In comparison to previous anti-austerity demonstrations in Greece, today’s event was undoubtedly minor. Several different demonstrations took place uncoordinated in Athens, the largest of which attracted around 10,000 people. This was mostly comprised of political parties of the Left and their supporters (with the notable exception of the Communist Party (KKE)) and disaffected, non-aligned youth.
There are a number of factors which contributed to the under-attendance and relative timidity of this year’s celebration of International Workers’ Day. The upcoming election on Sunday was a major factor in more than one sense: firstly, many Greeks see their opportunity to vote this weekend as a fresh avenue in the struggle for change. Many ordinary people that we spoke to feel frustrated and exhausted after the near constant street protests of recent years. Although they do not question the validity of these endeavours; their confidence in their effectiveness has been severely shaken.
The elections also had an organisational impact on today’s demonstration: members of Antarsya, the anticapitalist left coalition, explained that most of their activists have been occupied in building for the elections all over Greece, with little organisational resources to spare to build the demonstration.
Today’s events were instructive of some of the broader problems of the Greek anti-austerity movement. As already mentioned, the KKE played no part in the demonstration; choosing instead to have their own separate march tomorrow. Of the several marches that took place today, there was no coordination amongst them. Even within the main march there was no coherent strategy. After demonstrators arrived outside parliament at Syntagma, various different blocks marched off in different directions: some with the purpose of confronting the police; others to continue about their business. Although Antarsya was the biggest and most visible presence, we got the impression that they did not have the authority to dictate objectives to the whole demo.
There were, however, some violent flashpoints throughout the day. Youths briefly clashed with police at Korai Square and notably in the Exarcia area. The latter is a hub of resistance in the city (a new occupation began here just days ago) and a district into which the authorities seldom venture. Today riot police fought pitched battles with hundreds of youths armed with just bricks and bottles, only to retreat rather than pursue the locals on their own terrain.
Perspectives on the upcoming elections vary significantly within the anti-austerity forces in Athens. Many are content, for now, to believe that a real solution to the crisis might be found through a change of personnel in Parliament; others realise that this is a fantasy, yet recognise the necessity of passing through this stage in order to solidify revolutionary consciousness in the Greek masses; others still are deeply concerned by the very real prospect of the far-right Golden Dawn entering parliament. We spoke to the owner of a radical book store in Exarcia whose premises have been attacked by Fascists twice already and fears that if Golden Dawn are elected his shop will be bombed. This is a legitimate fear. The far-right are growing in strength in Greece and many of their ilk are known to serve in the police. If Golden Dawn do gain the 5% necessary to enter parliament; it is a certainty that the Anti-fascist movement will not accept it quietly.
We should not be discouraged by the faith in parliamentary democracy and subsequent dip in violent protest in Greece. Many will have to see reformism and its inability to affect any significant change in action before being wholly convinced of revolutionary arguments. In 1920 Lenin advised the British communists to support the Labour Party “like a rope supports a hanged man”; in order to expose the bankruptcy of their arguments and reap the benefits after they eventually disappointed the electorate. It is impossible to say how long the Greek people will allow the soon to be elected government breathing space before they take their battle to the streets in numbers again. One thing is certain though: they eventually shall; and when they do they will be doubly determined.
From International Socialist Group site.
In the parks, halls and public spaces around Kings Cross
David Harvey, Tariq Ali, Tony Benn, Owen Jones, Nina Power, Sanum Ghafoor, Andrew Murray, Laurie Penny, Lindsey German, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Paul Le Blanc, Terry Eagleton, Paul Gilroy and more...
By Lindsey German
By Neil Faulkner
By Chris Nineham
By John Rees
By Lindsey German and John Rees
By John Rees and Joseph Daher
By John Rees
By Chris Nineham