Monday, April 17, 2006

Hoxha's comeback

Albania's long-time Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha makes a comeback in Inside Man, a disappointingly conventional bank robbery flick from Spike Lee. After seizing a bank and taking hostages, the robbers confuse the cops who are bugging them by playing one of Hoxha's speeches from an i pod. Presumably they want to pass themselves off as Albanian gangsters.

Hoxhaism has a curious relationship with this part of the world, through its association with the Communist Party of New Zealand, which in the 1980s declared Albania the only true example of socialism on the planet. I remember reading, as a very politically confused fourteen year-old, the Communist Party's paper, The People's Voice, and encountering headlines like 'No Unemployment in Socialist Albania' and claims that only sixty crimes were committed every year in the whole of the 'socialist fatherland'. (Come to think of it, given the ferocity of the repressive appartus Hoxha commanded and the fear it inspired, that claim perhaps had a grain of truth to it.) The Communist Party attempted to distribute Hoxha's turgid writings to the New Zealand working class, and you can still find copies of the man's works floating around Auckland's secondhand bookstores.

Hoxha died in 1985, and at the end of the decade the Albanian regime began to collapse, as the great man's successor Ramiz Alia attempted to follow the example of the Stalinist rulers in several other Balkan countries and convert himself from a bureaucrat into a capitalist. The Communist Party responded by denouncing Alia and talking of a 'Trotskyite coup' in Albania. The party formally renounced Hoxhaism and changed its name in 1994, leaving a couple of dissident factions to keep fighting the good fight. The first, known as the 'Stalin group' or 'the Veterans', died out quite quickly, but the second has continued a sort of shadowy existence as the Communist Party of Aotearoa. And a sort of 'Hoxhaist International' still exists - it has a rudimentary website here, and seems to be strongest in Latin America, Lord knows why.

According to the film's wiki entry Hugo Chavez has declared himself a fan of Inside Man.

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