The threat of mass demonstrations forced US president Bill Clinton to postpone his planned visit to Greece last week. That Clinton did not dare spend two days in Athens is an inspiration to everyone who opposes the US military bullying its way around the world. In a humiliating address to people in Greece, Clinton conceded that the threat of protests had kept him away.
Around 98 percent of people in Greece opposed NATO's bombing of the Balkans. The Greek government, whose politics are similar to Tony Blair's, had hoped that the anti-war mood had dissipated since the end of the war. But it was forced to tell Clinton that it could not keep demonstrators away from key sites such as the US embassy and the Hilton Hotel. The Hilton was where one of the chief US warmongers, secretary of state Madeleine Albright, was due to stay.
Panos Garganas, editor of Socialist Worker's sister paper in Greece, explained, 'The left came together to call protests against Clinton and the momentum just grew. Prime minister Costas Simitis called in the leaders of the Communist Party and two other left wing parties to get them to promise to keep the protests a mile away from Clinton. They said they would not be able to convince even their own members of that, let alone more militant people on the march. Simitis considered mobilising the police to control the march, but then realised that would lead to pitched fights on the streets.'
Some of the leaders of the parliamentary left parties tried to mix nationalist opposition to Greece's rival Turkey with the feeling against US imperialism. 'But the mood was more left wing than that,' said Panos. 'We recently initiated a large march against racism in Athens. The Turkish earthquake last week brought the same mood of sympathy among Greek workers for their sisters and brothers in Turkey that we saw after the larger earthquake in the summer.'
Protests were planned for Friday against Clinton's rescheduled visit which had been scaled down to barely 24 hours.