It was called a ``congress of continuity.'' But it was, judging by what was said, also a ``congress for efficiency.''
The continuity lay in the firm signals of no departures from the essential policies of Enver Hoxha, who ruled Albania from its 1944 foundation as a communist state until his passing 19 months ago.
The efficiency came with forthright emphasis in the keynote speech of his successor, Ramiz Alia, in opening the Nov. 3-8 congress of the Albanian Communist Party.
Mr. Alia counted the gains under the last economic plan, but was openly critical about shortcomings. The leitmotif throughout the long economic section of his report was an unequivocal call for greater efficiency, improved management, and better quality at all levels of production, coupled with an unexpectedly frank naming of names of party managers who had failed.
``Strong economic logic'' must prevail in the planning, designing, and carrying out of all future investment, Alia said. The complex problems in the run-up to the 1990s call for sounder economic judgment that will find the best solutions and guarantee the most rational use of the country's resources, he said.
Management and economic thinking must focus on the ``effectiveness of expenditure.'' It was a matter, in short, of getting priorities right, for further expansion but at reduced costs and greater efficiency.
Alia was not talking of ``economic reform.'' But the recognition of material incentive and reward for better work by enterprises and individuals, and the emphasis on general profitability, was the kind of thing the Hungarians, for example, have advocated for years.
``Democratic centralism,'' said Alia, remained the basic principle. But there had been cases of its ``incorrect application'' and tendencies to reduce lower, local authorities to the role of simple rubber-stamps. There must be more grass-roots involvement and direct participation, with fewer ``stereotyped orders'' and administrative interference from above to the detriment of good management and discouragement of worker interest and initiative.
Frequently in this appraisal of Albania's progress and its future economic needs Alia sounded a note of candor and ``openness'' rarely heard previously in its public politics.
Although glasnost (the Russian for ``openness'') is the current Soviet watchword, Alia - in a string of caustic references to Soviet affairs - dismissed Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's campaign to expose inefficiency and bureaucracy as ``demagogy'' designed to deceive the Russian people.
Nonetheless, the Albanian leader was explicit in the manner in which he singled out, by name, important grain, oil and gas, and stock-farming regions for serious shortfalls in their planned targets and bluntly held local party management to account for such failures. Included in these references was an apparently disastrous loss of sheep herds in southern Albania last winter.
Twice disenchanted by alliances with big powers (it broke with the Soviet Union in 1960s and from its subsequent alliance with China in the early '70s), Albania still wants to ``go it alone.'' It has no part and would take no part again, said Alia, in any military bloc.
``We will never link trade with acceptance of credits, the grant of concessions, or allowing the activities of foreign companies or financial institutions in our country. [But] we are, however, for good relations with other states on the basis of equality, mutual sovereignty and noninterference, and mutual benefit.''
Neither the United States - ``the most aggressive power of our time'' - or the Soviet Union, Alia made clear, qualify in this categorization. Nor, for that matter, does ``revisionist'' China which is ``an admirer of Western monopoly capitalism and is proceeding on the capitalist road.''
Presenting the economic guidelines for the next five years, Prime Minister Adil Carcani spoke of the last plan with some pride as the first undertaken without outside aid or credit ``and relying entirely on our own forces.''
It had been ``a major test'' of Albania's ability to stand on its own feet and ``in the main,'' he said, it had come through it successfully. The phrase glossed over an admitted falling off in some key growth rates in the last year or so, and in that light the new levels set for 1990 might seem over-ambitious for the country's capacities.