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Newsletter (in English)


Second general strike of the year on March 2

Trade unions in Northern Cyprus declared 2011 as the “year of social existence.” The world economic crisis has forced the government in Ankara to carry out neoliberal attacks against the rights of the working class in Northern Cyprus. The first general strike of this year was on January 28. The general strike took on an anti-colonial character: At the strike rally, banners against the Turkish occupation forces were held up. Then the verbal attacks against the people of Northern Cyprus began, both by the Turkish government and by Turkish fascists in Cyprus. On March 2, a second general strike will take place, and we want to analyze this movement from a Marxist point of view in order to develop perspectives.

Imperialist interests

The colonial power England played the different ethnic groups in Cyprus off against each other to secure its rule. Both Turkey and Greece have tried to bring Cyprus under their rule: Enosis and Taksim have been the political terms that express the goal of the annexation of Cyprus by Greece and Turkey respectively. After the military coup in Greece in April 1967, the Cypriot President Makarios rejected his previous Enosis convictions and argued for the continued independence of the island. As a result, the military junta in Athens strengthened its support for armed Enosis groups. Makarios tried to assume a “non-aligned” position internationally and also approached the Soviet Union. Turkish and Greek paramilitary groups began to attack each other. After a coup attempt by pro-Greek officers in 1974, Turkey began a military operation under the code name “Ayşe has gone on holiday”. The Turkish military occupied the northern part of the island, which accounted for 30% of the land area and 70% of the productive forces. In 1984, Turkey declared Northern Cyprus an independent state, but to date, it is not recognized by any other country.

In Cyprus there are two British military bases, the US Echelon spy system, French military forces at the Paphos airport, Greek army units to the south and 40,000 Turkish soldiers in the occupied north. For these occupying powers, Cyprus is an unsinkable aircraft carrier. Strategically it is located very close to Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Palestine, Lebanon and Israel. Thus from its bases in Cyprus, NATO can at any time put this region under military pressure if the economic and political interests of the NATO countries are threatened.

For years, the Greek and Turkish Gladio (the secret organizations of NATO, CIA and MI6 during the Cold War) terrorized the population of Cyprus in order to divide and weaken them. Today, such groups are becoming active again because the movement against the occupation is growing in strength. The copper reserves in Cyprus were plundered by British imperialism until the 1950s. There are also oil reserves that lie in the sea between Egypt and Cyprus. Northern Cyprus is now a center for the offshore banks and casinos of the Turkish bourgeoisie, which uses the country for money laundering. Many Turkish capitalists have amassed their wealth in Northern Cyprus. Currently, the Turkish bourgeoisie, which supports the AKP, is active in Northern Cyprus and exploits the country.

The colonial question

Northern Cyprus is not an independent state, but a colony of Turkey. Turkey’s policies have isolated the country, made it dependent and destroyed local production. In its de facto colonies, Turkey has traditionally developed a “Turkifying” population policy: while Kurds, for example, were forcibly resettled into Turkish regions, Turkish people were resettled into Arab regions (Hatay) and to Cyprus. Thus, Turkey attempted to speed up the assimilation and weaken the anti-colonial resistance.

The people who migrated from Turkey to Northern Cyprus are divided into two groups: on the one hand, members of the bourgeoisie who seized the wealth in Northern Cyprus, and, on the other, workers from Anatolia who moved because of the slightly higher wages there and now form a part of the Cypriot working class. The Turkish state is trying to use these Anatolian workers to divide the working class in Cyprus into “Turks” and “Greeks”. Only the common struggle for equal rights for all workers who live in Cyprus can counter these Turkish policies. A central task is the unity of the working class in the whole of Cyprus.

The standard of living of the masses in the South of the island is better than in the North. Many workers from Northern Cyprus cross the border every day in order to earn a living. These – often members of Southern Cypriot trade unions – can bridge the division. A common policy against the privatization projects, the occupying armies and the fascist groups can bring together the different parts of the class. Workers in ports, transportation, and construction constitute the core of the workers’ movement in Northern Cyprus. (The workers in the tourism sector, in contrast, are generally isolated from the movement, politically and organizationally. They are mostly foreign workers who are difficult to organize. In addition, Cypriot trade unions also reject the perspective of organizing these workers). The bearers of the protest movement against the privatization laws have so far been the public sector workers. This fragmentation weakens the workers. It is therefore very important to unite the different parts of the working class.

Occupation and Capitalism

Southern Cyprus is part of the EU, and the big European powers use their military bases on the island to secure their control of the Mediterranean. Cyprus, just like Kurdistan and Israel/Palestine, is key to the imperialist order in the Middle East. Many Cypriots demand the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the island. But that demand can only be won against the interests of the capitalist states. Therefore, this struggle can only be successful with an anti-capitalist perspective. Capitalism is the ultimate cause of the wars in the region. It is therefore illusory to believe that peace could be established in Cyprus under a capitalist system.

It is the duty of revolutionaries in Cyprus to struggle for peace, because this is the legitimate demand of the masses. At the same time, they must also explain that peace is not compatible with capitalism. The achievement of real peace requires that the competition amongst the capitalists for markets and profitable investments be eliminated, because this necessarily leads to expansionist policies. In other words: real peace requires real democracy – workers’ democracy, democratic planning of the economy. For this, it is necessary to completely dismantle the repressive state machinery and replace it with the self-organization of the working population.

The capitalist crises, as if they were forces of nature, force the bourgeois states to wage war against each other and increasingly oppress the workers – in their own country and in the regions they control – with cuts, rising prices, worsening working conditions and, in the case of resistance, by force of arms. The workers’ movement with its desire for peace has the choice: smashing the capitalist state or eventually being smashed by it.

An important issue for politics in Cyprus is the status of the lands that were expropriated and occupied in the course of the division. In the interests of working people who were displaced by the occupation, we demand compensation from the occupying power. If these properties were given to Turkish capitalists (for example hotels), we also demand their nationalization. The cost of compensation must be borne by the occupying powers.

In Cyprus, the Turkish government is trying, with privatization laws, to attack the workers and to make production there more accessible for Turkish capital. To weaken the resistance, the austerity policies are decorated with Turkish nationalist slogans. Turkish nationalism is the building material for an ideological bridge between the Turkish-speaking workers in Cyprus and the Turkish exploiters, i.e. a rotten bridge leading across the deep trench of the colonial reality. Turkish nationalism is also the material with which the Turkish ruling class attempts to build an ideological wall between brothers and sisters, between Cypriot workers of Turkish and Greek tongues. But walls can be torn down and new, stable bridges can be built.

Revolutionary Perspectives

The working population of Cyprus is a link between the workers in Greece and the workers in Turkey. A common policy for Cyprus could bring the workers’ movement and the revolutionary left of both countries closer together. A call by some organizations from Northern Cyprus has led some organizations in Turkey to express solidarity with the strike movement against the Turkish policies. This shows that an internationalist policy is not only necessary but completely possible.

The workers of Cyprus could also play a role in linking the struggles of their class comrades in the Middle East to those of the European workers. The development of the revolutionary processes which began in Tunisia and are spreading like wildfire in the Arab-speaking world, and whose outcome is still uncertain, could eventually carry sparks via Cyprus to Europe.

A unification of Cyprus can only be carried out on a socialist basis. All the capitalist countries occupying Cyprus benefit from the current situation. Therefore they prevent the unification of the island. The Cypriot capitalists in the North and the South have arranged themselves with the division. They do not want to tolerate any new competition on the island. For example, there are efforts by capitalists in Northern Cyprus to gain more independence from Turkey but not to unify with Southern Cyprus. The capitalist system solidifies the unequal living standards on the island, which are the cause of many conflicts. Only a Cyprus unified by the workers would enable an effective, proletarian policy against crisis-ridden capitalism. A divided, even mutually hostile working class facilitates exploitation by the owners of capital.

The dispute over the ownership of lands and houses can only be solved in a socialist way, because in a democratic workers’ state the entire wealth of society would be in the hands of the population and provide everyone with a decent living space.

In order to defeat the well-armed occupation armies, an international class struggle by the workers will be necessary. By connecting with the workers of Greece, Turkey and the imperialist countries, even a military intervention could be stopped.

Parliament is therefore not the place to solve the Cyprus question(s). The workers, who could push through the unification of the island and the withdrawal of the occupying armies, have to build their own democratic structures of power in their struggles for peace and social justice. They cannot delegate their power to the bourgeois parties. They must organize themselves to take over the control of schools and companies on strike. Only this path, which leads to the smashing of the capitalist state, can break the power of the capitalists on the island! Otherwise, the gains of the striking working class will soon be called into question and destroyed.

To take this path to the end, the working class needs a strong revolutionary party in Cyprus as part of a revolutionary International, to lead the struggle against the imperialist, Greek, Turkish and local capitalists. Such a party would bring the forces together, and instead of implementing capital’s agenda from government positions (as the AKEL party does in the South), would fight for an independent policy of the working class (in the whole of Cyprus). A clear revolutionary program is necessary for this.

  • NATO out of Cyprus!
  • Against all privatizations! For the occupation and nationalization of all enterprises that threaten layoffs or closures, under workers’ control!
  • For a plan of public works to end unemployment and under-development, under the control of the workers’ organizations!
  • Compensation by the occupying powers for those displaced in the course of the division!
  • For elected strike committees to fight for rank and file control of the trade unions, against the treachery of the bureaucracy!
  • For a federal, united and socialist Cyprus within the framework of a socialist federation of the Middle East!

Revolutionary Internationalist Organization (RIO) and Enternasyonal Dayanisma (International Solidarity) from Northern Cyprus, March 1, 2011

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