Protests in Iceland

This week, regular anti-capitalist newsletter Schnews takes a look at recent protests taking place in Iceland:

“Even on TV and radio phone-ins callers are saying that maybe anarchy isn’t such a bad idea after all,” Siggi Pönk, lead vocalist of Icelandic punk band Dís explains, “people are saying capitalism in Iceland is dead, kill capitalism.”

The crisis facing the global economy is particularly acute in Iceland. Before the credit crunch Icelanders were, per capita, the world’s fifth richest population. According to the UN Iceland is the most developed country in the world (whatever that means). Unemployment and homelessness was virtually unknown; the island of just over 300,000 people was one of the greatest success stories of neo-liberalism. Now, precisely because of the Thatcher inspired ‘good years’, the odds are strong on it being the first ‘developed’ country to collapse into full economic depression.

So it’s fair to say that Icelanders are mildly angry. There’s been an upsurge in grassroots mobilisation as the scale of the damage to the economy has become apparent. Approximately 9,000 people (3% of the population) hit the streets in the last weekly anti-government-bank-billionaire demonstration. Open forums discussing the current situation are packed out – and politicians aren’t allowed through the door – unless they’re ordered to attend. New political groups are everywhere – 500 people even physically attacked Reykjavik’s main Police station and broke out a political prisoner. The collapse of capitalism in Iceland seems to have re-awakened the island’s traditional spirit of independence.

Precisely who caused this crash is the main unanswered question. What is perfectly clear is that it was the governments free market economic policy in the 80’s and 90’s which caused the nosedive. The Independence Party has ruled in every government since Iceland won it’s sovereignty in 1944. Now, for the first time, it has had to hire private bodyguards for it’s members, not least for Davíð Oddson (Mayor of Reykjavik 1982-1991; Prime Minister 1991-2005; Governor of Central Bank 2005-present), its most vigorous exponent of neo-liberal policies.

BBC coverage of the protests can be found here, including a video of the protest against police arrest of activists. Photos (and reports in Icelandic) can be found here.

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