Dictatorship of the proletariat for the abolition of wage labour

Central review in English of the Internationalist Communist Group (ICG)

COMMUNISM No.11 (June 1999):

Albania :

The proletariat confronts the bourgeois State

* * *

"The atmosphere in Gjirokaster is mad. Popular revolt transforms itself into total anarchy, there are no more police, no more State, no more rules. The city is exuding enthusiasm, blossoming, has become excited by rebellion."
(Le Monde - 11/3/1997)

"To have a weapon is a pleasure"... an "indisputable drunkenness that provokes anarchy in the combatants"... "Pillaging is increasing, carried out by hordes of the poor or by bandits. No one is hiding and there is sometimes a party atmosphere."
(Le Monde - 16-17/3/1997)

A breath of fresh air in the crushing atmosphere of social peace

The struggle of the proletariat in Albania brought a breath of fresh air to the suffocating atmosphere of social peace which today, still far too often, anaesthetises the reflexes of the proletarian class. By way of acts clearly denouncing the whole of the State structures as their enemy, proletarians in Albania have revived the traditions of struggle by our class, which so many years of the defence of democracy - be it in the name of anti-fascism or anti-communism - had thrown to oblivion. It is so rare today to see examples of rupture from respect for private property, from the settling of conflicts through the courts, etc.. that we are taking the time and the space here to relate what happened in Albania and to develop a chronology in order to define the most important moments in the evolution of the balance of forces between revolution and counter-revolution in the country.

It is impossible to make a chronology which is not an analysis, which does not take a stand in relation to events. There is no such thing as a neutral chronology, known as "objective" by partisans of free will. Clearly, whatever the media allows to get through is immediately biased (choice of events related, words given to what is going on...) and expresses, in this case, the bourgeois point of view, which can only deny the fact that in Albania (in the initial period anyway) there was confrontation of class against class, outside of and against all democratic regulations. What is objective is that any view of the events depends upon the point of view of where one is standing, either that of the bourgeoisie defending its State and its mercantile system... or the proletariat whose struggle is the destruction of capitalism and the assertion of communism (1).

Whilst the bourgeois press was indignant to witness such "barbaric" methods of struggle, including attacks on banks, burning down police stations, town councils, law courts, pillaging barracks (food and weapons depots), storming prisons and freeing prisoners... on our part, it was with a degree of exaltation that we learned that the movement of struggle in Albania was breaking away from the never-ending demonstrations put on by the opposition parties of the whole world (in Albania, the ex-Stalinists, rechristened 'socialist') and reappropriating the means of struggle of proletarians against the State.

Gjirokaster was won by the revolt on the 9th of March and on the next day the newspaper Le Monde was surprised that the atmosphere was one of enthusiasm, that the pillaging was giving a feeling of festivities in the streets, that the fact of carrying a weapon brought a certain joie de vivre, that the town seemed to light up whilst the anarchy was total, with no more police, no more State... Because steeped in their democratic ideal, positioned on the side of the dominant class, the journalists cannot understand that such movements liberate in one go generations and generations of deprivation, sacrifices, assassinations, emprisonments, etc, during which we have submitted, taken blow after blow. Yes, it is pleasurable to break the chains at last, to reappropriate all that makes us dream, but which we can never touch because it is padlocked behind the barriers of money, prison bars... Yes, it is festive to no longer be afraid and to find oneself in the streets strong and united against private property and the State, against all this order that kills us - this order that will only die when the jubilation of these armed proletarians who have at last found the path of struggle will be shared by proletarians across the whole world.

From the collapse of the pyramids to the uprising of the proletariat

From the beginning of January 1997, demonstrations of tens of thousands of savers who had lost everything in the bankruptcy of the financial pyramids gathered in Tirana and throughout the country.

The building societies offering mind-boggling interest rates (from 35% to 100% per month) had attracted even those in the remotest corners of Albania. In order to invest in Sude, Populi, Xhaferri, Vefa, Kamberi or others, to deposit a bit more money each month in the kiosks hurriedly set up in the streets, the Albanians had sold all they could. Flats, cars, herds, land had all been sold off. The sums paid to the first depositors merely came from the growing contributions of new deposits and the collapse of these companies was inevitable. Hundreds of thousands of savers found themselves completely stripped of everything. 70-80% of Albanian households were affected. Of course the poorest were, as always, the most badly affected.

The fervour to invest in the financial pyramids expresses the persistence of the myth which portrays easy money in the West, that merely sleeping on one's income is enough to wake up rich in the morning...

Up until 1990-91, the need to defend the myth of the existence of a socialist Albania had kept the borders closed except for exchange and investment with Eastern bloc countries. Then, as in Russia and the other Eastern countries (the myth of socialism as a fundamental parameter for maintaining social peace having served out its time) they began to talk of liberalising the system, of putting an end to restrictions, of the possibility of everyone growing rich... The wall was knocked down in Berlin and in Albania they deserted the 700,000 bunkers that Enver Hoxha (2) had built out of fear of foreign aggression.

As in Russia (3) and elsewhere in the East the extent of protectionist measures, alterations in imperialist alliances and economic and social reforms marked a brutal acceleration in the rate of profit and deepened in an even more phenomenal way the gulf between bourgeois and proletarians. From December 1990 to May 1991, food riots exploded all over Albania. Western investors drew back in the face of such uncertainty over the perspectives of profit. 1991-92 was marked by the total collapse of Albanian industry and the persistence of social unrest. From December 1991 to February 1992 a second wave of riots swept the country. Each time, the riots unleashed pillaging, arson on police stations, public buildings, factories, shops and warehouses (4)... Albania, classed as high risk, was seeped in international aid to avoid a social explosion.

The German, Turkish and North-American States gave financial support to the Albanian army, to transform it into a powerful army, ready for confrontation. But despite these bourgeois preparations, the class struggle has shown us once again how a situation prepared by the bourgeoisie can become uncontrollable.

The attraction of the myth of Western paradise is so strong that the opening of the borders resulted in a mass exodus that the Albanian State and also all the surrounding states, in particular Italy, were obliged to curb violently. It was not a question of an exodus of capital, seeing as Albania is an area of desertification of capital, but an exodus of proletarians subjugated by the myth that going to the West will mean the end of all misery. Remember the influx of some 40,000 refugees disembarking, in spite of everything, in the south of Italy in March and August 1991. The slightest rumour of a boat leaving or visas being issued resulted in a gathering of thousands of young people in the ports or in front of Western embassies, as happened in Cuba. As a consequence, this exodus continued to be the object of a vile clandestine trade. The smugglers of clandestine immigrants towards Italy labelled their clients with the term "walking meat" and the cost of the crossing varied between 450 and 600 dollars (5).

With the bankruptcy of the financial pyramids, proletarians in Albania were still paying for the total disillusion which accompanied the gaining of consciousness that in the East, as in the West, it is money that makes and unmakes policies, opens or closes borders, accumulates in the pockets of some by emptying the pockets of others. The myth of easy money is so powerful that it led proletarians' smallest savings into the financial gulf of building societies. Disillusion persists when one has staked everything on them and has to leave all to them.

In May 1996, on the evening of legislative elections which assigned all parliament's seats to the Democratic Party, the flag of Vefa, the largest financial company compromised in the pyramids, had pride of place in the victors' gallery. A journalist commented "Vefa has illustrated the miracle of capitalism, the Albanian miracle, the miracle of a country finally tearing itself from poverty." The feeling of betrayal was very strong at the heart of the population when the pyramids, including that generated by Vefa, collapsed as they were so linked with Berisha's government and with the Democratic Party (6). Even more so, given that in 1992 the Albanian people elected with an overwhelming majority, with cries of "fitoi" (victory!), their new president, Sali Berisha, as a liberator who, in the name of the struggle against the tyranny of the Stalinist regime had managed to re-seal national unity. It was at this time that an appeal was launched for international aid to relaunch the economy in Albania and that the United States became Albania's main partner.

Today the situation is completely different. The bankruptcy of the building societies shook up the social climate. Contrary to what happened in Macedonia or in Bulgaria, where the bourgeoisie boasts that it managed to contain the discontentment of the "rejects" with meagre compensations, in Albania, demonstrations and other forms of protest became generalised, showing clearly that the proletariat had not been put down by the State. In Skopje, the government and the national bank urgently organised "committees to compensate injured parties", undertaking inquiries, trials.. Even worse, in Sofia, in compensation for all, the government erected a monument "to the memory of victims of the pyramid" (7).

In Albania, the demand was "we want our money, we want to be reimbursed 100%". All through the month of January, demonstrations became more and more turbulent and the anti-riot police carried out violent attacks.

When the government did take measures to put an end to speculation it was too late, it could no longer control the situation. On the 10th January 1997, it took action against two institutions at the base of the setting up of the pyramids: Xhaferri and Populi.

Even the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund intervened to put a limit on this type of enterprise. These institutions emphasised that they are private companies based only on speculation, allowing some people to get rich very quickly, but who do not necessarily meet the interests of the development of capital which is firstly based on the relaunching of production. On the 4th February, Tritan Shehu, deputy prime minister adopted this viewpoint and declared (after having amply filled his own pockets with this easy money!): "We have resolved to destroy these pyramid saving schemes, because the future of Albania does not lie in them. Our future is production and we are going to work more and more." He should have said "we are going to make you work more and more".

The Berisha government was disowned as much by the worldwide bourgeoisie as it was by the proletariat emerging from its torpor.

In Peshkopija, commiserating greatly, President Berisha asked the large savers to come forward (tough shit for the small ones!). In response, crowds gathered in the main street. A hundred people attacked the police station with stones. Six policemen were injured and then the rioters set fire to the buildings of the town council. The slogans were: "We want our money!" and "Down with Berisha!"

On the 19th January in Tirana, anti-riot police intervened in force in the Skanderbeg Square to disperse an angry crowd of 5000 demanding to be reimbursed for the sums they had put into savings accounts. The Socialist Party was still in opposition following the (contested) poll in May 1996 and was profiting from the situation of mobilisation of the proletariat to take revenge on the Democratic Party. It called for participation in this demonstration, hoping to put itself at the head of a peaceful protest movement as in Belgrade or Sofia. But this demo, as well as those that were to follow, rapidly made the Socialist party and all other bourgeois parties give up all hope of preventing the explosion of the terrible anger brewing across the whole country, as had already been witnessed by the confrontations in Berat the same day.

In Berat (100km south of Tirana) stones flew against the buildings of the police, the courts, ministerial offices and those of the Democratic Party. Two hundred demonstrators were arrested. The Parliament called for the army to protect official buildings.

On the 24th January in Lushnjë, 100 km south of Tirana, where the pyramids had affected the greatest number, demonstrators threw explosive devices up to the first floor of the Town Hall. It set fire and the two thousand people gathered in the town centre made a barrage and prevented the firemen from reaching it. The demonstrators demanded reimbursement of their money, which they had deposited in the Xhaferri foundation, which had gone bankrupt the week before.

Towards the end of January it seemed that Berisha had not appreciated the scale of the movement and thought that he could put an end to the disturbances by giving the secret police, the SHIK (ex-Sigourimi, the secret police of the Stalinist period (8)) free rein. The more that the gatherings turned to rioting, the more brutal the police became. The SHIK ruled with its usual terror: arrests, interrogations, beatings, emprisonments, assassinations, disappearances...

For its part, the bourgeois opposition, largely grouped around the Socialist Party, structured itself to lead its campaign against the Berisha government. On the 30th January, ten opposition parties, the Socialist Party amongst them, formed a coalition as the Forum for Democracy (FD). The FD demanded the resignation of the Berisha government which they held responsible for the economic chaos wreaked by the devastating effects of the pyramid companies and called for the constitution of a government of technocrats to manage the crisis, whilst waiting for the anticipated elections to be organised.

On the 30th January still, Koha Jone, the most important "independent" newspaper, mouthpiece of "independent intellectuals" (one component of the bourgeois opposition) published a manifesto declaring: "it is clear that the anger of the people is directed against a State which has set itself up as a judge after having acquitted the thieves." The opposition knew how to use words in which proletarians in struggle would be able to recognise themselves. But for the opposition, the State they were condemning was not the power of the bourgeois class, it was the Berisha government. Moreover, the editorial members of this newspaper, the leaders of the Socialist Party and other known figures of the bourgeois opposition accused of being at the origin of the troubles were arrested. All the ingredients were there to lock the movement in a bourgeois alternative: to support the martyr opposition against the new tyrant: Berisha.

On the bourgeois political plan, the picture was like this: in response to proletarian mobilisation, the opposition designated Berisha as the target, whilst throwing proletarians in struggle and members of the bourgeois opposition in prison side by side, thus pushing the former to assemble under the banners of the latter, whose only goal was to erode the movement by going to the polls.

This plan was intelligent, but did not take account of the revolutionary potential which this series of demonstrations of proletarian dissatisfaction contained. It is clear that in the movement proletarians expressed much more than just lost money and the resignation of Berisha. Discontent still within the framework of the bourgeois opposition was being taken over more and more by explosions of class hatred against the State, as witnessed by the frequent attacks on official buildings.

But the border between proletarian struggle spontaneously directed against the whole of the structures of the bourgeois State and the battle of the bourgeois opposition to restructure the State was not yet clear enough in the movement. This lack of definition expressed itself, for example, in the fact that the bourgeois opposition was not driven away from demonstrations (and equally in the fact that one part of the movement was demanding justice from the State to sanction those responsible for the financial pyramids) still leaving the coast clear to the opposition to take over the reins of the movement.

At the beginning of February 1997, Berisha promised that all those who had lost out would be compensated either in cash or in savings books. The reimbursement should have started on the 5th February thanks to accounts of two of the main investment funds being seized. However no one had any confidence in bits of paper that the State would give them again in exchange for promises. On the same day, the most important of the pyramid companies in Vlorë, Gjallica, declared itself bankrupt, leaving a deficit of 360 million dollars and declared its total inability to reimburse anyone.

Following this news, on the 5th February, 30,000 people took to the streets in Vlorë (a port with between 60 and 80,000 inhabitants, 210km south of Tirana). As the demo was heading towards the port, the police charged and tried to chase the demonstrators with water pumps and truncheons. Masked members of the SHIK beat the demonstrators and took them to their cars. The confrontations resulted in 2 deaths and a hundred injured, most of these on the side of the demonstrators. However later on, a group of anti-riot police were surrounded. Several of them were undressed by the demonstrators and ran in the road in their underwear. The forces of order withdrew!

That day marked the beginning of a permanent mobilisation in Vlorë: every day started with a big gathering (at around 10 o'clock) which turned into a demonstration. At about 5pm a further meeting was held to decide what actions were to be organised for the next day. All the opposition party leaders, present at these demonstrations, called for calm. After a week of demonstrations, these calls for calm were still not heeded. Nevertheless, the demonstrators slogan remained "Down with Berisha!"

The Forum for Democracy called for a gathering in Tepelenë. Only about 60 people attended, even though the mobilisation was becoming stronger and stronger. The movement occupied the streets and did not want to allow itself to be distracted by speeches on democracy.

These examples show that proletarians say "yes" to the opposition when it demands the reimbursement of money tied up in the building societies and when it shouts "Down with Berisha!". However, when the opposition calls for calm and reflection on democracy they say "no". But if "Down with Berisha!" can mean "Down with the State!" from the mouths of proletarians, then "Down with Berisha!" means "Down with Berisha's government!" from the mouths of the opposition and leads to the demand for early elections. The movement carries these two completely antagonistic perspectives. These yes's and no's expressed in the movement illustrate again the difficulty the proletariat has in choosing its camp. It finds it hard to extricate itself from the bourgeois alternatives and reacts positively or negatively to the commands of the bourgeois parties but is still not at the point of defining its own direction.

The tactics of the counter-revolution rested on this ambiguity, this lack of clarity, which pushed the movement to leave the streets and to take up the straight path of the vote to express its disagreement. This is the well-traced path of pacification of the movement supported by the world bourgeoisie which, making reference to similar, albeit less explosive situations in Bulgaria and in Romania, never stops stressing the "road to salvation via the polling booths".

In many towns the demonstrations, still within the framework of the opposition parties, became more and more turbulent, there were frequent explosions and the police became more and more brutal, making massive arrests.

In Tirana, the capital, Berisha's party mobilised itself and a thousand people participated in a rally for democracy and non-violence (as always, those who are the most consistent in the organisation of state terrorism prefer the rhetoric of non-violence, which guarantees them the monopoly of the armed force). The SHIK continued its reign of terror. Its members frequented cafés in which animated discussions on recent events had brought people together and beat them up.

The 9th of February marked an escalation in the violence of repression. In Vlorë, the police emprisoned at night those they considered to be the leaders. The demonstrators gathered in front of the police buildings and demanded the release of the prisoners. The cops fired and at least 26 people were injured.

The next day, the 10th February, still in Vlorë, 40,000 people were demonstrating and set fire to the headquarters of the Democratic Party. There were a further 81 wounded, one of whom died from his gunshot wounds. In the surrounding areas proletarians made solidarity with the struggle of their companions in Vlorë and came to reinforce their ranks (5000 from Fier, several hundred from Berat, Tepelenë and elsewhere).

In Tirana the forces of order couldn't manage to prevent rallies. The tension rose. The demonstrators shouted "Vlorë, Vlorë!".

The confrontations in Vlorë spread like wildfire and became the emblem of revolt across the country.

Gjirokaster was taken over by the biggest demonstration yet. On the 11th February in Vlorë, 30,000 people attended the funeral of the demonstrator who had been killed by the police the day before and the police behaved particularly discretely that day. But tensions rose, looking like "dangerously uncontrolled" confrontations could explode at any moment.

Up until this time, the movement was marked by stormier and stormier demonstrations, leading to serious confrontations with the police forces and the burning down of state buildings (mainly the headquarters of the Democratic Party and the council) resulting in massive arrests and many deaths. But the fact of having made the forces of order retreat several times marked a tendency to break with the usual pattern of demos (the State maintaining the initiative in any confrontation) and this constituted a significant qualitative step.

The repression that Berisha thought would decimate the movement actually had the opposite effect. Far from making the movement withdraw, it stirred up combativity and reinforced the determination to struggle until the cause was won. On top of this, the desire for revenge came to light. Not only revenge against the police who beat, isolate, torture, massacre, but globally against all that leads to this extreme situation, against all those hard years of precarious survival without ever knowing what tomorrow will bring, against all those promises in the name of which we tightened our belts even further, against the torture of hunger, against intimidation, daily humiliation, against all the social relationship of wage labour/capital, against the State.

The limits of the movement, however, continued to express themselves in the fact that the opposition parties had not yet been thrown out of demonstrations and that proletarians were expecting the State to give them justice and to punish the fraudulent companies.

On the same day, the 11th February, the government was envisaging declaring a state of emergency in Vlorë. The Prime Minister, Meksi, announced on the radio: "We must defend the constitutional order and respond to an extraordinary situation with extraordinary measures." But the decree submitted to the parliament met with opposition from the members of the Democratic Party who, coming from the region of Vlorë, had realised that such a measure would only increase the tension that had been particularly heightened by arrests and assassinations over the previous few days. In order to prevent the hatred of the police turning on the whole of the structures of the State, the government decided to sack the police Commissioner in Vlorë.

During the week of the 12th February, the movement spread to nearly all the towns in the South and some in the North. The demonstrations became more and more widespread and the confrontations stronger and stronger. There was another death on the side of the demonstrators in Fier.

A further large demonstration took place in Tirana on the 19th February, which the police were unable to put a stop to. There were shouts of "Vlorë, Vlorë!" everywhere.

On the 20th February, a group of 40 students started a hunger strike at Vlorë University. They appealed for non-violence, demanded the resignation of the Meksi government, the formation of a government of technocrats to ensure the interim period until new elections could be held, the dismissal of those responsible for the television and judicial proceedings against those responsible for police brutality! What a programme! According to these students, the brutal attack on the standard of living of proletarians who had lost everything in the bankruptcies, the repression of the struggles, etc, could merely be put down to the fact of a few villains who had abused their position of responsibility. To demand a government of technocrats supposes that there could be a neutral government above the classes! As for all reformists in the world, it was just a problem of poor management which could be solved by elections.

With their programme for restoration of the State, these students were clearly on the side of the counter-revolution. The counter-revolution which materialises itself in the proposed means of struggle: in the face of ever more ferocious opposition, they suggested turning the other cheek. Whilst a collective force was pouring onto the streets and starting to take the upper hand in the face of murderous assaults by the riot police, they proposed taking to one's bed, wasting vital energy... Why not get down on one's knees and pray?... to move the State to pity, the State that at the very same moment was receiving international support to pay and re-equip its various police forces.

Towards the end of February Berisha sent his Home Secretary to Germany to obtain an advance with which to pay for new equipment for the police. Other governments also expressed their support for Berisha's government. The United States had counted on Berisha's government to make their support for Albania a bridgehead in the region, estimating that Berisha and his party would have embezzled the capital first in the contested ballot of May 1996 and then in the collapse of the speculative building societies supported by the government. Today, concerned to speed up national reconciliation, the United States have put maximum pressure on Berisha's government to compel it to engage in dialogue with the opposition grouped around the Socialist Party.

On the 28th February, the Meksi/Berisha government decided to clear out the hunger strikers who were occupying the university. A group of plainclothed policemen, members of the SHIK, prepared to surround the buildings. The reaction was not expected: many proletarians recognised themselves in all those who are repressed by the State, despite the reformist demands of the students, and thus took up position to act in the face of police violence. In fact, the rumour that the police had been preparing to flush out the hunger strikers by force had led more than a thousand people armed with knives and guns to gather in front of the university. The numbers kept on growing and soon there were ten thousand demonstrators who, from the university, made their way to the SHIK's siege and attacked it with stones. There were exchanges of gunfire between the demonstrators and the SHIK, who entrenched themselves in their buildings. Far from leaving them behind their walls, the demonstrators went on the offensive and set them on fire, with the aid of grenades. Three SHIK members were set alight and burned to death. Others who tried to flee were hanged. The total death toll amongst these SHIK bastards was six. This is not huge when one takes into account how many class brothers have disappeared, tortured and assassinated by this elite corps formed by the best bourgeois torturers. Unfortunately, there were three deaths on our side, as well as thirty wounded.

The demonstrators had got wind of the government's hesitation to declare a state of siege in Vlorë and marched towards an army barracks, forced open the doors and took all the arms they could without meeting with the slightest resistance from the officers and the soldiers inside the barracks. A heavy machine gun was installed in front of the university. Confrontations continued throughout the night of the 28th February to the 1st of March.

These struggles marked the end of the initial period in which the waves of protest and other proletarian expressions were still too much prisoner of the expectation of compensation by the State and of the illusion that the State, governed in a different way, could be fairer, more equitable,... and the beginning of an insurrectional uprising in which the proletariat no longer expects anything from the government and leads it to open war, taking up the path of direct action against the State, of the assertion of class against class. This does not mean that there was not a whole series of ideologies, traps, bourgeois perspectives (which is inevitable in an international period like this one), including during this crucial period in which the enemy was organising itself to recuperate and lead a movement which was slipping through its fingers.

The insurrectional character of the uprising in Albania

On Saturday the 1st March the town of Vlorë was in the hands of the insurgents. The funerals of the three demonstrators killed the previous night passed off peacefully. However, further confrontations took place over the evening, resulting in five more wounded. Two other arms and munitions depots were pillaged. Armed proletarians commandeered cars and left for neighbouring cities in order to spread their movement.

The gunpowder was already on all the roads, over all the cities, just waiting for a spark. Those sparks flying from Vlorë spread the explosion at full blast in the south of the country.

In Vlorë, Sarandë and Delvinë the situation was declared "out of control". Dini, the Italian foreign minister declared that the revolt was led by "bands of deliquants stirred up by left-wing extremists with the aim of attacking Tirana."

In Lushnjë, demonstrators intercepted two vans packed full of anti-riot police and forced them to abandon them, thus disarming 40 or so policemen.

On the same day in Tirana, the parliament was called to a special session in order to debate the measures necessary to quell the revolt in Vlorë. That same evening, Berisha announced the resignation of the Meksi government, a decision which had no impact on the movement whatsoever!

Whilst the Forum for Democracy was denouncing a "further attempt by President Berisha and the Democratic Party to fool the Albanian People, in order to hold onto the power resting on the theft of votes, on a speculative financial system, on violence and terror" and was calling for further "free elections", the proletariat responded by real practical criticism of electoral perspectives: Generalised armament of the struggle against the State!

On Sunday 2nd March, in response to the resignation of the government, Berisha's official residence, situated on the hills of Vlorë, were pillaged and then burned down!

Near Vlorë's port, ten thousand rebels surrounded the garrison of Pacha Liman, a strategic base. The soldiers abandoned their positions and, finding himself alone, the commander opened the doors to the insurgents. He was later to become the organiser of the defence of Vlorë against a possible intervention by troops still in Berisha's pay.

During an assault on a barracks the insurgents marched into the soldiers camp, not to attack the soldiers, but to take arms. Nowhere did the conscripts in the barracks oppose the pillaging. On the contrary, soldiers everywhere and even the majority of officers gave the rebels a warm welcome. There was even fraternisation: proletarians in uniform recognised themselves in the struggle of their insurgent class brothers and joined the movement armed.

The government had to rapidly acknowledge that it could no longer count on its army.

In Sarandë (300km South of Tirana) about 3000 demonstrators brandishing sticks poured onto the streets without meeting any resistance. Struck by the determination of the demonstrators, the police disappeared surreptitiously from the area. Proletarians pillaged and burnt down the (empty) police station and the abandoned police cars. The same fate was reserved for the SHIK buildings. 4000 Kalachnikov rifles fell into the hands of the rebels who, continuing on their route, attacked the courthouse, the Stock Exchange, the prison, liberating a hundred or so prisoners. Following this, the insurgent proletarians set themselves a new objective: to attack the bank, that den of capital where all their money had been swallowed up, thus abandoning all their illusions regarding obtaining compensation from the State. The whole town centre was in flames. The police did not try to intervene at any point.

In Himaren (a coastal town between Vlorë and Sarandë) rioters set the Town Hall and the Police Station on fire.

In Delvinë, between Sarandë and Gjirokaster, the rioters burnt down the police headquarters, the public prosecutor's department and also pillaged a branch of the savings bank.

In Levan (a village situated between Vlorë and Fieri), a group of demonstrators broke into a barracks and pillaged an arms depot, without meeting with any resistance.

In Gjirokaster there had already been an unlimited general strike for several days. Rioters invaded the police station, helped themselves to weapons, freed the 15 prisoners inside and then burnt the building down. The police did not put up any resistance. The next day a commercial complex belonging to the Gjallica savings society was set on fire.

Road blocks were set up by the rebels on the Vlorë-Sarandë road and at Tepelenë.

In Tirana, a further demonstration of six thousand people was marked by violent confrontations in the course of which cameramen from Italy and Germany were thrashed. The television was recognised for what it is: a police force serving the State, policing by selective images which impose on us what we should think about events, policing by pictures, obtaining photographs of the demonstrators most involved in confrontations for the cops. The demonstrators went on to attack police cars, turning them over and setting them on fire. The police force withdrew.

In the face of this situation, the bourgeoisie imposed exceptional measures and decreed a state of emergency across the whole of Albanian territory for an indefinite period, until the "reestablishment of constitutional and public order". This meant curfew at 8pm, police control with the right to shoot without warning, prohibition of any gathering of more than 4 people and the right to open fire to disperse crowds, a law for which the anti-riot or secret police had not waited before firing into crowds previously!

"You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society.

In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend."

-K.Marx, Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848-

The members of parliament had adopted this law a few days earlier to allow a state of emergency to be decreed in the event of an "attempt to overthrow constitutional order, attacks on arms depots, strategic installations and public buildings and attacks on economic life and individual liberties". Once again, the bourgeoisie showed us how they prepare themselves to ensure their social order. Once again, we can see that when the proletarian struggle is powerful and determined, none of these measures can manage to stop it.

In Tirana, Berisha was careful to eliminate any situation in which people could gather and which could "degenerate": markets, rallies, sporting events... Hundreds of "potential agitators" were thrown in prison.

On Monday 3rd March, despite everything and whilst the south of the country had taken up weapons against the State, the Parliament renewed Berisha's presidential term for a further 5 years. Far from realising the magnitude of the movement, Berisha decided to reestablish order by way of force, far away from the cameras.

He censored the airwaves and the press. Apart from the official channels, TV channels, radio broadcasts and newspapers were forbidden. The offices of Koha Jone, the opposition's most important newspaper, were burned down with the aid of Molotov cocktails thrown by members of the secret police. Twenty people were arrested. Only one (pro-governmental) paper, Rijlinda Demokratika, was allowed and this dedicated all its columns to the reelection of Sali Berisha as Head of State.

Berisha ordered the military to surround the zone from Vlorë to Sarandë, but the Albanian army was not trustworthy. Proletarians serving under a flag were not prepared to turn their arms against proletarians fighting against the State. In the south of the country desertion and fraternisation was widespread.

For the government, the first issue was to "liquidate the communist revolt" and only to discuss it afterwards, as Tritan Shehu, Minister of Foreign affairs and head of the Democratic Party, declared. In order to tighten up discipline in the heart of the army, Berisha dismissed the chief of the staff of the army, accusing him of failing to show enough zeal to calm the rebellion and failing in the security of military posts, barracks and arms depots, allowing the rebels to invade them and help themselves to weapons. He replaced him by a military advisor, a member of the SHIK. The government also reminded the military that they would face penal sanctions if they refused to obey orders.

As a direct confrontation between the army and the rebels risked spreading the movement of desertion and fraternisation in the north of the country, tanks sent to the south were finally driven, not by soldiers, but by members of the SHIK. Behind those soldiers charged with aiming the artillery at the bastions of the insurrectional movement were surveillance units, military police, the secret service... all designed to prevent the soldiers from abandoning their posts or from turning their weapons against their officers.

Berisha called for the rebels to give up their weapons and reminded them that those who refused were exposing themselves to the risk of being shot at without warning.

The army regained control of the situation as far as Fier, a hundred kilometers south of Tirana. Berisha decided to isolate the south of the country by severing all means of communication, be it telephone, satellite, whatever.

Since the proclamation of the state of emergency, queues had formed in front of the bakeries in Tirana. Prices rose from 30 to 40%.

In Vlorë the last of the "foreign nationals" and journalists were evacuated by the helicopters of the Italian army, the anti-riot forces and the army withdrew and only the plain-clothed men of the secret police remained. Four people were executed as they attempted to hand back their weapons, following the demands by the government to do so.


The polarisation between the two camps reinforced itself but one cannot say that Vlorë represented the proletarian camp and Tirana the bourgeois camp. It is clear that the movement was not as strong in Tirana, that it had not taken on an insurrectional dimension. Tirana was the central seat of all the State's forces. There was a more powerful control over everything that moved. But just as in Vlorë, revolution and counter-revolution confronted each other in Tirana. Whilst all the journalists and government representatives, the police forces and the army were evacuated from Vlorë, the whole of the counter-revolution organised around the bourgeois opposition to the Berisha government remained, crystallised notably in the Committee for Public Safety.

On Tuesday the 4th March, Sali Berisha once again turned down proposals to broaden the government towards the opposition, in spite of international pressure to do so. He continued to accuse the Socialist Party of stirring up "armed rebellion".

The American government was worried about the turn of events. It understood that allowing financial swindles to run at full pelt and then confronting the proletariat with a whip could only lead Albania into dangerous waters. But it also understood that disembarking with NATO forces in Albania could provoke an extension of the troubles into what the worldwide bourgeoisie call the "powder keg of the Balkans", whose explosion they dread so much.

From their side, with Berisha's declaration of war, the proletarians responded by arming themselves!

In Vlorë the arsenals of several barracks were stripped. The rebels prepared for the army: gunmen took up position on the rooftops of houses, barricades were set up at the entrance of the city, using the carcasses of cars, look-outs took up position on the neighbouring hills to watch the outskirts of the town. One bridge was mined. A few hundred metres beyond the bridge, tanks appeared. A few minutes later, without engaging in battle, they turned around and left.

The army had to face fierce resistance in Styari. The military offensive was repelled in 40 minutes. After this first engagement the army withdrew.

In Sarandë also, far from thinking about handing in their weapons, the question being asked was: where to get weapons to protect themselves? The rebels decided to go and look in the naval and police buildings. The whole city went - children, women, men. The police stations had already been abandoned and in the Navy there were only a few officers left who had been sent home by soldiers who had already gone over to the side of the movement. The insurgents got hold of a battery of artillery, canons and heavy machine guns with the capacity to control the region within a radius of 30km, as well as six warships. They brought back large quantities of arms and bags stuffed with munition from the naval base. Between ten thousand to fifteen thousand armed men gathered in the town centre to organise barricades, how to guard them and a defence in case of attack. Groups of youths armed with Kalashnikov rifles and submachine guns attacked Turkish, Greek and French journalists and demanded that taped recordings be destroyed.

The army attacked: army units tried to regain the port but armed insurgents awaited them, firm-footed. Despite tanks being sent in, the naval base of Sarandë stayed in the hands of the rebels.

In order to prevent any further arrival of army tanks, all routes to the north were cut. At one roadblock, a member of the secret police was found in an unmarked police car and was burnt alive, two others managed to escape and the fourth was taken hostage.

On the road leading to Sarandë, 50 soldiers of the regular army went over to the side of the insurrection with three tanks.

In Delvinë army divisions shot at the rebels from Mig-15's, resulting in dozens of deaths. Two pilots who refused to shoot at the population fled in a Mig-15 and asked for political asylum in Italy. The decomposition of the army by the struggle was such that even the officers refused to shoot at "civilians". Berisha thought he could count on a real force, but he had to realise quickly that, in spite of his reorganisations, the army was not prepared to confront the insurgents.

Faced with the military triumph of the insurrection, the bourgeoisie reorganised and strengthened its political response. An Autonomous Local Council was set up in Sarandë, led by officials in the bourgeois opposition, as well as a Defence Council directed by a retired colonel. These Councils formulated conditions for the handing over of weapons: early elections, sacking President Berisha and the formation of a government of technocrats to ensure the transition. One of the first measures taken by these Councils was to organise teams of "self-defence against looters" and "protectors of property"! These wheeler-dealing politicos were in direct contact with Berisha and stressed to him that the army surrounding Sarandë should abstain from intervening because they knew that, if it did, they would no longer be able to control anything. The entirety of the bourgeois fractions were looking for the means to liquidate/control the movement. In this way, the most capable fraction would go on to improve its position in the balance of forces compared to other fractions. Thus, in the name of the battle for democracy, the leader of the Defence Council of the city ordered the rebels to stop wearing masks (corresponding to the police's need to identify those heading the movement!). Every day started with a broadcast of the Albanian national anthem.

It is clear that it was not the proletariat that was expressing itself in these Councils. Handing back weapons in exchange for a new government, respect for private property, saluting the flag... it was, without doubt, the bourgeoisie's programme. These Councils represented a further attempt by the bourgeois opposition parties to regain control of the movement, reorganise themselves in a far more pernicious manner than that which aimed its canons on rebel cities.

There was no doubt for the rebel proletarians that the army opposing them was an enemy to fell (by disarming it, fraternising with soldiers, demoralising it, pushing for its decomposition...) but they failed to recognise the bourgeois at their sides, who were also armed and supposedly fighting against a "common enemy", as being the other face of the same enemy. And yet the opposition parties were sharpening their knives as much against the Berisha government as against the proletariat. The bourgeois opposition, which took up arms against the government, with the aim of directing them principally against the proletariat, used the fight against chaos and economic disorganisation to present itself as the only valid alternative, that is the unique alternative capable of feeding proletarians.

Despite this sabotage, Wednesday 5th March marked a further extension of the insurrection. The insurrectional movement spread to Memaliaj and Tepelenë, where proletarians took to the streets, burned down the police station and pillaged shops. Burnt out carcasses were used to build barricades. The rebels got hold of heavy weapons from the artillery brigade. Mortars, canons, anti-aircraft batteries, ground-air missiles all passed into the hands of the rebels who set them up on the hills over the city.

In Gramsh (15km from Gjirokaster) the insurgents captured a small bridge from the soldiers who were controlling it and dynamited it in order to prevent tanks from advancing.

In the north, less affected by the movement, the government distributed five thousand weapons to members of the Democratic Party in order to confront the rebels. Solid roadblocks were built at the entrance and the exit of every town, in order to control all movements.

On Thursday 6th March and the following days, the uprising reached more and more towns and villages.

In order to fight against the passivity of the army, Berisha announced the arrest of 4 officers who were accused of failing to defend their barracks against pillaging. The government also demanded the extradition of two Albanian pilots who had fled to Italy abord a MIG-15. They were charged with desertion.

However Berisha became obliged to realise that there was no point in continuing to give orders if these were not followed. He would only add to the ridicule of the armed forces. Defeatism would spread even more widely.

Finally, in an attempt to decrease tension, as much on the side of the insurgents as on what was left of his army, he suspended military operations in the South for 48 hours (until 6am on Sunday 9th March) and promised an amnesty for those giving up weapons stolen from the army... providing they had not committed any crime! This reserved the State the right to condemn all those who had taken up arms!

Apart from this, having refused all collaboration with the opposition up until then, he was obliged, under pressure from European delegations, a Greek diplomatic mission, warnings from the American government, events... to accept an initial meeting. This was a true call by the worldwide bourgeoisie to reestablish national unity against the proletariat! In the face of proletarian danger, competing bourgeois parties, the Democratic Party and the opposition parties felt the need to ally their forces and they called for calm jointly.

In reply, the insurgents reinforced their positions. The timescale for handing over weapons, the promise of amnesty, calls for calm were all rejected unanimously.

Vlorë, Sarandë, Delvinë, Gjirokaster and Tepelenë remained in the hands of the rebels. Anticipating further attacks by the army, the rebels reinforced their defence systems, put up blocks and control points in order to delay the advance of the armed forces.

In Sarandë, tanks taken from the armed forces were deployed at the entrance to the town.

The movement spread to Himaren and Samilia...

It is important to stress here that it was the proletariat, by its will, by its determination to fight whatever the cost, that defeated the army. It was proletarian combativity which sowed the seeds of defeatism in the ranks of the army and which brought about the defeat of movements of troops still faithful to their posts. In the ranks of the proletariat there were celebrations, euphoria, their determination had paid off, they had achieved a real victory.

But the proletarians lost everything when they believed the promises of change. Later they only gave up arms after more than a few threats (instead of promises), especially now that they know that handing over weapons means letting the SHIK take charge of repression, which can only be terrible!

At that moment the proletariat was in a position of strength, armed to the teeth, determined not to be walked over. But this was also the moment at which the crucial question arose of determining with more clarity which direction to give to future confrontations.

What to do with this force? What extension and what objectives to give to the struggle? Against whom to direct all these weapons? Against the governmental forces alone? What to do with this power it had in its hands? It was controlling entire towns, the roads leading to them,... food shortages were beginning, there was a need to organise supplies. On what criteria? Those of the Autonomous Local Council of Sarandë calling for the defence of private property? What direction to give all of this?

It seems that the proletariat was not able to answer all of these questions. The question of which direction to give the struggle was left in the hands of the bourgeois opposition which, on its part, did not wait for it to decide before confiscating it from the proletariat. On the contrary, the counter-revolution profited from this moment of indecision to regain the upper hand.


"The list of words used to define what is happening ('the events') in Albania is long: there is a refusal to use the word revolution. They had assured us that there would never be another revolution in Europe: yet here one is. The 'rebels', 'those who have risen up', who produce 'chaos' or anarchy... are rebels, mutineers. And they pillage.
Yet not one radio, one television, one newspaper has used the word 'revolution'. It does not suit them to do so. It is an event in the face of which the European editorial writers remain perplexed; particularly the Spanish, drugged by the Basque issue... like the government, the politicians, the thinkers who frequently stop thinking...

'Revolution', now defined by Miguel Artola (from the Emeritus Free College) 'is a violent action giving rise to a change in regime and a new society. Violence is inevitable and it will not be easy to predict or apply which violence which will be sufficient and which will be unnecessary to conquer the ruling power'... it started because a democratic bank was created to rob the people of their savings. Another started when a handful of Black Sea sailors refused to eat rotten meat. But it is always because of something else. Albanians lived many years under the oppression of a very particular communist regime; democracy arrived from the West and stole their savings. They have loads of good reasons to oppose this order with chaos!"

(Eduardo Haro Tecglen - Visto/oído El País 15/3/1997)


Fertile ground to isolate revolution in one region and to impose limits on the revolutionary action of the proletariat rests always on the belief, carried from generation to generation, that only the bourgeois order is capable of bringing about solutions: "we cannot live without money", "the police are necessary",... "without all of that it would be chaos". Internationally, not only was there no other important proletarian struggle, but the isolation of the proletariat in Albania was reinforced by the systematic cover-up of everything that was going on. The worldwide bourgeoisie ensured that across the world the talk was not of proletarian struggle, nor revolution in Albania, but of chaos, disorder, anarchy.

National and international counter-revolution deployed its Defence Committees, Public Protection, humanitarian aid... if the revolution is incapable of giving food, then the counter-revolution will do it. Everywhere it was a question of substituting the real alternative of proletarian revolution versus capitalist reorganisation for National Salvation versus generalised chaos. Thus they achieved submission to "public protection", to the "safeguard of the nation", etc.

The extreme tension that had kept all the armed proletarians alert and ready for combat gave way to a certain numbness... whilst the others organised themselves!

The same day in Vlorë, a Committee of Public Protection (a cartel of all the parties of the bourgeois opposition, presided over by the local leader of the Forum for Democracy) and a Defence Committee (formed by ex-officers thrown out of the army during the purges led by Berisha in recent years) were created. During their first press conference the CPP representatives lorded it under a big Albanian flag. It was the same at Sarandë, where they made conditions for the surrender of weapons: early elections and the formation of a government of technocrats to ensure the transition, withdrawal of the army from the hills surrounding the city. The whole programme of the bourgeois opposition was asserted once again. This is illustrated by the measures that followed. On the 10th March, the CPP launched an appeal for "all honest policemen" to present themselves in order to help "reestablish calm and peace". On the 11th march, in a declaration signed with the Italian embassador to Tirana, the CPP committed itself to "favorise the immediate handing over of weapons in the possession of inhabitants" and to "ensure public order and the progressive return to administrative normality" of the city.

As in Sarandë, these Committees/Councils were guarantors of the disarmament of the proletariat, the return to bourgeois order, to peace... guarantors of capital. They meant to defend the State monopoly on arms, respect for the private property of the rich and the trading of proletarians' labour force (walking meat to haggle over).

Peace, for them, signifies disarming the proletariat in order to return to social peace. Peace which is not peace. For the bourgeois State it is a question of ensuring its monopoly on arms so that, in the perpetual war that it wages on the proletariat, the proletariat should be dispossessed of any response, by unable to arm its anger. Their peace is waging their war in peace, against an enemy without defence. Proletarians muzzled, feet and hands tied, this is the programme of our bourgeois.

Even the demand for reimbursement of their savings lost in the pyramid operations took second place.

This demand did, during the strongest moments of the movement, undergo the revolutionary transformation from a demand for State intervention into a practical critique of bourgeois economy: the armed proletariat reappropriating money stashed away in the banks.

Starting from the same demand, the counter-revolution often operated according to this outline: to neglect so-called economic demands: wages, food prices, here the savings,... to move onto what it classes as a higher level: the so-called political demands which all come back to demanding the fall of the ruling government in the name of a lack of democracy. As in Poland where Lech Walesa, still at the head of a committee of strikers in Gdansk, said: "It is better to have rights than a full plate". And the struggle that had started from a proletarian point of view, against increases in the price of meat, that is against an increase in the rate of exploitation, was deviated into a struggle for democratic reforms and finally for a new government (9). In Albania also, the demand for full reimbursement of the money put in building societies, the loss of which meant a brutal aggravation of living conditions for most proletarians, was put to one side in order to emphasise the demand for early elections and Berisha's resignation.

Through this passage from a so-called economic demand to a so-called political demand, the counter-revolution organised the abandonment of the class terrain to the profit of the terrain of bourgeois reform.

Later, once the change in government has been carried out and in the face of the fact that the State will not reimburse the proletarians (!), the rhetoric will put all the responsibility on the old government, accusing it of having handled things so badly that it is difficult to bring things back on track, that conditions are difficult, that they need time and, above all, that everyone must set to it to put the economy back on an even keel. Which means, for the proletarians, tightening their belts further... always in the name of a brighter future. And as long as proletarians let themselves be fooled by these kind of promises, this is how it will be!

On Friday 7th March, the insurgents in the south were still refusing to hand over their weapons. On the contrary, arsenals were still being pillaged.

The EEC called for President Berisha to defer armed intervention for as long as possible and to convene early elections. However, despite these pressures and the first step towards joint organisation of the "surrender of rebels" with the opposition parties, Berisha still refused to envisage elections.

At Tepelenë a similar Committee for Public Protection was set up.

On Saturday 8 March in Gjirokaster the insurrection gained ground. During the 48 hour truce which the government itself had declared, six government helicopters landed at the town's airport and 65 special service agents from Tirana got out. A group of insurgents had tried to stop them landing while men, women and children headed for the barracks to seize arms. They got hold of impressive reserves of arms and ammunition with the enthusiastic support of some two thousand soldiers who were happy to desert and join the ranks of the insurgents. A large quantity of rifles, revolvers, grenade launchers, bazookas, machine pistols, grenades, ammunition, mines and seven tanks fell into the hands of the insurgents. The customs office was also attacked.

On the side of the government forces it was every man for himself. Three helicopters were taken by the insurgents. The others managed to take off with only the pilot on board. The troops who had landed, deprived of any means of retreat, fled for the hills. The insurgents chased them with three armoured cars. Their flight lasted several days across the mountains to return to the North, avoiding the barricades, villages and other places strongly defended by the insurgents. It was a shepherd who told them about the collapse of the army and the official structures.

Barricades were set up at every crossroad in Gjirokaster. All access routes to the town were soon blocked. The insurgents took possession of the local radio. The customs buildings were looted and then burned. The insurgents also seized a frontier post with Greece. Customs officers, government employees and police officers rallied to the movement. This allowed the insurgents to go and get supplies in Greece.

Vlorë, Tepelenë, Himaren, Memaliaj, Delvinë, Sarandë and Gjirokaster, the most important towns of the South, were now in the hands of the insurgents. The triumph of the insurrection in Gjirokaster meant the loss for the government of the most important military and strategic point in the region. Some journalists commented "It is total anarchy, there is no longer any police, no longer any State".

"The army will never intervene against the civilians. It doesn't exist anymore" said a former defence minister, Perikli Teta.

A few hours later in Gjirokaster, towards noon, a Committee of Public Salvation and a Committee of Defence were formed, presided over by General Gozhita, who had been kicked out by Berisha 18 months earlier. They called for the handing over of stolen arms and ordered that "shops open their doors" while declaring that "those who commit pillage will be punished". At the same time they demanded the return of the soldiers who had fled to the hills... to reestablish order. The lack of proletarian autonomy was tragic, even the obscure personages who led the committees complained about it. The basis of the town committees was obviously the same as those in Sarandë and Vlorë.

On Sunday 9 March the town of Permët fell into the hands of the insurrection. The insurgents mobilised against government forces who had been dispatched to the region the previous day. The confrontations left five dead and many others wounded on the side of the insurgents. An entire brigade of soldiers went over to their side. Once the attack was repulsed the insurgents attacked, looting and destroying the police station, the court, the town hall, two banks and many shops. Barricades were set up at the entrances to the town, notably in the direction of Korça where the government forces had retreated.

The insurrectional movement seized sixteen other villages in the region of Permët.

In Permët as well, a Committee of Public Salvation, a cartel was constituted, representing all the opposition parties and the Democratic Party (prefiguring the accord which would follow).

The extension of the insurrectional movement and, above all, the fall of Gjirokaster (an military base indispensable for any military intervention by the government) was what convinced Berisha. It was without doubt this new element, dangerously rocking the balance of forces, which persuaded the president to agree an accord with the Socialist Party, the main bourgeois opposition party. The accord foresaw the installation of a government of "national reconciliation", the planning of new legislative elections between then and June and the enlargement of the promised amnesty to all those, civilians or soldiers, who had participated in the insurrectional movement. The two parties once again launched the appeal to hand in arms and this time fixed the waiting period at one week.

The Committees of Public Salvation and the Committees of Defence where all the parties sat, including the local representatives of the Democratic Party, and where the Socialist Party played a key role, welcomed the accord.

The Socialist Party swore that it would dissolve all the insurgent committees of the movement within three days...

At Sarandë and Vlorë the insurgents expressed their first disavowal of the politics of the Councils/Committees of Public Salvation. At Sarandë, approving the accords with Berisha, the president of the Council declared: "Now that the president will nominate the government and a date for the elections has been fixed, arms must be handed over." For the first time he was not applauded and the crowd dispersed in silence. On the following days there were daily gatherings in the public square which once again took on their role as an organ of decision.

At Vlorë the daily demonstration happened this time without a flag, nor a banner, nor an opposition leader and embarked on looting and burning shops. A few people suspected of belonging to the secret police were arrested. A list of people to be eliminated in exchange for a certain price was discovered on one of them.

The same day, in the North, proletarians began to take arms. They expropriated one of the biggest arms depots in the North of Albania, at Shkoder. At Peshkopia, Lezha-Kuksi and Lacy the army fell into disorder, in the face of the generalisation of the expropriations.

On Monday 10 March the Socialist Party's bet that it would have everything in hand within three days looked seriously compromised, even more so now that the movement had extended to Skrapari, Malakastra, Kelcyra, Berat, Poliçan, Kuçova, Gramsh.

In Berat the insurgents emptied three savings banks and plundered many shops, the state food reserves and the arms factories of three barracks. The garrison and the police abandoned the town without firing a shot and the insurgents shared out the arms from the police stations and barracks. A Committee of Public Salvation was set up with the immediate intention of organising the handing over of arms! It also demanded the sacking of Berisha. It is obvious that whenever the bourgeoisie succeeded in imposing this demand it was only making use of the weaknesses of the proletarian movement and thus preparing its disarmament in exchange for the dismissal of Berisha and the planning of new elections.

In Gramsh (60 km to the South of Tirana) where there is an important arms factory, the insurgents seized three barracks and burnt down the police station. They set out towards Fier, a town situated to the North of the zone taken by the insurgents. They took control of several routes into the area and beat back the forces of order who partially lifted their blockade of the region.

In Skrapari the insurgents emptied the army's armouries, attacked the military airport of Kuçova and took control of Poliçan (between Skrapari and Berat) where there is an arms and ammunition factory. The clashes led to fourteen wounded.

Faced with the fact that he could no longer count on the army, Berisha armed his followers. They plundered some major arms depots in Bajram-Curri and Kukes, two small towns in the North in an inaccessible mountain area.

On Tuesday 11 March the Committees of Public Salvation of eight southern towns met at Gjirokaster and created a National Front for the Salvation of the People whose demands were the sacking of Berisha, a profound reorganisation of the secret police, the return of lost savings and the organisation of democratic parliamentary elections, thus confirming their function of trapping the movement in a bourgeois alternative. The President of the CPS of Sarandë confirmed: "There will be no question of handing over arms until the installation of democracy is guaranteed."

On the government side, a new Prime Minister, Bashkim Fino, was appointed to form a government of "national reconciliation". His first action was to recruit reinforcements for the police and to stop the uprising in Durrës, where three proletarians had been murdered.

On that day thirteen towns were in the hands of the insurgents: Poliçan, Kelsyra, Permet, Kuçova, Shrapar, Berat, Gjirokaster, Sarandë, Delvinë, Himaren, Tepelenë, Menaliaj, Vlorë.

And Kruma, Burrel and Laçi, little towns in the North, can be added to the list.

On Wednesday 12 March the situation was tense. Against all expectations, the government of "national reconciliation" did not have the desired impact on the movement. On the contrary, the measures which it took to reorganise the police hardened the position of the insurgents, whose movement continued to make gains in the North.

At Elbasan, the last stop before Tirana (coming from the South), the tension was extreme. While the army and the secret police withdrew to 50 km to the Southeast and 70 km to the Southwest of the capital, the insurgents reinforced their positions and seized the armouries left by the army. The arms, ammunition and explosives factory at Mjeksi (to the South of Elbasan) was also pillaged.

After Elbasan, the army also disappeared from Fier, Cerrick (after fighting with the secret police) and Gramsh where the insurgents had burned the police station and plundered three barracks.

Shkoder, the most important northern town, was in turn taken by the uprising. The besieged barracks were abandoned by the soldiers. The insurgents also attacked the prisons, there they smashed down the doors and freed the detainees. A bank branch was dynamited, the court was sacked. Business premises were ripped open and surgically emptied. After having been ransacked and blazed, the town hall was now occupied by a few families. Barricades were made of half-burnt rubbish and car carcasses on a carpet of broken glass.

The important air base of Gjader, near Lehze, 80 km North of Tirana, also fell into the hands of the insurgents.

It therefore rested with the international bourgeoisie to prevent the propagation of the movement beyond the frontiers at any cost.

Faced with the danger of the extension of the movement in the North of the country which borders the Kosovo province of Serbia, where the majority of proletarians are of Albanian origin (10), the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) closed its two main frontier posts with Albania.

The governments of the USA, France and Italy called on their citizens to leave Albania. Moscow and Belgrade began to evacuate their diplomatic personnel and their families.

Military units, including a tank regiment, positioned themselves along the Shkumbin river. But in Sauk in front of the barracks in the suburbs of Tirana an officer instructor, wearing the insignia of the armoured division on his collar, declared that the army would not react in the case of an insurrection. "We cannot fire on our people." This sentiment was shared by almost the whole of the institution. Both the soldiers and the officers expressed this sentiment on different occasions.

Berisha's Democratic Party continued to arm its supporters around Tirana, notably in Kavaja, from then on the only town under government control south of the capital. From the North of Albania and Kosovo lorries brought well paid mercenaries. Berisha's supporters also looted arsenals in the towns of the North.

In Tirana members of the secret police entered the military academy and three other arms depots in the area, including at the airport, and cleaned them out. Seven depots of the anti-aircraft defence brigade were emptied, one of which contained 10,000 light arms. The SHIK distributed assault rifles to its henchmen and to the loyal supporters of the Democratic Party.

The bourgeoisie made some panicky comments: "A president who has lost all authority, a government of 'national reconciliation' which has no more of a grip on events, an army which turns and runs when the first shot is fired... never in recent history has a country on the old continent known the disintegration in such rapid succession of all its institutions, of all the instruments charged with making people respect public order. It is a question of a real collapse of the State."

The Albanian writer Ismaïl Kadare (who has lived in Paris since 1990) called for the intervention of a buffer force in Albania. "A international arbiter is needed when a whole country is heading for a precipice. It's not important what the forms and procedures are, anything is good if it prevents a tragedy on such a scale."

Following this, all the bourgeois parties of Albania launched a joint appeal in favour of an armed intervention of the European powers "so as to restore constitutional order". The decomposition of the state was such that the bourgeoisie became more and more favourable to the intervention of other international authorities so as to reestablish order.

On the 13 March the secret police was all over Tirana, having withdrawn from the regions in the South, where it had been the only force fighting the insurgents.

A convoy of armoured cars and Mercedes wound its way around the central Skanderbeg square. The SHIK men let off volleys of automatic rifle fire and shouted very loudly to show that they were again the masters of the nerve centre of Tirana. Armoured cars were deployed on Martyrs' Boulevard and Nation Boulevard where the presidential palace, parliament and other government buildings are situated.

Most of the ministries and administrations were shut, as well as banks and businesses. The streets were deserted. The firing of automatic weapons was incessant. Six people, including two children, were killed, mostly victims of stray bullets or accidental explosions of mines or grenades. The screws abandoned the prisons, letting some six hundred prisoners escape.

Despite the omnipresence of the SHIK, Tirana did not escape the frenzy of pillaging. Masses of demonstrators from the poor neighbourhoods expropriated the food depots, among others a huge flour warehouse in the suburb of Lapraka. Other demonstrators plundered and expropriated the Police School, and in the residential district of Tirana, where there are several embassies, they succeeded in appropriating Kalashnikovs and canisters of butane. The sentries at the National Guard Headquarters (which was only 300m from these targets) didn't lift a finger in the face of this action. The barracks were pillaged as much for arms as for the supplies they were stocked with, furniture, bathroom fittings, heaters... There was nothing left of the barracks but a boneless carcass.

In the centre of Tirana the favourite targets of the proletarians were public buildings and the enterprises where work was so detestable and badly paid. Workshops, buildings... nothing was left. Even the roof beams and steel rods from the frames were taken. There was no more furniture or machinery, no more tiles or cornices, no more door frames, no light fittings. All the electric wiring and switches had been torn out, just like the wash basins and heaters, down to the smallest bit of piping. There was no more glass or sills, just holes where the windows used to be.

From now on almost every person had at least one gun, a Kalashnikov or some other type.

"There is no army," a journalist commented, "the soldiers are abandoning the barracks and going home. The police, many of whom have exchanged their uniforms for plain clothes, are limited for the moment to looking after the prisons and official buildings. But this hasn't prevented a massive flight: in three penitentiaries the prisoners have succeeded in escaping and more than a thousand prisoners are now enjoying unexpected freedom..."

The chief administrator of Tirana launched a televised appeal for calm in the name of all the political parties. But at the end of the afternoon Tirana seemed to be on the brink of revolt.

The loyal employees in the ministries stuffed computers and files into their vehicles, recognisable from the yellow government number plates. Soldiers and policemen deserted their posts and went home. Even the big shots of the SHIK disappeared from the scene.

The bourgeoisie abandoned Tirana.

The embassies circulated a general evacuation order. A company of Marines was deployed in front of the American embassy. An air bridge was established between Italian navy units patrolling the Gulf of Tarente and the port of Durrës. Three Super-Pumas from the French airforce and two Cougars from the army, six helicopters from the German army sent from the NATO Stabilisation Force (S-FOR) in Bosnia, Cobra helicopters from the US army... and fifteen Albanian naval ships and even others from the Greek fleet were pressed into service to evacuate their respective "foreign nationals", protected by units of paratroopers and marines. On many occasions the operations were interrupted by rifle fire, anti-aircraft cannon and portable ground to air missiles.

On the evening of Wednesday 13 March, the historic town of Korça (in the southeast of the country) was looted. Proletarians went to the barracks of Poceste where they took arms and four armoured cars.

At Lezha proletarians attacked the office of the secret police (whose members had disappeared) and the State Bank where they dynamited the safe.

The worthies of the town immediately created a Committee of Safety of Lezha to try to calm down the movement. They went through the town by car making appeals for calm through a megaphone. They were drowned out by fusillades of bullets.

"The army has collapsed, the state has faltered"... said a journalist before leaving Tirana.


That moment marked the high point of the movement. From the South to the North, the insurrectional movement generalised itself, shaking even that bastion of the state, the capital. But if the forces of the bourgeoisie withdrew from Tirana it was so as to reorganise themselves better on a national and international level. While on the side of the proletariat they again tasted the cruel lack of perspective and of a classist direction in the midst of isolation and international incomprehension.

In effect, if the struggle in Albania marked, like the struggle in Iraq (11), a moment of rupture with the international situation of social peace, it is precisely this context of international non-struggle which prevented the movement from going further. International social peace weighs heavily on the extraordinary movement of the proletariat in Albania, just like it previously weighed on the proletarian insurrection in Iraq. The proletariat in Albania needs to extend the struggle internationally but it finds neither the support nor the necessary comprehension from the rest of the world proletariat who, stupefied by the international campaign of the bourgeoisie, don't recognise themselves in the struggle of their class brothers and sisters in Albania and imagine even less the real force of the ruptures which have taken place.

This lack of international support calls for an even clearer affirmation of revolutionary perspectives in Albania than the proletariat has set out. But if in the course of the confrontations the proletariat has recognised the whole of its enemies, it is more difficult for them to affirm now the levels of organisation capable of thwarting the successive changes of political spare parts which allow the bourgeoisie to regain control of the situation.

When the proletariat makes an attack on the whole of the structures of the bourgeois state and defeats the army... when to private property it opposes collective appropriation, pillaging banks, warehouses, shops... when to a Justice which consecrates the omnipotence of the bourgeoisie, isolates the proletariat and leads it, riddled with rights, right to prison, it opposes collective class force, burning police stations and courts and opening the prisons... when to the peaceful protests organised by the opposition, it responds by the generalised taking up of arms... it affirms practically the spontaneously revolutionary nature of its struggle.

But to give force and continuity to these confrontations it is vital for the proletariat to build up qualitatively superior levels of organisation capable of pushing things in a clearer direction and thus assuming a well-defined break with the bourgeois alternatives. Not doing this means surrendering the ground which has been gained. Unhappily, we have to state that the proletariat in Albania does not appear to have produced regroupments, associations, organs or whatever, which are true to its nature, which call for class actions, which express, by their very existence, the necessity of organising outside and against the bourgeois state, which clearly call for the destruction of the state, the international generalisation of struggle, the affirmation of the communist movement (12). In the course of the revolutionary process, the point always comes where a qualitative jump is indispensable in direction, in internationalism. If the proletariat does not provide one, the bourgeoisie will just use the circumstances to reorganise itself.

Thus, once the anger had exploded, the army had been defeated, the bourgeoisie of Tirana had fallen prey to panic, the question was posed of what to do with this position of strength acquired in the course of the confrontations. What was at stake at that moment was the need for a much clearer definition and delimitation of our enemies. Without this, the opposition movements which the bourgeoisie had created to give a political direction to the conflict ­ oppositionists who had habitually marched next to the proletariat in confrontations with the state ­ succeeded in confining it to a simple opposition to the government of Berisha.

When the proletariat made a critique of the electoral point of view by taking over the streets and attacking all the structures of the state, when the proletariat shouted "Down with Berisha!", a slogan which in a limited and confused way said "Down with the state!", the opposition transformed everything into a demand for the anticipated elections, a solution advocated by the world bourgeoisie to negate the initial critique made by our class.

The sort of qualitative jump which would exclude the democratic trap would have consisted of translating into slogans or, to put it another way, inscribing on the banners of the movement, the strict reality of what was happening in the streets! "Down with Berisha!" would then have been replaced by slogans reflecting the real movement: "Down with the state, its cops and its politicians in the government and in the opposition!", "Down with parliament!", "Down with elections!", "Long live the generalised arming of the proletariat!" Of course, it isn't just a question of words. It's a matter of making conscious what is going on in reality, of consciously taking on the revolutionary direction that the struggle of the proletariat naturally takes (13) of clearly brandishing the flag of communism. Throughout the history of our class, even in the strongest moments of the struggle, it happens that what the proletariat says about its own struggle remains behind its real practice. Thus in Albania, the unifying flag of the movement remained an extremely poor one which never really went beyond the conservative slogan "Down with Berisha!", a slogan which gave the Socialist opposition all the arms it needed to recuperate the movement.

Sticking to the slogan "Down with Berisha!" meant accepting (as the opposition avidly hoped) that once Berisha was discarded there would be no more reason to struggle. In fact, the sacking of Berisha did become the condition for handing over arms.

As is often the case in any movement of struggle, it happened once again that it is not combativity which is lacking but the clear definition of class objectives. Here, again, it is not arms or courage which proletarians lack (as is generally believed by militarists and guerrilla-ists of all kinds) but a clear definition of what to turn their arms against.

It is that which was the limit of the break which proletarians made with the counter-revolution. At that high point, while the proletariat didn't do anything to take the movement forward, the international bourgeoisie beat out a call to organise support for the Albanian state in its struggle against the insurrection. On one side was the unified world bourgeoisie, and on the other was the proletariat in Albania ­ isolated. The bourgeoisie possesses a very long experience of how to defeat the proletariat country by country. And what is most tragic is that it will continue to be this way as long as the proletariat does not organise itself as an international force and does not give itself a revolutionary centralisation/direction.

The Restructuring of Bourgeois Order in Albania

On Friday 14 March the European Union assured Albania of its support in the form of humanitarian aid. A member of the Defence Commission of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Western European Union (in a word: a bourgeois) declared:

"We have all the military capacity needed to calm things down and take control of this matter. On condition that we hit hard and fast."

"The Eurocorps comprises 50,000 fully operational men. A force of some 10,000 soldiers, hardly a fifth of the effective number, heavily equipped and armoured, would be sufficient to take the situation in hand."

"And to contain the insurgents and make them hand over their Kalashnikovs? The means of pressure that we have are largely sufficient. For example, establishing a sort of exchange: the handover of stolen arms against the provision of food."

Here we have a good description of what the bourgeoisie intend to do by means of humanitarian aid: the disarmament of the proletariat by military intimidation and the threat of starvation!

On 15 March Berisha launched an appeal to volunteers wanting to maintain order in the capital to join the Albanian army or police in return for a salary of four hundred dollars a month, which is equivalent to four times the average salary. The government also promised to triple the wages of police officers who returned to their posts. More than a thousand former officers presented themselves at the Ministry of Defence so as to patch up the army whereas thousands of young people joined the ranks of the police ­ without any need to show their papers when enroling! Rifles and ammunition were distributed to them.

On 16 March the Albanian state received the support of its Italian and Greek brothers who were ready to send experts to advise the Albanian police and army and to help them reestablish order.

On 17 and 18 March some experts from the EU came to Tirana to talk to the Albanian government with the aim of evaluating the importance and scope of a humanitarian aid mission.

While these gentlemen discussed how to "normalise the situation in Albania", what was happening in the streets changed its character little by little. Whereas before it came alive, full of proletarians discussing the next action, whereas before it was a place for all the assaults, looting, burning, barricades step by step the street was given up to confrontations of a completely different nature.

To explain this, we are going to take a little detour.

The capitalist mode of production places each unit of production in opposition to the others and thus generates a perpetual war of all against all. The opening of Albania's borders cruelly laid bare these contradictions and made them explode. This was not in the sense that these contradictions were a novelty for Albania - the laws of capitalism have always reigned there! - but because the attempt to run the Albanian economy in a protectionist way imposed until then a certain discipline on the bourgeoisie, a discipline made possible by relatively low real wages (compared to other countries). But this only postponed the bursting forth of all these contradictions, and it was precisely this postponement (a practice inherent in any kind of populist and protectionist capitalism) which aggravated the explosion when it became inevitable. It is also for that reason that the permanent war which the bourgeoisie dedicate themselves to was conducted in such a chaotic manner when everything exploded.

When Albania opened its frontiers a mob of young and ruthless capitalists piled in and took over whole sectors, attracted by the low level of wages and avid to enrich themselves rapidly on what they thought was an innocent, naive and domesticated proletariat. But this only exacerbated the competitive struggle for a quick profit and before long the situation transformed itself into a war of plunder concretely expressed by innumerable armed confrontations within the bourgeoisie, ending up as a chaotic struggle between enterprises and rival mafias (just like in other countries such as the ex-USSR).

In this framework the Berisha government itself seems to have obeyed its private interests, concentrated around the Democratic Party, rather than the more global interests of the bourgeoisie in its entirety. As a general rule, the sectors of the bourgeoisie which control the central apparatus of the state are assured of that hegemony precisely because they have proved their capacity to put their private interests to one side for the profit of the general interests of their class. It seems that here Berisha, notably through the pyramid companies, was rather more occupied with his personal fortune than with the interests of the bourgeoisie in general and the cohesion of the state. It is that which also explains without doubt why bourgeois fractions could be found behind the slogan "Down with Berisha!".

In the month of March 1997, in the midst of the insurrectional movement of the proletariat, and taking part in the destabilisation of the state, various fractions of the bourgeoisie benefited from the passage to military action and settled some accounts. Apart from the followers of Berisha who took advantage of the situation of general illegality to pillage the barracks so as to arm themselves, others profited from this same situation to arm themselves and militarily protect their factories, shops and other businesses. Thus a good many bosses (14) who yesterday had come to Albania because the workforce there was available at a good price and because the laws allowed them to run their affairs a little more to their liking, without caring about taxes or social protection laws, today found themselves no longer able to count on the police to protect their private property. These big bosses and owners therefore surrounded themselves with private militias, surveillance squads, vigilance committees, "armed bands" to save their business activity from generalised looting - a task which these militias had never been able to practically assume elsewhere in the course of the movement.

Groups of armed proletarians were more and more caught between the armed bosses' militias, the Councils of Public Salvation, Committees of Safety, Committees of Defence... which also armed themselves to reestablish order.

With the aim of delivering a coup de grâce and adding to the general confusion which would succeed in disarming the proletariat, the media put into the same bag the actions of the armed proletariat and the actions of the militias defending private property. "Armed bands" (15) became the name used to amalgamate actions of a completely different nature solely on the basis that they were armed.

Looting, for example, can have a completely different class nature depending on who does it and what the content of their action is. When proletarians loot goods or arms depots, it is our class which is criticising private property, the state and the whole of the capitalist social relation. This expropriation expresses the interests of humanity. It is a matter of collective appropriation, of a reappropriation of what proletarians have produced but of which they are always deprived. It is the proletariat which is feeding and arming its struggle against the state and the reign of commodities.

When other apparently similar looting of arms and goods depots is carried out, whether by merchants who are organising a traffic in foodstuffs which have become scarce by selling them to proletarians at outrageous prices... whether they are militias engaged in protecting capitalist enterprises... whether they are the lackeys of Berisha... it is clear that the criteria are not the same. It is not the interests of humanity which are being expressed here, but rather those of profit, those of the age-old tyranny of the rate of profit against the human being. It is a matter of private appropriation, for the private interests of groups of bourgeois who struggle to impose their fractional interests and who aim to improve their position in the war of competition between capitals. It is the perpetuation in arms of the capitalist system.

Another example is the attacks on police stations, which can also take on completely different natures. When merchants attack police stations because the police try to take control of their commerce, or demand a percentage, they are leading an inter-bourgeois war for control of the market. This attack is completely integrated into the reproduction of the capitalist system. On the other hand, when the proletariat attack a police station, liquidate its occupants and burn the buildings of repression, they are attacking their mortal enemy, which represses them directly and which keeps them deprived of all property, the capitalist state. Their action is an integral part of the process of destroying the bourgeois State.

The "armed bands" who plunder goods depots and barracks and attack police stations so as to carry on their own war of competition constitute the armed wing of the counter-revolution, that which restores terror against the proletariat.

Thus, a road block installed in Vlorë extorted money from all the car drivers who passed by. If they didn't obey they were simply riddled with bullets.

Again, while the proletariat in arms have organised road blocks to stop the advance of troops, to arrest members of the secret police, to defend their struggle, including to obtain funds for this, those who extort money from car drivers ­ an a-classist category ­ have nothing in common with this struggle and put themselves completely on the side of the State, which carries out this kind of intimidation every day. The newspapers referred to the extorters as "bandits", "rebels", "Mafiosi", "scum"... the same title they gave to any proletarian who takes up arms against the state. It is clear that here we are talking about a private militia in the service of capitalist order. This armed band (a boss and his lackeys) which rampaged around Vlorë in competition with the Committee of Defence, called like everyone else for the sacking of Berisha (but with the aim of doing some good illegal business), and little by little took over the control of defence groups and the circulation of arms. They coldly assassinated those who did not obey their orders. To defend their private mercantile interests this armed band imposed the usual bourgeois terror and, in that way, defended private capitalist interests in general. A journalist's description: "Criminal organisations have taken advantage of the situation of disorder in Albania to do some business, notably in the traffic of drugs and arms. Italian businessmen have continuous business relations with their Albanian colleagues."

And, to complete the description of the eminently counter-revolutionary role of this "armed band", here is a proclamation by its leader on the arrival of the Italian troops: "The Italian soldiers are our brothers... If anyone touches a hair on their heads they must do it over my dead body."

Other examples:

But there were also proletarian responses against these armed bands which aimed to rob proletarians.

On 27 March, for example, there was a class response to a band who came to extort from a village. Strongly armed from looting an important barracks, the inhabitants refused the racketeers, defended themselves and avenged their eighteen dead.

Traffickers in "meat on the hoof" also hoped to do some good business from the new wave of emigration. Thus more than ten thousand refugees clandestinely arrived on the Italian coasts (a smaller number than in 1991 when it had been more than forty thousand). They were rapidly repatriated to Albania (16). Diplomats, ambassadors and company managers were not considered to be "foreign nationals" ­ ships, helicopters and planes were chartered for their evacuation. On the contrary, here we are talking about simple proles who fled to Italy either because they were attracted by the myth of the Western paradise or because they wanted to escape repression. They paid between 500 and 1000 dollars for a place on an old tub that might not even get there (17). At Durrës those who ran this commerce in meat on the hoof knew how to be efficient! A fleet of more than a hundred speed boats allowed them to control the whole coast and organise their commerce, particularly with Italy and Greece. On the coast they touted for business and gathered their candidates, carefully avoiding telling them what was waiting for them in Italy! At sea they threatened fishermen and captains of boats so as to keep control of the traffic. The police were complicit and did not stop them from giving themselves over to their smuggling.

On the basis of these examples we can understand the ease with which the bourgeoisie have amalgamated proletarian actions with those of armed bands of unscrupulous merchants without any criteria apart from those of the bourgeoisie: profit and the war of all against all. It is the bourgeois themselves who call proletarians in arms mafia, gangsters, savages, rapists... cannibals! We can also understand why proletarians felt more and more trapped between these "armed bands", one lot, responding strictly to their private interests, going around with the immediate aim of grabbing as much cash as possible, and the others (the Committees of Defence, Safety or Public Salvation) whose aims corresponded more to the general interests of the world bourgeoisie: the reestablishment of the social peace in an area where proletarian anger had been expressed the most strongly.

Such are the bases on which the confrontations at the beginning of the movement progressively gave way to confrontations of a completely different nature. We will now return to the unfolding of actual events.

On Monday 19 March, representatives of the government and of international organisations discussed the objectives of the intervention and how to dispatch the humanitarian aid. The North American state was opposed to a military intervention by NATO (18), the German state defined the conflict as "an internal affair". The experts agreed in rejecting direct military intervention to reestablish order in Albania (they were aware of the danger of generalisation) and considered it more effective to help the army and the police, so that these institutions could reestablish the authority of the state, and to assure the protection of airports, embassies and the main official buildings. In other words the bourgeoisie knew that they must not make the mistake of carrying out an overt repression, as Berisha had done, because this had only had the effect of galvanising the combativity of proletarians in struggle. The bourgeoisie knew that to reestablish social peace the stick was not enough, the carrot was also vital. It would be much more effective to present their intervention as humanitarian aid. They knew that it had to be presented as something which fed proletarians and therefore constituted the only solution to the problem of survival. It only remained to decide on the means. Meanwhile, the government of Bashkim Fino, supported by the EU, was invited to take urgent measures of "social and humanitarian assistance" to pacify the country. The forces of the world bourgeoisie then arranged an intervention where the unified foreign presence would support the local repressive forces and use humanitarian action as a shopfront.

On 20 March the Italian army carried out its first operation on Albanian soil. Marine infantry from an élite unit landed on a beach close to the port of Durrës.

On 25 March 40 tonnes of French aid in the form of food and medicines arrived at Tirana airport.

On 26 March the negotiations of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) finally led to the creation of a "humanitarian mission protected by a multinational force under the UN mandate". "It will be an escort mission, a humanitarian mission, not a mission for maintaining order." "The OSCE plan will attempt to create the political conditions appropriate for holding general elections this summer. But the policing mission will be essential to assure close protection for the aid convoys of food and medicines for which the municipalities and the sacked and looted hospitals have a pressing need."

It was clearly a question of a mission to maintain order but the OSCE did everything to appear as saviours and not as aggressors. The great fear of the bourgeoisie remained the danger of internationalisation of the conflict. At any price the OSCE had to stop the always armed proletariat from continuing its struggle, not only against the Albanian army but against all the armies of Europe. This extension of the struggle would have led to the recognition of the class enemy in a much larger collection of bourgeois fractions, including those that support the OSCE plan: the Committees of Defence, of Safety or of Public Salvation, the Bashkim Fino government, the whole of the Albanian and international bourgeoisie.

Despite the necessities of world capital and despite the accords concluded around the strategies to use in Albania, no top officials were prepared to send soldiers to the South of Albania where the situation remained explosive. One combatant affirmed: "I am warning the Italian soldiers. I advise them not to come to Vlorë. If they do we will kill them". In Spain, El País carried the headline "Fear in the South" and stressed that "the lack of availability of forces to deploy in the South of Albania manifested by the dozen countries who sent the representatives of their respective high commands to the meeting called in Rome yesterday constitutes the main obstacle to getting the International Protection Force underway." The newspaper added: "none of the eight countries, amongst those participants in this meeting prepared to cooperate in the military part of the plan, seemed willing to send soldiers into that zone."

More globally the bourgeoisie were afraid that their true objectives would come to light. In this sense they insisted: "The multinational military force will stick to its humanitarian mandate and refuse to interfere in internal policing matters which could very quickly expose it to terrorist attacks."

On that day of 12 April, a contingent of 6,000 soldiers had to be landed in Albania. The primary objective of the mission was to secure the ports of Durrës and Vlorë, Tirana airport and the principal communication routes between the North and the South of Albania.

On 9 April a boat containing a hundred members of the SHIK arrived at Brindisi to closely control the movement of Albanian refugees. Prospective migrants were ejected severely from Italy, but it wasn't the same for all those who collaborated in safeguarding the State. Whether they were "foreign nationals" or members of the secret police, they received a good welcome in Italy. Faced with a proletarian threat the bourgeoisie knew to put its war of competition to one side so as to better wage its war against the proletariat. The financiers of the bankrupt pyramid savings companies had, as elsewhere, loyal colleagues in Italy. For example, a chain of supermarkets in Pouilles belonged to the, up until then, celebrated Vefa.

On 12 April the Jaubert commando came to Durrës to secure the landing area for the troops of the French Army.

On Monday 14 April, an air bridge between Pisa and Tirana was put in place so as to send material and equipment there. Several C-130s from the Italian Army had already landed in Tirana.

The 15 April marked the beginning of Operation Alba. The 6000 soldiers of the multinational force arrived at the ports of Durrës and Vlorë. A cargo sent by the World Food Programme unloaded 360 tonnes of flour and 36 tonnes of vegetables.

The more frightened the bourgeoisie was to see the extent to which the proletariat was armed, the more impressive the arrival of the multinational forces. The size of the boats, the tanks and other vehicles, the sophisticated armaments... were plenty to intimidate! The voices of proletarians which were raised against this intimidation were few, which again shows the isolation of the extraordinary struggle of the proletariat in Albania - an isolation which the world bourgeoisie succeeded in imposing. On the spot, faced with this impressive military invasion, only a few insults could be heard: humanitarianism dictatorially imposed its terror.

In Tirana the situation returned to normal. Newspapers came out as usual, the shops were stocked, traffic was heavy. The only arms visible were those of some cops leaning on their armoured car.

On 17 April, a delegation from the OSCE met the representatives of the Committee of Public Salvation in Vlorë. The president of the Committee confirmed his counter-revolutionary role when he said: "Operation Alba may degenerate if it is given the mission of forcibly entering our homes to take our arms", reflecting 100% the preoccupations of the emissaries of the OSCE. We can see here that the fears of the bourgeoisie in Albania are exactly the same as those of the international humanitarians.

From the first to the seventh of May, the police reappeared on the streets of Shkoder, Berat, Burrel, Kukes, Kruje. But the institutions of Justice were not operational. Police stations, prisons, courts... weren't there any more. Before leaving the buildings the escaping prisoners had made sure to burn their files and then burn the buildings themselves... A few days before you could read in the press: "The chief of prison administration in Albania announced yesterday that the country had no more than 27 prisoners in gaol against the 1,300 who were there before the massive flight of convicts on 13 March. Of these 27 prisoners, 9 had returned to the cells of their own free will."

An astonished magistrate said: "After an interlude of 45 years we have taken care to make good laws. We have a constitutional charter defining human rights. There is a Minister of Justice, private associations of magistrates, the right of appeal, a new criminal code... But we have neglected to educate the people in this new spirit. What are the insurgents doing with it?" asks this devoted magistrate who would like us to believe that there has been no system of repression in Albania since the death of Enver Hoxha. As if good laws and a good functioning of the judiciary change the nature of State terrorism. "Instead of taking legal action, they have taken the direct route: plundering the banks. They have no confidence in the State and its laws. Even the factory owner in Shkoder: the law had made him special offers of protection of his business but he preferred to take on his own vigilantes."

On 14 May, the opposition parties threatened to boycott the elections scheduled for the 29 June 1997. They were calling into question the electoral law which foresaw a mode of scrutiny based on majoritarianism. The polarisation of attention around this polemic was an attempt to install more and more strongly the idea that the solution to all the issues raised in the movement was to go and vote to sanction the policies of Berisha. Despite having spontaneously taken on the State and all its structures: its banks, its police stations, its courts, its prisons, its barracks, its storage depots... proletarians allowed this totalising struggle to be confiscated in return for finally just demanding the head of Berisha, and that by means of a democratic vote.

If, at the beginning, the demand for the head of Berisha could still signify Down With the State!, now, with the recuperation carried out by the Socialist opposition, the call for his sacking was just the political solution approved by the whole of the world bourgeoisie as a means of disarming proletarians and taking up negotiations along paths which would ensure them regaining the monopoly of arms.

On 21 May, the general accord agreed between the ten parties foresaw in particular the nomination of a new chief of the secret police. This partially realised one of the demands of the Committees of Public Salvation who had called for a profound reorganisation of the secret police.

On 4 June, the president Sali Berisha escaped an attempt on his life during an electoral meeting of the Democratic Party, three weeks before legislative elections, planned for the 29th June. This event illustrates the tension which still existed in the country despite the electoral promises.

Apart from rare exceptions, nobody handed over arms stolen during the looting of the barracks. The state of emergency and the cease-fire remained vigorously in force.

On 27 June, a convoy of international observers set out from Tirana escorted by Italian and Romanian soldiers. They went towards the Southwest as far as Gjirokaster, passing through Memaliaj and Tepelenë ­ areas which, in March, had been completely in the grip of the insurrectional movement marked by the looting of barracks and the generalised arming of the proletariat. Proletarians saluted the vehicles with a few insults but the convoy went through without any problems. This example shows the general state of the struggle at that moment: decomposition of the force of the insurrection, hatred of the new proposals for installing order but the predominance of powerlessness... resignation had made its appearance once again.

Two days from the anticipated legislative elections scheduled for 29 June, the observers decided that the conditions for a free and democratic scrutiny had not been achieved. But on 29 June, the bourgeoisie were finally able to salute Albania's effective "salutary passage to the polling booth" which, in Bucharest as in Sofia, had allowed that sudden "metamorphosis" from the danger of revolution to a citizenry obediently queuing for the democratic carve up. What can the isolation of the polling booth (19) create, other than isolation? The spectre of revolution was provisionally banished from Albania with the return of a situation where all attention is focused on political wheeling and dealing.

On 23 July, a few months after having been elected for a second presidential term, Sali Berisha sent a letter of resignation from the presidency of the Albanian republic, a post he had occupied for five years. Thus the spectacle of national reconciliation was accomplished. It was the last act arranged by the opposition to make the insurgents hand over their arms. The aim ­ "to stabilise the situation, to restore the much mocked authority of the State, to give the legitimacy which has been lost to a future government and encourage an indispensable climate of national reconciliation" ­ was finally attained.

On 12 August 1997, the six thousand men of the "multinational protection force" left Albania.

"Internationally, not only was there no other important proletarian struggle, but the isolation of the proletariat in Albania was reinforced by the systematic cover-up of everything that was going on. The worldwide bourgeoisie ensured that across the world the talk was not of proletarian struggle, nor revolution in Albania, but of chaos, disorder, anarchy."

"International social peace weighs heavily on the extraordinary movement of the proletariat in Albania, just like it previously weighed on the proletarian insurrection in Iraq. The proletariat in Albania needs to extend the struggle internationally but it finds neither the support nor the necessary comprehension from the rest of the world proletariat who, stupefied by the international campaign of the bourgeoisie, don't recognise themselves in the struggle of their class brothers and sisters in Albania and imagine even less the real force of the ruptures which have taken place."

By Way of a Conclusion

In August 1995 we published a text ("General Characteristics of the Struggles of the Present Time" ­ in Communism No. 9) globalising, as the title implies, the general characteristics of the struggles of recent years. Faced with the enthusiasm-generating dimensions of the struggle in Albania, we must reflect on the dimension and depth of the ruptures contained in this struggle. Do they represent a qualitative jump in relation to the general characteristics of struggles at the present time or not?

To answer this question we can recall the characteristics set out in August 1995 and look at them in connection with the events in Albania so as to verify their similarities and differences.

This text first of all emphasises the violent and decisive actions of the proletariat who take over the streets, directly confronting the structures of the State, its buildings, its police stations... and tearing down the barriers of private property in a general movement of expropriation and reappropriation.

The events in Albania strongly confirm this characteristic. The proletariat attacked police stations, secret police buildings, barracks, courts, prisons, local offices of the government party, warehouses, branches of banks, the houses of the bourgeoisie, commercial centres, businesses... fires aimed at the destruction of centres of repression, capital accumulation, organisation of the counter-revolution... looting gave way to collective appropriation and reappropriation.

Our text on the general characteristics of struggle makes the remark: "The direct occupation of the streets tends to break violently with all the categories into which capital divides proletarians: the narrow confines of the factories, mines or offices smash into pieces. Unemployed, women condemned to housework by capital, elderly people, children... are unified in direct action." As in Burma roughly ten years ago, these barriers were blown apart in Albania and the struggle became generalised to all sectors throughout the country.

The looting was first of all aimed principally at the barracks because the main objective of the movement, as it went from simple protest to insurrectionary uprising, was to be armed. Following this it was aimed at the banks because it was there that their savings had been swallowed. Then, faced with poverty, they went for the food warehouses. Finally, the looting generalised to shops, public buildings and factories, that is to say all the places where commodities of every kind are stored, taking away everything, right up to the walls, beams and roofs.

The text also emphasises the form of an unstoppable conflagration that takes over these revolts, without a quantitative progression of partial struggles before the explosion, a characteristic accompanied by the fact that the old arsenal of social democracy has no effect in the face of the violent and decisive action of the proletariat and that trade unionism is completely incapable of responding by limiting the generalisation of proletarian violence. The reformist framework which normally controls attempts at struggle is rapidly left behind.

In Albania it is notable that policemen and soldiers (except for specialist units and élite troops) refused to fire on proletarians in struggle. It is also remarkable that the turn taken by events created a brilliant element of surprise which was undeniably an obstacle in the way of the rapid mobilisation of the forces of counter-revolution.

There were quite a few attempts to channel the more and more pressing rumbling discontent into peaceful demonstrations and hunger strikes. But these attempts were brutally swept away by the sudden and general explosion of quasi-insurrectional movements. The use of arms became generalised and the armed forces normally sent to put down revolt had to retreat. More than this, many soldiers cast off their uniforms and joined their class brothers and sisters, opening the barracks and contributing to the appropriation of arms.

Another characteristic outlined in the text of August 1995 is the fact that: "These revolts generally break out without precise and explicit aims and rarely put forward anything positive."

In Albania we can see this absence of concrete positive demands, even if the point of departure was the massive financial crookery which had dispossessed the proletariat of its few savings. What was behind all this was a situation which was totally precarious for the proletariat, an ever more acute dispossession of its means of life. In Albania the cause was clear but the rage which expressed itself on that occasion was a rage against poverty in general. Moreover, the way in which this rage was carried by the proletariat into a generalised revolt attacking not just the savings companies but the whole of the structures of the bourgeois State, expresses the much more total dimension taken by the struggle in Albania.

Faced with the bourgeoisie's attack, in the concrete form of financial crookery, what the proletariat did was to say NO! It is a question of an explosion of rage which said NO and demanded back what had been stolen, something which does not constitute a positive demand and is therefore much harder to transform into a reformist proposition. During the whole time of the social conflagration it was characterised by this intransigent NO, and therefore by the absence of concrete positive demands.

It is the bourgeois opposition which, in so far as the proletariat was not able to give the revolt its own objectives, had breathed into the movement the limiting demand for the dismissal of President Berisha, channelling the movement of struggle against the State into a bourgeois policy of replacing one government by another. It is precisely the question of the "resignation of Berisha" which constitutes the passage from the proletarian NO confronting a bourgeois order imposing an increase in misery to a recuperator's YES making itself concrete in the political reform of the bourgeois State. This demand appeared each time more opposed to the proletarian NO and finally supplanted it and even made people forget the question of recovering the money deposited in the banks.

So far the movement in Albania corresponded generally with the characteristics of the struggles of the present period set out in August 1995.

But one characteristic which we stressed was that even in intense and acute moments the power of bourgeois ideology is so strong that it is only a minority which participates in direct action. The situation in Albania was quite obviously different from this.

The taking up of arms and participation in direct action were generalised. It was the same for the settling of accounts with identified members of the SHIK, the sacking of public buildings, town halls, courts, police stations, prisons, the seizure of barracks, looting... While some acted more directly, others, and sometimes many others, acted to prevent the forces of order arriving on the scene of the real action. Proletarians in arms organised themselves to block the roads, organised the defence of their bastions... It is undeniable that in Albania the participation in direct action was not just the act of a minority. It became massive, general.

Our text stressed elsewhere that once it gets over the element of surprise, the bourgeois counter-offensive regains the upper hand and, with a great blow of the bludgeon, makes order return. Here also the situation is notably different.

In Albania the movement went further than most of the confrontations which have happened in the present period (Los Angeles, for example) in arming itself in a generalised fashion and making its struggle last longer than a bolt of lightning in the sombre sky of extreme and general austerity that capital imposes in an ever more crushing fashion across the world. Between the moment when the struggle went beyond the suffocating framework of peaceful demonstrations to become quasi-insurrectional, and the propagation of the movement in the North of the country culminating in the evacuation of Tirana by the bourgeois forces, two weeks of radicalisation and generalisation of the movement had occurred.

But this generalisation took place without the organisation of links between the different areas touched by the movement. The insurrectional movement embraced a third of Albania's territory like a trail of gunpowder. That is to say that it was sufficient for a spark in one place to spread the fire without any other effort, the echo of a victorious battle was sufficient to encourage others to do the same. It is neither the lack of enthusiasm nor of arms which can explain the fact that the insurgents remained cantoned in their respective towns without trying to centralise the struggle. It is once again the lack of perspectives, of the determination of class objectives, which left them in the care of the Committees of Defence, of Safety, of Public Salvation which took charge of links by means of the usual channels which the State always has in place: democratic representations of various bourgeois parties, starting with the Committees of the eight towns then through the organisation of national elections.

As is stressed in the text of August 1995, in Albania the fact was verified that the absence of revolutionary direction allows the bourgeoisie to regain control of the situation.

The bourgeoisie will always deny the class nature of confrontations and by that their internationalist dimension. That is they will do everything to hide the fact that what expressed itself in Albania is a moment of a single global struggle of the proletariat. The danger for the bourgeoisie being precisely that proletarians across the whole world recognise themselves in the struggle of their class brothers and sisters in Albania (and elsewhere) and decide themselves to take up arms against the whole democratic apparatus which has up till now made all the running! What the bourgeoisie say about the events in Albania (like all the others which shake the world) is that they obviously have no link with any of the others. In their eyes these events can only be the result of particularisms.

In this sense the main weakness of the proletariat in Albania finds its source in the present day weakness of the struggles of the world proletariat. To put it another way, the main weakness of the proletariat of that region is its international isolation, the fact that elsewhere the proletariat remains dominated and weak to the point that it is incapable of developing similar actions to those of its class brothers and sisters in Albania. Worse, it was incapable of understanding that it was its own class which was fighting in Albania!

There is another constant in the present day situation. This is the lack of leadership and of revolutionary programme. These are decisive questions in the course of action and are complementary to the absence of international consciousness of the struggle. These two things which are lacking in the world proletariat reinforce each other reciprocally. The tragedy of the proletariat whose struggle in a region goes much further than in the others, is a question which is as much historic as geographical and concerns its program as well as its isolation. In this tragedy converges the lack of theory and of revolutionary direction and the lack of struggle of the proletariat in other regions of the world.

It is thanks to this present day weakness of the world proletariat that the bourgeoisie has been able to isolate "the Albanian question" as a particular issue (as they have done with "the Kurdish question"). Thus the bourgeoisie presents a spectacle of commiseration and compassion and the press talk, in a-classist terms, of "Albanian" (national division gives good results), of "victims" and of "the despair which has lead to such excesses", of "abuses of power", of "parasites on democracy" and of "corrupt enterprises". They put forward particularisms such as the "difficulty of the poorest, most tribal country in Europe, most marked by half a century of Stalinism... to come to terms with freedom and the market economy"... the "difficulty of a people who don't know the taste of work, of effort, of the spirit of sacrifice, well enough... to take on the democratic apprenticeship" (20). Social democracy always defends the coexistence of different modes of production (capitalist, socialist, feudal), different worlds (developed, under-developed, third world, fourth world), different regimes (democratic, totalitarian) so as to blame the "catastrophes", "dramas", "tragedies", "genocides" on a lack of capitalist development and a lack of democracy. Never, of course, are these events related to anything global, fundamental, common; in the explanations of the media none of the present day catastrophes are linked to the nature of this social form of production. It is a question of particular problems which can be attributed to such and such a personality, to such and such an irregularity or bad management. The most important thing for the bourgeoisie is to impose a vision according to which each struggle is the result of something different which has nothing to do with their global system of exploitation. They must prevent proletarians in another part of the world becoming aware that those who struggle are also proletarians. They must prevent them understanding that it is the dictatorship of capital which inevitably exacerbates exploitation and creates poverty and wars, and that it is our struggle, the struggle of proletarians in arms against the state, which will bring about the end of all this inhumanity.

The bourgeoisie even has other particularisms in reserve, to put in place to undermine the ground on which the proletariat in struggle might be able to relaunch itself. Existing events have already allowed them to realign the border conflicts with Greece, permitting the bourgeoisie to play on the Greek nationalist/secessionist sentiment amongst the Greek minority living mostly in the South of Albania (21). As long as the proletariat struggles - a struggle which in its essence is unificatory and destructive of all nationalist sentiment - the bourgeoisie cannot articulate its attack on this level but, as we can see in the propaganda of different factions, they have not moved away from the possibility of using a pro- or anti-Greek sentiment to create separatist movements in the South of Albania in the near future.

Other fractions have launched the idea of an "Ethnic Albania", that is an Albanian state enlarged to Kosovo and Macedonia. They will then try to mobilise the Albanian people in a struggle for national liberation/reunification.

Another bourgeois polarisation that the journalists have put forward to explain the difference in the strength of the movement in the South and in the North is to divide the people of Albania into two big ethnicities: the Guègues in the North and the Tosques in the South (22). Through all these particularisms it is a question for the bourgeoisie of foreseeing class confrontations and enclosing any movement in polarisations whose two poles are bourgeois.

With the first phase of the movement over, commiseration gave way to condemnation of "excesses". All the misery in the world evidently never justifies, in the eyes of the bourgeoisie, proletarians taking up arms. The words which they then used to describe proletarians were no longer "the Albanian poor" but "cannibals", "savages", "drunken louts", "uncontrollables", "gangsters", "Mafia", "criminals", "bandits", "profiteers"... Some journalists and Latin American members of parliament went so far as to say that the situation in Albania was characterised by the presence in the streets of masses of rapists escaped from the prisons. And of course, as we have already stressed, by all these means they try to create an amalgam between the armed actions of the proletariat and the armed actions of fractions of the bourgeoisie defending their particular interests, however much the criteria (ends and means) are completely antagonistic.

By taking control of the situation the bourgeoisie always tries to transform the struggle against the whole of the system into a struggle for reform of institutions, to break the class strength, the links of solidarity, the collective consciousness which develops in the struggle, and to lead proletarians back on to the electoral path. To class strength the ballot box opposes the isolated individual. To collective consciousness, they reimpose a free will which necessarily reproduces the dominant ideology. To direct links between proletarians in struggle outside and against the structures of the bourgeois state, elections reimpose mediation by the ballot paper.

Finally, one last important characteristic that we set out in our text on the characteristics of present day struggles was: the big difference between the strength of proletarian action and the lack of proletarian consciousness of this action.

Despite the scale of the movement and the clarity of the class objectives affirmed in the content of the actions themselves, there did not seem to be any movement of minorities setting out the eminently classist content of these actions which convey all the determinations of the struggle of the proletariat against this deadly system, for the communist revolution. It is obviously difficult to affirm the perspective of communism in a country where exploitation has been carried on for decades in the name of communism. But it is not fundamentally a question of a name. From the revolutionary point of view, what is important is the development of avant-garde minorities which proclaim the revolutionary significance of the movement and its attachment to the world-wide struggle of a proletariat breaking from all the traps of democracy. It is tragic that in Albania these minorities do not exist or do not have in any case sufficient strength to make themselves known and to try to give another direction to the revolt. And this is obviously not a weakness specific to the proletariat in Albania, but a characteristic of the world proletariat which, while it has received so many blows and suffered so many defeats, has not even achieved a minimum of revolutionary internationalist organisation.


While these latter remarks rather underline the limits of the movement, they mustn't make us forget the moments of strength of the struggle of the proletariat in Albania, a struggle which constituted a sudden break in the ocean of social peace. The struggle of the proletariat in Albania reminds us that the real critique of private property and the state, of exploitation, of misery, of war... that is to say of the society of capital, is the proletariat in arms against all the structures of the bourgeois state. This struggle shows that when the proletariat decides to struggle it makes use of a wonderful force which even the army cannot conquer.

Everywhere the producers of all the world's wealth - the proletarians! - allow themselves to be locked up in negootiations with the capitalists whose only essential criteria is that of profitability. Everywhere the democratic traps still lead proletarians by the nose to work or to slaughter. Everywhere we hear: "there's nothing to gain from struggle, nothing will change". And even worse "tragedies", "genocides", "dramas", "catastrophes", sow the seeds of death on all sides. The good citizen still concludes: "that's life"!!!

Proletarians have thus been kept at heel so much over the last few years that their anger has too often remained profoundly hidden (23). So when some of our class brothers and sisters finally let it explode and fight, weapons in hand, against the capitalist State it really warms our hearts.

By the actions which they have taken, proletarians in Albania have expressed what proletarians throughout the entire world feel and, in that, they place themselves in the avant-garde!

The proletariat in Albania has made an echo of what all proletarians carry within them: the struggle against capitalist exploitation, for communism. This echo is such that, for example, in a village in Hungary, the workers in a small construction company who hadn't received their wages marched towards the boss' house shouting: "it's time to do what they did in Albania here!" It was the same in Poland during a demonstration, angry workers chanted: "Albania, Albania!" In other towns in Europe they also shouted: "Vlorë! Vlorë!"

The struggle of the proletariat in Albania has given renewed confidence to the historic strength of the world proletariat.

For struggle outside and against all the structures of the bourgeois State.

Down with private property, money, wage labour, capital!

For the realisation of human needs:

Long live Communism !

* Novembre 1997 *


1. In this sense, yes, both points of view are subjective. But here the comparison ends, because whilst it is in the interest of the bourgeois point of view to hide anything announcing the end of capitalist social order and it is thus logical that it would neglect and hide anything revealing the obituary of its system, the point of view of the proletariat, the point of view of communism, of the historical overtaking of capitalism, has every interest in recognising the objective reality as it is, to unveil the class contradiction which leads to the destruction of the capitalist mode of production. This results in the subjective position of the dominant class leading it to distance itself from objective reality, whereas our subjective position as exploited pushes us to know and to make known the objective reality.

2. Enver Hoxha, historical stalinist leader and President of Albania whose end in 1985 constituted the prelude to the death of "socialism in one country".

3. On this subject read the text "Situation actuelle de la restructuration capitaliste en Russie" [The current situation of capitalist restructuration] in Communisme No.44, December 1996.

4. Each time, the bourgeoisie tries, by way of elections, to turn the anger directed against the very essence of its domination, money, commodities, capital, by exposing one or other party, one or other government to popular condemnation. In March 1991, the electoral comedy gave the Socialist Party (rechristened ex-Stalinist party) the star part. In March 1992, it was the Democratic Party's turn, a new party founded in 1991 by Berisha (also a rechristened ex-Stalinist), to take the leading role in the electoral mascarade.

5. In 1995, the turnover of this trade in "walking meat" of not only Albanian, but also Kurdish, Chinese... origin reached 380 million dollars.

6. These links were extremely personal: a whole series of government and Democratic Party members were linked to these societies.

7. Neighbouring Macedonia went through a similar situation with the collapse of a speculative financial society, the TAT, which ruined thirty thousand savers, to the tune of 80 million dollars. Another example is Russia in 1994, S.Mavredi who, initially possessing just 50 dollars, promised interest rates of 600% per year. He quickly managed thousands of dollars before declaring himself bankrupt and ruining thousands of people. On his release from prison, he got himself elected to the Duma! The oldest example in the memory of the press dates back to 1919 in Boston, USA, where Ch.Ponzi promised rates of 50% in 90 days. He thus collected 20 million dollars, paid out 15 million and pocketed the other 5.

8. Just as they repackage commodities, rethink publicity to sell it better, the old secret police of the Stalinist period, the Sigourimi, were given a new label and a new uniform. A few of the too-well-known leaders were retired out, others reorientated towards employers' militias to watch over the workplaces, cover the workers' assemblies... here was the SHIK ready to recommence its nasty job. Nothing new! History repeats itself all over the world and during every period: when a secret police force has become too well-known for its repressive practice, its name is changed, as are some of its members to enable them to assume their task more effectively. This is particularly useful when they change the form (or rhetoric) of domination and the State requires a bit of a clean-out. In general, the same structure is maintained, the same files, the same buildings, the same methods and they use the same prisons... except, of course, if the proletarian revolt manages to wipe all of this out!

9. On this subject read the articles that we have written at that time: "Pologne: 'Solidarité'... avec l'économie nationale" [Poland: 'Solidarity'... with the national economy] and "Pologne: quelle victoire?" [Poland: what victory?] which were published in Le Communiste No.8 in November 1980; "Pologne: des accords de Gdansk au massacre" [Poland: the Gdansk agreements to massacre], Le Communiste No.12, December 1981 and "Leçons des événements de Pologne" [Lessons of events in Poland] in Le Communiste No.13, March 1982.

10. During the war in Yugoslavia the proletarians of this region engaged in a very important struggle. Read on this subject the article: "Yugoslavia: Imperialist War Against the World Proletariat" in Communism No.9, August 1995.

11. Cf. our articles "About the class struggle in Iraq" in this review: "Additional notes on the insurrection of March 1991 in Iraq" and "Nationalism and islamism against the proletariat"; read also "War or revolution" and "A comrade's testimony: a journey to Iraq" in Communism No.7.

12. We don't want to prejudge here whether minorities have adopted a communist practice which situates them in the historic line of the party, or whether this type of group will develop in the immediate future on the basis of lessons learned. What we have to assert again is the lack of strength of the revolutionary perspective, the small amount of organisation and the absence of revolutionary propaganda proportional to the force and massive scale of the movement in Albania.

13. It should be very clear that we never use the term "revolutionary leadership" in the immediate and restricted sense of a precise collection of people, of a group or a "party". By revolutionary leadership we mean the historic trajectory of the proletariat aiming at the realisation of its revolutionary programme, looking to define the whole of the necessary strategy which it must develop to destroy capitalism, looking to assert the programmatic whole contained in its very existence as the opposition to the society of capital, a programmatic whole which determines every tactic and function of the revolutionary objective: communist society. Thus the movement for the revolutionary destruction of capitalist society can only develop itself in opposition to democracy which is the mode of organisation of capital in all its forms. Cf. our "Theses of Programmatic Orientation". As for people, groups and "parties", if they take on revolutionary leadership it can only be in the historic sense.

14. There are around 400 enterprises between Tirana, Durrës, Lushnjë and Fier. Some are the product of French and German initiatives and capital but the majority are Italian. The most important 120 enterprises constitute a mass of investments of 200 to 250 million dollars and comprise 30,000 jobs. In 1994, for example, the implantation of a bottling industry by Coca-Cola necessitated an investment of 20 million dollars and a hundred workers, in the high season!

15. In exactly the same way that in Italy, the State created a category of a-classist "armed band" with the ultimate aim of condemning class violence! You can read about this subject in: "Italy: the Repression is Reinforced" in Communism No.10, May 1997.

16. On 19 March the Italian government decreed a state of emergency over the whole territory of Italy until 30 June 1997. This involved the reinforcement of controls exercised by the patrolling forces of order not just on the frontiers but across the whole country. The decree also called for the immediate repatriation of those who, linked in one way or another to criminality, were considered to be undesirable ­ a category which, as we know from experience, is extendable to the all proletarians who have taken up arms against the state. The same day, 289 people of Albanian origin and considered dangerous were taken under heavy guard to Tirana on board Italian army helicopters. Others received the status of "refugees" and had the right to a resident's permit for 60 days, extendable to 90 days, the time taken to "normalise" the situation in Albania. Independent of the content of their respective ideologies the collaboration between police forces was total, as always!

17. On 20 March 400 refugees whose boat was on the point of sinking into the Adriatic were led back to the port of Durrës by the Italian army. On 28 March, following an intervention on the high seas by an Italian army motor launch to force a boat full of migrants to change direction, the overfull boat sank, leaving 87 dead and/or disappeared. On 4 May, 1223 migrants who had arrived in the Italian port of Bari piled on board a tanker were returned to Albania. The first group of 180 men was immediately returned under strong escort to Durrës. The boat had been bought for 100,000 dollars and each passenger had paid between 500 and 600 dollars for the trip. The greater is the scale of human misery, the higher is the rate of profit; in this case capital recovered the whole of its investment in a single cycle!

18. We have already stressed the kind of intervention policy of the US state as well as its fundamental orientation. Cf. "L'armée et la politique militaires des Etats-Unis d'Amérique" in Le Communiste No.12 and 13. The Albanian example clearly expresses the understanding of this state, with regards to which action to take when the proletarian struggle attacks the State.

19. The word for polling booth is "isoloir" (isolator) in French!

20. In the present day world you can't talk about the proletariat anymore, or about revolutionary struggle, or about revolt against capitalism and its state but always about the struggle of "Kurds", "Islamists", "employees", "disaster victims", "peasants", "Palestinians", "the starving", "those who are owed 5 months wages", "miners", "Latinos", "the poor", "Basques", "unemployed", "blacks", "students", "Indians", "ecologists"... They use these terms to the point of absurdity to show these situations as anachronistic particularisms due to a lack of capitalism and democracy.

21. The Greek minority represent around 12% of the Albanian population, more than 500,000 people living principally in the villages of Southern Albania. Until 1913 this region was part of Greece and is still called the Empire of the North by Greeks today.

22. Read on this subject the article denouncing the polarisation between Hutus and Tutsis imposed by force by the bourgeoisie in Rwanda and in the surrounding countries: "Les campagnes humanitaires contre le prolétariat, l'exemple du Rwanda" appearing in Communisme No.41.

23. Worse still, the rage caused by all these miseries and fed by the competition intrinsic to bourgeois society is frequently drained towards "the other worker", towards the immigrant, towards the "black"... towards women, children, such and such an ethnic group... then, finally, organised by capitalism and transformed into a racist military force in imperialist war.

Perle of the bourgeoisie

Dear reader, after reading the previous analysis of class struggle in Albania, we would like you now to "savour" some selected extracts from Internationalism No. 98 (May-June 1997), paper of the social-democrat ICC. Remember what this group wrote about Iraq at the very moment that proletarians' insurrection broke out there? "The working class is a minority in Iraq... and possesses almost no historical experience of combat against capital."

Once again, we want to denounce the euroracism of ICC. Blinded by their racist vision that, just as any bourgeois paper, divides the planet into developed and under-developed countries, incapable of differentiating the proletarian struggle of our class brothers from an inter-bourgeois fight, they are unable to understand that Capital is worldwide since at least the 15th century and that in its generalisation, capital eliminated, eradicated all other strata to confront only two classes: proletariat against bourgeoisie everywhere on the planet; giving birth, in the same process, to its grave-diggers.

The perle we reproduce below is another example of the same counter-revolutionary content of ICC.

"Albania ... isn't a country like Somalia or Zaire but is situated close to the heart of Europe, a few dozen kilometres from a developed western country like Italy."

"The riots which turned into an uprising have nothing proletarian about them."

"The Albanian working class is too backward, weak and isolated to have any weight in these events. There has not been one action in which the workers have regrouped or organised as an autonomous force in society. The arming of the proletariat is a fundamental necessity for the revolution, but this can only be done through its specific class organs, the workers councils. In the absence of such an organisation of the working class, the arming of the population can only be manipulated by one or another bourgeois clique, in particular fractions of the army, ex-stalinists or the mafias, and can only result in a bloodbath."

(Extracts from "Decaying capitalism is responsible for the chaos in Albania", published in Internationalism No. 98, May-June 1997)


They talk us about PEACE ...

It is always in the name...

of PEACE... in the Balkans,
of LIBERTY... of the Kosovar or Serbian people,
of HUMANITARIAN AID... towards the "oppressed people",
of humanitarian INTERFERING RIGHT,

... that they prepare us PEACE... of graves!


... they wage WAR against us!


The present massacres are possible, because there is social peace, submission to the dictatorship of money!

Proletarian, don't believe that the diplomatic missions, the humanitarian missions, the missionaries of Vatican,... will be able to stop massacres. To oppose the capitalistic barbarity, the only strengths you can count on are your owns and those of your class brothers.

Against social peace, peace of graves, let's fight against our own bourgeoisie!

Let's oppose to the international union of bourgeoisie, the growing union of internationalist proletarians!

Let's take up the flag of the world revolution again!

Internationalist Communist Group (ICG)

BP 54 - Saint-Gilles (BRU) 3 - 1060 Brussels - Belgium -

About class struggle in Iraq

* * *

We have published several articles describing the insurrections of March 1991 in Iraq, which were written as and when information was able to reach us. Shortly after the end of the Gulf War, we also published in French the text "Prolétariat contre nationalisme" (Communisme No.36) in which, from a distance of just over a year, we tried to draw the lessons from these struggles.

From an even greater distance, we are now returning to this question with some supplementary notes centred on the lessons of the insurrection and articulated principally around three axes: the contradictory development of workers' associationism in the appearance of the shoras, the strengths and limits of the insurrectionary actions of the proletariat, new inter-bourgeois wars in the region and the tasks of the proletariat. These notes have been taken from our central review in Spanish (Comunismo No.35) which appeared in October 1994. Since then, other information has reached us about the development of nationalism and Islamism as means put in place by the local bourgeoisie to dissolve the proletariat and to lead even those who fought side by side in the insurrection to turn their guns against each other. This information has been assembled in a text which follows "Additional Notes..." that we have entitled "Nationalism and Islam against the Proletariat".

We want to draw our readers' attention in particular to the lessons arising from the insurrection in Sulaymaniyah. What was at stake - as in all insurrections of our class throughout history - was how to develop the revolution in alll aspects of social life once the insurrection had been accomplished and how to avoid the confiscation of the social revolution by its transformation into a simple political "revolution", a simple change of government.

What happened in Iraq does not only show the reality of the contradiction capitalism/communism, but also its future. Capitalist inhumanity is developing everywhere. Everywhere war presents itself as an alternative to the real capitalist crisis. And everywhere the outline of a communist response to this and to all capital's barbarism is beginning to appear. This point is aimed at all those who think that "civilised" Europe will be forever spared the barbarism of war which swept across this part of the world only fifty years ago. It is useful to point out that the alternative "war or revolution" is the same everywhere and that the threat of Europe being transformed into a huge battlefield is just as real as that hanging over other parts of the world so far spared by military conflicts. "Here" too, the war waged by capital on the proletariat must develop to the destructive intensity with which it was conducted "over there" in Iraq. "Here" too, the only possible way to break the chains of this deathly system, which drags us ineluctably to war, remains the struggle for revolution.

Discussion of the lessons from the insurrection in Iraq are situated within this urgency. We appeal to our readers to share their opinions and critiques with us on this particular question, to enable us to develop together a community of struggle against war, the prefiguration of a real human community where Capital, the State, classes and social relations based on exchange and money have finally disappeared.

Read "Additional notes on the insurrection of March 1991 in Iraq"

Read "Nationalism and islamism against the proletariat"

... Read also ...

"Massacre in Halabja"
Communism No.6
"War or revolution"
Communism No.7
"A comrades' testimony: A journey to Iraq!"
Communism No.7
"Direct action and internationalism"
Communism No.8

Additional notes on the insurrection of March 1991 in Iraq

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Some notes on the shoras: proletarian associationism and bourgeois recuperation

The shoras in Iraq, like all types of elementary regroupment of the proletariat, are a necessary form of the process of centralisation of the proletariat's force. They suffer from all the contradictions that our class contains within itself as a class and as a force antagonistic to capital yet dominated ideologically by the bourgeoisie. Take, for example, the Soviets in Russia. In 1905 as in 1917, they constituted structures of proletarian struggle contributing to the insurrection without making, either in 1905 or twelve years later, the necessary ruptures from the terrain of bourgeois democratic socialism and without making themselves independent of the political organisations which led them. This assured that, in the end, they were completely recuperated by the capitalist and democratic organisation of the State, under the reign of leninism and post-leninism. Apologists for the Soviets always forget, as if by magic, that the Congress of Soviets approved and implemented every level of Stalin's policies. The same thing happened in Germany with the workers' councils between 1918 and 1921. Having effectively emerged as structures of struggle outside and against the unions, the councils ended up no less dominated by bourgeois democracy, incarnated in various social democratic forces and transformed themselves into structures for the organisation of the bourgeois State against the proletariat.

In Iraq as well (just as in Iran between 1979 and 1982) the shoras, rising out of the flames of the struggle, contained enormous contradictions, the class oppositions between revolution and counter-revolution being defined within them. This is why, contrary to the councilists and the sovietists who make an uncritical apology of the shoras, we have tried, in this process, to seize upon the strengths and weaknesses of the proletariat by supporting and acting openly to assert the revolutionary pole.

As we can see from their slogans and flags, the shoras concentrated the same type of strengths and weaknesses as the councils, the soviets and other proletarian organisations characteristic of insurrectionary moments. Side by side with democratic, nationalist and even openly conservative demands, are slogans expressing the combativity, strength and class determination of workers in struggle.

The shoras were structured within and for the struggle. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean that they appeared in a spontaneous manner, as is always claimed by the adherents of spontaneism and councilism. Historic spontaneous necessity, as in the case of the Russian soviets or the councils in other countries, always concretises itself in the real flesh and blood men and women who organise these structures in a conscious and deliberate way. As we will show later, the appearance of the shoras was preceded by a "league" or committee formed from a insurrectionist minority organised to prepare for insurrection.

Some elements of the revolutionary conspiracy and the insurrection in Sulaymaniyah

While proletarians prepared themselves, armed themselves, in the various districts of Sulaymaniyah, a collection of militants who had regrouped prior to the open struggle in a "League for an Insurrectionary Uprising" called for the creation of shoras in neighbourhoods and factories. A real committee of insurrection was thus constituted, thanks to which a unified decision was able to be made to unleash the insurrection at a precise moment. The committee was composed of a collection of existing political organisations as well as independent militants. It planned the outbreak of the insurrection simultaneously in 53 nerve centres of the town (key crossroads, buildings and central points of neighbourhoods) which afterwards became the basis of the shoras. At that time, the nationalists did not participate as such in the committee and did not flaunt themselves in any of the centres of the insurrectionary neighbourhoods.

Only a minority of proletarians was armed and organised, and that is why the committee launched a set of appeals and directives to seize arms where they could be found. At the same time, a collection of revolutionary organisations assumed the indispensable role of arming themselves and arming the proletariat. "Communist Perspective", for example, gave themselves the task of distributing grenades, guns and ammunition at key points as well as arming some members of the committee. Other groups, such as the "Communist Action Group" (CAG), who participated in the committee as well as in various local structures and in the shoras, gave themselves the task of expropriating the clan chiefs of their houses and their armed centres so as to seize arms and to arm the proletariat. Without this preliminary conspiratorial action of the organised avant-garde, it would not have been possible to win the insurrectional battle of March 1991 in Sulaymaniyah.

This is what a comrade told us:

"The proletariat searched desperately for arms but only the communist, marxist forces armed the proletariat and decided on insurrection. The nationalists did not participate. As for us, we organised ourselves into groups to attack the houses of the clan chiefs. In general each detachment only had one bazooka and some light weapons. The attack began with the bazooka and we tried to seize the stockpiles of arms as quickly as possible. We had made an inventory quite a long time beforehand and that's how we knew where to look for arms. Another important aspect of the preparation carried out by revolutionary groups had been to make a collection of field 'hospitals' available to the insurrection for tending to the wounded."
Despite all that, the organisation and arming remained insufficient, which, in certain cases, was paid for on the part of the proletariat by deaths and injuries and by partial defeats.

Another comrade gave us his version:

"I only realised that preparations were being made for insurrectional action two days beforehand, when a revolutionary comrade gave me various precise instructions: I had to go to a particular place between 7 and 8 am, armed as best I could be. When I arrived at the gathering there were only seven of us. At that moment I told myself that we could not win. Later on, I heard that the majority of the committee had launched the insurrection also thinking that it would not be able to triumph but that in any case it would be an important step forward in the struggle and the autonomy of the proletariat. A moment later, two comrades from 'Rawti' ('Communist Perspective') appeared, calling on us to gather together for the insurrection. They distributed some grenades. Together we went around the nearby streets calling for struggle and in an instant we had gathered together some 50 or 60 people. It was at that time that two well-armed peshmergas arrived. The insurgents appealed to them and shouted out to them to join us in the movement but they didn't (1). Despite being a small group and completely inferior from the point of view of weapons, we attacked the local barracks, but it was too well protected. We fled, were repulsed and then pursued. Our comrade Bakery Kassab, a militant of Communist Perspective, died during this attack. We dispersed in a completely disorderly manner and ran as fast as we could. The enemy, better armed, chased us and we were surrounded until we arrived on the main street. As soon as we got there, a great surprise awaited us: the insurrection had gained ground and now it was the Ba'athists who were retreating."
These facts, along with so many others that various comrades and organisations of struggle have reported, enable us to assert that despite the existence of this insurrectional committee, initially the driving force behind, then centraliser, of the shora structures, real centralisation remained very relative. There were enormously chaotic aspects to it and many proletarian fighters went out into the streets with whatever they had to hand, without any structure of centralisation apart from what they "spontaneously" encountered in the street, without any instructions apart from that a friend had told them to go to such and such a place. Detachments of armed proletarians formed themselves very rapidly to carry out some action then dispersed again: often comrades on the same side of the barricades who had not known each other previously forged strong links and, after the insurrection, went on to a structure of political organisation. It is precisely the existence of all those heterogenous action groups participating in different actions which prevents a global understanding of the movement: there are no two protagonists who have experienced the same situation and even less who have perceived it politically in the same way. Thus for example, certain versions strongly stress the operational autonomy of little groups centralised by different combative structures (Communist Perspective, GAC...) as a decisive element of the insurrection, and others insist more on the strength of some 30,000 proletarians (only a few of whom had a weapon) who responded to a call from a shora and gathered in their "headquarters", the Awat school. According to the latter, the assembly was to prove decisive in dynamising the whole process because they went on from there to win important battles. To give an idea of the consciousness which drove these proletarians (as much in its strength as in its weakness) here are a few of the slogans which predominated in the assemblies:

"Class consciousness is the weapon of freedom!"

"Here are our headquarters, the rank and file of the workers' councils"

"Make the shoras your base for long term struggle!"

"Form your own councils!"

"Bring expropriated food and goods, we will distribute them here!"

"Exploited people, revolutionaries, lets give our blood for the success of the revolution! Carry on! Don't squander it!"

Despite the contradictions, the insurrection went on to impose itself, the repressive forces suffering numerous losses in several confrontations. Often they were liquidated in their own homes. In an attempt to save their own skins, the enemy concentrated themselves in the famous "red building" and the surrounding barracks, and it was there that an immense battle raged with numerous losses on both sides. The insurgents attacked without any unified plan, firing in all directions, wounding and killing numerous fighters in their own ranks (ours!).

The security forces were well aware that to surrender would mean death. They also had everything to play for, knowing perfectly well that, despite being armed to the teeth, their task would be difficult. Up until the last moment they remained in permanent communication with Baghdad which promised the imminent arrival of reinforcements. Profiting from the terrible lack of weapons on the side of the insurgent proletariat, the soldiers threw guns from the windows of the red building. Hundreds and hundreds of proletarians threw themselves forward to grab them, thus making themselves easy targets for the shots of well-armed and well-positioned troops. This increased the number of victims on the side of the insurrection even further (2).

However, the rage and determination of the proletariat was so great that finally resistance was crushed and it took over the whole town. Step by step, the "red building", all the barracks and the houses in the military quarter were conquered. On the facades of buildings the marks and holes left by bullets bear testimony to the class war. Soldiers surviving the attack were taken out one by one and judged. Today some comrades estimate a figure of 600 soldiers shot, others say 2,000, but without doubt they are including executions which took place over those days across the whole of the town.

It is important to understand that it is at the heart of the action, in these very moments when proletarians are carrying out exemplary acts, that the struggle for the autonomy of the movement is played out. In effect, despite the fact that during all this time the nationalists did not participate in the process in an organised manner, the insurgents could not do without them, even less confront them openly as demanded by the revolutionary internationalist nuclei of the region. Thus, the fact that certain proletarian fighters went and consulted the bosses of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in the mountains about what they should do with captured soldiers and torturers, clearly reflects and expresses the contradictions of the movement and the ambivalence of the shoras. Noshirwan, the military chief of the PUK, insisted that the enemy should not be executed, arguing that "we can use them later" (!?!). Similar events took place subsequently, illustrating the ambivalence of some of the shoras. The proletariat's lack of confidence in itself incited it to ask its worst enemies to take decisions and to direct operations. Several sectors of the proletariat, unaware of their own strength, looked to the official opposition because to them it seemed serious and effective. Other members of the shoras adopted the exact opposite position: they wanted to kill the soldiers and drag their bodies through the streets so that everyone will know "the kind of torture that these bloodthirsty monsters are capable of inflicting on proletarians". Finally, except for certain torturers famous for their cruelty who were torn to pieces by the insurgents, pure and simple liquidation imposed itself, but not without problems and stormy discussions on the subject of who deserved to die. In effect, as in many other towns in Kurdistan, the Ba'athist repressive forces had lived concentrated in their districts: they had tortured there, killed there... and, just a few yards away, the torturers' families slept, ate and lived. They were so hated that they couldn't live elsewhere. What's more, the majority of families of the torturers (particularly the women) participated in the tortures. The buildings (the central block, the interrogation rooms, the family houses, the torture centres) were laid out in such a way that it is difficult to imagine that anyone could live there without participating in some way or another in the torture and murder of prisoners. When proletarians took over these places, they didn't waste time discussing or judging, the class hatred was such that some groups executed all those that they found inside without any criteria apart from the physical barrier. But, in the majority of cases, more class criteria were imposed. Thus, in Sulaymaniyah, children and some women who had not participated in tortures and executions of prisoners were spared. They were allowed to leave the building before the massive execution of military torturers and their family accomplices.

The insurrection spread itself like a lighted gunpowder trail, with similar uprisings breaking out in other towns being equally successful. In Irbil, 42 shoras were created and, in only three hours of fighting, armed proletarians became masters of the situation. Then came Kalar, Koya, Shaqlawa, Akra, Duhok, Zakho... The barracks close to the towns, like the enormous military installations of Sulaymaniyah, strategic centre of the whole region, were surrounded by deserters and other armed proletarians. The central forces succeeded in saving a few army officers by taking them away in helicopters. The rest, the mass of soldiers, surrendered without a fight and the majority passed over to the side of the insurrection.

The limits of proletarian activity and the counter-revolutionary activity of the nationalists

If the level of consciousness, organisation and centralisation of the proletariat was sufficient to bring about the triumph of the insurrection, the same was not the case when it came to assuming the essence of revolution, knowing how to organise everyday life and to impose itself dictatorially against capital in places where it had triumphed. As in other historic circumstances in which the constitution of the proletariat into a party is insufficient and not well centralised in a communist direction, in Kurdistan, bourgeois forces took over the leadership of the action, liquidating the autonomy of the proletariat and ended up by expropriating the revolution so as to transform it into a bourgeois "revolution" (an exclusively political "revolution"), or rather, into an anti-revolution, a face-lift for the State facade, a changing of the fractions in power in order to preserve the essence of the system of exploitation.

The nationalists only began to participate actively in the direct action with an effective presence on the streets two or three days after the victory of the insurrection. Their first acts consisted of taking money from the banks and seizing military vehicles, occupying buildings and other properties abandoned by the government, which proletarians had taken and then also abandoned (3). This abandonment of premises, of heavy artillery, of vehicles... showed that, although capable of fighting against an enemy, the proletariat did still not have the strength to fight for itself, to take over the direction of the revolution which it had started. To put it another way, our class expressed its conception of revolution: a purely negative negation of today's world, a simple rejection, a simple negation, without asserting that the revolutionary negation of this world contains a positive negation. The proletariat has the force to expropriate but not the force to reappropriate what it has expropriated nor to transform it in a revolutionary way towards its universal revolutionary objectives. As in Russia in 1917, politicism constitutes a dominant ideology even amongst the most committed proletarians. They know what to do against the Ba'athists but when it is a question of socially confronting capital, they are lost. This general limitation results from a confusion (widespread in our class) which systematically amalgamates the State and the Ba'athists, the struggle against capital and the struggle against the government. This generalised confusion that communist and internationalist fractions did not have the force to liquidate was preciously maintained and developed by the nationalists. It is still very useful to them today.

Once the nerve centres of the town had been occupied, the heavy artillery and the military vehicles controlled by the nationalists, the rest was just a matter of time. Over a few days (between the 7 and 20 March) the nationalists, who up until then had hardly been present and had "followed" the masses, progressively took control of the situation. The revolutionary groups and the most active proletarians were incapable of giving and taking-on clear military directives. They did not know what to do with the barracks, tanks and military vehicles. They made do with arming themselves with ammunition and light weapons and, at the best, burning vehicles to prevent the nationalists from taking them. Not only did they fail to give themselves the means of controlling the production and distribution of the necessities of life, but they didn't even stock up with the indispensable minimum of food, medicines, means of propaganda etc.

On their arrival in the town the nationalists appealed for the dissolution of the shoras, but did not obtain any result. Later, from a position of strength, after taking the strategic points, they made use of the much more effective method of negotiation and wearing down the proletariat. Although, as we saw earlier, there were shoras dominated or strongly influenced by democratic and nationalist positions, the Central organ of the shoras, despite the participation of bourgeois parties and organisations, defined itself as being "for communism", for "the abolition of wage labour" and came out openly against the nationalists.

Little by little, as they structured their effective power over the town with the support and blessing of the intervention forces of the world bourgeoisie, the nationalists, who had still not succeeded in destroying the shoras, attempted to take them over by integrating their militants in them and imposing their own bourgeois leadership. It was at that time that a collection of shoras which were nationalist, social-democratic, populist and partisans of the great popular front against Saddam Hussein appeared for the first time.

At the same time, the nationalists, wanting to shatter the force expressed by the Central shora, proposed negotiations which were to lead it to the tragedy of all assemblist-democratic functioning and place it in the position of being incapable of adopting a single revolutionary direction. The Central was divided: on one side, there were those who considered the nationalists as enemies and who were opposed to all negotiation; on the other, those who accepted negotiation and who concentrated a collection of confusion and inconsistencies on the question of nationalism, embracing the ideology of a great anti-Ba'athist popular front.

It is clear that the problem is not whether to negotiate or not. However, the acceptance of negotiation with the nationalists against the Ba'athists in such circumstances contains, as an implicit and undeniable presupposition, the ideology of the lesser evil and, ultimately, frontism. In fact "realism" triumphed, leading to the bulk of the movement renouncing its own interests. From the moment when negotiation was accepted, two decisive elements in the liquidation of the autonomy and interests of the proletariat imposed themselves. Firstly, the fact of considering Saddam as the main enemy and Kirkuk as an essential objective and, secondly, the necessity for order against chaos.

As the proletariat had been unable to impose its law, proletarian resistance and even expropriations necessary for survival came to be considered as a form of chaos, such that the nationalists were able to present themselves (and were perceived) as the only guarantee of the maintenance of order. Immediately the peshmergas began to enforce respect for capitalist order and bourgeois property. They arrested proletarians who "stole" a sack of rice to eat, and, discreetly, disarmed isolated proletarians (at that time the peshmergas had neither the strength nor the courage to interfere with internationalist groups).

Here we must make an important digression on the subject of the war to take Kirkuk. From the start of the insurrection in Sulaymaniyah, the nationalists penetrated in force the Central shora, not merely submitting to it, but formally taking over its leadership, obviously using the proletarians who placed themselves under their orders as cannon fodder. Working on the basis that, for proletarians, the extension of the revolt and solidarity with the recently formed shoras in Kirkuk was a logical objective, the nationalists pursued a completely different aim. It was a question partly of submitting the proletariat to a structured war, attacking the Ba'athist positions in a town where they were the best prepared military force, and partly a question of taking a strategic role in imperialist war, by occupying this petroleum centre of prime importance, something which would augment their power of negotiation nationally and internationally. For us this constituted a key moment in the transformation of the class war into imperialist war. From the taking of Kirkuk the nationalists negotiated openly with the Ba'athists under the benevolent eye of the Coalition forces. For the first time they were recognised as a credible force, not just because they territorially controlled a capitalist centre as important as Kirkuk, but also because, for the first time, they appeared capable of contesting the proletariat's control of the situation in the insurgent towns, thus to be an effective fraction of international bourgeois order, capable of controlling the proletariat, the central preoccupation of the Coalition at the end of the war.

Of course, some shoras, like those of "Communist Perspective" and others in which the presence of internationalist militants was important, tried to participate in the action in a autonomous way, but the nationalists rapidly gained the upper hand. Taking over everything, it was they who held the money, the meeting halls, the indispensable heavy weapons, the medicines and other equipment for treating the wounded, and therefore the material force to impose their orders. Many internationalist comrades reproached "Communist Perspective" and other groups for not having completely broken with the shoras at that moment and for having continued to participate in the committee. It was a key moment in which the programmatical weaknesses of the avant-garde groups of the region were borne out. As some of them were to recognise subsequently, it was not enough to define Kurdish nationalism and the Shi'ite muslim movement as bourgeois social movements, it was also necessary to correctly evaluate the possibility of these forces imposing themselves. It was as indispensable to confront them in daily practical activity as it was the Ba'athists.

We cannot help making a historical parallel between the situation in Iraq in 1991 and what happened in Spain in 1936 after the triumph of 19 July. In both cases the proletarian insurrection triumphed over part of the territory of a country, starting in a key town (Barcelona-Sulaymaniyah), leaving the rest of the country in the hands of the "fascist" fraction (Franco-Saddam). In both cases the proletariat armed itself and confronted this "fascist" enemy by acting outside and against the populist and democratic organisations ("Communist" republicans, social democrats... and in general the whole parliamentary spectrum of the bourgeoisie) without managing to impose its own class dictatorship. In both cases the proletariat triumphed militarily, creating its own unitary class organisations (committees of workers, peasants, soldiers and sailors - shoras), and its victory was prepared byy conspiratorial and avant-garde military action by revolutionary groups that had been constituted a long time before ("Solidarios", "Nosotros"... "Communist Perspective", CAG, SSFA...). Nevertheless, equally in both cases, the proletariat, incapable of assuming its dictatorship socially, found itself paralysed at the moment of its triumph by the absence of revolutionary direction in the most programmatical and practical sense of the word: it did not know which direction to take. Situating itself clearly against the counter-revolution in its most open forms in order to crush it, it was incapable (despite all the talk and the flags) of acting practically for social revolution. In both cases the "fascist" enemy continued the war and the republican enemy, profiting from the lack of social initiative by the proletariat, stroked it gently (as you might stroke a pig to calm it down before slitting its throat) and invited it to negotiations to form an alliance in a war against "the main enemy". Support for this popular war in which republicans and democrats were recognised as allies (that is to say imperialist war) encountered enormous proletarian resistance. But in both cases there was another element. This element enabled a significant fraction of the majority of the proletarian forces to become engaged in a struggle against "fascists", which immediately took on the form of a war with a front (adapted to imperialist war and totally inappropriate for the development of social revolution). It also enabled the republicans to present themselves as indispensable in winning the battle, at the very moment when they were strengthening their positions in the rest of the country against the autonomy of the proletariat. This element was, in both cases, a town (highly symbolic for historical reasons). A town in which the revolutionary proletariat waged a desperate battle against an enemy superior in arms. In Spain in 1936 this was Saragossa. It was for Saragossa, in the interminable battle for its reconquest, that the struggle at the rear against the bourgeois republic was sacrificed and that a large part of the best forces - in the sense of class autonomy - of the proletariat was wasted. In Iraq iin 1991 that town was Kirkuk. Not only did the proletarian shoras give their best forces to win this battle, but it was also thanks to this battle that the nationalists marked an important step (at the front as at the rear) in the consolidation of the anti-Saddam front.

The present situation and perspectives: New inter-bourgeois wars in the region and the tasks of the internationalist proletariat

All the information which has come out of Iraq in 1995/1996/1997/... indicates that the material, social and political situation of the proletariat continues to worsen. Growing poverty, isolation, repression, permanent military mobilisation, armed struggle between bourgeois fractions, forced recruitment and all the rest. Survival is a matter of chance and everyone is subjected to permanent danger. Every day proletarians are killed by stray bullets or in confrontations between bourgeois fractions. To survive you sell your furniture, your crockery, everything you have. The problem is that there are no buyers. What's more, it is not unusual for the peshmergas responsible for maintaining order to want one of the objects on sale and to have the seller thrown in prison so as to confiscate it legally.

In Kurdistan the situation is hellish: lack of food, shortage of water, a violent deterioration in the level of hygiene. The fear of looting has unleashed open warfare between bourgeois fractions, between nationalists and between some fractions of the PUK and the islamists.

The conflicts between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) are at such an explosive point that Kurdistan is actually divided into two regions which are on a war footing. For the first time in history the two regions have become an arena of political rivalry. The development of regionalism, as everywhere, constitutes a force for the disorganisation of proletarian struggle. So today, on one side there is Soran with Sulaymaniyah as its "capital", controlled by the PUK (Talabani) and on the other, Badinan (region of origin of Barzani's family) where Zakho and Duhok are under the control of the KDP. Arbil is the only town which is under the simultaneous and contradictory control of the two bourgeois forces, also constituting a border between the two regions.

The inter-bourgeois struggle takes on very violent forms. The two fractions of capital try to mobilise the proletariat into their service and to channel all class contradictions, which would normally develop against private property and the State, in its direction. One example: after the war, many inhabitants of Sulaymaniyah and other towns in the region departed for the countryside where they settled to build farms and cultivate the soil. This land belonged to big bourgeois families (in this case to Barzani's KDP (4)) who now want to take back the land and expel the occupants. But some decided to refuse to be expelled, organising and defending themselves, with guns at the ready. The fighting led to many deaths on both sides. The PUK, profiting from this situation, presented itself as the spokesman of the struggle against the KDP's intended expulsions and, on this basis, contained (and/or tried to contain) this elementary struggle for survival by attempting to lead it onto the terrain of interfractional warfare. Nevertheless, the conflict created contradictions on both sides. For example, during the armed conflict, Talabani, who was in Holland at the time, did not dare to return to Kurdistan from fear of being done in, including by his own troops.

The route to Soran was blocked by the KDP for two months on the pretext of war. The direct consequence of this was that supplies stopped coming into the region, the shops emptied and people died of hunger. Movement between the two zones was difficult and dangerous because, despite the fact that the frontier had been officially opened a short while before, the situation remained so explosive that people from Soran no longer risked venturing into the Badinan region and vice versa. There were dozens of ceasefires and peace treaties but the confrontations didn't stop. Officially, the number of deaths in these battles is estimated at 2,500. The various headquarters of the KDP in the Soran region were attacked and pillaged by the PUK and vice versa in Badinan.

Daily life turned into a nightmare: while skirmishes increased between the KDP and the PUK, prices tripled every three months. This hell pushed many people to enrol with the peshmergas so that they would be assured of food and money three or four times a month, as well as the authorisation to keep the arms in their possession, arms which, if they were not used against their own officers, enabled these peshmergas to defend their own lives.

For quite a while now, neither the KDP nor the PUK have been able to control their troops. They have become autonomous and are imposing the law of the jungle to survive: they have invented new taxes and indulge in all sorts of extortion in the name of their organisation without informing it. Thus, in Arbil, the peshmergas plundered the shops in broad daylight, which had nothing to do with the official policies of the KDP or the PUK. It has been a common practice and people have to defend their homes with guns at the ready.

Nevertheless, when elections were announced for March 1995, the two main bourgeois fractions in Kurdistan tried to reorganise their troops in the face of the enemy. At the same time, they tried to improve their relations with the Western bourgeoisie and competed for the support of the American State Department as well as various parts of the Western military apparatus. The two parties oscillated between aggressive and peaceful policies, depending on their respective capacity to control the proletariat and on the state of their relations with the forces of the world imperialist order. Thus, at one point, Barzani declared himself in favour of peace, of reuniting families, of respect for trade and of arriving at a compromise which would allow elections to be held and thus appeared to stand for Kurdish national reconciliation. Talabani, although even less able to control his own troops, undoubtedly appreciated the bourgeoisie's incapacity of offering a viable alternative to proletarian struggle more clearly (a bourgeoisie who only saw the possibility for social peace in the repolarisation of the bourgeoisie and in war) and presented himself more as a partisan of a military solution, as much against Barzani as against the Ba'athists. He talked openly about a military offensive and of the occupation of Kirkuk. But, as we have said several times before, it is absurd to talk of one fraction of the bourgeoisie being more aggressive, more militarist or more imperialist than another. It is Capital that is militarist and aggressive and, generally, the fraction which is strongest on the military plain, obtains the best results on that terrain and makes the other fraction appear to be the most militarist (as happened in the "Second" World War). It is no great surprise that the fraction which made a qualitative leap in the hostilities found itself relatively isolated on the international plane (5) and strategically rather weak in controlling its own forces and imposing its interests. (Despite various rumours that circulate to the effect that someone or other "is supported by the CIA", it is difficult to know what the alliances and engagements actually are because they are shrouded in the greatest secrecy).

Local wars, blockades, hunger and state terrorism are the main perspectives that capitalism continues to offer in the region. All fractions of the bourgeoisie, be they Islamists, Nationalists, Ba'athists or whatever, implored the population to respect the lorries filled with supplies coming from Turkey and crossing Kurdistan every day in the direction of Baghdad. There is nothing more logical than their getting together to deprive the proletariat of all property, including what is necessary for survival. But fortunately, there are always proletarians who stick two fingers up at such orders and confront sacrosanct Private Property. The following is a real and exemplary story which dates back to 1993. Not far from Sulaymaniyah, on a road which passes close to a remote district, several supply lorries had been attacked and pillaged. In an attempt to put a stop to these attacks, the authorities sent a number of delegations charged with renewing dialogue to stop the looting. One after the other, each attempt failed. Later the organised sectors who had carried out these expropriations took things a step further and declared that, from that day on, they would, for their subsistence, systematically seize one out of every three lorries. The nationalists from Sulaymaniyah sent one of their most popular leaders, who had distinguished himself in the struggle against the Ba'athists, his mission being to find a solution with the people of the district. When he presented himself there, surrounded by bodyguards, he was shot at. One of his guards lost his life, two others were wounded and the district continued to pillage one lorry in three to ensure its subsistence.

Attacks on lorries, taking supplies from depots, expropriations from shops and other forms of pillage, along with social explosions, attacks on local officials, the expropriation of humanitarian organisations, strikes and violent demos are still common currency today. There are also small armed bands all over the place who attack the property of the bourgeoisie in the region.

For groups of militants defined by internationalism, a period of splits, of the drawing up of balance sheets, of new convergences, of clarification etc, began quite a while ago, resulting in a permanent change which is impossible to summarise. The fusions which gave birth to the Workers' Communist Party, for example, were made on the basis of important programmatical rejections by structures or fractions of organisations which, up until then, had converged and had been incapable of offering a revolutionary alternative to the imperialist war which was developing between the Kurdish nationalist fractions: their meeting places emptied and the militants of these groups dispersed.

Added to the ever greater difficulty of acting publicly, the permanent insecurity of travel, the breakdown of communications, is the need to draw a balance sheet and a self-critique of numerous errors. The most interesting revolutionary nuclei with the most internationalist perspectives have, in this phase, dedicated the best part of their strength to the formation and realisation of a balance sheet of struggle, theoretical discussion, as well assuming the difficult task of maintaining international contacts. It is clear that this process also conceals dispersion, isolation, discouragement and disorganisation. Many comrades are trying to leave the region (which is very difficult because those who have escaped the repressive forces of the nationalists in Kurdistan are not able to "disappear" in neighbouring countries: in Turkey and Iran being a "Kurd" is enough to be considered suspect and subversive by the police) but this has not prevented a handful of comrades from remaining in contact and ensuring that the ever important tasks of publishing manifestos and revolutionary tracts against war continue (especially the group "Proletarian Struggle", ex-"Communist Action Group" as well as our ICG comrades on the spot). They have managed to make the theses and positions of our group known in the region, in Kurdish as well as Arabic, despite all the falsifications and provocations of which we have been the target (6).

Finally, it is indispensable to insist on the critical situation of internationalist comrades in the region. Critical because of poverty, the difficulty in doing any activity, of communicating, of resisting disarmament, but also because of the difficulty in expressing, counter-current to the polarisations based on new inter-bourgeois wars, a revolutionary and internationalist solution.

It is these comrades themselves who call on us to act. We must take up internationalist action against our own bourgeoisie wherever we find ourselves. We must put the best of our effort into diffusing this extraordinary example of the proletariat in Kurdistan, disintegrating an army, killing soldiers, assassins and torturers. They are so determined to hide what happened in Iraq in March 1991, because the bourgeoisie of the whole world trembles with fright at the idea that it could happen somewhere else.

Our task is to make the revolution develop everywhere so as to prevent the bourgeoisie from isolating the struggle to one country as they have in the past, so that quantitatively as well as qualitatively we will go further, and the proletariat of all countries will fight against its own bourgeoisie and destroy its strongholds, blow up police stations, open up the prisons, destroy the army and the police, execute the torturers and, above all, take the communist revolution in hand, seizing all power in society, all the means of production to destroy wage labour, commodities, social classes, the State... and finally, to wipe out this prison world of poverty, of misery, of war... to constitute a real WORLD HUMAN COMMUNITY.


1. As we have already made clear on other occasions, "peshmerga" means fighter, guerilla. Here it is clearly a question of two proletarians enroled by the nationalist forces who, like a great majority of the peshmergas, took advantage of the disorganisation of the Ba'athists to come down from the nearby mountains where they were staying to visit their families.

2. We are once again taking the opportunity to spit in the faces of all the anti-terrorists and "anti-substitutionists" who are opposed to the prior arming and indispensable clandestine preparation of the insurrection. It is they who are to blame for this kind of massacre in our ranks. The less firepower the insurrection has, the less centralised its direction, and the more dead, wounded and maimed there will be in its ranks.

3. Only the "red building", doubtless because of the memories it carried, was not occupied at the time. In the following months it was transformed into housing for homeless families.

4. This was the wrong way round in our Spanish text. What should have been attributed to the PUK was attributed to the KDP and vice versa. This has been corrected in the French translation and in this one.

5. This continues to be the case with Saddam and the Ba'athists.

6. Tracts have been distributed and positions expressed on the radio and on television in the name of the Internationalist Communist Group, pretending that we support some party in the elections or some position in favour of national self-determination. All these positions are in complete antagonism with our programmatical theses, leaving no doubt that these accusations aim to spread doubt and confusion. Our comrades have information indicating that, in some cases, important nationalist figures, direct enemies (programmatic and personal) of internationalist militants, were directly involved in spreading these falsifications.

Nationalism and islamism against the proletariat

* * *

As history shows us, the more the bourgeoisie speaks of peace, the more important the competition to which they abandon themselves to drown any revolutionary uprisings in blood. It is this very scenario that the bourgeoisie applied when faced with the proletarian forces coming out of the uprisings of March 1991 in Iraq. Despite having suffered a few vicious setbacks since then, the proletariat is still managing locally to mark out a continuity in its refusal to submit to the State. This situation of permanent resistance constitutes an important factor in the destabilisation of the social order which makes the difficulties of capitalist restructuring more and more intolerable, not only on the regional level but also for the whole of the world State.

Since then, the State has been rushing to launch all its forces (UN, KDP, PUK, Islamists) on the proletariat and its struggles, profiting from the lack of organisation of our class. This offensive has taken the form of:

Proletarians being disarmed of any tools of combat - their guns as well as their class organisation. In parallel with this the State has reinforced the presence of all the institutions indispensable for the maintenance of social peace (nationalist police, new bourgeois parties...) to defend its order, its national economy and its society.

The material preparation necessary for sending proletarians back to work. Merely re-opening factories was not enough, it was also necessary to put proletarians in a situation of deplorable poverty, of famine for them to finally accept a return to work, so as to be exploited even more than before and to have to give their blood for the national economy.

The submission of proletarians to the spirit of sacrifice, to the safeguard of the nation and property, to respect for the laws and institutions for the maintenance of social peace (from the family and the mosque to the army and parliament), that is to say to the needs of capitalist production.

That said, this offensive to reestablish order with the aid of the various bourgeois fractions has run into a thousand and one phenomena of working class resistance which still prevent these fractions from being able to guarantee a long-lasting social peace sufficient for proletarians to return passively to work and to allow capitalists to reinvest in the region.

The revolutionary proletariat is the gravedigger of the nation and of market exchange. Any defence of the fatherland, of progress and of the national economy further tightens the chain that keeps proletarians in slavery. The emancipation of the proletariat passes through sabotage of the national economy.

Although the struggles preceding the insurrections of March 1991 aimed at globally confronting all the forces of the State (the Ba'ath party, the nationalists, the other opposition parties) it remains true that the movement contained numerous expressions limiting these attacks to the perspective of a society free of Ba'athists. This political limit of opposition to a form of government, which was present in the movement, put a brake on the social action against the whole of the conditions of life, against the whole of capitalist social relations: wage labour, prisons and so on.

Another fact: neither the parties nor the nationalist forces had an important role, neither militarily or politically, at the heart of the social conflicts. Their armed regiments consisted of not more than a few hundred people.

Subsequently, the waves of uprisings against the miserable living conditions in the North and the South of Iraq, the repression and the huge massacres during the war years by the Ba'athist government, the new international political conditions created by the Gulf War (including the condemnation of the Ba'athist regime by the "international community" of bourgeois States), all created a favourable terrain for the strong resurgence of fractions of the bourgeoisie opposed to the existing regime.

Until then, even if the revolutionary uprisings had occasionally been brought into confrontation with the parties and forces of the opposition, they nevertheless acted generally outside their influence and without these forces having to reveal their counter-revolutionary role too clearly. The revolutionary uprisings were genuinely autonomous and had clearly ruptured from the parties and the forces of the opposition, even if, in some places, there was a certain political and ideological influence of nationalism and democracy. But certain anti-Ba'athist limitations in the movement allowed the forces of the bourgeois opposition to partially infiltrate it. Thus, although they manifested considerable class ruptures, the shoras and other associations set up by the proletariat at this time also contained important limits to the rupture with democracy.

It is precisely from the moment that the movement organised itself in the form of shoras, in the form of mass associations, that the parties of the counter-revolution were able to assert their presence and elaborate their democratic-nationalist-populist ideology. These are therefore the limits of a sort of anti-Ba'athist consensus partially present in the revolutionary confrontation which allowed the bourgeoisie to crystallise, to set up as a barrier, the lack of rupture at the heart of the movement.

With the support of the world bourgeoisie and profiting from the condition of isolation of the struggle of proletarians in the region, the counter-revolution, personified by the nationalist organisations and opponents of the regime, is today bringing its corpses back to life. It is trying to take control of events and to progressively force a transformation of the general direction of the movement towards a war of liberation of the Kurds and Kurdistan, that is to say a war linked to the interests of the counter-revolution. In looking to disperse and atomise the proletariat war, the nationalists are not failing in their tasks, they are only trying to realise the goal fixed by their historic identity.


Proletarians set up barricades in most of the towns of the North and South of Iraq, they confronted the Iraqi army and police force with guns in their hands and wiped out the "Ba'athist" enemy. Faced with this situation there is not a single living bourgeois whose dirty egotistical desire to enrich himself did not push him into participating in the massacre of insurgent proletarians in the region.

It is at that moment that the nationalists, by all sorts of manoeuvres, chose to place themselves in leading positions facing the forces of the Ba'athist government. Recuperating the struggle waged by the proletariat, they hung on to that position which guaranteed them the "legitimacy" of renegotiating, hand in hand with the Ba'athist authorities, the division of tasks necessary for maintaining order and capitalist society.

The "victories" of proletarians having, at the time, been essentially military, it was easy for the nationalists to limit them to that aspect, wiping out the social dimension of the movement. This dimension has played an important role in the transformation of the class content of the uprisings: the liberator once again taking on the image of the Peshmerga, at least in the North of Iraq. Even if Peshmerga are not officially designated as a bourgeois force, this denomination nevertheless refers in public opinion to the particular institution which is the army of liberation of the Kurdish nation. In the present period this represents the nationalists of the PUK and the KDP. These have played the card of confusion to the full by denoting real nationless and internationalist proletarian martyrs as "Peshmerga who died on such or such a patriotic front".

This was particularly marked in Kirkuk during the attack which aimed to liberate the town. Hundreds of fallen proletarians were identified by the nationalists as being "martyrs" from such and such a bourgeois force while they were in fact its irreducible enemies. The official history thus gulps down the blood of the proletariat so as to create a list of "those who died for the fatherland". Each time, the presence of such and such nationalist contingent was sufficient to justify this recuperation while, as always, it was the proletarian insurgents who constituted the avant-garde of the fighting and not the nationalists.

This recuperation was doubled in a manoeuvre in which the nationalists set about dispersing the movement so as to better drag it in their wake. At the time when proletarians had just started to act against the State in the early stages of the uprising, the nationalists of the PUK and the KDP tried by every means to frighten and intimidate the populations of the insurgent towns, notably by the threat of an army counter-offensive and of a so-called government plan to massacre the Kurds by chemical bombing. They thus managed to push the majority of the population (including a large section of the families of proletarians who had taken an active part in the March insurrection) to leave their homes and head for the Iranian or Turkish borders. Those who managed to get to these safe places - many died from cold and hunger along the route of the exodus - found the forces of the UN and various States waiting to disarm them and put them in camps. At that stage the movement had lost a lot of political, social and also military potential: many of the combat positions gained during the struggles of the months of March, April and May had fallen into the hands of the coalition formed by the nationalists and the other parties of opposition to the Ba'athist government. At the same time the avant-garde which had wanted to remain in place was isolated and dissolved. During this time, all the bourgeois forces negotiated their part in the control of the region. Having profited from the exodus by pillaging houses, taking back the equipment and arms reappropriated by the insurgent proletarians, the nationalist chiefs had invited proletarians to return to their emptied houses!

They thought they were on favourable ground and started to put their bourgeois plans and projects into action: negotiations with central government (the Kurdish Front all-party Front), preparation of free and democratic elections, the establishment of autonomous Kurdish rule under the protection of worldwide capitalist States. The prisons were reinforced for those who failed to respect their law and order and torture and executions of "traitors" were organised everywhere.

Now that the armed forces of the Ba'athist central government had been liquidated, the task of imposing order in the North of Iraq fell quite naturally on them as historic members of the bourgeois opposition capable of dismantling the proletarian movement. In order to undertake the destruction of the proletarian movement, the nationalists had to, above all, build a new government which would ensure normal production and circulation of goods and guarantee the functioning of State institutions. For the nationalists this entailed rapidly reassuring the worldwide State regarding the efficacy of its work of social pacification of the proletariat. They proved irreproachable in their undertaking of this task! We are convinced that for this kind of mission, today's State does not have more faithful and effective servants.

Preoccupied by the constitution of their government and their nation, the Kurdish nationalist forces effectively tried everything to achieve a certain social stability, well aware that their existence, as that of any nation, is indissociably linked with putting proletarians to work and to efficient running of production. They knew very well that their existence, as new local managers of capitalist exploitation was directly linked to their victory in this domain.

If they are coming across some difficulties today, it is not because they are "managing things badly" as many opponents of the "critical support" school would have it, but because a large section of proletarians refuse to make solidarity with their government, its programme and its projects. These proletarians, which the nationalists insist on calling "citizens" know very well that their interests are diametrically opposed to those of the Kurdish patriots. They are aware that becoming "citizens" means submitting themselves to the will of their enemies, who thus enrich themselves and reinforce their power to their detriment.

The later interventions of the Turkish army in the North of Iraq in the name of the war against the army of PKK (another agency of Kurdish nationalism which acts more on the Turkish side) have prolonged the international efforts to disarm the proletariat of the region. The essential objective of this operation was to cleanse the mountains and the bush of the region of entire families of proletarians who did not submit to the orders of the governments and bourgeois forces of the region. The danger of an insurrectionary outburst is on the horizon in all the countries of the region: Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Syria, Palestine... It is the fear of the unleashing of a class war which threatens to overrun borders which is the origin of the military mobilisation and manoeuvres of the armies. It was an offensive on a spectacular scale with the intervention of 35,000 Turkish soldiers and thousands of tanks and fighter aircraft.

The international support for this action was manifested in various ways. The UN suspended its supposedly protective flights over the North of Iraq to allow the Turkish army to act undisturbed. The Turkish army was also helped by numerous photographs of Iraqi Kurdistan taken by the British air force, French Jaguars and the AWACS aircraft of NATO. Elsewhere, countries such as the US, France and Germany have concentrated in the hands of the Turkish army an impressive amount of fire power, either in the form of sales or gives: armoured cars, anti-tank rockets, bombers, helicopters...


Today, the proletariat in the North of Iraq is showing real difficulties in clearly dissociating its interests from those of the bourgeoisie and in asserting itself as an entirely autonomous class. Nevertheless, there is a generalised lack of trust in the nationalist forces and parties in Kurdistan.

It is important to remember that in this area there have always been extremely combative proletarian factions, organised at different levels, which have risen up in various periods of struggle to assume the revolutionary tasks of our class. This historical continuity of struggle in the region explains the lack of confidence in the nationalist proposals.

In this sense, one of the essential tasks of the bourgeoisie to stabilise order in the region is to disarm proletarians. The nationalists have had great difficulties in imposing this, especially given the ever-present fear that Saddam's armies could return. Proletarians are thus disarmed by militarising them into rival bourgeois camps. It is not a question here of physically taking their arms away from them, but of dissolving the force of the proletariat (the struggle to abolish all exploitation) in a confrontation with no future other than the eventual victory of one or other nationalist fraction which will have won the monopoly on the exploitation and repression of proletarians. Incapable of calmly and massively integrating the workers into the factories of the capitalist relaunch, the nationalists have turned their armies into factories filled with proletarians in peshmerga clothes who kill each other in rival bourgeois confrontations.

At this level, the proletariat has suffered its heaviest defeat since 1991. Having attacked the bourgeoisie head-on, aiming their guns at the Ba'athists and other bourgeois fractions, today proletarians find themselves placed as enemies of their own class brothers instead of assuming the continuity of the struggle of class against class by attacking the various elements of the Kurdish Front which today ensure the leadership of the State.

This reality confirms the crucial role played by the nationalists in the current reinforcement of the State in Iraq. In the division of labour amongst different bourgeois fractions, currently they are the best suited to dissolve the proletariat and to turn it into cannon fodder.


The emergence and reinforcement of Islamic forces in a region in which Islam had never really had a hold is the product of the same conditions described above. Their growing influence came about by their advantage of not having revealed their role in the heat of events, as did the other nationalist parties. Moreover, to understand the development of their numbers, it is necessary to take into account that these organisations are financially supported by various agents of world Capital in order to openly confront communism.

The Islamic movements in Iraq, as in other countries in the region, take advantage of a situation in which discontent and struggle against imposed living conditions affect a large number of proletarians and where, paradoxically, organisation and class unity are still weak. They take advantage of a situation in which the majority of proletarians have lost all illusions about the policies of the traditional bourgeois forces. How to trust parties who for decades, in the name of one or other democratic policy, in the name of national liberation or socialism, have touted charitable projects and promises which they are incapable of keeping and which always conclude in a blood bath?

For a long time social-democrats and other Leninists have been able to impose their capitalist programme in the name of a better world (1); today, in a period in which communism is still facing enormous difficulties in imposing itself as a perspective, it is the Islamists who, although they have no difference in nature from their atheist bourgeois colleagues, brandish their programme in the name of humanity. Their celestial pseudo-alternative appears just as radical for the fact that it is not based on national and immediate reform, but on a far more universal perspective.

In addition to these socio-political factors, Islamists dispose of that particular weapon that is the religious weapon, a weapon different to all others because in the context of an after-life to which there is only access after death, it is not necessary for them to propose solutions for the real and present world. Allah will sort everything out up there! Religious ideology thus plays a particularly effective role for the bourgeoisie, to the extent that they even lie about the existence of their after-life, as they make no promises to reform and improve the world down here, sparing them any criticism of not keeping to their word. Their political decisions, their religious consultations, their "Fatwa", come from their material and earthly beings, but they present them as being orders from God, which gives them the hope that they will not have to account for their criminal acts. They craftily plead that "We will all be returned to God and it is He who will judge"! But it is jumping the gun a bit to imagine they can keep the benefits of these arguments to hide their anti-proletarian nature for long.

Moreover, Iran is not far away and the consequences of the experience of the Islamist government in Iran, result of repression of the revolutionary movement there, are well-known. What the Islamist forces did there in the name of liberating human beings from capitalist civilisation, leaves them no cause to be jealous of what other bourgeois have realised throughout history. Reality has clearly shown that, in other terms, the Islamist forces are there to assume the same function as all other bourgeois fractions that have gone before them: to exploit proletarians and ensure the order and stability of Capital's mode of production.

Repeated uprisings by proletarians in Iranian towns and villages concretely reflect this decredibilisation of Islam and indicate that the days of these bands of bigots are well and truly numbered. When proletarians do attack the Islamist government, they will not content themselves with attacking the ruling government alone, but will fight Islam in all its forms.

The geographical proximity of Iran and the closeness in time of what happened around the Shah's downfall actually reduces the Islamists' room for manoeuvre in Iraq. Nor do they have the benefit of the image of uprightness and honesty that Khomeini enjoyed compared to the Shah: They have already been denounced

by many proletarians as religious men whose faith is directly inspired by whatever will fit into their wallets.

What differentiates the situation in Iraq from the rest of the world is that over the past few years, as in a few other countries, proletarians have shown an important level of struggle that is principally characterised by the continuity with which the proletariat confronts the State, a continuity which dates back to before the "Iran-Iraq" war and which, despite a ferocious repression throughout the years, cannot be quelled.


At another level, it is clear that the capacity of the nationalists to recruit proletarians under their flags as well as the appearance of a new Islamist fraction equally expresses the difficulties experienced by the proletariat in openly defining its needs and fully reappropriating its social project of subversion of the old world.

The proletariat's lack of unity and weakness of class organisation allows the bourgeois to engage in any necessary battles to retake control of the situation and to know to whom the exploitation of proletarians will be granted next. The proletariat will live these inter-fractional wars for as long as it fails to strangle the whole of the forces aiming to keep capitalism in place, for as long as it fails to take its revolutionary project firmly in its own hands, for as long as it fails to openly claim the leadership of its movement by organising itself as a class, a force and thus as a party.

It was directly against the unification of the proletarian movement in the North and the South that the State divided the country into three zones. It is only by fighting against these geographical divisions that the proletariat will be able to reappropriate its own struggle, by retracing the class frontier to where it really is: between its own interests and those of Capital. The pursuit of proletarian struggle today has its stakes in recognition of the State within the whole of bourgeois fractions and forces, whatever the region, and to denounce each one, without exception, as enemies.

During the March 1991 uprising, thousands of "Arab" deserters had refused to shoot at the rebels and at the local population and showed solidarity and a will to participate in the movement. Many of them had called for the rebels to come and take whatever weapons and other military equipment they needed from their barracks. Amongst these soldiers, some went directly over to the side of the movement and some were killed in battles side by side with other "Kurdish" rebel proletarians. Taking advantage of the weaknesses of the proletariat, in particular the lack of organisation and centralisation of activity, the nationalists were able to separate these "Arab" soldiers from the rest of the movement and capture them as prisoners of war. They handed these "prisoners" over to the Ba'athist authorities, as stipulated by the terms of the negotiations. As soon as it laid its hands on these soldiers the Iraqi Army began to execute hundreds of the most active. They sent their bodies back to their families with a letter: "This is what the savage Kurds have done to our son!" In this way the bourgeois fed hatred amongst proletarians: Kurds against Arabs, Islamists against non-Islamists, blacks against whites... The nationalists did the same thing on their side. Every time they killed or massacred "Kurdish proletarians" they said it was the work of the Arabs!

As the nationalists did not have any way, nor the force, to prevent proletarians from taking revenge by attacking the headquarters of Ba'athist organisations (police, party, secret service, prisons...) They tried to save - when they could - the high level officers and generals of the army, especially the Kurdish Ba'athist police and those in charge. Currently they play important roles in their ranks.

Clearly, in their negotiations, the nationalists placed all the responsibility for the massacre on the rebel proletarians, "savages without rules nor any respect for any order", including the responsibility for the massacre that they themselves carried out on the soldiers and militants with a Ba'athist base (the ones who had been forced to carry the party card for one reason or another, often because of work!).


Continuation of the struggle in Iraq must equally entail putting forward the communist project: universal liberation of the human race from the State, from social classes, from a word, the abolition of capitalist exploitation.

Assuming this perspective in Iraq today means:

In the present context in Iraq, it is indispensable to organise the action of the whole of the expressions of existing struggles (shoras, district revolutionary committees, groups of self-defence and class direct action...) and to encourage these practices to find their natural extension in the struggle of our brothers in other countries of the region (Iran, Turkey,...). Only the centralisation and generalisation of these struggles will allow the affirmation of a single class, a single movement organically soldered to the communist and internationalist social project. This consolidation of our struggle will pass through the struggle against nationalists and the Nation, Islamists and religion, against humanists and pacifists, against every kind of reformist.

Down with the society of wage slavery !

Down with the State, the Nation and bourgeois wars !

Victory to the proletarians' revolutionary movement !

Victory to the dictatorship of the needs of the human community !

* May 1996 *

1. The "workers communist parties" in Iraq and Iran are living examples of classical Leninist organisations which put out radical slogans of proletarian revolution against the bourgeoisie but which, in practice, call for proletarians to defend the democratic rights and liberties of the exploited "people"... Although some militants from these organisations have been executed under the regime of these same democratic rights and liberties and some are still in the prisons of democracy, these organisations still call for more democracy! The programme of these organisations is limited to the democratic struggle for a "workers'" power which would manage the society (of wage labour) in an egalitarian manner and would give freedom to its citizens and to all political forces in the society (sic!) to enjoy the right (of property!). This is how the so-called communists follow the path of emancipation of proletarians: work for the workers... ownership of production for themselves! What they propose is Capital "with a workers' management", or rather a capitalist management in the name of the power of the proletariat.