The Left Green Movement - The Reykjavik Grapevine

The Left Green Movement

The Left Green Movement

Published April 3, 2009

The Left Green Movement – In Their Own Words
The Left-Green Movement seeks to promote radical social improvements for the public benefit, to promote respect and protection of Iceland’s nature and environment and to strengthen rural areas throughout the country. The Movement is a forum and campaign tool for those who wish to eliminate gender discrimination and ensure equal rights, women’s freedom and increased equality within society.
The Left-Green Movement seeks to develop a democratic and fair society founded on the active participation of the public. The Movement rejects the autocracy of capitalism and seeks to protect the independence of the nation and its sovereignty over its own natural resources. The Left-Green Movement wishes to resign membership in military alliances. The Movement places emphasis on positive and peaceful co-operation with all nations, protecting Iceland’s nature and environment and ensuring the sustainable development of society.
The Left-Green Movement believes that the classic points of emphasis of the left movement with regards to equality and social justice, radical environmental protection and demands for sustainable development, should and must be integrated. No single aspect listed can survive on its own when looking toward the future. The standards of living and welfare of current generations cannot be based on damaging natural resources, thus curtailing the rights of generations to follow. In the same sense, this means that in a sound environmental policy, short-term interests, consumerism and greed must be replaced by the protection of the environment and the preservation of natural resources. The work at hand is to elevate the value placed on the real qualities of life and to create a society where justice and equality are in harmony with Nature in its entirety and with Mother Earth.
In the upcoming elections, we place the greatest emphasis on four issues: a healthy economy, full employment, a Scandinavian welfare system, and democratic reform. We look especially to those who are unemployed and the low-income groups in our society, and suggest that every child and teenager in elementary schools have one healthy meal per day free of charge. We want to create new jobs in the traveling industry, within the state, and in agriculture and fisheries, for example. Finally, we want to make it so that a certain percentage (e.g. 15%) of the population can demand a national election. We hope you will join us in changing Iceland back into a democratic welfare state, based upon a sound environmental policy and gender equality.

Grapevine vs. The Left Green Movement. Q&A:
Briefly describe the party’s general agenda using one sentence.
We Leftist-Greens founded our platform on four basic principles: social justice, women’s liberation, environmentalism, and a peaceful foreign policy.
There have been loud calls for renewal in the ranks of Icelandic MPs and politicians lately? How has your party responded to these requests?
There is a considerable amount of renewal in the candidate’s list that’s been newly initiated across the country. And, due to the tremendous support we’ve received, we predict that after elections there will be many new and young faces in parliament for the Leftist-Greens. Although change and renewal is always good, we shouldn’t forget that the demand for change has been mostly directed at those political parties responsible for getting us into the economic crisis, and not those that tried to keep us out of harm’s way.
What is your party’s financial agenda? What are you going to do about the króna?
No one denies that over the next few years we will have to use the crown as our currency, for better or for worse. Whether we like it or not, we will have to wait another three to four years before being able to take up the euro, if the people decide that they want Iceland to join the EU. We Leftist-Greens have not wanted to exclude any possibilities in this matter, but we’d like to see if it’s possible to engage in currency cooperation with other countries, e.g. Norway. This is something we intend to focus on within the next term.
How does the party plan to help Icelandic companies?
The most important thing is to reduce interest rates quickly and soon. We will fight for the reduction of inflation and interest rates, just as we did when the heavy industry platform of the previous government was driving up inflation and interest rates, and we alone stood against it. We also want to support job creation and start-up companies by adding revenue to funds such as the New Business Venture Fund and the Science and Technology Policy Council. We have also made numerous proposals with regards to how we can renew more traditional professions such as agriculture, fishing, and other domestic food industries. We would also like to see an increased support of the travel industry, for example, by increasing culturally oriented travel service, increasing the number of stop-over places in the countryside – here we consider it possible to create a few thousand jobs, especially while Iceland is an advantageous destination for travelers, from an economic point of view.
How does the party plan to help Icelandic homes?
To rescue families from losing their homes, we need to lower interest rates and eventually do away with indexation by, among other ways, offering long term non-indexed loans. In addition to mortgage payment consolidation we will eventually need to examine the rising principle of indexed real estate loans and keep this portion aside without inflation adjustment or interest. We consider this the responsible path to take, rather than blindly shunting debt off onto the people. With regards to currency insured loans, we want to be able to give those who take out loans the option of moving their loans over into Icelandic crowns [as opposed to euros, Swiss francs, dollars, etc.] We also want to increase interest relief by 25%, the process for which has already begun in the current government. In short, the Leftist-Green platform is to ensure that everyone has a roof over their heads even if they can’t pay back their loans right away.
We also have to ensure that the economic crisis doesn’t harm our children and young people, or disrupt their daily lives. We want to see free and healthy meals in the primary schools of this country. Unemployment payments for families needs to be increased, in addition to increasing services for the unemployed so they can get back into the job market as soon as possible. The biggest issue for the Icelandic household though is probably to defend the social and education systems of this country, as the Leftist-Greens have always fought for.
How can Iceland regain trustworthiness in the eyes of foreign investors and creditors? How can Iceland prevent becoming isolated in the global village?
There is no magic solution in this matter. We simply need to engage in a more responsible economic policy. We need to pay back our debts and rebuild Iceland’s economic life on realistic creation. Part of the solution will be to show the world that Iceland defends its social and education system, and therefore has a future – it has been proven time and again that nations which pay attention to the foundations of society come best out of economic crises. Probably the most important thing, though, is not to run out of steam but rather to always believe that we’ll get ourselves out of our economic troubles. Remember that despite everything else, Iceland is a rich country in an economic crisis, not a poor one.
What is your party’s stance on the European Union?
The Leftist-Greens believe now as always, that Iceland’s economic life is better situation outside of the EU than within it. However, we believe that the question of whether or not to join the EU is a matter that needs to be put to a national referendum.
Who is responsible for the Icelandic economic collapse and the problems Iceland now faces? Does your party share any of the responsibility? 
The Leftist-Greens have never been in the ruling majority until 1 February and have always been the strongest opponents of the neo-libertarian and privatization policies that are the roots of our economic crisis, so we believe we are hardly responsible for the economic crisis we now face. On the other hand, we could have always done a better job in criticizing the previous government and the “business vikings,” and could always stand to improve ourselves.
The responsibility for the crash, in our judgment, lies with the previous government foremost, secondly with public officials who stood by as things fell apart, and thirdly on the “business vikings” and bank managers themselves who were motivated primarily by their own greed, fully aware that the Icelandic people would have to pay for their debts.
What is your party’s stance on constitutional change? Should we assemble a constitutional parliament, or are there other ways?
Yes, we believe a popular parliament should be called together which would be elected by the people directly. Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, the chairman of the Leftist-Greens, is actually one of the affirmative speakers for a bill submitted to parliament and currently in process that would set such a popular parliament into motion.
It is given that the Icelandic state needs to initiate many cutbacks in the near future. Where should those be imposed, in your opinion, and are there any fields that should be “exempt” from such cutbacks?
Cuts in the social and education system should be avoided first and foremost where possible. The Leftist-Greens want to reduce spending by ceasing any and all military-related operations, by cutting down on spending within ministries, public offices and embassies. In many instances public offices will be consolidated, but as always we will do this with a continuous open dialogue with the people working in these offices. We will in this way do all we can to preserve jobs; it wouldn’t make sense for the government to fire people only to pay them unemployment payments once they’re out of work.
We won’t hide the fact either that part of our solution to the economic crisis that the Conservatives bear a great deal of responsibility for is to increase taxes for those in the highest income brackets, and those with high investment income, while protecting the middle class and investments of a modest nature. In this way we will ensure to maintain a strong welfare state, and that the economic crisis doesn’t hurt those who bear the least responsibility.

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