Over 5,000 people joined the anti-capitalist left on a march through Athens last night, Thursday, calling for a no vote in Sunday’s austerity referendum.
It was called by the anti-capitalist left coalition Antarsya, along with a few smaller groups that also demand an end to austerity and defaulting on the bankers’ debt.
The march attracted people from beyond Antarsya’s ranks, including many students. Archaeology student Eleni was one of them. She told Socialist Worker, “They are trying to scare people into voting yes, but I still think the no will win.”
“I don’t know what will happen after that – except that it will send a message to people in other countries about fighting austerity.”
Revolutionary slogans echoed outside the law school where the 1973 uprising against Greece’s dictatorship began.
Marchers answered the ruling class’s propaganda with chants of “Do not be afraid of them – it’s time to overthrow them” and “Not a cog moves without you, worker – you don’t need the bosses”.
Big delegations from all of Antarsya’s component parties also joined the demonstration with their banners and red flags.
Student Iro described herself as a Trotskyist. She told Socialist Worker, “This is a battle we have to win. It’s a class struggle–we have to win a vote for the working class on Sunday and then keep fighting after that.”
Clouds of no leaflets were thrown up like confetti. Young activists with stencils and spray paint darted in and out of the crowd to leave their message on the surrounding buildings: “No–until the end”.
Riot police with their tear gas grenades came too late to stop one protester climbing up a ladder to the balcony of the European Union (EU) office behind them. He unfurled a banner that said “No” to the EU.
It was the second time the building had been stormed that day. Engineering student Theodoris was one of over 100 Antarsya Youth supporters who had got inside earlier to burn an EU flag.
He said, “After five years the EU and the International Monetary Fund want to impose yet another austerity agreement.
“But so many young people in Greece are unemployed –we can’t take more of this. We’re hoping for a new kind of politics, without the debt and without the EU.”
Following the demonstration riot police formed checkpoints around the city centre and the anarchist-dominated Exarchia district. They included the hated “Delta Squad”, which Syriza once pledged to disband.
Eleni said, “It’s unacceptable to see police brutality against protesters under a government that calls itself left. I thought they would at least be discreet. But we’ve should what can happen when we all stand together against them.”
Antarsya’s call for united action has gone down well with Syriza members left rudderless by their leadership’s U-turns. Many activists were out campaigning in local no committees, some of which include both Antarsya and Syriza branches.
The Socialist Workers Party (SEK) is a key component of Antarsya, and it held a hundreds-strong meeting on Wednesday.
Panos Garganas, editor of Socialist Worker’s sister newspaper Workers’ Solidarity, said, “This is a class attack, and it won’t be stopped by any compromise.
“The ruling class panicked after the election, but the negotiations gave it a chance to reorganise its lines and go back on the offensive.
“The other side of that is that Tsipras wouldn’t have called the referendum if not for the resistance of workers and the left. The fightback we have seen in the last few days hasn’t come out of the blue.”
Leading teacher activist Dina Garane reported from the teachers’ ongoing trade union conference. She said, “Many teachers in Syriza who spent the last five months being disillusioned came alive after the referendum was called.
“They are full of hope when we call on them to join us in the no committees.”
A rich history of struggles throughout the decades has left its mark.
SEK is building for a rally to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the July 1965 uprising.
A mass movement took to the streets for two months after the monarchy and its allies tried to overturn the results of the first election they had lost in decades. It shook them to the core, toppling government after government.
But the leading left organisation –then the underground Communist Party – held back the movement.
It’s a history socialists are determined not to repeat..
And for all the diversity of the Greek left, the old distinction between reformism and revolution remains crucial.
Maria Styllou, editor of Socialism From Below magazine, told the SEK meeting, “The ruling class is in crisis, and that makes them even more dangerous.
“We have a double battle to win. We have a fight to win a no vote. But Syriza has shown the limits of the reformist strategy–and we also have a fight to win workers to a revolutionary strategy instead.”
SEK and even Antarsya are much smaller forces than Syriza or the Communist Party. But as workers with years of struggle under their belts look for a way out of the crisis, the potential for that fight cannot be underestimated.
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