Memoirs from my Meetings with Stalin
On the political, economic and social situation in Albania. External reaction aims to overthrow our people's state power. The verdict of the Court at the Hague. "The enemy's attempts are uncovered and defeated through a high vigilance and a resolute stand". "Along with the construction of industrial projects you must strengthen the working class and train cadres". On the collectivization of agriculture. "You need the Soviet specialists not to sit in offices, but help you in the field". Comrade Stalin severely criticizes a Soviet opera which paints the reality in rosy colours. At the 19th Congress of the CPSU(B) for the last time with the unforgettable Stalin.
The last meeting 1 had with Comrade Stalin took place in Moscow, in the evening of April 2, 1951, at 10.30 Moscow time. Molotov, Malenkov, Beria and Bulganin also took part in this meeting.
During the talk various problems were touched on about the internal situation in our Party and state, about the economic problems, especially in the sector of agriculture, about the economic agreements which could be concluded with various states, the strengthening of the work in our higher institutions, the problems of the international situation, etc.
First, I gave Comrade Stalin a general outline of the political situation in our country, the great work the Party had done and was doing for the inculcation of a lofty revolutionary spirit in the masses, the sound unity which had been created and was growing stronger day by day in the Party and among our people, and the great and unshakeable confidence the people had in the Party. I told Comrade Stalin, "We shall ceaselessly consolidate these achievements while always remaining vigilant and ready to defend the independence and freedom, the territorial integrity of our country and the victories of the people against any external or internal enemy who might attempt to threaten us. In particular," I told Comrade Stalin, "we follow with vigilance the ceaseless attempts of American imperialism, which through its lackeys, the nationalists of Belgrade, the monarcho fascists of Athens and the neo-fascists of Rome, aims to overthrow our people's state power and to enslave and partition Albania."
I also informed Comrade Stalin of the verdict of the Court at the Hague.
"As I have told you earlier," I said among other things, "this court investigated the so-called Corfu Channel incident, and manipulated as it was by the Anglo-American imperialists, in the end unjustly condemned us and ordered us to pay the British tin indemnity. We -did not accept this arbitrary decision, but the British seized our gold which the German nazis had plundered from the former National Bank of Albania. When the gold plundered from the occupied countries and carried away to Germany by the nazis was discovered, at its Brussels meetings in 1948, the Tripartite Commission charged with its -distribution allotted Albania a part of what belonged to it. Now the British have seized a part of our gold, have frozen it and do not allow us to withdraw it according to the decision taken in Brussels.
"Close links among the external enemies of our country are now being established quite openly," I told Comrade Stalin. "Their provocations against us from the Yugoslav border, as well as from the Greek and Italian borders, by land, sea and air, have been continuous. Apart from the openly anti-Albanian policy pursued by the present rulers of these three countries, fascist traitors, Albanian emigrants, bandits, defectors and criminals of every description are being assembled there, too, and being trained by the foreigners to be smuggled in Albania for the purpose of organizing armed movements, of sabotaging the economy, making attempts on the lives of the leaders of the Party and state, setting up espionage centres for themselves and their bosses, etc.
"We have always been vigilant towards these attempts by external reaction and have always given all their attempts the reply they deserved. Our Army and the State Security Forces have made their major contribution in this direction. They have been ceaselessly strengthened, well educated and are gradually being modern!zed, while mastering the Marxist-Leninist military art."
Continuing my outline, I told Comrade Stalin about a number of military problems and the main directions from which we thought an external attack might come.
"How do you know that you might be attacked from these directions?" Comrade Stalin was quick to ask me.
I gave him a detailed answer on this problem and, having heard me out, he said:
"Regarding the military problems you raised, we have assigned Comrade Bulganin to discuss matters in detail with you."
Then he asked a series of other questions such as: With what weaponsdo you defend your borders? What do you use the weapons you have captured for? How many people can you mobilize in case of war? What sort of army have you today? etc.
I answered these questions of Comrade Stalin's in turn. Among other things, I spoke about the powerful links of our army with the people, saying to Comrade Stalin that the people wholeheartedly loved their army, and in case of an attack by foreigners, the whole of our people were ready to rise to defend the freedom and independence of the country, the people's state power.
After listening to my answers on these problems, Comrade Stalin began to speak, expressing his joy over the strengthening of our army and its links with the people, and among other things he advised:
"I think that you have a sufficiently large standing army, therefore I would advise you not to increase it any more, because it is costly to maintain. However, you should increase the number of tanks and aircraft a little.
"In the present situation, you should guard against any danger from Yugoslavia. The Titoites have their agents in your country, indeed they will smuggle in others. They want to attack you, but cannot, because they fear the consequences. You should not be afraid, but must set to work to strengthen the economy, to train the cadres, to strengthen the Party, and to train the army, and must always be vigilant. With a strong Party, economy and army, you need fear nobody.
"The Greek monarcho-fascists, ," he said among other things, "are afraid that the Bulgarians may attack them. The Yugoslavs, too, in order to secure aid from the Americans, clamour that allegedly Bulgaria will attack them. But Bulgaria has no such aims either towards the Greeks or towards the Yugoslavs."
In the course of the talk I told Comrade Stalin of the great work being done in our country to strengthen the unity among the people and between the people and the Party, and of the blows we had dealt at the traitor and enemy elements within the country. I told him that we had shown no vacillation or opportunism in deal.ing with such elements, but had taken the necessary measures to avert any consequences of their hostile activity. Those who have filled the cup with their criminal and hostile activity, I told Comrade Stalin, have been handed over to our courts where they have received the punishment they deserved.
"You have done well," Stalin said. "The enemy," he continued, "will even try to worm his way into the Party, indeed into its Central Committee, but his attempts are uncovered and defeated through high vigilance and a resolute stand."
On this occasion, too, we had an extensive discussion with Comrade Stalin about our economic situation, about the achievements and prospects of the economic and cultural development of our country. Amongst other things I told Comrade Stalin of the successes of the policy of the Party in the socialist industrialization of the country and the development of agriculture and of some of our forecasts for the First Five-year Plan, 1951-1955.
As always, Comrade Stalin showed keen interest in our economic situation and the policy of the Party in this direction. He asked a series of questions about when the textile combine, the sugar plant, and other industrial projects that were being built in our country, would be finished.
I answered Comrade Stalin's questions and pointed out that along with the successes achieved in the construction of these and other industrial and social projects, as well as in agriculture, we also had a series of failures. We had analyzed the causes of the failures in the Central Committee of the Party in a spirit of criticism and self-criticism, and defined who was responsible for each of them. "In particular, we are attaching importance to strengthening the leading role of the Party, the continuous bolshevization of its life, the closest possible links with the masses of the people," I told Comrade Stalin, and went on to a summary of the internal situation in our Party.
"Why do you tell us of these problems which, you, Comrade Enver, know better than we do?"
Comrade Stalin broke in, and continued: We are happy to hear that you are building a series of industrial projects in your country. But 1 want to stress that along with the construction of industrial projects you must give great importance to the strengthening of the working class and the training of cadres. The Party should, take particular care of the working class, which will increase and grow stronger day by day, parallel with the development of industry in Albania."
"The question of the development and progress of agriculture has particular importance for us," I told Comrade Stalin, continuing my discourse. "You know that ours is an agricultural country which has inherited great backwardness from the past. Our aim has always been to increase the agricultural products and, bearing in mind that the greatest part of our agriculture consists of small private holdings, we have had and still have to take many steps in order to encourage and help the peasant to work better and produce more. Results have been achieved, production has increased, but we are aware that the present level of the development of agriculture does not respond as it should to the increased needs of the country for food products for the population, raw materials for industry or for expanding export resources. We know that the only way to finally pull our agriculture out of its backwardness and put it on a sound basis for large scale production is that of collectivization. But in this direction we have been and are cautious."
"Have you many cooperatives now in Albania?" Comrade Stalin asked.
"About 90," I replied.
"What is their situation? How do the peasants live in these cooperatives?" he asked next.
"Most of these cooperatives," I told Comrade Stalin in reply to his question, "are not more than one or two years old. Nevertheless, some of them are already displaying their superiority over small fragmented individual holdings. The organized joint work, the continuous state aid f or these cooperatives with seeds, machinery, cadres, etc., has enabled them to put production on a sounder basis and to increase it. Nevertheless, much remains to be done to ensure that the agricultural cooperatives become an example and model for the individual peasant. Therefore, our main aim in the organization of agriculture is that, along with the strengthening of the existing cooperatives, greater aid and care for them, cautious steps should be taken also for the setting up of new cooperatives."
Stalin listened to me and advised:
"You should not rush things in setting up other agricultural cooperatives. Try to strengthen the cooperatives you have, but you must see to it that the yields of crops in these cooperatives are high," he said. "In this way," he went on, "the members will he satisfied with the good results of the production in the cooperative, and the other peasants will see this and will want to become collectivized, too.
"As long as the peasants are not convinced of the superiority of the collective property you have no way to increase the number of cooperatives. If the existing cooperatives prove beneficial to the peasants, then the other peasants will also follow you, too."
The talk with Comrade Stalin on the problems of our agriculture, on the state of our peasantry, on its traditions and mentality took up most of the time of this meeting. Comrade Stalin was eager to get as much information as possible, he was interested right down to the last detail, rejoiced over the successes but did not fail to make comradely criticism of us and give us valuable advice about how we should improve our work in the future.
"Is maize still the main crop in Albania?" Comrade Stalin asked.
"Yes," I answered, "maize and then wheat. However, in recent years, cotton, sunflower, vegetables, sugar-beet, etc., are being grown more and more."
"Do you plant much cotton? What yield do you get?"
"We are continuously increasing the area planted to this industrial crop and our farmers have now gained no small experience. This year we plan to plant nearly 20,000 hectares." I told him, "but as to the yield of cotton and its quality we are still backward. Up till now we have reached an average of about 5 quintals of cotton per hectare. We must improve this situation. Many times we have discussed and analyzed this problem which is of great importance to us, because it is ,connected with the clothing of the people. We have taken and are taking many measures, but, as yet, we have not achieved the required results. Cotton needs sunshine and water. We have the sunshine," I told Comrade Stalin, "and our soil and climate are suitable for the cultivation of this crop, but we are still backward as to irrigation. We must set up a good irrigation system so that this crop, too, can go ahead."
"To which do your peasants give more water, the maize. or the cotton?" Stalin asked me.
"The maize," I replied.
"This means that your peasants still do not love cotton and underrate it," he said.
Continuing the talk, I told Comrade Stalin that recently we had discussed the weaknesses that had manifested themselves and the tasks arising for the further development of cotton-growmg. I pointed out that from consultations in the field it turned out that, apart from other things, in some cases seed unsuitable for our conditions had been used, and I presented some requests for assistance so that work would proceed normally, both in the textile combine and in the cotton-ginning plant.
"I think that some specialist may have made a mistake on this question," he said. "But the main thing is the work of the farmer. As to your requests regarding cotton, we shall comply with all of them, if they are necessary. However, we shall see."
Several times in succession during this meeting Comrade Stalin inquired about our agricultural cooperatives, their present situation and their prospects for development. I remember that, among others, he asked me these questions:
"What sort of machinery have your agricultural cooperatives? How are MTS working? Do you have instructors for the cooperatives?" etc.
I answered all his questions, but he was not completely satisfied with the organization of our work in this direction, so he asked me:
"This work is not going as it should. Thus, you run the risk of harming those agricultural cooperatives you have created. Along with the continuous qualification of your cadres, it would be as well for you to have some Soviet advisers for your agricultural cooperatives. You need them not to sit in offices, but to help you in the field.
"If the main directors of your agriculture have not seen how agricultural cooperatives are run and organized elsewhere," continued Comrade Stalin, "it must be difficult for them to guide this work properly, therefore let them come and see it here, in the Soviet Union, to learn from our experience and take it back to the Albanian farmers."
In what I said, I also told Comrade Stalin about the need to establish economic relations with other countries. After hearing me out, Comrade Stalin addressed these words to me:
"Who has hindered you from establishing relations with others? You have concluded treaties with the people's democracies, which have accorded you credits. Please, try to establish agreements like that you have with Bulgaria, with the others, too. We are not opposed to this, on the contrary, we consider it a very good thing.,"
In the course of the talk I also raised with Comrade Stalin some problems concerning aid from the Soviet state for the development of our economy and culture. As on all other occasions, Comrade Stalin received our requests with generosity and said that 1 must talk with Mikoyan over the details and decisions on these requests, and I met him three times during those days.
Comrade Stalin accepted my requests for some Soviet university teachers whom we needed for our higher institutions, there and then, but he asked:
"How will these teachers manage without knowing Albanian?"
Then, looking me straight in the eye, Comrade Stalin said:
"We understand your situation correctly, that is why we have helped and will help you even more. But I have a criticism of you, Albanian comrades: I have studied your requests and have noted that you have not made many requests for agriculture. You want more aid for industry, but industry cannot stand on its feet and make progress without agriculture. With this, comrades, I mean that you must devote greater attention to the development of agriculture. We have sent you advisers to help you in your economic problems," he added, "but it seems to me they are no good."
"They have assisted us," I intervened, but Stalin, unconvinced about what I said concerning the Soviet advisers, repeated his opinion. Then, with a smile he asked me:
"What did you do with the seed of the Georgian maize I gave you' did you plant it or did you throw it out of the window?"
I felt I was blushing because he had me in a fix, and I told him that we had distributed it to some zones, but I had not inquired about the results. This was a good lesson to me. When I returned to Tirana, I inquired and the comrades told me that it had given amazingly good results,
that famers who had sown it had taken in 70 or even 80 quintals per hectare, and everywhere there was talk of the Georgian maize which our peasants call " Stalin's gift."
"What about eucalypts? Have you sown the seeds 1 gave you?"
"We have sent them to the Myzeqe zone where there are more swamps," I said, "and have given our specialists all your instructions."
"Good," said Comrade Stalin. "They must take care that they sprout and grow. It is a tree that grows very fast and has a great effect on moisture"
"The seed of maize I gave you can be increased rapidly and You can spread it all over Albania," Comrade Stalin said and asked:
"Have you special institutions for seed selection?"
"Yes," I said "we have set up a sector for seeds attached to the Ministry of Agriculture and shall strengthen and exdend it in the future."
"You will do well!" Comrade Stalin said. "The people of that sector must have a thorough knowledge of what kinds of plants and seeds are most suitable for the various zones of the country and must see to getting them. From us, too, you should ask for and get seeds which produce two or three times the yield. I have told you before that we shall help you with all our possibilities, but the main thing is your own work, comrades, the great and ceaseless work for the all-round development of your country, industry, agriculture, culture and defence."
"We shall certainly carry out your instructions, Comrade Stalin!" I said and expressed my heartfelt thanks for the warm and friendly reception, and the valuable advice and instructions he gave us.
This time I stayed in the Soviet Union for the whole of the April.
Some days after this meeting, on April 6, I went to the "Bolshoi Theatre" to seethe new opera "From the Depths of Heart" which, as I was told before the performance, dealt with the new life in the collective farm village. That same evening Comrade Stalin, too, had come to see this opera. He sat in the box of the first floor closest to the stage, whereas I, together with two of our comrades and two Soviet comrades who accompanied us, was in the box in the second floor, on the opposite side.
The next day I was told that Stalin had made a very severe criticism of this opera, which ,had already been extolled by some critics as a musical work of value.
I was told that Comrade Stalin had criticized the opera, because it did not reflect the life in the collectivized village correctly and objectively.
Comrade Stalin had said that in this work life in the collective farm had been idealized, truthfulness has suffered, the struggle of the masses against various shortcomings and difficulties was not reflected, and everything was covered with a false lustre and the dangerous idea that "everything is going smoothly and well".
Later this opera was criticized in the central party organ also and I understood Stalin's deep concern over such phenomena which bore in themselves the seeds of great danger in the future.
From the unforgettable visits of these days, what I did at Stalingrad remains firmly: fixed in my mind. There, amongst other things, I went to the Mamayev Kurgan Hill. The fighters of the Red Army, with the name of Stalin on their lips, defended the hill not inch by inch but millimetre by millimetre, in the years of the anti-Hitlerite war. The soil of Mamayev Kurgan was literally ploughed, and its configuration was changed many times over by the terrible bombardment. From the hill covered with flowers and grass it was before the famous battle of Stalingrad, it turned into a place covered with iron and steel, with the remains of tanks which had crashed into one another. I stopped and respectfully took a handful of earth from this hill, which is the symbol of Stalin's soldier, and later, when I returned to Albania, I donated it to the Museum of the National Liberation War in Tirana. From Marnayev Kurgan, the city of Stalingrad, with the broad Volga River winding its way through it, was spread before my eyes. In this legendary city, an the basis of Stalin's plan for the attack on the Hitlerite hordes, the Soviet soldiers wrote glorious pages of history. They triumphed over the nazi aggressors, and this marked the beginning of the change of direction of the entire development of World War II. This city, which bears the name of the great Stalin, was devastated, razed to the ground, turned into a heap of ruins, but did not surrender.
Quite another picture was spread before me now. The city ravaged by the war had been rebuilt from its foundations with amazing speed. The new multi-storied blocks of flats, socialcultural institutions, schools, universities, cinemas, hospitals, modern factories and plants, the beautiful new broad avenues had entirely changed the appearance of the city. The streets were lined with green~leafed trees, the parks and gardens were filled with flowers and children. I also visited the tractor plant of this city and met many workers. ".. We love the Albanian people very muchand now in peace time weare working for them, too" a worker of this plant told me. "We shall send the Albanian peasants even more tractors, this is what Stalin wants and has ordered."
Everywhere we were aware of the love and respect the great Stalin, the dear and unforgettable friend of the Albanian people and the Party of Labour of Albania, had inculcated in the ordinary Soviet people.
Thus ended this visit to the Soviet Union, during which I had my last direct meeting with the great Stalin, of whom, as I have said at other times, I retain indelible mernoriesand impressions which will remain with me all my life.
In October 1952, 1 went to Moscow again at the head of the delegation of the Party of Labour of Albania to take part in the 19th Congress of the CPSU(B). There I saw the. unforgettable Stalin for the last time, there, for the last time I heard his voice, so warm and inspiring. There, after showing that the bourgeoisie had openly spurned the banner of democratic freedoms, sovereignty and independence, from the tribune of the Congress, he addressed the communist and democratic parties which still had not taken power, in the historic words: "I think it is you that must raise this banner, ...and carry it forward if you want to rally around yourselves the majority of the population, ...if you want to be the patriots of your country, if you want to become the leading force of the nation. There is nobody else who can raise it."
I shall alwavs retain fresh and vivid in my mind and heart how he looked at that moment when from the tribune of the Congress he enthused our hearts when he called the communist parties of the socialist countries "shock brigades of the world revolutionary movement."
From those days we pledged that the Party of Labour of Albania would hold high the title of "shock brigade" and that it would guard the teachings and instructions of Stalin as the apple of its eye, as an historic behest, and would carry them all out consistently. We repeated this solemn pledge in the !days of the great grief, when the immortal Stalin was taken from us, and we are proud that our Party, as the Stalin's shock brigade, has never gone back on its word, has never been and never will be guided by anything other than the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and the disciple and consistent continuer of their work, our beloved friend, the glorious leader, Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin.