Opening speech of Andros Kyprianou, General Secretary of the C.C. of AKEL, to the 22nd Pancyprian Congress of AKEL
4th June 2015, Nicosia
On behalf of the Central Committee I welcome you to the 22nd Congress of AKEL. It is always a heavy responsibility for one to stand on this podium and feel the weight of responsibility of being one of the many who are here today, and even more outside of this Congress, who want to see Cyprus moving forward; who want to see AKEL growing stronger and to remain at the forefront of this struggle. We are not here to set up a public relations fiesta; nor to heap praise on ourselves. We are here to do what we do at every Party Congress, namely, to discuss in depth and assess our activity in an objective manner, to collectively decide how we move forward.
We are called upon to approve our decisions in an environment that is hostile for the peoples. The economic crisis has shown the cruelest face of capitalism. Imperialism acts unashamedly and criminally in every corner of the earth. In Ukraine a pro-Western fascist coup d’état has been imposed. In Latin America, the American interventions are unashamed. Iraq, after ten years of American occupation, is de facto partitioned into three parts, while in Afghanistan the US military presence has been made permanent. Their raids in Pakistan are being expanded, as are their interventions in North Africa as well. Libya after the 2011 NATO aggression has been plunged into chaos. In the Middle East borders are again being redrawn with blood. Extremist movements and organizations are spreading terror and devastation. But, who created this monster? It is the same forces who are today shedding hypocritical tears about the crimes IS is committing. Hillary Clinton herself admitted that the Islamic State organization did not appear out of nowhere. “We funded them 20 years ago to defeat the Soviet Union”, she characteristically said. The Palestinian, Kurdish and Cyprus problem are interwoven with new problems, such as the civil war in Syria, the advance of Islamic fundamentalists in Iraq, the situation in Lebanon and the developments in Egypt. All of these generate the waves of migrants who are being uprooted by the wars being waged and are buying the hope for a better life from traffickers. Many of them lose their lives on this path.
At the same time, the European Union is further militarizing the Mediterranean in the name of energy security. At the same time, Russia is continuously strengthening its naval presence, while Turkey with Israel is still wrangling for the leading role in the region. In this context the competition surrounding energy in our region is intensifying. Anyone who cannot see that Cyprus will be at the centre of attention in the coming ahead is naive. Imperialism was and is still seeking to intervene in the region in order to impose its energy plans. Our own goal is to intensify the struggle so that energy wealth represents a factor of peace and prosperity for the peoples of the wider region.
On the economic front, the crisis continues to deepen. Everyone can now see things more clearly. Even bourgeois economists admit it. The crises are caused by the nature of capitalism itself. Many work, but only a handful reap the benefits and profit. Thousands produce, but what they produce belongs to a privileged few. Thus, the army of poor and unemployed on the one hand and on the other a handful of privileged few owning the wealth is created. The consolidation of conservative neo-liberalism has contributed to the unprecedented breadth and depth of the crisis. Using the crisis as an excuse and pretext, attacks on the rights and gains are being unleashed. Neo-liberalism poses the following questions: Do we need an eight hour working day? What is the purpose of a Providence Fund? Why shouldn’t working hours be liberalised? Why should the state fulfill the role of a doctor and teacher? All of these ideas are anachronistic and we must move ahead and modernize, neo-liberalism declares. Progressive for us is what serves the interests of the majority, that is to say the working people; progressive is whatever enhances people’s quality of life. Anachronistic is anything that wants to dismantle and abolish people’s rights and gains∙ their life and dignity.
The slogan “We shall exit the Memoranda” and “recovery is on the horizon” are being repeated monotonously in every country that is under a Memorandum program. This is true. That is the law of capitalism. At first the crisis breaks out, recession follows and subsequently recovery and growth. But at what cost for the peoples? What will the Memoranda leave standing for the day after? What they do not dare say is that the austerity of the Memoranda as a policy is not something temporary. We will exit the Memorandum, but not the loan agreement. The Memorandum will come to an end, but not the political philosophy that governs it and the criteria set out by the European Union on the economy’s indexes.
The economic policies that it has officially adopted are proof of this. I am referring to the Lisbon Treaty and the banking union, which is seeking to impose supranational control over the banks, but also to the trade agreement unifying the EU and US markets (TTIP). The TTIP Treaty exempts trade and investment from any “regulatory barriers”. It is a Treaty that serves the European and American multinational companies at the expense of states and peoples. These “barriers” concern some of our basic social rights. This ultimately is the goal.
Blatant blackmail and ultimatums. Numbers before people. Misery and poverty. Societies in crisis. This is the reality of the Memoranda. All of this seemed unthinkable in Cyprus just a few years ago. Today we are suffering this reality to our very bones. More than two years have passed since the election of Mr. Anastasiades as President of the Republic. Without suggesting that the crisis began just then, all that was agreed by the Government with the Troika deepened the economic recession with grave consequences for the people. The prospect of the exploitation of our natural wealth is becoming increasingly bleak. The scandals, the corruption stories and interwoven interests, the humiliation of institutions are intensifying, giving the impression that there is no end to the decline. The situation on the domestic front is often reminiscent of a war zone. At a time when as a rule a minimal consensus should have existed in order to address the critical issues facing the country, what we see is government arrogance, slogans and petty in-fighting. It is within this context that the negotiations for a solution of the Cyprus problem are finally resuming.
AKEL has declared many times and does so again. We are a patriotic political force. We will not sacrifice the solution of the Cyprus problem so as to take revenge for the leveling and unethical attacks we came under during the Demetris Christofias government. We perceive in a political and not an emotional way all that happened then and all that is happening today.
No matter how certain circles and forces may judge in bad faith the Christofias administration, those well-intentioned cannot but point out to historic characteristics during this period of governance. During the Christofias government unifying proposals on various aspects were submitted to solve the Cyprus problem. As the Left, back then we took all the burden of responsibility of the cause of the solution. As a true vanguard force we disregarded the political cost. We supported the perspective of the coexistence of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in their common home: the Republic of Cyprus. We are proud of this, as we are equally proud because we spoke out back then about truths. We said that Cyprus is hiding in its bowels the remains of Greek Cypriot, but also Turkish Cypriot victims of nationalism; that to move forward Cyprus must overcome the ethnic confrontation between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots; that both communities need to work together on a political basis. We also said that Cyprus suffered from the rhetoric of the balconies that misleads the people, while at the same time behind closed rooms other agreements are made.
The Christofias administration at a time when the economic model of the banks as it has been demonstrated had reached its limits opened another window: namely, energy. Indeed it tried to protect it as a factor of peace for the country and prosperity for the people. Back then, in conditions of an economic crisis, it set out a line of resistance and protection for working people and all those in need. AKEL defended this line and policy until the very end. It is defending it today too. All these attach to the Christofias governance a historical significance. Despite the attacks that began from the very beginning of the Christofias Presidency, no one can ignore all the work that was done: radical changes and reforms with regards labour relations, in education and local self-government, in social policy, the water issue, in the field of the environment and many others.
Today, at a distance from that period, we can all make more calm and sober assessments. Now everyone admits that the main culprit for the situation of the Cyprus economy is not the pensioner who received his/her Easter allowance or the single parent who received assistance. “President Christofias is pursuing a petty social policy with handouts and cheques… we have the best bankers in Cyprus, but Christofias is deciding economic policy together with the trade unions and the General Secretary of PEO Pambis Kyritsis”, the leader of the right-wing DISY Rally party ironically stated at that time. Attacks were waged on the vulnerable groups of the population and full political protection was given to the bankers, the privileged and well-off. This was the stand reverently adopted by the opposition back then.
With regards the Cyprus problem they fabricated the lie about “Christofias’ presents to the Turks”, “concessions” and “generous offers”. Today we ascertain that not only were concessions not made, but on the contrary, many positive convergences were agreed, indeed for the very first time. However, in that period DISY party sacrificed everything for the sake of attaining power in order to gain political support. The daily attacks waged were on the agenda of attrition to be used as a tool to damage the Christofias government and AKEL. Despite all this, AKEL withstood the attacks. It upheld its political positions with consistency and in the 2011 parliamentary elections achieved the very high percentage vote of 32.7% – proof of how deep AKEL is rooted in the heart and soul of the Cypriot people.
The tragic blast at the Mari naval base unfortunately fueled the opposition’s ferociousness and rage. The fueling of political hatred by parties grew. It even reached the point of that vulgar lie which Mr. Anastasiades and DISY saw fit to project in their pre-election meetings to infer that President Christofias supposedly didn’t know where Mari is.The day after the explosion there were front page headlines that were openly accusing D. Christofias that he himself had decided where the ammunition should be positioned at the specific area. Another newspaper headline wrote that he had ordered the evacuation of the naval base. This was a lie without any substantiation and was a political hooliganism that exploited the pain for the dead; that showed no respect to their memory. These acts prevailed over reason, objectiveness, even in defiance of the evidence itself which was clear.
As a Party we went through an extremely difficult period at that time. We could have dealt with the situation much better had not confusion also existed within our own ranks; if there weren’t views arguing that we should have kept our distance from Demetris Christofias or that he should have resigned from the Presidency. A possible adoption of such views, apart from being unethical, would also have been a political mistake. We all know that the target was not Demetris Christofias as a person, but AKEL and all that the Party expresses and represents. Equally anti-Party and completely egocentric was the stand of some who went into hiding back then and left others to face and combat all the fierce attacks on us; a stand that was taken on many occasions. Such phenomena cannot be tolerated. No one’s personal or public profile must be above that of the Party. These phenomena thrive in bourgeois parties and not in Parties of our own type. Our Party needs the support of all its cadres at the time when it needs it most – in difficult times and when it is under attack. That is when the true members of AKEL are tested, when we have to confront difficulties and attacks. This is precisely when AKEL proves what it is made of.
The shock of the blast was followed by demands from the opposition and the establishment for the imposition of economic measures that would target and put pressure on working people. The goal was by now very clear – the implementation of measures serving the Troika’s philosophy. Besides, neither does the Finance Minister, nor DISY party hide this goal today. On the contrary, they are constantly repeating that they would have implemented the same policies even if the Troika hadn’t imposed them. In other words, the attack against D. Christofias and AKEL since then and afterwards and the attacks we are facing today are not personal. These attacks are primarily political and class-based, filled with fanaticism and intolerance. The attack regarding the handling of the Cyprus problem had reached new levels at that time with Mr. Anastasiades reaching the point of accusing D. Christofias that he wanted to unify Cyprus with Turkey. On the issues of the economy, even when the rating agencies – who certain circles frequently invoke as a gospel – were repeatedly stating that the essential problem of the economy was in the banking sector, the sole concern of DISY and the rest of the parties was to apportion responsibilities on D. Christofias and AKEL instead of focusing on how to address the situation.
Some circles will say, doesn’t AKEL ultimately believe that it had committed mistakes when it was in government? Mistakes were made, there were weaknesses and shortcomings, as is the case in every administration. AKEL had the strength to discuss all of these issues and put forth its position at a special plenary session of the Central Committee to conclude that at that time we did not evaluate to the degree we should have the power of the systemic establishment. We were not ready to tackle politically and with radical actions the attacks we came under. All of this also highlighted the long-standing organizational and other problems we face as a Movement. On the other hand, we did not promptly and comprehensively study developments in the economy. This, together with the complacent and as it proved to be in the end misleading messages conveyed by the banks, impeded us from the timely identification of the problems ahead.
However, an objective assessment is one thing and the policy and tactic of leveling is something else. Today the essence of our positions is being vindicated by reality itself. Back then they were telling us that entrepreneurship shouldn’t be demonized, something we didn’t of course do. Today however when three of four big businessmen take decisions and the Government executes their decisions the people can see the difference. Back then Mr. Anastasiades was stating that all those speaking about the responsibilities of the banks in the crisis are “victims of government propaganda”. Today he talks about crimes committed by the banks. “The handling of Cyprus problem is not the domain of Christofias and his party”, stated the current DISY President Mr. Averof Neofytou back then. Today, after the provocations of the Turkish vessel “Barbaros” in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus, he talks about the very good negotiating tactics of Christofias and the clear convergences that were achieved.
When Nikos Anastasiades came to power, AKEL underlined that we would support the negotiating procedure, provided that his political choices on the Cyprus problem were correct. We have not given and will never give any blank cheque. We have set specific conditions for this support: consistency to the principles of the solution; that the solution shall provide for the demilitarization of Cyprus; that it shall revoke the guarantees and exclude any right of intervention by foreign powers; that the solution must provide for the reunification of the territory, the people, the institutions and the economy, within the framework of bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality, as this is prescribed in the documents of the United Nations.
Our insistence on the continuation of the negotiations from the point they were left during Christofias presidency was not due to an attempt to vindicate ourselves. It stemmed only from our firm belief that if President Anastasiades resumed the negotiations from scratch, this would lead to an endless and aimless process, the result of which would be either a new stalemate or arrangements changing the convergences for the worse. In any case, how could he accomplish with Eroglu anything better than what Christofias had achieved with Talat?
It has been more than two years since the election of Anastasiades to the Presidency. Thus, one can now judge objectively whether our warnings were right or wrong. We pointed out to the President that since we had the two Joint Statements of Christofias- Talat, with the very positive content I have previously mentioned, a new joint declaration before the resumption of the negotiations was not necessary. Our views were not heard. Six months were wasted in the effort to conclude a Joint Declaration that was inferior to the Christofias-Talat Joint Statements, especially on the issue of the indivisible of sovereignty. After that, and despite our warnings, the President chose to proceed with the screening of the positions of each side. The result was the one we had foreseen. The gap expanded substantially. Finally, what followed was an exchange of documents with the positions of the two communities on all the chapters that merely confirmed the gap in written form also; thus, giving to the other side the opportunity to reinstate unacceptable proposals.
Subsequently, it was agreed that the two leaders would discuss unresolved core issues and then move on with a give and take process. I must say that the procedure was aimless. In order to discuss any unresolved core issues, it has to be agreed beforehand which ones are resolved. Moreover, since there was such a big gap between the positions of the two sides, how could we engage in a give and take process? Irrespective of our reservations, AKEL had not opposed the agreed procedure, because the danger of being led even to a procedural stalemate was visible. Such a development would have been tragic.
Once the procedure on the substantive negotiation was agreed, the Turkish NAVTEX was issued. This was a flagrant provocation that indeed also concerned areas of the south Exclusive Economic Zone EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus which are opposite our free coasts. Under those circumstances the President had no other choice but to suspend the negotiating procedure. The fact that the President, even belatedly, accepted the convergences of Christofias- Talat on the maritime zones and the natural resources, as well as the convergences of Christofias- Eroglu on the allocation of the federal revenues, contributed to the termination of NAVTEX. In combination with the suspension of the exploratory drilling, for technical reasons, and the completion of the procedure for a new Turkish Cypriot leader to assume the leadership of the TC community, conditions allowing the resumption of the negotiations were created.
This coincided with the unexpectedly positive development of the assumption by Mustafa Akinci of the new leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community. He is a Turkish Cypriot politician for whom the solution of the Cyprus problem on the basis of bi-communal, bi-zonal federation has been a life-long position. Of course, Mr. Akinci must be judged by the proposals he will submit at the negotiations’ table. Neither can anyone ignore the fact that Turkey still plays the decisive role, as it maintains its occupying forces on the island.
However, we do not share the view that the given Turkish Cypriot leader, whoever he/she is, doesn’t play any role. This is refuted by developments themselves. It is refuted by the significant convergences of Christofias- Talat, which were later revoked by Eroglu. The same applies regarding the convergence on the one, single and indivisible sovereignty, single international personality and single citizenship and the cross voting. Despite Turkey’s different position, all of these had been accepted by Talat.
As the current conditions have been shaped, a window of opportunity is being opened. It is our duty to make good use of it. A positive conjuncture lies before us. It is our obligation, of the political leaderships, not to let it go. AKEL continues to support that the convergences must be utilized and that the negotiations should proceed, with emphasis on the pending, core issues. That way, we can save precious time and avoid unnecessary adventures. We believe that Mustafa Akinci both wants to and can cooperate regarding the internal aspects of the Cyprus problem. If we manage to get within range of an agreement on those issues, then we shall set Turkey before its responsibilities. Everybody knows that decisions on the issues of security, of the withdrawal of the occupying forces and of the settlers, but also on the issue of territory, are taken by Turkey. Thus, it is Turkey that must retreat so that we can reach an agreement. .
We hope that this time the President of the Republic will listen to our prudent proposals that have been vindicated by life itself and at last enter into substantive negotiations. We hope that he will abandon once and for all his pre-election outbursts; that he will not permit others to lead himself into a trap. The initial messages conveyed so far from the meetings that have taken place are encouraging. We hope that the continuation will be better and that Mr. Anastasiades will act with consistency to principles, collectivity and in a serious manner. We wish that he will fulfill at least one of his “pledges”, namely the one concerning the reunification of the country.
Election analysts in the future will be studying the pre-election campaign of Mr. Anastasiades as one of the foremost campaigns of the deception of voters “In one year things will be better. I do not promise you. I give you my word”, was the statement made by Mt. Anastasiades on New Year 2013. Mr. Anastasiades had stated on the New Year in 2013 the following: “In one year things will be better. I am not making a promise, I give my pledge.” In just three weeks after his election, one by one the pledges he made began to be broken.
Mr. Anastasiades during the presidential election campaign said that an inter-state loan was ready and that he had the necessary connections to win time and negotiate with the Troika. After the election he found himself, as he himself said, facing a pistol to his head and subsequently accepted the haircut on bank deposits. Even worse, if we believe German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, it was Mr. Anastasiades himself who proposed an across the board haircut on bank deposits. During the election campaign Mr. Anastasiades promised to improve the terms of the Memorandum to the benefit of working people. After his election he stated that “its possible working people will not be paid in full, but they will contribute to the family budget”, ignoring how someone can make ends meet with a salary of 400 Euros per month. During the election campaign Mr. Anastasiades was promising pensioners that there would be no cuts in their pensions. After the election he is simply hiding and leaves his Ministers to cut pensions and benefits. During the election campaign Mr. Anastasiades pledged in writing in a letter addressed to working people employed in the Semi-state organizations that he would not proceed to any privatizations. After the election he pretends that he is not hearing his Finance Minister saying that privatizations reflect their political views and are not our economic obligation.
Despite all this, today President Anastasiades states that he does not regret the decisions he took. This is a tragic statement because it illustrates that the government and ruling forces are living in another world. Two years after the signing of the Memorandum the situation of the Cyprus economy and society is at a dead-end. Unemployment has remained steadily at around 16%. For the first the outflow of labour force leaving Cyprus for abroad exceeds the arrival of migrants to Cyprus. Wages and pensions have been reduced, in some cases by over 30%, whilst poverty is approaching 29%. Pensioner’s living standards have fallen by over 30%. Fundamental rights, such as the right to housing are simply not taken into account when the primary concern is serving the interests of the banks.
This situation cannot be reversed as long as the Government continues to march on the one-way street of the Memoranda policies and austerity. Nor can it change as long as complete inaction is being demonstrated and the dismantling of all the plans that were elaborated by the Christofias administration for the exploitation of our natural gas is being promoted. During the presidential election Mr. Anastasiades talked about a national strategy that would utilize natural gas, with timetables that would be strictly adhered to. Two years later Cyprus’ Hydrocarbon State Company (KRETYK) has been dissolved. The creation of an LNG terminal at Vassilikos has been abandoned. Cyprus stopped being perceived as an ideal regional centre for the liquefaction and export of Natural Gas to the international markets. In addition, for two years now the Government has been in discussions with the Troika concerning energy issues behind closed doors, without anyone knowing what precisely is being discussed.
With regards issues related to meritocracy, institutions and transparency, the impression has frequently been given that during the Anastasiades administration a hurricane has passed and destroyed everything in its wake. Even though so much time has elapsed lies are still being spread as to who agreed to the haircut on bank deposits, as to how millions of Euros were smuggled out of the country by the President’s close family circle before the haircut. Law firms are fighting each other about their customers and their interests. We also witness lost files and lost contracts. Today the institutions regarding justice have never been in such a worse state. Even that Committee set up to probe the crisis of the economy that would have supposedly apportioned responsibilities has proved to be a well-planned public relations trick that has ended in a fiasco. The “cream of the excellent” that were appointed and in the end humiliated both the President and the choices he made, as well as the very institutions that he entrusted to them. Absence of government, chaos and a President that is incapable of tackling the situation.
Is it any wonder that trust in institutions and political life and parties has been destroyed because of all these developments? How can the political forces believe that the President means what he says when he talks about collective handling and consultation when with his compliance or toleration he is demolishing any possibility of an understanding? When he allows the Government to function based on the doctrine “those not with us, are against us”? When the House of Representatives is literally being ignored so that the Government can pass in an authoritarian manner its positions without any dialogue or understanding? When all of Cyprus is following in shock how trials are being staged and fixed, even how political figures are implicated in fixed football games? When the historical truth about what happened in 1974 is being buried today by the very same protagonists of the betrayal in order to exonerate themselves by equating the victims with the culprits?
Who can stand up and be counted in view of all these developments and actions? Who dares to resist? It is AKEL. Everyone knows this very well. This is the reason why they combat AKEL at all levels and in many ways. Despite this, we have withstood and not yielded as a Party, as the People’s Movement of the Left and as a political spectrum. At the same time when other parties who found themselves in power during the economic crisis were being wiped out, our Party came out of the battle of the Presidential elections with the candidate it alone supported gaining 42.5% of the vote in the second round and 27% in the first round. In the 2014 European elections we gained approximately the same percentage. Were these results representative of AKEL’s traditional influence among the people? Of course not. We made a huge effort to convince the people of the Left to support AKEL. We all recall we had to confront depreciation and apathy. Most importantly, we had to face the enormous problems we came up against in every house, in every neighborhood and district; unemployment, poverty and devastated aspirations.
Consequently our Congress has a lot of issues it must examine. We must discuss and decide how we will move ahead, how to strengthen AKEL so that we can enhance its struggles for Cyprus. Next year will mark 90 years of struggles of the Communist Party of Cyprus-AKEL for the people in our country. Quite a few circles and forces are anticipating that History will leave us behind. Our Party however is marching forward, as it will always do, provided we work to strengthen it, reconfirm its identity and character and define class policies without dogmatism embracing the broad strata of the people and defending their interests. We should see how we keep our door open to engage with people beyond our political spectrum with whom we can work together for society to progress. We should not rest on our laurels, satisfied with all that we achieved with the 1990 Congress, nor should we be complacent, but discuss how we will change the negative phenomena today in our Party. We should discuss in what way we will find a dialectical balance that will upgrade AKEL’s democratic functioning and safeguard its unity; in what way individual initiative and responsibility will exist but will not be put over and above collectivity and collective responsibility, nor will they substitute them. Each one of us should discuss with criticism, but also with a self-critical disposition and see how the creative control of all is, from the Central Committee to the Party Base Organization. We should boldly proceed to renewal in practice and not in words, and pursue a real policy of promoting cadres, but without perceiving age as our sole criterion.
Big capital is pinning a lot of its hopes in the shaping and manipulation of people’s consciousness. It is pinning a lot on eroding the consciousness also of those who declare that they are its opponents. The enhancement of our ideological work is of immense importance so that our cadres and members can understand and analyze in depth social and political phenomena. Our cadres and members should participate actively in the elaboration of our Party’s policies and judge everything according to correct criteria. This will give a new dynamic to our work and possibilities. At the same time it will also free us from whatever unacceptable phenomena of self-promotion and ego-centricism.
However we shall not only discuss about our own Party and its internal life. We shall also look outwards, beyond our own issues. Our epoch is difficult and full of many complex problems. A large section of society is looking towards AKEL, to its political positions and actions.
Shall we go it alone in our struggles? In our Programmatic Congress last February we discussed the issue of alliances-cooperation. We agreed as regards our country’s most important problem, namely the Cyprus problem, our alliances and cooperation must go beyond a formal agreement and the issuing of general declarations. Our alliances must be based on concrete principles and be solid. Apart from this, we are always ready to forge cooperation inside the House of Representatives on specific socio-economic issues, particularly in times of crisis – as we are always ready and open to cooperation on a number of other issues as well, such as health, the environment or local self-government. In every case, we want to forge our cooperation on a political and not a petty-party basis. We also want to strengthen our cooperation with persons who share our core positions on important issues based principles.
We are also here to discuss and analyze our proposal to society; to discuss how we mobilize the popular strata to strengthen the movement for rapprochement and consolidate our ties with the Turkish Cypriot community. Maybe this is not the determining factor, but it is a very important factor for the solution of the Cyprus problem. We need to send nationalism and chauvinism where they belong once and for all: to political isolation and the past. We should project proposals on the major issues of the economy, with people and not the fulfillment of numerical targets at the centre of our attention; proposals for a fairer distribution of tax burdens and redistribution of funds. We need to look at how we open up the path for growth for the people and not for the profits of the handful of big shareholders and businessmen; at how we defend the social character of the public utility organizations that working people built through their labour and which the government today wants to sell off at a cut price; at how an entire generation that today is being lost to migration will win its future; at how to focus on small and middle tradesmen and shopkeepers and how we can help them stand on their feet and progress, without suffocating them through the imposition of policies promoting the extension of shop working hours and overcharging. We need to deal with how we promote our proposal for agricultural reform, putting the ordinary farmer at the centre and not on the margins, despite all the pompous government proclamations.
We should formulate a proposal for concrete institutional reforms for transparency, democratic and social control in the decisions of the public sector. We need to build on the steps that have been taken during the Christofias administration at the level of Local self-government and not allow any return to a distant past. We should discuss how to defend the social character of Health, Education, Sports and Culture; how to contribute so that energy policy safeguards energy as a public and social good and as a precondition for growth and quality jobs; how we will contribute to the modernization, cleaning up and development of the Cooperative Movement; how we contribute to the radical reform of our Tourist policy, to the combating of price speculation. We should look at the reorganization of our social policy to save thousands of our fellow compatriots from the humiliation of warrants of 10 and 100 Euros in anticipation of a paltry Minimal Guaranteed Income. We need to study how we can give clear and immediate answers to burning problems the majority of our people are facing. The duration of the provision of unemployment benefit must be made much longer. The question of housing must be tackled by bringing back and broadening the Unified National Housing Policy. Over-debt households and SME’s need to be given room to pay off their loans. Not everyone was transformed overnight from someone able to pay his/her loan and thus be in a position to fully meet commitments into a crook and a swindler. What is required is measures and policies so that they can fulfill their obligations, namely a fall in the interest rate, the ending of abusive banking charges, the protection of the primary family home and small commercial premise and the management of the private debt according to today’s economic and social realities. With regards the respect of people with disabilities and their dignity, it is inconceivable that the government views people with disabilities as a burden on public finances. The state has a duty to bring back and restore all the plans providing social support; to create a special and comprehensive framework to offer social and financial support to people with disabilities and not their integration in the law with regards the Minimal Guaranteed Income.
Our own corresponding obligation is to lead the way on issues which only the Left can and should be in the frontline, namely for the protection of work and the respect of labour customs from policies reminiscent of the Middle Ages; for the creation of quality and dignified jobs; for policies that respect and treat immigrants compassionately who for one reason or the other came to Cyprus; for a society that will respect human rights and will not discriminate against people because of their race, religion, colour or sexual orientation; for the enhancement of anti-racist education and simultaneously or at the same time for the criminalization of racism; for the comprehensive settling of the economic obligations of the Church of Cyprus and its complete separation from the state.
All eyes are now focused on AKEL, on the only force that can resist, defend and struggle. However, social struggles are not the work of the hundred people leading the Party, not only of its thousands of members. It is the cause of the broad popular strata. This is the first thing we must all recognize, namely that without mass involvement and active participation in the struggles nothing can be won. It is not accidental that the representatives of the Troika and their domestic representatives jubilantly stated that in Cyprus they even imposed a haircut on bank deposits and there wasn’t a social reaction. Nor is the fact that after the truly magnificent and mass protest meetings of the Platform “Society reacts and demands” the “self-confidence” of the Troika and its followers was restrained. Nothing of all that is being targeted today has been gained by chance. The eight-hour working day, the Providence Funds, social insurance and welfare – in one word our dignity, working people’s dignity have not been given on a plate. They are gains won through mass struggles. To defend them today it is not simply enough to discuss them between us, nor by issuing revolutionary slogans through the social media network.
We must move forward on a single path, at the same pace, everyone: working people, unemployed, farmers, young people, women and intellectuals. We must unite together with society that is now moving forward. People-symbols of our era, the people of the arts and letters, cannot be absent from this struggle; the people who have served the real wealth of the human mind with selflessness and who the state today expresses its gratitude by ignoring them. In recent years it was also difficult for us also because we must admit that our contacts with the people of the arts and letters have weakened. However, we feel that our relation with them is inseparable. We want as a Movement to invest again is these people. We need them to be together with us in our struggles, to be with them in their assertions and struggles; to be in their battles so that they continue enriching the cultural and artistic asset of our homeland; to be with us with their work and voice in the political and social battles; to be with them so that they feel too our own applause next to them, that will not be a mere applause, but that will give them courage to take the next step forward.
We are rapidly proceeding to the completion of the 90th anniversary of life and struggle of the Communist Party of Cyprus – AKEL in Cyprus. The truth is that colonialism and the local oligarchy never accepted its establishment. It literally hounded and persecuted it even from its very foundation. It drove it into illegality and banned it twice. It beat, imprisoned, exiled and murdered its cadres. When AKEL was shedding its blood for our homeland, it was receiving poison, through weapons and guns, in writing, through voices and humiliations. Why did it hold on and survive? It did so not because it has metaphysical powers. The CPC-AKEL withstood all the attacks against it because it is a child of History; the child of the necessity of the Cypriot people for a better tomorrow. It withstood everything because its history and perspective continue in the course of time for the liberation of our Homeland; for its reunification and the peaceful coexistence of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. It withstood everything because AKEL’s struggle is continuing from the past right to the present; a struggle against big capital, either this was during the beginning of the last century when capital was closely tied to the Church, or today when capital as it was back then is thirsty for more profit; a struggle for the question of power that will not be imposed as a “hereditary law”, nor will it represent “God’s will”, but instead it will be the result of popular sovereignty; a struggle for4 the people to be the true masters. For 90 years AKEL is the Party of all Cypriots, the Party of the Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians and Latins; the Party of all the working people.
At that first Congress of the Communist Party of Cyprus the demands as they are recorded in the documents approved are specific. They refer to the need to forge a united anti-imperialist front of Greeks and Turks; to the promotion of concrete positions for “the improvement in the terrible economic situation of the Cypriot worker”; to the need to increase wages; to the implementation of an eight hour working day and the protection of working people; to free care and the support of the unemployed; to the end of the enforced sale of plots of land; to the abolition of the land tax and the taxation of mining companies and profits from the black markets, but also of luxury goods.
These demands have a historical significance as they are timeless and topical. Who cannot make the connection with the present? With the struggle for a reunified, free and independent Cyprus? With our demands today for the respect of workers gains and real wages and not crumbs? For the time extension of providing unemployment benefit? For the abolition of the foreclosures of primary family homes? For freeing small owners from taxation? Who cannot make the connection with the past five year term and the war that was unleashed because we dared say that profits and wealth must be taxed?
Both in the past and today, for them we represent a threat because we are the ones who challenge and fight their power; the ones who reveal their compromise with the occupation; the ones who expose the political legacy of the extreme-right which prefers to have half of Cyprus but a half that is Greek. We are the force that discloses the immunity of the establishment over many years that exchanges and shares posts and positions of power between themselves whilst ravaging the country’s economy.
Yes, we are and will be for them the threat because we are and will be the force for the people! Because we are and will be the hope and the future of this people!
Intervention of Georgos Koukoumas, member of the C.C. of AKEL and the International Relations Department, at the Hearing “Palestine: What’s Next?” organized by GUE/NGL2015-07-1
- Feb26 2015-02-26
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