George Vassiliou, a millionaire businessman, was sworn in February 28 as president of Cyprus. His election marks a new stage in the decades of betrayal of the Cypriot working class, Greek and Turkish alike, by the popular front policies of Stalinism.
Incumbent President Spyros Kyprianou was eliminated in the first round of the elections, and in the second round of voting, Vassiliou, who ran as an independent bourgeois candidate with the backing of the Cypriot Stalinist AKEL party, won 51.63%, beating right-wing bourgeois candidate Glafkos Clerides.
The character of the new Vassiliou regime was already indicated in the days between his victory and the inauguration. Greetings were immediately received from Ronald Reagan, who told the new president, “I know that you have the determination to make the effort to bring about the lasting peace which has so long escaped the Cypriot people.”
Vassiliou, showing his pride in this tribute from the representative of US imperialism, made an official release of the greetings, declaring that he would personally thank Reagan and request increased US participation in an attempt to resolve the 14-year-old Greek-Turkish division of the island nation.
He announced that he would form a “national council” composed of all Greek parties to advise him on negotiations with the Turkish side. In his first television broadcast he declared: “I don’t want to see the people of Cyprus divided between winners and losers. We must now join all our forces and together proceed towards the salvation of our country.”
In short, Vassiliou lost no time in assuring one and all that his government would strive to keep the future of Bill Vann is a member of the Workers League Central Committee. This article originally appeared in the Bulletin, March 4, 1988.
Cyprus totally within the hands of world imperialism and the reactionary and bankrupt Cypriot bourgeoisie.
Not that Vassiliou’s position came as any great surprise. The Financial Times of London, the mouthpiece of the former colonial rulers of Cyprus, had no trouble recognizing Vassiliou as a dependable servant of imperialist interests. In a laudatory February 24 editorial entitled “Fresh hopes for Cyprus,” the Financial Times declared: “The election of Mr. George Vassiliou, a businessman with no traditional party affiliations, as the new President of Cyprus, offers the first glimmer of hope for several years that a political solution might at last be found for the divided island.”
In the election, Vassiliou received wide support from the Democratic Party of former President Kyprianou, who told the 91,000 people who voted for him, about 27.3% of the electorate, that as far as he was concerned, they could choose between either Clerides or Vassiliou.
Kyprianou himself served his two terms only thanks to AKEL’s backing. This alliance ended in 1985, largely in response to a shift in the counterrevolutionary diplomacy of the Moscow bureaucracy toward improved ties with the military-controlled regime in Turkey.
So the Vassiliou regime—like the Kyprianou regime before it—is the direct product of the utterly rotten Stalinist policy of class collaboration and betrayal by AKEL in the name of its sacred union with the Cypriot bourgeoisie.
But in these elections, the Cypriot Stalinists’ popular front betrayal enjoyed the vocal support of the Greek Workers Revolutionary Party, a petty-bourgeois outfit led by the reactionary blowhard Savas Michael.
Since his cowardly desertion from the International Committee of the Fourth International in October 1985, the politics of Michael and his WRP have been marked by craven capitulation to the Gorbachev bureaucracy in the Soviet Union and abject servility toward the Greek bourgeoisie.
When he deserted from the ICFI, Michael proclaimed that he was inaugurating a “New Era for the Fourth International.” As the Cypriot experience shows, he was merely turning his group into one of the many petty-bourgeois organizations which buzz like flies around the dung-heap of bourgeois politics in the eastern Mediterranean.
The February 13 issue of Socialist Change, newspaper of the Greek WRP, carried an editorial elaborating the party’s treacherous capitulation to bourgeois democracy and popular frontism in Cyprus.
This statement, directed to Cypriot workers before the first round of the election, acknowledged that Vassiliou is a millionaire and that AKEL’s support for his candidacy “flows from the whole bankruptcy of the policy of class collaboration.” But it went on to declare:
“A victory, however, for Vassiliou will not be a matter of his personal success, due to his nonexistent popularity. It will be a victory for AKEL, the traditional party of the working class. It will objectively strengthen the working people against the political representatives of the bourgeoisie which have proposed a wholesale or ‘piecemeal’ sellout. It will make stronger the resistance of the Cypriot people to the advancing conspiracies, as well as against the official policy of the bureaucratic leadership of AKEL.”
Here, Michael has really summoned up all of his middle-class demagogy and political ignorance in service of the popular front. On the basis of Vassiliou’s “nonexistent popularity,” Michael simply dismisses the fact that he is a bourgeois candidate as irrelevant. In fact, Socialist Change describes Clerides as the representative of “the NATO-loving section of the Cypriot big bourgeoisie” and Kyprianou as “the other candidate of the ruling class.” Thus the millionaire Vassiliou does not represent the bourgeoisie, and Michael tells Cypriot workers that by voting for him, they will be asserting their political independence!
The description of AKEL as the “traditional party of the working class” only serves to demonstrate the unbridgeable political chasm separating Michael and his WRP from Trotskyism. If the counterrevolutionary nature of Stalinism has been written in blood anywhere in the world it is in Greece, where the working class suffered a catastrophic defeat due to Stalinist treachery and where many were martyred for upholding the banner of Trotskyism and opposing Stalinist collaboration with the bourgeoisie. Michael spits on these proud traditions of Trotskyism and has found a new “tradition” as a servant of Stalinism.
In Cyprus, AKEL’s counterrevolutionary betrayal of the working class has long been carried out through its policy of popular front with the capitalist ruling class. But, according to the philistine and shameless statement of Michael, by voting for the latest bourgeois popular front candidate backed by the Stalinists, the Cypriot workers will be striking a blow not only against the “political representatives of the bourgeoisie” (such as Vassiliou), but also against the “official policy of the bureaucratic leadership of AKEL;” i.e., the popular front. The logic of such a position can only be found in the gross opportunism and base treachery of petty-bourgeois politics.
In its following issue, the WRP’s Socialist Change hailed the downfall of Kyprianou (the former candidate of the Stalinists) in the first round and enthusiastically urged workers to elect Vassiliou (the latest candidate of the Stalinists) in the second round.
Calling for “an all-out vote” for the millionaire, the WRP went on to declare that the mass vote for Vassiliou “must not be sold out in the secret deals of the Stalinist leadership of AKEL with the Cypriot bourgeoisie.” But Vassiliou’s candidacy was itself the product of an open deal between the Stalinists and the Cypriot bourgeoisie!
This is by no means the first foray by the Greek WRP into the swamp of popular frontism. Its break with the International Committee of the Fourth International in October 1985 quickly revealed itself as the essential preparation for alliances with the Greek Stalinists and the bourgeoisie itself. In the October 1986 municipal elections, Savas Michael led his WRP into a direct and open electoral bloc with Papandreou’s PASOK, running WRP candidates on the same slate with the candidates of this bourgeois party in several localities.
This act of class betrayal followed a series of sordid and undignified maneuvers between the Greek WRP and a coalition made up of the CP Stalinists, the bourgeois AKE party and former supporters of PASOK in the major city of Piraeus. After lavishing his flabby affections on this collection of Stalinist traitors and petty-bourgeois politicians, Michael was spurned by them in favor of a right-wing bourgeois party which was included in the coalition in place of the WRP. Then he turned to a direct electoral alliance with PASOK. To consummate this popular front marriage with the ruling party of the Greek bourgeoisie, the WRP agreed to drop from its program even the demand for the removal of US bases from Greece!
Michael’s intervention in Cyprus only serves to expose the accelerating degeneration of the petty-bourgeois trend which he leads.
It also underscores the clear class character of the 1985 split between these forces and the International Committee of the Fourth International. Michael played the most cowardly role in this split, refusing to attend the October 1985 meeting called by the International Committee to hold a discussion on the crisis which had erupted in the British Workers Revolutionary Party and to reaffirm the authority of the IC against the unprincipled domination by the WRP leadership of Healy-Banda-Slaughter. Michael rejected this procedure on the grounds that a political discussion with his then international comrades was a “trap” and on the basis of a cultist conception that only former WRP leader Gerry Healy represented the ICFI and only he, as an individual, could authorize its meetings.
Entering into a conspiracy with Healy, who, following a profound opportunist degeneration, was driven out of his own party for systematic sexual abuse of cadre, Michael quickly renounced all semblance of Trotskyist politics.
Since then, his organization has hailed the trip by Healy and his protege Vanessa Redgrave to Moscow to offer themselves as public relations agents in the service of Gorbachev. Like them, he has joined in proclaiming the chief Moscow bureaucrat as the leader of the “political revolution” in the Soviet Union and went even further by hailing the Reagan-Gorbachev agreement on intermediate nuclear weapons as an occasion for “understandable joy over a first hopeful success against the warmongering policy of Reaganism.”
Michael’s actions were determined not by personal loyalty to Healy, but rather by his nationalist opportunism. He had to free himself from any international control precisely to carry out his pro-Stalinist policy and popular front treachery, which has found its latest expression in the Cypriot elections.
In the same statement where he advanced this class-collaborationist policy for Cyprus, Michael declared: “Above all it is an imperative necessity, as Cyprus finds itself at a critical crossroads, for the Cypriot section of the International Committee of the Fourth International to be built, which will fight for a revolutionary solution of the problem, guided by the Theory of Permanent Revolution.”
This is a deliberate and calculated provocation aimed at discrediting the name of Trotskyism in Cyprus and throughout the Middle East, while cynically trading on the political authority of the International Committee.
Michael is a contemptible liar and charlatan. He and his WRP have nothing to do with either Trotskyism or the ICFI, both of which they have deserted and politically repudiated.
As for Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, it is implacably hostile and diametrically opposed to the popular front policies of Michael and the Greek WRP. In Cyprus, this theory finds its clearest confirmation. Because of the weakness of the Cypriot bourgeoisie and its subservience to imperialism, the unresolved national and democratic questions can only be settled through establishing the independence and hegemony of a united working class in the struggle for the socialist revolution. Under these conditions, Michael functions as a petty-bourgeois agent of imperialism working consciously to tie the Cypriot workers to this bankrupt bourgeoisie.
The International Committee of the Fourth International will under no conditions allow Savas Michael to masquerade as a representative of the ICFI while acting as a petty-bourgeois flunkey of Stalinism and imperialism. The Trotskyist movement will be built in Cyprus, Greece and internationally precisely through exposing and politically smashing such elements.