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Left Anticommunism: the Unkindest Cut

noamChomsky

BY MICHAEL PARENTI

Despite a lifetime of “shaming” the system, NOAM CHOMSKY, America’s foremost “engagé” intellectual, remains an unrepentant left anticommunist.

In the United States, for over a hundred years, the ruling interests tirelessly propagated anticommunism among the populace, until it became more like a religious orthodoxy than a political analysis. During the Cold War, the anticommunist ideological framework could transform any data about existing communist societies into hostile evidence. If the Soviets refused to negotiate a point, they were intransigent and belligerent; if they appeared willing to make concessions, this was but a skillful ploy to put us off our guard. By opposing arms limitations, they would have demonstrated their aggressive intent; but when in fact they supported most armament treaties, it was because they were mendacious and manipulative. If the churches in the USSR were empty, this demonstrated that religion was suppressed; but if the churches were full, this meant the people were rejecting the regime’s atheistic ideology. If the workers went on strike (as happened on infrequent occasions), this was evidence of their alienation from the collectivist system; if they didn’t go on strike, this was because they were intimidated and lacked freedom. A scarcity of consumer goods demonstrated the failure of the economic system; an improvement in consumer supplies meant only that the leaders were attempting to placate a restive population and so maintain a firmer hold over them. If communists in the United States played an important role struggling for the rights of workers, the poor, African-Americans, women, and others, this was only their guileful way of gathering support among disfranchised groups and gaining power for themselves. How one gained power by fighting for the rights of powerless groups was never explained. What we are dealing with is a nonfalsifiable orthodoxy, so assiduously marketed by the ruling interests that it affected people across the entire political spectrum.

Genuflection to Orthodoxy

Many on the U.S. Left have exhibited a Soviet bashing and Red baiting that matches anything on the Right in its enmity and crudity. Listen to Noam Chomsky holding forth about “left intellectuals” who try to “rise to power on the backs of mass popular movements” and “then beat the people into submission. . . . You start off as basically a Leninist who is going to be part of the Red bureaucracy. You see later that power doesn’t lie that way, and you very quickly become an ideologist of the right. . . . We’re seeing it right now in the [former] Soviet Union. The same guys who were communist thugs two years back, are now running banks and [are] enthusiastic free marketeers and praising Americans” (Z Magazine, 10/95).

Chomsky’s imagery is heavily indebted to the same U.S. corporate political culture he so frequently criticizes on other issues. In his mind, the revolution was betrayed by a coterie of “communist thugs” who merely hunger for power rather than wanting the power to end hunger. In fact, the communists did not “very quickly” switch to the Right but struggled in the face of a momentous onslaught to keep Soviet socialism alive for more than seventy years. To be sure, in the Soviet Union’s waning days some, like Boris Yeltsin, crossed over to capitalist ranks, but others continued to resist free-market incursions at great cost to themselves, many meeting their deaths during Yeltsin’s violent repression of the Russian parliament in 1993.

Some leftists and others fall back on the old stereotype of power-hungry Reds who pursue power for power’s sake without regard for actual social goals. If true, one wonders why, in country after country, these Reds side with the poor and powerless often at great risk and sacrifice to themselves, rather than reaping the rewards that come with serving the well-placed.

For decades, many left-leaning writers and speakers in the United States have felt obliged to establish their credibility by indulging in anticommunist and anti-Soviet genuflection, seemingly unable to give a talk or write an article or book review on whatever political subject without injecting some anti-Red sideswipe. The intent was, and still is, to distance themselves from the Marxist-Leninist Left.

Adam Hochschild: Keeping his distance from the “Stalinist Left” and recommending same posture to fellow progressives.

Adam Hochschild, a liberal writer and publisher, warned those on the Left who might be lackadaisical about condemning existing communist societies that they “weaken their credibility” (Guardian, 5/23/84). In other words, to be credible opponents of the cold war, we first had to join in the Cold-War condemnations of communist societies. Ronald Radosh urged that the peace movement purge itself of communists so that it not be accused of being communist (Guardian, 3/16/83). If I understand Radosh: To save ourselves from anticommunist witchhunts, we should ourselves become witchhunters. Purging the Left of communists became a longstanding practice, having injurious effects on various progressive causes. For instance, in 1949 some twelve unions were ousted from the CIO because they had Reds in their leadership. The purge reduced CIO membership by some 1.7 million and seriously weakened its recruitment drives and political clout. In the late 1940s, to avoid being “smeared” as Reds, Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), a supposedly progressive group, became one of the most vocally anticommunist organizations.

The strategy did not work. ADA and others on the Left were still attacked for being communist or soft on communism by those on the Right. Then and now, many on the Left have failed to realize that those who fight for social change on behalf of the less privileged elements of society will be Red-baited by conservative elites whether they are communists or not. For ruling interests, it makes little difference whether their wealth and power is challenged by “communist subversives” or “loyal American liberals.” All are lumped together as more or less equally abhorrent.

Even when attacking the Right, the left critics cannot pass up an opportunity to flash their anticommunist credentials. So Mark Green writes in a criticism of President Ronald Reagan that “when presented with a situation that challenges his conservative catechism, like an unyielding Marxist-Leninist, [Reagan] will change not his mind but the facts.” While professing a dedication to fighting dogmatism “both of the Right and Left,” individuals who perform such de rigueur genuflections reinforce the anticommunist dogma. Red-baiting leftists contributed their share to the climate of hostility that has given U.S. leaders such a free hand in waging hot and cold wars against communist countries and which even today makes a progressive or even liberal agenda difficult to promote.

A prototypic Red-basher who pretended to be on the Left was George Orwell. In the middle of World War II, as the Soviet Union was fighting for its life against the Nazi invaders at Stalingrad, Orwell announced that a “willingness to criticize Russia and Stalin is the test of intellectual honesty. It is the only thing that from a literary intellectual’s point of view is really dangerous” (Monthly Review, 5/83). Safely ensconced within a virulently anticommunist society, Orwell (with Orwellian doublethink) characterized the condemnation of communism as a lonely courageous act of defiance. Today, his ideological progeny are still at it, offering themselves as intrepid left critics of the Left, waging a valiant struggle against imaginary Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist hordes.
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Sorely lacking within the U.S. Left is any rational evaluation of the Soviet Union, a nation that endured a protracted civil war and a multinational foreign invasion in the very first years of its existence, and that two decades later threw back and destroyed the Nazi beast at enormous cost to itself. In the three decades after the Bolshevik revolution, the Soviets made industrial advances equal to what capitalism took a century to accomplish–while feeding and schooling their children rather than working them fourteen hours a day as capitalist industrialists did and still do in many parts of the world. And the Soviet Union, along with Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic, and Cuba provided vital assistance to national liberation movements in countries around the world, including Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress in South Africa.

Left anticommunists remained studiously unimpressed by the dramatic gains won by masses of previously impoverished people under communism. Some were even scornful of such accomplishments. I recall how in Burlington Vermont, in 1971, the noted anticommunist anarchist, Murray Bookchin, derisively referred to my concern for “the poor little children who got fed under communism” (his words).

Slinging Labels

Those of us who refused to join in the Soviet bashing were branded by left anticommunists as “Soviet apologists” and “Stalinists,” even if we disliked Stalin and his autocratic system of rule and believed there were things seriously wrong with existing Soviet society. Our real sin was that unlike many on the Left we refused to uncritically swallow U.S. media propaganda about communist societies. Instead, we maintained that, aside from the well-publicized deficiencies and injustices, there were positive features about existing communist systems that were worth preserving, that improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people in meaningful and humanizing ways. This claim had a decidedly unsettling effect on left anticommunists who themselves could not utter a positive word about any communist society (except possibly Cuba) and could not lend a tolerant or even courteous ear to anyone who did.

Saturated by anticommunist orthodoxy, most U.S. leftists have practiced a left McCarthyism against people who did have something positive to say about existing communism, excluding them from participation in conferences, advisory boards, political endorsements, and left publications. Like conservatives, left anticommunists tolerated nothing less than a blanket condemnation of the Soviet Union as a Stalinist monstrosity and a Leninist moral aberration.

That many U.S. leftists have scant familiarity with Lenin’s writings and political work does not prevent them from slinging the “Leninist” label. Noam Chomsky, who is an inexhaustible fount of anticommunist caricatures, offers this comment about Leninism: “Western and also Third World intellectuals were attracted to the Bolshevik counterrevolution [sic] because Leninism is, after all, a doctrine that says that the radical intelligentsia have a right to take state power and to run their countries by force, and that is an idea which is rather appealing to intellectuals.” Here Chomsky fashions an image of power-hungry intellectuals to go along with his cartoon image of power-hungry Leninists, villains seeking not the revolutionary means to fight injustice but power for power’s sake. When it comes to Red-bashing, some of the best and brightest on the Left sound not much better than the worst on the Right.

At the time of the 1996 terror bombing in Oklahoma City, I heard a radio commentator announce: “Lenin said that the purpose of terror is to terrorize.” U.S. media commentators have repeatedly quoted Lenin in that misleading manner. In fact, his statement was disapproving of terrorism. He polemicized against isolated terrorist acts which do nothing but create terror among the populace, invite repression, and isolate the revolutionary movement from the masses. Far from being the totalitarian, tight-circled conspirator, Lenin urged the building of broad coalitions and mass organizations, encompassing people who were at different levels of political development. He advocated whatever diverse means were needed to advance the class struggle, including participation in parliamentary elections and existing trade unions. To be sure, the working class, like any mass group, needed organization and leadership to wage a successful revolutionary struggle, which was the role of a vanguard party, but that did not mean the proletarian revolution could be fought and won by putschists or terrorists.

Lenin constantly dealt with the problem of avoiding the two extremes of liberal bourgeois opportunism and ultra-left adventurism. Yet he himself is repeatedly identified as an ultra-left putschist by mainstream journalists and some on the Left. Whether Lenin’s approach to revolution is desirable or even relevant today is a question that warrants critical examination. But a useful evaluation is not likely to come from people who misrepresent his theory and practice.

Left anticommunists find any association with communist organizations to be morally unacceptable because of the “crimes of communism.” Yet many of them are themselves associated with the Democratic Party in this country, either as voters or members, seemingly unconcerned about the morally unacceptable political crimes committed by leaders of that organization. Under one or another Democratic administration, 120,000 Japanese Americans were torn from their homes and livelihoods and thrown into detention camps; atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki with an enormous loss of innocent life; the FBI was given authority to infiltrate political groups; the Smith Act was used to imprison leaders of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party and later on leaders of the Communist Party for their political beliefs; detention camps were established to round up political dissidents in the event of a “national emergency”; during the late 1940s and 1950s, eight thousand federal workers were purged from government because of their political associations and views, with thousands more in all walks of life witchhunted out of their careers; the Neutrality Act was used to impose an embargo on the Spanish Republic that worked in favor of Franco’s fascist legions; homicidal counterinsurgency programs were initiated in various Third World countries; and the Vietnam War was pursued and escalated. And for the better part of a century, the Congressional leadership of the Democratic Party protected racial segregation and stymied all anti-lynching and fair employment bills. Yet all these crimes, bringing ruination and death to many, have not moved the liberals, the social democrats, and the “democratic socialist” anticommunists to insist repeatedly that we issue blanket condemnations of either the Democratic Party or the political system that produced it, certainly not with the intolerant fervor that has been directed against existing communism.

Pure Socialism vs. Siege Socialism

The upheavals in Eastern Europe did not constitute a defeat for socialism because socialism never existed in those countries, according to some U.S. leftists. They say that the communist states offered nothing more than bureaucratic, one-party “state capitalism” or some such thing. Whether we call the former communist countries “socialist” is a matter of definition. Suffice it to say, they constituted something different from what existed in the profit-driven capitalist world–as the capitalists themselves were not slow to recognize.

First, in communist countries there was less economic inequality than under capitalism. The perks enjoyed by party and government elites were modest by corporate CEO standards in the West [even more so when compared with today’s grotesque compensation packages to the executive and financial elites.—Eds], as were their personal incomes and life styles. Soviet leaders like Yuri Andropov and Leonid Brezhnev lived not in lavishly appointed mansions like the White House, but in relatively large apartments in a housing project near the Kremlin set aside for government leaders. They had limousines at their disposal (like most other heads of state) and access to large dachas where they entertained visiting dignitaries. But they had none of the immense personal wealth that most U.S. leaders possess.

The “lavish life” enjoyed by East Germany’s party leaders, as widely publicized in the U.S. press, included a $725 yearly allowance in hard currency, and housing in an exclusive settlement on the outskirts of Berlin that sported a sauna, an indoor pool, and a fitness center shared by all the residents. They also could shop in stores that carried Western goods such as bananas, jeans, and Japanese electronics. The U.S. press never pointed out that ordinary East Germans had access to public pools and gyms and could buy jeans and electronics (though usually not of the imported variety). Nor was the “lavish” consumption enjoyed by East German leaders contrasted to the truly opulent life style enjoyed by the Western plutocracy.

Second, in communist countries, productive forces were not organized for capital gain and private enrichment; public ownership of the means of production supplanted private ownership. Individuals could not hire other people and accumulate great personal wealth from their labor. Again, compared to Western standards, differences in earnings and savings among the populace were generally modest. The income spread between highest and lowest earners in the Soviet Union was about five to one. In the United States, the spread in yearly income between the top multibillionaires and the working poor is more like 10,000 to 1.

Third, priority was placed on human services. Though life under communism left a lot to be desired and the services themselves were rarely the best, communist countries did guarantee their citizens some minimal standard of economic survival and security, including guaranteed education, employment, housing, and medical assistance.

Fourth, communist countries did not pursue the capital penetration of other countries. Lacking a profit motive as their motor force and therefore having no need to constantly find new investment opportunities, they did not expropriate the lands, labor, markets, and natural resources of weaker nations, that is, they did not practice economic imperialism. The Soviet Union conducted trade and aid relations on terms that generally were favorable to the Eastern European nations and Mongolia, Cuba, and India.

All of the above were organizing principles for every communist system to one degree or another. None of the above apply to free market countries like Honduras, Guatemala, Thailand, South Korea, Chile, Indonesia, Zaire, Germany, or the United States.

But a real socialism, it is argued, would be controlled by the workers themselves through direct participation instead of being run by Leninists, Stalinists, Castroites, or other ill-willed, power-hungry, bureaucratic, cabals of evil men who betray revolutions. Unfortunately, this “pure socialism” view is ahistorical and nonfalsifiable; it cannot be tested against the actualities of history. It compares an ideal against an imperfect reality, and the reality comes off a poor second. It imagines what socialism would be like in a world far better than this one, where no strong state structure or security force is required, where none of the value produced by workers needs to be expropriated to rebuild society and defend it from invasion and internal sabotage.

The pure socialists’ ideological anticipations remain untainted by existing practice. They do not explain how the manifold functions of a revolutionary society would be organized, how external attack and internal sabotage would be thwarted, how bureaucracy would be avoided, scarce resources allocated, policy differences settled, priorities set, and production and distribution conducted. Instead, they offer vague statements about how the workers themselves will directly own and control the means of production and will arrive at their own solutions through creative struggle. No surprise then that the pure socialists support every revolution except the ones that succeed.

The pure socialists had a vision of a new society that would create and be created by new people, a society so transformed in its fundamentals as to leave little room for wrongful acts, corruption, and criminal abuses of state power. There would be no bureaucracy or self-interested coteries, no ruthless conflicts or hurtful decisions. When the reality proves different and more difficult, some on the Left proceed to condemn the real thing and announce that they “feel betrayed” by this or that revolution.

The pure socialists see socialism as an ideal that was tarnished by communist venality, duplicity, and power cravings. The pure socialists oppose the Soviet model but offer little evidence to demonstrate that other paths could have been taken, that other models of socialism–not created from one’s imagination but developed through actual historical experience–could have taken hold and worked better. Was an open, pluralistic, democratic socialism actually possible at this historic juncture? The historical evidence would suggest it was not. As the political philosopher Carl Shames argued:

How do [the left critics] know that the fundamental problem was the “nature” of the ruling [revolutionary] parties rather than, say, the global concentration of capital that is destroying all independent economies and putting an end to national sovereignty everywhere? And to the extent that it was, where did this “nature” come from? Was this “nature” disembodied, disconnected from the fabric of the society itself, from the social relations impacting on it? . . . Thousands of examples could be found in which the centralization of power was a necessary choice in securing and protecting socialist relations. In my observation [of existing communist societies], the positive of “socialism” and the negative of “bureaucracy, authoritarianism and tyranny” interpenetrated in virtually every sphere of life. (Carl Shames, correspondence to me, 1/15/92.)

The pure socialists regularly blame the Left itself for every defeat it suffers. Their second-guessing is endless. So we hear that revolutionary struggles fail because their leaders wait too long or act too soon, are too timid or too impulsive, too stubborn or too easily swayed. We hear that revolutionary leaders are compromising or adventuristic, bureaucratic or opportunistic, rigidly organized or insufficiently organized, undemocratic or failing to provide strong leadership. But always the leaders fail because they do not put their trust in the “direct actions” of the workers, who apparently would withstand and overcome every adversity if only given the kind of leadership available from the left critic’s own groupuscule. Unfortunately, the critics seem unable to apply their own leadership genius to producing a successful revolutionary movement in their own country.

Tony Febbo questioned this blame-the-leadership syndrome of the pure socialists:

It occurs to me that when people as smart, different, dedicated and heroic as Lenin, Mao, Fidel Castro, Daniel Ortega, Ho Chi Minh and Robert Mugabe–and the millions of heroic people who followed and fought with them–all end up more or less in the same place, then something bigger is at work than who made what decision at what meeting. Or even what size houses they went home to after the meeting. . . .

These leaders weren’t in a vacuum. They were in a whirlwind. And the suction, the force, the power that was twirling them around has spun and left this globe mangled for more than 900 years. And to blame this or that theory or this or that leader is a simple-minded substitute for the kind of analysis that Marxists [should make]. (Guardian, 11/13/91)

To be sure, the pure socialists are not entirely without specific agendas for building the revolution. After the Sandinistas overthrew the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua, an ultra-left group in that country called for direct worker ownership of the factories. The armed workers would take control of production without benefit of managers, state planners, bureaucrats, or a formal military. While undeniably appealing, this worker syndicalism denies the necessities of state power. Under such an arrangement, the Nicaraguan revolution would not have lasted two months against the U.S.-sponsored counterrevolution that savaged the country. It would have been unable to mobilize enough resources to field an army, take security measures, or build and coordinate economic programs and human services on a national scale.

Decentralization vs. Survival

For a people’s revolution to survive, it must seize state power and use it to (a) break the stranglehold exercised by the owning class over the society’s institutions and resources, and (b) withstand the reactionary counterattack that is sure to come. The internal and external dangers a revolution faces necessitate a centralized state power that is not particularly to anyone’s liking, not in Soviet Russia in 1917, nor in Sandinista Nicaragua in 1980.

Engels offers an apposite account of an uprising in Spain in 1872-73 in which anarchists seized power in municipalities across the country. At first, the situation looked promising. The king had abdicated and the bourgeois government could muster but a few thousand ill-trained troops. Yet this ragtag force prevailed because it faced a thoroughly parochialized rebellion. “Each town proclaimed itself as a sovereign canton and set up a revolutionary committee (junta),” Engels writes. “[E]ach town acted on its own, declaring that the important thing was not cooperation with other towns but separation from them, thus precluding any possibility of a combined attack [against bourgeois forces].” It was “the fragmentation and isolation of the revolutionary forces which enabled the government troops to smash one revolt after the other.”

Decentralized parochial autonomy is the graveyard of insurgency–which may be one reason why there has never been a successful anarcho-syndicalist revolution. Ideally, it would be a fine thing to have only local, self-directed, worker participation, with minimal bureaucracy, police, and military. This probably would be the development of socialism, were socialism ever allowed to develop unhindered by counterrevolutionary subversion and attack. One might recall how, in 1918-20, fourteen capitalist nations, including the United States, invaded Soviet Russia in a bloody but unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the revolutionary Bolshevik government. The years of foreign invasion and civil war did much to intensify the Bolsheviks’ siege psychology with its commitment to lockstep party unity and a repressive security apparatus. Thus, in May 1921, the same Lenin who had encouraged the practice of internal party democracy and struggled against Trotsky in order to give the trade unions a greater measure of autonomy, now called for an end to the Workers’ Opposition and other factional groups within the party. “The time has come,” he told an enthusiastically concurring Tenth Party Congress, “to put an end to opposition, to put a lid on it: we have had enough opposition.” Open disputes and conflicting tendencies within and without the party, the communists concluded, created an appearance of division and weakness that invited attack by formidable foes.

Only a month earlier, in April 1921, Lenin had called for more worker representation on the party’s Central Committee. In short, he had become not anti-worker but anti-opposition. Here was a social revolution–like every other–that was not allowed to develop its political and material life in an unhindered way.

By the late 1920s, the Soviets faced the choice of (a) moving in a still more centralized direction with a command economy and forced agrarian collectivization and full-speed industrialization under a commandist, autocratic party leadership, the road taken by Stalin, or (b) moving in a liberalized direction, allowing more political diversity, more autonomy for labor unions and other organizations, more open debate and criticism, greater autonomy among the various Soviet republics, a sector of privately owned small businesses, independent agricultural development by the peasantry, greater emphasis on consumer goods, and less effort given to the kind of capital accumulation needed to build a strong military-industrial base.

The latter course, I believe, would have produced a more comfortable, more humane and serviceable society. Siege socialism would have given way to worker-consumer socialism. The only problem is that the country would have risked being incapable of withstanding the Nazi onslaught. Instead, the Soviet Union embarked upon a rigorous, forced industrialization. This policy has often been mentioned as one of the wrongs perpetrated by Stalin upon his people. It consisted mostly of building, within a decade, an entirely new, huge industrial base east of the Urals in the middle of the barren steppes, the biggest steel complex in Europe, in anticipation of an invasion from the West. “Money was spent like water, men froze, hungered and suffered but the construction went on with a disregard for individuals and a mass heroism seldom paralleled in history.”

Stalin’s prophecy that the Soviet Union had only ten years to do what the British had done in a century proved correct. When the Nazis invaded in 1941, that same industrial base, safely ensconced thousands of miles from the front, produced the weapons of war that eventually turned the tide. The cost of this survival included 22 million Soviets who perished in the war and immeasurable devastation and suffering, the effects of which would distort Soviet society for decades afterward.

All this is not to say that everything Stalin did was of historical necessity. The exigencies of revolutionary survival did not “make inevitable” the heartless execution of hundreds of Old Bolshevik leaders, the personality cult of a supreme leader who claimed every revolutionary gain as his own achievement, the suppression of party political life through terror, the eventual silencing of debate regarding the pace of industrialization and collectivization, the ideological regulation of all intellectual and cultural life, and the mass deportations of “suspect” nationalities.

The transforming effects of counterrevolutionary attack have been felt in other countries. A Sandinista military officer I met in Vienna in 1986 noted that Nicaraguans were “not a warrior people” but they had to learn to fight because they faced a destructive, U.S.-sponsored mercenary war. She bemoaned the fact that war and embargo forced her country to postpone much of its socio-economic agenda. As with Nicaragua, so with Mozambique, Angola and numerous other countries in which U.S.-financed mercenary forces destroyed farmlands, villages, health centers, and power stations, while killing or starving hundreds of thousands–the revolutionary baby was strangled in its crib or mercilessly bled beyond recognition. This reality ought to earn at least as much recognition as the suppression of dissidents in this or that revolutionary society.

The overthrow of Eastern European and Soviet communist governments was cheered by many left intellectuals. Now democracy would have its day. The people would be free from the yoke of communism and the U.S. Left would be free from the albatross of existing communism, or as left theorist Richard Lichtman put it, “liberated from the incubus of the Soviet Union and the succubus of Communist China.”

In fact, the capitalist restoration in Eastern Europe seriously weakened the numerous Third World liberation struggles that had received aid from the Soviet Union and brought a whole new crop of right-wing governments into existence, ones that now worked hand-in-glove with U.S. global counterrevolutionaries around the globe.

In addition, the overthrow of communism gave the green light to the unbridled exploitative impulses of Western corporate interests. No longer needing to convince workers that they live better than their counterparts in Russia, no longer restrained by a competing system, the corporate class is rolling back the many gains that working people have won over the years. Now that the free market, in its meanest form, is emerging triumphant in the East, so will it prevail in the West. “Capitalism with a human face” is being replaced by “capitalism in your face.” As Richard Levins put it, “So in the new exuberant aggressiveness of world capitalism we see what communists and their allies had held at bay” (Monthly Review, 9/96).

Having never understood the role that existing communist powers played in tempering the worst impulses of Western capitalism, and having perceived communism as nothing but an unmitigated evil, the left anticommunists did not anticipate the losses that were to come. Some of them still don’t get it.

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Bruce Franklin on Stalin

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“I myself have seen Stalin from both sides. Deeply embedded in my consciousness and feelings was that Vision of Stalin as tyrant and butcher. This was part of my over-all view of communism as a slave system, an idea that I was taught in capitalist society. Communist society was not red but a dull-gray world. It was ruled by a secret clique of powerful men. Everybody else worked for these few and kept their mouths shut. Propaganda poured from all the media. The secret police were everywhere, tapping phones, following people on the street, making midnight raids. Anyone who spoke out would lose his job, get thrown in jail, or even get shot by the police. One of the main aims of the government was international aggression, starting wars to conquer other counties. When I began to discover that this entire vision point by point described my own society a number of questions arose in my mind.”

– Bruce Franklin, Introduction to “The Essential Stalin”

“United Fruit Co.” by Pablo Naruda

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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.

Cuba: the Evaportion of a Myth – From Anti-Imperialist Revolution to Pawn of Social-Imperialism

Cuba: the Evaporation of a Myth – From Anti-Imperialist Revolution to Pawn of Social-Imperialism

CUBA: The Evaporation of a Myth was first published in the February 15, 1976 issue of Revolution, organ of the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. It was first printed as a pamphlet March, 1976. Some slight editorial changes were made for greater clarity.

Introduction

Cuba’s role in the world today makes it increasingly important to expose the class nature of its leaders and the real character of the society.

In words, Cuba is socialist. Its thousands of troops fighting in Africa under Soviet leadership are said to be there to advance the cause of proletarian internationalism. But the American paid-for mercenaries fighting there also wave banners of freedom and “anti-imperialism.” Obviously it is necessary to go beneath the appearance of things to understand what’s really going on in the world. To understand a country we have to ask what class is in power there. And to understand a country’s politics we have to ask what class these politics serve.

The revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1959 was a tremendous leap forward for Cuba, clearing away the rule of the U.S. imperialists and the Cuban landlords, dependent capitalists and all their parasites, pimps and gangsters. Because of this, and because of the revolutionary goals that Castro and those around him proclaimed, many people all over the world looked to Cuba for inspiration and guidance in their struggles.

But the class outlook, political line and methods that the leadership promoted have led to nothing but setbacks and defeat everywhere in the world they’ve been taken up. They have proved wrong and harmful to the development of the revolutionary struggle.

In Cuba, the revolution has turned into its opposite. Cuba today is as much a colony of the Soviet Union as much as it once was of the U.S., its economy dominated by sugar, and its working people wage-slaves laboring to pay off an endless mortgage to the U.S.S.R. The leaders of the anti-imperialist revolution of 1959 have now themselves become a new dependent capitalist class.

The question of Cuba is particularly sharp right now for two reasons. Internationally, the Soviet Union, which is itself an imperialist country trying to upset the applecart of U.S. domination in order to grab up the apples for itself, is making increasing use of Cuba. It uses Cuba as both a carrot and a stick. In Angola, Cuban troops spearheaded the drive to conquer that country under the cover of opposing U.S. imperialism (which is trying to do the same under the cover of opposing the USSR), while the Soviets pointed to Cuba as an example of how Soviet “aid” has bought socialism for Cuba and offer the same deal to Angola and other countries. This combination of “anti-imperialist” rubles and and “anti-imperialist” tanks is key to the Soviet social-imperialists’ efforts to replace the U.S. as the world’s main imperialist power, and for that reason Cuba is invaluable to the Soviets.

HUMBLE WORDS AT PARTY CONGRESS

Within Cuba, the first congress of the country’s revisionist “Communist” Party in December, 1975, marked the economic and political consolidation of Cuba into the Soviet bloc and the formal emergence of capitalist relations into the sunlight in Cuba, after years of being hidden under “revolutionary” rhetoric.

This congress ratified Cuba’s new “Economic Planning and Management System,” sanctifying “the profitability criterion” as the country’s highest principle. It also featured a long self-criticism by Castro for not coming around to the Soviet’s way of thinking sooner, a “self-criticism” in which he tries to justify Cuba’s present situation and bows down so low before the New Czars that it serves as an outstanding indication of Cuba’s present neocolonial status,

“Had we been humbler, had we not had excessive self-esteem,” Castro explained, “we would have been able to understand that revolutionary theory was not sufficiently developed in our country and that we actually lacked profound economists and scientists of Marxism to make really significant contributions to the theory and practice of building socialism…” (Castro’s speeches and other congress documents can be found in Granma, the official Cuban publication.) [1]

Humble words indeed from the Cuban leadership who, not that many years ago, were portraying themselves as the lighthouse of revolution for the Third World and elsewhere, in contrast to what they considered the “conservatism” of the revisionists, and what they slandered as the “dogmatism” of the genuine Marxist-Leninists.

In the 1960s the Cuban leadership had actually become very humble in serving as a Soviet political errand boy whenever it was necessary to pay the rent – for instance, by attacking China and Mao Tsetung in 1966, backing the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and so on. But at that time the Cubans did try to maintain some distance between themselves and the Soviets, if only to maintain Cuba’s prestige and “ultra-revolutionary” image at a time when the new Soviet capitalist ruling class was beginning to smell worse and worse to a growing number of revolutionary-minded people.

But now the Soviet strings which hold up the Cuban regime have been pulled very tight, and the Cuban leadership is to be more “humble” than ever. Today, Castro says, Cuba’s foreign policy is based “in the first place, on staunch friendship with the Soviet Union, the bastion of world progress.”

The use to which the Soviets have put the “staunch friendship” of Cuba has changed over the years. In an earlier period the weaker Soviet imperialists’ relationship with the U.S. imperialists tended more towards surrender and collaboration. Now with their competition with the U.S. becoming sharper and more violent every day, the Soviets’ use of so-called “detente” is mainly as a cover for Soviet aggression and preperations for war – while the U.S. imperialists use it for the same purpose themselves. Times have changed. But it seems anything the Soviet rulers want is fine with Cuba.

Castro goes out of his way to make this point unmistakably clear by going back over th 1962 missile crisis, when the USSR rashly set up long-range missiles in Cuba, and then, when challenged by the U.S. imperialists, not only capitulated completely by taking the missiles out, but also promised the U.S. it could inspect Cuba to make sure that they were gone – without asking the Cuban government. At that time, Castro correctly denounced the Soviets for it.

Now, Castro says, he was wrong for “not understanding” that this cowardly use of Cuba as a bargaining chip with the U.S. was “objectively” a “victory for the socialist camp.”

But this is not the only crow Castro was forced to eat at the congress. Not only should the Cuban leadership have been “humbler” regarding Soviet foreign policy, they also should have been “applying correctly the main useful experiences in the sphere of economic management” in the Soviet Union.

LAWS OF CAPITALISM GOVERN CUBAN ECONOMY

What experience does he mean? That “economic laws” (especially the law of value) “govern socialist construction,” and that “money, prices, finances, budgets, taxes, credit, interest and other commodity categories should function as indispensable instruments…to decide on which investment is the most advantageous; to decide which enterprises, which units, which collective of workers performs best, and which performs worst, and so be able to take relevant measures.” (Speech at party congress)

This, Castro claims, is dictated by “reality,” but it’s not the reality of socialism. The working class must take these laws and categories into account so that it can consciously restrict and limit their sphere of operation and develop the conditions to do away with them once and for all. But socialism can’t be governed by the economic laws of capitalism or else there wouldn’t be any difference between the two systems! Castro’s words here are taken lock, stock and profit margin from recent Soviet economic textbooks – summing up the experience of restoring capitalism in the Soviet Union.

The “new economic system” Castro goes on to describe is based on the same principles that govern all capitalist countries, especially in the form of state capitalism: that prices be fixed according to the cost of production; that the factories and industries which produce the highest rate of return on their investment should be the areas of most expansion; that the managers of these units should be paid according to their social position and also the profitability of their enterprises; that the workers be paid according to the profitability of the enterprises they work for and lose their jobs if production would be cheaper without them; and furthermore, that workers be paid strictly according to their productivity as measured by piecework (which, Castro reported, now determines the wages of 20% of Cuban workers) or by whether or not they meet the production quota set for their jobs – in other words, whether they make rate (this is already in force for 48% of Cuba’s workers).

This is truly capitalism in its full glory. Nowhere is this more ugly than when Castro says that he’s sorry that there’s such a terrible housing shortage in Cuba, but “the revolution hasn’t been able to do much” about it – while later revealing that the government is building 14 new tourist hotels and expanding others. Clearly, the consideration isn’t what people need, but what’s most profitable. Of course, Castro doesn’t call this capitalism, any more than do the present capitalist rulers of the USSR. All the revisionists claim that this kind of thing is just a little more “realistic” version of socialism.

CUBA’S $5 BILLION MORTGAGE

The irony of it is that for many years the Cuban leadership argued that Soviet aid and sugar purchases were allowing them to buy everything they needed to “build socialism and communism simultaneously in Cuba.” Now, with the island $5 billion in hock to the USSR [2] and more dependent on it economically than ever, it’s pretty clear that what really happened was exactly the opposite – the USSR was able to buy itself a neocolony. This development also makes it clearer than ever that the Cuban leadership’s strategy had nothing to do with the working class’ strategy for building socialism – that in fact Cuba was never a socialist country. It raises the question of what kind of revolution Cuba did have and why it was turned into its opposite, so that, far from being socialist, Cuba today has not even won its independence and national liberation.

Petty Bourgeois Radicals Come to Power

This isn’t the first time that an imperialist power has taken advantage of the Cuban people’s struggle for national liberation in order to take over the country for itself. The Soviet rulers’ present tricks are nothing new in the world – although painted red, they are fundamentally no different from what the U.S. imperialists have been doing for years.

In 1898, when the Cuban people were on the verge of winning their independence from Spain after many years of fighting, the U.S. stepped in under the pretext of helping Cuba against Spanish colonialism and thereby seized the island as a neocolony for the U.S. With monopoly capitalism only recently established in the U.S., this was the U.S.’s first imperialist war to open up new areas for the export of American capital and to seize sources of raw materials.

The flood of U.S. investment to. Cuba reenforced the colonial and semi-feudal nature of Cuban society that centuries of Spanish colonialism had created in Cuba. The U.S. imperialists propped up the rule of the landlowners in Cuba and created a handful of capitalists dependent on U.S. capital, thus transforming Cuba from a colony of Spain to a neocolony of the U.S., stifling all possibilities of progress. At the time of the 1959 revolution the system of the ownership of land in Cuba had remained almost unchanged since the days of the Spanish empire, and the country’s one-crop economy had long been stagnant.

This system laid the most crushing burden on the urban and rural working class and the landless and small peasants. At the same time, it also held back the fortunes of all but the richest landowners – the small and very weak national bourgeoisie (confined to manufacturing the few things not made by U.S. subsidiaries or imported) and the relatively large urban petty bourgeiosie.

Throughout most of these years, Cuba’s workers played a leading role in the country’s fight for independence and national liberation, as well as fighting bitterly for their own immediate interests. This reached a high point in the 1930s, when under the leadership of the then-existing Communist Party the working class and its allies unleashed a huge wave of strikes and demonstrations, including armed uprisings and the establishment of soviets (revolutionary workers’ councils) in the sugar mills.

The existing U.S. puppet government was overthrown, but it was soon replaced by an army coup led by Fulgencio Batista. Although though the struggle was very intense for the next several years, the working class was not able to consolidate its advances and eventually was driven back. As some of its previous errors came to the fore, the Communist Party became more and more revisionist. In the 1940s its leadership accepted a partnership in the Batista government, then, when Batista dropped them, crawled into the wood· work, where they remained until the eve of the 1959 revolution. This contributed greatly to the weakening of the workers’ movement as a conscious and organized force, although the workers never stopped fighting their conditions.

VOLATILE PETTY BOURGEOISIE

By the 1950s the petty bourgeoisie had become the most volatile class in Cuba. The political groups that arose from it were the best organized to fight for their interests. Castro’s 26th of July Movement came from the urban petty bourgeoisie, 25% of Cuba’s population – the tens of thousands of businessmen with no business, salesmen with no sales, teachers with no one to teach, lawyers and doctors with few patients and clients, architects and engineers for whom there was little work, and so on. In its 1956 “Program Manifesto,” it defined itself as “guided by the ideals of democracy, nationalism and social justice … [of] Jeffersonian democracy;” and declared, “democracy cannot be the government of a race, class or religion, it must be a government of all the people.” [3]

This certainly expressed the outlook of the petty bourgeoisie, with its hatred for the big bourgeoisie that held it down, its repugnance for the revolution of the working class, and its dreams of a “democracy” above classes. Its practical program aimed at restricting the U.S. and the landlords by ending the quota system under which the U.S. controlled Cuban sugar cane production, restricting the domination of the biggest landlords over the medium-sized growers, distributing unused and stolen farmland to the small peasants, and a profit-sharing scheme for urban workers to expand the market for domestic manufactures and new investment.

With this program, Castro and a small-group took up arms against the Batista government in the Sierra Maestra mountains, while other young intellectuals and professionals organized resistance in the cities. This war won support from nearly every other class except the tiny handful of people directly tied to the landlords and the U.S. Many workers supported it and joined in. In the fighting itself, the most decisive force was the rural petty bourgeoisie, especially the small peasants for whom armed struggle was the only way to defend their land from’ the landlords and the army. Made up largely of peasants itself, Batista’s army soon began to fall apart.

The Batista government disintegrated after two years of fighting involving only a few hundred armed rebels. In the last months, even the U.S. government dropped some of its support for the Batista government, believing that it was more likely that the July 26th Movement would agree to come to terms than that the Batista government could survive. [4]

Just after seizing power in 1959, Castro went-to the U.S. on a “goodwill tour,” declaring in New York, “I have clearly and definitely stated that we are not communists…The gates are open for private investment that contributes to the development of Cuba.” He even called for a massive U.S. foreign aid program for Latin America, “in order to avoid the danger of communism.” But these words weren’t enough to reassure the U.S. ruling class. [5]

Despite Castro’s proclaimed desire to get along with the U.S. government and the U.S imperialists’ desire to get Castro to support their interests, nothing could change in Cuba without seizing the sugar estates and mills and ending the monopoly American business held there. These were the pillars of the economic and political system that had given rise to the rebellion. To challenge them meant challening the whole colonial system and its master but to retreat in the face of them was not possible without abandoning everything.

FIDEL CASTRO: SECRET “MARXIST-LENINIST”

When Castro proclaimed the first agrarian reform law which limited the size of the biggest estates (many of them owned by U.S. sugar companies), all hell broke loose. The U.S. began applying, economic and political pressure to topple the rebel army – which in effect now was the government – and in turn the Cubans began to take over the property of those forces whose interests were opposed to the island’s independence. By 1961, the government found itself in possession of key sections of the economy, while the U.S. had imposed an economic blockade. In April, the U.S. launched the futile Bay of Pigs invasion.

Early in that year the USSR had sent its first trade delegation to Cuba, and Khruschev had offered to protect Cuba with Soviet missiles. On May 1, Castro announced that henceforth Cuba would be a socialist country. Later that year he declared that he was and always had been a Marxist-Leninist, explaining, “Naturally If we had stood on the top of Pico Turquino [in the Sierras] when we were a handful of men, and said we were Marxist-Leninists, we might never have gotten down to the plain.” [6]

The U.S. imperialists used this development to say that the revolution’s leadership had hidden its real intentions all along and came to power under false pretenses – in other words, to find some excuse other than naked self-interest for why they had opposed the Cuban revolution the minute it had touched their property. And they also used Castro’s sudden announcement to slander communism by saying that this was how communists operate, by sneaking their system in through the back door without bothering to tell the masses what’s going on, and that communists don’t really rely on the masses but operate as “masters of deceit.”

The great majority of Cuban workers and peasants were strong supporters of the revolution, and very much in favor of the measures it had taken, such as taking over the estates and mills and guaranteeing small peasants the right to their land (and in many cases giving them more), reducing rent, electricity and other prices, putting thousands of unemployed workers to work constructing hospitals, roads, schools, etc., launching a tremendous literacy campaign, and other steps which removed some of the weight from the masses’ backs and allowed their enthusiasm for change to show itself in action. And many were enthusiastic about the idea of going on to socialism.

But socialism is not just an idea, nor a matter of words, nor just a government take-over. It’s a social revolution, a revolution in the relations of classes so that the working class is not just the owner of things in theory, but also in practice the actual master of production and society, through the leadership of its own Marxist-Leninist party, and the political rule of the working class – the dictatorship of the proletariat. On this basis the working class can lead repeated and successful struggles against the bourgeoisie and in the process it is able to transform material conditions and itself, so as to gradually do away with classes altogether.

This is not the road that Castro and those around him toot despite all their rhetoric to the contrary. They had rebelled against the neocolonial, semi-feudal conditions of old Cuba, but their petty bourgeois position and outlook which had given rise to the longing for a quick and radical change in their status also gave rise to the ambition to retain – and strengthen – their privileged position above the masses of workers and peasants. This only capitalism could give them. This same class outlook also caused them to hate and fear the difficult class struggle and long years of hard work that proletarian rule and the real transformation of Cuba would mean. While the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia did hate the ugly features of capitalism, especially as it had oppressed them, they didn’t want to change society’s division of labor, which had placed them above the masses, free to develop their careers instead of laboring as wage slaves.

In the early years following the revolution, their class position and outlook was manifested in an idealist political line. This line reflected the desire of the petty bourgeois revolutionary intellectuals to see a world without oppression. But it also reflected their contempt and fear for the only force in society that can lead the process of transforming the world, the working class.

This so-called “Cuban line” reflected the impetuosity of the petty-bourgeoisie in wanting their “ideal society” right away and without class struggle, especially without the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Cuban leaders talked as if communism was right around the comer and as if classes were eliminated simply by expropriation of individually owned property.

In fact the essence of utopian socialism, an early form that the idealist world outlook took among the Cuban leaders, is that the building of socialism depends on “enlightened” rulers with the interests of the masses at heart. The Cuban leaders, who viewed themselves as among the most enlightened “saviors” of the masses of all time, believed they could impose their wishes on society. In fact this whole line had great appeal for many revolutionary minded people from the petty-bourgeoisie in this country and around the world who wanted to see a better society but shared the Cuban leadership’s view of the working class.

The same “left” political line stemming from the idealism of the petty-bourgeoisie was manifested in the activities of the Cuban leadership in international affairs. They developed the so-called “foco theory” in struggle in the countryside; acting as the “detonator” to the masses, who are inspired by them to spontaneously rise up, overthrow the old regime and put the “heroic guerrilla” in power.

This is against the experience of every successful communist revolution, which is based on the conscious and organized struggle of the masses. In China, for example, this meant people’s war: mobilizing the peasantry, under the leadership of the working class, establishing base areas in the countryside, and waging a protracted war. When Che Guevara tried to put the “foco theory” into practice in Bolivia, he was killed, the whole operation a complete fiasco.

PEOPLE, NOT THINGS, ARE DECISIVE

Underneath the petty-bourgeois “left” political line and coming more and more to the surface was undisguised revisionism. Instead of mobilizing and relying on the working class to change the actual class relationships. that existed in Cuba, to eliminate the warped economy that imperialist plunder had created in Cuba, and on this basis to develop the productive forces, the Cuban leaders looked for something that could substitute for the masses and class struggle. Despite the rhetoric of building the “new man,” they more and more based themselves on the line common to all revisionists, that things, not people, are decisive; that in order for their version of “socialism” to triumph in Cuba, productive capacity had to be obtained from abroad. Their class outlook insured they could never understand that revolutionizing the relations of production is the key to developing the productive forces. Still less could they understand that, in Marx’s words, the “greatest productive power is the revolutionary class itself.” In place of the conscious struggle of the masses the Cuban leaders sought to purchase socialism by mortgaging the economy to the Soviet Union.

Lenin said, “Clearly, in order to abolish classes completely, it is not enough to overthrow the exploiters, the landlords and capitalists, not enough to abolish their rights of ownership; it is necessary also to abolish all private ownership of the means of production, it is necessary to abolish the distinction between town and country, as well as the distinction between manual workers and brain workers. This requires a very long period of time.” (A Great Beginning)

This is the line of the working class in building socialism and carrying on the revolution for communism. In Cuba it certainly would have meant mobilizing the workers to break down the divisions of labor inherited from the old semicolonial society. This would especially mean changing the organization of the island, which served the almost single purpose of producing sugar for the imperialist world market. But the Cuban leaders, because of their petty bourgeois position and outlook, rejected this path.

Castro said that the main problem facing the revolution was how “to produce the abundance necessary for communism” – meaning, to him, trading sugar for the means of production and machinery that he felt the working class could never produce by relying on its own efforts. And to do this the Cuban leaders’ plan amounted to putting the substance of the old relations of production, in somewhat altered form – society’s division of labor and its sugar plantations – to work at top speed to produce the goods to sell to get this wealth. Now the buyer and “provider” was no longer to be the U.S., but the Soviet Union.

Once this line was adopted, the enthusiasm of the masses for changing the old society was increasingly perverted so that the role of the working class, rather than revolutionizing society, was reduced to working hard to produce the necessary cash. Thus the basic capitalist relation of production was preserved and strengthened the subordination of the working class to production for profit. Rather than a new socialist society, and still less communism, this was, in essence, the same old society with new masters. The workers’ role was to work hard. The Cuban leaders more and more became bureaucratic state capitalists dependent on a foreign imperialist power.

Even the revolutionary fervor and desire of the Cuban people to support anti-imperialist struggles, exemplified by their support for the people of Vietnam, was twisted to support Soviet adventures abroad against their U.S. rivals, as in Bangladesh and in Angola.

Once the basic political road was taken of buying “socialism” instead of relying on and mobilizing the class struggle of the working class and masses which alone could revolutionize society, the basic economic policy of the Cuban revisionists followed as surely as night follows day. The cash that Castro sought could only be obtained by preserving and strengthening the very lopsided and semicolonial economy that had led to the Cuban revolution in the first place. The production of sugar for sale to the Soviet Union became the basis of economic policy, which all the get-rich-quick schemes, “socialist” proclamations and gimmicks depended on and served. And this economic dependency, in turn, became the basis for the further development of the political line of the Cuban leadership.

Sugar Coated Road To Neo-Colonialism

Sugar had been a curse on Cuba. The U.S. had used its control of the sugar market to control Cuba. The American and Cuban sugar lords had tried to keep the people from growing food on the unused land in order to keep them impoverished and without property, with .no choice but to work in the sugar. The sugar lords tied the whole Island to producing sugar for export, while this fertile tropical country ended up importing much of its food. This was the most profitable arrangement for the landowners and imperialists, because food was so expensive, the majority of Cuban workers and peasants ate only rice, beans and roots.

In the first few years of the revolution, as the land and, above all, those who worked it, began to break free of this system, crops were diversified. WIth sugar production continuing where it had been planted in the past, while other land was used for other crops. These were the years of greatest improvement in the living standards of the masses, as working people and material resources that had been kept idle were freed up. The development of some industry was initiated and the construction of schools hospitals and other projects were begun. ‘

In the early ’60s the U.S. closed off Cuba’s former sugar market, so the purchases by the USSR and China helped Cuba out of a jam. In early 1963, as the economy’s advance began to falter and shortages appeared, Castro went to the Soviet Union for talks with Khruschev and other Soviet leaders. When he came back, he had a new plan. Instead of diversifying agriculture, Cuba would produce more sugar.

BEHIND SOVIET “AID”

By then Cuba had borrowed quite a bit from other countries. The USSR offered to substantially increase its loans to Cuba and buy up to five million tons a year of Cuban sugar – more than the country was then producing – at higher than the world market price at that time, so that Cuba could buy goods from the Soviets. [7] The “aid” was the bait, and sugar the hook – and the Cuban leaders swallowed it.

For the rulers of the Soviet Union this was good business. Having overthrown the rule of the working class in the USSR, these new capitalists were increasingly driven oy the laws of imperialism: the need to monopolize sources of raw materials, to export capital for the purpose of extracting superprofits and to contend with imperialist rivals for world domination. They saw that in tying Cuba into their imperialist orbit they would be able to extract great wealth out of Cuba over the years and use Cuba as a political and military tool in their contention with their U.S. rivals.

Like any good dope pusher, the Soviets gave the first samples at a low price. The first couple of years of “aid” were loaned mterest-free. Later they began charging 2.5% interest. Their actual rate of profit was much higher than this. In the original agreement, 80% of the USSR’s credit and money had to be used for purchasing Soviet products at highly inflated prices. (As in the case of interest rates, once the dependency of Cuba has been established, the Soviets upped the ante, requiring all credit to be used on Soviet products.) According to an author with access to Cuban statistics, the USSR was charging 11% to 53% more for machinery than the price of comparable machines in the West. [8] And making this robbery even more outrageous, although at first the Soviets paid Cuba more for its sugar than the world market price at the time (you guessed it, they stopped this practice too), they turned around and resold much of this sugar at an even higher price to Eastern Europe.

This is standard Soviet practice throughout the world. “It is through unequal trade that the Soviet Union realizes the surplus value generated by the export of capital. In essence, it is little more than a bookkeeping arrangement as to whether the profit comes back to the USSR in the form of interest or in the form of superprofits from sales when the sales are tied by trade agreement to the export of capital.” (From Red Papers 7: How Capitalism Has Been Restored in the Soviet Union and What This Means for the World Struggle, emphasis in the original)

But the Soviet Union has much bigger ambitions than mere domination of Cuba. Like all imperialist powers their appetite continually grows and they seek world domination. For the Soviets Cuba represented tremendous political “capital” with which to penetrate other countries in Latin America and throughout the world, by hiding behind Cuba’s “revolutionary” image. Because of the tremendous importance of gaining a foothold in Latin America and in hopes of making even greater political (and eventually military) use of Cuba in their struggle with the U.S. for world hegemony, the Soviets were willing to give Cuba a better “deal” than other countries under their grip.

SELF SUFFICIENCY NOT “CONVENIENT”

The reasoning of the Cuban leadership for mortgaging their countrv to the Soviets went like this: Cuba had extensive sugar fields and mills, and unused land besides. It had relatively few factories, low grade iron ore and little facilities for making steel. Sugar was very profitable to grow and sell on the international market, whereas diversifying agriculture and building industry would be slow and expensive.

As Castro explained in a speech, “To become self-sufficient in rice…we would have to use 330,000 more acres of irrigated land and invest in them our scarce water supply…Undoubtedly, it wouldn’t be convenient for our country to stop producing one and one half million tons of sugar, which is what we could produce on 330,000 acres of irrigated land planted to sugar cane, and which would increase our purchasing power abroad by more than $150 million, in order to produce on this land, with the same effort, rice valued at $25 million.” [9]

Why not take land out of rice production and plant cane, and use the money to buy rice with a good bit left over? This is the course the government followed with a vengeance. In 1964 Cuba decided to up its production of sugar cane from 3.9 million tons to 10 million tons a year by 1970.

All this made perfect economic sense – very “convenient” – according to capitalist economics.

Objectively, this was a decision to develop Cuba exactly as the U.S. imperialists had developed it-in a lopsided and forever dependent manner, according to what was most profitable. It was particularly disastrous because Cuba failed to produce the 10 million tons, but even if this goal had been surpassed the basic effect on the economy’s structure – its dependence on imperialism – would have remained the same. And in this situation it is definitely more profitable to grow cane than develop industry in Cuba – otherwise the U.S. imperialists would have industrialized Cuba long ago.

Even in the last few years, when very high market prices for sugar allowed Cuba to make some profit on its foreign trade for the first time, “economics” still dictated that it be plowed back into making the sugar industry even bigger and more profitable.*

[Footnote in original] In late 1976 the bottom dropped out of the sugar market and the world price fell from 65 1/2 cents a pound to 7 1/2 cents (the Soviets had contracted to buy it at 30 cents). Castro declared that this would mean that Cuba would have to grow still more sugar for sale abroad and Cubans would have to give up the four ounces of coffee they’d been allowed to buy under rationing, so that more coffee could be exported too.

PROFIT IN COMMAND

At the 1975 party congress Castro spoke as though “the profitability criterion” had been unknown in Cuba for many years. In fact, the decision to expand sugar production showed that from the start his government’s strategy for building “socialism” was based on profitability. This was not a mistake – it was a class decision, a basic political step that decided what road Cuba was to take and what classes would benefit from it.

Even under socialism the working class must take into account “profitability,” but profit remains an economic category reflecting the old, capitalist relations of production. Put simply this means that the working class, through the state, must consider the cost, in money, that goes into the production of things (wages, the price of raw materials, etc.) and the price at which the goods produced are sold-generally prices are expected to cover costs and produce a surplus. But the aim of production under socialism is not profit.

Under socialism it is the political line of the working class – its conscious decisions through its party and its state – that determines economic policy, the plan for what will be produced and how. Fundamentally, the plan is based on taking account of the material things in society (the workers, available machinery, raw materials, etc.) to meet the needs of society – food, clothing, schools, new factories, etc. The basic purpose of the working class recognizing – the criterion of profit is so that it can wage a political struggle to restrict, to limit, and eventually to do away with it completely. To base an economy on “the profitability criterion” is capitalism, not socialism.

Neither can the working class build socialism by relying on foreign aid or trade, no matter how well intended. This is because its goal, communism and classless society, is not just. a matter of abundance. But that is exactly how Castro explained It to the masses, as if communism were just a pie in the sky promise of better times. For its own liberation the working class has to lead the masses of people in transforming conditions in each country, wiping out the material and social basis of class contradictions and training the masses in the outlook of the proletariat, so that everyone becomes a worker and the workers are conscious masters of production and every aspect of society. Only on that basis will classes disappear and communism be won.

Self reliance, unleashing, organizing and relying on the creative power of the masses within each country is the only way the working class can break the economic and social chains of capitalism.

DIDN’T DIVERSIFY AGRICULTURE

Cuba couldn’t waste the sugar by letting it rot in the fields, or forget about using it to buy some imports if it could. But especially because not only Cuba’s agriculture but its whole economy was dominated by sugar, it had to diversify Its crops as the only possible basis for breaking out of its neocolonial structure.

In a system where the basic principle upon which all decisions are made is the needs of society and not profit, feeding the people and feeding them well is basic. The fact that the profitability of sugar has always pushed aside less profitable food crops made a lot of food staples very expensive and scarce for the masses.

Furthermore, unless agriculture was diversified and developed, Cuba would never have a basis for complete industrialization, either in raw materials from agriculture (for which Cuba still is largely dependent on imports) nor in terms of developing a market for machinery and consumer goods.

Castro argued that it was much cheaper to import tractors from the Soviet Union, where factories could churn them out by the millions, than to set up factories in Cuba, which didn’t need that many tractors. But again this is capitalist economics. If Cuba didn’t develop its industry, even though this might be more “efficient” in the short run, then in the long run it would always be dependent on imported manufactured goods.

In “generously” providing Cuba with “aid” and encouraging it to enormously increase its production of sugar, the USSR was doing exactly as the U.S. had done – strengthening the most backward aspect of the Cuban economy – its dependence on sugar production. This meant reproducing in a new form the old content – export of capital to the colony and colonial dependence on the imperialist “mother country.” It also meant that the Cuban leaders, by ruling Cuba under these conditions, were fast becoming sugar lords and dependent capitalists.

The decision on sugar was no mere misstep by the Cuban leadership. The example and experience of all socialist construction, including the experience in China and Albania at the time of the Cuban revolution, served as unmistakable examples of the difference between the socialist and capitalist road on the question of developing the economy.

Khruschev, who had led in the establishment of a new exploiter ruling class m the USSR after Stalin’s death, had tried to overthrow working class rule in China and Albania and bring those countries under the Soviet thumb, by ripping out Soviet technicians and blueprints and cutting off important supplies without warning. They even imposed an economic blockade around Albania, while threatening still more drastic action. Despite the fact that both countries were also very poor, and the fact that China is on the Soviet border and tiny Albania is surrounded by hostile states, the working class of these countries had done their best to develop them according to the principle of self-sufficiency and self-reliance, and they were able to resist Khruschev’s offensive, although not without cost.

The Cuban leadership often claimed that the U.S. blockade, the threat of aggression, and Cuba’s short supply of some key natural resources forced them to hitch their wagon to the Soviet Union. But despite whatever real obstacles that did exist to building genuine socialism in Cuba, these were certainly no greater than the conditions faced in real socialist countries. Cuba’s most important resource, the working class itself, was much larger than in Albania, for example.

In fact, the blockade, far from being a justification for reliance on the Soviets,was itself yet another reason for self-reliance: to avoid the threat of strangulation the economy could not be based on the assumption that ships would always be able to reach Cuba.

The Soviet Union, for its part, did oppose the U.S. when it suited their interests and even used Cuba to shake a few more sabers in the U.S. imperialists’ faces, but as the Cuban missile crisis proved, they were quite willing to use Cuba as a pawn to be traded to the U.S. if that proved to be to their advantage. And as the development of things showed, Soviet military “protection,” like Soviet “aid” and trade, meant Soviet protection of its property and the end of Cuban independence.

CHINA-CUBA DISPUTE

An incident between the Cuban and Chinese governments in 1966 shows just how fast the Cuban leaders were going down the road of neocolonial dependence, and how much, despite all their revolutionary rhetoric, their politics were increasingly dictated by the laws of capitalism. China had doubled its shipment of rice to Cuba for the year of 1965, at the Cuban government’s request, but when the Cuban government demanded that China maintain that level permanently, the Chinese government responded by saying they were willing to talk about it but had some serious objections. [10]

China’s aid and trade is fundamentally different from that of the Soviet revisionists described earlier. China’s aid is not investment. Since China is ruled by the working class and not the bourgeoisie, China’s aid and trade doesn’t serve the “profitability criterion” – it serves proletarian politics and is based on equality and mutual benefit.

The Cuban government offered to pay for the increased rice shipments with sugar, and if the Chinese weren’t interested in that, with cash that China had loaned the Cubans to help them diversify their economy. [11] China answered that whatever the sugar might be worth in terms of money, they had no need for so much sugar, while they did need the rice. It was needed not only for their own consumption and to prepare a stockpile in case of war (China had recently been attacked by India, which was armed and backed by both the U.S. and the USSR), but also to supply Vietnam, then at war with the U.S. imperialists.

China’s own bitter experience before and after its liberation had taught it well that economic dependence is a condition that revolution must end, an obstacle and a burden to the people. The Cuban people’s rice ration had stayed the same even when China’s rice shipments doubled because the Cuban government was ripping up rice fields to plant sugar cane – since nee was not as “convenient” as sugar according to the profitability principle. Chinese aid had been meant to help Cuba break out of sugar’s chains. To buy rice with it would only make this situation worse.

Castro’s response was to use the occasion of a Havana conference of some revolutionaries from Africa, Asia and Latin America to publicly lash out at China for “economic aggression.” There he also made disgusting personal slanders on Mao Tsetung and called for his removal from office. [12] In the context of the USSR’s own attacks on China and the polemics then raging between the parties of the two countries over the general line for the international communist movement, this attack put Castro in particularly good standing with his Soviet creditors – a truly disgusting example of how the “profitability criterion” ruled Cuba’s politics.

NATIONALIZATION – FOR WHAT PURPOSE?

Of course, this wasn’t the way Castro presented it. Every step, every measure that the government took was explained to the masses as a step towards “socialism,” better yet, towards “communism.” But every new nationalization, every new “revolutionary offensive,” every new opportunity presented to the masses to show their revolutionary enthusiasm, was in fact guided by “the criterion of profitability” and the class interests of Cuba’s rulers.

In 1963, a few months after Castro’s visit to the USSR and the signing of the sugar deal, Castro announced that in addition to the great estates and the property of the U.S. imperialists which had been seized before, now the land of the medium growers was to be confiscated. Those affected, growers with 160 to 990 acres – about 10,000 farmers and their families in all – were accused by Castro of “sabotaging sugar production” and aiding the CIA. [13]

These were certainly not poor peasants, and couldn’t be relied upon in the struggle to transform Cuba because they were exploiters themselves. Nevertheless, many of these farmers had supported the 1959 revolution because they had been severely restricted by the big sugar companies.

We cannot say exactly what would have been the correct policy toward these growers. The real point is not whether the particular policy toward them was a mistake or not. Mistakes need not be fatal and can be corrected, given an overall correct line. The important point is that, for the Cuban government, this policy was not at all based on how to develop socialist agriculture. It wasn’t even a matter of defense of the revolution. For them, this complete expropriation was a reflection of what had become their overall policy: sacrifice everything to subordinate the maximum amount of land to the sugar mills and make the cane grow as cheaply as possible.

This exact same line – all out to turn the country into an efficient sugar producing operation – came out differently when applied to the several hundred thousand poor farmers. As the people who grew so much of Cuba’s food, these peasants were potentially an important force in developing the economy along socialist lines. But the government’s general policy was not to lead them in the voluntary collectivization of their land and labor.

DIDN’T COLLECTIVIZE

Basically they just let them sit. Some went out of business and some became part of the state farms, and a few grew rich. All this caused this part of the economy to stagnate in small private ownership, and Cuba still continued to have to spend 24% of its import money on food. [14] This was ignored by the Cuban leaders, who saw the motive force in their economy not as the masses, mobilized to break the old patterns of production and build socialism, but as the profit criterion and the “get rich quick” gimmick of pushing the sugar export section of the economy.

The failure to lead these peasants through cooperation, collectivization and socialization ensured that this section of the people would remain stuck in this method and outlook of small private ownership, and that Cuba’s agriculture would not develop in a socialist way.

The state farms formed from the old estates and the confiscated medium farms were in turn grouped together into giant agrupaciones, often totaling several hundred thousand acres. This was a more “efficient” – more profitable – way to grow sugar, especially with the market now expanding to include the Soviet Union. But it wasn’t a higher, more socialist form of ownership than before because the relations of production – especially the role of the producers in the whole setup – was unchanged. Instead of working for a sugar company under the eyes of a few managers, now the mill workers and field hands worked for the government under the eyes of 20 to 30 bureaucrats. And the purpose of their labor remained production and profit.

After a few years, when the state farms needed even more manpower for sugar, the state farm employees were forbidden from having even their private plots, on which many Cuban cane cutters grew small amounts of vegetables and other crops, principally for their own use.

Under socialism the working class strives to make the most efficient use of use of the resources of society. In the long run this means, of course, large-scale, mechanized, diversified agriculture, and at all times the working class must wage a political struggle against the capitalist tendencies that small-scale production engenders. But for a long period of time in many countries, certainly in Cuba, it is neither necessary nor desirable to eliminate all sideline agricultural production, even when some of the produce is sold. It can contribute to feeding people. And if the state farm workers could grow much of their own food in their spare time it would be a good thing, freeing up resources to be used elsewhere.

But for the Cuban government, these private plots took time away from the main business – sugar cane. In effect, the government had become the new landlords, subordinating the laborers’ needs and the needs of society to the demands of King Sugar just as before.

95.1% OF HOT DOG VENDORS “COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARY”?

The shortage of manpower in the cane fields caused a mania of nationalization in the late ’60s. In the so-called “revolutionary offensive” of 1968, when the sugar harvest was way behind, Castro announced that “95.1 %” of all hot dog sellers, grocery store owners, barkeepers and other small proprietors had been discovered to be “counter-revolutionaries.” [15] Worse, these “able bodied men were loafing” while “women went to the fields.”

All of these establishments – 55 ,000 in all – were seized. They were either closed down permanently (without regard to whether, for instance, the workers might need a hot dog stand in front of a factory) or else run by bureaucrats, while the ex-proprietors were sent off to cut cane. Some turned out to be old and crippled, and many joined the almost 10% of Cuba’s population who had fled the country.

Castro justified this by saying that the revolution hadn’t been made just so “parasites” could run a business. But his approach to the question was the opposite of the proletariat’s. In revolutions led by the working class, it is an important political principle to win over the maximum number of forces against the enemy at each point in the struggle and to neutralize those who can’t be won over. The working class, having seized power from the big capitalists, has to gradually do away with the small proprietors in its midst who represent a capitalist element. But the working class’ method in this situation is to use persuasion, not force. The working class can win the vast majority of these people to building socialism and, in the course of this, transform both their political outlook and their economic position. But Castro’s capitalism turned them into wage slaves pure and simple. For the Cuban government, it was a simple matter of economics: 55,000 “able-bodied men” = 55,000 potential cane cutters.

This nationalization was the greatest fraud and had nothing to do with socialism, even though the government might pronounce it very “revolutionary” to do away with someone else’s business to serve its own. Nationalization is not necessarily socialization. Nationalization means simply control of a business by the state, which the bourgeois state does all the time, from the Post Office to Penn Central in the U.S., to the steel-industry and the mines in Britain.

The key difference is which class holds power. When the working class runs the state, it is able to plan society increasingly to serve its own interests and all of humanity. To do this requires the increasingly conscious and organized participation of the workers at all levels of society, including the enterprise level in management and administration.

The masses of workers and peasants have a great knowledge about production and about their overall and particular needs. With the leadership of the proletariat’s party, their knowledge can be summed up and used to formulate a plan to run the economy in order to fill those needs and advance revolution. And the masses of producers can be organized, educated and relied upon to increasingly control and participate in the carrying out of this plan and run society. Unless all this is done, there is only one other way to make decisions – according to profit.

This is the case in Cuba. There are periodic assemblies of workers in the factories all right. But as a top government official explained them, “It is not a question of discussing all the administrative decisions. The thing is that the enthusiasm of the workers must be obtained to support the principal measures of the administration.” [16] This isn’t very different from the kind of management pep talks workers.in the U.S. often hear.

The factories, state farms, hot dog stands, etc., weren’t run by a plan, in the working class sense of the word. Plans were made, but since the general lines of the economy were already decided by the production of sugar, the particular plans within that had to follow suit, to also be based on profit.

But there was one very important difference between the management of the economy in the ’60s and its present management. In the ’60s the managers and bureaucrats were subject to little control or discipline regarding their particular enterprise or industry. In the name of establishing “communism” all at once (and with the freedom they thought Soviet “aid” had bought them), there was no economic accounting for their performance, and little control except for their superior’s orders. This allowed the former intellectuals and professionals who were running the economy to trip out pretty much as they liked with “special projects” and so-called “miniplans,” free as birds, until the bills for this “freedom” quickly came due.

All this was in the name of “socialism,” of “eliminating the vile intermediary of money,” as Castro explained. [17] But in real socialist construction, when both the forces of production and the knowledge and conscious control of the producers are still relatively limited, the working class must use some economic accounting and controls over production in order to better understand what it is free to do and to help check up on its implementation. Again, this means subordinating economics to politics. Otherwise, if the plan doesn’t strictly reflect reality and if it isn’t strictly carried out, then the laws of capitalism will reassert themselves.

While the new managers and bureaucrats wanted to be free of the “vile intermediary of money,” they couldn’t be free of the laws of capitalism and the market. The uncontrolled nature of production under this system, which created very severe economic setbacks and contributed a lot to the failure of the sugar harvest, had to be brought under the discipline of profit.

At first profit commanded the economy through the direct intervention of Castro and other leaders, who ran around directing resources into sugar and other exports and industries that seemed to promise a quick return on investment. Then in the later 1960s the government tried to run everything with the aid of a giant Soviet computer and asset of mathematical tables prepared according to the instructions of a Harvard economist. [18] If Since these methods arranged things for maximum “efficiency” as measured in pesos and centavos, they were simply a disguised form of running things according to profit (and in fact are often used by capitalist management in the U.S. and USSR). By the early 1970s, however, even these methods turned out to be not efficient enough and piece by piece the government began reorganizing the economy according to the same principle, in form as well as content, followed by the dollar and especially the ruble.

The real relations of production, the real class relationships, were camouflaged by fast and loose use of Marxist words. And at the same time, the workers and peasants were expected to work doubletime in honor of this phoney “Marxism.”

“VOLUNTARY” LABOR

In the name of “using conscience to create wealth” and “creating the New Man,” workers were increasingly called upon to do great amounts of voluntary labor. This was especially true in the late 1960s, as growing numbers of cane cutters streamed out of the countryside looking for better pay and conditions, leaving the all-important sugar harvests short of manpower.

The enormous numbers of workers, students and even sometimes bureaucrats bused into the cane fields, however, had little resemblance to real socialist voluntary work, which under working class rule is an important measure for developing society and transforming the working class.

Under socialism when the workers rule and are transforming society toward communism, there is a real basis for people to spend their spare time doing voluntary labor. But in Cuba, the “voluntary” labor was nothing like this. This was because the needs of sugar production meant that people’s “voluntary labor” was often at the expense of their regular work, and because, although many people did take part enthusiastically and selflessly, logging a certain number of hours of “voluntary” labor was the only way to become eligible to buy durable consumer goods such as refrigerators, etc. [19] Many workers resisted this scheme. Productivity in “voluntary” labor was often only 10% of paid labor – but it was still cheaper than paying wages. [20]

Just as Castro had claimed that the increasing concentration on sugar was necessary “so as to fully develop the productive forces necessary for communism,” he also claimed that the increasing emphasis on voluntary labor was also a communist measure. In fact, as many workers were becoming very sceptical about how things were going under “socialism,” throughout the ’60s Castro made increasing use of the promise that “communism” would come in the very near future (starting within ten years, he said) [21] and would put an end to Cuba’s growing problems.

This was a very convenient misuse of what communism really means, as well as pure pie in the sky, as developments quickly proved. No amount of labor, voluntary or otherwise, will change the capitalist class relations, which are the real cause of Cuba’s problems. And the Cuban government was using all sorts of devices – from perverting people’s real revolutionary enthusiasm, to material incentives, to outright wage cutting-to disguise this fact and squeeze more and more labor out of the people.

In industry and especially among skilled workers, wages for a great many jobs were cut, under the slogan “workers renounce gains which today constitute privileges.” Many times Castro has denounced the so-called “privileges” that some workers supposedly enjoyed under Batista (as well as those supposedly enjoyed by workers in the U.S. today). But it’s the capitalists who’ve caused inequalities among the working people, not fundamentally by favoring some, but by paying all as little as they can get away with. The socialist principle “to each according to its work” means that people do receive different pay for different work, because they contribute different amounts to society. Restricting these differences, and eventually doing away with them, must overwhelmingly be done by raising the general wage level-not by forced wagecutting.

It’s the capitalists’ idea of “equality” that all workers should be equally poor, and that some workers should pay for whatever advances others make. This, too, was the Cuban government’s idea of “building socialism and communism simultaneously.” Meanwhile, of course, class differences widened. While workers took a pay cut in the name of building a “pure, really pure society,” high school teachers, for instance, got a 60% wage hike. And on the new plan, managers will be paid for their profit performance. [22]

Even so, people’s wages were not what they seemed. Rent was cheap and even free for some, and many prices at that time were cheaper than before. But by the end of the ’60s consumer goods were so scarce that the amount of money in circulation was twice the value of goods available on the market. [23] Much of people’s pay was worthless because there was nothing to spend it on. (Since then this has been “solved” by raising prices.)

ECONOMY IN SHAMBLES

By the late 1960s the Cuban economy was in shambles: in 1964 after signing the sugar sales agreement with the Soviet Union, Castro had announced that by 1970 Cuba would harvest 10 million tons of sugar a year. This plan meant almost tripling sugar production.

A high 30% of the economy was being plowed back into capital investment [24] focusing on clearing land for cane, buying tractors for cane building new mills for cane, railroads for cane, ports for cane – as well as expanding other export crops and nickel mining for export. After the first two years, sugar production began to fall farther and farther behind the targeted goals. [25] And the more sugar fell behind, the more frantically other resources were thrown into sugar production, with workers drawn out of every other industry. Even housing was left standing half-built as the workers were snatched away to cut cane.

But this plan turned out to be a nightmare, and Cuba’s rulers were in deep trouble. In their frenzied efforts to make that goal upon which Castro had very publicly staked “the honor of the revolution,” they so burned out men, machines and fields that the 8.5 million tons that was achieved in 1970 came at such a cost that in the next two years cane production fell to a new low in recent Cuban history. And not only did they not get the 10 million tons, by 1970 they had fallen so far behind in sending sugar promised the Soviet Union that they owed the USSR 10 million tons. [26]

Cuba’s economic statistics for this period paint a picture of disaster. The country’s industrial production had risen somewhat until 1968, when sugar production began to reach a fever pitch. Then it fell sharply, according to Cuban figures. Steel and shoe production, for instance, dropped like a stone. Non-sugar agricultural production fell by a fifth. (Cuban statistics quoted by the UN). The number of cattle fell from 7 million to 5 million in three years. Cuba’s poultry andmany vegetables remained scarce. [27]

According to the American “experts” on the subject, their statistics show that the standard of living of the masses was slowly falling throughout the late 1960s. We don’t have to take their words for it, because according to the Cuban government the amount of goods people could get under rationing either stayed the same or decreased (as in the case of milk), and even the personal consumption of Cuba’s two most famous products, sugar and cigars, was drastically cut – to have more left over for export – while the prices of many consumer items rose sharply. [28] That the workers didn’t care for the way things were going is shown by the admission by the Cuban Minister of Labor that absenteeism from work was 20% on the average day in 1970. [29] He described this as “widespread passive resistance.” [30]

To the Cuban masses, the government had promised that the 10 million ton harvest would produce the abundance necessary for Cuba’s economic liberation. But this drive and its failure had further enslaved the Cuban people. By 1970 the Cuban government owed the USSR over $2 billion, and the Soviets were demanding more than a pound of flesh in return. [31]

Soviets Bark Orders, Castro Cracks Whip

The 1975 Cuban party congress was a consolidation and formal ratification of many of the changes that the Cuban government has been making since the early 1970s.

First and most important, there was a new crackdown on the working class. Along with the new wage policy described at the beginning of this article, there is now less emphasis on relying on the masses’ enthusiasm and more on plain old force. This was in line with a 1973 decision which revived a system of punishment familiar to workers throughout the capitalist world: for offenses ranging from absenteeism, lateness and negligence to lack of respect to supervisor, workers can be punished by docking their pay-check, being disqualified from certain posts, transferred to another Job, postponement of vacations, temporary suspensions and actual firing. [32]

Individual sugar enterprises started laying off workers several years ago to increase “productivity.” Cuban President Osvaldo Dorticos admited in a 1972 speech that there was some outright unemployment in two of the largest sugar growing provinces. [33] Now, according to the party congress, this practice is to become much more widespread in other industries.

The decisions of the congress established a formal system for running the Cuban economy along capitalist lines. Bureaucrats and managers won’t be so free to damage profit with their fantasies anymore since that is one freedom even the social-imperialists’ money can’t buy. The whole economy is to be run more “efficiently” now, with profit to be made at every step. Workers are to be paid according to the profitability of the enterprises they work for (to make them work harder – which won’t make them any less exploited). Managers are to be paid according to the profitability of the enterprises they manage (to make them work the workers harder), and those at the top are to be paid “rewards for results” [34] – after all, don’t they have the responsibility of running everything?

ROLE OF THE CUBAN PARTY

The Cuban government has learned from the experience of the Soviet revisionists in more than just the “socialist” version of capitalist economics. The decision to finally hold a first congress of the Communist Party of Cuba ten years after its founding is a good example of that.

When the Party was founded in 1965, its role was mainly formal. Since Cuba was supposedly a “socialist” country it had to have a “communist” party. This was cooked up by amalgamating Castro’s July 26th Movement, the Revolutionary Directorate (a student group which had taken up arms against Batista) and the Popular Socialist Party, the old revisionists who had long ago given up calling their party communist and opposed the armed struggle against Batista until the last minute, even going so far as to betray some of the student fighters to Batista’s police. This new Party’s leading bodies rarely met, few people joined it and in general it was mainly for show.

For the working class, its party is its key weapon in making revolution and building socialism. Only through the organized detachment of the most class conscious fighters can the knowledge and experience of the laboring people in their millions be summed up to formulate the line and policies that can lead the working class forward. The leaders of the Cuban revolution got a lot of support from the masses, but since they never based themselves on the working class, they had no need for such a party.

But the experience they’ve had as a new dependent capitalist class has made them more “realistic” about protecting and strengthening their rule. The party they have organized and brought to center stage was created by this class and is guided by its interests and outlook. Its leaders are the rulers of the state, the army, the factories and the farms. Castro reported to the congress that 40% of its members are administrators and full time party officials, 10% are teachers and health workers. As for the rest who belong to factory and farm units, we don’t know exactly how many are workers and peasants and bow many are technicians and managers. We do know from a previous speech that, at least in 1970, the manager and party leader in these units were almost always the same person [35] — and on state farms more often than not, an army officer as well. [36]

But the way we can tell what class a party represents is not mainly by the membership, but by the policies it carries out and what class interests these policies advance. Like the present revisionist party in the Soviet Union, this is not a party of the working class, to serve the working class’s rule. It is a party of the bourgeoisie, to protect and strengthen their rule over the masses.

CASTRO’S “SELF-CRITICISM”

Even Castro’s so-called “self-criticism” serves these class interests. “Perhaps our greatest idealism,” he said not too long ago, “has been to believe that a society that has scarcely left the shell of capitalism could enter, in one bound, into a society in which everyone could behave in an ethical and moral manner.” [37]

At the party congress, Castro continued this theme: “Revolutions usually have their utopian periods, in which their protagonists, dedicated to the noble tasks of turning their dreams into reality and putting their ideals into practice, assume that historical goals are much nearer and that man’s will, wishes and intentions can accomplish anything.”

These are truly reminiscences of a new bourgeoisie looking back on its early days. Their rise to power began with a petty bourgeois revolution. The policies of its leaders reflected the outlook of that class, with all its vacillation, subjectivism, idealism and wishful thinking, impatience for quick change and lack of patience for struggle, and all the get-rich-quick schemes and other characteristics that reflect the petty bourgeoisie’s unstable position between the working class and the capitalists. Their “left” line in the ’60s and its real, underlying conservatism, and their rapid changeover to open revisionism in the face of difficulties, is all testimony to that outlook.

The main idealist form that this took was certainly not, as Castro would have us believe, having too high an estimation of the masses of people. Their real idealism was that they expected that society could be changed just because they wanted it to, without the conscious and organized efforts of the masses in their millions. This was reflected in their theory that a “small handful of resolute men” alone could topple U.S. imperialism throughout Latin America, as well as by their theory that the combination of Soviet money and Castro’s ideas could bring socialism to Cuba, instead of the struggle of the masses themselves.

It wasn’t idealism that they wanted things to change, nor that they believed that things could change. What was most idealist what was furthest from reality – was the Cuban leaders’ conception that they could maintain capitalism’s division of labor with themselves on top, the thinkers and planners and administrators of all, while the working people would willingly carry out their plans without struggling against this exploitation and oppression.

FULL-BLOWN BOURGEOISIE

What has changed in Cuba today, reflecting this transformation of these rebels into a new bourgeoisie, is that while they still maintain the appearances of “socialism,” their experience at running society in their bourgeois way has taught them the outlook and methods of all capitalist ruling classes. They haven’t exchanged their old petty bourgeois idealism for the outlook and struggle of the working class, but rather for that of the bourgeoisie itself. They still use rhetoric and illusions as a prop to their rule but now rely on the “discipline of the market” to make the workers work backed up by all the coercion and outright force at their disposal.

“They grabbed, now let me have a go, too.” This was how Lenin described the outlook of the petty bourgeoisie towards Russia’s overthrown rulers. This applies to Cuba’s petty bourgeois leaders. For them the victory over the imperialists and their Cuban overseers was not an opportunity to transform the conditions that gave rise to the neocolonial system. Instead they increasingly became replacements, in a new form, for those they had overthrown. On the basis of their own class outlook, and with the conditions so readily supplied by the Soviet revisionists, these once petty-bourgeois rebels have become a full-blown comprador bourgeoisie-dependent on the Soviet imperialists.

Cuba’s trade figures with the Soviet bloc for the last few years are almost the same as they once were with the U.S. Exports still make up a third of the island’s production (and most of that is sugar), with the bulk of these products going to the Soviet bloc. [38]

While fertile land is tied down in the production of sugar, food remains on the long list of things which Cuba must purchase from abroad. This fact is a constant drag on its development. The Cuban debt to the USSR is now over $5 billion, and to pay that back it is now planning to put even greater efforts into increasing sugar production. Recently the Cubans joined the CMEA,which has been the main vehicle for Soviet economic domination of East Europe. This endless cycle of dependency, debt and yet more dependency, and the one crop economy at its center, is identical to that which ties many other Latin American countries to the U.S.

CUBA’S POLITICAL ROLE

These are the imperialist economics which dictate Cuba’s present political role in the world – its role as a tool, a puppet, used by Soviet social-imperialism to advance its interests everywhere.

For the Soviets, Cuba is a long-term investment with far greater profits expected than simply immediate economic benefit. It is even conceivable that the USSR could lose money, in the short run, on its investments. But this would not affect Cuba’s colonial dependence on the Soviet Union. Imperialist powers often subordinate their immediate profit in any particular country to their overall policies. A good example of this is Israel, where the U.S. has poured in billions of dollars, more than it could ever hope to squeeze out of control of the Israeli economy alone. Israel’s real value to the U.S. is primarily as a political and military tool with which to protect its vast holdings in the Middle East.

The Soviet imperialists certainly expect to return a monetary profit on their Cuban investment. But Cuba’s real value for them now is that, dressed in the revolutionary garb of anti-U.S. imperialism, it is a key tool in the Soviets’ drive to replace the world domination of U.S. imperialism with its own – all in the name of revolution and communism.

“REVOLUTIONARY” CREDENTIALS

As a country which has made a revolution against the U.S. and has consistently tried to enhance its “revolutionary” credentials, Cuba is able to advance the Soviet imperialists’ cause in many areas where the USSR can’t act so openly in its own name.

Part of Cuba’s service is to provide a cover and to counterattack against exposure and denunciation of the Soviet imperialists: to call things their opposite and hide their real nature.

Cuba was particularly valuable for this at the Conference of Non-Aligned Countries in Algeria in 1973, when Cambodia’s Prince Sihanouk denounced the USSR as an accomplice in the U.S. aggression against Cambodia. Castro stood up and launched an attack on Sihanouk and others and spouted an embittered defense of the Soviets, whom he portrayed as the staunch and natural ally of the oppressed countries.

Today, the Cuban leaders are playing this theme still louder and more shamelessly than before. At the 1975 party congress, Castro said “no true revolutionary, in any part of the world, will ever regret that the USSR is powerful, because if that power did not exist … the people who fought for liberation in the last 30 years would have had no place from which to receive decisive help … and all the small, underdeveloped nations – of which there are many – would have been turned into colonies once more.”

The message behind this is loud and clear: underdeveloped countries cannot win liberation without depending on the Soviet Union. This call for the world to follow the “Cuban model” is a very important service to the Soviet rulers who are trying to pervert the struggles of the oppressed against U.S. imperialism to serve their own purpose of replacing the U.S. as the world’s biggest exploiters and oppressors.

But of course the Soviet rulers are not fundamentally counting on Castro’s speeches to advance their interests. More and more, like the U.S. imperialists, they are counting on guns. And, here too, the Cuban leaders have seen the light of Soviet “realism.”

ARMED INTERVENTION IN ANGOLA

These days instead of spreading the line of “guerrilla focos” to substitute for the masses’ own struggle for liberation, now Cuba is sending its soldiers riding in on Soviet tanks and planes.

The thousands of Cuban troops accompanying the Soviet tanks in Angola are only one of the many payments the Cuban ruling class will be expected to make to its Soviet masters on the practical front.

Not only do the social-imperialists use Cuban troops to try to bring Angola under their heel. They try to sell it all as “proletarian internationalism” and they go so far as to portray Cuba as an example of what great blessings are in store for other countries if only they tie their future to the Soviet Union and its “aid.” But the fact that thousands of Cuban soldiers are sent to fight and die as pawns in this counterrevolutionary crime is a tremendous exposure of Soviet imperialism, which no amount of words can hide.

The Soviet imperialists say that the working class and masses of people are destined to remain in chains unless they receive Soviet “aid” and submit to Soviet control. The U.S. imperialists, whose own economic and military aid has long been used to enslave and reenforce the bonds of oppression of many peoples, say the same thing from their angle-if the oppressed and exploited of a country dare rise up against U.S. “protection” and plunder they are sure to fall prey to the Soviet jackals.

But the most important lesson to be learned from the failure of the Cuban revolution is just the opposite of this imperialist logic. The masses of people in each country can free themselves, and advance the cause of freeing all humanity only by relying mainly on their own efforts and not the “aid”of the world’s exploiters – by taking the road of proletarian revolution.

SOURCES

[1] Granma. Jan. 4, 1976.

[2] John E. Cooney, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 16, 1974.

[3] “Program Manifesto of the 26th of July Movement,” in Cuba In Revolution, Rolando E. Bonachea and Nelson P.Valdes, Editors. New York, 1972.

[4] U.S. Ambassador to Cuba E, T. Smith, The Fourth Floor, New York, 1962,

[5] Hispanic-American Report, May 1959.

[6] Revolucion (organ of the 26th of July Movement), Dec, 22, 1961,

[7] Edward Boorstein, The Economic Transformation of Cuba, New York, 1968.

[8] Jaime Suchlicki, Cuba, Castro and Revolution. Coral Gables, 1972.

[9] Granma. Jan. 3, 1966.

[10] Peking Review, Jan. 14, 1966.

[11] Granma, Feb, 5, 1966.

[12] Speech of March 13, 1966, Quoted in Hugh Thomas, Cuba. New York, 1971.

[13] Leo Huberman and Paul M. Sweezy, Socialism in Cuba, New York, 1969,

[14] Cuban government statistics cited by Erik N. Baklanoff, “International Economic Relations,” in Revolutionary Change in Cuba, Carmelo Meso-Lago, ed., Pittsburgh, 1971.

[15] Speech of March 13, 1968.

[16] Speech by Armando Hart, Organization Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba. Granma,Oct. 5, 1969.

[17] Speech at ANAP Conference of May 1967, cited in Thomas, op. cit.

[18] W. Leontief, “Notes on a Visit to Cuba.” New York Review of Books, Aug. 21,1966.

[19] Roberto E. Hernandez and Carmelo Mesa-Lago , “Labor Organization and Wages,” in Revolutionary Change in Cuba.

[20] Carmelo Mesa-Lago, “Economic Significance of Unpaid Labor,” in Cuba in Revolution.

[21] Speech of Sept. 28, 1966.

[22] Castro’s report to the 1975 Party Congress.

[23] “Let’s Fight Absenteeism and Fight It Completely,” Granma, Nov. 9, 1969.

[24] Figure given by Castro in speech of March 12, 1968.

[25] Carmelo Mesa-Lago and Luc Zephirin, “Central Planning,” in Revolutionary Change in Cuba.

[26] Carmelo Mesa-Lago, Cuba in the Seventies, Albuquerque, 1974.

[27] Statistics from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization taken from Cuban government reports, and also from various Cuban government figures’ speeches. Cited by Mesa-Lago, Cuba in the Seventies.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Speech by Labor Minister Jorge Risquet, Granma, Sept. 20, 1970.

[30] 1970 speech by Risquet cited by Jaime Suchlicki, Cuba From Columbus to Castro, New York, 1974.

[31] Carmelo Mesa-Lago “Economic Policies and Growth,” in Revolutionary Change in Cuba. U.S. government figures are higher. See also U.S.Government Official Area Handbook on Cuba, 1973.

[32] These are the provisions of the labor law of 1965, which was not completely enforced until after the congress of the Cuba Trade Union Federation (CTC) in 1973. Law quoted by Hernandez and Mesa-Lago op. cit.

[33] Mesa-Lago, Cuba in the Seventies.

[34] Castro’s report to the Party Congress.

[35] Risquet, speech of July 31, 1970.

[36] Renee Dumont, Is Cuba Socialist? New York, 1974.

[37] Granma, Sept. 20, 1970.

[38] Castro’s report to the Party Congress.

Alexander Cockburn, Acerbic Writer and Critic, Dies at 71

Alexander Cockburn, seen in 1977, critiqued the news media in a column for The Village Voice.

By COLIN MOYNIHAN

Alexander Cockburn, the mordant left-wing journalist and author who though born in Scotland thrived in the political and cultural battlegrounds of the United States, died on Saturday in Bad Salzhausen, Germany, where he had been receiving medical treatment, his family said. He was 71.

The cause was cancer, said Jeffrey St. Clair, a friend and colleague.

Mr. St. Clair announced Mr. Cockburn’s death on CounterPunch, the Web site that the two men edited. Mr. Cockburn kept his illness a secret, Mr. St. Clair, added, and continued writing until the end of his life.

“His body was deteriorating, but his prose remained as sharp, lucid and deadly as ever,” Mr. St. Clair wrote on the site.

Mr. Cockburn at various times had regular columns in ideologically disparate publications like The Nation and The Wall Street Journal. He became known as an unapologetic leftist, condemning what he saw as the outrages of the right but also castigating the American liberal establishment when he thought it was being timid.

His opinions, however, were not easily predicted. In a 2009 CounterPunch article on health care reform, for instance, he expressed misgivings about legalized abortion, saying that it was “now widening in its function as a eugenic device.”

Wayne Barrett, who worked with Mr. Cockburn (pronounced CO-burn) at The Village Voice in the 1980s, recalled him in a telephone interview as “a punishing writer.”

“He had a remarkable mind and he could write so quickly,” Mr. Barrett added.

At The Voice, Mr. Cockburn wrote a political column with James Ridgeway and another column, called Press Clips, in which he critiqued the news media and often mocked what he saw as the ethical failings of journalists.

But Mr. Cockburn, a fierce critic in the columns of Israeli policies in the Middle East, was dismissed from The Voice in 1984 after The Boston Phoenix reported that he had accepted a $10,000 grant from a group that its critics called pro-Arab. David Schneiderman, The Voice’s editor at the time, suggested that the grant created a conflict of interest.

Mr. Cockburn said he had taken the money for a book project and had planned to return it.

That particular book was never written, but after leaving The Voice, he wrote several, including “Corruptions of Empire” (Verso, 1988), a collection of essays; “The Golden Age Is in Us: Journeys and Encounters, 1987-1994” (Verso, 1996); and “The Fate of the Forest: Developers, Destroyers, and Defenders of the Amazon,” written with Susanna Hecht (HarperCollins, 1990).

Alexander Claud Cockburn was born on June 6, 1941. He grew up in Ireland and graduated from Oxford. Among his ancestors was Sir George Cockburn, an English admiral who helped burn down the White House in 1814, during the War of 1812.

His attachment to left-wing journalism — and controversy — was forged very early. His father, Claud Cockburn, while covering the Spanish Civil War for The Daily Worker, joined the Republican forces fighting the rebellion of Francisco Franco. (Claud Cockburn, under a pseudonym, also wrote novels, including “Beat the Devil,” which was made into a film with Humphrey Bogart and which his son used as the title of his column in The Nation.)

In London, Alexander Cockburn worked for The Times Literary Supplement and The New Statesman, before becoming a permanent resident of the United States in 1973.

He joined The Nation in 1984 after leaving The Voice, and took that magazine’s old rivalry with the more centrist New Republic to a new level. He referred to the contents of The New Republic as “the weekly catchment of drivel.”

After Martin Peretz, the longtime owner and editor in chief of The New Republic, had a fainting spell in Paris in the late 1980s, Mr. Cockburn gleefully wrote that Mr. Peretz had been dining at an expensive restaurant where patrons were “so bloated that they have to be rubbed down with Vaseline to squeeze through the door.”

When Mr. Cockburn wrote a column drastically revising downward the number of deaths attributable to Stalin, Mr. Peretz suggested that Mr. Cockburn “has a sentimental interest in this controversy but not the credentials to evaluate it.”

Mr. Cockburn is survived by a daughter, Daisy Cockburn, and two brothers, the author Andrew Cockburn and the British journalist Patrick Cockburn. The actress Olivia Wilde, a daughter of Andrew Cockburn, is his niece.

Mr. Cockburn also famously feuded with Christopher Hitchens, a fellow British expatriate and onetime friend who also wrote for The Nation, over a variety of polarizing issues.

When Mr. Hitchens died of cancer last year, Mr. Cockburn did not mince words in a remembrance on CounterPunch.

“He courted the label ‘contrarian,’ ” Mr. Cockburn said of Mr. Hitchens, “but if the word is to have any muscle, it surely must imply the expression of dangerous opinions. Hitchens never wrote anything truly discommoding to respectable opinion and if he had he would never have enjoyed so long a billet at Vanity Fair.”

Source

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

“Mao Tsetung Has Died” by Enver Hoxha

THURSDAY
SEPTEMBER 9, 1976

Today the death of Comrade Mao Tsetung was reported. His death saddens and worries us, especially in this disturbed situation. It is a great loss for China.

In my opinion, Mao Tsetung was a revolutionary, a personality of importance, not only for China but on an international level.

Mao Tsetung led the Communist Party and the great Chinese people to the major victory of the liberation of China from enslavement by occupiers and from the reactionary clique of the Kuomintang. This was an achievement of great historic importance, both for the Chinese people and for the socialist camp and the peoples who fought and are fighting for liberation.

Under the leadership of Mao, the construction of socialism began in China. (At least, this was our belief up till recently, when we are seeing that this «construction» has gone with zigzags.) In our opinion, matters have already reached the point when the question must be asked: Which will triumph in China, socialism or capitalism? Therefore the death of Comrade Mao Tsetung gives rise to great concern amongst us about the future of the Chinese people and the course China will follow after his death. Of course, we can make no pronouncements on this at present, time will make this clear to us. May we be proven wrong, but the result of this line, which the Chinese revisionists call «Mao Tsetung thought» and which has nothing in common with Marxism-Leninism, will spell nothing good for China.

Mao Tsetung, as a thinker and philosopher, as a revolutionary democrat leader of the Chinese people, is an historical personality, but history and Marxist-Leninist analysis of the situation in China will explain that while he was a philosopher with a broad culture, he was not a Marxist-Leninist. He was profoundly influenced by the old Chinese philosophy of Confucius, etc., and as the eclectic he was, he brought Marxism-Leninism into his work only in the form of mutilated principles and ideas.

It was precisely his philosophical eclecticism which made Mao what one may call a moderator for the different currents which have existed continuously in China, which he permitted, encouraged and put in allegedly dialectical «collision». However, the activity of a moderator might influence for good or for evil, but in any case such a thing could operate only so long as Mao himself was alive. Now he is dead. Will China remain red, and this red be turned into a true, fiery, revolutionary, Marxist-Leninist red?

This is what we desire and hope for with all our heart and soul, with all our communist sincerity, because this is for the good of China, the revolution, socialism and communism. We Albanian communists will remember Mao Tsetung with respect for his good aspects, for those positive ideas and his long revolutionary activity, but in regard to those political, ideological and organizational views and stands which we consider to have been mistaken and non-Marxist, we have not sat and will not sit idle without pointing them out and criticizing them. Leninism teaches us that we must always be correct and objective and not subjective or sentimental.

Regardless of our disagreement with many of his judgements, the death of Comrade Mao Tsetung saddens us also, because he always showed himself to be a friend and admirer of our socialist country and the Party of Labour of Albania and, as the communists and internationalists we are, we must not ignore this. We can say that Mao Tsetung was the main and decisive person in the Chinese leadership who assisted the People’s Republic of Albania with economic and military credits and he accorded this aid in an internationalist spirit. In the same spirit, our Party assisted China, stood beside it and defended Mao in both good and difficult times, especially against the attacks of the Khrushchevite revisionists, as well as during the Great Cultural Revolution.

Immediately we heard about his death, we decided to send a Party and Government delegation with Comrade Mehmet at the head, but in the statement which the Chinese leadership released we read that foreign delegations would not be welcome to take part in the ceremonies organized on this occasion.

Naturally, we took measures to send messages of condolence and see that wreaths were laid in Peking, to organize visits and send messages of condolence to the Chinese embassy in Tirana from the leadership of the Party, the state, the mass organizations, the educational, cultural and scientific institutions, as well as delegations from the working collectives of Tirana and a number of industrial enterprises and agricultural cooperatives of other districts.

Ho Chi Minh shown as sympathetic to the Albanian-Chinese line in Khrushchev’s Memoirs

“I remember when the conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties in Moscow was being held in [November] 1960 […] The Chinese spoke out against us. Enver Hoxha conducted himself especially rabidly as an agent of Mao.

[….]

Ho came over to me then and said: “Comrade Khrushchev, you ought to concede the point to them.”
I said: “How can we concede? Why, it’s a matter of principle!”
Ho said: “Comrade Khrushchev, China is a huge country, they have a huge Communist Party. The concession should be made to them. A split cannot be permitted. It’s necessary that the Chinese sign the document together with everyone else. This document will have great international significance.”

[….]

I felt very bitter later when the Chinese decided to make an open break with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the other fraternal parties. China has powerful influence in Vietnam. A large stratum of the population there is Chinese. Pro-Chinese people even hold key positions in the leadership of the Vietnamese Communist Party. They have carried on their work against the Soviet Union and against our policies […] The pro-Chinese elements in Vietnam had done everything they could to start a quarrel, to turn Vietnam away from the Soviet Union, and set our two parties fighting against each other.

After Beijing broke off all political and business relations with us, de facto, and did everything in its power against us, it began trying to impose its views on Vietnam. Unfortunately the Vietnamese Workers Party took the Chinese bait. This is very bitter for us […] Later on, Vietnam did everything to favor China against us, against its own interests.

[….]

Our relations [with the Vietnamese] were good, and if they grew worse later, the blame for that lies not with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In my opinion, it was the result of Mao’s influence.

[….]

If ho’s alleged testament [read at his funeral] is analyzed […] I think the document was drawn up in a pro-Chinese spirit.”

Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev: Statesman, 1953-1964, p. 501-506

William Ash’s “Pickaxe and Rifle: The Story of the Albanian People” on Khrushchev’s Secret Speech

“At the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in February, 1956, after three years of preparation, Khrushchev presented in the report of the Central Committee a number of ‘new’ theses described as ‘a creative development of Marxist-Leninist theory’ which were in fact a complete departure from Marxism-Leninism. Collaboration with imperialism which he labelled ‘peaceful co-existence’ was exalted as the general line of the foreign policy of all socialist countries… Khrushchev made it clear that he was prepared to give up international class struggle, renouncing on behalf of the colonial peoples any right to liberate themselves from oppression and reassuring capitalist governments by emphasising ‘peaceful transition to socialism’ or the Parliamentary road as the only correct line for communist parties everywhere. If only the United States imperialists were given to understand that their economic and military positions all over the world were not to be challenged then they would give up their aggressive designs against the socialist block.

What this really amounted to was an attempt to freeze the world situation just as it was, with all its injustices and inequalities, for the sake of a ‘peace’ which the two major world powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, would guarantee with their nuclear might. The ‘creative development of Marxism-Leninism’ which Khrushchev was advancing was simply the division of the world into Soviet and American spheres of influence… ‘Then’, Khrushchev was to say, ‘if any mad man wanted war, we, the two strongest countries in the world, would have but to shake our fingers to warn him off’ – and included among the ‘mad men’, of course, were any popular leaders wishing to take their countries out of imperialist bondage. 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. That this was the case was 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 heap of ashes and leave no Albanian alive’….

The basic political question on which Khrushchev’s attempt to diverse the whole line of the Soviet Communist Party depended was whether or not class conflict had ceased to exist in the Soviet Union. Lenin always took an absolutely unequivocal stand on this issue, holding that during the entire historical period separating capitalism from the classless society of communism, that is the period designated as socialism, class conflict did continue and therefore the dictatorship of the proletariat remained a political necessity for the development of a socialist society. Indeed, after the assumption of state power by the working class, bourgeois elements would struggle even harder to re-establish themselves…

Furthermore, if class conflict had ceased to exist, the Party and state instead of being the political and governmental expressions of the dictatorship of the proletariat could be designed by Khrushchev as the Party and State of the ‘whole people’. But in this formation he departed altogether from anything remotely resembling Marxism. The Marxist view developed by Lenin in such works as ‘State and Revolution’ … was that the state always represented the interests of a particular class in a society in which there was still class conflict. Neither the state nor the communist party was above class struggle and they would cease to exist when classes ceased to exist, in ‘the withering away of the state’ which Marx had only predicated of the classless society of full communism. Therefore a party or a state of the ‘whole people’ was nonsense from a Marxist point of view; Stalin, in his last theoretical work, ‘Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR’, which attacked revisionist ideas in precisely the same terms the Chinese and Albanians were to use in the polemics following the 20th Congress, specifically criticised the ‘state of the whole people’ concept as an anti-Marxist attempt to undermine the dictatorship of the proletariat.

In fact, the denial of any further need for the leadership of the working class in a situation where other classes still existed merely prepared the way for those anti-working class elements to recapture political power and begin diverting the Soviet Union from a socialist course. That this was the intention of Khrushchev and the revisionist clique around him became apparent in the economic changes which accompanied these political manoeuvres The decentralisation of the economy was not a loosening of control from the centre but a change from control by organs responsible to the working people like the state and Party to control by experts, managers and bureaucrats. With this change went a shift in motivation from the socialist incentives of putting collective above personal interests to material incentives no different from those characteristic of capitalist society. The so-called economic liberalisation was simply a move from socialism to state capitalism and, as such, was naturally hailed as a break-through by bourgeois economists everywhere… But it was never intended that such a restoration would threaten the position of the revisionist party hacks and state officials who had brought it about – hence the continuing conflict between bourgeois writers and artists in the Soviet Union demanding the freedom of expression they might have expected in a bourgeois democratic society and the Soviet state apparatus with the same bourgeois values who were prepared to welcome works attacking Stalin and the dictatorship of the proletariat but were not prepared to countenance those criticizing themselves and the bureaucratic dictatorship they had imposed.”

 — William Ash. Pickaxe and Rifle: The Story of the Albanian People. London: Howard Baker Press Ltd. 1974. pp. 183-187.

“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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Radio Broadcast of J.V. Stalin, July 3, 1941

COMRADES, citizens, brothers and sisters, men of our Army and Navy!

My words are addressed to you, dear friends!

The perfidious military attack by Hitlerite Germany on our Fatherland, begun on June 22, is continuing. In spite of the heroic resistance of the Red Army, and although the enemy’s finest divisions and finest air force units have already been smashed and have met their doom on the field of battle, the enemy continues to push forward, hurling fresh forces to the front. Hitler’s troops have succeeded in capturing Lithuania, a considerable part of Latvia, the western part of Byelorussia and part of Western Ukraine. The fascist aircraft are extending the range of their operations, bombing Murmansk, Orsha, Moghilev, Smolensk, Kiev, Odessa, Sevastopol. Grave danger overhangs our country.

How could it have happened that our glorious Red Army surrendered a number of our cities and districts to the fascist armies? Is it really true that the German-fascist troops are invincible, as the braggart fascist propagandists are ceaselessly blaring forth?

Of course not! History shows that there are no invincible armies and never have been. Napoleon’s army was considered invincible, but it was beaten successively by the armies of Russia, England and Germany. Kaiser Wilhelm’s German army in the period of the First Imperialist War was also considered invincible, but it was beaten several times by Russian and Anglo-French troops, and was finally smashed by the Anglo-French forces. The same must be said of Hitler’s German-fascist army of to-day. This army had not yet met with serious resistance on the continent of Europe. Only on our territory has it met with serious resistance. And if as a result of this resistance the finest divisions of Hitler’s German-fascist army have been defeated by our Red Army, this means that it too can be smashed and will be smashed, as were the armies of Napoleon and Wilhelm.

As to part of our territory having nevertheless been seized by the German-fascist troops, this is chiefly due to the fact that the war of fascist Germany against the U.S.S.R. began under conditions that were favourable for the German forces and unfavourable for the Soviet forces. The fact of the matter is that the troops of Germany, a country at war, were already fully mobilized, and the 170 divisions brought up to the Soviet frontiers and hurled by Germany against the U.S.S.R. were in a state of complete readiness, only awaiting the signal to move into action, whereas the Soviet troops had still to effect mobilization and move up to the frontiers. Of no little importance in this respect was the fact that fascist Germany suddenly and treacherously violated the non-aggression pact which she had concluded in 1939 with the U.S.S.R., regardless of the circumstance that she would be regarded as the aggressor by the whole world. Naturally, our peace-loving country, not wishing to take the initiative in breaking the pact, could not resort to perfidy.

It may be asked, how could the Soviet Government have consented to conclude a non-aggression pact with such perfidious people, such fiends as Hitler and Ribbentrop? Was this not an error on the part of the Soviet Government? Of course not! Non-aggression pacts are pacts of peace between two states. It was such a pact that Germany proposed to us in 1939. Could the Soviet Government have declined such a proposal? I think that not a single peace-loving state could decline a peace treaty with a neighbouring state even though the latter were headed by such monsters and cannibals as Hitler and Ribbentrop. But that, of course, only on the one indispensable condition-that this peace treaty did not jeopardize, either directly or indirectly, the territorial integrity, independence and honour of the peace-loving state. As is well known, the non-aggression pact between Germany and the U.S.S.R. was precisely such a pact.

What did we gain by concluding the non-aggression pact with Germany? We secured our country peace for a year and a half and the opportunity of preparing our forces to repulse fascist Germany should she risk an attack on our country despite the pact. This was a definite advantage for us and a disadvantage for fascist Germany. What has fascist Germany gained and what has she lost by perfidiously tearing up the pact and attacking the U.S.S.R.? She has gained a certain advantageous position for her troops for a short period of time, but she has lost politically by exposing herself in the eyes of the entire world as a bloodthirsty aggressor. There can be no doubt that this short-lived military gain for Germany is only an episode, while the tremendous political gain of the U.S.S.R. is a weighty and lasting factor that is bound to forth the basis for the development of outstanding military successes of the Red Army in the war with fascist Germany.

That is why the whole of our valiant Red Army, the whole of our valiant Navy, all the falcons of our Air Force, all the peoples of our country, all the finest men and women of Europe, America and Asia, and, finally, all the finest men and women of Germany—denounce the treacherous acts of the German-fascists, sympathize with the Soviet Government, approve its conduct, and see that ours is a just cause, that the enemy will be defeated, and that we are bound to win.

In consequence of this war which has been forced upon us, our country has come to death grips with its bitterest and most cunning enemy—German fascism. Our troops are fighting heroically against an enemy armed to the teeth with tanks and aircraft. Overcoming numerous difficulties, the Red Army and Red Navy are self-sacrificingly fighting for every inch of Soviet soil. The main forces of the Red Army are coming into action equipped with thousands of tanks and planes. The soldiers of the Red Army are displaying unexampled valour. Our resistance to the enemy is growing in strength and power. Side by side with the Red Army, the entire Soviet people is rising in defence of our native land.

What is required to put an end to the danger imperilling our country and what measures must be taken to smash the enemy?

Above all it is essential that our people, the Soviet people, should appreciate the full immensity of the danger that threatens our country and give up all complacency, casualness and the mentality of peaceful constructive work that was so natural before the war, but which is fatal to-day, when war has radically changed the whole situation. The enemy is cruel and implacable. He is out to seize our lands watered by the sweat of our brows, to seize our grain and oil secured by the labour of our hands. He is out to restore the rule of the landlords, to restore tsarism, to destroy the national culture and the national existence as states of the Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Esthonians, Uzbeks, Tatars, Moldavians, Georgians, Armenians, Azerbaijanians and the other free peoples of the Soviet Union, to Germanize them, to turn them into the slaves of German princes and barons. Thus the issue is one of life and death for the Soviet State, of life and death for the peoples of the U.S.S.R.; the issue is whether the peoples of the Soviet Union shall be free or fall into slavery. The Soviet people must realize this and abandon all complacency; they must mobilize themselves and reorganize all their work on a new, war-time footing, where there can be no mercy to the enemy.

Further, there must be no room in our ranks for whimperers and cowards, for panic-mongers and deserters; our people must know no fear in the fight and must selflessly join our patriotic war of liberation against the fascist enslavers. Lenin, the great founder of our state, used to say that the chief virtues of Soviet men and women must be courage, valour, fearlessness in struggle, readiness to fight together with the people against the enemies of our country. These splendid virtues of the Bolshevik must become the virtues of millions and millions of the Red Army, of the Red Navy, of all the peoples of the Soviet Union.

All our work must be immediately reorganized on a war footing, everything must be subordinated to the interests of the front and the task of organizing the destruction of the enemy. The peoples of the Soviet Union now see that German fascism is untamable in its savage fury and hatred of our native country, which has ensured all its working people labour in freedom and prosperity. The peoples of the Soviet Union must rise against the enemy and defend their rights and their land.

The Red Army, Red Navy and all citizens of the Soviet Union must defend every inch of Soviet soil, must fight to the last drop of blood for our towns and villages, must display the daring, initiative and mental alertness that are inherent in our people.

We must organize all-round assistance to the Red Army, ensure powerful reinforcements for its ranks and the supply of everything it requires; we must organize the rapid transport of troops and military freight and extensive aid to the wounded.

We must strengthen the Red Army’s rear, subordinating all our work to this end; all our industries must be got to work with greater intensity, to produce more rifles, machine-guns, guns, cartridges, shells, planes; we must organize the guarding of factories, power stations, telephonic and telegraphic communications, and arrange effective air-raid protection in all localities.

We must wage a ruthless fight against all disorganizers of the rear, deserters, panic-mongers and rumour-mongers; we must exterminate spies, sabotage agents and enemy parachutists, rendering rapid aid in all this to our extermination battalions. We must bear in mind that the enemy is crafty, unscrupulous, experienced in deception and the dissemination of false rumours. We must reckon with all this and not fall victims to stratagem. All who by their panic-mongering and cowardice hinder the work of defence, no matter who they may be, must be immediately haled before a military tribunal.

In case of a forced retreat of Red Army units, all rolling stock must be evacuated, the enemy must not be left a single engine, a single railway car, not a single pound of grain or gallon of fuel. The collective farmers must drive off all their cattle and turn over their grain to the safe keeping of the state authorities for transportation to the rear. All valuable property, including non-ferrous metals, grain and fuel that cannot be withdrawn must be destroyed without fail.

In areas occupied by the enemy, guerilla units, mounted and on loot, must be formed; sabotage groups must be organized to combat enemy units, to foment guerilla warfare everywhere, blow up bridges and roads, damage telephone and telegraph lines, set fire to forests, stores and transports. In occupied regions conditions must be made unbearable for the enemy and all his accomplices. They must be hounded and annihilated at every step, and all their measures frustrated.

The war with fascist Germany cannot be considered an ordinary war. It is not only a war between two armies, it is also a great war of the entire Soviet people against the German-fascist armies. The aim of this national patriotic war in defence of our country against the fascist oppressors is not only to eliminate the danger hanging over our country, but also to aid all the European peoples groaning under the yoke of German fascism. In this war of liberation we shall not be alone. In this great war we shall have true allies in the peoples of Europe and America, including the German people which is enslaved by the Hitlerite misrulers. Our war for the freedom of our country will merge with the struggle of the peoples of Europe and America for their independence, for democratic liberties. It will be a united front of the peoples standing for freedom and against enslavement and threats of enslavement by Hitler’s fascist armies. In this connection the historic utterance of the British Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, regarding aid to the Soviet Union, and the declaration of the United States Government signifying readiness to render aid to our country, which can only evoke a feeling of gratitude in the hearts of the peoples of the Soviet Union, are fully comprehensible and symptomatic.

Comrades, our forces are numberless. The overweening enemy will soon learn this to his cost. Side by side with the Red Army many thousands of workers, collective farmers and intellectuals are rising to fight the enemy aggressor. The masses of our people will rise up in their millions. The working people of Moscow and Leningrad have already begun to form huge People’s Guards in support of the Red Army. Such People’s Guards must be raised in every city which is in danger of enemy invasion; all the working people must be roused to defend with their lives their freedom, their honour and their country in this patriotic war against German fascism.

In order to ensure the rapid mobilization of all the forces of the peoples of the U.S.S.R. and to repulse the enemy who has treacherously attacked our country, a State Committee of Defence has been formed and the entire state authority has now been vested in it. The State Committee of Defence has entered on the performance of its functions and calls upon all our people to rally around the Party of Lenin and Stalin and around the Soviet Government, so as to render self sacrificing support to the Red Army and Red Navy, to exterminate the enemy and secure victory.

All our forces for the support of our heroic Red Army and our glorious Red Navy!

All the forces of the people for the destruction of the enemy!

Forward to victory!

Source

“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

“New Albania: A Small Nation, A Great Contribution!” Introduction

“New Albania: A Small Nation, A Great Contribution!” is a 1984 pamphlet about socialist Albania by the Albania Friendship Society. It was published in the United States in celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the liberation of Albania and the victory of the people’s revolution, November 29, 1944 – November 29, 1984. “New Albania” is a groundbreaking English language pamphlet about the accomplishments of the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania. It will appear here in its full and unabridged form.

 — Espresso Stalinist

“New Albania: A Small Nation, A Great Contribution!” Part I: Albania at the Crossroads: Annihilation or Liberation

“New Albania: A Small Nation, A Great Contribution!” Part II: Socialist Construction in Albania

“New Albania: A Small Nation, A Great Contribution!” Part III: Social and Cultural Development in the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania

“New Albania: A Small Nation, A Great Contribution!” Part IV: International Relations and the Foreign Policy of the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania 

“NEW ALBANIA” TABLE OF CONTENTS

Preface…1
Introduction…1
I. Albania at the Crossroads: Annihilation or Liberation…3
II. Socialist Construction in Albania…10
— The People’s State Power…10
— The Socialist Economy…14
— The Revolutionization of Society…20
III. Social and Cultural Development in Albania…24
— The Albanian Educational System…24
— Health Care in Albania…27
— Women’s Emancipation…29
— The Greek National Minority…31
— Aspects of Albanian Culture, Past and Present…32
IV. International Relations and the Foreign Policy of the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania…38
V. Conclusion…44

This pamphlet is dedicated to Ruth and Jack Shulman, whose friendship for the Albanian people and tireless defense of their post-liberation achievements have been instrumental in educating a new generation of working class and progressive people about the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania.

Preface

This pamphlet is presented in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the liberation of Albania and the triumph of the people’s revolution.

It is the result of a collective effort by organizations in the U.S. who have been working to bring the message of the Albanian experience and successes to the U.S. people, and in particular, the U.S. working class. Some of the participants in this project have visited Albania on rnany occasions since liberation and have seen with their own eyes the remarkable successes which are recounted in this pamphlet. Valuable resource materials were found in a variety of Albanian publications, including Portrait of Albania, The History of the Party of Labor of Albania, New Albania and Albania Today magazines, and the Constitution of the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania.

This year also marks the first time that organizations in several U.S. cities will be gathering together to hold joint celebrations of the anniversary of the liberation of Albania, on November 29, 1944. Wt urge you to join with us in celebrating this historic occasion and in building friendship between the peoples of the U.S. and Albania

Albania Friendship Society
of Southern California,
Los Angeles, California

Albania Information Project,
New Orleans, Louisiana

Albania Report,
New York, New York

Chicago Area Friends of Albania,
Chicago, Illinois

U.S. Marxist-Leninist Organization,
Boston, Massachusetts

Introduction

Forty years ago an November 29, 1944, the people of Albania, under the leadership of the Communist Party of Albania (now the Party of Labor), liberated their country from the Nazi occupation and the local ruling classes.

After liberation, the country stood in ruins, ravaged by the fascists. Not a single working factory was left standing, agriculture was virtually destroyed, and the people were plagued with starvation, disease, high infant mortality rates and an average life span of 38 years.

Today Albania is an independent, self-reliant, modern industrial-agrarian society. There are no exploiting classes. The great advantages of the socialist system with its planned economy, can be seen in the fact that there is no economic crisis in Albania, no unemployment and no inflation. There are also no taxes, while medical care, child care, paid vacations and paid maternity leave are provided at little or no cost to individuals. Albania has no foreign debts or credits and is free from domination by the imperialist powers. All these conditions result from the socialist system which now exists in Albania.

Today, Albania is the only socialist country in the world. It stands in firm Opposition to the two superpowers — the U.S. and U.S.S.R. — and their preparations for imperialist war.

The lessons of how Albania achieved these remarkable successes in only 40 years have great importance to the people of the world and the United States. The imperialists and reactionaries have tried to hide the truth about Albania’s liberation and the successes of the revolution because they know these victories are a tremendous inspiration and example for all oppressed people.