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Anti-colonial struggle and social struggles

In Cyprus two centres of liberation struggle had been formed. The Right and the ruling class came together around the Ethnarchy headed by every Archbishop of the time. The working people and the progressive elements of bourgeois class allied themselves around AKEL. The Ethnarchy wavered between the framework of so-called greek-british friendship and the need for struggle against the British. Ideologically the right and the Ethnarchy were characterized by extreme nationalism and fanatical anti-communism, which was being strengthened by the civil war and post-civil war climate in Greece. The Right and Ethnarchy rejected without any discussion the idea of a united front struggle of our people, they strove to monopolize the struggle and cultivated division. The confrontation between Right and Left was especially intense during the elections for the election of mayors and local councilors. In these elections the Left had great successes.

The Left viewed the struggle of the Cypriot people as being united with the general anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist struggle of the peoples which was developing those years.  AKEL combined the struggle for freedom with the struggle for democratic gains. It rejected nationalism-chauvinism which led to confrontation with the Turkish Cypriots. It remained steadfast on the position for unity in action of all the anti-colonial forces on a democratic basis of cooperation and mutual respect.

AKEL and the Left never wanted to monopolize the anti-colonial struggle, nor did it question the patriotism of any political force. The split in the forces of the people is due to the policy which the leadership of the Right followed. This division objectively helped the British colonialists and weakened the freedom struggle of the people of Cyprus.

AKEL did not hesitate to call for a regime of self-government as a temporary stage for self-determination. However it withdrew from the Consultative Assembly (Diaskeptiki) when it came to the conclusion that the English did not have a sincere desire to move forward to a regime of real self-government. AKEL respecting the feeling of the great majority of the people and promoting the demand for self-determination took initiatives and energetically worked for the 1950 referendum. At the same time however it reached out to the Turkish Cypriots reaffirming them that AKEL would always defend in every way their own interests also.

AKEL correctly evaluated that by taking into account the conditions and realities of Cyprus the proper form of struggle was that of mass political struggle. Within the framework of this approach it continuously mobilized the people through demonstrations, rallies, political strikes and other forms of mobilizations. It took initiatives on the internal front as well as on the front of internationalization of the Cyprus question. The Cyprus problem was for the first time put before the United Nations in 1949 through a memorandum of the Left to the Security Council and the General Assembly which had the following characteristic  title: “We condemn Britain”. Internationalization was also promoted by the sending abroad of delegations of the Popular Movement.

The decade of 1945-1955 was not only a period of intense political struggles and development of the anti-colonial fight. At the same time it was also a decade of intense class struggle. Even during World War II we saw great mobilizations of working people as was the struggle of the 1st of March 1944 for the cost of living adjustment (COLA). In the years after 1945 and until independence AKEL and the Pancyprian Federation of Labour (PEO) won the inalienable right to organize working people and the foundations were laid for the attainment of most of the socio-economic gains which the Cypriot working people enjoy today.

The climax of these struggles was the great strikes of miners, metalworkers and construction workers of 1948. These strikes were special and without precedent in intensity, duration and heroism but also through great sacrifice. The working class with the support of the vast majority of our people in 1948 waged a great class struggle and won, despite the fact that foreign and local reaction, the colonial government, the leadership of the Church and the then strike-breaking leadership of SEK (the Right-wing Union) formed an alliance against it. The great class struggle of 1948, as well as others before and after, was waged together and in brotherhood by Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot  workers, thus forming the friendship and cooperation of the two communities. 1948 remains a bright landmark in the social struggles of the Cypriot working people.