Friday, 18 April 2008

The Divisions of Cyprus, by Perry Anderson

Cyprus is, in truth, an anomaly in the new Europe. Not, however, for reasons Brussels cares to dwell on. This is an EU member-state a large part of which is under long-standing occupation by a foreign army. Behind tanks and artillery, a population of settlers has been planted that is relatively more numerous than the settlers on the West Bank, without a flicker of protest from the Council or Commission. From its territory are further subtracted – not leased, but held in eminent domain – military enclaves three times the size of Guantánamo, under the control of a fellow member of the EU, the United Kingdom.
(Perry Anderson: The Divisions of Cyprus)

Perry Anderson has been for the last forty years one of Britain's leading left-wing intellectuals and historians. In the latest issue of the London Review of Books, he has written a breathtakingly brilliant essay on Cyprus, its modern history, from 1931 to the present day, which rejects the discourse on the Cyprus problem that views it as a spat between uncivilised rival ethnic groups in the grip of a primitive nationalism and sets the conflict in its correct colonial, post-colonial, geopolitical and cold war context.

As such, Anderson concentrates on the role in Cyprus of Britain, Greece, Turkey, the USA and, more recently, the EU and the UN – who, through a combination of malevolent conspiracy, arrogance, spite, negligence and disdain, have contributed, in one way or another, to Cyprus’ tragedy.

Anderson has produced a stunning, Thucydidean indictment of the cruelty, indifference and malice of the strong, in which he reserves his most withering criticism for Britain, its consistently destructive role in Cyprus, and for Lord David Hannay, Britain's special representative to Cyprus during the Blair government, the ‘brains’ behind the reviled Annan plan in 2004. Anderson's contempt for post-war Greek politics and politicians is only slightly less vitriolic.

Read the whole essay here. Below is a taste of what Anderson writes.

‘From the beginning, colonial rule had used the Turkish minority as a mild counterweight to the Greek majority, without giving it any particular advantages or paying overmuch attention to it. But once demands for Enosis could no longer be ignored, London began to fix its attention on the uses to which the community could be put.’

‘[For] Karamanlis, whose historical raison d’être was sentry duty in the Cold War… Hellenism was essentially for public consumption, to keep domestic opinion quiet: for the regime, it was anti-Communism that counted, and if there was a conflict between them, Enosis would be ditched without compunction.’

‘The postwar Greek state… started out as a British protectorate and continued as an American dependency, culturally and politically incapable of crossing the will of its progenitors. Greek Cypriots were often to charge its political class with betrayal, but the spinelessness of so many of its ministers and diplomats was structural: there was no inner core of autonomy to betray.’

‘The brutality of Turkey’s descent on Cyprus, stark enough, was no surprise. On previous occasions, as well as this one, Ankara had repeatedly given advance warning of its intentions. Political responsibility for the disaster lay with those who allowed or encouraged it. The chief blame is often put on the United States… but though America’s role in the dismemberment of Cyprus is clear-cut, it is Britain that bears the overwhelming responsibility for it.’

‘A fourth edition of the UN plan was adjusted to meet Turkish demands, and a final, non-negotiable version – Annan V – was announced on the last day of March. A jubilant Erdogan told his people that it was the greatest victory of Turkish diplomacy since the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, sealing Kemal’s military triumph over Greece.’


Hermes said...

That is a very good essay. I have never heard of Perry Anderson. So many interesting thoughts come to mind when reading this. I don't know where to start...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this.

Anderson has been one of my favourite academics since the start of my undergrad. His meticulously researched historical writings have been a breath of fresh air compared to most of the clap-trap spewed out in academia.

I still remember running to my university library, pulling up all the LRBs in the stacks, and going through them one by one in order to find gems from Anderson and others.

Once again thanks for posting this. I 'm going to read it now.


Hermes said...

Who are the others?

john akritas said...

I too remember Anderson and all the others from New Left Review from college days. I'm pretty sure Anderson – along with his colleague from NLR, Christopher Hitchens, – has a long-standing pre-1974 interest in Cyprus, which used to be expressed in the New Left Review and the New Statesman.

Hermes said...

"The two communities, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, were the victims and not the victimizers. The unfortunate Cypriots that died were mostly killed in battles whose imported political logic was, to paraphrase Clausewitz, neither “war as a continuation of politics by other means” nor the “continuation of Cypriot politics”. To argue, as some essays imply, that the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot Communities consist of maniacs and murderers, a position utterly presumptuous, insolent and propagandistic. These presumptuous accusations –shamefully propagated by bearers of academic titles in scientifically shameful essays– serve specific purposes: By fabricating a picture of Cypriots as semi-wild murderers if not barbarians, some intend to serve the purpose of imposing and perpetuating neo-colonial occupancy. The “final solution” attempted by the abortive Anan plan was a permanent tutelage if not a return to slavery. Foreign intervention is the A to Z cause of conflict in Cyprus"

Pangiotis Ifestos