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MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

MUSINE KOKALARI 

and 


Social Democracy in Albania

Tirana, 2016

Alina Wagner


MUSINE KOKALARI 

and 


Social Democracy in Albania

Tirana, 2016

Alina Wagner

The publication was enabled by:

“Friedrich Ebert” Foundation

Tirana Office 

Rr. „Abdi Toptani“, Torre Drin, Kati 3-të, Kutia Postare 1418

Tirana, Albania

Tel: +355 04 2250986 / 04 2273306: Fax: +355 04 22622067

www.fes-tirana.org

Year of Publication: 2016

Design and print: Albdesign PSP

ISBN: 978-9928-215-08-6

Author: Alina Wagner

Translated to Albanian by: Adelina Albrahimi

Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s publications cannot be used for commercial 

purposes without a prior written approval.


List of Abbreviations

Acronym Definition:

CP

LNC


LSI

PSD


Communist Party

National Liberation Front 



(Fronti Nacional Çlirimtare)

Socialist Movement for Integration 



(Lëvizja Socialiste për Integrim)

Social Democratic Party 



(Partia Socialdemokrate e Shqipërisë)

MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

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MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

Contents

1.  About Social Democracy....................................................................8

2.  The Foundation of the Social Democratic Party of Albania................9

3.  A Social Democratic Party Program..................................................11

4.  The Note to the Allies.......................................................................12

5.  Kokalari’s Impact on the Albanian Political and Social Culture: 

      Is Social Democracy still present or possible?....................................13

6.  References........................................................................................17

7.  Appendix..........................................................................................19

•  The Ten-Point Program of the Nationalist Organization Balli Kombëtar

•  Memorandum of the Democratic Union addressed to the Allies

•  The Program of the Social Democratic Party

•  Excerpt from Kokalari’s trial


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MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

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MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

Introduction

When thinking about Social Democracy, Albania is probably on the very 

bottom of the list of countries that would come to mind. It is not surprising 

since most of the time politicians overshine their political parties, and names 

such as Friedrich Ebert, Willy Brandt, Olof Palme and Helmut Schmidt 

weigh heavier in the history of politics than the name Musine Kokalari. It is 

not because of lesser intellect, or age, or the fact that she was a woman but 

rather repressive surroundings that nip new ideas in the bud.

In attempts to found the first Albanian Social Democratic Party (Partia 

Social Demokrate) in 1943, she has been arrested three years later for her 

political views and sentenced to 30 years imprisonment, of which she served 

16. Musine Kokalari remains one of the brightest and most important 

writers in her country, the first woman to get published in Albania and an 

exemplary symbol of the repressions in the Enver Hoxha regime.

So far little has been published about Kokalari’s political engagement (in the 

English language (or any other for that matter), limiting Social Democracy 

to a mere Northern and Western European phenomenon. The beginning 

of Social democratic ideals were also present in Albania yet democracy 

in general has always had a troublesome history of paving its way in the 

autocratic environment of the country. In retrospective, it is inevitable that 

Musine Kokalari  and the initiators around her had to fail, however, based 

on a given Social democratic history in Albania, has anything been learned 

from this? Is Social Democracy still present or possible in Albania?

In an attempt to broaden the understanding and perception of Social 

Democracy, it is crucial to also illuminate ‘failed’ endeavors. This paper 

primarily seeks to give an account of Social democratic trends in Albania 

with special emphasis on Musine Kokalari and her struggle for pluralism. 

And secondly it serves as a reminder, not only of the atrocities in the 

Communist regime, but also for the necessity to have an ongoing discourse 

about historical and social issues that accumulated over decades.

Given the complexity as well as the depth of the subject, covering the topic 

in its  entirety is well beyond the scope of this work. For that reason this 

paper will not discuss Kokalari’s academic and personal life in the detail it 

requires, nor can it offer a thorough understanding of the ideologies and 


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MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

the history of Social Democracy. Therefore, the focus will remain on the 

historical facts (mostly taken from Kokalari’s essays) that led to the forming 

of the Party and the Social democratic ‘left-overs’ in present day Albania.

The first section of the paper will provide a short definition of what Social 

Democracy  is before proceeding with the historical background on the 

foundation of the Social  Democratic Party of Albania. Based on this 

overwiew, the final section ‘’Kokalari’s Impact on the Albanian Political 

and Social Culture: Is Social Democracy still present or possible?’’ will 

conclude with some thoughts on Social Democracy in present day Albania.



1. 

About Social Democracy

With the news reportages on the ‘crisis of Social Democracy in Europe’ or on 

the former Democratic Party candidate Bernie Sanders in the US Presidential 

Elections, the public is given technical terms and words that it might be 

unfamiliar with. Essentially, the term Social Democracy is not unknown but as 

media coverage on it increased in the US and Europe, it is a general necessity 

to specify what Social Democracy is.

The term ‘’democracy’’ is an essential part, since in the 19

th 


and 20

th 


century 

socialists

started to categorize themselves as „social democrats“ in order to differentiate 

themselves from other socialists who opposed democracy (Cf. Berman 2005:3).

According to the Online Encyclopaedia Britannica Social Democracy is defined 

as follows: ‘’Social democracy, [a] political ideology that advocates a peaceful, 

evolutionary transition of society from capitalism to socialism using established 

political processes. Based  on 19th-century socialism and the tenets of Karl 

Marx and Friedrich Engels, social democracy shares common ideological 

roots with communism but eschews its militancy and totalitarianism. Social 

democracy was originally known as revisionism because it represented a change 

in basic Marxist doctrine, primarily in the former’s repudiation of the use of 

revolution to establish a socialist society.“ Breaking that down into its simplest 

and elementary definition, one could describe it as a compromise between 

Socialism and Capitalism. In this aspect, as writes a modern scholar, ‘’social 

democrats are socialists without the courage of revolutionary conviction or 

socialists who have chosen ballots over bullets (Berman 2005:3).’’


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MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

2. 

The Foundation of the Social Democratic Party of Albania

In 1972 Kokalari finished writing her book Si lindi Partia Social Demokrate 

(engl. How the Social Democratic Party was born), a personal account on the 

founding of the party and the people involved.

Information regarding the roots of Social Democracy in Albania is very 

scarce, limited and so far not widely debated. It comes as no surprise 

because historically Albania does not have a lot of experience with it. Unlike 

Germany, Albania did not have the experience of a worker’s movement or the 

creation of trade unions nor did it benefit from the revolution of 1848/49 

that brought forth strong theoretical principles to Europe (Cf. Potthoff and 

Miller 2006:5). However, it has not been entirely insular to movements 

either. When Kokalari founded the party in 1943, Albania had encountered 

several national developments. According to the writer’s memories the 

Rilindja period was very much alive when Italian fascists occupied Albania 

in 1939. Rilindja Kombëtare, or Albanian National Awakening that lasted 

from the 1870s up until the declaration of independence in 1912, resulted in 

a strengthened sense of   the

Albanian identity (in cultural, political and social aspects). The national 

movement came rather late, even for a Balkan nation compared to others in 

the 19

th 


century.

Alongside nation building that strongly corelates with the intellectual work 

of the Frashëri brothers, the October Revolution in Russia has left its marks 

on Albania as well: ‘’[…] Communist groups sprang up here and there, though 



not everywhere in the country, who adhered to principles that were unclear and 

not uniform (Kokalari 1972).’’

Furthermore considerably later also came the formation of a Communist 

Party (CP). In fact Albania had been the only Balkan country without such a 

party in the beginning of the 1920s. A Communist Party had been officially 

formed in the Soviet Union by 1928, while it was not until 1941 that a 

unified CP was founded in Albania with Enver Hoxha as the Party Secretary.

Musine Kokalari and Enver Hoxha originate from the same family and are 

closely- related cousins. Their childhood houses in Gjirokastër are within 

five minutes of walking distance from each other. Born in 1917 in Adana 

(Turkey) to parents of Gjirokastër origin, Kokalari early showed signs of love 



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MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

for writing. In 1938 she left for Italy to study literature in Rome where she 

graduated in 1941. A year later she joined the antifascist and anticommunist 

movement in Rome, later in the Albanian capital Tirana (Zhiti 2012).

Shortly after the formation of the National Liberation Front (LNC) 

- a resistance organization that fought against the German occupiers in 

Albania - the anticommunist resistance movement Balli Kombëtar (engl. 

The National Front) was created, a heterogeneous organization of people 

with various political views and a more or less democratic platform that 

considered themselves as simple patriots (Kokalari 1972).

To unify the LNC and Balli Kombëtar, Kokalari proposed to join the 

National  Liberation Front not as individuals but as a democratic group, 

or better, as a party. By getting both movements together and forming a 

basic democratic union, they could have been able to fight the occupiers 

more intensly (Ibid.). The crucial point however is that Social Democracy 

was supposed to serve as a ‘middle way’ to attract undecided forces (Ibid.). 

Because of disputes with the future wife of Enver Hoxha (Nexhmije 

Xhuglini), Kokalari left LNC and tried to re- establish the idea of a Social 

Democratic Party with other people.

In 1932 Kokalari encountered the lawyer Skënder Muço, the literature 

professor Isuf Luzaj and the linguist Selman Riza who shared many 

common values with Kokalari. Muço, as well as the others, were worried 

about the direction the war was headed. After the feuds with the dictator’s 

future wife, Musine once again proposed the idea of forming a democratic 

coalition while relying on the Ten-Point Programme in accordance to Balli 

Kombëtar  (Appendix 1).

The group then published a brochure announcing their party creation 

(Ibid.). This endeavor (maybe as expected), was destined to fail as on one 

hand Muço and Luzaj had a  power struggle as to who should be in charge 

of the group, and on the other, the leaders of Balli Kombëtar were not 

really interested in democracy and wanted to continue their course  as 

before:  ‘’The democratic alternative was in a tragic state, as usual, caught 



between the Communists on the one side and the leaders of Balli on the other, 

who were all exerting personal influence to keep power for themselves. A tragic 

moment (Ibid.).“

Nonetheless the group managed to publish a newspaper called ‘Zëri i lirisë’ 



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MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

(engl. The Voice of Freedom) that correlated to their party with Musine 

Kokalari being the driving force behind it.

3. 

A Social Democratic Party Program

Within the newspaper, in February 1944, Musine published the Program of 

the Social Democratic Party (Apendix 2). In it the Party demands political 

freedom, which ensures the right of every citizen to practice freedom of 

speech, freedom of the press and the freedom to vote: ‘’The main reason 



for restrictions on political freedoms is [the lack of] social justice (Kokalari 

1944).’’ Striking is the fact that Kokalari supported the idea of a Balkan 

confederation, an idea that emerged in the beginning of the 20

th 


century by 

mostly Social Democratic parties in the Balkan peninsula.

Apart from that the Party Program represents far more than a simple 

presentation of the party’s objectives. It highlights the four key elements of 

democracy itself:

•  A political system for choosing and replacing the government through 

free and fair elections.

•  The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life.

•  Protection of the human rights of all citizens.

•  A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citi-

zens (Cf. Hilla University Lecture 2004).

Despite the fact that they were able to publish six issues of the newspaper, 

Kokalari was doubting its success. The people behind the newspaper 

(Kokalari, Muço, Luzaj and Riza) never met again. The lawyer Skënder 

Muço was executed by German troops in 1944. Within Kokalari’s (and 

Hoxha’s for that matter) own family 14 people were persecuted. Two of 

her brothers were arrested and then murdered by so-called ‘liberation 

soldiers’. One day later Kokalari herself has been captured and interrogated. 

In November of the same year she has been released and witnessed the 

liberation of Albania.

According to Kokalari that event marked the end of the Rilindja period 

‘’and democratic endeavours by humane individuals who wanted to defend the 



poor, to protect the workers in order to save them from physical and intellectual 

slavery, to protect their human  dignity (Ibid.).’’ Thus, the dictatorship of the 

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MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

Communists began and people who dared to voice their wish for political 

pluralism soon faced prison or even death.

4. 

The Note to the Allies

In the aftermath of the war, in November 1945 the British, American, 

French, Yugoslav and Soviet missions were still active in Albania. The 

summer of 1945 brought forth a new Albanian constitution that was simply 

a copy of the Yugoslav one (Cf. Vickers 2014:155). As the new government 

sought recognition, the Westeners demanded democratic elections. Around 

that time Musine more or less withdrew from political engagement and was 

working in her bookshop in Tirana.

There were talks about elections taking place on 2 December 1945. In the 

same year Shaban Balla, a figure active in the resistance, visited Musine 

Kokalari a few times and explained that they ought to do something and 

support the British. Initially Kokalari was not interested since she had been 

close to reimprisonment and did not want to get involved in other people’s 

activities, especially not underground (Cf. Kokalari 1972). Nonetheless she 

agreed to ask for moral support from the Allies in form of a writing in 

order to postpone elections so that other parties could take part in them, 

initiating a pluralist government: ‘’We had little hope, yet something had to be 



done. I stuck by what I had said and did not endeavour to find out what other 

groups were up to. I kept my distance from other people and groups, and only 

expressed my idea about the Note when I was asked (Ibid.).’’

In a meeting held in November 1945 Musine formed a Note (Appendix 

3) explaining  the current situation in Albania and proposing to postpone 

elections so that various political groups could take part in them. Among 

the people who signed the Note were four monarchists (people  who 

supported the former Albanian King Zog), four people from the 

resistance,  a friend of Kokalari with Social democratic orientation and 

Musine herself. Balla then submitted copies of the Note to the Americans 

and to the British (Ibid.).

The Allies however, did not intervene with the government and kept silent 

on the matter which logically resulted in their inevitable: One by one the 

signees were arrested and accused  of overthrowing the government. The 



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MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

consequences for all these people are easily imaginable: Some were shot 

(among them Shaban Balla), most of them imprisoned. In court, defending 

her positions until the very end (although her fate was already sealed), 

Musine accepted the charges according to the government (Appendix 4). 

Kokalari was then sentenced to 30 years of prison, later reduced to 20 of 

which she served 16 (Zhiti 2012).

Terminally sick with breast cancer in her later years, Kokalari was denied 

treatment at the local hospital. She died in complete isolation in 1983. 

Regardless of the persecution she faced during her lifetime, her funeral 

couldn’t have been more demoting. The coffin was made out of left-overs 

that were collected from a construction ground and a security officer from 

the region has been advised to tie the dead body’s hands (Ibid.).

5. 

Kokalari’s  Impact  on  the Albanian  Political  and  Social  Culture:  Is               

Social Democracy still present or possible?

Today’s Albania has little to do with (Social) Democracy, and this for several 

reasons. It is inarguable that Musine Kokalari has an impact on Albanian 

history. However she is mostly remembered as a victim of the Communist 

regime and a gifted storyteller. To the wider public the formation of a 

Social Democratic Party in the 1940s remains more or less unknown. Did 

Kokalari’s endeavors leave marks in the Social and Political life in Modern 

Albania?


Not irrelevant is the notion that in Albania there is no difference between 

being a ‘Socialist’ or being a ‘Social Democrat’. Even before we start 

speaking of different types of democracy, democracy itself is something that 

needs to be discussed. These nuances of political self-determination, which 

are now so natural in Greater Europe, are a luxury that cannot be found 

in Albania. When researching for this paper and a definition of Social 

Democracy, sources were very limited. In fact there is only one definition 

in the Albanian  language, provided by the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation, 

which is closely associated with the Social Democratic Party of Germany. 

An ordinary Albanian cannot even consult a Wikipedia article in the 

Albanian language about Social Democracy, even though two parties exist 

in Albania which pursue a social democratic orientation.



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MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

MUSINE KOKALARI and Social Democracy in Albania

In 1991 Skënder Gjinushi, a former member of the Party of Labour of 

Albania, founded the Social Democratic Party of Albania (alb. PSD) that 

held seats in the Albanian Parliament between 1992 – 1996 and then again 

from 1997 – 2009 (Cf. Nohlen and Stöver 2010:140-142). Indeed, the 

party bears the same name as Kokalari’s but it also closely cooperated with 

the Socialist Party of Albania (‘reformed Socialists’ as they call themselves) 

with whom they formed coalitions throughout their Parliament activity. To 

date the PSD remained quite negligible in Albanian politics.

Growing prominence and significance gained only the Socialist Movement 

for Integration (alb. LSI), a party that moderately represents the ‘third 

way’ between the two major parties (Socialist Party/ Democratic Party) in 

Albania. The LSI is a result of an inter-party dispute between the LSI leader 

Ilir Meta and the then leader of the Socialist Party Fatos Nano. Meta’s 

party emphasizes its non-ideological nature although the theoretical basis is 

inclined towards the centre-left (as the party supports the European model 

of social welfare for instance) (Cf. Barbullushi 2014:88-89).

In Albania’s current political landscape various factors impede an emergence 

of real (Social) democratic structures. Discussing the ‘left-overs’ of Social 

Democracy on Albania’s political stage, it is necessary to consider the 

following: In order to have ‘left-overs’, there should have been a ‘meal’ in 

the first place.

Social democratic structures as we know them from Greater Europe 

can be traced back to several developments. In the 18

th 

- 19


th 

centuries 

Europe underwent a variety of social, cultural, political and technological 

progresses that shaped its states and their national characteristics. The 

Age of Enlightenment that reoriented Western philosophy, politics and 

science in terms of questioning authorities and the turn to rationalism, is 

a predecessor of the 20

th 


century Modernism (Cf. Stanford Encyclopedia 

of Philosophy 2010). Of equal importance, or even greater one, was the 

Industrial Revolution which allowed the simple farmer to loosen the ties 

to his land and cattle and seek working opportunities elsewhere in the 

country. The formation of trade unions is a major aspect that contributed 

to the creation of the Social democratic ideology. Resulting in social and 

economic change on the Continent, the period of Industrialisation brought 

forth socio-critical theorists, above all its most radical: Karl Marx.   In



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