By Afrim Imaj
Memorie.al / Finally, the senior leaders of the Labor Party are convinced that a large part of them must leave. Following the meeting of the Political Bureau, their leader, Ramiz Alia, announced that three of his colleagues, Hekuran Isai, Pali Miska and Besnik Bekteshi, have asked to resign from all high functions, even from the position of member of Political Bureau. These are the moments where in the meeting hall of the Party’s highest forum, the dialogue gets into the throes of a grotesque, which for fifteen years in a row, never became known. It was the care of the high authorities that archived them in the “Top-Secret” files and did everything possible to keep hidden from the public, the spiritual ruin and the vulgarity of this late departure of a part of the leadership of the Albanian communists.
For the first time, we have secured the full minutes of the Politburo meeting of March 6, 1991, which reveals the critical situation outlined by the debate in the mysterious hall of the Central Committee, when the forced escape from the top of the pyramid was mentioned of the Party, and many of those who, until that time, had performed some of the most important tasks at the head of the country’s state institutions.
And how did the former senior leaders react, during the explanation of this act that was never thought of by them? How did the other colleagues receive this request, as surprising as it was shocking for them?! This is the most confusing part of that marathon meeting of the Political Bureau, where, beyond the conviction to renew the forums, one feels the total uncertainty about the electoral confrontation that had approached, to the threshold where the Communist Party would compete for the first time with the Parties the other anti-communist.
Precisely for this reason, the discussions about the removal of a part of the members of the Bureau flow monotonously, sometimes without sense and without any clear objective. Even the senior representatives are divided in two positions against the statements of their colleagues, who are waiting for the pension book. A part of them, like; Adil Çarçani, Xhelil Gjoni and Abdyl Backa think that they still have the opportunity and experience to continue working, now in the role of advisers, in the Party’s forums. Ramiz Alia agrees to some extent with this opinion, adding as a guarantee, their good physical condition. Meanwhile, another group with Spiro Dede and Vangjel Çërrava openly oppose this proposal.
“The time of advisers has passed”, they insist. This attitude comes to the detriment of those who have given up, even they take this argument further, and it is enough to remain free. Hekuran Isai speaks first, who is persistent in the choice he has made. Pali Miska tries to justify his decision in a way that is as original as it is funny: “At least let’s preserve the little authority we have left, because we will destroy it completely”. Meanwhile, one of the colleagues, who apparently have a different vision, offers another job to the colleague, who wants to protect as much as possible from the leader’s integrity: “Comrade Pali, deal with vegetables and spring plantings (!)”!
Meanwhile, those who have left agree to engage only with the work of the Party in the neighborhood, they do not hesitate to cry about any personal problem, which has to do with the low pension, which, according to them, does not reach even for the most vital needs. In the above discussion, the debate returns to the concern of what will be done to increase the quality of the Party’s work. Ramiz Ali’s dilemma: “Will we hold a congress, a plenum or will we be satisfied with just a letter addressed to the communists’ activity”, initially finds a silence that lasts for a few moments.
Then, Spiro Dede returns to the debate: “For the congress, time does not promise us.” As for the plenum, what can we collect from a non-existent forum, with 70 percent pensioners (!)”! It is this same voice that told the communists of Lezha, during a meeting, right after this meeting, to collect Enver’s works and burn them in the paper factory they had in their town. .”!
Minutes of the Politburo meeting, March 1991
COMRADE RAMIZ ALIA: Okay, what else do you have to say?
COMRADE SPIRO DEDE: I think that pretending now to fill the market, to solve the housing problem and all other problems, this means getting into useless discussions. We must do it in the elections, propagandizing with all our strength, arguments and spirit one of the best programs that is given to the Albanian people, for their future. Convince the people that we are more conscious than anyone; we feel the historical responsibility for everything. The people understand us that these days, we cannot solve all the problems and problems, but we come with this program and he is filled with the weight of this program, for its character, which is really very realistic and progressive.
Good people say: Will you communists be able to implement this program and lead us with this program? While the bad people say that; you have a very good program, but you have ended it and so on. Today we gathered our friends; we have defined a topic, with the tendency for someone to break down this idea, the other another idea. We got specialists from the best and we agreed that they will start as early as tomorrow and finish on March 18.
We will send veterans, influential people who work in Tirana to districts. We have made the lists, we can add others, and put them all in circles. I, said Luan Qafëzezi, am convinced that I will add a thousand votes to the Party, from those who have wavered, that it has influence in the Berat area, as others have, in the areas where they will come. We must do what is possible with the forces we have.
COMRADE RAMIZ ALIA: Did you appoint them, comrades of the Political Bureau?
COMRADE SPIRO DEDE: Some, yes, and the ministers.
COMRADE RAMIZ ALIA: Assign him and his comrades, if they agree, in the districts.
COMRADE ABDYL BACKA: I was in Elbasan and Durrës. With the sincerity and seriousness that our Party has for the program, they listened a lot and were people from the most diverse. Why they don’t talk to us, they said.
COMRADE SPIRO DEDE: In Tirana these days, I met with over 100 secretaries of grassroots organizations. “Why doesn’t anyone come to talk to us in the company”? They said “Party Committees of the regions do not exist, no one calls us”. By this I do not mean that the members of the Tirana District Party Committee do not work. Ismail Lleshi, for example, has two or three meetings a day. And friend Robert, he made appointments. Yes, they do not complain about Tirana, rather than about the regions, which are not included in the enterprise, where those of the Democratic Party are constantly present. We organize the meetings, mostly in party committees, and the workers say why no one comes to our company?! As the Democratic Party propagandizes, so do the Labor Party. They come to give us wings. At least over 5-6 people have told me this.
COMRADE XHELIL GJONI: Tirana also needs our help, because the Party committees of the regions of Tirana are not able to cope with this work, engaging cadres of the intelligence, the University, etc.
COMRADE SPIRO DEDE: I had two meetings with the intelligence. I have told Fatri Sinan (2) to gather the university lecturers whenever he wants. We have left tomorrow to meet with the lecturers of the Higher Agricultural Institute. We will go together with Ismail Lleshi.
COMRADE XHELIL GJONI: But I think somewhat differently about this matter, Comrade Foto, Comrade Pirro Kondi, Nasi Lera, Dritëro Agolli, Namik Dokle and other members of the intelligentsia plenum, go and meet with the intelligentsia and the youth, to drawn to our side.
COMRADE SPIRO DEDE: Very right, it must be done and we will do this work.
COMRADE XHELIL GJONI: I have sent all the heads of the KQ sectors to Tirana to help, because the regions of Tirana today need all of us.
COMRADE RAMIZ ALIA: Let’s not forget that we have the style of hierarchical meetings: I talk to you, you talk to the bosses, and the bosses talk to the instructors, the instructors to the secretaries, the secretaries to the organizations. Has this style changed? Of course it has changed.
COMRADE XHELIL GHONI: I say that it has changed.
COMRADE RAMIZ ALIA: I very much agree that it has changed, but in a large part of the Party, I have the impression that it has not changed.
COMRADE XHELIL GJONI: When I went to Tirana as the first secretary, the situation there was very serious. Therefore, at the meeting of the Party Committee plenum, where Comrade Adil also participated, we raised three problems: strengthening the work of the Party in the district, work with the youth, that a disconnection of the Party from the youth was noticed, and the issue of justice, against nonsense etc.
COMRADE SPIRO DEDE: In addition to this, we must do what is possible to improve the market, to secure raw materials and especially to start foreign investments.
COMRADE RAMIZ ALIA: Foreign investments cannot begin in this state we are in.
COMRADE SPIRO DEDE: Regarding the letter, I read it and, to be honest, I liked it. It may need some brushing, some expression may be removed, like; “the only socialist country”, etc., but in general it seemed good to me. It explains the events that happened and at the same time sets out tasks for the commitment of the communists in the election campaign and in other problems. I do not agree that the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Party should be convened for the Letter, because there is no point. Effectively, it is a plenum that does not exist, in fact it does not work, 60 or 70 percent of its composition are pensioners.
COMRADE RAMIZ ALIA: There is no doubt that the remarks of the comrades that the letter will be corrected and adjusted are correct. The problem that remains to be discussed is: to convene or not to convene the Plenum?
COMRADE XHELIL GHONI: What did the plenum give us, people will say.
COMRADE RAMIZ ALIA: In fact, the last plenum did not leave a good impression on people. And this plenum, hardly give anything to be. Now, we will enter the election campaign. This plenum could do one thing, if we agree to meet: examine the need to renew the Party and approve the creation of the organizing group, the congress.
COMRADE XHELIL GJONI: The base will again accuse us that we didn’t ask…!
COMRADE RAMIZ ALIA: Then the conclusion is that we process this letter, add the things that were said here, formulate the list, which we can take a look at in the Political Bureau, if you agree, and send it down to the base. We will take the measures we have decided. For others, life will teach us what we will do. The issue of Hekuran, Pal and Besnik, has remained a bit of a drag. All these events happened to us and it remained unfinished. What variants are there for this job?
COMRADE PALI MISKA: This issue, Comrade Ramiz, coincides with my retirement age. I can engage in Party affairs, but in terms of state affairs, I have reached the age. Not that I’m lazy, not that I’m tired, I’m thinking that it won’t work anymore. Even the little authority we have left, we should preserve it rather than destroy it altogether. I say this sincerely. I am forever grateful to the Party, Comrade Enver, to you; I remain always loyal to the Party. And in the Political Bureau, I think I won’t be anymore. I say it with an open heart, that good or bad, how we have worked, we have come this far, now I have no claims.
COMRADE RAMIZ ALIA: And Hekurani, that’s how he posed the problem, it seems to me. I once thought that he could help us here in the Central Committee.
COMRADE HEKURAN ISAI: I have nothing to do here.
COMRADE SPIRO DEDE: What if Comrade Hekuran is close to the government for solving the hot spots?
COMRADE HEKURAN ISAI: No, what is it?
COMRADE SPIRO DEDE: Personally, I would be for Comrade Pali to deal only with vegetables and spring plantings, in aid of the Ministry of Agriculture.
COMRADE PALI MISKA: No, no. I’m not too lazy to work, but now the time has run out for them.
COMRADE SPIRO DEDE: I say this regarding the vacuum that has been created, that the Party left economic problems. I think that friend Pali could help in this direction.
COMRADE VANGJEL ÇERRAVA: The time for advisers is over now.
COMRADE PALI MISKA: There is an entire apparatus of the ministry for these matters.
COMRADE RAMIZ ALIA: You both have physical effectiveness. Now we are in the electoral campaign and you can get involved…!
COMRADE PALI MISKA: For the election campaign, we go wherever there is a need.
COMRADE RAMIZ ALIA: What about Besnik, how will it be done?
COMRADE ABDYL BACKA: It was an opinion for the Directorate of Foreign Cooperation, in the Ministry of Industry…!
COMRADE VANGJEL CERRAVA: No, in his department, he does not have to stay.
COMRADE RAMIZ ALIA: No, there is no work there.
COMRADE BESNIK BEKTESHI: I am an engineer, no problem.
COMRADE PALI MISKA: And the issue of our candidacy for deputy sees to it that it is removed. I say this sincerely.
COMRADE RAMIZ ALIA: Comrades are watching this.
COMRADE ADIL CHARCANI: Those candidacies should be reviewed.
COMRADE HEKURAN ISAI: And I’m retiring, with 60 or 70 percent, as much as I can. Retirement, for me and all my friends, is a delicate moment, but the circumstances are such that we have to retire. This is good for the Party and us. Party work in the neighborhood, with the people, we will do at any time.
COMRADE PALI MISKA: In the neighborhood, like everyone else, we will work. As soon as we got into this matter, I would say that our salary, 7 thousand old ALL, will be that we do not receive a thousand lek from the War, so that it becomes 8 thousand ALL…!
COMRADE HEKURAN ISAI: And one more things: I have 40 years and eight months of work. If I were a worker in Cërrik, I would have bought the refrigerator, the washing machine, the furniture, etc., like all my fellow workers that I have today. I went first secretary to Librazhd, then to Peshkopi and finally, the Party brought me to Tirana, where the residential building had its equipment. My spoils, I left them in the house where I was staying, they rotted.
Now, the employee of the Reception Department comes to me and tells me that; you will pay for these spoils that the house where you live at the original price. I don’t have my own spoon and fork. If I have money in the bank, the Party has the right to tell me that; you, dear friend, have saved your money, so buy what you need. I don’t have money in the bank. Therefore, I ask that I pay these spoils in installments or with a loan.
COMRADE ABDYL BACKA: With Comrade Adil, we discussed that those spoils be paid in installments, evaluating them in their current condition.
COMRADE VANGJEL ÇERRAVA: I think it is time to decide when we will hold elections in the Party, even the congress. It is expected from the opinion that this will be done.
COMRADE SPIRO DEDE: We will determine this immediately after the elections, for deputies in the People’s Assembly.
(And other comrades say that; this problem will be looked at, after the elections).
Llambi GegpriftiI: The efforts for the Congress and the Plenum of the Central Committee, did not give effect!
“The calling of the congress, at least the meeting of the Plenum of the Central Committee, was evaluated by colleagues during that meeting as an important factor that would give positive impacts to the life of the Party. But in the final analysis, it turned out that neither one nor the other could be done, as the time was not promising. Parliamentary elections were very close and attention had to be focused there. Along with the time factor, in our disfavor there were also a number of internal reasons that damaged the image of these forums, where communist practices and mindsets still dominated.
It was then left for the meeting to proceed only with the departure of the retired colleagues and the approval of the text of a letter addressed to the Party organizations and the communists, in order to raise their role as much as possible. For the others, it was planned to take place after the elections…”. This is how Llambi Gegprifti summarizes his account of the essence of the marathon meeting of the Political Bureau in March 1991, just a few days before the first pluralist parliamentary elections in Albania.
In the capacity of the candidate of this forum, he pointed out to the other leaders the concern of the organization of the Party of Tirana, for what the electoral program offered. “I persisted,” Gegprifti underlines, “to be as rational and convincing as possible in the offers that we would make to the citizens on the occasion of the electoral confrontation, just as many of the other comrades expressed, but the variety of problems and the effects of the comprehensive crisis, especially in the conditions of Tirana, did not promise quick solutions.
The problems of population supply, housing, employment, market, etc. were discussed in that meeting, for which we would engage in a campaign to improve them. Yes, the perspective in that difficult situation did not seem clear and there was no way it could happen otherwise. These would undoubtedly give us the cost we deserved in the elections that were just around the corner”.
While talking about them, the former head of the capital’s Executive Committee testifies to their victory by the Labor Party. “It’s true that our Party won them,” says Gegprifti, “but we lost in Tirana, even in one of our early strongholds, the leader Ramiz Alia, the former President of the Republic…”!
He states that; it was a fragile result that did not allow the majority of the Labor Party to complete the mandate of the government. Just one year after that, the ex-communist leader points out, precisely on March 22, 1992, the Democratic Party, the first anti-communist party in Albania, would come to power, with a plebiscite vote of the Albanians.
As for developments in the ranks of the Labor Party, the congress held in June 1991 would transform it into a Socialist Party, abandoning the entire traditional basis of the historical party…! Based on this only statement so far in the media, Gegprift, insists on specifying the number of political persecuted, who were organized during that period with shelter from the institution that was run by him, which, according to Gegprift, never reached 15 thousand, as stated in the press, but much less than that”! Memorie.al