Yrjö Sirola as a fighter, teacher and person (1876-18. March 1936) by Elli Stenberg

Source: SKP – taistelujen tiellä
Published in 1945

(Translated by MLT from Finnish)

“Keep your eyes wide open” is a life motto which Yrjö Sirola followed closely in all periods and activities of his life and gave as an instruction to the entire Finnish working class in 1906. This motto is known by everyone who was fortunate to know Yrjö Sirola as a teacher or close colleague.

The history of Yrjö Sirola’s life in all its stages is inseparably tied to the history of the Finnish working class. Also during the times when he has been abroad – 1909-1913 in America and after 1918 in the Soviet Union – he has worked in particular on behalf of the Finnish working class and the whole Finnish nation.

It is natural and easy for the son of a worker to step into the workers’ movement and devote his whole life to it. On the other hand among those coming from the intelligentsia, there are only few who can honestly feel and say “I have no interests besides the interests of the working class”. Yrjö Sirola almost unnaturally modest, selfless and honest fighter in class struggle, earnestly felt that way despite coming from the intelligentsia, being the son of a priest.

Yrjö Sirola joined the workers’ movement on the eve of the 1905 general strike, when the Finnish working class was taking its first independent steps. Before that he had already read socialist literature and been to workers’ meetings, which he felt a passionate sympathy towards. In 1904 he became the editor of the People’s Paper in Tampere. He described his worldview of those times, saying that “it was a jumble of progressive secular bourgeois, henry-georgeist, tolstoyist, theosophical and utopian socialist waverings.”

During the 1905 general strike Yrjö Sirola was already a notable leader of the workers’ movement. With his inspiring speeches, which the older generation still thinks about today, he rallied the working masses behind him. His influence was the greatest during the two revolutionary periods 1905-06 and 1917-1918. He always gave a great importance for the international experience of the proletariat and through them tried to give a direction and purpose for the significant events in the Finnish workers’ movement. The experiences of the Russian Revolutions and the Paris Commune, were always topics of his energetic study and later the experiences of the Finnish working class as well.

Skill, sense of responsibility and hard work, caused Sirola to quickly rise to the most important positions in the workers’ movement. He was elected party secretary in the 1906 party congress in Oulu and to the parliament as a workers’ party representative in 1907. Documents of the parliament testify to his tenacity. Resolutely, he was e.g. in the frontlines of the struggle against tsarism, upholding the marxist view in the question of national struggle for independence. In fighting against the tsarist oppression of Finland he never mistook the Russian people to be the oppressors. On the contrary, he understood that the oppression was targeting them too. He felt the lives of the two nations were closely tied to each other and wanted collaboration in the joint struggle for emancipation. Privately he was in contact with Russian revolutionaries and took part among others, in the conference of the Russian bolsheviks in Tampere in 1905 and in Stockholm in 1906. In these events he was introduced to Lenin, which was mutually very significant. Since that time Sirola took many influences from Lenin.

On the eve of the Finnish revolution, in the autumn of 1917, Sirola was already one of the most principled and unshaking leaders of the workers’ movement. At that time too, he was a member of the parliament and Social-Democrat party leadership. He saw the requirements of the situation more clearly then many others and boldly defended his views against those who still doubted the necessity of revolution. During the revolution he was the minister of foreign affairs of the Finnish People’s Delegation [the red government~MLT], to which job he was suited due to his knowledge of foreign languages. In this position like in all others, he never lost firm contact with the masses, but spoke to the people often and had conversations with them.

After the defeat of the revolution, Yrjö Sirola took part in the serious self-criticism by the working class leaders who lead the revolution, concerning the reasons for its defeat and their old forms of activity. Together with Kuusinen and others of the working class’ finest, he began the arduous work for organizing a communist party in Finland. He was the chairman of the Finnish Communist Party central committee, and was tirelessly and eagerly at the frontlines of all the party’s battles.

Sirola also took part in the founding congress and other congresses of the Comintern and was a member in the Comintern’s control committee. In the Soviet Union he contributed significantly to the field of education. He worked as the People’s Comissar for education in Soviet-Karelia and as the headmaster of the Communist University of the National Minorities of the West in Leningrad oblast.

But Yrjö Sirola didn’t live solely for the working class. He also lived for his nation. In his writings and speeches he often emphasizes the joint action of the class-conscious proletarians, freedom loving peasantry and radical bourgeois. Already after the general strike he saw the necessity of this joint action and set it as the task for working class struggle.

Yrjö Sirola wasn’t only a politician and class-fighter, he was also a writer. His newspaper articles were often prosaic and immersive, still always retaining the appropriate factuality and not lapsing into mere pretty sounding words. In his youth he also wrote poetry and prose about contemporary events for periodicals. It is unlikely that he put together a unified collection, with the exception of “Vapautuksen tiellä” [on the path of liberation~MLT], which contains newspaper writings. Through his translations into Finnish, he has made some of the best works of proletarian poetry known to the Finnish working class.

He performed significant work as a literary critic, doing similar analysis of e.g. Järnefelt as Lenin did on Tolstoy. He has made the Kalevala [Finnish and Karelian national epic~MLT] more well known in Soviet-Karelia through his writings and presentations. There he supported in every possible way artistic literature in Finnish and Karelian languages and devoted a lot of time and energy to it. His personal knowledge of literature was amazingly broad.

Yrjö Sirola has had a great and influential career in teaching. All his work was dear to him, but it sometimes seemed that teaching was the dearest. He admitted it himself, albeit saying it was difficult to say what was closest to his heart.

Already in his youth while researching the events of the Paris Commune his attention was drawn to a statement by one member of the Commune: “Let us learn, let us gain education, it is due to our ignorance that we were defeated”. He never forgot these words. He acquired knowledge for himself, distributed it generously to others and guided the youth in their independent search for knowledge, here too maintaining close connection with everyday life. He considered organizing information to be as important as gathering it.

“It is not enough to know, one must also use: it is not enough to want, one must also do”. Sirola often reminded his students of these words of Goethe, himself being a prime example. Self-education and self-discipline were characteristic for him. He tried to cultivate these things in his students too because “without them, man really cannot do much that is particularly important in life.”

There are not many teachers like Sirola. Even the most difficult things became easy to understand through him. He knew how to motivate in study. He was full of warmth towards his students. Anyone could ask him for advice without delay, and give writings or presentations for him to examine. He was never so busy that he couldn’t advise, evaluate and correct errors. He knew how to give even the hardest criticism without depressing the student but instead inspiring them to try again. He was not only a teacher to his students, but also a comrade and fatherly friend.

As a teacher Sirola became an invaluable asset in raising working class forces. Marxist philosophy of society, dialectical materialism taught by him has given many workers who actively work in the workers’ movement a marxist-leninist clarity of thinking.

Yrjö Sirola also carried out constant scientific research in the area of working class history. He founded the workers’ archive in Helsinki. Under his leadership, an archive of the Finnish workers’ revolution was organized in Leningrad. He strove towards new achievements in all fields of human knowledge. In his work and his aims, he was forever young and tireless.

The inheritance left by Yrjö Sirola is large and valuable. It is immortal. To maintain this inheritance and comrade Sirola’s memory the writers of Soviet-Karelia have began a project for gathering and researching the writings left by Sirola. In the same purpose the Yrjö Sirola Foundation has recently been created in Helsinki, the mission of which is to aid in many ways the education, scientific, artistic and other endeavours of the democratic forces of our country.

There are great people who only live after their death. Yrjö Sirola lived and influenced much during his life, though due to circumstances of state politics he didn’t become as recognized as he deserved even in his homeland. Now both living and the dead step into view, from underground and from the other side of the border.[1] Yrjö Sirola is in the front ranks. His work lives in those he raised and will survive through generations. He is immortal, for “living in the best of the future, is a type of immortality.” (Brandes)[2]



Notes by MLT:

1. This refers to marxism becoming legal in Finland in 1944. This text is from 1945. For the first time, it became possible to talk about the ideas of communists, both living and dead. Communists returned to visibility from underground, or from “the other side of the border” from the Soviet Union.

2. This quote is by the Danish poet Georg Brandes from his poem that was published in Finnish under the title of “Hautakammio” (Tomb, crypt or literally ‘burial chamber’). Unfortunately I have not been able to find out what the original title is.

Soviet critique of the Frankfurt School and “Critical Theory”

[This text is taken from a book called “Filosofian Historia” (History of Philosophy) volume 2 by progress publishers.]

“During the third quarter of the 20th century there emerged an attempt in the philosophical thought of the developed western bourgeois countries, to find new forms for theoretical struggle against marxism. New systems appeared in philosophy which were anti-marxist, but still resembled marxism in their external appearance. A bourgeois philosophical fake-marxism was born, and it has nourished both right and “left” revisionism, because in some of its variations it has even taken a supposedly revolutionary appearance. One of the most influential and typical forms of this trend, which has also been called “neo-marxism”, has been the doctrine of the Frankfurt philosophical-sociological school.

The fake-marxist systems of the Frankfurt school began to take shape in the early 1930s, especially after Marx’s work Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 was published (1932). The fashionable slogans of bourgeois philosophy “Back to Kant!”, “Back to Hume!” were supplemented with the slogan “Back to the young Marx!”. During the years this slogan has been especially emphasized. The relationship between bourgeois philosophy and revisionism is now altogether different then what it was at the end of the previous century. In the past, revisionists borrowed their ideological program from bourgeois philosophers and provided “in exchange” political economic and scientific socialist theories in distorted revisionist forms. These contemporary revisionists have focused their attention to philosophy proper. Once they began “building a philosophical system”, they began adopting fake-marxist interpretations of professional bourgeois philosophy. Bourgeois “experts” of marxism began delivering near complete revisionist philosophical systems for revisionist politicians. In a prominent position among these systems, are the theoretical systems of the Frankfurt School. They also demonstrate that the time when the bourgeois could simply ignore Marx as a philosopher, has definitively ended. Modern bourgeois ideologists spend a lot of energy trying to transform marxism into something “harmless” and “tolerable” for their class. At the same time, they try to make their doctrines appear different from the reformism that has discredited itself. The peak manifestations of the influence of the Frankfurt School were the anarchistic actions of French and West German university students in May of 1968 and the nearly simultaneous actions by anti-socialist and counter-revolutionary forces in Czechoslovakia (1967-1968).

The school is named after the work place of its founders (Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, Pollock, Fromm etc.). They had founded an Institute for Social Research in the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main. The institute’s paper Journal for Social Research, began publication in 1932 edited by the leader of the Institute, Horkheimer. The activity of the school was fairly progressive in the 1930s. It exposed the inhumanity of the nazi ideology and spread awareness of the philosophical fundamentals of marxism. After the fascists came to power in Germany, and during the second world war, the philosophers and sociologists of the Frankfurt School were in exile, largely in the USA. After the war Adorno and Horkheimer returned to Frankfurt am Main. During the 1960s, the “second generation” of the school appeared: Jürgen Habermas, A. Schmidt, Oskar Negt, Alexander Mitscherlich, Albrecht Wellmer etc. By the mid-1970s many of the original founders of the school had died. However, the bourgeois press made their ideological systems well known. Their primary works were republished and a media spectacle was created around them. The ideologists of imperialism try to use the teachings of the Frankfurt School to mislead public opinion, and to ideologically split the intelligentsia of the socialist countries and convert them to the side of anti-communist propaganda.

The contemporary social-philosophy of the school is anti-communism dressed in the garb of anti-capitalist phrases. Expressed in philosophical terms the doctrines of the Frankfurt School represent a specific kind of subjective idealism and a fake-dialectical method. They particularly emphasize categories like alienation and negation, the exaggeration of which the founders of the school justified by saying there was a need to “philosophize” all the marxist categories. There has appeared the so-called negative dialectics of Adorno and Marcuse. It reflects in a distorted form, the critical attitude towards capitalism that has grown among broad circles of bourgeois society, and the move towards the left of the petit-bourgeois intelligentsia, as well as the strength of the prejudices against really existing socialism in petit-bourgeois consciousness.

Of this doctrine’s theoretical influences should be mentioned the teachings of Kierkegaard, Dilthey and Nietzsche, Lukacs’s early work History and class consciousness as well as a neo-hegelian interpretation of Marx’s Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. In the “frankfurtian” interpretation of Marx’s Manuscripts took shape a tendency similar to modern philosophical anthropology. According to this anthropology man is above class, alienated labour is identified with hegelian objectification of consciousness and practice becomes “totally” revolutionized. Hegel’s dialectics began to be interpreted as a doctrine of “total negation”. Already in his book Hegel’s Ontology and the Theory of Historicity published in 1933, Herbert Marcuse depicted Hegel’s ontology from the point of view of irrationalist “Lebensphilosophie”. He began his revision of marxist philosophy with the article New foundations of historical materialism. Explanation of newly found manuscripts of Marx.[36]*

[*Original title “Neue Quellen zur Grundlegung des Historischen Materialismus in Die Gesellschaft” later published in english under a less accurate title: “The Foundation of Historical Materialism”.~MLT]

In another book focused on Hegel Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory (1941) Marcuse utilized extensively the hegelian alienation doctrine of Lukacs’s early period, according to which all objectification is alienation, and therefore the latter is eternal. Marcuse imposed this view on Marx. Marcuse also utilized other early ideas of Lukacs: denied that development of nature was objective and law-governed and identified social-being with social-consciousness e.g. by appealing to the “ontological” primacy of practice. Marcuse turned hegelian reason into a symbol of the total negation of everything that exists and declared “common sense” as the methodological foundation of the conformism that according to him even Marx could not overcome. “Neither the Hegelian nor the Marxian idea of Reason have come closer to realization; neither the development of the Spirit nor that of the Revolution took the form envisaged by dialectical theory… Reason is in its very essence contradiction, opposition, negation.” [37] On the foundation of these shady theses, was built a voluntaristic sociological theory, which fostered a corresponding adventurist political action program.

The sociology of the “frankfurtians” has been called critical social theory or critical theory of ideology. Along with Marcuse, the largest contribution to it was given by Horkheimer and Adorno. They began a critique of the most varied aspects of life in bourgeois society. This critique of societal institutions, justice system, morality, art, the role of the individual etc. they generalized into a doctrine, which they declared had risen to the position of analyzing societal processes from above materialism and idealism. This doctrine is evident in Max Horkheimer’s articles Materialism and Metaphysics (1933), Traditional and Critical Theory (1937) as well as the book Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947) co-authored by him and Adorno and somewhat in Marcuse’s book Reason and Revolution, mentioned earlier.

In its main ideas “critical sociological theory” can be traced back to certain elements of Weber’s rationalization theory. They interpreted rationalization as the ever intensifying and all-encompassing mission of common sense, throughout all ages. As the typical features of this rationality they described the tendency towards formalistic manipulation, combination technique and conformism towards any social order. Inhuman “rationalization” rises to its culmination in “united industrial society”, by which the frankfurtians mean both modern capitalism and really existing socialism. Nowadays technocrats and right-opportunists cling to the concept of “united industrial society” like a utopia. Frankfurtians and ultra-leftists who have adopted their theories on the other hand focus their criticism against it. Frankfurtians claim that the scientific-technological rationalization which aimed at subjugating forces of nature has become an instrument “which hinders societal progress”.

“Sociologist of ontology” Karl Mannheim considered science and scientific thinking the opposite of ideology, which he considered to be societal false consciousness. Horkheimer and Adorno declared scientific thinking and its results to be a type of ideology of oppression. They strongly denied marxism to be scientific ideology, but in order to criticize marxism they distorted the conclusions of marxism that consciousness is determined socially and ideology is a reflection of societal reality. The founders of critical social theory tried to hide the fundamental antagonism between capitalism and socialism by describing both social systems as types of instrumantalized society i.e. of objectified reason.

The book by Horkheimer and Adorno The Dialectic of Enlightenment, seems in many ways like a critique of modern bourgeois society. However, its authors were aiming further then that. Their founding thesis was that “practical tendency toward selfdestruction has been inherent in rationality from the first”. [38] They ignored the dialectic class struggle and declared to an absolute, man’s dependence on some abstract “mastery”. Based on this thesis of dependence they criticized all human culture and social progress, slandered socialism. These topics receive emphasis in Marcuse’s texts Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (1955) and One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (1964).

In these texts Marcuse’s attempt to combine marxism with freudism became evident. His theory of culture and art is influenced by freudian ideology: every creative activity, love and eros which is common to both of them, are manifestations of man’s certain kind of pre-social essence. The foundation of civilization is deemed to be the drive to satisfy social instincts, but the conformism of public society has distorted these instincts and made man unhappy, as well as turned art into leveling and oppresive “mass culture”. However, the main point of critical social theory is not the sweeping criticism of modern culture, but the denial of the proletariat’s revolutionary mission and the possibilities of the revolution.

Marcuse declared “industrial society” one-dimensional in that way also, that all classes belonging to it understand their “existence” as fundamentally the same, so none of those classes, especially the proletariat, are revolutionary even potentially. Against the true dialectics of the modern era, Marcuse claimed that the working class has been “integrated” into capitalism firmly and for good. In “industrial society” (i.e. in both capitalist and socialist countries) revolution is possible only for those social forces which are outside the class relations of those societies: elements who have lost their class identity, oppressed national minorities and various pariahs and outsiders. Incitement for them would come from the intelligentsia and university students. The recipe proposed by Marcuse requires the complete dismantling of all social relations and adopting sensually and emotionally “excellent lifestyle” of the sexually unrestricted “children of nature”. In An Essay on Liberation (1969) Marcuse put his hopes in beggars and hippies, in The End of Utopia (1967) he turned towards the outsiders, encouraging them to boldly demand the “impossible”. On the other hand Marcuse’s ideas encouraged struggle against really existing socialism and they were used extensively by revisionists in certain socialist countries at the end of the 1960s and by anarchistic elements of the “new left” in Western countries, that is by anti-communists of various shades.

The philosophical basis of said theories is “negative dialectics”, in which passing to the solution of a dialectical contradiction (to a dialectical synthesis) appears completely backwards. Lecturing in Prague at the 6. hegelian conference (1966) on The Concept of Negation in the Dialectic Marcuse said that “materialist dialectics remains in the shackles of idealist reason, according to which the future is always derived from the existing… the existing antagonistic totality is negated in dynamic of history from the outside…”[38] According to Marcuse’s totally subjective and metaphysical formula, contradictions in society can be overcome only by those forces to whom there is nothing of value in that which exists, and who are ready to destroy and dismantle absolutely everything, thus creating room for anarchistic unruliness.

Theodor Adorno (1903-1969) wrote an extensive text Negative Dialectics (1966) where he tried to prove that real dialectics “must turn against itself” without leaving anything behind [40]. The hegelian and marxist interpretations of negation are according to him not dialectical enough, i.e. they are not fully negative. Adorno was looking for total negation. That kind of negation doesn’t have anything in common with the law of negation of the negation. According to this law, negation means a positive and constructive “overthrow”, which Adorno vehemently rejects. He claims that “overthrowing” supposedly replaces “negation” with a metaphysical and conformist “sameness”.

Adorno also rejects the system structure of philosophy and sees in philosophy only a primal critical “tidal wave” and not science. He rejects thinking in concepts and suggests that thinking happens through scattered shapes or “models”. In all parts of his methodology Adorno refers pedantically to the young Marx and tries to prove above all that, Marx supposedly opposed “all ‘positivity’ and supported total ‘negation’”. In reality marxist philosophy unites organically the theses about the universality of negation, to the notion that precisely negation aids “the uninterrupted process of becoming and of passing away, of endless ascendancy from the lower to the higher.”[41]. Lenin firmly opposed interpreting dialectical negation as nihilistic, supercilious and skeptical negation [42].

Adorno called his nihilistic fake-dialectics “logic of disintegration (des Verfalls)”. Indeed, together with the similar trend of existentialism, it represents the extreme disintegration of modern bourgeois thought. Similarly to the existentialists, Adorno interpreted the objective world as “harmful” and “a hindrance” for the separation of man’s consciousness from its alienated product. According to Adorno an object is only a “terminological mask” [43]. After denying universal antagonism in philosophy Adorno and his brothers in arms demanded the total “mutual neutralization” of subject and object. Voluntaristically interpreted practice as the “melding together” of subject and object, they put forward as the alternative to matter[44] and the principle of “constructing” experiences as an alternative to the theory of reflection.**

[**In marxist philosophy, consciousness is understood as a reflection of the objective material reality in one’s brain.~MLT]

According to the “negative dialecticians” the inevitable destruction of capitalism means in principle the destruction of all of humanity. The negative dialectics of Adorno has become a tool of the latest marxologists in their struggle against communism. Let us note that according to Adorno the deep meaning of the “Oświęcim model” is that when people (people as such!***) are capable of causing suffering for each other, they are not capable of building communism.

[***Not as members of any particular class or acting on behalf of any particular class, but merely as “people generally”. It is a deeply anti-marxist point of view to look at people in that way.~MLT]

Adorno ends his book by a proclamation of bleak hopelessness: the result of victory of alienation is “always worse then that which was overcome”, i.e. when self-alienation and “desperation are the final historically and socially determined ideology”[45].

Already in 1930 in his article On the Problem of the Dialectic Marcuse condemned the neo-hegelian “tragic dialectic” of Arthur Liebert and Siegfried Mark for not being tragic enough. Their philosophy supposedly preserved contradictions in a state of tension instead of recognizing them as always moving towards disaster [46]. Sense of doom and catastrophe received a philosophical form in Adorno’s negative dialectics.

Another form of the social-philosophy of the Frankfurt School is the work of American psychoanalyst Erich Fromm. In his books Escape from Freedom (1941), The Sane Society (1940), Marx’s Concept of Man (1963) etc. he accepts the basic tenets of critical social theory and combines them more then Marcuse to neo-freudism. He sharply criticizes modern bourgeois civilization and describes people living in it as altogether “sick creatures”. Fromm attempts to explain the processes of class struggle through freudian pansexualism. He describes as his mission, the “uniting” of freudism and marxism.

The primary focus of Jürgen Habermas (born 1929) representative of the second generation of the Frankfurt School are the effects of the scientific-technological revolution on social relations and human life. Of his books Theory and Practice (1963) and Knowledge and Human Interests (1968) should be mentioned. Basing himself on the thought of Weber and American sociologist Talcott Parsons, Habermas began interpreting from a subjectivist point of view the categories of historical materialism, replacing them with psychological categories of “interest” and “subjective interaction”. As the positive motor of his program he put forward the hope that capitalism could become self-regulating. Thus he moved from the fake-leftist arguments of the frankfurtians, to the typical positions of bourgeois reformists. In the 1960s in West Germany there was a debate which received a lot of attention, between “dialecticians” and “humanists” (i.e. representatives of the Frankfurt School) on the one hand, and supporters of “scientism” and “critical rationalists” (positivists and supporters of Popper) on the other. During the course of the debate the differences between the two sides grew smaller and smaller, and Habermas who participated in the debate soon became a typical ecclectic-reformist.

Despite the efforts of the bourgeois press the teachings of the Frankfurt School arrived in the 1970s to a deep crisis. Its second generation was ideologically closest to the social-democratic party. After losing its relevance in bourgeois philosophy proper, where their teachings were challenged by structuralism, postivism and religious philosophical trends as well as phenomenology and hermeneutics, the ideas of the Frankfurt School still received new supporters. They were mainly taken up by revisionists who were drawn to anthropologism and petit-bourgeois ideologists looking for a “third road” in politics. These ideas remain suitable tools of ideological sabotage aimed against socialist countries.



——————–

[Note on the translation: The text is translated from Finnish by myself. Quotes by Horkheimer, Adorno and Marcuse are taken directly from English translations of their work, except the quote from ‘The Concept of Negation in the Dialectic’ by Marcuse, which I couldn’t find and therefore had to translate myself.]



Footnotes

36. Cf. Die Gesellschaft, 8/1932

37. H. Marcuse, Hegel Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory, 2. edition, New York 1954, pp. 433-434.

38. M. Horkheimer and Th. W. Adorno. Dialektik der Aufklärung. Philosophische Fragmente, Frankfurt am Main 1969, s. 7

39. H. Marcuse. Ideen zu einer kritischen Theorie der Gesellschaft, Frankfurt am Main 1969, s. 186-189

40. Th. W. Adorno, Negative Dialektik, Frankfurt am Main 1966, s. 395.

41. Marx-Engels, Selected works (6 volumes), volume 6, p. 401, Finnish edition [Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy~MLT].

42. Cf. V. I. Lenin, Works, Volume 38, p. 185, Finnish edition.

43. Adorno, Mts. 191

44. “Not abstract matter but the concreteness of societal practice (?) is the real focus of the materialist theory” (A. Schmidt, Der Naturbegriff in der Lehre von Marx, Frankfurt am Main 1962, s. 30)

45. Adorno, Mts. 371, 364.

46. Cf. Die Gesellschaft, Berlin, 1/1930, s. 15-18




The Most Recent Chapter in Anti-Communist Persecution in Poland

Communist Party of Poland was created in 2002 on the basis of the Union of Polish Communists “Proletariat”, which had existed since 1990 and was liquidated by the state authorities. The CPP was reestablished on the base of previous communist movement in contrary to opportunistic and technocratic line of the main left wing party – Alliance of Democratic Left (SLD) that includes former leadership of the Polish United Workers Party (PZPR) which has participated in bourgeois governments dismantling socialism and reestablishment of capitalism in Poland.
(cf. https://www.initiative-cwpe.org/en/news/Communist-Party-of-Poland/)

March 31st 2016. The lower court of Dąbrowa Górnicza sentenced four members of the communist party of Poland with fines and nine months of community service. The charges dealt with “propaganda of the communist ideology” in the Brzask paper and on the party’s website. Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) demanded the banning of the communist party of Poland on the pretext that the party’s program is unconstitutional, and the banning of the Brazsk newspaper.

In February 2018 the Polish government tried to implement a law proposed by the ruling PiS party, which would’ve made it a crime to blame Polish fascists for the holocaust. The law did not deny the holocaust, but it said Polish fascists were not to blame for it, only fascists of other countries such as Germany. However, the law was reversed due to international criticism.

In 2018 the Communist Party of Poland gave the following interview to Unsere Zeit, paper of the German Communist Party, regarding the continuing persecution of communists in Poland. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

“Our situation at the moment is difficult. Three members of the party, two of whom are editors of the party’s paper Brzask, are being charged with “propaganda in favor of a totalitarian system”. Our party is under threat of being outlawed. According to the media the minister of justice, has ordered the public prosecutor to collect evidence that the activity of the communists violates the constitution.

In Poland, charges against communists are not a new phenomena. In earlier years there have been several attempts to ban our party. However, during the two years of the current right-wing government the attempts have intensified.

Anti-communism is part of the government’s ideology and its goal is the complete banning of communist activity. For example the government has accepted laws to rename streets whose earlier names dealt with working class history and ordered the removal of anti-fascist monuments from public places. That decision received opposition from many local government organs and also from many people who are not politically on the left.

The Communist Party of Poland is for the time being, a legally recognized political party and continues to operate by holding meetings, frequently publishing the Brzask-newspaper and continuing its activity on the internet. We are ready to face the persecutions.

On 25th of May 2018 Sotirios Zarianopoulos, member of the European Parliament representing the Greek Communist Party, made the following statement to the EU Commission:

After banning communist symbols and prosecuting and putting on trial members of the rank and file of the Polish Communist Party for disseminating their ideas through the ‘Brzask’ newspaper — measures which are still ongoing — the Polish authorities have initiated the prosecution of a professor who, on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, held a conference on Marxism at the University of Szczecin. This new prosecution is unacceptable. Brandishing a mandate from the public prosecutor, the police invaded the conference being held on the university’s premises, seeking, as they claimed, evidence to substantiate the provocative charge of ‘promoting totalitarianism.’

With this fresh act of persecution, the Polish Government is continuing the anti-communist frenzy being whipped up by the EU and the governments of other countries, while pursuing attacks on workers’ rights. In view of the above, can the Commission say:

What view does it take of the provocative prosecutions and trials on trumped up charges initiated by the Polish authorities which in effect deny the Polish Communist Party the right to exchange ideas and engage in political expression and action?”

(source: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-8-2018-002860_EN.html)

Naturally this question was rhetorical. The EU is an instrument of the imperialist bourgeoisie, and fully stands behind the anti-communist measures. The statement by the Greek Communist Party was merely meant to draw attention to the anti-communist persecution, and expose the EU commission as the reactionaries that they are.


In 2018 and 2019 demonstrations were held in front of Polish embassies in the UK, Russia, Finland, Greece, Belgium, Spain and other countries to protest the anti-communist persecutions. Other Polish leftists including social-democrats and trotskyists joined in solidarity with the Communist Party of Poland, to support them against the government.
(sources:
https://strajk.eu/trwaja-represje-wobec-komunistow-dzialacze-kpp-ciagani-po-sadach-partii-grozi-delegalizacja/
http://www.idcommunism.com/2020/03/hands-off-communists-of-poland-protests-across-the-world-against-persecutions-in-poland.html)

In early 2019 the Dąbrowa Górnicza regional court gave the Communists a verdict of not guilty. The Communist Party of Poland made the following statement to fellow communists who had supported them through the anti-communist persecution:

Dear Comrades,

On 18. of january the regional court of Dąbrowa Górnicza released the communist party of Poland’s paper Brzask and the party’s website of the accusation of “advocating totalitarianism”. This persecution is part of an anti-communist campaign launched by the state, aimed at outlawing the communist party of Poland. The trial began three years ago, after the Law and Justice (PiS) party gained power and one of their parliamentary deputees made accusations against the KPP demanding it to be outlawed. At the end of 2015 the three member editorial board of Brzask and the administrator of the website were prosecuted. When the courtcase began the prosecutor was under the authority and political supervision of the PiS party and attacks against the court’s objectivity began.

In its ruling the court stated that the accusation was too general and loose and was only based on a small number of articles and sentences taken out of their proper context. The evidence presented did not demonstrate that any crime had taken place. The ruling also stated that advocating communism is not the same as advocating a totalitarian system.

This ruling is a great victory for our party, but the battle is far from over. We must be prepared in order to repel the next attacks.

The communist party of Poland gives its thanks to all the comrades and parties that gave their solidarity to our party and took part in preventing its outlawing.”

It was understood the persecution and court cases would continue. This was again, only a temporary defensive victory of the Polish working class.

On March 17, 2020, the District Court in Dąbrowa Górnicza (without the presence of the defendants due to the epidemic in force) discontinued the proceedings, however, charged the defendants with part of the court costs and obliged each of the accused to pay PLN 1000 to the “Victims Assistance Fund”. So they were not convicted, but fined! The judgment is not final. The accused comrades announced an appeal against the sentence.”
(source: https://kom-pol.org/brzask/)

The communists do not advocate for totalitarianism and haven’t broken any laws, so the reactionaries want to change the laws to simply ban communism outright.
(cf. https://www.transform-network.net/en/blog/article/communists-in-court-the-heresy-trial-based-on-article-13-of-the-polish-constitution/)

The most recent development in these lawsuits against the Communist Party and their newspaper was announced on October 13th 2020, when the Katowice court denied the Communist Party’s appeal, and ordered editors of their Brzask-newspaper to pay fines despite not being convicted, and to stop their “totalitarian” political activities. If they continue, the case can be re-opened. A working class perspective is criminalized as “totalitarian”, yet, the right-wing capitalist government carrying out this witch-hunt against communists, is somehow not being totalitarian.

The Communist party is still allowed to exist legally for the time being, but it is certain that the reactionaries will not give up this easily. The PiS party has already taken steps to change the communist laws, and secure their control of the courts so they can force the kinds of decisions they want. And are the Communists supposed to stop being Communists, because the court has now ordered them to do so? The only result we can expect, is that Communists will continue trying to fight for the rights of workers, and the capitalist government will continue to try to stop them.

SOURCES AND FURTHER READING:

https://www.initiative-cwpe.org/en/news/Communist-Party-of-Poland/
https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-8-2018-002860_EN.html
https://strajk.eu/trwaja-represje-wobec-komunistow-dzialacze-kpp-ciagani-po-sadach-partii-grozi-delegalizacja/
http://www.idcommunism.com/2020/03/hands-off-communists-of-poland-protests-across-the-world-against-persecutions-in-poland.html
https://www.transform-network.net/en/blog/article/communists-in-court-the-heresy-trial-based-on-article-13-of-the-polish-constitution/
https://peoplesdispatch.org/2020/03/21/in-yet-an-another-attack-on-communists-polish-court-imposes-fine-on-editors-of-brzask/
https://kom-pol.org/2020/05/21/nie-skazano-ale-ukarano-redakcje-brzask/

Read Brzask at https://kom-pol.org/brzask/

The “Judeo-Bolshevism” conspiracy theory debunked

Nazism believes that there is a secret conspiracy of jews aiming for world domination. They also believe that communism is part of this jewish conspiracy. What are the origins and basis of this idea?

Origins of the Judeo-Bolshevik Conspiracy Theory

Nazism did not invent this anti-semitic ideology, in reality Nazism has copied this idea from previous belief systems.


The Russian hardline monarchist reactionary group “the Black Hundreds” were early proponents of the theory of a Jewish global conspiracy. The Black Hundreds were extremely anti-semitic and in 1903 they published a book titled The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fabricated document supposedly by the jews detailing their plan for world domination.

Anti-semitism of this type was more rampant in Russia then in most countries and “pogroms”, the rounding up and killing of jews and other minorities such as armenians, tatars etc. were common in Russia in those times.

After the Russian revolution of 1917 many czarists and Black Hundreds began emigrating from Russia to the United States and Germany. In the USA they formed a political organization known as the Union of Czarist Army and Navy Officers. In 1919 the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was translated into English.

A well known reactionary and supported of Black Hundred ideology was Alfred Rosenberg, the son of rich landowner living in Estonia in the Russian Empire. After the Russian revolution, Rosenberg who considered himself ethnically German, emigrated to Germany together with many other czarist emigres. There he helped to disseminate the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the anti-semitic czarist ideology in Germany. Up to 400,000 White Guard Russians moved to Germany.

Of course, Rosenberg would later become the leading early ideologist of the Nazi Party.

“In June 1921, a group of former Czarist officers, industrialists and aristocrats called an International Anti-Soviet Conference at the Reichenhalle in Bavaria. The conference, which was attended by representatives from anti-Soviet organizations throughout Europe, drew up plans for a world-wide campaign of agitation against Soviet Russia.

A “Supreme Monarchist Council” was elected by the Conference. Its function was to work for “the restoration of the monarchy, headed by the lawful sovereign of the Romanov house, in accordance with the fundamental laws of the Russian Empire.”

The infant National Socialist Party of Germany sent a delegate to the Conference. His name was Alfred Rosenberg.”
(Kahn & Sayers, Great Conspiracy)

The anti-semitic, conspiratorial views of the Nazis and the contemporary neo-nazi movement thus largely originated from monarchist reactionary Russians.

A wealthy industrial capitalist, Arnold Rechberg met with Rosenberg and took a liking to him. Rechberg introduced Rosenberg to another one of his proteges: an austrian police informant named Adolf Hitler. The capitalist Rechberg was already providing funds for Hitler’s brown shirt organization that attacked striking workers and labour unions.

“Rechberg and his wealthy friends purchased an obscure newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter, and turned it over to the Nazi movement. The publication became the official organ of the Nazi Party. As its editor, Hitler appointed Alfred Rosenberg.” (Ibid.)

In the 1920s half a million copies of the fabricated Protocols of the Elders of Zion were published by the wealthy American capitalist Henry Ford who helped to spread anti-semite ideology in the USA. Ford also supplied millions of dollars of funds to the German Nazi Party.

The ideology of the Nazis, as well as their funding and support, came from the monarchists and capitalists, i.e. the rich elite.


The Russian Civil War

During the Russian civil war the White Guard reactionaries, czarists and capitalists decided to incorporate their previous idea of a jewish conspiracy to the fight against communism. Since the Whites were fighting a war against the communists, in Russia, a country with widespread anti-semitism that was a remnant of czarism, the White Guards decided it would be very useful to use anti-semitism as a weapon in the civil war against the Communists. They attacked the Communists as puppets of the jews.

In 1918-1920 more then a dozen capitalist countries sent troops to help the White Guard russians in the civil war. The United States, Japan, France, Great Britain, Canada and others sent hundreds of thousands of troops to aid the capitalist White Guards.

The Capitalist media in the West published slanderous lies against the Russian Communists. They claimed that the Bolsheviks wanted to abolish the family, abolish marriage and nationalize women, that the Bolsheviks were anarchists and jews. These ridiculous claims were presented by mainstream capitalist media outlets and capitalist politicians of western countries. When it comes to the anti-semitic claims, the Nazis directly copied this from the capitalist media
and the Russian reactionaries.

This is what the capitalist press stated in the Western countries, in Britain:

“This movement among the Jews is not new. From the days of Spartacus-Weishaupth [Founder of illuminati] to those of Karl Marx… this worldwide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilisation… has been the mainspring of every subversive movement during the 19th century.”
(Illustrated Sunday Herald, February 1920)

And in America:

“[T]he three great parties of Russia are led by Jews… Bolshevism had been planned years ago by Jews” (The Dearborn Independent, 1920)


Notice that both of those writings are from as early as 1920, same time as the creation of the Nazi party by the capitalists.


Anti-semitism was widespread in Europe and Russia, increased partly by jewish immigration in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The term “jewish bolshevism” was first invented by a White Guard publication of the same name in 1917. Soon it was spread to capitalist media by white emigres and this belief was picked up by the Nazi party which was founded soon after.

Most of these blatantly false claims have since been abandoned even by the capitalist propagandists themselves. The Protocols were soon proven to be a hoax and a forgery. However the jewish conspiracy idea still remains among neo-nazis. They still cling to this capitalist invention.

Neo-Nazis believe that the world is ruled by the jews, and that the Nazis are the only ones who know the truth. They believe that the communists and capitalists alike are all servants of the jews. Ironically, the myth of the jewish conspiracy was itself created by the capitalists and utilized against communism. The Nazis themselves are acting as uniwitting tools of capitalism, but in this case the capitalists have moved on, and left the jew conspiracy behind.

Hitler claimed that communism was a jewish ideology. He claimed to be a socialist, but in reality he was defending the private property rights of his capitalist backers. It is no coincidence that Hitler attacked all real socialists as jews. When the Western imperialists turned against him he also attacked them as jews. “Wallstreet jewish bankers”. But this was simply an opportunist lie. The capitalists, including Western capitalists and bankers like Henry Ford were exactly the ones who created Hitler, who funded his party and who created the propaganda that Hitler copied and disseminated.


The myth of Jewish Bolshevism

Now let us examine the claims of modern neo-nazism. A typical claim they make is that the Russian Bolshevik party was allegedly a jewish puppet and filled with Jews.

Robert Wilton was a British journalist reporting for several Western newspapers as their Russian correspondent during the Russian Civil War. Wilton had served with the Russian army during the First World War and was a strong supporter of the Russian White Army sharing their ideological views including anti-semitism. Wilton had also supported the failed military coup by the White General Kornilov. Wilton’s writings are another significant part of the modern neo-nazi mythology surrounding the Judeo-Bolshevism Conspiracy Theory. He is possibly the most cited source for the erroneous claim that the Bolshevik Party and Government were controlled by Jews and mostly consisted of Jews.

He wrote in 1919: “Bolshevism is not Russian – it is essentially non-national, its leaders being almost entirely the race that lost its country and its nationhood long ago” (Wilton, Russia’s Agony)

In 1921 Wilton put forward the following figures, which have been widely cited by neo-nazis. I quote from a widely circulated neo-nazi article “The Jewish Role in the Bolshevik Revolution and Russia’s Early Soviet Regime”:

“The 62 members of the [Central] Committee were composed of five Russians… and 41 Jews.

“The Extraordinary Commission [Cheka or Vecheka] of Moscow was composed of 36 members… two Russians, eight Latvians, and 23 Jews.

“The Council of the People’s Commissars numbered… three Russians, and 17 Jews.”


How accurate are these numbers? The answer is: not accurate at all. In fact it seems difficult to find any basis for them. The numbers are almost entirely fabricated.

I’m not going to go through all of the false information put forth by Wilton, but I will give you an idea of just how inaccurate his findings are:

Wilton claimed that out of 22 People’s Comissars three were Russians and 17 Jews. In reality the only jewish Comissar was Trotsky.

Wilton includes a number of fabricated names in his list of supposed people’s comissars, he removed people who were Russians and included people who Jewish such as Zinoviev even if they were not actually People’s Comissars at all.

The People’s Comissars in 1917:

Chairman: V. I. Lenin (1/4 Russian, Tatar, German, Jewish)
Commissar of Agriculture: V. P. Milyutin (Russian)
Commissars of Army and Navy: V. A. Ovseyenko, N. V. Krylenko, P. V. Dybenko (Russians, Ovseyenko was ethnic ukranian)
Commissar of Commerce and Industry: V. P. Nogin (Russian)
Commissar of Education: A. V. Lunacharsky (Ukranian)
Commissar of Food: I. A. Teodorovich (Polish, not jewish)
Commissar of Foreign Affairs: L. D. Trotsky (jewish)
Commissar of Interior: A. I. Rykov (Russian)
Commissar of Justice: G. I. Oppokov (Russian)
Commissar of Labour: A. G. Shlyapnikov (Russian)
Commissar of Nationality Affairs: I. V. Stalin (Georgian)
Commissar of Post and Telegraphs: N. P. Avilov (Russian)
Commissar of Treasury: I. I. Skvortsov-Stepanov (Russian)

Wilton claimed that the Soviet government consisted of three Russians and nine jews.

Bronstein (Trotsky), Apfelbaum (Zinoviev), Lurie (Larine), Uritsky, Volodarski, Rosenfeld (Kamenev), Smidovich, Sverdlov (Yankel), and Nakhamkes (Steklov).The three Russians were: Ulyanov (Lenin), Krylenko, and Lunacharsky.”

In reality Lurie, Nakhamkes, Smidovitch, and Volodarski weren’t even in the Central Executive Committee. Wilton claims the government was 12 people, 9 of whom were jews. In reality the government was 15 people and included 4 jews.


Members of the Government (Central Execute Committee):
Artem F. A., Buharin N. I. (Russian), Vladimirskij M. F. (Russian), Dzerzhinskij F. E. (Pole), Zinovjev G. E. (Jew), Krestinskij N. N. (Ukrainian), Lashevich M. M., Lenin V. I. (Russian*), Sverdlov Ja. M. (Jew), Smilga I. T., Sokol’nikov G. Ja. (Jew), Stalin I. V. (Georgian), Stasova E. D. (Russian), Trotskij L. D. (Jew), Shmidt V. V. (German)

*Lenin was Russian but ethnically mixed

Furthermore Wilton claims that:

“According to data furnished by the Soviet press, out of 556 important functionaries of the Bolshevik state… in 1918-1919 there were: 17 Russians… 457 Jews.”


In reality, members of the Bolshevik apparatus were more then 70% Russian. It is true that jews were somewhat over-represented in the Bolshevik party, making up around 5% of the party. However Andre Gerrits points out in his article “The Myth of Jewish Communism” that:

“Jews were not the only ethnic minority over-represented in European Communist parties between the two world wars. So too were Georgians, Armenians and Latvians.”

The reasons for this could be that those ethnic minorities were particularly oppressed and more radicalized. The socialist parties which functioned illegally, tended to have large amounts of intellectuals who were in political exile. This could be one reason why some minorities were somewhat over-represented.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy theory was something created long ago by the rich elites, monarchists and capitalists. Nazis did not invent these ideas, they merely inherited them from the monarchists or received them from the western capitalist press. The Nazis were acting as puppets of the capitalist elite, they got their ideology as well as their funding from them.

These conspiracy theories are crucial to modern day neo-Nazis, but based on nothing. Even a cursory inspection of the most popular and widely cited Nazi sources show them to be inaccurate. There are many movements of people believing in things based on very little evidence or on faith alone, so we shouldn’t be surprised that Nazis would do this.

Some people are misinformed, some are wilfully delusional. We can give people information, but if they are essentially following an entirely faith-based worldview then its probably a waste of time.


Sources and further reading:

The Myth of Jewish Communism
https://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=19150

http://holocaust.skeptik.net/misc/party.htm

http://www.skepticforum.com/viewtopic.php?p=522197#p522197


A Judeo-Bolshevik Debacle
http://semiticcontroversies.blogspot.com/2008/10/judeo-bolshevik-debacle.html

The Great Conspiracy: The Secret War Against Soviet Russia
https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.58240

A century of lies about Russia
https://www.workers.org/2016/12/20/a-century-of-lies-about-russia/

On the protocols of the Elders of Zion
https://www.facinghistory.org/weimar-republic-fragility-democracy/society/protocols-elders-zion-1927-society-antisemitism

The Finnish Communist Revolution (1918) PART 5: THE WHITE GUARD

suojeluskuntalaisia.jpg

ORIGINS OF THE WHITE GUARD:

The Finnish white guard had 3 or 4 different roots, which eventually merged.

1) The activist committee, a secret nationalist organization. The activist committee organized for thousands of Finns to travel to Germany and train in the German military for a future war with Russia. They would later play a large part and the alliance with Imperial Germany would be crucial for the Whites. The pro-german fanaticism of some capitalists went so far as to support Finland becoming a German protectorate with a German king as the Finnish ruler. Since early 1917 the activist committee was the white guard central command until the creation of the white army.

2) The military committee, an organization created from Finnish officers in the Russian Tsarist military. This would function as the core of the Finnish white army and the leader of the Finnish white army, Mannerheim was also an ex-Tsarist officer.

3) White guards were formed locally to protect the property of the capitalists and landowners from the poor population. The capitalists hoarded large amounts of food while the population starved. The white guards would prevent the food from being taken by the hungry masses. The white guards would attack workers on strike, and also protect strike breakers. Workers would often demonstrate for better conditions and more rights, surrounding government buildings etc. and the capitalist politicians would bring the white guards to break up the demonstrations.

4) The only “legitimate” use for the white guards was to prevent criminality. However in practice they were almost always targeting the working class for political reasons. There was one famous incident of unruly Russian soldiers murdering a Finnish citizen, and this was used as a justification for keeping and strengthening the white guard. However, this too had a political element since the Russian soldiers largely sided with the working class. They were from worker and peasant backgrounds and in most cases had killed their Tsarist officers during the February revolution. The remaining Tsarist officers looked to the white guards for protection.

In reality there was no need for a white guard police force since there already existed a militia specifically for this purpose. The problem with the militia was that it had a large working class presence and the capitalists couldn’t use it to break strikes, attack innocent workers and demonstrations. The militia itself would sometimes go on strike to demand bread and political rights.

“In the cities the police was dismantled in early April [1917] and replaced by a worker militia or in other ways brought under working class control. In different parts of the country mass meetings of workers demanded unpopular officials to step down. The power structure was flipped on its head…” (Suodenjoki & Peltola, p.188)

“The influence of the organized workers was also demonstrated by the fact that… the [tsarist] police was replaced by a newly formed militia, the man power and leadership of which was formed primarily by organized workers” (Hyvönen, pp. 42-43)

The militia was perfectly suited for preventing crime but was not sufficient for the capitalists to maintain their repression of the organized workers. The capitalists needed to create a fully anti-worker military force, which would in every situation side with the rich elites against the people. This is why the white guard was created.

“During the strikes of Spring and Summer the workers had already gotten a taste of what… strong [bourgeois] rule of law meant; white guards had shot and beaten unarmed strikers. It was known that the bourgeoisie was training and arming their class guards against the working class movement. With these armed forces the bourgeoisie planned to crush the working class organizations, to strip workers of the right to assemble etc…” (Hyvönen, p.84)

Another example was also the demonstration of August 1917 in Malmi, a municipality near Helsinki:

“In Malmi, near Helsinki, workers surrounded the municipal building on 13. of August [1917] to get their demands passed. About thirty white guard soldiers arrived from Helsinki to save the surrounded officials… the white guards together with ex-members of the tsarist police beat the workers with their batons.* …In Spring and early Summer the class struggle had not yet resulted in any deaths, although some were wounded, but in August there were the first casualties.

The food question was still to be solved. On the night of 14. of August the municipal workers of Helsinki began a strike demanding action to save especially the elder, sick and children from famine and starvation.** The Senate did not take any action.” (Holodkovski, p.39)

* source: I.I. Syukiyainen. The revolutionary events of 1917-1918, p. 77
** source: Proceedings of the Helsingfors Council of Deputies of the Army and Workers, 6 (19). Viii. 1917, No 119.

“In the Spring and Summer of 1917 the Finnish working masses mobilized to improve their poor living conditions and to carry out those necessary reforms which the bourgeoisie, allying itself with the Tsar attempted to prevent at all cost, especially the 8-hour working day and to gain at least some working class representation in the municipal organs. Now the bourgeoisie no longer had the tsarist police as their protection; it had been dismantled in the February revolution and in its place had been formed a militia, where the workers in all population centers had a significant influence. The bourgeoisie did not yet have large amounts of armed class organizations with the exception of the few secret activist [committee] organizations. For this reason the bourgeoisie had to give itself to the merciful protection of the Russian provisional government… to prevent the working class movement from carrying out its democratic reforms. This attempt to gain protection from the provisional government didn’t stop at advocating the provisional government’s right to interfere in Finnish affairs, the bourgeoisie also wanted the armed forces of the provisional government to attack the working class movement. This happened in connection with several strikes.

The newspaper “The worker” reported on 24. of April 1917 that the director of Lehtoniemi machine workshop owned by baron Wrede had sent a message to the Soviet of Russian soldiers in Helsinki mostly humbly asking to send soldiers to protect the “state property” held by the workshop “from possible damage”. A similar attempt to provoke Russian soldiers to attack striking workers happened e.g. during the shipbuilders’ strike in Helsinki; the bourgeoisie accused the workers of supposedly being armed and preventing work. Also during the municipal strike of Rauma the bourgeoisie encouraged Russian soldiers to attack peaceful striking workers. As late as August [1917] when the bourgeoisie also had their white guard projects well under way, and had thousands of rifles from Germany the bourgeoisie in Oulu attempted to provoke Russian soldiers to attack the workers holding a meeting at the workers’ club.

In all these cases the soviets of Russian soldiers investigated the situation and recognized them as attempts to end the workers’ struggles for rights by drowning them in blood.

When the bourgeoisie saw its own powerlessness before the masses and when the Russian soldiers even sided with the democratic rights of the workers, it began organizing its armed forces to stifle the workers’ struggle. It wasn’t satisfied with only secretly arming itself, but began using armed forces against unarmed workers. Terror attacks against workers’ meetings and strikers became the order of the day.

The worst attacks were faced by agricultural workers and tenant-farmers who had begun demanding improvements in their conditions, an 8-hour working day and in some cases wage increases. The large mansion owners showed their true character by trying to crush the justified demands of the workers. The newspaper “The Worker” reported at the beginning of May that during the strike of the Latokartano Manor owned by Westermarck, the owner… threatened to slaughter the 700 head cattle in its entirety as revenge of the workers’ demands…

Armed strike breaker forces were recruited from old Tsarist police officers, criminal thugs and in general the most reactionary elements of society. In addition reactionary university students, property owners, businessmen and officials were recruited. These strike breaker groups patrolled armed with guns in different villages, terrorizing striking farm-workers.

One of the most heinous attacks against peaceful farm-workers happened in Huittiset on July 13. A group of striking workers was headed to the Huittiset dairy building where the landowners had gathered. When the loose group of workers approached the dairy building, white guard soldires hidden behind piles of logs opened fire on the unarmed workers. Seven strikers were wounded. This information given by the Finnish information bureau was supplemented by a worker newspaper “The Social-Democrat” appearing in Pori at the time, which reported that the strikers had already agreed before hand to not use arms under any circumstances, nor had they been prepared to use arms.

Few days after the massacre in Huittiset another attack against striking workers happened in Suodenniemi. Strikers had peacefully stood on the road and told strike breakers working on the field, who had been gathered from different villages, that they were breaking a strike. At that moment armed strike breakers had attacked the strikers at the instructions of the local constable.” (Hyvönen, pp. 43-46)

Peltola and Suodenjoki refer in their book to another bourgeois historian Viljo Rasila, and verify that “Near the end of the large strike in Suodenniemi, there was a conflict… fought using staffs, cudgels and scythes… Strike breakers got the upper hand and two farm-workers suffered serious injuries.**” (Suodenjoki & Peltola, p.205)

* Viljo Rasila, “Vuoden 1917 maantyöntekijäin lakot” (“Farm-workers’ strikes of 1917”)
** Juhani Piilonen, Sastamalan historia 3. 1860-1920 (History of Sastamala 3. 1860-1920)

Peltola and Suodenjoki also state that for example in the municipality Satakunta “…strikes were the main reason for the creation of the white guard.” (p.211)

“In the cities the bourgeoisie began already in the Spring to create their armed class guards. The bourgeoisie had threatened to use these guards already… but didn’t have the courage yet. On 17. of August at the Helsinki stock exchange building, white guards disguised as militia men attacked workers demonstrating against the city council, and beat them with batons. Soon the bourgeoisie had organized a nationwide class army to smash the working class movement. The working class press took notice of the bourgeoisie arming itself. The newspaper “The Worker” wrote on 23. of August 1917 stating that due to the [February] revolution, the bourgeoisie had lost their foreign protector [the Russian Tsar] and also the [Tsarist] police… It had begun creating an armed class military.” (Hyvönen, p. 46)

“…[T]o counter food confiscation agricultural producers and other bourgeois citizens began independently creating their own police forces, whose mission was defined as protection of property. This angered the workers… The workers considered the food storages [of the capitalists] to be against the food-supply law and thus considered the “white guards” created to protect them as illegal” [Marja-Leena Salkola, Työväenkaartien synty ja kehitys punakaartiksi 1917-18 ennen kansalaissotaa] (Suodenjoki & Peltola, p. 219)

“After the Tsarist gendarmerie had been dismantled and the police replaced by a militia, where the workers held significant influence, and after the Russian troops had gone to the side of revolution, the bourgeoisie realized that it didn’t have any organized armed force to protect itself against the numerically superior and quite well organized working class. This is why already in the Spring of 1917 the bourgeoisie began creating its own fighting forces, whose purpose was supposedly protecting the safety of civilizens and protection of property from vandalism and criminality. Their creation seemed timely and for this reason, even some workers initially joined these organizations (chapters were formed under the name of sport societies and volunteer fire departments and only later they began everywhere to be called white guards)… The bourgeoisie did not admit that the white guards were its class organizations. The white guards were the bourgeoisie’s military force, with which it believed to create the order it desired.

In Southern Finland where the rural workers’ strike movement began to spread already in April and May, white guards were created especially to fight strikes. In Northern Finland they were being created to oppose Russian soldiers [who sided with the workers]. Soon control of the nationwide organization and action of the white guard was given to the secret Activist Committee.

The Activists had already since before WWI kept connections to Germany and organized the sending of couple thousand young Finnish men to Germany for military training. They were preparing a war to separate Finland from Russia with German help, even if that meant Finland would become reliant on Germany. In June 1917 the Activist Committee divided Finland into regions for better coordination of the white guards. In July a central office for the white guards was created. It was located in Helsinki under the harmless sounding false name of “The new forest office”. The central office held secret communication with local organizations as well as Sweden, Germany and the Finnish Jäger battalion… [i.e. the Finnish soldiers serving and being trained in the German army]

For this new army, weapons for 100,000 men were collected in Danzig. In October 1917 explosives were shipped from Umeå [in Sweden] to Vaasa [the secret white Capital in Finland], from where white guard members transported them in fish barrels and their luggage to local organizations. At the end of October the ship “Equity” left from Germany. To camoflage it, the Russian name “Mir” was painted on the ship’s side and a red flag was waving in its mast. This ship brought the white guards large amounts of rifles (some sources say 4500, others 7000), machine guns (according to some sources 30, according to others 100), 2,800,000 bullets, 1500 hand grenades, 2000 pistols and explosives Weapons were secretly bought from Russia through the [white guard] Vyborg regional organization founded in July and in the Autumn through the harmless sounding [white guard organization] Karelian citizen’s league (this league was funded by a banker, a factory owner and four wholesalers) and through the Finland committee founded in Petrograd…

By creating white guards the bourgeoisie started a process which would develop due to its inherent laws logically towards civil war. The workers could not interpret it as anything else then preparation for an armed attack against them. Despite bourgeois propaganda and press saying otherwise, realities spoke a clear message: white guards were being used to break strikes. Workers reacted to the founding of white guards with determination: to avoid being at the mercy of an armed opponent, workers began creating their own peace-keeping forces… for self-defency purposes.”
(Holodkovski, pp. 29-31)

The Activist Committee had wormed itself to the highest levels of the government:

“…[M]ember of the nationalist Activist Committee…[senator] Åkerman… agreed to handle [the bourgeois senate’s] food issues if he was given authority to gather necessary food supplies to suitable locations. [Source: “Suomen vapaussota vuonna 1918” I, pp. 294-295]

Food, transportation vehicles and other supplies for a white army were stored in Southern Ostrobothnia in preparation for civil war. The Activist Committee had played an important part in creating the white guards and was now recognized as an official organ of the state, and given responsibility to draft the new conscription law and develop the bourgeois military forces. Ignatius, chairman of the committee that drafted the new conscription law proposed in a meeting of investors and industrialists on 3. of October [1917] that they would provide 3 million marks to fund the white guards. In this meeting 9 million marks worth of checks and bonds were collected.
[Source: Ibid. pp. 295-296]
” (Holodkovski pp. 35-36)

“…alongside the Activist Committee founded in 1915, a Military Committee consisting of ex-Tsarist officers was created and recognized as an official state organ by the Svinhufvud senate on 7. of January [1918]. Gustaf Mannerheim was appointed the committee’s chairman on 15. of January.”
(Pekka Myllyniemi: Ajautuminen sisällissotaan, Länsi-Uusimaa, 17.1.2018) https://www.lansi-uusimaa.fi/blogi/598630-pekka-myllyniemi-ajautuminen-sisallissotaan

THE WHITE ARMY:

Between late 1917 and early 1918 the white guards were organized into an army. The capitalists had collected millions of marks, tens of thousands of weapons, created a secret capital for the future white guard dictatorship, made connections with their foreign allies and assembled a large armed force. The white guard was recognized as the official state military of Finland by the Svinhufvud government. Mannerheim was appointed its commander. Lets examine the composition of this army:

“In the 20 Southern Ostrobothnian white guard detachments 59% of the soldiers were wealthy farmers and their sons, 8% tenant-farmers, 6% farm workers, 21% workers and 6% officials, students etc.” (Holodkovski, p.307)

“On the other hand for example in the Jyväskylä white guard military district the around one third of those who fell in battle were officials, shop-keepers, students and teachers, foremen, doctors and other wealthier people, even a bank director. Another third were landowning farmers and a third tenant-farmers, workers and farm hands. Capitalists, investors and bankers constituted only a tiny minority of the population. While officials, doctors, military men, police officers and other somewhat wealthier people often sided with the whites, the real bulk of the white army consisted of independent farmers, especially wealthy farmers, and their relatives. This army was then enlarged by forced conscription of the poorer classes. ” (Holodkovski, pp.307-308)

“…regarding armed struggle the bourgeoisie could rely on the officials, who spread accross the whole country and thus could form a nationwide organizational network. The city enterpreneurs and intellectuals, as well as technical experts in industry were largely active supporters of bourgeois policy. The nobility and other large landowners were passionate enemies of the working class movement. The influence of the bourgeoisie also spread itself strongly to independent farmers who had been frightened with the notion that the workers wanted to steal the peasantry’s land.

In military matters the bourgeoisie was in an enormously better position, in the amount of trained and experienced officers it had. The so-called “white army” had 11 people with the rank of general… 480 graduates from the old Finnish cadet school. There were 403 officers and 724 NCOs among jägers. The whites received 118 NCOs from the Vöyri military academy. 27 active officers arrived from Sweden. In total the white officer core was 1700 persons. Initially the whites threw 10,000 men at the front. But in February they had to resort to forced conscription, through which they increased the number to 32,000 men.

According to the whites themselves their army was already 10,000 by the end of 1917, 36,000 by April and 70,000 by the end of the war…

The whites also had better weaponry. Already in October of 1917 they received 7000 rifles, large amounts of machine guns, hand-grenades, bullets etc. from Germany. At the end of January the whites also managed to steal 7880 rifles, 1 ,143,000 bullets, 10 machine guns and 12 cannons from the demoralized Russian troops in Northern Finland. Two more weapon shipments arrived from Germany containing 140,000 rifles and more then 83 million bullets, 250 machine guns, 500,000 hand-grenades and 32 cannons with ammunition. On top of all this they received other weapons and equipment of all kinds, such as pistols, radios and field telephones etc.

The whites also had confirmed knowledge about Germany’s intervention since February; at the beginning of March there was already an exact agreement. Furthermore the whites got a Swedish brigade on their side. Individual officers and volunteers arrived from other nordic countries. Russian counter-revolutionary officers also aided the white war effort.” (Hyvönen, pp. 91-92)

SOURCES:

Suodenjoki & Peltola, Köyhä Suomen kansa katkoo kahleitansa: Luokka, liike ja yhteiskunta 1880-1918 (Vasemmistolainen työväenliike Pirkanmaalla osa 1)

Hyvönen, Suurten tapahtumien vuodet 1917-1918

Holodkovski, Suomen Työväenvallankumous 1918

I.I. Syukiyainen. The revolutionary events of 1917-1918

Известия Гельсингфорсского совета депутатов армии и рабочих, 6 (19). VIII. 1917, No 119. (Proceedings of the Helsingfors Council of Deputies of the Army and Workers, 6 (19). Viii. 1917, No 119.)

Viljo Rasila, “Vuoden 1917 maantyöntekijäin lakot” (“Farm-workers’ strikes of 1917”)

Juhani Piilonen, Sastamalan historia 3. 1860-1920 (History of Sastamala 3. 1860-1920)

Marja-Leena Salkola, Työväenkaartien synty ja kehitys punakaartiksi 1917-18 ennen kansalaissotaa<

H. Soikkanen, kansalaissota dokumentteina

J. Paasivirta, Suomen itsenäisyyskysymys 1917

“Suomen vapaussota vuonna 1918”

“Пролетарская революция”, No 2

Luokkasodan muisto, ed. Juho Mäkelä
https://helda.helsinki.fi/handle/10138/157351

Pekka Myllyniemi: Ajautuminen sisällissotaan, Länsi-Uusimaa, 17.1.2018
https://www.lansi-uusimaa.fi/blogi/598630-pekka-myllyniemi-ajautuminen-sisallissotaan

“Ilkan ja Poutun pojat. Etelä-pohjalaisten sota-albumi”, ed. A. Leinonen

“Keskisuomalaiset sotapolulla. Kappale Suomen vapaussodan historiaa”, ed. S. Kuusi

Erinnerungen, G. Mannerheim

Sosialistit pyrkivät itsenäistämään Suomea jo heinäkuussa 1917 – porvarit harasivat vastaan (https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-9710204)

O. W. Kuusinen on Tito’s opportunism

Part of a larger article by O. W. Kuusinen titled “Oletteko Neuvostoliiton puolella vai sitä vastaan?” [“Are you on the Soviet side or against it?”] published in 1948. Translated by ML-theory:

“At present, in the countries of People’s Democracy, only a few desperate and bankrupt agents of foreign imperialism make hateful remarks against the Soviet Union. All the parties, groups and leaders who seriously base their calculations on popular support defend cooperation and friendship with the Soviet Union. This is an extremely important fact which, in most cases, reflects a sincere political endeavor. And in the countries of People’s Democracy there is no reason, except in the case of Yugoslavia, to doubt the sincerity of friendly statements from responsible political leaders towards the Soviet Union.

In Yugoslavia, as was stated in the June meeting of the Information Bureau of Communist Parties, the leadership of the Communist Party has abandoned the party’s international traditions and has gone on the path of nationalism.

The leaders of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia have departed from the Marxist-Leninist path to a profoundly opportunistic line under the conditions of People’s Democracy. We must not forget that People’s Democracy is a transition step from the bourgeois state to the socialist state, from capitalism to socialism. No country can stay there for an extended period of time without moving forward or backward. If it does not follow the path to socialism, then development will go backwards, to capitalism. But the evolution to socialism does not go by itself, spontaneously. Whether or not the country will really move forward to socialism depends on the continued development of the proletariat’s class struggle and the right direction of state policy under the determined leadership of the Communist Party.

The Yugoslav leaders, on the other hand, focused on suppressing the class struggle. They began to spread the notion that class contradictions in Yugoslavia were no longer serious. Especially in rural areas, they did not take into account the different class strata and the vitality of the deep roots of capitalism in the private peasant economy. Like the old ideologues of “Christian Socialism,” they apparently believed that the roots of capitalism could easily be eradicated if the “whole peasantry”, with the big exploiter landowners at the head, were called for that purpose, and a decree was made to that effect. Lenin’s teaching regarding proletarian hegemony turned out to be a burden for the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, which they quietly freed themselves of.

From the standpoint of suppressing the class struggle, they also led to a mediation tactic within the Yugoslav Popular Front, which includes not only workers and working peasants, but also large-scale, merchants, small manufacturers and bourgeois intelligentsia, and various political groups, including some bourgeois parties. In this varied company, leaders try to avoid, at any cost, the causes of disagreement: to prevent the development of the workers’ class struggle, because some of the members of a large alliance opposed it; to give up the Communist Party’s leading role, even to hide its face, so that none of the non-Communist participants in the alliance could feel offended; to restrict and reduce cooperation with the Soviet Union, because one or the other of the bourgeois participants of the alliance are reluctant to cooperate with it. . .

When the leaders of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia let loose such a current, a dangerous shift emerged in the political line: instead of leading the cause of the workers by basing themselves in the majority of the Popular Front, the alliance of the working class with the poor and the middle peasantry, they considered it better to orient themselves towards the politically more backward petit-bourgeois elements of the Popular Front. In other words, a bloc policy based on bourgeois nationalism was born.

He who has surrendered to bourgeois nationalism, of course, he is bothered by the voluntary cooperation of his country with a socialist state, no matter how much the country benefits from such cooperation. Of course, such a person can, when the opportunity arises, make public statements about the desirability of the closest ties between Soviet citizens and citizens of his own country, but in practice he strives to minimize those ties. Thus, he is also persuaded by imperialist states, who, for their own purposes, are constantly intimidating small sovereign nations with blackmailing threats. In an effort to relieve this pressure through an opportunistic maneuver, the petty bourgeois nationalist makes concessions to imperialist governments to win their favor. The first concession imperialists demand from the leaders of People’s Democracy is that they must not behave better towards the Soviet Union than they do towards the bourgeois states.

The leaders of Yugoslavia began to act in accordance with that. They adopted a policy that was unfriendly to the Soviet Union: the defamation of Soviet military experts and the humiliation of the Soviet army, a special system of oversight and shadowing of Soviet civilian experts and several Soviet officials in Yugoslavia. In public, Yugoslav leaders make declarations of their special friendship with the Soviet Union, while at the same time their real attitude towards the Soviet state, which defends the independence and security of the People’s Democracy, is the same as towards the imperialist states that threaten their independence and security.

This anti-Soviet attitude of the Tito group represents a very great concession to the imperialist states. And when one remembers the old proverb that he who gives the devil his little finger will lose his whole hand, it is difficult to assess the dangerous consequences that Yugoslavia faces because of its leaders’ current policies. But it is also difficult to assume that such a detrimental policy could continue for a long time without arousing serious opposition from the Communist Party of Yugoslavia and the workers.

After all, Yugoslav workers know from their own experience that fraternal help from the Soviet people is indispensable and essential for their well-being, for freedom, democracy and socialism, for the rapid and diversified development of their nation’s economy, culture and defense. Therefore, it is not difficult for them, the working masses, to understand that any measure that weakens or restricts cooperation with the Soviet Union, regardless of its more or less right-wing justification, is in fact aimed at undermining the very foundations of People’s Democracy. To whom it would not be clear that only by belonging to a united democratic anti-imperialist camp led by the mighty land of socialism, the democracies can secure their independence and security, their entire future, against the pressures and aspirations of the imperialists.

Thus, for those who work in these countries, solidarity with the Soviet Union is not a matter of debate but a deep conviction. As a result, every anti-Soviet politician is doomed to failure when workers – if not today, tomorrow – ask him: – Are you on the Soviet side or against it? It is inconceivable that the working masses who hold loyalty to friendship with the Soviet people as a rule of life would be content with a response that would only contain empty words contrary to fact.” ~O. W. Kuusinen

 

4560a93bc3c84f57aa0632c4fd2aa9cd

A Wave of strikes and workers’ struggles in Finland

On 11th of November Finnish postal services went on strike. The strike initially included about 9000 workers. The strike began because of an attempt to severely cut the workers wages.

It is worth pointing out that the postal services are of course owned by the state, and Finland currently has a “social-democratic” government, which pretends to be on the side of the workers.

The pay cuts were planned together by the leaders of the postal services (Posti Group) and state politicians. The supposedly “leftist” social-democrats were pushing these wage cuts.

Events like this can be severely demoralizing to the workers, because they feel like they have nobody to turn to. If the right-wing parties implement wage cuts, the workers will naturally vote for the social-democrats instead. But if the social-democrats themselves are implementing wage cuts just like the right-wing parties – then what can the workers do? Become confused, apathetic, surrender to the mercy of the capitalist corporations.

As communists it is our job to point out that social-democrats are not real leftists. They are frauds. They are mere servants of the capitalists. When push comes to shove, the social-democrats never side with the workers. They never side with workers when the going gets hard. The strikers received absolutely no help from the social-democrats in the government.

The social-democrats have shown themselves to be frauds once again, and all honest, class conscious workers must instead side with communists. Communists and some independent progressives, trade-unions and the workers themselves were the only ones supporting the strikers. Even the “Left Alliance“ Party sided with the government, not the workers.

After the strike had lasted two weeks, on 25th of November it expanded to include various other workers related to the postal services in the Post and Logistics Union (PAU). The amount of strikers reached over 10 000.

The Service Union United (PAM), Finnish Seafarers´ Union (FSU), Finnish Aviation Union (IAU), Finnish Food Workers’ Union (SEL) and Finnish Electrical Workers´ Union joined in the struggle by striking in solidarity or boycotting the postal services. They wouldn’t deliver or handle packages for them, electrical workers wouldn’t repair electrical issues for the postal service etc. Transport Workers’ Union (AKT) and The Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL) also announced short strikes and other actions in solidarity.

The postal service workers announced they would strike at least until Christmas unless their demands are met. Further strikes in solidarity by other unions were promised for December.

The Industrial Union is in the middle of its own struggle against the governments’ and the capitalists’ attempts to increase work hours without increasing pay. The Industrial Union voiced its solidarity for the strikers, and announced it would also go on strike in select work places and companies starting December 9th.

 

The conclusion of the strike

The strike ended on 27th of November with a defensive victory by the workers.

The Post and Logistics Union said in their announcement:

“PAU prevented the employers attempts to significantly lower wages and implement worse labor contract terms. [The attempt to switch certain workers to worse labor terms] was prevented…”

(translated from:
https://www.pau.fi/viestinta/ajankohtaista/lakot-paattyivat-mita-neuvottelutulos-pitaa-sisallaan.html )

It was completely outrageous to try to cut wages of postal workers. They are already poorly paid, and perform demanding and necessary work. They are already understaffed and underpaid as a result of austerity, cuts and lay-offs by the government.

The government and the capitalists clearly thought the workers were completely crushed and apathetic, if they would allow this to happen. But they were wrong. The workers finally had enough, and rose up to fight for their rights. This demonstrates that there is a limit to how much the workers will tolerate!

As a further result, the minister responsible for state owned companies was forced to step down. The Social-democrats now pretend that they had nothing to do with this entire farce, and instead put all the blame on the state ownership minister. The right-wing parties in the opposition to the Social-democrats now opportunistically use this to bolster their support. But we should remember how catastrophic the policies of the previous government of the Right-wing “National Coalition”, The Center Party and the Nationalist “Finns Party” were. The previous government was a government of the 3 most right-wing parties, and their policies were even worse for the people: privatizing healthcare, increasing unpaid work hours, massive lay-offs in state owned workplaces etc.

The parties in the parliament are all the same. The only solution for thinking, honest and class conscious working people is to side with communists.

 

What can we learn about this strike?

We can clearly see the treacherousness of Social-democrats and reformists. Further, we can see that workers will defend their interests when pushed far enough.

That said, the strike was merely a defensive action. The strike succeeded in defending the workers this time, but the capitalists will restart their attack again. We shouldn’t be satisfied completely with this result. We need to work towards improving the conditions of the workers.

 

What should we do?

Our task is to use situations like these strikes to increase the level of class consciousness. Workers are conscious enough to defend their interests against capitalist wage cuts, but not yet conscious enough to split with social-democrats and reformists. We have to use situations like this to tell workers that capitalism tries to screw them over.

If in your work environment its not possible to talk about communism, you should instead just criticize capitalist corporations, corrupt social-democrat and capitalist politicians etc. and tell your co-workers how important it is to belong to a trade-union.

We have to demonstrate to workers that their interests are the polar opposite of the capitalists’ interests, and that they must break with social-democrats and reformists. Workers must stop supporting bourgeois parties and must oppose reformist leaders in trade-unions.

Strikes and protests like this are an opportunity for us to push people further to the left and to radicalize them, as well as recruit those who are already more sympathetic. It is important for communists to belong to trade-unions, and be as active in them as possible because they are a more favorable place for us communists to spread our views, and to gain and maintain solid ties with the working class.

 

Update: Prime minister resigns

In the aftermath of the strike, the Centre Party, the main government partner of the Social-democrats turned against the Social-democrats and gave a motion of no confidence to towards the prime minister.

The prime minister resigned on 3. of December.

The Finnish Communist Revolution (1918) PART 4: CAPITALIST DICTATORSHIP AND WAR PREPARATIONS

The Capitalist government of Svinhufvud prepares for a war against the working masses and builds their dictatorship (1917-18).

400px-Jaakaripataljooa_libaussa

Finnish jägers trained in Germany

The Regency: First Attempt at Capitalist dictatorship

A regent is a person who rules temporarily in place of a monarch because the monarch is dead or absent. Essentially he is a dictator. The preferred choice of the capitalist class was to create a three member regency (three member dictatorship) to rule Finland. They did not want democracy.

A white guard author writes:
“On December 8. chairman of the parliament Johannes Lundson presented for the parliament the secretariat’s proposal that the power previously held by the Tsar grand-duke be given to a regency created for this purpose” (Erkki Räikkönen, Svinhufvud ja itsenäisyyssenaatti, p. 10)

“The next day after Soviet power had been established in Russia, the bourgeoisie raised the question of power in the parliament. The presidium of the parliament proposed the creation of a three member regency. The social-democrats proposed… calling a constitutional assembly… [which] was defeated with 106 against and 90 in favor… Therefore the parliament decided to create the three member regency which in actuality held dictatorial power. Originally its members were to be Svinhufvud [bourgeois], Alkio [agrarian league] and Tokoi [social-democrat]. But since social-democrats and the agrarian league had opposed creating the regency, they were to be replaced [with bourgeois politicians]…”
[source: E. W. Juva, Suomen kansan historia, V. Tie itsenäisyyteen ja itsenäisyyden aika (1899-1956), p. 146]
(Holodkovski, Suomen työväen vallankumous 1918, pp. 45-46)


In the internal power struggles the regency project was still eventually defeated, largely because the capitalists were forced to capitulate during the December 1917 general strike. The capitalists held power in the Senate, which was a remnant from the time of Tsarism. They only had a slight majority in the parliament, so they always saw preserving the Tsarist senate as their best bet. The petit-bourgeois Agrarian league supported parliamentarism and opposed the regency idea, while the social-democrats preferred the parliament to dictatorship or to the Tsarist senate, but really wanted a constitutional assembly which would overhall the entire Finnish state, dismantle the Tsarist senate etc.

A white guard propaganda work “Svinhufvud and the independence senate” published in 1935, laments the failure of the regency. The author wants to point out that Finland had a Tsarist monarchist constitution and for this reason, making the parliament the ruling body was wrong:

“Since the regency… couldn’t be created yet the parliament decided for now, to use the power previously held by the Tsar Grand-duke… Until the last moment the right-wing parliament members had tried to prevent the passing of this law, but the parliament desired to take this power into its own hands even though it was against the spirit and purpose of our constitution. Right-wing representative Antti Mikkola gave his opposition to the law in strong terms. “The parliament has been made into the ruling body, which history has demonstrated to be the worst of all government systems and particularly prone to oppress the people and individual liberty.”
(E. Räikkönen, Svinhufvud ja itsenäisyyssenaatti, pp. 20-21)

The same white guard author quotes the capitalist leader Svinhufvud as saying:

“”In my opinion, the parliament shouldn’t have become the wielder of the highest power, and instead since the monarch is absent [the Tsar was overthrown] it should have chosen a regent for the country,” said Svinhufvud.” (Räikkönen, pp. 36-37)

The capitalists went back and forth about the idea of establishing a monarchy. Finland had been under Swedish and Russian monarchist rule for centuries, so this seemed fitting to some capitalists. There were pro-Swedish, pro-Russian and pro-German factions within the capitalist class, as well as supporters of monarchy and supporters of military dictatorship. They did not have a consistent plan on what kind of dictatorship they wanted or how to establish it, but the one thing they did consistently was oppose democracy. At minimum they would hold on to the Tsarist era senate and not give full power to the parliament. At most they would establish full monarchy or dictatorship if they could get away with it. (About bourgeois monarchism see Talas, Suomen itsenäistyminen ja Mannerheimin muistelmat p. 61)


“Strong rule of Law”
: Second Attempt at Capitalist dictatorship


At the beginning of 1918 the capitalist government of Svinhufvud adopted the slogan of “Strong rule of law” which meant giving the right-wing senate special powers, crushing the red guards and establishing white guards as the official state military of Finland. The capitalist class was tired of the power vacuum and no longer tolerated any challenge to its power. The capitalist class had been caught off guard by the December 1917 general strike and realized that if the workers decided to rise up, the capitalists needed to be armed and prepared to crush the workers. The capitalists wanted to disarm the workers and establish the class army of the capitalists, the white guard, as the only armed power. The workers and poor peasants would no longer have any ability to demand change. No solution to the food crisis, no solution to unemployment, no land reform. The capitalists were not willing to grant the demands of the people, instead they would cling to their privileged position through force of arms.

“The bourgeoisie attempted… to pass a bill for the creation of a standing army. The issue was discussed in the parliament on 9. of January 1918. In the vote almost half (91 against 94) of parliament members opposed handing the bill to a committee, i.e. opposed passing the bill. The bourgeoisie chose to pursue the matter a different way: it was proposed to give senate special powers to create a strong policing force solely under the senate’s control, which supposedly was needed to smash the spreading “anarchy”. According to senator Castren, the parliament should give the senate the authority for all those actions it sees necessary for creating strong rule of law.” (Holodkovski, pp. 140-141)

“After Finland was granted independence by Soviet-Russia at the beginning of January, the internal situation of the country had developed to an explosive point… The armed forces of the bourgeoisie had been mobilized and were being gathered especially in Southern Ostrobothnia. In mid January all over the country white guards began systematic attacks on workers’ organizations and individual small red guard organizations.

In the parliament the working class leadership attempted to impeach the [capitalist] government of Svinhufvud, but in vain, because that government had turned into an outright dictatorial organ, not accountable to the parliament after the agrarian league party had abandoned the struggle for the Power Act [which made the Finnish parliament the highest governing organ, as opposed to the senate that had been established by the Tsar] and began to support the government of “strong rule of law”. The slogan of “strong rule of law” proclaimed by the Svinhufvud government, together with the bourgeois class militias, the white guard, being declared the only legal armed forces clearly signified a declaration of war against the working class.” (Hyvönen, p. 95)
In order to establish its full power and dictatorship, the capitalist class prepared for civil war, a military attack against the working class. The capitalists began to secretly build a network of white guard organizations throughout the country, and a white army in Southern Ostrobothnia, a kulak region in the middle of Finland. The working class was not preparing for war, the capitalists were. The capitalist government of Svinhufvud decided to establish their secret capital in the city of Vaasa, where they would lead their attack. They needed weapons and funding. For money they turned to the bankers and capitalists. For weapons they turned to the governments of Germany and Sweden. Finnish officers from the old Tsarist army would serve as their commanders.

“A former Tsarist general G. Mannerheim was appointed supreme commander of the whites on 16. of January. Two days later he travelled to Vaasa in Southern Ostrobothnia, which the whites had already beforehand chosen as the base area of their war effort. The bourgeoisie’s war preparations had advanced the furthest in Southern Ostrobothnia. 60 jägers [i.e. soldiers trained in Germany] and others had already worked there for quite some time training white troops. A white military academy was functioning in Vöyri [in Southern Ostrobothnia]. Large amounts of food supplies had also been stored in Southern Ostrobothnia for the war.

Southern Ostrobothnia was suitable as a white base area also because there were no large working class centers, instead the majority of the population were independent landowning peasants, who e.g. didn’t share the oppression of the tenant-farmers. In selecting Southern Ostrobothnia as their base, the bourgeoisie also split the country in half and calculated that they could defeat the red guards near the coast of Southern Lapland soon after the beginning of the war. This would get them in immediate connection with Sweden, whose military aid the whites put great hopes in.”
(Hyvönen, pp. 95-96)

“[Later] on 26. of January the senate [would] relocate… itself to Vaasa where the white guards had already began their attack… Agreeing to the demand that the red guards be dismantled, would have meant surrendering to the mercy of the armed bourgeoisie. Among the party leadership and working class population this was clearly understood and opposed… The party committee… declared on 15. of January… “The senate plans to attack the working class with its white guards – The workers’ guards are absolutely necessary for the self-defense of the workers… Due to the bourgeoisie’s blatant policy of coup’de’tat class struggle in the country may greatly escalate…”
(Hyvönen, pp. 96-97)
The social-democrat minority in the parliament attempted to stop the capitalists from establishing their dictatorship. The effort was unsuccesseful. The social-democrats still hoped the conflict could be avoided.

“Working class [parliamentary] representatives warned the bourgeoisie to not embark on this road. They showed that the white guards had been created as the fighting force of the bourgeois class and they had been used in many provocational attacks against the working class. Recognizing them as the official state army of Finland would mean an outright declaration of class war.

The bourgeoisie had already chosen the path of attacking the workers and poor peasants. It did not want to heed any warnings” (Hyvönen, p.84)

“Social-democrats warned that granting the senate the special powers it requested would mean a declaration of war against the working class. The warning did not work however. After a tremendously stormy debate… the parliament granted the senate special powers on 12. of January. The decision sparked a storm of denounciations by the social-democrats… Social-democrat Pärssinen said that as he looks upon the gloating bourgeoisie he is reminded of the words of the Bible: “Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.” Parliament member Kujala warned the bourgeoisie to remember: he who sows wind, reaps poison. [source: minutes of the 2. Finnish diet 1917, I p. 944]
The decision by the bourgeoisie in the parliament to give senate special powers was seen as a preparation for civil war by the working class press. Later the swedish newspaper “Dagens Nyheter” [daily news] compared the decision to a coup’de’tat. [source: Dagens nyheter, 26.III.1918] On January 13. large worker demonstrations took place against the parliament’s decision…

The same day a youth demonstration of 15,000 participants took place in Helsinki with slogans: “Down with the bloodthirsty bourgeois representatives!”, “Down with militarism!”, “No military of any kind!”” [source: P. Notko, Katsauksia Suomen työtätekevän nuorison luokkataisteluliikkeen historiaan, I osa, p. 159, Известия Гедьсингфорсского совета (Proceedings of the Hedsingfors Soviet) 14(1).I.1918] (Holodkovski, pp. 142-143)

“Immediately after receiving the special powers from the parliament, the senate created two new police organizations and began hurriedly to look for weapons. Svinhufvud sent a coded message to Gripenberg the Finnish representative in Stockholm: “I ask that you immediately authorize Thesleff… [who was in Germany] to begin purchasing weapons. Advise him to make an arrangement for sending those citizens of free and neutral Finland back home, who are currently in the German military [the jägers], arrange their travel to Finland without delay on the first ship and the purchased weapons to be brought with them.” [source: “Kommunisti”, 1933, no.1, p. 42] Another telegram to Gripenberg said: “Hurry with sending the weapons bought from Sweden to Vaasa [the future white capital].” [source: “Vapaus”, 1918, no. 1, p. 7] The Finnish delegates in Germany Hjelt, Erich and Sario turned to Ludendorff on 19. of January and requested the Finnish jäger battalion as well as weapons and military supplies to be sent to Finland soon.” [source: Y. Nurmio, Suomen itsenäistyminen ja Saksa, p. 59] (Holodkovski, pp. 143-144)

“The government had already been preparing for civil war. The counter-revolution chose as its base the middle and northern regions of the country, where the population mainly consisted of landowning peasants. Stores of food and military supplies had been collected in Southern Ostrobothnia and the white guard nucleous gathered there, funds from the Finnish national bank were secretly shipped to Kuopio [in Northern Savonia, in the middle of Finland]. [source: Erinnerungen, G. Mannerheim, p. 167] Ex-members of the Tsarist military were given secret orders on 6. and 7. of January to immediately take leave on “personal reasons” and travel to Southern Ostrobothnia… [source: “Työ”, 29.I.1918] Svinhufvud secretly appointed general Mannerheim as the supreme leader of the Finnish armed forces on 16. of January.” (Holodkovski, p. 144)

The capitalist class had a skillful conspiracy under way. They were collecting millions of marks, thousands and tens of thousands of riffles, millions of bullets, food supplies for an entire army. They were gathering officers trained in Germany or in the Tsarist military, requesting aid from the governments of Sweden and Germany. They had a network of conspiratorial white guard groups all throughout the country. The capitalists were armed to the teeth and prepared to attack the working class, to install a dictatorship and strip the workers of any power to demand rights.

 

“The bourgeoisie in the parliament were building police forces and a military… The bourgeoisie’s talk about building up strong law and order caused uneasiness in workers around the country… The fears of the working population were intensified when on 12. of January the parliament authorized the senate to create a government organ for this purpose. The social-democrats opposed this as they feared it would turn into a class-police, aiming at subjugating the workers.

“The working class movement leadership’s relationship with violence varied. A minority supported embarking on the path of violent revolution, but the majority of the parliamentary group and trade union leaders as well as party leaders were clearly against revolution. [Source: Aimo Klemettilä, Tampereen punakaarti ja sen jäsenistö, p. 60, Hannu Soikkanen, Kohti kansan valtaa I. 1899-1937. Suomen sosiaalidemokraattinen puolue 75 vuotta, p. 270]

However the parliament’s decision to create a strong police force played a part in influencing leading party figures… to slide towards the supporters of an armed solution. As the party council met in Helsinki on 19. of January news began to come from Vyborg about white guard mobilization. The news sharpened the opinions of several members of the council… Grip of the working class movement began to shift to the radical elements, and revolutionary activity ended up being only a matter of time. In the end only very few of even the moderate socialist leaders refused to join or support armed struggle.” [sources: Turo Manninen, “Tie sotaan” Teoksessa itsenäistymisen vuodet 1917-1920. 1. Irti Venäjästä, pp. 407-409, Jaakko Paavolainen, Poliittiset väkivaltaisuudet Suomessa 1918 I. “Punainen terrori”, p. 80, Mikko Uola, “Seinää vasten vain!” Poliittisen väkivallan motiivit Suomessa 1917-18, p. 206
(Suodenjoki & Peltola, Köyhä Suomen kansa katkoo kahleitansa: Luokka, liike ja yhteiskunta 1880-1918 (Vasemmistolainen työväenliike Pirkanmaalla osa 1). pp. 253-254)

“The attempt to create this strong police authority made civil war inevitable, because under the conditions of Finland at that time it could only mean the violent disarming and dismantling of the workers’ guards, which could only be done through armed battles. At the same time the bourgeoisie couldn’t avoid taking this step, because it considered that not taking decisive action against the growing workers’ guards would mean to surrender to the mercy of their class enemy and to be a policy of suicide, which would inevitably lead to the destruction of the bourgeois system.”  (Holodkovski, p. 142)

 

WHO WAS MANNERHEIM – “THE WHITE GENERAL”?

Mannerheim_rakuuna

 

“Earlier Baron Kustaa Mannerheim had achieved fame… through his loyalty to the Tsar who oppressed Finland. This guard officer who had achieved success in his career (In the coronation ceremony of Nicholas II he had the honor of standing next to the throne) didn’t have any second thoughts about the violence the Tsar was carrying out against his homeland Finland. The illegal [nationalist newspaper] “Fria Ord”… had included Mannerheim’s name among those shameful Finnish officers in the Russian army who had not resigned due to the Tsar’s Russification policy. Even Mannerheim’s own family was not safe from the Russification policy: his older brother bank director Carl Mannerheim was deported from Finland to Sweden where his youngest brother Johan also saw best to move. When Kustaa Mannerheim decided to participate in the Russo-Japanese war his family expressed their surprise that he could join a war on behalf of the Tsar that oppressed his homeland. [source: Historiallinen aikakauskirja, no. 1, pp. 40, 41.]

However Mannerheim participated both in the Russo-Japanese war and the First World War. After the February Revolution he resigned from the military with his rank of general and returned to Finland. Then he realized that the Finnish bourgeoisie needed a “strong hand”… and since then it became as favorable for him to disguise himself as a patriot as it had previously been to reject patriotism. The bourgeoisie turned the old loyal servant of the Tsar, to a leader of a patriotic movement, even though the general had to talk with Finnish people using some other language, because his Finnish was poor. While talking to his subordinates during the war he had to rely on an interpreter. [source: E. Heinrichs, Mannerheim Suomen kohtaloissa, I. Valkoinen kenraali 1918-1919, p.101; M. Rintala, Four Finns. Political Profiles, p.20.]

Many Finnish bourgeois were unhappy about this, and about the fact that Mannerheim still had a Russian soldier [Ignat Kondratjevitš Karpatšev] who only spoke Russian as his soldier-servant.” [source: S. Jägerskiöld, Gustaf Mannerheim 1918, p.34]
(Holodkovski, p. 145)

“Soon after returning to Finland, Mannerheim who at the beginning of January 1918 had been made chairman of the Military Committee [white guard organization consisting of ex-Tsarist soldiers] explained to the Committee that revolutionaries could arrest them at any time in Helsinki, and therefore it was necessary without delay to travel North and create an army and central command there. [source: Jägerskiöld, pp. 27-29]

“According to senator Arajärvi Mannerheim had already been appointed head of all armed forces by the senate. During war conditions all officials and citizens had to obey his orders and instructions at once… [cf. A. Beranek, Mannerheim, p. 120]The bourgeoisie voluntarily handed power to a military dictator, who was to crush the revolutionary working class with an iron fist and create “order”. Mannerheim being appointed supreme commander was kept secret for some time, it was announced only on 27. of January.

On 18. of January 1918 Mannerheim traveled to Southern Ostrobothnia under a false name, to finalize war preparations… At the same time the so-called Military Committee [organization of ex-Tsarist officers], which became the White central command also traveled to Southern Ostrobothnia…

Mannerheim called Axel Ehrnrooth the head of Privatbanken in Helsinki on 19. of January, and said he needs 3 million marks in Vaasa immediately. A special fund had already been created in Privatbanken on 9. of October 1917 where big capitalists donated money for the suppression of “anarchy” i.e. to protect against revolution. By 19. of January the fund had 5,676,239 marks.

Ehrnrooth… considered it necessary to receive guarantees from the senate that after “order” had been established the state would refund the money of the bank and the “donors”… Ehrnrooth waited over two and a half hours to speak to Svinhufvud and only gave instructions to send the money after Svinhufvud had said “of course everything will be paid back to you”… (After the revolution had been crushed, literally few hours after Mannerheim had arrived to Helsinki Ehrnrooth came to hand him a bill of 9,019,330 marks. Mannerheim had received this sum from Privatbanken during the civil war. Already on 27. of May the bank was repaid the money to the last penny. [source: Jägerskiöld, p. 405] The victorious bourgeoisie paid the war expenses from the state treasury.)” (Holodkovski, pp. 145-148)

SOURCES:

Erkki Räikkönen, Svinhufvud ja itsenäisyyssenaatti

Holodkovski, Suomen Työväenvallankumous 1918

E. W. Juva, Suomen kansan historia, V. Tie itsenäisyyteen ja itsenäisyyden aika (1899-1956)

Hyvönen, Suurten tapahtumien vuodet 1917-1918

Minutes of the 2. Finnish diet 1917
Dagens nyheter, 26.III.1918

P. Notko, Katsauksia Suomen työtätekevän nuorison luokkataisteluliikkeen historiaan, I osa

Известия Гедьсингфорсского совета (Proceedings of the Hedsingfors Soviet) 14(1).I.1918

“Kommunisti”, 1933, no.1

“Vapaus”, 1918, no. 1

Y. Nurmio, Suomen itsenäistyminen ja Saksa

Erinnerungen, G. Mannerheim

“Työ”, 29.I.1918

Aimo Klemettilä, Tampereen punakaarti ja sen jäsenistö

Hannu Soikkanen, Kohti kansan valtaa I. 1899-1937. Suomen sosiaalidemokraattinen puolue 75 vuotta

Turo Manninen, “Tie sotaan” Teoksessa itsenäistymisen vuodet 1917-1920. 1. Irti Venäjästä

Jaakko Paavolainen, Poliittiset väkivaltaisuudet Suomessa 1918 I. “Punainen terrori”

Mikko Uola, “Seinää vasten vain!” Poliittisen väkivallan motiivit Suomessa 1917-18

Suodenjoki & Peltola, Köyhä Suomen kansa katkoo kahleitansa: Luokka, liike ja yhteiskunta 1880-1918 (Vasemmistolainen työväenliike Pirkanmaalla osa 1)
Historiallinen aikakauskirja, no. 1

E. Heinrichs, Mannerheim Suomen kohtaloissa, I. Valkoinen kenraali 1918-1919

M. Rintala, Four Finns. Political Profiles

S. Jägerskiöld, Gustaf Mannerheim 1918

A. Beranek, Mannerheim

The Finnish Communist Revolution (1918) PART 3: FAILURE OF REFORMISM

2550 -1809 8106 . N26809,137519

In the years immediately prior to the revolution, the Finnish socialists were heavily reformist. The party had always wanted to act legally and win concessions from the capitalist class. Eventually all attempts at reformism would end up in failure and in late 1917-early 1918 the party would find itself pushed to a revolutionary situation against its will by the objective conditions, the masses and the actions of the capitalist class. But before that in the period of 1916 to 1917 the social-democrats exhausted every avenue of legal reformism before ever seriously considering revolutionary action: parliamentarism, trade-unionism, demanding of concessions. Each attempt ended in failure, in the end making a violent class conflict unavoidable.

 

THE 1916 ELECTION VICTORY: Attempt at parliamentary reformism

The first grand moment for reformism was the historic election victory of 1916 where the socialists emerged as the largest party and held a parliamentary majority.

“…in the elections of 1916 the social-democratic party of Finland won (as the first workers’ party in the world) an absolute majority of parliamentary seats (103 seats out of 200). This was an enormous victory and persuaded the social-democrats to believe that under normal political conditions, when the parliament would function, laws favorable to the workers could be implemented peacefully.

Indeed, Finland unexpectedly gained such favorable conditions without any struggle from its part. In Petrograd [Russia], workers and soldiers overthrow czarism. In Finland, state of war ended and bourgeois democratic liberties were returned… Finns received the opportunity to create their own government, the senate. Governor-general Seyn and chairman of the senate Borovitinov were imprisoned and taken to Petrograd (where they were released). Stakhovich, a liberal more favorable to Finland, was appointed governor-general. It is doubtful that Finland could have expected conditions any more favorable under the Russian bourgeois republic.

Immediately after the overthrow of czardom, Finnish workers began creating first in the capital and then also in rural areas their own representative bodies, workers’ “representative assemblies” modeled after the Russian soviets… Representative assemblies (called soviets in some localities) functioned alongside local governing bodies (which had previously not been open to lower classes) and took part in administration. “(Holodkovski, The Finnish Workers’ Revolution 1918, pp.8-9)

“The party’s membership began to increase once again in 1916. One reason was the success that social-democrats got in the parliament elections… Among the important questions in the victorious elections of 1916, were the worsening food situation, and attitude towards the increasingly russified Finnish senate [the socialists wanted to give power from the senate to the Parliament, while the bourgeoisie supported the senate]. However the most important theme of the elections was the tenant-farmer question. Every party had their tenant-farmer program but the social-democrats put special emphasis on this question.”
(Suodenjoki & Peltola, Köyhä Suomen kansa katkoo kahleitansa: Luokka, liike ja yhteiskunta 1880-1918 (Vasemmistolainen työväenliike Pirkanmaalla osa 1), pp.181-182)

Due to obstructionism from the capitalist class and from Tsarist Russia, the social-democrats were forced into a coalition government, hindering their work:

“The social-democratic party, which had won the majority now possessed the unquestionable right to form a government. However the matter was made more difficult by the fact that the social-democratic party would have had to collaborate with bourgeois parties, which in socialist circles would have been considered betrayal of working class interests. For this reason the social-democrats announced on 23. of march their refusal to form a government, and to leave it up to bourgeois parties. Bourgeois parties were also afraid to take responsibility to form a senate. At that point the governor-general’s assistant Korff announced that unless a new senate is formed, the old Russian senate “loyal to the czar” would remain in power. This would have been intolerable. The social-democrats had to change their position on forming the senate… In their opinion, it was acceptable to form a government with representatives from the social-democratic party and the [petty-bourgeois] agrarian league, i.e. representatives from the workers’ and peasants’ parties. Again disagreements arose. The agrarian league demanded that representatives of bourgeois parties also be invited to join in the government. In this way, the social-democrats failed to avoid a coalition government.” (Holodkovski, p.9)

“Soon it became even more evident that social-democrats would not achieve much through parliamentary methods, despite their strong position in the highest government organs of Finland (half the senate seats and majority in the parliament). Bourgeois senators could rely on the chairman of the senate, the governor-general if the need arose, and his vote could at any moment grant them majority. Later [revolutionary leader and founder of the Finnish communist party] Kuusinen compared the coalition senate to a stubborn bull which was being pulled forward by its horns by the social-democrats and back by its tail by the bourgeoisie, the bull never moving at all. Additionally the Russian provisional government intervened in Finnish affairs and Finland could not resist its actions… Objective conditions did not allow social-democratic senators the opportunity to improve the position of the workers. The role of the social-democratic senators was limited to collaborating with the bourgeoisie, attempting to minimize the dissatisfaction of the population and in reality to strengthen the type of government which did not fulfill the interests of the population… The senate was stripped of its reputation before it could even do anything. But even when it did act, it didn’t win respect in the eyes of the workers but instead began receiving their scorn.”(Holodkovski, p.10)

“The social-democrats’ participation in the highest executive organ only put them in a bad light in the eyes of the workers, because the workers didn’t benefit from it.

The activity of social-democrats in the parliament proved much the same. Social-democrats only had little over half the seats. But passing changes to important laws (e.g. the constitution or reforms to taxation laws) required a two thirds majority.

The senate and parliament were the typical arena of the social-democrats’ legal activity. Legal activism is possible also in non-revolutionary situations, and therefore it was not characteristic to that time period. What was characteristic to the situation, was the ever larger non-parliamentary action by the working population. The large size of the popular movement is explained by the increased dissatisfaction of the workers, removel of the threat of repression by the authorities and the inspiring effect of the revolutionary activities of the Russian soldiers and sailors. Non-parliamentary methods corresponded to the needs of the active struggle by the people.” (Holodkovski, p.11)

The social-democrat government came to an end when the Russian Provisional Government dismantled the Finnish parliament after the social-democrats together with the agrarian league passed the Power Act, a bill for Finnish independence, making the Finnish parliament independent from Russia. The capitalists worked together with Russia to destroy the social-democrat government and to prevent this bill from being implemented. (See episode 1 of this series about the independence struggle of Finland.)

Thus due to obstructionism the social-democrats’ parliamentary hopes were frustrated. Nothing was achieved but they lost credibility in the eyes of their supporters. At the same time the capitalists were motivated to unite and campaign harder in order to combat the social-democrats in the parliament. The social-democrats no longer could inspire the same level of confidence in their voters as before. They also had a confused policy of opposing the illegal dismantling of the Finnish government by Russia, but still not boycotting the elections to create a new government. This did not help them gain support. The people thought: “what was the point of voting for them, if they would achieve nothing and the parliament would be dismantled again?”

“Social-democrats suffered a defeat in the elections of october 1-2 [1917], which surprised them. Although, the amount of social-democrat votes increased, it was 444,608 when it had been 376,030 in previous elections. [source: J. Paasivirta, Suomen itsenäisyyskysymys 1917 [Finnish independence question 1917], II, pp. 41-44]
The increase in votes of other parties was larger, e.g. the agrarian league grew by 71,6%.
[source: H. Soikkanen, kansalaissota dokumentteina, [civil war as documents] pp. 186-188]
The development of events in the summer and fall of 1917 lead to parliamentarism being seen more and more as a dissappointment by the workers. The social-democrats joining in the government (senate), any more then their parliamentary majority, did not bring significant improvements to the workers. “The people’s paper” made the following summary about the 10 year history of the single chamber parliament:

“Now ten years later we have returned to our starting point and can see that we are just as far from our goals as we were ten years ago… The task of the single chamber, most democratic parliament in the world, has been in these ten years, to sink into sand the foaming stream of progress and change, which then was unleashed by revolution.”
[source:
H. Soikkanen, p.153]

The paper explained that the workers had gone through a hard schooling. They began to understand that the strength of the working class was not in the amount of votes, but in the power and fighting capacity of their fighting class organizations. The paper emphasized that it was possible to mention achievements during this period of ten years, but all of them had been achived through non-parliamentary means. [source: H. Soikkanen, p.154]

These things were written about 2 months before the dismantling of the [Finnish] parliament [by the Russian provisional government to stifle Finnish independence]. The dismantling of the parliament destroyed the last parliamentary illusions and demonstrated the complete unreliability of bourgeois promises.” (Holodkovski, p.38)

 

“WE DEMAND”: Still hoping for peaceful reforms

Reformism suffered a severe blow after the social-democrats inability to pass any reforms during the time when they had parliamentary majority. The capitalist parties together with Russia destroyed the social-democrat majority and defeated them in elections. The social-democrats could no longer hope to pass laws and instead chose to rely on the support of the masses and directly demand concessions from the bourgeoisie:

“On December 1. when the new parliament was in session, the social-democratic leadership published their programmatic declaration “We demand”, which presented the basic demands of the workers. To combat the food shortages it urged to confiscate all food stores, to put production and trade of goods under strict control and distribute goods equally and with reasonable prices. The declaration demanded that the unemployed be given work at adequate wages. New municipal elections had to be carried out according to the newly passed law. [These would be the first municipal elections where workers had equal votes with capitalists. In the previous system, people with more property were entitled to more votes.] Officialdom is to be purged of reactionaries and made democratic. The white guard must be dismantled. The 8-hour working day must immediately be implemented. Tenant farmers and farm workers are to be made rightful owners of their homes and land… An insurence system for the elderly must be created and the tax system reformed. In questions dealing with the sovereign rights of Finland it was urged that the Power Act, accepted by the parliament on 18th of February be published and insisted on guaranteeing the internal autonomy of Finland until the question of Finnish independence has been solved in full. It was also demanded that a constitutional assembly be created and given unlimited authority in solving the country’s affairs and to accept a new constitution. Elections to the constitutional assembly were to be carried out equally among all citizens 20 years or older and decisions must be passed in the assembly with a simple majority. [source: И. И. Сюкияйнен Революционные события 1917-1918, [revolutionary events 1917-1918] pp. 286-289] (cf. Suodenjoki & Peltola, pp. 245-246)

These were the demands of Finnish social-democrats at that time. They didn’t attack the base of the capitalist system, but demanded a substantial limiting of the selfish interests of the ruling classes as well as the weakening of these classes in the government alongside a strengthening of the workers.

The bourgeois majority in the parliament refused these demands as entirely unacceptable. A week after the “We demand” declaration, it was already clear where revolutionary and non-revolutionary methods lead under similar conditions: Lenin’s tactics lead to the world historic victory of socialist revolution in Russia, but the tactics of Finnish social-democrats lead to the bourgeoisie ignoring all the demands of the Finnish working class and the electoral achievements of the social-democrats ended up being worth nothing.” (Holodkovski, pp. 41-42)

The “We Demand” document was naturally limited to simple reforms, but even those could not be achieved. The capitalist class was simply not willing to make compromises. Concessions could not be gained by begging but only by forcing the capitalists to give them!

 

THE DECEMBER 1917 GENERAL STRIKE: Workers take matters into their own hands

After attempts to pass reforms through the parliament had failed, and capitalists had refused to give them, the masses were ready to take them by force, to make life tolerable for the Finnish people. A minority of the social-democrat leaders suggested beginning a working class revolution, but majority still wanted to only pressure the capitalists to force them into concessions.

“Because the bourgeois majority in the parliament paid no heed to the workers’ demands, they began a general strike on the night of December 14. [The leading social-democratic body] The revolutionary central committee presented the strikers’ demands in a declaration titled “Working people to battle for bread and rights! Stop the presses!” (Hyvönen, p.53)

“On December 12. part of the Revolutionary Central Committee and representatives of the trade-unions held a joint meeting… Kuusinen proposed that if the parliament doesn’t satisfy the workers’ demands about the rationing of food, helping the unemployed, extending the municipal voting rights to workers etc. then the workers must take power into their own hands. Some others shared this opinion… Gylling, Pietikäinen, Visa, Väisänen and Saarikivi – opposed beginning a revolution. In their opinion the workers would not be able to keep power for long. Many thought it unlikely that the workers could handle massive nationwide problems. Majority opposed taking power. The decision to pressure the bourgeoisie and attempt to win the reforms of the “We demand”-proclamation, was passed with 18 votes against 8. To help these reforms pass even partially the social-democrats divided them into 6 separate propositions and the demands which offended the bourgeoisie the most – the demand for calling a constitutional assembly and dismantling the white guard – were dropped entirely.” (Holodkovski, pp.50-51) (Cf. E. Räikkönen, Svinhufvud ja itsenäisyyssenaatti, p. 17)

This demonstrates that the leadership in late 1917 was divided into revolutionaries and reformists. The reformists constituted a solid majority of 18 against 8. The social-democrat party did everything it could, to appease the workers and begged the capitalists to grant reforms which were denied, nearly every single time. And when ever a reform was granted, it was not due to the action of the social-democrats but because the workers took matters into their own hands.

“The 4th Congress of the Finnish Trade-Union Federation met on December 12. [1917]. It pointed out that the conditions of the workers were so hopeless and unbearable, that unless the congress is ready to make radical decisions, the workers will take matters into their own hands. The food question was top most in importance… Many… deputees saw revolution as the only thing that could save the workers from starvation. Deputee Hakkinen said that unless the working class rises up to fight they will all starve to death… Deputee Pyttynen said that in Ostrobothnia the workers were eagerly waiting for the decisions of the congress and were willing to die in order to put them into effect… The deputee from Tampere said that workers of the city have decided to either win or die. Deputee Lampinen said that in many localities the workers have already began to take action, because it is better to die in battle then to do nothing and die of hunger. Some delegates said that they had been told by the workers, that unless the congress accepted radical decisions the delegates would not be welcomed back. The workers were not worried about the shortage of weapons. The delegate from Tornio said the Russian soldiers had promised they would have weapons. The delegate from Oulu also said the soldiers sided with the revolution.
[source: H. Soikkainen, pp.353-356]

The attitude of the workers was generally so firm, that there could never be a better time for revolution. However the attitude of the popular masses inspired uneasiness among some working class leaders. These leaders did not aim to overthrow the capitalists but to only pressure them and force them to accept the most important demands, in order to dissolve the revolutionary energy that had built up.

The congress of trade-union organizations published a declaration on December 13. which stated that nothing had been done in order to satisfy the demands which the trade-union delegation had made to the senate on October 20. The trade-union congress demanded that the parliament order the senate already that same day, to implement the Power Act [of Finnish sovereignty], the 8-hour working day and give parliament the right to control all of government. If this was not done, the workers would begin a general strike, the responsibility of which would fall to the bourgeoisie.”
(Holodkovski, pp.51-52)

“The general strike put forward the same demands that had been presented in the “We demand”-programme, demanded solving of the food crisis and unemployment, implementation of the power act [which guaranteed Finnish independence from capitalist Russia], fair municipal elections as well as the 8-hour working day, freeing the tenant farmers from the landlords, extending electoral rights to all citizens age 20 or older, taxing the rich and calling a constitutional assembly. The social-democratic deputies presented these demands in the parliament on behalf of the Finnish Trade-Union Federation on December 13th. The demands were read aloud by deputy Vuoristo who further appealed to the [capitalist] deputies with these words: “After the great masses have seen these demands, —it is no longer in our power to control or lead the situation—history and the minutes of the meeting will demonstrate that from our side we have attempted a peaceful solution. You have every single time refused—I wonder if you still refuse—these modest demands, which you yourselves have claimed to support, and yet have not implemented. Will you plunge our nation into catastrophe because you refuse such modest demands?” (Hyvönen, pp.60-61)

“Social-democrat Vuoristo read the declaration in parliament and emphasized it was supported by 170,000 trade-union workers, as well as all the politically organized workers, i.e. 250,000 citizens.” [source: minutes of the 2. Finnish diet 1917, I pp.98-99] (Holodkovski, p.52, )

“The general strike of 1905 had involved also the bourgeois officials and no bourgeois party had dared to oppose it. The 1917 general strike on the other hand was of a different character. It began from the atmosphere created by the October Revolution, as a revolutionary struggle of the working class and poor rural population against the bourgeoisie. In 1905 the workers had already fought against their own national bourgeoisie when it had allied with the Russian Czar to minimize the democratic parliamentary reform. But in the general strike of 1917 the workers targeted primarily the bourgeoisie of their own country and fundamentally it was nothing else then a struggle for power. The strike spread accross the country and gained right away the character of a sharp class conflict. At this stage the bourgeoisie didn’t yet feel themselves strong enough to enter into open conflict with the workers. The bourgeoisie did have a fairly extensive network of white guard organizations and it had received more then 7000 rifles from Germany along with other weapons. But the initiative was with the workers, and the strike could paralyze the entire country’s transportation, even administration. In the largest working class population centers power was in the hands of worker militias, workers’ “delegate assemblies” [soviets] or councils of working class organizations. Tens of thousands of workers and peasants joined the militias which began to declare themselves red guards. In many localities workers occupied police stations and regional government buildings, and confiscated food and weapons hidden away by the bourgeoisie. The development of the strike in this way lead to a sharpening of class antagonisms.” (Hyvönen, pp.61-62)

Revolutionary leader Yrjö Sirola described the situation in this way:

“The strike spread quickly all over the country and acquired a revolutionary character. The working class was no longer satisfied in asking for the reforms presented in the “We demand”-programme and the disarming of white guard organizations, but began demanding conquest of power. In reality, in large parts of the country (especially in cities and rural working class centers) power was already uncontestedly in the hands of revolutionary working class organizations.” (Sirola, Suomen luokkasota)
The workers take control of cities all over the country.

“…the Revolutionary central committee received messages through the telegraph and telephone from all parts of the country, demonstrating that the tide of revolution was rising ever higher and that everywhere, the workers were masters of the situation and full of fighting spirit. In Kajaani the strike committee informed that the town administration was under its control and everything was peaceful. The revolutionary committee of Tornion informed that power was in the hands of the workers and steps are being taken to solve the food crisis. In Mikkeli workers occupied the police building as well as telegraph and telephone station and forced the governor to obey the people’s demands. The mood of the workers was fierce. The workers’ revolutionary committee in Vaasa informed that the workers have occupied the regional government, sealed the rooms and posted guards, and that everything was peaceful. The workers’ soviet of Oulu telegraphed that the workers have occupied the police station, railway station, telegraph and telephone stations and regional government. Factories, shops and schools have been closed, without conflicts. Messages came from Heinola informing about the eager fighting will of the workers. Information coming from Joensuu and Jyväskylä stated that power was in the hands of the workers. Telegraphs came from Turku, Pori, Riihimäki and Ruotsinpyhtää stating that worker militias are keeping revolutionary order, confiscating weapons from the bourgeoisie and arresting the most active counter-revolutionaries. Worker organizations of Lappeenranta were carrying out inspections to discover the bourgeoisies’ hidden food stores and had already confiscated 16 tons of grain. The working people of Oulunkylä confiscated food and alcoholic beweriges from the bourgeoisie (under the law, the production and sale of alcohol was prohibited, so the bourgeoisie was breaking the law).

Here and there, worker militias had to face the white guards but gained the upper hand. The white guard of Tammisaari managed to drive the workers away from the telephone station for a while but soon the red guards took it over again. In Jyväskylä, Sortavala and Oitti the bourgeois broke the phone lines but almost everywhere the workers managed to repair them.” (Holodkovski, pp. 64-65)

“The strike spread to encompass the whole country. The industries of every city and every countryside municipality stopped work. A total of 832 enterprises participated in the strike, partial strikes were held in 112 enterprises. 10 enterprises stayed out of the strike. None of the newspapers could appear, except “The information bulletin of the workers’ revolutionary central committee” and local revolutionary committee and strike committee bulletins.

The workers saw the general strike as the beginning of a proletarian revolution and not simply a stoppage of work. All over the country they created red guard chapters. Russian troops partially helped to solve the weapon question of the red guards and worker militias. In Helsinki the workers acquired 3000 rifles from the arsenal of Vyborg shipyard (which were returned after the strike) [source: A. Taimi, Sivuja Eletystä, pp. 228-229, 231]. In Tampere the workers had 300 rifles, in Kotka 600, in Vyborg 300 etc. [source: Lehen, p.86] Workers occupied all the most important locations in the cities, took control of the media and transportation, conducted house searches in the houses of the bourgeoisie, confiscated any weapons they found and arrested the most hated counter-revolutionaries. The white guards did not dare to resist the worker’s highly unified and organized actions, apart from a few exceptions. The bourgeois authority was crippled. The bourgeois police academy… was shut down. From all municipalities, messages came announcing that power was in the hands of the workers. The working class had the opportunity to fully conquer state power, and besides, possibly without any serious resistance or bloodshed, as the events had caught the bourgeoisie off guard and it was unprepared for civil war. A revolutionary situation had arisen in the country.” (Holodkovski, pp.54-55)

The December 1917 general-strike would have been the perfect opportunity for a revolution. The capitalists were caught off-guard, they were not armed or prepared sufficiently to oppose the workers, who easily took control with very little resistance. But a revolution was not what the majority of social-democrat leaders were hoping for. They were frightened by the turn of events. The masses had simply organized without the reformist leaders and taken more bold action then their supposed leaders had wanted. The social-democratic party was now forced to consider whether to support an outright workers’ revolution or to oppose it.

 

FACTIONS INSIDE THE PARTY: Reformists, Centrists, Revolutionaries and Counter-revolutionaries.

White propaganda written in the 30s also admits that instead of advocating for revolution “The social-democrats didn’t have the courage to order a rebellion, but instead warned against individual actions and told the workers to keep united.”
(Erkki Räikkönen, Svinhufvud ja itsenäisyyssenaatti, p. 15)

“At the same time as the working class was ready for revolution and rising for battle, [source: “Финляндия революция”, стр. 26.] the majority in the Revolutionary Central Committee considered revolution to be dangerous in that situation. Why did an attitude of compromise triumph in the working class leaders, while a few months later [in january 1918] a revolutionary attitude gained the upper hand despite the situation no longer being favorable? [source: Lehen, p.107]

In December 1917 the social-democratic party functioned under the prevailing understanding of class struggle. The theoretical level of the party was low, it interpreted principles of revolution and class struggle in a backward way.* According to [revolutionary leader] Yrjö Sirola, a left-wing faction, centrist faction and a right-wing faction all lived harmoniously in the party and the centrists were the leading group, with their left-kautskyite theories.** Sirola considered himself to have belonged to this group…” (Holodkovski, p. 55)

*[source: “40 лет рабочей революции в Финляндии.” “Новая и новейшая история”, 1958, No 2, стр. 125. (“40 years of the workers’ revolution in Finland.” “New and Newest History”, 1958, No 2, p. 125.)]
**[source: Предисловие Ю. Сирола к тезисам ЦК КПФ. “Пролетарская революция”, 1928, No 8 (78), стр. 168. (Y.Sirola’s preface to the theses of the Central Committee of the Finnish Communist Party. “The Proletarian Revolution”, 1928, No 8 (78), p. 168.)]

“Sirola explained that this left-wing consisted of instinctively revolutionary workers without conscious Bolshevik leadership. The left-wing faction became stronger and more active after the October Revolution. [source: “40 лет рабочей революции в Финляндии.” “Новая и новейшая история”, 1958, No 2, стр. 125. (“40 years of the workers’ revolution in Finland.” “New and Newest History”, 1958, No 2, p. 125.)]

The working class leaders of that time had no familiarity with Lenin’s theoretical works, partially due to the fact that they didn’t speak Russian, but more because they were not very interested in the Bolshevik’s struggle against opportunism or issues of the international working class movement. Here is an illustrative example. In June of 1917 at the 9th congress of the Finnish social-democratic party Bolshevik representatives Alexandra Kollontai and Jukka Rahja [a Finnish bolshevik] encouraged Finnish social-democrats to join the Zimmerwald current [which opposed the imperialist world war one]. Valpas replied that the party majority was not on the Zimmerwald side.

“The extreme right-wing of the majority is more right-wing then the famous Branting, it is almost petit-bourgeois and in the party executive committee that has been the leading tendency” and in questions of class struggle it is of the same opinion as Branting and Scheidemann [social-chauvinists and reformists] [source: Soikkanen, I, p. 94].

Kuusinen who spoke later, said: “It is true that Zimmerwalds, Scheidemanns, Thomases etc. are very vague concepts to us. If Rahja is going to question us about international politics, starting with the question of which groups are now Zimmerwaldian, then we are going to make a great many mistakes.” Rahja interjected: “You have been together with the bourgeoisie and for that reason can’t even recognize social-democrats.”

Kuusinen replied: “Yes, it is partially because of that, but also because we are so far away from those international politics… but I think its not so dangerous if we here make a decision somewhat with our ‘eyes closed’ to follow the decision of our Russian comrades and join with the Zimmerwald… We trust you. Valpas says that it would be incorrect since we are more bourgeois then the Zimmerwaldians. That is true. From what I personally know about the Zimmerwaldians I do think that they take a more extreme stance then us here in Finland.”[source: Soikkanen, I, pp. 96-97] (Holodkovski, pp.56-57)
“Before the October revolution in Russia and in the early weeks of the revolution, the stance of Finnish social-democrats was that a socialist revolution could only succeed in large western industrial countries. Three days after the Bolshevik revolution, Kuusinen said in a speech to the parliament that the question of proletarian revolution would not be solved in Finland but

“it would be settled in Europe. It also won’t be settled in Russia but in Russia, Germany, England, all of them together and possibly nearly at the same time. Unless a proletarian revolution comes from there, it won’t happen in Finland either…”
(Minutes of the 2. Finnish diet 1917, I pp.56-57)

From the above statement it follows logically that the Finnish socialists didn’t feel the need to urgently prepare for a socialist revolution, until it happened in the Western countries. Because otherwise the Finnish revolution would suffer defeat, and therefore the working classes had to be prevented from taking this premature and ill-advised step. There was the danger that the revolutionary working class would turn its back on the leaders [as it later did] and would start to follow the firm supporters of revolution without delay. For this reason the more radical of the leaders had to keep up appearances and act thus, to not cause disappointment amont revolutionary workers and to not let them out of their influence, even if they didn’t truly support revolution. They had to pretend to be much more left-wing then they really were, and emphasize that they supported uncompromising class struggle and won’t collaborate with the bourgeosie. That way they kept their authority among the left-wing working class. The siltasaari [center-left] faction founded its policy on this basis. In the party congress in 1917 Kuusinen described the policy of the times in the following way:

“Personally, I would now take quite a revisionist stance. In normal circumstances I would try to support class struggle. But it probably won’t hurt to take a [public] stand that is more radical then the actual practice. That is how this party has always been. We have always given an image of ourselves to the outside, which is slightly more radical then we really are. We have had class struggle as such a dogma right from the beginning, that if someone were to speak against it, they would have been condemned by the party.”
(Minutes of the 9. congress of the Finnish social-democratic party)

To have understood the falsity of the deeply rooted dogmas of Western social-democracy would have required serious reconsideration and becoming accustomed with Lenin’s works. Those who trusted in [German revisionist leader] Kautsky’s authority had only realized the falseness of some of Kautsky’s claims after looking into that theoretical work that some Bolsheviks had given to developing the theory and practice of Marxism. Lenin’s recommendations for Finnish social-democrats to take power, and his short letter of December 11. could not contain full argumentation and therefore didn’t have a significant enough impact on the Finns.” (Holodkovski, p. 57-58)

The factions in the social-democratic party altered over time. Initially there was a struggle between the counter-revolutionary revisionist right-wing faction and the left-wing “siltasaari” faction. However in 1917 a further split emerged:

1) the firm revolutionaries, armed masses, elements of trade-unions etc. formed a revolutionary left-wing tendency but as Sirola said, without Bolshevik leadership.

2) the “siltasaari” group which consisted of many social-democrat party leaders became a center-faction. They represented a left-menshevik, left-kautskyite tendency which supported revolution in theory but not in reality, believed Finland as a small peasant country wasn’t ready for revolution.

3) the counter-revolutionaries, open revisionists and reformists formed the right-wing. The leaders of this group such as Väinö Tanner would consistently oppose working class revolution throughout the civil war, would eventually denounce socialism and form the basis of modern Finnish social-democracy.

The social-democrat leaders saw the december general-strike would lead to a working class revolution which they saw as premature and inadvisable. Therefore they began aiming to end the strike and still wanted pushthe capitalists to grant concessions and appease the workers to prevent a revolution.

“The Revolutionary Central Committee [i.e social-democrat leadership] was being pressured from the right and the left. The majority of the social-democratic parliamentary group was nervous about the revolutionary character of the December general strike, and after receiving information that the strike had in some locations lead to bloodshed, it called its members away from Revolutionary Central Committee leaving only three members who it authorized to act in favor of ending the strike.
[source: “Explanation of the minutes of the 10. (extraordinary) congress of the Finnish social-democratic party held in Helsinki 25-27. December 1917”, by Anton Huotari as secretary, p.10]
The view of the workers’ militias was the opposite. On the evening of 15. December their representatives arrived at the meeting demanding firmer actions: disarming the white guards and taking power. If the meeting refused to do this, the workers would do it themselves. The Revolutionary Central Committee promised to give its answer by 8 o’clock the next morning. The meeting did not have time to discuss the matter because many of its members had to be in session of the parliament.

In the parliament the social-democrats tried for the last time to persuade the bourgeosie to realize that it was essential to grant at least some of the workers’ demands… In his speech to the parliament Kuusinen said:

“I am of the view that there could be unrest tomorrow, unless we who seek to calm down the workers, can finally demonstrate some real results from this parliament… We at least see it as beneficial if we could peacefully get over this critical period.”
(Minutes of the 2. Finnish diet 1917, I pp.56-57)

“Valpas said in his speech that “The revolutionary movement has until now only taken the form of a strike movement” [source: Minutes of the 2. Finnish diet 1917, I pp.56-57] and let it be understood that the situation could change as early as tomorrow, unless the parliament give the workers real results. The leadership of the strike did not consider itself capable of controlling the forces who demanded firm action…

After finally realizing the seriousness of the situation the bourgeosie agreed to some concessions. Alkio [from the petit-bourgeois Agrarian league] made the proposition that

“…the parliament would at least temporarily begin wielding that authority which had previously belonged to the Czar and grand duke.” [i.e. the Power Act would partially be implemented at least temporarily, making Finland a sovereign republic]
(Minutes of the 2. Finnish diet 1917, I p. 220)

The social-democrats proposed that the parliament be made permanently and not temporarily the highest authority. The secretariat of the parliament proposed in the name of the bourgeos parliamentary group that the highest authority be given to the senate. Alkio’s proposal was accepted with 127 votes in favor, 68 against. Afterwards the parliament accepted the 8-hour working day and the municipal election reform.” (Holodkovski, p. 58-59)

The white guard propaganda book Svinhufvud and the independence senate also admits these facts. The author quotes from the same speech by Kuusinen on page 23.
“After the parliament session on night of December 16. the Revolutionary Central Committee continued its meeting, where the proposition of the workers’ militias “to take power” was discussed. The previous night the council of worker organizations had also joined in with this proposition. Finally at 5 o’clock in the morning it was decided with 14 votes against 11 to take power in the hands of the workers… Sirola was tasked with drafting the call to revolution. But soon some who had sided with revolution changed their minds and the whole vote was dropped.” (Holodkovski, p. 60)

White guard propaganda also confirms this saying:

“After a heated discussion the meeting decided with 14 votes against 11 to begin a revolution the next day… The fateful hour for our fatherland had not struck yet however. Before dawn some members of the central committee who had supported revolution changed their mind and the decision was dropped.” (Räikkönen, p. 24)

“On the morning of 16. December there appeared a declaration of the Revolutionary Central Committee which had been written before the call to revolution had been cancelled. It descibed the 8-hour working day and municipal reform by the parliament as entirely insufficient.” (Holodkovski, p. 60)

The declaration read:

“That is all! And even that, after many twists and turns. But it cannot satisfy the workers. It cannot. It will not be allowed. Not even a word has been spoken about solving the food crisis, not to even mention actions being taken. No action has been taken to combat unemployment. The lords of the parliament naturally don’t want to free the tenant-farmers. They oppose democratization of the state machine. They firmly close their pocket books from effective taxation. They do not wish to remove obstacles from voting rights, they abhore calling a constitutional assembly. They don’t plan to give up their butcher [white] guards. But they must be forced. Power has so far been wielded only by the bourgeoisie. It must now be taken into the hands of the workers. The strike must be continued, the bourgeois state machine must be taken under working class supervision, railroads etc. transportation and communication must be taken under the control of the workers, the bourgeoisie must be disarmed, its sabotage activity and armed resistance must be crushed, the worker guards must enforce revolutionary order, in the regions power belongs to local soviets and committees. The highest ruling body is the workers’ Revolutionary Central Committee. May everyone know their task. May everyone fulfill their duty. This way the revolutionary workers fight for their rights, to win bread.” (H. Soikkanen, kansalaissota dokumentteina p. 245)

“The declaration which emphasized that the demands which lead to the general strike were not even close to being satisfied, and therefore it was necessary to take even firmer actions, proved to be in stark contrast with the Revolutionary Central Committee’s actual policy. The majority of the central committee actually took the opinion that it was best to be satisfied with the concessions they had won, and to end the strike…

Later Sirola said about those days that setting up a proletarian dictatorship corresponded to such a degree with the hopes and wishes of the workers that if one of the leaders had had the courage to step up as the head of a workers’ government, the workers would have supported them, followed them and the revolution would have been carried out.” (Holodkovski, p. 61)

 

“RED SENATE”: The Final Reformist Utopia

The social-democrats had been lead to believe that a compromise with the capitalists could be reached. If the general-strike was ended and society returned to normal conditions, the capitalists would allow the social-democrats control of the senate. The social-democrats were not stupid enough to fully trust this proposition but still agreed to go along, as the other alternative would have been revolution.

“The leaders of the strike began negotiations with a few bourgeois representatives of the parliament about the creation of a socialist government “the legal way”, i.e. by a parliamentary decision. The bourgeois representatives implied that such a government could be formed if the strike was ended. The parliament couldn’t be pressured any further because its chairman had dissolved it for the duration of the strike. The social-democrats had opposed dissolving the parliament without success. Therefore, in order to create a social-democratic government through the parliament, the strike had to be ended. But were there any guarantees that the bourgeoisie would not betray its promise? It would have been childish to believe the promises of the bourgeoisie. The leaders of the strike understood this but still supported ending the strike. In their opinion the continuation of the strike and its escalation to a revolution could have disastrous consequences which had to be prevented. The policy of forming a socialist government through a parliamentary road was accepted, and it instantly reduced the revolutionary sentiment. Was there any need to use violence, if a red government could be created with the agreement of parliament? In light of these facts it is easy to understand the actions of the majority of Finnish working class leaders in December 1917.”
(Holodkovski, p.62)

“The Revolutionary Central Committee discussed the question of a red government and the strike on December 17. The minutes of the meeting speak of disunity… votes were divided evenly. Six members… supported social-democrat participation in government (…minutes don’t specify what this meant)… six members supported ending the strike without any further demands. No decision was reached.

A decision was accepted in the next meeting of the Revolutionary Central Committee which began at 2am December 18. and had a crucial significance. The participants of the meeting were told that the council of workers’ organizations of Helsinki unanimously support forming a workers’ government. The railway workers agree. On the other hand the majority of the social-democratic parliamentary group supports forming a red government through legal, i.e. parliamentary means… three proposals were presented: 1. forming a red government through parliamentary means, 2. forming a red government through non-parliamentary means and 3. to end the general strike without any further demands. Forming a red government through parliamentary means received 8 votes in favor… 8 members also opposed it. The vote of the chairman decided the question in favor of accepting the proposal. In the final vote the decision was accepted with 7 votes in favor, 5 against and 2 abstaining that the strike will be ended and the social-democratic parliamentary group is tasked with forming a red government through the parliament…” (Holodkovski, pp.62-63)
White guard propaganda also admits this saying:
“In the final vote it was decided at last with 7 votes in favor and 5 against – with 2 abstaining from voting –, that the strike will be ended and “the parliamentary group will be given the task to form a red government through the parliament”. By promising the frenzied masses a “red senate” it was possible to calm things down.” (Räikkönen, p. 27)

Meanwhile the proletarian and rural masses waited for developments.

“The local committees and soviets awaited at their telephones around the clock for revolutionary orders from the central leadership. They anxiously waited for instructions.

In such a situation, news began to spread that the Revolutionary Central Committee had decided to end the strike. To the workers this seemed at first to be unbelievable and monstrous. They didn’t believe it. In some places the telegraph which called for ending the strike, was seen as a provocation. [source: L. Letonmäki, Den finska socialdemokratin och revolutionen, p.7]

In Tampere the workers thought the members of their committee who announced the ending of the strike, were traitors who had been bribed by the bourgeoisie. When the members of the committee tried to defend themselves in a mass meeting, they were prevented from speaking with shouts of “down!”, “out!”, “traitors!”” (Holodkovski, p.65)

“Even after the news turned out to be true, hundreds of workers refused at first to obey the order to end the strike. From all corners of the country came confused and angry questions about why the strike should end… In Kotka, Lahti and Loviisa the workers rose up almost unanimously to oppose ending the strike. Those supporting the order of the Revolutionary Central Committee were pulled down from podiums. The workers of Kotka and Kymenlaakso voiced the slogan “Power to the workers”, “We must declare a proletarian dictatorship” and promised to mobilize and thousand men.[source: Punakaarti rintamalla. Luokkasodan muistoja, p.106]

The workers of Karjaa declared in their meeting that they don’t accept ending the strike because the results achived are insufficient, and said the measures outlined in the “We demand” proclamation absolutely had to be fulfilled. The workers of Karkkila unanimously accepted the following statement: “We don’t accept the decision of the Revolutionary Central Commitee. We must uncompromisingly hold on to the demands we put forward at the beginning of the strike; for that reason such a government must be created that will implement the Power Act, bring the tenant-farmer question to an acceptable conclusion etc. Also the regional and municipal governments must be taken in the workers’ hands. Forces must remain mobilized until working conditions and the food situation have been organized according to the new regime.”
[source: “Suurlakkotiedonantoja” [“general strike information bulletins”] n:o 1, 19.XI.1917.]

Similar decision was made by the workers of Lohja. News arrived in Helsinki that the decision to end the strike had caused unrest among the workers and meetings were held in several places. Those who supported ending the strike were accused of being traitors.” [source: И. И. Сюкияйнен, p. 129] (Holodkovski, p.66)

The masses had been ready for revolution. All they lacked as Sirola and Kuusinen later said, was Bolshevik leadership, which did not exist in Finland at the time.

The Revolutionary Central Committee published a declaration on 18. December titled “Class struggle without the general strike” which stated that:
“The bourgeosie’s black powergrab [attempt to build military dictatorship] has been defeated… power will be given to the hands of the parliament, and laws about municical democracy and 8-hour working day have been passed… Part of the parliament bourgeoisie have made emergency promises. They’ve promised improvements to the food policy. They have also promised to recognize and implement the ‘power act’ as a basis for democracy… They have also promised their support for freeing the tenant-farmers and other important demands… Their promises are not worth much however, unless the workers standby as a firm observing guardian, ready to attack if betrayal of the promises is discovered…” (H. Soikkanen, pp. 248-250)
The capitalists’ attempt to build a dictatorship will be discussed in a later episode.

“The [social-democrat] declaration [to end the strike] clearly demonstrates that they set as goals of the working class movement only those types of reforms and demands which did not directly attack the foundations of the capitalist system.” (Holodkovski, p. 67)

“The workers’ executive committee of Helsinki declared on 19. of December that: “Because a red senate has been formed and the general organized workers’ meetings… have today decided to end the strike, the workers’ executive committee of Helsinki informs that the strike is considered to be over by 2 p.m.” …words about the formation of a red senate do not reflect any reality: the senate was only being planned. However, for a few days this illusion was seen as a realistic possibility. The newspaper “The Worker” published advice from the workers to the red senate. The planned members of the red senate… held a meeting to plan the government’s program… The senate question ended exactly as Sirola had thought. It was childish to imagine in that situation that the bourgeois majority would have handed over the reigns of power to the social-democrats… the proposal for a red senate received only 80 votes. A 100 votes supported the bourgeois senate, Svinhufvud as its leader.” (Holodkovski, pp. 70-71)
A white guard author writes:
“On December 19. the workers’ executive committee finally declared the strike to be over, because a red senate had been formed. However this did not happen…” (Räikkönen, p. 27)

In this way all the attempts at peaceful reform failed. The capitalists did not grant any meaningful concessions or share power with the workers. The conditions still remained absolutely miserable in the country: long working days despite some industries officially accepting 8-hour working days on paper, and this obviously did not extend to farm workers, rural house servants or tenant-farmers, there was still no land reform, no ruling single chamber parliament, wages were too low to compete with inflation and black market prices of necessities and according to government estimates one quarter of the population was threatened by famine. See episode 2 of this series about the conditions of the people before the revolution.

The absolute failure of reformism to change the miserable conditions kept pushing the masses towards real revolutionary struggle. At the same time, now frightened by the unrest of the december general-strike and the strength of the masses, the capitalists began to rapidly arm themselves, to build a dictatorship and to prepare to crush the workers if they attempted to rise up and improve their lives.

SOURCES:

Holodkovski, Suomen Työväenvallankumous 1918

Suodenjoki & Peltola, Köyhä Suomen kansa katkoo kahleitansa: Luokka, liike ja yhteiskunta 1880-1918 (Vasemmistolainen työväenliike Pirkanmaalla osa 1)

J. Paasivirta, Suomen itsenäisyyskysymys 1917

H. Soikkanen, kansalaissota dokumentteina
И. И. Сюкияйнен Революционные события 1917-1918

Me vaadimme https://mltheory.files.wordpress.com/2019/05/me-vaadimme-julistus.pdf
E. Räikkönen, Svinhufvud ja itsenäisyyssenaatti

Hyvönen, Suurten tapahtumien vuodet 1917-1918

Minutes of the 2. Finnish diet 1917

Sirola, Suomen luokkasota

A. Taimi, Sivuja Eletystä

“Финляндия революция”

Tuure Lehen, Punaisten ja Valkoisten Sota

“40 лет рабочей революции в Финляндии.” “Новая и новейшая история”, 1958, No 2, стр. 125.

Предисловие Ю. Сирола к тезисам ЦК КПФ. “Пролетарская революция”, 1928, No 8 (78), стр. 168.
Minutes of the 9. congress of the Finnish social-democratic party

Explanation of the minutes of the 10. (extraordinary) congress of the Finnish social-democratic party held in Helsinki 25-27. December 1917

L. Letonmäki, Den finska socialdemokratin och revolutionen

“Suurlakkotiedonantoja”

Punakaarti rintamalla: Luokkasodan muistoja, ed. J. Lehtosaari

 

Was Lenin a State-capitalist? (The NEP explained)

Every now and then one hears the claim that “Lenin was a state-capitalist, Lenin didn’t support socialism, but state-capitalism.” What is this based on? Let’s get to the bottom of this.

This confusion stems from an incorrect understanding of Lenin’s writings, the early soviet policies of “war-communism” and the so-called NEP or “New Economic Policy”.

Lenin of course, was a communist. He wanted Socialism and communism.

In the early 1920s Lenin argued strongly in favor of building socialism and said it was no longer a matter of the distant future, but something viable that could be built during the immediately following years:

Socialism is no longer a matter of the distant futureno matter how many difficulties it may entail, we shall all―not in one day, but in the course of several years―all of us together fulfil it whatever happens so that NEP Russia will become socialist Russia
~Lenin, “Speech At A Plenary Session Of The Moscow Soviet Nov. 20, 1922”

But what about the NEP? What was it? Lenin even mentions the NEP in the quote above.

The NEP, or “New Economy Policy” was a transition policy from capitalism to socialism. During the NEP the proletariat had conquered state power, and large industry was mostly nationalized into the hands of the state. However, it wasn’t socialism yet particularly because the agricultural sector was still mostly in private hands, hence why Lenin calls it “state-capitalism”. It would have been inaccurate to call it socialism, it was the preparation for socialism.

This is what Lenin said in 1923:

Infinitely stereotyped, for instance, is the argument they learned by rote during the development of West-European Social-Democracy, namely, that we are not yet ripe for socialism, but as certain “learned” gentleman among them put it, the objective economic premises for socialism do not exist in our country… “The development of the productive forces of Russia has not yet attained the level that makes socialism possible.” All the heroes of the Second International, including, of course, Sukhanov, beat the drums about this proposition. They keep harping on this incontrovertible proposition in a thousand different keys, and think that it is decisive criterion of our revolution… You say that civilization is necessary for the building of socialism. Very good. But why could we not first create such prerequisites of civilization in our country by the expulsion of the landowners and the Russian capitalists, and then start moving toward socialism? Where, in what books, have you read that such variations of the customary historical sequence of events are impermissible or impossible?”
~Lenin, “Our Revolution” (1923)

Once again Lenin reiterates that it is feasable and necessary to implement measures of proletarian state-control, which is not socialism, but a step towards it:

“Under no circumstances can the party of the proletariat set itself the aim of “introducing” socialism in a country of small peasants so long as the overwhelming majority of the population has not come to realise the need for a socialist revolution.

But only bourgeois sophists, hiding behind “near-Marxist” catchwords, can deduce from this truth a justification of the policy of post poning immediate revolutionary measures, the time for which is fully ripe; measures which have been frequently resorted to during the war by a number of bourgeois states… the nationalisation of the land, of all the banks and capitalist syndicates, or, at least, the immediate establishment of the control of the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, etc., over them… which are only steps towards socialism, and which are perfectly feasible economically.”
~Lenin, The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution (1917)

Lenin also realized that in order to transition to socialism it was necessary to create a collective agriculture sector. He said in 1923, talking about agricultural co-operatives:

As a matter of fact, the political power of the Soviet over all large-scale means of production, the power in the state in the hands of the proletariat, the alliance of this proletariat with the many millions of small and very small peasants, the assured leadership of the peasantry by the proletariat, etc, …is not this all that is necessary in order from the co-operatives – from the co-operatives alone, which we formerly treated as huckstering, and which, from a certain aspect, we have the right to treat as such now, under the new economic policy – is not this all that is necessary in order to build a complete socialist society? This is not yet the building of socialist society but it is all that is necessary and sufficient for this building.”
~Lenin, “On Cooperation” (1923)

Lenin’s opponents claimed that Lenin was going backwards and betraying socialism by advocating development on state-capitalist lines. Lenin reminded them of what he said already in 1917:

“[S]ocialism is merely the next step forward from state-capitalist monopoly… no revolt can bring about socialism unless the economic conditions for socialism are ripe… state-monopoly capitalism is a complete material preparation for socialism, the threshold of socialism, a rung on the ladder of history between which and the rung called socialism there are no intermediate rungs.”
~Lenin, “The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat it” (1917)

Now it should be clear that he says state-capitalism is a material preparation for socialism i.e. the means of production have been highly centralized so it is relatively easy for a dictatorship of the proletariat to take them over. Of course Lenin is also talking about the context of his own time. Russia was a semi-feudal country, meaning that they had some industry in the cities, while most of the country was under developed countryside, dominated by small scale peasant production. This is why Lenin said, that it would be preferable and useful, if the country wasn’t semi-feudal, but state-capitalist. That would allow for faster development, building up of industry, electricity etc.

He points to the example of Germany which transitioned from feudalism to state-capitalism. He argued, this would be useful for Russia, if it was under the dictatorship of the proletariat.

“In the first place economically state capitalism is immeasurably superior to our present economic system.

In the second place there is nothing terrible in it for the Soviet power, for the Soviet state is a state in which the power of the workers and the poor is assured. . . .

To make things even clearer, let us first of all take the most concrete example of state capitalism. Everybody knows what this example is. It is Germany. Here we have “the last word” in modern large-scale capitalist engineering and planned organisation, subordinated to Junker-bourgeois imperialism. Cross out the words in italics, and in place of the militarist, Junker, bourgeois, imperialist state put also a state, but of a different social type, of a different class content—a Soviet state, that is, a proletarian state, and you will have the sum total of the conditions necessary for socialism.

Socialism is inconceivable without large-scale capitalist engineering based on the latest discoveries of modern science. It is inconceivable without planned state organisation which keeps tens of millions of people to the strictest observance of a unified standard in production and distribution. We Marxists have always spoken of this, and it is not worth while wasting two seconds talking to people who do not understand even this (anarchists and a good half of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries).”
~Lenin, The Tax in Kind (The Significance Of The New Policy And Its Conditions)

Marx and Engels supported the idea that a socialist revolution should be carried out as soon as possible without waiting for capitalism to develop “on its own” and destroy the peasantry. Lenin’s policy of worker-peasant alliance, developing of agricultural co-operatives and using state-capitalism as a transition from semi-feudalism and undeveloped capitalism to socialism is in accordance with Marx and Engels.

“We, of course, are decidedly on the side of the small peasant; we shall do everything at all permissible to make his lot more bearable, to facilitate his transition to the co-operative should he decide to do so, and even to make it possible for him to remain on his small holding for a protracted length of time to think the matter over, should he still be unable to bring himself to this decision. We do this not only because we consider the small peasant living by his own labor as virtually belonging to us, but also in the direct interest of the Party. The greater the number of peasants whom we can save from being actually hurled down into the proletariat, whom we can win to our side while they are still peasants, the more quickly and easily the social transformation will be accomplished. It will serve us nought to wait with this transformation until capitalist production has developed everywhere to its utmost consequences, until the last small handicraftsman and the last small peasant have fallen victim to capitalist large-scale production.” ~Engels, The Peasant Question in France and Germany

Marx and Engels said that all means of productions should be nationalized. But the soviets quickly realized, that it is impossible to nationalize all the small means of productions, especially the thousands and thousands of small peasant farms. In our modern day, this is not necessarily a problem, but for countries in those days it was a serious problem. So Lenin proposed setting up of agricultural co-operatives, which would help transition the small peasant farms to socialism.

So Lenin did not support state-capitalism ruled by the bourgeois. He didn’t support bourgeois rule at all, but he realized that it would be inaccurate to call the NEP socialism, so he called it state-capitalism, ruled by the proletariat.

But why did Lenin’s opponents accuse him of retreating backwards (they never had socialism before)? That is because the left-opposition wanted to continue their previous war time policy of “war-communism”. It has communism in the name, but that doesn’t mean it was actually socialist or communist. War-communism was a system of direct grain confiscation, meaning that all the surplus food produced by the peasantry, would be taken at a fixed price, and given to the cities and the army. This was a necessary war time policy, but it wasn’t socialism and it was unpopular among the peasants. Therefore, when the civil war ended, war-communism was also ended.

Unlike war-communism, the NEP allowed a limited grain market, with price controls. Lenin admitted, that in some ways this was a retreat, but a necessary one.

So lets recap. The NEP meant:

  • ending of war communism
  • rebuilding after the war
  • large trade in the hands of the state, but allowing a limited grain market to stimulate grain production
  • developing industry in the hands of the proletarian state
  • developing a collective agricultural sector

=setting up the necessary economic foundations for building socialism

 

SOURCES:
Lenin, The Tax in Kind (The Significance Of The New Policy And Its Conditions) (1921)
Lenin, The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat it (1917)
Lenin, “On Cooperation” (1923)
Lenin, The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution (1917)
Lenin, “Our Revolution” (1923)
Lenin, “Speech At A Plenary Session Of The Moscow Soviet Nov. 20, 1922”
Engels, “The Peasant Question in France and Germany“

 

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