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Is There a Revolution Brewing

Is There a Revolution Brewing

Published October 11, 2010

I spent part of the weekend with friends in a bar discussing the coming revolution, which now is again beginning to sound like a distinct possibility. At some point, this might have sounded like a boyhood dream. But like all boyhood dreams, the reality is not what one had hoped.
Last time around, January 2009, the demands were quite clear, despite the many groups and agendas involved. We wanted elections, a new government, former PM Davíð Oddsson to resign from the Central Bank and the head of the Financial Supervisory Authority to resign. This all came about, but somehow no one is quite happy with the results. Davíð Oddsson is now editor of Morgunblaðið, instead of subsiding off his considerable pension. And no one seems to like the new government very much. Where did it all go wrong?
COLD WAR POLITICS AGAIN
Part of the government’s problems lie in some of its successes. The first real left wing government in Icelandic history did not go in for radical social change. Instead, they went ahead with the IMF’s demands for severe welfare cuts and have been rebuilding the economy in the direction of its pre-boom/bust level. This has been painful but largely successful. The economy is starting to grow again and the depression has been far less severe than many dreaded. There is little doubt that Minister of Finance Steingrímur J. Sigfússon is very capable, which is a welcome change from the excesses of the Independence Party. All these initiatives should endear them to conservative voters, who supposedly vote with their wallets. However, to those same voters, the Left-Greens will always be a gang of communists, no matter how fiscally responsible they prove themselves to be, and the coalition Alliance Party little better.
WHY IS EVERYONE UNHAPPY?
Meanwhile, the government has managed to alienate most of the left with precisely the lack of social change that many had hoped for. Increasing GNP matters little to those on the left when there is little prospect for social justice. Many of those responsible for the collapse have had their huge debts written off, while common folks with far smaller debt face the prospect of being carried out of their houses. There has been very little restructuring of ownership of breaking up of the monopolies that led to disaster. This is probably one of the reasons why prices keep going up, even though the króna is stronger now than it has been at any time since the collapse. To make matters worse, the Social Democratic Alliance, already tarnished by its place in government along with the IP during the collapse, brazenly protected its own members from indictment by a national tribunal.
THE POINT OF THE PROTESTS
All this leads to the very Weimar-like situation of a Social-Democratic government under siege by both Left and Right. Small wonder, then, that the aim of the protests sometimes seems unclear. But the protesters still have a very good point. As the possibility for any kind of justice seems to be slipping away, the anger is not unfounded. It may even be healthier for society than complete apathy, which is likely the next stage if nothing is done.
Many people, understandably, are afraid of eviction. Others demand new elections (yearly elections were another late-Weimar staple), although it is not certain this would improve matters much. But probably everyone can agree that we really need to see those responsible for this whole mess brought to account. Without, there is really is reason to fear that all hell will break loose.



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Two Days Of Criminal Activity

Two Days Of Criminal Activity

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People thought we were nuts at the time, when in reality we were suffering from good old Icelandic gung-ho enthusiasm. This year, we ought to know better. Three of us—Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Ragnar Jónasson and I—got together last year to organise a small crime fiction festival in Reykjavík. After all, how hard could it be? We had all been to a few of these, and it didn’t look like it could be all that much of a headache. It had seemed odd to us that Iceland didn’t have its own crime fiction festival. After all, there are plenty of them elsewhere.

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A New Wave Of Protests

A New Wave Of Protests

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Tension has been rising in Iceland of late. An estimated 4,500 people attended a general protest against the government on November 4, almost completely filling Austurvöllur by Alþingi. This marks it as one of the biggest demonstrations this year. The event was initially inspired by a Facebook rant from singer-songwriter Svavar Knútur, wherein he bemoaned the current coalition government’s favouritism of the rich and powerful. Instigator Svavar Knútur began the demonstration by addressing the crowd. In his speech—which has been widely shared across social media since the event—he likened the rally to the first of three warnings his father used to

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Arrest, Injury, Aftermath

Arrest, Injury, Aftermath

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Standing by the door of a two-storey building in the Höfði industrial district and not finding a doorbell, I call Chaplas Menke, who says he’ll come down to let me in. My interview subject made local headlines this September, after being reportedly brutalised by the police. Since then, the story has gone quiet. A short while later, he invites me to his abode. He is of average height, dark-skinned, with sunken eyes and a svelte frame. He has a thick accent and speaks hesitatingly, picking his words carefully. I ask him how he’s doing, and he modestly says okay as

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News In Brief: November

News In Brief: November

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Icelanders have once again grown fed up with their elected representatives, staging a massive protest demonstration in front of Alþingi last Monday. Thousands stood at Austurvöllur, Reykjavík’s hip spot for protest meetings, to denounce a veritable cornucopia of bad policy decisions (police estimated 4,500 attendees at the protest, while some attendees estimated that they were in fact closer to 7,000). This particular time around, the political party actually leading the country–in this case, the Progressives–have most recently polled at just under 9%. Remember, folks: the last time a ruling coalition stepped down, it was because one party didn’t want to

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Who’s Afraid Of November 9?

Who’s Afraid Of November 9?

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After DV revealed that the police had just acquired some 150 submachine guns from Norway, Chief Superintendent Jón Bjartmarz—who refused to answer any of the newspaper’s questions—explained on RÚV’s Kastljós that they have possessed machine guns “ever since after the Gúttó-fight.” “The Gúttó-fight” was a violent clash between police and workers, who were protesting announced wage reductions, back in 1932. The reference is as significant as they get. An Icelandic State Police authority, as opposed to a municipal one, was established in the aftermath of that fight, to ensure that authorities would henceforth have the upper hand against demonstrators. This

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Pippa’s Wish

Pippa’s Wish

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A particularly heart-warming story made the rounds recently when a crowdfunding campaign called “Pippa’s Wish” hit its required target, after a month online. The GoFundMe campaign was started by family friend Tamara Antonelli Comerford to take Pippa—a disabled seven-year-old Sigur Rós fan from Missouri, who suffered a stroke at birth that left her with Cerebral Palsy, among other medical conditions—on the family holiday of a lifetime. During an extended convalescence after an operation to reshape her pelvis and straighten her legs, Pippa was in severe pain, but responded with fascination to the soothing beauty of Sigur Rós’ tour documentary ‘Heima’,

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