5 thoughts on “Anti-austerity and anti-capitalist protests

  1. Why Iceland Should Be in the News But Is Not

    By Deena Stryker
    Bellacadonia.org: August 24, 2011

    http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2011/08/25/why-iceland-shold-be-in-the-news-but-is-not/

    An Italian radio programs story about Iceland’s
    on-going revolution is a stunning example of how little
    our media tells us about the rest of the world.
    Americans may remember that at the start of the 2008
    financial crisis, Iceland literally went bankrupt. The
    reasons were mentioned only in passing, and since then,
    this little-known member of the European Union fell
    back into oblivion.

    As one European country after another fails or risks
    failing, imperiling the Euro, with repercussions for
    the entire world, the last thing the powers that be
    want is for Iceland to become an example.

    Here’s why:

    Five years of a pure neo-liberal regime had made
    Iceland, (population 320 thousand, no army), one of the
    richest countries in the world. In 2003 all the
    country’s banks were privatized, and in an effort to
    attract foreign investors, they offered on-line banking
    whose minimal costs allowed them to offer relatively
    high rates of return. The accounts, called IceSave,
    attracted many English and Dutch small investors. But
    as investments grew, so did the banks’ foreign debt. In
    2003 Iceland’s debt was equal to 200 times its GNP, but
    in 2007, it was 900 percent. The 2008 world financial
    crisis was the coup de grace. The three main Icelandic
    banks, Landbanki, Kapthing and Glitnir, went belly up
    and were nationalized, while the Kroner lost 85% of its
    value with respect to the Euro. At the end of the year
    Iceland declared bankruptcy.

    Contrary to what could be expected, the crisis resulted
    in Icelanders recovering their sovereign rights,
    through a process of direct participatory democracy
    that eventually led to a new Constitution. But only
    after much pain.

    Geir Haarde, the Prime Minister of a Social Democratic
    coalition government, negotiated a two million one
    hundred thousand dollar loan, to which the Nordic
    countries added another two and a half million. But the
    foreign financial community pressured Iceland to impose
    drastic measures. The FMI and the European Union wanted
    to take over its debt, claiming this was the only way
    for the country to pay back Holland and Great Britain,
    who had promised to reimburse their citizens.

    Protests and riots continued, eventually forcing the
    government to resign. Elections were brought forward to
    April 2009, resulting in a left-wing coalition which
    condemned the neoliberal economic system, but
    immediately gave in to its demands that Iceland pay off
    a total of three and a half million Euros. This
    required each Icelandic citizen to pay 100 Euros a
    month (or about $130) for fifteen years, at 5.5%
    interest, to pay off a debt incurred by private parties
    vis a vis other private parties. It was the straw that
    broke the reindeer’s back.

    What happened next was extraordinary. The belief that
    citizens had to pay for the mistakes of a financial
    monopoly, that an entire nation must be taxed to pay
    off private debts was shattered, transforming the
    relationship between citizens and their political
    institutions and eventually driving Iceland’s leaders
    to the side of their constituents. The Head of State,
    Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, refused to ratify the law that
    would have made Iceland’s citizens responsible for its
    bankers’ debts, and accepted calls for a referendum.

    Of course the international community only increased
    the pressure on Iceland. Great Britain and Holland
    threatened dire reprisals that would isolate the
    country. As Icelanders went to vote, foreign bankers
    threatened to block any aid from the IMF. The British
    government threatened to freeze Icelander savings and
    checking accounts. As Grimsson said: “We were told that
    if we refused the international communitys conditions,
    we would become the Cuba of the North. But if we had
    accepted, we would have become the Haiti of the North.”

    (How many times have I written that when Cubans see the
    dire state of their neighbor, Haiti, they count
    themselves lucky.)

    In the March 2010 referendum, 93% voted against
    repayment of the debt. The IMF immediately froze its
    loan. But the revolution (though not televised in the
    United States), would not be intimidated. With the
    support of a furious citizenry, the government launched
    civil and penal investigations into those responsible
    for the financial crisis. Interpol put out an
    international arrest warrant for the ex-president of
    Kaupthing, Sigurdur Einarsson, as the other bankers
    implicated in the crash fled the country.

    But Icelanders didn’t stop there: they decided to draft
    a new constitution that would free the country from the
    exaggerated power of international finance and virtual
    money. (The one in use had been written when Iceland
    gained its independence from Denmark, in 1918, the only
    difference with the Danish constitution being that the
    word ‘president’ replaced the word ‘king’.)

    To write the new constitution, the people of Iceland
    elected twenty-five citizens from among 522 adults not
    belonging to any political party but recommended by at
    least thirty citizens. This document was not the work
    of a handful of politicians, but was written on the
    internet. The constituent’s meetings are streamed
    on-line, and citizens can send their comments and
    suggestions, witnessing the document as it takes shape.
    The constitution that eventually emerges from this
    participatory democratic process will be submitted to
    parliament for approval after the next elections.

    Some readers will remember that Iceland’s ninth century
    agrarian collapse was featured in Jared Diamond’s book
    by the same name. Today, that country is recovering
    from its financial collapse in ways just the opposite
    of those generally considered unavoidable, as confirmed
    yesterday by the new head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde
    to Fareed Zakaria. The people of Greece have been told
    that the privatization of their public sector is the
    only solution. And those of Italy, Spain and Portugal
    are facing the same threat.

    They should look to Iceland. Refusing to bow to foreign
    interests, that small country stated loud and clear
    that the people are sovereign.

    Thats why it is not in the news anymore.

    Originally published in the excellent SACSIS (with
    thanks)

    From: Romi Elnagar Sent: Wednesday, November 02, 2011
    8:44 PM

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