British fascist “Tommy Robinson” is in Helsinki this weekend to promote an anti-refugee film, “Seinajaki Arab Spring”. It was screened at an “undisclosed location” after the Finnish Film Foundation refused to host the event.
Robinson failed to show up but did speak at a secret meeting of fascist and far right activists. Robinson’s visit comes against the background of rising far right in Finland. In a guest post from Finland, Laurens Mallinder explains what’s happening.
Readers with a passing knowledge of the populist racist far right in the Nordic countries will, of course, be familiar with the Sweden Democrats (SD). The SD’s tried and tested method of growth has been to combine anti-migrant sentiment with a verbal defence of the welfare state. In doing so they have been able to erode the traditional social democratic constituency.
It seems natural to believe that the home grown populist racist far right in Finland, the Finns Party (Perussuomalaiset – PS), formerly known in English as the True Finns, would be cut from the same cloth as the Swedish party. The answer would be both yes and no.
Yes, in as far as a similar anti-migrant and pro-welfare state line seemed to be in place up until the elections of 2015. Traditional social democratic areas of Finland, such as the town of Nokia – which have been devastated by redundancies and the failure of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in coalition to address this – were easy pickings for the Finns Party.
No, because in the European parliament the PS’s chosen affiliation was with David Cameron’s Conservative group, rather than Nigel Farage’s populist far right grouping.
In 2015, the PS entered a coalition government with Kokomus (a neo-liberal, pro-NATO party) and Keskusta (a rural-based conservative party).
None of this should blind us from the fact that PS was associated with very far right organisations. At least one MP has been linked with fascist pan-Nordic paramilitary group the Nordic Resistance Movement.
A PS councillor organised a “heterosexual pride” march and was later photographed giving a fascist salute. The march was challenged by a lively counter-demonstration.
During the 2015 “refugee crisis”, more than 32,000 refugees came to Finland from Sweden. The Finnish prime minister offered one of his homes to a refugee family, a promise he did not keep. It also transpired that he agreed with the then PS leader, Timo Soini, that priority should be given to Christian refugees.
Those arriving were mostly male and mostly from Iraq, followed by Afghans and Somalis. Processing time for asylum applications was long and bureaucratic.
The media highlighted a number of sexual assaults in connection with the new arrivals. The PS leadership was at odds with their own members regarding the fact that they were part of the coalition government that had permitted arrival of the newcomers.
Street patrols organised by the paramilitary “Soldiers of Odin” appeared. Their founder was a member of the Nordic Resistance Movement.
The Soldiers of Odin haven’t prevented a single assault, real or otherwise. Their founder, however, would soon be convicted of assault.
The patrols themselves were often harassed by troops of clowns, the “Loldiers of Odin”. At the time, the Soldiers of Odin were unable to establish a presence in Helsinki.
Eventually the contradictions of having the PS in government came to the surface. Jussi
Halla-Oho was elected as the party’s leader – a man convicted of hate speech against Somalis. Such a development was unacceptable to the other coalition partners. The parliamentary PS then split in two: a new Blue Reform party and the remainder of the PS.
The Blue Reform party does not have a base and typically polls less than 2% of the vote, but continues to prop up the Thatcherite coalition. The austerity that feeds racism continues.
The PS, by then wounded, went into opposition to be eclipsed by the Greens and the Left Alliance – until events in the city of Oulu, where a child sex abuse case emerged, similar to that in Rotherham.
Racism towards the new arrivals increased. A Finnish-Iraqi couple had bullets fired through their front door as a consequence.
Meanwhile party leader Halla-Oho has said his party’s response to Finland’s stubborn deficit would be a campaign of strict austerity, with public expenditure the first on the chopping block.
The PS is a racist party that overlaps with more sinister organisations. The appetite for fighting racism and fascism exists in Finland, from the “Loldiers of Odin” to larger mobilisations in excess of 10,000 people. But so far mobilisations against the far right have been localised. A national united front against the PS and the growing far right forces is required.