A Marxist Approach to the Problem of Cyprus

Cyprus is one of several countries that is to be admitted into the European Union in 2004. But there remains the problem of the unresolved national question on the island. Turkey's continued hold over the northern part of the island has become a major obstacle to Turkey being accepted as an EU member. The debate among the ruling elite in Turkey has swiftly turned into a blunt choice of "whether to abandon Cyprus or to annex it". This article by Zeynep Günes, a Turkish Marxist, presents a socialist perspective on the question of Cyprus.

As membership of Cyprus to the EU draws closer, the pressure exerted by liberals in the Turkish press on Denktas (the president of the so-called, but unrecognised KKTC, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) has been increasing. All of a sudden they have started to complain about how many millions of dollars Cyprus has cost Turkey in these hard times of economic crisis, and what a huge fetter this is for Turkey's entry into the EU. The debate has swiftly turned into a blunt choice of "whether to abandon Cyprus or annex it".

On top of this we have had the statements of TUSIAD, the most powerful organisation of the bourgeoisie in Turkey. They have announced that "Cyprus may be a strategically important island, but on the other hand we have the task of improving the living-standards of sixty-five million people by becoming a member of the EU, by becoming a rich country and part of the modern (civil) world. We cannot miss the opportunity simply because of the problem of Cyprus."

The debate became extremely heated when TUSIAD issued the statement in which they said, "we do not agree that Turkey's support for Rauf Denktas' uncompromising hard-line policy is correct." The pressure was becoming so strong that Denktas was compelled to do something at the end of the day. That same Denktas who had earlier tried his best to obstruct and avoid any negotiations was forced to approach Glafcos Clerides (leaders of the Greek speaking southern part of the island) to start new talks, the first round of which took place on August 4. Both before and after the meeting, the hawkish Denktas was compelled to smile and hinted that there existed the hope for a "solution".

Of course, the issue of EU membership is not the only element bringing about this change. In the current conjuncture, there are many coinciding factors: the US designs for a "new order" throughout the world starting with the Afghanistan War; the role of the Middle East in this plan; and the role that Turkey is supposed to play in this game. All these factors further complicate the balance in this region and means that the problem of Cyprus has to be placed within a broader framework. Thus we see another big power stepping in to ‘solve" the problem: the USA.

The formula of the "United States of Cyprus", which was spelled out by Denktas after the December 4 talks, was later revealed to be of US origin. The rumour is going round that an unofficial document has been prepared by US foreign ministry experts, which is presently being examined by both Turkey and Greece. The United Nations are said to be in favour of the document which is also supported by Turkey. Thus it is evident that when the official negotiations start, this will be one of the most important documents on the table.

Another aspect of the problem is that both the USA and the EU wish to use the island as a military base. It is not difficult to understand the crucial significance of Cyprus especially when we consider the potential of impending big conflicts in the Middle East. Once again Cyprus is seen as an "unsinkable aircraft carrier" as was the case during the "Cold War" years.

In order to understand how the present situation came about and find where the real solution lies for the working-class, we have to look into the history of the Cyprus question.

From the Ottoman period to 1960

Cyprus became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1571 and the first Turkish community was sent to the island in the same year. The Ottoman State, in order to get back the territories lost to Russia in the 1878 Treaty of Berlin, rented the island to Britain in exchange for help, with the understanding that once the Ottomans got their territories back, the island was to be handed back to the Ottoman Empire. But when the Ottoman Empire backed Germany in World War I, Britain announced that it had annexed the island. The Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 confirmed the annexation of Cyprus and the island officially became a colony of Britain in 1925. At that time, the majority of the island's population consisted of Greeks with a minority of Turks.

In 1931, the island's Greek speaking population burnt down the British imperial governor's palace during a revolt against British imperialism. Britain then formed a police force from among the Turkish speaking population who had not taken part in the revolt, but had opposed it. Thus started the familiar British policy of Divide and Rule, playing off the Greeks and Turks against one another – with pogroms on both sides.

After the uprising, as the idea of Enosis (uniting with Greece) prevailed among the island's Greek population, Britain set about organizing the Turks as a counter-balancing force. In 1943, a British-manipulated organization, the Institution of the Turkish Minority of Cyprus Island (KATAK), was founded. However, this organisation proved incapable of achieving the desired influence. And in 1944, Dr. Faz?l Kucuk founded the National Turkish People Party of Cyprus.

The Communist Party of Cyprus (KKP), founded in 1926, had been declared illegal after the uprising of 1931. The KKP founded the AKEL in 1941 in order to carry on its legal activities. After three years of co-existence, in 1944 the KKP dissolved into AKEL. At that time, the anti-imperialist movement was led mainly by the AKEL and the Orthodox Church.

Since the 1950s, one of the most important factors that increased the importance of Cyprus were the oil reserves in the Middle East. Another factor was that Cyprus was an important base from which to intervene in the conflicts that erupted throughout the region (for instance in the Arab-Israeli conflict). Britain was losing its military bases throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, and therefore it gave great importance to Cyprus.

When we look at the position of the Turkish ruling class prior the 1950s we see an interesting picture. Prior to the 1950s, as Turkish senior officials declared at that time, "there was no such thing as the Cyprus" for Turkey. On January 23, 1950, the then Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Necmettin Sadak, announced in the TBMM (The Grand National Assembly of Turkey) that "there is no such thing as the Cyprus question… our strong conviction is that Britain has no intention or inclination of handing Cyprus over to another state today. No matter what happens in Cyprus, the British government will not hand the island of Cyprus over to any other state. Therefore the stirrings among our youth are in vain." Again in July of the same year, Fuat Köprülü, who was the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the government of the Democrat Party, also said that "there was no such problem."

Of course the most important factor determining this policy, that was maintained until the mid-1950s, was NATO. Turkey and Greece both joined NATO in 1952. Turkey was in favour of maintaining the status quo, and had no desire to be in conflict with Greece over Cyprus, which would have jeopardised its NATO membership. At the same time hysterical anti-communism, whipped up by NATO, was prevalent in both countries and this affected the whole policy to a great extent. It was the independence struggle on the part of the Greek Cypriots that was to force Greece to break with its indifference.

In 1954, Greece appealed to the United Nations to force Britain to acknowledge "the right of self-determination" for Cyprus. In the negotiations, Turkey lined up with Britain saying that the island was Britain's and the appeal was rejected. As a matter of fact, this attitude of Turkey siding with the colonialists is not an accident at all. During the independence struggles of Algeria and Tunisia against French colonialism, Turkey was on the side of France. And quite naturally, Turkey was seen as a pro-colonialist country in the eyes of the Middle East and other underdeveloped countries.

In order to stop such a strategically important island from falling under the sphere of influence of the USA, Britain attempted to legitimise its own presence on the island by drawing Turkey into the problem and creating a de facto Turkish-Greek conflict. In fact, the strengthening of both Greek and Turkish nationalism (which were both artificially intensified), suited the interests of Britain very well. In fact it was no accident that EOKA (National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters, founded on nationalistic bases in 1955) launched provocative attacks against ordinary people including the Turks. Nor was the granting of a seat to Turkey at the London Conference in the same year. The same applies to the plotting of the infamous November 6-7 incident coinciding with the last days of the conference.

On November 6, 1955, a state-sponsored newspaper spread the news that Atatürk's former house in Salonica (Thessaloniki) had been bombed. Then began the attacks on Greeks and other non-Muslims in Istanbul which devastated their houses, shops and churches. Three people were killed and 30 injured. The attacks were conducted in an extremely organized and well-prepared manner. Backed by the MAH (the then Turkish intelligence service), organisations such as the ‘Cyprus Belongs to Turkey Society' and the Union of Istanbul Higher Education Students effectively led the attacks. Immediately the government announced "communists" as the scapegoats, and a witch-hunt against them began. Only years later did a retired army general reveal the real perpetrators when he declared that "the incidents of November 6-7 were the act of the Special War Unit. It was a great operation and it achieved its aim." Also it was disclosed that the Turkish government itself had plotted the bombing of the house in Salonica (Thessaloniki).

At the same time, all over Turkey there were demonstrations organised by the state behind the main slogan of "Partition or Death!" School students and university students were stirred up to participate in the demonstrations. And thus with a massive campaign Cyprus became a "national cause".

At the same time, another campaign was started in Cyprus to decimate the left. In mid-December, AKEL and many left organizations were banned and all left publications were prohibited. Around 140 people were arrested and sent to the concentration camps and gaols. During the period of underground work, which lasted until December 1959, many left cadres were assassinated under the guidance of ringleader Grivas, one of the fascist leaders of the EOKA. In spite of this AKEL managed to maintain its underground struggle during this period.

Having started negotiations with Makarios for "autonomy" in early 1956, Britain had him arrested and sent into exile when he insisted on "the right of self-determination". [1] However, in July of the same year there was more bad news for Britain in the region. The Nasser government of Egypt announced the nationalisation of the Suez Canal and the British military bases situated in Egypt were closed. In the meantime the struggle of the Greek Cypriots had intensified. Having lost its bases in Egypt, Britain was compelled to acknowledge "the right of self-determination" for fear of losing the whole of Cyprus, whose regional importance had been massively increased. But Britain added that its military bases on the island should remain.

In the same year, Turkey presented the idea of "partition" to the United Nations, which was originally the position of Britain. According to this idea the island was to be divided into Greek and Turkish parts and then these parts were to be joined to their own "fatherlands." This was perfectly suited the "divide and rule" policy of British imperialism.

EOKA announced a cease-fire in early 1957 after Makarios' release. On the other hand, during the same months NATO got involved in the question under the guise of "mediating" between Greece and Turkey. From then on, the process became more complicated and one plot followed another. On October 27, the former British imperial vice-attorney-general Rauf Denktas was appointed as chairman of the Federation of Turkish Cypriot Institutions. On November 29, an organisation called the Turkish Resistance Organisation (TMT) appeared with its first leaflets. A year later, EOKA revived its attacks. In reply the TMT declared war on the Greeks as well. However, the TMT did not target only Greeks but also some Turkish workers who were in favour of peace and independence of the island. After a joint mass demonstration by Greek and Turkish Cypriots, the TMT began murdering Turkish trade union members. In the same manner, left-wing Greek workers were murdered by the Greek chauvinists. In order to carry through the policies of imperialism, it was necessary to smash the will of the working class whose attitude in favour of fraternity, peace and independence was an obstacle.

As tension increased, Greece and Turkey, both members of NATO, came close to war. Following this, the new American backed formula of "independence" was introduced. With the signing of the Zurich-London Treaties of Guarantee and Alliance in 1959, Turkey, Greece and Britain became the guarantors of the Cypriot constitution.

1960-1974: from independence to the invasion

With the Constitution of Cyprus in 1960, the island became a so-called "independent" country, but with British military bases still on the island. Turkey and Greece also had military forces on the island and Cyprus was not allowed to be member of any alliance in which Greece and Turkey were not also members. Also, the Cypriot people would not be permitted to amend the constitution, otherwise, as stated in the treaty, Britain, Turkey and Greece were entitled to intervene in order to "re-establish order."

The president of the newly-founded Republic of Cyprus was to be a Greek (Makarios) and the vice-president a Turk (Faz?l Küçük). In all decisions relating to political, military and security problems both the president and vice president had equal rights of veto. There were two official languages. The Assembly was to consist of 70% of Greeks and 30% of Turks. Seven ministers would be Greeks and three Turks, in a ten-person cabinet. Bear in mind that at that time, the Turkish population on the island was just 18% of the total population. The fact that they had a disproportionate representation of 30% and that they were accepted as an "equal" party meant that ground was already being prepared for the future conflicts.

After 1960, the electoral support of the pro-Soviet AKEL began to grow. At the same time the Republic of Cyprus became one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement. This movement had been known for its close relations with the USSR. All these were sufficient reasons to cause Turkey and the imperialist bourgeoisie to have nightmares. As was stated in New York Times of December 12, 1961: "The Soviet Union can seize power in a democratic manner only in one country, that is Cyprus. After independence communist influence increased, the unemployment rate rose high. According to the forecasts of some diplomats, in a free election the communists can get 35% of the vote. When we remember the strategic significance of Cyprus, we understand how dangerous it is for the West." These fears of the "danger" would lead to an exacerbation of the designs and plots over Cyprus.

In November 1963, president Makarios attempted to amend the constitution in thirteen different clauses. This was partly because of EOKA's (The Organization of Cypriot Fighters) pressure. Most of the amendments were aimed at restricting the rights that had been given to the Turkish community in the constitution. The constitution had been based on the principle of the recognition of two different societies. For instance, the judicial and municipal services in each part were run by people from the respective communities within the existing order. The number of officials, MPs, soldiers and police were determined proportionally. The amendments involved a transition to a state with no separate rights for any single community. Thus the level of conflict increased. While Makarios took firm measures, the Turkish Cypriots leaders showed absolutely no interest in negotiations. Thus they abandoned parliament and all the other institutions beating the drum and accusing the other side that "they have thrown us out of the republic" (To this day, the seats reserved for the Turks are still empty in the Assembly of Republic of Cyprus).

Thereafter Turkey once again put forward the idea of partition. The intensified attacks on the Turkish speaking population, which led to 24 Turks being killed, together with their claims that there had been a violation of the constitution, were used as ground for intervention. And quoting past treaties, Turkey hinted at a possible intervention on the island. US president Johnson stated, in his famous letter of June 5, 1964, that the US was against a possible intervention on the island, warning Turkey in a "bitter tone". One month later, within the framework of a plan prepared by the US Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Dean Acheson, negotiations with Greece and Turkey began.

According to Acheson's plan, there would be a region in the upper north-east of the island consisting of Turks and Turkey could station as many soldiers there as it wanted. However Makarios rejected the idea alleging, that it meant an indirect "partition", and no agreement could be reached. On August 8-9, Turkey bombed the Greek region of the island for two days, resulting in the death of 33 Greek Cypriots and 230 injured. The US and Britain remained silent about the bombing. In fact they gave it implicit support. A short while after the famous Johnson letter, Acheson said in his private talks with Nihat Erim (later prime minister of Turkey) and Turgut Sunalp, "as a friend, I tell you off the record that you can go and seize the region allocated to you with your military forces if you can do it without shedding much blood. The American fleet will not hinder you but protect you." That revealed the implicit support of the US for the intervention. This was because the plan that was being carried out meant that the island would come under indirect control of NATO.

The bombing of the island, despite Johnson's letter, did not mean that Turkey "stood up" to the US. To present things in this way is nothing but an exaggeration which serves only to prop up nationalism.

From the invasion to the present day

With the coup d'état of April 21, 1967, Greece entered a dark period under the rule of the Colonels' Junta. When the Junta rejected US requests to use Greek airports during the Arab-Israeli War of 1973, a counter coup d'etat took place on November 25, 1973 against the former junta, which had lost the support of the US. And on July 15, 1974, a fascist coup d'état, led by Sampson, was carried out in Cyprus against the regime of Makarios, which was an attempt to set up a fascist-type administration. But five days after the coup, on July 20, 1974, Turkey invaded the North-Eastern part of the island and on July 23, both juntas in Greece and Cyprus collapsed. [2]

Turkey legitimised its invasion on the grounds of its entitlements stemming from the guarantor-treaties and this initially had the support of the West. At the same time, the invasion provided NATO with its long-desired chance of gaining a presence on the island. [3] The USSR, which had supported Makarios previously in the Non-Aligned Movement, also sided with Turkey in order to prevent the island passing under the sovereignty of Greece.

Nevertheless, through a second military operation on August 14, the Turkish army occupied 37% of the island's territory by pushing its troops forward. [4] The USSR withdrew its support when it realised that Turkey had no intention of putting Makarios [5] back at the head of government. Likewise, the US launched a three-year arms embargo beginning in February 1975.

Since the invasion, 40,000 Turkish Cypriots (at that time, one-third of the Turkish population in the island) have emigrated to Western countries, especially to Britain. On the other hand, Turkey started to send a lot of settlers to the island in order to increase the Turkish population. Having invaded the island under the guise of protecting the constitutional republic, Turkey abandoned its own pretext by setting up the Turkish Federal State of Cyprus (KTFD) on February 13, 1975 and installing Denktas as its president. According to the treaties of the same year, the Turkish population of the South and the Greek population of the North were exchanged and the people of the island were compelled to live in two separate regions according to their ethnic origins. On November 15, 1983, another step was taken with the declaration of an independent state, namely the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC). Interestingly, the "left" parties in the Turkish area, such as the Republican Turkish Party (CTP) and the Social Liberation Party (TKP), acknowledged the decision by submitting to the threats of Denktas without any resistance. Thus, an internationally un-recognized, self-proclaimed "republic" was set up. The main figure in this process was Britain's former imperial attorney, and now Turkey's imperial governor, Denktas, the same man who had been trying to silence his rivals using every method possible for the previous 27 years.

Meanwhile, in Turkey the military dictatorship that had come to power in the September 12 (1980) coup had just come to an end and elections had taken place. But the government had not yet been formed. Turgut Ozal, the winner of the elections, together with the generals and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, initially were not in favour of the proclamation of the KKTC. However, they had to accept Denktas' fait accompli, who had taken advantage of the situation, and they then recognised the KKTC.

The proclamation of this so-called state was the result of Denktas' personal calculations. According to the constitution of the KTFD, Denktas did not have the right to be elected for a third term to the presidency. However, with the proclamation of the new "state", both the constitution and the electoral system were changed and therefore the reign of Denktas and his party, the National Union Party (UBP), could be maintained for many more years.

After the partitioning of the island into two regions, in the wake of Turkish invasion, countless negotiations took place between the Turkish and the Greek sides, but no agreement has ever been reached. In this deadlock, both Turkey and Greece have played major roles, each considering the island a colony to be ruled by their respective governors. The question of Cyprus, just as the question of the Aegean islands, is stirred up whenever public opinion has to be diverted away from internal problems - a ploy that is still going on today. When the class struggle becomes intense, the ruling class puts nationalism back on the agenda by using Cyprus and the Aegean islands to push the fundamental problems into the background.

When we examine the views of the Turkish side in Cyprus, we see constant changes. From 1974 to the present day, Turkey initially offered a cantonal structure, then, with the foundation of the KTFD, jumped to the idea of a federation and then shifted to the idea of independence. But because nobody recognises this independence, the idea of confederation has been put into circulation. And despite their accepting the existence of two separate states on the island with the proclamation of the KKTC, Turkey and the KKTC insist on not recognizing the Republic of Cyprus. Above all, Turkey is adamantly opposes to the Republic of Cyprus joining the EU (the "Republic of Cyprus" which they refuse to recognise) and threatens the annexation of the north to Turkey if membership of the EU is accepted. This KKTC is so independent that speeches referring to annexation to Turkey receive standing ovations from the "president" of this so-called "independent state". With this position Turkey has ironically demonstrated how "independent" the KKTC really is, at the same time as it struggles to get the KKTC recognised on an international scale.

As to the economic situation… Northern Cyprus has become a paradise for laundering black money with its casinos, which have blossomed over the last years, and its suspect banks where organised crime and the MIT (National Intelligence Service of Turkey) rule supreme. Except for the private universities, it has hardly any income and the north of the island has become thoroughly dependent on Turkey. Most of the island's natives have emigrated abroad owing to the lack of employment. Now the number of Turks who were brought from Turkey as new settlers is nearly equal to the number of native Cypriot Turks and the majority of these newcomers are mainly lumpen-nationalist elements. This tends to sharpen the conflicts between these people and the native people.

The European Union, Cyprus and Turkey

As the EU accepted the application of the Republic of Cyprus as a candidate in 1993 the question of Cyprus has become an "official" EU problem and therefore it began to occupy a greater place in the membership negotiations between Turkey and the EU. The fact that Greece joined the EU in 1981 has been a great disadvantage for Turkey since Greece can use its right of veto in relation to the membership negotiations between Turkey and the EU. Having been compelled to make a lot of concessions before being accepted for membership, Turkey was finally accepted as an official candidate in 1999 at the Helsinki summit.

According to the decision taken in this summit the EU will decide on the Republic of Cyprus' membership in December 2002. If the Cyprus question has been solved, its membership will be approved. If not, a decision will be taken to consider who was responsible for the continuation of the problem. That is the main reason why Turkey is extremely alarmed. The "solution" to the problem of Cyprus is thus an urgent matter that can no longer be delayed in terms of both the membership of Turkey and of Cyprus. That means that, unlike in the past, the policy of evading or putting off a "solution" seems no longer possible. If Turkey continues to be a "troublemaker", the south of Cyprus could become an EU member regardless of the status of the northern part of the island. Although Turkey threatens to annex the north if such a scenarios were to become reality, neither Turkey nor Denktas know how to curb the population. Most of the Turkish Cypriots are in fact in favour of joining the EU together with the south. Despite all dangers involved, the rapidly increasing number of Turkish Cypriot applicants for Republic of Cyprus (Southern) passports demonstrates this. The path to EU membership for Turkey, in one way or another, passes through some form of a united Cyprus, which is what Turkey has always wished to avoid.

One of the reasons why Denktas and his colleagues do not want the Greek speaking part of Cyprus to join the EU is that the freedom of travel, settlement and property (the so-called "three freedoms") would then become almost impossible to restrict. One of the hard-line advocates of the Turkish policies, Gunduz Aktan, a columnist and a former ambassador, referred thus to the proposals made by Annan during the negotiations which Denktas abandoned: "In short, Annan ... implies that Turkey must accept the three freedoms beforehand. That means that the rich Greeks supported by mainland and American Greeks will come to the north with the aim of settlement and investment and will purchase the estates of poor Turks easily. They will be able to change the composition of the population and property of the north in a short time to their advantage. So the solution will bring about the liquidation of the Turks in a more civilized manner." (Radikal, January 10, 2001)

One must realise that there is a sizeable section of the people who stand for the status quo on the island. There are those who launder all their black money through the island, those who do not want to lose their rent thanks to the invasion, and those who were promoted from the position of imperial attorney general to the presidency together with their bootlickers. And there is a section of the Turkish bourgeoisie (which extends into the army, etc.) which is against Turkey's membership of the EU,. Of course, there are also their Greek counterparts as well.

Rising Opposition of the People

Among the Turkish population on the island, which has been silent owing to years of intimidation and oppression, new dissident voices have begun to be heard over the last couple of years and this process has begun to accelerate. Big mass demonstrations have broken out since July 2000 as civil servants and public workers have not had their salaries paid, creating serious difficulty for them, and this is a direct reflection of the economic crisis in Turkey itself. Two months later, in September, as well as a massive rally,  there was a general strike with the participation of 35,000 people. On the rallies, the workers expressed their anger against the economic measures which are being forced onto them in parallel with what is taking place in Turkey. They shouted slogans like "Ankara! We want neither your money, nor your package, nor your officials... We don't want to be slaves."

The austerity programme of hunger, poverty and repression imposed by the IMF on Turkey has simply been transmitted by Turkey onto northern Cyprus. KTÖS (the Teacher's Union of Turkish Cyprus) expressed its opposition to any attempt to coerce them into accepting such austerity measures with an advertisement in a daily newspaper, Avrupa (Europe), saying that "this country is ours, we are the ones who should rule." In reply to this, Denktas, this lackey of Ankara, said "I was shocked. This can only come from the Greek side," and added that "these kind of people shouldn't be allowed to teach." Moreover Prime Minister Dervis Eroglu accused the trade union of being "ungrateful," and pressure on the trade union has been stepped up. The leaders were arrested, union premises were raided, the teachers were forced to give statements and were taken to court with the intention of barring them from teaching. It did not stop there. Two writers of Avrupa, which stands for a united and independent republic on the island, were arrested on the accusation of "spying" and shortly afterwards its printing offices were set on fire. Curiously enough, there then appeared a new organization, namely the UHH (National People's Movement), founded by those who are in favour of union with Turkey and against joining the EU. In its public statements, it has raised its demands for union with Turkey, opposition to the EU and the need to wage "a firm struggle against the internal enemies." The leader of the organization is a former DP (the party of Denktas) member and an adviser to the president! Moreover, Denktas did not deny his obvious "sympathies" for the organisation and even said that although he was not the chairman of this organisation he would in fact have been proud to be running it. As can easily be guessed, the UHH stood behind the acts of sabotage and threats although it was not proved officially.

The pressures on the opposition, especially on the progressive layers of society, are still continuing. For instance, recently, a teacher, Nilgun Orhon, was barred from teaching and an investigation into her was launched after she wrote in Avrupa that the Turkish army should go home putting an end to the invasion. [6] A lot of members of the KTOS and other trade unions protested against this, but they were beaten and arrested. The KTOS, on December 12, organized a one-day warning strike in Lefkosa (Nicosia) and Magusa. The students also took part in the demonstrations refusing to attend school. Opposition parties boycotted parliament. But the government took its revenge on Avrupa. Denktas had previously sued Avrupa demanding compensation. The lawsuits filed by Denktas were rushed through and concluded immediately and as a result of the heavy fines and sequestrations inflicted on the paper it was forced to close down.

In spite of his repressive measures, all this shows that Denktas is no longer able to maintain his arbitrary dictatorship as comfortably as he used to do.

What is to be done?

For centuries, the people of Cyprus have been denied any real self-determination and have been kept out of the game. The island was purchased, sold, rented out, invaded, annexed, carved up against the will of the islanders who have never been allowed to have a say. And the situation, is in fact, no different today.

The workers in both the northern and the southern parts lack their own organisations that are capable of putting forward a solution based on their real class interests. This explains why they are sometimes misled by the "solutions" of the bourgeois. Now on both sides of the divide there are widespread illusions that EU membership will solve all the problems. For instance, there is a growing demand amongst the Turkish community in the north to unite with the Greek part in the south. This is because of the low level of GDP per capita in the Turkish north compared to that of the Greek south ($3,000 compared to $13,000). Yet it is the EU, as well as the others (the US, Turkey and Greece), who created the mess on the island in the first place. Wasn't Britain, a member of the EU, hugely responsible for this mess? It is clear that unless the working class comes out clearly against bourgeois politics, it will always end up falling into a trap.

A lasting solution to the problem of Cyprus is impossible under capitalism. None of the imperialist "solutions", whether as a member of the EU or as an independent Cypriot state, can provide Cyprus with permanent and lasting peace. The problem will be provoked again and again by the very same agents who are now being presented as those who are going to solve the problem. The only permanent solution is a united socialist federation comprising Greece, Turkey and Cyprus.

No doubt this may sound utopian to some. However history has confirmed many times over that the real utopians are those who have been trying to solve the problem on a capitalist basis. In spite of this, now the same illusions are being spread again. Yet the futility of these bourgeois dreams is not only demonstrated by the bitter history of Cyprus. These bourgeois delusions have been proven not to withstand the test of reality, above all in Palestine, Northern Ireland, Kashmir and many other parts of the world. Only the internationalist programme of the working class can solve the problems of these peoples who have been poisoned for years with all kinds of nationalist, ethnic and religious chauvinism.

Within the framework of this internationalist programme for a permanent socialist solution to the conflict in Cyprus the following immediate demands need to be put forward:

  • The British military bases to be removed. [7]
  • The Greek and Turkish troops on the island to be withdrawn.
  • The UN forces to leave the island, all kinds of external interventions to stop.
  • Joint committees of Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot workers should be set up and these committees should decide on every issue including the fate of the island.
  • The borders that divide the island should be removed. Unrestricted freedom of travel and settlement.
  • All workers to organise under joint trade unions on an island-wide basis.
  • All fascist and nationalist organizations that provoke a continuous enmity between the two peoples should be disbanded and their leaders should be brought to account.
  • The island should be freed from the Mafia and the intelligence services, and the casinos as their financial sources. All the banks should be nationalised under the control of workers' committees.

December 20, 2001


[1] Makarios was released in March 1957 but was exiled from the island and forced to settle in Athens. He was able to return to the island only after the Republic of Cyprus was founded in 1960.

[2] On the basis of this some argue that the intervention played a progressive role. They even present it as if it were the intended aim of the intervention. However, the invading Turkish army had no such aims. It would be nothing but mere speculation to say that had it not been for the intervention the military regime in Greece would have lasted for a long time. Moreover, it amounts to attributing to the reactionary Turkish army a democratic role which has never been the case. Remember that the very same army that is supposed to have "saved" Greece from the military junta, brought a similar nightmare to Turkey just 6 years later (the military coup of September 12, 1980). Also it was the same Turkey that was the first country to recognise the regime of the Colonels' Junta back in 1967.

[3] In 1964 there were plans to establish a NATO military base on the island, however the opposition of the USSR and Makarios hindered the plan. Instead, UN troops were placed on the island. After the Turkish invasion, Greece, in protest, declared that it was withdrawing from the military side of NATO, and this lasted until 1980.

[4] Most of those in the Turkish socialist movement, unfortunately adopted a nationalistic attitude towards the invasion of Cyprus. The fact that the military juntas collapsed in both Greece and Cyprus helped Turkish nationalism disguise its real nature behind the façade of anti-fascism for quite some time. The fact that the USSR supported the invasion, at least in the early stages, encouraged the pro-Soviet socialists (who were tail-ending Ecevit, the then Turkish prime-minister) to support the invasion. From Turk-Is to the DISK, all the trade unions in Turkey supported this nationalist madness and backed Ecevit. For instance DISK even launched a campaign for its members to donate one-day's wages to the state. Those revolutionaries who described the "Operation Peace" as an invasion were labelled "enemies of the Turks". That such an accusation in the name of "left" could be regarded as an insult shows just how deep nationalist sentiment had permeated the left.

[5] Makarios returned to Cyprus on December 7 and took over as the president.

[6] There are 35,000 Turkish troops on the island today, which is a stunning figure when we consider that the total Turkish population is only 150,000.

[7] Britain still has a 100 square-kilometre military zone and has 20,000 troops based there.

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