There was a wide range of people paying tribute to Avtar Singh Jouhl who died on October 7th at the age of 84. Avtar Singh Jouhl was a tireless leader of the Indian Workers’ Association, as general secretary (1961-64; 1979-2015) and national organiser (1964-79), briefly working in 1967 in London to work for the IWA newspaper, ‘Lalkar’ (Challenge). Described by The Times as published in Brussels, 1500 copies “printed in Punjabi, it has been flown to London at no small expense and sold to Indian immigrants in Britain as part of an effort to convert them to Maoist revolution.” [i]
Avtar had been active in the organisation since coming to Britain in 1958, a leading workplace militant and antiracist activist in the West Midlands from the late 1950s until the 1990s. He was a respected and listen too activist: as he said,
“We learned to take up the issues that related to the workers, rather than just talking to them from a Marxist viewpoint. If you organise in that manner, the workers will trust you and respect you.”[ii]
In 1958, Avtar Jouhl was instrumental in setting up the Birmingham branch of the IWA. The Association’s initial role was to support local workers, helping them to write letters and supporting any claims of unfair dismissal. One of the IWA’s main campaigns during the 1960s was against immigration legislation, in particular the 1962 Commonwealth Immigration Bill.
The Birmingham Mail reported the death of Avtar Singh Jouhl has triggered an outpouring of tributes from activists and campaigners.
It is testimony to the work and the style it was done that a tribute carried in the Morning Star, written by Avtar’s friend Paul Mackney, the former General Secretary of NATFHE/UCU, the trade union for teachers in further and higher education, noted that Avtar opposed all organisational sectarianism and threw the full support of the IWA behind united fronts such as the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (CARF), Campaign Against Racist Laws (CARL) and the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) . [iii]
That Avtar’s life was marked across the political spectrum from the mainstream BBC, favourably featured in Radio 4’s “Last Word”, to various small leftist groups, uniting Trotskyists and supporters of Xi’s China, meant The Socialist Worker carried an obituary, stating “Avtar was a principled fighter all his life. The struggles he led made a difference to black, Asian and white workers.” But not mentioning his adherence to Maoism. Often in interviews the focus was on his lifetime of activism rather than his Marxist philosophy as evident when reflecting on a life of struggle in the IWA and the trade unions in 2019. Republished on ‘The Communists’ website, a self-attributed description from the CPGB(ML), an interview carried in the SWP’s International Socialism journal in October 2019. The article, “Lifelong class fighter against racism”, rightly describes Avtar as “part of a generation of black and Asian militants whose struggles against racism and for workers’ rights have transformed the working class and the trade union movement in Britain.”[iv]
A life-long Marxist, Avtar was awarded the Order of the British Empire (civil division) in 2000 for ‘services to Community Relations and to Trade Unionism’. This does raise issues for others when a life time of activism, politically campaigning and welfare work within the community has seemingly eschewed a revolutionary party-building orientation.
The Guardian obituary was headline, “Anti-racism campaigner and trade unionist who successfully challenged segregation in 1960s Britain”.Like other tributes recalled thatin 1965, Avtar invited Malcom X to Smethwick, near Birmingham, to see the type and extent of racism and the ‘colour bar’ then prevalent in the area, just weeks before the African-American revolutionary leader was assassinated.
His work campaigning to end the racial segregation in drinking establishments in Smethwick, West Midlands drew the attention of Malcolm X who visited the town, on 12 February 1965, and was taken to a segregated pub, the Blue Gates, with Jouhl and Indian activists to witness where non-white customers were forced to drink in separate rooms.
There are many colourful examples of local actions and campaigns in Birmingham that illustrate that Avtar played a very full role in the life of the community. The IWA took up welfare and political issues affecting Indians living in Britain, including fighting all forms of discrimination. They also took positions on some social issues. For example, in the 1960s and 1970s the IWA held a campaign against the marriage dowry. They were active on a local and national level – swelling demonstrations in the struggle against racism, work among the industrial unorganised leading them into the trade union movement, and the struggles of the working class in Britain. Not surprisingly there was a focus on the revolutionary struggle in India, but also mobilising support for anti-imperialist struggles throughout the world, and in support of the socialist countries.
Feb 1978: IWA (GB) leaders Jagmohan Joshi (bottom left), Teja Singh (second from bottom right) and Avatar Johal (bottom right) meet members of the Communist Party of China at Mao’s birth place in Shaoshan, China. The image is indicative of the IWA (GB)’s Maoist tilt, which informed their stance on the Naxalbari insurgency as well as their anti-racism work in Britain. [i]
Besides the IWA, and the trade union movement, Avtar played a leading role in the Association of Indian Communists in Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (AICML), which guided the work IWA. Part of a triumvirate leadership with Jagmohan Joshi and Teja Singh Sahota, who was elected as Vice President of the national IWA in 1959 and served as its President from 1967-1991, the IWA and the AIC were staunch supporters of the Chinese revolution and friends of China, maintaining close comradely connections with the country, particularly through the 1960s and 1970s.
There was a danger of exaggerated expectations on the political Left of the Association of Indian Communists because of its association with the IWA, whose large membership did not necessarily exceed the objectives “to further India’s attempt to achieve independence, to promote social and cultural activities and to foster greater understanding between Indian and British people.”
There was also the added factor that curtailed the contribution of such national minority organisations like the AIC. Nationality based formations reflected the issues and divisions of evident in Indian politics and the fractious nature of the IWA is seen in the catalogue of organisational splits and creation of alternative (but similarly named) rivals.[ii]
A Unity Conference on June 9th 1990 at Smethwick, Birmingham, with the merger conference taking place 16-17 February 1991 saw Avtar Jouhl became General Secretary of the merged Indian Workers Association (GB) and Prem Singh, General Secretary of the other Indian Workers Association, became the President.
There was a retained friendship and support for China in the post-Mao era, becoming a patron of the “Hands off China! Campaign” launched in 2008 by the CPGB-ML, who claimed Avtar as a member. Maybe that commitment to anti-revisionist politics morphed into the generic Marxism-Leninism that encompasses the mishmash of revisionist fragments and those who see socialism in action in China and North Korea?
After almost 30 years in the foundry industry, in 1987 Avtar was appointed by South Birmingham College as a trade union studies tutor at Birmingham Trade Union Studies Centre. He remained an active trade unionist. In the early-1990s, Avtar was elected to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the lecturers’ union, the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (Natfhe) 1992-97.
When asked in an interview in 2019, “Looking back on your life as an activist, what are you most proud of? “Avtar replied,
I am content that I have served the working class by advancing socialist policies, building trade union organisation, antiracist and anti-imperialist campaigns, as well as leading struggles for equal rights and participating in welfare work.”
With a small population of under a million, located between Somalia, Eritrea, and Yemen, Djibouti occupies a strategic location adjacent to the Bab el Mandab Strait, situated at the mouth of the Red Sea, which is a critical corridor for international shipping.
Djibouti is the third smallest country on the continent’s mainland, but given its geographic location it is easy to see why the US, France, Great Britain, Japan, and Saudi Arabia and China, agree that Djibouti is the place to be. It is little known that the only Japanese military base in the entire world is located in Djibouti City. This tiny African port state hosts military bases belonging to Italy, France, the United States, China, and Saudi Arabia at a very little distance from one another. Russia and India too have strong interests in setting up military bases there.
Yet much of the international discourse about Djibouti focuses on its relationship with China. The spectre of Chinese hegemony is raised in a scenario whereby China is described as operating at an advantageous position in Djibouti because of deep economic ties and financing infrastructure projects. And then this is extended by strategists into part of a push for great power dominance.
Western analysis emphasises the perspective of strategic manoeuvring from China secured by major investment projects in Djibouti. The infrastructure projects include the Djibouti-Ethiopia Railway project, Djibouti-Ethiopia Water pipeline, and it is stressed, importantly the Chinese-operated Dolareh port. The importance of the port is said to be, not only does it boost the Chinese Belt and Road initiative but also its military goals in the region.
“In many ways the relationship between Djibouti and China is a case study in how Beijing is using its global infrastructure investment strategy, the Belt and Road Initiative, to aggrandise its economic influence and strengthen its position as the top investor in Africa – a major geopolitical priority, with its booming economies and populations.”
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Support Base is located by the Port of Doraleh to the west of Djibouti City. The base was formally opened on August 1, 2017. It is designated a supply centre for their peacekeeping and humanitarian missions in the region.
To the south of the city are several, more substantial, foreign military bases, including :
Camp Lemonnier, a former military base established as a garrison for the French foreign Legion, is a Naval Expeditionary Base, situated next to Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport in Djibouti City. It is the largest American permanent military base in Africa on a lease that ends in 2044. Camp Lemonnier is home to more than 4,000 personnel – mostly part of the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa. The US hosts visiting British military personnel as well.
The United States has established a second base at Chabelley Airfield for Drone operations since 2018. This has reduced aviation congestion at Lemonnier with conventional air force operations
Base Aerienne 188 (French Air Force). France, former colonial power over Djibouti, signed the 2011 Defence cooperation treaty that sets out the operational facilities granted to stationed French forces, which make up Frances largest military base abroad with some 1,450 troops, warships, aircraft and armoured vehicles in Djibouti. France hosts German & Spanish military forces.
Since 2011 the Japan Self-Defense Force Base Djibouti has 1,200 troops and is situated next to Camp Lemonnier. Japan’s Djibouti base is dedicated to curbing piracy, but also imports the Indo-Pacific power rivalry to the Gulf of Aden and the western Indian Ocean. A decade later, the pirates have been largely defeated, but Tokyo intends to expand its Djibouti base.
Italy’s establishment of a Djibouti base came at the same time as the launch of the European Union Naval Force (or Operation Atalanta) to protect vessels from armed piracy at sea off the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. This infrastructure is the first real operational logistic base of the Italian armed forces outside the national borders and has approximately 300 personnel.
Sunni Arab states like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who are concerned about the expanding influence of the Shiite-led Iran, have been taking an interest in Djibouti as a base to prosecute their war in Yemen. Djibouti is a longstanding ally of Saudi Arabia. In 2016, it followed Riyadh’s lead and severed relations with Tehran. Djibouti is also a member of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. The alliance launched a military intervention in Yemen in 2015 to support the country’s internationally recognized government and fight the Iranian-backed Yemeni rebels, the Houthis (also known as the Ansarullah movement).
The UAE already has military bases in Eritrea and Somaliland, an autonomous region of Somalia that has yet to achieve international recognition. Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s rival Turkey – a key ally of Qatar – has its biggest overseas military base in Somalia’s Mogadishu where more than 10,000 Somali soldiers receive training.
India, as an alternative to Indian military presence in Djibouti, has secured strategic military bases in Oman, Singapore and Seychelles. It maintains a twin track strategy working on options for securing a military base of operations in Djibouti and Japan and India are discussing India’s use of Japanese military facilities in Djibouti.
So far, the land lease business to international players for these foreign bases both provide income and it is argued a degree of protection from external aggression.
The United States pays $63 million annually for ten-year lease on its base, while the Chinese reported to be paying $20 million a year besides the billions they are investing in building a railway, a port, an industrial park, and banks.
With very little in the way of natural resources or human capital, Djibouti’s government “has spared no effort to translate geopolitical fortune into commercial and political advantage,” says Matthew Bryden, the director of the think tank Sahan Research. There is an unproven argument raised that in the case of Djibouti, the leasing of multiple bases can be presented as a sign of skilful foreign policy.
“The aim is clear: Like Singapore, harness its unique geography astride a major commercial shipping route to become a global logistics, services, and trans-shipment hub in a world shifting toward Asia and the Indo-Pacific.”
Who can view Djibouti’s economic policy prospects of emerging as an important commercial hub in the Horn of Africa positively? While Djibouti handles an estimated 90% of landlocked Ethiopia’s maritime trade, and the foreign bases seen the form of cash, infrastructure, and economic opportunities arise from a very dependent and unsustainable economic model of development unless investment in an internal economic structure and activity is a priority.
Djibouti could be walking a fine line between neutrality and opportunism, says analysts. A dispute with the Dubai-based DP World pushed the UAE to fund ports and military bases in both Eritrea and Somaliland. After Djibouti reduced its diplomatic status with Qatar, the latter removed its peacekeeping forces from the Djibouti-Eritrea border, raising tensions of a renewed border dispute. And with the arrival of the Chinese, any friction with Western powers who are just a few miles away from each other might test the limits of Djiboutian diplomacy.”
Hosting military bases of different flags can pose a threat to the country’s ability to make independent decisions on political, economic, and social policies. The various – and sometimes conflicting – interests of international actors may influence the policy-making processes.
The western emphasis on China’s role, ironically given their own neo-colonialist practices, points to a situation of such economic dependence that Djibouti “risks threatening its autonomy”.
Like any other developing nation, Djibouti’s capacity to act independently has already been limited and overshadowed by the economic international order dominated by a few rich countries. Dependency on foreign loans could provide a leverage for others to influence and intervene in the country’s various domestic and international affairs. There are plenty of precedents that global actors toil to redesign domestic political divisions in the country in order to bring their own loyal ruler to power.
Not that it gets much mainstream western media attention, the country risks becoming a “nest of spies” where the international powers based there can watch each other closely. This congestion might also lead to friction among these powers, turning Djibouti into an arena of great power contention.
The author of Downfall, Alan McCombes had been a leading member of the Scottish Socialist Party for several years, and the editor of the Scottish Socialist Voice until 2003.
Together with Sheridan, a fellow member of Militant, McCombes had played a leading role in the anti-poll tax movement. His 1988 pamphlet, How To Beat The Poll Tax, advocated a mass non-payment campaign. With Tommy Sheridan, he was also author of Imagine: A Socialist Vision for the 21st Century [Canongate Books 2000]
In 1992 McCombes was a leading figure in persuading Militant in Scotland to organize openly independently of the Labour Party resulting in the creation of Scottish Militant Labour. Throughout the 1990s, he challenged the traditional “British Road to Socialism”, arguing for the left to champion the idea of an independent Scottish socialist republic. In 1995, he promoted a Scottish Socialist Alliance to unite the left that laid the basis for the emergence of the SSP in which McCombes held the position of policy co-ordinator.
The events recalled in Alan McCombes’ Downfall seem both sadly realistic and depressingly common. Published in 2011, it is an intensely individual story, obviously partisan in the telling, and immensely political in its message. One can read it as a narrative of a flawed individual who made some bad decisions, but it is not a morality tale; it is more a statement of record of a contested account that split the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) over Tommy Sheridan’s defamation action against the News International.
The Scottish Socialist Party was formed in 1998 to contest the first elections of Scotland’s new parliament.
It was created after a number of left-wing organisations which made up the Scottish Socialist Alliance aligned to form a single party which allowed various fractions or platforms to operate within it. Former Militant members – organized as International Socialist Movement – were the largest group but the Alliance contained other representatives from the Trotskyist Left as well as non-aligned Scottish socialist members.
The roots of this development lay organisationally in the break-up of the entryist Trotskyist organisation Committee for a Workers’ International better known south of the border for the Militant Tendency organised within the British Labour Party. [Read more about the origins of the Militant tendency in Ted Grant’s opinionated account History of British Trotskyism.]
There had been the sanctioned division of the CWI’s British section into two organisational units in the mid-1990s. In England and Wales, following a series of exclusions from the Labour Party, Militant Labour changed its name to the Socialist Party after a somewhat fraught internal debate during 1996-97. In Scotland, the organisation retained the name, Scottish Militant Labour. It advocated a broader socialist alignment in the Scottish Socialist Alliance. Their English-based comrades disagreed.
Between them was a bitter row over the transformation of the Scottish Socialist Alliance into the Scottish Socialist Party in September 1998. In 2001, the International Socialist Movement – formerly Scottish Militant Labour – finally completed its break.
The SSP advocated proportional representation, abolition of the monarchy and an end to the union through the creation of an independent, Scottish republic.
The SSP achieved electoral success almost instantly when one of its founders, Tommy Sheridan, was elected to Holyrood as a list MSP for Glasgow in 1999. Tommy Sheridan was central to the initial success of the party.
He had been the face and the voice of the anti-poll tax demonstrations in Scotland in the 1980s, and was jailed three times over protests against warrant sales, poindings and nuclear weapons. And he was more media savvy than most.
And at the end of 2000 the party’s campaign to have warrant sales and poindings abolished paid off when Mr Sheridan’s members’ bill made it through parliament.
The SSP leader caused a stir in parliament from the start, when he swore the oath of allegiance to the Queen with a clenched fist raised to signal his protest. He was in parliament for four years before being joined by five of his party colleagues in 2003 – making the SSP the largest left-wing party in Scotland. At its height, as well as six MSPs, the SSP boasted 3,000 members, scores of branches and the support of important trade union organisations. In 2003, at its annual delegate conference, the Labour-affiliated Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) trade union voted to allow its branches to affiliate to the SSP. It secured more than 245,000 votes across the country.
Six MSPs were elected on the regional list: Carolyne Leckie in Central, Colin Fox in the Lothians, Frances Curran in the West of Scotland seat, Rosemary Byrne in the South of Scotland and Tommy Sheridan and Rosie Kane in Glasgow.
In November 2004 the News of the World ran a series of stories, smutty allegations and innuendoes claiming a married MSP had visited a swingers’ club and had committed adultery.
Shortly afterwards, Tommy Sheridan resigned as convener of the SSP, citing personal reasons, and announced his intention to sue. When Sheridan stated he was going to sue the newspapers over the allegations, SSP MP Caroline Leckie said: “There is no official backing behind any legal challenge.” Alan McCombes, the SSP’s policy coordinator and one-time close friend of Sheridan’s, casually said: “The executive committee does not want to go down a road where we are helping Tommy Sheridan build a tower of lies.”
The Workers’ Weekly, a reporting source for any confrontation within the British Left (while continuing to relentlessly criticise their failings) stated it understood that
“the executive committee of the SSP urged Sheridan not to fight the thing out in the courts. It voted unanimously to tell him to fight using other, political, methods. Events so far have tended to indicate this would have been the best course.”
Weekly Worker Issue 628 07.06.2006 Defend SSP’s Alan McCombes
Scottish Socialist Party official Alan McCombes was jailed for refusing to hand over party documents to the Court. The now-closed News of the World had requested the internal minutes, which it claims would help defend a defamation case brought by former SSP leader . McCombes was jailed for 12 days after he ignored a deadline to release the papers. SSP offices and comrades’ homes were search in a vain attempt to find the required document, minutes of the November 9 2004 SSP executive meeting which forced Tommy Sheridan to resign as convenor.
Four SSP MSPs gave evidence against their former leader during his legal action against the newspaper, which Sheridan won in 2006, along with £200,000 in damages.
He was later retried and found guilty of perjury, and was jailed for three years in 2011. The investigation and subsequent perjury trial were estimated to have cost £4 million to £5 million, which shows the State has deep pockets when its interests are involved.
His former comrades said while this outcome had vindicated them, the socialist movement in Scotland had been very badly damaged in the process. In the midst of the saga, in the 2007 Scottish elections, the SSP’s vote slumped and the party lost all its MSPs.
Sheridan left the SSP after he won the first court case and formed another party, Solidarity. He failed in his bid to return to Holyrood as a Solidarity MSP in 2007. The group failed to make any progress and in 2020, he joined Alex Salmond’s Alba Party.
Accusation & charges
Throughout the whole episode the reporting on the Left was posturing and the sectarian left’s condemnatory vocabulary was given full expression. The political analysis shaped by an understanding of what caused the internal crisis within the SSP. Beside political disagreements, hostile to the “opportunistic and abject surrender to nationalism” of the SSP, there were differences as to where the emphasis was placed: the central issue being mistakenly presented as Sheridan’s alleged personal behaviour or the News International’s attacks on a leading socialist.
After the first court case, Sheridan described his former colleagues as “scabs” in a tabloid interview, and those who had given evidence against him reportedly faced threats and attacks by his supporters. Sheridan did not explain he had wanted the Executive Committee for political expediency to lie in defence of his personal interests. The first case saw him victorious, awarded a cash settlement.
In the second case he was later found guilty of perjury, and was jailed for three years at the start of 2011. Sheridan spent a year in prison.
A false argument was raised that the conviction of Tommy Sheridan for perjury was the result of a political vendetta, waged by Rupert Murdoch’s News International in a de facto alliance with the Lothian and Borders Police and the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP). However, McCombes did observe that “Like Jeffrey Archer and Jonathan Aitken, two top Tory politicians who served lengthy jail sentences for their actions, Tommy Sheridan took out a libel action based on a fraud: at least some of the material published in the trashy tabloid News of the World was substantially true.”
Sheridan’s former comrades had said while this outcome had vindicated them, however their movement in Scotland had been very badly damaged in the process.
Far from joining forces with The News of the World in bringing Sheridan down as critics claim, McCombes’ explanation is the more believable:
He declared himself a hostile witness, describing the case as a “squalid little squabble” but was ordered to answer questions by the judge. He said: “I am here under the strongest possible protest. […] Your client, I have to say, the News of the World, symbolises everything that as a socialist I have stood against my whole adult life. […] It should have been settled by one of both parties before innocent people were dragged into this bizarre pantomime.”
McCombes published account does provide a detailed, convincing rationale for why the SSP members who testified ‘against’ Sheridan did what they did. On 7 July 2006, McCombes gave evidence in the defamation proceedings launched by Tommy Sheridan against the News of the World stating that Sheridan had admitted to him that he had visited swingers clubs. His version of events was supported by ten other people who were present at the meeting and matched the minutes of the meeting presented in court, though these were naturally disputed during the court case.
August 2006, in the aftermath of the Sheridan defamation case, McCombes publicly released an all-members bulletin addressed to SSP membership, entitled “The Fight for the Truth” in which he said Tommy Sheridan’s libel victory over the News of the World “could set back the cause of socialism by years if not decades” because of the divisions that had occurred within the party and went on to give his view of the events leading up to the trial.
Downfall reads well, with a few jarring exceptions and Tommy Sheridan’s implosion recounted with insider perspective could not resist a few incidental snipes about Sheridan, understandable given the personal enmity, and consequences of the anger at the selfish actions of the man who wrought destruction on the SSP. Some might describe Downfall as a forensic indictment of a man who sold out his comrades for ego. Along the way is an insight to a fraying strand of early 21st century Scottish political radicalism. Tommy Sheridan should be commended for his anti poll tax stance, but like so many others somewhere along the way he was twisted by his fame; Yes victimised by the press, but also losing traction with the political service as too often the Left lauds the individual rather than the movement and its aims.
In August 2022 the disgraced former MSP Tommy Sheridan was declared bankrupt over an £82,000 legal bill after his failed bid to prove he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.
When McCombes left the SSP employment he moved to central Scotland to work engaged in environmental activity. With Roz Paterson, he co-authoured the 2014 publication, Restless Land: A Radical Journey Through Scotland’s History. Glasgow: Calton Books.
In the autumn of 1982, Enver Hoxha explained, he had “examine a problem that is as delicate and important, as well as dangerous for the fate of the Homeland. I do not want to dwell on the issue of which we are now aware, that the enemy and traitor Mehmet Shehu, for 40 years has worked in our country, organising plots to overthrow popular power and liquidate the Party. We know these plots because we discovered them ourselves. Today I want to emphasise the issue that all the plots have been revealed by the Politburo and not State Security.” [i]
As far as the outside world could see, Hoxha had internally attacked and humiliated his most important and loyal companions. For decades Hoxha’s most loyal acolyte was his long-standing comrade-in-arms, prime minister Mehmet Shehu. An old revolutionary who had distinguished himself as a commanding officer of a brigade in the Spanish Civil War, returning to occupied Albania, via a spell in an internment camp in France. He had a fearsome reputation as ruthless military strategist, commander of 1st Partisan Assault Division of the National Liberation Army. He led the forces which liberated the capital, Tirana, from the Germans in November 1944. Albania was the only country in Europe, indeed the only country in the world occupied by any of the Axis powers, which freed itself without a foreign army landing on its territory in force.
After the German withdrawal, General Shehu became chief of the general staff under Enver Hoxha. When Xoxe was sacked as Albania’s internal affairs minister in October 1948, he was replaced with Mehmet Shehu. He served as the Prime Minister of Albania from 1954 to 1981. From 1974 he was also the Minister of People’s Defence while from 1947 to his death he was a deputy of the People’s Assembly. Shehu was clearly the number two in the power hierarchy. [ii]
The backstory lays in the previous winter, when on December 17. a marathon session of the Secretariat was held to review and analyse the self-criticism of the former Prime Minister, Mehmet Shehu because of a family matter involving the engagement of his son, Skender to a volleyball player who happened to have family with a “bad political biography”, links to an exiled anti-communist dissident in the US. Whether the suspicion aroused by this liaison or the speculation that Shehu’s favoured re-establishing official links with foreign western powers sealed his fate has remained unproven.
When Hoxha learned of this engagement he confronted the prime minister and accused him of neglecting the class struggle. Shehu had the engagement annulled.
Hoxha gave him the task of writing a self-criticism
The session, that began in the afternoon continued until late hours, involved a litany of criticisms and accusations that politically “crucified” Mehmet. He was attacked and humiliated at the Politburo meeting. Hoxha himself sent out many and partially contradictory signals. He acted as an interrogator, but at the same time staged himself as a kind of impartial arbiter. He also ostensibly cleared Shehu of any possible allegation of having acted with hostile intent.
However, it was reported that Shehu appeared demolished and paralysed. The next morning Shehu was found shot in his bed with a pistol next to him. He committed suicide according to official sources.
Hoxha declared him an enemy before the Politburo. A few hours later, at a CC emergency plenum, he spoke of a “masked and dangerous enemy” whose aims and plans had to be revealed. Hoxha claimed that the suicide could only be explained by the fact that Shehu’s conscience must have been burdened by “other mistakes, exceptionally serious ones, and acts still unknown to the party.”
In conclusion, he had Shehu posthumously expelled from the party as a “dangerous enemy” along with his wife Fiqrete as his “close collaborator in anti-party and hostile activities.” The Shehu family was immediately placed under house arrest.
Whether Mehmet Shehu committed suicide as officially stated, or was killed on orders from Hoxha to resolve an argument is still rumoured today. Enver dismissed such speculation in his presentation of the case against his old colleague:
“The foreign news agencies related the fact as we had given it, that Mehmet Shehu «committed suicide in a crisis of nervous breakdown.» Here and there some comment secretly paid for by the Yugoslavs was made. However, even the Yugoslavs were unable to exploit this act in their official press, apart from charging a students’ newspaper in Zagreb to write about the «drama» which had occurred at the meeting of the Albanian leadership (according to the version which the UDB had planned). According to this newspaper, «… Mehmet Shehu fired some shots with a Chinese revolver of this or that calibre(!), but Enver Hoxha’s comrades killed him. The fate of Enver Hoxha is not known…»
A scenario modelled on westerns with gunfights which occurred in the saloons at the time! But what could they do? This is what they wanted! But their agent was buried like a dog, or better to say that their trump card, the super agent of the CIA and the UDB in Albania was thrown away for nothing.” [iii]
Mehmet Shehu, who had delivered a speech, The History of the Albanian People is written in blood [iv] joined the litany of traitors: Yugoslav use of the Koci Xoxe group, Khrushchev revisionists through Liri Belishova and Koco Tashko, the putschist plot of Beqir Balluku, Abclyl Killezi and others the subject of such accusations.
Jon Halliday’s speculative discussion in London Review of Books described Hoxha’s allegations as widely greeted with derision as a figment of Hoxha’s paranoia. Support for the credibility of the accusations was sought by delving into official British state archives, “this does not prove anything except wishful thinking”. The well-researched investigation From the Annals of British Diplomacy: The Anti-Albanian Plans of Great Britain during the Second World War according to Foreign Office Documents of 1939-1944 by Arben Puto contains no reference to British intelligence’s speculations. Published in 1981 in an English language edition, the foreword is dated April 1976. However, Halliday offers the scenario that Puto found the files in which Shehu was portrayed as a ‘pro-British element’. He had to show them to Hoxha, who saw documents drawn up by British intelligence agents, some of whom were later active in the invasion of Albania in 1949, which list his prime minister as No 2 on a list of ‘pro-British elements’ to be protected and ‘built up unobtrusively’, Halliday suggests “would have been enough to detonate lethal suspicion in a chronically suspicious mind.”
This provoked readers’ response, raising the point:
“if Mr Halliday is right in thinking that Puto passed information concerning Shehu culled from FO archives to Enver Hoxha, this must have happened by autumn 1972. In which case the question obtrudes itself: why, despite his ‘chronically suspicious mind’, and the ‘lethal detonation’ which these documents set off, did Hoxha sit on them and take no further action for another nine years?” [v]
Associated Press reported in July 2001, nearly 20 years after his reported suicide, the remains of former Prime Minister Mehmet Shehu were found on 21 July near the Erzen River in the village of Ndroq between Tirana and the Adriatic. [vi]
The death of Mehmet was a curtain-raiser for the last major purge of the Hoxha era. Idrit Idrizi suggests the purging of prominent party leaders clearly elevated and consolidated the position of Ramiz Alia, as his successor. The succession to Hoxha (aged 73 in December 1981) was a political concern. A number of party leaders who had started rising to power in the course of the 1970s, with striking aggression and cynicism, had helped Hoxha push his old guard into the abyss. [vii]
The Albanian leadership would publicise its past struggle citing examples of early anti-party groups like the Koci Xoxe’s group, and in later years, the Party uncovered and liquidated the hostile groups of F. Pacrami and T. Lubonja, of B. Balluku, P. Dume and H. Cako, and of A. Kellezi, K. Theodhosi and K. Ngjela. In a reference to Lenin calling purging a law of development of the revolutionary party of the working class,
“Our party has never allowed opportunist softness, liberalism and sentimentality in the implementation of this law.” [viii]
The ripples from the suicide of Mehmet Shehu led to a deeper investigation of his political career. Released in the 6th volume of his Selected Works was Enver Hoxha’s Speech delivered at the 4th Plenum of the CC of the PLA in September 24, 1982, A Synopsis of the Secret Activity of the Enemy Mehmet Shehu laying out allegations, unsubstantiated by others investigation, and in the absence of non-party archival sources, testimony or Wikileak type revelations. Enver Hoxha also laid out the details of Shehu’s alleged plans to poison him at the alleged behest of the Yugoslav authorities in the publication The Titoites (1982). [ix]
The Albanian leadership, as if to emphasis the political nature of the incidents, was told by Enver Hoxha that these traitors were “not discovered by the State Security. The State security then acted to conduct the investigation … [Again] This work was done by the Central Committee, not by the State Security. All of these constitute a major minus for State Security … those who acted in the most dangerous way, it turns out that they were gathered in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and in the Ministry of National Defense.” Alluding to Begir Balluku , after 22 uninterrupted years of service as the Minister of Defense with a group of officers purged, tried and then shot in 1974/75. Enver Hoxha alleged in his memories that the “enemy groups” of Abdyl Këllezi (Minister of the Economy) and Beqir Balluku (Minister of Defense) had drafted their inimical plan based on suggestions from Zhou Enlai, Premier of the People’s Republic of China.[x]
Hoxha claimed that for 40 years, Mehmet Shehu had been working with many accomplices and on behalf of several enemy secret services to destroy socialism in Albania. One by one Minister of Health Llambi Ziçishti, his brother Mihallaq, who had previously served as head of the Sigurimi, and Foreign Minister Nesti Nase ended up behind bars. The purge of several of the highest-ranking political officials in communist Albania from 1981 to 1983, included the arrest of the removed minister of the interior, Feçor Shehu, for “high treason”. [xi]
The arrest of Foreign Minister Nesti Nase in mid-September, after Hoxha had already sent him into early retirement in the June of that year, on an alleged lack of initiative. Around the same time as Nase’s arrest, accusations were also levelled against Minister of Defence Kadri Hazbiu, who had previously headed the Ministry of the Interior for some 26 years, from 1954 to 1980. Now he was suspected of not having been sufficiently vigilant. In the face of hostile harangement before the Party leadership bodies, Hazbiu’s denial of treason and his reiteration of his loyalty to Hoxha critically threatened the success of the show trial against him.
The arrests within the political elite were then accompanied by allegation that back-dated the activities of seemingly regime loyalist to involvement in crimes in the early days of communist rule. Those levelled against Minister of Defence Kadri Hazbiu were that he had been involved in the crimes of Koçi Xoxe, the minister of the interior executed in 1948 and Enver Hoxha’s former arch-enemy, and subsequently in Mehmet Shehu’s conspiracy plans. That such traitors could remain brooding within, and rise to the leadership of the Party and State, for such a length of time does not seem to have stimulated a response other than repeat the constant, and much-vaunted calls for vigilance and implementation of party education. No structural or managerial issues addressed why they survived and thrived, even nurtured during the building of socialism in Albania.
Hazbiu was accused of not having carried out comprehensive purges of ‘Feçor Shehu’s main brood’ in the Ministry of the Interior, expanding the circle of suspects. During the “trial” against Hazbiu, the two Deputy Defence Ministers Veli Llakaj and Nazar Berber, faced Hoxha who accused them as complicit saying Shehu had planned a military coup with them.
The purge also reached the PLA Institute for Marxist-Leninist Studies. It was not its director, Hoxha’s wife, but the deputy director Ndreçi Plasari who was held accountable for the praise of Mehmet Shehu in the institute’s publications. He was also accused of having concealed a document of the British secret service concerning the then prime minister, which he had found in the London archives. [An event raised earlier and alluded by Jon Halliday.] Plasari ‘s compliant self-reproach was that he had been an opportunist, a coward and politically short-sighted. However, he never acted with, nor had he ever suspected that Shehu was a traitor.
Enver Hoxha accused them all of being traitors and part of a monstrous conspiracy on behalf of hostile foreign powers and under the leadership of Shehu. The documentation of accusations from the Politburo and Secretariat of the Party of Labour of Albania of “hostile activities” implicated dissidents real and imagined from within the Party and state are translated and reproduced in the extensive postings on the anti-regime Memorie.al of archival material sourced from the Central State Archive (fund of the former Central Committee.)
In connection with the alleged conspiracy under the leadership of Mehmet Shehu, two prominent court proceedings, one civil and one military, took place almost parallel to each other. In the first, the defendants were Mehmet Shehu’s wife Fiqrete, his son Skënder, former Foreign Minister Nesti Nase and former Health Minister Llambi Ziçishti. The second trial was directed against Kadri Hazbiu, who was arrested two days after the CC plenum, the former Minister of the Interior Feçor Shehu, three Sigurimi officials, Mehmet Shehu’s head bodyguard and a hairdresser also accused of collaboration in conspiracy. The accused in the first trial also appeared as witnesses in the second.
Kadri Hazbiu, Feçor Shehu and Sigurimi official Llambi Peqini refused to accept the charge that they had been members of a counterrevolutionary organisation. All three were sentenced to death. They were shot on the night of 9 to 10 September 1983. The same fate befell the former Minister of Health, Ziçishti. The rest of the accused received long prison sentences.
The main defendants were executed and buried in secret locations in 1983.
Anti-party groups, revolutionary justice and class struggle
The Party leadership was in no doubt that, the struggle against anti-party elements, groups and views, like the entire class struggle within the party, was an ideological struggle for the Marxist-Leninist ideology and purity of its theory, of its general line, and of the communists themselves.
The danger of capitalist restoration was understood in terms of individual degeneration of individual members, lack of Party diligences and foreign conspiracies. In post-war Albanian politics, any dispute, whether over internal or external policy, has always been given a foreign dimension reflecting both traditional Albanian xenophobia and practice from the Stalin era.
Class struggle within the Albanian party was seen in orthodox Stalinist terms that avoided the thesis of “capitalist roaders” and regenerative class exploitation developing that emerged during the cultural revolution in Mao’s China. Against the Maoist position, they can hardly argue that there is no danger of the formation of opposing, hostile currents and lines in the party, but the emergence and formation of such currents and lines, while not an unalterable fate were also rarely prevented, as seen in the experience of the Party of Labour of Albania.
Hoxhists raise criticism of Mao aimed at the fact that he was alleged to approve the formation of hostile lines in the party and allowed recognized revisionists to continue working in the party.[xii] They misrepresent the two line struggle, personalised as Mao Tse-tung’s thesis of the bourgeoisie sitting in the middle of the party, tolerated and Mao Tse-tung allowing hostile currents to developed in the Central Committee, even though their anti-Party activities were well known.
Whereas Vice-director of the Institute of Marxist-Leninist studies, Ndreci Plasari, repeated the well-rehearsed position that “class struggle within the party is directed against enemies and traitors; against deviations, distortions and violations of party decisions and directives; against shortcomings, mistakes and gaps in the work of the leading organs and basic organizations of the party; against opportunism, dogmatism, sectarianism, and any kind of alien, un-Marxist views.”[xiii]
He noted that all the enemies and traitors who have emerged from the ranks of the Party have been rightists. Opposing the onslaught from the CPSU [xiv], Mehmet Shehu had warned:
“Messrs. plotters! Albania is a hard bone as sharp as a knife which sticks in the throat of whoever tries to bite at or swallow it.”
Not as famous as the Stasi or KGB, the Sigurimi [Drejtorija e Sigurimit të Shtetit] gets a bad press from Enver Hoxha; in essence, he implied that the Directorate of State Security failed in its duty to protect the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania. Formed in December 1944 (dissolved August 1991) the mission of the Sigurimi was to prevent counterrevolutions and to suppress opposition to the existing political system. [xv] Yet, there was Hoxha explaining, that in the circumstances of an attack at the very heart of the regime, by its hidden enemies, “I want to emphasise the issue that all the plots have been revealed by the Politburo and not State Security.”
The standard western view suggests the history of communist rule in Albania is a history of recurring purges, mass arrests and campaigns of “ideological purification.” In 1948, when President Josip Broz Tito in neighbouring Yugoslavia broke with Stalinism, the Albanian party was purged of identified individuals closely associated with “Titoites and revisionists”; in 1960, top leaders were executed as “modern revisionists and Khrushchevites”; in 1977, attention was turned to the “pro-Chinese elements” and in December 1981 Hoxha’s prime minister of 28 years, Mehmet Shehu, “committed suicide” and then was denounced as an agent of the KGB, the CIA, British Intelligence and the Yugoslav secret service.
The narrative remains the same: behind domestic opponents lay foreign hands: Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, or China, after Albania broke from successive alliances with each of those countries, Albanian communists were purged and some executed. “They have been very few in numbers, but the danger they posed was very great”. One estimate indicated that at least 170 communist party Politburo or Central Committee members were executed as a result of the Sigurimi’s investigations.
Deputy director of the PLA Institute for Marxist-Leninist Studies, Ndreçi Plasari, subjected to questioning in the aftermath of Mehmet Shehu’s death, had summarised that
“class struggle within the ranks of party organisations is linked, and cannot but be closely linked with the class struggle in the ranks of the people against the blemishes from the old society, against petty-bourgeois psychology and all remnants of old reactionary ideologies, against backward customs, as well as with the struggle against the [external-added] bourgeois-revisionist aggression.”[xvi]
The Sigurimi had proved effective in smashing the various plots of Albanian émigrés given Western support for their efforts to overthrow the Communist government in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and even in September 1982, The New York Times reported “The Albanian Interior Ministry announced that a ”band of Albanian emigre criminals” landed by boat on the Adriatic coast of Albania and were ”liquidated” five hours later.” But in the face of the political and ideological opposition at the apex of the state, and although it was responsible for purging the party, government, military, and its own apparatus, the Directorate had failed to detect Mehmet Shehu’s alleged forty years of counter-revolutionary activity.
Unspoken incompetence characterises the narrative that spun around the death of the Albanian communist Mehmet Shehu. There is the failure to detect his alleged activities over the span of four decades, and his failure to decisively fulfil the alleged sabotage and destruction of socialism in Albania. There is also the implicit criticism raised that the Directorate of State Security failed in its duty to protect the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania.
Enver tells it to Zhou
Enver Hoxha explained at length, in a conversation with Zhou Enlai, the Albanian leadership limiting view on class struggle within the party, and capitalist restoration. The degeneration of party life and conspiratorial activity by traitors and revisionists elements are seen as key factors in the undermining of the socialist state. The PLA analysis was that a worker aristocracy made up of bureaucratic cadres was being created in the Communist Party of the USSR, and that bureaucratic distortions led to ideological and political distortions, to the creation of the current of modern revisionists.[xvii]
“The seizure of power by the Soviet modern revisionists from within, without using weapons or violence, is so to speak, a new phenomenon. We think that in fact Stalin had not envisaged this, for the Soviet Union least of all. He never underrated the ferocity of the elements left over from the exploiting classes who, the closer they draw to their grave, the more fiercely they fight socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat, but we think that considering the state these remnants were in, Stalin assessed the internal situation as sound and correctly foresaw that the ally which could revive these remnants was foreign imperialism. Stalin put the stress on the danger from outside, while we can say that he did not foresee the full implication of the danger of the revisionist elements who, as a result of many subjective and objective circumstances, might emerge within the party and the socialist state and be gradually transformed, wittingly or unwittingly, consciously or unconsciously, with or without a premeditated plan, into an anti-Marxist trend, especially within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union itself. He was convinced that if some anti-party hostile activity emerged within the party, this might be developed and organized in the usual ways, but he was also firmly convinced that this activity would be attacked and liquidated by the same methods and forms that had been used to expose and liquidate all such activities in the past.
… If there is anything for which we can blame Stalin it is the fact that after the war, and especially in the last years of his life, he did not realize that the pulse of his Party was not beating as before, that it was losing its revolutionary vigour, was becoming sclerotic and, despite the heroic deeds of the Great Patriotic War, it never recovered properly and the Khrushchevite traitors took advantage of this. Here, if I am not mistaken, is where we must seek the origin of the tragedy that occurred in the Soviet Union
… generally speaking, no errors of principle will be found, but we shall see that little by little the Party was becoming bureaucratized, that it was becoming overwhelmed with routine work and dangerous formalism which paralyze the party and sap its revolutionary spirit and vigour. The Party had been covered by a heavy layer of rust, by political apathy and the mistaken idea spread that only the head, the leadership, acted and solved everything. It was this concept of work that led to the situation in which everybody, everywhere, said about every question: «The leadership knows this», «the Central Committee knows every Committee does not make mistakes», «Stalin said this and that’s the end of it». Many things which Stalin may not have said at all were attributed to him. The apparatuses and officials became «omnipotent», «infallible», and operated in bureaucratic ways, misusing the formulae of democratic centralism and Bolshevik criticism and self-criticism which were no longer Bolshevik. There is no doubt that in this way the Bolshevik Party lost its former vitality, it lived by correct formulae, but only formulae; it carried out orders, but did not act on its own initiative.
.. Careerism, servility, charlatanism, cronyism, anti-proletarian morality, etc. developed and eroded the Party from within, smothered the spirit of the class struggle and sacrifice and encouraged the hankering after a «good», comfortable life with personal privileges and gain, and with the least possible work and toil. «We worked and fought for this socialist state and we won. Now let us enjoy it and profit from it. We are untouchable, our past covers everything.» This was the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois mentality which was being created in the Soviet Union and the great danger was that this was developing in the old cadres of the Party with an irreproachable past and of proletarian origin, cadres who ought to have been examples of purity for the others.
…the lack of revolutionary vigilance, the weakening of the class struggle inside and outside the Party, the enfeebling of the revolutionary spirit in everything, lack of profound revolutionary political and ideological work on a mass scale and the bureaucratization of the Party brought about that a whole stratum of the Party completely lost the features of the proletariat, of revolutionaries, and became bourgeois, created its own cadres in the Party and the state and took power into its own hands.”
<< It is of decisive importance that the working class and its Party never allow the cadres to become bureaucratic and degenerate, never allow the emergence of the new bureaucratic bourgeoisie, as in the Soviet Union, where the bureaucratized and degenerate cadres, the new bureaucratic bourgeoisie, seized the leadership from the hands of the working class. «In the Soviet Union,» says Comrade Enver Hoxha, «the cadres, naturally the bad cadres — carried out the counter-revolution… Cadres have their place, their role, but they must not impose their law on the Party, but the Party and the class must impose their law on them… The cadres must understand this hegemony of the Party and its class correctly from the ideological angle and fight for the implementation of principles in practice» [xviii]
There is an evident lack of appreciation of the application of mass line, supervision from below and the transformation of social relations that sees greater control of the conditions of social life reside at a lower level within a developing socialist society. Instead, on the main focus to nipped the process of degeneration in the bud and prevent the weakening of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Albania, Hoxha said,
“…. The main task it [the Party] has set itself is to keep the revolutionary spirit consistently high, to temper and retemper itself ideologically and politically day by day, to keep its ranks pure, to purge itself of rotten elements, sluggards, mere talkers, careerists and incorrigible bureaucrats through an active struggle within the Party and the real and factual verification of the activity of each party member in struggle and life.” [xix]
There was a consistent view, expressed by Nexhmije Hoxha (1977) [xx] that
“All the internal enemies, without exception, are at the same time, in one way or the other, agencies of external imperialist and revisionist enemies regardless of whether these connections and this collaboration are realized directly or indirectly. The threads which unite the former with the latter are numerous. They are not united only by their common anti-communist ideology and identical aim of eliminating the Party and the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the whole socialist order in our country. They are united also by the support they render each other in the practical activity they carry out, the former from within, the second from abroad, to achieve this aim.”
The explanation repeated, that class struggle in Socialist Albania had its source
“ …in the existence of remnants of the exploiting classes and in their aims and efforts to regain their lost class power, riches, privileges and prerogatives; in the hostile imperialist-revisionist encirclement and in the aims and efforts of external enemies to destroy our socialist order by means of ideological aggression or military aggression; in the emergence of new capitalist elements and new internal enemies, who become a great danger to the Party and the proletarian power, to socialism; in the blemishes from the old society which continue to exist for a long time in the consciousness of men, blemishes which become an obstacle to the proletarian ideology and policy of the Party as dominant ideology and policy; in the so-called «bourgeois right» in the field of distribution, which socialist society is obliged to use, although it limits it more and more; in the differences between town and countryside, physical work and mental work, etc., which cannot be eliminated immediately.
… The class struggle has its source not only in these things mentioned above, but also in another aspect, which is sometimes overlooked: in the aims and efforts of the working class and its ally, the cooperativist peasantry, under the leadership of the proletarian party, to uproot every last trace of capitalist society, to carry the socialist revolution through to complete and final victory, to the complete construction of socialist and communist society, to defend every victory of the revolution and prevent a return to capitalism, to eliminate classes completely, as well as to contribute in the elimination of imperialist-revisionist oppression and exploitation and the triumph of socialism on a world scale.”
Speeches reiterated the reciprocal connection and interdependence between internal and external enemies so the waging of the class struggle in Albania cannot be taken separately from national patriotism:
“All the internal enemies, without exception, are at the same time, in one way or the other, agencies of external imperialist and revisionist enemies regardless of whether these connections and this collaboration are realized directly or indirectly. The threads which unite the former with the latter are numerous. They are not united only by their common anti-communist ideology and identical aim of eliminating the Party and the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the whole socialist order in our country. They are united also by the support they render each other in the practical activity they carry out, the former from within, the second from abroad, to achieve this aim.” [xxi]
E N D N O T E S
[i] September 20 1982, Meeting of the Secretariat of the PLA Central Committee.
[ii] Yet part of the post-justification apparently suggested a long-standing personal feud going back to when Hoxha imprisoned Shehu briefly in 1946. Nexhmije Hoxha, following the restoration of capitalism in Albania in 1991, spent six years in prison. Upon release she wrote two volumes of her memoirs which narrates some of the early post-war experiences that the PLA had of Mehmet Shehu and the relations between Enver Hoxha and Mehmet Shehu, ‘Miqësi e tradhtuar (in Albanian), ‘Betrayed Friendship, Historical Notes and Memories on the Relationship between Enver Hoxha and Mehmet Shehu’, Tirana, 2004.
[v] The Strange Death of Mehmet Shehu, London Review of Books Vol. 8 No. 17 · 9 October 1986. Frank Walbank’s Letter Vol. 8 No. 20 · 20 November 1986. Typically, ping pong disputed correspondence ensued as Halliday’s replied to reader’s critical points questioning the scholarship involved. Halliday had edited and provided commentary in the western published Artful Albanian: Memoirs of Enver Hoxha (Chatto & Windus. 1986) But perhaps better known later as co-author of best-selling although critically panned, ‘Mao – the Unknown Story’.
[vi] The Shehu’s family fate was equally dramatic: Skender Shehu returned from studies in Sweden shortly after his father’s death. He was detained in January 1982 and condemned to 15 years on charges of treason, espionage and sabotage, as well as plotting to assassinate Hoxha. He said the charges were trumped up. His mother Figret, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on murky accusations, one year after the death of Mehmet Shehu, died after seven years of internal exile in 1988.
The oldest son, unable to bear the family disgrace, Vladimir, electrocuted himself in 1982 after refusing to provide incriminating evidence to authorities trying to build a posthumous case against their father
The middle brother, Bashkim Shehu, a writer, was arrested after being accused the same year of disseminating unlawful propaganda. He was released in 1989 but rearrested several months later on the same charges. His untranslated autobiographical novel, Vjeshta e ankthit: Esse [Autumn of Fear: Essay] was published in Albania in 1994 . His father’s death was subject to literary treatment at the hands of Albania’s best-known novelist in The Successor by Ismail Kadare [translated by David Bellos. Canongate 2005]. Two versions of his death circulate among the people. The first, that The Successor killed himself, unable to bear the disclosure of his supposed crimes against the state; the second, unspoken, is that he was murdered by order of The Guide himself.
[vii] Idrit Idrizi, Enver Hoxha’s Last Purge: Inside the Ruling Circle of Communist Albania (1981–1983). East European Politics and Societies and Cultures Aug. 2021, doi:10.1177/08883254211036184.
[viii] “The Class Struggle in the Party Is the Guarantee That the Party Will Always Remain a Revolutionary Party of the Working Class” Albania Today  1 /1978. p19
[ix] The Titoites (1982) Tirana: The “8 Nentori” Publishing House p623-628 [English-language edition]
[xi] The following accounts draws heavily upon Idrit Idrizi, Enver Hoxha’s Last Purge: Inside the Ruling Circle of Communist Albania (1981–1983) . East European Politics and Societies and Cultures Aug. 2021, doi:10.1177/08883254211036184.
[xii] See №4 / 1978 of “The Way of the Party” — Theoretical Organ of the KPD/ML))
[xiii] “The Class Struggle in the Party Is the Guarantee That the Party Will Always Remain a Revolutionary Party of the Working Class” Albania Today  1 /1978.
[xiv] Khrushchev’s in his speech on Albania at the October 1961 22nd Congress of CPSU – The Road to Communism –was explicitly hostile to the anti-revisionist criticisms raised from the Albanian authorities, and scathing of its leadership under Hoxha.
“For a long time now there has existed in the Albanian Party of Labor an abnormal, evil situation in which any person objectionable to the leadership liable to meet with cruel persecution.
Where today are the Albanian Communists who built the Party, who fought Italian and German invaders? Nearly of them are victims of the bloody misdeeds of Mehmet Shehu and Enver Hoxha”.
The Albanian leaders reproach us with meddling in the internal affairs of the Albanian Party of Labor. I should like to tell you what form this so-called meddling took.
A few years ago the Central Committee of the CPSU interceded with the Albanian leaders over the fate of Liri Gega, a former member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Albanian Party of Labor, who had been sentenced to death along with her husband. This woman had for a number of years been a member of leading bodies of the Albanian Party of Labor and had taken part in the Albanian people’s struggle for liberation. In approaching the Albanian leaders at the time, we were guided by considerations of humanity, by anxiety to prevent the shooting of a woman, and a pregnant woman at that. We felt and still feel that as a fraternal party we had a right to state our opinion in the matter. After all, even in the blackest days of rampant reaction, the tsarist satraps, who tortured revolutionaries, scrupled to execute pregnant women. And here, in a socialist country, they had sentenced to death, and they executed, a woman who was about to become a mother, they had shown altogether unwarranted cruelty. (Stir in the hall. Shouts: “Shame! Shame!”)
Comrades Liri Belishova and Koço Tashko, prominent figures in the Albanian Party of Labor, were not only expelled from the Party’s Central Committee but are now being called enemies of the Party and the people. And all this merely because Liri Belishova and Koço Tashko had the courage honestly and openly to voice their disagreement with the policy of the Albanian leaders and took a stand for Albanian solidarity with the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries.
People who today advocate friendship with the Soviet Union, with the CPSU, are regarded by the Albanian leaders as enemies.
[xx] Nexhmije Hoxha (1977) Some Fundemental Questions of the Class Struggle p16
Originally Published as: “Some Fundamental Questions of the Revolutionary Policy of the Party of Labour of Albania About the Development of the Class Struggle” in the theoretical and political organ of the Central Committee of the Party of Labour of Albania, «Rruga e Partisë», Nr. 6, Tirana, 1977. Reprinted 2022. Toronto: The November 8th Publishing House. P16
Nexhmije Hoxha, née Xhulgini, (1921-2020) Member of the Central Committee of the Party and from 1966, Director of the Institute of Marxist-Leninist Studies. The wife and companion for forty-three years of Enver Hoxha, she was in fact a convinced, important and active communist who joined the Party very early in its history, rose in its ranks in her own right, and never shrank from her duty, as she conceived it. As head of the Institute of Marxist-Leninist Studies, she oversaw the publication of her husband’s voluminous writings.
Established in Canada in 2021, this site provides access to English-language pdfs of anti-revisionist literature and the name should sound familiar. The original “8 Nëntori” Publishing House, literally meaning “8 November” in Albanian, honours the founding of the Party of Labour of Albania on November 8th, 1941. It published Enver Hoxha’s Selected Works, his Reflections, his many theoretical works, his memoirs, historical notes, and more.
The new incarnation, while republishing material from the Hoxha’s canon, aims “to promote discussion among Marxist-Leninists, even reprinting controversial figures and literature. In this work, we should note that reprinting does not mean we endorse the content — nor does it necessarily represent our views — it only means that we acknowledge that there may be some value in studying it.” Amongst its existing list are titles from the usual suspects, Lenin, Stalin, Dimitrov, Zhdanov, Ramiz Alia , Nexhmije Hoxha, and Wang Ming and Kim Il Sung. Being based near Ottawa (formerly at Toronto), there are some specifically Canadian communist literature reprinted.
Amongst its publications is a new collection Congress of Betrayal – The November 8th Publishing House (wordpress.com) partially of previous untranslated comments from Enver’s Diary and other more familiar material. This selection covers the decade 1955-1966, covering such events as the 20th Congress and the denunciation of Stalin, including his epochal 1960 Moscow Meeting speech, the Hungarian counter-revolution and its source, the “anti-party” plot of Molotov et al., to the break of diplomatic relations by the Soviets in 1961, and the removal of Khrushchev and the 23rd Brezhnev Congress in 1964-66.
seek truth to serve the people
What it illustrates is the argumentation forcibly and persistently offered in the through-going contradictions with the revisionist developments under Khrushchev. Far from being a pawn in the Sino-Soviet split, as if Albania was a side show in the anti-revisionist struggle, it highlights the contribution made sincerely and independently in that anti-revisionist struggle. Having read Albania Challenges Khrushchev Revisionism (New York 1976) or The Party of Labor of Albania in Battle with Modern Revisionism (Tirana 1972) you will know what to expect, and the speech delivered at the meeting of 81 Communist and Workers’ parties in Moscow (November 16, 1960) is included in the collection. That self-reverential sense that “we have done our sacred duty to Marxism-Leninism” still pervades the selection but then again, reality proved the life-and-death class struggle they were engaged in. The disruption of the international movement and eventual disintegration did see the attempted formation and reorganisation of anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist forces. Something the Albanian party did pay close attention too.
Any evaluation of the struggle experienced by the Party of Labour of Albania led by Enver Hoxha should acknowledge it opened up the gates for the formation of the new Marxist-Leninist parties and the end of the old “fossilized and demobilized” Communist parties in the early stages of that struggle. The subsequent stance raises other questions which seems to have influenced some of the selected inclusions in the collection, before Hoxhaism was clearly delineated from Maoism,to reinforce the (contested) position that the PLA were the only forces to assess every deviationist move of the USSR correctly from the very beginning.
Congress of Betrayal | CONTENTS
KHRUSHCHEV ANNULS THE INFORMBUREAU DECISION (May 23, 1955)
WE ARE ALONE AGAINST TITO (May 25, 1955)
DITYRAMBS FROM TITO TO KHRUSHCHEV (February 18, 1956)
ON KHRUSHCHEV’S SECRET SPEECH (February 26, 1956)
THE AMERICAN IMPERIALISTS CAN NEVER CHANGE THEIR ESSENCE (March 8, 1956)
THE “ITALIAN WAY TOWARDS SOCIALISM” (March 18, 1956)
THE TRAITORS REHABILIATED UNDER THE PRETEXT OF THE “CULT OF THE INDIVIDUAL” (March 30, 1956)
A REVISIONIST PLOT AGAINST THE PARTY (April 16, 1956)
THE LESSONS WE SHOULD DRAW FROM THE PARTY CONFERENCE OF THE CITY OF TIRANA (April 21,1956)
THE 20th CONGRESS DID NOT PUT MATTERS RIGHT (May 26, 1956)
MOLOTOV HAS BEEN SACRIFICED FOR TITO (June 4, 1956)
KHRUSHCHEV SUGGESTS TO USE THE EXPERIENCE OF HITLER (June 23, 1956)
ANOTHER SLANDER LAID ON STALIN (July 2, 1956)
THE FOREIGN PRESS SALIVATES OVER THE MANOEVRE OF KHRUSHCHEV (July 3, 1956)
THE CHINESE ARE FOLLOWING THE ROAD OF THE SOVIETS (September 17, 1956)
IN NO WAY WILL WE MAKE CONCESSIONS ON PRINCIPLES (November 13, 1956)
The early sixties saw differences in the communist movement went beyond the boundaries of an internal dispute, and emergence of two main lines of demarcation, two opposite and ultimately irreconcilable lines confront each other. The struggle between two worldviews are very often materialized in the form of “power struggle” between the two leading characters, and as this happened it distorted the presentation and understanding of what was at stake. That these positions were identified with the two most prominent and successful parties complicated the development and consequences of the struggle as these enveloped both party and state relations and the world communism in ideological and strategic questions. Framed as a ‘split in world communism’, the actual ideological contest to defend Marxism and the communist vision could be less of the focus than the easy trope of Khrushchev versus Mao.
The two principal meetings of the world’s Communist Parties seeking a resolution to the issues that had arisen were those held in Moscow in 1957 with the Declaration of representatives of 12 ruling parties of the socialist countries and the 1960 Statement of 81 Communist and Workers Parties. Though ostensibly to build the unity of the Communist Movement, they were dominated by the widening rift between the CPSU and the CPC, and at each both sides fought to have their views incorporated into the final documents. The documents of those meetings became reference points in the polemic that followed. A position reaffirmed in various statements, such as the joint statement released by the Chinese and New Zealand parties in Peking May 1963:
The Communist Party of China and the Communist Party of New Zealand reaffirm their loyalty to the Moscow Declaration of 1957 and the Moscow Statement of 1960 and hold that these two documents, unanimously agreed upon by the Communist Parties of various countries, are the common programme of the international communist movement. [i]
A few years previously, a leading ideologue in the CPSU leadership had told a plenum on 22-26 December 1959, when Suslov presented a detailed report on “the trip by a Soviet party-state delegation to the People’s Republic of China” in October 1959,
“… that the Soviet Union would try to restore “complete unity” by continuing “to express our candid opinions about the most important questions affecting our common interests when our views do not coincide.” Although the aim would be to bring China back into line with the USSR, Suslov argued that if these efforts failed, the CPSU Presidium would “stick by the positions that our party believes are correct.” [ii]
From studies of declassified materials from CPSU Central committee meetings it is clear that from late 1962 on, Soviet leaders no longer held out any hope that the acrimonious polemics would be resolved with the capitulation of the Albanian and Chinese parties to the Moscow line. Toward the end of 1962, a series of conferences of fraternal Parties in Eastern Europe and in Italy were used as forums from which to attack both the Albanian Party of Labour and the Communist Party of China.
The only genuine unity, both sides argued, was on their terms, each citing Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism. Still for all the fine words and sentiments, Khrushchev publicly attack the Albanian Party of Labour at the 22nd Congress of the C.P.S.U. late in 1961.The Albanian party had been told: accept without question the revisionist line of the leaders of the CPSU.
An editorial in China’s Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily) acknowledged that the earlier platform set forth in the Declaration and the Statement was far from fit for purpose as
“the formation of certain questions in the Declaration and the Statement is not altogether clear and there are weaknesses and errors…we made certain concessions at that time in order to reach agreement. On more than one occasion, we have expressed our readiness to accept any criticism of us on this point. Despite all this, the Declaration and the Statement set forth a series of revolutionary principles which all Marxist-Leninist parties should abide by.” [iii]
However, the concessions made included the formulation that the CPSU leadership were pursuing as the strategy for the International Communist movement and could reference and defend as their adherence to the platform agreed in the two documents. When accused of being “betrayers of the Declaration and the Statement” they simply quoted the relevant part of the document that supported them. When either side can selectively use the positions in their argument, the coherence and integrity of the compromised documents reduces its effectiveness in forging a united approach for the parties concerned.
Time and time again, the anti-revisionist argument employed the fact that the Declaration and the Statement pointed out that all communist parties must wage struggles against revisionism and dogmatism, and particularly against revisionism, which is the main danger in the international communist movement, for their opponents to turn around and identify them as the dogmatists to be targeted.
On the Declaration and Statement, the Albanian view was that the two documents contained a scientific Marxist-Leninist analysis of the deep revolutionary processes in the modern world. Collection of anti-revisionist articles repeated the sentiments that they constituted a sound basis on which the Communist and Workers’ parties should build their line of actions on the revolutionary conclusions of the Moscow Declaration in their struggle for peace, national liberation, democracy and progress to an exploitation-free classless society (e.g. Oppose Modern Revisionism and Uphold Marxism-Leninism and the Unity of the International Communist Movement, Tirana 1964).
The anti-revisionists maintain that at the time revisionism is the main danger in the international communist movement: “In the last few years many events have further confirmed the conclusion of the Declaration of 1957 and the Statement of 1960 in this respect.” [iv]
Both sides continued to differentiation between parts of the Declaration and the Statement, with the defence of their revolutionary principles the foundation of the anti-revisionist position. The editorial argued that the CPSU leadership had “tore up these documents [the Declaration of 1957 and the Statement of 1960] on the very day they were signed.”
In contrast, the suggestion of an alternative platform was made in the 25 Points on the General Line of the International Communist Movement put forward in June 1963 that effectively jettison the platform that the CPSU leadership still used in defence of its new policies.
The Khrushchov revisionists stated the People’s Daily “are pressing forward with their anti-revolutionary line of ‘peaceful coexistence’, ‘peaceful competition’ and ‘peaceful transition’. They themselves do not want revolution and forbid others to make revolution.” The editorial concluded that betrayal of the revolutionary principles “can only lead to a split” [v]
The escalation and hardening of the public polemics were clearly signalled on both sides with the words far from reflecting fraternal relations. Whereas there was an appeal to the agreement that relations “should follow the principles of independence, complete equality, mutual support and the attainment of unanimity thought through consultation” , the article charged that “Khrushchov revisionists practise big-power chauvinism, national egoism and splittism, waving their big baton everywhere, wilfully interfering in the affairs of fraternal parties and countries, trying hard to control them and carrying out disruptive and subversive activities against them, and splitting the international communist movement and the socialist camp.”
Referencing the 22nd Congress of the CPSU, the charge was that the Soviet leadership was “casting to the four winds all the basic theses of Marxism Leninism and all the revolutionary principles of the Declaration and the Statement.” Furthermore, “they are enforcing the dictatorship of the privileged bourgeois stratum in the Soviet Union and have embarked on the road to capitalist restoration.”
The stark division in positions expressed were directed to a wider audience. Periodically there was issued calls to an end to the public polemics which “had an unfriendly character and are abusive of sister parties” however as British academic Julia Lovell, and others observers, noted,
“The Soviets’ riposte was robust. They printed 3.2 million copies, in thirty-five different languages distributed to eighty-five countries, of just one of several open letters to the CCP refuting the latter’s ‘slanderous attacks’. They poured energy and money into sponsoring local activists all over the world to write anti-Chinese copy, to show anti-China films, and give anti-Chinese lectures. As relations became deeply hostile in late 1962, the New York Times speculated that Khruschev now wished for a ‘Soviet-American Alliance Against China.’.” [vi]
The Chinese criticism of the new Soviet leadership following Khrushchev’s departure was observed and interpreted through ideological lenses, that they remain loyal to the general line of “the founder of their faith and the maestro who ‘creatively developed Marxism-Leninism’, simply because Khrushchov was too disreputable and too stupid to muddle on any longer, and because Khrushchov himself had become an obstacle to the carrying out of Khrushchov revisionism. The only way the Khrushchov revisionist clique could maintain its rule was to swop horses.”
“While proclaiming they are building ‘communism’ in the Soviet Union, they are speeding up the restoration of capitalism.” [vii]
The distrust in the leaders of the CPSU was mirrored in attitudes towards US imperialism where the base line was that “the destiny of mankind and the hope of world peace cannot be left to the “wisdom” of U.S. imperialism or to the illusion of co-operation with U.S. imperialism.”
Reconciliation between the parties, ensuring the much-proclaimed unity of the international movement was no longer a feasible option, especially as a condition laid down by the anti-revisionists involved the prospects of the CPCU repudiating the revisionist general line laid down at the 20th and 22nd Congresses. Sham unity would no longer tolerated.
The lines of demarcation had been drawn by both sides.
Since the 81 Parties’ Meeting in 1960 there had been talk of the holding of an international meeting of the world parties – provided such a meeting was held with the object of reaching ideological unity and not with the object of forcing an organisational split.
The Communist Party of China’s representatives met in Moscow on July 15, 1963. But on the day preceding, the leaders of the C.P.S.U. published to the world its slanderous attackson the Chinese Party contained in the now notorious Open Letter. [viii]
Others testify to how the CPSU leadership asserted its paternal assumptions. The talks held by the New Zealand Party delegation in Moscow in 1963 were later described in terms that
“Our frank and free presentation of views was, as comrades know, met with the same tirade of abuse and subjectivism which had been inflicted upon other Party delegations seeking a similar down-to-earth critical and self-critical study of problems on the basis of Marxist-Leninist science.”
The attitude of the C.P.S.U. leaders may be summed up: “There shall be no criticism of our line. You must submit to this line even though you consider it revisionist. This line is the line to which all world Parties must adhere without question. We shall see to it that any who do not do so are ostracised from the world movement.” Thus the line of “compulsory unity with revisionism” or open split emerged as the line of the C.P.S.U. leaders. [ix]
In March 1965 the CPSU managed to finally convene their “schismatic”, “fragmented meeting. The divisive meeting was quite small and most unseemly. It was a gloomy and forlorn affair” was the judgement of People’s Daily/Red Flag in their “A Comment on The March Moscow Meeting” (March 23 1965). Of the 26 parties invited, 19 attended who were “were rent by contradictions and disunity” (and not only according to Chinese reporting). They described the divisive March Moscow meeting as “now hatching a big plot for a general attack on China and a general split in the international communist movement. The time had passed when the CPC could proclaim “Eternal, Unbreakable Sino-Soviet Friendship” [x]
Giving it the description as a “consultative meeting” did not alter its intention as preparation for an international conference of the Communist and Workers Parties. Still, it failed to act as a drafting meeting. The Albanian paper Zeri I Popullit called it “a major crime against the world communist movement” explaining that the “incorrigible revisionists and renegades from Marxism-Leninism” had sought to “bring about the final split in the communist movement in the organisational plane”. The Albanian commentary noted that for all the demagogic oaths about unity and solidarity, the meeting showed that the CPSU leadership could not even “define a common line for revisionism and to eliminate the division that exists within their ranks”. [xi]
The reaction of the Communist Party of New Zealand to the March meeting convened in Moscow by the leadership of the C.P.S.U. reflected the scepticism at what was seen as an attempt to foist this improper meeting upon the World Communist Movement, under cover of soft words and Marxist-Leninist phrases, further disunity in the world movement: “ It makes clear that the leaders of the C.P.S.U. (and their supporters in other places) persist in their revisionist ideas and are determined to impose them upon the world movement.” [xii] The Chinese comment explained the initial approach of the party to the divergences with the CPSU:
“In the incipient stages of Khrushchov revisionism and in the course of its development, we invariably proceeded from the desire for unity and offered our advice and criticism, in the hope that Khrushchov might turn back. We indicated on many occasions that the points the fraternal Marxist-Leninist Parties had in common were basic while the differences among them were partial in character, and that they should seek common ground while reserving their differences.” [xiii]
What had developed under Khrushchov and subsequent was the policies the new leaders of the CPSU adopted towards fraternal countries and fraternal Parties remained the views expressed in the Open Letter of the Central Committee of the CPSU of JuIy 14, 1963, in Suslov’s anti-Chinese report at the February 1964 plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU and in the resolution adopted on this report, and actions of unscrupulous interference in the internal affairs of the fraternal Parties and engage in disruptive and subversive activities against them. The inability to bring its anti-revisionist critics to heel was clear when only 19 of the 26 invited Parties attended march Moscow meeting. Significant absentees included five of the Parties from the socialist world, namely, Albania, China, Korea, Rumania and Vietnam. Indonesia (the largest Communist Party outside of the socialist world) and Japan also refused to attend. As the Chinese observed, “the number of those obeying Khrushchov’s baton was already decreasing.”
The pressures of the world Parties (including some like Italy and Britain, who attended) and the failure to get a representative gathering forced a change in the character of the meeting – from one which was to organise and prepare a meeting of world Parties in 1965 to a down-graded “consultative meeting.” This was a setback for the revisionist leaders of the C.P.S.U. The meeting itself demonstrated that it could not prepare and proceed to convene a conference of world Parties. But it is equally clear from the communique that the organisers have not given up their hopes of imposing their revisionist ideas on the world movement. [xiv]
The observations of the New Zealand party were concerns shared by others who identified with the criticisms raised by the Albanian and Chinese parties and their supporters.
“What is the attitude of the leaders of the C.P.S.U. towards criticisms of its line and policy? Were they welcomed, studied, analysed, verified or, where necessary, corrected? Comrades know from the development of the ideological dispute that this was not the approach of the leaders of the C.P.S.U. On the contrary, it was an arrogant, conceited and commandist stand. Stand-over methods and economic and political pressures were exerted in an effort to enforce the Soviet leadership’s point of view. Under the cover of words like “proletarian internationalism,” its opposite, great-power chauvinism, was enforced. On the ideological front, the theoretical bankruptcy of the Soviet leaders became quickly exposed. Abuse of other parties and distortions of Lenin were used in an attempt to bolster an impossible case. Quotations from “Left-Wing Communism,” by Lenin, became favourite missiles to hurl at all who dared to criticise the policy of the Soviet leadership from a fundamental Marxist-Leninist viewpoint.” [xv]
These were a manifestation of the same struggle being waged on a national scale, the differentiation of forces within individual parties. The growth and consolidation of the new Marxist-Leninist groups proved largely marginal, with the Communist Party of New Zealand being an exception in the industrialised world aligning to the developing anti-revisionist camp. [xvi]
The historical analogy within the anti-revisionist struggle against revisionism saw the CPSU leadership line as taking them right back to the struggle of Lenin and the Mensheviks in 1903, on the membership rule of the Party, on the role of the vanguard party and the issues of how imperialism in the early part of the century turned Labour leaders into “the Labour lieutenants of Capitalism in the ranks of the working class”.
Clearly for the anti-revisionists, the ascendancy of bourgeois ideology within the working-class movement or its political parties ends in their adaptation (capitulation) to capitalism and imperialism. It was not about personalities; the struggle between Marxism-Leninism and revisionism is a class struggle.
“The present polemic” wrote the Albanian leader, “is of a major character, dealing with the most fundamental theoretical and practical issues of communism. Having been started by the revisionists, it has become unavoidable and indispensable.” [xvii]
The point emphasised was that the ideological struggle – and its practical consequences – were in order to wage the struggle against imperialism and reaction successfully and further strengthen the unity of the international proletariat. There was the wider context expressed by the Chinese party led by Mao Zedong that
“the emergence and development of Khrushchov revisionism is by no means a matter of a few individuals or an accidental phenomenon. It has profound social and historical causes. So long as imperialists and reactionaries exist and so long as there are classes and class struggle in the world, Khrushchov revisionism will inevitably recur in one form or another and the struggle against it will not come to an end.” [xviii]
“to expose their true revisionist features”
“The Chinese Communist Party has on many occasions made clear its stand on the question of the public polemics, and we now once again announce it to the world: Since there are differences of principle between Marxism-Leninism and modern revisionism and since the modern revisionists have maligned us so much and refused to acknowledge their mistakes, it goes without saying that we have the right to refute them publicly. In these circumstances, it wiII not do to call for an end to the public polemics, it will not do to stop for a single day, for a month, a year, a hundred years, a thousand years, or ten thousand years. If nine thousand years are not enough to complete the refutation, then we shall take ten thousand.” [xix]
Participants in these struggles recognised that the struggle between these two opposing lines presented the prospect of a split as a fait accompli; the question was how the ideological division would be formulated in organisational developments. How would ‘true international solidarity’ be expressed? So far respecting norms and non-interference in the internal affairs of other parties had been violated with charges and counter-charges of factional activity thrown around when Marxist-Leninists had no avenue but to organise themselves in new groups to continue to defend revolutionary positions and challenge revisionism within their national parties. The position had shifted from the thesis of the 1960 Declaration that revisionism was “the main danger in the international communist movement”, it had become the main enemy in the international communist movement.
Enver Hoxha raised the opinion
“There can be no hope or illusion that the Khrushchevite revisionists will mend their ways and return to correct positions of principle.” [xx] He was candid in a private meeting, telling his Malayan guests: “We do not forget that the leaders of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union are enemies who have carried on and still carrying on utterly anti-Marxist and anti-Albanian activity against our Party and people”. [xxi] After all, the Soviet leadership not only opposed the Albanian party, it broke off diplomatic relations with Albania extending the dispute to the nation-state as it scrapped all economic, culture, military and other agreements in an attempt to isolate and break Albanian opposition.
So, what could involve raising the struggle against modern revisionism “to a higher level”? A visiting New Zealand delegation were told in October 1965 that, in the opinion of the Albanian party “not unity with the revisionists but the definitive split with them is on the agenda” [xxii] .
In a conversation with a delegation of the Communist Party of Malaya in January 1965, Enver Hoxha spoke of the serious difficulties in the international communist movement created by the revisionists. He judged that while they had been exposed by the anti-revisionist struggle, that while was no unity of opinion in the revisionist ranks, the CPSU leadership had not “yet lost their power and influence”. The counter-attack of the Marxist-Leninists, Hoxha said “must settle them completely…. Our Party of Labor is of the opinion that our Marxist-Leninist parties should not give any ground in the contradictions they have with the modern revisionists.” [xxiii]
The circumstances had changed in the composition of the international communist movement since the Moscow meeting in 1960 with the emergence of a series of new Marxist-Leninist parties and groups waging “a stern principled struggle” outside, and within the ranks of the old parties. The bilateral meetings were valued by the Albanian leadership as “our Marxist-Leninist internationalist unity becomes stronger through co-operation between the parties” [xxiv] The assistance given by the Albanian party went beyond the level of propaganda support. [xxv]
1965 had begun with raised expectations. An Editorial in Zeri i Popllitt proclaimed “In the Europe which breeds revisionism, revolutionary Marxism-Leninism will triumph.” The editorial said, “History has proved that, as the principal stronghold of capitalism and world imperialism, Europe and North America are also the cradles of opportunism and revisionism in the international workers’ movement.”
Surveying the history of opposition to such ideological current it described the Khrushchev group as “the main bulwark of revisionism of the most rabid type.” It declared
The revisionists are bent on paralysing the fighting will of the European working class, making it depart from the path of revolutionary struggle and become apathetic by spreading all kinds of pacifist and reformist illusions. The revisionists try to push their line of betrayal to turn some European Communist and Workers’ parties with glorious traditions from parties carrying out the social revolution into parties for social reform, from militant, organised and disciplined revolutionary vanguard of the working class into amorphous organisations, with no clear objectives and devoid of sound Party discipline, where all kinds of bourgeois careerists, careerists and opportunists can join or leave as they please.” [xxvi]
Having unleashed attacks upon the Chinese Communist party, the Albanian Party of Labour and “all the healthy forces of the revolutionary communists in their Parties and countries”,
“With their opportunists, traitorous and divisive line and manoeuvres, the European revisionists are entirely responsible for the grave situation created in the world communist movement, and in particular, for the great harm and damage done to the European workers’ and communist movement.” [xxvii]
The article stated the need “uniting the revolutionary forces in Europe with the anti-imperialist struggle for liberation of the oppressed people of Asia, Africa and Latin America.”
Forecasting that a new revolutionary upsurge will take place in Europe, unchecked by the “temporary boom” of capitalism for “The main obstacle on the path of revolution in Europe today is Khrushchovian revisionism which strangles revolutionary enthusiasm, paralyses the fighting will and spirit of the working class …and keeps the Communist Parties of Europe far away from the revolutionary path.” Given these circumstances the Albanian paper states the perspective that:
The struggle of the revolutionary Marxists of Europe and North America, as a component part of the struggle of all the communists in the world, is of particular international significance today because this is carried out inside the citadel of modern revisionism, a citadel which must be demolished and smashed to smithereens.
With their organized legal and illegal forces, the Marxist-Leninists in Europe are carrying out work inside and outside their parties, to oppose the propaganda and organisation of the revisionists, forming and strengthening Marxist-Leninists groups and new Parties and carrying on inner-Party struggles to defend their principles trampled upon by revisionists, combat their tactics, reduce the sphere of their activities, expose their line and aims, isolate them from the masses of Communists and finally eliminate them. [xxviii]
The article cites the example of the revolutionary Marxist-Leninists of the Soviet Union “awakening and waging an active and determined struggle “, but without providing evidence or examples beyond the generalities. An explanation for the lull in polemics following Khrushchev expulsion from power was that the Soviet leadership was in a transitory stage of determining new tactics so as to avoid struggles and blows from Marxist-Leninists.
It is precisely because of this difficult position and the contradictions with which they are confronted that the present Soviet leaders are trying to maintain “silence” or “lull”. In appearance, they try their best to present themselves as being more restrained than their chieftain, N. Khrushchov, creating a false impression that they can mend their ways while in reality they stubbornly pursue the original Khrushchovian line.
Such a period of “lull” and “silence” benefits the imperialists and revisionists but harms the communist movement and the cause of Marxism-Leninism and socialism, because in this period the revisionists endeavour to consolidate their positions with a view to launching a more violent attacks on Marxism-Leninism.” [xxix]
Having described revisionism as an ulcer on the healthy body of the revolutionary movement and communist movement in Europe and the rest of the world, the article concludes with a rallying call that “Now is the time for revolutionary Communists to combat treason, liquidate modern revisionism and re-establish the original Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist unity of all communists of the world”.
This ambiguous sentiment was read as a call for the internationalisation of the anti-revisionist forces in a recognisable movement structure. Speculation was on whether, and how, the complete break with revisionism would manifest itself amid the reconstruction of the communist movement that saw Marxist-Leninists organise independent of the revisionist parties.
In the fight against revisionism the cultivation of organised anti-revisionists had resulted in separate pre-party organisations for communist unity, against revisionism. The intensification of the anti-revisionist struggle led away from reconciliation or acceptance of the revisionist path set out by the 20th and 22nd Congresses of the CPSU. Stating that the parties of western Europe stood “in the service of the monopolistic bourgeoisie of their countries” and that that they were following an “opportunistic, traitorous, and splitting course of action” there was not much hope given of transforming those parties for revolutionary struggle.
Along with the public refutation of all the slanders and attacks made against the Party of Labor of Albania, the Communist Party of China and the other Marxists-Leninists, the Albanians called for the unequivocal rehabilitation of Stalin “for the revisionists concretized their attack on Marxism-Leninism and the proletarian dictatorship with their attack on J.V.Stalin.” [xxx]
By 1965 the fight to transform those Moscow aligned communist parties had given way to establishing alternative poles of attraction in reconceiving the revolutionary movement. Evidence of this ambition of a Comintern-lite arrangement peppered the events of the year. A more favourable attitude towards a new international was discernible in the Albanian position. The PLA was more assiduous about maintaining bi-lateral relations with the new groups with regular visits by their representatives, and name checks on Radio Tirana and in ATA reports.
Speculation was not unanticipated, raised by the obvious intentions in Moscow to resolve important problems by seeking to hold a planning conference for a global meeting of parties scheduled originally for autumn 1964. Such an action would cement not only the divisions between the parties but might not their opponents be motivated to organise what would be the first anti-revisionist organised council after all the CPC’s Proposal for a General Line issued in June 1963 signalled an alternative platform for world communism.
Supporters, or what opponents dubbed them, the “Peking faction” were seen in the Albanian capital as a general test for a future international founding congress of “the Peking line”. There was even mischievous western media speculation that the next occupiers to be house in the Soviet Embassy in Tirana was to become a centre for a new international headquarters of anti-revisionists/pro-Chinese communists. There was some Western speculation that the Tirana “summit” meeting of “Marxist-Leninists” should be seen as the embryo of a Marxist-Leninist International in opposition to the Moscow centred organisations. The list of these delegations, as reported by Radio Tirana, included the Belgian Marxist-Leninist CP delegation, headed by Jacques Grippa; representatives of the New Zealand CP and the Communist Party Australia Marxist-Leninist; leading members of Marxist-Leninist groups and editors of Marxist- Leninist publications from Austria, France, Italy, Spain and Britain, and representatives from Chile, Ghana and Guinea.
The significance of the gathering of these Marxist- Leninist representatives was that this was the first time that a state event of a ruling Communist Party has been attended by the leading members of the newly emerging anti-revisionist forces. Whether there would be a declaration that formalised the political divisions – the split with Moscow – so as to likely leave a lasting imprint on the international Communist movement was an expectation that increased prior to the 1966 Fifth Congress of the Party of Labour of Albania. [xxxi]
The judgement of the Swiss based Marxist Leninist Nils Andersson was that
“An important demonstration of the reality of the Marxist-Leninist movement was the celebration of the 5th Congress of the PLA in November 1966, which was attended by the CP of China and 28 Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations from the five continents. There was great enthusiasm, for Albania it was one of the great moments in its history, it had defeated the revisionist and imperialist blockade; for new parties it was the first time they had been able to get together in such great numbers.” [xxxii]
The participation of representatives of the new Marxist-Leninist groups in the 5th Congress was seen as an important event in the international communist movement. The official authorised history of the PLA said that such internationalist solidarity manifested by such engagement:
“expressed the love, support and the great authority the PLA had won in the international arena by its resolute struggle for socialism and the preservation of the purity of Marxism-Leninism.” [xxxiii]
Mao’s Message of Greetings to the Fifth Congress of the Albanian Party of Labour was read out by Kang Sheng, head of the delegation of the Communist Party of China. He then addressed the internationalist audience invited to the 5th Congress of the PLA:
“At present, Marxist-Leninist Parties and organizations are emerging in quick succession in all continents and they are growing and becoming increasingly consolidated every day. They are drawing a clear line of demarcation between themselves and the modern revisionist clique theoretically, ideologically, politically, organizationally and in their style of work. They are directing their efforts towards building themselves into Marxist-Leninist Parties of a new type. These new-type proletarian revolutionary parties represent the fundamental interests of the proletariat and revolutionary people in their respective countries; they represent the future and the hope of these countries, they represent the core of leadership in their revolutions. The birth and growth of the new type Marxist-Leninist Parties and organizations is a great victory of Marxism-Leninism in its struggle against modern revisionism.” [xxxiv]
The 5th Congress ratchet up the unfilled expectation when Belgian party leader, Jacque Grippa, introduced a new element to the Congress with a message from the new established illegal Provisional Central Committee of the Communist Party of Poland (although Party leader Mija was at the Congress). For the first time a Marxist-Leninist party formed in opposition to a ruling revisionist party was given recognition and publicity by an estranged “fraternal” Albanian party at a time of a bitter struggle waged within the international communist movement between Marxist-Leninists and modern revisionists. The significance of a split from a ruling party and creation of an illegal oppositionist Marxist-Leninist party was not repeated elsewhere in Eastern Europe or the Soviet Union. These organisations sent greetings to the fifth congress and their flattering messages among the 28 republished in a 212 paged publication from the <Naim Frasheri> Publishing House, purveyors of Albanian political propaganda. [xxxv]
In the major report to the Congress, Enver Hoxha gave encouragement to the speculation when to the assembled Marxist-Leninists he called for a not- too-clearly defined “separate unity” composed of these forces. He did this by declaring that the PLA believed that “the creation of links cooperation and coordination of activities in conformity with the new present- day conditions was an indispensable and urgent matter.”
Marking the Soviet October Revolution, a Zeri i Popullit editorial of November 7th, praised the role of the 5th Congress on the question of unity by quoting from Hoxha’s report: “All the Marxist Leninist parties and forces, as equals and independents, should form a bloc with the CCP and the CPR, a bloc of iron to break all our enemies.”
Did Hoxha feed the expectations of the newly emergent anti-revisionist movement when he declared to the 5th Congress audience that:
“The unity in the communist movement and the socialist camp will be re-established, but it will be established by the Marxist-Leninist without the treacherous revisionists and in resolute battle against them. (Prolonged applause)” [xxxvi] . The opinion of the Albanian Party was that “we must not reconcile and unite with the revisionists, but break away and separate from them.”
Perhaps hinting at the reformation of an alternative arrangement with each party equal and independent rather than recapture of the Moscow dominated structures, especially when referring to revisionists as “the fifth column” and a “trojan horse”, the Albanian leader said, “We think it is high time to draw a demarcation line with modern revisionism, with all its group, and to wage a tit-for-tat struggle, so as to isolate them from the people and from the revolutionary Soviet communists.” [xxxvii]
Hoxha’s report stated that the anti-revisionist struggle must be promoted to a new height.
“ ..thanks to the struggle of the Marxist-Leninist forces, to the reaction against the revisionist line and methods, a great process is taking place and deepening : that of the differentiation of the forces of Marxism-Leninism and revisionism, both in a national and in an international scale. Tens of new parties and Marxist-Leninist groups have been founded in different countries of the world, including some socialist countries. We wholeheartedly hail these Marxist-Leninist parties and groups and wish them ever greater successes in their just struggle for the lofty revolutionary ideals of the working class. (Prolonged tumultuous applause. Ovations) ….. for in the growth of these new revolutionary forces we see the only just way to the triumph of Marxism-Leninism and the destruction of revisionism. (Prolonged tumultuous applause. Ovations)” [xxxviii]
The cultivation, and encouragement (some might say “talking-up”) of these newly emergent forces – “tens of new parties” – related to the background consideration to Enver Hoxha Congress report set out in his “Theses on the Unity of the International Marxist-Leninist Movement”, a diary entry for October 10 1966. Prior to the 5th Congress Hoxha consider the necessity of consultation among the anti-revisionist parties and groups on general meetings which the Albanian leadership advocated for strengthening the unity of the international communist movement. Included in the diary (published 1979) was a reference raising questions why the Chinese party was avoiding such a course of action (which some reviewers wondered if added after the fact to pre-date a political opinion subsequently formed).
“the joint meeting and the taking of joint decisions is important. The meeting will be informed of and study the forms of work and organisation and set tasks for each party…There is no one to oppose the idea in principle; the most they can do is leave it to melt away from lack of action. But it is they who will be wrong and not us.” [xxxix]
There was a militant crescendo in the rhetoric “to spare no effort to support the just revolutionary struggle of the Marxist-Leninist parties and forces, it [PLA] will tirelessly work for the consolidation and strengthening of the Marxist-Leninist movement and the anti-imperialist unity of the peoples of the world.” [xl]
“Marxist-Leninist must strengthen their unity on a national and international scale and their resolute struggle against imperialism and revisionism. The time we are living is not to be spent on academic, endless and empty discussions, but in daring militant actions full of revolutionary selfless spirit and sacrifice….The ranks of the Marxist-Leninist parties and forces must be closely united and well-organised, prepared and tempered to fight on…. Establishment of links for co-operation and co-ordination of actions in conformity with the new actual conditions….. consolidate their co-operation and they must work out a common line and a common stand on the basic questions, especially in connection with the struggle against imperialism and modern revisionism.” [xli]
Enver Hoxha in conversation with V.G.Wilcox thought
“The militant revolutionary spirit of the heroic times of the Comintern and the time of Lenin and Stalin should characterize world communism today.” October 1965 [xlii]
He told the world in his Congress report, November 1st 1966
“in the forefront of present-day struggle against the US-led imperialism, against modern revisionism with the Soviet leaders at the top, stands strong and steadfast the Communist Party of China and the great People’s Republic of China, headed by the prominent Marxist-Leninist, Mao Tse-tung (Prolonged applause. Ovation)
Yet in his diary, he supposedly written a more hostile judgement as Hoxha confided of the need to urge the “Chinese comrades somewhat to activize themselves in the support of the new Marxist-Leninist parties [xliii]
We think, in particular, that the time has come for our Marxist-Leninist parties to develop the most appropriate and fruitful different working contacts.
‘’it is up to us, to both your big party and Our Party, in the first place, to take the first steps to concretize closer, more effective links with the whole world Marxist-Leninist movement, so that our Marxist-Leninist unity is further tempered and our joint activity against our common enemies is strengthened. [xliv]
The PLA reiterated the party’s readiness and ‘lofty internationalist duty’ to give all the aid in its power to these new Marxist-Leninist forces. A later interpretation concluded that from the 5th Congress the international communist movement “had set out on the road to revival on a Marxist-Leninist basis.”[xlv]
Again, there was speculation, prior to the PLA’s 6th party congress, when Enver Hoxha raised the expansion and consolidation of the Marxist-Leninist movement which was seen as having experienced some neglect due to the domestic preoccupation with the Cultural Revolution. Albania felt this having, from September 1967 to May 1969, no resident Chinese ambassador to its closest ally in Tirana. He told the Tirana party conference, in January 1969, that the international Marxist-Leninist movement had entered a more advantage stage of development. The new emerged Marxist-Leninist parties constituted an overt detachment from modern revisionism and from the old communist parties:
“This is the picture of a new revolutionary situation in the fold of the international working class which is splitting and at the same time being re-organised. In its fold there is being consolidated the conscious and revolutionary part of the proletariat to wage the struggle of the vanguard against socialists, the social democrats and modern revisionists who still have very strong positions, especially in the strata of workers aristocracy that deceives the bulk of workers.”
The assertion of these new Marxist-Leninists forces engaged in a vanguard role might have signalled the intention of an approaching consolidation on an international scale, particularly in light of the looming Moscow Meeting scheduled for that May. He emphasised the right of independent action for these parties within their national boundaries on domestic issues reaffirming the complete equality of parties, “big or small, old or young”.
In a divergence observation, the public pronouncements of the Albanian leader altered radically by the end of the Seventies. With political rewriting and self-justification, this later interpretation of events presented a more critical analysis of relations within worldwide anti-revisionist movement, although there was no mention of the unseen side dramas. Jacques Grippa, the leader of the Communist Party of Belgium (m-l), and European fixer among the pro-China groups, took the opportunity at the 5th Congress to tell the Albanian party his great dissatisfaction with certain Chinese policies. Grippa eventually sided with Liu Shao-chi. [xlvi]
The authorised History (volume 2) stated the new Marxist-Leninist parties had:
“pinned their hopes especially on the support of the Party and PR of China as a “great Marxist-Leninist Party” and a “big socialist country”. In general, they were disillusioned when they did not find the immediate support that they hoped for. In reality, as been known later, at first Mao Tse-tung, and his associates, did not approve of the formation of the new parties and groups and had no faith in them.”
Indeed, Hoxha’s reaction to the news that no party delegation from China would be attending the 6th Congress scheduled for 1971, as convey in his diary was the belief that they had “no confidence in the new Marxist-Leninist parties and groups which are being created….does not want to be stuck with them…and this is in conformity with its vacillating revisionist line.” [xlvii] His comment was that, “For the international communist movement, of course, this opportunist revisionist line of the Communist party of China is not good, because it weakens and confuses it. But everything will be overcome.” [xlviii]
The Albanians charged later that the Chinese were “exploiting those organisations for their own narrow interests”, recognising anyone, and everyone, provided they proclaimed themselves “followers of ‘Mao Tsetung thought’”. [xlix]
In contrast to the alleged Chinese role in ‘disrupting and impeding’ the revival of the Marxist-Leninist movement worldwide, the History (1981) highlights the 7th Congress of the Party of Labor of Albania in 1976 as when the parties entered a new phrase of sorting itself out and development on what is described as Albania’s echo of the sound proletarian basis. [l]
WHEN THE Albanians made speeches condemning Mao it was accomplished without a hint of self-criticism for the PLA’s years of conciliation to the “Chinese revisionists”. Hoxha had confided in his diary that China was a “great enigma” but that the PLA proceeded from the general idea that Mao was a Marxist-Leninist.
The PLA was apparently blameless. In the publications produced by the Albanian publishing houses, the PLA was a vociferous defender of China as a socialist country, the Communist Party of China as a great Marxist-Leninist party and Mao as a great Marxist-Leninist. So it was difficult to deduce any significant difference between them. Supporters and the Albanians find it difficult to manufacture reasons for Enver Hoxha and Party of Labour of Albania to keep silence on Mao’s as well as CPC’s alleged deviations and revisionism, until Mao was dead.
Indeed in 1971, Hoxha had said in his Report to the Sixth Congress:
“Great People’s China and Albania, the countries which consistently pursue the Marxist-Leninist line and are building socialism. The role of the People’s Republic of China this powerful bastion of the revolution and socialism, is especially great in the growth and strengthening of the revolutionary movement everywhere in the world. “
Furthermore, there was full agreement from Tirana on the correct line which the Communist Party of China advocated in putting forward “A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement” in 1963, which it gave political support. Even with the voluminous anti-revisionist propaganda commentaries and its own public role since 1960 criticising Khrushchev and the cosying up to US imperialism, Tirana did defer in the leadership of the struggle against Khrushchev to the CPC. The PLA accepted the hegemony of the CPC and Mao in the international anti-revisionist communist movement even though it thought that, from 1972, China had entered the dance with US imperialism with Nixon’s visit to Beijing that marked the collapse of America’s isolation and containment policies towards People’s China.
After the breach in the relationship, what was exposed was the disconnect between his public utterances and supposed entries into Hoxha’s private diary at the time, his increasing sceptical views on China and its relationship with Albania. The deterioration in the relationship between the two allies simmered for the rest of the decade until the rupture in 1977/78 offered stark ideological alignment that divided the anti-revisionist movement.
There was never really an explanation why the Albanians themselves were so hopelessly confused by Mao and such “anti-Marxist” theory that they adopted large portions of it or, worse still, they recognized it all along but were willing to help promote this “revisionist” line on revolutionaries around the world.
The accelerated interest and concern for the anti-revisionist parties to assist its own foreign policy objectives partly sprang from its growing contradictions with China. This international support and sympathy crafted out of an image of purity and principled struggle, standing up to face China as it had faced down the Soviet leadership. Socialist Albania would not surrender to a revisionist malignancy but expressed its insistence of remaining faithful to Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism. Personified in Enver Hoxha’s writings was a presentation essentially based on the promotion of the ideological orthodoxy of Marxism-Leninism.
The Albanian position presented a stark choice as it cleaved at an association that had developed over a decade and a half, challenging the young anti-revisionist organisations to choose between its analysis and that of the Chinese authorities.
That emergence of two main lines of demarcation within the anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist movement, and the Maoist recalibration that was witnessed in the early 21st century could be seen as proof of dialectics in action as unity is sought to advance the struggles for a fairer and just society.
[ii] Mark Kramer, « Declassified materials from CPSU Central Committee plenums », Cahiers du monde russe [Online], 40/1-2 | 1999, Online since 15 January 2007: http:// journals.openedition.org/monderusse/14 ; DOI : 10.4000/monderusse.14
[iii] The Leaders of the CPSU are Betrayers of the Declaration and the Statement Peking: Foreign Language Press 1965
[v] The Leaders of the CPSU are Betrayers of the Declaration and the Statement. Peking: Foreign Language Press 1965 p8
[vi] Lovell (2019) Maoism a global history. London: Bodley Head p147
[vii] The Leaders of the CPSU are Betrayers of the Declaration and the Statement p5. Hoxha claimed “Khruschev’s downfall is a result of the struggle waged by the Marxist-Leninists.” Enver Hoxha (1977) Speeches Conversations Articles 1965-1966. Tirana: The “8 Nentori” Publishing House p5
[xvii] …. Enver Hoxha (1977) Speeches Conversations Articles 1965-1966. Tirana: The “8 Nentori” Publishing House P97. The authorised history of the young party founded November 1941, born of war and revolution, proudly recalled:
The Party of Labor of Albania has fought with exceptional severity against modern revisionism, the offspring and agency of imperialism. The irreconcible principled struggle which it has waged from the start against the Yugoslavia revisionists has equipped it with a great revolutionary experience and acuteness to recognise and to fight better and with more determination against the Khruschevite revisionists as well as other revisionism, with Soviet revisionism at the centre, constitutes a major class enemy and the main danger to the international communist and workers’ movement.
Institute of Marxist-Leninist Studies (1971) History of the Party of Labor of Albania. Tirana: The “Naim Frasheri” Publishing House p671
[xxxii] Nils Andersson The Origins of the Marxist-Leninist Movement in Europe. Unity & Struggle No. 28, September 2014
[xxxiii] Institute of Marxist-Leninist Studies (1971) History of the Party of Labor of Albania. Tirana: The “Naim Frasheri” Publishing House pp606/607
[xxxiv] Communist and Workers’ Parties and Marxist-Leninist Groups Greet the Fifth Congress of the Labor of Albania. Tirana 1966 p18
Remarks given added weight as during the Cultural Revolution period, Kang had Politburo oversight of the International Liaison Department of the CPC, responsible for contacts, communications and co-ordination with other communist organisations throughout the world. This changed in 1971 when the leadership position was held by Geng Biao /Keng Piao, formerly China’s ambassador to Albania, who remained in post throughout the 1970s.
[xlv] Institute of Marxist-Leninist Studies (1981) History of the Party of Labor of Albania 1966-1980 (Chapters VII, VIII, IX) Tirana: The “8Nentori” Publishing House p41.
The 2nd volume of the authorised History published in 1981 covers the period 1966-1980. The first chapter, labelled Chapter VII covering the 5th Congress was not a reproduction of the original Chapter VII that ended the first volume (printed 1971). It was re-written to reflect the new anti-China, anti-Mao analysis to be found in the two volumes of Enver Hoxha’s Reflections on China and other post-1976 Albanian publication.
[xlvii] Hoxha (1979) Reflections on China 1 P596 Hoxha bitterly complained about the Chinese comrades and the 6th Congress, dismissing the greetings sent as “full of stereotyped phases, which the Chinese use constantly” in his entry for November 9th 1971 with its intemperate language and accusations of “opposition to our party over line.” p609
Floating around the internet is a 4 volume English language compilation entitled “The Collected Writings of the Communist Party of Peru 1968-1999” comprising some 1116 pages. A few are in Spanish. It has been seen in pdf and epub file format. Production wise it has some obscure last lines on various articles where the spacing and setting is off but the entries seem to be of released material from the CPP. No formal identification to its production is evident.
This contents listing is a research aid to the material.
The enhanced republication by the Foreign Language Press of the second volume of the Documents of the CPC – The Great Debate covers the period from the first exchange of letters between the CPC and the CPSU regarding the general line of the International Communist Movement (February-March 1963) to Khrushchev’s dismissal in October 1964
Included in the volume are the open letters that were distributed as anti-revisionist contributions to the theoretical debate, and intra-party letters that were not supposed to be publicly spread, containing criticisms regarding the way the debate was being conducted. The CPC made the letters public in May 1964, after the CPSU began quoting parts of them out of context in articles in Pravda to discredit the CPC. The intra-party letters, adding the date they were written, are included in this volume. The primary material is sourced from the political weekly Peking Review, allowing for the reader’s interpretation and analysis of the argument present.
There is much to consider in the arguments presented at the time, and re-reading them again after 40-odd years when they were first approached, the strength and clarity of the anti-revisionist position remains persuasive. This body of work remains foundational for any understanding of the struggle against modern revisionism. Among these comprehensive repudiation of revisionist positions, this appreciation seeks to signpost and focus on one of the text, the editorial of the People’s Daily and the Red Flag from February 4, 1964, The Leaders of the CPSU Are the Greatest Splitters of Our Times.
“the greatest splitters in the international communist movement”
A modern myth on the left has developed that the division in the international communist movement was the fault of Mao Zedong. This was reflected and dramatically expressed by a small oppositionist group to the Eurocommunist CPGB
“There can be no question that the Chinese Communist Party committed a terrible crime against humanity when it separated China from the Socialist Camp and the World Communist Movement, and immediately launched a campaign to split both.”
[The Appeal Group, Behind The Revolutionary Mask (1974) 23.]
There has emerged an attitude (and argument) that all that has past no longer matter, that such political divisions were no longer relevant for the Marxist left today, that the choices taken then should not have consequences now. In fact, unity is all. The demarcation drawn at the time involved, not just essential issues of principles and analysis; it had consequences for policies and actions. Nor was it initiated by criticism of the Soviet leadership but by the actions to supress the concerns raised by revolutionaries.
It is fundamentally flawed to frame the Great Debate in terms of a Chinese-led march away from a healthy communist movement. By the early sixties it was pregnant with antagonistic contradictions reflecting differing worldviews that could not coexist in a unitary structure. As noted in the publishers’ note to the first of the planned trilogy of volumes, they “show that the core of the Great Debate was not the struggle between the two Parties in two different countries; it was actually between the path to socialism upheld by Marxists-Leninists, and the path toward the restoration of capitalism upheld by modern revisionists.”
The Chinese editorial looked at the struggle between Marxism-Leninism and opportunism and between the forces defending unity and those creating splits runs through the history of the development of the communist movement.
What was drawn from that history was that like everything else, the international working-class movement tends to divide itself into two. The class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is reflected in the communist ranks. It identified opportunism and revisionism as the political and ideological roots of splittism.
The position of the Communist Party of China was that;
“Between the 20th and 22nd Congresses of the CPSU, the leaders of the CPSU developed a rounded system of revisionism. They put forward a revisionist line which contravenes the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, a line which consists of “peaceful coexistence,” “peaceful competition,” “peaceful transition,” “a state of the whole people” and “a party of the entire people.” They have tried to impose this revisionist line on all fraternal parties as a substitute for the common line of the international communist movement which was laid down at the meetings of fraternal parties in 1957 and 1960.”
Whereas one can question whether the compromise resolution of either of those meetings could actual sustain unity within the international communist movement, they were platforms to build an understanding of the dangers of revisionism within the movement. However, the basis for correction and consolidation was undermined. The Soviet leadership were accused of having
“violated the principles guiding relations among fraternal countries as laid down in the Declaration and the Statement, pursued a policy of great-power chauvinism and national egoism towards fraternal socialist countries and thus disrupted the unity of the socialist camp.
It was easy to point to Albania (then the treatment of the People’s Republic of China) as an example of the political, economic and even military pressure to bear on fraternal countries, and evidence of the leaders of the CPSU having completely ignored the declared principle of achieving unanimity through consultation among fraternal parties and habitually make dictatorial decisions and order others about. They have recklessly torn up joint agreements with fraternal parties, taken arbitrary decisions, engaged in public attacks
Yet the public relations offensive from Moscow ascribe criticisms and opposition to their revisionist and divisive line to a desire to “seize the leadership.” Citing the dissolution of the Comintern, the Chinese communist party reiterated that it
“this resolution corresponded to reality and was correct. In the present international communist movement, the question of who has the right to lead whom simply does not arise.” And in its subsequent behaviour, there was no attempt to establish a Comintern structure based in Beijing. Whereas what was observed was that,
“Apparently, the leaders of the CPSU consider themselves the natural leaders who can lord it over all fraternal parties. According to their logic, their program, resolutions and statements are all infallible laws. Every remark and every word of Khrushchev’s are imperial edicts, however wrong or absurd they may be. All fraternal parties must submissively hear and obey and are absolutely forbidden to criticize or oppose them. This is outright tyranny. It is the ideology of feudal autocrats, pure and simple”
The charge rejected in the article is that of supporting the Anti-Party groups in fraternal parties describing “groups of defectors, which oppose the communist parties of the United States, Brazil, Italy, Belgium, Australia and India.”; there is a counter-accusation that
“The leaders of the CPSU have stirred up trouble and created splits in many communist parties by encouraging the followers of their revisionist line in these parties to attack the leadership, or usurp leading positions, persecute Marxist-Leninists and even expel them from the Party”
Within the Communist Party of Great Britain, as elsewhere, those who raised question of line were silenced and expelled. Administrative measures were the response of the party leadership to the arguments raised by anti-revisionist members. The Central Organisation Department in March 1964 identified those “giving complete support to the general line of the Communist Party of China “and had resigned (or in some cases were expelled) from the Party. They presented the situation as one where they had “embarked on a course of deliberately building up all breakaway splinter groups.
Inner party disenchantment with aspects of the party’s line had been simmering for years; the avenues to challenge and engage in “any real discussion of core policies was blocked”. Similarly with the Great Debate the scope and extent of participation saw the leadership steadily refuse to become involved in the political questions which arise in the Chinese-Soviet documents. Party experts were giving the lead on the issues in which they echoed the Soviet leadership’s main positions. A limited right to reply was exercised but no extensive investigation undertaken by party members that would involve questioning organisational loyalty.
There was the recollection that : “although we managed to get some resolutions passed in our own branch for London District and National Congresses in 1957 and 1959, they were swallowed up in the Black Hole of merged resolutions and disappeared forever.” Administrative measures neutered the possibility of an internal criticism of what was seen as the opportunism of the leadership and the incorrect policies, the status quo was protected by the position whereby critical members distinguished the organisation itself, the instrument for the emancipation of the working class, from the individuals making it up. As inter-Branch communication was against the rules, any attempt to communicate with others to mount a challenge was seen as factionalism and grounds for expulsion. So inner-party critics had very little room to manoeuvre with the application of centralism rather than democratic centralist principles and practices.
An example of what was presented as the activities of anti-party splitters was recalled by Muriel Seltman, expelled from the CPGB with her husband Peter in 1963:
“…. we distributed a copy of an article produced by the Chinese Party to Party members at a London District Meeting of the Communist Party. In this way, we violated Branch boundaries—you were not allowed to take any action except through your Branch. We did this because the London District Secretary, John Mahon, had made a speech criticising the Chinese for “racism” on account of their special references to “Asia, Africa and Latin America.” We decided to “defend” the reputation of the CCP and distributed the alleged offending speech which had been given by the Chinese delegate at the World Congress of Women to show the Party members that the speech was not racist. We knew perfectly well what we were doing, although we asserted we had not really broken Party rules as we had not gone outside the Party, and in any case, the material we distributed was written by a “fraternal” Party. After various letters between the London District Committee and Peter and me, we were expelled.”
Everyone who tried to change the line of the CPGB at local or national level quickly discovered that the Party and its organs were completely and bureaucratically controlled by a clique of full-time revisionist officials. There could be no open discussion, criticism or revolutionary activity within the Party.
In the autumn of 1963 an “Appeal to All Communists” was made in the name of The Committee to Defeat Revisionism, for Communist Unity (CDRCU) led by Michael McCreery, and public meetings organised, calling for a complete ideological and organisational break with revisionism and for setting up an organisation to work for the building of a Marxist-Leninist Party to replace the revisionist dominated CPGB.
McCreery’s contribution in “The Way Forward” analysed the ideological and organisational revisionisms of the CPGB and urged the need to build a new party based on Marxist-Leninist ideology and politics. Circumstances had “compelled all those who remain loyal to the 1960 Statement of the international Communist movement to expose him [Khrushchev], and his followers throughout the world, and struggle actively to safeguard the Communist movement from their anti-Leninist ideas.”
To quote at length the example of the Belgian party, the editorial of the People’s Daily and the Red Flag argues:
Differences have existed inside the Belgian Communist Party for a long time. The struggle within the Party has become increasingly acute as the original leading group has sunk deeper and deeper into the quagmire of revisionism and abandoned Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism.
During the counter-revolutionary rebellion in Hungary, the revisionist group in the Belgian Communist Party went so far as to issue a statement condemning the Soviet Union for helping the Hungarian working people to put down the rebellion.
This revisionist group opposed the Congolese people’s armed resistance to the bloody repression of the Belgian colonialists and supported the US imperialists’ utilization of the United Nations to interfere in and suppress the movement for national independence in the Congo. It shamelessly prided itself on being the first to appeal to the United Nations, “desiring the rapid and integral application of the UN decisions.”349
It praised the Tito clique’s revisionist program, saying that it “contains ideas which enrich Marxism-Leninism.”350
It denigrated the 1960 Statement, saying that its contents were all mixed up and that “in every twenty lines there is a phrase contradicting the general line of the Statement.”351
During the great strike of the Belgian workers towards the end of 1960 and at the beginning of 1961, this revisionist group undermined the workers will to fight by denouncing their resistance to suppression by the police and gendarmes as “rash and irresponsible actions.”352
In the face of these betrayals of the interests of the Belgian working class and the international proletariat, it is only natural that Belgian Marxist-Leninists headed by Comrade Jacques Grippa earnestly struggled against this revisionist group. They have exposed and repudiated the errors of the revisionist group inside the Party and have firmly resisted and opposed its revisionist line.
Thus it is clear that the struggle inside the Belgian Communist Party is a struggle between the Marxist-Leninist and the revisionist line.
How has the revisionist group in the Belgian Communist Party handled this inner-party struggle? They have pursued a sectarian and divisive policy and used illegitimate means to attack and ostracize those Communists who have persevered in a principled Marxist-Leninist stand. At the 14th Congress of the Belgian Communist Party they refused to allow Jacques Grippa and other comrades to speak and, disregarding the widespread opposition of the membership, illegitimately declared them expelled from the Party.
It is in these circumstances that Belgian Marxist-Leninists headed by Comrade Jacques Grippa, upholding the revolutionary line, have firmly combated the revisionist and divisive line pursued by the original leading group and fought to rebuild the Belgian Communist Party. Are not their actions absolutely correct and above reproach?
In openly supporting the revisionist group in the Belgian Party and encouraging it to attack and ostracize Belgian Marxist-Leninists, the leaders of the CPSU have simply exposed themselves as creators of splits in fraternal parties
349 Ernest Burnelle, Interview with a Correspondent of l’Humanité on the Congolese Question, Le Drapeau Rouge (organ of the Belgian Communist Party), July 26, 1960.
350 “The Belgian Communist Party and the Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia,” Le Drapeau Rouge, April 22, 1958.
351 Jean Blume, Speech at the Federal Congress of Brussels, on December 3, 1961, cited by Jacques Grippa in “For the Marxist-Leninist Unity of the Party and for the Marxist-Leninist Unity of the International Communist Movement,” Le Drapeau Rouge, February 22, 1962.
352 Jean Blume, “For a Complete and Quick Victory: Two Communist Proposals,” Le Drapeau Rouge, December 29, 1960.
Documents of the CPC – The Great Debate Volume 2 1963-64 .FLP 2022:265-267
In 1963, Jacques Grippa, a prominent leader in the pro-Soviet Communist Party of Belgium, was expelled from the Party for his anti-revisionism. Grippa had been active in the Party since the 1930’s, was a hero of the World War II Belgian resistence movement, and had headed its Brussels Federal Committee. In 1964, Jacques Grippa and a significant number of his supporters founded an alternative Communist Party of Belgium (PCB) and published La Voix du Peuple (The Voice of the People). He addressed the Higher Party School for the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on June 10, 1964. It was subsequently published as Theory and Practice of the Modern Revisionists, (Peking: FLP, 1965).
With Chinese support, both ideological and financial, Grippa helped organize pro-Chinese anti-revisionist groups in other European countries. This activity proved to be a source of contention and confusion domestically and internationally. With the outbreak of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, however, the PCB underwent a split as supporters of the Cultural Revolution clashed with Grippa and his supporters. Many left the PCB to form several new Maoist parties – the Walloon Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) and the Communist Party Marxist-Leninist of Belgium. In 1968, Grippa came out openly in support of Liu Shao-chi, the former Chairman of the People’s Republic of China, a main capitalist-roader target deposed during the Cultural Revolution.
Another early supporter who was to sever relations with the Chinese party was the Danish group, the Communist Working Circle (CWC) “Kommunistisk Arbejdskreds”, (KAK) formed in 1963, headed by Gotfred Appel, publicly proclaimed its profound disagreement with the Chinese evaluation of what they termed “an unpredecentedly gigantic revolutionary mass movement” amongst the workers of Western Europe and North America during 1968.
In 1968 China Pictorial at the height of the student agitation in France had reported it in terms of a “surging tide of revolution; the progressive student movement and the workers’ movement, which support and inspire each other, have combined to form a revolutionary torrent charging violently at the reactionary rule of the French monopoly capitalist class and shaking the whole capitalist world”.
Whereas, about the Moscow supporting PCF, it reported:
“The traitorous activities of the French revisionist leading clique have had the active support and close co-ordination of the Soviet revisionist leading clique. Gnashing their teeth, the Soviet revisionists viciously attacked the French student movement as the “mutinous activities” of “leftists” and “adventurists”
Of the political militancy, the revisionist PCF’s newspaper L’Humanite, published an extremely critical article that described the young militants as members of “certain groups (anarchists, Trotskyists, Maoists etc) composed in general of sons of the big bourgeoisie and directed by the German anarchist, Daniel Cohn-Bendit. One might expect a supposed revolutionary party to support a potentially revolutionary situation but the revisionist PCF was hostile to the students’ actions. In China they were lauded. That difference reflected the practical choices that were available in The Great Debate.
The MLM publishing house, Foreign Language Press has embarked on producing a new three volume edition of the Selected Works of Ho Chi Minh. The first volume was made available in 2021.
In “The Path Which Led Me to Leninism” Ho Chi Minh describes the excitement of reading Lenin’s writings on colonialism (although the recollection comes from 1960, he is referring to his experiences in 1920). Ho’s early writings attacks “the hydra of western capitalism” for “stretching its horrible tentacles towards all corners of the globe.” He accuses the French of hypocritically talking about a “civilizing mission” while bringing “misery, ruin, and death” to their colonies. He criticizes the French Socialist Party for silence in the face of these policies and applauds the Communist International for taking up the colonial question. As he explains, “Uncle Ho” embraced Leninism because it offered a “path to liberation” for the Vietnamese people. But there is more than nationalistic motive when Ho describes Leninism as “the radiant sun illuminating our path to final victory, to socialism and communism”.
Ho Chi Minh, real name Nguyen Tat Thanh (1890-1969), Vietnamese Communist leader and the principal force behind the Vietnamese struggle against French colonial rule. He came to symbolise Vietnam’s struggle for independence. His personal qualities of simplicity, integrity, and determination were widely admired, not only within Vietnam but elsewhere as well. In the struggle to complete the liberation of Vietnam, Ho died before the withdrawal of US forces, and defeat of the Saigon regime it had bankrolled and militarily underpinned. He died on September 2 at the age of seventy-nine.
The revolutionary internationalism and national liberation that motivated the commitment that this outstanding communist displayed throughout his life was evident in the commemorative issue of Vietnam magazine that marked his funeral in 1969.
Wilhelm Liebknecht (1826-1900) participated in the Paris rising of 1848 and was subsequently gaoled in Switzerland for his part in a republican revolt before being exiled to Britain in 1850.
There he met Karl Marx, becoming a family friend, sharing country walks and trips to Hampstead Heath. As his recollection of one raucous evening on Tottenham Court Road reveals, Marx and Liebknecht also enjoyed a drink.
Liebknecht returned to Germany in 1862, becoming a leading figure in the new German Social-Democratic Party and member of the Reichstag.
One evening, Edgar Bauer, acquainted with Marx from their Berlin time and then not yet his personal enemy […], had come to town from his hermitage in Highgate for the purpose of “making a beer trip.” The problem was to “take something” in every saloon between Oxford Street and Hampstead Road – making the something a very difficult task, even by confining yourself to a minimum, considering the enormous number of saloons in that part of the city. But we went to work undaunted and managed to reach the end of Tottenham Court Road without accident.
There loud singing issued from a public house; we entered and learned that a club of Odd Fellows were celebrating a festival. We met some of the men belonging to the “party,” and they at once invited us “foreigners” with truly English hospitality to go with them into one of the rooms. We followed them in the best of spirits, and the conversation naturally turned to politics – we had been easily recognised as Germany fugitives; and the Englishmen, good old-fashioned people, who wanted to amuse us a little, considered it their duty to revile thoroughly the German princes and the Russian nobles. By “Russian” they meant Prussian nobles. Russia and Prussia are frequently confounded in England, and not alone of account of their similarity of name. For a while, everything went smoothly. We had to drink many healths and to bring out and listen to many a toast.
Then the unexpected suddenly happened…
Edgar Bauer, hurt by some chance remark, turned the tables and ridiculed the English snobs. Marx launched an enthusiastic eulogy on German science and music – no other country, he said, would have been capable of producing such masters of music as Beethoven, Mozart, Haendel and Haydn, and the Englishmen who had no music were in reality far below the Germans who had been prevented hitherto only by the miserable political and economic conditions from accomplishing any great practical work, but who would yet outclass all other nations. So fluently I have never heard him speak English.
For my part, I demonstrated in drastic words that the political conditions in England were not a bit better than in Germany [… ] the only difference being that we Germans knew our public affairs were miserable, while the Englishmen did not know it, whence it were apparent that we surpassed the Englishmen in political intelligence.
The brows of our hosts began to cloud […]; and when Edgar Bauer brought up still heavier guns and began to allude to the English cant, then a low “damned foreigners!” issued from the company, soon followed by louder repetitions. Threatening words were spoken, the brains began to be heated, fists were brandished in the air and – we were sensible enough to choose the better part of valor and managed to effect, not wholly without difficulty, a passably dignified retreat.
Now we had enough of our “beer trip” for the time being, and in order to cool our heated blood, we started on a double quick march, until Edgar Bauer stumbled over some paving stones. “Hurrah, an idea!” And in memory of mad student pranks he picked up a stone, and Clash! Clatter! a gas lantern went flying into splinters. Nonsense is contagious – Marx and I did not stay behind, and we broke four or five street lamps – it was, perhaps, 2 o’clock in the morning and the streets were deserted in consequence. But the noise nevertheless attracted the attention of a policeman who with quick resolution gave the signal to his colleagues on the same beat. And immediately countersignals were given. The position became critical.
Happily we took in the situation at a glance; and happily we knew the locality. We raced ahead, three or four policemen some distance behind us. Marx showed an activity that I should not have attributed to him. And after the wild chase had lasted some minutes, we succeeded in turning into a side street and there running through an alley – a back yard between two streets – whence we came behind the policemen who lost the trail. Now we were safe. They did not have our description and we arrived at our homes without further adventures.
This account is from the book Karl Marx: Biographical Memoirs. written by Wilhelm Liebknecht some 40 years after the event. First German edition, Nuremberg, 1896; first English translation (by E Untermann), 1901. Reprinted by Journeyman Press, London, 1975.