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.
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.
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.
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.
Kevin Ovenden is a progressive journalist who has followed politics and social movements for 25 years. He is a leading activist in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, led five successful aid convoys to break the siege on Gaza, and was aboard the Mavi Marmara aid ship when Israeli commandoes boarded it killing 10 people in May 2010. He is author of Syriza: Inside the Labyrinth.
More articles from this author
- The struggles are fusing: Greece protests rage against authoritarianism
- Starmer's flag fetish: win the middle ground, don’t chase it
- Vaccine nationalism: a plague on all our houses
- Impeachment will not defeat Trumpism
- We need to learn from the mistakes of Brexit past
- Keir Starmer's Brexit opportunism
- Why is the US election so close? - video