How the Albanian People Stood Up Against Fascism and Reaction

Date: 3 April 2023

Author: Princess Harmony

Tags: Europe, Internationalism

With both the rise of Albanian reactionary forces in 1924 and the arrival of the Italian fascists in 1939, the brave Albanian people with the Communist Party of Albania at the helm fought back against their oppressors. By undertaking three great tasks, the democratic peoples of Albania were able to defeat the Italian Fascists, the German Nazis, and the forces of internal reaction. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of Albania, they were able to unify the masses, workers, and peasants into the National Liberation Front;  they were able to organize the people striking and fighting for the freedom of Albania into the National Liberation Army;  and they were able to defeat the fascist occupation government, the landlord-bourgeoisie alliance, and the reactionary forces in their nation — establishing a free nation and shining beacon of socialism for the world to see.

There are lessons to be learned from the Albanian National Liberation War (1939-1945). First, it shows that the fascists and reactionary traitors can be defeated if the people stand up as one and reject their schemes and designs for terror against the proletariat. Secondly, it shows that occupiers can be defeated by a smaller force if the people are on their side. Lastly, it shows that fascism is not forever, instead it is a transitory state of affairs that can and must be defeated.

In the years after its independence from the Ottoman Empire, the democratic movement in Albania faced both heroic victories and disastrous defeats. From the successful revolution and insurgency in 1924 that installed the Fan Noli bourgeois-democratic republic, with its improvements of the lives of the working class and peasantry, to the violent counterrevolution in December 1924 that installed the future King of the Albanians, Ahmet Zogu, the Albanian people had much to endure. Much of the people in Albania at this time were peasants and this was reflected in the infrastructure of the nation, it needed to build its productive forces up more. Additionally, the landlord class was largely in charge of the nation.

The Albanian communists had to build up both its own forces and the forces of the working class and peasantry to prepare them for the necessary revolution. While this was occurring, there was increased encroachment from Italy.  On April 7, 1939, Fascist Italy invaded Albania. The clique of Ahmet Zogu fled the country, and the pro-fascist military forces dissolved rather than fighting back to defend their homeland. Democratic and patriotic forces, however, would rise to the occasion, and under the leadership of the Communist Party, would undertake the great struggle for liberation. 

During the period of Italian control of Albania, Mussolini kept the landlord-bourgeoisie alliance in Albania that had previously supported Ahmet Zogu intact. It also intensified efforts to solidify the rule of Fascist Italy and its puppets in Albania. In 1939 the fascist authorities held a Constituent Assembly to solidify their rule and give the title of “King of the Albanians” to the Italian king, Victor Emmanuel III. After this, a pro-Italian regime was installed, headed by the landowner Shefqet Vërlaci.

The Albanian people, however, did not take this insult lying down. There were widespread strikes, widespread sabotage of facilities that Italy needed, and student movements and communist cells were formed. The Albanian National Liberation Movement was taking shape.

To solidify the National Liberation Movement and the war against the bourgeoisie-landlord alliance supporting the Fascist Italian occupation, a communist party was needed. There were several communist cells already in existence, all that was needed was a force to unify them all. From the 8th to the 14th of November 1941, a meeting took place to unify all of these groups and to found the Communist Party of Albania. Among the people who attended the meeting were the revolutionary leader Enver Hoxha, veteran Comrades Qemal Stafa, and Vasil Shanto. At last, the Communist Party of Albania was born.

Emblem of the Labour Party of Albania, formerly the Communist Party of Albania

The mission of the Communist Party of Albania after its founding was to rally and mobilize the broad masses of the people, educate them in the immortal science of Marxism-Leninism, and to prepare them for the revolution and the War of National Liberation. After the advanced section of the working peoples were organized into the Communist Party of Albania, they were armed with the teachings of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. 

After this came the development of the line of the National Liberation Movement. The Communist Party of Albania, which took command of the movement, developed the line “To fight for the national independence of the Albanian people and for a people’s democratic government in an Albania free from fascism.” As a result, the Fascist Italians and the traitorous Albanians who supported them were the target of the war of resistance.

As it turned out, more people than just the working class wanted to fight against the occupation and for a people’s democracy. The peasantry, long oppressed by the bourgeoisie-landlord alliance, wanted to join in the movement. This was the catalyst for the foundation of the National Liberation Front, whose line was to “unite with all the nationalists who really want a free Albania, with all the honest Albanians who want to fight fascism.”

After formulating that the alliance between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers was necessary to stop the fascist enslavement of the world’s people, the Communist Party of Albania went to work to link the War of National Liberation with the Great Anti-Fascist War (World War II). The Communist Party of Albania allied with the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The Provisional Central Committee proudly proclaimed that, “[w]e must link our National Liberation War closely with the heroic war of the peoples of the Soviet Union which is in the forefront of the liberation war against fascism.”

Unfortunately, during the war, the Anglo-American faction of the Allied Powers came unwantedly to Albania and the Balkans. Their mission, they claimed, was to prevent Hitlerite aggression there, but their true purpose was to stifle revolution and the revolutionary groups in Albania and beyond. The Communist Party of Albania saw the underhanded maneuvering and plotting for what it was, and warned the Anglo-Americans that any interference in the Albanian War of National Liberation would result in them being expelled from the country.

In 1943, the Axis Powers and the Ahmet Zogu traitors came together to try and reconquer Albania for the fascists, however, they weren’t expecting that not only would the National Liberation Army and the Communist Party of Albania stand against them, but also the common peasants and workers, those unaffiliated with the communists or peasant revolutionaries. The entire Albanian nation stood up and told the Axis and the Ahmet Zogu traitors what they thought of them.

While the Albanian nation heroically fought tooth and nail to defend their people’s democratic revolution, that didn’t stop the Italian Fascists, German Nazis, and traitors from committing horrifying war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Albanian people. Cities such as Vlora and Tirana were transformed into prisons and concentration camps for Albanians, especially those who were communists or democratic revolutionaries. The massacre of February 4 included the fascists and reactionaries writing in their paper that the violence was to create peace in Albania. The National Liberation Army liberated these prison cities.

During the Winter of 1943-44, the Communist Party of Albania was holding together the National Liberation Front and its Army. This allowed the bonds between the Albanian people and the Communists to strengthen and come together. The leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Albania, and its General Secretary, Comrade Enver Hoxha, were what the people needed in  order to build the foundations for a prosperous future under socialism.

In the face of defeats at the hand of the fascist hordes in the winter of 1943-1944,  Comrade Enver Hoxha had encouraged Comrades and fellows that, “[t]he situation is difficult, very difficult indeed..., but precisely in this difficult situation we must try not to lose our bearings...” He rallied the people to not give up in the face of hardship, helping to keep the fire of revolution alive, and ensuring the great victory of the Albanian resistance. 

Revolutionaries liberating the city of Tirana, 1944

As the wider war against fascism was raging on and the Soviet Union was earning victories against the German forces, the Balkans and Albania were starting to see that liberation was coming, and coming soon. The Albanian traitors who supported Zogu and other reactionaries turned to the Anglo-American allies for support, while Germany was being encircled. In response, the National Liberation Front set up councils in order to solidify the revolution and Albania’s future independence under the leadership of the Communist Party.

In May of 1944, as the Axis was taking loss upon loss, Comrade Enver Hoxha — serving as Commander-in-Chief of the National Liberation Army — prepared an offensive that would crush the Axis troops and reactionary traitors in the borders of Albania once and for all. During that summer, the National Liberation Army would bravely drive back the Nazis and the internal reactionary forces, and was requested by the Yugoslav National Liberation Army to send two brigades into Kosova to wipe out the German forces there.

One of the most important victories in the National Liberation War was the defeat of the armies of reaction and oppression within Albania: the armies that supported Ahmet Zogu, and the fascist invaders from Italy and Germany.

After the National Liberation Army defeated the Nazis in the Dibra area in 1944, the British attempted to deploy commandos to “help” the NLA fight against the waning fascists. These troops, sent with the true intention of defeating the National Liberation Army and the Communist Party of Albania, were quickly driven out by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Albania and the General Command of the National Liberation Army.

As the world remembers the recent anniversary of the illegal NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, and continues to struggle with the ongoing meddling of imperialist forces in the Balkans, it is still important today for socialists — and Communists especially — to celebrate the accomplishments of the people in the region, and especially those of a small, undeveloped country who won independence based on the leadership of the Communist Party. Today, the US/NATO military alliance has forcibly restored capitalist domination throughout the Balkans and Eastern Europe. This has impoverished the population and destroyed many of their gains. 

The imperialists and their lackeys have attempted to rewrite history, but those who remember their past history will write a new chapter.