How to write like a true Marxist-Leninist

Now here’s something completely different. I discovered a cool online textual analysis tool at voyeurtools.org. Just for fun, I ran through it a collection of online texts by Enver Hoxha, the late Marxist-Leninist dictator of Albania. Hoxha was a prolific writer. Not only was he the political leader of Albania during his rule (1944-1985), but also its top Marxist-Leninist theorist. As a great thinker, he rarely bothered with technical policy details (unless, of course, it involved denouncing, purging and condemning his political rivals into Albania’s gulags). Rather, he took part in the great ideological critique of capitalism (as any good Marxist would), but most importantly, he was a harch critic of  the “revisionist” communist countries like Yugoslavia (after 1948), the Soviet Union (after Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin) and, later, China (after it too deviated from the road of true Marxism-Leninism). He denounced them all – Titoites, Khurshchevites, followers of “Mao Tse Tung thought,” “Eurocommunism” – you name it.  In his mind, by the late 1970s, Albania was the only remaining revolutionary Marxist-Leninist country in the world. He even inspired a tiny following in the West.

Enver Hoxha was a prolific writer, but certainly not a masterful one. Having surrounded himself with yes-men – especially after having killed off or imprisoned most of the original founders of the Albanian Communist Party [later Party of Labor] – it is likely that Hoxha was not much in the business of accepting critical feedback for his writings. Citing Enver Hoxha was obligatory in Albania during his rule, regardless of topic – not only did party followers find inspiration and truth in his writings, but so did historians, artists, poets, and engineers. In any event, his writings set the tone for Albania’s political orientation for much of the Cold War, as well as domestic policy. Let us see then, how a true Marxist-Leninist writes, as revealed by Voyant.

I ran an analysis of the online collection of English language texts by Enver Hoxha held at marxists.org. This is clearly a fraction of Hoxha’s writings, but includes a useful sample of texts from 1944-1981. These include letters, political statements, as well as Hoxha’s Imperialism and Revolution (1978), Eurocommunism is Anti-Communism, and With Stalin which are the only full text books in HTML format (Voyant does not parse text from PDF files).

enver hoxha

As one can observe from the word bubbles, the vocabulary of a true Marxist-Leninist isn’t that rich. The most frequent word is… you guessed it – party. Other most frequent words: world, countries, Soviet, imperialism, revolution, people, struggle. Combine any of these words with revisionist, capitalist, bourgeois and situation and you get a true Marxist-Leninist text. Because, of course, you need to denounce the capitalist, revisionist, imperialist, and bourgeois in order to affirm the party, revolution and the struggle. A reference to the genius of Lenin and Mao will undoubtedly add to the argument.

See the full list of most frequent words here.

What is interesting of course – though the limited sample of texts makes this not truly representative – is to observe the changing frequency of words across time. Voyant does make this possible, by providing an analysis of trends.

Let us examine, for instance, the word “struggle.” It is interesting to observe that its use increases dramatically in the texts from the 1970s and declines in the 1980s. As Albania becomes more isolated politically after its break with China, struggle becomes more important. Though this could also be a function of the fact that the book length texts analyzed are from that period (and the word “struggle” is frequently used in them). It is also interesting that most of Hoxha’s writings dealt with developments within the communist camp. “Soviet,” “China” and “Chinese” make more frequent appearances than “American” and “revisionists” appear just as frequently as “bourgeoisie.” Though, of course, for Hoxha the revisionists tended to act and think like the bourgeoisie, so the word could still be a reference to groups within the communist camp.

How about an analysis of individual texts? For example, in his 1969 denunciation of Khurshchev in “The Demagogy of the Soviet Revisionists Cannot Conceal Their Traitorous Countenance,” the analysis reveals the importance of the word “clique.” There is a clique that is somehow involved in the critique, and not only Khrushchev’s revisionism. An important and unusual term that appears in that document: “social-imperialism.” That term is repeated 41 times. Social-imperialism is akin to a kind of fascism. As Hoxha writes in his typically acerbic tone:

Social-fascism in the home policy has social-imperialism as its direct continuation in foreign policy; and while they seek to camouflage fascism with “socialist” phraseology, the Soviet leaders strive to conceal their imperialism with the slogan of “proletarian internationalism.”

You can’t fool Hoxha with your so-called “proletarian internationalism,” you Soviet imperialist revisionist scum! You’ve been unmasked and your true intentions revealed!

Just as our little tool here has revealed how limited Hoxha’s vocabulary was in his 50-odd years of writing. But of course, in Hoxha-style Marxism-Leninism, you really didn’t need to rely on a very large corpus of keywords to make your point. The analysis of words is sufficient to show the combative nature of Hoxhaist discourse, as well as the Manichean structure of Hoxhaist thought.

Let me illustrate this once again. In Hoxha’s 1965 text on art and literature (“Literature and Art Should Serve to Temper People with Class Consciousness for the Construction of Socialism”), one would imagine a different set of concepts used in such a deeply thought-through exploration of human creativity. But a real Marxist-Leninist wouldn’t be caught with his pants down without exhibiting his political edge. Thus, the most common words in this text are people (119), party (39), work (38) (though this may also mean “work of art” and not labor), struggle (31), great (28) and things (24). The word music is used only 19 times, arts 15 times, and writer a mere 12. The people, the party and the struggle are more important than writers; you’ve been forewarned, Ismail Kadare!

This exploration into the Manichean thought of Albanian Marxism-Leninism reveals other interesting cultural trends in post-Communist Albania. First, it is clear that Hoxhaist thought was, paradoxically for its ultimately isolationist policy implications, worldly and cosmopolitan – “world” (929) is a lot more central to Hoxha’s discourse than “Albania” (239). One explanation for this, of course, may be because these are English language translations and are obviously selected to appeal to foreign readers. But that is likely not the only explanation. The revolution in Albania was framed in world-historical terms; its struggle echoing in the far reaches of the world struggle against capitalism, revisionism and imperialism. A frame pitched towards Albania’s unique role within a universal history of struggle and revolution seems rather appropriate. As Hoxha states in his Imperialism and the Revolution,

Right from the start, the Party of Labour of Albania raised high the banner of implacable and principled struggle against Soviet revisionism and its followers, courageously defended Marxism-Leninism, the cause of socialism and the liberation of the peoples, just as it had fought and was fighting resolutely against Yugoslav revisionism.

As the sentence shows, socialism and the liberation of the peoples are great, one could say “universal” causes in which little Albania was only doing the most righteous thing by renouncing the wicked revisionists. This intense preoccupation with global history and global events as turning points – as a proper criticism of imperialism would demand – is scantly found in present-day Albania, where a more narrow, self-centered worldview tends to dominate public discourse. Second, the corpus of words most frequently used by Hoxha are today, very likely, the least popular words you will find in Albanian public discourse. That includes not only “party,” given the demise of the single-party state, but also words such as revolution, imperialism, struggle, people, class, capitalism (we now only speak of free markets), and the bourgeoisie. I would bet that, if we were to do a textual analysis of post-Communist discourse, the most frequent words would be “democracy,” “Europe,” “reform,” and “corruption.” (On the last word, see the study by my friend and colleague Blendi Kajsiu.)

I invite you to explore the full data by clicking here.

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About Besnik Pula

Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science at Virginia Tech. Specializes in political economy, comparative development and postsocialist transformations. All views expressed here are strictly my own.

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