‘No to fear’ — Greece’s No protest as it happened

by · July 4, 2015

Aerial shot

A selection of KEVIN OVENDEN’s live posts from the massive No protest in Athens, 3 July 2015

Rally for the No side this evening — various different forces calling it — in Syntagma Square, central Athens.

The rally will be big and militant. But please do not over-read the size of it and so on.

Our friends on the Greek radical Left were not born yesterday. They know that you do not win a plebiscite by spending time among yourselves talking to the convinced. You win it among the people.

The purpose of the rally is to force the reality of the No campaign into the media and also to galvanise active forces on our side.

The couple of hours in the square outside the parliament allow us also to exchange experiences collectively, to hear those arguments that are having the most effect in the society, to dispel our own confusions and to build morale for the next 48 hours.

I am not Greek. But every Greek I know of in the No campaign shares at least one common message among several: “Everything you do outside of Greece helps here.

“And this is a fight which is not restricted to Greece nor to Sunday. So do what you can and think through how we proceed.”

No one knows what the result will be on Sunday.

We do know this: for five months the fate of the whole Greek experiment seemed to lie in the outcome of conference chamber and diplomatic exchanges.

No longer. The oft talked about, sometimes overlooked, always hoped for social movement will be expressed in Syntagma tonight.

There are more powerful things than Troikas.


Athens plaza

Huge. Tsipras: combative. Music all from the Left: Theodorakis, Papaconstantinou, Dimitriadi. Composition: young and working class, the social base of Syriza and Left. Picture is from the Athens Plaza Hotel. Been on air for hour or more. Talking with people. More soon.

Quote from and old, old fighter: “We’re fighting for victory on Sunday, not honourable defeat.”


People filling out the meaning of “oxi”: “No” to the Troika, to blackmail, etc.

Listening intently.


People have come largely in family groups or circles of friends. It’s a Friday night. This is social, underpinned by parties’ organisations, but beyond that.

Quote from Stavroula, teacher: “I’m happy tonight. I want to be happy on Monday. Want my grandchildren to have a good life. I’m not very religious, but I pray this nightmare will end.”


The anti-capitalist Left is here. I’ve seen many from all strands. Not so visible and not just because of size — many tens of thousands — but because they are largely buried deep in the micro-gatherings of friends and families who are laughing and chatting about so much — not just the referendum.

The EU is not what democracy looks like.

This is what democracy looks like.


“Remember. This is Athens. There is the Peloponnese. There is still small town Greece. Don’t get too carried away.”

Someone I have learnt a lot about Greek politics from for 25 years.

So: I won’t get carried away.


No to fear


This leaflet recalls the great clash of sentiment in January when Syriza won the election with a slogan “Hope is coming”. Remember all that?

In terms of mood and imagery: No — defiance with ripples of hope from January; Yes — fear, with waves of scaremongering from January.


Oh! A lovely young comrade: “We are going to win. Tell the world.”

I say: “Yes. We will win. Whatever the bastards do on Sunday. This fight goes beyond Sunday. And we are going to win this fight.”

I thought that was the best answer and it is also truthfully how I feel tonight.


Ok. Bella Ciao playing. A jolt of energy through crowd. This is of the Left all right! How far beyond have we reached?

More later. Must listen now.


Real social forces were rallied tonight!

Tonight’s rally was a big success.

The sheer size of it will be felt outside of Athens in the towns and villages and regional cities. The private media is very bad. But the rally was enormous and it has forced its way into the broadcasts with no one in a position to gainsay its size.

There was no big speechifying, except the address by Tsipras [watch it dubbed into English here]. But it was what he has been saying all week, though more combative. He speaks very well in any case.

Tonight, though I was on air for some of it, his style was brilliant. Really confident and “laiko”, the popular touch.

This was a rally. Forces were rallied.

Several international journos on floor seven of the Athens Plaza — where the improvised studios are — were gob-smacked.

And the overall feel of the rally had a clear tactical focus in the run-up to Sunday.


There was a leak earlier today from New Democracy of their game plan for the last 48 hours until polls close on Sunday evening at 7pm.

Their private surveys and polling have identified that there are 30 percent of those Syriza voters who came over from Pasok who were undecided mid-week. (I am not sure what the baseline is as to when they came over from Pasok. Need to read the document with Greek friends in a bit to be accurate.)

So their tactic is to avoid this looking like a fight between Left and the old Right. The ND leaders fear that if that is the sense of Sunday, then they will lose.

That’s why they are promoting everywhere they can centre-left figures as the face of the Yes campaign — Kaminis and Boutaris, the former Pasok centre-left mayors of Athens and Salonika.


The overall feel of tonight’s rally — the music, the working class faces, Tsipras’s speech, the joyful atmosphere and the slogans aimed to appeal to that old Pasok sentiment and social base, which Pasok the party has lost but which has yet to establish historical traditional attachment to a new party. They vote Syriza, but it is not like voting for Pasok for 20 years.

As I discussed it with friends on the packed (free!) Metro I could suddenly name the feeling I had tonight in Syntagma.

More modern staging and projection screens, allowance for the passage of 30 years – but this felt like old Pasok, at a time when Andreas Papandreou’s government had not disgraced itself and he had that combative, witty, laiko, intelligent style.


A message from Xanthi, right in the north of the country in Thraki, home to the Turkish and Pomachi minorities — No rally five times bigger than Yes!

The Athens Yes rally was inside the Kallimermaro Stadium. In a venue. Not outside.

We are hoping some enterprising journalist of the Left got a picture of the car park.

We were happy to head home on packed Metros. Such a picture of the Right’s transportation would reveal a fleet of Mercedes and BMWs.

No wonder they are in love with Angela Merkel.



Tomorrow’s papers.

Overwhelmingly “NAI” (“YES”) front pages.

Don’t let it faze you. We knew this.

Copies of newspapers don’t vote. People do.


On Metro on way home. Absolutely rammed. Tokyo-style.

A group of boisterous but really good-natured lads burst out in occasional chants (they do scan and rhyme in Greek):

“Shut down the TV stations. Fuck the Eurozone!”
“No, no, no, again NO — to the Euro, and to Olympiacos!”

They’re young football fans. They support the rival team, AEK. People are laughing and clapping. Partly because this is a largely No carriage. You can tell people have come from the rally. And partly at the sheer inventive, joyous cheekiness of the chanting.

This is what a social movement feels like.

Discussion3 Comments

  1. lycaon says:


    More than Twice, Less than Zero

    We all know what Marx said Hegel forgot. We don’t know what Marx would have said about the third time, or the fourth time, or the nth time. And not just about historic personages; but about political parties, social “programs,” about all the pathetic spectacle than makes up “revolutionary democratic socialism,” “radical political economy,” the attempt to put a “human face” on capitalism.

    Here Karl, let me help:
    “revolutionary democratic socialism”– like the Holy Roman Empire, wrong on three counts;
    “radical political economy”– employment opportunities for oxymorons;
    “capitalism with a human face”– Jack the Ripper.

    Marx wasn’t one for brevity. Let me help with that too. More than twice, Less than zero. Pathological. Repetition compulsion.

    Back in January, Syriza convinced the Greek voters that it could win a write-off of the Greek sovereign debt from the Troika; that it could obtain a “significant grace period in debt servicing;” exclude public investment from the restrictions of previous agreements; rebuild the welfare state; lead the country to productive reconstruction and recovery; increase public investment by €4 billion; gradually reverse all memorandum injustices; gradually restore wages and pensions to increase demand; provide incentives to small businesses for expanded employment; build a national reconstruction plan that would eliminate the humanitarian crisis, restart the economy, promote tax justice, regain employment, and deepen democracy. All this, and at a profit too, with the cost of this grand economic program less than the revenues generated. Everything would be just about perfect, and capitalist too.

    Now Syriza’s numbers were, pardon the expression after you look it up, μαλακίες. But then, who’s counting? Certainly not its supporters among the left. Certainly not its battery of oxymoronists.

    The numbers, however, do get us to an interesting insight into Syriza’s “game playing.” Syriza had convinced itself, and a large section of the Greek population, that the Troika would never risk the exit of Greece from the eurozone; would never force Greece into a state of insolvency. Syriza portrayed itself as indispensable to Greece remaining in the eurozone, and it portrayed Greece remaining in the eurozone as indispensable to the Troika.

    Nothing goes right once you start believing your own μαλακίες.

    Syriza figured that getting the last tranche of the funds provided by the 2012 Memorandum would provide the money to seed the clouds around its program with silver linings. How much are we talking about here? We’re talking a really small amount– like €7.2 billion (vs. total outstanding debt of more than €300 billion), with €1.6 billion of that payable to the IMF… today June 30. So we’re talking about €5.6 billion, less than the €10 billion that Cyprus needed when its banks went all pear-shaped.

    That’s it? €5.6 billion? That’s all that was at stake? No, that was not the stake. At stake was another bailout of Greece. On top of debt forgiveness. On top of a moratorium.

    Greece is structurally incapable of retiring its debt in the next ten, twenty, or thirty years. Greece is structurally incapable of generating sufficient revenues, no matter what level of austerity is applied, to meet more than a fraction of the costs of the “plan of four pillars.”

    Syriza’s game, such as it was, was to capitalize its weakness. Literally. Somewhere along the line, they believed not only their own μαλακίες, but the bollocks of others that if you owe enough, it’s not your problem, it’s the lenders.

    So let’s pick up the thread of development again. Syriza thinks it holds the trump cards in its empty hand. Syriza believes its empty hand is the trump card. Syriza can adjust, backdown, compromise, resubmit proposal after proposal because it has its eyes on the prize– another bailout necessary to keep it functioning in the Eurozone.

    The Troika recognizes the game for what it is. It’s determining strategy is to avoid another bailout. It must avoid another bailout or the ESFS [European Financial Stability Facility] would be…depleted. ESFS exposure to Greece is estimated at €141 billion, about 30 percent of the mechanism’s lending capacity, and 20 percent of the total guarantees made by the eurozone member states. Germany, France provide half the guarantee total, with Italy and Spain providing another 30 percent. Any new bailout of Greece would have to retire the old debt, meaning either the debt gets redeemed by the mechanism, or its guarantors.

    The Troika has its eyes on the prize also, and that prize is Italy where debt loads are too large to be guaranteed by the ESFS; where the economy, having experienced triple-dip recessions cannot afford to meet further commitments to the stability facility. The Troika knows what’s at stake; what’s essential to the functioning of the block of the European bourgeoisie. And it ain’t Greece. Never has been.

    Which gets us…….here, to the referendum scheduled for July 5 by Syriza. Then the Greek electorate will be asked by Syriza to approve or reject the terms offered by the Troika in a sham presentation the likes of which the world hasn’t seen since Spiro Agnew admitted his guilt, pleaded no contest, and proclaimed his innocence all at once.

    For the “left” who have dutifully supported Syriza; which has proclaimed that negotiating the terms of the 2012 Memorandum was a lesser evil than leaving the Eurozone; which has argued that seizing the banks, establishing capital controls, expropriating major industries would “only make things worse,” the “logic” — if such a word can ever be applied to this conclave of tics– should compel it to agitate for a “YES” vote, as after all, the “real trouble” starts when and if Greece repudiates the debt; abrogates the 2012 Memorandum.

    But logic isn’t the point, and the referendum is meaningless. Five months later, five months of capital outflows, five months of economic deterioration, five months of not establishing a single pillar of its four pillars, Syriza wants a referendum on the terms for fulfilling a memorandum that has expired; on a program that no longer exists. Timing is everything.

    I stated previously that the referendum should not be boycotted. Now I don’t think it matters if the referendum is boycotted. It doesn’t make a bit of difference. The conflict is not now what it never was: initiating some nonsense “New Deal,” separating austerity from capitalism, establishing better terms as a “partner” with the bourgeoisie of the Eurozone.

    The referendum is less than sound and fury signifying nothing. It’s less than zero. A tic. The trembling of a dead body.

    July 1, 2015

  2. Lycaon says:


    Syriza has requested another bailout. It is not going to happen. Schäuble plays this game better than Varoufakis, Tsipras, and all the radical political economists put together, because he recognizes it isn’t a game. At stake is Italy. Listen up, Renzi: the continued devastation of Greece is the object lesson of a European Union of capital, for a European Union of capital, by a European Union of capital.

    Now that’s the “front page” story. The back story is coming to grips with the grinding defeat facilitated by Syriza. So……all in.

    1. I think I was one of the first to draw an analogy, or a parallel between Syriza and Allende’s UP government in Chile. That being said, Tsipras wouldn’t make a pimple on Allende’s ass, and Syriza (with its bogus Thessaloniki program of a “new New Deal” and one more Marshall plan), in comparison to the Socialist Party of Chile of that time wouldn’t even make it into the “left” category. Syriza was, is, and remains a consciously pro-capitalist formation, of by and for continued domination of capital. Allende, and the Socialist Party of Chile were not.

    2. The UP government was elected by a workers’ upsurge whereas Syriza gained its credibility by demonstrating how effective it could be in pre-empting demonstrations, strikes; channeling struggle into “democratic expressions” of support for the European Union, and Greece’s “partnership” with EU capitalism.

    3. The “left” outside of Syriza has to come to grips with its uncritical support for an explicitly pro-capitalist formation. Moreover, the “left” outside of Syriza has to come to grips with the failure of the left platform within Syriza– that it registered only 2 “no” votes against the Tsipras proposals. All other “no” votes came from………..the fascists and the KKE.

    4. The “left” is organically incapable of confronting either issue.

    5. Advocating demonstrations against the government (which government will be out of office shortly) has its role, purpose, and function, and part of those is facilitating, and covering, efforts to building an underground apparatus that can protect militants, workers, immigrants from the repression, and the assaults from official and unofficial sources that are sure to follow.

    July 11, 2012

  3. Lycaon says:

    The Five Stages of Leftism
    When No Means Yes

    1. Denial

    I don’t believe it. This can’t be real. I just spoke with/saw him/her/they/it and he/she/they/it looked so good. The doctors, and doctorates, were optimistic. He/she/it/they promised. Ignore the papers, ignore the press. Put cotton in your ears. Don’t say another word, I’m not listening.

    2. Anger

    Son-of-a-bitch. Bastard. Fuck me. How could he/she/they/it do something like that? Traitor(s). Coward(s). It’s all the fault of those damn ________ (fill in the blank: possible choices– bankers, Stalinists, Stalinists and bankers, Trotskyists, anarchists, black bloc, PhDs, professors, Americans, Germans, German-Americans, German-American Stalinist PhD banker professors).

    3. Bargaining

    Look, slow down. Maybe it isn’t all that bad. OK, we agree to the terms, the banks reopen, the money returns, we get some debt reduction, then maybe the economy recovers, and when it recovers we push through certain legislation to modify the program.

    4. Depression

    Jesus, this is just terrible. And so sudden. You know what, I give up. I just give up. I can’t even get interested in movies any longer. We worked so hard. We had so much going for us. All that effort. That big turnout. That humungous vote. I just don’t know if I have it in me to go on any longer. I’m going back to school. I’m going back to teaching. I’m going back to on-line gambling.

    5. Acceptance

    Yes, it’s bad. Yes it hurts. What can you do? We fought the good fight. So we lost. These things happen. We were never really that strong. Things just didn’t work out, this time. But look, life goes on. There’s my family and my friends, and my teaching. And on-line gambling. And we’ll be wiser for the experience. We won’t make the same mistakes again. There will be other opportunities in the future, and we’ll do it right. Look how popular Podemos is in Spain. I feel better already. Spain, that’s the ticket. Yeah, in a couple of weeks, I’ll be ready to get right back into it and start stumping for Podemos. Hit me, dealer. Blackjack!!

    July 9, 2015