The responsibilities of the Left.
The next days are extremely crucial and everything will depend on whether any strong social resistance will be expressed against the government that implements an explosive political mixture of neoliberal fundamentalism and of (re)turn to nationalism. In the course of consultations for the Cyprus issue, the way the government does politics proves even to the most skeptical person that nationalism and bourgeois cosmopolitanism are but the two sides of the same coin. Especially when the governing party chooses to implement them simultaneously, extremely dangerous results arise. With the direct support of the ‘extreme center’ and the indirect support of DISY, ELAM rejoice in the vote in favor of their amendment regarding the celebration of the “unification referendum” in schools. By torpedoing the re-approchement and upgrading this fascist formation into a regulator of both the political landscape and the… school curriculum, the parliament members of these parties also achieved to act “clean” the Cypriot Golden Dawn by lining up behind ELAM. Not only is the right (of all shades) unwilling to hamper fascism but in cases such as this one, they seek to act as a conservation shifting mechanism for the entire society. Our only choice under these circumstances is to oppose a unified labor-antifascist front of local and migrant workers in both sides of the island.
The talks on the Cyprus issue take place in a period of rapid social and political developments both domestically and internationally. The situation in the wider region of southeastern Mediterranean, the shift of alliances and the anti-western turn of Turkey, the political and economic situation in the “motherlands” in conjunction with the issue of hydrocarbon exploitation create an uncertain geopolitical landscape which directly affects and is reflected in the negotiation process.
At a time when “it’s pouring with war” in the wider region, the imperialistic ambitions of all the war machines worldwide are on the rise, entire peoples are wiped out and thousands of people are drowning in the sea or dying from cold, the solution of the Cyprus issue does not only concern the Cypriots and the migrants that live in the island, but all the peoples who live in and are fed by the Mediterranean.
The very events attest to the cold war landscape that is being set-up: The new frienemies of Russia and Turkey and the Cypriot-Greek alliance with dictatorships and criminal regimes (see the Cyprus-Greece-Egypt-Israel axis), the pressure for a solution from both the USA and the EU as well as the Greek-Turkish disputes in the Aegean are all issues which should neither leave us indifferent nor be considered as separate from the process of solving the Cyprus issue. They are, on the contrary, at its very core. The bargaining and the give-and-take process that took place in Geneva is of this precise nature as it was the means through which anyone directly or indirectly involved struggles to push their own interests and aspirations in the region.
At the same time, the strengthening of nationalism and islamophobia in Europe combined with the election of the extreme right-wing neoliberal Trump in the USA, the ongoing cleansing (of Kurds, left-wings, Gulenists, Kemalists and others) by Erdogan, the crisis in the relations between the Turkish State with the EU and the USA, and Putin’s frenzy for Russian domination in the energy coverage of Europe complete the recipe of a deadly, explosive mixture whose only victims will be the peoples.
To be clear: solving the Cyprus issue and establishing peace in the island is directly related to the termination of the war and the lasting peace of the entire region. This is the reason constantly rebutted yet constantly reemerging scenarios, such as the alleged security guarantee of Cyprus by NATO or the Cyprus annexation to NATO, must be rejected in any case. Not only doesn’t such a perspective guarantee peace and security in the area, but instead undermines it in the entire region. If such a proposal is submitted in the near future within the context of the solution plan, it must constitute a red line for the left. This becomes even more significant if we take into account the experience of the previous period during which Cyprus remained silent despite the warplanes from the UK bases wreaking death in Syria.
In this context, any left analyses that do not take into account the unfavorable geopolitical environment or avoid the analysis of inter-imperialist rivalries for the sake of convenience are not only naïve but the derivatives of political weakness. On the other hand, analyses from a certain part of the left that (over time) blame the Cyprus Issue exclusively on the foreign factor and the Great Powers are not only inadequate, but also cover the responsibilities and aspirations of the domestic bourgeoisie. Faced with this situation, the political assessment of the left regarding the domestic and international environment in which the next day will be built must be cautious, it must analyze in-depth the situation and avoid downplaying the political essence of issues to technical processes. Besides, the still fresh experience of the 1960s proves that only the working class movement can guarantee peace and security, not technocratic commissions or international guardians.
It is very important to conclude to how one stands before these complex and full of surprises landscapes of imperialist rivalries, whether it leads to a solution plan or not. The radical/anti-capitalist left has the duty to specifically assess this political situation and prepare its own plan for the days to come. In this context, defending the distinct and autonomous political stance against the lobbies of nationalists and liberal bourgeois who monopolize public debate is of vital importance.
The situation in the Greek-Cypriot side
As expected, the commencement of talks reopened the debate and deepened the political and social dispute which had been smoldering since the Annan plan. Although this is a period different from 2004, the left is once again faced with challenges – perhaps from an even worse position. Such issues are with regard to the ability of the left: a) to regain the lead in setting the context of the solution in class terms, and b) to strengthen class struggle against the “national narrative”, which has been dominant since 1974. They can be achieved through the coordination of social struggles and the enhancement of movements challenging the harsh austerity policies implemented in both sides of the barbed wire and by taking initiatives to create a bi-communal front against capitalists and nationalists.
These specific issues should have been at the top of the agenda for the left (both the g/c and the t/c) dialogue and action; however, we are in a period of ideological and political retreating and right (of all shades) hegemony in both the political and the social front. Clearly, it was no accident that we found ourselves here. The tactics and strategic options of the reformist left have created a history of painful compromises and defeats.
Both the institutional left, who have proven their reluctance, and smaller radical initiatives that always struggled for peace and the reunification of the country are caught in an unfavorable environment today which was shaped by:
the ambiguous stance of AKEL’s leadership in 2004,
the disappointment of working class expectations during their governance,
the renewed hope for a solution favorable to the interests of the workers during the Christofias-Talat presidency which, nevertheless, was unsuccessful, and
the complete surrender of political initiatives to the ruling right.
As a result of the above, the right and the capitalists have the almost absolute lead in shaping the form and the context of the solution under negotiation. At the same time, the DISY government continues to implement the austerity policies with increasing aggressiveness. The current regulators and negotiators for the solution are no others that those who attack the workers and the lower classes of the g/c side furiously and at every opportunity inviting the political forces to “national consensus” and showing zero tolerance to any reactions. Anastasiades seems to be coming out of this confrontation victorious for the time being, while the neoliberal policies keep settling in the consciousness of the people as a necessary evil if anything else. Despite the chaos of everyday life (unemployment, low wages, insecurity, limited social state, privatizations) the right still manages to implement their policy to the detriment of the workers almost undisturbed.
In the process of solving the Cyprus Issue, Anastasiades is a willing representative of the g/c bourgeoisie, whose interests are connected to the solution, and he expedites the talks with the consent of the international factor. With the green light from a significant portion of the g/c bourgeoisie and the great powers, the government works towards the solution and plays the information game as they feel suited. After the reinvigorating of the talks in Mont Pelerin I, they spoke of great progress and convergences even on difficult issues, but when the talks fell apart in Mont Pelerin II, they spoke of intransigence of the other side, blaming exclusively the t/c community and Turkey.
The terms of the debate are deeply problematic and not independent of the situation described above. Anastasiades is willing to play all his cards in order to ensure the greatest possible interests of his class. Of course, in the event of failure, he will also be ready to defend the aspirations of the capital by playing the card of patriotism and national sovereignty. Since all the possibilities are still open, the left cannot turn a blind eye by treating his tactical moves as evidence of sometimes “courageous” and sometimes “cowardly” representation of the g/c in total.
At the same time, another part of the g/c bourgeoisie favors the retaining of status quo as collateral to better serve their interests. On the level of political representation, the forces of the extreme center (DIKO, EDEK, Citizens’ Alliance), the dressed up far-right (Solidarity) and the neo-Nazis use the familiar path of patriotism to pick up the gauntlet and dominate the dismissive front. For this part of the bourgeois, the capital’s prosperity is better served within the existing socio-political interplay of powers and the endorsement of the de facto partition is served with a garnish of national overbidding.
These real contradictions of the two right blocks regarding the strategic management of the Cyprus Issue reflect the perceptions and concerns of the current g/c status quo about how to maintain and increase their profitability. It is clear that there is no unanimous convergence of the g/c bourgeoisie regarding risk assessment, the interpretation of the state environment and the objective ability of the economic factors of the g/c side to remain standing in this conjuncture. In any case, however, the above describe a national-class process. Both the cosmopolitan-supportive of a solution plan- wing of DISY and the dismissive side will continue to defend the interests of the g/c bourgeoisie and they will do so with as much intensity as required, inside the context of a new federal state, if this occurs, as well as outside of it.
The Bizonal-Bicommunal Federation as a form of solution
In this environment the only hopeful message is once again sent by the working classes of the two communities who respond to the (symbolic for the time being) common calls of the workers unions. The most important issues that both the Left and the other activists of the island had, have and will have to face are those caused by nationalism and its results, racism and intolerance, issues that constitute historically the main problem in both communities of the island.
The line of the church, the nationalists and the Right was so dominant all these decades that kept any attempt to form an opposite political view marginalized. This often results in the disappointment of Left supporters, many of whom have now unfortunately pinned their hopes on Anastasiades. While the nationalists form a broad front, both in the parliament and in society, the Left must assume its responsibilities regarding the Cyprus Issue, even more urgently than before.
Obviously, the solution plan negotiated by Anastasiades and Akinci does not coincide with the interests of the workers. Everything points to bringing back the IMF, new memoranda and austerity measures, and possibly NATO through the back door and the people of Cyprus know well who is going to pay the bill, both from their experience with the armies and the militarists and their experience from the recent memoranda. However, while these issues should be at the core of every left approach, we do not consider that it is for the best to perpetuate the existing situation.
In this context, we take a positive view of the perspective coexistence of the two communities on the basis of a Bizonal Bicommunal Federation provided that we understand that at this stage this could be a starting point for a true rapprochement. That it could create shared action spaces, give oxygen to the left and reply to nationalists, by breaking exploitation, racism and nationalism in action.
Moreover, the BBF is the solution proposed by the Turkish Cypriots precisely because the prospect of a unitary state in these circumstances would clearly be to their detriment. The “one man, one vote” principle is reasonably a red flag for our Turkish-speaking neighbors, since the memories of the 1963-1967 state are still fresh. Nationalists lurk in the corner to capitalize on the people’s disappointment, the possible failure as well as “success” of the talks, since they will wander around proclaiming themselves as the only patriots etc.
The federation, even within the context of a bourgeois democracy, may enable the two communities of the island to live together again. However, the successful coexistence of capitalists interests that followed an autonomous and opposite course of development for decades and have no reason to quit it within a federation is a much harder bet for the bourgeois classes than it is for ordinary people living in peace. For this reason, the establishment of the BBF is not by itself a guarantee of smooth relation between the two constituent states, regardless of any administrative safety distance. This observation renders plausible the assessment that even with different content or protagonists the political and economic space for nationalist forces to act will continue to exist.
This means that only through our struggles will we, immigrants, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots workers, be able to hope that things will get better. The federation will not automatically relieve us from what the “Cyprus Issue” really is: nationalism as a tool to disorientate the working class. It is, however, a door that if not opened now, may well remain closed for good. It will not magically abolish sexism or the dominion of the Church nor will it be a “blow to imperialism”. This much is clear since it is planned and proposed by those above.
Only we can beat all these, by using the improved struggle conditions that the BBF may offer us. What we really need at this stage is not pressure groups, but a considerable, asserting movement, which will be feared by Anastasiades-Akinci. Our assemblies must be more intense and massive, the demands and actions more dynamic, with political content and not limited to suggestions for a vague federation.
In the next period, the left must be ready to face the nationalists and capitalists and systematically defend the coexistence regardless of the outcome, by making fronts and building in practice our common life.
The responsibilities of the Left
Even if the context of the BBF prospect provides more substantial opportunities for coexistence between the two communities in relation to the status quo, it also puts the Left in a position of increased responsibilities: to describe the domestic and international politico-economic environment in which any solution plan will be implemented (if and when it is submitted and adopted), to respond to the neoliberal attack which is expected to intensify and be expressed in a coordinated manner within both communities and to address covert and overt nationalists. This dimension of the issue is either completely absent or atrophic in the analysis and the tactics of the Left, including significant parts of its radical wing which still is small in numbers.
In these circumstances, it is the duty of those of us who perceive the importance of the challenges for the Left and the workers to develop our own political plan and open new roads for joint struggle towards the immediate disengagement from imperialist formations, ensuring access to public education, healthcare and social security system, the demilitarization of the island (including the UK bases) and the improvement of the workers’ rights. That is, all these issues that no bourgeois representative, like Anastasiades, is interested in solving. This is our role, more difficult and complex than ever.
We are waiting for the submission of the final solution plan to express our position on this particular content, it is a matter of principle that the form and content of the BBF must defend the peaceful coexistence in the region and not attack the interests of the world of work. For the Left who respects itself and the class it (has the duty to) serves, it is irresponsible to separate the Cyprus issue from the geopolitical landscape that is being set up in the region.
No matter how hopeful the event of a solution makes us, it also adds great responsibilities on our shoulders to defend the interests of our class and our ideas for internationalism firmly and under any circumstances that may arise. A solution of the Cyprus issue will not be the end. But it must become the beginning for a more consistent, more dynamic and more assertive Left than ever before.