The Icelandic Government has collapsed and some people talk about a revolution. In a way it is true. Simply ordinary people turned this government down by writing articles, holding speeches, noise demonstrations, bonfires, car horns, direct action, civil disobedience and sabotage. A nation that before had no sign of life, only citizen obedience and servility, finally stood up and said: “No thanks! No more shit.”
But what will follow? Have we reached the goal? Is the minority government of the Left Greens (Vinstri Grænir) and the Social Democrats (Samfylkingin) enough? Are we just going to be happy with new elections this spring?
From the beginning of the economic crisis, following the collapse and nationalization of the three major Icelandic business banks, loud voices have been heard, demanding that the government would resign and elections would take place as soon as possible. The same voices have as well demanded that the boards of the financial institutions would be changed; in the Central Bank, Financial Supervisory and the three recent state owned banks. Hörður Torfason and his fellows from the organization Raddir Fólksins (The People’s Voices) took the first step by organizing weekly demonstrations where sharp and variously good speeches have been held, followed by the public’s jubilation.
At the same time more radical actions have taken place. Anarchists and other radicals have used direct actions, tried to stop the government from having meetings, stopped formal parliament meetings, attacked the police station and stopped worked in the banks and the Financial Supervisory. These two formations than came together on Tuesday last week, January 20th, when thousands of people gathered by the parliament with the aim to disrupt and hopefully cut the first parliamentary session of the new year – and did so. During the next seven days bonfires, industrial samba-bands and noise demonstrations became daily events.
The pre-event of this collaboration of radicals and the “ordinary” citizens was by Hotel Borg on the last day of the year, where protesters cut a live broadcast of a annual party political TV show where the heads of the political parties discuss the recent political year over champagne and herring. The original plan of the protest was to disrupt the broadcast with noise and torches, but soon it became clear that that it would not happen without people taking the next step. So people climbed over gates, fought with “innocent” staff that tried to stop people from entering the hotel, pulled apart and burned TV cables and cut off the broadcast. It was a good start.
There was an obvious common demand during the demonstrations over the last week and was highlighted in the slogan that resounded over the city for a whole week: “Disqualified government!” But this slogan says nothing about what is about to come, what people want else than just getting the government away.
On Wednesday night, January 21st, after the police had shot couple of teargas bombs on the protesters, the group moved to the Government’s office. Once again people lit a bonfire and protested against the government. When the police turned up some people started throwing bricks at the cops like before that same evening. At one point young angry man walked to the police, who has well armed with shields, helmets, clubs and pepper spray, and threw a stone at them and shouted: “Just give us permit to vote” he shouted and continued: “then these protests will quit.”
These words came as a surprise to a lot of people. “Just give us the permit to vote!” Is that really the main demand? And does it make one so angry not to be allowed to vote, that throwing stones becomes the tactic to propel elections?
Of course, there are different opinions and ideas about what the planned elections this spring will lead to. Some people believe it is enough to vote for the Left Greens, that it will lead to positive changes. Others believe that it is possible to change the system from inside, want to push forward new political parties in the upcoming elections, which will than hopefully draw the lines of changes in the constitution and the system. Even others want the party-system away and encourage individuals’ candidatures.
These ideas have one thing in common, they are all based on the idea that reforms inside the current system are steps in the right directions, step towards a more just society. They do not demand radical changes – revolution. An therefore it is strange to see people standing on Austurvöllur (the square in front of the parliament) shouting slogans like “Long live the revolution!” – no revolution has taken place apart from the fact that the government has collapsed.
When we will get closer to the upcoming elections we can expect the same thing as usual. The political parties will lounge their image campaigns, compete in advertising, which has the best designers and computer technique. That’s how it always is. And then one there is one thing that matters: Money. Those who have the most money or the political party that has the best access to money is going to be the most visible force in the election campaign. And same story will continue if the elections will be between individuals instead of parties. While we stay inside the system we have lived in until now, individuals’ results will be based only on who has the most money.
The reasons for the collapse of the government and the discussion about it show very well what today’s politics are about. Sjálfstæðisflokkurin (The Independence Party, right wing conservatives) refused to fire Davíð Oddsson from the board of the Central Bank, because of his fearsome hold on the society. Even though he is hidden in the Central Bank, he still sits on the top – or at least sat there before the collapse – of Icelandic authorities and no one is allowed to alter with him or his opinions. Fearing the impact of firing Oddsson from the Central Bank, the Independence Party could do nothing. Therefore it is going to be extremely interesting to see if a new government will dare to fire Oddsson and what impact it will have on the Icelandic society, since it is clear the Oddsson has a serious blackmailing force in Iceland.
And then the two parties – The Independence Party and the Social Democrats – argued about which of them should get the prime ministry. And those arguments were enough take down the government. The collapse is a result of endless power mongering. That’s what today’s politics are about – to receive and remain powers. It is not about creating a society based on justice and equality, freedom and co-operation. It is not about trying to create a healthy society, but first and only about power.
These fights expose the politics and show even better what they are about: A stupid game of power, competition about popularity and power; untruth and treachery against those who have no power; those who are oppressed from the beginning of their lives through the education system and other systems of the society. Politics are a game of lies.
We have to resist this game and this corrupt system. That particular resistance is the premise for changes.
If we want new changes we have to turn our backs to the time that used to be and use our imagination. It does not mean we have to fundamentally forget history, but rather learn from it, both mistakes and victories. We have to widen our imagination and not only demand the impossible but first of all do the impossible.
The changes we want to get through have to be built on ideas about international resistance and solidarity. We are not alone on this island; we are only a tiny bit of global struggle of those who have no power against those who have all power, struggle for a world without authority. Everywhere in the world – in Mexico, Greece, Palestine, Iraq, Japan, Belarus, the USA – everywhere does this struggle exist. Of course is it on different stages and the same can be said about authorities’ reactions against it. There is no reason to put together our struggle and the struggle of oppressed Palestinians, except up to the level where it really is common.
What unties us is the fact that we are powerless and we stand against those who have the powers, in a struggle against them and against the system which allows few individuals to receive this power. We fight for people to take control of their own lives and the organization of the society, and destroy all power structures that oppress and kill.
And though the situation often looks bad and way too many people are blinded by authorities’ propaganda about the necessity of the power to remain in their own hands, the fact is that our united struggle against them is real and the solidarity as well.
Last Saturday, fliers were distributed during the weekly demonstration by the parliament, encouraging people to concern more for each other, during radical actions as well as during people’s daily life. It also said that people should not even dare to think that it is more necessary to break down the government than to destroy the patriarchy and fight against all injustice towards those who have another skin color than most Icelanders and those who do not identify themselves straight.
The society is full of class division and injustice, based on ideas stating that some people are higher than other. Muscularity, white color of skin and heterosexuality are the highest values of the society and all individuals that do not fall under them then become automatically lower and therefore become the targets of prejudices, irritation and violence. These ideas have been completely got into the system and will not be broken inside it. We need to destroy the whole system.
Let’s not celebrate when a woman (and even more: a homosexual woman) will now become a prime minister for the first time here in Iceland. Let’s not celebrate when women get high and respected positions of power. Let’s not celebrate when a black man becomes the president of the USA for the first time. Let’s not celebrate these reforms that help the system remaining. Let’s not celebrate when women, homo- and bisexual and non-white individuals manage to work themselves up to the role of the average white straight man. No!
Let’s instead fight against this system, which rows people up in differently high positions and oppresses those how are situated in the lower positions. Let’s fight against the system that allows few individuals to oppress others. Let’s fight against all power pyramids and abuse of power. Let’s fight against unequal distribution of finance and natural resources. Let’s fight against all ideologies that have changed life necessities into to luxury products for the rich.
Then we can for the first time talk about justice and equality. Then we can start talking about real changes. Then we can finally talk about a revolution.