In their handling of the Cyprus affair and the deportation of Archbishop Makarios to the Seychelles, the Tories are displaying people’s desire for self-determination
Mauritius Times 60 Years — 3rd Year No 85 – Friday 23 March 1956
In their handling of the Cyprus affair and the deportation of Archbishop Makarios to the Seychelles (has it been forgotten that Napoleon was exiled to St Helena?), the Tories are displaying people desire for self-determination. It has happened before. As long there are Tories to rule. It will surely happen again.
Where has it happened before? In Ireland, in India, in Palestine, in Malaya. It has happened, or is happening in the colonial possessions of other European powers: Indonesia, Algeria, and Morocco. Even the United States of America were born of the desire for self-determination.
For centuries the Irish longed for Independence. For centuries it was denied them. Just before the First World War, it was intended that the Irish should have Home Rule – but the Tory Party instigated an armed rebellion in Ulster and frustrated the plan. After the war there were the “troubles” – when the Irish were fighting for what is surely all peoples’ birthright – the right to govern themselves. The Tory Government in Whitehall was guilty of the grossest excesses against the people of Southern Ireland; the hated Black and Tans perpetrated foul crimes against humanity. Men were shot as ‘traitors’ for upholding the right of self-government. Mr de Valera was imprisoned; many equally great Irish patriots were executed; James Connolly among them. Eventually, the Tories had to recognise the Irish Free State as an independent entity; and had also to acknowledge the one-time prisoner de Valera as Prime Minister of the Irish Republic. And nowadays many of the men executed during the “Troubles” are venerated as martyrs for the cause of Irish freedom. But the Tory Party in Parliament can claim no credit for its handling of the Irish question.
The Tories have followed a policy of repression in many other colonial territories. If there had been no Labour Government in 1945, either India would still be awaiting self-government or there would have been open rioting all over the sub-continent. What, before the war, did the Tory Governments do to the respected Indian leaders, Gandhi and Nehru? More than once, they were imprisoned. Yet after the Labour Government gave India its freedom, Gandhi and Nehru became world statesmen. Gandhi during his lifetime was assuredly the greatest living man – yet he had been execrated by the Tory Party for most of his life. So with the Gold Coast – Nkrumah was imprisoned; but came out of goal as Prime Minister of the first British colony in Africa to win self-government. Only ten years ago, in Palestine, there was rioting against the continuance of Britain’s presence; and the Tories wanted and yelped for a get-tough policy. Britain didn’t get tough; and today Israel and its leader Ben-Gurion (another Socialist) are friends of Britain.
The moral is that conciliation pays. Nehru and Gandhi were imprisoned but lived to become their country’s leaders. So with Nkrumah and de Valera. So it was in Israel. Bloodshed in Ireland, in India, in Palestine achieved nothing except to continue the bitterness already existing against Britain. But after the bloodshed there was conciliation and negotiation – and these paid dividends. A peaceful India, a peaceful Ireland, a peaceful Israel are all friends of Britain – no credit however to the Tories. And in Cyprus?
It has been said that the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history. This is true of the Tory Party at any rate. They haven’t learned the lesson of India, Ireland and Palestine that conciliation pays. Instead we have had British troops in Cyprus, by their presence inflaming even more the anti-British feeling of many of the islanders. We have had forthright declarations from the Whitehall government that Cyprus would never have self-government. Now Archbishop Makarios has been deported; apparently the Tories don’t realise that the fact of deportation will make him and even greater hero in Cypriot eyes. Nehru and Gandhi gained in stature by their imprisonment; so have Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa, Kenyatta in Kenya and Jagan in Guiana. Popular leaders who are imprisoned or deported show that the authorities fear their presence – and they become martyrs and, to the authorities therefore, bigger dangers still. Liberal and Labour Parties alike have condemned the Government’s decision to deport Makarios; how can the Tories profess to uphold liberty of speech and discussion after their actions in Cyprus and British Guiana?
Strong Arm Tactics
These tactics as used in Guiana and Cyprus are the only tactics that the limited Tory mentality understands. They are strong-arm methods, redolent of the school bully. They appeal to Tories the world over to Boyd equally as to Le Baron. It is traditional “gunboat” mentality at work – sending a gunboat to quell the least hint of unrest anywhere in “great and glorious British Empire on which the sun never sets”, etc. etc. What the Tories don’t realise is that the days of blatant crude imperialism are fast dying; that Amritsar (Jalianwala Bagh Massacre) cannot happen again. By their crude tactics in Cyprus and elsewhere, the Tories are prolonging the death agonies of imperialism; and at the same time bringing sorrow and misery to many a household and home, in the United Kingdom as well as in the colonies.
The sooner Makarios and his fellow exiles are returned to Cyprus and negotiations are begun again, the better. And the negotiations must not be hamstrung from the beginning by a Tory announcement that agreement must be reached on the Tories terms, or else. For that is tantamount to what happened before Makarios was deported. Lennox-Boyd has said, in effect. “Negotiations went on but there was no sign of agreement except on Makarios’ terms, so we deported him”. In other words, you won’t agree on our terms; we won’t agree on yours; since we both disagree, we’ll teach you a lesson and send you away from your country to some lonely spot where you can… what?
What can Makarios do the Seychelles? France exiled Sidi Ben Youssef to Madagascar and had to recall him to Morocco; what can Makarios do, except await his recall to Cyprus to pull Lennox-Boyd’s chestnuts out of the fire for him?