I have just received the no. 72 issue of your magazine, which contains an article by Gisli Gunnarsson, ‘The New Regime in Iceland’. Since it seems to me that this article gives a somewhat simplified picture of the situation in Iceland, I should like to make the following observations.
1. On the most fundamental question—i.e. that the advent of the new government is objectively a positive development, but that it does not in itself constitute a step in the direction of socialism—I agree with the author. However, the positive results that can be expected of it are not limited to an ‘ideological and political clarification’; it might also create a situation objectively more favourable to the struggle for socialism. In this context, the extension of the fishing limit is of crucial importance. Gunnarsson disposes of this measure by saying that it is fully backed by the bourgeoisie. It is true that the right-wing parties verbally support the government in this matter, but during the 12 years of Conservative government absolutely nothing was done to extend the fishing limit, and the claims of the opposition were denounced as irresponsible and adventurist. The point is that this measure, even if there is nothing anti-capitalist about it, runs counter to the strategy adopted by the Icelandic bourgeoisie: subordination of all economic policies to the goal of attracting of foreign capital and systematic neglect of fishing and fishing industry. On the other hand, control over the fishing grounds around Iceland is an essential prerequisite for a future socialist transformation of the Icelandic economy; and it is important to establish this control as soon as possible in order to prevent a destructive exploitation by foreign trawler-fleets.
Of course, the importance of this problem does not justify a reformist general line—a socialist revolution is the only global alternative to the comprador-capitalist strategy. But if a reformist government shows itself capable of solving it, this must certainly influence the attitude revolutionary socialists adopt towards it.
2. Gunnarsson’s pessimism regarding the question of the us base is probably justified. However, it should be emphasized that the government is in this respect less homogenous than his description implies. Recently, the majority of the government decided to accept an offer by the us government to finance an extension of the Keflavík airport. The ministers of the People’s Alliance publicly opposed this decision and condemned it as incompatible with the avowed policy of the govern
3.I think the People’s Alliance deserves a more positive appraisal than it gets in Gunnarsson’s article. It has carried the process of destalinization much farther than any of the cp’s in Western Europe, and there has so far been no sign of the ‘normalization’ to which these are progressively succumbing (there have not been any contacts on party level with the Soviet Union since 1968). Also, intra-party bureaucratization is very limited. It is of course true that the present policy of the party is purely reformist, but compared with Social-Democratic or neo-Stalinist parties it is at the same time more sensitive to influences from the New Left (which so far has not created any independent political organization in Iceland). The possibility of a turn to the left in the party’s policy should therefore, in my view, not be underrated; but only a sharpening of the class struggle in Iceland would permit a more concrete appraisal.
4. In this article, there is an error which must be due to a misprint: the Brezhnevites did not get 7 per cent of the votes in the municipal elections in Reykjavík, but about 1 per cent. 7 per cent would have been a success—at least enough to save the Soviet ambassador.