Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 5 No. 2


Perspectives on Albania

Tom Winnifrith (ed.),
Perspectives on Albania,
MacMillan, Basingstoke, 1992, pp. 140, £40.00

THIS book consists of a collection of essays by serious scholars providing an overview of the development of Albanian history, and a comic epilogue from Bill Bland. Mr Bland’s qualifications for contributing would appear to be his position as Secretary of the Albanian Society. The older generation of left activists will remember that previous to this he was one of the leaders of the Committee to Defeat Communism for Revisionist Unity (or was it the other way round?) who switched his support from Mao Zedong to Liu Shao-Ch’i in the process of discovering his earthly paradise in the Balkans. He has previously imposed upon the public a bibliography of Albania in which he plugged the official view of the Hoxha regime, and called in question the far more truthful accounts coming from the Yugoslavs wherever there was a conflict of evidence between them. A rosy picture of the country was all set to emerge with the present piece, but alas, the regime foundered before the book came out, leaving the debris of economic misery and bureaucratic tyranny strewn around for all to see.

Although Albanians may fail to be amused, it is with some merriment that we learn from Mr Bland’s presentation that ‘the standard of living of the lowest paid stratum of the Albanian working people is now higher than that of the lowest paid stratum of the British working class’ (p. 135), and that ‘income differentials are limited by law to 2:1’, which ‘makes Albania the most egalitarian society in the world’ (p. 134).

There are some signs, however, that this toleration of the most deplorable standards of reportage and analysis of modern Albanian affairs is coming to an end. In his introductory essay Tom Winnifrith notes that Halliday’s edition of Enver Hoxha’s memoirs ‘has no pretensions to boring academic standards’ (p. 11), adding (a bland comment, if ever there was one) that ‘the execution of Coti Xoxe in 1948 and the suicide of Mehmet Shehu in 1981 are not mentioned by Mr Bland, but why should they be in his account of the improvement in Albanian standards?’ (p. 11).

We have more than once commented in this magazine (Revolutionary History, Volume 3, no. 1, Summer 1990, pp. 21–6; Volume 3, no. 4, Autumn 1991, pp. 37–9) that materials already exist to make a proper assessment of the Hoxha-Alia regime. Why is no modern scholar coming forward to do it?

Al Richardson

Updated by ETOL: 20.9.2011