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A Failed New Deal in Cyprus: From Constitution to Repression, 1946-1949

In 1946, prompted by AKEL’s rising popularity and what was believed to be the increasingly aggressive neo-colonialism of the Soviet Union, British policy-makers reformed their colonial rule in Cyprus. As in Hong Kong, the British introduced a number of reforms to improve British colonialism’s ideological and moral image against rival and seemingly more progressive imperialisms in the Cold War. In Cyprus, this ‘new deal’ was intended to undermine AKEL’s domestic political platform and to reinforce the government’s assumed rural support. The new secretary of state for the colonies, Arthur Creech Jones, announced ‘a more liberal and progressive regime’ in Cyprus, including the invitation to form a consultative assembly to consider constitutional reform and the re-establishment of a central legislature.1 The assembly, however, was a political disaster, as the Greek- Cypriot nationalists refused to join and the communist members drove the agenda into the non-starter of self-government. AKEL and the nationalists responded with increasing violence, while Akelists travelling behind the Iron Curtain and rumours, for example, of an imminent Cominform- supported uprising, greatly alarmed the governor and Whitehall.

While AKEL’s political power had slightly waned by the 1949 municipal elections, the government’s positive reforms failed to destroy the organization, and Britain’s rebranded colonialism failed to win local support. Policymakers thus shifted their strategy again, this time back to the repression of traditional British colonialism. By 1948, the Cyprus government returned to relying on intelligence to monitor communists’ travel, repressive laws to restrict communists’ cultural activities, and prosecutions to jail communists © The Author(s) 2017

C. Sutton, Britain’s Cold War in Cyprus and Hong Kong, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-33491-2_8

for sedition—not to mention the consideration given to Colonial Secretary Roland Turnbull’s favourite solution: proscription. As in Hong Kong, policymakers responsible for Cyprus readily identified the cultural battles of the imperial Cold War, but the return to and reliance on such repressive policies reflected the inherent weakness of British colonialism in fighting them.

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