The 1974 Cyprus War - AKEL and its illusions in the United Nations

After nearly 30 years of partition the United Nations have come up with the Annan Plan to try and solve the Cyprus problem and reunite the island. We will soon be publishing an article by a Greek Marxist on this question. For now suffice it to say that again illusions are being raised that the UN can solve the problem. Again, as thirty years ago these illusions will be dashed. As a helpful introduction to the question we are making available an article by Ted Grant on the events that unfolded in Cyprus in 1974. It was originally published in two parts on September 20 and 27, 1974.

By Ted Grant, September 20, 1974


After nearly 30 years of partition the United Nations have come up with a plan (the Annan Plan) to try and solve the Cyprus problem and reunite the island. We will soon be publishing an article by a Greek Marxist on this question. For now suffice it to say that again illusions are being raised that the UN can solve the problem. Again, as thirty years ago these illusions will be dashed.

The contradictions that led to the 1974 conflict have not been resolved. On a capitalist basis, as the economy slows down, unemployment, attacks on workers' rights and a general worsening of living conditions will recreate the conditions for conflict between the two communities on the island. As in 1974, what is needed today is a working class based policy. Only workers' unity around a socialist programme can offer a way out.

As a helpful introduction to the question we are making available an article by Ted Grant on the events that unfolded in Cyprus in 1974. It was originally published in two parts on September 20 and 27, 1974.

In an attempt to divert the attention of the Greek masses away from the real problems they were facing in the 1970s, the Greek Colonels’ junta had tried to play the nationalist card by invading and backing a fascist coup in Cyprus in an attempt to unite Cyprus with Greece. This provoked the invasion of the Turkish army and this, after severe fighting, led to the partition of Cyprus which has continued up until today.

At that time the Communist Party placed big hopes in the United Nations. Ted Grant pointed out what class interests lay behind this situation and explained that the United Nations could not offer a solution. He outlined the failure of the Communist Party leaders in Cyprus to avert the coup of Nicos Samson, despite the mass support among the working class which they could have relied upon. By their lack of preparation and above all by their support for the "liberal" capitalist regime of Makarios, they allowed the reactionaries to plot under their noses and seize power without them being able to organise any real resistance.

The bloody war which inevitably followed from this and the Turkish invasion demonstrated the impotence once again of the United Nations Organisation and also the futility of the policies of the Communist Party leaders which was to appeal to the UN to help. Ted Grant outlined how the UN Assembly was at best a forum for solving minor problems between the powers but when it came to any decisive conflict of interest in particular between the big powers, it was impotent. The Security Council makes all important decisions and the five major powers have the right of veto on it.

Today, as the Annan plan has been drawn by the United Nations, we believe this article is of relevance to the Cypriot workers and youth. Much of Ted Grant's criticisms are based on material published in the Morning Star, which was then the official organ of the British Communist Party. It echoed the same ideas of the AKEL (Communist Party) in Cyprus. (January 8, 2003)


We are now living in an epoch of crisis for capitalism. Developments in Portugal, Mozambique, Greece and the events in Cyprus indicate a new period of upheavals and clashes in the relations between the classes and nations in the coming years. Britain will not be exempt from the storms of class struggle and international conflicts which are beginning to rage on the periphery of the Western capitalist world. In fact British capitalism is directly involved with her bases and interests in Cyprus.

In the last few weeks there have been the outbursts from the (ex) colonels and (ex) generals [of the British army] who, no doubt reflect the ideas of their serving ues, who for the present remain silent. But we have the precedent, in a similar period of turmoil and disturbance, when in 1912 the Generals and officers in Britain refused to obey the orders of the then Liberal Government. In a period of turbulence, "safe" reformist methods, which are false even in peaceful periods, become completely disastrous. That is why the methods, analysis and policy of Marxism are necessary for the advanced workers, as a guide to understanding and action in national and international politics. "Theory is a guide to action" as Lenin explained.

Cyprus, and the attitude of the rulers of the nations towards it, and the reactions of the self-styled Marxists of the Communist Party in Cyprus and internationally, form instructive lessons for workers active in the Labour Movement, and perhaps for those members of the Communist Party searching for Marxist methods and policies. We will quote extensively from the pages of the Morning Star [journal of the British Communist Party] to demonstrate the inadequacy, even foolishness and, in its disastrous effects, even criminal policies of the Communist Party leadership.

Armed Gangs

Exactly 24 hours before the coup of the EOKA fascists, George Perfos, editor of Verna and one of the leaders of AKEL (the Cyprus Communist Party) wrote in the Morning Star (15.7.74): "His (Makarios) denunciation of the terrorist activities of the EOKA-B organisation backed, and in many cases planned and organised, by the Greek officers, is the first step to scotch plans to overthrow the Government of Cyprus... National Guard camps have been raided and huge quantities of arms and ammunition were stolen and taken to secret hide-outs with the help of the Greek officers in the national guard.

"Ordinary citizens, supporters of Makarios, have been brutally murdered. Small isolated villages known for their support for President Makarios are terrorised by armed masked gangs. Buildings and centres of trade unions and left-wing organisations have been attacked with bombs and dynamite, and anti-Makarios fascist slogans have been painted on many public buildings and squares.

"Most of those who have been involved in these anti-Cypriot activities are the same people President Makarios pardoned and freed from prisons last February (!) However the President and his Government... are methodicaIIy organising the defence of the Republic by strengthening the police and the Special Police Force and also by ridding the administration machine of corrupt and hostile elements... That is why AKEL in its statement last Tuesday supported 'without reservations' the measures of President Makarios 'which will lead the country to democratic rule and normality...

"The assassins and the apparent dictators must know that there is not the slightest hope of success for their plans. The unbound Cypriot people and its armed forces, headed by the President of the Republic Archbishop Makarios will smash and nullify every attempt for the imposition of a fascist dictatorial regime in Cyprus."

24 hours later the EOKA gangsters seized power. Thus the CP is revealed as not having the foggiest understanding of the processes at work in Cyprus. With the support of 2% of the population, the EOKA gangsters seized power and brushed aside resistance within hours.

Can there be a more annihilating declaration of the bankruptcy of the leadership of the CP than the following statement in the Morning Star of July 27? "In the first few hours after the coup feelings of anger, sorrow and frustration were predominant among the ordinary people. Anger against the Greek Junta, sorrow at what they thought was the fate of President Makarios, and frustration at their inability to do anything"

"…Ordinary people were further encouraged when it became known that leaders of progressive parties supporting President Makarios, like AKEL general secretary Ezekiel Pappioannou, as well as the leader of the Cyprus Trade Unions and all the top leadership of AKEL, had escaped arrest. ...The EOKA-B gang had also succeeded in penetrating and subverting part of the Cyprus police force".


Who was responsible for the complete "surprise" of ordinary people, but the leadership of the CP? Who had not organised and prepared the workers theoretically and in its propaganda for these events? Having prepared nothing and foreseen nothing the activity of the leadership had to be to go into hiding! That was the extent of the lead and of preparation.

But AKEL had received 42% of the vote in recent elections in Cyprus. Had they put up candidates in every constituency they would probably have received more than 50% of the votes. Yet they were powerless because they relied on the capitalist state machine and the capitalist-supported Makarios to protect them.

Had the CP leaders organised an armed workers' defence force, as many of the rank-and-file of AKEL were ruefully saying, the EOKA gangsters, and their Junta inspirers, would have hesitated before launching an attack. Had the CP warned the masses and prepared them for a stern and bitter struggle - an armed struggle because the fascist gangsters were armed and had the support possibly of a majority of the Greek National Guard - the result could have been different. Instead they lulled them into a false sense of security, where they believed that Makarios and the police had the situation well under control. Consequently the leaders of AKEL were caught completely by surprise.

Unfortunately the Cypriot masses too, because of the CP propaganda, felt completely bewildered and demoralised by these unexpected events. Consequently there were not even mass strikes of protest, let alone a general strike.

As it is, EOKA prepared for their coup, as a dress rehearsal, by the armed attacks on CP and trade union headquarters. They assassinated workers and peasants and union members. Makarios and the police proved a broken reed to defend the organisations and rights of the working class. Many of the special and other police deserted to the National Guard and the EOKA gangsters.

In any event, as even an elementary understanding of theclass nature of the state would demonstrate, to rely on these forces would be to prepare disaster. The working class, as Marx and Lenin tirelessly explained, can rely only on their own class organisations, power and strength. Whatever gains the working class has made has always been by relying on its own independent strength.

The solution of the Cyprus problem of unity between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot workers and peasants could only have been achieved by a struggle for power on their social issues and needs. With its overwhelming support among the Cypriot workers and peasants AKEL could have succeeded in this if they had mobilised the masses on class lines and a class programme.

Instead they put the programme of Popular Frontism, of agreements with the nice "radical", liberal capitalists, headed by the liberal Makarios. Thus they prepared disaster, in exactly the same way as in Chile, and as they are preparing - if it depends on their leadership - similar catastrophes in Portugal, Greece, Spain etc.

If the argument of the CP is accepted, that the working class is not strong enough to operate independent class policies, then why should the capitalists make an agreement with a powerless working class? In reality the only reason that the "Liberal" capitalists put forward coalition policies is because of the enormous power of the working class, especially under modern conditions. Thus they can, with the aid of CP leaders, deceive and lull the workers and prevent them from taking independent class action, which would draw behind them a majority of the people.

The CP leadership had abandoned even an iota of the Marxist method. The votes they received in Cyprus and other countries were much higher than the votes received by the Bolsheviks before the capture of power in the Russian revolution. Had the Bolshevik leaders operated on the basis of the present policies of their supposed inheritors, there would not have been a successful Russian revolution. In fact it is even worse than the policies of the Mensheviks in the Russian revolution.

Let us not forget that in 1945, the British CP leaders argued in the British general election, that the Labour Movement was too weak to gain a majority and therefore should agree to a coalition with the Liberals and Tories! That is a concrete example of the CP leaders' complete lack of faith in, and contempt for, the working class. It shows their alienation from the methods and policies which, under Lenin and Trotsky, gained victory in the Russian revolution.

Not only in national policy, but also in international policy, the leadership of the CP, have abandoned the class criterion. Marxism explains the policies of the capitalist parties, by the "gross" material interests of the ruling class whom they represent. Even more the policies of the state - the organised instrument of the rule of the capitalists - are dictated by the national and general interests of the ruling class.

The officers, generals, tops of the police and civil servants, diplomats, and Foreign Office officials are carefully vetted and selected to serve the interests of their class. In fact they go to the same schools and universities and share the same clubs and environment as the ruling class. They look at foreign and home affairs from the same standpoint. Their whole outlook and ideology is that of the ruling class. Consequently when sent to the United Nations or to an Embassy abroad these people reflect the interests of their capitalists in everything they do or say.

Thus Marxists have always argued that the diplomacy and foreign policy of capitalist states are a continuation of home policy. That is a defence of the profits, income, power and prestige of the capitalists. All the phrases about peace, national rights, United Nations and so on, are meant as a deception of the people to conceal the rapacious character of the foreign policy of all the capitalist powers. Their policy is dictated not by the interests of peace and freedom but the interests and profits of the trusts. To anyone who has read the works of Lenin, especially on war and foreign policy, this would appear elementary. Yet the CP leaders, who claim to operate on Leninist lines, violate these elementary precepts.


The disastrous failure to organise the workers and peasants of Cyprus for resistance to the impending coup led the mad and desperate Greek junta to organise the coup as a preparation for the union of Cyprus with Greece (Enosis) . They treated AKEL distainfully. The coup was intended as a prestige measure to pacify the Greek people. This light-minded and lunatic approach provoked the invasion of the island by Turkish troops. The ruling class in Turkey had always threatened action in such an event. For strategic reasons this coup provided them with a welcome pretext to take action.

Instead of appealing for independent action by the world trade union and Labour Movement, in organising boycotts of Turkish goods, imports and exports, which if successful would have compelled a Turkish withdrawal and would have threatened the collapse of the power of the Turkish landlords and capitalists, they appealed to the instrument and cover of the capitalists the (dis-) "United Nations".

As early as July 16, John Gollan, leader of the British CP, demanded in relation to the coup (reported in the Morning Star) "the United Nations should intervene to safeguard Cypriot independence and democracy".

The intervention of the UN in the Congo was hardly an auspicious augury! That ended in the murder of Lumumba, the anti-colonialist leader of the Congolese people, and the destruction of any democracy in the Congo and the brutal dictatorship of the millionaire copper interests' [with the] puppet Tshombe and later of Mobuto.

On July 17, the Morning Star in its editorial shrieked... "then Callaghan [Labour minister] expresses pleasure that these same lawless thugs (Greek Junta) have solemnly declared that they would never dream of interfering with the independence of Cyprus. What sort of Alice-in-Wonderland world is this?" A good question! But what Alice-in-Wonderland policy is it to imagine that the policy of the capitalist states represented in the United Nations, representing the thugs and gangsters of Big Business, is dictated by anything else except the "National Interest", i.e. the interests of Big Business? Is there any more reason to accept the words and pledges of Nixon and his successor Ford, or any other capitalist politician in the Western world than that of the Greek Junta?

Yet while denouncing American Imperialism (and forgetting the manoeuvres and crimes of British, French, Japanese and other Imperialisms?) on the one hand, they immediately appeal on the other to that same American Imperialism to act in the interests of peace, democracy and freedom. How so? By appealing to the United Nations Security Council on which sit the representatives of that same imperialism (we will deal with the policies of the ruling bureaucracies of Russia and China on another occasion).

By some mysterious alchemy - in reality a fantasy in the minds of the CP leaders - by changing the hat they are wearing, the gangsters of Imperialism transform themselves. A raging tiger into a peaceful tabby cat would be a more realistic transformation! The delegates of Imperialism at the United Nations, whether those of France, Britain or America, or any other capitalist power, put forward, and act as instruments of, the capitalist policies of their governments. The Assembly is a forum, where [only] secondary conflicts, between the nations can be aired and possibly solved.

Security Council

The Security Council, where five big powers have the right of veto, decides all major issues. Where one of the Super Powers feels its National (i.e. capitalist) interests are threatened they can paralyse any action. Consequently the UN can only act, when, for some reason - very rarely - the "national interests" of all these governments would coincide. But diplomacy, also at the United Nations, is merely the continuation of politics by other means!

As a last resort Imperialism turns to force, i.e. war, and as Lenin was fond of quoting the German general Clausewitz, this too is the continuation of politics by other (forcible) means. If Imperialism or capitalism is in power at home why should their policy be any less nefarious abroad? Policy in both spheres is not a disinterested exercise but it is in the class interests of the capitalists.

Thus the representatives of capital - let us call things by their right names - at the United Nations always act in the interests of their class, and not at all in the interests of the nation or the peoples of the world. Rent, Interest and Profit, those of the bankers, property millionaires and industrialists, these are what the capitalist politicians and diplomats defend. In fact this would apply just as much to the diplomacy at the United Nations, for example by American Imperialism, as their policy towards the Allende Government.

Yet the CP leaders delude themselves that there is a difference. Though the puppets might wear different dress, use different words, and different expressions, the strings are pulled by the same Government in Washington, which in turn is pulled by the puppet-masters of Wall Street. So it is with all the other capitalist nations.

Yet this crude carnival is enough for the Communist Party leaders, who tragically in turn, if unwittingly, lead astray their own members, and those workers they can reach. Just watch them in the tolls of their own contradictions. On July 19, the Morning Star wrote. "But while world democratic opinion (!) was mobilising in support of the hounded democrats in Cyprus, Washington reports said that the US Government [was] already aiming at appeasing the Athens junta .. " Yet it is to these same gentleman that they appeal in the UN! And as if the "democrats" in other capitalist countries are any different to the "democrats" of Washington! [The only difference is that] they are less powerful and because of the lack of a political labour movement in the US, the latter can act perhaps more crudely.

Appealing to Beelzebub against the wickedness of Satan is hardly a profitable occupation. But listen to this querelous plea, even before the intervention of Turkish capitalism. Not even an isolated article, but an editorial on July 19: "Cyprus is the victim of an act of aggression by the Greek Fascists. The United Nations cannot allow this to be legitimised. The Security Council must take the necessary concrete measures to secure the withdrawal of all the Greek troops and restore the elected Government". And with even greater unconscious humour on the following day, "Conquest of territory by force of arms can never be tolerated by the United Nations, to do so is to foul the principles of the UN Charter."


The UN, like the League of Nations before it, has been incapable of solving the problem of any single war, in which the interests of one of the Big Powers was involved. See their impotence in Vietnam during the last 25 years, and their failure to take any action age inst Portuguese Imperialism in its wars in Africa.

It was only the armed resistance of the African and Vietnamese people, and the movement of revolt of the Portuguese people and the armed faces, of the lower ranks of the officers and the ordinary soldiers, which has forced Portuguese capitalism to retreat. So it was with the revolt of the GIs in Vietnam and the opposition of the American masses which compelled the US to withdraw. The UN has played no role in this or any other important conflict.

We could give literally hundreds of quotations from the Morning Star to show the glaring contradictions of the position of the CP. We will have to be satisfied with only a few more. In its Issue of August 18, when the situation was becoming glaringly obvious, in an editorial the Morning Star declared sternly: "The rulers of Britain, Greece and Turkey, with US backing, have an interest in maintaining the divisions which exist within the Cypriot community. For this holds back the movement for independence and helps them to keep their grip on the island ... It is for the Cypriots to ask for help in solving their problems if they need it. And the United Nations is best able to give this".

Thus once again they appeal for the help of King Stork against King Log. From the governments of the United States and Britain, to the representatives of those Governments at the United Nations! One can only marvel at such political stupidity. It arises because they have abandoned hope in the world working class and are looking for something else to substitute for it!

They wanted the UN to "act". And the UN acted. On August 2, they report: "A UN spokesman said that UN forces were still awaiting further instructions from their headquarters in New York and were taking note of the Turkish Commander's demand for the withdrawal of UN troops from Turkish-occupied areas". Thus they got out of the way of the Turkish invaders! How could it be otherwise with the conflicting interests of the rulers of Britain, the USA, Russia etc?


On August 15 in screaming headlines the Morning Star shouted "CIA PLOTTED TO KILL MAKARIOS, FORCE ISLAND INTO NATO, KISSINGER ACCUSED OF CYPRUS CARVE-UP. Dr Kissinger and the CIA were charged yesterday with master­minding the whole Cyprus affair from the plot to overthrow President Makarios to encouraging the Turks to partition the Island..." Yet they have been appealing to Kissinger's representatives on the UN Security Council as if they could get a different answer front his servants! In the same issue they quote Makarios as saying sorrowfully: "The events in Cyprus prove that small countries cannot rely on those powers which profess to be peace­makers and guardians of international peace ".

That Makarios, as a representative of a tiny capitalist power should have had illusory hopes in the great powers is natural. But what can we say of people who claim to stand on the scientific method of Marxism and the understanding of the class divisions in society? Yet they allow themselves to be suckers of capitalist institutions again and again.

The complete mess is shown in their own words in their editorial of August 15: "Now cock-a-hoop after their ­initial military success, and encouraged by the total failure of their NATO partners to ensure the carrying out of the UN resolution of July 20, they (the Turks) have decided to try to impose their will on the Cypriot people by brute farce. They must not be allowed to succeed. The UN Security Council call yesterday for an end to hostilities must be followed by the utmost economic and political pressure to halt the aggression. The Western powers say that there are great difficulties in the way of UN military intervention. But this is their excuse for doing nothing at all. Yet the whole world knows that just as they have been the main prop of Greek reaction, so if they withdrew their support and aid from the Turkish regime it would have a decisive effect.

"...The NATO war alliance ... is a collection of Imperialist robbers, all seeking to dominate Cyprus for their own nefarious purposes, and taking her to pieces in the process... Now the first need is to halt the aggression and secure a ceasefire. But this must be followed by the speedy implementation of the UN Security Council resolution of July 20..."

And again on August 20th in an editorial: "The US leaders are obviously conniving at the Turkish attack. To argue that the powerful military presence of the Turkish forces on the Turkish mainland makes UN military intervention difficult, is not the point. The point is that if the US had threatened to withdraw its political, military and economic aid from Turkey, the Turkish Government would not have gone ahead with its use of massive force to dismember the island ... It is clearer than ever that NATO is not what its creators and supporters claim it to be, the protector of peace and small countries. It is an organisation of Imperialist thieves who are prepared to betray peoples and governments far their own purposes and who are carving up Cyprus in order to maintain military and naval bases there".

Thus in the some editorial they castigate the Imperialist robbers of NATO and then plead with these same robbers to take action in the interests of the robbed! Could self-deception and, what is worse, the fooling of the working class, be carried to greater heights?

Meanwhile the bloody drama has been played out in Cyprus. More than a third of the population (250,000) are refugees, living in hunger and misery. Turkish Imperialism has seized 34% of the area of Cyprus. The Turkish Cypriots who they are pretending to protect, are only 18% of the population scattered throughout the island.

The real reason for the seizure, apart from military strategic considerations is that 70% of the resources in agriculture and industry and minerals are in the area under their control. More than two thirds of the tourist industry is also in this area. The Turkish ruling class hopes to make the seizure of at least part of the North of the island permanent. They are willing to do some horse­deals on this basis.

"The Rights of Nations", "Freedom from Aggression" etc., as the Middle East and other wars, since World War Two have shown, count for nothing in the calculations of the great and super-powers.

Capitalist economic, military and strategic interests decide their actions. If American Imperialism, together with British and world Imperialism considered it in their interests, no doubt they, together with the SovietUnion - if it considered it in their interests - could force the Turkish imperialists to withdraw.

But meanwhile Turkey's Prime Minister declared cynically and brutally there was "no need for forcible movement of Greek Cypriots from the area Turkey held. Such a population movement would take place in time anyway". That is the policy of the mailed fist, of naked force. That is the real policy of Imperialism, of all capitalist countries in fundamental relations between countries. The working class, whose interests are the same in all countries, must learn to understand these lessons, on pain of destruction of its organisations and international disaster.

An indication of the concern which must be felt inside the the ranks of the Cypriot Communist Party and indeed other CPs is given by the following extract from the Irish Times (30.7.74). In an interview Nikos Demetriou a leading member of AKEL, said in relation to Makarios: "His failure to thwart a coup - despite the support of 98% of his people - will unquestionably trigger off renewed thinking among the Left wing on the desirability of an armed military wing to any democratic political movement. I think what has happened in Cyprus quite definitely underlines the lesson of Chile for all revolutionaries".