Hit the Oil Barons where it hurts,
says David Breen

Withdraw the Troops from Cyprus!

(August 1956)

From Socialist Review, Vol. 5 No. 11, August 1956, p. 3.
Transcribed by Ian Birchall, Nina Kidron & Richard Kuper.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

THE FILTHY WAR in Cyprus drags on. British troops are detailed to fight children as can be seen in the photograph on this page. The country is steadily impoverished as houses are torn down, forests burn and collective fines are imposed on the villagers. And our own national servicemen are faced with a senseless death in the service of profits.

We haven’t got to seek far for confirmation. It is not so long ago that Eden, in an unwonted burst of rhetoric, revealed the truth in the House of Commons. “Above all, oil,” he said. And since then, the theme has been taken up again and again.

An Oily Excuse

Speaking at Barry, South Wales, the Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd, made the message as plain as can be: “our country’s industrial life and that of Western Europe depend to-day, and will depend on many years to come, on oil supplies from the Middle East.

“If those resources were to be in peril, we should have to defend them. The facilities we have in Cyprus are part of that defence. We cannot, therefore, accept any doubt about their availability. We shall continue to strive for a settlement.” And that settlement means the restoration of “law and order” on the island. (Reported in the Observer, July 8, 1956.)

But is oil a sufficient reason in itself? We import a lot of Danish bacon, eggs and butter, and yet the British army is not occupying Denmark. Half our food and most of our raw materials come from overseas and yet in most cases the British army is not required to direct the traffic.

Oil Profits – The Key

It cannot be oil alone. What is driving the Tory Government is the defence of oil profits. The oil monopolies think that the time has come to show a firm hand. They dare not allow Iraq, for example, become another Persia. It’s not only that they might lose a lot of income as the Anglo-Iranian Petroleum Company did, but that the American oil monopolists might nibble more of their British friends’ pastures in the Middle East – more than they did in Persia.

The Tories are doing their best to guarantee these oil profits by retaining. Cyprus as a base from which to threaten the Middle East. But they have attempted more than they can manage. The Labour Party leadership sees this and offers them an alternative. Not, of course, an alternative policy but an alternative tactic. And Bevan, who is now the Party spokesman on Colonial Affairs, was the one to advance that alternative in Parliament. If we can’t have “Cyprus as a base,” let us at least have “a base on Cyprus.”

This is no alternative to the Tories’ Policy. Bevan and the Labour Party leadership might be shocked at the monopolists’ war in Cyprus. But all they offer is a monopolists’ peace in Cyprus. They refuse to admit that the war in Cyprus is only one incident in the game of profit-making and international competition and that as long as these exist war and peace are just two interchangeable weapons in the monopolists’ arsenal.

British and Cypriot workers are laid low in order to keep profits high. The only way the war can be ended is by a complete withdrawal at of troops from Cyprus.

Last updated on 16 February 2017