The anti-colonial struggle reaches its peak – Years of hardship
In 1955 the leadership of the Right by aiming at a drastic move to take the whole initiative of movements of the struggle in its hands and to try and isolate the Left, turns towards the wrong, as far as the conditions of Cyprus are concerned, form of armed struggle. In addition, the mistake is also made of assigning the military leadership of the armed struggle to Georgios Grivas, a man with fascist views, a declared anti-communist and chauvinist. A man without political virtues and capabilities. Despite the heroism and self-sacrifice which members and cadres of EOKA showed, the armed struggle led the Cyprus question into dangerous impasses. Deadlocks which British imperialism exploited in order to impose a solution which served their own interests.
AKEL disagreed with the tactic of armed struggle and predicted that only harm will it cause to the Cyprus struggle. AKEL stood its ground with resoluteness and consistency in favour of mass-political struggle and the need for the participation of the whole of the people with its forces united in this struggle. Due to this position AKEL and AKEL members were abused, slandered, condemned for treason. They did not however lose their way. Nor did they give in. They continued to struggle even in the most difficult conditions for the removal of the colonial yoke holding always aloft the banner of unity.
The turn of events and the outcome of the struggle vindicated AKEL. Today many people who are not on the Left including researchers, historians and politicians acknowledge that the choice of the armed struggle was a mistake.
On the 14th of December 1955 the British exploiting the volatile situation which had been created found the opportunity which they had been looking for many years to destroy AKEL. The Party of the working people and a whole number of the organisations of the Left were banned and made illegal. They banned the publication of newspapers and other publications of the Party. They arrested and threw into prison and concentration camps 135 cadres of AKEL and the Left. Through these actions the British colonialists wanted to crush AKEL, the most consistent, thus also the most dangerous for them anti-colonial and anti-imperialist force.
However AKEL was deeply rooted in the heart and consciousness of the Cypriot people and that’ s why the British failed in their aims. AKEL members who managed to evade arrest together with cadres who later managed to escape, including amongst them the General Secretary Ezekias Papaioannou, reorganized the Party quickly in conditions of illegality and continued with great intensity, resolve and decisiveness the anti-colonial struggle. In this struggle Andreas Georgiou and Argyros Nicola, members of AKEL, gave their lives. AKEL was banned by the colonialists until the 1st of December 1959, that is ten months after the signing of the London-Zurich Agreements. Their intention was to continue the banning of the Party also after independence. The pressure however of the people and the huge rallies in favour of the legalization of AKEL forced them to retreat.
During the four years from 1955 to 1959 the anti-communist frenzy of Grivas and his plans for the imposition of the complete rule of the right led Cyprus to the edge of civil war. Cadres of the Left were being murdered cowardly on the orders of Grivas accused unjustly of treason. The killing provoked a popular upheaval. Civil war in such a critical time in Cyprus history was avoided thanks to the patriotic stand taken by AKEL. The Party answered the provocation not by the same way but by popular mobilizations condemning the killings and the policy of division. The intervention of Makarios against the murders of Left people also played its own positive role. The Left comrades murdered in the 1955-1959 period are heroes and martyrs of the Popular Movement, are heroes and martyrs of Cyprus freedom. In the consciousness of the people their memory is vindicated. AKEL together with the Association of Relatives murdered for their political Beliefs in the period 1955-1959 are fighting for the vindication of the memory of the victims of the terrorism of Grivas also by the institutional organs of Cypriot society.
At the same time in the first years of independence the fascist terrorist Turkish Cypriot organization TMT headed by Denktash carried out killings and persecution of progressive Turkish Cypriots trying to crush the Left inside the Turkish Cypriot community. The murders and terrorism did not manage to damage the ties of the Left with the Turkish Cypriot community, which were built on strong foundations of common struggles.
Neither the suppression and the special measures of the British, nor the terrorism of Grivas managed to crash AKEL. After four years of illegality and repression the Party came out of the period of hardship even more stronger, even more larger with close links with the people and the working people.
The struggle against imperialist machinations and chauvinism
The deadlock in the armed struggle allowed the imposition of the London-Zurich Agreements. AKEL disagreed with the Zurich Agreements because it considered that they perpetuated imperialist presence on the island, putting Cyprus under the guardianship of the guarantor powers and that they imposed a divisive constitution. We advised Makarios not to sign the agreements, to terminate the armed struggle and unite the people to continue the struggle for real independence. Unfortunately AKEL’s proposals were not accepted.
The London-Zurich Agreements created a new situation, which AKEL approached in a creative manner. Sticking to its positions on the agreements it concluded that independence even in a curtailed form constituted a gain of the Cypriot people of historical importance. By taking this position AKEL defined as the main task in the new stage of struggle the fight for the completion of Cypriot independence and the gradual liberation from the negative elements of the Zurich agreements. This duty was included in the new programme of the Party which was adopted by the 10th Congress of AKEL in 1962. The new programme underlined the need for Cyprus to follow a non-aligned foreign policy. It also put forward the goals of democratization of the political and social life, the development of the economy and the living and cultural level of the working people. AKEL fought and achieved a lot for the implementation of these goals during the years of independence.
The Cyprus Republic from the very outset faced many difficulties and adverse complications. The expansionist designs of Ankara and the NATO plans for the transformation of Cyprus into an unsinkable aircraft carrier of the Atlantic Alliance in the Eastern Mediterranean, threatened the very existence of the independent Cyprus Republic. On the internal front of the country significant forces within the Greek Cypriot community as well as within the Turkish Cypriot community did not believe in independence. They saw it as a temporary stage the former as a stage towards enosis (Union with Greece) and the latter as a stage towards partition. That is the reason why there was not the necessary effort that should have been made so that the agreements would function despite all of its negative elements. This approach weakened the resistance front of our people and helped foreign interventions and the plans of the enemies of Cyprus. After the bi-communal clashes of December 1963 Cyprus was waging a fight for survival. The revival of the Slogan of Enosis during the 1964-1967 years was a great mistake which was exploited by the enemies of Cyprus.
The decade 1964-1974 was a decade of fight for the repulsion of foreign plots and for the defence of the independence and unity of the Cyprus Republic. AKEL was the main political force which stood by President Makarios with consistency and unselfishness, supporting his policy for the repulsion of the double enosis forces and of the partitionist designs. Our Party used its brotherly relations which it had with the governing parties of the socialist states to secure reliable allies of Cyprus in the difficult times. AKEL also supported the non-aligned foreign policy of the Cyprus Republic. Cyprus managed to repulse the NATO plans due to the entire mobilization of our people and also thanks to international solidarity and support, especially that of the socialist community and the Non-Aligned Movement. In the struggle for the defence of independence AKEL and the People’s Movement made sacrifices. Amongst the dead was Michalakis Kousoulides member of the C.C. of EDON (the youth organization of AKEL).
Even during the most critical times of the bi-communal clashes AKEL did not stop fighting for the solution to the problems in the relations between the two communities through dialogue, for their peaceful existence, friendship, mutual respect and cooperation between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. Our Party from the outset was a fighter against nationalism-chauvinism. At the altar of friendship and cooperation of the two communities Dervis Ali Kavazoglou Turkish Cypriot member of the C.C. of AKEL and Costas Mishaoulis Greek Cypriot cadre of AKEL and PEO gave their lives. Their sacrifice became a symbol of struggle for rapprochement and for a Cyprus common homeland for all Cypriots.