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

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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)

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).

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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