From Socialist Voice, December 2008


Icelanders take up the fight

On Sunday 23 November many thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Reykjavík to demand the resignation of the Prime Minister, Geir Haarde, and the governor of the Icelandic central bank, Davíð Oddsson, for their handling of the catastrophic collapse of Iceland’s financial system, including the failure of the country’s three main banks. This was reported to be the biggest public demonstration in Iceland since the anti-NATO riots of 1949.
     The previous day some hundreds of people besieged the police headquarters, calling for the release of a man arrested at a previous demonstration. The police, in apparent panic, attacked the demonstrators with pepper spray, and five people had to be hospitalised.
     These events represent the culmination of discontent which has been growing for some time. Every Friday, for instance, truck-drivers block Iceland’s roads in protest against rising fuel prices.
     Icelandic workers have suddenly been hit by unemployment, in a country that has had almost full employment for two generations. Many hundreds of Icelanders who now find themselves without a job have been seeking work in Norway, according to news reports. The government has been running around with the begging-bowl and at the time of writing has garnered a total of $11 billion in “bail-outs,” mainly from the International Monetary Fund, which come with written or unwritten conditions.
     One of those conditions may well be an understanding that Iceland will join the European Union. Spokespeople for the Brussels construct have let it be known that Iceland would not be obliged to go through the lengthy process that applies to Turkey, Croatia and others but would be fast-tracked into membership within a year. The mainstream media have being pushing this, and an opinion poll suggests that there is now a big majority in the country in favour, mainly on the grounds that there is “no choice.”
     The main government party, the Independence Party, has been opposed to EU membership up to recently―mainly because it would destroy the fishing industry―but is now divided, and it will hold a special conference in January to review its policy. Its partner in government, the Progressive Party, is officially pro-EU. The main opposition party, the Social Democrats, is also pro-EU, as is the euro-trotting leadership of the trade unions.
     However, there is serious resistance to the surrender of Icelandic sovereignty, led by the Left-Green Movement and the broad organisation Heimssýn (“world vision”). The Left-Green Movement is a strong political party, which got 14 per cent of the votes in the general election of May 2007 and has nine members of parliament. It opposes membership of NATO, the European Union and the Western European Union and favours an independent foreign policy. In its statement of fundamental policies it says: “The Movement rejects the autocracy of capitalism and seeks to protect the independence of the nation and its sovereignty over its own natural resources.”
     Heimssýn argues that national independence is threatened and that Iceland should be open to the world rather than confine itself to the European Union. Among its leading adherents are members of the Independence Party and even the Progressive Party, as well as Left-Greens. It has attracted academics, lawyers, students, journalists, workers and small business people as well as political activists. The comprehensiveness of its membership suggests that the engorging of Iceland by the EU monster may not be the leisurely process the feeders expect.

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