The history of the Cyprus problem

Nationalist impasse, imperialist interventions, unstable agreements.

Nationalist impasse, imperialist interventions unstable agreements

The Cyprus problem has its roots in the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. In Cyprus the deliverance from the Ottoman administration was identified with the demand for union with Greece. Thus, the Greek Cypriots saw the passing over to British rule in 1878, as a transitional stage, which would lead to "Enosis" ("Union" with Greece). This idea was fostered in the main by the Church and the Greek intelligentsia, through the schools that they controlled.

The creation of the Turkish state at the beginning of the twentieth century gave the political basis for the development of national consciousness of the Turkish Cypriots, a fact that the British administration used in order to keep its sovereignty over the island.

The first big insurrection against British rule took place in 1931. It started out as a common struggle of the Greek and Turkish Cypriots against, specifically, the colonial taxation but it was hijacked by the Orthodox Church and turned into a struggle with the main slogan of "Enosis". The repression of the insurrection was followed by harsh measures of oppression by the colonists.

After the Second World War the independent bonapartist policies of Nasser in Egypt, the Arab-Israeli conflict and the need of western capitalists to control the big oil reserves of the Middle East, all made Cyprus very important for the imperialists who benefited from the nationalist strife on Cyprus, thus becoming the arbiters and controlling the situation and keeping their bases on Cyprus.

The role of AKEL

The Communist Party of Cyprus was founded in 1926 and was renamed AKEL at a later stage. The leadership of AKEL was incapable of rallying round the working class of both communities in a common struggle against the British rule. Sticking to the Stalinist theory of two stages (first the stage of the bourgeois democratic revolution and later at an undefined future stage, socialism), it understood the liberation as a result of the common struggle with the Greek Cypriot bourgeoisie, which was however tied to the colonialists by a hundred threads.

The armed struggle of EOKA from 1955-59 was absolutely controlled by the right wing. Its nationalist slogans and the guerrilla tactics alienated the Turkish Cypriot community from the Greek Cypriots and thus the policy of 'divide and rule' of the British was made much more effective. The failure of AKEL to face up to nationalism was a big blow to the unity of the workers, because it permitted the right wing to control both communities and spread hate between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

The treaties of Zurich and London

The Treaties of Zurich and London (1960) were an unstable compromise of the bourgeois interests that were clashing in Cyprus. The Greek Cypriot bourgeoisie were forced to desert the vision of "Enosis" in exchange for their own rule. The Turkish Cypriot bourgeoisie did not achieve "partition" (which was their aim) but they prevented "Enosis" and secured, to an important degree, participation within the Cypriot government. The British retained their military bases on the island and Greece and Turkey achieved the right to invade and also to keep armed forces on Cyprus.

During the three years that the Zurich constitution lasted, the nationalists in both communities were preparing for a conflict - the Greek Cypriots to limit the 'privileges' of the Turkish Cypriots and to push for "Enosis" and the Turkish Cypriots to extend the divisions. The Greek Cypriot bourgeoisie, already economically superior, wanted absolute economic control over the island; the Turkish Cypriot bourgeoisie were attempting to monopolise the exploitation of the Turkish Cypriot community.

From nationalist violence to the invasion

The clashes of 1963-64 meant the end of the peaceful co-existence between the two communities. In the armed clashes, the Greek Cypriot nationalist groups were stronger and their victories were often followed by brutalities, which even today are poisoning the relations between the communities.

After the clashes of 1963-4, the Turkish Cypriots left the government allowing the Greek Cypriot bourgeoisie to monopolise power. At the same time, the first geographical separation of the two communities took place in the form of concentration of the majority of Turkish Cypriots, in enclaves, under the control of the Turkish Cypriot leadership of Denktash.

The Turkish Cypriot Left, under conditions of national oppression and isolation, was completely weakened, and AKEL (the main Greek Cypriot party of the left) obediently followed the policies of President Makarios, which in the final analysis, were aiming to establish the complete control of the Greek Cypriot bourgeoisie over the island and the suppression of the Turkish Cypriots.

28 years of impasse

The coup that overthrew Makarios, which was organised by the Greek Junta with the support of CIA in July 1974, gave Turkey the chance to invade and alter the balance of power in Cyprus. The forced exodus of the Greek Cypriots from the North and the not so free withdrawal of the Turkish Cypriots from the South (the Cypriot government was 'allowing' them through the ceasefire line, and Denktash was pressurising them to join his enclave in the North and Greek Cypriot extremists were 'encouraging' them to leave), completed the criminal separation that had started in 1963-4.

Since 1974, the conflict between the interests of the bourgeoisie of the two communities is the main stumbling block for a just solution to the problem of Cyprus. The economically stronger Greek Cypriot bourgeoisie is trying to achieve maximum possible unity and maximum free competition, which will enable it to rule over the whole island. The Turkish Cypriot bourgeoisie knows that free competition will lead to its demise and thus its attempt is to block anything that would lead to the reunification of Cyprus.

The history of the Cyprus problem proves that without the fall of the bourgeoisie, it is impossible to find a just and long lasting solution for the thousands of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot people. Only the Greek and Turkish working classes have common, and not conflicting interests, unlike the bourgeoisie. With their common struggle against capitalism, they can give a solution to the Cyprus problem on the basis of mutual respect for their democratic rights and a centrally planned economy for the benefit of the people of both communities.

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