April 7, 2014
75 YEARS AGO
The occupation of Albania
by fascist Italia
April 7, 1939
- September 8, 1943
At dawn on April 7, 1939, Italian fascist troops invaded Albania.
The occupation of Albania was part of the general plan the fascist powers had begun to put into effect to establish their domination of the world.
The policy of repeated concessions pursued by Britain, France and the USA had further incited the aggressive aims of fascism. The talks which Britain and France had begun in 1939 with the Soviet Union under pressure from public opinion were used by these powers as a smokescreen
behind which to conceal their attempts to come to terms with Hitler. For this reason, in order to gain time, to strengthen its defences and to avoid becoming involved on its own in a war on two fronts — against Germany and Japan — the Soviet
Union, in August 1939, signed the Non-aggression Pact with Germany. At the beginning of September, after the Hitlerites had attacked Poland, faced with fascist aggression which was
being directed against them, too, Britain and France declared war on nazi Germany.
Thus, the Second World War started as a war between the two main imperialist blocs. It was a result of the inevitable contradictions of the capitalist system in the epoch of its general crisis. On the other hand, however, the peoples had risen against the fascist aggression and slavery. Their fight to defend freedom and independence and to rid themselves of foreign bondage was a just, anti-fascist war.
With the occupation of Albania by Italy began a grim period of fascist enslavement for the Albanian
people. The Italian invaders kept the landlord-bourgeois order intact. On the other hand, they took immediate steps to carry out a broad program of political, economic and administrative measures aimed at legalizing and enforcing the occupation
The Italian fascists tried to achieve this aim through both demagogy and force. With a view to concealing the annexation, they summoned a «Constituent Assembly» in Tirana which proclaimed the «personal union» of Albania with Italy, offered the crown of Albania to the Italian King Victor Emmanuel III, and created a puppet Albanian government
The Establishment of the Fascist Occupation Regime
headed by the big landowner Shefqet Vërlaci. In reality, Albania was turned into a province of the Italian empire under the fascist dictatorship. The Italian «Viceroy» (Luogotenente) exercised all state power on behalf and in the name of the king, carrying out to the letter the orders of the Rome government.
The puppet Albanian government was simply an intermediary organ transmitting the will of fascist dictator Mussolini and the Viceroy. The Albanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was closed. Its functions were turned over to the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The other ministries were, in fact, directed by the Italian «advisers». The Albanian armed forces became part of the Imperial Army and took their orders from the Italian headquarters. The Convention on the «Equality
of Civil and Political Rights» in Albania between Italian and Albanian citizens was accompanied with the influx of tens of thousands of Italian colonists (workers, farmers, specialists, teachers, entrepreneurs, merchants, officials, etc.). These, together with the occupation troops, made up the force which aimed, among other things, at the complete colonization and fascization of the country.
The Italian invaders officially proclaimed Italy and Albania a «single territory». There was an unimpeded inflow of Italian capital into Albania. The Italian capitalists became the absolute masters of the economy of the country, turning it wholly into a base for raw materials and a market for their goods only.
The Italian government also began feverish preparations to transform Albania into a military base for aggression against the neighbouring Balkan countries.
In its policy of occupying Albania and turning it into
a province of Italy, Mussolini’s government had the full support of the reactionary ruling classes of the country. Prior to 1939, fascist Italy had set up among these classes and among the ranks of the bourgeois political exiles a powerful agency
which served it faithfully in the enslavement of the Albanian people.
The Albanian landed gentry had always maintained close relations with the foreign rulers who ensured them their class privileges, and had always tended to place their property interests above those of the nation. As traditional carriers of political corruption, they had no difficulty in abandoning Zog and linking up with the Italian invaders and giving their policy in Albania unreserved support, since Italian fascism championed their class interests. Similar interests threw the tribal chieftains into the lap of fascism, too. The Italian invaders made them blind tools of fascism in Albania.
The Albanian reactionary bourgeoisie, the most important part of which consisted of the big merchant bourgeoisie, also betrayed the interests of the Homeland. It had long given up fighting in defence of the freedom and independence of the
country, and had become a counter-revolutionary and antinational force. The fascist invasion encouraged the development of trade. The big Albanian merchants, together with the landed gentry and the high fascist functionaries, became intermediaries and collaborators of the Italian monopolies in exploiting the Albanian people. Many of the local industrialists, whose factories closed down because of difficulties created by
Italian competition, became traders and accumulated considerable wealth. Thus, the big bourgeoisie became an appendage of the occupiers. The reactionary clergy, too, became a tool in the hands of fascism.
The invaders appointed representatives of these classes and social strata, which comprised the Albanian reaction, to high posts in the fascist administration, hoping through them to ensure a quiet domination over Albania.
The consequences of the establishment of the fascist regime were soon felt by the Albanian people. They completely lost their freedom and national independence. Right from the start
hundreds of patriots were confined in jails and deported to concentration camps in Italy. The fascists set up a powerful police apparatus in order to track down «suspects to the regime». Office workers were forced to swear allegiance to the king or lose their jobs. The fascist laws created an
atmosphere of terror and insecurity throughout the land.
On the other hand, illusions about an improvement of the economic situation caused by the temporary elimination of unemployment through large construction schemes, mainly of a military character, and through dumping cheap Italian commodities on the market, very soon faded. The artisan workshops closed down one after another, because they could not compete with Italian industry. Ruin of the handicraftsmen became
general. Albanian workers were forced to work ten hours a day for starvation wages in conditions of continually rising prices.
After the occupation, the discrimination between Albanian and Italian workers became even more blatant. There was no protection or labour insurance for Albanian workers. The Italian employers had the right to extend the work-day
whenever they judged it necessary.
The systematic plunder by the invaders also gravely affected the interests of the peasantry. The compulsory delivery of agricultural products at very low prices, the expropriation of small farmers by the Italian banks, and the confiscation of thousands of hectares of land for military needs, deepened the process of impoverishment of the masses of the peasantry.
The loss of freedom and national independence deeply affected the traditional sentiments of ardent love of country and national pride of the Albanian people.
Their hatred for the invaders grew from day to day. Their resentment was expressed in various ways: in sabotaging plans to Italianize and fascize
the Albanian people, in refusing to enrol in the fascist party and other fascist organizations, in resisting the laws of the occupation regime, etc. The workers and school youth were especially prominent in this anti-fascist resistance.
In the conditions of the occupation, the workers’ movement assumed a pronounced anti-fascist political character. Factories and large work-sites became hotbeds of struggle against the capitalist exploiters and the invaders. Frequent strikes took
place in various cities. The workers went on strike not only for economic claims, but also to express their indignation and to sabotage production for the invaders.
The secondary schools became centres of a fiery movement against fascism. Even before the occupation, the school youth had stood out for their patriotic and democratic sentiments.
Under the influence and guidance of the communist groups, they had become resolute fighters against the Zogite regime, against obscurantism and against fascism. In addition, they
had become the bearers of communist and revolutionary democratic ideas among the masses. After the occupation, the school youth were among the first to express their hatred for the fascist invaders with great force. They opposed and sabotaged the spread of fascist culture, led demonstrations and protests against fascism and propagated the ideas of militant
The Beginning of the National Liberation Movement.
On the Order of the Day: Unity of the Communists
patriotism and communism. In this way, the school youth served as a sound support for the communist and the antifascist movement in general.
The new situation created after the occupation raised the fundamental task of arousing all the people in struggle to frustrate the fascist plan of Italianizing and plundering the country, to liberate Albania and to regain national independence.
The accomplishment of this task called for a revolutionary leadership to work out the political platform of the anti-fascist war, to mobilize and organize the people in this struggle.
A leadership of this kind was lacking. The communist groups were the only political organizations concerned about the destiny of the Homeland and people in those critical days.
These groups maintained a resolute stand against the occupation regime. But discord prevented them from working out a common line for the liberation war, linking up with the popular masses and becoming their leadership.
The essential need to unite these groups and form a single communist party presented itself as a matter of urgency. The accomplishment of this task was not easy. Major obstacles had to be overcome in order to eliminate all disagreements and
divisions, which were fostered especially by the leaders, although the need for unity was already felt by the majority of the communists.
To achieve the union of communist forces and organize the anti-fascist struggle, the old course of negotiations among the leaders was pursued. The two opposing lines regarding the character of the war again collided in these negotiations. The
leaders of the Korça Group always favoured organizing the national liberation war with the participation of all classes and social strata that were willing to fight against the foreign invaders. The leaders of the Shkodra Group and other organizations, who had not given up their sectarian stand, adapted their old views to the new situation. They were of the opinion that, as a result of the Italian occupation, Albania was
embarking on the course of rapid capitalist development.
Consequently, the growth of the working class would create the basis for a socialist revolution!
The negotiations between the leaders of the Korça and Shkodra Groups led to the formation, in the autumn of 1939, of a so-called joint «Central Committee» made up of an equal number of members, two from each group. This agreernent
was nothing but a «social democratic compromise». * It did not envisage the fusion of the two groups into a single organization. The groups remained divided, each retaining its own views and not purging its ranks of anti-Marxist elements.
The leaders of the Shkodra Group agreed only to expel the Trotskyite Niko Xoxi. Built on such rotten foundations, this «union» from above remained altogether formal.
Meanwhile, the popular anti-fascist movement was growing all over the country. At the head of this movement stood the communists. After the occupation of the country, a radical change had taken place in their understanding. The rank-andfile members of the communist groups were becoming more and more aware that unity could not be achieved through sterile talks among chiefs but in the common struggle against the fascist invaders. This gradually pushed the political and
ideological differences into the background. The authority and influence of the chiefs upon the rank-and-file of the groups had declined. The communists threw themselves into struggle against the foreign occupiers and became agitators for the liberation war. On Flag Day, November 28, 1939, they led anti-fascist mass demonstrations in the principal cities of the country. The demonstrations were conducted under the slogans: «Long live free Albania!», «Liberty or death!» The communists were the inspirers and leaders of the anti-fascist
movement of the workers and the school youth. «In fights and clashes with the invaders and quislings, united for a single purpose — the liberation of the country from the invaders, the sound rank-and-file communists of the various groups were forging links with one another in blood, forgetting their squabbles and feuds. Now a correct communist line was being crystallized,
and unity in a single party was required as a condition sine qua non for the organization and leadership of the war of liberation.»**
The successes scored by the communists in organizing the anti-fascist movement during the early months after the occupation of the country served as an encouragement for the Korça
* Resolution of the Meeting of Communist Groups, November
1941. Principal Documents of the PLA, vol. 1, 1971, p. 17, Alb. ed.
** Enver Hoxha, Report of the CC of the CPA to the 1st Congress
of the Communist Party of Albania, November 8, 1948, Works, vol.
5, p. 245, Alb. ed.
Communist Group to strengthen and extend its activity to the other districts of the country and to put an end to localism.
At the beginning of 1940 it organized a branch in Tirana.
Enver Hoxha was assigned to the leadership of this branch.
on April 7, 1939
to Italy's capitulation on September 8, 1943
In 1935, Anti-Zogist elements attempted a number of times to overthrow the Zogist regime. But these attempts were more of the nature of plots and failed. In Albania the world economic crisis lasted longer than in other countries. In an artificial way, fascist Italy, which had the keys to the economy in its hands, created such conditions as to compel Albania to grant further concessions. At first Zog tried to resist with the aim of preserving something for himself, but finally he was obliged to submit to Mussolini's political, military and economic pressure. From this period, 1934 to 1935, Zog put Albania in complete subservience to Italy.
In August 1935, anti-Zogist elements again tried unsuccessfully to overthrow the regime. The uprising, which is known as the «Fier Uprising» insufficiently organized and including wavering elements, was crushed right at the start. In order to calm the situation, in October 1935, Zog appointed a new «liberal- government. But the liberalism of this government was entirely formal, because when the workers of the Kuçova oil fields called a strike in order to demand their rights from the Italian proprietors, the government took sides with the latter and put down the workers' movement with violence. The situation which was created imparted a fresh impulse to the clandestine development of the communist movement, the only revolutionary movement with a perspective to save the country both from the Zogist oppression and from the menace of fascist occupation. The communist elements abroad, like Ali Kelmendi and others, helped in spreading communist ideas and in organizing the movement. Many communists and revolutionary elements Went to the aid of the Spanish people fighting to defend the Republic from the intervention of the fascists and nazis.
Zog sensed the danger of the communist movement in Albania. On the eve of the occupation of Albania by fascist Italy, the organs of his dictatorship launched a savage campaign against the communist movement; they made many arrests and imprisoned or interned a large number of revolutionary elements.
The economic and political agreements concluded between Rome and Tirana in March 1936 paved the way for the Italian military occupation of Albania. Mussolini now awaited only the opportune moment to act. Having received Hitler's support for his aggressive plans, and having ensured the silent approval of the Western Powers, at the beginning of 1939 he began to carry out his plans. Through the agents of his fifth column in Albania, Mussolini had taken measures to sabotage the resistance of the Albanian people. At dawn on April 7, 1939, the fascist troops began to land on the Albanian shores. The Albanian army had been left without ammunition, the few pieces of artillery had been sabotaged by the fascist instructors. Nevertheless, in Durrës, Vlora, Saranda, Sh6ngjin and everywhere the invading Italian troops encountered the armed resistance of the Albanian patriots. Groups of soldiers and volunteers who managed to secure some ammunition made the enemy bleed. The Italian fleet bombarded Durrës and the other ports. The Italian airforce carried out incursions over the cities of Albania. King Zog I with his royal family and his clique abandoned the country -and fled abroad.
With demagogy and terror, Italian fascism tried to suppress any expression of patriotic feeling or resistance amnng the people. It tried to create the illusion that under Mussolini's Empire, Albania would develop and flourish. But in fact this demagogy was very eoon shown up in its true colours. The Albanian people were well aware that fascist Italy had occupied the country. It was preparing for new adventures against the other Balkan countries. The hatred of the people for the fascist invaders, which was expressed in those April days with demonstrations and 'bullets, mounted cea'selessly. The most consistent communists placed themselves in the forefront of the political struggle and the fighting with arms. Outstanding among them was the thirty-year-old cámmunist, Enver Hoxha (born in the city of Gjirokastra on October 16, 1908), who led the efforts to form the Albanian Communist Party, and to organize the Anti-fascist National Liberaliton War. Units (çeta) of fighters veére set up, which carried out actions against the fascist troops, like that of Peza, which during the years 1940-41, inflicted losses on the irivaders. In May 1941, Victor Emmanuel III, Emperor of Italy, came on a visit to Albania, In the centre of Tirana the worker Vasil Lagi, fired shots at him.
The efforts of the möst resolúte communists, headed by Enver Hoxha, evercoming many difficulties, succeeded in creating th.e conditions for the mërger of the communist groups, which were acting separately. On November 8, 1941, the representatives of the groups gathered in Tirana in the greatest secredy, and formed the Communist Party of Albania. The Party took upon itself the great historic task of orgànizing and leading the general armed uprising against fascism for the liberation of the country and the establishment of the People's State Power. The meeting elected the Provisional Central Committee. Enver Hoxha was charged with the leadership of the Central Committée. Tubo weeks after the founding of the Communist Party, on November 23, 1941, and also in Tirana, the organization of the Communist Youth of Albania was formed, with the young man, Qemal Stafa, member of the CC of the Communist Party of Albania as its political secretary.
The formation of the Communist Party of Albania was accompanied with militant activities. In the cities powerful anti-fascist demonstrations broke out, which ended in bloody conflicts. The communist worker Kog Bako was killed in the demonstration on November 8 1941. With their exemplary bravery and courage, the communists won the sympathy of the broad masses o: workers and the revolutionary and patriotic youth.
The fascist ruling circles in Albania could not agree with the new situation which was being created, and immediately began to take energetic measures. The Quisling Government of the big feudal lord Shefqet Vërlaci, as any other anti-popular reactionary government could being not capable of strangling the Albanian resis tance, was replaced by another fascist government, that of Mustafa Kruja, an old agent of fascism, notorious for his barbarity towards the freedom fighters and the people. The ruthless measures taken by the new fascist government further aggravated the situation in the country. The Communist Party extended its armed struggle in the cities through guerrilla units, partisan and volunteer detachments were set up and the acts of sabotage and diversion became more widespread. On May 5, 1942, Qemal Stafa, Political Secretary of the Communist Youth organization, was killed in battle with the fascists in Tirana. The Party was s-hedding the blood of its finest sons and daughters for the cause of freedom. One and a half months later, three communists, Perlat Rexhepi, Branko Kadia and Jordan Misja, besieged in a house in Shkodra, fought the fascist troops with unprecedented heroism for hours on end.
Armed actions were carried out everywhere. On the instructions of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Albania, the guerrilla units, the partisan detachments and the volunteers from the people, destroyed the telegraph and telephone line network throughout all Albania on the night of July 24-25, 1942. This greatly alarmed the fascists. On August 25, 1942, the first number of «Zëri i popullit» (The People's Voice), organ of the Albanian Communist Party, was published illegally. In September 1942, the Albanian National Liberation Conference was held at Peza, a village 18 km southwest of Tirana. The Conference of Peza, which was organized on the Albanian Communist Party, laid the basis for the union of the Albanian people in a single national liberation front. The program adopted at the Conference of Peza laid down the task of waging uncompromising war against fascism and the traitors for a free, independent and democratic Albania. It also laid down the task of forming national liberation councils everywhere as organs of the union and mobilization of the people in the war and as organs of the People's State Power.
The Conference of Peza had wide repercussions. All over the country the anti-fascist movement and the war assumed a fresh impluse. From day to day the partisan units were increased and the armed struggle extended. By the end of 1942, the number of partisans reached 2,000 fighters, besides several thousand others who took part in the guerrilla units of the cities and the village detachments. Whole districts like Peza, Kurvelesh, Skrapar and others had been liberated.
In order to destroy the partisan forces, from September to December 1942, the occupiers, using big forces carried out punitive operations in 27 districts of Albania, burning whole villages and massacring the population.
The foreign occupationists and the local reactionaries accompanied these military operations with political activities especially by setting up collaborationist organizations like that called «Balli Kombëtar» (National Front). The Communist Party acted with great maturity towards this organization, which at first, included elements misled by enemy propaganda, exposing the real aims of this organization and enlightening those who had been deceived.
Later the «Balli Kombëtar» was obliged to come out in its true colours and was abandoned by the rank-and-file people who had been misled by the pseudo-nationalist demagogy of its leaders.
The successes which the National Liberation mcvement scored in 1942, made it possible, in the Spring of 1943, to place on the agenda the organization of the general armed uprising against the invaders. This task was concretized at the First National Conferenee of the Albanian Communist Party which was held at Labinot in the Elbasan district from March 17 to 22, 1943.
Meanwhile, under the new conditions of the si%uation, the fascist circles, tried, at the beginning of 1943, to take certain new political measures in order to stop things which in fact were developing to their disaddantage. The government of Mustafa Kruja.was replaced by several other governmehts one after the other. Rame promised that it would make some changes in its econemic policy towards Albania; Francesco Iacomoni, who had been at the head of the Italian Diplomacy in Albania before the occupation, was removed from hispost as `iceroy; the Albanian Fascist Party was replaced by a sinlilar organization under a new label.
The good work done by the National Liberation Front under the guidance of the Albanian Communist r-arty brought about a big increase in the number of pardsan units and battalions during Spring in 1943. Now the acdons carried out were no longer isolated ones against fascist troops where they were stationed or in transit, but ac•ions skilfully coordinated by the CC of the Albanian (Communist Party and, led by it, by the Regional Party Committees. Such were a number of operations carried out irom the end of June to the end of July 1943. While the Gelieral Staff of the National Liberation Army with the Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Albanian Communist Party, Enver Hoxha as its Commissar, was set up at Labinot (near Elbasan) a number of operatlons against the fascist troops were taking piace at Krraba Pass (on the Tirana-Elbasan highway), at P jska of Pogradec, at Leskovik, at Kuqar of Përmet, up to Mezhgoran and Kiçoku Pass near the town of Tepelerla. At the same time, the Italian fascists carried out operations against the population in the districts of Peza, Mallakastra, etc. The creation of the General Staff on July 10, 1943, made it possible to concentrate the military, strategic and operational leadership of the National Liberation Army in one supreme organ. At the time when the General Staff was set up, the National Liberation Arfmy included in its ranks 10,000 fighters organized in regulak. partisan units.
A few days prior to the form.ation of the General Staff, the partisan units launched their first attack on German troops on a motorized column which came from Macedonia and entered Albanian territory on its way to Yannina (Greece). The attack was launched on July 6, 1943 at the village of Sarmash in the Kolonja district. Taken by surprise, the nazis suffered heavy losses in men and military equipment. In reprisal they burned the entire village of Borova and kilied a)1 the inhabitants they managed to capture (107 meri, women and children). The setting up of the General Staff, the rapid increase of partisan formation, battalions, and groups, the preparations for the formation of the First Shock Brigade, which was formed on August 15, 1943, alt greatly alarmed the Italian command in Albania. It took new measures in order to destroy the National Liberation Army. Four divisions, reinforced by artillery troops and supporbed by aircraft, began a new operation in the Mallakastra zone and later in o!'zer zones. The local situation was complicated also because at this time the allied troops landed in Sicily. The «Balli Kombetar», Which now saw that fascist Italy was on the eve of total defeat in expectation of an allied landing on the Albanian -coast, hastened to launch open attacks against the partisan forces in collaboration with the Italian army.
Italy's capitulation on September 8, 1943 created entirely a new situation in the country. On instructions from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Albania and the General Staff of the National Liberation Army, the partisan units called on the Italian troops to stop their military operations and join the partisans in order to fight the German nazis who were hurriedly taking the place of the Italians. The Italian command refused, and most of the Italian troops surrendered to the nazi forces. A number of armymen were dispersed and found shelter among Albanian peasant families, who displayed a fine spirit of magnanimity to the defeated enemy. The people shared their meagre food with these former soldiers. A small number of Italians joined the Albanian partisans and later formed a partisan detachment of their own, which took the name of «Antonio Gramsci».
DIRECTIVE ON THE SITUATION CREATED FOLLOWING THE CAPITULATION OF FASCIST ITALY
September 10, 1943
TO ALL REGIONAL PARTY COMMITTEES
You are no doubt aware of the situation created, but nevertheless we are informing you about the state of affairs, the attitude you should adopt, and measures to be taken, especially concerning the internal situation.
The great Soviet offensive, carried out with new breadth and style and extending over a front of more than one thousand kilometers, is advancing, liberating towns and wide areas. This powerful offensive has not only stopped the Germans, but has forced them to retreat with countless losses. The words of comrade Stalin are coming true — he said: “We shall liberate our lands from the German fascist invaders within a short time, and they will suffer the most shameful defeat”. Cities such as Kharkov, Byelgorod, Orel, Stalino and the entire Donets basin are permanently in the hands of the heroic Red Army. The Soviet armed forces, which are growing in numbers and becoming stronger all the time, armed with the most uptodate equipment, are marching towards the Ukraine in tenfold forces. In face of the tanks, aircraft, and the brilliant strategy of our great comrade Stalin, Hitler’s gang and the supposedly invincible German strategy suffered ignominious defeat, and the glorious Red Army, led by the Bolshevik Party of the USSR, is preparing the speedy liberation of the enslaved peoples, and a happy future for them.
Italy has surrendered unconditionally. The continuing political and military defeats suffered by fascism in Africa, Sicily and elsewhere brought about the ignominious downfall of Mussolini and the advent of the reactionary government of Badoglio. One of the main causes which constrained the Badoglio government (1) to capitulate was the development of the Italian people’s movement, the magnificent strikes of the workers (proletariat) of the North led by the heroic Italian Communist Party and other progressive parties. (We note that the BBC, characteristically, makes no reference to the Italian Communist Party, but only to the Italian Socialist Party, as the leader of this movement ; it does the same with the Polish Socialist Party and other social democratic “progress-loving”, “agrarian”, etc. parties, as a means of infection from abroad to bring about the creation of parties of this type in other countries too, with the aim of dividing the people’s forces in their liberation struggle and diverting them from the objective of their war. The aim is to prevent the fall of Hitler and Mussolini from having serious consequences for the reactionaries and the capitalists of London and New York, to disorganize the proletariat, in the first place, and the people’s forces, and to arouse scepticism among the backward masses. This is how they acted in the First World War with the social democratic and social-chauvinist parties led by Kautsky, Scheidemann, Tseretelli, Chernov, Legien, and Co. But the communist parties have the
(1) The Badoglio government came to power in July 1943, and fell in June 1944.
experience of the First World War, and will know how to find their bearings in this situation.)
The alliance between the British and American people on one hand, and the people of the Soviet Union on the other, is a reality, a close alliance in the war against fascism. This is a special and characteristic phase of this war, and the alliance is being strengthened between the peoples of Britain, America and the Soviet Union, and those of the enslaved nations.
Hitler wanted to capture all the countries of the world, and thus threatened the national existence of Britain and America. This is one of the main reasons for the Anglo-Soviet-American alliance. But we should not forget that British government officials rejected the request for this alliance made by the Soviet Union a long time ago, until British interests were directly threatened by German imperialism, which became a real danger to Britain. It is natural that in such a situation a strong bloc was created by this alliance, which is headed by the Soviet Union. More and more anti-fascist forces began to gather round this bloc.
In the highest circles in Britain and in the British government itself, there are reactionary elements who want to establish reactionary forces in the oppressed countries, and this is precisely why they have been trying to form reactionary governments in London to take over in the oppressed countries after the fall of Hitler. The same circles which installed Hitler and Mussolini in power, are now trying to turn the course of the present war against Hitler and Mussolini in the direction of a so-called new Europe, that is, in the direction of a new Versailles (2).
(2 )The great imperialist powers, the signers of the Versailles Treaty (July 1919), trampling underfoot the rights of the Albanian people, left out of the border large Albanian inhabited territories to satisfy the greed of the chauvinists of the border states, servants of the imperialist powers.
Thus they have set up reactionary governments to represent those peoples; but in fact they are nothing but tools in the hands of reaction to oppress the national liberation movements of those peoples. We cannot exclude the possibility of such government for Albania being set up in London, or of aid to create one here; therefore we are informing the comrades so that, if this happens, they will know what attitude to take. Certain individuals in government circles and some prominent journalists, such as Beveridge (3), the “sociologist” of the “new Europe”, have promised the revival of a “new Europe” and aid in food, clothing, medicines, etc. We are opposed to the way they give this aid and to the purpose for which it is given. The comrades should be clear about this question and should study it carefully, so that they direct their agitation, not against Britain and America in general, for we are in an alliance with them in this war, but against the reactionary elements in the governments of those countries.
Following the unconditional surrender of Italy a new situation has been created, not only in Italy, but here too.
The Germans are endeavouring to concentrate all power in their hands, and thus to occupy “occupied”Albania. In this situation there are contradictions between the German and Italian soldiers. Meanwhile our stand towards the Italian army is changing, and today we regard it with a different eye. We should exploit their contradictions, which are becoming more profound from day to day. If the Italian army is not going to fight against us, we shall invite it to join us under the slogan “fraternization in the war against Hitler’s Germany” and we shall consider the
(3) Reactionary British economist, ardent defender of the capitalist order.
Italian soldiers as brothers-in-arms4; but if they go on fighting against us, then we shall fight them as fiercely as the Germans.
The differentiation of the reaction began some time ago, and this process is now becoming more and more marked, and not to our advantage, but with reaction
gaining strength. It is clear that day by day, further reactionary elements are gathering around the “Balli”.
These reactionary and “Ballist” elements are endeavouring to seize power and establish their reactionary government.
They are trying to increase their strength, and thus to profit from a possible allied landing.
The landing of the allies in the Balkans, or even in Albania, is no longer a remote prospect5. Therefore our organizations should work to be able to cope with such a situation. If there should be an allied landing, the national liberation councils will have to be genuine organs of the (4) The call of the General Staff of the ANLA to surrender the arms and to join the ANLA in the war against the Hitlerites was answered by only 15,000 Italian officers and men of whom 1,500 were incorporated into the Albanian partisan units, while the others were sheltered in the liberated areas of the country.
According to the orders of the CPA, the people welcomed them and supported them fraternally, despite the atrocities the Italian fascist army had perpetrated in Albania, while the chief persons responsible for these crimes were meted out the punishment they deserved wherever they were got hold of. The greater part of the Italian army stationed in Albania surrendered to the Germans and was interned to forced labour camps in Germany, where many officers and men were cruelly massacred.
(5) At that time it was rumoured that the allied forces would soon land in the Balkans. The Anglo-American forces did not land in the Balkans either in 1943 or at the beginning of 1944.
In summer and autumn when the Allied Mediterranean High Command asked to land its troops in Albania with the specific aim of saving the internal reaction from complete destruction and impeding the triumph of the people’s revolution, the General Staff of the ANLA refused permission for such a landing.
people’s power. They will have to mobilize the entire people around them and prevent the other forces, such as the “Balli Kombëtar”, from exerting their influence on the people. The National Liberation Army must be very strong, must have the whole people behind it, and not permit the creation of military formations of its opponents, such as the “Balli Kombëtar”. You should be aware that the allied landing forces will support all the Albanian forces they meet, without any preference for those of the national liberation movement, and moreover, bearing in mind the Darlan affair6, with preference for the reactionaries.
To avoid this possibility, from now on the national liberation forces should begin to make their presence felt everywhere and, in the case of a landing, should present themselves to the allies, through the councils and the National Liberation Army, as the sole state power of the Albanian people. The allies should be in Albania with their armies only to smash the Germans and their running dogs, but the governing of Albania should be entirely in the hands of the national liberation movement, and the allies should recognize this. Therefore, as from today, all the organizations should work with all their might to this end.
You know that the agreement concluded with the “Balli Kombëtar” on the creation of the “Committee for the Salvation of Albania” was to the detriment of the national liberation movement and our Party, and as such has been repudiated by the Central Committee. We informed you of this long ago. This agreement has put us in a difficult position. At a time when the “Balli
(6) Reactionary French admiral, former commander of the armed forces of the Vichy fascist government. In November 1942 he handed himself over to the Americans in North Africa, who, furthering their imperialist aims, appointed him as Commissioner for French North Africa.
Kombëtar” should have been in a tight corner because of its activity in favour of the fascist occupiers, at a time when the “Balli” should have been shown up before the Albanian people as a disruptive organization, systematically sabotaging all our efforts to unite our people on a sound basis, we played right into its hands, with just the agreement it wanted to help it scheme and plot among the people. It was the moment to accelerate the differentiation in the ranks of the “Balli”, in order to separate the people from the “Balli”, to divide the honest elements, who had been victims of the reactionary leaders, from the opportunist, anti-popular, and anti-patriotic policy of the “Balli”.
Through this agreement we enabled the “Balli” to become more closely linked with the elements who had brought pressure to bear from within to persuade it to reach an agreement with us. We allowed the “Balli” to tighten and strengthen its ranks and retain a strong hold over the backward masses who, deceived and lacking political clarity, still follow it. The reaction and the “Balli” leaders especially, now hope to divide the ranks of the National Liberation War, to consolidate their position through political manoeuvres ; they are thinking of forming a social-democratic party for this purpose. At the head of this manoeuvre they have placed such elements as Skënder Muço and Hysni Lepenica, who, though reactionaries in deeds, are unfortunately regarded as democrats by a section of the people. We should be careful to prevent that section of the national liberation movement, which is still unclear about unity and about how unity with the “Balli” should be effected, from falling into the trap of this manoeuvre. We should be cautious about elements who have entered the ranks of the Party after insufficient work has been done with them, and who have had close links with elements who oppose the National Liberation War, and we should also be careful about the elements from the former “Zjarri” group.
In order to clarify the situation, to take a definite stand in the situation which had arisen it was necessary to convene the National Liberation General Council and the 2nd National Liberation Conference on a national scale.
Because of the haste and because of the conditions in which we find ourselves, it was not possible for a very large number of delegates to attend. At the Conference, a unanimity of opinion was evident, especially concerning the stand we should maintain towards the “Balli Kombëtar”.
Although we shall shortly send you the resolution of the Conference, we are giving here a summary of the main points of its decisions:
“The ‘Balli Kombëtar’ is an organization which emerged as a reaction against the national liberation movement; it has fallen into the trap prepared by the enemy to divide the Albanian people and to bring about a fratricidal war. The whole of reaction, with all its various shades, is being incorporated into its ranks.
Our stand towards the ‘Balli’ should be severe and correct. Its opportunist policy should be denounced without mercy, its demagogical campaign for unity should be combatted, and it should be clearly explained that it is the national liberation movement alone that has striven with might and main for the true unity of the Albanian people; that unity is of the greatest importance to those who support the war and freedom of the people; that unity cannot be achieved when one takes one road and the other takes the opposite one, that unity must be based on a sound foundation, otherwise it is not unity, but division.
We call on the ‘Balli Kombëtar’ to renounce its incorrect policy and join the ranks of the National Liberation Front, accepting the program of the Council.
However, in order not to lose any opportunity for uniting the Albanian people, we are willing to accept even a looser cooperation with the ‘Balli Kombëtar’ organization, but this cooperation must be subject to the following minimum conditions:
1) immediate and continuous war against the Italian and German fascist occupiers;
2) joint struggle together with the great British-Soviet-American allies, with the oppressed peoples, and in particular, with the national liberation movements of the neighbouring peoples of Yugoslavia and Greece; the acceptance of the policy of the people’s right to self-determination, in conformity with the common struggle of the freedomloving peoples, and on the basis of the Atlantic Charter and the London and Washington Treaties; the solution of the question of Kosova in accordance with the wishes of the Kosova people;
3) recognition of the national liberation councils as the sole democratic people’s power, a point which must be insisted on;
4) the ‘Balli’ must purge its ranks of those elements who have connections with the fascist invaders, of spies, criminals and speculators linked with the speculating cliques of the enemy in their efforts to take the food from the very mouths of the people in these difficult wartime economic conditions;
5) an immediate end to the fight against the Communist Party and the anti-communist propaganda, which is irreconciliable with the struggle to establish true people’s democracy in Albania. The majority of the Dibra chieftains, many Northern chieftains (7), and many influential figures in South
(7) Chieftains in some mountain areas where traces of the tribal system were still preserved.
and Central Albania have remained in a position close to that of the ‘Balli’. The Dibra chieftains have struck up an ‘itifak’ (*) among themselves and made an agreement with the enemy, which is the equivalent of the Dalmazzo-Këlcyra protocol. On the question of unity and cooperation with them and with all those outside the national liberation movement, the same stand should be maintained as towards the ‘Balli Kombëtar’.
With regard to the capitulation of Italy, the Conference has decided that we should call on the Italians to surrender to us, for we are one of the powers of the British-Soviet-American alliance. If they persist in their previous stand towards us, we, too, shall persist in our previous stand, and shall be even more severe. But we should bear in mind that today our chief enemy is Germany and that the Italian soldiers want to go home more than anything else, so we should call on them to join us against the Germans, or give us their weapons. We should insist on disarming the Italian army. In the new situation, especially in the liberated zones, the national-liberation councils should truly exercise state power and eliminate the influence of other trends. To this end, the national liberation councils should be strengthened, especially from the organizational viewpoint, and councils should be set up in every village, in communes, sub-prefectures (not for the towns, but for the entire sub-prefecture) and prefectures”.
We think that it will be impossible to reach an agreement with the “Balli Kombëtar”. We think, too, that the “Balli” has embarked on a road which will inevitably lead to an armed clash with us, and therefore we should work
(*) Itifak (Tur. in the original) — alliance.
as follows: through intelligent and tireless work we should unmask the “Balli” and discredit it in the eyes of the people, detach the people from it and bring them over to our side; we should cause divergencies in the ranks of the “Balli”, and create situations which will encourage and accelerate the differentiation in the ranks of the “Balli”, and strike with intelligence and determination at its reactionary leaders; we should present the “Balli” to the people as the source of splits and fratricide, so that they see that the policy of the “Balli” will lead to armed confrontation; we should encourage the entire people to revolt against this, and thus the historic responsibility for this lack of unity among the Albanian people, and for the armed clashes among them, will fall where it belongs, and this should be made clear to everyone in Albania. We must prepare ourselves, we must prepare the whole national liberation movement, and the people for an armed clash with the “Balli”. The “Balli” is preparing this clash and must not catch us with our arms folded. We must not allow the “Balli” to prepare itself and choose the conditions most favourable to its attack on us, but should force it into a corner and make it show its hand, and thus we can attack it at the moment most favourable to us, when the people have understood what it is up to, and have united with us against it.
The situation forces us to act, but in order to act we must be prepared, especially, militarily. The organization and strengthening of the military units in the towns is today an urgent problem of great importance. These units should be well equipped with revolvers and hand-grenades and, if possible, with automatic rifles (we should do our best to buy or seize these weapons from the Italians, and not wait a single day for others to send them to us). The units should be placed under the command of the best, most capable and suitable comrades of the Party. We should study how to attack the most important town centres and, especially, those centres where arms are stored. The Gestapo centers and those of the German commands in general should be discovered and attacked. The most dangerous spies, the agents of the fifth column, people who until yesterday were closely linked with the enemy, and today are going underground or joining other organizations, such as the “Balli Kombëtar”, in order to organize the war against the national liberation movement, and especially against our Party, such people as Irfan Ohri, Qamil Xhani, Vehib Runa, etc., must be executed.
The spies and agents of the German army must be executed.
In the towns, hiding places must be prepared for caches of weapons and for underground activists, in order to ensure the continuous functioning of our organizations and units.
Always bear in mind that in attacks on towns the actions of the guerrilla units inside the town should be combined with those of the partisan units. Never forget the importance of documents in the secret offices of the enemy which should fall into our hands. As from now all party organizations should be mobilized to deal with anything that might occur and be ready to cope with the unexpected. The party cells will be the driving force to bring the entire people of town and countryside into motion, and should be purged of any elements who will not carry out these vital tasks. The Party comrades should be told that now the time has come for them to really prove themselves as the reliable and courageous leading section of the people, and to understand the decisiveness of this moment we are passing through towards taking state power. The cells should be the driving force of the groups of sympathizers and friends of the Party, to whom it should be stressed that today they should give their all for the liberation of the country, to consolidate our Party and raise its prestige. The Party’s technical equipment should be fully mobilized and working day and night, producing leaflets and proclamations to explain to the people the different situations created and the events which are unfolding, always indicating the road they should follow. At every moment you should maintain a clear-cut political stand, based on the directives of the Central Committee.
The mobilization of the whole organization should be linked with the mobilization and preparation of the entire people for the general uprising. Great care should be devoted to the mobilization and organization of the youth, because the young people in Albania are the most vigorous and healthiest force of the national liberation movement.
The greatest possible help should be given to the youth. Anti-fascist women’s organizations should be set up, and they do not have to be brought together only on the basis of their suburb or village ; they can and should be set up also on the basis of occupation, or say, for example, through setting up societies to abolish illiteracy, through sewing circles to make clothing for the army, etc. These organizations should be given all possible aid, and we should draw elements from them into the Party.
Following the capitulation of Italy, we should anticipate the German resistance on the continent and here in Albania. The Germans are reinforcing parts of our coasts to defend themselves from an allied landing. On the other hand, the German fascists will try to attack us; they will also try to hitch internal reaction to their chariot.
The “Balli Kombëtar” has not so far spoken out against nazism, and already the desire for collaboration with the Germans is being expressed in “Ballist” circles. However, the reaction will make another attempt, if not openly (because Germany is heading for its doom), at least indirectly, to beg the Germans to help strengthen its already shaken position. Therefore, you will have to judge the situation with great cool-headedness, always at the head of the people and in command of the situation.
For the Central Committee of the Party
DEATH TO FASCISM — FREEDOM TO THE PEOPLE!
P.S. — These directives, without necessarily being read, should be explained in all the party cells, and on the basis of them instructions should be issued to all party organizations, down to the groups of sympathizers. In particular, they should be explained in all the cells of the units and battalions of your region.
First published in “Principal Documents of the PLA”, vol. 1, Tirana 1960 Works, vol. 1
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“Ciano’s Diaries, 1939-1943”
Costanzo Ciano was a founding member of the National Fascist Party (husband of Mussolini's daughter).
7 April 1939
"There must have been some resistance in Durrës"
8 April 1939
"I distributed money to the poor."
9 April 1939
"I planned to create at once a government council, and announce a Constitution by April 12th; to arrange for the voting of a decision which will sanction the union of the two countries, conferring on King Victor Emmanuel III the crown of Albania. All agree that while such a decision will give us possession of Albania it will not look like aggression."
JULY 27, 1939
"Good news from Albania, where mining explorations are proceeding very well. The Ammi Company has already yielded 8,000,000 tons of iron ore and many even greater deposits are being discovered."
MAY 22, 1940
"It is easy for us to increase our popularity by becoming champions of Albanian nationalism."
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CALL TO THE ALBANIAN PEASANTRY
“ZËRI I POPULLIT” FIRST ISSUE EDITORIAL
August 25, 1942
FACED WITH THE FAILURE OF THEIR PLANS, THE
LUOGOTENENZA AND THE TRAITORS ENDEAVOUR
TO FIND A “MODUS VIVENDI”*
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7. April 1976
("Albania Today" 1976, No 2)
July 10, 1943
collection of documents and pictures
During the Italian fascist occupation ...