Only that I have passed and leaned on the same wall that you have, my comrades
Only that I have suffered with you and dreamt with you
Only that I have found you and you found me, comrade…”
Demetris Christofias had chosen these verses by Yiannis Ritsos to bid us farewell when handing over the baton of the leadership of AKEL.
And yet. Demetris Christofias, comrade Demetris, our Demetris, did the most important thing. He suffered together with the people. He dreamed with the people. He struggled with the people. He waged battles, won, lost, got up again, fought at the forefront of struggles and raised high the flag of Cyprus, the banner of AKEL.
He raised even higher the meaning of being a Communist, of being a militant of AKEL, the post of General Secretary of AKEL, the position of President of the House of Representatives and of President of the Republic.
He raised high the banner of socialism, Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism and remained faithful to these ideas till the very end.
Demetris, the son of Christofis and Annou, was born in the village of Kato Dikomo in 1946. Every time he talked about his childhood, he took care to point out that even though it was childhood in poverty, it was a happy one. He himself was always proud of the fact that he was never untidy as a child. He had the care and enjoyed the love of his mother Annou, and his sisters Eleni, Despoula, Maria and Andri. His shirt and trousers were always ironed and ready. He made coffee at the coffee shop of the Trade Union, sold from door-to-door the Party newspaper “Haravgi” after reading it’s every word.
Demetris Christofias grew up in the Local Cultural and Sports Club “Achilleas Dikomou”. He grew up in the Library of the Club of the Popular Movement that opened up an entire world to him. Demetris was not an excellent pupil at school. One night however he read an entire book. After classes at the “Neocleous” Commercial School he was going to work as a construction worker and working at the coffee shop of the Popular Organizations.
He was always talking about the decisive influence the uncle Andreas Demetri had on him who had in effect introduced socialist ideology to him, but at the same time he taught him to question, to reflect and think, and to always search for the truth.
He joined the ranks of organized struggle as a school pupil. At the age of 14 he became a member of the Pancyprian Unified School Student’s Organization (PEOM). In the summer of 1964 at the age of 18, he became a member of AKEL, the class-based Pancyprian Federation of Labour (PEO) and the United Democratic Youth Organisation (EDON). In 1966 he was elected Secretary of his Local Cultural and Sports Club “Achilleas” and in 1967 Secretary of the EDON Local Organisation of Dikomou. In May 1969 he was elected a member of the Central Council of EDON. At the same time, he was hired by a company from which he was subsequently dismissed, because he was prompting his colleagues to struggle for their just cause and become members of the class-based trade union federation of PEO. After fierce protests by PEO, he was rehired.
The turning point in D. Christofias’ life was a mass local community event organized in Dikomo after the events that took place in the village of Kofinou. This meeting was attended by the General Secretary of the C.C. of AKEL, the late Ez. Papaioannou, who delivered a speech and singled out the merits of the young D. Christofias who introduced him to the meeting. The Party itself decided to send him to study in Moscow on Papaioannou’s recommendation. So in the summer of 1969 he began his studies in Moscow at the Institute of Social Sciences.
There in Moscow he also met Elizabeth, his “queen of hearts”, as he liked to say, with whom he had three children, Marianna, Christina and Christos. Demetris has always been very proud of his children. He was proud to see them growing up, marching on the path of ideas that also inspired him too.
In Moscow, Demetris Christofias confirmed the aspirations the Party leadership saw in him. Shortly before the Black Summer of 1974 of the coup d’état and invasion, he completed his studies and returned to Cyprus with a PhD in History. The beautiful years of student life armed him with knowledge, an outlook of the achievements of the Soviet people, but also about the problems of socialist construction, as well as useful experiences that forged his political thinking.
Upon his return to Cyprus, he was recruited as a full-time cadre of EDON, where he was later on elected as its Central Organizing Secretary. The coup d’état and invasion of 1974 forced him to abandon, together with his family, Dikomo as refugees. His course and development in the Movement continued with his election in 1977 as General Secretary of EDON. In 1982 he was elected a member of the Central Committee of AKEL and in 1986 a member of the Political Bureau of the C.C. On April 22, 1988, after the passing away of the late Ezekias Papaioannou, he was elected General Secretary of the Central Committee of AKEL, a post he was re-elected to up to 2005 uncontested.
His election to the leadership of AKEL was a heavy weight of responsibility that Demetris Christofias assumed unconditionally and with awe. He knew that his duty towards the Party, Cyprus and the Cypriot people, was immense. He took up the task with honesty, with self-confidence, dignity and total success. Despite the difficulties and adversities, he guided together with his comrades the Party to attain the highest point of our country’s political life.
He rose to the occasion by fully taking on his responsibilities. During the years of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and subsequent crisis inside AKEL, he managed under extremely difficult and critical conditions, for the People’s Movement to grow and our country to progress overcoming all kinds of adversity.
In these conditions, comrade Demetris Christofias and the then Party leadership not only overcame difficulties that for other Parties were fatal, but they also managed to make it a considerably powerful political force. Indeed they managed to take it to the first position of the political parties in Cyprus.
Under the leadership of comrade Christofias and with him at the forefront of the struggle we managed back then to renew and modernise AKEL, but remaining however faithful to its fundamental ideological and organisational principles. We managed to enhance inter-Party democracy by strengthening simultaneously the unity and effectiveness of the Party in its social and political presence. In countless interviews throughout those years the same question was repeatedly put to him: How has AKEL managed it? He always gave the same reply: “We counted on the working people…We managed to withstand because our hearts are flamed by ideas and values that put the common people above all else… We endured because we stood next to and on the side of the toiler, the wage-earner, on the side of the office employee and the teacher. We stood on their side as brothers and sisters in struggle and as comrades, never as arrogant preachers.”
It is undeniably true that com. Demetris Christofias taught all of us to surpass ourselves and to work like he did – day and night. He taught us what it means to defy fatigue and illness. He taught us what it means to put the “collective” over and above any “egoism and personal interest”. He was equally demanding of his comrades as he was with himself. He attached great significance to collective work and functioning, without however accepting it as a refuge for avoiding the assigning of personal responsibilities.
Together with the rest of his comrades of the then leadership of AKEL he opened up new paths by setting the example of ongoing renewal. In this sense, indeed, he honored the history he wrote as the youngest leader of a Communist Party across Europe.
Of course the renewal that his election to the Party leadership represented did not begin nor end, in the positive signal conveyed in terms of age. The development of inter-party democracy, the multifaceted and multilevel activity of the Movement, its presence and contribution to the political, social and cultural affairs of the country in a pioneering and radical way, all bear the seal and mark of the 20-year presence of comrade Demetris in the leadership of AKEL.
His election to the Presidency of the House of Representatives and following that to the Presidency of the Republic was not accidental. It was not just a popular vindication for an AKEL militant who found himself for the first time at the helm of the highest state post. His terms in the Presidency of the House of Representatives brought parliamentary diplomacy to another level. They upgraded Parliament’s institutional role, but also its daily political operation. These terms took steps forward for Democracy in our country.
The administration of Cyprus under Christofias bears historical characteristics. Under Christofias unifying proposals were submitted on numerous aspects with regards the solution of the Cyprus problem. The convergences of that period condense everything that unites our people on both sides of the barbed wire of division. They were proposals that gave a perspective to the coexistence of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in their common home: the Republic of Cyprus. For the first time this vision took on a practical form with the tabling of specific political positions and proposals.
The rapprochement of our people and the reunification of our country represented the daily work and great vision Demetris served with all his strength right to the very end. We all remember that for many years, in the Party, in the House of Representatives and the Presidency, he always took with him the painting that for him was his own signature: the tiny harbour of Kyrenia (Note: in the occupied areas). The cradle that gave birth to him, the destination to which he wanted to end up, the passion of a lifetime.
It is characteristic that a Turkish Cypriot chose to bid farewell to him with a simple message on the internet that says it all. He wrote “I bid you farewell comrade. Your struggle is our struggle”. This profoundly ideological and political truth is the best farewell.
Demetris Christofias did not belong only to the Greek Cypriots. He belonged to the whole of the Cypriot people. Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Latins, Armenians. This gained this position as a result of his struggles and service over many years.
He did so because he dared. He dared to tell truths to the people; truths that were being said for the very first time by a President of the Republic of Cyprus. He said that Cyprus hides inside it the remains of Greek Cypriots, but also Turkish Cypriots victims of a blind nationalism. As General Secretary of AKEL, but also later on as President of the Republic of Cyprus, he dared to talk about and denounce the crimes committed not only by Turkey and TMT (Note: Turkish Cypriot armed fiercely nationalist and anti-communist organisation), but also by the Greek Cypriot fascist Right-wing against Turkish Cypriot civilians. He said that for Cyprus to move forward the ethnic confrontation between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots must be overcome; that the two communities must work together on a political level. Finally, he said that Cyprus was paying the price of rhetoric and sloganeering from balconies that lulled the people, when behind closed doors other things were being agreed without its consent.
When the economic model with which the banks operated had reached its limits undermining the real economy and leading it to an unprecedented crisis, the Christofias administration opened a different window: the one of energy. That is to say, it opened up the path of breaching the deadlock in which the Cyprus economy had been driven into by simultaneously converting our country’s natural wealth into a factor of peace for the country and prosperity for the people. Furthermore, in the conditions of an economic crisis, it drew a “red line” of resistance and protection of the working people and those most in need.
In the final analysis, despite the attack that was launched from the beginning of the Christofias Presidency, an undoubted work has been carried out in its assessment. Radical changes and reforms in education and local government were made. On social policy, the water issue, the environment, and much more. Ewe shouldn’t forget that the Presidency of the European Union, the second semester of 2012 was a complete success, a fact which enhanced the prestige of Cyprus internationally.
Demetris Christofias was not only the Demetris Christofias of Cyprus. He is a historical figure of international standing. His internationalist action from every post that he has assumed has been multidimensional. His primary goal was always the promotion of the cause of Cyprus and the vindication of our martyred homeland. His ideological foundation in his outlook of the world was his consistent proletarian internationalism, which doesn’t – suitable for many – allow for any neutrality. He always stood in solidarity on the side of struggling peoples, always in class solidarity with the working people of the whole world who are struggling for their rights and just causes. He always called imperialism by its name and blamed it for the wars and suffering that are dominant in the modern world.
When he was President of the Republic everyone knew in the international and European arena his ideological roots, which were radically different from the beliefs of most of his interlocutors. However, they all treated him with respect because they appreciated his sincerity, seriousness, responsible attitude and above all his love for Cyprus.
We have felt and witnessed the appreciation towards him so many times, whether at the United Nations or in Europe, or in Russia or China. Leaders of states, governments, parties, whether they agreed or disagreed with him politically always saw in him a genuine patriot, a true internationalist, an honest and sincere leader.
- Christofias made his life part of the history of AKEL, part of the history of the country. For AKEL he is our flag. No one has ever been so fiercely attacked, vilified and slandered. We do not expect any of those who treated him so dishonestly and immorally to vindicate him because he has already been vindicated. He has already been vindicated by the tears shed by those to whom he devoted everything he had and didn’t have to as we bid farewell: the ordinary common people, the veterans, the people of manual and intellectual labour.
All that that we have already said is more than enough.
Thousands have already spoken of him; the thousands raising high the flags of Cyprus, the flags of AKEL, the flags of EDON.
Thousands of hearts have already spoken about him, determined to continue on the same path.
“Man’s dearest possession is life,” wrote Nikolai Ostrovsky in his book “How The Steel Was Tempered”. “It is given to him but once, and he must live it so as to feel no torturing regrets for wasted years, never know the burning shame of a mean and petty past; so live that, dying, he might say: all my life, all my strength were given to the finest cause in all the world──the fight for the Liberation of Mankind”
That’s precisely how Demetris Christofias tied his life with the Party, with Cyprus, with the whole world.
You struggled, you offered so much, you shed tears, you bled, you won battles, you held high the banners, you set the best example for us all.
Thousands will continue your struggle.