In a dramatic start to a week dominated by one of the most crucial parliamentary votes in modern Greek history, communist militants stormed the Acropolis on Monday morning unfurling huge "power to the workers" banners from the monument's ramparts.
As tourists ascended the hill to the fifth-century BC site, they were greeted by gigantic protest banners proclaiming: "The peoples have the power and never surrender. Organize – Counter attack."
"We call upon working people, youth, women to join our popular uprising," the All Workers Militant Front (PAME), an adjunct of the powerful Greek communist party, the KKE, declared in a statement.
"We will strengthen our struggle with people from all over the world against capitalist brutality in order for the brutal measures that bankrupt the people not to be applied."
Although described as a symbolic move, the stunt reinforced the level of popular hostility to economic policies now seen as crucial if Greece is to avoid a possibly disastrous default.
Upping the ante, unions have declared a 48-hour general strike starting on Tuesday – the first two-day walkout since the collapse of military rule and the return of democracy in 1974 – to coincide with parliament's debate on the measures. Mass rallies have been scheduled in 65 towns during the two days that Greek politicians will discuss the belt-tightening policies.
"It will be two days that have never seen before," said Stathis Anestis of the General Confederation of Greek Workers, the country's largest labour force.
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The debate on the austerity programme, which includes €28bn (£25bn) of fresh spending cuts and higher taxes, begins on Monday with a vote expected on Wednesday. Talks will also take place in Rome on Monday evening between EU officials and European bankers over the vexed question of the role of private creditors in a second rescue package for Greece.