The steel mill of Elbasan – symbol and showplace of the Albanian communism
Researcher: Visar Noraj
The focus of this case study lies on the steel mill “Steel of the Party”, which was constructed in the Albanian town of Elbasan during the communist regime. The construction of the Combine – the biggest metallurgical plant in socialist Albania – can be considered as an important step in the industrialization of the country, which the Communists had taken to heart since they came to power in 1944. The study sheds light on aspects of the economic history of the development of the steel mill. Furthermore, it takes a closer look at social- and cultural-historical questions to analyze the character of the Albanian labour force and the social-cultural effects of the industrialization policy. The Party of Labour of Albania (PLA) had loaded the Combine with an enormous symbolic value and the plant should have an important function for the creation of a modern proletariat. However, the Combine forged new social relations and cultural practices, which in part were not intended by the Party. Such issues are totally unexplored in the case of communist Albania; that is why the study provides an important contribution to the research on both, Albanian and Southeast European industrial development.
Questions and goals
The study will examine the following issues:
- The economic development of the plant and its contribution for the industrial development of Albania;
- The working relations within the factory and the recruitment of labour force;
- The formation of a worker culture and its role in the town of Elbasan.
This study examines in detail the developmental history of the steel mill, its economic difficulties and the strategic solutions of the management, also taking into account the relations between the management on the one hand, and the state economic planners and Party leaders on the other.
Another problem the study will scrutinize is the difficulty to find suitable skilled workers. The following questions concerning the working relations within the plant will also be examined: How was the production process organized? How were the relations between the management, the executive staff and the workers? What attitude showed the workers toward the representatives of the Party and the trade unions in the plant? How big was the worker’s room for maneuver, knowing that labour forces were in short supply? What about the work discipline or about fluctuation, which was so typical for socialist economies?
Another focus of the study is the different forms of workers culture within the factory. The question arises, how much does the networks between colleagues became an important resource of social capital and how do they relate to the familiar relationships, which by Albanian tradition are very close? These issues are totally unexplored in the case of Albania; therefore the study will assess the existence of such phenomena, the reactions of the authorities and the interpretation of the workers.
Methods and sources
The study is based on an analysis of archival and published sources as well as Oral History interviews. Relevant documents are located especially in the archival resources of the PLA as well as in the archival material of relevant ministries and other state institutions. Reports of the trade unions, the party committee of the plant and the district authorities contain information about the worker’s opinion, their life and their problems. Other important sources are statistical data.
Different published sources help to reconstruct the ideological appreciation of the steel mill such as memoirs and speeches of Party leaders, propaganda writings and press articles. The local newspapers as well as the party organ “The Voice of the People” are of particular value, because they often included reports concerning the Combine.
Finally, sources such as life interviews as well as structured interviews with former workers, representatives of the management, of the party and of the trade unions are also used. They not only provide supplementary facts, but also serve to reconstruct the workers culture and the working relations.
Ulf Brunnbauer, Visar Nonaj, and Biljana Raeva, Workers, Steel Factories, and Communism: Labor in Kremikovci (Bulgaria) and Elbasan (Albania) under State Socialism, 52 S., July 2013.
In the print: Neues Werk, neue Menschen“: Die Rekrutierung von Arbeitskräften für das albanische Stahlwerk „Stahl der Partei“
In the print: „Shkolla të komunizmit“ – Roli i bashkimeve profesionale në Kombinatin Metalurgjik „Çeliku i Partisë“ (Schools of the communism – The role of the trade unions in the Metallurgical Combine „Steel of the Party“)
In the print: Kombinati Metalurgjik i Elbasanit dhe rekrutimi i fuqisë së nevojshme punëtore (The Metallurgical Combine of Elbasan and the recruitment of the necessary labour force)
(Coauthor) Finding workers to build socialism. Recruitment for the steel factories in Kremikovci (Bulgaria) and Elbasan (Albania) during communism – ESSH-Conference in Vienna (26.04.2014)
Die Bedeutung des Stahlwerkes von Elbasan für das sozialistische Albanien – Workshop in Vienna (01.03.2013)