Icelanders Force Accountability for Banks – Why Can’t We?

June 7, 2012 | By | 9 Replies More

George Lakey, Contributor
Waking Times

Ever since Iceland’s economy collapsed in 2008, the country has been busy reinventing itself. The first step was to restore democracy through a turbulent nonviolent struggle, then to force resignations in the financial sector and secure a criminal conviction of their prime minister for dereliction of duty. Now they are exploring getting a new currency: the Canadian dollar.

If Icelanders think their traditional money has lost its legitimacy, why not adopt the euro or the U.S. dollar? Too much influence from the big banks of Europe and the U.S., they believe. Better to risk interference from the smaller and much better-regulated banks of Canada. (Canada, like the publicly-owned state bank of North Dakota, did far better in the 2008 crisis than most of the U.S. and Europe.)

For decades, Iceland was part of the “Nordic model” of social democracy, with the high standards of living, free university education, universal health care, full employment and other benefits. Like Norway and Sweden, in the late 1980s the Icelanders flirted with neoliberalism, but unlike their Viking cousins they went all the way. The right-wing party privatized banks, cut regulations and lowered the corporate tax rate. The banks, in turn, created a bubble through hysterical foreign borrowing, and the bubble broke in September 2008. Banks failed. Unemployment and inflation shot up, and crisis reigned.

In mid-October, the singer/songwriter Hörður Torfason stood in the public square in the capitol of Reykjavik with an open microphone, inviting passersby to speak. Every Saturday people gathered to speak and protest, to the point where 2,000 people gathered outside the parliament building on January 20. They banged pots and pans to disrupt the meeting of parliament – the “Kitchenware Revolution,” they called it.

The crowds grew to 10,000 — out of a total population of 320,000! — and the increasing turbulence forced Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde to announce that he and his cabinet would resign and new elections would be held. Although politicians responsible for Iceland’s financial life were resigning, the campaigners didn’t stop there; they demanded — and won — the resignation of the governing board of the Central Bank.

The social democrats came back into power and started to clean up the mess, with help from Sweden and Norway. Iceland was hurt and people had tough times. However, the social democrats refused to do what capitalist wizards expected. Instead of trying to pacify international investors, Iceland created controls on the movement of capital. Instead of initiating an austerity program, the government expanded its social safety net.

According to The New York Times, “Some economists have argued that the collapse of its banks forced the country to deal with its problems faster and aided a swifter recovery.” Iceland’s economy is expected to grow 2.5 percent this year and next.

But the mood of the cheated Icelanders was not, “Let’s move on.”

In March, Iceland opened a criminal trial against its former prime minister. Continues the same Times article:

Mr. Haarde was charged, in effect, with doing too little to protect the country against the depredations of its bankers as they pursued wildly expansionary lending that resulted in financial disaster for the country.

Haarde was found guilty. Former executives of the failed Kaupthing Bank have also been indicted.

The movement of Icelanders that rejected a European Union-style austerity program and instead put accountability where it belonged did not come out of thin air. Even while some Icelanders were trying to buy glamour through neoliberalism, others spent the years between 2000 and 2006 protesting the Karahnjukar hydropower project that the Icelandic 1 percent sponsored along with the Alcoa and Bechtel corporations.

Decades before that eco-justice campaign, Icelandic women shut down most of the nation for a day in 1975 to force passage of a civil-rights bill for women’s equality.

I see two big lessons that the rest of us can learn from the painful Icelandic experience. First, avoid assuming that activism is a “sometimes thing,” to be put aside after major victories are won. Icelandic activists achieved much but then almost lost it. As Canadian labor unions are fond of pointing out, “The struggle continues.”

Second, it is possible to take your country back from the mismanagement of the economic elite if your campaign’s strategy generates broad participation. Iceland mobilized no less than 3 percent of its population in direct action. For U.S. activists, that implies giving serious attention to campaign organizing and generating allies. The model of just occasional “mass bashes” doesn’t cut it.

This article originally appeared at WagingNon-Violence.org, an inspirational source of ideas on non-violent solutions to political issues.  Click here to support their noble efforts.

~~ Help Waking Times to raise the vibration by sharing this article with the buttons below…

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Category: Activism, Activism Works, Community, Contributors, Governance, Ideas, Revolution, Society, Waging Non-Violence

Comments (9)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Dan says:

    “Retire” the entire Congress, and the entire Federal government for that matter. Tell the bankersw, including the Fed, that they will not be paid back. If they don’t like it they can sue the Congress and the rest of the Federal government. How about the state governments too? Print up and distribute our own money. Let the counties handle the printing of money and all other government functions, but very limited scope, and closely watched. If they screw up, try them in court. Bring all armed forces home and close all overseas bases. Stop aid to “That Shitty Little State” and everyone else. Etc. etc., etc. What are the elites going to do, not send us a happy Hanukkah card?

    • admin says:

      Ha, a Happy Hanukkah card! How righteous that would be of them.

    • windy says:

      Agreed. Ron Paul would lead the country into stability and decency.

      Why are so many americans so stupid?

      • admin says:

        I remember a time when I was ‘stupid.’ I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity every day. Being dumbed down and manipulated is different than being stupid and because of this, we try, try and try to wake people up. I’m dong it because someone did it for me. Ron Paul played a role in my awakening but I think that in reality he is still part of the hopeless system we suffer under.

    • Gold Bars says:

      Thanks for sharing this with us and giving us all the information. I think everyone tries to get a cheaper insurance if possible. That is one of the fixed cost which people find it expensive.

  2. Rob says:

    Iceland has a population equivalent to a moderate sized western city. Therein lies the problem (for us). While 350,000 CAN unite, millions of us can be set against one another. Years of unity as a small nation, with a sense of caring for (most) all, has given them the strength to fight the carpetbagging banksters. We need to unite as smaller groups, local units with full citizen support, to do what Iceland did.

  3. Bruno says:

    Rob you are correct. Iceland is a Tiny country and has a natural tendancy towards kindness of its citizens. And standing against the US Government would be basically asking for a thorough asskicking by the Military as they are well trained now at ‘Taking Out’ civilian populations, and after all they have the bullets to do so-Big Time. But I think a way to make a strike at the heart of the beat would be to strike where the beasts heart lies. STOP Buying shit. Anything, just STOP. Ban Walmart, start growing your own food, even make your own clothes. I know it sounds flakey, but work to make it a Stand by the Many. And make it know WHY you are doing it. One will be of no use, but one hundred will make the news and one thousand will be a storm and one million will be change. I know this sounds like a tall order, but Ghandi changed a Nation with a similar principle and it worked. The Blacks in the South boycotted busses and it worked. There will never be a mass uprising against a country like the US, but there could certainly be an incremental shift of buying habits, with pride of ones self, that would result in the bowing down of the Criminals who have stolen control. Then we can End the Fed and start taking our country back.

    • Rob says:

      Good plan, Bruno. I’m in, because I can’t afford much shit. Getting others on board is a problem, though. Many can less afford shit than me, but they continue to buy, and the banksters and big corporations keep on truckin’ us on the highway to hell. What you state doesn’t sound flakey at all, but getting people moving is a difficult task. Pardon me, I meant getting people NOT moving. Be well, Rob

    • Sovereign says:

      What we need is a national strike…everybody just stay home. Even if only 50% were actively “NOT” involved, a very strong message would be sent to the powers that be.

Leave a Reply

Must Watch Videos

Open Source Plans for Modern Tesla Free Energy Generator Released to Public

Open Source Plans for Modern Tesla Free Energy Generator Released to Public













Terence Newton, Staff Writer
Waking Times

In a world of problems and solutions, few ideas spur both immediate hope and skepticism as the idea of free energy, and, on the brink of ecological disaster, nothing may be of greater importance to the human race.

The story of Nikola More

April 14, 2014 | By | 13 Replies More
Neuroscientist Exposes Dangers of Electromagnetic Fields

Neuroscientist Exposes Dangers of Electromagnetic Fields













Kevin Samson, Guest
Waking Times

Neuroscience has come under scrutiny for its involvement in an array of mind control initiatives and other ethically questionable research. But at least one neuroscientist from Sweden has gone on record to caution against the increasing dangers of Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) on human beings … More

April 14, 2014 | By | Reply More
On the Eve of Construction

On the Eve of Construction













Zen Gardner, Guest
Waking Times

I love the sound of construction. I always have. Not the industrial sound from the kind of massive, offensive structures made with other-worldly looking machines, but the intentional, gentle kind. Small structures going up, improvements on homes, road repairs, even tending to gardens whether … More

April 13, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More
Are You Inadvertently Investing in Monsanto’s Toxic Legacy?

Are You Inadvertently Investing in Monsanto’s Toxic Legacy?













Brandon Baker, Eco Watch
Waking Times

Monsanto didn’t achieve $11.8 billion in sales and 404 facilities in 66 countries all on its own.

The company is valued at $60 billion in the marketplace with 525 million shares outstanding, but the three largest mutual fund shareholders, Vanguard, Fidelity and State Street, … More

April 10, 2014 | By | Reply More
7 Ways Our Children Are Being Brainwashed

7 Ways Our Children Are Being Brainwashed













Gregg Prescott, M.S., In5D Guest
Waking Times

From birth, virtually all of us have been brainwashed through various outlets that encourage materialism, ego, subservience, control and conformity. But where do the origins of mind control begin and what can we do about it?

1. Religion

As children, the brainwashing begins … More

April 9, 2014 | By | 5 Replies More

Activism Works

The Truth About Fluoride Becoming More Widely Known

The Truth About Fluoride Becoming More Widely Known













Dr. Mercola
Waking Times

Fluoride is a poisonous substance added to many municipal water supplies across the US, Canada, and elsewhere without the permission of the residents. Is there a model that communities can follow to remove it from their water supply? The short answer to this question is yesMore

April 1, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More
6 Crimes Against Nature Perpetrated By The Food Industry

6 Crimes Against Nature Perpetrated By The Food Industry













Martha Rosenberg, AlterNet
Waking Times

While many procedures on factory farms are cruel, breeding animals into mutants and violating mother/offspring bonds are truly crimes against nature.

The horrors of factory farming are multifold. Treating animals like heads of lettuce—”forget it’s an animal” says one farming magazine—has created institutionalized ruthlessness toward … More

March 28, 2014 | By | 5 Replies More
Our Respective Journeys Into the Valley of Reason

Our Respective Journeys Into the Valley of Reason













Michael T. Winter, Contributor
Waking Times

The Internet awakening has given birth to a worldwide multitude of people that are disengaging from the programmed paradigm created for us, and awakening to the reality of the dangers we face. The web has supplied a platform for writers to take a crack … More

March 26, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More
13 Ways Foodies Are Changing The Food Industry

13 Ways Foodies Are Changing The Food Industry













Heather Callaghan & Jeffrey Green, Guests
Waking Times

A major shift in the consciousness of food consumers is forcing the industry into a competitive race to become more natural.  The market is telling food producers that they no longer want so-called factory food because of its many harmful effects on … More

March 25, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More
American Agriculture May Eradicate the Monarch Butterfly Unless Swift Action Is Taken

American Agriculture May Eradicate the Monarch Butterfly Unless Swift Action Is Taken













Dr. Mercola
Waking Times

You may be aware that bees are dying in large numbers across the globe, courtesy of the ever-increasing presence of toxins in our environment. But did you know that the monarch butterfly is also becoming endangered, and for the same reason?

As reported by the New More

March 22, 2014 | By | Reply More