Jón Gnarr, Anarcho-Surrealist Mayor of Reykjavík: On to Iceland’s Parliament?

Jón Gnarr, former member of Sugarcubes (Björk’s old band) leads the Best Party, home to anarchists, surrealist, punks and poets—and their anti-politics are changing Iceland’s political landscape.

Jón Gnarr, Anarcho-Surrealist Mayor of Reykjavík: On to Iceland's Parliament?

The first thing you must know about Jón Gnarr is that he’s a self-described anarchist who has invoked Tolstoy and Bakunin, as well as Gandhi and punk band Crass. It is critical in understanding what is happening in Reykjavík with the Best Party.

Gnarr was formerly in a band with Björk called the Surgarcubes, and for the last 15 years or so has been a comedian and writer.  Last year, he and his band of merry pranksters took the mayor’s office on an absurdist agenda.

Gnarr founded the party with former Sugarcubes member Einar Örn Benediktsson and friends, fellow musicians, pop start, poets, punk—a veritable underground of culture—and called it Besti flokkurinn, or Best Party, in English.  It hardly had an agenda, other than the fact that it could promise Icelanders that it would break its promises, and that it had a 10-point plan with 13 points.

In an interview published by the UK’s Guardian, Einar Örn—also a former member of anarcho-punk band KUKL— is quoted as saying:

“The human spirit has been crushed by small-minded people playing politics. We have no agenda and are just fully engaged in trying to do our best. We have no party members and no idea about spin or political punchlines. When we don’t know something, we admit ignorance.”

In this very same interview, Gudfridur Lilja Grétarsdóttir, head of the Left Green parliamentary group, expressed hope that the Best Party’s movement would transition into national politics.

And though the Best Party was conceived as a joke, a prank, to satirize Icelandic politics, Gnarr’s ultimate election in 2010, it was the perfect way to demonstrate the futility of status quo politics. In truth, it takes the creativity of artists, poets, musicians—anything but those with finance and law degrees—to come up with creative ways of approaching civilization’s problems.

But, once elected, Gnarr surely had to govern and not just regurgitate the empty government-speak of Icelandic politicians.  Gnarr found himself in control of 6 of the 15 City Council sits—and those 6 seats were occupied by people with no experience in politics.

Point to consider: when has experience in politics ever yielded anything productive? Experienced politicians the world over have led us to the brink of disasters so many times, whether by war of the free market economy (which allows banks and corporations to implode economies), than why not give power to a party that doesn’t claim to have all the answers?

Nevermind that Gnarr and the Best Party called for free towels in all Reykjavík swimming pools, a drug-free parliament in 2020, the pledge to get a polar bear at the city zoo and a Disneyland installed at Vatnsmyri (a meadow on the edge of the city): The point is lost on journalists who don’t see the surrealism embedded therein, or the veiled cultural criticism. The polar bear pledge was a satirical comment on climate change and immigration, since four bears were shot while swimming in Icelandic waters.

The pledges are more or less outlandish and will not be delivered (except for maybe the free towels), mirroring the inability of politicians to deliver anything substantive but lies, corruption and bubble/pop economies.

It cannot be overstated how important it is that an openly anarchist individual occupies a political office. It may seem like a contradiction in terms, but on a purely symbolic level, it is ever-so-important.

These are serious times, and we need to look to other ways of doing things—other ways of thinking. We must be ready to discard the type of democracy that has become calcified, and the free market economics that have enabled it. Jón Gnarr, Einar Örn and the rest of the Best Party are leading the way. We would be mistaken to assume the Best Party’s city council takeover was simply a protest vote. It’s simply a rhetorical method of devaluing what Gnarr and Co. have done. The lawyers, the bankers, the corporate executives—they are the real jokers.

And so what if a bunch of anarchist pranksters, surrealists, ex-pop stars, etc, are installed in the very institution which they love to satirize: the best way to destroy something is from within.

(Below is the Best Party’s Strategy and Gnarr’s Best Party campaign video.)

  1. To help the households in the country: Family is the best thing in society. Governments need to meet the needs and demands of households. An ironclad shield wall needs to be raised around the households in this country. Icelandic households deserve only the best.
  2. To improve the quality of life of the Less Fortunate: We want the best of everything for this bunch and therefore offer free access to buses and swimming pools so you can travel around Reykjavik and be clean even if you’re poor or there’s something wrong with you.
  3. Stop corruption: We promise to stop corruption. We’ll accomplish this by participating in it openly.
  4. Equality: Everyone deserves the best regardless of who they are and where they come from. We will do our best for everyone so that everyone can be together on the best team.
  5. Increase transparency: It’s best to have everything aboveboard so that the general public knows what is going on. We say we support that.
  6. Effective democracy: Democracy is pretty good, but an effective democracy is best. That’s why we want it.
  7. Cancel all debts: We listen to the nation and do as it wishes because the nation knows what’s best for itself.
  8. Free bus rides for students and cripples: We can offer more free things than any other party because we aren’t going to follow through with it. We could say whatever we want. For example, free flights for women or free cars for people who live in rural areas. It’s all the same.
  9. Free dental services for children and handicapped people: This is something that is lacking, and we definitely want to take part in promising it.
  10. Free access to swimming pools for everyone and free towels: This is something that everyone should fall for, and it’s the election promise we’re most proud of.
  11. Take those responsible for the economic collapse to court: Felt we had to include this.
  12. Complete equality of the sexes
  13. Listen more to women and old people: This bunch gets listened to far too little. It’s as if everyone thinks they are just complaining or something. We’re going to change that