Trump Dangerous for Freedom

Dr. Palmer gives his talk.

President Donald Trump is an unpredictable bully who is undermining the institutions and political traditions of the United States, Dr. Tom Palmer, Senior Fellow at Cato Institute and Executive Vice-President of International Programmes at Atlas Network, said at a Freedom Chat in Reykjavik 23 January 2018, organised by the Libertarian Society of Iceland. Palmer found it difficult to explain Trump’s election. Probably this had been a “black swan” event, when several factors suddenly worked in the same way to produce an unexpected outcome. Trump and Hillary Clinton had been unpalatable alternatives. Palmer described Trump as a ruthless power-monger who tried to intimidate both his allies and opponents. The Republicans were afraid of him whereas the Democrats were hostile towards him. If the chance would present itself, Congress would try to impeach him, although Palmer rated the likelihood of that happening less rather than more. He said that one explanation for Trump’s rise was a change in the U.S. political discourse. It was no longer about the pursuit of common rules enabling different individuals mutually to accommodate themselves, but rather about constructing collective identities, hostile to one another. Some white working class voters supported Trump because they resented the mostly negative attitude towards white people in this discourse. Thus, ironically, some left wing intellectuals bore their part of the responsibility for Trump, however loudly they denied it. The office of the U.S. President was very powerful which increased the danger coming from Trump, even if some checks and balances certainly were built into the U.S. Constitution. A lively discussion followed Dr. Palmer’s talk which took place in the Petersen Suite in Gamla Bio and was well attended.

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The US, Trump and Freedom

Tuesday 23 January 2018 Dr. Tom Palmer will be discussing the US, Trump and the future of individual freedom at the Petersen Bar in Gamla Bio [The Old Cinema], Ingolfsstraeti 2A. The meeting begins at 20:00 and is held by the Libertarian Association and sponsored by RNH. Palmer’s talk will be followed by questions and answers.

Palmer is one of the best-known and most eloquent spokesmen in the US for individual freedom. He directs international programmes at Atlas Foundation, a Washington-based umbrella organisation for research institutes around the world all of which seek spontaneous rather than coercive solutions to social problems. He is also a Senior Fellow at Cato Institute.

With a doctorate in Politics from Oxford University, Palmer is an old and good friend of Iceland and well-known to many Icelanders. He has published several books on politics and philosophy. The support by RNH for this meeting forms a part of the joint project with ACRE, the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe, about “Europe, Iceland, and the Future of Capitalism.”

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Oddsson at the Central Bank of Iceland

Oddsson (right) in a discussion with Eythor Arnalds at his birthday reception.

RNH Academic Director, Professor Hannes H. Gissurarson, published an article in Morgunbladid 17 January 2018 on David Oddsson’s seventieth birthday. It was on Oddsson’s career at the Central Bank of Iceland in 2005–9, where Gissurarson served on the Overseeing Board in 2001–9. When Oddsson was Iceland’s longest-serving Prime Minister in 1991–2004, economic freedom in Iceland significantly increased, as seen by the International Economic Freedom Index regularly calculated by Canada’s Fraser Institute. In his article, Gissurarson recalled the many warnings Oddsson uttered, after he had been appointed CBI Governor, against the rapid expansion of the Icelandic banks, in private conversations with Halldor Asgrimsson and Geir H. Haarde in the autumn of 2005, with Thorgerdur K. Gunnarsdottir in late 2007, and with some leading politicians in early 2008, notably Ingibjorg S. Gisladottir. Alas, Oddsson’s suggestions that the banking sector should be reduced by moving Kaupthing to another country, by selling a Norwegian bank owned by Glitnir and by transferring Landsbanki’s Icesave accounts from its London branch to a British subsidiary were ignored.

At a breakfast meeting of the Chamber of Commerce 6 November 2007 Oddsson said: “For a while, cheap capital was readily available, and some were bold enough to grab the opportunity. But the flip side of expansion, and the side that cannot be ignored, is that Iceland is becoming uncomfortably beleaguered by foreign debt. At a time when the Icelandic government has rapidly reduced its debt and the Central Bank’s foreign and domestic assets have increased dramatically, other foreign commitments have increased so much that the first two pale into insignificance in comparison. All can still go well, but we are surely at the outer limits of what we can sustain for the long term.” In 2008, large foreign loans were not available except at very high interest rates, so the CBI repeatedly tried to make dollar swap deals with other central banks. Its requests were rejected everywhere except in the three Scandinavian countries, where intensive pressure had to be used. Gisladottir, leader of the Social Democrats, however considered Oddsson’s warnings about the banks “one man’s venting” and wrote 4 September 2008 that deposit collection by the Icelandic banks in other countries should continue.

Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson at the reception.

At the end of September 2008 when it became clear that the Icelandic banks would collapse, Oddsson insisted that Iceland should be ring-fenced by dividing up the banking sector into a domestic and a foreign part and by not taking responsibility for the banks’ liabilities, but giving depositors priority claims to the banks’ estates. This turned out to be a wise move, greatly facilitated by the fact that the Icelandic Treasury had become virtually debtless. From the beginning, Oddsson also campaigned against the Treasury taking on any liabilities from Landsbanki’s Icesave accounts. In his article in Morgunbladid, Professor Gissurarson argued that the two accusations of negligence directed against Oddsson and his two colleagues at the CBI by the Special Investigation Commission, SIC, into the bank collapse both were about minor details which did make any difference for the collapse. The SIC seemed to believe that more memos and reports had been needed in cases where decisions had to be made quickly and firmly. Gissurarson is finishing a report on the bank collapse for the Ministry of Finance and has already described some of its conclusions at a meeting of the Icelandic Historians’ Association.

Oddsson has from 2009 been Editor of Morgunbladid, and on his birthday its publishing company held a well-attended afternoon reception in its headquarters, where everybody was welcome. In the evening, Oddsson invited some of his friends and colleagues to a private dinner.

Gissurarson Article on Oddsson at the CBI

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Graves Without Crosses

On the wall is an exhibition about persecution of the Roma people.

At the annual meeting of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience, to which RNH belongs, in Vilnius in Lithuania 28–30 November 2017 one main theme was the mass murder of Roma people (gypsies) in the Second World War where the Nazis were the chief perpetrators. The Platform was founded in 2011 in accordance with declarations by the European Council and the European Parliament that communist totalitarianism had to be condemned alongside Nazism and that the memory of its victims had to be upheld. The Platform’s first President was Göran Lindblad, who while a member of the European Council during his tenure as an MP for Sweden’s Moderate Unity Party, had been instrumental in having the declaration of the European Council adopted. At the 2017 meeting, Professor Lukacz Kaminski from Polland was elected President instead of Lindblad. Trustees of the Platform include Professor Stéphane Courtois, Editor of the Black Book of Communism (published in the Icelandic translation of Hannes H. Gissurarson in 2009), and Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, the author of books about the Gulag and the Iron Curtain. The annual meeting was held in the Tuskulenai Museum in the Tuskulenai Peace Garden where after the collapse of the Soviet Union mass graves were found with the victims of communism in 1944–7. The Platform’s President Lindblad laid a bouquet of flowers to a memorial to the victims in the Park. The Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania organised the meeting, where four new partners joined the Platform, including the Collège des Bernardines  in Paris.

RNH Academic Director Professor Hannes H. Gissurarson attended the annual meeting and gave a talk about several projects which RNH undertakes jointly with ACRE, the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe, under the label “Europe of the Victims”. Recently, Gissurarson has been commissioned to write a report, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, The Voices of the Victims, to be published late in 2017. His argument there is that Stalinism was a logical consequence of Marxism rather than an aberration from it and that Western apologists of Soviet terror share some collective responsibility with the Soviet rulers. He briefly surveys anti-totalitarian literature of the 20th century, including the novels by George Orwell and Arthur Koestler, Nineteen Eighty Four and Darkness at Noon, and the accounts of communism given by refugees or disillusioned travellers, such as I Chose Freedom by Victor Kravchenko, Out of the Night by Jan Valtin, Under Two Dictators by Margarete Buber-Neumann, El Campesino by Valentín González, Nightmare of the Innocents by Otto Larsen, Baltic Eclipse by Ants Oras and Articles on Communism by Bertrand Russell. In the report, Professor Gissurarson also discusses the contribution of historians exposing the Big Lie, such as Robert Conquest, Stéphane CourtoisAnne Applebaum, Bent Jensen and Frank Dikötter.

Attendees at the 2017 annual meeting of the Platform.

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Historians: Commemoration of Communist Victims

Historians Antoine Arjakovsky and Stéphane Courtois who introduced his new book on Lenin as the inventor of totalitarianism.

RNH is a member institute of the European Platform of Memory and Conscience. At the Platform’s conference in Paris 8–9 November, the following memorandum was passed:

100 years ago, the Bolshevik revolution introduced a murderous utopia. It eradicated the established social and moral order, ushering in a century of totalitarianism in the world. Social engineering which aimed to take total control over people was forcibly and brutally implemented. People were deprived of their basic personal freedoms, the rule of law and humanism, which were replaced by state terror.

100 years after the Bolshevik uprising in Russia, the murderous regime that was introduced then is still deemed somehow acceptable and excusable today. Much more so than Nazism, despite the fact that it produced more than double the amount of victims, many of whom are still unidentified and left lying in unmarked graves. This is unacceptable.

Today, 100 years later, we still witness the relativisation of Communist crimes. Attempts to reduce them to the period of Stalin’s rule, called „Stalinism”, are an unacceptable simplification of the deeply-rooted totalitarian basis of the Communist ideology. As a result, Communist symbols are not yet forbidden in the European public space and Communist parties are still present in public life. Many totalitarian perpetrators were never accused and tried for their crimes.

Today’s Europe is founded on deeply rooted ideas of personal freedom, rule of law, democracy and human rights. Dozens of millions of victims of Communism need respect, remembrance and justice, in order to prevent any attempt of recurrence of Communist or any other totalitarianism.

Therefore, the Platform of European Memory and Conscience and participants of the international conference “100 Years of Communism. History and Memory” which took place in Paris, France on 8-9 November 2017, call Europe to action:

  • In order to show respect to the victims of Communist totalitarian regimes, we call for an official, European-wide prohibition of public presentation of Communist symbols.
  • In order to foster a culture of commemoration, we call for the creation of a memorial to the victims of totalitarianism in the very heart of Europe.
  • In order to allow justice to prevail, we call for the creation of an International Tribunal for Communist Crimes.

We, the free Europeans of today, share common values. We are obliged to stand up for them and promote them. Democracy matters!


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100 Years of Totalitarian Communism


In cooperation with AB, the Public Book Club, RNH is publishing a series of works relevant to the 100 years of totalitarian communism, after the Bolshevik coup, under Lenin’s leadership, in Petrograd 7 November 1917. In the first place, historian Snorri G. Bergsson—also a well-known chess player—has written a detailed history in two volumes of the early years of the Icelandic communist movement: Rodinn i austri (The East is Red) on the period 1919–24, and Raudir fanar (Red Flags) on the period 1925–30. Previously, Bergsson had assisted two university historians in writing books on Icelandic communists, Thor Whitehead on Sovet-Island, oskalandid (Soviet Iceland: The Country of Our Dreams) in 2010 and Hannes H. Gissurarson on Islenskir kommunistar 1918–1998 (Icelandic Communists, 1918–1998) in 2011.


Secondly, RNH Academic Director Professor Hannes H. Gissurarson is editing several works in Icelandic translations on totalitarian communism. These works are being republished on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution: Soviet Myth and Reality by Hungarian writer Arthur Koestler from 1946; Between East and West by Norwegian poet Arnulf Overland from 1949; The God That Failed by Arthur Koestler, Ignazio Silone, André Gide and others, from 1950; I Chose Freedom by Victor Kravchenko from 1951; Prisoner of Hitler and Stalin by German ex-communist Margarete Buber-Neumann from 1954; Nightmare of the Innocents by Norwegian ex-communist Otto Larsen from 1956; and The Hungarian Uprising by Danish journalist Erik Rostboll from 1957. The aim of the republication of these anti-totalitarian works, influential in their time, but long out of print, is to make them available, both online and on paper, to new generations of students and scholars. The occasion is also being used to honour the memory of two staunch opponents of totalitarianism, Prime Minister Geir Hallgrimsson and Editor and Member of Parliament Eyjolfur Konrad Jonsson.

The publication of these nine books on 7 November 2017 forms a part in the joint project by RNH and ACRE, the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe, on “Europe of the Victims.”

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