Intervention by Neoklis Sylikiotis, member of the Political Bureau of the C.C. of AKEL, in the international seminar organised by EDON within the framework of its 20th Congress under the title:
“The political and ideological intervention of our Organizations in mass movements”
7 January 2022, Nicosia
Political and social struggles are fought on many levels. Inter alia, at the level of political leaderships, Parliament, the mass media, social networking, organised movements and the popular masses. Without underestimating in the slightest the importance that we must attach to the struggle at the political and communications level, we must, through our own continuous initiatives, upgrade the involvement of organised groups and movements, working people and people in the various political and social struggles that we are waging. Communists have the main responsibility, but also the mission, to reveal the class character of our society and all the socio-economic phenomena around us. Communists should show the path of class struggle as an integral characteristic of capitalist society.
Popular mobilisations, where they are organised and waged at the correct time, constitute a powerful and effective weapon that we must use, whether we are in power or in opposition. In addition, popular mobilisations highlight our consistency and militancy, but also raise and strengthen the class-political awareness of the working people, especially the young generation.
Militant mobilisations and assertions showing the class character of society and the problems it generates. They awaken, mature and raise awareness of the people, bringing to the fore the fundamental principle that nothing is ever given, but everything is won through struggle and even sacrifice when necessary.
AKEL has organised and supports the mass organisations of the left (the class-based trade union Federation of PEO, the Union OF Cypriot Farmers EKA, the progressive Women’s Organisation of POGO and the United Democratic Youth Organisation EDON) and cooperates closely with them in defending and extending the rights and gains of working people, peasants, women and youth.
We support and strengthen with our active participation the struggles that are being waged, inter alia, in other trade union areas, in the public and wider public sector, of the teachers, bank employees, academics and scientists and other professional groups such as craftsmen and self-employed workers.
The principal duty of AKEL militants and members is to play a leading and prominent role in their trade union organisations. Within the ranks of PEO, as well as through other trade union organisations such as those of civil servants, teachers, bank employees, etc., the cadres and members AKEL must be at the forefoot of any secondary and major struggle and activity and through their actions and militancy inspire and guide working people. For that reason, they must lead by example and by doing so win the recognition and hearts and minds of working people. At the same time, the active participation of AKEL members in these organisations and movements strengthens the ability of the Party to elaborate and formulate correct policies on the issues that concern them.
To strengthen the Party’s links and relationship with social movements, professional groups and the wider society, we should pay particular attention to the duty of every Party member to actively participate not only in the organisations of the people’s movement of the Left, but to reach out and participate in every organised group more broadly.
Our intervention among the popular masses must not and cannot be carried out only on the basis of some central plan. It must be identified with the life and action of each local Party cell. Our intervention and assertive political struggle and campaign work should start from the leadership and spread down to the last member. Assertiveness and militancy are necessary in the present circumstances which we should seek to become the culture and way of working of the Party as a whole. For our Party, there is no alternative other than identification, contact and activism among the popular masses, social movements, professional groups and any other small or large group/agency.
Party members need to fulfill their dual role of being the bearer of Party policy on the one hand, but also to be able to feel the pulse of popular feeling and subsequently transmit it to the Party on the other. We should not underestimate any arena of struggle and service – from the Parents’ Association of a local school to the labour union, from the action of the neighborhood Local Clubs of the People’s Movement of the Left to the assumption of initiatives, for example, on the environment, the climate crisis and people’s quality of life.
This is the only way to strengthen and forge the bonds and relations of our Party with the working people and the people in general.
It is not enough for the Party to have a mass presence in numerous mass organisations and movements. We must also have clear positions on the subject matter they are dealing with so that we can provide at the same time clear guidance to our members on the stand and position they should take. This requires timely and collective discussion and the elaboration of specific positions, proposals and actions.
AKEL, just like all the mass organisations of the Left on the basis of our ideology, need to bring back for their members the social example of a people’s fighter, the example of a pioneer and protagonist in the struggles to solve small and big problems through their participation in collective and mass processes of organisations and bodies of our own movement, but also of broader mass trade union or other bodies.
THE WORKER’S MOVEMENT
The advance and dominance of neoliberalism at a global level over the last 30 years has naturally had a direct impact on the economic, social and trade union situation in Cyprus, especially after its accession to the EU and the euro zone.
In Cyprus, at the peak of the crisis and with the rise to power of the right-wing Anastasiades/DISY government – with the implementation of a neoliberal policy on labour and social issues too – the devaluation of labour, the privatisation of public and cooperative-socio-economic activity as well as the vicious fiscal austerity imposed and the dismantling of the welfare state constituted the main pillars for the imposition of a neoliberal restructuring of the Cyprus economy and society in general. The main driving force of these restructuring policies is the deregulation of labour relations and the undermining of collective organisation and collective forms of negotiation of labour rights.
According to the historically specific political conditions formulated in Cyprus, a system has historically evolved where the two major worker’s federations, despite maintaining and publicly expressing their different political and ideological positions and outlooks, are committed to a joint handling of labour problems.
It is clear that this unity in action has been a decisive factor in strengthening the bargaining power of the trade union movement over time and has represented an important factor in winning labour and social rights for our working people.
In the current conditions, where the attack launched on working people’s rights is intensifying, joint action in the trade union movement must not only continue, but indeed be strengthened and expanded. Our Party, guided by a class criterion and orientation, is fighting to rally and unite all exploited people through the forging of a common front, highlighting the real social antagonism between capital and labour.
AKEL, as the political expression of the working class, and PEO, as the class-based trade union organisation (the biggest in our country), have historically the same roots of origin. Their relationship is not just one of alliance and cooperation, but they serve, in the field in which each organisation is active, the same purpose and historical mission. We need to rejuvenate our attention and action, as the Party of the Working People, on the value and role of the power of organizing and trade union activity. We must admit that, today, we cannot take this to be something that is self-evident.
AKEL members and friends of the Party must realize the importance of trade union activity and be recognised by workers themselves as leaders in the struggle to organize workers and assert their rights. This trade union action should help and strengthen the Party’s relationship with the class trade union movement.
The farmer’s movement
Climate change, the deep economic crisis of the capitalist system, the savage exploitation of agricultural production by the intermediate traders, the increased costs of production, the multitasking of agricultural land and the occupation of 37% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, inter alia, all demonstrate the need for a new radical policy in the primary sector of the Cyprus economy.
Problems, of course, had existed before. However, with our accession to the EU in 2004 and the subsequent liberalization of the market, the agricultural sector suffered a heavy blow. But the government’s policy has systematically undermined productivity and the sustainability of one of the most important productive sectors of our economy.
AKEL, over the years, has been at the head of farmer’s struggles, actively supporting the farmer’s demands and assertions, both inside and outside parliament, taking further initiatives both inside Cyprus and abroad ,as well as in the European Parliament and in the other EU institutions, precisely where the Common Agricultural Policy is decided.
AKEL is leading the way in creating a sustainable and competitive agricultural sector, providing assistance to farmers in the field, on the farm, through the solution of their specialised problems and issues, focused not on the procedure, but on results.
AKEL strongly supports the struggles waged by the Union of Cypriot Farmers (EKA) and the rest of the farmer’s Movement, to protect the commercial sector of the Co-operative movement, so that farmers can become the real managers of the products they themselves produce.
THE YOUTH MOVEMENT
AKEL is the Party of Youth in practice and this is demonstrated by life itself. This is proven by the long and continuous struggles we have waged and the achievements we have won together. Together with the young generation we continue to assert for our young people.
There have been great changes in the political scene with the election of the Right, Nicos Anastasiades and DISY to power and the subsequent manifold attacks launched on people’s rights and gains, in particular, on the young generation: thousands of young people were forced to emigrate, others live under the vise of unemployment and those who work are paid meagre wages and rights.
Despite all the pressure the youth of Cyprus feel, in general terms, they do retain the characteristics of rebelliousness, spontaneity and a tendency towards anything innovative and new. These characteristics are radical and progressive elements, which through our own struggles can lead by example the youth themselves acknowledging our leading role thereby acting as bearers of social change.
At the same time, our actions to defend and extend the rights of young people is linked to the struggle against neoliberalism and imperialism and the struggle for social progress, which helps youth understand that better living conditions can only come through the waging of constant mass organised struggle uniting young people. It is this particular activity, with EDON at the forefront that can reveal to young people the link that exists between the goals, struggles and vision of AKEL with the rights of young people. It is this action that helps youth realise the necessity of organised struggle.
School pupil’s Movement
The School Pupil’s Movement won in 1994, after waging many long struggles, its legitimate representation at all levels and the legitimization of the Pancyprian and District Coordinating Committees of School Students (PSEM and ESEM respectively). We continue to fully support PSEM, as the mass body of the Pupil’s Movement, with the sole criterion being the existence of an autonomous, united, mass and assertive Students’ Movement, which fights with consistently for the interests of pupils. We continue to support pupils in their struggle against the reversal of educational reform and against the sustained effort to entrench and consolidate conservatism in schools. The recent mass, united, militant and organised mobilizations of thousands of school pupils in the streets against the government’s policy of imposing exams every four months demonstrated how important our intervention in the pupil’s movement is.
The support of the mass bodies of the student movement (POFEN – Student Unions) remains the primary objective of our forces within the student movement, always having the best interests of the organized Cypriot student movement in mind and with the sole aim of fighting for a healthy, autonomous, united and assertive student movement, We support the Pancyprian Federation of Student Unions. POFEN, with proper and democratic structures and functioning, and with an assertive character, is the guarantee for a student movement that will fight with consistency for the rights of students and our people.
The Women’s Movement
Despite the significant progress and steps forward that have been made in the social position of women in Cyprus and the world, the truth is that gender equality remains a vision, rather than a living reality.
Contrary to novel superficial theories being promoted, which consider that the existence of women’s movements reproduces discrimination, we believe that as long as female inequality exists, the existence of an autonomous Women’s Movement and the development of its struggles with a class, progressive and democratic content and orientation is imperative.
The intervention of the Left in the women’s movement of our country has been expressed for decades through the Women’s Movement of POGO. Despite the difficulties over recent years, there have been breakthroughs in the further politicization of POGO’s activities with well-documented demands and a noteworthy intervention in the institutions that deal with women’s issues. Nowadays, however, a more modern discourse and activity, bolder steps and more effective efforts are needed to bring women from the young generation into the daily struggles of our Movement. It is also necessary to continue and deepen joint action with bodies and movements that – even if they do not share our ideological vision on women’s issues – are active in specific fields of action, such as gender violence, trafficking, women’s health, social support for motherhood, immigrant women, etc.
Social movements and organizations
Modern social movements pose complex problems of an ideological, social, and institutional nature for Communist Parties precisely because of their completely unpredictable and particular way of prioritizing their issues and developing their activity.
The various social movements conquer through their discourse and action an audience that has a double significance for us, both because of its size and its dynamism, as the individuals involved in these movements are mainly young, passionate, radicalized and generally positioned in the spectrum of the Left.
AKEL, like every Communist and left-wing party, needs to have a steady, lasting and interactive relationship with social movements and mass organisations. It is obvious that there are weaknesses in this relationship. In many cases, we have left room for the right, either organised or at the level of personalities, to intervene and win impressions in this arena.
Forging AKEL’s relationship with social movements and mass organisations presupposes the role and active participation of AKEL militants and members in them. Although many of our members and cadres are, on their own initiative, involved and active in numerous bodies, nevertheless they rarely have the sufficient contact and support from AKEL to achieve a more collective and effective way of intervention. In many cases, these comrades act on their own initiative, without proper guidance, formulating policies and taking decisions.
However, where Party cadres manage to activate movements/agencies, develop actions/demands and have an intervention in society, our Party is credited for its work (for example, the Movement against Foreclosures, etc.). At the same time, policies and positions are produced that assist and enrich the Party’s policies and actions and expand the social and political influence of the Left.
In conclusion, social movements and agencies are a vehicle that brings us into contact with large social groups from another spectrum, taking us out of an inward-looking introversion and broadens our political intervention. The presence of AKEL cadres and members in these bodies must be characterised by ethics, humility, and respect with a responsible and serious manner of work.
As noted above, these movements have their own specific characteristics and peculiarities. Our activity in this field of work must therefore be flexible and adjusted accordingly, and in no way whatsoever can it be substitute for their operation. Our relationship with these movements should be characterized by tolerance and consensus. It cannot aim at seeking to put them under our control, nor should it be seen simply as an opportunity to broaden our audience, but as a means of activating and energizing forces in society, of broadening our relationship with them and of asserting social policies, which are also the Party’s positions.
To fulfill this objective, opening up the Party’s work to society in Mass Organisations and Social Movements is imperative, a more structured and consistent guidance and support of Party members active within social organisations is necessary. This will subsequently will in turn enrich the elaboration of the Party’s policies. It will also help to engage Party members in a more specific and systematic way in the production and formulation of policies, positions and our contacts with the various forces and social movements, with the ultimate goal of developing and strengthening social struggle.