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Intervention in the Alternative European Summit

06.04.2012 - 09:21
(updated: 06.06.2016 - 13:48)
  • Satu Kortelainen
Sippo Kähmi speaking in Brussels.

Dear comrades,
It's an honor to be here in Brussels for the first time. I'm an activist in the Critical Trade Unionist Network of Finland. My personal view of the situation is that of an ordinary Finnish postal worker, and a member of the Post and Logistics Union.

From that vantage point I can say Finland is facing the same vicious assault on civil society as the rest of Europe. EU directives aiming for liberalization and full scale privatization continuously worsen the quality of our public services. On the municipal level we face a neoliberal restructuring on an historical scale that completely overrides democratic process. The annual state budget cuts are now in the billion euro range.

While this may not sound like much compared numerically to the brutal austerity measures of some other countries, the order of magnitude is very much the same. The sum total is a decrease of over 5 billion euros in public spending during this government period, from an annual budget of around 50 billion euros. Our conservative-led six-party government, with the participation of social democrats and the Left Alliance, binds us to the same austerity pacts, euro agreements and bank bailouts - EuroPlus, Sixpack, ESM to name a few - the same anti-democratic projects our comrades elsewhere are fighting against.

The lesson we should take to heart from this is countries like Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal are not isolated cases. The same measures are being prepared for us all and if we let the ruling elites get away with it in just one country, we can be sure we'll be next somewhere down the line. We must not forget trade unionists resisting austerity in their own countries are fighting for all of us. We cannot let them down by accepting these measures behind their backs, that is shameful conduct.

Recently in Europe and all over the world, we have seen millions of people both in and outside of the trade unions take to the streets on many global days of action. Following the demands for democracy of the Arab Spring, we on the other side of the Mediterranean have joined these calls for real democracy. This system, where elected officials can be overthrown and replaced with technocrats to please financial markets, where social security is seen as something that we can't afford while banks are bailed out - This is not our idea of democracy. We have come to recognize it is a dictatorship of the financial elite.

I myself have been involved in Occupy Helsinki. Our camp in the middle of the city has, for 163 days, resisted extreme weather conditions from freezing cold to pouring rain, to show enough is enough. We have thus far received support from all kinds of currents, organizations, and ordinary people. Camps and demonstrations have spread to 11 other Finnish cities.

The time is ripe for all of these forces to come together and effect the change we want to see, as the next global day of action approaches. Known as M12 for the 12th of May, we should make this the day civil movements, the trade unions and the political forces of the left all take their place alongside these less coordinated but nonetheless important Occupy and Real Democracy movements. This has already happened in many countries and is an example that we all must follow.

A wise man once said we have nothing to lose but our chains.

Sippo Kähmi, 31.3.2012
Post and Logistics Union of Finland (PAU)
Finnish Critical Trade Unionist Network (KRAY)

Sippo Kähmi