restricted access The History of the Communist Party in Cyprus: Colonialism, Class and the Cypriot Left by Yiannos Katsourides (review)
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Reviewed by
Yiannos Katsourides, The History of the Communist Party in Cyprus: Colonialism, Class and the Cypriot Left. London: I.B. Tauris. 2014. Pp. xiv + 266. Cloth £58.

This is a welcome and useful addition to the existing bibliography on the Cypriot Left, and especially its formative years during 1920–1940. The book does seem to settle some issues (for example, the support for independence), and it tries to explore the sociological development of the parallel society of the Left from that period.

The book chapters are organized in two parts: Chapters 1–3 review the economic and political context of early twentieth-century Cyprus, and Chapters 4–7 focus on the emergence and the development in an embryonic form of the two strategies adopted by the leftist people’s movement, namely, the development of a parallel society and the efforts at integration in, and reform of, the political sphere. The book comes at a time when the history and sociological dimensions of the Cypriot communist/leftist movement are of increasing academic interest. Thus, the discussion of the movement has moved beyond the early parallel bibliographies between enemies of the party and party documents and/or memoirs. In this new context, there are open issues both theoretically (the peculiarities of the party and of its endurance) and empirically (the actual position of the party on the anticolonial goal–enosis [ένωσις, annexation by Greece] or independence).

The most useful and significant chapters appear in the second part, where the author presents and analyzes data. The references to party documents and memoirs are significant. The book also advances an interesting, even if unconfirmed, hypothesis: in Cyprus, the trade union movement had been organized by the Party, much along Lenin’s model. The hypothesis, however, remains just that, a hypothesis, and needs more work in order to become a scholarly argument. Katsourides makes historical references to other trade unions that preceded or even worked concurrently with the communists, but the hypothesis needs to be really tested in the 1940s, when the mass party of the Left emerged as a party of social movements.

The issue of support for independence by the Communist Party of Cyprus (CPC) is indicative of the empirical significance of the book and the questions that it leaves [End Page 189] open to interpretation. Even though it is clear from the available data that the party engaged in everyday agitation by raising the issue of independence (a radical and pioneering issue/tactic at the time, when the hegemonic nationalist ideology in the Greek Cypriot [G/C] community advocated enosis), the issue has been obscured at times. The debate arose in part by using a reference given by ex-leader Ploutis Servas in his book, Κυπριακό—Ευθύνες (1980), which linked the support for enosis to adherence of the local party to the Communist International’s (Comintern) position on the Balkan Federation, but also by the timid way in which other ex-leaders who moved away or were expelled from the party in 1952 presented the issue of the focus on independence as premature. The premature leftist argument was the legitimizing discourse of the leadership associated with the shift to enosis in the context of seeking anticolonial national-popular unity in the 1940s. Thus, when the new mass party of the Left was formed in 1941, the movement shifted away from its support for independence in the 1920–1930s, on the premise that expanding its influence on the masses implied lowering its ideological positions on religion and enosis. Ironically, several of those leaders left or were expelled from the party when, in the period 1947–1952, the party switched positions (from self-determination—enosis [1941–1946] to self-government—enosis [1947–1948), to enosis and only enosis [1949–1958]), revealing its ambivalence as a movement. The early leadership which supported the shift to enosis, disagreed with the total identification with enosis later in the 1940s, while the new leadership of 1949, which also used the rhetoric of popular unity to justify its shift to enosis and only enosis, reverted back to independence after a few years, as the anticolonial struggles had reached their end. These switches are significant theoretically because the Left...