|About Ron Ridenour|
Iceland, youngest land on the planet; its nature is closest to that
on the moon.
[This essay was first published in two parts by Covert Action Magazine. I've added this note, and rearranged a sub-section. The essay describes some of Iceland’s history and its modern society: how its people have assured a great deal of welfare for all; how they have curtailed heat and electricity energy pollution; the 2008 financial crisis; tourism’s gains and dilemma; crime and punishment; its old and modern culture. “Small is beautiful” need not only be a serendipity pipedream, nor a diversion from necessary revolution as some real leftists-Marxists contend. I broach the possibility that a small society can lay the basis for ending (or radically curbing) the perennially profiteering economy of capitalism based upon class inequality with consequent imperialism and its endless wars. Nevertheless, Icelanders'’ commitment to U.S./NATO for its foreign policy, which includes blind support to the pro-fascist government in Ukraine, speaks against that possibility.]
1. Iceland’s New Government Already in Trouble
2. Icelanders Voted for the World’s First Woman President
3. Socio-Economic Welfare
4. Free From Denmark, Captured by NATO
5. Who to Believe? US/NATO or Russia and Historical Facts/Context
6. Financial Crisis
7. Little Crime, Murder, Violence—But They Are Increasing
8. Crime and Punishment
9. Old Culture
10. Modern Culture
11. Conclusion: Small Societies Can Be More Peaceful and Egalitarian Than Large Ones
Iceland’s New Government Already in Trouble
I view Iceland’s political parties and the state as having allowed themselves to be coopted by the U.S. juggernaut religion “American Exceptionalism” (see sections 4 and 5), by its perennial double speak with a long history of war against “enemies” and “false flags” it manufactures. Nevertheless, I still see positive developments in Iceland that could lead to what my overall title suggest. Much of what follows explains why I think so.
The coalition government of Left Greens, conservative Independence party and center-right Progressive party won reelection on September 25, 2021.
Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdóttir
Eighty percent of the people 18 years and over had voted. The Left-Green coalition government increased its mandate by one, acquiring 37 of the 63 seats. Thirty seats are held by women—the largest female percentage in Europe’s parliaments.
It took the reelected government until November 28 to form a new cabinet.
Popular Left-Green Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir continues in that post despite the fact that her party lost three of its 11 parliamentary seats from 2017. The center-right Progressive party gained five seats for 13 and the conservative Independence party retained its 16 seats.
Educated in Icelandic literature, 45 year-old Katrin Jakobsdóttir was Left-Green leader when she took second place with 17% of the vote in 2017.
The realistic-idealistic prime minister has said, “We all have to play a lot of different parts, not in the least in a small society like Iceland.”
Her government is the first to fulfill its term since the 2008 financial crisis, and the first to regain state power since 2003—major accomplishments for stability, at least temporarily.
Left-Greens maintain their three cabinet seats but lost control of the ministries of health and environment. Left-Greens had to compromise with the two stronger parties, and accept ministries of social and job market affairs, and food, fishing and agriculture.
Independence party earned five posts, taking over the precious environment-energy-climate affairs ministry. It also has the all-important ministries of finance and foreign affairs, thus heading NATO in Iceland. The Progressive party increased its ministers from three to four. The fourth is a new one, infrastructure. These right-wingers also hold the all-important ministry of business and culture (an interesting combination), and the ministries of schools-children’s affairs, and health.
Andie Sophia Fonataine, writing for Iceland’s “Grapevine”
blog, raises the question of the Independent party’s commitment
to women controlling their own body.
“Following the formation of Iceland’s new government, two appointments in particular are proving to be a bit contentious: Jón Gunnarsson of the Independence Party as Minister of Justice, and of the same party, Brynjar Níelsson as one of his assistants.”
Both men had voted against a 2019 abortion bill, which increased the termination of a pregnancy from 16 to 22 weeks. The then Minister of Health, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, submitted the bill, which passed 40-18 with three abstentions. The Pirate and Reform parties protest Gunnarsson’s appointment for that reason. A petition to remove him from that post is underway.
There is no minister of defense or war! It is the task of Iceland’s coast guard to fulfill the nation’s limited responsibilities to NATO (see NATO section further down). The prime minister hoped to get parliament to agree to a referendum that could result in changing the 1944 constitution, hoping to end Iceland’s ties to NATO and any “royal” ties to Denmark.
Sixty percent agree with PM Jakobsdóttirdo not to join EU. She
blamed the Economic Union for being an “undemocratic” finance
Left-Greens, and other left-oriented parties, want greater public health care funding, while the farmer and business parties seek more privatization of health care. Besides that issue, NATO and EU, other issues are: reforming the constitution with a leftist agenda, and more or less tourism, which has been hurt by covid-19 causing a decline in the economy. That is the case everywhere and rightists use the decline to blame “too much” government spending.
In 2012, Icelanders voted in a non-binding referendum favoring proposals for a new basic law on what has been dubbed the world’s first “crowd-sourced constitution”. Changes to Iceland’s constitution must be approved twice by parliament, with a general election held between the votes. The current constitution does not take a position on referendums, and most people want that right, but a majority of political party leaders continually oppose this ongoing demand. Iceland: Voters back ‘crowd-sourced constitution’ in referendums (thejournal.ie).
Other parties in the Althing are: the rather conservative pro-NATO Social Democratic Alliance lost one seat now with six; People’s party gained two for six places; neo-liberalists Reform increased one to five; Centre, from four to three places; and the Pirate party, which retained its six seats. It only takes 5% of the vote to earn seats in the parliament. In the U.S., only 50%+one of the voters are represented in this “winner-takes-all” misnamed democracy. 
The Pirate party attracted a majority of voters under 30, in 2015-6. It stands for government transparency, decriminalizing drugs, and offering asylum to Edward Snowden. Its leader, Birgitta Jónsdóttir, is a published poet, anarchist visionary and activist. She worked with Wikileaks and Julian Assange when he was in Iceland, in 2010. She helped produce the Collateral Murder video, which Chelsea Manning sent to Wikileaks, and for which she was imprisoned for eight years.
The anarchistic Pirates apparently take no position on NATO, which I could find. Nor does it take a position for joining the EU or not. It wishes to create a universal basic income.
The lack of cohesion and common visions within the coalition government is leading to a dysfunctional government. By April 27, the government had such serious problems that it would not be re-elected if there were a vote then, concluded “The Iceland Review”. “Trust in Government Plummets Following Controversial Bank Sale” ran the country’s longest-running English language magazine headline.
“If an election were held today, the current governing coalition
would lose 12 of their 38 [sic: they have 37] seats, losing their current
majority. The three governing parties: the Left-Green Movement, the
Independence Party, and the Progressive Party, would win 26 seats in
Alþingi—32 are needed for a majority government. The data
comes from a recent poll Prósent conducted for news outlet Fréttablaðið,”
wrote Jelna Ciric.
Independence is down to 17.9% from 24.4 of the vote last year; Progressive stands at 12.4 from 17.3; and the once popular Left Greens down to 9.6 from 12.9.
“The government’s handling of the [bank] sale has been harshly criticized by opposition MPs and has led to multiple public protests. A racist comment uttered by Progressive Party Chairman Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson has likely impacted his party’s following,” wrote Ciric.
At a farmer’s conference, Jóhannsson spoke of Vigdís Häsler, CEO of the Icelandic Farmers’ Association, as “the black one”. Vigdís is Icelandic but was originally adopted from Indonesia.
Within days, as many as 2000 people twice demonstrated against Finance Minister Bjarni Benedikksson sale of much of the shares of Íslandsbanki, which the state fully owned until last year. He first sold 35% and now 22.5%, leaving the state with just 42%. One of the private investors is Benedikkson’s father. Foreigner investors have also bought many shares and sold them within a week at a large profit.
“One of the speakers at the event, Pirate Party MP Halldóra Mogensen, called on Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson to resign.”
The government is considering selling all its shares, yet “Government ministers have refused interview requests from reporters over the past week to discuss the sale of the bank. The government notice released today [April 19] states that, ‘It is clear that the implementation of the sale did not fully live up to the government’s expectations, e.g. on transparency and clear dissemination of information.’”
Icelanders Voted for the World’s First Woman President
Presidents are elected every four years and have no term limits. Although presidential powers are limited, she/he has more powers than other European presidents and monarchs where prime ministers have nearly total power. After general elections, Icelandic presidents designate a party leader to form a government—the one that the president considers most likely to be able to form a majority government. The president also appoints cabinet ministers proposed by the PM, and determines their number and division of assignments. Ministers are not able to resign. Only the president can discharge them.
The current president is Guöni Th. Jóhannesson, 54, elected in 2016 and reelected in 2020. He is a professor and commentator on modern Islandic history. Jóhannesson has no party and considers himself not to be political, which, it seems, appeals to most Icelanders. Jóhannesson advocates reforming the constitution to allow greater citizen initiatives, including referendums.
A presidential predecessor, Vigdis Finnbogadóttir, became the world’s first female elected president, and the first single mother president, on June 29, 1980. At 41, she adopted a daughter, becoming the first single woman allowed to adopt a child.
Finnbogadóttir had never been a member of a political party either. She was a cultural worker educated in French literature at the Sorbonne. When elected she was head of Iceland’s theatre. Vigdis served four terms (August 1980-April 1996), the longest serving president in Iceland. Chosen UNESCO’s Goodwill Ambassador, in 1998, she is still serving peace at 91.
President Finnbogadóttir granted me an interview shortly after taking office.
On March 8, 1975, the United Nations proclaimed 1975 as Women’s Year, inspiring Icelandic women to win full equality with men.
“I think my election was the result of the woman’s day strike we had on October 4, 1975. No lady did a thing the whole day. I was striking like everybody else, as were all my actresses.”
On that day, 90% of women did no housework; most did not go to their jobs; and 25,000 demonstrated (out of a 220,000 population). They pointed to Vigdis as their choice for president.
“We Icelanders have, indeed, succeeded in creating better times. We jumped from the Viking Age at the beginning of the century straight into industrialization.”
Vigdis referred to the fact that Icelanders had long been treated as second-class citizens or slaves. Most lived in poor conditions, first under Vikings (8th-11th centuries) and then colonialized by Scandinavian kingdoms from the 14th to the 20th centuries.
“We have accomplished a lot for such a small population. We have no real poverty; hardly any unemployment; everyone has food and shelter. And Imagine! We succeeded in harnessing the strong elements of nature: ice, rapid waters, fire, and even lava. We are the only nation to detour a lava stream to save a village and then used the lava to heat all the homes not destroyed,” she concluded, referring to a volcanic eruption on Heimaey Island in 1973.
When I was in Iceland (from late 1980 to May of 1981) half of heat and electric energy was sustainable: geothermal, hydroelectric, solar and wind. Today, renewable energy usage for heat and electricity is nearly 100%.
Unlike in the U.S., local and state governments own all utility companies and public services. Geothermal plants, for instance, convert salt water to run turbine engines. Renewable energy is cheaper than private fossil fuel operating corporations charge, and green energy without polluting industries has left water and soil cleaner. Average air pollutant particles (PM2.5) is 13.9 micrograms per cubic meter—the 2020 figure for the 38 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, whereas Iceland has only three micrograms per cubic meter. 
Yet not all energy use is sustainable. Due to exponential growth in tourism, much of it from U.S. Americans (many with loads of money) and other well-to-do foreign visitors, Iceland’s economy actually pollutes the air with more CO2 per capita than any other European country.
Iceland was ranked third or fourth among EU and EFTA countries from 2008 to 2014, but now ranks first with 16.9 percent carbon dioxide emission from the economy—EU average is 7.3. Increases in air and marine transport is the key reason plus “emissions from metal production [silicon and aluminum production, used, in part, for automobiles]…due to consumption of graphite in electrodes rather than from fuel combustion.”
Automobiles are still driven by fossil fuel. However, more people are now buying electric cars, hybrids and cars running on domestically produced methane, accounting for one-fourth of all new cars sold.
Few people rely on public transportation despite the low cost of city bus monthly passes for $100. Most people get a driving license at age 17. In 2017, there were 344,644 registered cars for a population of 338,349. That does not account for unregistered cars used mainly on farms. The number of cars grew by 6% over the previous year while population growth was just 1.8% Some of these cars are rentals mostly for tourists.
Then there is land erosion, especially from volcanic ash, but CO2 from that is negligible when it comes to human pollution.
Nevertheless, Iceland has cleaner water and even air than most countries. Due to sustainable energy use for heat and electricity, plus a diet based on fish (haddock is their favorite), fish oil and lamb, Icelanders average life expectancy is 83.5 years (85 for women, 82.2 for men). The government’s plan is to be totally carbon neutral by 2040.
Gender equality is widely successful and respected. Iceland has the world’s greatest gender equality measured by the relative gaps between women and men in health, education, economy and politics.
Iceland is one of ten countries in which women are legally protected with full equal rights. They usually retain their sur name after marriage. In 2020, the US ranked at 91.3%, below countries such as Albania. The U.S. does not guarantee equal pay and pensions, and has poor parental leave laws.
Many women hold leadership positions in government and business: 52.2% of the labor force is women; 88% of working-aged women are employed; 65% of university students; 46.6% members of parliament. Still, the pay gap between women and men is 14.5% less for women.
In 2018, the Left-Green-led government introduced the first policy in the world requiring companies and institutions with 25 employees+ to prove that they pay everyone equally for a job of equal value. (See OECD Better Life Index and Labor Market in Iceland Gender-Divided (icelandreview.com) and How Iceland Is Closing the Gender Wage Gap (hbr.org).
Female and male parents each receive nine months maternity/paternity leave for every child up to18 months of age with 80% paid leave from one’s guaranteed job. Thereafter, parents can maintain their jobs without pay if they wish while spending up to 13 weeks annually with their children until they are eight years old. Nearly all women partake in maternity leave while 90% of fathers do so, the highest figures in OECD countries where the average is 55%. (See 44975802.pdf (oecd.org).
Women’s fertility rate at 1.7 is a bit higher than Europe’s average. Two-thirds of mothers are unwed. See single mothers | Icelandmag. Child care is subsidized by taxes and available to all children from age one. Subsidies are reduced at age two when children attend kindergarten/preschool. See Living in Iceland and the standard of living (go-to-iceland.com).
The 2003 Children’s Act outlawed spanking, even verbal and emotional abuse. Physical or mental violence is punishable by imprisonment and/or fine.
Same-sex couples have been able to register in union since 1996. They have had equal access to adoption of children, and egg fertilization (IVF), since 2006. In February 2009, a minority Social Democratic Alliance (SDA)-led government took office headed by Jóhanna Sigurõardóttir, the world’s first openly gay head of government in modern times. Parliament amended the country’s marriage law on 11 June 2010 by a unanimous vote to define marriage as between two individuals. The new PM married her common law partner to become the first legal gay marriage.
After a five-year experiment (2015-19) with a reduced working week, large unions negotiated a four-day 35-36 hour-work week. Now, 86% of the working class enjoy this reduction and earn the same as before. Production remains at the same level. Workers are less stressed, and driving less also reduces CO2 emissions. Island har kæmpe succes med fire dages arbejdsuger (msn.com).
Only five-percent say they are unhappy with their jobs. This has a lot to do with Icelanders’ class consciousness and union solidarity, which encourages partial worker-management decision-making. Eighty-seven percent say workers need strong unions to protect their interests. Only five percent believe strong unions hurt the economy. Seventy-nine percent belong to labor unions; 89% receive wages based on a union contract.
Iceland has the highest rate of unionization in the Nordic Countries.
The average rate of unionization in the OECD countries is 17%. In the
US, only 10.8% (14 million) were unionized in 2020. See Large majority
of Icelanders believe strong unions crucial for workers, strengthen
economy | Icelandmag.
Eighty-six percent of Icelanders aged 15 to 64 have paid jobs, the highest among OECD countries, whose average is 68%. Over half 65-70 year olds continue to work. (See OECD Better Life Index.)
There is no minimum wage law but most workers have unions, which bargain
for wages and working conditions, and many jobs do have a bargained
minimum wage. Icelanders average gross wages run around $5,500 a month
($66,000 annually, or $32 an hour). After taxes of 38-40%, one ends
with $20 an hour. ($1=125 ISK- Icelandic Kroner). Average monthly incomes
for elementary school teachers, $3,700; architect, $4,500; police, $4,248;
journalist, $4,800; attorney, $7,733—in the U.S. attorneys’
median income is $12,500 (2019). (See Average Salary in Iceland –
Destination Scanner…and Lawyer Salary | US News Best Jobs.)
Per capita income is 29% over EU average but price indexes are higher than EU average. An average one-bedroom apartment in Reykjavik goes for ca. $1,500 monthly; outside the city, $1,200. Mortgages have 20-year fixed interest rates of 6.36%.
Health care and education costs are covered by taxes. Smoking has been
banned in restaurants, cafes, bars and nightclubs since 2007, which
the vast majority support. Eighty-one percent of population have never
smoked—one of highest in the world—and just 12% are daily
smokers; 7% occasional smokers. See How many people in Iceland smoke?
Iceland’s health system, with its disciplined response to COVID-19, has performed exceptionally well. As of December 2021, 91.4% of the population have had two vaccinations. Infected persons number 20,000 (ca. ½%) with 36 deaths. (See corona in iceland – Search (bing.com).
Most of Iceland’s seven universities are free. Some charge minimal administrative costs. Most students live at home while studying.
Despite great progress in welfare, there is still some poverty in Iceland. Nevertheless, the current rate of poverty, 0.10, is one of the lowest worldwide, and the lowest in OECD countries.
(The US government 2019 statistic was 10.5%.) In 2015, there were 6,200 Icelanders living in severe poverty; 2017, 8.8% lived in low-income category. The government provides some support to all living in poverty and the homeless. In 2017, 360 people were homeless in Reykjavik. In 2011, 761 in the entire country. (See World Leader: Poverty Rate in Iceland Continuously Lowers (borgenproject.org).
The current unemployment rate is 5.8%. The government pays unemployment benefits up to 30 months. Benefits start at 100% of wages and are reduced every so many months. See Unemployment benefits in Iceland (a-kasser.dk).
In 2019, with a $68,000 GDP per capita, Iceland has recaptured its leading economic status among nations at 6th place. That does not mean economic equality, however, as the richest five percent of families owned 43.5% of all assets, in 2018. See Iceland’s Richest 5% Own About Half The Country’s Wealth (grapevine.is).
Free from Denmark, Captured by NATO
In Iceland’s Saga Age non-slaves prospered. Norway ruled over Iceland until 1380 when a united Scandinavian Monarch was established 1380-1523 (Kalmar Union). Iceland, Greenland, Faroe Islands, Shetland and Orkney fell under the control of Norway-Denmark-Sweden (the latter included part of Finland). Denmark won control over Iceland and Norway by 1536-7.
During Nordic colonialization, the three largest states had a “monopoly of trade”. GDP fell 40% between 12th and 18th centuries. (Economic history of Iceland – WikiMili, The Best Wikipedia Reader)
Iceland gained its independence and general sovereignty at the end of World War I, December 1, 1918. However under the Danish-Icelandic Act of Union, the king of Denmark remained the Iceland’s king, who still oversaw Iceland’s foreign policy. (Danish–Icelandic Act of Union - Wikipedia)
Denmark’s Social Democrat-led government immediately capitulated
to Nazi Germany’s occupation on April 9, 1940. That Denmark still
controlled Iceland’s foreign policy worried Britain.
England imposed a naval blockade aimed at controlling Icelandic export goods, preventing profitable shipments to Germany. England offered Iceland economic assistance in exchange for using facilities for military defense, as part of co-operation “as a belligerent and an ally”. Iceland’s government refused the offer and reaffirmed its neutrality. It also declared that the Danish King Christian X was unable to perform his constitutional duties and thus assigned them to itself.
Since Iceland was neutral and without a military, England’s Navy and Marines occupied the country on May 10. Its hundreds of troops met no resistance. Canada soon sent 4,000 troops. Brits and Canadians built an airfield at Keflavik. (British invasion of Iceland – Wikipedia)
Under strong Nazi attacks, Britain asked the United States to take over Keflavik. In September 1941, three months before the US entered the war, the first US troops arrived. They built two major airfields. The base served to ferry personnel, equipment, and supplies to Europe. At its height, US military presence grew to 38,000 soldiers and sailors—50,000 allied troops in all. (Iceland Base Command – Wikipedia)
Iceland’s acceptance of the US military, the reality that Denmark was under Nazi Germany, and Icelanders independent character led the Althing to decree Iceland’s independence from Denmark. Iceland became a republic on June 17, 1944.
On March 30, 1949, the Althing voted (37-13) to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The Independence, Progressive and allegedly Social Democrat parties voted for; opposed were Nationalists and Socialists.
“Iceland, unique among NATO Allies, does not have a military. Icelanders have long been proud of their country’s pacifist tradition…so, the decision to join the Alliance as a founding member in 1949 was controversial.
Throughout the Cold War, Iceland had several national debates about whether or not to withdraw from NATO”, so opens NATO’s website on Iceland’s membership. NATO – Declassified: Iceland and NATO – 1949
As parliament assembled on March 30, Socialists led an anti-NATO. Pro-NATO demonstrators awaited them. Socialists wanted a referendum on the issue, and sought friendly relations with WWII allies, the Soviet Union. Nationalists, worried about being drawn into global conflicts, which they thought could dilute their culture, language and ethnicity, also protested joining NATO.
Fisticuffs ensued as eggs and rocks flew through the air. Parliament windows crashed. The uproar lasted for hours. Police finally broke it up using batons and tear gas, which police did not employ again until resistance to the 2008 financial crises exploded.
Pro and Anti-NATO protestors clash on March 30, 1949 before Althing
with broken windows.
On April 4, 1949, Iceland joined 11 other countries, including Denmark, to found NATO. NATO – Declassified: Iceland and NATO – 1949
US and British troops had withdrawn from the Keflavik base in 1947, but the US returned in 1951 as the Iceland Defense Force NATO resident. This was Iceland’s commitment to NATO, and it would not be paid for NATO’s presence.
The base serves primarily for periodic NATO exercises, and as a radar and communications site, watching the Russians. While most Icelanders over the years still favor NATO, opponents could become the majority. Why else does the parliament majority refuse to allow a binding referendum on the matter?
The “Campaign Against Militarism” is the main protest organization. They demonstrate with banners “Iceland Out of NATO” and “The Army Out”. In 1974, resisters seemed to have become effective. The Progressive party-led coalition government, which included Communists and left liberals, announced that it would be closing the US military base and would “ask” its troops to leave.
Pro-NATO Icelanders circulated a petition in support of keeping the base open. It received more than 55,000 signatures, over a quarter of Iceland’s population at the time. New parliament elections in June brought the most pro-NATO Independence party into power. While it continued the status quo, it did require that no more than 3,000 US soldiers were welcome. Down considerably from some years. All US troops must live on the base and be there by 23:30.
NATO protests continued, however, and were often joined by Vigdis Finnbogadóttir. In the 60s-70s, she demonstrated scores of times against the Keflavik military base, often marching the 50 kilometers from Reykjavik to the base.
In 1980, the president told me, “Whenever I speak as head of state, I speak about peace. I will say it as often and as long as necessary,” the straight-talking president told me. (Smashwords – Scandinavia on the Skids: The Failure of Social Democracy – a book by Ron Ridenour.)
“Think what we could do with the money that goes into militarism! I am a premeditated pacifist. Wars and armies are absurd things. We have no army, no militarism. We are a peaceful, independent people,” asserted the principled president.
At that time, polls indicated that 54% were for NATO and the base against
31%. No recent polls have been made that I could find.
On September 8, 2006, the US turned the base over to the Icelandic Defense Agency until January 2011 when the Agency was abolished. The base was then handed over to the Icelandic Coast Guard.
In 2016, yet another US intrusion occurred. The new centrist Progress party’s Prime Minister Sigmundur Daviö Gunnlaugsson acquiesced to the US Navy, allowing it to retake the Keflavik base. Shortly thereafter, on April 7, he was ousted from governing for corruption and tax evasion.
In 2017, the new Donald Trump regime announced its intention to modify the largest hangar on the Icelandic base. Its contention was that it needed the base to “deter Russian aggression”.
“At Naval Air Station Keflavik, Iceland, slightly more than $14 million is being invested to build new hangars to house sub-hunting Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft, according to Foreign Policy.” US plans $200 million buildup of European air bases flanking Russia (airforcetimes.com)
Retaking Keflavik was part of Russiaphobia pressure, which Donald Trump felt compelled to partially fall for. The paradoxical president designated $214 million to repair and build ten US military bases in Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia as well as Iceland. At some bases, high tech stealth fighters were to be employed.
Demonstrations took place again beginning in September 2018 as anti-militarism increased once it was announced that NATO would conduct war games across the North Atlantic in October-November. “Trident Juncture 18” involved 40,000 military personnel, 130 war aircraft and 70 warships.
Most of the exercises took place in Norway, but Iceland received 400 U.S. soldiers, 10 warships and 6,000 sailors. From Iceland — Iceland To Be Overrun By NATO Exercises, Reviving Anti-Militarist Sentiment (grapevine.is)
Although Prime Minister Jakobsdóttir still expresses hope that
Iceland could withdraw from NATO, and does not wish to join the EU,
she appears to accept NATO/EU sanctions against Russia.
Nevertheless, the PM told “The Express” that the “European Central Bank has become really powerful without being very democratic. The economic policies of the EU have been really distant from people in the Eurozone and they’ve created divisions that need not be there.” (Iceland PM laughs off taking EU membership and wants to QUIT Nato too | World | News | Express.co.uk)
PM Jakobsdóttir has not wished to oppose, or could not stop,
Iceland’s sanctions against Russia. Iceland’s governments
have accepted the US-EU imposed sanctions against Russia since 2014,
because 96.8% of Crimeans voted in the March 16, 2014 referendum to
rejoin Russia. Only 2.5% of those voting (83%) wished to remain in the
Ukrainian neo-fascistic coup government. A year later, the capitalist-prized
“Forbes Magazine” wrote that poll after poll showed the
vast majority of Crimeans—including ethic Ukrainians and Russians—were
glad they had joined Russia. One Year After Russia Annexed Crimea, Locals
Prefer Moscow To Kiev (forbes.com) 
The day after Crimeans made their democratic decision, the US and EU imposed sanctions on Russia. Iceland’s Progress party’s PM Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson’s government joined the rogue states. Most Icelandic parties, including bourgeois ones, felt mixed on the matter. They wanted to do as the U.S./EU demanded to maintain close friendships, but this also hurt their marine trade with Russia, which fell from 10% to 4% between 2014-15. Iceland’s alignment with the EU–US sanctions on Russia: autonomy versus dependence (hi.is)
Besides the economic issue, what the West does not want to talk about is the important fact that had the people on this peninsula not joined Russia, NATO would have built a military base at Sevastopol, Crimean’s largest city where both Ukraine’s naval forces and Russia’s Black Sea Fleet had major bases. So close to Russia’s border, Sevastopol has been an important port and naval base since Russia built it (1772-1783). Would the U.S. accept a Russian base at Tijuana? 
Russia waited until the summer 2015 to instill counter-sanctions against Iceland. Russia had taken some counter-sanctions against US and EU countries in August 2014, but only on goods, and not individuals and travel bans as the aggressors did. Baldur Thorhallsson and Pétur Gunnarsson wrote in a Norwegian Institute of International Affairs academic paper that Iceland’s government considered withdrawing from sanctions at that point, but compromised by continuing “to implement the EU sanctions but would not take part in the EU’s declarations about the sanctions.”
“The chairman of the Left Green Movement and a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee (2014-2015) was skeptical of the sanctions and Iceland’s participation in them from the beginning (Ingolfsson 2015a). On the other hand, the chairman of the Social Democratic Alliance was in favour of them…” (PDF) Iceland’s Relations with its Regional Powers: Alignment with the EU-US sanctions on Russia (researchgate.net)
Although Left-Greens did not want the sanctions, the movement is not strong enough to stop them nor can they get out of NATO. Leftist parties are too factionalized. Two years after US/EU/Iceland sanctioned Russia, the U.S. sent military personnel back to Keflavik intent on harassing Russia. This heavy-handedness is modern neo-colonialism.
In a November 2018 interview with Danish journalist Martin Breum, PM Jakobsdóttir told him that the Keflavik base houses U.S. soldiers on a quasi-permanent basis.
“My party’s position is that we are against Iceland’s membership of NATO. However, we are the only party in Iceland’s parliament that holds that position, and Iceland now has a national security policy, which passed through Parliament in 2016.”
“Our coalition government is a broad one and also an odd one
in Icelandic terms and in the international context,” she said.
(Iceland is key to NATO — but Iceland’s prime minister worries
about militarization in the North Atlantic – ArcticToday)
The Icelandic state website section on NATO states, “In its work within the Alliance, Iceland inter alia puts emphasis on NATO’s role in disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation, including nuclear issues… The fight for human rights and women’s empowerment, peace and disarmament has high priority in Iceland’s foreign policy…Furthermore, Iceland and its territorial waters shall be declared free from nuclear weapons, subject to Iceland´s international commitments.” [Government of Iceland | Iceland and NATO]
While Icelandic law forbids nuclear weapons, Icelanders do not investigate
what the United States brings to the Keflavik base nor inspect its aircraft
and war ships. The same goes for Danish governments, which also forbid
nuclear weapons on its territory but dare not inspect US warships and
aircraft. Denmark has no foreign or NATO military bases, yet it secretly
and illegally allowed the US to have nuclear weapons at its Greenland
Thule base.( NUCLEAR-RISKS | Thule)
When I worked in Iceland, People’s Alliance MP Olafur Ragnar Grímsson asserted that nuclear weapons could be at Keflavik base. Helgi Agustsson, one of Iceland’s two diplomats in its defense agency said, “Iceland has the right to inspect the base. We don’t do it. It wouldn’t be fool proof.” An Icelandic spokesperson associated with base operations, Mik Magnusson, told me, “It’s a question of who to believe”.
Who to Believe? US/NATO or Russia and Historical Facts/Context
Contradictions in human behavior came through clearly regarding my titular contention that Iceland might develop into a diplomatic non-military, peace-seeking country when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to Iceland on May 6, 2022. I chose that title before the new world order began on February 24—the beginning of World War III, I’m afraid.
May 6 was the first time that a foreign head of state delivered a speech in the Althingi (meaning “assembly in the fields” parliament).
The state welcomed Zelensky: “Iceland condems the Russian invasion of Ukraine and continues to provide support both with humanitarian efforts and assistance to refugees fleeing the war.”
Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, the country’s president, addressed Zelensky. “On behalf of the people of Iceland, I assure you our support and solidarity in your fight against Russia’s violent aggression…We share the same values, hopes and rights to enjoy freedom and peace.”
Nothing was said about the values, hopes and rights, freedom and peace of a fifth of Ukrainians, ethnic Russians, and others who openly oppose the two fascist parties—Social-Nationalists and Right Sector—which led the 2014 U.S.-backed coup against democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych. These fascist mercenaries form a major part of the official army. Nothing was said either about Zelensky’s advocacy of using nuclear weapons against Russia, or why Ukraine has dozens of U.S.-financed biological warfare laboratories. 
Several of those armed groupings are openly fascist. Azov is one. It honors Stepan Bandera, a Nazi-collaborator in WWII, who led the killing of more than one million Jews, ethnic Russians and Poles. Azov is part of the army that has been killing thousands of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine (Donbas). Even CNN admits this.
Zelensky has been speaking to many European parliaments. His main message is how brutal the Russian military is; how much Ukraine wants to be in the EU (he usually avoids mentioning NATO membership these days); how U.S.-Europe must assure Ukraine’s sovereign rights.
Zelensky speaking before the Althing. PM Jakobsdóttir front row left.
He even claims that Russia’s war against his country is worse
than Hitler and his WWII. Between 10 and 13 million Ukrainians were
killed then, about half civilians and half soldiers on both sides. Another
2.2 to 2.5 million Ukrainians were sent to Germany as slave laborers.
At the end of the war only 27.4 million of the 41.7 million Ukrainians
lived. That means 35% of the population was killed, greater than all
the deaths of Germans, Italians, Frenchmen, Brits and its entire Commonwealth,
plus U.S. Americans combined. (The Soviets lost 27 million people.)
The mass media and politicians throughout Europe have entered a state similar to McCarthyism in the U.S. Hardly a voice is allowed to be heard or seen that supports Russia’s necessary armed intervention, in order to prevent yet another country at its border bearing weapons of mass destruction aimed at them.
Once again, it is no issue that the U.S. not only has WMD yet uses them against peoples in many countries, latest in Iraq and Afghanistan. The “coalition of the willing” war against Iraq killed more than two million people, because of the lie that Iraq had WMD, which it at one time bought from the U.S. and used up in the war between it and Iran. Why can’t countries that the U.S./Britain/NATO don’t control not have the same weapons that they have?
The mainstream media bombards us daily with selected facts and lies about the Russia-Ukraine armed conflict. Unlike in other wars, other than the breakup of Yugoslavia, other Europeans could ignore them as faraway whereas today the media and politicians won’t let us ignore this one. They even portray “Putin” as Hitler, a war criminal, out to be a Czar seeking to rule the world. It sounds like psychological projection from the point of view of Wall Street/Pentagon/CIA Americans.
On May 9, the 77th victory day by Russia (and allies) over Nazi Germany, President Putin told the nation: “Today, the common duty is to prevent the revival of Nazism, which brought so much suffering to people from different countries,” Putin said in the messages, according to a press release from the Kremlin.”
“The government of Ukraine announced a possible appropriation of nuclear weapons, and Nato initiated military colonization in territories belonging to us. So a completely unacceptable threat was created near our border,” the president said.
President Putin’s decision to resort to armed force, in order to defend Russia’s very sovereign existence while popular among most Russians, brings with it Russia’s own McCarthyism. According to CNN, citing a Russian poll, “the vast majority of Russians support the war, but 68% of Russians think the operation is proceeding successfully.
Putin’s popularity has also soared to 82%, after remaining stubbornly in the 60s since the Covid-19 pandemic hit right up until February, the month of Russia’s invasion…Polling in Russia must be taken with a grain of salt, however, given people are subject to a stream of propaganda and dissent is not tolerated.”
Following Zelensky’s brief remarks to Iceland, the once radical
Left Green Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir spoke. Although
she and her Left Green party realize that NATO is an aggressor, the
PM backs U.S./NATO proxy war on Russia, seeking to weaken Russia’s
society with the aim of “regime change”—a la U.S.’s
many coups, including Ukraine.
PM Jakobsdóttir praised Zelensky for his, “powerful, moving words representing the brave Ukrainian people’s fight against the unprovoked, brutal aggression against the democratic, sovereign state of Ukraine…Your words challenge us to resist…We provide humanitarian assistance. We have now accepted 1000 refugees, and yesterday we doubled our assistance funds. We seek an investigation into Russia’s war crimes…Ukraine-Iceland have common history back to Viking days.”
Following the warpath of the United States of America (plus England, Germany, Denmark and others), Iceland is offering “defense cooperation” with Finland and Sweden while they await NATO membership. [Since then, Turkey capitulated and accepted Sweden and Finland in NATO.]
On May 16, the three Nordic NATO countries signed this agreement.
“Finland and Sweden’s security is a matter of common concern to us all. Should Finland or Sweden be victim of aggression on their territory before obtaining NATO membership, we will assist Finland and Sweden by all means necessary.
We immediately initiate preparations in order to effectuate these security assurances. We will also further develop our defense cooperation with Finland and Sweden.” Government of Iceland | Statement by Denmark, Iceland and Norway on Finland and Sweden’s decision to apply for NATO membership
It is unclear what military assistance, if any, Iceland could offer. Iceland only has a Coast Guard, whose three offshore patrol vessels and a handful of smaller boats plus four helicopters mission is search and rescue and monitoring fisheries.
Iceland, just as all European governments, ignores the fact that the U.S. reneged on its promise not to move NATO east of Germany when the Soviet Union leadership agreed to allow East Germany to come into West German and NATO as a prelude to Soviet’s disintegration. The U.S. now has every former Warsaw Pact country in NATO. 
One of the innumerable U.S./NATO lies is that no such promise was ever made. However, among the evidence to the contrary is what the German Establishment medium Der Spiegel dug up. (See Der Spiegel: Official document confirms that NATO promised not to expand eastwards—ac.news)
Furthermore, George Kennan, the father of President Harry Truman’s Cold War Doctrine, explained that it was a, “fateful error” to expand NATO when President Bill Clinton decided to do so, in 1997.
Iceland-Europe also conveniently forget that the U.S. helped organize the pro-fascist coup in Ukraine, which led to Crimeans voting to join the Russian Federation, and the Donbas referendum asking the same. Russia’s government did not comply with Donbas’ request.
On December 13, 2013, Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told the U.S.-Ukrainian Foundation that since 1991 the United States has spent $5 billion to teach Ukrainians “democratic skills”.
Two days before she and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Goeffrey Pyatt demonstrated against the elected Yanukovych government. They joined anti-government protestors calling for his overthrow at Independence Square. Try to imagine if Russia acted for “regime change” of the U.S.-supported Canadian government; gave lots of money for the violent opposition; and even sent top government coup makers to demonstrate in the capital where they handed out bread!
A leaked taped telephone conversation between Nuland and Pyatt proves
how the U.S. got what it paid for. On December 4, 2013, three weeks
before the coup, Nuland told Pyatt who should sit in the forthcoming
coup government, and they then arranged for that to happen.
Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt passing out "freedom cookies" during Maidan demonstration in Kyiv.
On February 23, 2014, the day coup-makers issued an illegal arrest warrant for the legitimate President Yanukovych, pro-Russian Crimeans seized government buildings at Crimea’s capital in Simferopol. On March 11, the local parliament declared Crimea’s independence from Ukraine, following a vote of 78 in favor and 22 against secession. The March 16 referendum results involved 1,274,096 voters (83% of potential): 1,233,002 for integration into Russian Federation (96.8%); 32,000 for remaining in Ukraine (2.5%).
This was one area where U.S. warring did not succeed. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which works “exclusively for the United States Congress operating within the Library of Congress,” the U.S. has conducted 330 wars and “military interventions” since its founding. That includes Russia, which it invaded in 1918, in order to overthrow the popular revolutionary government.
It seems that Jakobsdóttir forgot her Left Green program statement regarding capitalism and militarism. “Leftist-Greens founded our platform on four basic principles: social justice, women’s liberation, environmentalism, and a peaceful foreign policy.”
“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-led government first came to power in 2017. In May 2020, it rejected NATO plans to expand its presence at the Keflavik naval base. The plans involved building a harbor suitable for receiving NATO vessels, in addition to overnight facilities and warehouses.
Nevertheless, the party has buckled under U.S.-NATO pressure regarding Russia’s preventive war aimed at protecting its sovereignty against ever-encroaching NATO bases with mass weapons of destruction at its borders, and near its border. Had Ukraine achieved admission into NATO, it would have had nuclear weapons just three minutes within striking distance to Moscow.
That is not something the haughty United States would ever allow close to its territory as the 1962 October Cuban Missile Crisis made clear.
At that time, the Pentagon and CIA were clamoring to wage first strike nuclear war against Russia. To them it was irrelevant that Cuba was acquiring weapons to defend itself against any further U.S. invasions such as the foiled armed landings the year before—the infamous “Bay of Pigs” invasion, which took local farmer militias and some army units just three days to put down.
President John Kennedy asked the juggernauts for a judgment on how many U.S. Americans might be killed in a nuclear war. The answer was a very modest one million, which Kennedy thought was too many. Instead, he ordered a naval blockade (quarantine) of all Soviet ships in route to Cuba, and an ultimatum to remove all such missiles.
Noam Chomsky wrote about this in “The Guardian”, October 15, 2012.
On October 27, 1962 U.S. destroyers enforcing the quarantine around Cuba were dropping depth-charges on [some of the four] Soviet submarines in route to Cuba. According to Soviet accounts, reported by The National Security Archive (The Submarines of October (gwu.edu)), the submarine commanders were “rattled enough to talk about firing nuclear torpedoes, whose 15 kiloton explosive yields approximated the bomb that devastated Hiroshima in August 1945”.
“In one case, a reported decision to assemble a nuclear torpedo for battle readiness was aborted at the last minute by Second Captain Vasily Arkhipov, who may have saved the world from nuclear disaster. There is little doubt what the U.S. reaction would have been had the torpedo been fired, or how the Russians would have responded as their country was going up in smoke.”
Second Captain Vasily Arkhipov.
The United States has had an unwanted naval base in the southern part of Cuba, Guantanamo, since shortly after it invaded Cuba on June 20, 1898 just when liberation fighters were winning their independence war from Spain. Theodore Roosevelt led his “rough riders” up a little hill and defeated some Spanish soldiers. That media action assisted his rise to the presidency (1901-9). Spain signed a peace treaty on July 16. The U.S. totally controlled Cuba until it allowed the Republic of Cuba to be formed in May 1902. The U.S. then forced into its constitution the Platt amendment, which granted it much of Cuba’s nickel in the province of Guantanamo for three decades. The U.S. also forced Cuba’s government to grant it permanent use of part of the province for a naval base. It has used this base as a torture chamber for the past two decades.
Since Cuba’s revolutionary victory, January 1, 1959, the nation has demanded the withdrawal of U.S. military from its sovereign soil, which the military giant ignores with threat of war.
U.S. has ca. 800 military bases in 70+ countries, plus troops at “military facilities” in another 90 countries. U.S. funds 50 military bases of several countries where it can also have its troops. Many of these countries are in Central America and Colombia. The U.S. has 95% of the world’s foreign bases. The U.S. has innumerably more military bases on its own land than several countries together: 4,154 bases in its 50 states and 114 in its territories.
Russia has nine military bases and two radar/communication facilities
in nine countries, most of them former Soviet Republics. It has around
50,000 military personnel stationed in these bases, half of them at
the Sevastopol Crimea naval base. No matter what government Russia has,
it could never allow NATO to takeover this historically and geo-politically
key defensive military base, nor did Crimeans wish that when they asked
to join the Russian Federation.
Financial Crisis 2007-8
Social democracy began to decline a generation ago when most Icelandic political parties and politicians started playing with neo-liberal economics mimicking the rest of Scandinavia/EU.
In 2000, Social Democrats merged with two other political parties into the Social Democratic Alliance. Then it, and subsequent governments, cut taxes on wealth, cut pensions, deregulated some public services, deregulated the market, and the public banks were privatized with deregulation to follow, which led to the 2007-8 financial crash. The international crisis actually started in this tiny island-nation when all three private banks collapsed.
In 1980, net debt to foreign countries was at 36% of the GDP. When the real estate bubble burst debt rapidly rose to 246% of GDP. In 1980, household debt per portion of income was 21%; it rose to 227% with the crash. Bank defaults totaled $114 billion when GDP was only $19 billion.
Parliament passed emergency legislation to take over the banks’ domestic operations and established new banks to handle them. The government, however, did not take over any of the foreign assets or obligations. Those stayed with the original banks gone bankrupt. The old banks were put into receivership and liquidation, resulting in losses for shareholders and foreign creditors.
More Icelanders than in most countries are politically conscious and motivated to take on corruption in politics and business. Because most people know one another, the elite cannot hide from the mass. Many thousands rallied at Reykjavik’s main square on freezing days between October 2008 and January 2009 when greedy bankers lost control of loans and sales. In what was named the kitchenware Revolution, protesters banged saucepans, linked arms around the parliament building, pelted it with food (too wasteful for my taste), and demanded the politically mixed Independence-Social Democratic Alliance government resign. PM Geir Hilmar Haarde and his coalition government did so in January 2009.
On February 1, SDA leader Jóhanna Siguróardóttir formed a new government with the more left LGM and backed by the Progressive and Liberal parties. Following parliamentary elections on April 25, resulting in an increase of LGM seats, the coalition government continued in office until May 23, 2013.
In September 2010, Geir became the first Icelandic minister to be indicted for misconduct in office. He stood trial before the Landsdómur, a special court for government leaders’ criminal behavior. This was the first time Landsdómur convened since its inception in 1905. Haarde was convicted on one count, but acquitted of the most serious violations. Due to his age, no previous criminal record and the acquittal of the most serious charges, Haarde was not sentenced, and the Icelandic State paid his legal expenses. Haarde referred the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. In November 2017, the court ruled against him. (Geir Haarde – Wikipedia)
The new government convened a constitutional assembly to discuss changes in the 1905 constitution, clearly supported by most of the nation. The contorted process to change the constitution fell through in 2012. The current government hopes to try again.
Best of all, Icelanders saw to it that the criminal bankers were tried in court. The first major bankers were found guilty and imprisoned. By 2017, 29 bankers had been sentenced to a total of about 80 years imprisonment. Charges ranged from breach of fiduciary duties to market manipulation and embezzlement. Average sentences: four to five and one-half years. Kaupping bank CEO Hreiõar Már Sigurõssin received the longest sentence, 66 months. They all served time in open prisons.
No banker went to prison in the United States or anywhere else in the world that I could find. They are “too big to fail,” viewed as necessary because of “collateral consequences”, so stated Barak Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder. (See: Eric Holder – Wikipedia;Too big to fail – Wikipedia; Transcript: Attorney General Eric Holder on ‘Too Big to Jail’ | American Banker;Icelandic Bankers Sentenced to Prison (icelandreview.com)) 
Hoping to please Iceland’s elite and EU, the quasi-leftist SDA-LGM government proposed the repayment “Icesave” deal to British and Dutch creditors. The people were, however, backed by an EFTA Court ruling that Iceland was not obliged to repay Dutch and British depositors minimum deposit guarantees. [2008–2011 Icelandic financial crisis – Wikipedia)
No Banana Republic for Iceland, No to corrupt bankers, No to EU!
In 2010, Iceland’s GDP had fallen to 21st place. Yet unlike all other nations with capitalist-run economies, Icelanders refused to bail out the banks. In 1996, former People’s Alliance MP, Olafur Ragnar Grímsson—a political science professor who replaced Vigdis as president—had taken the unusual step of vetoing an appeasing bill to bailout customers of the private banks. In the March 2010 “Icesave” loan guarantee referendum, 98% of the people backed Grimsson—now president—who vetoed the bill. (2010 Icelandic loan guarantees referendum – Wikipedia)
After this defeat, the SDA-LGM government still tried to pay foreign creditors, this time in instalments. On 20 February 2011, President Grímsson again vetoed the bill. In the second referendum, April 9, 2011, Icelanders again rejected (60-40%) to pay $5 billion loans made by Britain and the Netherlands. (Icelanders reject debt repayment deal | CBC News)
During May 2013 parliament election, Progress party’s leader Sigmundur Daviõ Gunnlaugsson ran against the progressive coalition on a platform of “cleaning up” bank corruption and tax fraud. His party won parliament elections, and he became PM. Gunnlaugsson worked with the president in refusing to pay the British and Netherland governments, a struggle finally sanctioned legally by the European EFTA Surveillance Authority. The centrist PM appeared more loyal to the people than the “leftists”. (See: Welcome to Iceland, Where Bad Bankers Go to Prison – Bloomberg)
“We were wise enough not to follow the traditional prevailing orthodoxies of the Western financial world in the last 30 years. We introduced currency controls, we let the banks fail, we provided support for the poor, and we didn’t introduce austerity measures,” President Grímsson commented.
“Why are the banks considered to be the holy churches of the modern economy? Why are private banks not like airlines and telecommunication companies, and allowed to go bankrupt if they have been run in an irresponsible way? [We will not] let ordinary people bear their failure through taxes and austerity. People in enlightened democracies are not going to accept that in the long run.”
After the financial crisis, Iceland implemented some capital control measures, which substantially reduced financial crimes and the illicit movement of money through Iceland. However, some of these controls were removed by new political leaders. This could lead to more economic corruption by the rich and those who seek to become rich.
Nevertheless, the state still has more control over banking than many other capitalist controlled economies. The largest banks in Iceland now are Landsbanki, Íslandsbanki (previously Glitnir) and Arion Banki (previously Kaupþing).
“They were all nationalized during the banking collapse in October
2008 but have since to the largest extent been sold or taken over by
creditors. The only bank in which the Icelandic state still holds the
majority of shares is Landsbanki, 81 percent. The state holds five percent
of shares in Íslandsbanki and a 13 percent share in Arion Bank.
Other Icelandic banks include the fairly new MP Bank, and the string
of regional savings banks originally called Sparisjóður.
Other Sparisjóður savings banks are performing well, most
notably Sparisjóður Höfðhverfinga from the village
of Grenivík in Northeast Iceland, which has opened a branch in
the region’s largest town Akureyri.” (Iceland BanksCentral
Banks Directory | OffShoreBanksDirectory)
The fact that Iceland has once again nationalized some of its banking is little known to the outside world since capitalists, their politicians and the mass media are unhappy about this quasi-governmental control over some of banking. Nevertheless, most of the crisis loans were paid back in 2015 without the usually forced austerity measures and huge interest rates. (Economic history of Iceland – WikiMili, The Best Wikipedia Reader)
Strong feelings of distrust for politicians, who routinely turn their backs on promises made, and opportunist businessmen and women, are now deep-seated in much of the population. In 2016, polls showed that two-thirds of the people had lost faith in The Establishment.
In April 2016, Iceland experienced its largest demonstrations in history. Up to 25,000 people protested outside the prime minister’s office in Reykjavik for several days. This determined protest was prompted by Panama Papers revelations showing that several senior Iceland officials, including PM Gunnlaugsson and his finance minister, had large investments in foreign corporations and in tax shelters, in order to circumvent Iceland’s capital controls. Public outcry over these revelations forced Gunnlaugsson to resign on April 7, 2016.
For the entire year of 2016-7, the activist citizenry persisted in challenging leading politicians. Social Democrats also became discredited for their right turns, as well as the traditionalist farmer Progressive Party. The nation had four prime ministers within a year’s time.
Since then most politicians have been listening more to the people, and have refused to cut back on social services. People utilize their natural resources to attract the technology industry. Commercial fishing remained strong. The tourist industry bloomed—probably too much so. The International Monetary Fund conceded that Iceland “surpassed pre-crisis output levels”.
Iceland is rich in aluminum, which constitutes its largest export product (36%) and ferroalloys (2.5%). Fish, especially haddock, cod, herring and redfish, plus fish oil are their second largest export product (17%)—both fresh, frozen and processed fish. They trade mostly with Western Europe, as well as China and Russia. Iceland (ISL) Exports, Imports, and Trade Partners | OEC – The Observatory of Economic Complexity
Overall product exports accounts for a $6 billion income; service exports garner $8.6 billion. They import petroleum, aluminum oxide, electronics and medicines for $6.7 billion; services for $5.24 billion. The trade advantage is $2.6 billion.
The financial-economic crises hurt Iceland like most others in the world. Yet unlike in practically all capitalist countries, especially the U.S., government actions have been beneficial in reviving a decent standard of living for, at least, 90% of the people. Following the financial crash, one example of a government program aimed at stimulating “a previously frozen housing market and reduce household debt.” It has been quite successful as housing debt has dropped from 124 percent of the GDP to 77 percent. (World Leader: Poverty Rate in Iceland Continuously Lowers (borgenproject.org)
This project shows that a partially mixed economy—mostly market capitalism yet still with some government planning—is more beneficial for the working class.
In 2019, with a $68,000 GDP per capita, Iceland has recaptured its leading economic status among nations at 6th place. That does not mean economic equality, however, as the richest 5% families owned 43.5% of all assets, in 2018. From Iceland — Iceland’s Richest 5% Own About Half The Country’s Wealth (grapevine.is)
1. Norwegian and Danish Vikings ravished parts of Norway, Ireland and England, murdering, raping, kidnapping many they forced into slavery. Some slaves were brought to Iceland. Partly ruled by Vikings, a certain independence for free people allowed for a partial commonwealth. In a few years, some Norwegian farmers, and perhaps Viking conqueror Ingólfr Arnarson’s son Torstein, created the Althing, in 930. Freed people met outdoors to determine how they should conduct their economy and politics. When Vikings converted to catholic Christianity so did Icelanders. Two hundred years after Viking rule, in 1262, the Kingdom of Norway took over Iceland. Between 1397-1523, the Kingdoms of Norway, Sweden and Denmark ruled Iceland, Greenland, Faroe Islands, Orkney and Shetland. From 1523, Iceland was under Danish rule until partial autonomy in the 20th century. During the years of foreign rule, most Icelanders were kept poor by Danish merchants.
2. OECD is comprised of 38 countries in Europe, the Commonwealth, U.S., Israel, Turkey, South Korea. Japan and Mexico. Russia was prepared to join but was rejected when the vast majority of Crimeans voted to join Russia, in 2014.
3. Boeing P-8 Poseidon – Wikipedia. Also see: NATO BASE KEFLAVIK
AIRPORT BASE HISTORY – NAT; U.S. military returns to Iceland |
The Independent Barents Observer (thebarentsobserver.com) ?
4. The vast majority of Crimeans are still glad for the decision to join Russia. Even The Establishment’s Foreign Affairs and Forbes magazines say so. (The Majority of Crimeans Are Still Glad for Their Annexation by Russia | Foreign Affairs and One Year Later In Crimea: Polls Don’t Tell The Whole Story (forbes.com)
To see more about this and how the U.S. and Ukrainian fascists have worked together, in order to threaten Russia’s very existence, see Oliver Stone’s documentary: Watch Online Ukraine on Fire Free | Write Brain TV (writebrainstudios.tv)
5. While sanctions have hurt Russia’s economy, it has also helped it produce more of their own food and drink. Michelin did not find any Russian restaurants to praise before the sanctions, but now they name seven. Russia is also producing its own champagne, Abrau Dyurso, which was stopped at the beginning of the 1917 revolution. Besides increasing production in several areas, Russia is much closer to the largest population in the world, China, and Iran, making it all the more difficult for US-ARME to dominate one at a time.
6. See Fox News about biological labs. Tucker Carlson: The questions
about the biolabs in Ukraine that everyone should be asking (our.news)
The right-wing media host said that the Biden administration has denied it has dangerous pathogens. “We foolishly assumed that in this one instance, they might be telling the truth and then out of nowhere, the Biden official in charge of Ukraine confirmed the story. Toria Nuland, the Under Secretary of State, casually mentioned in a Senate hearing.”
Zelensky also threatened to acquire nuclear weapons useable against Russia days before President Vladimir Putin agreed to accept Donbas wish to be an independent country, and then sent in troops and tanks to defend it. President Zelensky Suggests Ukraine May Pursue Nuclear Weapons To Counter Russia, Putin Responds | The Daily Wire and Ukraine threatens to build nuclear weapons to ward off Russia threat If West doesn’t shut down Putin (the-sun.com).
7. See CovertAction Magazine many articles and a webinar with former CIA analysts Ray McGovern and John Kiriakou, plus Scott Ritter, former U.S. Marine Intelligence officer, UN Arms Inspector, who exposed U.S.’s lie about weapons of massive destruction in order to invade Iraq. They explain what is really going on with this war/military intervention to de-nazify Ukraine and protect ethnic Russians. Teach-in Webinar – War in Ukraine: How the Lies of Empire Stand in the Way of a Diplomatic Resolution – CovertAction Magazine.
8. See CRS’ latest report, on March 8, 2022, “Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2022”. R42738.pdf (fas.org) CRS cites hundreds of “U.S. armed forces use abroad”. In 2009, it stated that there were 167 wars or “military invasions between 1798-1941, and 163 between 1945-2008. Most Latin American countries have been invaded several times, or been subject to “gunboat diplomacy”—such treatment has been dealt China 30 times, as late as 1999 when it bombed its embassy in Yugoslavia.
Covert operations, such as coups/“regime changes” are not included in CRS accounts. Other researchers show between 500 and 600 wars/military interventions in U.S.’s history. One such “intervention” was ordered by President Ronald Reagan against Grenada, the island-country with 96,020 inhabitants. This occurred in 1983 during the CIA’s Operation Condor period, in which all of South America was subjected to U.S.-led military regimes and coups with fascist run subversion.
Grenada does not border the United States, as does Ukraine border Russia. Grenada is 160 kilometers north of Venezuela, 4,377 kilometers from the Greatest Democracy in the world, but Reagan felt “threatened” anyway.
There was an internal conflict of leftist forces, a coup took place, and on October 19, 19 soldiers and civilians were killed. President Reagan saw a chance to expand the empire. He noted that there were 600 U.S. medical students studying on the island and they could be in danger, albeit none requested any assistance. Reagan was not moved by that. He wanted to prevent Cuban influence. There were 636 Cuban construction workers building an airport alongside English construction workers—a joint UK/Cuba effort. Reagan ignored England’s investment.
On October 25 1983, “The invading force consisted of” 7,600 US army, air force, navy, marines. “The force defeated Grenadian resistance after a low-altitude airborne assault by Rangers and the 82nd Airborne on Point Salines Airport…” United States invasion of Grenada – Wikipedia
There were 49 Soviet military advisors for the People’s Revolutionary Government present. They did not join in combat, but two were wounded during the four days of fighting before the U.S. toppled the government. Four Cubans died, 59 wounded. Grenadian forces lost 45 with 358 wounded. The invaders lost 19 and 152 were wounded.
The U.S. got the government it wanted. Soviet advisors and Cuban construction workers were kicked out. The United Nations General Assembly condemned the U.S. “invading force” as “a flagrant violation of international law” by a vote of 108 to 9.
Nothing happened to the U.S. There were no sanctions, no Western tears for the Grenadian and Cuban dead. I went to jail briefly in Copenhagen for smashing the huge front windows of the Embassy of Death with cobblestones. The judge must have been sympathetic as he fined me the minimum of $100 equivalent for property damage even though I refused to pay the state $10,000 for the broken windows.
The only time in all the thousands of U.S. invading military ventures that it was sanctioned (and without effect) was by the International Court of Justice, in 1986, for its non-war war against Nicaragua. Nicaragua v. United States – Wikipedia
The ICJ found that the United States was, “in breach of its obligations under customary international law not to use force against another State”; “not to intervene in its affairs”; “not to violate its sovereignty”; “not to interrupt peaceful maritime commerce”. The Court “decides that the United States of America is under an obligation to make reparation to the Republic of Nicaragua for all injury caused to Nicaragua…”
“The United States refused to participate in the proceedings, arguing that the ICJ lacked jurisdiction to hear the case. The U.S. also blocked enforcement of the judgment by the UN Security Council and thereby prevented Nicaragua from obtaining any compensation.”
Despite all its wars and military interventions, the U.S. has only declared “war” five times: Great Britain, 1812; Mexico, 1846-8—following the annexation of Texas, the US “annexed” what is now the states of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah); Spain, 1898 (Remember the Maine); World Wars I and II.
In just one U.S. recent war, the first one against Iraq, half a million Iraqi children had been killed by 1995 due to U.S.’s “no fly zone”. On May 12, 1996 U.S. ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright, told CBS 60 Minutes, “the price is worth it.” President Bill Clinton soon promoted her to be his secretary of state. (574) Madeleine Albright – The deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children was worth it for Iraq’s non existent WMD’s – YouTube
How can Iceland, and all European governments, ignore this on-going
record of mass murder while only singling out Russia for taking up arms
against one of the U.S.’s major allies in its eternal aggression
to prevent the Russian people from deciding their own destiny? Europe
has not put on such a show as they are doing for white Ukrainians, or
any show for the multi-millions of people—mostly people of color—that
the U.S./NATO have killed in many countries. No government calls upon
international courts, which the U.S. does not even recognize for itself,
to prosecute U.S. American leaders as war criminals. There have been
no sanctions against the U.S. for its endless torturing and murdering.
9. “The American criminal justice system holds almost 2.3 million people in 1,833 state prisons, 110 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,134 local jails, 218 immigration detention facilities, and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories.” Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2020 | Prison Policy Initiative and Census of State and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities, 2012 (umich.edu) ?
Could Icelanders Herald Path to Economic Equality with Prosperity and Peace?
Could Icelanders Herald Path to Economic Equality with Prosperity and Peace? [Part 11]
Iceland, youngest land on the planet.
Little Crime, Murder, Violence—But They Are Increasing
We can learn from the Icelandic people’s sense of assuming political responsibility, their tightknit togetherness—98% know people they can rely on—and from their culture, which fosters more authors per capita than any country in the world.
I am concerned, however, that a growing fast life sub-culture—especially in the ever-growing Capital Region where 60% of the 345,000 population live on just 1% of the land—could lead this peaceful and intelligent people to deteriorate into ruinous consumerism as happens to most people in the world when they have the chance.
Tourism has produced drug smuggling, rampant pornography, escalating prostitution that did not exist before, and gouging by some businessmen and politicians. Rampant growth in tourism—from 200,000 in 1995 to two million in 2019, exceeding six times the population—too many cars, and the partial return of the United States to Keflavik Naval Base are all signs of decaying humanistic values.
Three U.S. Navy Boeing P-8A Poseidons of Patrol Squadron 4 (VP-4) “Skinny Dragons” parked on the apron of Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, on November 16, 2019.
Prostitution is a growing industry in Reykjavík, largely due to growing tourism. This growing industry is primarily operated online, through websites that advertise escort services or through social media, including Facebook. Most of the women are foreign, and police suspects they are victims of international prostitution rings which ship them from one country to the next, stopping only for a very brief time in each city.
Prostitution is not illegal, but buying the services of a prostitute
or profiting from prostitution is. In other words: Prostitutes are treated
as victims of human trafficking and are not punished by law, while pimps
and johns are arrested. However, no arrests have been made for several
Prostitute in Reyjkavik. [Source: icelandmonitor.mbl.is]
“At least three motorcycle gangs are trying to establish themselves in Iceland, Hells Angels, Outlaws and Bad Breed. In previous years, the Icelandic police had been successful in hindering motorcycle gangs in gaining significant foothold in Iceland, but…there are now definite signs that they are actively working to expand their presence in Iceland. Many members of the motorcycle gangs in Iceland have ties to the illegal drug trade, money laundering, and are known to be armed.” (Organized Crime and Prostitution on the rise in Iceland – Iceland Monitor (mbl.is)
Is this peaceful island nation becoming something uncertain, something cosmopolitan or will the majority of the people, conscious of the dangers of greedy capitalism, recall the humane possibilities of creating a cooperative socialist economy, and an end to the ever-expanding warmongering NATO?
Shots were fired at a politician’s property, on January 21, 2021, for the first time in Icelandic folks’ memory. Bullets from a .22 pistol were fired into Reykjavik Mayor Dagur B Eggertsson’s car and his office. He was not present in either occasion.
Eggertsson, who has been mayor since 2014, is a member of the Social Democratic Alliance. Speculation circulated that the mayor had been hoarding three parking places in a city overloaded with personal cars. It turned out that he did not control those three spaces.
Hallur Gunnar Erlingsson was arrested and remanded into custody. He is a former police officer and is considered dangerous. In 2003, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for sexually assaulting three young girls.
Erlingsson completed that sentence in 2005. In 2009, he sought to “restore his honor,” wherein one’s legal reputation, but not their criminal record, is effectively cleansed by having several people attest that the person has changed his ways for the better. Erlingsson’s request was granted. Later that year, however, he seriously harassed Centre Party vice councilperson Baldur Borgþórsson.
While crime rates are low, and shootings most unusual, just four weeks
after the Erlingsson shooting, an Albanian immigrant was shot several
times in front of his home, and died of multiple wounds. This was the
first shooting death in Iceland since 2007. Armando Bequirai, 32, had
owned a physical security company.
A month later, police arrested an Albanian national, Angjelin Sterkej, who confessed. Police had found his .22 caliber pistol, from which he had fired nine shots.
“The police investigation was extensive, and suspicion soon arose that the murder was part of a settlement between criminal groups, domestic as well as international.” Fourteen people were detained during the investigation and, at one point, nine were in custody at the same time.
On September 24, Sterkej was found guilty after confessing to the murder. He was sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment, and ordered to pay damages to Sterkej’s widow. Three alleged accomplices were acquitted.
This execution-style murder with gangster overtones was unheard of in Iceland, and is judged “a serious development and a new reality in Icelandic society.” (Fatal Shooting Feared to Suggest New Reality – Iceland Monitor (mbl.is)
Still, very few crimes involve firearms. Iceland has traditionally
had a homicide rate of less than one per year for the last several decades.
Its current rate is 0.5 per 100,000 people. In 2020, the U.S. rate was
7.8 homicides per 100,000 people.
Iceland has experienced 37 homicides in the last two decades—the lowest murder rate in Europe.
Four homicides in 2017 and four again in 2020 were exceptional. One murder, on January 13, 2017, shocked the nation, causing local AP correspondent, Egill Bjarnason, to state:
“I think many people feel overwhelmed by how fast the country is changing, from a small island nation to something more cosmopolitan.” “Birna’s death somehow encapsulated people’s unease about this new era.”
Birna Brjánsdóttir, 20, was walking home from a Reykjavík
pub around five in the morning. She was drunk. A young Greenland fisher
in port from a fishing vessel picked her up in a rental car. After an
intensive search, Thomas Olsen was arrested and charged with her murder
by drowning. A three-judge court found Olsen guilty and sentenced him
to 19 years in prison.
Besides murders, mostly committed by young Icelanders killing each other, women are subject to some rapes. Reported rapes in 2015 numbered 178 (54 per 100,000), triple that of 2004 when the rate was 17.4 per 100,000 population. Tourism, porn media, and immigration are the main causes for this increase.
Five percent of all European women reported in 2014 having been raped since the age of 15. Ten percent reported having experienced sexual violence since the age of 15. In Iceland, even with the recent increase, just one-tenth of one percent have experienced such violence. In the U.S. one in five women (19.3%) reported having been raped during their lifetime. , from 30 to 60 cases, in 2019.
Icelanders are generally not a violent people. In fact, they are deemed
the most peaceful country in the world for 13 years running. Handguns
in the country are banned.
Even Icelandic police are very seldom violent. Police do not usually carry lethal weapons. The prime minister does not normally have bodyguards.
“Police in Iceland said they shot dead a gunman — the first time armed police have killed someone in the nation.” December 2, 2013.
No police shooting deaths have occurred since.
Regarding the 2013 shooting death, police said that they were called to a suburban Reykjavik apartment when a 59-year-old man fired a shotgun from his flat. Two unarmed police officers tried to enter the gunman’s apartment after neighbors reported that he was making threats.
The police were shot at but not injured. Other police officers came armed. Witnesses said the police tried to subdue the man by throwing a smoke bomb into the apartment through a broken window. Two police officers were hit by shotgun fire, but not seriously wounded. They fired at the man, killing him.
Some of the reasons why there is so little crime, even today, has to do with:
1. Small country where people know one another, including politicians and capitalists.
2. Tight gun control. Everyone desiring to buy a firearm must be approved and registered by a state agency. Semi-automatic rifles are banned as are pistols (generally). There must be a special reason to own a pistol and it can take three-four years before permission is granted. A national database registers and tracks all firearms. Nevertheless, one in three persons owns one or more firearms, which are used for hunting wild animals and for “sports.”
3. Although Iceland joined NATO, it refuses to send its people to war, which would likely cause many returning soldiers to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which would likely lead to increases in shooting suicides and murders, drug addiction and criminal activities.
Crime and Punishment
Iceland had 33 persons incarcerated per 100,000 population in 2021. It has fewer prisoners than all but 10 other countries, some with lower populations. This year, the incarceration rate in the United States was 698 per 100,000 population, the highest in the world.
The “Greatest Country in the World” imprisons approximately 25% (one of every four) of the world’s prisoners (2.3 million incarcerated, and an additional 4.4 million on probation or parole) despite it being just four percent (one in 25) of the planet’s population.
Iceland abolished capital punishment in 1928, with the last execution occurring in 1830. In 2020, the United States executed 17 people: ten whites, five blacks, one Hispanic, and one “undetermined.” The U.S. has 7,147 prisons and jails.
In Iceland, after serving one-third of their sentence, most inmates are allowed to visit families one day a month. Most prisoners earn money working by making license plates, games, and cement blocks. Others receive education. Prisoners buy their own groceries with their wages and make their own food. They can bring radios, TVs, computers, printers, speakers, and books to their rooms. Prisoners are expected to take care of themselves, and violent conflicts inside prisons are extremely rare.
Kvíabryggja Prison in Iceland. [Source: theconversation.com]
Human rights reports repeatedly find no cases of torture, “disappearance,” or incarceration of political prisoners.
In the U.S., “The number of incarcerated people who have a mental illness is growing across the country, raising critical questions about using prisons instead of hospitals to manage serious mental health problems. More than half of all Americans in prison or jail have a mental illness. Prison officials often fail to provide appropriate treatment for people whose behavior is difficult to manage, instead resorting to physical force and solitary confinement, which can aggravate mental health problems.”
In 2020, “the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) found that no ill-treatment was reported in Icelandic prisons, police or psychiatric establishments visited and that the material conditions were good or even very good.”
CPT did criticize the prison system for not adequately controlling the intake of drugs and alcohol, and not providing adequate psychological care for prisoners with mental problems, especially at Litla-Hraun, the only high-security prison. It is here where the FBI snitch against Julian Assange, Sigurdur Thordarson, has been interned since September 24 under a “rarely invoked” law that allows police to detain someone considered to be in the middle of a crime spree.
Thordarson had been convicted of several crimes of pedophilia, embezzlement,
including $50,000 from WikiLeaks when he worked as a volunteer. Nevertheless,
the FBI paid him $5,000 to testify against Julian Assange in the extradition
case under way in London. Thordarson’s testimony was a crucial
part of the U.S. case against Assange. Thordarson has since recanted,
admitting to fabricating testimony that Assange had asked him to hack
a government computer.
“Thordarson admitted in an earlier interview with Stundin in June that he lied to the FBI about Assange directly ordering hacking operations—a key element of the U.S. computer charge against the WikiLeaks founder.
Thordarson was granted immunity by the FBI against prosecution in exchange for becoming an FBI informant in a sting against WikiLeaks in 2010,” wrote Joe Lauria.
snitch Sigurdur Thordarson.
On December 10, 2021, the British aristocratic “High Court” granted the U.S. its appeal and ordered a lower court to extradite our messenger, Julian Assange, to U.S. torture prison chambers. It did not even consider the admitted lies of the U.S.’s snitch. Not to mention, the knowledge that the CIA planned to kidnap and murder Julian when he was in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
“Let us look at ourselves, if we have the courage, to see what is happening to us,” wrote Jean-Paul Sartre.
The British lower court magistrate had bowed her head to the CIA as if it were her King: “In her ruling in January against extraditing the imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher, Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser expressed a high degree of understanding for the CIA wanting to rub out Assange,” Lauria wrote.
[Since then, the high court and Home Secretary Priti Patel have decided that Julian Assange can be extradited to the government that has tried to murder him.]
Iceland is known for its moon-like volcanic nature, its relatively clean fresh air and waters, for its sagas (Íslendingasögur), and for pony-sized horses.
Like its people, the Icelandic pony is “a friendly, patient and strong animal.” Its origin stems from Norwegian slave-owning Vikings in the 9th century.
Later settlers brought ponies and horses from the Faroe Islands, Ireland and Mongolia. The Althing Parliament prohibited the importation of more horses in 982, which is still in effect, making its pony a purebred since then. Nor are Iceland’s ponies allowed to be sold abroad.
Sagas are family prose narratives based on historical events, which mostly took place in Iceland in the ninth to eleventh centuries. Icelandic ponies play a role in some of them. The Saga Age is considered the best specimen of the island’s literature. They were written in the 12-14th centuries in Old Icelandic, a Western dialect of Old Norse. Icelanders still speak their original language while the other Scandinavian countries have developed their own languages.
According to the saga Landáma, the Norwegian Viking captain, Ingólfr Arnarson, brought the first Irish slaves, in 874, to Iceland where Reykjavik was eventually built. The saga was written two or three centuries after Arnarson, his wife Hallveig Fróðadóttir, and his step-brother Hjörleifr Hróömarsson arrived. Within a short time, a few Irish slaves rebelled, killing their slave-owner Hróömarsson, and fleeing to the nearby islands of Vestmannaeyjar. Arnarson chased and killed them. The islands were named Vestmannaeyjar, because Norse men used this term Vestmann (West Man) for Irishmen. (Ingólfr Arnarson – Wikipedia)
Ingólfr Arnarson commands slaves in this 19th century painting by Peter Raadsig.
Today, sixty percent of the total population of 330,000 Icelanders are of Norse descent [also Danish]. Thirty-four percent are of Celtic descent. It is believed Scottish monks arrived in Iceland prior to the settlement of the Vikings.
Contemporary “Icelanders are extremely proud of their heritage” regardless of their knowledge that “Vikings did raid towns and villages on their journeys across the seas famously taking anything they wanted. Thereby not only increasing their wealth but also kidnapping workers, and even future wives.”
Proud yes, yet admirers of murderous Vikings, Icelanders have other contradictions. Half of them still believe in elves, though they accept a state church, albeit not a theocracy. While all religions (and paganism) are accepted, the Lutheran Church is the State Church, as it is in other Scandinavian countries and Germany where it began.
Denmark introduced Lutheranism to Iceland, in 1536. German fishermen-traders established the first Lutheran Church in Iceland two years later. Soon, the Lutheran Church became the national church in the rest of Scandinavia.
According to Article 62 of the Icelandic Constitution—decreed on June 17, 1944—the Evangelical Lutheran Church “shall be the State Church in Iceland and, as such, it shall be supported and protected by the State,” which means that all taxpayers must pay despite the fact that only 65% are members, a decline from 85% in 2005. There are 47 recognized religions in Iceland. About 10% declare themselves atheists and 5% practice Ásatrú, a pagan Norse religion. Icelanders are required to register their religion with the state. They must pay “parish fees” of about $100 annually. The state deducts this sum from the unaffiliated into the national treasury. A September 2015 poll showed that 55% want an end to the forced payment.
In modern times, Icelandic authors have written marvelous novels, detective stories and poetry. Many ordinary citizens write their own poetry. In fact, 10% have published at least one book. More books are published and sold per person in Iceland than anywhere else, and there are more bookstores per capita. Most people actually read books.
Icelandic culture is so rich, because nearly everyone feels connected to other people and to nature. Icelanders appreciate theater, symphonies, even opera. There are many art galleries, professional theaters, museums, and cinemas. Filmmakers are world class.
When I moved to Denmark, I began reading books written by Scandinavians. My first and best Icelandic author was Halldór Laxness. He wrote novels, short stories and poetry. Laxness drew from Bertolt Brecht, Upton Sinclair, Sinclair Lewis and Ernest Hemingway. He even translated Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.
Laxness is best known for Salka Valka, a sociological novel depicting
a girl of nature who fights for justice, for union rights and livable
working conditions. This book began a series of social-critical novels
in which socialism is the preferred economic order. Laxness won the
Lenin Peace Prize in 1953, which did not prevent the Swedish-based institution
from granting him the Nobel Prize for Literature two years later. That
he was a communist did not hurt his national reputation.
Halldór Laxness by Icelandic artist
Einar Hákonarson, 1984.
I bring my reading into this writing, in order to illustrate how cultured Icelanders are, which leads me to an anecdote about one of Icelanders’ greatest skills, chess. This intelligent game is not only for professional players, as most Icelanders are good at it. In fact, Iceland has more rated grandmasters per capita than any other nationality. And, of course, Iceland was chosen for the famous 1972 world championship played at Reykjavik between Soviet Boris Spassky and American Bobby Fischer.
I worked on a fishing boat and on the docks of the small island of Heimaey, part of Vestmannaeyjar, in the summer of 1981. I had become familiar with the island, because of the 1973 eruption of Eldfell volcano, which destroyed one-fifth of its buildings. The tenacious islanders did not falter in putting out the fires by pumping ocean water that diverted the scorching hot lava back to the sea, which actually improved the harbor. Much of the lava was converted into heat energy for all their homes. The 13-square kilometer island then housed 5,000 residents (now 4,500). It has always been a major fishing village.
Eldfell volcano erupts on Vestmannaeyjar in January 1973.
When there was a break in our work, waiting for the nets to catch fish, several men and teenage fishers took out chessboards. I play a bit and watched amazed. Most of these boys and men had minimal education, ten grades, yet all were excellent players. When I asked if I might try my hand, there was a hush. I learned from my native “guide”—who had found me work and a free place—that they were shy and embarrassed. They didn’t want me to feel left out or ignored. On the other hand, they didn’t want me to play because, without knowing how good I might be, they surmised that I wouldn’t last but a couple of minutes. I understood their reasoning completely.
Conclusion: Small Societies Can Be More Peaceful and Egalitarian Than Large Ones
“Small is beautiful,” some readers might characterize my ideas here, perhaps referring to economist E.F. Schumacher. I have not read his book, nor am I an economist. Nevertheless, his basic ideas appeal to me—that capitalism cannot solve our major problems, and that socialism has a better chance of becoming a “more democratic and dignified system of industrial administration, a more humane employment of machinery, and a more intelligent utilization of the fruits of human ingenuity and effort. If they can do this, they have the future in their hands. If they cannot, they have nothing to offer that is worthy of the sweat of free-born men.”
I prefer that the working classes rise up and smash capitalism, and create socialist-democratic societies such as many thought was a good idea in the late 1800s and early 1900s, early 1930s, and 1960s-70s.
From the present perspective, such a world seems impossible in any
fore-seeable future. Maybe a gradual increase in true social democracy—not
that of Bernie Sanders, who is nothing more than a spokesperson for
“moderate” capitalism—while expanding class consciousness
and struggles for peace could set the stage for a relatively peaceful
transition to socialism.
I realize that the capitalist class and all its military/police might well do all in their power to prevent such a transition, but they have also done the same when we have attempted armed revolutions. Until now, they have won by hook and by crook. They outgunned the Soviet Union and forced it to capitulate. They forced China, Vietnam and Cuba to open up their economies [for capitalism]. None of the socialist revolutions was able, or wished, to turn over power to the working class as promised.
Maybe it was not possible because of the constant subversion and violence that the United States of America Racist Military Empire (US-ARME), and its footmen NATO/EU/Commonwealth/Israel, conduct against every attempt to create such a society through peaceful or armed means. I watched this take place in Cuba during my years there (1987-96), and have seen first-hand what they are doing to Venezuela and Nicaragua, and attempted in Bolivia.
I believe that Iceland, with its strong tradition of more direct democracy than any state of which I am aware, has a better chance of putting socialism back on the table in the not so distant future. If they would do so, this could encourage others.
When Jean-Jacques Rousseau used the term democracy, he referred to a direct democracy rather than a representative or winner-take-all “democracy.” Rousseau argued that only small city-states are the form of society in which freedom and peaceful relations can possibly flourish.
Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat.
“In his most influential work of political philosophy, The Social Contract (1762), Rousseau asserts that democracy is incompatible with representative institutions…‘[T]he moment a people allows itself to be represented, it is no longer free: it no longer exists.’”( Democracy – Rousseau | Britannica)
Rousseau, however, was pessimistic about the long-run viability of any form of government where the society has too many human beings. He did not set any number that might be “too many.” Though, he hints, “that democratic governments may be viable if joined together in confederations.”
Anthropologists have concluded that, when Homo Sapiens lived in small groups (20 to 100), it was possible to live with one another in relative peace and with relative democratic decision-making. Each person had his/her tasks, and no person could occupy a leading position without authentic skill and without consent of the group.
In my opinion, we Homo Sapiens are likely doomed to murder one another individually and in massive scale, as we also destroy much of the planet with our waste.
Why have I become so misanthropic of late?
1. Most people support, voluntarily or otherwise, constructing huge societies dominated by a few persons (an economic class) bent on obtaining endless wealth by any means deemed “necessary.”
2. Revolutions aimed at creating socialism and peace have been outgunned by overpoweringly military-based societies, namely the U.S.-ARME with 4,000 military bases in its 50 states, 800 bases in 70 countries and with hundreds of thousands of voluntary warriors based in 150 countries.
3. Most people insist on bearing as many children as they want or think they need.
The planet is already over-populated and cannot sustain the human race as it is. In my opinion, parents in most countries should bear only one child (at most two) for some time to come. China tried this for some years with mixed effects. This is a sane approach. Nevertheless, most social scientists and Marxist readers might deride my view that we bear too many children. I remind readers that Karl Marx died almost 139 years ago and much has changed since he disputed Thomas Malthus’s conclusions in "An Essay on the Principles of Population."
In 1800, the world population was one billion; today, it is eight times that. Not so many children are needed today to become laborers on family farms or soldiers for that matter, given that bombs and drones are more “useful” than foot soldiers. Ego plays too much of a role in having children.
I conclude with some words of wisdom—first from what Vigdis Finnbogadóttir told me, followed by Evo Morales’s vision.
“Think what could be done if the money that went into militarism went into, say, cultivating the Sahara. I don’t know if it’s possible, but today everything seems possible because of science.
“If you believe in a thing strongly enough, it may be possible
to reconcile the different approaches to economic and political social
systems. The human brain is so developed now that the personal ambition
of a relatively few people shouldn’t be strong. How do we stop
them? If I knew, I would have the key to everything.”
Bolivia’s former President Evo Morales has some answers for Vigdis in his “Ten Commandments: Live Well, Not Live Better.”
Evo Moraled (c); Venezuela President Hugo Chavez (r) at Bolivia's Peoples
Climate Conference, 2010. 35,000 people attended.
“Sisters and brothers, [in] the tenth point, we propose to Live Well, not live better at the expense of another—a Live Well based on the lifestyle of our peoples, the riches of our communities, fertile lands, water and clean air. Socialism is talked about a lot, but we need to improve this socialism, improve the proposals for socialism in the XXI century, building a communitarian socialism, or simply Live Well, in harmony with Mother Earth, respecting the shared life ways of the community."
1. “The American criminal justice system holds almost 2.3 million people in 1,833 state prisons, 110 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,134 local jails, 218 immigration detention facilities, and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories.”
Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2020 | Prison Policy Initiative and Census of State and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities, 2012 (umich.edu)
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