Anarchist views and practices became popular in Finland in the radical grassroots activism of the 1990s. This new wave of social protest on such issues as racism, the power of corporations, or the exploitation of animals etched the term “activist” indelibly in Finnish public discourse.
The organizational form of the social movements among the 1990s activists was usually a small, autonomous and leaderless group, even when a group was considered as a local section of a wider network, such as Suomen Anarki-stiliitto (SAL, Finnish Anarchist Federation) or Oikeutta Eläimille (Justice for Animals). This anarchic organization was in many ways a direct challenge to the Finnish establishment. Some Finnish authorities considered these anti-hierarchical organizational habits and activists’ new methods of direct action as a conspiracy led by “foreign anarchist leaders.” They demanded more power for police forces and harsh sentences for those activists who were performing illegal actions such as animal liberation.
Anarchists launched annual “happenings” and demonstrations, which received nationwide publicity, often because of wrangles between police and activists. Kuokkavierasjuhlat (Party of Gatecrashers, 1996–2003) was first organized by an anarcho-syndicalist federation, Solidaarisuus (Solidarity). This was a happening against the power elite and for social justice. Emphasizing the antagonist attitude of its organizers, it took place next to the Finnish President’s Palace in Helsinki, during the official ceremonials of independence. Mustavihreät päivät (Black and Green Days, 1998–2002) in Tampere marked the shift toward more ecological themes in the Finnish anarchist movement.
In the history of Finland, social and political protests have been mostly tied to centralist organizations, official statuses, and to the state. Even rebellious sixties radicals were quickly assimilated into official institutions and state structures. Against this, most of the 1990s activists and self-styled anarchists were consciously against party politics and against the idea of working “within the system.” Yet, anarchist ideas waned and most local anarchist groups dissolved by the turn of the millennium. Some former anarchists adopted autonomist Marxist views and some even joined political parties. After the big international demonstrations against global capitalism, anarchism in Finland was at its nadir. However, in recent years anarchism in Finland has been slowly growing among a new generation of activists and dissidents.
Finnish anarchism did not spring up from nowhere in the 1990s. In the 1960s there were some small anarchist groups and publications, since when different anarchist views have existed within the larger alternative scene and counterculture. There have been individual anarchists among feminists and environmental activists, among underground artists and labor activists, among lifestyle experimenters, punks, and conscientious objectors. In the early twentieth century, Finnish proponents of the work of Tolstoy became a culturally effective movement. Arvid Järnefelt, who is sometimes called the Tolstoy of Finland, held strict anarchist positions against state institutions. Besides Leo Tolstoy, Peter Kropotkin was another Russian anarchist whose writings had a lasting impact on some Finnish intellectuals and workers. In the United States, Finnish immigrants joined the syndicalist Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Their daily newspaper, published in Finnish, had a circulation of 13,500 at its peak. But in Finnish historiography, particularly in the history of the labor movement, “anarchist” has usually been a name given for a violent activist, whatever ideology he or she represents. While 1990s activism received a lot of academic interest, the history of anarchism in Finland remains unwritten.
SEE ALSO: Anarchism, Russia ; Anarchosyndicalism ; Eco-anarchism ; Finland, Civil War and Revolution, 1914–1918 ; Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) ; Kropotkin, Peter (1842–1921) ; Tolstoy, Leo N. (1828–1910)
References And Suggested Readings
Häkli, P. (1955) Arvid Järnefelt ja hänen lähimaailmansa [Arvid Järnefelt and His Inner Circle]. Porvoo: WSOY.
Juppi, P., Peltokoski, J., & Pyykkönen, M. (Eds.) (2003) Liike-elämää. Vastakulttuurinen radikalismi vuosituhannen vaihteessa [Movement Life: Counter-Cultural Radicalism at the Turn of the Millennium]. Jyväskylä: Kopijyvä.
Konttinen, E. & Peltokoski, J. (2004) Ympäristöprotestin neljds aalto. Eläinoikemliike ja uuden sukupohen ympäristöradikalismi 1990–luvulla [Fourth Wave of an Environmental Protest: Animal Rights Movement and the New Generation of Environmental Radicalism in the 1990s]. Jyväskylä: Minerva.
Lindfors, J. & Salo, M. (1988) Ensimmäinen aalto. Helsingin Underground 1967–1970 [The First Wave: Helsinki Underground 1967–1970]. Helsinki: Odessa.
Nokkala, A. (1958) Tolstoilaisuus Suomessa. Aatehistoriallinen tutkimus [Tolstoyism in Finland: A Study in the History of Ideas]. Helsinki: Tammi.