Cyprus: General Strike against EU Troika Diktat and Austerity Program!

Down with EU-Colonialism! Workers in Cyprus: Exit the EU, expropriate the banks and corporations and fight for a workers government!

Resolution by the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) and the Internationalist Socialist League (Israel/Occupied Palestine), 28.3.2013

1. The recent EU/IMF bailout agreement with Cypriot government is nothing but an imperialist program of financial enslavement of the working people of Cyprus. Its immediate consequences are mass sackings of thousands of workers, privatizations and the de facto confiscation of pension and provident funds. It will deepen the capitalist crisis in the country and throw huge masses into poverty. It shows once more that the European Union and the Eurogroup are nothing but imperialist instruments. The Cypriot working class must mobilize for a General Strike against the bailout agreement and its consequences. They must fight for a program of expropriation of the banks, corporations and super-rich. The European workers movement must mobilize in solidarity with the people in Cyprus and fight against the Troika diktat!

2. The bailout agreement implies draconic measures for the Mediterranean island and the mass of its 880.000 citizens. It will lead to the immediate shutdown of its second biggest bank – the Popular Bank of Cyprus, known as Laiki. The bank’s 8.000 employees are threatened with sacking. Similarly the country’s biggest bank – the Bank of Cyprus – will see massive restructuring which threatens the jobs of many of its 11.000 bank workers. In addition, the state will sale all three Cypriot banks’ operations in Greece. In addition, experts estimate that many middle class people with a deposit of more than 100.000 Euro will lose about 30-40% of their savings. Furthermore and mostly ignored by the bourgeois media is the fact that the pension and provident funds will also be massively affected by this anti-people conspiracy of the Troika/Government. This is because the so called Deposit Protection Scheme does not cover deposits held by legal entities, such as provident and pension funds, funds held by semi-governmental organizations and municipalities and other collective investment schemes. Finally, the conservative government of President Nicos Anastasiades already announces that “difficult times are ahead of us”, which means nothing but more austerity, higher unemployment and privatizations for the Cypriot working class.

3. As usual the bourgeois politicians, business leaders and their corrupted “experts” claim that Cyprus “lived above its means”. This is the typical and cynical lie of people who are much richer than we – the working people – have ever been. Surely, the small class of Cypriot super-rich as well as the Russian, British and other European Oligarchs profited from the country’s blown up banking system. It is well known that many Western and Eastern corporations utilized Cyprus as a tax haven. However, these oligarchs always find a way to avoid paying the costs of the crisis. According to a report of Germany’s leading conservative newspaper “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung“ from 24.3.2013, billions of Euro were transferred out of the country in the days and weeks before the bailout agreement!

4. As a matter of fact, Cyprus is just the next imploding element in an ever weakening capitalist chain. Similar like Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain and Italy – which were forced to sign draconic austerity measures in the last three years – Cyprus is a victim of the Great Recession of capitalism. The country faces a massive de-accumulation of capital. In the last years its investments declined by minus -9.7% (2009), -4.9% (2010), -13.1% (2011), -22.3% (2012) and this de-accumulation is predicted to continue by -23.7% (2013) and -11.6% (2014)! The government’s indebtedness to financial capital grew dramatically from 48.9% (2008) to 96.7% (2013) of the country’s annual output (measured in GDP). As a result official unemployment exploded from 5.5% (2009) to 12.1% (2012).

5. The simple truth is that Cyprus is a small, semi-colonial country. It was a colony of the Ottoman Empire for three centuries and became a British colony in 1878. Cyprus occupation by British imperialism lasted till 1960. Since then it had been formally independent but in fact it is dominated and exploited by imperialist monopolies and Great Powers. EU and Russian imperialists used the country as a tax haven, now they condemn it for this and subjugate them to a draconic austerity program. This shows once more that the European Union is an imperialist alliance dominated by the monopolies and the Great Powers. They oppress and exploit the poorer, semi-colonial countries of which Cyprus is just the latest victim. The imperialist European Union must be smashed and replaced by the United Socialist States of Europe. In semi-colonial countries like Cyprus the working class should call for the exit from the EU – as part of the anti-imperialist struggle – and combine such a perspective with the struggle for a workers government.

6. The reformist AKEL – an ex-Stalinist bourgeois workers party which is affiliated with the European Left Party – plays a particular shameful role. It’s then General Secretary, Dimitris Christofias, was elected President of Cyprus in February 2008 and kept this position till last month. The AKEL government – despite its formal communist credentials – administered for five years Cyprus crisis-ridden capitalism in service of the domestic and foreign monopoly capitalists. It didn’t take a single measure to expropriate these oligarchs, to nationalize the banking system or to issue a public works program in order to liquidate the dramatically increasing unemployment and to avoid the present financial collapse.

7. Even now, as an opposition party, the AKEL leadership continues to demonstrate its loyalty to the capitalists system. In the decisive vote on the banking restructuring program on 22.3., its deputies in parliament failed to vote against this bill. Their abstention saved the Troika/government austerity plan to close Laika, “restructure” the Bank of Cyprus, sack thousands of banking workers and endanger the pension and provident funds. The AKEL’s 19 deputies could have stopped this draconic attack if they – and the 5 social democratic EDEK deputies – would have voted against this bill. In a public statement, AKEL leaders justified their betrayal as a “position of responsibility”. They stated: “Wanting to express on the one hand our disagreement with the Government’s handling and the proposals that were put forth before us extortionately, but also on the other hand not to lead the country into bankruptcy and weaken the negotiating position of the President we abstained on the specific bill.” (Press Office C.C. of AKEL, Cyprus, Akel on Yesterday’s Decision by the House of Representatives for the Resolution of the Banking Sector, 23rd March 2013, This shows once more that the reformist labor bureaucracy – irrespective if it wears a social-democratic or a Stalinist coat – is inextricably linked with the capitalist system.

8. All over the world, socialists must welcome the spontaneous wave of mass protests which has erupted in the Cyprus. Since days hundreds and thousands of workers – in particular members of the banking union ETYK –, pensioners as well as school and university students demonstrate in the streets of Nicosia. The protesters – many with Cypriot flags in their hands – shout “Hands off Provident Funds” and “Provident Funds belong to our Children”. They hold placards demanding “EU: Hands off Cyprus!” and “Troika Out!”. A graffiti scribbled in red on the building adjacent to parliament read “they invest, they lose, they lend out (and) you pay”. Another one talked of “robbers in a suit”. Last week the protests even forced the parliament to reject the initial agreement and not a single deputy dared to vote in favor of the agreement!

9. How can the workers, pensioners and youth win against the Troika/government assault? The RCIT and the ISL consider it as the central task of the hour to organize an indefinite GENERAL STRIKE including the OCCUPATION of banks, central squares and government buildings. Only such a drastic measure of resistance can stop the draconic attacks! Many banking workers already call their union to organize a strike. Workers must tell the AKEL leadership that their demand for a referendum on the bailout agreement is useless since it will take time and the government and the capitalist media will use this time to manipulate the people and create a sense of accomplished facts which supposedly cannot be changed anymore.

10. The trade union as well as the AKEL leadership will only organize protest reluctantly, if at all. Therefore it is decisive to build local ACTION COMMITTEES in the trade unions, enterprises, banks, schools and neighborhoods. These Action Committees must elect delegates and coordinate themselves on national level. For a NATIONAL CONFERENCE of delegates of Action Committees! These rank and file committees must pressurize the union leadership to organize a general strike. But if these bureaucrats fail to do so, the workers should go ahead without them.

11. Banking workers should use their skills and knowledge to OPEN THE BANK ACCOUNTS and inform the public about the hidden wealth as well as the secret financial transfers of the oligarchs.

12. The RCIT and the ISL say that the central demands of the struggle today are:

* Down with the Troika/government bailout agreement!

* No closures, no sackings! Nationalize the whole banking sector and centralize them to a single state bank under workers control!

* Hands off the pension and provident funds!

* Expropriate the wealth of the domestic and foreign super-rich!

The struggle for such immediate demands have to combined with the following perspective

* Expropriate the capitalists!

* For a Workers Government based on Councils and armed militias!

* Down with EU-Colonialism! For Cyprus’ Exit of the EU!

13. The European workers movement must rally to support the Cypriot brothers and sisters. For solidarity actions! For mass mobilizations in the whole of Europe against the Troika diktat! Smash the imperialist European Union – For the United Socialist States of Europe.

14. The working class in Cyprus has been terrible sold out by the labor bureaucracy of AKEL and the trade unions. Similarly the workers movement in the whole of Europe suffers from the repeatedly betrayal by the social democratic and (ex-)Stalinist bureaucrats. This is why building authentic revolutionary workers parties and a Fifth Workers International based on a communist programme is the major task ahead of all revolutionary workers and youth. The RCIT and the ISL are dedicated to this task. Join us to meet this challenge!

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