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Albanian Collapse and Anarchism in the Europe of Our Time Albanian Collapse and Anarchism in the Europe of Our Time
by Markus Petz
2009-05-26 09:35:05
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In anarchist circles there are often discussions about either a gradual transition or a sudden collapse of society that can be replaced with anarchism. Maybe this can happen on a world-wide level, but much more likely is that such a change will happen, in a time of civil unrest and breakdown of law and order, within one country. In fact there is a modern example of where this has happened. Albania.

So what happened? Here I will outline the steps, and what resulted, before the forces of law and order stepped in to restore "democracy" and replace the "criminals" or "rebels" or "insurgents" as these forces thought of the anarchists. The anarchists had taken control of the situation in the absence of a centralized governing authority.

From the mid 1980s and into the 90s the Communist Bloc of Eastern Europe collapsed and the dictatorial regimes were replaced with transition democracies. In many of these countries crony capitalism became rampant, as they were released from the fetters of statist control. These secret police states relaxed their draconian grip on their populations. Albania was no different. The old dictator Enver Hoxha died, yet much of the apparatus of his communist regime was destroyed without equivalent democratic replacements.

As the liberalising process began the financial restraints were gradually lessened and entrepreneurs were enabled to start businesses and investment schemes. Unfortunately, with the liberalisation, criminals were able to set-up very dodgy schemes. In Albania, these proved very popular, especially Ponzi Schemes, which were known by the people of Albania and the press as "Pyramid Schemes".

After several schemes failed to pay out the money the people had expected, civil unrest grew. The population blamed the government and became suspicious that the leading ministers had not only been lax with regulations, but were actually corrupt and part of the criminality. The government; weakened, and poorly organized, failed to allay people's fears. It is important to know that the Pyramid Scheme collapses were the trigger. But collapse came after failure of almost all economic activity, the crisis of education, the failure to pay pensions, mass unemployment, the lack of goods of prime necessity and the fall in living standards. The situation had worsened thru 1996.

Albania is a traditional society that is based on the Kanuni i Lekë Dukagjinit (The Code of Lekë Dukagjini), a 15th Century code of law and honor. Albanian society is very patriarchal with Pagan, Christian and Islamic influences. Most Albanians are now not of any religion though. There is a traditional split between North and South Albanian areas, which function much as the Scottish clan system did. When trouble emerged, the North sided more with the Berisha government, and the South was more rebellious. Sali Berisha is a Gheg, from of the Northern area and President today 2008 and then 1997. Many of the rebels tended to Communism and were from the Southern area known as Tosks.

The population quickly took control of the cities in the South, busted open military armories and police barracks, seizing weapons and replacing the police force.

The ready-to-explode-situation had been made by the new post Hoxha regime having destroyed much of the apparatus of the state. The traditional views of partisans, as independence fighters, who fought against fascism in the Second World War had been talked down. Those in power under Hoxha were blamed for the bad aspects of the dictatorship. In a revisionist historical perspective, everything done in that time was rubbished. There was a destruction of public buildings, telephone exchanges, warehouses, cultural buildings and other things from these Communist times.

Many of the people seeing conditions getting worse, and many of these former communists finding that they had lost their place in society then took part in a "counter revolution". The counter revolutionary aims were not to restore the dictatorship, but to reappraise the situation and stop Albania sliding into criminality and a worsening material situation as they saw it. Effectively this was anarchism in praxis rather than communism.

They quickly formed citizens' militia, often with army deserters being part of this - elected soldiers was seen before in the New Model Army "Agreement of the People" in 1647 England. Autonomous Rebellion Committees were also formed to manage essential provisions. They made decisions at twice daily mass public rallies. Elected members were subject to instant recall (as seen in the Paris Commune of 1871). Most of the country rapidly came under the control of this anarchist way of organizing. In fact this was de facto recognized by the international community as "leaders" from the cities met and held discussions with an OSCE representative. American politicians involved in the Albanian situation admitted that "they do come from communities which have endorsed their participating in the process, and I think they are able to represent the hopes and aspirations of the people in the South."

At the same time there was a rise in crime, as many guns had fallen into criminal's hands (although some had come to the people in an earlier uprising), the jails had been opened and all had been released (as happened in the Iranian Revolution 1979 and French Revolution 1789). Foreign owned property and individuals were attacked. As a result various foreign powers mounted operations to rescue their citizens (USA – Operation Silver Wake, Deutschland – Operation Libelle and some Italian missions).

After people were evacuated, the UN Security Council called a special meeting to discuss the situation. Unlike in Somalia, where Western interests were not so great, there was considerable pressure from various European countries to do something. Particularly Italia and Deutschland, although other countries were worried that the situation could spread across the border to Greece or Macedonia or to Kosovo where there are large Albanian ethnic populations. There were also large numbers of Albanian refugees who fled to Italia and Italia wanted them out of the country.

There were some economic interests, with capitalists seeing money making opportunities with restoration and getting their hands on some of the resources available in the country. But these were tiny and largely insignificant in the decision making. The stability of the region was more important in deciding for foreign intervention.

An international supported force proceeded to reoccupy the country with Operation Sunrise (also called Operation ALBA) and to "restore order". The force was Italian led with rules of engagement falling under Chapter 7 of the United Nations statute. However the Italian Defence Minister said "the force would use its weapons not only in self-defence, but also to facilitate completion of the mission in its entirety".

The "rebels" were removed from power, although money was also provided to help offset the financial losses that various factions would have suffered. Most of the weapons were collected and either destroyed, or stock-piled before being sent to the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army). The previous government fell and stricter financial controls were installed. There was a large amount of both US and Italian backing for the new government that was installed after some elections. Anarchism was over!

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Emanuel Paparella2009-05-26 11:25:48
Problem is that "law and order" without justice is the equivalent of another form of anarchy. The Nazis parading in goose steps before Hitler or the Fascists before Mussolini looked very orderly on the surface, but interiorly (i.e., morally) there was a great deal of disorder going on and the chickens eventually came to roost when Italy invaded Albania and imposed its brand of order. Indeed, injustice always results in anarchy. To mistake anarchy for freedom is to become a Machiavellian real politik politician only interested in grabbing and holding power. It means to become part of the problem parading as part of the solution.

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