With tonight’s meeting, AKEL commemorates the greatest of the Cypriot people’s achievements: the Independence and foundation of the Republic of Cyprus which marked the end of British colonial rule in our country.
We are at the same time paying tribute to all the heroes of Cyprus, to all the sons and daughters of our people who throughout its long History have shed their blood and sacrificed their lives for the freedom, democracy and prosperity of our country, for the defense of the Republic of Cyprus as the common home of all its children, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Armenians, Maronites and Latins.
Meetings like the one today represent one of the few opportunities that AKEL has to talk about all that the education system, the official version of history and the overwhelming majority of the mass media are still concealing and hiding from the people – about the “national” myths and the hidden truths of History.
The first and inexorable truth is that during the period of colonial enslavement not all Cypriots stood against the British colonial rulers. Whereas the people of Cyprus was suffering from poverty, underdevelopment and the oppression of the British colonialists, certain circles and forces had positioned themselves on the side of colonialism.
We are talking about the elite of the Greek Cypriot, but also of the Turkish Cypriot community, the emerging ruling class, the big landowners, the higher echelons of the clergy, who maintained excellent relationships with the given British colonial Governors.
They were the ones staffing the civil administration, gaining financially from the regime and relying on the colonial government to suppress any workers’ struggles.
These are the same forces who to this very day hold economic power and political influence in their hands in our country.
Consequently, all of these forces had no reason to fight against the colonial yoke. The following conclusion belongs to the then Consul General of Greece in Cyprus, Alexander Kountouriotis: “The material interest, which constitutes the principal motive force of the leadership of the Right-wing faction, does not want the departure of the English from Cyprus (… ). The word “treason” would be lenient “, the Greek Consul continues, “to characterize what was said within four walls by…the fanatical advocates of Enosis of the Right about the British rulers”, the Greek Consul General continues.
The second historical truth is that before the Right and the Ethnarchy decide to turn against the British by opting for armed struggle, the Left was the only force on the island that was mobilizing the people against British colonialism. In fact it was the Left that suffered the first casualties of the anti-colonial struggle.
Our Party, initially as the Communist Party of Cyprus (CPC) and subsequently as AKEL in much more mass numbers, was the force that was organized big popular rallies, strikes and general strikes that were shaking the island demanding freedom and self-determination. The Left municipal councils back then were bastions of struggle led by Communist Mayors. The arrests, court trials and imprisonments were a daily reality for comrades Servas and Partasides in Limassol, Georgos Christodoulides in Larnaca, Adam Adamandos in Varosha, and for so many other militants and members of AKEL all over the island.
AKEL was also that force which took the initiative for the then internationalization of the Cyprus problem, culminating in the submission of AKEL’s memorandum entitled “The people of Cyprus accuses Britain”. As a result of this Memo the Cyprus problem was raised for the first time at the United Nations. This pioneering action was the reason why the British colonialists tried to crush the CPC-AKEL.
The draconian anti-Communist laws of the 1920’s and 1930’s, the trial of the Pancyprian Trade Unions Committee, the bloody suppression of the demonstration organized by the People’s Movement of the Left in the village of Lefkoniko in 1945 and the imprisonment of the Municipal Council of Limassol in 1950 are just a few examples of the British colonialists against the Left. The culmination of these ferocious attacks of course came in December 1955, when the British prohibited and banned AKEL, the Organizations of the People’s Movement of the Left, the newspaper “New Democrat” and imprisoned 135 leading militants of the Party. As the Colonial Governor himself admitted in the decree announcing the prohibition of AKEL, our Party was the real obstacle to their plans to transform Cyprus into a military base.
All of these actions and attacks shatter the myths propagated by the right-wing about AKEL’s supposed collaboration with the British. After all, for British imperialism, the Cypriot Left was not only a national force that was threatening its colonial rule on the island. It was at the same time a dangerous class and ideological opponent. An attempt by various forces and circles is being made in the same way to smear our Party. By distorting reality they want to put us in confrontation with the popular sentiment.
Another historical truth needs to be exposed and made known. Although back then the aim of the anti-colonial struggle of the Greek Cypriots was common, namely the union of the island with Greece, a position for which AKEL subsequently made its self-criticism, there were fundamental disagreements between the Left and Right, both on tactics as well as the content which each force attached to the struggle.
The Left on the one hand was fighting for genuine self-determination and Cyprus’ unfettered freedom. The Left did not accept the granting of concessions to the British.
The Right on the other hand, pinned its hopes on the so-called “Greek-British friendship”, accepting – as was eventually the case in 1959 – the establishment of British military bases and the imposition of the insulting for our people regime of the guarantor powers.
The Left was addressing with sincerity our Turkish Cypriot compatriots, most of whom besides were organized within the ranks of the Pancyprian Trade Union Committee (PSE) and its successor the Pancyprian Federation of Labour (PEO) – and defending the safeguarding of their rights and entity.
The Right, which was disguising the struggle with the mask of the nationalist irredentist concept of the “Great Idea”, at first disregarded the existence of the Turkish Cypriots and then turned against them.
The Left was calling for the formation of a united front of struggle of all Cypriots.
The Right however was responding by stating that any understanding with the Communists is tantamount to treason and chose as the military leader of EOKA a passionate anti-communist, the leader of “Organization X” and a collaborator of the Nazis in occupied Greece, who was promising he would crush the Left so that it would cease to represent a substantial force to be reckoned with. At some stage Grivas ordered killings and attacks to be committed against the Left and its militants, aiming to slander it and stop it from playing a significant political role after independence.
Finally, the crucial disagreement over the tactics of the anti-colonial struggle also emerged.
AKEL projected the line of mass, political and popular struggle, as well as the promotion of the internationalization of the Cyprus problem with the support of the socialist countries, since it was aware that on the arena of military confrontation, the balance of power was overwhelmingly in favour of the British colonialists.
The Right and the Ethnarchy however, in their attempt to take control of the struggle from the Left, chose to disregard the objective given situation and international conditions and proceed to the waging of the armed struggle. The sacrifices and selflessness of heroic EOKA fighters -which our people should recognize and pay tribute towards does not negate the fact that the tactics of the armed struggle were not vindicated, by the end result. On the contrary, it concluded in the burial of Enosis and allowed the British to involve Turkey in the Cyprus problem and to ferment, cultivating hostility and hatred between the two communities. Those circles and forces who refuse to accept these assessments made by AKEL, should read the admissions made by the late leader of the Right-wing Glafcos Clerides concerning the wrong option of the armed struggle.
Regretfully, the bitter truth is that the struggle ended in dramatic deadlocks and in a compromise with the colonialists which was sealed with the Zurich-London Agreements. The results are well-known. Cyprus gained its independence on the one hand, but on the other had to concede military bases to the British with so-called “sovereign rights” on its territory. Cyprus was forced to declare Britain, Greece and Turkey as guarantor powers with rights of intervention and to accept the stationing of Turkish and Greek military contingents on the island. In addition, a given constitution was imposed, with divisive and dysfunctional elements reproducing ethnic divisions between the two communities.
It’s also worth recalling something else. The leaders of Greece and Turkey back then, namely Karamanlis and Menderes respectively, together with these agreements, both signed two secret protocols. These protocols provided for the intervention of the two so-called “mother countries” (Greece and Turkey) so that the newly established Republic of Cyprus would join NATO and that communist activity would be banned on the island.
All this substantiates AKEL’s disagreement with the Zurich-London Agreements. At the same time, however, our Party did not merely take a negative stand. It foresaw and warned early on about both the prospects, as well as the dangers the new reality was creating. Any possible subversion of the state and failure of both communities to co-manage the newly established state would pave the way to foreign interventions and the final partition of the island. Despite its handicaps, the independence of Cyprus was a gain and the foundation on which both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots could have created a common future of progress and prosperity. The negative provisions and foreign dependencies that were imposed by the Treaties should and could have been eradicated, not unilaterally and hastily, but gradually through a common understanding, cooperation and co-decision between the two communities.
Thus, while the leaders of the two communities were continuing one looking towards Enosis and the other to Partition, AKEL in the Program of the 10th Congress 1962 set as its primary goal “the completion of the independence of Cyprus.” This position of AKEL, vindicated by history, was not accidental, nor the result of prophetic abilities. It was the product of a prudent and sober approach which dictates our Party’s policies and tactics throughout the entire course of the national question up to today. The objective understanding of reality and the Marxist dialectic analysis in the elaboration of a truly patriotic policy is part of AKEL’s identity. This very dialectic analysis constitutes a compass guide also with regards the current phase of our people’s struggle, aiming at the termination of the occupation and for the reunification of our country and people.
The events to commemorate anniversaries, like tonight’s meeting, acquire a meaning if and provided that they manage to join the thread of history with the contemporary reality. If from the bitter suffering we end up drawing useful lessons. If we draw the correct lessons arising from the conclusion of the anti-colonial struggle, but also all that tragically followed, culminating in the tragedy of 1974.
The question therefore arises:
Has the assessment that the anti-colonial struggle demanded the forging of popular unity based on a common goal and realistic tactics been vindicated or not?
Has the view that we must have our Turkish Cypriot compatriots as our allies and not to push them into the arms of the chauvinist circles of partition been vindicated or not?
Has the assessment that the foreign troops and foreign “guardians” would constantly undermine the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus been vindicated or not?
Has the position that the functionality of the state must bring the two communities together and not keep them separated because otherwise there will be sources of dangers, been vindicated or not?
And finally, who has History vindicated and is vindicating?
Has it vindicated or is it vindicating those who defended and are defending the Republic of Cyprus as the independent state of all Cypriots or those who acted to serve foreign masters and worked for the dissolution of the state leading to the destruction of 1974?
If we do not reply these questions in the same way, then it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to agree on the content of the solution being sought and on the tactics we must apply today. However, if we have learned lessons from history, if all of us envision a free and independent country for all its citizens, if we foresee that the longer time elapses without any outcome/results Cyprus will be immersed in the quagmire of the final partition, then we cannot but fail to agree on certain principles and positions, as the National Council besides has repeatedly defined.
As regards AKEL whether one agrees or disagrees with us on the Cyprus problem, the fact that we express our positions clearly and boldly without metamorphoses depending on the audience and without minced words whenever elections are near, cannot but be acknowledged. AKEL does not belong neither to those who would accept any solution, but also nor to those who refuse any solution. The Political Bureau of the C.C. of the Party has reiterated – recently too – very clearly our desire for a solution as soon as possible, stressing, of course, that nobody expect to have our support towards a solution that will not be based on the following principles:
1. Withdrawal of the Turkish occupation troops, abolition of the anachronistic 1960 system of guarantees, as well as the abolition of any rights of unilateral intervention. AKEL rejects a NATO solution to the issue of security.
2. Continuity of the Republic of Cyprus and its transformation into a bicommunal, bizonal federation through the continuity of the status of the member state of the United Nations and the European Union, as well as through the continuity of the international treaties of the Republic of Cyprus. The prohibition of secession constitutes an additional safeguard for the continuity of the Republic of Cyprus.
3. Strong central authority with all the necessary competences that will safeguard, inter alia, the unity of the state, the single sovereignty, single international personality and single citizenship.
4. Uninhibited implementation of basic freedoms and human rights for all Cypriot citizens. AKEL does not accept permanent derogations from the acquis communautaire.
5. Termination of the colonization and respect of the population ratio of 4: 1 both at the time of the solution and with regards the future flow of Greek and Turkish citizens.
6. Substantive territorial adjustments which, inter alia, will include Famagusta and Morphou under Greek Cypriot administration.
7. Timeframes should be shortened to the minimum both with regards the return of territories and the withdrawal of the occupation troops. The territories subject to adjustment must belong to the Greek Cypriot federated unit from the moment the overall agreement will enter into force.
8.Strong resolution of the UN Security Council and other relevant commitments by all involved parties in order to ensure the implementation and full adherence to the overall solution.
In stating all these positions, we clarify our commitment to the rest of the principles too that have been agreed and concern the Turkish Cypriot community.
One wonders, who can identify in these positions any compliance, submission or any deviation on the part of AKEL from its long-standing principles and from the Unanimous Decisions of the National Council? Who and how could someone claim that this framework of principles is in any way a blank cheque to Anastasiades? Who, at last, has proposed some different path that could achieve better results? And above all, why haven’t they yet told us what this path is?
AKEL as it has demonstrably done so in all the years that the Cyprus problem is in existence, sets out its position towards the negotiation procedure and developments, not on the basis of who is the given President, but based on principles with regards the procedure and content of the solution. That is why we support the negotiation procedure and are taking a responsible and constructive stand. We have exercised criticism towards President Anastasiades in relation to the Cyprus problem repeatedly in the past and will do so again whenever and if needed. However, our own criticism has our desire for a solution based on principles as its starting point, and not the refusal of federation and reunification.
For example, concerning the question of the National Council’s briefing, we also as AKEL believe that the documents of the negotiations should have been given to the political parties and the core issues discussed so that we can contribute towards the formulation of the negotiating positions. The President does not do so, citing that certain forces will leak them to the mass media. However I fear that the parties that are protesting today have had the same fate as the Shepherd’s Boy (Note: old Greek saying meaning, when the alarm will be real nobody will believe it as too many false alarms were constantly raised) because when Demetris Christofias was giving all the documents to the political parties some of them at least were falsely protesting fiercely that they were kept in the dark. Today they have been forced to admit that Christofias did indeed forward the documents to the members of the National Council, unlike Anastasiades. The responsible and constructive behaviour by all will create the preconditions for the better functioning of the National Council. This above all is the responsibility of the President of the Republic, but in a corresponding way also of all the political parties as well.
In the current phase of the negotiations, neither the phobic concerns about every possible development, nor portraying the situation better than it really is, have something to offer. We do not know, nor can we know if we will have an agreement or a breakdown in the talks. The reality is that progress has been recorded, mainly due to the adoption of the Christofias-Talat convergences. However, there are still important and difficult issues that have not been agreed, such as the issue of security, the territorial and property issue and the issue of executive. Consequently the taking of bold political decisions is needed, mainly from the Turkish side so that we can hope for a solution that will be accepted by the majority in both communities.
I would also like to make a brief reference to the recent meeting of the two leaders with the UN Secretary-General in New York. The scaremongering that developed before the meeting took place has been totally refuted. Mr. Anastasiades correctly refused to discuss timeframes, arbitration or anything else. This is positive. However to be celebrating about this is unnecessary and unacceptable. The point at this meeting was to take steps forward towards the solution. I regret to observe that no step whatsoever was taken.
In honoring Cyprus Independence today, we proclaim to the Cypriot people that there is no better guarantee and protective shield for the future and existence of the Republic of Cyprus than the correct solution of the Cyprus problem, namely a solution that will restore its sovereignty and territorial integrity, that will give the possibility to our island to once again bring together both communities of our people under one roof with the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all guaranteed. A solution that will free us from the occupation and exclude any rights of intervention and guarantee rights. A solution that will reunite the country, the people and the economy. AKEL is struggling for this solution
AKEL is fully committed to this struggle with all its heart and soul. After all, the Left, without claiming any infallibility, is entitled to feel proud that it was the most consistent defender of the Republic of Cyprus, of the independence and unity of our homeland and people, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
It was and is the force exposing the role and objectives of the foreign interests.
It is the force that is speaking about the crimes committed by fascism, both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot.
The entire history, struggles, sacrifices, policy and activity of AKEL can be summarized in the following phrase: We are ready for an honorable compromise between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, but not for a compromise with the occupation, partition and the foreign interventions.
This was and still is AKEL’s policy.
We shall continue on this path until the final vindication of our people.
Keeping the flag of Cyprus high and proudly as the flag of our struggle.
Long live the independence of Cyprus!
Long live the unsubdued Cypriot people!
Speech of Andros Kyprianou, General Secretary of the C.C. of AKEL, at the meeting dedicated to Cyprus Independence Day
Ayios Athanasis Municipal Cultural Centre, Limassol
AKEL C.C. Press Office, 29th September 2016, Nicosia