Speech by the General Secretary of the C.C. of AKEL A.Kyprianou at the 23rd Congress of AKEL
2nd July 2021, 23rd Congress of AKEL
On behalf of the Central Committee of AKEL, I welcome you to the 23rd Congress of our Party.
The Congress should have convened a year ago. It was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. It is taking place today under special circumstances and at a decisive moment.
It is this unprecedented situation for the people and our country, due to Covid-19, which we need to confront. It is the economic and social conditions that were exacerbated by the pandemic, followed by the erroneous situation created by the decisions taken by Anastasiades and the Eurogroup in March 2013. It is also the negative result of the Parliamentary Elections that has opened a debate in AKEL and society in general about how the Party should regroup and move forward from here onwards. There are a lot more issues which I am sure will be raised during the debate that will follow.
In the preceding five years, the international situation has deteriorated further, intensifying instability and uncertainty. Donald Trump’s ascension to the leadership of the United States has led to an aggravation in the country’s relations with the EU, China and Russia. At the same time, it has sharpened economic and trade rivalries, causing turmoil in the global economy. Worst of all is that the far-right policies Trump pursued and the way in which he acted led to a sharp rise in populism, racism, xenophobia, the growth of the ultra-right everywhere and public opinion being misled with lies and manipulations.
Where the Biden leadership will lead the United States is questionable. The fact is that the capitalist crisis is deepening further and neoliberalism is plunging the peoples into poverty and marginalisation. Conflicts are intensifying, new fronts are opening up internationally and antagonisms are growing. The USA and the European Union are increasing militarisation within the framework of NATO with various forms of military deployment. Political and military control of strategic points and sources of natural wealth is the permanent objective of the US, as well as the isolation and crushing of all those who are resisting their plans such as Cuba and Venezuela. They have also included Cyprus in the US framework of security in the Eastern Mediterranean region, with the Anastasiades-DISY government celebrating the Rubio-Menendez legislation. Its implementation will tie Cyprus to the war machine of US imperialist designs and bring it into conflict with traditionally friendly countries such as China and Russia.
The Middle East has been suffering for years from the imperialist interventions of the US and its allies. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Iraq and Syria have paid and are paying a heavy price in blood. The notorious ‘Arab Spring’ proved to be fatal for the peoples of these countries, given that it was followed by the rise to power of extremist and obscurantist movements. The heroic Palestinian people are still paying with their blood for their just demands. As AKEL we remain in solidarity with every people struggling for their freedom, independence and dignity.
The mass waves of refugees and migrants, caused by conflicts, neo-colonial policies and the effects of climate change, are perceived as representing a threat. But instead the root causes being addressed, governments are treating the phenomenon inhumanely.
The victims come up against walls, laws and regulations in the US and ‘Fortress Europe’. The European Union is signing agreements constructing detention centres outside its borders. In most of them, people are piled up like objects and the conditions there kill human dignity. Unfortunately, Cyprus is not exempt from this rule, despite the huge financial assistance it receives from the European Union on this issue. At the same time, many thousands of human lives have been lost in recent years in the Mediterranean Sea as a result of the callous policies implemented and omissions.
It is in this framework that far-right and neo-fascist forces have found fertile ground to raise their heads again, indeed some of them even participate in government formations in EU countries. As far as Cyprus is concerned, at all critical moments, the ultra-right has voted for and stood on the side of the Anastasiades-DISY government.
All this makes our struggles for the respect of international law, the defence of the rights of the peoples, disarmament, and the protection of the planet, peace and socialism even more relevant than before.
Timelier than ever is the analysis AKEL had several years ago on the European Union too, about the character and consequences of the policies pursued by its ruling class. The deadlocks, inequalities and contradictions produced and which the European Union faces can no longer be silenced or covered up. The ruling classes of the EU respond to austerity by imposing more austerity, to impoverishment with the dismantling of the welfare state and to the EU’s democratic deficits with more concentration of power. Unfortunately, the notorious EU solidarity isn’t implemented in practice. Instead, the interests and expediencies of the powerful prevail.
AKEL is in favour of a Europe that promotes international law and peace. A Europe that defends the human, social and political rights of all without exception. A Europe that promotes policies to combat poverty and bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.
The Cypriot people is waging a struggle for survival and vindication within this specific international and European context. The Anastasiades-DISY government regrettably is incapable of understanding the importance and need for pursuing a multi-level and multi-dimensional foreign policy. It merely declares it.
Eight years onwards after it came to power, the government has failed to make use of the energy wealth at our disposal, at the same time as we are just one step away from partition. The time has now come for Mr. Anastasiades and DISY to ask themselves. How much has the policy that was pursued benefited Cyprus? Has Cyprus become an outpost of the West in the region to serve whose interests? Certainly not the interests of Cyprus and its cause judging by the results.
Eight years onwards, the time has now come for the government ruling forces to ask themselves what the results of their policy on the Cyprus problem have been.
Turkey continues to flagrantly violate the independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus. It continues to violate fundamental principles of international law, the Constitutional Charter of the United Nations, a whole series of resolutions and decisions of the UN General Assembly and Security Council, the principles and values on which the European Union is founded and the fundamental rights and basic freedoms of the entire Cypriot people.
It is moving step by step towards the realisation of its goal, which is the partition of our country.
It is intensifying its provocative actions in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Republic of Cyprus and attempting to impose new fait accompli.
It is putting the unacceptable demand for a two state solution on the table.
While the Turkish side is proceeding on the basis of its plan to realise its goal, what has the Greek Cypriot side been doing for the last few years? Unfortunately, it is regressing and contradicting itself without a strategy.
Mr. Anastasiades started in 2013 to negotiate from scratch. The result was the bringing back of the Turkish side’s unacceptable positions which had previously been excluded by the Christofias-Talat convergences. When Mr. Anastasiades realised the deadlocks of the policy he was pursuing, and also because of the election of Mr. Akinci to the leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community, steps forward were recorded in the talks. Unfortunately, this progress went down in history as a parenthesis in Mr. Anastasiades’ policy on the Cyprus problem. The outcome of the talks at Mont Peleran and Crans Montana is proof of this. It was a disappointing result that led to a setback on the Cyprus problem.
Four years onwards since then, Mr. Anastasiades’ narrative of what actually happened at Crans Montana unfortunately only convinces those in Cyprus who want to be convinced. It doesn’t convince almost anyone abroad. This narrative has been exposed and revealed by many both inside and outside Cyprus, by people who confessed that Mr. Anastasiades, all this time, was flirting with a two state solution.
After the collapse at Crans Montana, Turkey was unfortunately relieved of any responsibilities. Its provocative actions have intensified. It has engaged in illegal activities in the EEZ and illegal machinations in Famagusta. Actions that AKEL had foreseen and warned about. Regrettably, the Government was denigrating us and assuring us about the protection Cyprus the government had secured, declaring that Turkey was engaging in communication tricks.
The election of the advocate of partition Ersin Tatar to the leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community facilitates Turkey’s machinations. All this has resulted in the Cypriot people losing faith that the Cyprus problem can be solved. AKEL, of course, does not give up and has not lost faith. AKEL will continue to struggle for a solution of the Cyprus problem and reunification.
We have gone through a long period without any meaningful dialogue being conducted. A period with unacceptable demands and provocations on the part of Turkey and constant regressions by the Greek Cypriot side. With the government’s questioning of convergences that have been agreed, with a preference for “new ideas”. All this is significantly weakening the prospect of a resumption of a dialogue that will lead to the desired outcome.
On the one hand, Turkey is openly challenging the agreed framework of the solution and putting the two state solution on the table. On the other hand, it is now clear that Mr. Anastasiades is incapable and unwilling to take initiatives that could, under certain circumstances, lead to the resumption of substantive talks from where they had remained in 2017.
Unfortunately, instead of reflecting on the proposal AKEL had handed him on 8th December 2020, instead of discussing it with us, he tried to demonize it. Showing that he did not understand its content, he distorted it in public and also attempted to discredit it.
AKEL will continue to struggle to prevent the nightmare scenario of partition. We insist on the resumption of talks from where they had remained at the Crans Montana talks.
The discovery of hydrocarbons in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus represents a serious incentive for a solution for both two communities, as well as for Turkey itself. The Turkish Cypriots will only be able to enjoy the benefits of a solution if there is a solution. The Greek Cypriots need a stable and safe environment that will permit the unhindered exploitation of this valuable asset. In a similar way, Turkey will also be able to benefit from the solution of the Cyprus problem.
After the solution, the federal Republic of Cyprus can begin discussions with Turkey for the delimitation of the EEZ, as well as the possibility of trade cooperation with Turkey also being discussed, based on the economic viability of such a project. This is an incentive that Mr. Anastasiades must at long last make use of if he means what he says.
As AKEL we are always ready to make our own contribution with the aim of breaking the deadlock. With initiatives both inside and outside Cyprus aiming at the resumption of the talks and opening up the prospect of a solution on the basis of what has been agreed so far. In cooperation with all those who want and are seeking a solution within the agreed framework in the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.
Mr. Anastasiades has the first word in this effort. If he continues to insist on recipes that have been tried and failed, he will lead us with mathematical certainty to partition. In such an eventuality, he should have no doubt at all that he will go down in history as the leader of partition.
At the point we have reached, there is no more room left. At least we, as AKEL, cannot and do not want to lull the people to sleep with lies. No one should think that if there is no solution within the agreed framework, things will remain as they are today.
We risk having a land border with Turkey in our own country. With an illegal entity that will be colonalised and be arming itself constantly. Inevitably, at some point Turkey will seek to expand. In other words, if partition prevails, we will have to forget Cyprus as we knew it.
That is precisely why we insist on the solution that was agreed with the international and Turkish Cypriot community.
A solution of a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality as described in the relevant Resolutions of the UN.
A solution leading to a united state, the continuation of the Republic of Cyprus. With a single sovereignty, a single citizenship and a single international personality.
A solution that will free us from the occupation and guarantee rights of any third party.
We are adamant in resisting a compromise with the barbed wires of division; the scenario of handing over half of our homeland to Turkey. We insist on strengthening the front of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots against nationalism and neo-fascism, for peace and the reunification of the country.
In the last year and a half Cyprus, like the whole world, has been experiencing an unprecedented situation with the Covid-19 pandemic. No one is able to say with certainty when the pandemic will be over.
Like every other crisis, this one has revealed weaknesses and problems. It brought to the fore the dire situation in the public health system; the huge problems and shortcomings caused by the policy pursued by the Anastasiades-DISY Government. A policy that has dramatically cut expenditure on public health.
We spent decades debating whether or not the state should have a role in essential services. The pandemic answered the question of whether health should be a right, whether it should be provided publicly and free of charge, or whether it should be a privilege enjoyed only by those who can afford it.
The pandemic crisis has exposed and shattered the dogma of neoliberalism and austerity in Cyprus, Europe and the whole world. It has reaffirmed that the role of the state in ensuring basic human rights and in providing essential services is irreplaceable. It brought to the fore the need for universal and solidarity-based health systems, with public hospitals and their staff strengthened. They should be at the forefront, not struggling with shortages, omissions and combatting the government’s indifference.
The pandemic has had significant economic and social consequences. The question of what policies will address the problems the day after the crisis for the majority of society demands urgent answers.
The findings of the survey carried out by the Cyprus Labour Institute are characteristic. During the first wave of the pandemic, average wages fell by 3%. This reduction was added to the historic devaluation of labour that had taken place from the beginning of 2013 to the beginning of 2016. Due to the health crisis, the purchasing power of the average real wage declined by seven years, despite the economic boom that intervened between 2015 and 2019. The forecast of the European Commission services is that the reductions in wages in Cyprus will, together with Greece, be the severest compared to other countries of the south. In Cyprus we have an average decrease of 2.4%, while the corresponding figure across the EU records an increase of 2.6%.
It is to be expected that capital will attempt to recover the profits that were lost through the imposition of more austerity. The Government’s stated policy is the reduction of taxes on capital. This means that to reduce the government deficits that were created in order to address the pandemic, it will subsequently seek to increase other taxes, e.g. income, consumption, etc. That is to say, the consequences of the crisis will again be paid by the working people and middle strata.
Who pays the bill is a matter of political choice. There is no single answer to what must be done. Besides the government’s answer, there is the other approach proposed by eminent economists and scholars who argue that in order to answer the needs of the many, it is necessary to pursue an economic growth strategy focused on increases in workers’ incomes. This would lead to an increase in people’s purchasing power with a consequent increase in private consumption, gross domestic product and the number of people employed. Of course, political will on the part of the government is an indispensable precondition for that to happen.
There is a widespread perception in society that the course of the Cyprus economy cannot meet the needs of the many. The blatant obsession with serving powerful private interests, policies that serve the few and deepen social inequality are keeping Cypriot society in a state of gridlock, a captive of uncertainty and insecurity. A quarter of the population of Cyprus is on the verge of poverty and social exclusion. The cost of living has risen sharply, especially in the housing sector, while essential goods are among the most expensive in Europe. A large section of the population is at risk of losing their hard-earned primary home.
AKEL has a vision of what needs to be done.
The economy needs new planning, a new strategy. We need a new policy aimed at achieving a fairer distribution of the wealth produced, at improving the living standards of the people, at creating conditions for increasing production, boosting income and dignified work. Sustainable, balanced and socially oriented economic growth. Sharing the economic burden according to the income and economic status of each individual. Ensuring quality jobs. Creating green jobs and improving workers’ rights. Respecting the environment and protecting natural resources from anarchic development. Control and regulation – to the extent possible – of the functioning of the market to protect the economically vulnerable sections of society. Equity, justice and good governance at all levels of economic activity. These are the keys if we want a sustainable economy built on solid foundations and not an economy characterised by “bubbles” and operating on a get-rich-quick policy.
We need an effective and socially sensitive state that protects and supports the economically weaker sections of society. By reforming the tax system to ensure a fairer distribution of the tax burden. With public finances that support sustainable development and the creation of infrastructures, a fairer distribution of the wealth produced, strengthening social cohesion and meeting the needs of society and safeguarding the social character of public utilities. At the same time modernising their structure, operation and administration. By effectively supporting small and medium-sized businesses and self-employed workers.
The cooperative credit sector should be reestablished. The Cooperative movement was a gain of the Cypriot people that provided support to workers and farmers in hard times. Unfortunately, the Anastasiades-DISY government destroyed it and scandalously sold it off, as the conclusion of the competent Inquiry Committee stated. It is our position and will to re-establish it in order to protect farmers, small and medium-sized businesses, the economically weaker groups and to improve the country’s development prospects. We support the initiative taken by the Union of Cypriot Framers (EKA) and other organisations to reestablish the Cooperative movement.
The Cyprus economy’s shift towards research, innovation and technology is of crucial importance too. We have a huge reserve and pool of young scientists who are getting more and more frustrated by the poor investment in this area. Many of them are forced to stay abroad to work. It is time to invest decisively in this sector to keep the best brains of our country and make full use of the Cyprus economy’s prospects.
There is also an urgent need to strengthen the primary sector and develop the agricultural economy in order to support farmers. Equally pressing is the need to elaborate a new modern industrial policy. The aim is to eradicate structural weaknesses and modernize the Cypriot manufacturing sector, as well as to strengthen Cyprus’ role as an international centre for the provision of professional and consultative services. We have drawn up a number of proposals that we have put forward on all these issues, just as we have numerous proposals with regards tourism, energy and the exploitation of hydrocarbons.
Another important chapter for AKEL is the issue of labour relations.
There isn’t a single objective observer who does not acknowledge that in recent years labour relations in Cyprus have been undermined. Unemployment due to the pandemic has increased and is expected to increase further. The long-term unemployed are losing hope of finding a job. Thousands of young people have been forced to emigrate or not return to Cyprus after completing their studies. Similarly many more are underemployed or working on personal contracts. The consequences of the economic crisis, combined with the ramifications of the health crisis, have given a pretext for new attacks to be waged on wages, working hours, benefits and decades-old gains won by working people.
For the re-regulation of deregulated labour relations, which is the root cause of the dramatic widening of social inequality in recent years. We are struggling to make the basic terms of sectoral collective agreements legally binding. A tripartite mechanism should be established to set minimum wages and benefits for those not covered by collective agreements.
We are also fighting to end the use of so-called “flexible” forms of employment. For the abolition of the 12% penalty for those who choose to retire at 63. For an end to the method of purchasing services to cover permanent needs from the public and semi-public sector. For legal regulations defining the characteristics governing the relationship between employer-employee. For a minimum wage to be set by every sector now.
AKEL also has a vision for society.
All of us who are in contact with the people are fully aware that the problems they face are many and complex. A large section of Cypriot society feels vulnerable and unprotected, sank in despair. A modern, progressive social policy is necessary, especially in today’s conditions. Equal access for all to basic goods such as education, health, housing, adequate social protection and support is necessary.
Over the years, the Anastasiades-DISY government has cut spending in these areas to a considerable extent and assigned the major role to the voluntary-private sector. There is no need to talk about the results of this policy. We see them, we live them. The Minimum Guaranteed Income took from the poor to give to the poorest. Housing policy was effectively abolished with the recently announced government policy serving very few people. At the same time, many people are at risk of losing their primary family home or small business premise due to the foreclosures by the banks. Public hospitals have been called upon to confront the pandemic without having the basic resources to do so.
What the government does not understand is that investment in social policy, education, housing and health is productive investment contributing to the growth of the economy. This demands the government and DISY abandoning their dogmatism and move to approve a substantial increase in public spending on social policy, to tackle poverty and social inequalities. For the full enjoyment of the rights of people with disabilities, for a dignified life for pensioners, for the provision of effective support towards the refugees, for support towards young people, young couples and the family, so that they can survive, get back on their feet and build their lives with optimism.
In order for all this to become a reality, society must make use of the best people it has. We need to fight against cronyism and clientelism which are component parts of the Anastasiades-DISY government. AKEL has an obligation to play a leading role in enhancing meritocracy and egalitarianism. Unfortunately, we have to admit that these phenomena are also appearing within our own spectrum. We must combat them decisively and convincingly.
In the elections that were held a month ago, we had a disappointing result. Of course, other parties had a similar and worse result and lost a bigger part of their percentages, regardless of whether they don’t admit it and don’t want to talk about it. We have been discussing both internally and with friends of the party recently about the reasons that have led to this result. There have certainly been external factors that have had negative influences all these recent years. But we must focus primarily on the issues that depend on us. Let us see what we need to improve in order to become better and more effective.
We will also discuss the election result at the Congress too and take decisions on it. After the Congress, it is imperative that we all rally around the new leadership. Let us work to fulfill our goals in the upcoming local and presidential elections.
Let’s work to bring our Party back to where it rightfully deserves to be. Namely, a leading player in the political affairs of our country and a protagonist in society.
The result of the parliamentary elections can be attributed in its first reading to the anger and protest by a section of the people of the Left about all that has happened in recent years. For the deadly blast at Mari, the consequences of the economic crisis, the foreclosures, the impunity of the banks and the corruption phenomena that have also involved people from the ranks of AKEL, the unprecedented situation we experienced with the pandemic and for the fact that, in essence, there was no normal and long election campaign because of the measures that existed.
However, we cannot and must not resort to this interpretation in order to sweep the problems we face under the carpet and simply move on.
We must find the courage to look our mistakes and omissions in the face. We must identify the problems, shortcomings and weaknesses and deal with them decisively, but without denying or losing ourselves. We should start with self-criticism and move subsequently to criticism. To look ourselves sternly and squarely in the mirror, but without resorting to self-destruction.
It is true that the moral high ground we have had for decades has been damaged. This is due to the cases of corruption that have appeared, whether justified or unjustified, involving well-known party officials. For decades, entire friends, but also AKEL’s political opponents recognised that no matter how much someone may disagree with our positions, AKEL could not be accused of corruption, nor could it be lumped with the other parties. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. A large section of the people consider that we are “all the same”. While as far as other parties are concerned, voters expect their cadres to be involved in phenomena of corruption-entanglement/interwoven interests, the people of the left, quite rightly, demand honesty and clean hands from us.
That is precisely why we, first and foremost we, those of us who carry a party membership card, must be examples of honesty and clean hands. Anyone who cannot bear this, anyone who cannot do this, simply cannot possess the card of being a member of AKEL. And we have had such cases even with former senior members of our Party.
In today’s era when everything is being questioned, we have the obligation to pass examinations on a daily basis. To reintroduce ourselves to the people we represent. To introduce ourselves daily through our work and presence. To be the mirror of those we represent, namely for the many who are struggling daily for their survival; the young people who struggle to create their lives on their own feet; all the people out there who are indignant and outraged by the scandals and who want to see people in public life who do not have any questions hanging over their honesty and clean hands.
Of course, we have to admit that society has become very tolerant of such phenomena. A classic example is the entanglement of Mr. Anastasiades himself. Despite the fact that almost everyone acknowledges it, not everyone is bothered by it. Our role is to alert the consciousness of the whole of society. To awaken it to rise up and react strongly to such phenomena.
We must also admit that we have lost our pioneering role in society. It is imperative to see why this is happening.
Therefore, before we talk about solutions, it is imperative that we talk about the problems we face. We must identify them where they exist, both in the leadership and at a grassroots level.
We have a problem in the functioning of the party base groups, that is, at the heart of the party. The majority of them function formally and sluggishly, without planning, without initiatives, with limited member participation, without a real intervention at the local level. Why is this happening? Party groups used to have as their main objective the briefing of Party members. But today, by the time we get to the meeting, party members are already aware of developments from a thousand other sources. So the focus should not be on information, but on reflection, discussion, fermentation, the deepening of AKEL’s positions and stand towards developments.
We must also go one step further when the issues to be discussed concern the country and society as a whole. In such cases, the Party base groups need to hold open public meetings for discussion and exchange of views. It is imperative that members and friends of the Party feel involved in the process of shaping positions. In this way they will also participate in the process of implementing them.
Party base groups do not exist simply to implement the annual plan, nor do they exist just to collect dues and organise fundraising campaigns. Party base groups need to have an intervention in the local community. This is precisely where we need to invest in. In our participation and action in local community and town councils, school boards, parent’s associations, local community organizations, clubs and other local bodies. Party members should be at the forefront of everything that affects all the people where they live and work. Doors should be opened, especially for the young worthy people our Movement has.
We should talk to the people, but also listen to them. To be there with them, in the front line of struggle, we should be the first to fight for and raise issues of concern to the people, pioneers in voluntary work and agents of contact with society in general.
The Party leadership is being doubly scrutinised for the leadership and monitoring of this work. To do this we need to evaluate whether leading cadres are up to the task. But when we discuss about leadership we need to bear in mind that leadership is not just those who sit in the presidency. It is all those who are elected by the grassroots to participate in the Central and District Committees and in local leadership positions.
For cadres to show up at Congresses and Conferences, make an impression with their rhetorical skills, get elected and then disappear or barely show up at meetings is a phenomenon that must end. Those who participate in leadership guiding committees must be the first to set and be an example. It is the obligation of each comrade participating in leadership bodies to be at the forefront of the day-to-day work of the Party. It is the duty of a leadership body to collectively evaluate its members and their work. To be transparently informed about the work of each and every comrade. This also applies to all comrades who hold public office – whether they are MP’s, Mayors, Municipal councilors, Local Community leaders, community council members, or members of public utility boards.
The goal of rebuilding the Party will only be achieved when everyone becomes aware that leadership and grassroots, the whole structure of the Party works together. With unity and planning. The upgrading and renewal of our organisational work is an urgent task. It is one of the first tasks of the new leadership. Renewal in the way we work is urgent, in such a way that we open up our contacts with the people beyond the narrow party core. There are thousands of people out there, especially young people, who are struggling to make ends meet, who are creating, pioneering, moving forward, and who need a Movement that listens to them and supports them, that will be their own voice.
Equally imperative is the existence of a stable, lasting and two-way relationship with social movements and mass organisations without seeking to impose our control over them, but seeking to listen, to pass on proposals and enrich our policies and actions. This is also a prerequisite for the formulation and elaboration of our policy and proposals, an area in which we have gone backwards.
The Advisory Bureaus of the Central Committee must open their doors to young people, to friends of the Party. People who have the scientific background/expertise and with whom we have common goals. We should ask and listen to them and formulate policies with them. Modern society is constantly evolving. New problems and issues are constantly emerging. We need to engage with them on a daily basis. Unfortunately, in this area too, however hard we tried, we did not get the results we wanted.
We often say that organisational work must be linked to ideological and political work. Now is the time to move from theory to practice because now, more than ever before, we need to remember what and who we are fighting for. For a society without exploitation, for the many, for manual workers, peasants, workers of intellectual work, young scientists, small and middle size businessmen, self-employed, school pupils and students, women and pensioners, the vulnerable groups of the population – all those who dream and struggle for a different world, a better world. Ideological, educational work is a task that must not be underestimated. In today’s conditions we do not want our cadres to simply memorize the Party’s positions and then simply recite them.
We want cadres who will have the capabilities to formulate opinions, educate, have a critical way of thinking and understanding and pass it on. Of course no one is suggesting by doing so that the aim is should be to get bogged down in theoretical analysis, but that we should make theoretical analysis our weapon for engaging in practical political action and assuming initiatives among the people. To project and highlight our different outlook, to open up the way for new demands, new struggles; for common struggles with the majority of society.
Ideological and political education and our work in society is also the strongest antidote to “paragontismos” (Note: the permanent goal of pursuing personal ambition/advancement by abusing positions of power), which we must admit is becoming a normality.
If we want to be different, then ‘paragontismos’ in the Party must be stamped out. If candidates are fighting over for votes by undermining each other, then why do we complain when people say “you are all the same?”
By doing so, we also limit the Party’s ability to have a better electoral result. Instead of working to broaden its influence we close ourselves off in the pool of party voters.
If one of us decides to build up his/her image, engage in gossip, form factions, behaving like a ‘paragontismos’ figure, dividing the Party into “us and them”, why do we look to identify the mistake elsewhere and not in such behaviour that is so damaging?
We then hear see the criticism from the other side which argues that talking about “paragontismos” today – they say – is something outdated. The reverse is true. What is outdated today is to act as mainstream petty-politicians acted in the 1960’s and even before that. A person around whom individuals rally and work – for what though? For whose interests? Not for the common cause, but for their joint preference?
This discussion has nothing to do with operating people’s trials, nor with mutual in-fighting. It’s about what kind of Party we want.
Do we want a party of factions, of groups, of the few who will be fighting to prevail?
Do we want a Party centred around a leader, where one person would win the leadership after a mutually eliminating fight that would divide the party grass roots relieving the leadership of any responsibility?
We need a mass, vanguard and class-based Party.
We need a Party whose cadres will not be locked in party offices and confined within Parliament, but a Party outside offices and parliament with the people and the youth, where needs exist, where people’s demands are born.
It is imperative that we have a party that has a political proposal; that can communicate it clearly and with a strong voice that reaches everywhere. A party that can develop initiatives and forge cooperations/alliances not for the sake of attaining any posts/positions of power, but to serve common goals.
The Party must therefore dare to take decisions.
How do we strengthen what got us here?
How do we enhance the ability to listen to the needs of our era and make them political demands both in and out of Parliament?
How do we capture what is society’s main concern and make it a political priority?
How do we ourselves lead by example at the forefront of struggles, flag bearers of the changes that society needs?
In other words, we need to develop more and better qualitive movement-type actions.
How do we regain our vanguard role in society? In trade unionism, culture, local government, local neighborhoods and elsewhere?
How do we make use of the cadres/militants we have – not with makeshift solutions, nor by pursuing any clientelist logic.
We can no longer function with various types of cadres. That is to say, while some cadres/militants are entrusted with many tasks and others carrying out few duties. There needs to be a continuous and ongoing evaluation/assessment of the competence and effectiveness of party full-time cadres.
Scrutiny, transparency and accountability for those holding public office must be a priority.
The mass organizations of the Left must modernize their work and way they carry out their work and duties.
Our Local Clubs and Associations must modernize themselves, renew the content of their activities so that they can meet the demands of our times.
The militants and cadres of the Youth are the very best we have at the moment in terms of human resources. We must make use of them in the best possible way.
We need to see how we strengthen and upgrade the role of the New Forces, but also how we strengthen our relations with social movements.
We must build our message based on correct political positions. We need to work specifically, with expertise help on communication issues, so that we can get our message across. We need to see how we improve our image, because it is not enough to be, we also need to appear modern.
Before I close, permit me to make a personal reference.
I have already announced that I do not intend to run for the leadership of the party. I took this decision several months ago.
The need for renewal is a source of life for the Party and right now this is imperative. It becomes especially imperative after the disappointing election result we had. I see it as my duty to help the Party at this critical and defining juncture in its history.
Throughout the years I have had the honor of being in this position I have tried to give my best. To keep AKEL standing tall and consistent to its positions and policies. With steadfastness and sincerity, in unprecedented conditions, conditions of crisis and confronting merciless war and attacks against our Party.
I would like to thank all the comrades, the Party’s militants and members, the friends of the New Forces who have worked with us over the years for having struggled together for principles, values, ideals, for the country, for the people of the Left, for the people of Cyprus. I regret that we didn’t manage to do better, but I am sure that the force that is here today, the force that is out there waiting for a spark to be released, will become the momentum that will take AKEL to where it deserves to be.
Not running for the post of General Secretary of the Party does not mean I will be absent from our struggles. I will be with you, in the front line of the struggle. It would be an omission before I close my speech if I did not also mention those who are not with us today.
First, the late Demetris Christofias. I was talking to Maria Theofanous one day, I think most of you know her as she was for many years with the historical leader of AKEL Ezekias Papaioannou, and she made the following remark. “Late, not deceased…such people don’t go away because they are never forgotten”. That is so true.
Demetris Christofias left behind a legacy of work. He made his mark in the upward course of AKEL in extremely difficult times. At a time when most people were in a hurry to talk about the “end of history”, in Cyprus AKEL under the leadership of D. Christofias and the rest of the comrades of the then leadership, proved them all wrong. He left behind a legacy as the General Secretary of the Party, as Speaker of the House of Representatives and as President of the Republic. Most importantly, he left a legacy as an example that cannot be forgotten. Of a political leader who did not lose his humaneness no matter what duties he undertook, who remained humble, honest and with clean hands, honoring fully the trust that the people placed in him.
In the five years since the last Party Congress, we have bid farewell to three other worthy comrades from the Party leadership who served the Party loyally and selflessly. Comrade Michalis Poumbouris, a figure of our Movement and a member of its historic leadership, comrades Fanis Christodoulou and Panikos Lapithiotis. Comrades who were present every day, until their last breath, in the small and big struggles of the People’s Movement of the Left. We honor and will always pay tribute to their memory and struggles.
AKEL carries with it a heavy legacy from the past. Struggles, sacrifices, service, comrades who wrote and became History. However, AKEL also has a lot of wealth at its service for the future.
It is the golden reserve in the youth. Young people with knowledge, experience and assets and above all selflessness to struggle. They are the hope of AKEL.
Volunteers who offer their all, from taking small initiatives for the construction of a neighbourhood park, to comrades in Municipal councils, voluntary organisations, solidarity networks, ready to reply every call issued by the movement to struggle and offer their services. They are AKEL’s bastion of support.
We are talking about hundreds of anonymous members and cadres. You won’t see any of them on television, they are not in the spotlight and in the news, nor do they figure on social media. But they are there and they are carrying out their duties quietly, for AKEL, for the People’s Movement, for the country and for the people.
All of them are the wealth of AKEL. They carry on their shoulders the legacy of a movement that holds high the flag of the people, the flag of Cyprus.
Heads up! We believe in our cause!!
We waged battles, we won, we lost, we fell, we got back again on our feet again and we marched forward!
That is what we will do now too.
United, determined and resolute.
History will be written by us. And we shall write it again!
Long live the working people’s greatest gain!
Long live the force of hope, the force of the future and the people!
Long live the Party of the Cypriot people!
Long live AKEL!