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AKEL and the Politics of Consensus

While British policy-makers, especially Woolley, depended on the politics of force, AKEL sought to expand its popular support in and outside of Cyprus through the politics of consensus. The ‘coming storm’, then, was not communist insurrection but communist political power—not hot but cold war—which in many ways was a much stronger challenge to British imperial authority.

In July 1945, Servas resigned from AKEL in order to organize a national unity front; in September, the PSE reasserted its political autonomy from the party line; and in October, AKEL reached out to Abul Kalam Azad, the chairman of the Indian National Congress, for fraternal assistance. While some speculated (optimistically) that Servas’s recent trip to England had ‘moderated his views’ and that the PSE was genuinely independent from AKEL, others interpreted these moves as typical communist tactics of infiltration or worse, as preparation for insurrection. And while ultimately unsuccessful in appealing to non-leftists, AKEL did demonstrate the breadth of its political shrewdness, and British authorities became increasingly anxious of AKEL’s attempts ‘to wrest from the Nationalists the initiative in the Enosis issue and become the protagonist of a united front’.37

With the increased organization of anti-colonial politics from both the left and right, British policy-makers encouraged themselves with claims of mass support from the rural population. The lack of substantiation did not deter the general belief of the Cyprus government that:

many villagers deplored the prospect of [a] return to party politics in villages with its consequent warring factions, the reason being that disapproval of a man’s political views in Cyprus frequently finds practical expression in malicious injury to property and personal violence.38

However, it was AKEL, through its Union of Cypriot Farmers and other activities regarding Cyprus’s poor peasantry, which more likely garnered further rural support than the British.39 Additionally, the Cyprus government failed to identify a single cooperative popular leader. In his or her absence, the government’s main rationalization for continued British rule was to protect the pro-British, anti-enosis, and anti-communist rural population, invented or otherwise.

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