Academic journal article East European Quarterly

Hoxha's Class War: The Cultural Revolution and State Reformation, 1961-1971

Academic journal article East European Quarterly

Hoxha's Class War: The Cultural Revolution and State Reformation, 1961-1971

Article excerpt

So long as the complete victory of the revolution in the areas of ideology and culture has not been ensured, the victories of the socialist revolution in the economic and political fields can neither be secured nor guaranteed.(1)

Between 1961 and 1971, a period within which Albania's "cultural revolution" takes place, all previous social and economic policies underwent dramatic revision. Forced to choose between increasing international obscurity or to aggressively resist the forces of change, Enver Hoxha, as in the period during and immediately after the war, utilized his regime's capacity to manipulate social anxieties and hatreds in order to secure a firm grip of the powers of state. As in earlier attempts to project the state's hegemony, particularly in respect to controlling the population in Northern Albania, Hoxha exploited the polemical currents within contemporary Marxism as manifested in China and the Soviet Union by manipulating Albania's evolving external relations to secure ascendancy over Albanian political and social life.(2) The 1961-71 period under review is indicative of the important nuances of the practice of rule in Albania, demonstrating the profound range of Hoxha's capacity to manipulate the social, political and economic currents of Albanian society and is a reminder how important it is for scholars to avoid applying limited analytical frameworks to the study of the postwar Balkans.(3)

Throughout the postwar years, Albania's sociopolitical environment, which endured extensive state interference, had often been subtly linked to external events. Heavily dependent on a diet of economic aid that subsidized the expansive but widely inefficient state role in industrial and agricultural development, the persistent weakening of Soviet altruism and Moscow's rapprochement with Tito during the late 1950s compromised Hoxha's often publicized ambitions. Stalin's untimely death forced Hoxha to acknowledge his ambitions were caught in patterns of dependency which were quickly being transformed.(4) Not only had the threat to Albanian independence been greater than ever in the late 1950s, but Hoxha's personal viability, along with his entourage, suddenly became questionable in the context of ideological revisionism in the Soviet Union.(5)

The dramatic turn of Hoxha's external fortunes in many ways came at a most unfortunate moment for his domestic project. The Albanian economy was in the middle of an ambitious industrialization program that aspired to make Albania self-sufficient in a variety of sectors.(6) Hoxha's options were dramatically reduced as relations between the USSR and Albania grew increasingly tense resulting in a significant reduction in vital Soviet aid.

The period under study here is emblematic of Hoxha's ability to adjust to this changing world order by manipulating the internal dynamics of Albanian society in order to solidify domestic power as well as adopt contradictory ideological positions in order to secure new alliances externally.(7) It is also a remarkably revealing period for understanding the generally ignored internal tensions of Albanian politics of the time, especially events which were dubbed Hoxha's version of the Chinese cultural revolution.


The immediate period following Stalin's death suggests Hoxha had experienced a particularly acute sense of vulnerability. Without any clear external patron and reliant on a large bureaucracy manned by a body of cadres of questionable loyalty inspired Hoxha to make some interesting concessions in the period immediately preceding Albania's formal break with the Soviet Union. Albania took particular care to extenuate its relationship with the Soviet Union (and even Yugoslavia as events unfolded), in order to maintain a level of external normalcy while Hoxha's allies took the necessary measures which would secure the regime a solid base of support for the inevitable Albano-Soviet rift. …

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