The results of Sunday’s parliamentary elections have brought nothing drastically novel upon Finland. The same forces that have been systematically implementing neoliberal policies during the last 30 years (SDP, National Coalition, Centre Party) are still the largest political groupings in parliament, joined by the far rightists of the Finns Party. It is difficult to predict the composition of the coming government at this early stage, but I’d bet on a new “blue-red” or “rainbow” executive comprised of SDP, National Coalition or Centre Party, possibly assisted by the Greens, Left Alliance, and/or the Swedish People’s Party. As it usually happens in European liberal democracies, after the bourgeois parties comes the social-democrats’ turn to apply neoliberal, austeritarian policies at the service of big business. These destructive policies are now to be legitimized by a major working-class, centre-left party.
The xenophobic and demagogic far right represented by the Finns maintained its parliamentary presence roughly at the same level as in 2015, but Halla-aho’s party is not the same as the one then led by Timo Soini: the seizure of the party’s leadership by Halla-aho’s hardline xenophobic current aligned the party with more openly racist and neofascist political trends around Europe. The party’s youth wing, for example, is nowadays nothing short of a state-funded white supremacist organization. The Finns have been successful in safeguarding their relative hegemony in Finnish society, something that is visible in the way public debate in Finland is largely conditioned by the far right. The Finnish far right will have even better conditions to do just that as the second largest parliamentary group. After the party’s schism in 2017, support for the Finns decreased rapidly, but the party was able to recover by unashamedly using reports of child abuse by asylum seekers to boost their support through the most disgusting spectacle of hypocrisy and opportunism.
Both the Greens and the Left Alliance saw a rise in their share of the votes, something that has to be seen in conjunction with the right’s and center-right’s (National Coalition and Centre Party) loss of support. The slope was particularly steep for the current prime minister’s Centre Party, who lost 18 seats. This is the result of 4 years of brutally austeritarian neoliberal policy that fostered wide discontent, from which ultimately benefited SDP, the Left Alliance and the Greens. The masters of demagoguery in the Finns Party also benefited from the Centre Party’s defeat, as they were somehow able to fool their lower-class voters, making them apparently forget that the Finns were also in government during part of the last mandate, applying and supporting the very same policies that made the Centre Party fall out of its voters’ good graces.
There will have to be a reorientation of the left in Finland: the main political divide is still the same as before, the one separating supporters of neoliberalism from its opponents, but this time it’s highly probable that a traditional working class party will be leading the neoliberal onslaught. The working class will have to raise its guard against a new neoliberal government while adapting to new challenges: the rise of the Finns, an economically ultraliberal organization with strong racist and neofascist proclivities, to the status of second biggest party means that a copious dose of antifascism must be added to the mix of antineoliberal resistance. Never have the struggles against neoliberalism and neofascism been so closely intertwined. The workers’ movement has to simultaneously battle against a SDP-led neoliberal executive while simultaneously unmasking the Finns in parliamentary opposition as the fascism-flirting, ultraliberal bourgeois party that they are.
This double-edged struggle should promote the organization of an antineoliberal pole on the left. We hope that the Left Alliance will be the popular movement’s voice in parliament, but regardless of their choice – that is, the choice between building an antineoliberal hegemony and supporting a neoliberal executive – the stress must lie on the social movements at the core of society. It is still to be seen which agents will rise as channels of popular struggle. Considering the strong grip that SDP has upon the trade union movement, it will likely be hard to direct these organizations against a SDP executive, but there’s no doubt that the battle has to be fought by left-wing and socialist/communist workers within the trade unions. It also remains to be seen what will happen to the spontaneous protest movements that emerged during Sipilä’s rule, such as Joukkovoima. The Joukkovoima movement has been dwindling for some time now, but what will happen next? Will it resurface as the bane of austerity politics regardless of the party which implements them? Or will it be sedated by the expectations created around a SDP-led government and a reinforced Left Alliance parliamentary presence?