The murky candle of Communism is shining on in our lands...
by Leke Tasi
Coming to America, to a country we, the Albanian anticommunists have cherished for decades in a row, the first thing that came to my mind was the idea to present you a short confession on the process this our love of America underwent during the political phases we did experience, its ups and downs, its hopes and disenchantments. I said "according to political phases", but it ought to be pointed out that our admiration and love of America, as well as of whatever country or people we bestow our friendship, is characterized by a feeling that goes well beyond the political conception. The idea that the free world will save us one day in that Adriatic coastline, so common amongst us, - we must accept - proceeds from an apolitical, ideal conception of relationships, conception that we Albanians have nourished in centuries. According to our view the world aids us just for friendship, as friends help each other, and not out of some conjecture or pure interest. This our formation does not directly come out of sheer weakness and naivety but rather out of a just apolitical stand, an extension of modeling of personal relations into the sphere of relations between states, and I have found the confirmation for this my view in the conclusions of many authoritative historians. Surely this conception is completely outmoded nowadays, and this is precisely our first mistake I want to point out in this speech. When I saw James Baker in Scanderbeg's square in March 1991 I concentrated upon the expression of his face, and became suddenly and tangibly aware of this misconception of ours. State Department Chief had come to do his job. Like a true policy-maker, and also being of Anglo-Saxon stock, he reacted coolly, not manifesting any special emotion, to the oceanic onslaught of the feelings of the two hundred thousand strong crowds. This our misconception becomes particularly grave when we unite in our complexion the hope for the other's help with our total lack of inner cohesion as a people. Our history is characterized by the periodical repetition of the prevalence of those two states of mind I just pointed out: hope in the Savior coming from another land, and in case he doesn't show up, active subjugation and zealous service to the Strong one of the moment, and this one always and also of outer provenience. I am not tarrying any longer to analyze this psycho-historic construction of ours, and not in the least out of any inferiority complex. History offers also examples when the help we have expected from others we have prodigiously offered to them ourselves, but of course within the limits of a world view that is clearly incompatible with the collective political maturity that conceives the nations.
This unfortunate chain of events is justified even by objective reasons, mainly geographical, but it is mainly defined by our natural and centrifugal individualism deepened by our inner constant quarrels, which cause in turn our falling into the dividing traps the incomparably more mature chancelleries surrounding us lay with extreme facility for us, the eternally immature ones. For this reason, whenever the commonplace "cafe" talk overpowers me (but also the mentality of many intellectuals) which is swift in blaming foreigners for ills plaguing our country, a motto my father used in those circumstances comes to my aid:" We are not to blame our neighbors, they only do their job. And we, what are we doing?" Therefore I cannot refrain from watching the Albanian panorama with this paramount concern, and it results to me unity is the most necessary objective. Thus I am obliged to consider those of ex-Communist side as representatives, although not always valid, the only available ones, as they still held fast in their hands the power to decide and act. And I kept expecting they would serve the country in a way or another, notwithstanding the urge of profit in the interest of their class. Unfortunately, the 50 years of Communist rule have wrought irreversible change, and I cannot perceive any possibility of time reversal; during that time, their progeny was carefully educated, while ours was constrained in hard labor work. When USSR lost the armaments' race and retreated, but didn't give up, US signed with it a treaty which foresaw that the reforms in the East were to be performed by the same people in power. This compromise was made known to us gradually after 1991, and it did cool down our initial enthusiasm in hoping at least an ideological retaliation.
Is there any democracy, transparency, progress where truth is banished? First of all, I just want to focus your attention at the rehabilitation of the executed, persecuted personalities because of their efforts to establish pluralism and democracy, as well as of those persecuted and defamed in turn by the Communists in power for the choice they offered to Albania, negotiating with German occupiers to avoid the military governance of the country. All of them were judged and sentenced extremely harshly, were shot or hanged, or condemned with heavy prison terms, only because they sought the existence of an opposition in parliament, or because they held talks with allied mission members, or were practicing religion, or, as I already mentioned a little above, formed the only quasi sovereign government in all of German occupied Europe, not only achieving the avoidance of massive massacres, but also saving hundreds of Hebrew lives. The pluralist parliament declared them all innocents in 1991, and later forgot everything about them. For if the cheating of dictatorship is not completely uprooted, based for its today's fans in the theory that in general things went positive in the post-war period (the liberation, reforms etc.), and only some ensuing bureaucratic deviations had later deformed it, they that had been opponents in war and after it, cannot be considered as truly innocents and patriots. A suitable way was thus found to establish democracy on a well preserved Communist background, this is the succinct truth, and I will later explain why and how.
(But are we right when complaining to America about such matters? I guess this is what its reply would be: "The Berlin Wall has fallen also for you, just try and fight, you now dispose of the necessary legal space to do this.", an answer wholly reflecting the mentality of a two-hundred years old democracy, and., just for this reason, nearly inapplicable in our case...Yet I am trying here and now to rely on it.)
I am especially irritated by the fact the official intelligence social strata, yesterday so close to the power, but still secretly markedly dissident, which today is nearly the first and only voice to be heard in Albanian cultural public opinion, notwithstanding it was itself terrorized by the dictator, today behaves in the meanest possible ways and shows up only the exclusivity of its inherited monopoly of public opinion, and does not accept even evident, sunray clear truths, as if nothing had happened. Where is today that "transparence", so much craved by us and them alike, in the first days of democracy?
Therefore we are right when stating the key defect of post communism as it did unfold in Albania, different from elsewhere, is not its residual power inherited from past Communist establishment - this being an effect of international political conjecture beyond our control -, but only the persistence of non-declaration of the elementary historical truth and the consequent non-application of Law in accordance with it. Who can dare to doubt-were he/she a historian or not - after having consulted documents, but mainly from the sheer fact he/she has lived in Albania, and furthermore he/she still lives there in the present condition of NATO membership, that Hamit Matjani was the most heroic anticommunist figure, and from long deserves to be officially declared Hero of the country? And together with him Preng Cali, Llesh Marashi, Alush Lleshanaku, Aziz Biçaku, Jup Kazazi, Mark Gjon Markaj and many others? Is it not our legitimate right to declare that truth as a natural consequence of the Albanian version of the fall of Communism? The uprisings of Malsia e Madhe, Postriba, the Anticommunist militaries in the mountains are our strongest card which makes us dignified members of the map of the most combatant eastern anticommunism, together with Poland and Hungary.
But our state never plays it. Why?
Because in our vile society, our mediocre one - I cannot term it otherwise -, the official intelligentsia, those who were appointed to deal with history -read: with its manipulation, are still the powerful masters in the stage, or there are extremely few rivals left, as a result of the exercised genocide especially against their intellectual friends, and thus continue to advise the administration, just direct it on how stagnation survive.
Otherwise their career, based on servile service to 50 year old cheating, would instantly wane. The text of history, edited by the Albanian Academy of Sciences not more than 2 years ago, qualifies those fighters and the uprising they led as "inspired by the dissatisfaction with reforms", and some of them as "collaborators with Fascist/Nazi regimes". Which are the reforms they're talking about in 1945-46? Those of shooting men in their homes in the North and violating their wives? Those of secretly hiding rifles in churches and the following execution of both who didn't know anything of it and also of those that put them there? The judgment of parliamentarians that sought to exercise their constitutional rights?
This kind of text those barbarian violations of every human norm mentions, in the guise of objectivity, in a sub tone, and then goes on for entire pages on the "progress" brought by the regime. Some place is reserved only to Abas Kupi, Muharrem Bajraktari, Kryeziu brothers in this kind of text, but still they get eclipsed in term when they were on bad terms with communists.
Is there any reasonable person, not a professional historian that can count positive the role of Enver Hoxha in history, when he himself declares he was constrained to keep his mouth shut all time, and well knows his colleagues in Eastern Europe has long ago settled those accounts with much more lenient dictators and regimes?
Where can we find anywhere in Albania, after 20 years of democracy, even one monument consecrated to many and many Albanian and foreign engineers and technicians, who sacrificed in the altar of their country their careers, honor and even life, having their families and relatives persecuted, like e.g. engineer's Kujtim Beqiri outstanding figure, who was hanged accused to have had secret relations with his late Prof Harry Fultz, his once professor? The murky candle of Communism is shining on in our lands...We remain hostages of the feeling of guilt of the yesterday official intelligence, which is still resisting....
The case of Albania remains truly special, we must not completely despair. That hermetic closing towards the world, that provincial evil-doing in the extremely overall dire conditions the class struggle brought about, that servility resistant even in the conditions of openness, which defames us in the eyes of the world today more than ever, in certain moments finds itself in competition with amazing stands of unique civility, being even of worldwide appeal. We remind of the past such examples... The Chief of a small State without an Army, Mehdi Frasheri, is dictating terms to an occupying Nazi power for the inviolability of the Jews living in his territory, and achieves those ends! Our people rarely have been so fortunate in electing a government so in tune with his most outstanding virtues. That nationalist governance of 1943-1944 endangered by all sides ("The citizens of Calais" ropes on the necks, as Elsa Zallari-Poga has duly qualified it) is our pride is our strongest card that equates our civilization with the European one, but unfortunately, for them our government and society of today keep silence. On the contrary, there is a campaign in Albanian press to humanize the monsters of dictatorship, even to publish their memories (!)
From closely related to the Academy of Sciences sources (positively, from the new director of the Institute of History), I have come to know recently American analysts of the Department of State have qualified our leaders of 1943-44 as true patriots that served their country in extremely difficult conditions. And those opinions are for the most "compromising" figures, in Communist terms: Mehdi Frashëri, Ernest Koliqi, Xhafer Deva! Such a notice, just for sensation sake, would have been explosive in our public opinion. Still, nothing! Better to say, it is indefinitely delayed. Have we then the right to think post-communism is newly established, casting only a thin veil on the past?
We, the Albanian ex-persecuted, sufferers under Communism and offended for a lifetime by Communists, will never give up insisting Albania must have its transparency, its genuine Pantheon, modest but of reliable authenticity. They that did undertake the responsibility of government in the tragic conditions of German occupation, being indisputably sure they were going towards self-destruction and self-sacrifice in the highest degree. Mehdi Frashëri, Patër Anton Harapi, Lef Nosi, Mihal Zallari, Et'hem Cara, Sokrat Dodbiba, Xhafer Deva, Ibrahim Biçaku, Akile Tasi and many others were highly distinguished citizens and patriots, the only Westerners both in formation and aspirations, notwithstanding it was early for Albania to deserve such men in power. Some of them had a relish of Renaissance, all of them were genuine intellectuals, linguists, historians, economists, researchers with publications widely known, facing a difficult life experience, in emigration, persecuted, nearly always in opposition, some sometimes have made mistakes, (especially those anti-zogists who did naively follow the policy of friendship with Italy) but only and always thinking the best for the country, and lastly, no comparison can stand, in whatever domain, moral, intellectual or otherwise, between them and the subsequent morass, killing and persecuting them together with their families, and with the best part of all the people, including even those
Communists as Z.Mala, S. Premte, A.Lulo, A.Qendro and many others that cherished the cheating illusion that with that ideology, beautiful outside and pestiferous inside, could make something better for the Albanians.
They were all buried by the secret contract of an immoral with the most dangerous enemies of Albania. In short, it was an epochal cataclysm what happened; it has some relation with our born delay to follow the right path. It added to the mentality of the people not the progressive virtues widely expected, but only enhanced the performance of the most retrograde feudal and servile vices. Our requirement rests at this: to reestablish the honor of the country (at least in the historical level), the executed and defiled by Communists elite be completely and loudly rehabilitated, with the hope this will influence our access to values. America has formed the main part of these elite, in its schools, with its outstanding respect for work, with its exceptional social values. Our elite have loudly demonstrated the faithfulness to American and Western values and ideals. They were persecuted for the friendship to the West and bore witness to its ideals. On this basis, we request American aid to fulfill this noble end...
Putting those great figures in the place they belong, the image of Albania would significantly change, reestablishing them in Albanian and foreign public opinion both as a norm and example, as the proper and genuine criterion to value the service rendered to fatherland in cases of extreme necessity, which is done according to objective circumstances and offering everything we have, and not the demagogic and false service, which "dresses" the priorities of the winners to serve in fact personal interest, and not that of fatherland. Certainly American historians I mentioned above have judged our political figures of the occupation period relying on those criteria, for the priority for each and every serious intellectual everywhere is the interest of the proper country over that of every alliance, independently of its importance. Those men of politics had much time to experience and surpass different kinds of temptations and miscalculations and succeeded in providing an example of unity for the first time, not expecting good fortune for the country, as when conjectures were positive, e.g. in 1878 and 1912, but when it was on the brink of abyss in 1943 and screamed despairingly for help. Democratization and true decommunistization of Albania means: educating younger generations with the true values of their own country, bestowing the merits on those who deserve it, and lastly pardon of the guilty ones, but not before they have fully consented and repented, and demonstrated by solid evidence a genuine will to compensate the damage done. The true historic self-awareness and conscience is the foundation on which a sane society can stand secure. Without achieving it we shall perpetually face the same problems of immaturity and falsehood. This is the lesson we must learn from great democracies of the West.
Translated from The Albanian by Lluka Qafoku