From the margin of the periphery: Albania on Venezuela

Members of a pro-government “colectivo” march in downtown Caracas, Venezuela. Photo: Chris Arsenault for Al-Jazeera

LeftEast editors interview Griselda Qosja:

Has the government in Albania taken an official position regarding the situation in Venezuela? If yes, what is the position?

Yes, the Albanian government has officially recognized Juan Guaidó as temporary president. The prime minister tweeted his support in the name of the Albanian people, wishing that the courageous Venezuelans successfully remove the illegitimate power that has made the country into a hell for its people. This position was to be expected.

What does this reveal about the foreign policy and international standing of Albania?

To understand this position, we have to start from the beginning. Albania, I would venture to say, is the signifier of isolation. Not in geographical terms, since we are favorably positioned between Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Greece and Italy, but as a choice, as modus operandi. After a series of Roman, Greek, Serb, Bulgarian, Turk, Italian and German invasions, we went through a forty-year-long dictatorship during which the regime continuously broke ties with its allies: first Yugoslavia, later the Soviet Union and at the end the People’s Republic of China. In the 90s, upon transitioning from the Hoxhaist regime toward a capitalist society, new alliances were fundamental for progressing toward a new political and economic regime. Having the history we had, disoriented and thirsty for support, we were unable to identify where support ended and interventionism begun. This subordinated our country to the interests and politics of the western powers.  My generation grew up with the constant media presence of the American ambassador, whose opinions had the power to influence the internal political developments.  An absurd situation, we were like Bruno Ricci in the restaurant scene in The Bicycle Thief, who tries to eat the pasta like the wealthy kid does, forgetting the main difference that Bruno was not a wealthy kid, and would be hungry again.

As a country on the margin of the periphery, Albania does not take its own decisions in external affairs. Every choice, every movement is not active but reactive to the position of those whose support our country seeks. Basically, Albanian foreign policy mimics that of the United States and of the European Union. Luckily, they are usually in synchrony and we do not have to choose our servitude, serving both equally and devotedly.  On the other side, this position is justified by a feeling of collective gratitude that we feel toward the west due to its intervention in the Kosovo War. International legal practice recognizes exceptions to the non-intervention principle in the face of mass atrocity, and Kosovo was such an exception. Nevertheless, we should ask why Kosovo? Atrocities happen everywhere Congo, Liberia, Somalia, and Mozambique, just to name a few. The answer to this question is to be found in the presence of the international community in Kosovo, and its involvement in our internal affairs, which political party Vetëvendosje has consistently opposed. If we want to know what the future of Venezuela will look like with Guaidó we should look at Kosovo, where there is de facto no self-determination.

Have left parties and movements come forward with a position on Venezuela?  If yes, what has their position been?  What does this (fail) to reveal?

There are only a handful of leftist groups in Albania, which operate within Organizata Politike (“The Political Organization”). The communist party is almost non-existent, whereas the socialists currently in power ideologically are positioned in the center. We are left without a leftist electoral alternative, being forced to choose like Odysseus between Charybdis and Scylla.

Organizata Politike hasn’t come forward with an official position on Venezuela, probably due to the fact that the last months in Albania have been turbulent, with protests all over the country, and second because as in any other democratic structure, different opinions and discussions are encouraged. Nevertheless, OP activist Redi Muci, in a post on his social media raised the concern that American propaganda in the Albanian media promotes the view that Maduro is a dictator who oppresses his people and refuses to accept humanitarian aid offered by the USA. I understand the concern, such narratives when actively induced to public opinion construct a distorted view of what communism is, dismissing the potentiality of what it could be.

The economic distress of Venezuela is, in Muci’s opinion, not only a result of the United State embargo and inability to import certain products and borrowing in international markets, but also an outcome of Maduro’s inability to reduce the dependence of the economy on oil, corruption of government bureaucrats, and the influence of local oligarchs on economic decisions. This position is shared by another activist, Klodi Leka, who believes that Maduro is the legitimate president and not Guaidó, but is careful to add that the crisis in Venezuela is not only an expression of external imperialist sabotage, but also an outcome of establishment corruption and the failure of an economy based exclusively on mineral resources. Both Leka and Muci consider Guaidó an American puppet who serves American interests. They condemn the Trump Administration’s hypocrisy, that calls for humanitarian aid on one hand and on the other makes statements about military intervention in Venezuela. These are mature positions of a left that is critical enough to see failure where there is failure. I would add that the failure of Maduro is not a failure of the left but a confirmation that leftism cannot survive sporadically but only within a league of leftist countries. At the end, class struggle is a universal phenomenon that cannot be dealt locally.   

Do you see any parallels between what is happening in Venezuela now and any moment in the development of state socialism in Albania?

The development of state socialism in Albania was immediate; more than a result of leftist consciousness, it was a result of political influence, mainly Yugoslavian. Prior to the war our society was a pre-capitalist society, predominantly agrarian and not industrialized. For leftist ideology to be embraced by the population, it had to be served with concepts of national unity and nationalist rhetoric in a language that we could understand. The resistance against fascism during the Second World War started as resistance against invasion; later on it received political nuances. The only similarity I can highlight is not necessarily between Venezuela and Albania but between any alternative leftist governments, democratic or dictatorial, corrupt or not, that have been continuously undermined and not allowed to complete their natural political cycle.

Their decline often has been incited from outside to protect the interests of stronger economies and within them the interests of capitalist elites. In Venezuela, Albania and elsewhere leftist regimes have been precariously built as an outcome of war or revolution. I am of the opinion that the transition to a leftist society and economy should be gradual and accompanied with citizens who are conscious of this transition. Transition which should happen simultaneously in different countries that are willingly to support each other throughout this change. The basis for this is already there, there is (a) a clear oppressed working class throughout the world, (b) strong social discontent in different countries, and above all (c) an interconnected globalized society. What is missing is the political consciousness of the marginalized, but even this is being built slowly. Certain words and turns of phrase are coming back, “capitalism,” “exploitation,” “workers rights” are as common now as they were in Paris of 1968. Take for example Bernie Sanders, whose political language is revolutionary for a place like the USA which has demonized communism for decades. A generation that grows up exposed to such rhetoric will be immune to capitalist propaganda. In addition, the last financial global crisis made it clear that capitalism is no longer able to sustain itself and it is only natural that people will seek and support new alternatives. The left should only make sure that they are offered the right one.