The outcome of Greece’s referendum on a proposed new austerity package was balanced on a knife edge as polls opened this morning, Sunday.
At the polling station in Exarchia, a working class area in central Athens, no supporters were cautiously confident.
TV worker Maria told Socialist Worker, “I voted no, and I think no will win. Everyone can see that five years is enough. The Troika’s measures have been very hard on us, and there is still no light at the end of the tunnel. And the politicians who support yes are the ones who got us here in the first place.
Socialist Workers Party (SEK) activist Fotini was among those campaigning outside. “The yes voters are anxious—they don’t like to see us here,” she said.
The first visible postering by the yes campaign took place overnight, courtesy of Athens' mayor. The posters are high up, presumably to avoid being defaced. At eye level posters, stickers and graffiti for no are everywhere.
Legal secretary Urania voted yes. “The vote is meaningless—Europe has got its programme and there is no alternative,” she said. “All we are really voting on is Tsipras and whether to facilitate his programme.”
But Jim made a beeline for socialist campaigners as he left the polling station, asking for no stickers. “I’m exercising my right as a worker to have my say,” he told Socialist Worker.
As solidarity rallies took place all over the world yesterday, local no committees had a last push of campaigning in their neighbourhoods. A dozen activists went to leaflet the Grova grocery market, in an area of Athens known for its diversity and the militancy of its school students.
Shoppers of all ages came up for leaflets—and many of those who turned them down said it was because they had already decided to vote no. Youths on motorscooters and Pakistani van drivers leaned over to grab them as they passed.
Painter-decorator Alkiviados said, “For me it’s a no of course. Far more people support no than you would think from watching the TV—where they only show yes supporters or the government. That’s some fucking democracy!”
Angry yes voters came to yell in activists’ faces—then got heckled themselves by passers by planning to vote no. Some of the most spirited arguments were between pensioners. A leaked yes campaign strategy document made clear that terrifying the elderly had been their priority all week.
Student nurse Aphrodite, campaigning with the anti-capitalist left coalition Antarsya, said, “It’s very polarised—much more than during the election. I think the young people will almost all vote no, because they have nothing left to lose. But old people are worried about their pensions.”
The campaign of fear has been intense—a supercharged version of what we saw from Britain’s rulers in the run-up to Scotland’s independence vote.
Virtually the entire Greek ruling class has lined up behind the European Union and International Monetary Fund to fight for austerity. Figures not seen in public for years have been dragged out to spook undecided voters.
Former Tory prime minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis, Greece’s answer to Margaret Thatcher, made a speech on television that included an appeal to the fascist Golden Dawn party. Even a former prince was wheeled out four decades after the fall of the monarchy.
Prominent members of Syriza’s right wing junior coalition partner the Independent Greeks have switched to the yes side. A sneaky attempt by the mayor of Athens to deny prime minister Alexis Tsipras’ no rally the right to use the central Syntagma square was pushed back. So was a more serious bid to have the referendum ruled illegal.
The yes strategy plan produced by the Tory party New Democracy also instructed members not to be identified as party members. They have hidden as far as possible behind celebrities and disgraced social democrats because they know just how hated they are.
This reflects a fear that their bullying could backfire.
The bosses can’t see inside the voting booth. And as one of the many stickers and posters on the streets calling for a no vote put it, “The bosses are voting yes. And you?”