Antifascist resistance in Cyprus

Speech by Yiannakis Colocasides, member of the Political Bureau of AKEL,

on the Anniversary of 16th of June 1943 in Nicosia

Permit me to warmly congratulate the initiative undertaken by the Youth of EDON to honour the 16th June 1943 anniversary with the organisation of a particular event.

The 16th June 1943 is a special and glorious page in the history not only of AKE, but of Cyprus as a whole.

When a gathering took place in the small village of Skarinou in April 1941, which decided to establish the Progressive Party of Working People AKEL, the Second World War was already underway. Precisely in those days, Greece came under Nazi attack and the long cold night of occupation began.

The new party that was established on the initiative of the Cypriot communists could not but take a stand against the war. AKEL took an unequivocal stand on the side of the anti-fascist anti-Hitler forces. Although it was making its first steps for its organizational growth and political intervention, AKEL undertook a number of initiatives so that its founding proclamation did not remain just empty words.

More specifically, just two months after the establishment of AKEL, it waged an intense and broad anti-fascist enlightening campaign in all cities and villages throughout Cyprus. The trade union movement of the Left avoided strikes or any other actions that could have raised obstacles to the war effort. On the 30th May1942 AKEL with a Memorandum of its Central Committee addressed the colonial Governor, outlining in a comprehensive manner its views on
"the contribution of the Cypriot people in the anti-Fascist war of the Allies." The colonialists of course did not even bother to reply to AKEL´s memorandum. In the same year AKEL promoted the slogan "One day's work for the defence of Cyprus" and called on working people to offer to work for one day without pay to enhance the defence of the island.

The anti-fascist initiatives culminated in the 16th June 1943 decision when the Central Committee called on Party members to voluntarily enlist in the war against Hitler fascism. Eleven of the 17 members of the C.C. were the ones who set the first example, declaring their readiness put on the uniform of a soldier. The Party at that time numbered no more than 2,000 members, who enthusiastically welcomed the decision / appeal of the C.C. The appeal of the C.C. was discussed in the Party base organizations. The response of the Party members was overwhelming. Around 700 members rushed to enlist immediately. They were followed by others along the way.

The number does not really matter, because the total number of Cypriot volunteers in the Second World War was around 20,000. What matters is the political action. The enlistment of the AKEL members was the first and only organized mass recruitment of Cypriots in the Second World War. The engagement of the AKEL members was an entirely conscious political action of an anti-fascist character. The engagement of the AKEL members aimed not only at making a contribution in the struggle against Hitler fascism, but as the decision of 16th June stressed, it was aimed at
"strengthening the struggle for the liberation of Greece from Hitler tyranny, the liberation of the enslaved countries and to ensure the national, political and social future of the Island." That is to say, it linked the anti-fascist war with the anti-colonial liberation movement of Cyprus, which again on the initiative of AKEL took on huge dimensions after the end of the Second World War.

The AKEL volunteers fought heroically in fronts in North Africa and Italy in particular. Many of them, such as Savas Smyrnios, who fell fighting in Italy in 1944, sacrificed their lives. They completely fulfilled their duty to their country, democracy and the world.

Their contribution however was not restricted to this dimension. AKEL members injected the thousands of Cypriot colleagues with their anti-fascist and socialist ideology, many of whom had enlisted to make ends meet. The AKEL members had established their own Party base organizations inside the army. They projected and asserted demands for the soldiers and their day-to-day problems. They defended soldiers against the arbitrariness, arrogance and autocratic stand of the British colonialists. They organized educational and cultural activities. They came into contact, particularly in Italy, with the anti-fascist resistance movement and progressive forces of the Italian people and built bridges between Cyprus and Italy on an anti-fascist basis. The AKEL members and cadres turned the war into a great university from where hundreds of conscious cadres had graduated from, who then led the anti-colonial struggle of our people.

When it became clear after the war that the British colonialists had no intention of demobilizing the Cypriot volunteers because they were thinking of using them in their colonial and imperialist wars, the Party and the AKEL fighters were in the front line and organized the struggle for demobilization. Another glorious page was the sacrifice made by our comrade Takis Kythreotis, whilst hundreds of our comrades were imprisoned in concentration camps in Egypt.
We rightly feel proud of AKEL´s contribution in the war against Hitler fascism. We honour the anti-fascist fighters, not only of 16th June, but all Cypriot anti-fascists, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, whether they fell in the battlefields or were captured, or died in the years that have elapsed, or despite their advanced age are among us, fighters for freedom and social justice and who represent a living example to us all.

The establishment of the bourgeois ruling class for years kept the contribution of Cyprus in the Second World War hidden and absent from the education system. The fact that the leading and driving force in this contribution was AKEL did not suit them. Now, with the education reform underway there is an opportunity for the young generation to become acquainted with this glorious page of the Cyprus´ participation in the Second World War. It's up to teachers to seize this opportunity.

The Second World War ended with the defeat of Hitler fascism. Enormous and unbelievable sacrifices were made to save humanity from the deadly embrace of fascism. The Soviet Union and Communists all over the world were in the forefront of the sacrifices and struggle to defeat the fascist monster. The Second World War has gone down in history. Unfortunately, the reactionary forces do not allow fascism to be buried forever in history. In the name of anticommunism, in the name of halting the peoples and working people's liberation struggle, in the name of imperialist wars and the neo-liberal new order, the reactionary forces are fermenting the revival of neo-fascist and neo-Nazi organizations. The global economic crisis of capitalism is once again, as in the 1930's, creating a favourable environment for the revival of fascism. Fascism is now exploiting the desperation of those sections of the population who cannot understand the real causes of the crisis and the genuine culprits of their misfortune and is attempting to drag them in its tentacles.

The modern version of Fascism has much in common with classical fascism. As it did back then, fascism today also feeds on hate, anti-communism and considers as repugnant everything that is democratic and progressive. As it did then, fascism today also feeds on and captures souls through chauvinism, racism and social demagogy. Back then, the Jews, Slavs and the Communists were considered as the enemies and source of all evil. Today it's the immigrants and Communists. As it did back then, fascism today also uses rhetoric against the plutocracy and presents itself as a supposed opponent of corruption and vested interests. As then so today, it projects itself as the supposed protectors of the poor, the weak and downtrodden. As it did back then, fascism today too is trying to fool the unemployed, the scared petty bourgeois strata, all those who feel threatened by the crisis and its consequences. As then, so today, Fascism uses terror and bullying. The forerunners of today's black clothed bullies of the "Golden Dawn" and ELAM
(Note: the Greek Cypriot ultra-right National Popular Front), who are now attacking and brutally beating up unsuspecting immigrants and citizens, were the Shock Troops of Hitler which had gathered all the scum of German society and prepared the ground through terror for the Nazis to seizure of power.

In recent years the poison of fascism is also unfortunately developing in our country too. Fascism does appear out of nowhere. Some forces and circles have prepared the ground in the minds of some people. When the Democratic Rally DHSY party
(Note: the main Right wing opposition party, member of the EPP) and its youth organisation - and not just them - are poisoning the souls of young people with the "ideologisms" of nationalism and "Grivasism" (Note: the ideology and practice of Grivas, a Greek Cypriot fanatical ultra-right, nationalist and anti-communist), whitewashing and exonerating EOKA B (Note: the Greek Cypriot underground armed terrorist organisation funded, armed and guided by the American-instigated military junta of Greece which executed the fascist coup which led to the Turkish invasion and subsequent occupation of 37% of Cyprus) and the coup d'état, whether or not they understand it or not, are recruiting and channelling people to fascist type organizations like ELAM. When politicians of bourgeois parties are competing with each other - as they have been recently transforming themselves - as to who will convey the most extreme messages against foreigners and immigrants, in order to compete for votes, they are whether they realize it or not, serving the goals of fascism. Those who consider the members of ELAM and their like as "well educated youth" just because they are simply fighting against federation and hate Christofias and AKEL, are just breeding in their bosom the serpent of fascism.
We demand that the state cracks down on every illegal or paramilitary action, far from any legalistic pseudo-arguments and excuses. At the same time, we must not harbour the illusion that the state security forces would do all the work for us. Combating fascism is first and foremost an ideological and political duty. And this task falls mainly on our own shoulders. We, the members and cadres of the Left, must patiently and persistently explain and reveal what fascism is, disclose its methods, uncover its demagogy, highlight and utilise the examples in history throughout the world and ours, expose the inhuman nature of its ideology, properly educate the young generation in particular, call every anti-fascist into joint action and subsequently forge a wall of resistance against fascism and bulwarks of resistance against it.


In commemorating 16th June 1943 as it deserves to be, we shout out loud the slogan of the defenders of Madrid and anti-fascists throughout the world:

Fascism will not pass!

Democracy will win!