[Marxism] Greece: the referendum is on (4)

Dayne Goodwin daynegoodwin at gmail.com
Sun Jul 5 03:43:27 MDT 2015

1.a)  Greece’s PM Tsipras Votes in Referendum; Says ‘Greeks Open Path
for Europe’
by Anastasios Papapostolou
The Greek Reporter, July 5

Surrounded by hundreds of NO supporters and international media, Greek
Prime Minster Alexis Tsipras casted his ballot in a referendum that
has divided Greece.

The SYRIZA leader arrived at 10:30 am local time at the polling
station of Kipseli, a middle-class neighborhood in the center of
Athens, to cast his NO ballot rejecting a bailout agreement offered by
Greece’s creditors.

The Greek PM who campaigned for the NO vote said that today is a
celebration of democracy for Greece and Europe.

“The Greek people have the choice, many can reject a government’s will
but nobody can reject the will of the people,” said Tsipras after
casting his vote.

He noted that Greece has opened a path for European nations to follow
and that democracy has overcome fear in search for solutions.

The Greek PM concluded that he wants Greece to stay in the EU and work
and prosper together with the other nations as equal members of the

1.b)  Yanis Varoufakis: 'We've made hope return to Europe'
Paul Mason interviews Yanis Varoufakis, July 4

2.a)  On eve of referendum, Greeks refuse to give in to fear
by Jerome Roos
ROAR magazine, July 5
w/ video at site

*The campaign of fear and lies by the political, financial and media
establishment has backfired: as Greece prepares to vote, the fear is
changing sides.*

As Greece prepares to vote in a historic referendum, a slightly
surreal calm has descended over Athens. The optimistic attitude of
many activists in the NO camp, especially, contrasts sharply with the
ruthless propaganda war of the Greek and international media — not to
mention the terror campaign waged by EU officials and the Greek

For a full week now, the big corporate TV stations here have been
bombarding Greeks with images of pure panic and impending catastrophe:
shuttered banks, lines in front of the ATMs, empty supermarket
shelves, pharmacies running out of drugs, scuffles between protesters
and police. On top of this, they have repeatedly shown inconclusive
polls that show the vote to be on knife’s edge.

The international media have in many cases ended up uncritically
reproducing this narrative of fear and uncertainty, often without
double-checking basic facts or warning their viewers and readers about
the political agenda of their sources.

Let there be no mistake: the Greek economy is in deep trouble at the
moment. The financial system is on the brink of collapse and trade and
production have ground to a screeching halt. If things continue like
this there is a serious risk of cash depletion by the start of next
week, possibly even food shortages soon after. There is no denying
that Greek society is hanging by a thread.

Obviously the media have a responsibility to report on this impending
economic meltdown. The problem, however, is the particular way in
which the unfolding situation has been portrayed — especially when it
comes to the role of the political, financial and media establishment
in creating the crisis.

The implosion of the Greek banks was triggered by the Eurogroup and
the ECB in a very deliberate attempt to financially asphyxiate Greece
and terrorize its citizens into voting yes to further austerity, or
even to overthrow the Syriza-led government and bring about
technocratic regime change, as the President of European Parliament
Martin Schulz openly suggested.

The Greek and international media, for their part, have been fully
complicit in this effort. Over the past week, they have tried
everything in their power to undermine the calm and peaceful
conclusion of the historic democratic process that is currently
underway in Greece. The thing is: among large segments of the
population the strategy simply isn’t working anymore. After years of
vicious propaganda, large parts of society have long since tuned out.
Many people simply refuse to give in to the fear and the lies.

It’s not like the other side hasn’t tried hard enough. On Friday
evening, for instance, an incredible document was leaked: a
step-by-step instruction sheet that New Democracy — the main
right-wing, pro-austerity opposition party — had sent to the country’s
biggest TV stations. [see here:

The document urged editors to show lines in front of ATMs (as this
tends to boost the yes vote); to play into the fears of women and
pensioners (who are identified as the most vulnerable groups); to
avoid asking who is responsible for the bank shutdown (and to ask only
under whose government they were closed); and most importantly to
fabricate polls showing a lead of at least 5-10% for yes.

Remarkably, the country’s thoroughly corrupt pollsters did not even
manage to conjure up the latter: the best they could come up with were
polls showing a virtual tie between the two camps. As a friend who
used to work as a pollster put it: “Obviously they didn’t get the
numbers they wanted, otherwise they would be splashing the figures all
over the front-pages and TV screens by now. Clearly they are hiding
the real results because they don’t want to further boost the NO

In this climate of fear and doubt, Friday evening’s NO demonstration
in Syntagma suddenly revealed a very different side to the deepening
crisis: the face of hope. In sharp contrast to the images of panic and
anger on the TV, the NO demonstration relayed a message of popular
empowerment and mobilization. Those who were present encountered an
exhilarated and incredibly dense mass of hundreds of thousands of
human bodies packed all the way from Parliament to the edges of the
square, spilling over into all the major side streets.

Not only was the gathering truly massive, it was also very
good-spirited and dignified. Bringing together ordinary folks,
families with children, older people and the youth, the rally was the
clearest expression yet of the unexpected popular backlash to the
terror campaign unleashed by the creditors, the opposition and the the
media. The fear that the Greek and European establishments tried to
project onto society has bounced right back at them.

Later that night, people came home to news reports putting the
official number of NO protesters at 20.000 — conveniently the exact
same amount as the much smaller yes demonstration in front of
Kallimármaro stadium, where the turnout was actually so disappointing
that organizers decided to leave the doors to the stadium shut, out of
fear of not being able to fill the place).

The bizarre thing is that leading international media, including The
Guardian, ended up uncritically reproducing the same laughable
numbers, highlighting the two “similarly sized” demonstrations as
further evidence that the outcome of the referendum remains on knife’s
edge. Luckily these reports were quickly undermined when spectacular
drone footage emerged of the OXI demo, revealing what some experienced
Greek activists described as easily one of the largest — if not the
largest — demonstrations of recent decades:

Perhaps the grossest distortion of all, however, concerns the very
question of the referendum that Greeks will be voting on today. Both
EU leaders and the Greek opposition are adamant on this point: a NO
vote is a vote to take Greece out of Europe. This is why the yes
campaign’s slogan is “We stay in Europe.”

This in/out narrative is extremely deceptive. Clearly, no one is going
to take Greece “out of Europe” (whatever that may mean). In reality,
what is at stake in this referendum is, first of all, the way in which
the Greek crisis is to be resolved, and secondly, what kind of Europe
we want to live in. Do we want to live in a Europe that humiliates
weaker countries, threatens their socially progressive governments,
and asphyxiates their societies when they refuse to implement foreign
diktats? Or do we want to live in a Europe that defends democracy,
pursues social justice, and breaks down borders through international

This is what Sunday’s referendum is truly about — and the Greek and
European establishment are both terrified of the prospect that voters
might choose for the latter. After the huge NO demonstration on Friday
night, a friend who is subscribed on a mailing list with organizers in
the yes-camp reported a striking conversation in which the
yes-campaigners expressed their shock at the size of the NO demo and
the incredibly enthusiastic welcome for Prime Minister Tsipras. One of
them simply concluded: “we’re f*cked.”

Of course it remains to be seen how the Greeks will vote today. Still,
the NO camp appears to be hopeful, which in this climate of terror
should be considered a victory in and of itself. Many have already
refused to give in to the blackmail and manipulation. As Greece
prepares to celebrate democracy in the very place where it was born,
there are strong signs that the fear is already changing sides.
   _   _   _   _   _   _   _   _   _
Jerome Roos is a PhD researcher in International Political Economy at
the European University Institute, and founding editor of ROAR

2.b)  The last couple of days in Athens and in solidarity
by Michael Chessum
openDemocracy, July 4

*Tribute to the Greek left from a fellow European who won’t forget the
run-up to the historic Greek referendum*

Today, if the result is ‘Oxi’, the Syriza government will have a
mandate to enter a more radical phase of government. A defeat for
Syriza would, at least for the moment, extinguish the only left
government and much of the credibility that its existence has lent to
its counterpart movements all over Europe. More importantly, it would
force any Podemos government in Spain to fight, as Syriza has had to,

For Greeks, the impact of the vote will be existential and personal.
Last night, at the gigantic ‘Oxi’ rally in Syntagma Square –
reportedly the largest demonstration in Greece since the fall of the
dictatorship – tension was brimming over. What felt like hundreds of
thousands of Athenians sang songs and chanted slogans, some new and
some decades old.

Many may have known the words because of Greece’s much larger and more
serious left political traditions. But the passion of the
demonstration had nothing to do with any essentialist tropes about the
Greeks, and everything to do with the now desperate social situation,
which, as many accept, may well deteriorate regardless of the outcome
tomorrow, at least in the immediate term.

In the middle of the crowd, a woman grabbed my attention: “do you know
how many people have committed suicide over the past few years?” After
we’d spoken, she added: “We need your support”. Some of the biggest
cheers at the rally were also for announcements of solidarity
demonstrations taking place abroad, but, for all that, the outcome of
the vote will now be determined by the voters of Greece – supposedly.

Many commentaries on the situation in Greece have described the
referendum as a test of national sovereignty – but in reality, any
notion that Greece is a truly independent state has already been swept
aside by the events of the past few weeks. The Eurozone creditors have
made it plain that what they really desire in Greece is not debt
repayment (which, as the IMF now admits, needs a long holiday) but
regime change, and they have used their financial muscle in the days
running up to the referendum in order to deprive the Greek banks of
cash. The capital controls that this has incurred are cited by almost
everyone as the number one reason for the narrowing of the polls and
the growth of the Yes vote.  This strategy has willing domestic
participants, in the form of every stripe of the old Greek
establishment – including some ‘soft left’ figures (take Athens’s
mayor for instance) – and the oligarchs who own almost all of the

What the referendum will really test is the ability of Greece’s left,
through its popular support and its sheer grit and willpower, to win
in spite of the overwhelming efforts of both Greece’s creditors and
the old Greek establishment. Across the country, a ground war has been
waged by thousands upon thousands of activists – outside metro
stations, in workplaces, on pavements and in local communities.

‘Hard-working’ doesn’t really cover the attitude of the Greek left.
The picture that one gets from spending time around it is one of
constant leafleting, demonstrations and rallies. Then there are the
workplace struggles, the constant critical engagement and discussion
that so many leftwing activists have about the strategy of the
government, and for some the community projects supporting those
without access to food and basic amenities – not to mention the task
of coping personally effects of austerity. Being in eight places at
once isn’t possible, but sleeping four hours a night and taking a lot
of vitamins is. This is the movement with which the Troika is now at

The contrast between the Nai (Yes) and Oxi (No) campaigns is visible
on every street corner in Athens. The Nai campaign puts large glossy
posters on lamp-posts and takes out bus station adverts, usually with
the same design. Oxi posters, stickers and graffiti – coming in a
hundred different designs and from a hundred different groups – are
fly-posted on walls, sprayed on pavements and tied to lamp-posts all
over the city.

The whole event is a gigantic exercise in mass, bottom-up persuasion.
Local Oxi rallies, like one which we attended in the east end of
Athens on Thursday night, march noisily around residential areas,
drawing fist-pumps and cheers, as well as the odd bucket of water,
from balconies. For the Oxi campaign, building a sense of social
solidarity, and counteracting the sense of isolation and fear that
many wavering voters may be feeling in the wake of the economic gloom,
is just as important as convincing people that the Troika’s demands
are unreasonable.

In a rapidly polarising atmosphere, both sides are throwing everything
they have at the campaign. For the Oxi campaign, this means mass
mobilisation. For Nai, it means a fusion of mobilisation and mass
organised blackmail. The bias of the mainstream media has been
well-reported: one of the favourite anecdotes of our contacts in
Syriza Youth was that one of the main stations had just tweeted, from
its main account: “Do you want access to medicines on Monday? Yes or

But beyond the media, the old Greek ruling class is running at full
throttle: whole companies have gone on lock-out. Some employers have
reportedly threatened their employees with non-payment if they fail to
attend Nai rallies, and with mass redundancy if Oxi wins. The Ministry
of Labour has responded with a declaration stating that these
practices are illegal, and that it will back workers in this position.
Leftwing activists are showing up at workplaces with the declaration
in hand, but how effective this proves remains to be seen.

If the Yes campaign is being conducted in a language of fear, the No
campaign is described just as much in terms of dignity as it is in
terms of hope. Nonetheless, a victory for Oxi and for Syriza would
give hope to millions across Europe. It would represent the victory of
a mass movement of the left over the forces of press barons and the
old neoliberal political order – in Berlin, Brussels and the richer
side of Athens – which seems intent on making a debt colony of Greece.
Michael Chessum is a writer and activist based in London, and a
founder of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts

3.a)  SYRIZA crash-lands against the euro
by Nicholas Vrousalis
openDemocracy, July 4

*Tsipras’ room for manoeuvre is completely circumscribed by the euro*

...Unemployment presently stands at 27 per cent. Millions have been
plunged into poverty and homelessness. The country has seen the
biggest increase in inequality and xenophobia in Europe since the
1930s. But hey, at least we’ve got the euro!

The referendum announced by the Greek government on Sunday is its
last-ditch attempt to get some leverage against the latest round of
blackmail by the troika of the European Commission, the ECB and the
IMF. Whatever the outcome of the referendum, however, the chances that
SYRIZA will be able to orchestrate an economic recovery with Greece in
the Eurozone are still virtually nought. Let me explain.

During last week’s negotiations, the Greek government and its
creditors failed to reach agreement on a new bail-out. Part of the
reason was IMF’s insistence that the revenue-raising measures proposed
by the government, amounting to some €8bn, involved too many taxes on
the rich. They were therefore likely to choke off the chances of
economic recovery. The IMF effectively said: if you don’t cut taxes on
the rich—while cutting back on everything else—there isn’t going to be
more private investment. For greater investment requires greater net
profit, and greater net profit only accrues when taxes on the rich are
low. Such is the inexorable logic of capital accumulation in the
neoliberal era.

The irony of all this is that, even if SYRIZA reaches an agreement to
cut a ‘mere’ 8bn from an already depressed economy, it will,
eventually, have to follow IMF advice. For how else will it get the
Greek economy out of depression while committed to the euro? How, in
other words, is Greece to reduce its massive reserve army of the
unemployed without cutting taxes for the rich, thus raising profits
and eventually investment in the private sector?

The standard Keynesian response to this question is: by raising public
spending and employment. But this avenue is not open to straitjacketed
Greece. If the country had its own currency, then it could print its
way out of the recession. But this cannot be done while it is
dependent on the ECB for liquidity and interest rate policy. On the
one hand, the ECB’s liquidity programmes, disseminated as they are
through the national central banks—and governed by a colonial ideology
worthy of Montague Norman—offer a pittance compared to the country’s
spending needs. On the other hand, Greece cannot engage in deficit
spending due to prior Eurozone commitments, including the Growth and
Stability Pact. For these reasons, Greece cannot fund a recovery by
resorting to deficit spending or the printing press. It follows that
even in SYRIZA’s best case scenario—where Greece stays in the euro and
the government gets the deal it wants—it cannot both reduce
unemployment and tax the rich. For Greece there is no such thing as a
labour-friendly recovery: the Eurozone is a one-way street to labour
emasculation. The implication is that there is no way for SYRIZA to
implement its programme, or even rudiments thereof.

These important but neglected facts have ramifications for Greece’s
immediate future. If the Greek people vote ‘no’ on Sunday, then the
Greek government might be able to extract some minor concessions from
its creditors and reach a new bailout agreement within the week—that
is, assuming that the ECB does not force a Grexit. It will then have
to enforce further austerity in order to revive the economy. This is
likely to destroy SYRIZA electorally, by bringing about its
pasokification and eventual demise. This is the message of the
previous paragraph: no Grexit, no labour-friendly recovery.

If, on the other hand, the Greek people vote ‘yes’, then the plot
thickens further. Say the government does not declare an election.
Then it will have to enforce the same kind of austerity that has
decimated the country over the past five years. The Greek Left will be
all but eradicated for a generation. Say the government does declare
an election. It will then have to give in to the creditors’ threats
until such time as the election takes place—or worse, enforce
austerity on the event of its reelection! The opposition from the
Right will naturally blame austerity on SYRIZA’s ‘capitulation’, on
its negotiating ‘ineptitude’, and similar gimmicks. Whatever happens,
Tsipras’ room for manoeuvre is completely circumscribed by the euro;
and you can’t really conduct an orchestra in a straitjacket.
Nicholas Vrousalis is Assistant Professor in Political Philosophy at
Leiden University.

3.b)  The European Butterfly Effect
by Henning Meyer
Social Europe, July 3

The Greek people have a momentous decision to make this Sunday. But I
am afraid this referendum will not solve the problem no matter what
the result. There will, however, be two certain casualties: Greece and
European integration. Let me explain.

The backdrop to the story is that I think the Greek government has
made a tactical mistake with the timing of the referendum. If they
wanted a referendum they should have held it before the second bailout
package expired. Now there is technically no deal on the table
allowing people to question what this is all about. A ‘yes’ vote would
not directly lead to a certain outcome and the opportunity to delay
any progress is the key trump in this game given the financial state
of affairs. The situation looks chaotic.

Even more importantly, the pressure on Greece is being increased by
the ECB. The capped ELA is likely to run out over the weekend and
there is no follow-up decision in place yet. IMF non-payment is one
thing but if there is no more liquidity in the banking system this
forces an alternative payment system to prevent a complete economic

Against the backdrop of these two points, this is how things could play out.

Scenario 1: A ‘Yes’ Vote

If there is a ‘yes’ vote on Sunday it will be the result of anxiety
and scare tactics threatening a future without the Euro. The Greek
government will most likely fall and there is a question about what
would happen then. Another technocratic government, as the European
Parliament’s President Martin Schulz wants? New elections which will
take time the country does not really have?

In any case it looks like a ‘yes’ vote driven by scare tactics would
accomplish the regime change quite a few of the key players have
arguably been working towards since January. In this situation two
things would happen: the failed austerity project would be extended
and Greece will sink even deeper into economic and political
desperation. We have published a lot on the failure of austerity so I
will skip that point. But the new level of political desperation would
be clear: the Greeks voted for change in January. This change could
not be delivered and with a gun to their heads they had to abandon
hope and vote for more of the same in a referendum five months later.
The illusion of national sovereignty and democratic self-determination
would disappear.

Scenario 2: A ‘No’ Vote

With a ‘no’ vote the Greek people would reaffirm its opposition to the
political course of recent years and strengthen its government. The
problem is that I don’t think that this would matter. The government
has played its strong anti-austerity mandate given by the Greek people
since it came to power in January. The creditors have been completely
unmoved and I unfortunately cannot see why a reaffirmation of the
desire for alternative policies would change that. It should be
abundantly clear by now that this kind of democratic expression is
largely ignored as it does not affect any of the creditors’
decision-makers and contradicts the economic and political fantasy
world they have created.

What does, however, affect the creditors’ political decision-makers
are their own national electorates which have been mislead for years.
If there is a decision to pull the plug on Greece’s Euro membership –
given the lack of a legal procedure and the unwillingness to accept
the political responsibility for this – I have the strong hunch that
this will be played via the ECB. The ECB does not face elections
anywhere and it has kept the ELA leash so short that the cord could be
cut at any moment. If there are no more Euros in the banks the Greek
government would be forced to introduce an alternative payment system,
possibly while legally remaining in the Euro. Again the loser would be
the Greek people as the country would be plunged into economic despair
and the rift within Europe would become even bigger, maybe even too
big to repair.

In both scenarios the Greek people will lose out. And European
integration is a second big loser too, principally because of a lack
of Eurozone-level democracy. In the absence of this there seems to be
a choice between technocratic authoritarianism from the center or
national democracy in isolation. At the same time the already
dysfunctional negotiation system has broken down completely so there
is no more coordination of events. We are currently flying in blind
mode and even small decisions could have huge consequences. In short:
we could be in for a European politics version of the butterfly
   _   _   _   _   _   _   _   _
Henning Meyer is Editor-in-Chief of Social Europe and a Research
Associate of the Public Policy Group at the London School of Economics
and Political Science. He is also Director of the consultancy New
Global Strategy Ltd. and frequently writes opinion editorials for
international newspapers such as The Guardian, DIE ZEIT, The New York
Times and El Pais.

4)  A Way Out for Greece
by Jeffrey Sachs
Project Syndicate, July 3

The Greek crisis is a tragedy for the country and a danger for the
world economy. Germany is demanding that Greece continue to service
its debts in full, even though Greece is clearly broke and the
International Monetary Fund has noted the need for debt relief. The
collision of reality (Greece’s insolvency) with politics (Germany’s
demands) was bound to create a disaster. And, indeed, it has: the
shocking collapse this week of the Greek banking system.

Yet there still is a way out of this mess. Greece’s debt should be cut
sharply, and the country should remain within the eurozone.

In negotiations with its creditors this spring, Greece recognized
this, insisting that its debt be reduced. Germany refused. Though the
United States and the IMF privately sided with Greece, Germany
prevailed, as creditors usually do.

Yet creditors sometimes prevail to their own detriment; by pushing the
debtor to the breaking point, they end up bringing about a complete
default. Germany’s mistake this past week was to push the Greek
economy – already in conditions rivaling those of the Great Depression
– into a complete financial collapse.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has a clear negotiating
strategy, aimed at getting Greece to agree to leave the eurozone.
Unfortunately for him, Greece does not want to exit, and it cannot be
forced to do so under the treaties governing the European Union. What
Greece wants is to remain in the eurozone, with a lower debt burden –
a position that is both economically astute and protected by treaty.

Indeed, a euro exit would be remarkably costly for Greece, and would
almost certainly create political and social chaos – and perhaps even
hyperinflation – in the heart of Europe. The value of Greek residents’
savings would be slashed, as euros were suddenly converted into New
Drachmas. The middle class would be eviscerated. And the currency
conversion would not save the country one cent with regard to its
external debt, which would, of course, remain denominated in euros.

Still, Greece’s debt burden is unsustainable. This week, Greece
defaulted on its payments to the IMF, rightly choosing pensions over
debt service. The country’s creditors should now negotiate a
consensual debt reduction through some combination of lower (and
fixed) interest rates, reduced face value of debt, and very long

There are plenty of precedents for such a course. Sovereign debts have
been restructured hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times – including
for Germany. In fact, hardline demands by the country’s US government
creditors after World War I contributed to deep financial instability
in Germany and other parts of Europe, and indirectly to the rise of
Adolf Hitler in 1933. After World War II, however, Germany was the
recipient of vastly wiser concessions by the US government,
culminating in consensual debt relief in 1953, an action that greatly
benefitted Germany and the world. Yet Germany has failed to learn the
lessons of its own history.

I propose a four-step path out of the Greek crisis. First, I recommend
that the Greek people give a resounding “No” to the creditors in the
referendum on their demands this weekend.

Second, Greece should continue to withhold service on its external
debts to official creditors in advance of a consensual debt
restructuring later this year. Given its great depression, Greece
should use its savings to pay pensioners, provide food relief, make
crucial infrastructure repairs, and direct liquidity toward the
banking system.

Third, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras must use his persuasive powers to
convince the public, in the style of US President Franklin D.
Roosevelt, that the only thing they have to fear is fear itself.
Specifically, the government should make clear to all Greeks that
their euro deposits are safe; that the country will remain within the
eurozone (despite the false claims by some members of the Eurogroup
that a no vote means a Greek exit); and that its banks will reopen
immediately after the referendum.

Finally, Greece and Germany need to come to a rapprochement soon after
the referendum and agree to a package of economic reforms and debt
relief. No country – including Greece – should expect to be offered
debt relief on a silver platter; relief must be earned and justified
by real reforms that restore growth, to the benefit of both debtor and
creditor. And yet, a corpse cannot carry out reforms. That is why debt
relief and reforms must be offered together, not reforms “first” with
some vague promises that debt relief will come in some unspecified
amount at some unspecified time in the future (as some in Europe have
said to Greece).

To be sure, in the Greek debacle, both sides have made countless
mistakes, misjudgments, and misdeeds over the last decade, and even
before. A country does not reach Greece’s parlous state without a
generation of egregious mismanagement. But nor does a country go
bankrupt without serious mistakes by its creditors – first in lending
too much money, and then in demanding excessive repayments to the
point of the debtor’s collapse. With both sides at fault, it is
important for them not to lose the future by squabbling endlessly over
the past.

Easing Greece’s debt burden while keeping the country within the
eurozone is the correct and achievable path out of the crisis, and it
can be accomplished easily through a mutual accord between Germany and
Greece, to which the rest of Europe will subscribe. The result would
be a win not only for those countries, but also for the world economy.
   _   _   _  _  _
Jeffrey D. Sachs, Professor at Columbia University

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