Thursday 20.10.2011
Are demonstrations an effective way to criticize the flaws of capitalism?
I’m a member of the “Culture Jury” of Finland’s biggest newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. It means that every week they send us questions about current topics. This week’s question was: “Are demonstrations an effective way to criticize the flaws of capitalism?”. 
I think the G8 demonstrations ten years ago achieved only thicker armor on the black cars and more efficient crowd control strategies for the police. Corporate power has increased steadily since then and politicians have approved all this. The only western country to actually demand responsibility from the corporations and banks has been Iceland and there it happened as part of the democratic process.
The belief that citizens have to pay for the mistakes of a financial monopoly, that an entire nation must be taxed to pay off private debts, was shattered. It transformed the relationship between citizens and their political institutions, eventually driving Iceland’s leaders to actually side with their constituents. The Head of State, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, refused to ratify a law that would have made Iceland’s citizens responsible for its bankers’ debts, and accepted calls for a referendum:

“We were told that if we refused the international community’s conditions we would become the Cuba of the North. But if we had accepted we would have become the Haiti of the North.”

In the March 2010 referendum, 93% voted against repayment of the debt. The IMF immediately froze its loan. With the support of a furious citizenry, the government launched civil and penal investigations into those responsible for the financial crisis.  Interpol put out an international arrest warrant for the ex-president of Kaupthing, Sigurdur Einarsson, as the other bankers implicated in the crash fled the country. But Icelanders didn’t stop there: they decided to draft a new constitution that would free the country from the dominion of international finance and virtual money. 
They saved the country by nationalizing, not privatizing. And not by revolution or demonstrating.