From Communism #11
"The atmosphere in Gjirokaster is mad. Popular revolt transforms itself into total anarchy, there are no more police, no more State, no more rules. The city is exuding enthusiasm, blossoming, has become excited by rebellion."
(Le Monde - 11/3/1997)
"To have a weapon is a pleasure"... an "indisputable drunkenness that provokes anarchy in the combatants"... "Pillaging is increasing, carried out by hordes of the poor or by bandits. No one is hiding and there is sometimes a party atmosphere."
(Le Monde - 16-17/3/1997)
A breath of fresh air in the crushing atmosphere of social peace
The struggle of the proletariat in Albania brought a breath of fresh air to the suffocating atmosphere of social peace which today, still far too often, anaesthetises the reflexes of the proletarian class. By way of acts clearly denouncing the whole of the State structures as their enemy, proletarians in Albania have revived the traditions of struggle by our class, which so many years of the defence of democracy - be it in the name of anti-fascism or anti-communism - had thrown to oblivion. It is so rare today to see examples of rupture from respect for private property, from the settling of conflicts through the courts, etc.. that we are taking the time and the space here to relate what happened in Albania and to develop a chronology in order to define the most important moments in the evolution of the balance of forces between revolution and counter-revolution in the country.
It is impossible to make a chronology which is not an analysis, which does not take a stand in relation to events. There is no such thing as a neutral chronology, known as "objective" by partisans of free will. Clearly, whatever the media allows to get through is immediately biased (choice of events related, words given to what is going on...) and expresses, in this case, the bourgeois point of view, which can only deny the fact that in Albania (in the initial period anyway) there was confrontation of class against class, outside of and against all democratic regulations. What is objective is that any view of the events depends upon the point of view of where one is standing, either that of the bourgeoisie defending its State and its mercantile system... or the proletariat whose struggle is the destruction of capitalism and the assertion of communism (1).
Whilst the bourgeois press was indignant to witness such "barbaric" methods of struggle, including attacks on banks, burning down police stations, town councils, law courts, pillaging barracks (food and weapons depots), storming prisons and freeing prisoners... on our part, it was with a degree of exaltation that we learned that the movement of struggle in Albania was breaking away from the never-ending demonstrations put on by the opposition parties of the whole world (in Albania, the ex-Stalinists, rechristened 'socialist') and reappropriating the means of struggle of proletarians against the State.
Gjirokaster was won by the revolt on the 9th of March and on the next day the newspaper Le Monde was surprised that the atmosphere was one of enthusiasm, that the pillaging was giving a feeling of festivities in the streets, that the fact of carrying a weapon brought a certain joie de vivre, that the town seemed to light up whilst the anarchy was total, with no more police, no more State... Because steeped in their democratic ideal, positioned on the side of the dominant class, the journalists cannot understand that such movements liberate in one go generations and generations of deprivation, sacrifices, assassinations, emprisonments, etc, during which we have submitted, taken blow after blow. Yes, it is pleasurable to break the chains at last, to reappropriate all that makes us dream, but which we can never touch because it is padlocked behind the barriers of money, prison bars... Yes, it is festive to no longer be afraid and to find oneself in the streets strong and united against private property and the State, against all this order that kills us - this order that will only die when the jubilation of these armed proletarians who have at last found the path of struggle will be shared by proletarians across the whole world.
From the collapse of the pyramids to the uprising of the proletariat
From the beginning of January 1997, demonstrations of tens of thousands of savers who had lost everything in the bankruptcy of the financial pyramids gathered in Tirana and throughout the country.
The building societies offering mind-boggling interest rates (from 35% to 100% per month) had attracted even those in the remotest corners of Albania. In order to invest in Sude, Populi, Xhaferri, Vefa, Kamberi or others, to deposit a bit more money each month in the kiosks hurriedly set up in the streets, the Albanians had sold all they could. Flats, cars, herds, land had all been sold off. The sums paid to the first depositors merely came from the growing contributions of new deposits and the collapse of these companies was inevitable. Hundreds of thousands of savers found themselves completely stripped of everything. 70-80% of Albanian households were affected. Of course the poorest were, as always, the most badly affected.
The fervour to invest in the financial pyramids expresses the persistence of the myth which portrays easy money in the West, that merely sleeping on one's income is enough to wake up rich in the morning...
Up until 1990-91, the need to defend the myth of the existence of a socialist Albania had kept the borders closed except for exchange and investment with Eastern bloc countries. Then, as in Russia and the other Eastern countries (the myth of socialism as a fundamental parameter for maintaining social peace having served out its time) they began to talk of liberalising the system, of putting an end to restrictions, of the possibility of everyone growing rich... The wall was knocked down in Berlin and in Albania they deserted the 700,000 bunkers that Enver Hoxha (2) had built out of fear of foreign aggression.
As in Russia (3) and elsewhere in the East the extent of protectionist measures, alterations in imperialist alliances and economic and social reforms marked a brutal acceleration in the rate of profit and deepened in an even more phenomenal way the gulf between bourgeois and proletarians. From December 1990 to May 1991, food riots exploded all over Albania. Western investors drew back in the face of such uncertainty over the perspectives of profit. 1991-92 was marked by the total collapse of Albanian industry and the persistence of social unrest. From December 1991 to February 1992 a second wave of riots swept the country. Each time, the riots unleashed pillaging, arson on police stations, public buildings, factories, shops and warehouses (4)... Albania, classed as high risk, was seeped in international aid to avoid a social explosion.
The German, Turkish and North-American States gave financial support to the Albanian army, to transform it into a powerful army, ready for confrontation. But despite these bourgeois preparations, the class struggle has shown us once again how a situation prepared by the bourgeoisie can become uncontrollable.
The attraction of the myth of Western paradise is so strong that the opening of the borders resulted in a mass exodus that the Albanian State and also all the surrounding states, in particular Italy, were obliged to curb violently. It was not a question of an exodus of capital, seeing as Albania is an area of desertification of capital, but an exodus of proletarians subjugated by the myth that going to the West will mean the end of all misery. Remember the influx of some 40,000 refugees disembarking, in spite of everything, in the south of Italy in March and August 1991. The slightest rumour of a boat leaving or visas being issued resulted in a gathering of thousands of young people in the ports or in front of Western embassies, as happened in Cuba. As a consequence, this exodus continued to be the object of a vile clandestine trade. The smugglers of clandestine immigrants towards Italy labelled their clients with the term "walking meat" and the cost of the crossing varied between 450 and 600 dollars (5).
With the bankruptcy of the financial pyramids, proletarians in Albania were still paying for the total disillusion which accompanied the gaining of consciousness that in the East, as in the West, it is money that makes and unmakes policies, opens or closes borders, accumulates in the pockets of some by emptying the pockets of others. The myth of easy money is so powerful that it led proletarians' smallest savings into the financial gulf of building societies. Disillusion persists when one has staked everything on them and has to leave all to them.
In May 1996, on the evening of legislative elections which assigned all parliament's seats to the Democratic Party, the flag of Vefa, the largest financial company compromised in the pyramids, had pride of place in the victors' gallery. A journalist commented "Vefa has illustrated the miracle of capitalism, the Albanian miracle, the miracle of a country finally tearing itself from poverty." The feeling of betrayal was very strong at the heart of the population when the pyramids, including that generated by Vefa, collapsed as they were so linked with Berisha's government and with the Democratic Party (6). Even more so, given that in 1992 the Albanian people elected with an overwhelming majority, with cries of "fitoi" (victory!), their new president, Sali Berisha, as a liberator who, in the name of the struggle against the tyranny of the Stalinist regime had managed to re-seal national unity. It was at this time that an appeal was launched for international aid to relaunch the economy in Albania and that the United States became Albania's main partner.
Today the situation is completely different. The bankruptcy of the building societies shook up the social climate. Contrary to what happened in Macedonia or in Bulgaria, where the bourgeoisie boasts that it managed to contain the discontentment of the "rejects" with meagre compensations, in Albania, demonstrations and other forms of protest became generalised, showing clearly that the proletariat had not been put down by the State. In Skopje, the government and the national bank urgently organised "committees to compensate injured parties", undertaking inquiries, trials.. Even worse, in Sofia, in compensation for all, the government erected a monument "to the memory of victims of the pyramid" (7).
In Albania, the demand was "we want our money, we want to be reimbursed 100%". All through the month of January, demonstrations became more and more turbulent and the anti-riot police carried out violent attacks.
When the government did take measures to put an end to speculation it was too late, it could no longer control the situation. On the 10th January 1997, it took action against two institutions at the base of the setting up of the pyramids: Xhaferri and Populi.
Even the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund intervened to put a limit on this type of enterprise. These institutions emphasised that they are private companies based only on speculation, allowing some people to get rich very quickly, but who do not necessarily meet the interests of the development of capital which is firstly based on the relaunching of production. On the 4th February, Tritan Shehu, deputy prime minister adopted this viewpoint and declared (after having amply filled his own pockets with this easy money!): "We have resolved to destroy these pyramid saving schemes, because the future of Albania does not lie in them. Our future is production and we are going to work more and more." He should have said "we are going to make you work more and more".
The Berisha government was disowned as much by the worldwide bourgeoisie as it was by the proletariat emerging from its torpor.
In Peshkopija, commiserating greatly, President Berisha asked the large savers to come forward (tough shit for the small ones!). In response, crowds gathered in the main street. A hundred people attacked the police station with stones. Six policemen were injured and then the rioters set fire to the buildings of the town council. The slogans were: "We want our money!" and "Down with Berisha!"
On the 19th January in Tirana, anti-riot police intervened in force in the Skanderbeg Square to disperse an angry crowd of 5000 demanding to be reimbursed for the sums they had put into savings accounts. The Socialist Party was still in opposition following the (contested) poll in May 1996 and was profiting from the situation of mobilisation of the proletariat to take revenge on the Democratic Party. It called for participation in this demonstration, hoping to put itself at the head of a peaceful protest movement as in Belgrade or Sofia. But this demo, as well as those that were to follow, rapidly made the Socialist party and all other bourgeois parties give up all hope of preventing the explosion of the terrible anger brewing across the whole country, as had already been witnessed by the confrontations in Berat the same day.
In Berat (100km south of Tirana) stones flew against the buildings of the police, the courts, ministerial offices and those of the Democratic Party. Two hundred demonstrators were arrested. The Parliament called for the army to protect official buildings.
On the 24th January in LushnjÃ«, 100 km south of Tirana, where the pyramids had affected the greatest number, demonstrators threw explosive devices up to the first floor of the Town Hall. It set fire and the two thousand people gathered in the town centre made a barrage and prevented the firemen from reaching it. The demonstrators demanded reimbursement of their money, which they had deposited in the Xhaferri foundation, which had gone bankrupt the week before.
Towards the end of January it seemed that Berisha had not appreciated the scale of the movement and thought that he could put an end to the disturbances by giving the secret police, the SHIK (ex-Sigourimi, the secret police of the Stalinist period (8)) free rein. The more that the gatherings turned to rioting, the more brutal the police became. The SHIK ruled with its usual terror: arrests, interrogations, beatings, emprisonments, assassinations, disappearances...
For its part, the bourgeois opposition, largely grouped around the Socialist Party, structured itself to lead its campaign against the Berisha government. On the 30th January, ten opposition parties, the Socialist Party amongst them, formed a coalition as the Forum for Democracy (FD). The FD demanded the resignation of the Berisha government which they held responsible for the economic chaos wreaked by the devastating effects of the pyramid companies and called for the constitution of a government of technocrats to manage the crisis, whilst waiting for the anticipated elections to be organised.
On the 30th January still, Koha Jone, the most important "independent" newspaper, mouthpiece of "independent intellectuals" (one component of the bourgeois opposition) published a manifesto declaring: "it is clear that the anger of the people is directed against a State which has set itself up as a judge after having acquitted the thieves." The opposition knew how to use words in which proletarians in struggle would be able to recognise themselves. But for the opposition, the State they were condemning was not the power of the bourgeois class, it was the Berisha government. Moreover, the editorial members of this newspaper, the leaders of the Socialist Party and other known figures of the bourgeois opposition accused of being at the origin of the troubles were arrested. All the ingredients were there to lock the movement in a bourgeois alternative: to support the martyr opposition against the new tyrant: Berisha.
On the bourgeois political plan, the picture was like this: in response to proletarian mobilisation, the opposition designated Berisha as the target, whilst throwing proletarians in struggle and members of the bourgeois opposition in prison side by side, thus pushing the former to assemble under the banners of the latter, whose only goal was to erode the movement by going to the polls.
This plan was intelligent, but did not take account of the revolutionary potential which this series of demonstrations of proletarian dissatisfaction contained. It is clear that in the movement proletarians expressed much more than just lost money and the resignation of Berisha. Discontent still within the framework of the bourgeois opposition was being taken over more and more by explosions of class hatred against the State, as witnessed by the frequent attacks on official buildings.
But the border between proletarian struggle spontaneously directed against the whole of the structures of the bourgeois State and the battle of the bourgeois opposition to restructure the State was not yet clear enough in the movement. This lack of definition expressed itself, for example, in the fact that the bourgeois opposition was not driven away from demonstrations (and equally in the fact that one part of the movement was demanding justice from the State to sanction those responsible for the financial pyramids) still leaving the coast clear to the opposition to take over the reins of the movement.
At the beginning of February 1997, Berisha promised that all those who had lost out would be compensated either in cash or in savings books. The reimbursement should have started on the 5th February thanks to accounts of two of the main investment funds being seized. However no one had any confidence in bits of paper that the State would give them again in exchange for promises. On the same day, the most important of the pyramid companies in VlorÃ«, Gjallica, declared itself bankrupt, leaving a deficit of 360 million dollars and declared its total inability to reimburse anyone.
Following this news, on the 5th February, 30,000 people took to the streets in VlorÃ« (a port with between 60 and 80,000 inhabitants, 210km south of Tirana). As the demo was heading towards the port, the police charged and tried to chase the demonstrators with water pumps and truncheons. Masked members of the SHIK beat the demonstrators and took them to their cars. The confrontations resulted in 2 deaths and a hundred injured, most of these on the side of the demonstrators. However later on, a group of anti-riot police were surrounded. Several of them were undressed by the demonstrators and ran in the road in their underwear. The forces of order withdrew!
That day marked the beginning of a permanent mobilisation in VlorÃ«: every day started with a big gathering (at around 10 o'clock) which turned into a demonstration. At about 5pm a further meeting was held to decide what actions were to be organised for the next day. All the opposition party leaders, present at these demonstrations, called for calm. After a week of demonstrations, these calls for calm were still not heeded. Nevertheless, the demonstrators slogan remained "Down with Berisha!"
The Forum for Democracy called for a gathering in TepelenÃ«. Only about 60 people attended, even though the mobilisation was becoming stronger and stronger. The movement occupied the streets and did not want to allow itself to be distracted by speeches on democracy.
These examples show that proletarians say "yes" to the opposition when it demands the reimbursement of money tied up in the building societies and when it shouts "Down with Berisha!". However, when the opposition calls for calm and reflection on democracy they say "no". But if "Down with Berisha!" can mean "Down with the State!" from the mouths of proletarians, then "Down with Berisha!" means "Down with Berisha's government!" from the mouths of the opposition and leads to the demand for early elections. The movement carries these two completely antagonistic perspectives. These yes's and no's expressed in the movement illustrate again the difficulty the proletariat has in choosing its camp. It finds it hard to extricate itself from the bourgeois alternatives and reacts positively or negatively to the commands of the bourgeois parties but is still not at the point of defining its own direction.
The tactics of the counter-revolution rested on this ambiguity, this lack of clarity, which pushed the movement to leave the streets and to take up the straight path of the vote to express its disagreement. This is the well-traced path of pacification of the movement supported by the world bourgeoisie which, making reference to similar, albeit less explosive situations in Bulgaria and in Romania, never stops stressing the "road to salvation via the polling booths".
In many towns the demonstrations, still within the framework of the opposition parties, became more and more turbulent, there were frequent explosions and the police became more and more brutal, making massive arrests.
In Tirana, the capital, Berisha's party mobilised itself and a thousand people participated in a rally for democracy and non-violence (as always, those who are the most consistent in the organisation of state terrorism prefer the rhetoric of non-violence, which guarantees them the monopoly of the armed force). The SHIK continued its reign of terror. Its members frequented cafés in which animated discussions on recent events had brought people together and beat them up.
The 9th of February marked an escalation in the violence of repression. In VlorÃ«, the police emprisoned at night those they considered to be the leaders. The demonstrators gathered in front of the police buildings and demanded the release of the prisoners. The cops fired and at least 26 people were injured.
The next day, the 10th February, still in VlorÃ«, 40,000 people were demonstrating and set fire to the headquarters of the Democratic Party. There were a further 81 wounded, one of whom died from his gunshot wounds. In the surrounding areas proletarians made solidarity with the struggle of their companions in VlorÃ« and came to reinforce their ranks (5000 from Fier, several hundred from Berat, TepelenÃ« and elsewhere).
In Tirana the forces of order couldn't manage to prevent rallies. The tension rose. The demonstrators shouted "VlorÃ«, VlorÃ«!".
The confrontations in VlorÃ« spread like wildfire and became the emblem of revolt across the country.
Gjirokaster was taken over by the biggest demonstration yet. On the 11th February in VlorÃ«, 30,000 people attended the funeral of the demonstrator who had been killed by the police the day before and the police behaved particularly discretely that day. But tensions rose, looking like "dangerously uncontrolled" confrontations could explode at any moment.
Up until this time, the movement was marked by stormier and stormier demonstrations, leading to serious confrontations with the police forces and the burning down of state buildings (mainly the headquarters of the Democratic Party and the council) resulting in massive arrests and many deaths. But the fact of having made the forces of order retreat several times marked a tendency to break with the usual pattern of demos (the State maintaining the initiative in any confrontation) and this constituted a significant qualitative step.
The repression that Berisha thought would decimate the movement actually had the opposite effect. Far from making the movement withdraw, it stirred up combativity and reinforced the determination to struggle until the cause was won. On top of this, the desire for revenge came to light. Not only revenge against the police who beat, isolate, torture, massacre, but globally against all that leads to this extreme situation, against all those hard years of precarious survival without ever knowing what tomorrow will bring, against all those promises in the name of which we tightened our belts even further, against the torture of hunger, against intimidation, daily humiliation, against all the social relationship of wage labour/capital, against the State.
The limits of the movement, however, continued to express themselves in the fact that the opposition parties had not yet been thrown out of demonstrations and that proletarians were expecting the State to give them justice and to punish the fraudulent companies.
On the same day, the 11th February, the government was envisaging declaring a state of emergency in VlorÃ«. The Prime Minister, Meksi, announced on the radio: "We must defend the constitutional order and respond to an extraordinary situation with extraordinary measures." But the decree submitted to the parliament met with opposition from the members of the Democratic Party who, coming from the region of VlorÃ«, had realised that such a measure would only increase the tension that had been particularly heightened by arrests and assassinations over the previous few days. In order to prevent the hatred of the police turning on the whole of the structures of the State, the government decided to sack the police Commissioner in VlorÃ«.
During the week of the 12th February, the movement spread to nearly all the towns in the South and some in the North. The demonstrations became more and more widespread and the confrontations stronger and stronger. There was another death on the side of the demonstrators in Fier.
A further large demonstration took place in Tirana on the 19th February, which the police were unable to put a stop to. There were shouts of "VlorÃ«, VlorÃ«!" everywhere.
On the 20th February, a group of 40 students started a hunger strike at VlorÃ« University. They appealed for non-violence, demanded the resignation of the Meksi government, the formation of a government of technocrats to ensure the interim period until new elections could be held, the dismissal of those responsible for the television and judicial proceedings against those responsible for police brutality! What a programme! According to these students, the brutal attack on the standard of living of proletarians who had lost everything in the bankruptcies, the repression of the struggles, etc, could merely be put down to the fact of a few villains who had abused their position of responsibility. To demand a government of technocrats supposes that there could be a neutral government above the classes! As for all reformists in the world, it was just a problem of poor management which could be solved by elections.
With their programme for restoration of the State, these students were clearly on the side of the counter-revolution. The counter-revolution which materialises itself in the proposed means of struggle: in the face of ever more ferocious opposition, they suggested turning the other cheek. Whilst a collective force was pouring onto the streets and starting to take the upper hand in the face of murderous assaults by the riot police, they proposed taking to one's bed, wasting vital energy... Why not get down on one's knees and pray?... to move the State to pity, the State that at the very same moment was receiving international support to pay and re-equip its various police forces.
Towards the end of February Berisha sent his Home Secretary to Germany to obtain an advance with which to pay for new equipment for the police. Other governments also expressed their support for Berisha's government. The United States had counted on Berisha's government to make their support for Albania a bridgehead in the region, estimating that Berisha and his party would have embezzled the capital first in the contested ballot of May 1996 and then in the collapse of the speculative building societies supported by the government. Today, concerned to speed up national reconciliation, the United States have put maximum pressure on Berisha's government to compel it to engage in dialogue with the opposition grouped around the Socialist Party.
On the 28th February, the Meksi/Berisha government decided to clear out the hunger strikers who were occupying the university. A group of plainclothed policemen, members of the SHIK, prepared to surround the buildings. The reaction was not expected: many proletarians recognised themselves in all those who are repressed by the State, despite the reformist demands of the students, and thus took up position to act in the face of police violence. In fact, the rumour that the police had been preparing to flush out the hunger strikers by force had led more than a thousand people armed with knives and guns to gather in front of the university. The numbers kept on growing and soon there were ten thousand demonstrators who, from the university, made their way to the SHIK's siege and attacked it with stones. There were exchanges of gunfire between the demonstrators and the SHIK, who entrenched themselves in their buildings. Far from leaving them behind their walls, the demonstrators went on the offensive and set them on fire, with the aid of grenades. Three SHIK members were set alight and burned to death. Others who tried to flee were hanged. The total death toll amongst these SHIK bastards was six. This is not huge when one takes into account how many class brothers have disappeared, tortured and assassinated by this elite corps formed by the best bourgeois torturers. Unfortunately, there were three deaths on our side, as well as thirty wounded.
The demonstrators had got wind of the government's hesitation to declare a state of siege in VlorÃ« and marched towards an army barracks, forced open the doors and took all the arms they could without meeting with the slightest resistance from the officers and the soldiers inside the barracks. A heavy machine gun was installed in front of the university. Confrontations continued throughout the night of the 28th February to the 1st of March.
These struggles marked the end of the initial period in which the waves of protest and other proletarian expressions were still too much prisoner of the expectation of compensation by the State and of the illusion that the State, governed in a different way, could be fairer, more equitable,... and the beginning of an insurrectional uprising in which the proletariat no longer expects anything from the government and leads it to open war, taking up the path of direct action against the State, of the assertion of class against class. This does not mean that there was not a whole series of ideologies, traps, bourgeois perspectives (which is inevitable in an international period like this one), including during this crucial period in which the enemy was organising itself to recuperate and lead a movement which was slipping through its fingers.
The insurrectional character of the uprising in Albania
On Saturday the 1st March the town of VlorÃ« was in the hands of the insurgents. The funerals of the three demonstrators killed the previous night passed off peacefully. However, further confrontations took place over the evening, resulting in five more wounded. Two other arms and munitions depots were pillaged. Armed proletarians commandeered cars and left for neighbouring cities in order to spread their movement.
The gunpowder was already on all the roads, over all the cities, just waiting for a spark. Those sparks flying from VlorÃ« spread the explosion at full blast in the south of the country.
In VlorÃ«, SarandÃ« and DelvinÃ« the situation was declared "out of control". Dini, the Italian foreign minister declared that the revolt was led by "bands of deliquants stirred up by left-wing extremists with the aim of attacking Tirana."
In LushnjÃ«, demonstrators intercepted two vans packed full of anti-riot police and forced them to abandon them, thus disarming 40 or so policemen.
On the same day in Tirana, the parliament was called to a special session in order to debate the measures necessary to quell the revolt in VlorÃ«. That same evening, Berisha announced the resignation of the Meksi government, a decision which had no impact on the movement whatsoever!
Whilst the Forum for Democracy was denouncing a "further attempt by President Berisha and the Democratic Party to fool the Albanian People, in order to hold onto the power resting on the theft of votes, on a speculative financial system, on violence and terror" and was calling for further "free elections", the proletariat responded by real practical criticism of electoral perspectives: Generalised armament of the struggle against the State!
On Sunday 2nd March, in response to the resignation of the government, Berisha's official residence, situated on the hills of VlorÃ«, were pillaged and then burned down!
Near VlorÃ«'s port, ten thousand rebels surrounded the garrison of Pacha Liman, a strategic base. The soldiers abandoned their positions and, finding himself alone, the commander opened the doors to the insurgents. He was later to become the organiser of the defence of VlorÃ« against a possible intervention by troops still in Berisha's pay.
During an assault on a barracks the insurgents marched into the soldiers camp, not to attack the soldiers, but to take arms. Nowhere did the conscripts in the barracks oppose the pillaging. On the contrary, soldiers everywhere and even the majority of officers gave the rebels a warm welcome. There was even fraternisation: proletarians in uniform recognised themselves in the struggle of their insurgent class brothers and joined the movement armed.
The government had to rapidly acknowledge that it could no longer count on its army.
In SarandÃ« (300km South of Tirana) about 3000 demonstrators brandishing sticks poured onto the streets without meeting any resistance. Struck by the determination of the demonstrators, the police disappeared surreptitiously from the area. Proletarians pillaged and burnt down the (empty) police station and the abandoned police cars. The same fate was reserved for the SHIK buildings. 4000 Kalachnikov rifles fell into the hands of the rebels who, continuing on their route, attacked the courthouse, the Stock Exchange, the prison, liberating a hundred or so prisoners. Following this, the insurgent proletarians set themselves a new objective: to attack the bank, that den of capital where all their money had been swallowed up, thus abandoning all their illusions regarding obtaining compensation from the State. The whole town centre was in flames. The police did not try to intervene at any point.
In Himaren (a coastal town between VlorÃ« and SarandÃ«) rioters set the Town Hall and the Police Station on fire.
In DelvinÃ«, between SarandÃ« and Gjirokaster, the rioters burnt down the police headquarters, the public prosecutor's department and also pillaged a branch of the savings bank.
In Levan (a village situated between VlorÃ« and Fieri), a group of demonstrators broke into a barracks and pillaged an arms depot, without meeting with any resistance.
In Gjirokaster there had already been an unlimited general strike for several days. Rioters invaded the police station, helped themselves to weapons, freed the 15 prisoners inside and then burnt the building down. The police did not put up any resistance. The next day a commercial complex belonging to the Gjallica savings society was set on fire.
Road blocks were set up by the rebels on the VlorÃ«-SarandÃ« road and at TepelenÃ«.
In Tirana, a further demonstration of six thousand people was marked by violent confrontations in the course of which cameramen from Italy and Germany were thrashed. The television was recognised for what it is: a police force serving the State, policing by selective images which impose on us what we should think about events, policing by pictures, obtaining photographs of the demonstrators most involved in confrontations for the cops. The demonstrators went on to attack police cars, turning them over and setting them on fire. The police force withdrew.
In the face of this situation, the bourgeoisie imposed exceptional measures and decreed a state of emergency across the whole of Albanian territory for an indefinite period, until the "reestablishment of constitutional and public order". This meant curfew at 8pm, police control with the right to shoot without warning, prohibition of any gathering of more than 4 people and the right to open fire to disperse crowds, a law for which the anti-riot or secret police had not waited before firing into crowds previously!
"You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society.
In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend."
-K.Marx, Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848-
The members of parliament had adopted this law a few days earlier to allow a state of emergency to be decreed in the event of an "attempt to overthrow constitutional order, attacks on arms depots, strategic installations and public buildings and attacks on economic life and individual liberties". Once again, the bourgeoisie showed us how they prepare themselves to ensure their social order. Once again, we can see that when the proletarian struggle is powerful and determined, none of these measures can manage to stop it.
In Tirana, Berisha was careful to eliminate any situation in which people could gather and which could "degenerate": markets, rallies, sporting events... Hundreds of "potential agitators" were thrown in prison.
On Monday 3rd March, despite everything and whilst the south of the country had taken up weapons against the State, the Parliament renewed Berisha's presidential term for a further 5 years. Far from realising the magnitude of the movement, Berisha decided to reestablish order by way of force, far away from the cameras.
He censored the airwaves and the press. Apart from the official channels, TV channels, radio broadcasts and newspapers were forbidden. The offices of Koha Jone, the opposition's most important newspaper, were burned down with the aid of Molotov cocktails thrown by members of the secret police. Twenty people were arrested. Only one (pro-governmental) paper, Rijlinda Demokratika, was allowed and this dedicated all its columns to the reelection of Sali Berisha as Head of State.
Berisha ordered the military to surround the zone from VlorÃ« to SarandÃ«, but the Albanian army was not trustworthy. Proletarians serving under a flag were not prepared to turn their arms against proletarians fighting against the State. In the south of the country desertion and fraternisation was widespread.
For the government, the first issue was to "liquidate the communist revolt" and only to discuss it afterwards, as Tritan Shehu, Minister of Foreign affairs and head of the Democratic Party, declared. In order to tighten up discipline in the heart of the army, Berisha dismissed the chief of the staff of the army, accusing him of failing to show enough zeal to calm the rebellion and failing in the security of military posts, barracks and arms depots, allowing the rebels to invade them and help themselves to weapons. He replaced him by a military advisor, a member of the SHIK. The government also reminded the military that they would face penal sanctions if they refused to obey orders.
As a direct confrontation between the army and the rebels risked spreading the movement of desertion and fraternisation in the north of the country, tanks sent to the south were finally driven, not by soldiers, but by members of the SHIK. Behind those soldiers charged with aiming the artillery at the bastions of the insurrectional movement were surveillance units, military police, the secret service... all designed to prevent the soldiers from abandoning their posts or from turning their weapons against their officers.
Berisha called for the rebels to give up their weapons and reminded them that those who refused were exposing themselves to the risk of being shot at without warning.
The army regained control of the situation as far as Fier, a hundred kilometers south of Tirana. Berisha decided to isolate the south of the country by severing all means of communication, be it telephone, satellite, whatever.
Since the proclamation of the state of emergency, queues had formed in front of the bakeries in Tirana. Prices rose from 30 to 40%.
In VlorÃ« the last of the "foreign nationals" and journalists were evacuated by the helicopters of the Italian army, the anti-riot forces and the army withdrew and only the plain-clothed men of the secret police remained. Four people were executed as they attempted to hand back their weapons, following the demands by the government to do so.
The polarisation between the two camps reinforced itself but one cannot say that VlorÃ« represented the proletarian camp and Tirana the bourgeois camp. It is clear that the movement was not as strong in Tirana, that it had not taken on an insurrectional dimension. Tirana was the central seat of all the State's forces. There was a more powerful control over everything that moved. But just as in VlorÃ«, revolution and counter-revolution confronted each other in Tirana. Whilst all the journalists and government representatives, the police forces and the army were evacuated from VlorÃ«, the whole of the counter-revolution organised around the bourgeois opposition to the Berisha government remained, crystallised notably in the Committee for Public Safety.
On Tuesday the 4th March, Sali Berisha once again turned down proposals to broaden the government towards the opposition, in spite of international pressure to do so. He continued to accuse the Socialist Party of stirring up "armed rebellion".
The American government was worried about the turn of events. It understood that allowing financial swindles to run at full pelt and then confronting the proletariat with a whip could only lead Albania into dangerous waters. But it also understood that disembarking with NATO forces in Albania could provoke an extension of the troubles into what the worldwide bourgeoisie call the "powder keg of the Balkans", whose explosion they dread so much.
From their side, with Berisha's declaration of war, the proletarians responded by arming themselves!
In VlorÃ« the arsenals of several barracks were stripped. The rebels prepared for the army: gunmen took up position on the rooftops of houses, barricades were set up at the entrance of the city, using the carcasses of cars, look-outs took up position on the neighbouring hills to watch the outskirts of the town. One bridge was mined. A few hundred metres beyond the bridge, tanks appeared. A few minutes later, without engaging in battle, they turned around and left.
The army had to face fierce resistance in Styari. The military offensive was repelled in 40 minutes. After this first engagement the army withdrew.
In SarandÃ« also, far from thinking about handing in their weapons, the question being asked was: where to get weapons to protect themselves? The rebels decided to go and look in the naval and police buildings. The whole city went - children, women, men. The police stations had already been abandoned and in the Navy there were only a few officers left who had been sent home by soldiers who had already gone over to the side of the movement. The insurgents got hold of a battery of artillery, canons and heavy machine guns with the capacity to control the region within a radius of 30km, as well as six warships. They brought back large quantities of arms and bags stuffed with munition from the naval base. Between ten thousand to fifteen thousand armed men gathered in the town centre to organise barricades, how to guard them and a defence in case of attack. Groups of youths armed with Kalashnikov rifles and submachine guns attacked Turkish, Greek and French journalists and demanded that taped recordings be destroyed.
The army attacked: army units tried to regain the port but armed insurgents awaited them, firm-footed. Despite tanks being sent in, the naval base of SarandÃ« stayed in the hands of the rebels.
In order to prevent any further arrival of army tanks, all routes to the north were cut. At one roadblock, a member of the secret police was found in an unmarked police car and was burnt alive, two others managed to escape and the fourth was taken hostage.
On the road leading to SarandÃ«, 50 soldiers of the regular army went over to the side of the insurrection with three tanks.
In DelvinÃ« army divisions shot at the rebels from Mig-15's, resulting in dozens of deaths. Two pilots who refused to shoot at the population fled in a Mig-15 and asked for political asylum in Italy. The decomposition of the army by the struggle was such that even the officers refused to shoot at "civilians". Berisha thought he could count on a real force, but he had to realise quickly that, in spite of his reorganisations, the army was not prepared to confront the insurgents.
Faced with the military triumph of the insurrection, the bourgeoisie reorganised and strengthened its political response. An Autonomous Local Council was set up in SarandÃ«, led by officials in the bourgeois opposition, as well as a Defence Council directed by a retired colonel. These Councils formulated conditions for the handing over of weapons: early elections, sacking President Berisha and the formation of a government of technocrats to ensure the transition. One of the first measures taken by these Councils was to organise teams of "self-defence against looters" and "protectors of property"! These wheeler-dealing politicos were in direct contact with Berisha and stressed to him that the army surrounding SarandÃ« should abstain from intervening because they knew that, if it did, they would no longer be able to control anything. The entirety of the bourgeois fractions were looking for the means to liquidate/control the movement. In this way, the most capable fraction would go on to improve its position in the balance of forces compared to other fractions. Thus, in the name of the battle for democracy, the leader of the Defence Council of the city ordered the rebels to stop wearing masks (corresponding to the police's need to identify those heading the movement!). Every day started with a broadcast of the Albanian national anthem.
It is clear that it was not the proletariat that was expressing itself in these Councils. Handing back weapons in exchange for a new government, respect for private property, saluting the flag... it was, without doubt, the bourgeoisie's programme. These Councils represented a further attempt by the bourgeois opposition parties to regain control of the movement, reorganise themselves in a far more pernicious manner than that which aimed its canons on rebel cities.
There was no doubt for the rebel proletarians that the army opposing them was an enemy to fell (by disarming it, fraternising with soldiers, demoralising it, pushing for its decomposition...) but they failed to recognise the bourgeois at their sides, who were also armed and supposedly fighting against a "common enemy", as being the other face of the same enemy. And yet the opposition parties were sharpening their knives as much against the Berisha government as against the proletariat. The bourgeois opposition, which took up arms against the government, with the aim of directing them principally against the proletariat, used the fight against chaos and economic disorganisation to present itself as the only valid alternative, that is the unique alternative capable of feeding proletarians.
Despite this sabotage, Wednesday 5th March marked a further extension of the insurrection. The insurrectional movement spread to Memaliaj and TepelenÃ«, where proletarians took to the streets, burned down the police station and pillaged shops. Burnt out carcasses were used to build barricades. The rebels got hold of heavy weapons from the artillery brigade. Mortars, canons, anti-aircraft batteries, ground-air missiles all passed into the hands of the rebels who set them up on the hills over the city.
In Gramsh (15km from Gjirokaster) the insurgents captured a small bridge from the soldiers who were controlling it and dynamited it in order to prevent tanks from advancing.
In the north, less affected by the movement, the government distributed five thousand weapons to members of the Democratic Party in order to confront the rebels. Solid roadblocks were built at the entrance and the exit of every town, in order to control all movements.
On Thursday 6th March and the following days, the uprising reached more and more towns and villages.
In order to fight against the passivity of the army, Berisha announced the arrest of 4 officers who were accused of failing to defend their barracks against pillaging. The government also demanded the extradition of two Albanian pilots who had fled to Italy abord a MIG-15. They were charged with desertion.
However Berisha became obliged to realise that there was no point in continuing to give orders if these were not followed. He would only add to the ridicule of the armed forces. Defeatism would spread even more widely.
Finally, in an attempt to decrease tension, as much on the side of the insurgents as on what was left of his army, he suspended military operations in the South for 48 hours (until 6am on Sunday 9th March) and promised an amnesty for those giving up weapons stolen from the army... providing they had not committed any crime! This reserved the State the right to condemn all those who had taken up arms!
Apart from this, having refused all collaboration with the opposition up until then, he was obliged, under pressure from European delegations, a Greek diplomatic mission, warnings from the American government, events... to accept an initial meeting. This was a true call by the worldwide bourgeoisie to reestablish national unity against the proletariat! In the face of proletarian danger, competing bourgeois parties, the Democratic Party and the opposition parties felt the need to ally their forces and they called for calm jointly.
In reply, the insurgents reinforced their positions. The timescale for handing over weapons, the promise of amnesty, calls for calm were all rejected unanimously.
VlorÃ«, SarandÃ«, DelvinÃ«, Gjirokaster and TepelenÃ« remained in the hands of the rebels. Anticipating further attacks by the army, the rebels reinforced their defence systems, put up blocks and control points in order to delay the advance of the armed forces.
In SarandÃ«, tanks taken from the armed forces were deployed at the entrance to the town.
The movement spread to Himaren and Samilia...
It is important to stress here that it was the proletariat, by its will, by its determination to fight whatever the cost, that defeated the army. It was proletarian combativity which sowed the seeds of defeatism in the ranks of the army and which brought about the defeat of movements of troops still faithful to their posts. In the ranks of the proletariat there were celebrations, euphoria, their determination had paid off, they had achieved a real victory.
But the proletarians lost everything when they believed the promises of change. Later they only gave up arms after more than a few threats (instead of promises), especially now that they know that handing over weapons means letting the SHIK take charge of repression, which can only be terrible!
At that moment the proletariat was in a position of strength, armed to the teeth, determined not to be walked over. But this was also the moment at which the crucial question arose of determining with more clarity which direction to give to future confrontations.
What to do with this force? What extension and what objectives to give to the struggle? Against whom to direct all these weapons? Against the governmental forces alone? What to do with this power it had in its hands? It was controlling entire towns, the roads leading to them,... food shortages were beginning, there was a need to organise supplies. On what criteria? Those of the Autonomous Local Council of SarandÃ« calling for the defence of private property? What direction to give all of this?
It seems that the proletariat was not able to answer all of these questions. The question of which direction to give the struggle was left in the hands of the bourgeois opposition which, on its part, did not wait for it to decide before confiscating it from the proletariat. On the contrary, the counter-revolution profited from this moment of indecision to regain the upper hand.
"The list of words used to define what is happening ('the events') in Albania is long: there is a refusal to use the word revolution. They had assured us that there would never be another revolution in Europe: yet here one is. The 'rebels', 'those who have risen up', who produce 'chaos' or anarchy... are rebels, mutineers. And they pillage.
Yet not one radio, one television, one newspaper has used the word 'revolution'. It does not suit them to do so. It is an event in the face of which the European editorial writers remain perplexed; particularly the Spanish, drugged by the Basque issue... like the government, the politicians, the thinkers who frequently stop thinking...
'Revolution', now defined by Miguel Artola (from the Emeritus Free College) 'is a violent action giving rise to a change in regime and a new society. Violence is inevitable and it will not be easy to predict or apply which violence which will be sufficient and which will be unnecessary to conquer the ruling power'... it started because a democratic bank was created to rob the people of their savings. Another started when a handful of Black Sea sailors refused to eat rotten meat. But it is always because of something else. Albanians lived many years under the oppression of a very particular communist regime; democracy arrived from the West and stole their savings. They have loads of good reasons to oppose this order with chaos!"
(Eduardo Haro Tecglen - Visto/oÃdo El PaÃs 15/3/1997)
Fertile ground to isolate revolution in one region and to impose limits on the revolutionary action of the proletariat rests always on the belief, carried from generation to generation, that only the bourgeois order is capable of bringing about solutions: "we cannot live without money", "the police are necessary",... "without all of that it would be chaos". Internationally, not only was there no other important proletarian struggle, but the isolation of the proletariat in Albania was reinforced by the systematic cover-up of everything that was going on. The worldwide bourgeoisie ensured that across the world the talk was not of proletarian struggle, nor revolution in Albania, but of chaos, disorder, anarchy.
National and international counter-revolution deployed its Defence Committees, Public Protection, humanitarian aid... if the revolution is incapable of giving food, then the counter-revolution will do it. Everywhere it was a question of substituting the real alternative of proletarian revolution versus capitalist reorganisation for National Salvation versus generalised chaos. Thus they achieved submission to "public protection", to the "safeguard of the nation", etc.
The extreme tension that had kept all the armed proletarians alert and ready for combat gave way to a certain numbness... whilst the others organised themselves!
The same day in VlorÃ«, a Committee of Public Protection (a cartel of all the parties of the bourgeois opposition, presided over by the local leader of the Forum for Democracy) and a Defence Committee (formed by ex-officers thrown out of the army during the purges led by Berisha in recent years) were created. During their first press conference the CPP representatives lorded it under a big Albanian flag. It was the same at SarandÃ«, where they made conditions for the surrender of weapons: early elections and the formation of a government of technocrats to ensure the transition, withdrawal of the army from the hills surrounding the city. The whole programme of the bourgeois opposition was asserted once again. This is illustrated by the measures that followed. On the 10th March, the CPP launched an appeal for "all honest policemen" to present themselves in order to help "reestablish calm and peace". On the 11th march, in a declaration signed with the Italian embassador to Tirana, the CPP committed itself to "favorise the immediate handing over of weapons in the possession of inhabitants" and to "ensure public order and the progressive return to administrative normality" of the city.
As in SarandÃ«, these Committees/Councils were guarantors of the disarmament of the proletariat, the return to bourgeois order, to peace... guarantors of capital. They meant to defend the State monopoly on arms, respect for the private property of the rich and the trading of proletarians' labour force (walking meat to haggle over).
Peace, for them, signifies disarming the proletariat in order to return to social peace. Peace which is not peace. For the bourgeois State it is a question of ensuring its monopoly on arms so that, in the perpetual war that it wages on the proletariat, the proletariat should be dispossessed of any response, by unable to arm its anger. Their peace is waging their war in peace, against an enemy without defence. Proletarians muzzled, feet and hands tied, this is the programme of our bourgeois.
Even the demand for reimbursement of their savings lost in the pyramid operations took second place.
This demand did, during the strongest moments of the movement, undergo the revolutionary transformation from a demand for State intervention into a practical critique of bourgeois economy: the armed proletariat reappropriating money stashed away in the banks.
Starting from the same demand, the counter-revolution often operated according to this outline: to neglect so-called economic demands: wages, food prices, here the savings,... to move onto what it classes as a higher level: the so-called political demands which all come back to demanding the fall of the ruling government in the name of a lack of democracy. As in Poland where Lech Walesa, still at the head of a committee of strikers in Gdansk, said: "It is better to have rights than a full plate". And the struggle that had started from a proletarian point of view, against increases in the price of meat, that is against an increase in the rate of exploitation, was deviated into a struggle for democratic reforms and finally for a new government (9). In Albania also, the demand for full reimbursement of the money put in building societies, the loss of which meant a brutal aggravation of living conditions for most proletarians, was put to one side in order to emphasise the demand for early elections and Berisha's resignation.
Through this passage from a so-called economic demand to a so-called political demand, the counter-revolution organised the abandonment of the class terrain to the profit of the terrain of bourgeois reform.
Later, once the change in government has been carried out and in the face of the fact that the State will not reimburse the proletarians (!), the rhetoric will put all the responsibility on the old government, accusing it of having handled things so badly that it is difficult to bring things back on track, that conditions are difficult, that they need time and, above all, that everyone must set to it to put the economy back on an even keel. Which means, for the proletarians, tightening their belts further... always in the name of a brighter future. And as long as proletarians let themselves be fooled by these kind of promises, this is how it will be!
On Friday 7th March, the insurgents in the south were still refusing to hand over their weapons. On the contrary, arsenals were still being pillaged.
The EEC called for President Berisha to defer armed intervention for as long as possible and to convene early elections. However, despite these pressures and the first step towards joint organisation of the "surrender of rebels" with the opposition parties, Berisha still refused to envisage elections.
At TepelenÃ« a similar Committee for Public Protection was set up.
On Saturday 8 March in Gjirokaster the insurrection gained ground. During the 48 hour truce which the government itself had declared, six government helicopters landed at the town's airport and 65 special service agents from Tirana got out. A group of insurgents had tried to stop them landing while men, women and children headed for the barracks to seize arms. They got hold of impressive reserves of arms and ammunition with the enthusiastic support of some two thousand soldiers who were happy to desert and join the ranks of the insurgents. A large quantity of rifles, revolvers, grenade launchers, bazookas, machine pistols, grenades, ammunition, mines and seven tanks fell into the hands of the insurgents. The customs office was also attacked.
On the side of the government forces it was every man for himself. Three helicopters were taken by the insurgents. The others managed to take off with only the pilot on board. The troops who had landed, deprived of any means of retreat, fled for the hills. The insurgents chased them with three armoured cars. Their flight lasted several days across the mountains to return to the North, avoiding the barricades, villages and other places strongly defended by the insurgents. It was a shepherd who told them about the collapse of the army and the official structures.
Barricades were set up at every crossroad in Gjirokaster. All access routes to the town were soon blocked. The insurgents took possession of the local radio. The customs buildings were looted and then burned. The insurgents also seized a frontier post with Greece. Customs officers, government employees and police officers rallied to the movement. This allowed the insurgents to go and get supplies in Greece.
VlorÃ«, TepelenÃ«, Himaren, Memaliaj, DelvinÃ«, SarandÃ« and Gjirokaster, the most important towns of the South, were now in the hands of the insurgents. The triumph of the insurrection in Gjirokaster meant the loss for the government of the most important military and strategic point in the region. Some journalists commented "It is total anarchy, there is no longer any police, no longer any State".
"The army will never intervene against the civilians. It doesn't exist anymore" said a former defence minister, Perikli Teta.
A few hours later in Gjirokaster, towards noon, a Committee of Public Salvation and a Committee of Defence were formed, presided over by General Gozhita, who had been kicked out by Berisha 18 months earlier. They called for the handing over of stolen arms and ordered that "shops open their doors" while declaring that "those who commit pillage will be punished". At the same time they demanded the return of the soldiers who had fled to the hills... to reestablish order. The lack of proletarian autonomy was tragic, even the obscure personages who led the committees complained about it. The basis of the town committees was obviously the same as those in SarandÃ« and VlorÃ«.
On Sunday 9 March the town of PermÃ«t fell into the hands of the insurrection. The insurgents mobilised against government forces who had been dispatched to the region the previous day. The confrontations left five dead and many others wounded on the side of the insurgents. An entire brigade of soldiers went over to their side. Once the attack was repulsed the insurgents attacked, looting and destroying the police station, the court, the town hall, two banks and many shops. Barricades were set up at the entrances to the town, notably in the direction of KorÃ§a where the government forces had retreated.
The insurrectional movement seized sixteen other villages in the region of PermÃ«t.
In PermÃ«t as well, a Committee of Public Salvation, a cartel was constituted, representing all the opposition parties and the Democratic Party (prefiguring the accord which would follow).
The extension of the insurrectional movement and, above all, the fall of Gjirokaster (an military base indispensable for any military intervention by the government) was what convinced Berisha. It was without doubt this new element, dangerously rocking the balance of forces, which persuaded the president to agree an accord with the Socialist Party, the main bourgeois opposition party. The accord foresaw the installation of a government of "national reconciliation", the planning of new legislative elections between then and June and the enlargement of the promised amnesty to all those, civilians or soldiers, who had participated in the insurrectional movement. The two parties once again launched the appeal to hand in arms and this time fixed the waiting period at one week.
The Committees of Public Salvation and the Committees of Defence where all the parties sat, including the local representatives of the Democratic Party, and where the Socialist Party played a key role, welcomed the accord.
The Socialist Party swore that it would dissolve all the insurgent committees of the movement within three days...
At SarandÃ« and VlorÃ« the insurgents expressed their first disavowal of the politics of the Councils/Committees of Public Salvation. At SarandÃ«, approving the accords with Berisha, the president of the Council declared: "Now that the president will nominate the government and a date for the elections has been fixed, arms must be handed over." For the first time he was not applauded and the crowd dispersed in silence. On the following days there were daily gatherings in the public square which once again took on their role as an organ of decision.
At VlorÃ« the daily demonstration happened this time without a flag, nor a banner, nor an opposition leader and embarked on looting and burning shops. A few people suspected of belonging to the secret police were arrested. A list of people to be eliminated in exchange for a certain price was discovered on one of them.
The same day, in the North, proletarians began to take arms. They expropriated one of the biggest arms depots in the North of Albania, at Shkoder. At Peshkopia, Lezha-Kuksi and Lacy the army fell into disorder, in the face of the generalisation of the expropriations.
On Monday 10 March the Socialist Party's bet that it would have everything in hand within three days looked seriously compromised, even more so now that the movement had extended to Skrapari, Malakastra, Kelcyra, Berat, PoliÃ§an, KuÃ§ova, Gramsh.
In Berat the insurgents emptied three savings banks and plundered many shops, the state food reserves and the arms factories of three barracks. The garrison and the police abandoned the town without firing a shot and the insurgents shared out the arms from the police stations and barracks. A Committee of Public Salvation was set up with the immediate intention of organising the handing over of arms! It also demanded the sacking of Berisha. It is obvious that whenever the bourgeoisie succeeded in imposing this demand it was only making use of the weaknesses of the proletarian movement and thus preparing its disarmament in exchange for the dismissal of Berisha and the planning of new elections.
In Gramsh (60 km to the South of Tirana) where there is an important arms factory, the insurgents seized three barracks and burnt down the police station. They set out towards Fier, a town situated to the North of the zone taken by the insurgents. They took control of several routes into the area and beat back the forces of order who partially lifted their blockade of the region.
In Skrapari the insurgents emptied the army's armouries, attacked the military airport of KuÃ§ova and took control of PoliÃ§an (between Skrapari and Berat) where there is an arms and ammunition factory. The clashes led to fourteen wounded.
Faced with the fact that he could no longer count on the army, Berisha armed his followers. They plundered some major arms depots in Bajram-Curri and Kukes, two small towns in the North in an inaccessible mountain area.
On Tuesday 11 March the Committees of Public Salvation of eight southern towns met at Gjirokaster and created a National Front for the Salvation of the People whose demands were the sacking of Berisha, a profound reorganisation of the secret police, the return of lost savings and the organisation of democratic parliamentary elections, thus confirming their function of trapping the movement in a bourgeois alternative. The President of the CPS of SarandÃ« confirmed: "There will be no question of handing over arms until the installation of democracy is guaranteed."
On the government side, a new Prime Minister, Bashkim Fino, was appointed to form a government of "national reconciliation". His first action was to recruit reinforcements for the police and to stop the uprising in DurrÃ«s, where three proletarians had been murdered.
On that day thirteen towns were in the hands of the insurgents: PoliÃ§an, Kelsyra, Permet, KuÃ§ova, Shrapar, Berat, Gjirokaster, SarandÃ«, DelvinÃ«, Himaren, TepelenÃ«, Menaliaj, VlorÃ«.
And Kruma, Burrel and LaÃ§i, little towns in the North, can be added to the list.
On Wednesday 12 March the situation was tense. Against all expectations, the government of "national reconciliation" did not have the desired impact on the movement. On the contrary, the measures which it took to reorganise the police hardened the position of the insurgents, whose movement continued to make gains in the North.
At Elbasan, the last stop before Tirana (coming from the South), the tension was extreme. While the army and the secret police withdrew to 50 km to the Southeast and 70 km to the Southwest of the capital, the insurgents reinforced their positions and seized the armouries left by the army. The arms, ammunition and explosives factory at Mjeksi (to the South of Elbasan) was also pillaged.
After Elbasan, the army also disappeared from Fier, Cerrick (after fighting with the secret police) and Gramsh where the insurgents had burned the police station and plundered three barracks.
Shkoder, the most important northern town, was in turn taken by the uprising. The besieged barracks were abandoned by the soldiers. The insurgents also attacked the prisons, there they smashed down the doors and freed the detainees. A bank branch was dynamited, the court was sacked. Business premises were ripped open and surgically emptied. After having been ransacked and blazed, the town hall was now occupied by a few families. Barricades were made of half-burnt rubbish and car carcasses on a carpet of broken glass.
The important air base of Gjader, near Lehze, 80 km North of Tirana, also fell into the hands of the insurgents.
It therefore rested with the international bourgeoisie to prevent the propagation of the movement beyond the frontiers at any cost.
Faced with the danger of the extension of the movement in the North of the country which borders the Kosovo province of Serbia, where the majority of proletarians are of Albanian origin (10), the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) closed its two main frontier posts with Albania.
The governments of the USA, France and Italy called on their citizens to leave Albania. Moscow and Belgrade began to evacuate their diplomatic personnel and their families.
Military units, including a tank regiment, positioned themselves along the Shkumbin river. But in Sauk in front of the barracks in the suburbs of Tirana an officer instructor, wearing the insignia of the armoured division on his collar, declared that the army would not react in the case of an insurrection. "We cannot fire on our people." This sentiment was shared by almost the whole of the institution. Both the soldiers and the officers expressed this sentiment on different occasions.
Berisha's Democratic Party continued to arm its supporters around Tirana, notably in Kavaja, from then on the only town under government control south of the capital. From the North of Albania and Kosovo lorries brought well paid mercenaries. Berisha's supporters also looted arsenals in the towns of the North.
In Tirana members of the secret police entered the military academy and three other arms depots in the area, including at the airport, and cleaned them out. Seven depots of the anti-aircraft defence brigade were emptied, one of which contained 10,000 light arms. The SHIK distributed assault rifles to its henchmen and to the loyal supporters of the Democratic Party.
The bourgeoisie made some panicky comments: "A president who has lost all authority, a government of 'national reconciliation' which has no more of a grip on events, an army which turns and runs when the first shot is fired... never in recent history has a country on the old continent known the disintegration in such rapid succession of all its institutions, of all the instruments charged with making people respect public order. It is a question of a real collapse of the State."
The Albanian writer IsmaÃ¯l Kadare (who has lived in Paris since 1990) called for the intervention of a buffer force in Albania. "A international arbiter is needed when a whole country is heading for a precipice. It's not important what the forms and procedures are, anything is good if it prevents a tragedy on such a scale."
Following this, all the bourgeois parties of Albania launched a joint appeal in favour of an armed intervention of the European powers "so as to restore constitutional order". The decomposition of the state was such that the bourgeoisie became more and more favourable to the intervention of other international authorities so as to reestablish order.
On the 13 March the secret police was all over Tirana, having withdrawn from the regions in the South, where it had been the only force fighting the insurgents.
A convoy of armoured cars and Mercedes wound its way around the central Skanderbeg square. The SHIK men let off volleys of automatic rifle fire and shouted very loudly to show that they were again the masters of the nerve centre of Tirana. Armoured cars were deployed on Martyrs' Boulevard and Nation Boulevard where the presidential palace, parliament and other government buildings are situated.
Most of the ministries and administrations were shut, as well as banks and businesses. The streets were deserted. The firing of automatic weapons was incessant. Six people, including two children, were killed, mostly victims of stray bullets or accidental explosions of mines or grenades. The screws abandoned the prisons, letting some six hundred prisoners escape.
Despite the omnipresence of the SHIK, Tirana did not escape the frenzy of pillaging. Masses of demonstrators from the poor neighbourhoods expropriated the food depots, among others a huge flour warehouse in the suburb of Lapraka. Other demonstrators plundered and expropriated the Police School, and in the residential district of Tirana, where there are several embassies, they succeeded in appropriating Kalashnikovs and canisters of butane. The sentries at the National Guard Headquarters (which was only 300m from these targets) didn't lift a finger in the face of this action. The barracks were pillaged as much for arms as for the supplies they were stocked with, furniture, bathroom fittings, heaters... There was nothing left of the barracks but a boneless carcass.
In the centre of Tirana the favourite targets of the proletarians were public buildings and the enterprises where work was so detestable and badly paid. Workshops, buildings... nothing was left. Even the roof beams and steel rods from the frames were taken. There was no more furniture or machinery, no more tiles or cornices, no more door frames, no light fittings. All the electric wiring and switches had been torn out, just like the wash basins and heaters, down to the smallest bit of piping. There was no more glass or sills, just holes where the windows used to be.
From now on almost every person had at least one gun, a Kalashnikov or some other type.
"There is no army," a journalist commented, "the soldiers are abandoning the barracks and going home. The police, many of whom have exchanged their uniforms for plain clothes, are limited for the moment to looking after the prisons and official buildings. But this hasn't prevented a massive flight: in three penitentiaries the prisoners have succeeded in escaping and more than a thousand prisoners are now enjoying unexpected freedom..."
The chief administrator of Tirana launched a televised appeal for calm in the name of all the political parties. But at the end of the afternoon Tirana seemed to be on the brink of revolt.
The loyal employees in the ministries stuffed computers and files into their vehicles, recognisable from the yellow government number plates. Soldiers and policemen deserted their posts and went home. Even the big shots of the SHIK disappeared from the scene.
The bourgeoisie abandoned Tirana.
The embassies circulated a general evacuation order. A company of Marines was deployed in front of the American embassy. An air bridge was established between Italian navy units patrolling the Gulf of Tarente and the port of DurrÃ«s. Three Super-Pumas from the French airforce and two Cougars from the army, six helicopters from the German army sent from the NATO Stabilisation Force (S-FOR) in Bosnia, Cobra helicopters from the US army... and fifteen Albanian naval ships and even others from the Greek fleet were pressed into service to evacuate their respective "foreign nationals", protected by units of paratroopers and marines. On many occasions the operations were interrupted by rifle fire, anti-aircraft cannon and portable ground to air missiles.
On the evening of Wednesday 13 March, the historic town of KorÃ§a (in the southeast of the country) was looted. Proletarians went to the barracks of Poceste where they took arms and four armoured cars.
At Lezha proletarians attacked the office of the secret police (whose members had disappeared) and the State Bank where they dynamited the safe.
The worthies of the town immediately created a Committee of Safety of Lezha to try to calm down the movement. They went through the town by car making appeals for calm through a megaphone. They were drowned out by fusillades of bullets.
"The army has collapsed, the state has faltered"... said a journalist before leaving Tirana.
That moment marked the high point of the movement. From the South to the North, the insurrectional movement generalised itself, shaking even that bastion of the state, the capital. But if the forces of the bourgeoisie withdrew from Tirana it was so as to reorganise themselves better on a national and international level. While on the side of the proletariat they again tasted the cruel lack of perspective and of a classist direction in the midst of isolation and international incomprehension.
In effect, if the struggle in Albania marked, like the struggle in Iraq (11), a moment of rupture with the international situation of social peace, it is precisely this context of international non-struggle which prevented the movement from going further. International social peace weighs heavily on the extraordinary movement of the proletariat in Albania, just like it previously weighed on the proletarian insurrection in Iraq. The proletariat in Albania needs to extend the struggle internationally but it finds neither the support nor the necessary comprehension from the rest of the world proletariat who, stupefied by the international campaign of the bourgeoisie, don't recognise themselves in the struggle of their class brothers and sisters in Albania and imagine even less the real force of the ruptures which have taken place.
This lack of international support calls for an even clearer affirmation of revolutionary perspectives in Albania than the proletariat has set out. But if in the course of the confrontations the proletariat has recognised the whole of its enemies, it is more difficult for them to affirm now the levels of organisation capable of thwarting the successive changes of political spare parts which allow the bourgeoisie to regain control of the situation.
When the proletariat makes an attack on the whole of the structures of the bourgeois state and defeats the army... when to private property it opposes collective appropriation, pillaging banks, warehouses, shops... when to a Justice which consecrates the omnipotence of the bourgeoisie, isolates the proletariat and leads it, riddled with rights, right to prison, it opposes collective class force, burning police stations and courts and opening the prisons... when to the peaceful protests organised by the opposition, it responds by the generalised taking up of arms... it affirms practically the spontaneously revolutionary nature of its struggle.
But to give force and continuity to these confrontations it is vital for the proletariat to build up qualitatively superior levels of organisation capable of pushing things in a clearer direction and thus assuming a well-defined break with the bourgeois alternatives. Not doing this means surrendering the ground which has been gained. Unhappily, we have to state that the proletariat in Albania does not appear to have produced regroupments, associations, organs or whatever, which are true to its nature, which call for class actions, which express, by their very existence, the necessity of organising outside and against the bourgeois state, which clearly call for the destruction of the state, the international generalisation of struggle, the affirmation of the communist movement (12). In the course of the revolutionary process, the point always comes where a qualitative jump is indispensable in direction, in internationalism. If the proletariat does not provide one, the bourgeoisie will just use the circumstances to reorganise itself.
Thus, once the anger had exploded, the army had been defeated, the bourgeoisie of Tirana had fallen prey to panic, the question was posed of what to do with this position of strength acquired in the course of the confrontations. What was at stake at that moment was the need for a much clearer definition and delimitation of our enemies. Without this, the opposition movements which the bourgeoisie had created to give a political direction to the conflict ¬ oppositionists who had habitually marched next to the proletariat in confrontations with the state ¬ succeeded in confining it to a simple opposition to the government of Berisha.
When the proletariat made a critique of the electoral point of view by taking over the streets and attacking all the structures of the state, when the proletariat shouted "Down with Berisha!", a slogan which in a limited and confused way said "Down with the state!", the opposition transformed everything into a demand for the anticipated elections, a solution advocated by the world bourgeoisie to negate the initial critique made by our class.
The sort of qualitative jump which would exclude the democratic trap would have consisted of translating into slogans or, to put it another way, inscribing on the banners of the movement, the strict reality of what was happening in the streets! "Down with Berisha!" would then have been replaced by slogans reflecting the real movement: "Down with the state, its cops and its politicians in the government and in the opposition!", "Down with parliament!", "Down with elections!", "Long live the generalised arming of the proletariat!" Of course, it isn't just a question of words. It's a matter of making conscious what is going on in reality, of consciously taking on the revolutionary direction that the struggle of the proletariat naturally takes (13) of clearly brandishing the flag of communism. Throughout the history of our class, even in the strongest moments of the struggle, it happens that what the proletariat says about its own struggle remains behind its real practice. Thus in Albania, the unifying flag of the movement remained an extremely poor one which never really went beyond the conservative slogan "Down with Berisha!", a slogan which gave the Socialist opposition all the arms it needed to recuperate the movement.
Sticking to the slogan "Down with Berisha!" meant accepting (as the opposition avidly hoped) that once Berisha was discarded there would be no more reason to struggle. In fact, the sacking of Berisha did become the condition for handing over arms.
As is often the case in any movement of struggle, it happened once again that it is not combativity which is lacking but the clear definition of class objectives. Here, again, it is not arms or courage which proletarians lack (as is generally believed by militarists and guerrilla-ists of all kinds) but a clear definition of what to turn their arms against.
It is that which was the limit of the break which proletarians made with the counter-revolution. At that high point, while the proletariat didn't do anything to take the movement forward, the international bourgeoisie beat out a call to organise support for the Albanian state in its struggle against the insurrection. On one side was the unified world bourgeoisie, and on the other was the proletariat in Albania ¬ isolated. The bourgeoisie possesses a very long experience of how to defeat the proletariat country by country. And what is most tragic is that it will continue to be this way as long as the proletariat does not organise itself as an international force and does not give itself a revolutionary centralisation/direction.
The Restructuring of Bourgeois Order in Albania
On Friday 14 March the European Union assured Albania of its support in the form of humanitarian aid. A member of the Defence Commission of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Western European Union (in a word: a bourgeois) declared:
"We have all the military capacity needed to calm things down and take control of this matter. On condition that we hit hard and fast."
"The Eurocorps comprises 50,000 fully operational men. A force of some 10,000 soldiers, hardly a fifth of the effective number, heavily equipped and armoured, would be sufficient to take the situation in hand."
"And to contain the insurgents and make them hand over their Kalashnikovs? The means of pressure that we have are largely sufficient. For example, establishing a sort of exchange: the handover of stolen arms against the provision of food."
Here we have a good description of what the bourgeoisie intend to do by means of humanitarian aid: the disarmament of the proletariat by military intimidation and the threat of starvation!
On 15 March Berisha launched an appeal to volunteers wanting to maintain order in the capital to join the Albanian army or police in return for a salary of four hundred dollars a month, which is equivalent to four times the average salary. The government also promised to triple the wages of police officers who returned to their posts. More than a thousand former officers presented themselves at the Ministry of Defence so as to patch up the army whereas thousands of young people joined the ranks of the police ¬ without any need to show their papers when enroling! Rifles and ammunition were distributed to them.
On 16 March the Albanian state received the support of its Italian and Greek brothers who were ready to send experts to advise the Albanian police and army and to help them reestablish order.
On 17 and 18 March some experts from the EU came to Tirana to talk to the Albanian government with the aim of evaluating the importance and scope of a humanitarian aid mission.
While these gentlemen discussed how to "normalise the situation in Albania", what was happening in the streets changed its character little by little. Whereas before it came alive, full of proletarians discussing the next action, whereas before it was a place for all the assaults, looting, burning, barricades step by step the street was given up to confrontations of a completely different nature.
To explain this, we are going to take a little detour.
The capitalist mode of production places each unit of production in opposition to the others and thus generates a perpetual war of all against all. The opening of Albania's borders cruelly laid bare these contradictions and made them explode. This was not in the sense that these contradictions were a novelty for Albania - the laws of capitalism have always reigned there! - but because the attempt to run the Albanian economy in a protectionist way imposed until then a certain discipline on the bourgeoisie, a discipline made possible by relatively low real wages (compared to other countries). But this only postponed the bursting forth of all these contradictions, and it was precisely this postponement (a practice inherent in any kind of populist and protectionist capitalism) which aggravated the explosion when it became inevitable. It is also for that reason that the permanent war which the bourgeoisie dedicate themselves to was conducted in such a chaotic manner when everything exploded.
When Albania opened its frontiers a mob of young and ruthless capitalists piled in and took over whole sectors, attracted by the low level of wages and avid to enrich themselves rapidly on what they thought was an innocent, naive and domesticated proletariat. But this only exacerbated the competitive struggle for a quick profit and before long the situation transformed itself into a war of plunder concretely expressed by innumerable armed confrontations within the bourgeoisie, ending up as a chaotic struggle between enterprises and rival mafias (just like in other countries such as the ex-USSR).
In this framework the Berisha government itself seems to have obeyed its private interests, concentrated around the Democratic Party, rather than the more global interests of the bourgeoisie in its entirety. As a general rule, the sectors of the bourgeoisie which control the central apparatus of the state are assured of that hegemony precisely because they have proved their capacity to put their private interests to one side for the profit of the general interests of their class. It seems that here Berisha, notably through the pyramid companies, was rather more occupied with his personal fortune than with the interests of the bourgeoisie in general and the cohesion of the state. It is that which also explains without doubt why bourgeois fractions could be found behind the slogan "Down with Berisha!".
In the month of March 1997, in the midst of the insurrectional movement of the proletariat, and taking part in the destabilisation of the state, various fractions of the bourgeoisie benefited from the passage to military action and settled some accounts. Apart from the followers of Berisha who took advantage of the situation of general illegality to pillage the barracks so as to arm themselves, others profited from this same situation to arm themselves and militarily protect their factories, shops and other businesses. Thus a good many bosses (14) who yesterday had come to Albania because the workforce there was available at a good price and because the laws allowed them to run their affairs a little more to their liking, without caring about taxes or social protection laws, today found themselves no longer able to count on the police to protect their private property. These big bosses and owners therefore surrounded themselves with private militias, surveillance squads, vigilance committees, "armed bands" to save their business activity from generalised looting - a task which these militias had never been able to practically assume elsewhere in the course of the movement.
Groups of armed proletarians were more and more caught between the armed bosses' militias, the Councils of Public Salvation, Committees of Safety, Committees of Defence... which also armed themselves to reestablish order.
With the aim of delivering a coup de grÃ¢ce and adding to the general confusion which would succeed in disarming the proletariat, the media put into the same bag the actions of the armed proletariat and the actions of the militias defending private property. "Armed bands" (15) became the name used to amalgamate actions of a completely different nature solely on the basis that they were armed.
Looting, for example, can have a completely different class nature depending on who does it and what the content of their action is. When proletarians loot goods or arms depots, it is our class which is criticising private property, the state and the whole of the capitalist social relation. This expropriation expresses the interests of humanity. It is a matter of collective appropriation, of a reappropriation of what proletarians have produced but of which they are always deprived. It is the proletariat which is feeding and arming its struggle against the state and the reign of commodities.
When other apparently similar looting of arms and goods depots is carried out, whether by merchants who are organising a traffic in foodstuffs which have become scarce by selling them to proletarians at outrageous prices... whether they are militias engaged in protecting capitalist enterprises... whether they are the lackeys of Berisha... it is clear that the criteria are not the same. It is not the interests of humanity which are being expressed here, but rather those of profit, those of the age-old tyranny of the rate of profit against the human being. It is a matter of private appropriation, for the private interests of groups of bourgeois who struggle to impose their fractional interests and who aim to improve their position in the war of competition between capitals. It is the perpetuation in arms of the capitalist system.
Another example is the attacks on police stations, which can also take on completely different natures. When merchants attack police stations because the police try to take control of their commerce, or demand a percentage, they are leading an inter-bourgeois war for control of the market. This attack is completely integrated into the reproduction of the capitalist system. On the other hand, when the proletariat attack a police station, liquidate its occupants and burn the buildings of repression, they are attacking their mortal enemy, which represses them directly and which keeps them deprived of all property, the capitalist state. Their action is an integral part of the process of destroying the bourgeois State.
The "armed bands" who plunder goods depots and barracks and attack police stations so as to carry on their own war of competition constitute the armed wing of the counter-revolution, that which restores terror against the proletariat.
Thus, a road block installed in VlorÃ« extorted money from all the car drivers who passed by. If they didn't obey they were simply riddled with bullets.
Again, while the proletariat in arms have organised road blocks to stop the advance of troops, to arrest members of the secret police, to defend their struggle, including to obtain funds for this, those who extort money from car drivers ¬ an a-classist category ¬ have nothing in common with this struggle and put themselves completely on the side of the State, which carries out this kind of intimidation every day. The newspapers referred to the extorters as "bandits", "rebels", "Mafiosi", "scum"... the same title they gave to any proletarian who takes up arms against the state. It is clear that here we are talking about a private militia in the service of capitalist order. This armed band (a boss and his lackeys) which rampaged around VlorÃ« in competition with the Committee of Defence, called like everyone else for the sacking of Berisha (but with the aim of doing some good illegal business), and little by little took over the control of defence groups and the circulation of arms. They coldly assassinated those who did not obey their orders. To defend their private mercantile interests this armed band imposed the usual bourgeois terror and, in that way, defended private capitalist interests in general. A journalist's description: "Criminal organisations have taken advantage of the situation of disorder in Albania to do some business, notably in the traffic of drugs and arms. Italian businessmen have continuous business relations with their Albanian colleagues."
And, to complete the description of the eminently counter-revolutionary role of this "armed band", here is a proclamation by its leader on the arrival of the Italian troops: "The Italian soldiers are our brothers... If anyone touches a hair on their heads they must do it over my dead body."
On the Greek border an "armed band" took control of a crossing point and extorted from proletarians who were going to stock up with supplies in Greece.
In Tirana, a bus was machine gunned to force it to stop so that the assailants could rob the passengers.
But there were also proletarian responses against these armed bands which aimed to rob proletarians.
On 27 March, for example, there was a class response to a band who came to extort from a village. Strongly armed from looting an important barracks, the inhabitants refused the racketeers, defended themselves and avenged their eighteen dead.
Traffickers in "meat on the hoof" also hoped to do some good business from the new wave of emigration. Thus more than ten thousand refugees clandestinely arrived on the Italian coasts (a smaller number than in 1991 when it had been more than forty thousand). They were rapidly repatriated to Albania (16). Diplomats, ambassadors and company managers were not considered to be "foreign nationals" ¬ ships, helicopters and planes were chartered for their evacuation. On the contrary, here we are talking about simple proles who fled to Italy either because they were attracted by the myth of the Western paradise or because they wanted to escape repression. They paid between 500 and 1000 dollars for a place on an old tub that might not even get there (17). At DurrÃ«s those who ran this commerce in meat on the hoof knew how to be efficient! A fleet of more than a hundred speed boats allowed them to control the whole coast and organise their commerce, particularly with Italy and Greece. On the coast they touted for business and gathered their candidates, carefully avoiding telling them what was waiting for them in Italy! At sea they threatened fishermen and captains of boats so as to keep control of the traffic. The police were complicit and did not stop them from giving themselves over to their smuggling.
On the basis of these examples we can understand the ease with which the bourgeoisie have amalgamated proletarian actions with those of armed bands of unscrupulous merchants without any criteria apart from those of the bourgeoisie: profit and the war of all against all. It is the bourgeois themselves who call proletarians in arms mafia, gangsters, savages, rapists... cannibals! We can also understand why proletarians felt more and more trapped between these "armed bands", one lot, responding strictly to their private interests, going around with the immediate aim of grabbing as much cash as possible, and the others (the Committees of Defence, Safety or Public Salvation) whose aims corresponded more to the general interests of the world bourgeoisie: the reestablishment of the social peace in an area where proletarian anger had been expressed the most strongly.
Such are the bases on which the confrontations at the beginning of the movement progressively gave way to confrontations of a completely different nature. We will now return to the unfolding of actual events.
On Monday 19 March, representatives of the government and of international organisations discussed the objectives of the intervention and how to dispatch the humanitarian aid. The North American state was opposed to a military intervention by NATO (18), the German state defined the conflict as "an internal affair". The experts agreed in rejecting direct military intervention to reestablish order in Albania (they were aware of the danger of generalisation) and considered it more effective to help the army and the police, so that these institutions could reestablish the authority of the state, and to assure the protection of airports, embassies and the main official buildings. In other words the bourgeoisie knew that they must not make the mistake of carrying out an overt repression, as Berisha had done, because this had only had the effect of galvanising the combativity of proletarians in struggle. The bourgeoisie knew that to reestablish social peace the stick was not enough, the carrot was also vital. It would be much more effective to present their intervention as humanitarian aid. They knew that it had to be presented as something which fed proletarians and therefore constituted the only solution to the problem of survival. It only remained to decide on the means. Meanwhile, the government of Bashkim Fino, supported by the EU, was invited to take urgent measures of "social and humanitarian assistance" to pacify the country. The forces of the world bourgeoisie then arranged an intervention where the unified foreign presence would support the local repressive forces and use humanitarian action as a shopfront.
On 20 March the Italian army carried out its first operation on Albanian soil. Marine infantry from an élite unit landed on a beach close to the port of DurrÃ«s.
On 25 March 40 tonnes of French aid in the form of food and medicines arrived at Tirana airport.
On 26 March the negotiations of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) finally led to the creation of a "humanitarian mission protected by a multinational force under the UN mandate". "It will be an escort mission, a humanitarian mission, not a mission for maintaining order." "The OSCE plan will attempt to create the political conditions appropriate for holding general elections this summer. But the policing mission will be essential to assure close protection for the aid convoys of food and medicines for which the municipalities and the sacked and looted hospitals have a pressing need."
It was clearly a question of a mission to maintain order but the OSCE did everything to appear as saviours and not as aggressors. The great fear of the bourgeoisie remained the danger of internationalisation of the conflict. At any price the OSCE had to stop the always armed proletariat from continuing its struggle, not only against the Albanian army but against all the armies of Europe. This extension of the struggle would have led to the recognition of the class enemy in a much larger collection of bourgeois fractions, including those that support the OSCE plan: the Committees of Defence, of Safety or of Public Salvation, the Bashkim Fino government, the whole of the Albanian and international bourgeoisie.
Despite the necessities of world capital and despite the accords concluded around the strategies to use in Albania, no top officials were prepared to send soldiers to the South of Albania where the situation remained explosive. One combatant affirmed: "I am warning the Italian soldiers. I advise them not to come to VlorÃ«. If they do we will kill them". In Spain, El PaÃs carried the headline "Fear in the South" and stressed that "the lack of availability of forces to deploy in the South of Albania manifested by the dozen countries who sent the representatives of their respective high commands to the meeting called in Rome yesterday constitutes the main obstacle to getting the International Protection Force underway." The newspaper added: "none of the eight countries, amongst those participants in this meeting prepared to cooperate in the military part of the plan, seemed willing to send soldiers into that zone."
More globally the bourgeoisie were afraid that their true objectives would come to light. In this sense they insisted: "The multinational military force will stick to its humanitarian mandate and refuse to interfere in internal policing matters which could very quickly expose it to terrorist attacks."
On that day of 12 April, a contingent of 6,000 soldiers had to be landed in Albania. The primary objective of the mission was to secure the ports of DurrÃ«s and VlorÃ«, Tirana airport and the principal communication routes between the North and the South of Albania.
On 9 April a boat containing a hundred members of the SHIK arrived at Brindisi to closely control the movement of Albanian refugees. Prospective migrants were ejected severely from Italy, but it wasn't the same for all those who collaborated in safeguarding the State. Whether they were "foreign nationals" or members of the secret police, they received a good welcome in Italy. Faced with a proletarian threat the bourgeoisie knew to put its war of competition to one side so as to better wage its war against the proletariat. The financiers of the bankrupt pyramid savings companies had, as elsewhere, loyal colleagues in Italy. For example, a chain of supermarkets in Pouilles belonged to the, up until then, celebrated Vefa.
On 12 April the Jaubert commando came to DurrÃ«s to secure the landing area for the troops of the French Army.
On Monday 14 April, an air bridge between Pisa and Tirana was put in place so as to send material and equipment there. Several C-130s from the Italian Army had already landed in Tirana.
The 15 April marked the beginning of Operation Alba. The 6000 soldiers of the multinational force arrived at the ports of DurrÃ«s and VlorÃ«. A cargo sent by the World Food Programme unloaded 360 tonnes of flour and 36 tonnes of vegetables.
The more frightened the bourgeoisie was to see the extent to which the proletariat was armed, the more impressive the arrival of the multinational forces. The size of the boats, the tanks and other vehicles, the sophisticated armaments... were plenty to intimidate! The voices of proletarians which were raised against this intimidation were few, which again shows the isolation of the extraordinary struggle of the proletariat in Albania - an isolation which the world bourgeoisie succeeded in imposing. On the spot, faced with this impressive military invasion, only a few insults could be heard: humanitarianism dictatorially imposed its terror.
In Tirana the situation returned to normal. Newspapers came out as usual, the shops were stocked, traffic was heavy. The only arms visible were those of some cops leaning on their armoured car.
On 17 April, a delegation from the OSCE met the representatives of the Committee of Public Salvation in VlorÃ«. The president of the Committee confirmed his counter-revolutionary role when he said: "Operation Alba may degenerate if it is given the mission of forcibly entering our homes to take our arms", reflecting 100% the preoccupations of the emissaries of the OSCE. We can see here that the fears of the bourgeoisie in Albania are exactly the same as those of the international humanitarians.
From the first to the seventh of May, the police reappeared on the streets of Shkoder, Berat, Burrel, Kukes, Kruje. But the institutions of Justice were not operational. Police stations, prisons, courts... weren't there any more. Before leaving the buildings the escaping prisoners had made sure to burn their files and then burn the buildings themselves... A few days before you could read in the press: "The chief of prison administration in Albania announced yesterday that the country had no more than 27 prisoners in gaol against the 1,300 who were there before the massive flight of convicts on 13 March. Of these 27 prisoners, 9 had returned to the cells of their own free will."
An astonished magistrate said: "After an interlude of 45 years we have taken care to make good laws. We have a constitutional charter defining human rights. There is a Minister of Justice, private associations of magistrates, the right of appeal, a new criminal code... But we have neglected to educate the people in this new spirit. What are the insurgents doing with it?" asks this devoted magistrate who would like us to believe that there has been no system of repression in Albania since the death of Enver Hoxha. As if good laws and a good functioning of the judiciary change the nature of State terrorism. "Instead of taking legal action, they have taken the direct route: plundering the banks. They have no confidence in the State and its laws. Even the factory owner in Shkoder: the law had made him special offers of protection of his business but he preferred to take on his own vigilantes."
On 14 May, the opposition parties threatened to boycott the elections scheduled for the 29 June 1997. They were calling into question the electoral law which foresaw a mode of scrutiny based on majoritarianism. The polarisation of attention around this polemic was an attempt to install more and more strongly the idea that the solution to all the issues raised in the movement was to go and vote to sanction the policies of Berisha. Despite having spontaneously taken on the State and all its structures: its banks, its police stations, its courts, its prisons, its barracks, its storage depots... proletarians allowed this totalising struggle to be confiscated in return for finally just demanding the head of Berisha, and that by means of a democratic vote.
If, at the beginning, the demand for the head of Berisha could still signify Down With the State!, now, with the recuperation carried out by the Socialist opposition, the call for his sacking was just the political solution approved by the whole of the world bourgeoisie as a means of disarming proletarians and taking up negotiations along paths which would ensure them regaining the monopoly of arms.
On 21 May, the general accord agreed between the ten parties foresaw in particular the nomination of a new chief of the secret police. This partially realised one of the demands of the Committees of Public Salvation who had called for a profound reorganisation of the secret police.
On 4 June, the president Sali Berisha escaped an attempt on his life during an electoral meeting of the Democratic Party, three weeks before legislative elections, planned for the 29th June. This event illustrates the tension which still existed in the country despite the electoral promises.
Apart from rare exceptions, nobody handed over arms stolen during the looting of the barracks. The state of emergency and the cease-fire remained vigorously in force.
On 27 June, a convoy of international observers set out from Tirana escorted by Italian and Romanian soldiers. They went towards the Southwest as far as Gjirokaster, passing through Memaliaj and TepelenÃ« ¬ areas which, in March, had been completely in the grip of the insurrectional movement marked by the looting of barracks and the generalised arming of the proletariat. Proletarians saluted the vehicles with a few insults but the convoy went through without any problems. This example shows the general state of the struggle at that moment: decomposition of the force of the insurrection, hatred of the new proposals for installing order but the predominance of powerlessness... resignation had made its appearance once again.
Two days from the anticipated legislative elections scheduled for 29 June, the observers decided that the conditions for a free and democratic scrutiny had not been achieved. But on 29 June, the bourgeoisie were finally able to salute Albania's effective "salutary passage to the polling booth" which, in Bucharest as in Sofia, had allowed that sudden "metamorphosis" from the danger of revolution to a citizenry obediently queuing for the democratic carve up. What can the isolation of the polling booth (19) create, other than isolation? The spectre of revolution was provisionally banished from Albania with the return of a situation where all attention is focused on political wheeling and dealing.
On 23 July, a few months after having been elected for a second presidential term, Sali Berisha sent a letter of resignation from the presidency of the Albanian republic, a post he had occupied for five years. Thus the spectacle of national reconciliation was accomplished. It was the last act arranged by the opposition to make the insurgents hand over their arms. The aim ¬ "to stabilise the situation, to restore the much mocked authority of the State, to give the legitimacy which has been lost to a future government and encourage an indispensable climate of national reconciliation" ¬ was finally attained.
On 12 August 1997, the six thousand men of the "multinational protection force" left Albania.
"Internationally, not only was there no other important proletarian struggle, but the isolation of the proletariat in Albania was reinforced by the systematic cover-up of everything that was going on. The worldwide bourgeoisie ensured that across the world the talk was not of proletarian struggle, nor revolution in Albania, but of chaos, disorder, anarchy."
"International social peace weighs heavily on the extraordinary movement of the proletariat in Albania, just like it previously weighed on the proletarian insurrection in Iraq. The proletariat in Albania needs to extend the struggle internationally but it finds neither the support nor the necessary comprehension from the rest of the world proletariat who, stupefied by the international campaign of the bourgeoisie, don't recognise themselves in the struggle of their class brothers and sisters in Albania and imagine even less the real force of the ruptures which have taken place."
By Way of a Conclusion
In August 1995 we published a text ("General Characteristics of the Struggles of the Present Time" ¬ in Communism No. 9) globalising, as the title implies, the general characteristics of the struggles of recent years. Faced with the enthusiasm-generating dimensions of the struggle in Albania, we must reflect on the dimension and depth of the ruptures contained in this struggle. Do they represent a qualitative jump in relation to the general characteristics of struggles at the present time or not?
To answer this question we can recall the characteristics set out in August 1995 and look at them in connection with the events in Albania so as to verify their similarities and differences.
This text first of all emphasises the violent and decisive actions of the proletariat who take over the streets, directly confronting the structures of the State, its buildings, its police stations... and tearing down the barriers of private property in a general movement of expropriation and reappropriation.
The events in Albania strongly confirm this characteristic. The proletariat attacked police stations, secret police buildings, barracks, courts, prisons, local offices of the government party, warehouses, branches of banks, the houses of the bourgeoisie, commercial centres, businesses... fires aimed at the destruction of centres of repression, capital accumulation, organisation of the counter-revolution... looting gave way to collective appropriation and reappropriation.
Our text on the general characteristics of struggle makes the remark: "The direct occupation of the streets tends to break violently with all the categories into which capital divides proletarians: the narrow confines of the factories, mines or offices smash into pieces. Unemployed, women condemned to housework by capital, elderly people, children... are unified in direct action." As in Burma roughly ten years ago, these barriers were blown apart in Albania and the struggle became generalised to all sectors throughout the country.
The looting was first of all aimed principally at the barracks because the main objective of the movement, as it went from simple protest to insurrectionary uprising, was to be armed. Following this it was aimed at the banks because it was there that their savings had been swallowed. Then, faced with poverty, they went for the food warehouses. Finally, the looting generalised to shops, public buildings and factories, that is to say all the places where commodities of every kind are stored, taking away everything, right up to the walls, beams and roofs.
The text also emphasises the form of an unstoppable conflagration that takes over these revolts, without a quantitative progression of partial struggles before the explosion, a characteristic accompanied by the fact that the old arsenal of social democracy has no effect in the face of the violent and decisive action of the proletariat and that trade unionism is completely incapable of responding by limiting the generalisation of proletarian violence. The reformist framework which normally controls attempts at struggle is rapidly left behind.
In Albania it is notable that policemen and soldiers (except for specialist units and élite troops) refused to fire on proletarians in struggle. It is also remarkable that the turn taken by events created a brilliant element of surprise which was undeniably an obstacle in the way of the rapid mobilisation of the forces of counter-revolution.
There were quite a few attempts to channel the more and more pressing rumbling discontent into peaceful demonstrations and hunger strikes. But these attempts were brutally swept away by the sudden and general explosion of quasi-insurrectional movements. The use of arms became generalised and the armed forces normally sent to put down revolt had to retreat. More than this, many soldiers cast off their uniforms and joined their class brothers and sisters, opening the barracks and contributing to the appropriation of arms.
Another characteristic outlined in the text of August 1995 is the fact that: "These revolts generally break out without precise and explicit aims and rarely put forward anything positive."
In Albania we can see this absence of concrete positive demands, even if the point of departure was the massive financial crookery which had dispossessed the proletariat of its few savings. What was behind all this was a situation which was totally precarious for the proletariat, an ever more acute dispossession of its means of life. In Albania the cause was clear but the rage which expressed itself on that occasion was a rage against poverty in general. Moreover, the way in which this rage was carried by the proletariat into a generalised revolt attacking not just the savings companies but the whole of the structures of the bourgeois State, expresses the much more total dimension taken by the struggle in Albania.
Faced with the bourgeoisie's attack, in the concrete form of financial crookery, what the proletariat did was to say NO! It is a question of an explosion of rage which said NO and demanded back what had been stolen, something which does not constitute a positive demand and is therefore much harder to transform into a reformist proposition. During the whole time of the social conflagration it was characterised by this intransigent NO, and therefore by the absence of concrete positive demands.
It is the bourgeois opposition which, in so far as the proletariat was not able to give the revolt its own objectives, had breathed into the movement the limiting demand for the dismissal of President Berisha, channelling the movement of struggle against the State into a bourgeois policy of replacing one government by another. It is precisely the question of the "resignation of Berisha" which constitutes the passage from the proletarian NO confronting a bourgeois order imposing an increase in misery to a recuperator's YES making itself concrete in the political reform of the bourgeois State. This demand appeared each time more opposed to the proletarian NO and finally supplanted it and even made people forget the question of recovering the money deposited in the banks.
So far the movement in Albania corresponded generally with the characteristics of the struggles of the present period set out in August 1995.
But one characteristic which we stressed was that even in intense and acute moments the power of bourgeois ideology is so strong that it is only a minority which participates in direct action. The situation in Albania was quite obviously different from this.
The taking up of arms and participation in direct action were generalised. It was the same for the settling of accounts with identified members of the SHIK, the sacking of public buildings, town halls, courts, police stations, prisons, the seizure of barracks, looting... While some acted more directly, others, and sometimes many others, acted to prevent the forces of order arriving on the scene of the real action. Proletarians in arms organised themselves to block the roads, organised the defence of their bastions... It is undeniable that in Albania the participation in direct action was not just the act of a minority. It became massive, general.
Our text stressed elsewhere that once it gets over the element of surprise, the bourgeois counter-offensive regains the upper hand and, with a great blow of the bludgeon, makes order return. Here also the situation is notably different.
In Albania the movement went further than most of the confrontations which have happened in the present period (Los Angeles, for example) in arming itself in a generalised fashion and making its struggle last longer than a bolt of lightning in the sombre sky of extreme and general austerity that capital imposes in an ever more crushing fashion across the world. Between the moment when the struggle went beyond the suffocating framework of peaceful demonstrations to become quasi-insurrectional, and the propagation of the movement in the North of the country culminating in the evacuation of Tirana by the bourgeois forces, two weeks of radicalisation and generalisation of the movement had occurred.
But this generalisation took place without the organisation of links between the different areas touched by the movement. The insurrectional movement embraced a third of Albania's territory like a trail of gunpowder. That is to say that it was sufficient for a spark in one place to spread the fire without any other effort, the echo of a victorious battle was sufficient to encourage others to do the same. It is neither the lack of enthusiasm nor of arms which can explain the fact that the insurgents remained cantoned in their respective towns without trying to centralise the struggle. It is once again the lack of perspectives, of the determination of class objectives, which left them in the care of the Committees of Defence, of Safety, of Public Salvation which took charge of links by means of the usual channels which the State always has in place: democratic representations of various bourgeois parties, starting with the Committees of the eight towns then through the organisation of national elections.
As is stressed in the text of August 1995, in Albania the fact was verified that the absence of revolutionary direction allows the bourgeoisie to regain control of the situation.
The bourgeoisie will always deny the class nature of confrontations and by that their internationalist dimension. That is they will do everything to hide the fact that what expressed itself in Albania is a moment of a single global struggle of the proletariat. The danger for the bourgeoisie being precisely that proletarians across the whole world recognise themselves in the struggle of their class brothers and sisters in Albania (and elsewhere) and decide themselves to take up arms against the whole democratic apparatus which has up till now made all the running! What the bourgeoisie say about the events in Albania (like all the others which shake the world) is that they obviously have no link with any of the others. In their eyes these events can only be the result of particularisms.
In this sense the main weakness of the proletariat in Albania finds its source in the present day weakness of the struggles of the world proletariat. To put it another way, the main weakness of the proletariat of that region is its international isolation, the fact that elsewhere the proletariat remains dominated and weak to the point that it is incapable of developing similar actions to those of its class brothers and sisters in Albania. Worse, it was incapable of understanding that it was its own class which was fighting in Albania!
There is another constant in the present day situation. This is the lack of leadership and of revolutionary programme. These are decisive questions in the course of action and are complementary to the absence of international consciousness of the struggle. These two things which are lacking in the world proletariat reinforce each other reciprocally. The tragedy of the proletariat whose struggle in a region goes much further than in the others, is a question which is as much historic as geographical and concerns its program as well as its isolation. In this tragedy converges the lack of theory and of revolutionary direction and the lack of struggle of the proletariat in other regions of the world.
It is thanks to this present day weakness of the world proletariat that the bourgeoisie has been able to isolate "the Albanian question" as a particular issue (as they have done with "the Kurdish question"). Thus the bourgeoisie presents a spectacle of commiseration and compassion and the press talk, in a-classist terms, of "Albanian" (national division gives good results), of "victims" and of "the despair which has lead to such excesses", of "abuses of power", of "parasites on democracy" and of "corrupt enterprises". They put forward particularisms such as the "difficulty of the poorest, most tribal country in Europe, most marked by half a century of Stalinism... to come to terms with freedom and the market economy"... the "difficulty of a people who don't know the taste of work, of effort, of the spirit of sacrifice, well enough... to take on the democratic apprenticeship" (20). Social democracy always defends the coexistence of different modes of production (capitalist, socialist, feudal), different worlds (developed, under-developed, third world, fourth world), different regimes (democratic, totalitarian) so as to blame the "catastrophes", "dramas", "tragedies", "genocides" on a lack of capitalist development and a lack of democracy. Never, of course, are these events related to anything global, fundamental, common; in the explanations of the media none of the present day catastrophes are linked to the nature of this social form of production. It is a question of particular problems which can be attributed to such and such a personality, to such and such an irregularity or bad management. The most important thing for the bourgeoisie is to impose a vision according to which each struggle is the result of something different which has nothing to do with their global system of exploitation. They must prevent proletarians in another part of the world becoming aware that those who struggle are also proletarians. They must prevent them understanding that it is the dictatorship of capital which inevitably exacerbates exploitation and creates poverty and wars, and that it is our struggle, the struggle of proletarians in arms against the state, which will bring about the end of all this inhumanity.
The bourgeoisie even has other particularisms in reserve, to put in place to undermine the ground on which the proletariat in struggle might be able to relaunch itself. Existing events have already allowed them to realign the border conflicts with Greece, permitting the bourgeoisie to play on the Greek nationalist/secessionist sentiment amongst the Greek minority living mostly in the South of Albania (21). As long as the proletariat struggles - a struggle which in its essence is unificatory and destructive of all nationalist sentiment - the bourgeoisie cannot articulate its attack on this level but, as we can see in the propaganda of different factions, they have not moved away from the possibility of using a pro- or anti-Greek sentiment to create separatist movements in the South of Albania in the near future.
Other fractions have launched the idea of an "Ethnic Albania", that is an Albanian state enlarged to Kosovo and Macedonia. They will then try to mobilise the Albanian people in a struggle for national liberation/reunification.
Another bourgeois polarisation that the journalists have put forward to explain the difference in the strength of the movement in the South and in the North is to divide the people of Albania into two big ethnicities: the GuÃ¨gues in the North and the Tosques in the South (22). Through all these particularisms it is a question for the bourgeoisie of foreseeing class confrontations and enclosing any movement in polarisations whose two poles are bourgeois.
With the first phase of the movement over, commiseration gave way to condemnation of "excesses". All the misery in the world evidently never justifies, in the eyes of the bourgeoisie, proletarians taking up arms. The words which they then used to describe proletarians were no longer "the Albanian poor" but "cannibals", "savages", "drunken louts", "uncontrollables", "gangsters", "Mafia", "criminals", "bandits", "profiteers"... Some journalists and Latin American members of parliament went so far as to say that the situation in Albania was characterised by the presence in the streets of masses of rapists escaped from the prisons. And of course, as we have already stressed, by all these means they try to create an amalgam between the armed actions of the proletariat and the armed actions of fractions of the bourgeoisie defending their particular interests, however much the criteria (ends and means) are completely antagonistic.
By taking control of the situation the bourgeoisie always tries to transform the struggle against the whole of the system into a struggle for reform of institutions, to break the class strength, the links of solidarity, the collective consciousness which develops in the struggle, and to lead proletarians back on to the electoral path. To class strength the ballot box opposes the isolated individual. To collective consciousness, they reimpose a free will which necessarily reproduces the dominant ideology. To direct links between proletarians in struggle outside and against the structures of the bourgeois state, elections reimpose mediation by the ballot paper.
Finally, one last important characteristic that we set out in our text on the characteristics of present day struggles was: the big difference between the strength of proletarian action and the lack of proletarian consciousness of this action.
Despite the scale of the movement and the clarity of the class objectives affirmed in the content of the actions themselves, there did not seem to be any movement of minorities setting out the eminently classist content of these actions which convey all the determinations of the struggle of the proletariat against this deadly system, for the communist revolution. It is obviously difficult to affirm the perspective of communism in a country where exploitation has been carried on for decades in the name of communism. But it is not fundamentally a question of a name. From the revolutionary point of view, what is important is the development of avant-garde minorities which proclaim the revolutionary significance of the movement and its attachment to the world-wide struggle of a proletariat breaking from all the traps of democracy. It is tragic that in Albania these minorities do not exist or do not have in any case sufficient strength to make themselves known and to try to give another direction to the revolt. And this is obviously not a weakness specific to the proletariat in Albania, but a characteristic of the world proletariat which, while it has received so many blows and suffered so many defeats, has not even achieved a minimum of revolutionary internationalist organisation.
While these latter remarks rather underline the limits of the movement, they mustn't make us forget the moments of strength of the struggle of the proletariat in Albania, a struggle which constituted a sudden break in the ocean of social peace. The struggle of the proletariat in Albania reminds us that the real critique of private property and the state, of exploitation, of misery, of war... that is to say of the society of capital, is the proletariat in arms against all the structures of the bourgeois state. This struggle shows that when the proletariat decides to struggle it makes use of a wonderful force which even the army cannot conquer.
Everywhere the producers of all the world's wealth - the proletarians! - allow themselves to be locked up in negootiations with the capitalists whose only essential criteria is that of profitability. Everywhere the democratic traps still lead proletarians by the nose to work or to slaughter. Everywhere we hear: "there's nothing to gain from struggle, nothing will change". And even worse "tragedies", "genocides", "dramas", "catastrophes", sow the seeds of death on all sides. The good citizen still concludes: "that's life"!!!
Proletarians have thus been kept at heel so much over the last few years that their anger has too often remained profoundly hidden (23). So when some of our class brothers and sisters finally let it explode and fight, weapons in hand, against the capitalist State it really warms our hearts.
By the actions which they have taken, proletarians in Albania have expressed what proletarians throughout the entire world feel and, in that, they place themselves in the avant-garde!
The proletariat in Albania has made an echo of what all proletarians carry within them: the struggle against capitalist exploitation, for communism. This echo is such that, for example, in a village in Hungary, the workers in a small construction company who hadn't received their wages marched towards the boss' house shouting: "it's time to do what they did in Albania here!" It was the same in Poland during a demonstration, angry workers chanted: "Albania, Albania!" In other towns in Europe they also shouted: "VlorÃ«! VlorÃ«!"
The struggle of the proletariat in Albania has given renewed confidence to the historic strength of the world proletariat.
For struggle outside and against all the structures of the bourgeois State.
Down with private property, money, wage labour, capital!
For the realisation of human needs:
Long live Communism !
* Novembre 1997 *
1. In this sense, yes, both points of view are subjective. But here the comparison ends, because whilst it is in the interest of the bourgeois point of view to hide anything announcing the end of capitalist social order and it is thus logical that it would neglect and hide anything revealing the obituary of its system, the point of view of the proletariat, the point of view of communism, of the historical overtaking of capitalism, has every interest in recognising the objective reality as it is, to unveil the class contradiction which leads to the destruction of the capitalist mode of production. This results in the subjective position of the dominant class leading it to distance itself from objective reality, whereas our subjective position as exploited pushes us to know and to make known the objective reality.
2. Enver Hoxha, historical stalinist leader and President of Albania whose end in 1985 constituted the prelude to the death of "socialism in one country".
3. On this subject read the text "Situation actuelle de la restructuration capitaliste en Russie" [The current situation of capitalist restructuration] in Communisme No.44, December 1996.
4. Each time, the bourgeoisie tries, by way of elections, to turn the anger directed against the very essence of its domination, money, commodities, capital, by exposing one or other party, one or other government to popular condemnation. In March 1991, the electoral comedy gave the Socialist Party (rechristened ex-Stalinist party) the star part. In March 1992, it was the Democratic Party's turn, a new party founded in 1991 by Berisha (also a rechristened ex-Stalinist), to take the leading role in the electoral mascarade.
5. In 1995, the turnover of this trade in "walking meat" of not only Albanian, but also Kurdish, Chinese... origin reached 380 million dollars.
6. These links were extremely personal: a whole series of government and Democratic Party members were linked to these societies.
7. Neighbouring Macedonia went through a similar situation with the collapse of a speculative financial society, the TAT, which ruined thirty thousand savers, to the tune of 80 million dollars. Another example is Russia in 1994, S.Mavredi who, initially possessing just 50 dollars, promised interest rates of 600% per year. He quickly managed thousands of dollars before declaring himself bankrupt and ruining thousands of people. On his release from prison, he got himself elected to the Duma! The oldest example in the memory of the press dates back to 1919 in Boston, USA, where Ch.Ponzi promised rates of 50% in 90 days. He thus collected 20 million dollars, paid out 15 million and pocketed the other 5.
8. Just as they repackage commodities, rethink publicity to sell it better, the old secret police of the Stalinist period, the Sigourimi, were given a new label and a new uniform. A few of the too-well-known leaders were retired out, others reorientated towards employers' militias to watch over the workplaces, cover the workers' assemblies... here was the SHIK ready to recommence its nasty job. Nothing new! History repeats itself all over the world and during every period: when a secret police force has become too well-known for its repressive practice, its name is changed, as are some of its members to enable them to assume their task more effectively. This is particularly useful when they change the form (or rhetoric) of domination and the State requires a bit of a clean-out. In general, the same structure is maintained, the same files, the same buildings, the same methods and they use the same prisons... except, of course, if the proletarian revolt manages to wipe all of this out!
9. On this subject read the articles that we have written at that time: "Pologne: 'Solidarité'... avec l'économie nationale" [Poland: 'Solidarity'... with the national economy] and "Pologne: quelle victoire?" [Poland: what victory?] which were published in Le Communiste No.8 in November 1980; "Pologne: des accords de Gdansk au massacre" [Poland: the Gdansk agreements to massacre], Le Communiste No.12, December 1981 and "LeÃ§ons des événements de Pologne" [Lessons of events in Poland] in Le Communiste No.13, March 1982.
10. During the war in Yugoslavia the proletarians of this region engaged in a very important struggle. Read on this subject the article: "Yugoslavia: Imperialist War Against the World Proletariat" in Communism No.9, August 1995.
11. Cf. our articles "About the class struggle in Iraq" in this review: "Additional notes on the insurrection of March 1991 in Iraq" and "Nationalism and islamism against the proletariat"; read also "War or revolution" and "A comrade's testimony: a journey to Iraq" in Communism No.7.
12. We don't want to prejudge here whether minorities have adopted a communist practice which situates them in the historic line of the party, or whether this type of group will develop in the immediate future on the basis of lessons learned. What we have to assert again is the lack of strength of the revolutionary perspective, the small amount of organisation and the absence of revolutionary propaganda proportional to the force and massive scale of the movement in Albania.
13. It should be very clear that we never use the term "revolutionary leadership" in the immediate and restricted sense of a precise collection of people, of a group or a "party". By revolutionary leadership we mean the historic trajectory of the proletariat aiming at the realisation of its revolutionary programme, looking to define the whole of the necessary strategy which it must develop to destroy capitalism, looking to assert the programmatic whole contained in its very existence as the opposition to the society of capital, a programmatic whole which determines every tactic and function of the revolutionary objective: communist society. Thus the movement for the revolutionary destruction of capitalist society can only develop itself in opposition to democracy which is the mode of organisation of capital in all its forms. Cf. our "Theses of Programmatic Orientation". As for people, groups and "parties", if they take on revolutionary leadership it can only be in the historic sense.
14. There are around 400 enterprises between Tirana, DurrÃ«s, LushnjÃ« and Fier. Some are the product of French and German initiatives and capital but the majority are Italian. The most important 120 enterprises constitute a mass of investments of 200 to 250 million dollars and comprise 30,000 jobs. In 1994, for example, the implantation of a bottling industry by Coca-Cola necessitated an investment of 20 million dollars and a hundred workers, in the high season!
15. In exactly the same way that in Italy, the State created a category of a-classist "armed band" with the ultimate aim of condemning class violence! You can read about this subject in: "Italy: the Repression is Reinforced" in Communism No.10, May 1997.
16. On 19 March the Italian government decreed a state of emergency over the whole territory of Italy until 30 June 1997. This involved the reinforcement of controls exercised by the patrolling forces of order not just on the frontiers but across the whole country. The decree also called for the immediate repatriation of those who, linked in one way or another to criminality, were considered to be undesirable ¬ a category which, as we know from experience, is extendable to the all proletarians who have taken up arms against the state. The same day, 289 people of Albanian origin and considered dangerous were taken under heavy guard to Tirana on board Italian army helicopters. Others received the status of "refugees" and had the right to a resident's permit for 60 days, extendable to 90 days, the time taken to "normalise" the situation in Albania. Independent of the content of their respective ideologies the collaboration between police forces was total, as always!
17. On 20 March 400 refugees whose boat was on the point of sinking into the Adriatic were led back to the port of DurrÃ«s by the Italian army. On 28 March, following an intervention on the high seas by an Italian army motor launch to force a boat full of migrants to change direction, the overfull boat sank, leaving 87 dead and/or disappeared. On 4 May, 1223 migrants who had arrived in the Italian port of Bari piled on board a tanker were returned to Albania. The first group of 180 men was immediately returned under strong escort to DurrÃ«s. The boat had been bought for 100,000 dollars and each passenger had paid between 500 and 600 dollars for the trip. The greater is the scale of human misery, the higher is the rate of profit; in this case capital recovered the whole of its investment in a single cycle!
18. We have already stressed the kind of intervention policy of the US state as well as its fundamental orientation. Cf. "L'armée et la politique militaires des Etats-Unis d'Amérique" in Le Communiste No.12 and 13. The Albanian example clearly expresses the understanding of this state, with regards to which action to take when the proletarian struggle attacks the State.
19. The word for polling booth is "isoloir" (isolator) in French!
20. In the present day world you can't talk about the proletariat anymore, or about revolutionary struggle, or about revolt against capitalism and its state but always about the struggle of "Kurds", "Islamists", "employees", "disaster victims", "peasants", "Palestinians", "the starving", "those who are owed 5 months wages", "miners", "Latinos", "the poor", "Basques", "unemployed", "blacks", "students", "Indians", "ecologists"... They use these terms to the point of absurdity to show these situations as anachronistic particularisms due to a lack of capitalism and democracy.
21. The Greek minority represent around 12% of the Albanian population, more than 500,000 people living principally in the villages of Southern Albania. Until 1913 this region was part of Greece and is still called the Empire of the North by Greeks today.
22. Read on this subject the article denouncing the polarisation between Hutus and Tutsis imposed by force by the bourgeoisie in Rwanda and in the surrounding countries: "Les campagnes humanitaires contre le prolétariat, l'exemple du Rwanda" appearing in Communisme No.41.
23. Worse still, the rage caused by all these miseries and fed by the competition intrinsic to bourgeois society is frequently drained towards "the other worker", towards the immigrant, towards the "black"... towards women, children, such and such an ethnic group... then, finally, organised by capitalism and transformed into a racist military force in imperialist war.