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The only acceptable outcome: Power to the People!

IceSave and the Class Struggle


In the class struggle of modern-day Iceland, finance capital is the arch-foe of all honest people. The contradiction between finance capital and the public appears in numerous ways. One example is domestic finance capital, that struggles hard against the revision of mutated inflation-insured real estate debt, that could save over a third of the population from bankruptcy. The reason, of course, is that such a revision would cut deep into the lenders’ own capital. Another example is domestic and international finance capital that has taken over a great deal of the island’s banking system after the state had bailed it out at tremendous cost. A third example is international finance capital that summoned the International Monetary Fund to Iceland to supervise the state in their own interest. A fourth example is the, primarily domestic, finance capital abusing the pension funds of the working population. The pension funds are, of course, a part of finance capital, too. Oh yes, and then there is a sixth example of contradiction between finance capital and the public: The IceSave scandal.


Every other Icelandic blogger seems to have become a specialist in laws, treaties and regulations regarding international finance, and how, according to this-or-that, Iceland should or should not be obligated to this-or-that. Of these learned bloggers, few write about the core issue: justice. It is, in one word, unjust to demand that Iceland’s public pay the debt of finance capitalist gamblers. Because it is unjust, it is also unacceptable. As long as the discourse is about anything else, it is misleading. What’s more, legal complications are a secondary issue, as this is not a legal issue but a political one. In fact, a macro-political one. This is a question of whether finance capital will get it’s way, at the cost of others, as usual, or whether it will meet resistance this time, with offence replacing defence.

This is a question of who really wields power. When finance capital gets it’s share before the homes get theirs, when the demands of “professional investors” are met before the bills of the health care system are paid, when the government shakes in anxious anticipation whether the IMF will revise some plan or not – then it is beyond doubt who it is that wields the real power: it is finance capital. Still. And why shouldn’t it? When Icelanders made their “Pots-and-Pans-Revolution” last year, it was not directed against finance capital, only at replacing some people in it’s executive committee, the government.

Iceland’s social-democratic government is a first-class example of at least two old truths: That government is the executive committee of the ruling class, and that social-democrats are the main support of capitalism.

When a government comes to power in a “recognized” way – i.e. some way designed by the ruling class for the ruling class, and doesn’t have the imagination of seeking any other political base than the ruling class, then it is simply not within it’s power to really change the course. One would think they could find a cheap way out (“Well, we just can’t!”) – but it is not so. The case is that they do not want to stop serving finance capital. It is not the historical fate of social democracy to put limits on capital, but to put limits on the public when there is a crisis.

In simple terms, the IceSave-scandal was about finance capital robbing the public. The nationality is a secondary issue, as both classes are international in nature. So, instead of prosecuting the owners of Landsbanki personally, it is the Icelandic state coffer that is the object of prosecution. It is demanded that “we” be responsible for the robbery. But it wasn’t “us” – it was finance capital. The owners and rulers of Landsbanki have far more in common with the owners and rulers of any other Western private bank than they ever have with the Icelandic public. They are of another class, the ruling class. Most Icelanders are not. Most Icelanders are natural allies of most British and Dutch: We are normal, working people who got robbed. It is not reasonable to expect some of the victims to take everything upon themselves so that some can get away – with the word “some” referring especially to the finance capitalists, of course.

When the governments – or should I say the executive committees of the ruling classes of Britain and the Netherlands present their demands to the Icelandic state, what do they confront? Resistance? No: Amazingly, resistance seems to come from everybody but the government. The ridiculous demands, that Icelandic taxpayers take responsibility for the collapse of the Landsbanki Ponzi-scheme, are unacceptable preconditions. If the government of Iceland is ready for discussions based on unacceptable preconditions, one is tempted to doubt it’s intentions. But what else can it do? Duel with finance capital?

Iceland’s government will not duel finance capital because it is designed to serve it. It is empty and meaningless words to call a government “left-wing” or talk about “building up welfare”. The course will always be set by the ruling class, which, in our class-divided society, is the capitalists. So it will be until the public takes the reins of power into it’s own hands. It is getting clearer and clearer that this is a realistic possibility. I will not say it it the only possibility, because it is, of course, also possible that Iceland will become an slave colony of finance capital for ages to come. But the triumph of popular power is the only acceptable outcome.

The proletariate and the bourgeoisie in modern-day Iceland appear primarily as debtors and creditors. Their interests, even the conditions for their very existence, are in diametric opposition to each other. Either will have to give way. Finance capital will surely not give way without a fight. But what about the public? Well, in a national referendum last Saturday (March 6th), over 90% voted against one version of a “deal” on IceSave. That could be a clue.

Source: - Hugleiðingar um IceSave og stéttabaráttuna

Original article published on March 5, 2010

About the author

Vésteinn Valgarðsson is a guest author at Tlaxcala, the international network of translators for linguistic diversity. This article may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source and author are cited.

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