The Athens rally "for Macedonia" has been portrayed, even in advance, as a "massive mobilization". New Democracy, when it took over organization of it, had in its mind that it would take the initiative of the movement away from its far-right competitors and, with the participation of the Church and the cover of Mikis Theodorakis, would give it a broad character that would put pressure on the government to adjust accordingly.
Sure, Mikis has spoiled his reputation by his presence at the fiesta. But the people inspired by his music and his past struggles were not there. Even a poll published by in.gr shows that only 2% of those who took part say they are "left-wing".
This is also shown by the size of the rally, which was not a million participants, by any stretch of the imagination, as the organizers claimed. It is shown even more by the composition of those who attended.
There was no element of spontaneous participation, and the mechanisms of New Democracy and the Church served to boost a platform for the far-right. The orientation of the banners, flags and television shots suggested to a pre-election rally, but with less attendance than those in the history of the old two party system.
Mitsotakis's claimed it was "the expression of national pride by hundreds of thousands of citizens who came to Syntagma Square from every corner of the country, an expression that did not have a partisan color". But behind that, the only thing that exists is the strategy expressed, in the cynical way that was characterized by [journalist Aris] Portosalte as: "The Skopje-Macedonian question was the occasion for Sunday's rally in Syntagma. But the essence was anti-government, an expression of indignation and anger for the three years of Tsipras and Kammenos! Exactly what was not accomplished by the ‘resign’ movement [of 2016, when the right made a feeble effort to topple the government].
Even on the basis of these (not so) hidden goals, the project faces loses. A number of New Democracy party cadre kept a distance, such as Dendias, Staikouras, and even Dora Bakoyannis. The party that is the pillar of Greece's participation in NATO and the EU has limits over how far it can pretend prevent the ascession of the Republic of Macedonia to these institutions. Not only because the "partners and allies" demand it happens, but because of the interests of Greek capitalism and its ruling class that are entwined with New Democracy.
The responsibility for the return of nationalist rallies, as weak as they are, lies not only with New Democracy. And there is the substantial role of M. Theodorakis, Kasimatis and those of other "democratic", "progressive" or "left" origins who supported this rally. But the leadership of SYRIZA and its choices bear even greater responsibility.
Kammenos, the leader of ANEL, the far-right "ally" with whom SYRIZA formed the coalition three years ago "to scrap the memorandums", called openly for the rallies in Thessaloniki and Athens. The PRATTTO movement, which the Foreign Minister Kotzias and the Public Order Minister Toskas are part of, hastened to suck up to the rallies.
It is really obnoxious to see written and to hear that this is all a "smart tactic" of the government that exploits a nationalist rally as a negotiating chip, as a means of pressure in the discussion of the name of Macedonia.
The only one to benefit from such "smart" tactics is the authentic and more genuine expression in the reaction in Greece. From Kamenos, Kotzias and Toskas to the Archbishop of Greece - who Tsipras rushed to meet two weeks ago – only for the archbishop to turn his back on him and call the demonstration in Athens.
These alliances by Syriza only succeed in giving ground to the right and the far-right.
And, of course, the problem lies not just in "alliances" but in the very essence of the government’s policy: The SYRIZA-ANEL government is negotiating how Greek capitalism with the backing of NATO and the EU will become dominant in the Balkans. It claims, sets and imposes its own terms on the weakest capitalism of the region. It is the one that continues the policy of all previous bourgeois governments, and that is why it is in conflict with the people who voted for SYRIZA no matter how much it tries to look "progressive" compared to Mitsotakis’s far right turn.
Against these developments, it is positive that Popular Unity and the KKE did not participate in the rallies. But it is negative that their leaders enter this debate in terms of "national interest", strengthening the government's negotiating position for "a composite name without irredentism through a change of the constitution [of the neighbour]", and bowing to "patriotic sensitivities".
In the past days, SEK comrades were found in the front line of the battle, by flyposting massively in the neighbourhoods of Athens. The same happened with the front page of Workers Solidarity in dozens of paper sales and visits to workplaces and squares.
ANTARSYA's initiative of distributing thousands of flyers in squares and workplaces against the nationalist rallies, as well as the proposal for a joint statement addressed to the rest of the left, is a positive step because it put forward the class interests: that the workers of the Balkans must fight together against imperialist plans, against the dangerous nationalisms of the capitalists, "respecting the right of every people to decide for themselves how to name their country and not the ‘godfathers’ of the Balkans, local or international, to decide for them."
Struggles are being organized against privatization, against redundancies, for jobs and wage increases, against racism and the fascist threat. The left united has the ability to show who fights and how against the real sell-outs and to block the road of this jingoist disorientation.