The Sixth Congress (1971)

At the Palace of Culture of Tirana, the 6th Congress of the Partia e Punës e Shqipërisë, PPSh was held during November 1st-7th,  1971, and coincided with the 30th foundation anniversary of the party. A 90-minute documentary, 30 vjet PPSH, Kongresi VI i PPSh (’30 years of the PPSh, VI Congress of PPSh’), was produced of the party congress.

The 6th party congress adopted directives for the fifth five-year plan. The directives called for the transformation of Albania from an agrarian-industrial to an industrial-agrarian country. In December the National Assembly adopted the fifth five-year plan, based on the directives of the 6th party congress.

The 6th congress adopted a decision to replace the constitution of the People’s Republic of Albania. The subsequent 7th party congress, held in 1976, adopted a new constitution which declared Albania as a socialist state.

Enver Hoxha presented the Report on the Activity of the Central Committee of the Party of  Labor of  Albania subsequently published by the Naim Frasheri Publishing House.[i]

Nesti Nase, Foreign Minister, spoke of the great successes of the foreign policy of Albania, especially in the development of friendship and fraternal cooperation with People’s China. He pointed to the victory for China in the U.N. as another achievement of the continuous efforts made by Albania on the diplomatic front.

Albania’s Deputy Foreign Minister Reis Malile had thanked the delegations of those countries who supported the Albanian Resolution. The General Assembly, he said, has once and for all rejected the U.S. scheme of “two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan”. This decision is also a heavy defeat for the Soviet social-imperialists who have made every effort to isolate China. The restoration of the rights of China is a victory in the struggle of the peace-loving states to free the U.N. from the manipulation of the two big powers, and to revive the U.N.[ii]

Enver Hoxha, Haxhi Lleshi and Mehmet Shehu sent a message of congratulations on 0ctober 27 to Mao Tse-tung, Tung Pi-wu, and Chou En-lai in Peking. The message said among other things that the restoration of the rights of People’s China in the U.N. and the expulsion of the Chiang Kai-shek clique is a result of the victorious march of the Chinese people on the road of revolution and socialism under the leadership of their Communist Party headed by the great Marxist-Leninist Mao Tse-tung. lt is a result of the correct foreign policy of People’s China and its determined struggle in defense of freedom loving and peace loving peoples and states. The General Assembly has recognized that the world cannot manage without People’s China, that without its participation no important problem can be solved.[iii]

Notably there was no representation of the Communist Party of China at the 6th congress. Reportedly the Chinese ambassador to Tirana Liu Jen Hua was occupied touring the country with a Chinese electricity group.

At the 6th Congress Hoxha indirectly criticized recent Chinese foreign policy moves by declaring that, “As long as American imperialism and the Soviet revisionist imperialism are two imperialist superpowers and come out with a common counter-revolutionary strategy, it is impossible for the struggle of the peoples against them not to merge into a single current. You cannot rely on the one imperialism to oppose the other.”[iv]  At the same time Albania had opened trade negotiations with France, Italy, and the recently independent Asian and African states, and in 1971 it normalized relations with much derided neighbours Yugoslavia and the military dictatorship in Greece.

The Congress occurred at a time of victory for the two parties and states: China’s rightful place in the United Nations Organisation had been secured in October by popular vote, in part orchestrated by Albanian sponsorship and lobbying by the Albanian mission in New York.  

Over a period of twelve years, Albania’s political conduct had been based on the view, and advocacy that the day would come when the United Nations Organisation would plead the People’s Republic of China to take its rightful place in this organisation with full rights of membership of the United Nations and the UN Security Council. [v]

 However, the previous summer, before the Congress, Enver Hoxha on behalf of the party, had sent a critical, some would say harsh and rude, letter on August 6, 1971 to the leadership of the Communist Party of China saying “ ..we make known to you that we don’t approve your decision to welcome Nixon in Beijing”. It was given the title, when published for the first time[vi] as IT IS NOT RIGHT TO RECEIVE NIXON IN BEIJING. WE DO NOT SUPPORT IT. It warned such a visit “will bring many negative consequences to the revolutionary movement and our cause“.

The Albanians later said they never received a reply to the letter.

However, in October 1971 Hoxha was informed that the Chinese would not be sending a delegation to the 6th Congress of the Party of Labour and in 1972 the Chinese did send messages notifying the Albanians that they should expect a lower level of economic activity with China in the future.

All this was hidden from the attendees of the 26 foreign delegations attending the 6th Congress of the P.L.A:

  • Vietnamese Workers’ Party (Nguyen Van Tran) and National Liberation Front of South Viet Nam (Prof . Nguyen Van Hieu) 
  • the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) (E. Hill)
  • the Communist Party of New Zealand (Vic Wilcox)
  • the Communist Party of Indonesia (Jusuf Adjitorop)
  • the Communist Party of Poland (Kazimierz Mijal)
  • the Communist Party of Malaya
  • the Communist Party of Brazil
  • the Communist Party of Italy (Marxist-Leninist) (Fosco Dinucci)
  • the Communist Party of Peru (Rafael Kaline)
  • the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of France (Jean Ferre)
  • the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (Reg Birch)
  • the Communist Party of Japan (Left) (Takayuki Anasako)
  • the Revolutionary Communist Party of Chile (Ernesto González)
  • the Communist Party of Spain (Marxist-Leninist) (Raúl Marco)
  • the Communist Party of Ceylon (M.C.N. Shafi)
  • the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador (Alfonso Jaramillo)
  • the Sudanese Communist Party (Revolutionary Leadership) (‘Xhabir’)
  • the Marxist-Leninist Party of Austria (Franz Strobl)
  • the Communist Party of Germany/Marxist-Leninist (Ernst Aust)
  • the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Netherlands (‘Kris Petersen’) [Dutch secret service]
  • the Marxist-Leninist Communist League of Sweden (Kurt Lundgren)
  • Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Belgium (Fernand Lefebvre)
  • the “Vanguardia Comunista” of Argentina
  • the Marxist-Leninist Communist League of Denmark (Benito Scocozza)
  • and the Marxist-Leninist Groups of Norway (Sigurd Allern)

ln addition to the delegations attending the Congress, many messages of greetings were received from those parties and groups that could not send delegations. These included messages from China, Korea, Burma, and Thailand, which were read to the Congress.

The message from the C.C. of the Chinese C.P. was greeted with special enthusiasm. lt praised the P.L.A. for its resolute struggle against imperialism, revisionism, and reaction, for its support of oppressed people and nations and genuine Marxist-Leninist parties. “You have made important contributions t0 the world revolutionary cause and set, a brilliant example of proletarian internationalism for the revolutionary people the world over,” it said. The message also lauded the advances made during the past five years in socialist revolution and construction, in the further revolutionization of Party and State life, in consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat. lt reaffirmed the unbreakable revolutionary friendship between the two people based on Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism, in the common struggle against the common enemy. “We will always stand firmly on your side, fight shoulder to shoulder, unite as one, and advance hand in hand.” [vii]

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.” [viii]

At the time of the 6th Congress the situation had grown more complicated with political contradictions appearing in the anti-revisionist camp, partly due to China’s policy directions and the immature nature of those new parties whereby the role that tailism and creeping adulation could play in that recognition. The high expectations of a unified international structure emerging, evident at the 5th Congress, were stymied by the positive opposition of the Chinese party to encourage such arrangements. The overtures for party relations with revisionist parties and recalibration of foreign policies were all of concern. For the Albanians, China’s improving relations in the Balkans and overtures to Romania’s Nicolae Ceaușescu raised the hackles. Albanian scholar, Yiber Marku looked extensively at the new parties disquiet behind the scene at the 6th Congress.[ix]

Mijal centre stage with Enver

During the informal meetings with many foreign communist delegations that that occurred China’s absence did not pass without comments, some of which indicated dissatisfaction with China’s acts within the communist camp. The Austrian delegate, Franz Strobel, commenting on Nixon’s visit, wondered rhetorically, ‘when is Nixon coming to Albania?’. He labelled the Chinese decision to not send a delegation to foreign party congresses as ‘extraordinary, as the same internal situation in China… Nixon’s visit to China has caused confusion within communists.’ There is anecdotal evidence that when the Marxist-Leninist Party of Austria approached the PLA with its concerns over Nixon’s visit to China, the advice it received was to continue to support the CPC and discipline those in the organization who were arguing for the Party to publicly condemn what they characterized as the CPC’s capitulation to imperialism.

Some of these delegates met in Tirana with the Chinese ambassador in Albania, Liu Zhenhua. One of them, David Benkis, representing the Communist Party of Chile (m-l), lamented the lack of financial assistance that Geng Biao had promised to give him in Albania during this congress. In another meeting, he complained of the treatment that the CCP had reserved for certain parties, which he alleged was not based on the equality among parties. A meaningful comment came from the Chilean delegate on Chinese policy when he affirmed in an informal meeting that ‘China now prioritizes the interstate relations, rather than inter-party relations. This offered the best explanation of the departure in Chinese foreign policy from its ideological radicalism, to state pragmatism in international relations.

The Belgian delegate, presumably Fernand Lefebvre, after meeting Hoxha, is reported to have said, ‘You are different from China’, without further elaborating.

At the previous 5th Congress Jacques Grippa, the leader of the Communist Party of Belgium (m-l) , and European fixer among the pro-China groups, had expressed to the Albanian party his great dissatisfaction with certain Chinese policies. He had been in China during 1966, and lamented the fact that he been kept completely uninformed about the Cultural Revolution. Grippa was not alone in his frustrations over the lack of information. Kazimierz Mijal told similarly of his meetings with Chinese diplomats in Tirana, that the information provided about the Cultural Revolution was ‘very vague’, or sometimes clearly inaccurate, as it was when he was told the Cultural Revolution would be over within the year (1968).  Grippa eventually sided with Liu Shao-chi and was expelled from the anti-revisionist movement in no small part to Albanian reports, to the Chinese and others, of Grippa’s criticism

Kazimierz Mijal, representing the PCP (m-l), in presence of the Brazilian delegate, affirmed that the ‘Chinese refusal to send a delegation leaves room for speculation by the revisionists that there is no unity between China and Albania’. Mijal reinforced his contrariety to China’s decision to not participate at the congress, when on 5 November he told the Chinese ambassador in Tirana, Liu Zhenhua, ‘I am against Chinese decision to not participate at the congress, which itself has raised debates and speculations of a possible disunity between China and Albania’.

During the informal talks, the small foreign delegations discussed also the events in China. . Some delegations, such as those of Peru, Ecuador and Brazil, asked to meet the Chinese ambassador. The main topic of their discussion in Albania was the extent of the reformation in China. These small parties were concerned about their futures, of the ideological axis upon which they had built their action. Among these groups, British communist Reg Birch is said to have a confidential document for Hoxha regarding a meeting he allegedly had with Chinese comrades, with whom he had discussed the current situation in China. No such document was found in the Albanian party archive, nor is it clear if he relayed it to Hoxha.

Disequilibrium in what were often low level contacts in the first place, saw a disentanglement by some organisations as there was an overshadowing issue that all the Marxist-Leninists had to consider, and that was the change in the relationships that the Chinese party had initiated with revisionist parties. This contrasted with the Albanian refusal to countenance such political relationships. Some of the Marxist-Leninist organisations agreed with the Albanian stance without openly criticising Mao and the Communist Party of China.

 In the informal discussion periods, the Spanish Marxist-Leninist implicit rebuke the Chinese for having re-established relations with “the revisionism of the renegade, anti-patriot and agent of the oligarchy, Santiago Carrillo,” and argued that: “One of the principal tasks of Marxist-Leninists is that of carrying on and intensifying ‘the struggle against every kind of revisionism and opportunism, wherever it may arise, regardless of the mask that it may don…. For this reason it is not possible to support, to deal with or to reach agreements with one type of revisionism in order to combat another kind) since they are all linked by the common denominator of enmity to the revolution·, to Marxism-Leninism, and are all instruments of reaction, imperialism and social-imperialism. The divergences between revisionists are nothing but a matter of struggles between rival cliques and constitute a proof of their bourgeois ideology and degeneration.”

The subsequent ritual reference to “all the Marxist-Leninists of the world, headed by the Albanian Party of Labor and the Chinese Communist Party” — indeed, the order (Albanians first, Chinese second) might be regarded as further evidence of a shifting of loyalties from Peking toward Tirana. Even in their closest period there were visible differences in the emphasis of the PLA and CPC. These political cleavages came to the forefront in 1977-78 but have their seeds in the Sino-American rapprochement at the start of the Seventies. French Marxist Leninist, Patrick Kessel recalls a visit to Tirana in 1972, and the discreet manner of the PLA’s objection to the role of the army in China during the Cultural Revolution and Nixon’s visit . The new element, evident since the 7th Congress, was, for Kessel, “the directly questioning of the part played by Mao Zedong”. [x]

Reflecting on China’s relations with the Party of Labour in  1973, Hoxha imitated in his political diaries (not published until 1979, after the Sino-Albanian break)  that “Chou En-lai, Li Hsien-nien and Mao have cut off their contacts with us, and the contacts which they maintain are merely formal diplomatic ones. Albania is no longer the ‘faithful, special friend’. For them it comes at the end of the line, after Rumania and Yugoslavia in Europe … it is quite obvious that their ‘initial ardour’ has died.”[xi]

 In April the same year Geng Biao, who was in charge of relations with foreign parties, was reported by Enver Hoxha as informing the Albanians that “China does not approve the creation of Marxist-Leninist parties and does not want the representatives of these parties to come to China. Their coming is a nuisance to us but we can do nothing about them, for we cannot send them away. We accept them just as we accept the representatives of bourgeois parties.”[xii] Whatever the truth of the matter, it was believed by many.

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.


[i]  In Enver Hoxha (1982)  Volume IV –  February 1966 – July 1975. The «8 NËNTORI » Publishing House Tirana  p683

[ii] See also

[iii] Quoted in the American publication Albanian Report Vol 2 No.2 October-November 1971

[iv] Hoxha 1982: 698

[v]  Enver Bytyçi (2022) In the Shadows of Albania-China Relations (1960-1978) Cambridge Scholar Publishing, particularly Chapter 3

[vi]  Hoxha 1982 p665


[viii] Nils Andersson The Origins of the Marxist-Leninist Movement in Europe.  Unity & Struggle No. 28, September 2014

[ix] The next paragraphs draw heavily on an extract from Ylber MARKU’s  Sino-Albanian relations during the Cold War, 1949-1978 : an Albanian perspective.

[x] Quoted in Tirana builds an Internationale.

[xi] Hoxha, Enver (1979). Reflections on China . Vol. 2. Tirana: 8 Nëntori Publishing House.

[xii] Hoxha, Enver (1985). Selected Works Vol. 5. Tirana: 8 Nëntori Publishing House.p693

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