened to explain. Although he was not Italian, for some reason I spoke to him in Italian, thinking that I could better communicate with him. I remember telling him,

“No, no, albanese, Vera, stagione, estate o primavera”

(No, no, Albanian, Vera is a season; summer or spring).

So I waffled on a bit. Finally he returned the identity card to me. I breathed a sigh of relief, and, after a while, I turned my head and glanced at the comrade who was with me. He had recovered himself and was quite calm; he just closed his eyes as if to say: “Good…”. I smiled slightly as if to say: “We’re safe…”.

We arrived in Korça in the evening and stayed that night in the home of a school friend. The next day, at dusk, we set off for Panarit, where Enver and some comrades from the Central Committee and General Headquarters were. A team of 4-5 partisans was waiting for us outside of the town. They knew the area very well and were to accompany us on the journey from village to village. After we had greeted each other, the partisans told us that armed frontists had been seen in the area and this was why we had to talk softly and walk carefully.

We walked in a single file for a very long time without stopping in order to get away from the town. The worst thing was that the night was so dark that we were not able to see and it was difficult to follow the path. One comrade fell. He apparently walked too close to the edge of a hole in the ground, slipped, uttered a sharp ‘oh!’ and then there was silence. We were shocked. We went to the place where he had fallen but we couldn’t see anything. We called out in low voices; “Arsen, hey, Arsen!”, but there was no reply. We became even more worried. Down in the hole nothing was visible. We tried to locate his body with the butt of a rifle, but it was in vain. Then the partisans found some long sticks and, in the darkness they measured the depth of the hole with them. After coming up with the idea of holding one another hand-by-hand, one of us managed to get down into the hole. When we were told that Arsen’s body had been located we were very relieved and we hoped that he was alive.

They managed to pull him up with great difficulty. I remember when they laid him down, they gave him a drop of raki that one of the partisans kept with him in his water bottle and used as medicine for various wounds. Arsen groaned. They checked out to see if he had broken a leg or an arm but he screamed only when they touched him on one of his hips. They held his mouth closed so as not to be heard. As he told us afterwards, he had been hurt badly in one hip when he had fallen because he had had a tin of meat in his knapsack and it was this knapsack that he fell on and severely bruised his hip. What could we do? The comrades carried him on their backs in turn to the nearest village where we would spend the night. As soon as we entered the specified base, the women of the house put a bed near the fire and laid Arsen down on it to help him rest up. With the light of an oil lamp the comrades checked him for any other injuries and massaged his hip with raki and olive oil until he felt somewhat better. When we realized that he didn’t have any other serious injuries, we started joking with him.

We told Arsen that we would sequester his tin of meat because it was “cold steel” that kills and might take prevent someone from fighting.

“Look, this has interrupted your journey with us; you must stay here and will have to eat chicken soup of course, that is, if the frontists have left any chickens in the village.”

Laughing, he fell asleep.

We slept for three hours and, after taking the letter from Arsen, we set off before dawn in order to avoid any confrontation with the frontists. After so many years I don’t remember which villages we passed through or the length of the journey.

In Panarit – to Enver

We finally arrived in Panarit, where Enver was living. This village was located on a mountainside. It was said that this was a big village, but I didn’t share this idea, because I couldn’t see many houses.

The house where the headquarters was located was quite big; it had two or three floors, together with a barn, and was completely built of stone. They led us into a big room, in the middle of which was a large fire, where entire trunks were turned into fairly hot embers, and which gave the room pleasant warmth. It was able to bring one back to life and make you feel relaxed after the long and tiring journey. In such a place, the warmth created a feeling of satisfaction, something that I had not felt before in these years of war. This room in Albania is called a ‘room of fire’, and around the big fireplace with no chimney, the women cooked and stayed. These rooms didn’t have any ceilings, but only roof timbers which were blackened by the smoke). Around the fire sat several comrades who worked in the headquarters along with partisan guards and companions. I recognized among them, comrade Behar Shtylla. He stood up immediately and went to inform Enver about our arrival.

You can imagine how impatient I was to meet Enver. But Behar came back and told me that Enver was in a meeting.

Meanwhile the comrades found us a place near the fire and, one after another, brought some homemade bread, which was very soft, some fresh sheep cheese, honey and nuts. I especially enjoyed the fresh cheese and the toast. Then the friends began talking and joking. They even had an argument as to whose life was more difficult; that of the partisans in the mountains or that of the underground activists in the towns. I myself thought that the life of the underground activists, under the continuous worry of fascist encirclement, repeated controls, the dangers of arrest or the maltreatment of the families who sheltered them, was more difficult. But the partisans were correct because they lived in the mountains, marched and fought in very bad places, in the winter’s cold and frost, usually poorly dressed, in bare feet and with empty stomachs.

One of them said: “This fire and this food are like a dream for us…”

Of course he was right, and the local peasants didn’t spare what they had in their houses, in order to honor and respect the partisans of the mountains.

While we were talking, Enver came in. He was smiling as always. He was really surprised when he saw me. As he told me later; he had thought that Naxhije had come. She was a leading comrade of the Party in Korca. So after the first surprise, we hugged each other with nostalgia, forgetting to keep the “secret” of our relationship. Seeing us that way, the comrades laughed… Just to give a formal meaning to my coming, in front of the others, Enver asked:

“Did you bring the letters we wanted? Come.”

He took my hand and we went out. We went to the house where he was living and sleeping with the other comrades. The house was up in the hills so we had to do a bit of climbing. It was a small bungalow, but to go inside you had to go up some stairs built over a rock, which was covered with wide stone slabs. The house was painted with lime, and the doors and windows were made of pinewood, which, in that fresh mountain air and under the heat from the sun, gave off a pleasant scent that allowed you to breathe freely. There were too many things there that made me feel very comfortable and happy.

We went into Enver’s room. It was white because the walls were painted with lime. The sheets on the bed were snow-white, so were the embroidered curtains. On the settee was a fringed haircloth; while on the floor was a small carpet. Enver asked immediately about the letters. He looked at them quickly.

“I will read them carefully later”, he said

and then wanted to hear my report about the situation at the Center. I told him many things, and then we talked a bit about ourselves and satisfied our yearning. The women of the house brought us corn bread, sheep’s yoghurt and eggs. In that fresh and healthy climate, one had had an increased appetite and I very much enjoyed the food. I said to Enver jokingly:

“I saw in the house at headquarters that you don’t live too badly…”

Enver replied, “The peasants are friendly and hospitable and, although they are poor, they are very kind and we owe them a lot”.

The next day I went down to some of the buildings. I don’t remember if they had been a school or a cantonment. A course was being held with party personnel from the field and the army, at which, political and ideological lectures were being given in order to increase the educational level of our comrades.

During the three or four days that I stayed in Panarit I met many comrades I had known in Tirana. Here in the mountains among the partisans, comrades and peasants I felt different. Here you could move calmly and freely, something that could not be done in Tirana, because it was filled with terror.

During our talks in Panarit for three-four days, Enver told me that they had started preparations to set up a meeting larger than the Second National Liberation Conference of Labinot. (He meant the Congress that was going to be held in Permet).

“In this meeting we will make very important decisions for Albania.” But we will have to work hard in order to do this. So I think it is not necessary that you return to Tirana now. I think that you should go to Permet and from there to Zagorie. There you will find the Headquarters of the Gjirokastra-Vlora Area, and you will work there, dealing mainly with the youth and the organization of anti-fascist women, in the field and near the units acting in that area.”

I was happy about this because in this way I would continue living a free life in the mountains, villages and areas where the breeze of liberty had started to blow.

I set off for Permet and Zagorie and, for two months I worked very hard and joyfully in these two areas from which I have unforgettable memories. Memories from the historic Congress of Permet (24 May 1944) where I took part as a delegate, and from my activities during the German Operation of June in the Zagorie mountains. But I will not refer to them in these notes because I do not have many memories about my personal and direct meetings and conversations with Enver, who, during this period, was very busy. He had much of the responsibility for the preparations, development and compilation of the resolutions for the Congress of Permet, which was to be of great historical importance for the victory of the National Liberation Anti-fascist Movement, and for the future of our people.

13. Unforgettable days in Lireza – among the youth

After the Nazi operations of June, Enver, together with the leadership of the National Liberation Anti-fascist Council, the main members of the General Headquarters and some members of the Central Committee of the Party, left Odrican and went back to Helmes (a small village in Skrapar district, with 10-12 houses situated on a mountain side below Marta Pass).

After the Congress of Permet, in early July, while I was working in Zagorie, I got news from Nako Spiro telling me to set off immediately for Helmes in the Skrapar district. In time of war orders were not given to discussion. So although I was used to the wonderful people of the Zagorie region, with whom I had worked and lived for a long time, I set off to Helmes. We walked from village to village and after two days reached the destination.

Helmes village seemed to me like a beautiful relaxing oasis. It was full of greenness, with trees that gave it a special grace. The apple trees were full of fruit and the branches were nearly breaking. Also, the grapes, even though they were not properly ripened, made your mouth water when you saw them. We sat for a moment near the drinking fountain. The water was very cold and it flowed freely along the side of the cobblestone street. We refreshed ourselves and relaxed there from the long journey. After a while some comrades came and took me to the offices where Enver and his comrades worked. It was a two-floor stone built house.

In one of the offices, on the first floor, was Enver with Nako. We hugged longingly. They asked me about the affairs and the situation in the regions in which I had been. Then they told me why they had called me there: The First Congress of the Union of the Albanian Anti-fascist Youth had to be prepared. Enver told me of the importance of this Congress, which, as he put it, would give new ardor and strength to the union of anti-fascist youth for the final war to liberate the whole country. It would also create new perspectives for the youth in the construction of a new, democratic national Albania, and its future. Nako talked about the procedures we had to follow for sending out notifications, for choosing delegates, for the preparation of the Congress’ documents, and reports that would be held, etc. Then the next day he asked me to go to the Lireza field (the place where the Congress would be held) in order to see the field and to decide what measures had to be taken in the construction of some work cabins and also to see where to put the tents for the delegates to sleep in. He also wanted me to see what we could do about the equipment and decoration of the Congress setting.

Lireza was a large plateau surrounded by mountains. I thought that it was a suitable place, because it was so large and many people would be able to stay there. Also, quite a few activities could be organized. During the construction and modifications that I have already mentioned we stayed down in the village. The comrades who worked there slept in two houses. Enver and two other comrades slept in a small bungalow, which was a little down from the center, where the offices were. While I was staying in Helmes, I slept in the common room of Enver and his comrades. The landlady, Nuriham, had two nice swarthy sons. They wore long shirts that reached and covered part of their legs because they did not have anything else to wear under it. Nevruzi who was four or five years old used to collect cigarette butts that the comrades and partisans threw away and, wanting to imitate them, he would sometimes put one of them on his mouth and laugh. Enver lit a butt once for him and he nearly suffocated because of its smoke, so he never put them on his mouth again. He also has a photograph of this embarrassing moment with the cigarette butt on his mouth. We laugh whenever we see that photograph.

During a visit to Skrapar, years after the Liberation, we saw that Nevruz had become a Party instructor. He looked different, was serious, handsome, neat and tidy and was wearing a suit. We were really glad to meet him again. We reminded him of the difficult days during the War in his house and the jokes we shared with him. Of course he didn’t remember many things, but we talked about what his parents had told to him.

When the first buildings in the Lireza field were built, such as the kitchen and the hut,we went up there. Here the comrades of the youth leadership would work in the preparation for the Congress. Everything was built with timber and planks taken from the nearby forest, with the help of the peasants and some partisans who were skilled in these kinds of things. We stayed in a relatively big hut. There was a wide wooden bed above the floor in one part of it, in which we would sleep. Naturally, we couldn’t even think about a mattress, but we were able to lay a piece of carpet or a hair-cloth down that the peasants had brought, and we used blankets that we had taken from the defeated Italian army as covers. The blankets were necessary up there in Lireza, because, although it was summer (late July, early August), it was really cool, especially at night. The beautiful Lirez was enhanced even more when the delegates started to arrive. If only you could have seen that beautiful field. The tents looked like white flowers and, at night, were lit up by the partisan’s fires. That field bubbled with the songs and voices of the youth who had come from all over the country. In this way, warming themselves by the fire, talking and singing, the youth often stayed up till the early hours of the morning.

This was understandable because the majority of the delegates were partisans. It was their custom, after the long tiring marches, to get together at night around the fire, where they were able to relax and spend some precious moments after battling with the enemy. It was also a time to remember, to meditate and honor fallen comrades and family members who they had buried. That is why their songs were full of, not only grief, but also of optimism and the joy for the future, nostalgia and honor for missing comrades, and also their promise of revenge. These partisan songs, sung around these fires were, at the same time, hymns for the glory of the fallen, and also hymns for the faith and determination to accomplish the liberation of the country and the rebuilding of a new Albania. This is why my generation remembers with nostalgia, those partisan fires. They were marvelous moments that generated feelings of an inner happiness for everyone and for the special reason, that they were part of the big war, the war for Liberty, for the Motherland, for lofty human ideals!

Now, as I write this in my dark prison cell, my eyes are fill with tears when I remember the bright flames of those partisan fires, which will be forever remembered, not only for me, but by all my contemporaries who were part of that glorious time of songs around the partisan fires. It is also memorable to those of the younger generations who keep alive the glorious work of the partisans and martyrs, who risked their young lives for Liberty. The attempts of those who try to distort and deny this glorious history of the National Liberation Anti-fascist War are failures and will not have a long life…

The blissful environment in the unforgettable Lireza continued for nearly a month. This was because many delegates from the North arrived late due to the difficulties in moving around the country at that time. Many cultural activities were organized; lead by our good comrade Pirro Kondi and some other comrades. A Field Radio was set up as well as a Press Table, where news, announcements, literary creations of the delegates such as poems, songs, caricatures etc. could be read by the youth.

While the delegates were entertaining, singing and playing, we were working without rest for the preparation of the Congress, and not only for the Congress’ documents, but also preparing and giving lectures to the youth on different topics. We were really pleased because the delegates were very interested in all of these matters.

After some days, other comrades of the youth leadership in the field and in the partisan brigades such as Liri Belishova, Ramiz Alia, Alqi Kondi, Fadil Pacrami etc., arrived. We all joined the delegates. We sat and stayed with them, talked, played, sang and joked together because we were young and had the same ideals. There was nothing better than that populated Field with the flower of our people, with the brave and beautiful youth, who knew how to fight, to sing and dance and to learn about the preparations for the nation’s future.

I remember very well the reception of Major Ivanov, the chief of the Soviet military mission to the General Headquarters of the Albanian National Liberation Army. He had come from the Greek border, had crossed the Marta Pass, and went down to Helmes where the Headquarters was. The Albanian youth gave him a warm reception because they considered him as the representative of Stalin’s Red Army, whom we loved and admired for the defeats being caused to Hitler’s armies on the Eastern Front.

The anticipated day, 8 August 1944, finally came. The Congress for the Union of the Albanian Anti-fascist Youth opened its proceedings. I, along with the other participants, still remember today that beautiful “hall” with no doors or windows, built with the timber that still emitted the fresh forest scent and with its roof of fern branches. The chairs for the delegates were made in a similar fashion, with new wooden planks taken from the forest, as was the long table of the Presidium. The pathway to the hall’s entrance was lined with lime painted stones. A group of young partisan boys and girls stood along the sides of the pathway, with rifles and submachine guns as honorary bodyguards. This gave a special solemnity to the entrance of the delegates to the Congress hall and to the beginning of its proceedings.

The hall immediately became full of the lively voices of the youth, who were very enthusiastic and were not able to restrain themselves from singing and cheering. Their enthusiasm was, however, indescribable when Enver Hoxha, together with Dr. Nishan, accompanied by Nako Spiro, came into the hall. Many delegates were seeing the commander for the first time. Some of them couldn’t hold back their tears of joy. Then, after the applause and ovations, silence reigned in the hall, until it was interrupted by Enver’s sonorous voice and his passionate words. He talked to the youth’s hearts as only he knew, touched the delegates, and made opened their eyes to the marvelous future that was waiting for them; Albania’s future and that of its long-suffering people.

The impressions from this Congress are many. I remember I remember returning to Lireza on the 45th anniversary of this memorable event. I found the Lireza field just as beautiful as I remembered, however, many of the delegates of that first Congress in those unforgettable days, were not there for this anniversary. Some had died and some had not come because of old age, disease or some other inability. Even those who had come now had gray hair and were bent because of the years of war and hard work. But something had remained unchanged: their hearts and their souls were the same as they were 45 years ago. That’s why when we met together, along with the tears of nostalgia there was much joy and cries of happiness. Some remained embraced for a long time because they had not seen each other for decades. Each of them were reminded of those beautiful days and, in bringing back their memories, they behaved like those young boys and girls of 1944. They were very happy and spoke with honor and respect of each other.

The organizers of this meeting had tried to create the same premises as those of 45 years ago during the Congress; the wooden huts, the tents etc., whereas, the “hall” of the Congress was somewhat improvised. We experienced the same emotions and memories as then, but something was missing. Enver was not there, but even though he was not there physically, he was present at every moment and at every talk, because all remembered and talked about him lovingly, and, with much longing. In the evening the atmosphere was the same as during the Congress, because the partisan fires were lit, and around them boomed again the beautiful songs of the youth, intertwined with the beautiful songs of the people from all regions, south and north, since the participants came from all around Albania. There were not only some of the former delegates of the Congress, but also young school boys and girls, workers and peasants, who had given their souls, their zest and their joy to the Party. We looked at these young boys and girls and tried to follow their songs and dances, and, even though we were old, we felt young again amongst them. To tell the truth, while they stayed near the fires till dawn dancing, singing and joking, we elders took naps. It was the passionate youth to whom we had turned over the baton in order for them to continue this beautiful party, which has remained memorable to all of us. Near the end of the party I couldn’t help but go to visit Helmes. The comrades joked:

“You will go on foot as then, or…?” “Aha – I said smiling – I can’t…”

There was now a modern mountain road with many bends, which was needed in order to utilize forests in those parts. During the Youth Congress, there used to be a goat trail leading to Helmes, it was so steep that you could not walk upright. But, in those days, I flew from stone to stone because there was Enver who was attracting me like a magnet. I stayed there, alone for an hour with a gun in my arm. Then I walked up. I walked slowly, not because it was tiring, but because it was difficult to be away from Enver.

When I went to Helmes now, after 45 years, I didn’t have my previous vitality. The families that used to live there had moved to new places. There were only two or three of the old houses remaining; those used as offices by the Central Committee and the General Headquarters and the house where Enver used to sleep. Going around these houses, the streets and under the shade of the trees, it seemed to me like I was witnessing a silent film. The silent and unvoiced view of these places could not bring back the happiness of those days; on the contrary, it created within me a grueling emptiness. Those who give life to a place are the people who live there.

But old friends would never let you get bored. Old people, women and children came towards me, holding my hands, everybody wanting to take me in their house. It was difficult to choose where to go first. If I visited only one, the other would be annoyed. Those people who, during the war, gave us shelter in their houses, risking their own lives, giving us food and whatever they had, had great hearts and were very generous. I found these things again among these good and friendly people, who even now were doing what they could to please me. They gave me grapes, nuts, and delicious liquid honey in honeycombs. They had heard I was coming to the village and had cooked many things. They had also cooked pancakes to be eaten with the honey, and buns with fresh cheese, and many other things.

After the Congress, the chosen Secretariat (Nako Spiro, First Secretary and other members: Nexhmije Xhuglini, Liri Belishova, Pirro Kondi, Fadil Pacrami, Alqi Kondi, Ramiz Alia) was called to a meeting by Enver Hoxha, who was the Secretary General of the Albanian Communist Party.

In my opinion this was the most important meeting of the Youth leadership, for its analysis of the activities of the Communist Youth and also for the perspectives revealed by Enver for the future work of the organization of the Union of the Albanian Anti-fascist Youth. At the end of the meeting Ramiz Alia and I were designated to work with the youth in the field and in the partisan units in the Central, North and Northeast of Albania. On October 2nd, 1944, in Priske, the activists of the UAAY (Union of the Albanian Anti-fascist Youth) for South and Southeast Albania gathered and there were 86 delegates. The meeting was successful however; the offices of the Nazi invaders were informed immediately about this meeting. Priska was hit by German field artillery, and the shells fell around the house where we were sheltered. This was often done by the Nazis who knew where the First Corpus Headquarters of the National Liberation Army (whose Commander was Dali Ndreu and Commissar Hysni Kapo) was. Also located in the same area was a part of the British Mission led by Smith. In one of these shellings, within the family of the patriot Hysen Hysa (uncle Ceni, who is immortalized so well by Shevqet Musaraj in “The National Front Epic”), 11 people were killed.

14. In Berat – Meeting with the Prime Minister

In the historical liberated town of Berat I found an extraordinary enthusiastic and joyful atmosphere. The streets were crowded with partisans wandering in the streets that were full of citizens and many children. You could also see many women with black headdresses embracing the partisans as if they were their sons.

I was taken to the building where the General Headquarters was located, which, as I was told, was also the seat of the new Democratic Interim Government, chosen a week earlier, at the historical meeting of the National Liberation Anti-fascist Council. During the proceedings of that meeting, I was marching with the Congress delegates when I heard that the National Liberation Anti-fascist Committee had been reorganized into a Democratic Government, and that, Enver was its Prime Minister.

I am unable to describe my feelings at that moment. I was very happy that our National Liberation Movement, the war, the activities and sacrifices of our people in these years, under the leadership of the Communist Party, were being crowned with the creation of a new democratic power of the people and were going towards the final victory against the foreign enemy and their collaborators. On the other hand, seeing that Enver was given other high responsibilities, I was a bit worried and not too clear. This is something which I can’t explain even now. When I met and fell in love with Enver I had never thought he would become leader of the country and its prime minister, etc. I was worried and I asked myself this question:

“Would I be worthy as his friend in life, in his work, and to the public…?”

The idea of this responsibility burdened me, and made me feel insecure and skeptical about myself. A new complex was added to my timid nature; that of being a responsible and worthy wife for Enver Hoxha. I have to say that even 45 years after our marriage, I wasn’t able to free myself of this complex. In everything that I did or wrote, I tortured myself because of this insecurity:

“Is it OK? How can I improve it?”

It may seem strange, but these emotions became even stronger when I had discussions or I had to speak in plenums, and in Congresses, etc. in the presence of Enver. I was afraid of bothering him or of raising issues with which he disagreed. To avoid this emotional feeling as much as I could, especially in solemn moments, I asked sometimes asked Enver to look over my speeches or I read to him some parts of it that I wasn’t sure of. Even though he was very busy he seldom refused the help I asked. As he was for everyone, he was a teacher for me too, anytime, and for anything.

When I arrived at the location of the seat of the Democratic Party I saw that it was a big house that had been the house of feudalistic large landowners. Opening the door of a big room on the second floor they told me:

“This is Enver’s room, stay here and relax until the Government meeting finishes. We will inform Enver about your arrival.”

The room was small, simply furnished, well lit from a high window, and had white curtains. There was a bed in one corner; near it were a night table and an antique lampshade. Along the opposite wall were a desk, a chair and nothing else. I waited there for a while but I had nothing to do, so I went out into the wide hall, lit by some large windows. In the middle of hall was a large heavy wooden table. In the wood of this table were carvings of some mythical animal images. Near to the table were some big heavy doors. One of them was open and I was able to see the well-furnished room inside. I returned to Enver’s room and saw that he had chosen one of the smallest and most simple rooms. I waited, for what seemed to me, an endless amount of time. It was three months since I had last seen Enver, when I left Helmes. At last the door opened and I saw Enver. He had put on a well-sewn military uniform. We hugged with longing not wanting to be separated. We were very happy. After a moment, I said suddenly:

“Congratulations comrade Prime Minister…, but I liked those partisan shirts and breeches more and…when you were called Commander.”

We joked a bit and then started talking about various and numerous problems. He told me about the developments at the National Liberation Anti-fascist Council meeting, about the decisions taken and the importance that they had for Albania, which was on the verge of liberation, and its future. I told him about the situation in the areas I had been and the work we had done.

After talking about these things he took my hand saying:

“Come, I will show you the house so you can choose a room.”

As I mentioned, they were big, with curtains, rugs, heavy covers and furniture, which I didn’t like because they gave the rooms a medieval suffocating atmosphere. So I said to Enver laughing but hearty:

“I like your clean and simple room…”

He laughed and said: “I can understand that quite well…….. It is getting near the day when we should have our own house…”

The following day I went to the offices where the comrades who had arrived early for the organization of the First Congress for the Union of Albanian Anti-fascist Women were situated. Comrades such as Liri Gega, Naxhije Dume, Fiqret Sanxhaktari etc. Four partisan comrades from Yugoslavia had come to take part in this Congress. They had grades and were wearing smart military uniforms. Their appearance was much better than that of our partisans, who were no less brave, but did not have any grades.

Liri invited me to meet the guests in the Yugoslav military Mission. There I was introduced, for the first time with the new representatives of the Mission, Velimir Stojnic and Niaz Dizdarevic. I knew that Dushan Mugosha had left Albania and at the request of Koci Xoxe we wrote some letters of greetings to him, but I didn’t know that Milan Popovici had also left. During my visit I noticed that the Yugoslav Mission resembled an inn without gates, where our comrades came and went as they would in their own houses. It had become a club for meeting and talking. This impressed me a lot.

When I got back home I asked Enver immediately about Miladin. He said that he had left in a very depressed state because the new comrades who came to the mission had criticized his work in Albania with regard to our Communist Party. They had said that the Central Committee of the Yugoslavian Communist Party had decided to remove them from Albania and that they had come themselves as substitutes him and Dushan in their relationship with our Party. They would also perform the official function as representatives of the Yugoslavian Military Mission like the British, Soviets and Americans during the war. While talking with Enver I told him that, like many comrades, Liri Gega also went frequently to the Yugoslav Military Mission even though they didn’t have any important duties to complete, and that they behaved as if they were in their own houses. Making no comments Enver said:

“They can do whatever they want, but you do not have anything to do there…”

I was impressed by the way he said that. From his tone you could feel discontent and disapproval. But while I was in Berat, I wasn’t aware of what was happening around him and against him, in the background.

On November 4th, the First Congress of the Union of Albanian Anti-fascist Women was opened. All the preparations had been made by Liri Gega and Naxhije Dume. I was not called upon to view the documents, nor was I to be presented with the organizational measures, even though I had been appointed as a supervisor of the commission that the First National Conference set up for the organization. This was, I thought, because I had come late to Berat. These comrades did not inform me or call me to come to the Congress and I thought that this was unintentional because of the difficulties of communication in this time of war. If I hadn’t received Enver’s letter in which he wrote: “See you at the Women’s Congress…” I wouldn’t have gone to Berat and I wouldn’t have taken part in the Congress, because I wouldn’t have known about it. I received another surprise when the Congress’ bodies were chosen. I was not proposed to be in its presidium, but I was appointed, along with comrade Vito Kondi to the Congress’ secretariat. I decided not to bring all these matters to the attention of Enver.

Enver did not say a word to me about what was happening in Berat. I am unable to say if he did this so that I would not be worried, or to respect the principle that the affairs of leadership affairs were things that should not be discussed with one’s wife.

Being at that time a member of Central Committee of the Communist Youth and of the Secretariat of the Union of Albanian Anti-fascist Youth, I remarked to Nako Spiro that, it had been a long time since we had held a meeting; perhaps, because like me, some of the comrades had been kept very busy since the Youth Congress in Helmes…

Nako stood up and invited me to walk with him alongside the river. We walked in silence for some time. Apparently he didn’t know how to begin.

During our walk along the Osum bank, he finally broke his silence and said:

“Well, you are not going to work with the youth anymore…”

Greatly surprised by this sudden news, I interrupted him and said:

“How come? Now we are on the verge of Liberation I can hardly wait to get back to Tirana to work with the Youth…. When was this decided?”

I was continuing to speak in this manner, rather hastily and somewhat upset.

“Just a minute,” he said, “The Central Committee has decided that you should take part in the Ideological Commission at the Central Committee of the Party, led by Sejfulla Maleshova.”

Then he told me about the importance of this commission, but I was getting angry with Enver too, because he hadn’t told me anything about this change. When returned to the seat of the new Government and General Headquarters, I told Enver what Nako had said to me. Enver tried to calm me down, telling me about the functions of this commission, its relationship to the Central Committee, and, at the same time, that it was part of the Ministry of Culture, whose minister would be Sejfulla, and I would deal with Tirana Radio, education etc.

The treatment I had received at the Women’s Congress and this sudden news left a bitter taste in my mouth, but at that time I did not understand why they were happening, because no one, not even Enver had told me what was going on backstage in Berat. Later, everything became clear. Apparently, they wanted to leave Enver out of the State and Party leadership, and they didn’t want to have me among them informing Enver of their actions against him.

15. Capital Liberation. The new Democratic Government in Tirana

On 17 November 1944, after 19 days of violent fighting, we got the long-awaited news of the Liberation of Tirana. We were very happy that day. While Enver was greeting the partisans and the people in the yard from the window of the Seat of the General Headquarters, I went to his room, locked the door and cried for all the dead comrades, remembering each one of them. Some were killed heroically in fighting at the barricades; some were massacred, hanged or tortured. It seemed unjust that they were not there, that they were not alive celebrating and enjoying this victory. Although I didn’t swear an oath at that moment, I have never forgotten those strong feelings of love and pain that I felt on that day. Not even when I was tired, when I was facing difficult moments, including these tough years of loneliness in prison, and my old age. I have told myself:

“That’s OK. Their dreams for the liberation of the nation were realized, and I will continue fighting for those friends of mine who were killed during the struggle and will die with honor, like them.”

The day after we got the wonderful news of the liberation of the capital, Fiqret Sanxhaktari (Shehu) came to Enver and asked permission to go to Tirana. Since the fighting had ended, she wanted to be near Mehmet because she had become engaged to him in Permet, during the Congress. Giving her permission, Enver turned to me and said:

“Nexhmije, why don’t you go along with Fiqret? I will be very busy here, so meanwhile, you can stay with your parents,” he added laughing, “because it is getting near the time we will be going to our own house.”

So I decided to leave Berat.

We set off in a mille cento car. A comrade came with us. I remembered that the Ura Vajgurore bridge or whatever it was called at that time was completely destroyed, so we crossed the river by raft. From the Krraba Pass until we arrived in Tirana we past many smoking burnt-out tanks. We also saw quite a few German corpses. We arrived in the centre of Tirana at Skanderbeg’s square, and decided to take walk in order to see how badly our capital had been damaged and also because we had missed it a lot. What I noticed immediately was the beautiful minaret of the mosque near the clock tower. Only half of it remained because a shell had damaged it.

The Germans had built a bunker in the centre of the square where all the streets intersected. It was nearly level with the ground, with holes for looking out or to put the muzzles of the machine guns through. I wasn’t able to see the entrance for the soldiers because it seemed too narrow to enter from above. Perhaps they had built a tunnel under the square, connected to the town hall, which stood where the National Historical Museum is today. It was said that in this bunker, the enemy had put up a strong resistance, and had killed and injured many partisans, who had bravely attacked that bunker in the middle of the capital. Finally it was captured, and one of our artists had painted a picture of the victorious partisan on the wall of the bunker, as a memorial to their courage.

In Royal Street, now called Barricades Street, you could see the rubbish left from the harsh war fought in that streets – as I was told – by the guerilla units, in cooperation with professional partisan teams, and helped by young volunteers and anti-fascist women from Tirana.

I left Fiqret in Bami Street, later called “Qemal Stafa”. I hastened to my house, in Saraceve Street, thinking to surprise to my parents. But they weren’t there! They hadn’t yet come back from the free areas, where they had had to go with my sick brother. He was an underground activist. They left Tirana when they heard the news that they were to be arrested. As I was later informed, my house had been searched seven times, often under the direction of Man Kukaleshi, the number one in the Qazim Mulleti. The reason for these searches was that there had been a report of a spy living in our alley, who had said that we had a radio transmitter in the house. Maybe he had noticed the activities going on with the people who exchanged letters, communiqués, and leaflets, etc. with my mother. And also, many who stayed there, such as the couriers of some districts used the house as their base, as I have written earlier.

As I didn’t find anyone at home, I headed towards the house of Enver to surprise his parents. They lived in a bungalow with two rooms with view of the ring road, opposite Bije Vokshi’s house, where the Albanian Communist Youth Organization had been established. I entered the house happily and when they saw me they were really surprised and very pleased. Immediately they asked me numerous questions about Enver. The father, uncle Halil, was interested in knowing about the new Government which had been created in Berat, and also about the ministers, some of whom he knew, because they were from Gjirokastra: such as Dr Nishani and others.

One time Ane said to her husband:

“Why don’t you tell the bride what that frontist said about the Government?” “Come on, forget that bastard,” he responded angrily.

It was understood that he didn’t want others to remind him of that frontist so he didn’t talk about it. As I was told later a former friend of his from Gjirokastra, who was a frontist now, had told uncle Halil ironically:

“Have you heard Halil, Enver has become the Prime Minister of the new Government”. “

“He has done his best,” uncle Halil had responded, “Don’t you like it?”

“Heh,” said the frontist on leaving, “a mountain Government, a wet Government…”

That’s why uncle Halil was angry. But the frontists and their friends have now seen for 45 years what this mountain government is and what it could achieve. They have tried for so long to destroy it but they can’t take from the people’s souls the conviction about the benefits that the government brought to the country…

Now the liberated Tirana would wait for the new Democratic Government to come from Berat. The long-awaited day came. The government arrived in the capital on November 1944. It was a nice November morning, when all the members of the Government leads by Enver, arrived in the square between the ministries and walked to the Dajti hotel where, in front of the hotel steps was placed a simple tribune decorated with flags and laurels. The inhabitants of the capital were overwhelmed with an indescribable enthusiasm. The partisans helped to give the atmosphere a sense of great liveliness. They had fought for the liberation of Tirana, felt proud of their deeds and celebrated by singing partisan songs.

A group of martyrs’ mothers went up to the Government members. The moment when these mothers embraced Enver and the other members as if they were their sons was very touching and moving. They wished them heartily:

“May you have a long life…may free Albania have a long life!”

then the mothers sat in front of the tribune where there were many people waiting impatiently to see the leaders of this new democratic state. Among them were a group of young women dressed in beautiful and varicolored national costumes. One of them was holding a red flag with the sublime eagle in the middle. Below, at the side of the Avenue’s bridge over the Lana River, were lines of partisan battalions who had taken part in the Liberation of Tirana. They were to parade in front the members of the Government and the General Commander, Enver Hoxha.

The moment came when the members of the Government, of the National Liberation Front Leadership and of the General Headquarters reached the tribune. Enver Hoxha, Dr. Omer Nishani, Myslim Peza, Haxhi Lleshi, Baba Faja Martaneshi; Mehemet Shehu, Medar Shtylla and others were presented to the cheering and applauding crowds. Along with some comrades, I watched the ceremony from the balcony of the Dajti Hotel.

From the tribune in front of the cheering crowd, Enver Hoxha delivered his first historical speech before the people of Tirana. In his speech as the Prime Minister of the Interim Democratic Government in Berat, Enver had issued the call:

“More bread! More culture!”

Whereas in his speech in the liberated capital, among other things he said:

“Today opens a new page in our history, and it is up to us to make it as glorious as our war against the occupier. This will be a war for the reconstruction of Albania, a war for the boosting of the economy, for the increase in the cultural and educational levels of our people, for the progress of its political, economic and social levels… Let the whole of Albania become a building site, where young and old people understand they no longer work for foreigners, but for themselves and the construction of their own country . . . No honest Albanian citizen should remain out of the Front. On the occasion of the 28th November festival, on the occasion of the liberation of Tirana, the leadership of the Albanian Antifascist National Liberation Council gives a general amnesty to all the members of the National Front, Legaliteti and other organizations who were cooperating with the occupier. From this amnesty are excluded all the war criminals who have killed, burnt, dishonored or stolen the people’s wealth.”

The people looked at the leader carefully, the Commander, for whom they had heard so much during the war. They followed him with an unseen enthusiasm. Together, with the people of the suffering population and who were broken by the war, but whose eyes sparkled because of the joy of freedom and the presence of the members of the Government, had come some of the defeated, who, with the end of the war, had lost political and economic power.

I remember that during the ceremony, when the leaders of the state mounted the tribune, a rather ridiculous incident occurred. We saw that on one side of the tribune there was a former minister of Zogu, Ferit Vokopola, and also a merchant from Tirana, Ali Bakiu. I knew both of them. In the merchants shop we used to buy notebooks and other school items. I had also bought a violin there, because this was wanted by every student preparing to become a teacher. The former minister was the father of one of my classmates. When the organizers of the ceremony saw them both they laughed but became somewhat concerned as well. Actually, the merchant from Tirana was allowed to stay because he had helped the National Liberation Movement; he was an anti-fascist, whereas the former minister left the tribune after they told him politely that his place was not there.

On the occasion of the arrival of the new Government in the liberated Tirana, in the evening of the 28th and 29th of November a large reception was organized in the Dajti Hotel. In addition to the new authorities, of the Government and the Front etc., there were Commanders, Commissars, and distinguished partisans from the battles with the Nazis and Fascists long with martyrs’ mothers and relations. All the Allied Missions in Albania were invited, the British, Soviet, American and Yugoslav.

At this reception, for the first time, I was with Enver, making our matrimonial relationship official. The main authorities of the country and the foreign guests sat in one corner of the big hotel hall. In the middle of it, where we were, and in all the other halls of the hotel, people sang and danced with uncontrolled enthusiasm.

All the members of the allied missions were enjoying themselves, especially those of the British Mission who were represented by quite a few. At this time it was their right to be happy. For months they had wandered in the mountains, sleeping in towers and Albanian huts, far from their families and living under the terror of being bombed by Nazi planes. They looked a bit ridiculous but it was also very nice – when they joined in our southern folk dances dancers and tried to move their legs as we did. Of course they wanted to dance the modern dances, as well; the tango, waltz etc. but most of those who were in the hall had come from the mountains, and those young partisans knew that those dances were not appreciated by the general population at that time. One of the British officers thought that Madam Hoxha knew one of these couple dances, and, according to the rules, asked permission from Enver. Unfortunately, I had never danced that kind of dance so I felt really embarrassed until the music ended.

In the corner where we were sitting, Enver and Dr. Nishani engaged a representative of the British Mission to see if he could handle Albanian raki. They themselves drank two glasses for the big festival and then told the waiter to fill them with water. So while they were drinking water, the Englishman was drinking raki until he was completely drunk, and everyone started laughing heartily. The guest tried to hold his liquor but, in the end, he vomited. While he was vomiting Dr. Nishani made one of his sarcastic comments: “The Englishman vomited the colonies.”

It is a well-known fact that after the Liberation, the relationships of our state leadership with the allied military missions were close and correct, and not only with the Soviet and Yugoslavian mission but also with the British representatives but somewhat less with the Americans, whose rank was lower. The United States had thought it would be “reasonable” that their emissaries should be of Albanian origin, failing to predict that the local Albanians would not put up the haughty advice and interference of these Albanians, who were rather pompous and came from over the ocean.

Enver as the leader of the new Government and Foreign Minister, taking me with him, decided to make some goodwill visits to the allied missions. I remember the visit to the British Mission chief, Jacobs. The Mission was located in a villa between “Qemal Stafa” stadium and the now Albanian Television Station. He was a good host to us. They served their famous tea and biscuits. At that time we had serious problems with the western allies in such matters as the recognition of the Government, the upcoming elections, the conditions for the UNRRA aid etc. As far as I remember, we didn’t mention these problems during this visit, because they might have caused some irritation to our relationships. We discussed the role of the allied missions during the war, about the British Mission and their members who had been in Albania and near the General Headquarters. Enver talked about them and Jacobs told us where some of them had now moved on to other missions; to Egypt near the Mediterranean Allied Headquarters, to Italy, and, in some cases, back to England.

In the second half of 1991, when my children and I had left our house and were settled in a flat, two English journalists came to visit me. At that time I didn’t wish to receive journalists, but they informed me that they had a “last will” from a former officer of the British Mission during the National Liberation War. I became curious so I accepted their request. One of them was a journalist, the other a photo reporter working for “The Sunday Times”. The journalist took from his pocket and showed me a photo of a young officer, who, as he told me, was his father, a former member of the British Mission in Albania during the war. This man, as his father had told him, had jumped with a parachute somewhere near Elbasan (maybe in the Biza field where the allies dropped supplies), but while landing he had been hurt and had been sent to a partisan hospital. According to them I had helped him and I had given him a toothbrush. His Dad had told him about the life in Albania, the partisan’s war and had told him that he had been at the dinner party in the Dajti Hotel for the wedding of Enver Hoxha and myself. Before dying he had told his son to visit to Albania and to come and thank me, and as a souvenir he gave me a toothbrush, new of course.

His father had confused me with someone else, but I couldn’t disappoint his son, so I said: “…Thank you…” and some other friendly words about the Englishmen I had known in Elbasan, Berat, Helmes etc. I also told him that we did not organize a dinner for our wedding at the Dajti Hotel, but that it had been a welcoming reception to celebrate the new Democratic Government in the liberated Tirana, and I told him playfully that maybe I had danced with his father.

When I was sent to prison, I read a small newspaper from our foreign friends and also saw the photographs of these two friends of Albania with some others. They had organized a demonstration with placards etc., demanding my release, in front of a building where there was a delegation of the Sali Berisha Government.

16. Our partisan wedding

When the new Government came to Tirana, the majority or, better to say all of its members, stayed in the Dajti Hotel. Enver had a bedroom with an anteroom. I remember staying there all December, until the relevant offices were set-up, and we got our house. We were given a house in New Tirana, on “Ismail Qemali” street. It had been the house of an engineer or director of the “Belloti” firm. We lived there for 30 years.

Enver and I decided to hold our official wedding on the New Year Eve (1944-1945), and we told our families this. They were surprised and said: “Wait a minute, we’re not ready!” We told them that we didn’t want a wedding ceremony or anything special. In fact, our families were correct because they finally had an opportunity to marry off their only son to me, an only daughter. That is why they insisted that we should celebrate twice, because we had survived the war. Enver said:

“Many young comrades like us were killed in the war that is why we can’t have a wedding ceremony”.

So they had to accept our partisan wedding. Nevertheless they did manage to do something.

On the 30th of December my family invited the family of my uncle to dinner, Arif Xhuglini, and his children. I remember that, after dinner, my uncle’s wife took me aside and wanted to tell me about the mysteries of the first night of the wedding, as it had been done to her. As she started talking I felt very embarrassed so I interrupted her saying:

“No, no I don’t want…” and left.

It seemed banal to me to stay and listen those things, maybe I felt ashamed at that time. Later when I became more interested in traditions and social customs and it also become part of my job, I said to myself:

“Why didn’t I let her talk in order to better understand the knowledge and concepts existing then about the relationship between man and woman?”

Because, I think that, the simpler the people from the cultural point of view, the more simplified are these intimate relationships. This doesn’t mean that simple people do not fall in love, do not have passions, what I mean is that, along with the expansion of the cultural horizon, intimate relationships “get complicated”, are cultivated and smartened up more than nature has given to us humans, more than nature has given to the animals, and much higher than the natural instinct of every living being to breed.

Something nice happened the following day, on December 31st. in the morning, when some members of Enver’s family had come to take the “bride”. They were Enver’s sisters Farihe and Sano. We waited on them hospitably and treated them with different kinds of sweets, according to the custom. We laughed very much when they told us what Enver had done:

“We asked him to give us his car, but he wouldn’t allow this. Now what should we do? We had to take a brougham…This is what your Enver did to us…”

and my sisters-in-law laughed. What could they do because there were no taxis then?

The moment of my leave came. It was more emotional than I had imagined. This way of leaving and separation from my family and my little house created strange impressions and caused strong emotions to me. “The partisan bride” was leaving her house. I had put on a military fabric jacket, which I had used as a coat. At the end of the road there was a hidebound horse and an old carriage waiting for the “Prime Minister’s bride”.

While the brougham was walking in the streets of the city, many ideas came to my mind. Maybe that was the strangest journey I have ever had and …the most beautiful. A strong pen is needed along with a calm spiritual state to describe the movement of that carriage carrying a bride who had just come from the mountains, to describe the minutes of that December day that were for me, a wedding day, but for Albania a real spring, the spring of freedom. The further we journeyed from my house the more confused my thoughts became and my heart beat very quickly… I have remembered this strange journey all these years; a journey that was taking me towards a new life.

Enver’s parents, his other sister, and her children were waiting for us at home. What about the bridegroom? He didn’t come to get me and he didn’t wait for me at the house either. He had gone to the office! This wasn’t acceptable.

My mother in law, whom I called Ane as did Enver, gave me a wedding ring of her own. It had white precious stones, but, as a partisan, I felt ashamed to put on my finger. I did put it on my finger but I gave it to my daughter later when she got married. For all of my life I haven’t worn a ring. Enver never gave me one and I never gave one to him either. He said playfully:

“Why do we need them; they are like chain links.”

The truth is that neither he nor I had the possibility to buy them. Enver’s father gave me a pendant with multi-colored stones, which had been an earring. He kept the other earring for Sano. Ane had made a satin quilt. Whereas my mother came with a necklace that she had had when she got married, and had also bought me some clothes at Bege’s, which, as I remember, was a small shop, but the most modern for those time. She also bought some pajamas there for Enver, which he never wore because they were too small for him. Because of this he teased my mother saying that she didn’t buy fairly for the bridegroom! According to the customs of the time, my mother sent to my parent’s in-law and sister’s in-law, towels, handkerchiefs, socks and other items. So, after everything, I didn’t leave without a proper ceremony. On the New Years Eve, Enver and I were alone. I will never forget that night, which was not only the night of a New Year but also of a new life.

As we had planned; the following day we held the official celebration of our marriage. Two employees, who had civil status, came to officiate in this. At the small ceremony that had been organized where two close friends of Enver; Dr. Omer Nishani and Baba Faja Martaneshi, who had come for the New Year and had been happy to be the witnesses of our marriage. From that time on, Omer used to call me “Enver’s wife “. On January 1st and 2nd, comrades from the political bureau such as Mehmet with Fiqret, Hysni, Vito, Nako and some others, came to congratulate us on our marriage and also to wish us all the best for the New Year. An unexpected self-organized “delegation” from Dibra also came to visit us. A group of my father’s cousins and some other citizens had come visiting. They were five or six people, lead by my father’s cousin, Mersin Qyflaku. He had known Enver from the time the Zajmi Mosque was being used as an undercover base and Enver had used Mersin’s yard to get into a “mile cento” car that would take him to Peza. Also in this group was one of the leaders of the Muslim Community, whose name I am unable to remember, but he was from Dibra. I was surprised to see that one of the visitors was Zija Dibra, who was a cousin of my father on his mother’s side. He was the brother of Fuat Dibra who, during the German occupation, was chosen to be Regent, together with Mehdi Frasheri, Lef Nosi and Pater Anton Harapi.

During the war, the Nazi invaders wanted to organize this Regency to fool the Albanian people into thinking that they were being governed by Albanians. The comrades of the Central Committee, Gogo Nushi, Nako Spiru and Sejfulla Maleshova sent me to talk with him (because I knew him) and appeal to him on behalf of the National Liberation Front not to accept this function.

Both brothers, Zija and Fuat Dibra, were not permanent residents of Tirana. They lived in Istanbul, where they had their palaces. My grandmother had told me that they were so rich that they didn’t count their gold, but weighed it using a large measuring cup. Fuat Dibra spent most of his time in France and Switzerland, and as I have heard from my father that he spent his fortune recklessly, not only in helping patriotic societies with emigration matters, but also living a life of luxury in Swiss hotels and sanatoriums, where he had gone to be cured of tuberculoses. One day the gold ran out and his family were destitute. Their old wooden house in Istanbul was even burned to the ground.

The brothers came very often to Albania especially since the time of Zogu. Fuat Bay Dibra lived at his cousin’s, Fuat Shatku’s wife, who had been a former minister during the time of Zogu. She was the aunt of Shyhret Turkesh, who had married the well-known scholar, Professor Eqrem Cabej. So we were related. I had been in this house at an earlier time with my mother. Shyhret’s aunt knew I was a communist and underground activist like her niece, that is why she welcomed me. I told her the reason why I had gone there, and she said that he was ill, but nevertheless, they hadn’t left him alone. She said that Mehdi Frasheri went there almost every day and pressed him to accept the post of regent that they had proposed. She took me to see him in his room. It was a half room, very dark, lit only by a small electric lamp, which was weaker than a candle. He was lying in a narrow bed completely covered with a dark blanket and his face turned to the wall.

Razia said slowly:

“It is useless to talk to him, he is tired because of the illness, and most of the time he feels sleepy from the medicine, and he doesn’t want to talk to anybody.”

I understood that it was impossible to try to talk to him in the state that he was in, so I left. I told this to my comrades. After a short period of time, he died. However his name was listed as a member of the quisling Regency. Nevertheless, Sejfulla Maleshova wrote an article about him in the newspaper of the National Liberation Front “Bashkimi” (The Union), where he mentioned his patriotic activity in the past, without mentioning that he ended his life as a quisling regent.

And now in our house came the regent’s brother, to congratulate on the Liberation of Albania and our wedding. We didn’t behave badly towards him, we treated Zija Dibra like the others, considering also the fact that he had not been involved in politics but had tried to keep his family’s capital. Actually, like his brother, he was a failure in politics.

The press of the time wrote that Enver had made a political marriage; marrying a girl from the North.

Understandably it was impossible to think of a honeymoon at that time. We had hardly had the chance to live together and find a house of our own. This is why we started working immediately.

17. New bride – In Enver’s family

After leading a nomad’s life for three years –as an illegal and a partisan – I finally was part of the family. When Enver was dismissed from his job in Korca and came to Tirana, he opened his shop “Flora”, and brought his family; mother, father and his single sister Sanije from Gjirokastra. They rented a house, a short distance from the place where Vojo Kushi was killed and close to the house where the Communist Youth was founded. This was quite a small house with only two rooms. In the garden was a small hut that was used as a kitchen. Enver lived at this house for only a short time until the end of October 1941, when he was obliged to go ‘underground’ to avoid arrest. He never set foot in that house again.

After the liberation, when we moved to the “Belloti” house in ‘Tirana e Re’ (New Tirana), Enver sent for his parents and sister to live with us. His middle sister, Haxhire, continued to live in the small house with her three fatherless children; her husband having been killed in his shop in Berat. Later, as she had nothing to live on, we sent for her and the children to come and live with us. Zylo, the daughter of his uncle was also invited by Enver to come and live with us. This was because he thought that he owed his uncle a favor as he had helped him with his education and also because he was a well educated patriot.

The house that we moved into was not so spacious. The women and the children slept in the largest room, while, in a smaller room slept Enver’s father. One of the other two rooms was our bedroom, whereas the other became Enver’s studio, where he welcomed comrades and held meetings with them. Koci Xoxe moved into a house close to ours. He lived with his father, stepmother, wife and her mother and his two children, who were born before the Liberation. He had two other children after that. Koci’s family was a modest one, his father was a tinsmith by profession, a craft passed down to his only son. Koci’s wife, Sofika, was a kind woman, who, even at a young age, was rather stooped, because of working hard at the handloom, making carpets for others. She could not get used to the high post that her husband had and said smilingly:

‘Wow, Xoxo has become… a celebrity!’

Indeed Xoxo put on great airs, which he always did in a very serious manner.

Koci’s father, called Barba…, I don’t remember his full name, seemed to be hardworking, able-handed and still kept working in his old age. Uncle Halil, Enver’s father and Koci’s father became close friends. Over a glass of raki or a cup of coffee they told old stories about their families or about the cities where they had lived. Uncle Halil, out of curiosity had asked him one day:

‘What’s the matter with our sons? They keep arguing, I have heard them shouting when they get together at our home…’

However, Barba minded his own business.

We did not get our monthly payment until some months after the Liberation. Some of the comrades of the Party leadership, members of the Government and of the Anti-fascist National Liberation Council continued to live and eat at the “Dajti” Hotel, others at another hotel later called the “Vollga”. Canteens were set up by Naku Spiru, such as the one for the Youth Central Committee and its administration, where people could eat for a low nominal charge..

However, our family and that of Koci Xoxe had only the one cook, a middle-aged man, called Lluka. He was supplied by a state managing center and he cooked the same things for both of the families; a first and a second course for lunch, whereas, for breakfast and dinner we each had a glass of milk, an egg and some cheese.

The house where we moved was unfurnished. It had belonged to an Italian engineer, who had left with the Italian army after the surrender of the fascist Italy, and a merchant from Korca called Petro Katro had removed the furniture. This furniture was taken away from him and became state property and was then distributed to various places. Later, many comrades, bought some pieces of this furniture from the government. We bought the bedroom and the dining room furniture. While we settled down with these items, Koci’s house was empty and had only some old bits and pieces and some small carpets, which had been brought from Korca. Noticing this situation, Enver said to his mother:

‘Ane, what about cutting the rug of the hall in two and give one part to Koci?’

She replied, ‘It’s a pity to cut up such a rug, it will get spoiled, let them find another rug for Koci.’

They found and brought two rugs to Koci’s, which were so thick that they had to saw off the bottoms of the doors.

There’s another funny story about this rug, which Enver tells. Two peasants from Elbasan came for a visit; Ali Disha and others, who had hosted and protected Enver and some friends in their house, during the war. They wanted to take their shoes off before entering the house but Enver smilingly said,

‘No, no!’, and, taking them by the hand said ‘Do come in and walk comfortably on this rug because it used to belong to Shefqet Verlaci”.

Actually, it wasn’t his but he mentioned his name because the peasants from Elbasan had suffered a lot because of Shefqet Verlaci a landowner, who, right up to the end was in the service of the fascist invaders, and even became a Prime Minister under them.

During the first 3 or 4 years after the Liberation, the meetings of the Political Bureau were held in our house. This was rather uncomfortable because of our large family. Therefore, Koci moved to another house nearby. Into his old house, which was next to ours, Enver and the family moved, however we all dined together. A woman was employed to do the cooking for us. She boasted that because she was from a big house, she would be able to do a very good job for us. She, thinking that perhaps she was a great cook or perhaps that we, as communists, would treat her as an equal, decided to sit down with us at our meals at the other end of the table, facing Enver. And this was not all. She kept up a constant chatter at the dining table! Enver once looked at me as if to ask ‘Where did you find her?’ I did not know her at all; those who dealt with our houses and related matters sent her to us. She did not stay long. When Enver’s sister, along with her children, came to live with us, she did the cooking for quite some time.

Sterjo Gjokoreci, a senior communist, who had been for several years in the Soviet Union, was responsible for matters of supply and other economic issues. He was fluent in Russian so he was also Enver’s translator at the meetings with Stalin, even at the tête-à-tête ones and also at dinners and walks, which Enver describes in his book “With Stalin”. Sterjo was totally honest and systematic for whatever expense or object that he brought into the house. In his special file you could read about the shirt, tie or socks that he had bought for Enver or the specific authorization that he had made for to buy me a suit for my wedding etc. With this authorization in my hands, I went to the store of the big merchant from Korca, Sheko, where I picked up some blue cloth, which I am still wearing, even in the photo on the cover of this book. The off-the-peg white shirt was a wedding present from Koco Tasko, from his shop, which he opened with the money of Sano’s trousseau, given by Enver to offset the expenses of the activities of the Korca Communist Group.

This photo has a story of its own, both beautiful and painful at the same time. That is the first photo after our wedding and is a memory from a Soviet camera operator who was in Albania to film the most gripping moments of the fighting for the liberation of Tirana and of the historic events to come. Unfortunately, the plane in which he was flying was shot when passing over Montenegro and thus he lost his life and all the work he had done in Albania. I do not know if any examples of his work still exist, or even if he sent some of it to Moscow in batches.

I don’t remember after how many months, the state began to pay us on a monthly basis and I don’t recall what our salary was after the Liberation. However, I do remember that at the time when Enver was the prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Minister of Foreign affairs, he earned 35,000 (old) Lek. I earned 20,000 (old) Lek when I was the Director at the Ministry Of Culture and later as a Director of Propaganda, Education and Culture at the department in the Party Central Committee. Each of us earned 2,000 Lek as deputies. Later, Enver suggested cutting off this honorarium for the deputies living in Tirana, and were paid only for the usual mileage when they were on duty. For the out of town deputies who came to Tirana for the meetings of the Assembly accommodation and mileage costs were given to them. Later the salaries were reduced to that point that, at Enver’s suggestion and in accordance with Lenin’s recommendations written in his books; the salaries of the highest Party and State functionary could not be higher than 2 – 21/2 times the average of the salaries of the workers in the top category and therefore Enver received 16,000 leks while I received 13,000.

During the early years our salaries were quite enough for us, but we could not save anything. This was because, in addition to Enver’s family, we had to maintain my family, including my father who had a low pension along with my mother who was a housewife and my brother who was studying in the Soviet Union. We also had to maintain the two families of the two widowed sisters of Enver; Haxhire, with her three children, and Fahrije, and her two sons, Luan and Fatos who attended the university.

Earlier I have mentioned that Enver loved his eldest sister very much and admired her cleverness, wisdom and the culture. This she had picked up from her husband Bahri Omari who had emigrated to Italy some years earlier because he was an anti-Zogist. When Italy invaded Albanian, Bahri Omari returned to his home country, he socialized with his immigrant friends, many of whom had been appointed as members of the High Council, which was set up by the invaders. When Balli Kombetar was created, Bahri Omari was at its center. Enver in his book ‘Laying the Foundations of the New Albania’ has described in detail his efforts to convince intellectuals and politicians to join the Anti-fascist National Liberation Front and fight to liberate Albania. He did the same with Bahri Omari.

Enver send word with his sister and her son, Luan, in order to convince him to withdraw from his circle, and come up to the mountains to fight as some of his friends had done, such as Dr. Omer Nishani and others. However Bahri Omari held fast to his position.

In one of Enver’s letters that he sent me after there had been an ambush by a partisan unit in which Bahri Omari was wounded in one arm, he wrote

‘I do not feel sorry for him as a political figure, but I do for Fahrie and her sons. I am not going to intervene in any way… This is not particularly nice of me towards Fahrie…but there’s nothing I can do. I struggled for two long years trying to show him the correct way, but his head was like a cave..’

However, Bahri was not only an activist of Balli Kombetar, he also became Minister of Foreign Affairs under the quisling Nazi Government of Rexhep Mitrovica.

Thus was created the deep conflict between his sister, Fahrie and our families. It has been asked; ‘Could Enver really do nothing to rescue him?’ The charges against him were very serious; not only was he a quisling, but, just as important was the fact that he had signed the order to blow up Durres Harbor after the Nazi forces withdrew. Couldn’t his friends have done something?

Koci Xoxe asked Enver

‘What we are going to do with Bahri Omari?’

Enver replied ‘I did my best, he wouldn’t listen, now it’s up to justice.’

When Bahri was sentenced to death, Ane said to her son, Enver:

‘I am going to Fahrie for some days…’

She said this not as though she was asking permission but as a decision that was up to her.

While Sano also asked ‘Can I go too?’

‘Do go!’ Enver replied.

Some days past and I asked the same question,

‘Enver, may I go to Fahrije?’

‘Surely!’ he replied and he added sadly

‘I am really sorry for Fahrie and the family…’

When I arrived, there was Bahri’s sister and many other cousins from the Omar family. They were motionless, when I came in. I do not remember if I shook hands with them, but I hugged Fahrie. She kept a straight face, and, being a wise woman she never argued about this, but she did not set foot on our house for a long time afterwards. She came only when her father was sick. Enver also went to see her. It was easy for their mutual brother-sister affection to bloom again. Enver asked her about her health, because, after the war, she had problems again with tuberculosis, which was cured by the well-known pulmonologist of that time, Petraq Leka. Then she came occasionally, then later, more often and, finally she came regularly as a daughter of the house. She stayed for days and satisfied her longing for her parents, sisters and brother. She loved me too, and opened her heart to me about any problems that worried her. She showed her wisdom and self-control again even though she was going through a very difficult stage of her life.

It was Enver’s 60th birthday. She welcomed and kept the house open for the guests. The following morning, before leaving, she came up to my room and after a while told me,

‘Vera (one of my pseudonyms in the war, which the Enver’s family still uses), I have got something like a small ball, here at my breast. I felt it for the first time when we were at Durres beach. At first I thought it was just a minor injury from the mattress or something but now it seems to be something else…’

I was completely taken aback. I stood up and as I checked her I noticed the lump which was hard to the touch. I kept a straight face, and said calmly

‘You should see the specialist to check it. Don’t worry, you know that such lumps can sometimes occur and they can be benign”.

I arranged the medical check up and the tests for her, but unfortunately, it was malignant. She was operated on. Enver did not want to send her abroad (he was rather strict with his family, in every aspect). The chemotherapy for the tuberculosis affected her health, and, even after she was sent abroad, she did not recover. After languishing for six months, she gathered all her spiritual and physical strength and welcomed Enver, standing and smiling assuring him that she was all right. She, and we knew that this would be the last time that we met her. By midnight, she closed her eyes forever, while in the arms of her sons. In the morning, her sons came and consoled Enver, maybe thinking that he wouldn’t be able to bring himself to go to their house. On the contrary, as soon as he had met with the comrades of the Political Bureau who had come to console him and who also went to see her sons, Enver, and all of the family, went to Fahrije’s house to console them. Enver went there prior to, and after the funeral, and for two or three days he stayed there during the afternoons and for hours he welcomed whoever came to console Fahrie’s sons.

Enver’s mother was gentle, calm and patient. She had lost her son, Beqir, at 27, due to tuberculosis. He was older than Enver and, whenever he was mentioned, she wept. She wore a ring, which had a photo of him in it. She was illiterate, but very clever. She had a natural cleverness. Her memory was extraordinary, and this was something that Enver inherited from her. It was nice to interact with each other. I have written about this in the preface of Enver’s book ‘Childhood Years’. I was told that she was hardworking around the house, a good hostess and cook. Now she did not do any housework. Sometimes you could see her sitting by the fireplace sewing or patching clothes for the family. She could thread a needle even when she reached her nineties. Although she had difficulty with her hearing, one could not tell this even when she was chatting with many women within the same room.

Enver made time to take care of his parents, especially Ane (his mother). Almost every morning, with his bag under his arm leaving for work, he would go into her room and to say good morning or chat with her for a while. In the evenings, as well, half an hour prior to dinner, we went together to his parents who we usually found by the fireside; Ane sitting on the corner ottoman, and, at the other side was the uncle (Enver’s father) sitting on a soft pad. In the evenings, Enver’s father wore his nightgown (not pajamas) and a black fez on his head, as all the Moslem men did before Zog in 1936 after which the law made it compulsory for the men to wear a trilby hat and for the women to take off the yashmak (an example set by Qemal Ataturk). During these evening get-togethers I found out that Enver’s parents were married from the cradle, as usually happened in Albania. The way this happened was: that two friends, having coffee or a glass of raki, one sad because his wife had given birth to a daughter and the other quickly comforting him would say, ‘Don’t worry, I will ask her hand in marriage for my son…’ so they were connected by an arranged marriage. Enver played jokes on his father about this and asked,

‘So tell us, did you play together when you were little?’

His father pursed his thick lips and smilingly replied

‘I threw pebbles towards her so that she would go inside…’

Enver went on joking ‘Wow were you jealous or a fanatic? When she grew up straight and tall, did you like her? You were very short indeed…’

He replied to this with irony ‘It’s not a big deal; she also wore a pair of yellow high heel boots, which you could notice from far away…’

‘That’s why you did not allow her to walk past the market, even though she was covered head to toe…’

‘He wreaked havoc about this’ Ane told me, ‘One day when somebody told him ‘I saw Gjylo walking by the market’. I went to the market (the town center) only once in my life while we were living there.’

I had heard that the people of Gjirokastra were good thrifty housekeepers but also stingy ones. Enver liked to tell a joke about this, although I don’t know if it was true or made up. Somebody from Gjirokastra was related by marriage to someone one from Libohova. The in–laws visited them after having done the shopping at the market. The hostess had cooked some very delicious, but rather small, meatballs. The men sat down at the dining table, the man from Gjirokastra noticed that his guest was eating the meatballs two at a time. He could not keep himself from saying:

‘How do you climb the stairs there in your town?’ He answered, ‘One by one or two at a time, it depends on the stairs…’

Enver knew his father’s habits well and one evening he said

‘You have not yet shown your wooden chest to your daughter in law…’

He had a small wooden chest like the ones from long ago; tin layered and decorated with circular head nails with a semi-spherical lid. There were also goat skinned chests and larger ones usually given to the bride. Ane had one like this, but bigger, which she had sent to Gjirokastra and placed it in the room where Enver was born. The uncle took the chest from his room and placed it where he was sitting by the fireplace. You could find anything in it ranging from pieces of letters, letter rolls that had become yellow with age, nails, rivets and shoe-slabs etc.

‘What are these, what do you need them for?’ Enver teased him.

‘You ask me what do I do with them. Well, when Naim’s (his fatherless nephew) shoes wear out they need to be mended…The women waste time looking for nails to fix the curtains in the kitchen…I did not buy these but collected them here and there and placed them in this wooden chest.’

‘What about the letters?’ Enver asked.

‘The ones that you are holding are the land-patents of the fields that we own in…’ he mentioned a village that I don’t remember now.

‘What do you need them for uncle, they are of no value. Don’t you know that the land belongs to the people who farm it, thus their place is here…’ and threw them into the fire.

The uncle nearly burnt his hands trying to retrieve them, but they made a beautiful flame and burned. The uncle was annoyed and angry with Enver.

‘They were of no harm to you, they were just a souvenir from Mullah Beqiri’s time (Enver’s grandfather).’

One Sunday, Enver said to his mother

‘You have not shown the ‘ bride’ that national costume, the vest that you embroidered…’

Sano went to get it from the white sheet in which it was wrapped. The loose breeches of Gjirokastra and Dibra are not made of a white, thin and stiff cloth like the ones from Tirana or Elbasan. In general those of Central Albania made of satin, light colored, such as cream, lilac, with light pink or blue flowers etc. The cherry colored, velvet vest was embroidered with charming designs of golden threads by Ane and looked as though it had just been made.

‘The daughters of the house had worn it for their weddings and next in line to wear it was Sano, but unfortunately, she had not yet found her match…’ Ane ended her story, on a rather sad note.

Sano never did manage to wear this costume because she did not get married. She had been unlucky; firstly Enver, her only brother, was away from the family because of his job and studies, then came the war. She did not even become a partisan because Enver left her to take care of their elderly parents. After the war, partially because of her age, but I think that was more due to the fact that Enver had official assignments and so people found it difficult to approach her since they may have thought that we were aiming too high.

Thus, Sano did not get married. She had attended only elementary school, but you could not tell this as she was clever and read a lot, especially magazines and newspapers. At the beginning she hesitated to go to work, considering her educational level too low. However, Enver insisted that she worked, not only because of the economic aspects but also the principle aspect, which was the employment of women. By working Sano set a good example to other women. She worked at the registry office in Tirana and, although she did not earn much there, Enver and I let her keep her salary for her personal needs. Sano worked in a modest manner and never showed herself off as Enver’s sister. Sano was accepted as a Party member thanks to her work and modesty. She was active in the activities of the Democratic Front organization and that of the Woman in the neighborhood. She was always in contact with people and aware of their needs because of her work and these activities in the neighborhood. She often talked about these at lunchtime or dinnertime and she never held back her criticism of the governmental bodies that did not find solutions for particular problems.

Sano persistently defended her opinions even when Enver contradicted her –

‘It’s not like you think…’ she went on and sometimes

Enver loudly replied ‘Who knows better, you or I?’.

Sano did not gave up and replied quietly ‘That’s what I think…’

I had to play the referee, on one side I advised Sano

‘Don’t go too far when we are dining, he is tired…’

and on the other side when I was alone with Enver, I would say to him

‘Why do you tease her, she has her own personality, I am glad that she has her own opinions.’

Enver laughed and said ‘I tease her so that she gets used to other criticisms…’

Enver’s attitude was sometimes principled but Sano was not to blame. Once, when we were dining, Sano looked really happy and Enver asked

‘What’s up?’, she told him that she had been to the Party Conference of Tirana and had been elected to the labor presidium.

Enver replied immediately ‘Were not other communists in the organization of Tirana to be elected for the presidium?’

Enver was referring to the opportunism of the Party Committee but Sano was justifiably offended and replied indignantly

‘I did not request to be elected’ and stood up and left.

We went on commenting on this but Enver put this to an end by saying

‘I’m irritated because they do things meant to please me, but what do all those communists, who have great merits, say about this?’

During all the years that I lived with Sano, I was convinced that even when time passes a brother likes to tease his younger sister, whom he loves very much. In my personal library I have a small hard covered book of La Fontaine’s tales, which Enver had sent to Sano when he was in France. In it he has written:

‘As a memory…, poor you if you ruin it…’

I do not have the exact dedication now but I remember these words quite well.

Anytime that Enver got sick, she sat at the top of the staircase and burst in tears. I tried to comfort her and begged to go in her room because she stood in the way of the medical staff. When Enver passed away I stayed close to her, much more so than I stayed with my children. I was very sorry for her, as she had not experienced the joys of love, a family and of her own children. My imprisonment was a fatal blow to her. After 5 years of solitude, during my imprisonment, despite her old age, she enjoys welcoming communists, comrades and friends of Enver or new friends of our family.

Enver’s mother and father were very different characters. Ane was careful, quite neat in her way of dressing and eating and somehow authoritarian, while uncle Halil was totally different. He never changed his suit unless his wife and daughters insisted and he never laced his shoes.

‘Where on earth are you going dressed like that?’ Ane would say.

We laughed at his words ‘What did I do?’

He wore his old hat, even though Enver had given him one of his. One day Enver said,

‘Will you throw that old hat away or what…’

He did not take Enver’s words seriously until, one day he saw Enver taking the scissors and cutting it up. Enver said smilingly,

‘If you like it so much then wear it like this…’ Uncle smiled too.

Basically, he was one of those people that are called good-natured, calm, popular, who liked to socialize with the common people. He was very honest regarding financial matters. At the beginning, when we had our salaries, he did the shopping even for my mother who lived near by. He was not too lazy to go to the third floor and give back the change to my mother even if it was just a one lek!

Every evening, when we went into their room, we found uncle Halil reading. He had a wooden chest full of old quran books in Turkish or Arabic, which could have belonged to father Ceni (Hysen Hoxhes) Enver’s uncle, who was educated, chairman of the town Hall, and of the law-courts. Even Enver’s father was called Mulla Halil, a title used for educated people. When I had submitted for translation one of these ‘qurans’ to the only translator of the old Turkish language who was from Berat, he had told me that this was an amusing writing. In one of my photos of my youth, which I had sent to Enver’s family, his father had written on the top of this ‘marsh Allah’ , I do not remember the other words. We had sent this photo together with other objects to the small and low house, where Enver’s family had lived before the Liberation. I do not know what happened to it and to the other relics that we had submitted to this museum.

During his evening visits, Enver played backgammon with his father or sometimes he said ‘Let’s sing a song!’ Uncle started singing quietly and Enver sang along with him in a thick voice. I remember that one of songs from Laberia which Enver liked singing was that of ‘Cerciz dhe Bilbilenjte’. Uncle liked telling the stories that he read in his ‘qurans’, such as the Persian-Greek wars, episodes from the battles of Alexander the Great and those about the Imams in Arabia, of Ali and his sons, Hysen and Hasan. Maybe these readings had encouraged him to follow the Bektashi sect (Moslem sect) and to go to the Tekke (holy place). He was not that religious; he did not fast, but left the table any time that we ate ham or pork dishes. He discussed for a long time with his second daughter, Hatixhe, whether or not she had properly washed the casserole in which pork had been cooked. On the other hand, he always visited his Christian friends at Easter time and came back with his pockets full of red painted eggs, which amazed and made our children very happy.

Enver was in Moscow when our first child was born. When he returned to Albania, in the midst of the boisterous happiness within our households, the uncle said

‘Now we are three men…’

Enver not realizing or not having heard this at that moment or just to tease his father, said startled,

‘What do you mean by, we became three men?’ The uncle added smiling ‘Three men, I, you and your son…’ ‘But what name shall we give him?’ Enver replied.

‘Ane and I have found a name for him, Beqir (in the memory of their dead son).”

I stiffened, I did not like that name at all. Enver and I had agreed to name him Ilir. Enver, smiling, winked at me and said to him:

‘All right, we’ll name him Beqir but he will have also another name…Ilir.’

The uncle took him in his arms and sang something to him, a ‘Moslem prayer’ that we did not understand then he whispered three times at his ear ‘Beqir, Beqir, Beqir.’ We registered our son at the registry office with the name Ilir and, except uncle, we never called him Beqir.

Even though Enver did his best to look after his father, he had a weakness for his mother. When we went downstairs, before dinner, he sat beside her on the ottoman and embraced her, and trifled with her braid, which she had thrown over her shoulders under her headdress. She turned her head and kissed him on the cheek. The same kind thing happened even when Enver was at his early sixties.

In the early days, when I was a ‘young bride’ in the house, Ane, after having kissed Enver had said to me

‘Dear bride, don’t worry about this as I have clean lips.’

I could do nothing but smile at the implication of her words. However, she could not upset me because she was so meticulous about her personal hygiene, clothes, bedding and covers. I could even go so far as to say that a nurse could not be more sanitary. She ate with such delicacy as if she had grown up in a noble family or maybe abroad. Her eldest and youngest daughters, Fahrie and Sano, had taken after her in this aspect. On the other hand, the other daughter had not inherited anything from this. When the others pointed this out to her, she replied

‘It’s not so easy, I have other things to do, I cook, do the washing up…’

She resembled her father in appearance and in character.

Enver ‘hated’ black clothes. He did his best to convince Ane to take them off but she wouldn’t listen. One day, when she was present, he requested me to find a light colored cloth to make a dress. As it was summer, I bought a grey cotton fabric with some small black stripes on it and we made a dress for her. Ane wore it for only a day and she, smiling said,

‘It seems to me as if I am wearing my nightgown’.

Sometimes Enver asked Ane to grill cheese on the fire-iron, as we sat by the fireplace. This was very nostalgic and reminded him of his childhood. Enver, being a diabetic, could not eat things that were not included in his diet, so he encouraged the children, saying,

‘Do go to Ane, she will grill cheese on the fire-iron.’

The word ‘fire-iron’ used in this case brought up lengthy debates regarding the various meanings that were given to some objects in some dialects. For example, we from Dibra use this word to name the object used to ignite the fire in the fireplace or in the stove, whereas in Gjirokastra it has another name. You could imagine how my grandmother and my mother-in law communicated with each other. Enver usually asked Ane,

‘What did you do today? Did anyone visit you? Did you go anywhere?’

She replied that she had visited my mother. Enver asked Ane about her visit

‘What was said there?’

She told him about any topic that she had discussed with my mother

‘There was the grandmother, too, but I did not understand a word of what she said and she did not understand a word of what I had said.’

This might sound strange but the younger generations of the last three or four decades have overcome the problems of dialects. These problems have been brought to an end thanks to schooling, communication, and above all, the historical decision to process and standardize the literary language.

_______________________________END THIS INSTALLMENT_____________________________________________ 

“My Life With Enver” Nexhmije Hoxha’s Memoirs (Part 3)

(Above) Anti-fascist demonstration in Tirana where Nexhmije saw Enver for the first time. They would later meet in a Partisan safehouse.

Young Nexhmije.

Enver Hoxha in disguise during the war.

Later years: Enver and Nexhmije.

Later years: Enver and Nexhmije.

9. In Kucaka. Another Yugoslav emissary

In Kucaka, near Korca, I met-up again with Enver. It had been a long time we had seen each other and we spent some time talking. He told me about the problems that they had encountered in Vlora with the anti-party and factionist Sadik Premte, whom I had known very well in Tirana. I had met him at some of the bases where illegals were sheltered. He was a cynical man who would be a destructive influence on the work with the youth elements. I reported to Enver about the terror exercised in Tirana, the general situation and the many searches that had taken place, including his sister’s house and the room where we used to stay together.

After we spent some time together, Enver asked me:

“Can you find something to do? Or perhaps you could go outside and check around, as now we have a meeting with a comrade coming from Yugoslavia”.

I went out onto the porch where I found Fiqret Sanxhaktari who had traveled from Korca, where she had been transferred after the mistake in kidnapping the daughter of Man Kukaleshi. This was done in order to blackmail him for he was the most notorious spy in Tirana, serving the fascist invaders and their collaborators. Fiqret would sometimes deal with the typing of documents for the Central Party Committee. As we were sitting and talking, we saw a tall man coming down the stairs. He was dressed in a well-sewn military kaki suit. He was followed by a young lady, she was well built, good-looking and in the same type of kaki suit; partisan trousers and jacket. Under her arm she had a workbag. Both of them walked past without turning their heads as if we weren’t there. I asked Fiqret who they were. She told me: his name was Svetzer Vukmanovic, his nickname was Tempo, whereas the lady was his secretary, but they also say she was his wife. Her name was Milica.

When I saw Enver again, I told him about the two guests who didn’t even greet us.

He smiled and added:

“They are angry with me”.

Being somewhat surprised I asked him why they were angry. Enver explained to me who Tempo was and what he wanted to do in Albania, Greece and Bulgaria. Enver has called Tempo the wandering ambassador of Tito, who entered Albania through Montenegro, and sometimes through Macedonia. Tempo, it seemed, would put forward as his personal ideas the statements and orders received for the establishment of a General Big Inter-Balkan Headquarters in which Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria and Greece would be involved. Enver has described Vukamanovic Tempo exactly as he was – arrogant, stubborn, a wild anti-Albanian Serb chauvinist of the first class.

During the comings and goings of this “political Mafioso”, Enver had had hot debates with Tempo regarding his scornful and unfair criticism him in relation to the Party and our partisan Units. Tempo suggested that we set up proletarian partisan brigades, similar to those in Yugoslavia. According to him we had to establish the General Headquarters. Actually we had already decided about this at the First National Conference of the Party. Tempo wanted to do this because he needed to establish the General Balkans Headquarters, which would be led by Tito during the war. Whereas later….. ., Later there would be other plans, on “political integration”, party, government and the Balkan Federation, (“certainly with Tito leading”). The great Dimitrov was not satisfactory enough for the appetite of this megalomaniac, who wasn’t satisfied with the Federation of the Yugoslav Republics, which were artificially created by the superpowers, at the expense of other nations and nationalities.

The debate in Kucaka between Enver and Tempo reached a point of no return. On one of the trips Tempo undertook, he asked that Koci Xoxe go with him. Apparently they understood each other very well. On the way to Greece, Koci had reported everything in the world to Tempo and had spat out all the anger he kept inside against Enver Hoxha.

When these two were due back in Kucaka from Greece, it turned out that they hadn’t done much. In fact, Tempo immediately wanted to convene a meeting with those comrades present there. He didn’t mention why, but at that meeting I remember he brought up much criticism, especially against Enver. These facts are already known since Enver described them very well in his memoirs. It is also a well-known fact that when involved with such talks, the woman who had been introduced as Tempo’s secretary interfered.

Enver told her:

“You stay where you are, don’t behave like Geraldine. . (former Albanian Queen).”

This incident caused the secretary to burst into tears and made Tempo angry.

It is not true that Enver was “harsh with women”, as one foreign author has written; on the contrary. But, Enver was not the sort of person to tolerate scorn and unfair criticism, even from Tempo. Not even from people of higher rank, as time showed later.

From what I remember, Enver, after Kucaka, didn’t meet Vukmanovic Svetozar Tempo again during the war. After the war they met during the visit Enver paid to Belgrade in June 1946, as well as later in Moscow, when the Khruschovites fixed up some negotiations. They also met in July 1947, when Enver returned from his visit to the Soviet Union, where he had had his first meeting with Stalin and he found Tempo leading a delegation composed of military personnel.

10. The General Headquarters and Enver Hoxha approach Tirana

Below, Balli Kombetar is translated as “National Front”(not to be confused with the Anti-fascist National Liberation Front) and its members as “frontists”. The National Front, created in 1942 and led by Mithat Frash, was an Albanian reactionary organization which, during the final years of the war, opted to collaborate with the Italian and German forces in Albania, thus opposing the Anti-fascist National Liberation Front.

In Labinot, from the 4th until the 9th of September 1943, the Second National Liberation Conference was convened. The decisions that were made there, are quite famous in the history of the National Liberation War of our people. This conference approved the establishment of the General Headquarters of the National Liberation Army, the creation of large partisan units, an extension of the activities of the National Liberation Councils of the Front and, the upgrading of their role within the nuclei of the new popular government. The conference condemned the treachery of the representatives of the National Liberation Front in Mukje led by Ymer Dishnica and Mustafa Gjinishi. These two, instead of arranging for the involvement in the war of the National Front and Legaliti forces, became victims of their traps. They began to consider themselves not only as equal members concerning the future of the country (in spite of them not participating in the war), but they were also given the opportunity of taking the lead as saviours of the nation.

Abaz Kupi, who until that moment was riding two “horses”, left the front and tried to ingratiate himself with the invaders, to save his own life as he expected the British would bring back King Zog. Enver made another attempt to organize another ‘tete a tete’ with him, in Shen Gjergj, at the house of their common friend, Shtepanajt. Nothing was achieved, though. Bazi of Cane left the front, and joined the deserter nationalists from the Peza Conference. But now the Front attained a broader stage of development, not only in its base but also in the General Council. Its’ members were well-known personalities in our country; such as politicians, progressives , antifascist fighters, and high rank military, etc.

During the conference, important events took place. During a break, we heard on the radio Italy has capitulated. It is understandable what it meant for us. The second bit of news was: German forces having reached Greece had invaded through Korca and, anywhere else they were able to set foot they would instigate massacres. In Borova, a village in Kolonja, they had killed elderly people, women and children. They had also burnt down the whole village.

The capitulation of Italy meant the surrender of the Italian army in our country. This was one of Enver’s primary concerns. Disarming the Italian army meant that their arms were to be surrendered to the Albanian National Liberation Army. All frontists and non-frontists were eager to get their hands on the arms and arm depots of the Italian army. The other side of the coin was related to the protection of the defeated army, their self-protection, and turning them into an anti-fascist power, to serve our liberated country against fascism. How could it save itself from being massacred by the mad Hitlerites, who had now been left in a mess by their former ally?

The conference issued a call to the Italian armed forces, and Enver Hoxha himself signed the order concerning the protection of Italian army.

I can not leave without mentioning here that this attitude of Enver, especially for the Italian anti-fascists and communists and many other Italian progressive personalities, was remarkable for its long lived effects. Their gratitude was later to be expressed through their solidarity, petitions, publications, public manifestations. When I was arrested at the time when Berisha was infected with power fever, he kept me in an isolated prison cell for more than 5 years. He also persecuted my family harshly for a long period. This was due, only to the fact that I was the wife of Enver Hoxha. I am very thankful to those Italian friends who did what they did for me in those difficult days created by the anti-democratic regime of Berisha.

The news of Italy capitulating caused an indescribable happiness and enthusiasm for all delegates, partisans and peasants who were on duty. To those who took out and fired off their pistols, even knowing that they might draw the attention of the enemies who were located in the area.

While talking unemotionally to the comrades, Enver told them that Italy’s capitulation was truly a victory for our struggle, though it created new situations, which required caution and all of us to be well prepared, since the new enemy was even wilder. Consequently, our war against them had to be more intense. The Nazis, he said, in order to protect their positions in Greece and other countries in the Balkans from being threatened, will attack Albania too, so the path of the war for liberation is a long one. . . .

This was the major concern of Enver in those days. His concern was an even more comprehensive one, regarding the development of the situation at the war fronts in Europe. Furthermore, the opening of the second front by the Anglo-American allies was being held back. Enver thought the allies might land in Italy aiming at detaching this country as well as the Balkans from Germany and after that, it was likely that the Germans would be attacked from the direction of France as well as from other directions also. So they would be caught and wouldn’t have the chance to breathe. He thought that, with regard to the Balkans, the second front in this sector would be left with the National Liberation Forces of the respective Balkans countries. The increase and extension of the National Liberation Movement in Albania, Greece, and Yugoslavia and their successes, showed that the movements were capable of accomplishing this overload successfully.

The new perspectives and duties emerging for the future of Albania immediately after the conclusion of the Second National Liberation Conference took into account these developments.

The General Headquarters and Enver Hoxha as political commissar (and, at the time General Secretary of the Albanian Communist Party), moved towards Tirana. They stopped nearby Arbana, a village situated in a free area of Peza, where the command of the Peza partisan group was situated. It was lead by the well-known patriot and fighter Myslym Peza. This move of the headquarters to a few kilometers distant from the capital city, was related to the military and political situation that would need to be created in case of any possible landing of allies in the Balkans, especially in Albania.

As soon as he arrived in Arbana, Enver called for Gogo Nushi, who was once a member of the Central Communist Party Committee and political secretary of the party for the Tirana Region. After having been informed about the situation of our forces and the enemy forces in the capital city, Enver spoke of the possibility of the allies landing in the Balkans and Albania and asked to know how many armed fighters could be prepared in order to support a coordinated attack of partisan forces from the surrounding hills.

Soon after returning to Tirana, Gogo Nushi convened the Tirana Regional Committee in which I participated in my capacity as political secretary of the Communist Youth for Tirana. There, he presented the issues and requirements raised by comrade Enver when they had conversed. We debated for a long time, taking into account the delicacy and importance of the questions involved. I don’t remember exactly which official reply was delivered from this meeting apart from the problem regarding “guerrilla units not being sufficiently equipped and prepared to undertake such a significant action”, but the people and youth were prepared for this attack and would support the guerillas.

I was not at all optimistic about the success of this attack at that time, concerning the Liberation of Tirana and taking power. Therefore, I wrote a letter, a long one, I might say, to Enver about this. It is dated 22nd September 1943. Fortunately and surprisingly it is one of those letters saved from my correspondence with Enver during the National Liberation War. Nevertheless, I was only able to save some of Enver’s letters during the time when we were outlawed. These are approximately 13 and have a documentary value. They are so dear to me.

In the letter sent to Enver, amongst other things, I wrote:

“Guerrilla Units of the city are available but you should be aware that they are not trained and are in-experienced. And this first trial is a very dangerous one. Our units and the people certainly will help and support the entry of our army into the city, but I am not very confident about the military support they can provide. They could hinder the movements of the enemy, they can fight it, and can capture positions in the city, but without units they won’t be able to confront the enemy. First we should be reinforced with more automatic weapons, tanks, etc, since, it is unimaginable they can acquire adequate experience in two or three days. The enemy is a strong military power and the bastards (the Albanians) serving them, have shown them how to escape and hide, if they are chased or attacked in the city. But the enemy forces are equipped with motorcycles and sufficient numbers of tanks for them to occupy one of the main roads of the city, which is unreachable by any of our groups or units. I don’t know much about war strategy and I don’t know what your situation is, but Tirana cannot be taken unless the roads to Durres and Elbasan are destroyed. As for the burning of the city and the widespread terrorising of the people, I don’t see that the enemy would have enough forces and opportunities to be able to manage this. . . . Apart from the weapons that have been provided to our units, it is evident that a large part of the population has also been armed. This has become more obvious during the past two nights when there has been quite a lot of shooting. It seems that the people are testing their guns and revolvers. Tirana can be taken, but the question is, whether or not we can hold it. I am doubtful of this, and losing, control of the city will mean a great political and military loss…”

Then in the letter I wrote to him about our work with the National Liberation Councils, with the evacuated groups of people from Durres, and with the Youth etc. I also explained to him the ongoing activities of the National Front and those for the revitalization of certain elements from the ranks of the high level official intelligentsia.

Until this time they had been apart but they were now thinking that, on the ‘eve’ of the English American allies landing, it was the moment to found “social-democratic” parties etc, and to ask for their participation without even helping us in the armed struggle.

In the second part of my letter I wrote to Enver about some of my concerns related to our personal relations. With Enver away from Tirana, the two of us could only communicate through letters. But Enver had a tendency to send me very brief letters that were not at all satisfactory to me. Even when there was a chance to meet-up with each other (as was sometimes the case with particular meetings or conferences of a national character), my young heart would break as the meetings with Enver were rather limited and short. There was more time taken to say goodbye, than spend time together. When we would participate in very important meetings such as those of Peza, Labinot, Permet, Helmes etc, those were the best occasions for me. At least I could see him with my own eyes and would satisfy my longing. However, during those days the two of us were not able to be alone together very much to talk. This was due not only to the fact that he was very busy with work, but also because the war conditions and Party norms wouldn’t allow him (nor I, for that matter) to detach himself from his duties and spend some hours together as two youngsters in love would want.

So, in no way should we attract the attention of comrades or delegates, regarding the interest that Enver showed with regards to me or our relationship. Our relationship was known only to our two families and to the principal leaders of the Party.

Under these circumstances, in an unconscious way, I could feel the “difference” both in age and political maturity between Enver and myself. I mention age because, being that much younger than he, I required him to write letters to me more often; longer and more intimate ones. Due to my age, this was just a whim of mine, but in those difficult moments Enver didn’t have the chance and time to reply to these girlish wishes, as I would have liked. However, be it from love, or be it from being always distant from him, I wanted Enver to write more and more to me, so that through long and intimate letters I could feel him closer, talk to him, feel from far away through the lines of those letters, his heart beating . . .

For example; he had left a very short letter for me in Zaloshnja, near Skrapar, in May 1943 when he had left Tirana to go to Vlora. On that specific occasion, he had gone there in order to visit Kucaka near Korca. He knew I would be there to participate in the first Conference of the Albanian Communist Youth, but since I hadn’t arrived, he had only jotted down a few lines for me… . When I arrived, I was given this piece of paper and, to tell the truth, I was glowing with happiness. This happiness soon turned into anger because the letter was a very brief one. During the months of July and August, I spent some time in Skrapar where I received four other letters from Enver. These were sent to me from Labinot and Vithkuq, but they too were very short letters and even contained work directives and personal requests. In two letters he would justify himself saying he was very busy with work and would promise me that some other time he would find the time to write me longer letters.

So, sadness and boredom captured my soul, because I missed Enver and I missed his letters as well as his caresses, which were so indispensable for the heart of a young woman in love. Some time would pass before I got used to it. Certainly, despite, my soul going through pains and suffering, I found the strength, hope and faith to wait until the day, the so much expected day, of freedom, when we would be together forever. I tried to keep myself away from those gloomy moods and sadness and managed to adjust myself to new conditions, away from Enver. These months were very different from the first ones, when we had just met and fallen in love with each other in Tirana. During those days, I had many occasions and opportunities to meet Enver quite often and I would stay and talk with him for long periods, be it at his sister’s place or in any of those bases where we could find shelter, as I have previously described in these memoirs.

Our Communist Party was never against true love or against stable relationships and the establishment of healthy families. But during the Nation Liberation War, attention had to be paid to our youth. They had to be monitored, since there were already claims by our enemies in their propaganda, deceitful lies regarding the morality of the communists. On the other hand, our people were widely sensitive to the behavior of our youth within society. It was only due to the discipline exercised by the communist party in the partisan army, which encouraged even the most conservative from different regions, to send their daughters and sisters to war with complete trust in the healthy morality of the communists and the partisans. There were only two or three occasions when this discipline broke down, as in the case of comrade F.S. in Tirana and that of another comrade from Gjirokaster. The only penalty was that they were expelled from the Party. There was also another occasion where comrade Ramize Gjebrea in Vlora was tragically executed. Our partisan women became friends and sisters who would heal the wounds of partisans, would nurse the sick, knit pullovers, sew their socks etc. In such a fraternal and sociable atmosphere, round the fire for freedom, our healthy love nurtured and strengthened our love for freedom. It laid the foundations of many partisan families, created right after liberation.

I will stop at a painful occasion when our comrade, Ramize Gjebrea, was shot by the firing squad. She has been written and spoken about very frequently. Enver in a letter addressed to Nako Spiro regarding this matter among others, would say:

“In spite of that little devil not behaving well, the punishment was really harsh …. .”

This issue became notorious amongst the comrades of the Brigade, who were alarmed at the observations of the work of Ramize, and regarded in it as an offence and discredit to the army and Party. Thus, they made their hasty decision without first asking the Central Committee. According to Enver, this issue should have first been discussed with the Central Committee since he knew that Ramize used to be Nako Spiro’s fiancé, and he certainly had the right to have his say. Ramize’s attitude was harmful (but not to the extent that warranted such extreme measures) not because she loved, but because she didn’t show stability in the love and the relation she had with Nako, even though he was her free choice. With her new love she went beyond the norms of morality, which were expected during the war by the Party and by society.

“The issue of free love”, Enver wrote to Nako, “is a very delicate issue, and some comrades seem not to have understood this. Concerning the delicate issue of love, comrades of the Party and the Youth should pay strict attention, since this issue is cuts both ways. If the issue of free love is misunderstood by our comrades, then we pass easily into whore-mongering. On the other hand, it could also be transformed into a celibate lifestyle. This issue has to be clearly introduced to the Youth and the Party through conferences, because we are not a religious organization, and we should consider all our work with a progressive perspective”.

11. Frequent correspondence with Enver

The period from March until September, 1943 was overwhelmed by important political and military events within the country and also in the international arena. The first Conference of the Albanian Communist Party appointed Enver as Secretary General. This upgraded his responsibilities with regard to the strengthening and establishment of the role and activities of the Party at the level of contemporary demands, as well as for the guidance of the Front of the National Liberation Antifascist War. He had to travel to Vlora in very dangerous times, in order to destroy an anti-party fraction of led Sadik Premte. This time was a period characteristic of the establishment of large fighting groups, partisan brigades and the organization of the General Headquarters, which would guide and take the National Liberation Army towards general rebellion.

The opening of the second front by the allies was expected. Mussolini fell. At this time, organizations of those groups called nationalists, such as the National Front and others, called National Zogist Boards, etc, started to revitalize and make their moves in order to occupy a place under the rising sun of freedom. The Communist Party and the leadership of the National Liberation Front required “the fathers of the nation” to become involved in the war with concrete actions against the new invaders, the Nazi Germans. For this reason the Mukje Meeting was organized, but it was set on a wrong track because of political myopia and the tolerance shown by the communist party delegation and the National Liberation Front (headed by Ymer Dishnica and Mustafa Gjinishi).

These two legimtised political heads of organizations that had not only never fought against the invaders, but had even entered into collaboration with the invaders in both secret and open agreements with them. They wanted to show themselves as being the saviors of Albania without even firing a shot! They wanted to lead the government of a liberated Albania even though it was the blood and the war of the people’s best sons, who had taken the responsibility of freeing the country.

In these circumstances, Enver was fully mobilized. According to his letters addressed to members of the Central Committee in Tirana, Gjirokastra, Vlora, Elbasan etc, (the correspondence of this period of time has been published in the first two editions of his works, dealing with the National Liberation War ), he was very concerned about what was happening and what was to be done. Under such conditions, with an overload of work and numerous problems, Enver didn’t even have the time to eat or sleep properly, whereas I, in my romantic mood and nature, wanted him to write to me “long and special letters … .

In the letters addressed to Nako Spiro, Ymer Dishnica and Gogo Nushi in Tirana, Enver was dissatisfied with the quality of work of these comrades from the Regional Committee, the Youth and Party organizations. After the capitulation of Italy and during the euphoric atmosphere it created, certain things were tolerated, “which could cost the future and war of Albania much”, Enver stated in his letters. Young partisans and illegals would enter and exit Tirana and its outskirts, as if the city were liberated. The secret locations of the shelters for the illegals were compromised, as if (along with the capitulation of the Italians) the administration of collaborators, agents, spies and mercenaries had been disbanded. But this administration was still intact, somewhat disarranged, but awaiting its new masters, the German Nazis.

During this period, the Mukje Meeting was organized. Instead of enabling the involvement of those nationalist organizations that had remained outside the National Liberation Front in the armed war against Nazi fascists, it turned into a complete fiasco, quite contradictory to the objectives defined and formulated in the platform of the Central Committee of the Albanian Communist Party. Enver’s Papers and correspondence of those days, which were surprisingly published (as were the activities of the Central Committee and of Enver; such a thing was not done by any of the communist parties of Central-Eastern Europe), show how much caution and attention he paid to the elaboration of the Mukje Meeting’s Platform. Enver prepared the Communist Party delegation headed by Ymer Dishnica and Mustafa Gjinishi. However, when they fell head over heals into the “trap” set by the National Front who established a “Committee for National Salvation” under their leadership, and also released a pamphlet, Enver ‘hit the roof’ and shouted out “Treachery!”.

Enver was kind and considerate with comrades. This is also evident from his correspondence with them, through the friendly jokes he made with them. But when the Party line was violated and political mistakes were made, he didn’t care to know who made the mistakes but took the necessary actions.

The same happened with me, too. Being a member of the Central Committee of Youth, Political Secretary of Youth for Tirana and as such, a member of the Regional Party Committee, the criticism of Enver rolled like thunder over my head, even harder than in the conversations we had had in Labinot. The criticism continued when he came to Arbana and has been written down in the correspondence of that period. I can’t hide it, being an only daughter, brought up in a small family, a quiet one living in full harmony – I wasn’t used to being scolded. Also, I was never seriously criticized in my revolutionary life (not politically at least), apart from general remarks on every day work with our Youth, etc. But this time it seemed that I was overwhelmed by Enver’s criticisms. As I said, I wasn’t used to criticism, and my reaction to them was a great shock deep in my soul, since I took them very seriously. Being criticized made me feel that I had committed some really bad error. The criticisms addressed to me were related to the mistakes made at the Mukje Meeting and the Regional Committee of Tirana not having intervened in time in order to avoid those mistakes. They were also related to the euphoric attitude of the youth following Mussolini’s collapse and the capitulation of fascist Italy. In addition, it had to do with our sub-standard propaganda, especially against the National Front’s demagogy and with the other so-called nationalists who saw an opportunity to try to take power.

All of these criticisms were quite correct and acceptable, so I wrote a letter to Enver about them: “I am especially sorry that I can not give more to the Party”. What I couldn’t understand and what made me go through a very difficult spiritual period, was Enver criticizing me even for things I wasn’t responsible for, such as the issue of Mukje. It is true, I was an intellectual with responsibilities in Tirana, I was also member of the Party circuit for Tirana, but I had never been convened to any of the discussions to exchange ideas about this issue, between Ymer Dishica, Gogo Nushi and Nako Spiro, all three of them members of the Central Committee. Even at the Regional Committee, nothing was mentioned about this meeting, or about what was going to be discussed or developed there. Despite this, what upset me more were the instructions Enver gave to comrades in letters or meetings “an order for them to scold me anytime I would make a mistake.”

Why would Enver do this? Apparently he was worried that I might become selfish due to my youth and to the relationship we had. So, in two letters he had sent to comrades’ of the Central Committee of Party for Tirana, Ymer Dishnica and Gogo Nushi, Enver had used certain criticisms and severe expressions regarding me. This happened not a long after we had fallen in love, and I was somewhat upset. I felt offended since they seemed unfair to me. I still have a short letter, the size of a business card, with relation to this. Ymer Dishnica addresses it to Enver, saying: “What you are writing about the delegate is unfair, but apparently you want us to praise her… .”

Upset by these criticisms which I wasn’t able to swallow anymore, on September 2nd, 1943, I wrote him a long letter in which I said (among other things):

” . . The concern and the way in which you criticized me during our recent conversation in Arbana, has led me to believe that you are rather dissatisfied. Some unthinking words indicated that you are disappointed.

. . . I don’t understand why comrades are told to always scold me when I make mistakes! They should treat as they do with all the others. In my opinion, not for one moment, have I thought to be coddled just because I am your fiancé.

I have tried to take lightly and laugh at the other instances where you have harshly criticized me, but tonight, I didn’t really appreciate the instruction that you gave Gogo.

My Enver – towards the end of the letter – you should shake hands in all seriousness, and stop treating me harsher than the others, since you are closer to me than they are, apart from your Party relations …. .”

To this letter, dated September 22nd 1943, Enver answered from Arbana of Peza, on September 24th. He started his letter focusing on the second part of my letter. He wrote:

My Nexhmije,

Your letter really hurt me, and you appear to be very upset with me and my attitude towards you. I understand your psychological situation very well and I know your sensitive nature. Certainly there are moments where I do overdo my criticism towards you, but this shouldn’t make you feel upset. Don’t take my criticism that deeply as to feel tortured by my words, ‘I thought you were more clever”. Don’t think I am disappointed with you etc.

Childish!

I wouldn’t want my wife to get upset in such a way. I may have been over-critical but it should be taken as constructive rather than as something upsetting to you as you mentioned. It would be better if you were to assume less in the meaning of my words, some of which may have been somewhat inappropriate. They were not intended to upset you; on the contrary, I wouldn’t like you to continue your work in such a state. Your soul should be peaceful and joyful since I have the best of opinions about you. Of course, my criticisms will continue with regards to your work and your development, giving you a helping hand (as you say in your letter), but not scorning you. Don’t feel angry with me for often being severe with you, since, according to the saying: “the ones loving you, scold you”.

Since I do love you (I am saying I love you because you seem to not want to trust me) more than the comrades, I will scold you more”.

I close this chapter – Enver writes – saying once more that

“in the depths of your soul” there shouldn’t be any worries or desperation. My Nexhmije, I believe you do this favor to me”.

And, right there, my Enver without any ceremony, proceeds:

“Now I will start chasing you out”…. .

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry about this “thunder” in the blue sky. At the time, I cried, but later, anytime I happened to read this letter, with regards to the above unexpected “jump”, I would feel like laughing. I remember and miss a lot the jokes related to our correspondence.

He: “I have written to you more than one thousand letters….passionate ones, whereas you…”

I: “You lost all of my letters during the war, whereas I preserved yours, despite the Nazi Fascist terrors all over Tirana.”

I am going back to that part of his letter, in which he had decided to educate and temper his wife.

“The unit will attack the Germans where they least expect it and the guerrillas in the city will attack at the right moment They will therefore extensively support the operation from outside and you will be surprised…”.

…First thing, that they should know is hat they will be the guards of the city maintaining order, in order to stabilize the situation, to organize food supplies for the people and to manage communications, etc.

In your communications, you don’t have to go on using clichéd comments: “Try to explain concretely without using big words, e.g. Frontists say:

“Germans are leaving Russia of their own free will” “partisans are killing the Italians surrendering to them” etc., etc. don’t be too meticulous, just give them a thorough dressing down, since they don’t wear gloves when they fight us”.

Subsequently, Enver gave directions and instructions as to the function of the National Liberation Councils in the new situation and on the role of the youth. Naturally, he ends his letter with kisses and longing hugs.

This period of 3-4 months, this “duel” of letters seemed like summer rain, leaving no traces. To the contrary, it helped us to get to know each other better, our characteristics, nature, personalities etc.

After a few months had passed; during the harshest Nazi German reaction in Tirana, the circuit of the Party with Gogo Nushi and other comrades of the Central Committee received orders to take action in the outskirts of the city and the surrounding villages. I remained inside the city in order to keep up the connections with the Regional Committee as well as with comrade Gogo. He in turn would keep the connections with the regions and circuits of the Central Committee. However, this period didn’t last long as the other comrades of the circuit and propaganda material had returned to the town. A little later Nako Spiro made a proposal to the Central Committee of the Party the result of which was that I was assigned a new task. In one of Enver’s letters from this period he wrote, that I would be appointed to work in the function of Organizational Secretary of the Central Youth Committee. I remember him adding these words at the end:

“I firmly believe and am fully convinced that you will do a perfect job. You will also cover the sector on Women…”.

Our correspondence continued like this until December 1943. At this time it was interrupted because of the situation created by the operation of the invading Nazi forces and their mercenaries against our National Liberation Units and the liberated areas. A difficult situation was created for the General Headquarter of the Albanian National Liberation Army and even for the British Military Mission of Gen. Davies. It was a time when Tirana was undergoing one of the most difficult periods of the Nazi invasion. It culminated with the massacre in February 4th 1944, when, in the night, 84 people were taken from their houses, shot dead, and left on the roads. They were young, elderly, good nationalists, anti-fascists and communists.

The National Front also, benefited from this ferocious reaction. They attracted some elements from our Youth Organization who were frightened. At this moment the Germans offered to these young people scholarships to attend school in Germany. I had to visit some of these young people in their houses, in order to talk to them and try to convince them not to accept the Nazi’s offer. This would be tantamount to treachery towards the war that they had started.

The leading comrades of the Party didn’t interrupt their activities and contacts with the people for a moment. They continued putting themselves in danger, because the majority were guerillas and were wanted and followed by the enemy. Tirana also felt the huge weight of wild terror, but, with an insurmountable feeling of love for the country, the people successfully overcame this trial. Tirana houses remained safe bases and fond warm places for the Party comrades, for the guerillas and freedom fighters. These houses gave everything to fighting the war and eventual victory, continuing to help us hide and protect us during the times of the extreme controls exercised by the enemy and its spies. The people continued to attend our meetings even in those hazardous days of danger and terror and they never broke their connections with the people of the Party and the National Liberation Front.

In the meantime the General Headquarters of the Army was able to escape the siege of the enemy. They had managed to escape many difficulties, which I am not going to mention now as it is not appropriate. Much has been written about them. When part of the headquarters were able to reach some free areas of Korca, Enver wrote an urgent letter to Gogo Nushi, requesting information about the situation in Tirana and other regions of the country.

Gogo could have replied immediately with all the information requested by Enver and sent it through a messenger in the way which had been agreed in advance, but in this case, he showed his generosity in front of the comrades. I cannot forget the moment when this kind person, as we all knew him, with his big heart, said to the comrades:

“What if we send this information with the Delegate. This way we use one stone to kill two birds”,

he said smiling.

I hadn’t even thought of such a thing. I couldn’t hide my excitement and my heart was beating rapidly. A slight blush all over my face heated me. I betrayed myself in front of the comrades. They immediately understood Gogo’s aim and looking at me in an affectionate way, agreed. So I would have the good luck to take Enver the letter with the extensive information. I wasn’t guilty of being overwhelmed by strong emotions. It had been six months that Enver and I had been apart, and very often I was forced to keep within myself, deep in my soul, worries related to my beloved. Hundreds of questions would go round my brain: “How is he?”. “Where is he?”. “Is he alive?”. “How is he dealing with the frost and the situation in the snow covered mountains?”, There were all of these worries about Enver and his comrades in addition to others concerning the wild wolves, and the Nazis, which I had to overcome in an atmosphere of pressure and terror. This situation forced us to move around the city daily with revolvers in our bags. At night we would sleep lightly since we had to be on the lookout for the enemy and sometimes we slept fully clothed with revolvers and grenades under the pillows, prepared for any eventuality.

It was the beginning of March. Gogo and Nako prepared the letters and the information, whereas I could hardly wait to leave so as to complete this task and meet Enver. Together with the information about everything that had happened and our activities in Tirana, I would also be a pleasant surprise to Enver. I would stay with him for some time in Panariti in Korca.

——————————————————-END THIS SELECTION———————————————– 

“My Life With Enver” Nexhmije Hoxha’s Memoirs (Part 1)

”MY LIFE WITH ENVER”;

Memoirs Volume I By Nexhmije Hoxha

Nobody but Enver Hoxha deserves the expression:
“Glory goes to the ones not asking for it”

COPYRIGHT:

Of the original work belongs to the author; and of this translation jointly between the author and the translators – Alliance Marxist-Leninist.

First published in Albanian; by “LIRA” Tirana 1998 (Print Run: 2000).

Publishers Preface – Alliance

This translation was commissioned and edited, with authorisation from Nexhmije Hoxha.
It was undertaken and effected by an Editorial Board drawn from the Communist League (UK) and Alliance-ML (North America). All board members, are former
members of the now defunct ‘Albania Society’ organised by W.B.Bland.

All web-materials of this book are available to be distributed – but copyright is held by this board in association with Nexhmije Hoxha.
All permissions to copy this material on the web or in print format will be freely given, provided that the material is prefaced with the above statements.
Should there be any errors remaining in translation, we apologise for these, and stress that they are solely the responsibility of the Editorial Board noted
above – not the author.

We are publishing this initially as a series on the web. In due course we will be publishing the entire authorised translation as two volumes in a bound version.
November 2005.

1. Authors Preface

I decided to write these memoirs about my life with Enver when I felt a strong need to suppress the torturing loneliness of my prison cell. I started with memories from our youth, our life together, the first meeting and love – that had connected the two of us so much. I had never even talked to my children about these matters, and I have kept these memories to myself, throughout my life.

With the passing of time, our ideal life together was embellished and transformed into a source of endless happiness, and into a moral strength that kept me alive in very difficult situations and circumstances.

Sentenced to 11 years of imprisonment, under absurd charges, it had been already determined that I would not be released until I was over 80 years old. It is for that reason that I decided to write these memoirs, so that they are left to my children, for them to learn about the life experiences of their parents, before they were born, and when they were little. And, even later, when we had not been able to find the time, to talk to them about these things.
So, my children came to learn of them gradually, by reading notes that I had secretly written in prison. They were brave enough to become my muses together with their families – they helped me to fulfill the promise that I had made to their father, my Enver.

At the suggestion of many comrades and friends, I decided to publish these memoirs, hoping that I would be able to satisfy the wishes of many veterans, the co-fighters of Enver; as well as to answer the curiosity of the new generations who would not know Enver as the leader of our country and people for nearly 50 years.

During the 7 years of social and political collapse in our country, much was said and written about Enver and his work, including much which was absurd, banal and even monstrous. In these memoirs I do not want to dwell on the many deceits and obscenities thrown into the Albanian political arena. I only reminisce and describe Enver just as he was, during his life, the war, work, political activities, and with family and friends. Fifty years is a rather long period and the memories reflected in this book are not scientific analyses of the history of that period and the role of Enver Hoxha. Even as memories they cannot completely cover that time span.

But being confined to a prison cell, it was these memories that kept me going, and it was in such a situation that I began to write them down – when allowed to do so and when I had the chance.
Each memory brought back others until they became too many to be included in a single volume and I therefore decided to divide them into two books.

Book I, is the one you have in your hands, “My Life With Enver”.

It includes first acquaintance, our love, our meetings during the time of the National Liberation War, our life in the family after liberation; the daily routine of life and work of Enver, encounters with missions sent by the Yugoslavian Communist Party, and their agents in our Party (whose aim was to include Albania as a seventh republic of the Yugoslav federation); the close friendship with the SU (Soviet Union) during Stalin’s time and, later, the betrayal of the stigmatized revisionist N. S Khrushchev and the ones following him. As chronologically ordered, these memoirs reach the year 1973, although a strict chronology is not necessarily adhered to within each chapter.

Book II reflects “The last ten years of my life with Enver”. The memories in this book are somewhat detached from each other, and this period was a rather disturbed time for the Party and our government too. Towards the end of 1973, Enver suffered his first heart attack. Since the recent years of “democracy” there has been much speculation with regard to Enver’s health. But, based upon the evidence that I have, I can categorically deny the false rumors regarding Enver’s inability to continue working in his highly responsible office. The years following were full of activities, whether in the political arena or in his personal creativity. This is evidenced by his wide ranging activities during this period, his many political initiatives and the several editions of memoirs that he wrote in addition to his ideological or political writings.

During 1974-1975, Enver had to fight against anti party activity, anti-socialists and anti-nationalist who were associated with some of the party members. I write about these in my memoirs and show how Enver handled them and survived these difficulties.

Much speculation has circulated regarding the relationship between Enver and Mehmet Shehu. Therefore, in the second book, I have dedicated a whole chapter to the special character this relationship had, and of the long collaboration and suicide of Mehmet Shehu.
A special part of this second book is dedicated, not only to personal memories, but also to Enver’s arguments on the nature of the relations with the Communist Party of China and the Chinese State. These arguments contradict not only the liberal wing that held to the theses that “Alliance with China was a wrong”, but also the other wing that complained about “the detachment from China”.

Certainly I couldn’t leave out a description of his character and personality, as a man of cultural interests, and of a broad mentality. Enver especially respected men and women of scientific, artistic and literary backgrounds. It is with great discontent that I have had to read from many politicians, writers and intellectuals’ various invented and denigrating charges, which are completely untrue.

With regards to his relation with the people – the straight-forward people – Enver was always a popular leader; with his collaborators he behaved as a friend and respected teacher, as he did with the revolutionaries and Marxist Leninists of other countries; he was a diplomat with politicians and foreign friends; and with his family and friends he was a HUMAN.

I apologize to the readers in the case of any minor inconsistencies, who should take into consideration that these memoirs were written down when I was imprisoned without any documentation available. There I was not even allowed to use my husband’s books, with which I could check and refresh my memories. I could not do this even after I was out of prison. The first six months of 1997 are well known for the political turmoil within Albania. It was a political-economical and socio-psychological crises, and in the midst of this, I was not able to access my family archives (housed in the General Directorate for Archives together with the Central Archive of the Albanian Labor Party (PPSH)). The latter was not available to me even in the second half of 1997. And I still do not have access to them, so I must submit these memoirs as such, at this time for publication.

With all the difficulties encountered in the preparation of these memoirs, I would like to say that they wouldn’t have come to light without the support and concrete contributions of friends who have assisted me as advisers for such a publication; and those who as editors who undertook the publication of this edition. I will not mention their names for the moment, for reasons which are clearly understandable, yet I express my gratitude, and my respect towards their benevolence and consistent stance in spite of unknown storms passing over our people and country.
I also express my gratitude to the publishing house that undertook bringing into the light my collected memoirs.

2. First introduction to Enver

It was because the war involving the people and its’ Party, that Enver and myself first met and then united. Any couple in love preserves as beautiful memories, their first meeting, their first introduction. Some may write poetry, some may sing songs; someone else waits for the beloved in the park, on the street, outside the schoolyard or next to the steps of the apartment. This is what usually happens during peacetime.

What about in wartime, in an undercover situation? Is love born? When you are young, love is born anytime, like flowers in the spring. The war, in spite of its wilderness and awe can’t suffocate or dry up this vivid human feeling.

I became acquainted with Enver for the first time at the Meeting for the Foundation of the Communist Youth that took place on November 23rd 1941, immediately after the foundation of the Albanian Communist Party. (November 8th 1941)

I had never seen or heard about him before. I was part of the Shkodra Communist Group, whereas he was involved in the Korca Communist Group. Even though many attempts were made to unite these youth groups, I had had the chance only to meet some girls and boys from the Youth group, but none from Korca.

It is a well-known fact that Enver led and organized the demonstration of October 8th 1941, as a joint action of communist groups, at the eve of the Party’s foundation. Here, it was for me the first time to be in the front line with Enver. But we still had not met.

I think that if the demonstration had not been successful, the Communist Party would never have been founded on November the 8th. There were some communists, such as the heads of youth groups, who did not agree to the foundation of the Party. They tried also to sabotage the demonstration. We communists, were aware that, on October 28th in the morning (as a protest against the ceremonies organized by the fascist invaders to commemorate the fascist march toward Rome as well as the Italian attack against Greece), we would have to wait at the appointed bases for the news as to whether the demonstration would take place or not.

It is a known fact that Enver, Qemal Stafa, Vasil Shanto and other communist companions, were to carry out this action, a baptism of fire for the unification of the groups and the foundation of the Party. After subsequent debates, sometime in the morning, the comrades in favor for action were victorious, and they set off to organize the demonstration. I was waiting at a friend’s house in Bami Street, which, today is called Qemal Stafa Street. Suddenly Sadik Premtja appeared saying: “the demonstration won’t take place”. I started to return home; with cold feet and a pain in my heart. But when I reached the crossroad of Qemal Stafa Street, Pazari I ri and Saraci Street, today called Shinasi Dishnica, I heard the voices of the demonstrators and the patriotic song “Come, Join over here!” Then I started running and joined the demonstrators in Scanderbeg Square, where clashes had already started. There I noticed a big man, whose head could be seen since he was much taller than the other people around him. He was trying to snatch a young demonstrator from the hands of a policeman. Who could he have been? Next to me happened to be Meli Dishnica, the sister of Esat Dishnica, who would participate in as many demonstrations as possible. I asked her: Who is he? She told me he was a professor from Korca, and that having been fired from his job, he had come to Tirana, selling cigarettes in a bar, nearby. What is his name? I inquired. His name is Enver Hoxha she replied.

In such clashes there is no time to stay and observe. Right beside me I noticed a policeman who had captured young Zeqo Agolli, whose family I knew very well. Influenced also by what Enver was doing, I jumped and clambered among them, in order to separate them. The policeman seemed surprised, as a highlander he probably didn’t feel like pushing and throwing me down to the ground, so he freed Zeqi. All around one could see the gun butts of Italian and Albanian police raging over the heads of the demonstrators. Nevertheless the demonstrators kept struggling with fists and umbrellas, which they had taken with them since it was rather cloudy weather, or even, possibly to protect themselves.

In a moment the order was passed: “Everyone towards the Government Building, to find our arrested companions”. With the flag in front, which was usually held by the girls, we headed towards the Government Building (later it became Ministry of Industry). In this case I would like to explain something: as a rule, the companion organizers of great responsibilities, were never sent to the front of the demonstrators. I, for example, would be situated on the second row, behind the flag. If one looks at the photo of that demonstration, the head of Enver is visible, and so is his tall, well built body. When the police dashed through to arrest Enver, the demonstrators immediately formed a barrier, which prevented them from arresting him. Obviously later, the fascists looked for Enver in his shop Flora, so Enver had to go underground.

After the chants in front of the Government building “we want our friends”, “Glory to Albania” “Long Live Liberty” “Down with Fascism” etc, the prime minister, Shefqet Verlaci, appeared on the stairs and mumbled something. Who would listen to him? Scared by the wild chanting, he went inside and, after some moments, our two friends were set free, bleeding. I remained speechless when I noticed that one of them was my brother Fehmi (a high school student, friend of Pirro Kondi and others, two years younger than me, i.e. 18 years old). Companions held him on their shoulders. They wanted him to say something, but he wasn’t able to. One of his eyes was swollen, closed and bleeding. I was worried that his eye had been damaged, but blood was coming from a wound over his eyebrow and probably he had been hit there and on the chin too. Beating his tongue made it difficult for him to speak. I went to him and separated him from the crowd. After we had left the crowd of demonstrators, we got into a cart and went home. I am not going to stop here to describe the shock that my mother went through, and her cries when we were cleaning the wounds. She kept saying: “Poor me, I only have two sons (sic!) and both of you are involved in the struggle …!”

Less than two weeks passed and we were sent the news that “ the Albanian Communist Party had been founded”. The Party that we had dreamed of and wished for was at last a reality for us true communists!

Two weeks after the foundation of the Communist Party of Albania, a meeting was convened to lay the foundations of the Communist Youth Movement. From all youth groups 12 delegates were selected to take part, I was the only female. The meeting took place in the house of Sabrije (Bije) Vokshi, the aunt of Asim Vokshi, the hero who gave his life in the Anti-fascist struggle in Spain. Bija was a brave and wise woman. She was used to such illegal meetings, starting from our renaissance fighter descendants and now, anti-fascist meetings.

The house of Bije was very suitable for such meetings due to its location in occupied Tirana, where the fascist terror was becoming more and more of a burden. The house was located at the end of the large Boulevard, close to the where the train station sits today. It was set among small houses, individual shops, and typical Tirana houses, built of mud bricks. Her house was also suitable for our meetings because it had two entrances. One was deep in the alley, and the other had an exit on another road that connected the end of the boulevard with the street named after to the martyr Siri Kodra. The latter, is now part of the peripheral ring-road that takes you to the hospitals.

Participants of these meetings were assigned a time to show up, and a “code” (a particular knock on the door) so that the landlady wouldn’t open the door to anyone else, even to her friends and relatives who might visit at the time the meting was about to take place. At the end of the meeting in case of danger, one could leave by jumping from the low courtyard wall, to yard to yard of the nearby houses. Qemal had escaped like this many times. Bije’s house was an important base for him. Bije’s neighbors were very kind and patriotic, anti-fascist people, who behaved as if they didn’t notice the comings and goings of the youngsters in the old lady’s house.

On November 22nd in the afternoon, the invited comrades started to come in one after another. I remember that it was dusk when I arrived at Bije’s house. I went in, and everybody sounded joyful. They stopped for a moment, probably they saw a girl comrade, and they might have been telling raffish jokes. We greeted each other with the slogan “down with fascism and liberty to the people”. We shook hands warmly, even though at the time we didn’t know much of each other, since we belonged to different youth groups.

The room in which we had gathered, had comfortable straw mattresses. A black-sheeted iron coal range rumbled merrily with a powerful fire that had reddened it in places. The room had become dim with smoke. It wasn’t cigarette smoke, the comrades mostly didn’t smoke, as they were very young. The smoke came from the bread slices, which were on the range being toasted. On a square table, next to the window, lay the caps of the comrades, on which they had placed the bombs, which seemed like red apples in fruit bowels. Of course the window was covered with a thick blanket, so that the light couldn’t be seen from outside.

The owner of the house could only offer tea from “tiliacaea”, which yielded a very nice aroma. She had to fill up the teapot many times. There were no china glasses, only aluminum ones, like those used in the military, which were not very suitable to drink from since they got hot and could burn your lips. The comrades couldn’t wait for it cool down. Furthermore there were not enough glasses for all of us, so we had to take turns. The impatient ones would take sips. Anything would make them laugh and joke. It was there that I first got to learn of Italian humor. One could distinguish Ndoc Mazi, who got jokes started, and Qemal would keep on the same line. Ndoc could laugh and die in the same way; he died like a hero, together with the other heroes from Vig.

All of us laughed at their humor. This is how Enver found us when he entered the room. He had entered from outside into the kitchen where he had left his overcoat, cap, and everything else he possessed. At first, when he entered the room, what was most noticeable was his well-built body, the tallest of all comrades in the room. His dark complexion, his very vivid eyes, his black, rather wavy hair. He was wearing a “doppiopetto” jacket of light colors, beige with brown stripes. Underneath he was wearing a handmade woollen beige pullover with a high neckband, out of which appeared the shirt collar. His trousers were sporty and fashionable for the time, somewhat wide, covering long brown boots up to the knees.

I hadn’t noticed Qemal leaving the room. When Enver entered he was with Qemal . He introduced Enver saying: “This is comrade Taras , a member of the provisionary Central Committee of the Communist Party, founded two weeks ago, on November 8th. He has been delegated to participate in this meeting in order to help set up the Communist Youth Movement.”

Most of the people present, were aware of the fact that he was actually Professor Enver Hoxha. I myself had only seen him from a distance and had heard another name, a non-Albanian one, Taras. What was this other name about? I presumed that was a nickname and, as I heard later on, he was given that name from his friends because of his body, to an extent like a well known character from Russian literature, Taras Bulba, a famous popular fighter.

Enver came around shaking hands with everyone, whilst Qemal did the introductions. Enver would stop at everyone, smiling and chatting with all of them, wondering where he had met one and then the other. When he stopped at me, Qemal said, this is comrade Nexhmije Xhuglini, about whom I have been talking to you. Then he mentioned some other things about me, which made me blush. I interrupted and said; please Qemal let’s stop this and drop the subject…..
When Enver neared the range, he stretched his hands forward to get warmer and noticed the bread toasting, saying “Ahhh this is delicious”…one of his friends asked him whether he wanted to have some tea and he replied “Why not, with great pleasure”. He had his tea and than added ”What if we start the meeting?”

It was around 9 o’clock. After the middle of the room had been cleared two or three desks were placed there. The meeting started. Representing the Central Committee of the Party was Enver Hoxha; on his right there was Qemal Stafa, on his left Nako Spiru, then myself, and on both sides sat all the delegate comrades.

Enver chaired the meeting; he introduced Qemal Stafa as the one who had been assigned by the Central Committee of the Communist Party to work with the Youth Groups. Then he read the greeting speech of the Provisionary Central Committee of the Albanian Communist party (written by himself, and whose original is now in the Central archives of the Party).
Enver presented a report about the importance of the foundation of the Communist Party and the decisions made there to unite the people on a national liberation front, to fight against fascist invaders, the traitors of Albania and to wage the anti-fascist world war.

As we saw then as later, at every meeting and in every speech about and for the youth, even at the beginning, Enver Hoxha spoke with passion. It was still November of 1941. This is why it is understandable that his words about liberty and the future awaiting us, lit up a fire in our young hearts. It gave wings to our thoughts and aspirations for the future. Our dreams seemed more attainable now, more concrete.

When Enver Hoxha got to the end of his speech, the room was filled with silence. Certainly, there was no applause, not only because of secrecy, but also because applause was not yet part of our meeting style since we hadn’t won any victory yet. What we wished for was just a beautiful vision, which one day, certainly would be transformed into reality through our struggles, our blood, our life and youth.

In the midst of this silence, Enver proposed to have a break. Not because we were tired, but it seemed we all needed to be released from emotional tensions. We all moved around. Enver moved to the other room to smoke a cigarette. We also followed him. We surrounded him; despite the fact that we were supposed to be on a break and, because we felt much freer, we started to ask questions and chat.

When we went back to the meeting room, which, during the break had been freshened up, Qemal Stafa took the floor. In the beginning he spoke about the importance of the foundation of the Party. Then he underlined the situation and the struggle of the communist youth.

After Qemal, it was decided that the meeting should be ended since it was past midnight. We moved to an adjoining room used for resting and sleeping. There were no mattresses, no beds, except for one that was Bije’s, the owner of the house. They gave that bed to me. On both sides of the room there were rugs and straw filled pillows. Comrades laid down their heads on the pillows and their bodies on the rugs. Their feet were on wood. They were covered with their overcoats, close to each other, since it was a cold night and the room had no fireplace. Some of the friends preferred to stay in the meeting room, which was heated by the range, sleeping on stools and supporting their heads on their crossed arms on the table.

Even though we were in the capital city, we slept as partisans, fully clothed, with our guns lying ready close to us, in case of danger. In the room where we slept, there was a cupboard in the wall, at the bottom of which there was a place for documents to be kept. A wooden stool covered it and on it were Bije’s clothes. In the ceiling was a space to keep guns. As Enver has said, the house of Bije Vokshi was an arsenal of guns and bombs. We compared Bije to Pellagia, mother to Pavel Vllasov. In the atmosphere of these meetings our imagination would fire up as in the work of Gorky “The Mother”. But I might say that this mother of ours, an Albanian one, didn’t fear guns, she was used to outlaws, their guns and wounds. In this room there was also a special area in which Qemal would develop his pictures. There is well known picture that he took of Enver. In it, he is wearing a moustache for a fake identity card. But from what I know, it wasn’t used for long, since the enemy obtained various documents, so the picture was burned, since it could have identified Enver.

I will digress from the meeting, to tell you about an interesting episode about this picture. On another occasion when Enver had sheltered in the house of Shyqyri Kellezi, he was notified that the house was being watched. Enver left with another comrade immediately, first asking the mother of their friend to deny anything she might be asked. The mother of Shyqyrri was a simple old lady from Tirana, nice in her manners and her humor. When the fascists presented her with the picture of Enver with a moustache, the poor old lady couldn’t help saying ‘My God’ but she immediately came to her senses, shut her mouth with her hand and became very embarrassed. They questioned her for a long time asking her whether she knew Enver, but she kept her mouth shut. She was taken to the police station but even there she wouldn’t answer their questions. She managed to convince the police that she was insane and so they released her.

The next morning of November 23rd, after we had some bread and tea, the meeting continued with discussions on both reports. The floor was given to Nako Spiru. He spoke about fascism, its risk as an ideological and military force, what it represented for intellectual scholarly youth, then he moved onto tasks for the communist anti-fascist youth.

Tasi Mitrushi took the floor on behalf of the Korca working youth, whereas Ndoc Mazi represented the Shkodra working youth. Pleurat Xhuvani took the floor on behalf of Elbasan, whereas for the Tirana student youth, Sofokli Buda who took the floor. I presented the news regarding the Girls Institute of Tirana. I underlined the positive aspect of this institute, which provided the whole country with the teachers it trained there.

Enver had met with factionist Trotskyites such as Anastas Sulo and Sadik Premte, during the meeting for the foundation of the Party. In our meeting also, as a member of the youth group, Isuf Keci, tried to contradict the party direction on various issues, such as the Anglo-Soviet-American alliance, on the external framework, for the country and the role of peasantry, on the internal framework, and other issues.

All participants were discussing vigorously, in support of the direction of our new Party. Enver in his memoirs, commented positively about my speech, and my active participation in the debates on the incorrect perspectives of the delegate of the Youth group. During the lunch break, Enver approached and congratulated me on this. At the time I took this as an encouragement for a comrade who was participating for the first time in a meeting of this sort. At this point, I would like to stress that I vigorously participated in those ideological-political debates, only because we had already had such debates about these issues at the first meeting of the women’s comrade cells, immediately after the foundation of the Communist Party. Probably our women’s comrade cell was the first cell, as it was convened on a weekday, between November 15th and the 22nd – after the end of the party’s foundation meeting, when the foundation meeting of Communist Youth started.

Finally, after all the issues had been presented, and were addressed, we passed onto the election of Communist Youth Central Committee. It was decided that it would be composed of five people. Candidacies were presented in a way, which today, might seem strange. Numbers, not names were presented and each of the numbers listed the characteristics of a person. I believe the candidacies were proposed in principle by the Provisionary Central Committee of the Party, and supervised by Enver Hoxha and Qemal Stafa; based also on the discussions taking place in that meeting. The characteristics listed included: duration of involvement in communist groups, what was the activity in which the person had been involved, education, origin, social background, profession etc. all in all, these were general characteristics on which the delegates would base their vote.

The candidacies presented were approved by everyone. The names of the comrades elected are well known. Elected as political secretary was Qemal Stafa; Nako Spiro was elected organizational secretary; and Nexhmije Xhuglini, Tasi Mitrushi and Ymer Pula were elected as members. The latter was from Kosova and when he was sent to organize the Communist Youth, he was replaced by the distinguished, brave and active worker, Misto Mame. Later changes occurred, since Qemal Stafa was killed less than six months after the meeting. Nako Spiro replaced him as secretary general, and Misto Mame was appointed as organizational secretary.

Since my election to the Central Committee of Communist Youth I was assigned to work with the Tirana Youth, and I was elected as its political secretary. I was also assigned to work with the organization of the Communist Youth in Durres and Elbasan, to where travelled several times. After the elections were finalized, the Foundation Meeting of the Communist Youth, which became a nucleus for the broad organization of antifascist youth, was closed enthusiastically. Calling it an uncontained enthusiasm would not be fair, as we couldn’t scream or shout or clap hands there. But in a low voice we sang the “International” and our revolutionary songs learnt in our underground activities. I can say that it was our hearts singing rather than our mouths. But we closed the meeting at this point and followed Bije eagerly into the kitchen because, being young, and after such a beautiful job, we felt hungry!

What I call a kitchen was a large area, characteristic of Tirana houses, sometimes called house of fire. It was extended with compressed soil and lacked a ceiling and a fireplace. A thick chain hung from the blackened trunks caused by smoke, and was used to hang copper jugs or mess tins. When meetings such as ours were organized with many participants, big kettles were placed on the grills where pasta would be boiled or even polenta. But we Dibra People call the polenta ‘Bakerdan’. That very day, when the meeting was over, some of the most active delegates, led by Qemal, asked Bije to prepare halva: “The fascism halva, Bije, at the meeting, we decided to bury it! This is a closed question!”

And everyone would laugh their hearts out as if this “job” was a wedding. !……

These are very beautiful unforgettable memories. And they are memories that are a mixture of joyful moments and sad feelings, such as those for the friends that you have fought and laughed with, and have since “left”.

3. The day in a new course of my life.

On April 7th 1942, as usual on the Commemoration Day of the Albanian invasion by Fascist Italy, a demonstration took place in Tirana. It was one of the best organized and most powerful ever, by the student youth, workers, communists and anti-fascists.

Normally demonstrations occurred in the morning, before noon. All the youth, having been notified of this activity, would arrive gradually, as if by chance. They would fill the upper part of the boulevard that today leads you to the train station, looking as though they were having their everyday walk. At the moment when the organizer gave the signal, the girls would unfurl the flag, and the walkers, so notified, would start marching towards Scanderbeg Square. It was then that the crowd would turn and meld into a compact mass, bursting into patriotic songs (such as “Come, join here!” “For the motherland!” etc.), until they clashed with the Fascists who would immediately attack them.

This time it was different. Thinking that the demonstration would be organized as usual, in the morning, the Fascist invaders and their mercenaries were alert from the early morning hours. Behind the Municipality (now the National Historical Museum), a cavalry unit stood prepared. They had been waiting in vain all day long.

The demonstration, as planned, broke out in the afternoon and, instead of it being directed towards Scanderbeg Square, it took off in the opposite direction. It went towards the end of the boulevard and entered the ring road in the direction that takes you to Siri Kodra Street: the destination being the house where the Party had been founded. But at the crossroads of Siri Kodra and Hospital road, in front of the demonstrators were many Fascist police, Albanians recruited to serve the invaders.

The girls were right in the front. They were, as usual set in the first line, since it was thought that it would be rather difficult for the invaders to hit a woman. And this is what happened. When the Fascists and mercenaries pointed their bayonets towards our chests, we told these poor Albanians that had accepted to serve the occupiers: “Shoot at us, shame on you, behaving in such away with your Albanian sisters and brothers!” At least the Albanian police stepped aside since they didn’t know exactly what to do.

After this break, the demonstrators continued their march. The crowd stopped in front of the Madrassa. Amidst the chanting of various slogans, a short speech was held and then the demonstrators were disbanded.

I had participated in all the demonstrations, but apparently, in this last one, I had been more noticeable. So, I was now an implicated figure. On the morning of April 12th, someone knocked on my door. The son of my uncle, Skender Xhuglini, went outside to answer it. He found armed militia at the front door.

A feeling of alarm passed through the room. It was obvious that they had come to arrest me. There was only one way to escape, and that was through the courtyard door! The greatest concern I had was not for myself but for the others. It might seem paradoxical, but one night before, Drita Kosturi, through her sister, had entered a college of nuns that gave embroidery lessons etc., and had brought a young Italian nun to be sheltered temporarily in our house. She was anti-fascist and for this reason she didn’t want to lead a nun life. We had to find a solution to this problem. The Italians must be prevented from capturing her. In the meantime, as Skender was chatting with the militia at the door, we took care of the nun. We dressed her in some clothes of my mother’s and since her head was shaved she had to wear a scarf to cover it. We also told her to behave like a mute, so that she wouldn’t have to speak.

After Skender had seen off the militia and closed the door from inside, we finally breathed a sigh of relief. When we asked him how he had got rid of the militia; he replied that he had put the militia under some pressure by saying: “how can you an Albanian highlander, a faithful person, come here to take an Albanian girl and then hand her over to the Italians? Don’t you feel ashamed? Apart from that, she is not in here…” , in addition to other words. The militia had answered: “ OK, I will come again another time…” but, as we learned later, he had come to make us aware, indirectly, that I had been included in a list of people to be arrested. He was the brother of a communist and had become part of the militia, on the orders of the Party itself, in order to provide ‘inside’ information.

Of course, there was no time to loose. As soon as he left I got dressed and I told my mother I would let her know of where I would be and where we could meet. I would also let her know where the nun could be taken. We hugged each other and then I left the house. From that moment my parents were left all alone with Skender, because my brother Fehmi Xhuglini, even though he was 2 years younger than me, was forced to live undercover. He left Tirana to go to Elbasan, since he was directed to work with the youth there. Our house was situated in a blind alley, that connects Pazari I Ri (Avni Rustemi Square and the old Postal service) with Dibra Street or as it was known at that time, the Hospital.

Because I was a wanted person it was not possible for me to leave the house and walk up to the end of the street because I might have run into a patrol. I therefore headed towards Qemal Stafa Road moving from courtyard to courtyard and from door to door of the various neighbor’s houses. After reaching the end of the street, I relaxed and started to think about where I might get some lunch before going on to attend the meeting of the First Consultation of Party’s Activities to which I had been invited. I decided to go and pay a visit to some relatives of my father. It was seldom that I and my mother went to visit this family, so questions such as “What might have happened to her? What might have brought her here” were unavoidable. Anyway, it was not necessary to give explanations. I stayed there until 4 p.m., then I set off for the house of Bije Vokshi where the meeting would be held.

By dusk, all the delegates of the districts had arrived. This was an activity meeting to which all

political and organizational secretaries, elected in the conferences of the districts were invited, to make reports and receive consultations.

These conferences were begun after the foundation of the Party and the establishment of the basic organizations of the Party. Also invited were members of the Central provisionary Committee (7 people), and the Central Committee of Communist Youth (of which I was member).

The tables were arranged differently from the meeting for the Foundation of the Communist Youth, since the number of participants was much bigger. The tables surrounded the four angles of the room, creating a space in the middle. Though not all were true tables, on two angles were trunks supported by boxes. The stools to sit were constructed more or less in the same way, since it was impossible to find enough chairs for all the participants. The chair-person of the meeting sat in between two doors, next to the wall that separated this room from the porch. I happened to sit on a corner of the table attached to the chair-person’s table. In some of the plenary meetings

Enver would come and sit on the corner of the same table and would converse with me.
Once he told me: You have a nice pen, it seems to write beautifully. Would you give it to me? ’’ “You can take it if you really want it” – I replied smiling, “but as you can see it is a lady’s pen”.

It was as thin as a finger and had a red silk threaded plume. I was fond of that black and red pen which I had had for a long time, ever since the time when I used to see it in the window of the bookshop of Lumo Skendo (Mithat Frasheri).

This shop was situated on Royal Road which, after the liberation was called the Street of the Barricades. In this bookshop, I and many friends, would pay a visit everyday after school, to look for any interesting books. We would go there everyday and would be full of awe, when the son of the great renaissance man, Abdul Frasheri, Mithat, prim in his elegant suit, with an overcoat and stiff, white as snow, shirt collar, keeping his head up and his pince-nez spectacles on the nose, would come and serve us. Somewhat further up, on the other side of the road, there was this other bookshop, “Argus”, that was equipped with copybooks, pencils and other school equipment. But at Lumo Skendo’s you could find more serious books, in foreign languages too. There I had bought a little book, the size of a packet of cigarettes, with Carducci’s poems, and another from Leopardi, whose poems I admired during the period of my youth. I remember some verses even today…

O natura , O natura,
Perchè non rendi poi
Quel che prometti
Ai figli tuoi
[nature, oh nature, why can’t you offer your sons what you promise.

Italian in the original]

When I told Enver that the pen had been purchased with my first salary as a teacher and that I had done some teaching only for three or four months in 1942, until the day I was forced to leave home and school; he asked me: “Is it only this pen you could buy with your first wages?” – “No”, I replied, “I bought also a coat for myself, because I didn’t have one. I also began giving a lump sum to my maternal grandmother (a quarter of a napoleon which was about 1 dollar and equal to 25 lek at that time), so she would have some pocket money. The remaining part of my wages, I gave to my mother, for the household expenditures.”

When I mentioned the money for my grandmother, Enver started laughing and asked me:

“What about your grandmother? What would she need the money for?”

I replied: “She needed the money to buy cigarettes, since she was not the kind to ask for money from everyone. “
“If I had known” – said Enver – “That your grandmother smoked, I would have sent her a packet of cigarettes from ‘Flora’ Do you know where Flora is?”
”I know” – I told him – “We pass by that road very often”.
”Why haven’t you visited then?” – he asked me, whilst his smiling eyes were shining more and more as he glanced at me.
”Why should I come” – I replied in a devilish way – “I don’t smoke and I don’t drink either”.
”Well, I know, but if you had come, we could have met each other earlier” – he continued on this track.
These words and jokes of Enver, later took on a meaning, which I hadn’t sensed at the time.

Usually, during wartime, these types of meetings were quite intensive and covered a wide range of topics of national importance and, for security reasons we worked both day and night. The consultation started at around 8 p.m. (April 12th 1942) and continued on until 3 or 4 o’clock a.m.

There were so many delegates that there was some difficulty in making the sleeping arrangements. Some of the comrades would lay down wherever they thought possible, or sit on stools. Some laying their heads on another’s shoulders or even on the meeting tables. I, being the only female, was as usual, more “privileged” in such cases. I would use Bije’s bed; the only bed in the house, and I would sleep with my clothes on and take my shoes off. As soon as I lay down I fell asleep.

I don’t know what the time might have been when I heard a slight noise. The dawn was breaking. At first I thought I was dreaming; I heard some steps that passed by my bed and someone stopped, pulled up the blanket and covered my shoulders and back, even though, as previously mentioned, I was sleeping with my clothes on. The first thought that crossed my mind was that it was my dear mother. But when this someone removed a lock of hair from my face, I woke up completely, but didn’t open my eyes until I heard the steps move away.

When I opened my eyes I saw Enver’s back as he entered the kitchen. I am not sure whether he had slept or not, because when I went to bed I had left him smoking on the porch of the house.
What did I feel in those moments? What did I think? I can truly say that at the time I didn’t think that this act of his was an expression of love. I was pleased that among the leaders of the party we had such comrades. I was getting to know Enver during the meetings and could see that they would take care and behave warmly with us, just as Enver had acted at that moment with me. I was especially delighted that a friend approached me and took care of me, even with the simple act of pulling the blanket over me while I slept, because, it was on that same day that I was nearly arrested and I had left my home and parents. He was a friend who, with his jokes and his warm hand touching my forehead, wanted to create a homey environment for me, trying to relieve me of the sadness of being separated from my beloved parents, whom my brother and I had left alone at home.

This is all I thought at that moment since I didn’t know Enver very well: I didn’t know his age, or whether he was married or not. I was 21 at the time, but he looked much older due to his well-built body, and I wouldn’t have thought of anything else during those days.

It was wartime. War is war and not a wedding ceremony. It doesn’t leave you time to have fun and love. It was nearly midday, when into the house of Bije Vokshi came one of our guards, who, together with two other friends, had been keeping watch around the house for suspicious movements. They let us know that there was a patrol wandering about. The comrades of the Central Committee decided to take some preliminary measures in order to be prepared. They ordered the guards to keep their eyes open and follow the movements of that patrol on the road. In the meantime lunch was prepared.

After lunch we thought that we would continue with the meeting, while always keeping a lookout for any suspicious movements. But we received some bad news. Njazi Demi had been arrested! He owned a house that was a base for our undercover comrades. The house was called “the house of the frogs”. It was next to the oldest bridge in Tirana, and was classified as a cultural monument, and was close to the building where the Italian headquarters was situated during the war (after the war this building was occupied by the Central Committee of the Communist Youth). Later the same building was given to the Committee of the Anti-fascist National liberation War Veterans.

This friend, now arrested, presented us a great risk, even for the meeting to take place. This was because Njazi Demi had close contacts with Bije, and under torture, could be forced to expose us. It was immediately decided therefore that the meeting be postponed to the next day and all the delegates left. They were notified that the meeting would continue, not in the same place, but in the house of Misto Mame.

Before we left, Enver gave some directives; the two tables were to be placed in the two different rooms, whereas the other two where to be moved to the kitchen. The long stools without backrests (there were many of them), were taken to the porch, and placed around the walls. Some of them were taken to the kitchen as well. So the room where the meeting was taking place was empty now, though not at all clean since the comrades had moved around with their dirty shoes. There were cigarette-butts on the floor as well. I had to roll up my sleeves and start washing everything. Bije would go outside at the well and fill in the buckets with water and bring it to me. Meanwhile Enver had defined the interval of time for the comrades to leave from both the doors, so that they wouldn’t be noticed by the neighbors or by any spies that might happen to be around.

When all the friends had left, Enver having been the last in the house, came and leaned on the door case. He was looking at me as I was scrubbing the wooden floor with a brush. I was on my knees on the wet floor.
”So you can wash perfectly well, can you not?” – he said laughing
”Did you think that I couldn’t? I am from a Dibra background”.
– “Those who have a Gjirokastra background are quite the same” – he said.
– “I don’t know, I haven’t seen Gjirokastra Houses, but I do know something else. In communism women and men will be equal; so- I continued smiling- men will have to work just like the women do, that is to say that you have to take those carpets that Bije brought and dust them outside…..! “
– “Right, comrade, with great pleasure”, he said and without taking long, went outside, dusted them and brought them inside.

Together with the owner of the house we put the carpets in place, we set the rugs on two corners of the walls, put down the pillows for the guests, covered the table next to the window, put an ashtray on it and a flower pot. The house now seemed ready for even a visit by any “severe guests” with pistols and chevrons. Enver warned Bije to check to see if any of the comrades had possibly left any bombs or pistols under the rugs or pillows; then he asked me:
”Where are you going tonight?” He knew I had left home and couldn’t go back there.
“ I don’t know”, I replied “I don’t know where to go! “
“What do you mean by that? Don’t you have an aunt or an uncle here in Tirana?”
”No, I have no one in Tirana other than some relatives of my father. I have never been to their house for dinner or lunch. If I visit them it means I will have to let them know what the situation is, and I don’t really know if they can shelter me after that.”

Let us bear in mind that it was the end of April 1942, a few months after the Communist Party was founded, and a few days after the powerful demonstrations. Those were the days of fascist terror, days when people were arrested and killed.

Then Enver said:
”You will join me wherever I go then.”

I couldn’t do otherwise. I didn’t even have the time to think. I put on my clothes very quickly. In that period of struggle we tried to disguise ourselves in every way possible. We mostly used elegant dressings, wore hats in order to cover parts of our face, or wore silk scarves on our heads, which was very fashionable at the time. Our real saviors were the dark sunglasses. You might ask where we could find these expensive elegant clothes that helped avoided the suspicions of the fascists and their spies. Friends, supporters, the people helped us. On some occasions I have also used a black yashmak, which I didn’t like much because the fanatic Dibran Muslims wanted very young girls to wear it. I hated the idea and couldn’t walk with it on. We had to move fast, the girls wearing the yashmak daily had to walk slowly and were always accompanied on the road. Lowering the yashmak was not only forbidden, it was also unwise.

When Enver saw me with a brown scarf and the dark sunglasses, he couldn’t help making compliments on the transformation I had gone through. We started laughing. Then we said goodbye to the owner of the house and left. Enver arranged his hat on his forehead, took the bicycle and when we reached the outside door, told me:

“You will sit here in the front. Watch your legs, they shouldn’t touch the chain…“

I was surprised. I had never been on the bicycle with a boy. Then all the way I would feel so uncomfortable. I began to resist: ‘No I can’t “; and in the same time I felt funny.

Then I told him;
”It’s a shame, people will see us, they will say how does it happen that such a signorina gets on a bicycle?! “
”There’s no time for discussions,” he said, “it is getting dark and the house we are going to is on the other side of the city.”

As a matter of fact it was getting late, and the time of the “coprifuoco” [curfew, Italian in the original] was near. All the people had to go into their houses at a certain time, depending on the season, as soon as it started to get dark. It was worse to walk with Enver. It was very risky had the militia stopped us on the road. He was well equipped with bombs and a revolver. Enver was also sentenced to death and was one of the most wanted by the fascists and their hunting dogs.
I didn’t resist for long and got on the front side of the bicycle. At that time I didn’t weight more than 50 kg.

My first adventurous trip on a bicycle was not associated with any incident. Some years after the liberation of the country, when we met foreign friends, Soviets, Bulgarians etc. and exchanged ideas about our traditions. They would also ask us about the way we had known each other and become married. Enver would always say joking: “I kidnapped Nexhmije, according to the Albanian tradition, but I didn’t use a horse. I used a bicycle”… “
We would laugh endlessly. This memory is marvelous for me even today when I think of it.

The house where Enver took me that night was a one-story house, near the Electric Power Plant, in front of “Qemal Stafa” school, in Durres Street. There was no courtyard and you could enter directly onto the small porch, where there were some rugs and a table for four people. There were two rooms and a small kitchen inside. It was inhabited by two sisters, one of who was the fiancé of a friend of Enver’s, Syrja Selfo, a tradesman and sworn anti-fascist. He had rented the house, which served as a spare base for Enver, and it had never come under suspicion. This base was only known to Gogo Nushi, nephew of Enver, and Luan Omari, an activist of the Youth organization.

Both sisters were very hospitable and kind to me. They also prepared for us something quick to eat. After dinner we really enjoyed the discussion. We started to discuss the origin of man. I was very passionate about the Darwinian theory on species evolution and the struggle for survival of the species. So I became very active, just like in the time in the groups, when we had read

publications of Engel’s’ on this issue. Enver was only listening and most probably was trying to let me have my say. I was only able to understand this later. When we were alone he told me: “members like you from the Shkodra group give much importance to theoretical studies”.

And indeed, we were some of the best students in the class. But the workers too were eager to learn more. Vasil Shanto for example was one of the most distinguished workers, and so was Qemal, his best friend; he would take good care of Vasil’s education. So did Kristo Themelko, he wouldn’t leave without first having us explain to him the “Anti-Duhring” of Engel’s. We in turn would make him teach us how to use the revolver.

After we talked with Enver, I went to sleep with the sisters in their room. It was impressive, how they would take care of their hair and their bodies. In the bedroom there were only two beds, on the floor. In one of the beds the two sisters would sleep while I would sleep in the other. The other room was much better furnished, with two sofas covered in red fur and a big carpet. At a corner there was a covered mattress that obviously was used anytime that Enver would show up.
The following day we woke up early. We had a coffee there and separately set off to Misto Mame’s home, which was far away, in the other part of the town, near the place where he was killed. From that square, surrounded by rack berries, you could get to Hospital Street, to the other part to Bami Street, (now Qemal Stafa Street) and if you kept straight on you would get to Bardhyl Street. Today the square doesn’t exist any more, on the site many houses, flats have been built and the streets are arranged in a different way. From the city center you can get there by walking along “4 Deshmoret Street”. Misto’s house was just an ordinary Tirana “room of fire”; sprinkled with soil exactly the same as the kitchen of Bije Vokshi.

As soon as I got there, the other participants of the meeting started to arrive. They entered one by one. Before the meeting had even started, the alarm went off; the activities of the comrades entering the house had been noticed by the neighbors and by the children playing nearby. They had become curious. Justifiably so: why were there all those well-dressed men, some in hats, some in caps, some in dark sunglasses…?!

This house was had to be written off for the meetings too. Some comrades were sent to see what the situation was at the Frog’s house and also with the person who had been arrested. I don’t remember if he was set free or if we had make sure that he wasn’t tortured.

Thus, due to this difficult situation it was decided to return to Bije Vokshi’s house and there we continued with the meeting, with which I go into details. It has been described in the published documents of the Party.

After the consultation meeting, I didn’t see Enver until the 5th of May, the day when Qemal Stafa was shot dead.

Chapter 4. When Qemal Stafa was killed

I was at Gjike Kuqali’s house when I heard this bad news. We were holding a meeting there with some youngsters. The shock was so strong and the news so unexpected that it was impossible to continue the meeting. Some burst into tears, while others were completely speechless. Someone was sent to learn more of what had happened.

With a deep anguish in my heart, I felt jittery and thought of Enver. What was he doing at that moment? Qemal was both Enver’s and my best friend. I had known him ever since the time of the early communist groups, he was my first teacher. Whereas for Enver, he was his closest collaborator since the first steps of the foundation of the Albanian Communist Party and through the revolutionary and patriotic struggle to liberate the country from the fascist invaders.
Where could I find Enver at this time? I decided to go to the house where he had taken me by bike that strange night, and it was there that I found him. After my “coded” knocks, he himself opened the door. Our sad faces showed that we both were aware of what had happened and both knew of the tragic ending of our comrade, Qemal. Enver closed the door, turned to me, put his arm on my shoulder and sat next to me on the couch in the hall, which I described in the notes concerning the first time I had visited this house.

I don’t know how much time passed without us saying a word. We were shocked. I was about to start crying and could hardly stifle my whining, which had blocked my throat. I didn’t want to seem weak either. He lit a cigarette again; he would inhale deeply (the ashtray on the table seemed a mountain of cigarette ends).

Finally he broke the silence. “Qemal left us, we lost him. We lost a very dear friend, a revolutionary intellectual with a great perspective for the Party and Albania “. He was much moved and had tears in his eyes at saying those words.

After a while I asked: “What do we know? How did it happen?”

Enver started telling me that comrade Gogo (Nushi) was the only one from the Tirana Party committee who knew about the secret base where Enver would shelter us. He had also brought Shule (Kristo Themelko) who had been together with Qemal but had survived the attack and broken the siege. He had explained also that there had been three female comrades. Drita Kosturi, Qemal’s fianceé ; Maria, the fiancéé of Ludovik Nikaj and Gjystina, a cousin of Maria, married to Zef Ndoja. I was thinking that it was normal for Drita to be there, because she was seeing off her boyfriend, Qemal. He was going to leave either that day or the next for Vlora. But what about the other two girls? What were they doing there? They only know Qemal slightly and didn’t have any work relations with him, or with Drita. Later it was discovered that Ludovik, the fiancéé of Maria, was a spy for ISS, Italian secret service. Ludovik, had obviously followed the movements of the two, somewhat featherbrained ladies, and had consequently discovered Qemal’s Base. For me this is the most convincing explanation. The other possibility was that; one of our comrades, who had rented the base, had been arrested. Possibly the house rental document was found in his pocket. It might have been due to this, so that the base had become suspicious and later came under siege.

From what Shule had said, Ludovik had been the first to escape from the back of the house, in order to cover the escape of the female comrades. Whereas Qemal had stayed until he made sure that they had left. Qemal headed towards the river, but obviously, the siege had become more narrowed down and the fascist troops concentrated on him. Qemal had tried to withdraw, fighting until he fell under the hail of bullets of the Italian fascist militia and the local mercenaries.

I think that the attitude of Drita Kosturi was poor and indecent, having been influenced by elements of some secret plan to mask the figure of Qemal Stafa. She has presented many options during media interviews regarding his death. Such was the case recently when she absurdly suggested that Qemal had committed suicide; this fifty years after his death! Qemal not only showed that he was brave, but also that his disposition was one of spiritual nobility. He sacrificed his young life in order to protect his comrades-in-arms, whoever they were.

Enver told me he had severely criticized Shule for thinking only of himself and his friends, and for leaving Qemal alone without any protection. His face was full of gloom and made more so by his moustache; nevertheless many hours had passed since his meeting with Kristo Themelko. It started to get dark, but we didn’t even think of eating. I got up and made some coffee for both of us. We sat on the table, in the middle of the room, where we stayed and talked about Qemal until very late; about how we both came to know him. I spoke about my first meeting with Qemal somewhere in the summer of 1937.

Passion about literature and an aspiration for a better-emancipated future for all Albanian society had ‘hooked me up’ with Selfixhe Ciu, whose nickname was Columbia. She wrote articles in the newspaper entitled ‘Bota E Re’ (The New World) and in other progressive media of the time. I was not intimidated when I met with her, since I was in the same class as her sister, Hanushe. Through her I also got to know Olga Pellumbi and Mila Gjehoreci, who wrote for the same newspapers. I felt myself in good company with them, and we discussed the serious problems of contemporary society. We would exchange ideas on various literary works, which had an emphasis on high revolutionary notes, such as those of Migjeni and others.

As I said, my first meeting with Qemal occurred in the summer of 1937 in a Tirana house, in Bami Street (today it is named after Qemal). When I showed Enver this house, he told me that further down the blind alley was the house of his older sister, Fahrije. When I first met Qemal, there was no one in the house. It was summer, and the owners of the house may have left to visit some nearby village (people at that time didn’t go to the beaches). After a coded knock on the door, Qemal himself opened it, and, after I gave the password, he shook hands with me and headed towards the house. I sat on a straw filled rug. The rug covered all the surface of the floor along the wall. Qemal took a chair and set it in front of me. Certainly, he had been told about me, but despite this, he questioned me on several matters, such as, my educational background, status, family relations, etc. Evidently he wanted to know whether I could commit myself to the organized communist revolutionary movement. From the very start of our conversation, he seemed to me a very serious and mature comrade. I was astonished when I later found out that he was only 17 years old and therefore only one year older than myself. I learned a lot from that conversation with him. Qemal took a long time to explain the work we had to do as communists and especially regarding the work to be done with the communist girls, at the students’ group of the Girls’ Pedagogic Institute from Tirana. At that time, this institute was the only high school for girls open to all Albanians; especially those from the South, where fanaticism was scarce and schooling was much valued. The girls would join the institute aiming at becoming teachers in order to support themselves and their families. But Qemal underlined the fact that a lot of work should be done with those young girls who remained at home and whose life was more closed, confined and somewhat pitiful.

I can say that it was with this meeting that I started my commitment to the Shkodra Youth Communist group. For some time I was unaware both that the group I was a member of, was named the Shkodra Group, and the basis for its’ name. I thought that the center of our activists was Tirana and the leaders of our group were Vasil Shanto and Qemal Stafa. With the trial of many communists in 1939, we came to know about the existence of several other groups.

I told Enver, that I thought that Qemal didn’t get a very good impression about my revolutionary spirit, because, not only did I not say much, but I was also very embarrassed. On that day, there was an incident which, when I look back on it, makes me laugh, but at the time caused me much embarrassment. During our meeting, a beautiful cat entered the room and was obviously missing the tenants of the house who had left it by itself. It came around my legs and then jumped onto my lap. I have always loved cats and without diverting my attention from what Qemal was saying, I started to caress the cat. Unexpectedly I heard him say meekly: “Leave the cat!” And he then went on with his conversation, about directives related to our work. He let it go, but I couldn’t help thinking about this incident for days.

After this meeting, Qemal organized and then became leader of the girls’ cells. This cell had members such as: Liri Gega, Fiqret Sanxhaktari, Drita Kosturi as well as myself. We had some meetings with Qemal, where we learned about communist theories and the tasks we had to undertake. We also made reports on the work done. But these meetings with Qemal didn’t last long since he had to leave for Florence, Italy in order to attend university studies. Drita Kosturi left, too. She also left to attend studies in Florence. She said she had lived in the same house with Qemal. Another friend that went to Italy to study had told me that she (Drita) clung so close to Qemal that in the end he had to get engaged to her.

Was Qemal one of those youngsters that would get engaged without first falling in love? I can say no. Above all, Qemal was honest and it might be that in certain circumstances he could have felt pressured to get engaged. I knew Drita Kosturi very well, and in spite of her being older than me by two or three classes, we got on well with each other, since we were part of the same cell.

I freely visited her house and got to know her family members. She had been raised without her mother in a patriotic liberal family. She was a kind of anarchic revolutionary. She was open minded, but not that balanced, and somewhat messy in her life and in her work, and didn’t normally dress well. Although she didn’t know what conspiracy was, she didn’t lack courage.

I told Enver about the activities of our group during the May Day celebrations when Drita would wear a red ribbon in her hair and would go to the pastry shop on Royal Street where all the communist students would meet, including Qemal and his friends. “You probably know that shop don’t you?”, I asked Enver. “It is opposite the store of the big businessman, Shaho. So the network of secret agents were very well aware that Drita was a communist, and certainly knew of the relationship that she had with Qemal.”

During our discussion, I remembered what Bije Vokshi had once told me about Drita. She didn’t really like Drita being so disorganized and flighty. Bije, loving Qemal very much, had asked him once: ” Son, how come you are mixed up with that girl?” He had answered: “Eh, dear Bije, this is the way it is; I can’t help it anymore, and she already knows all about the bases and all our comrades”.

Qemal was an emancipated person, educated and free of prejudices, but one never knows. Perhaps he wasn’t completely free from the prevailing, albeit incorrect mentality of the communist militants who, for the sake of the group’s interests, for our undercover communist work, and, to create bases, believed that marriages had to be arranged. It was due to this mentality that Zylfije Tomini married Xhemal Cani and, as a consequence, the house where the party was founded, was established. They also arranged the marriage between Zef Ndoja and Gjystina, in order to establish the house on Shebeke Road, which became the base for the second Provisionary Central Committee and where the experts of the Central Archive Committee were setup. After the betrayal of Ludovik Ndoja, this house fell into the hands of our enemies. The marriage of Selfixhe Ciu to Xhemal Broja was arranged in the very same way and they were sent to Shkodra.

When I told Enver that a communist comrade had been found for me to marry but that I didn’t want to go through with it because I had never met him; he laughed and said: “Well done Nexhmije!” For him this reaction had another meaning, but I understood it only to be an approval of my reasonable attitude. I told him that this is why the foundation of the party is something more for us young women communists, because we had been saved from certain marriage alliances dyed in red and from certain allegedly golden plated chains. In fact we had had enough of the chains of our conservative families, who lived in accordance with contemporary traditions.

Following this conversation, about the mentalities and mistakes of the communist groups of the time, Enver spoke at length to me about the load of work the party and the communist youth had to face. Not only had they to work on organizing the war against the fascist invaders and the unleashed propaganda of their collaborators and local traitors, but also on the enlightening of the minds and awareness of the common people, so that the girls and women would be viewed under a different light. They were to be treated like human beings and when the party and the people won the war, they would be entitled to equal rights with men.

Qemal was a very funny youngster, and we reminisced about his jokes. Enver told me about his efforts to teach Qemal how to sing Vlora songs, and how he had to join in. Qemal was never able to do this because he would start laughing! “Let’s sing something from Shkodra”- he would say,- and would take the banjo and play, singing merrily. Though deep in thought when we would sit down to work, there were moments when we took breaks and he would suggest playing with colorful glass marbles which he always keep in pocket.

He was still young and these marbles apparently reminded him of the games of early childhood.

I also told Enver how well I remembered the power that Qemal’s laughter had, as well as Vasil’s (Vasil Shanto). When I used to visit Vasil’s home I would often be quite shocked after my meetings with representatives of various groups because of the use of bad language. Once, when I was to have a meeting with a girl from the youth group, I couldn’t believe my ears at the vulgar language that I heard her use; language that I wouldn’t expect even a man to use! Voicing my displeasure, I said to Qemal and Vasil: “I will never ever attend meetings with people such as this.” Qemal and Vasil burst out laughing because they were aware of what I had heard, but that I was unable to repeat it to them.

Did you know, I asked Enver, that the nickname “Delicate” had been given to me by Qemal? And do you know why? It was not because of my outward appearance but because of my intolerance regarding bad language. And, even when Qemal said that he thought that there should be more refined manners and stricter attitudes (I was not sure if he was serious about this or not), he would laugh and make fun. Despite this and his youth, Qemal was the perfect educator for the youngsters and was a wonderful communicator and agitator with people of every age.

I also remember that anytime he was given the occasion, he would have warm chats with my mother. Once, before I had gone underground, a meeting of the Central Youth Committee took place in my home at which, Nikko and Misto Mame also participated. Qemal sat and talked at length with my mother. She would speak freely with him and it was obvious to everyone what an open and charming man he was. At this meeting, he said to her: “Mother, we have to face great difficulties and, in order to overcome them, it will require much effort and many sacrifices before we obtain our liberty.”

I also spoke to Enver about my last meeting with Qemal, two days before he was shot and killed. He came to the home of Hysen Dashi to participate in a meeting of the Youth Circuit Committee for Tirana. We used to call the house “February 66′” and Enver would go there quite often. The meeting was interrupted several times because the night was full of tension due to the constant barking of the neighborhood dogs and it was known that there were patrols everywhere. In order to help relax the young people at the meting, Qemal expressed a wish (that unfortunately, he would never be able to realize) – full of joy and optimism he said – ‘Our day will come; a day of liberty, when all of us will be able to walk along the boulevards singing and chanting and we won’t mind what others will say of us…”.

While Enver and I were talking at the table on that day of calamity, the owners of the house returned from having lunch in the city. We were unaware that it was so late and hadn’t thought about eating. The owners offered to prepare something warm for us to have, but we told them we were not hungry and that some bread and cheese would suffice. Enver also asked for some tea because his throat was dry from his continuous smoking. He asked them about what was happening in the city. They said that people were worried and were wondering who had been killed (those who didn’t know Qemal). They also wondered who else had been there with him, and if anyone else been arrested or killed? There was a general alert and the police and fascist militia were in a very agitated state. Many patrols were to be seen on the streets.

We started to talk again about Qemal; of his courage and culture. Enver told the owners of the house that, the next day Qemal was to have left for Vlora to take care of some work. They had met on the previous day and said their goodbyes. “How could I have known,- said Enver with tears in his eyes- that it was a farewell and not a goodbye?!” It had been only 7 months since the Party had been founded and we needed to do much work. We faced a big battle and the Party and the People needed as many individuals of Qemal’s capabilities and stature.

After dinner we switched on the radio to listen to the daily news. It was difficult to listen to Radio Tirana during the war, because it was difficult to put up with the propaganda of our enemies. We listened to the Moscow news in French and also from the BBC in London, and, as we usually did during the war, we commented on these programs. Then we split to go to sleep. But sleeping was impossible since we still had the noise in our ears of the bullets entering the body of our friend.

In order to honor the memory of Qemal Stafa; this patriotic communist, one of the main leaders of the Albanian Communist Youth, Enver purposed that the fifth of May (the day on which he was barbarously killed), should be commemorated as Martyrs’ day of the Antifascist National Liberation War, against the Nazi fascist invaders. This day became a symbol of honor and a national holiday.

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“New Albania: A Small Nation, A Great Contribution!” Part I: Albania at the Crossroads: Annihilation or Liberation

At dawn on April 7, 1939, Italian fascist troops invaded Albania. This act brought Albania to the brink of extinction. Italy’s goal was the subjugation and assimilation of the entire Albanian population and territory under its fascist flag. The Albanian nation, with the oldest indigenous population in the region, was to be destroyed. The desires and aspirations of the Albanian people who had fought empire after empire for their independence and for democracy, were to he drowned in Albanian blood.

Italy’s brutal aggression against Albania was the culmination of many decades of intrigues and schemes by the Great Powers of pre-war Europe. These schemes were hatched in the early 1900s when the Ottoman Turkish Empire began to disintegrate, after occupying Albania for over 500 years. Like vultures, the Great Powers (Britain, Italy, France, Germany and Russia) competed to benefit from the Ottornan Empire’s decay by dominating the newly emerginq states.

They sought to colonize and exploit the Balkan states, including Albania, because of their rich natural resources and strategic location. Balkan countries, such as Greece and Serbia, in alliance with one or another of these Powers, had designs of their own on Albanian land. Serbia had already annexed the Albanian region of Kosova in 1913. This success only whetted the appetite of the Serbian rulers, who wanted the northern half of remaining Albanian lands, while the Greek government laid claim to the southern half.

The conditions inside Albania in the early 1900s did not permit a strong independent state to emerge. Nonetheless in 1912 there was a general uprising; Albania declared its independence and a democratic government was formed headed by Ismail Qemali. The Qemali government was ousted by the Great Powers intrigues before the First World War.

Ismail Qemali

Albanian people defeated Italy’s attempt to annex Vlora and surrounding lands. In 1924, Albania’s efforts were crowned by the establishment of the democratic government of Fan Noli, which proclaimed an independent Albania and defied the annexationist aims of the Great Powers and their Balkan allies. However, the Albanian landowners and merchants, high clergy and their imperialist allies did not support a democratic government. Within 6 months, the Noli government was overthrown by a coup, carried out by Ahmet Zog and supported by Serbia, British and Italian capital. Zog came to power as the president of the Albanian republic, but shortly proclaimed himself King.

Zog’s government proceeded to sell Albanian resources, labor and territory to the highest foreign bidder in exchange for riches and political and military support. From his coup in 1924 until the mid-1930s, Zog pursued an “open door” policy with Britain and the U.S., as well as with Italy. These countries were given “favored nation” status, and permitted to export large quantities of manufactured goods to Albania while extracting natural resources at very low cost. U.S. and British corporations were granted oil and mineral concessions; the Italian capitalists invested in mines and built factories which were worked by peasants driven from their land. In order to support these concerns’ needs for roads, ports, electricity and other services, the Albanian people were heavily taxed and workers in these enterprises were paid extremely low wages.

King Zog

As the Depression gripping the imperialist world deepened in the mid-1930s, the U.S. and Britain were unable to maintain close economic ties with Albania. Italian capitalists took advantage of this to increase their control over Albania. King Zog signed agreements which opened Albania to economic plunder and gave the Italian government such privileges es the right to intervene militarily in Albania if it were attacked. To protect its investments and to assist Zog in quelling any resistance to its plunder of the Albanian people, Italy provided troops which were housed and fed at the expense of the Albanian population.

As World War II approached, Zog paved the way for the Italian fascist invasion of Albania. Under his direction, the national defense of Albania was stripped; increasingly, the governmental policies of Albania were dictated from Italy. On April 7th, 1939, Italy invaded Albania. The invasion and the brutal occupation which followed were the logical conclusion of the schemes of the Great Powers, the Jong-term designs by Italy on Albanian territory, and the pro-imperialist “open door” policy of Zog, which had robbed Albania of the ability to maintain its independence. The invasion was also a part of the plans of the fascist Axis powers to destroy the then-socialist Soviet Union and to establish world domination.

Italian troops invade Albania

Despite tremendous obstacles, the Albanian people rose to defend their country and to fight for liberation in the face of Italian invasion. From the earliest days of the occupation, the working people, peasants and patriotic intellectuals organized a war of national liberation in Albania. This was from birth an anti-fascist war, aimed at defeating the fascist occupation and establishing a democratic, independent Albanian republic. lt was, therefore, also an anti-imperialist war with the goal of achieving Albania’s permanent independence from domination by any foreign power and in support of the whole coalition of anti-fascist, anti-imperialist forces and governments.

Throughout 1939 and 1940, various groups were organized to fight the threatened destruction of the Albanian nation through assimilation into Italy. This broad resistance movement was initiated and led by small communist organizations which had formed shortly before the Italian occupation and by groups of patriotic and democratic Albanians opposed to foreign domination of their country. Under this leadership, armed units of fighters were formed in the cities and carried out sabotage and attacks on Italian posts. Secondary school students and teachers demonstrated against the Italianization of education and the suppression of the Albanian language and culture. Workers organized strikes and sabotage in the factories. Peasants hid or destroyed grain and animals rather than have them feed the Italian occupiers.

Albanian Partisans

The political views and philosophy of the Albanian communists found support among the working people and progressive intellectuals of the country from the beginning of the national liberation war. This was the case because the communists were the only organized political force in Albania actively fighting the fascist enemy. Through this fight, they were proving themselves to be outstanding leaders, able to show the people the steps and methods by which liberation could be achieved.

Enver Hoxha, leader of the Communist Party of Albania (the CPA), later the Party of Labor

In order to provide the necessary leadership and centralization of the anti-fascist struggle, in the fall of 1941 the communist groups and individuals joined to form the Communist Party of Albania (the CPA, now the Party of Labor of Albania). Representing the working class of Albania, this Party took up active battle against fascist occupation from its birth, in stark contrast to all other existing political groups. No other organization existed which was engaging in a war of national liberation, nor was any other group capable of leading such a war. Led by Enver Hoxha, the CPA was the only organization to call for the nation-wide war against fascism and the formation of an independent, democratic Albanian republic. In the face of severe repression, the CPA undertook to lead the Albanian people in the anti-fascist national liberation war. During the winter of 1941-42, men and women were recruited by this Party to form guerrilla units, based an the older armed groups in the cities. New units were established in the countryside, where they fought both offensive and defensive battles against the Italian army. In addition, these units broke into grain reserves to distribute food to the peasants, who were being forced to support the fascist occupiers while starving themselves. Together, the peasants and the armed guerrilla units defended villages from fascist attacks and reprisals, cared for wounded and gathered supplies. At the same time, the guerrilla units integrated with the population and helped to maintain the cohesion of Albanian society by planting crops, tending livestock and helping repair war damage to fields and homes. In the course of all these activities, the CPA showed the Albanian workers, peasants and revolutionary intellectuals that the Communist Party of Albania fought to rid Albania of occupation, that they undertook these battles for and with the working people and not for some personal benefit.

Albanian Partisans march in Tirana

At the same time, the CPA was also fighting tooth and nail to build and protect the political unity of all anti-fascist Albanians. Victory against a large, well-armed occupation force like the Italian army was possible only if every single able-bodied Albanian who was willing to fight was integrated into the struggle for freedom. Accordingly, the CPA worked with any individual regardless of religious or political differences.In order to further the unity being produced through common battle, the CPA organized the first national conference of anti-fascist fighters at Peza in May of 1942. The Conference of Peza included representatives of communists and revolutionary patriots from every part of the country and from every fighting group. Under the political leadership of the CPA, these individuals adopted a unified basic program of struggle against the Italian occupation, with which all participants agreed. The two goals of this program were to conduct the armed struggle against occupation forces until liberation, and to establish an independent, democratic republic of Albania.

Albanian Partisans

In order to achieve these goals, the Peza Conference also adopted the organizational structure of the national liberation councils. These councils acted as organs of war, through which the fighting was planned and carried out in particular regions, and civilians were organized to help the guerrilla units. The councils were also the embryonic organs of political power or government. They were empowered to pass laws, adjudicate disputes, form police and self-defense units for villages, and represent towns or regions at national conferences of anti-fascist fighters. These local councils were elected, and were directed by the Provisional National Liberation General Council, the first national, elected, representative body of proven anti-fascist fighters, who directed the overall war effort and formed the nucleus of the future democratic Albanian government.Following the Peza Conference, the liberation war made much progress, especially in the countryside. Partisan bands attacked fascist militia posts and government offices, driving the occupiers out of the villages and towns. They would then replace the puppet government with freely elected national liberation councils. The partisan units not only engaged in battles and skirmishes; they also protected the villages against reprisals, protected the people in liberated areas from thieves or spies, settled blood feuds and otherwise helped to establish a stable political and economic life for war-torn communities. From village to village the liberation battle democratic political system based on the national liberation councils was formed and protected.

In response to these successes, the Italian fascists went on the offensive in the winter of 1942-43. The Italian army conducted massive retaliatory actions, burning villages and murdering villagers. Politically, the fascists sought to derail the liberation movement by uniting with the feudal landlords, the bourgeoisie and other reactionary elements, by sponsoring a group called Balli Kombetar.

Balli Kombëtar

Balli Kombetar was specifically created to oppose the CPA’s leadership of the liberation war. It’s program was in collaboration with the fascist occupiers; it believed the national liberation war to be unnecessary and wrong. Because it claimed to stand for national unity, strength and independence, Balli was initially able to influence some people, particularly in the countryside. However, because its policy was not aimed at complete liberation and the establishment of a democratic Albanian republic, Balli refused to participate in armed actions against the Italian army, despite invitation from the CPA for joint actions.

In early 1943, the fascist puppet government in Albania fell. Its inability to defeat the national liberation forces and to govern Albania was reflective of the defeats fascism was suffering across Europe at the time. In February of 1943, the Red Army of the Soviet Union had defeated the Nazi Army at Stalingrad, and the tide of the second World War was turning in favor of the anti-fascist coalition.

During the early months of 1943, meetings of the Albanian national liberation councils were held to discuss how to take advantage of this improved situation. Plans for a general uprising against the Italian army were approved. In July of 1943 these meetings culminated in the formation of a General Staff which was charged with creating the Albanian National Liberation Army (ANLA) from the ranks of existing partisan units. The General Staff was placed under the command of the outstanding communist and fighter, Enver Hoxha. Under his leadership and that of the General Staff, the newly reorganized army engaged in larger and more frequent attacks on fascist targets. The formation of the General Staff reflected also the tremendous political growth and unification the Communist Party of Albania had been able to generate among the people by constant political education and involvement of the people in the democratic process of making political decisions.  

The Party had also paid great attention to keeping morale in the army high. lt raised the consciousness of the fighters to a high level so that they all knew what they were fighting for and had great faith in the triumph of their cause.

In addition to the military battles, the struggle was also carried out through large demonstrations against the fascist occupation, and various strikes and other battles. The partisans did tireless work to expose the fascists and local traitors and to organize cultural and educational activities among the people.

As the military and political conditions in Albania began to favor the victory of the national liberation forces, the Balli Kombetar began to show its true nature. Rather than taking up arms against the fascist occupiers who were slaughtering the Albanian people, Balli’s leadership agreed to place their organization in the service of the Italian army. They guaranteed they would prevent attacks on the Italian army by national liberation forces and agreed to undertake punitive actions against the ANLA in southern Albania. A member of Balli was appointed to the fascist puppet government. These actions clearly exposed to the Albanian population that Balli supported fascism rather than the liberation of Albania.

Enver Hoxha proclaiming the independence of democratic Albania

In the early summer of 1943, representatives of the Anglo-American Mediterranean command entered Albania uninvited to investigate the status of the Albanian national liberation war. Their findings alarmed the U.S. and British governments. Instead of a disorganized, demoralized, scattered resistance movement, they found a highly organized national army, led by a vigorous communist party, supported by fledgling governmental units on the local and national levels and enjoying the complete support of the Albanian population. Later in the summer, both the U.S. and British armies established military missions inside Albania, under the watchful eye of the Albanian National Liberation Army. From the moment they set foot on Albanian soil, these missions acted to support Italian fascism and King Zog. Their aim was to undermine the leadership of the national liberation war by the Communist Party and the Provisional General Council. They funneled money and weapons to Balli, which in turn used them against the ANLA, in support of the fascist occupiers. Britain and the U.S. demanded that the ANLA lay down its weapons, stop the national liberation war, and limit itself to supporting Allied military efforts to “liberate” Albania from outside. Almost in unison with these Allied demands, very similar pressure was exerted on the CPA and the Provisional General Council by leading members of the Yugoslav Communist Party and its national liberation front. These leaders visited Albania during this period to express the opinion that the Albanian national liberation war was being waged entirely improperly. They too demanded that Albania abandon its independent antifascist liberation war, and fight primarily as an arm of the Yugoslav national liberation army. At this crucial juncture, the CPA and the Albanian people rejected all pressures to stop their national liberation war, and to unite with forces such as Balli, who had openly supported the fascist occupation of Albania. The liberation war was broadened and continued and in the late summer of 1943, Italy was unable to hold Albania any longer. Italy capitulated to the Allies and some of its troops then joined with the Albanian partisans to fight the Nazis.

The German Nazi army had been making occasional forays into northern Albania for some time, in battles against the liberation forces. In late September, 1943, they invaded Albania full scale. The Nazi occupiers were determined to decimate the Albanian national liberation movement. But the movement could not be crushed. Bloody battles occurred throughout the fall. In October, less than a month after the Nazi invasion, the ANLA shelled the Parliament building of the fascist government in Tirana. In response, the Nazis unleashed a ferocious military effort called the Winter Campaign of 1943-44 in an all out effort to destroy the CPA and the ANLA and to force Albania into submission. They planned to reach these goals by encircling the ANLA and destroying it, while terrorizing the population into subjugation. A curfew was imposed and violators were shot on sight. The Nazis proclaimed that they would hang ten to thirty people for every German soldier killed in Albania.

Thousands of communists and anti-fascist fighters were sent to concentration and Labor camps inside Germany and imprisoned in Albania, where they were tortured, starved or worked to death. Anti-fascist fighters captured by the Nazis were publicly hung to deter others. The Nazis also tried to destroy the national liberation movement by coming to terms with Balli Kombetar and using it against the ANLA in military actions. In addition, the Nazis supported the formation of another collaborationist political group, Legaliteti, which played a role similar to Balli, but with less influence. Neither severe military repression nor political ploys could silence the Albanian national liberation movement. All through the terrible winter of 1943-44, the Albanian people grew closer to the CPA and the national liberation councils because it saw them continuing to fight for independence and democracy under the most difficult conditions. Outflanking the enemy deep behind their own lines, launching surprise attacks an supply lines to fortifications, undertaking long distance marches to attack at night where and when the enemy least expected it, the ANLA escaped destruction and undertook counter-offensive attacks against the Nazis forces. In April, having defeated the German offensive, the ANLA undertook one of its own, scoring major victories at Korca, Pogradec and Berat, among other locations.

The great unity between the Albanian people and the leadership of the national liberation war provided the political basis for holding the First Anti-Fascist National Liberation Congress at Permet in May of 1944. This Congress elected the Anti-Fascist Council which was responsible for laying the groundwork for the Albanian state of people’s democracy. In addition, the Permet Congress took decisions of great importance to the newly emerging Albanian state: to prevent King Zog from returning to power; to not recognize any other government set up inside or outside of Albania against the will of its people; to continue the liberation war until independence and the formation of the people’s democracy. Because it sanctioned the overthrow of the old ruling classes, the Permet Congress established a government in which the control and leadership of the workers and peasants, through the Communist Party, was ensured. Finally, the Congress agreed to launch a general offensive against the German occupiers.

Factors internal and external to Albania favored a general offensive at this time. Outside of Albania the Nazis were in retreat. The Red Army of the Soviet Union was already helping to free Romania from occupation. Inside of Albania, the failure of the Nazi Winter Campaign, the growing unity of the Albanian people, and the drafting of the new structure for the Albanian government all signaled that the time for a general offensive was at hand. In June of 1944, the offensive began.

Tirana, Albania: Taking part in ceremonies which was freed from Turkish rule about 32 years ago, Albanian partisans parade through the streets of Tirana, the country's capital, on November 28th. Albanians celebrated their liberation from German rule, as well, on this anniversary. Representatives of the U.S., Britain and Russia attended the ceremonies. December 20, 1944 Tirana, Albania

With the initiation of the general offensive, all of Albania joined in a massive effort to expel the Nazis from its territory. At the same time, some final steps were necessary to ensure that the new Albanian state would be a democratic people’s republic. Accordingly, one month before liberation, a meeting of the General Council in Berat proclaimed the establishment of the Democratic Government of Albania. Its officials were elected and agreement was reached to organize the election of a Constituent Assembly that would draft a new Constitution for the democratic People’s Republic of Albania. The Berat meeting formalized the national liberation councils as organs of government and adopted the “Declaration of the Rights of Citizens” ensuring basic democratic rights to all individuals.

The new leadership of the Democratic Government faced immediate serious threats to Albania’s independence. In late October of 1944, ignoring the Government’s rejection of Allied armed Intervention in Albania, Allied troops landed in southwestern Albania with the goal of occupying the whole country. The new Government stood firm, refusing to permit these troops to remain in Albania; under the direction of the National Liberation Army, they were removed from Albanian soil. At the same time, British troops in Yugoslavia attempted to cross into Albania from the north, but were prevented by the Albanian Army and population. Rather than giving in to Anglo-U.S. pressures and influence, the new Democratic Government established diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union, recognizing in that then-socialist country a staunch ally.

Despite the threatened invasion of Albania by Allied troops and despite the vicious military blows by the retreating Nazi Army, the ANLA liberated all of Albania on November 29, 1944. By the force of their own arms, the Albanian people expelled the last Nazi troops and proclaimed the establishment of an independent, democratic people’s republic of ‘Albania. The first step in the people’s revolution in Albania — the country’s liberation had been taken. The Italian and German occupation of Albania from 1939 to 1944 took a great toll on the Albanian people. 7.3% of the population of 1,200,000 was killed or maimed and up to 3.9% were deported to Germany as slave labor or imprisoned in Albania during this five years. Thirty percent of all villages were destroyed. One-third of all farm animals were killed. All electric power was disrupted and all bridges had been blown up. The few factories which were not destroyed had no raw materials with which to operate.

Despite massive losses and damage, the anti-fascist national liberation war of the Albanian people had scored a decisive victory. It had expelled the fascist occupiers and established an independent Albanian government. Additionally, the national liberation war had swept away the rule of the old exploiting classes, by preventing the return of Zog or the foreign or Albanian capitalists and merchants. The new democratic government, elected by the Albanian people, was composed of tested leaders from the working class and peasantry, the same people who had made up the national liberation councils and led the partisan units, the same people who were leaders and members of the Communist Party of Albania, the political party of the Albanian working class. However, the victory of the national liberation war on November 29, 1944 was not the end of a history of struggle for independence. It was the beginning of a new history of struggle in Albania to protect the triumph of the people’s revolution and to initiate the uninterrupted construction of socialism.

Statue of "Mother Albania" to celebrate the liberation of the country