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Without Resistance and Alternatives, there is no Left Policies

02.07.2013 - 12:49
(updated: 06.06.2016 - 13:48)
  • SKP
Former chair of the Communist Party of Finland, Yrjö Hakanen in the Congress of the CPF 2013.

Dear Comrades,
We meet in a situation, which in many ways is special. Ahead of us, there are major challenges and far-reaching choices.

Finland has an exceptionally broad-based government, which demolishes the Nordic welfare model, subjects Finland to the EU-fiscal compact and financial markets and which has abandoned military non-alignment. Finland also has a lot of discontent with the government of Katainen, but lacks a strong left-wing alternative.

– The European Union is in the deepest crisis of its history. Public spending cuts driven by the Euro elite only exacerbate the crisis. An unprecedented mass movement has risen up against this. The question of an alternative to the European Union is more topical than ever.

– It is not only a question of wrong politics, but the problems arise from the contradictions of capitalism. Speculative money has replaced the real economy and the people's needs. Resources are being wasted in wars and military build-up, while they would be needed to fight poverty, unemployment and environmental disasters. All of this raises the question of a different development and of an alternative to capitalism.

The Communist Party of Finland is in a new situation too. We are expected to propose options, to organize struggles, to rally the forces of change and to open new prospects. At the same time the party is in a new phase, a new generation is taking central responsibilities in leading positions at all levels.

In government, the SDP, Left Alliance and greens are lead by the Conservatives

The Social Democratic Party, the Left and the Greens justified participation in the government led by the Conservative Party because it offers an opportunity to influence decisions. Now, two years later, everyone can see what has happened. The Coalition Party conducts the whole government more and more to the right. It's not just a matter of political compromises. Also left-wing government parties and the Greens have adopted a policy based on a market driven approach.

For example, when ministers Jutta Urpilainen (chair of the SDP) and Paavo Arhinmäki (chair of the Left Alliance) explain the drastic reduction of corporate taxes, they have lost entirely the class approach of a workers party. In other words, the fact that we deal with the result of the work of the workers that a large part of the profits goes to speculation rather than investment, and that such tax competition erodes public services and social security funds.

When the Social Democrats, the Left Alliance and the Greens were part of the previous government together with the Coalition party– the main party representing big business interests - the government introduced cuts in social spending, privatized most state-owned companies, and took Finland to the European Economic and Monetary Union. Now in the Katainen's government ministers of the Left and of the Green Parties are involved in wrecking social services, handing out billion dollar tax breaks to business, driving intensified euro-discipline and binding Finland more closely with NATO.

The government program promised to increase employment, but unemployment continues to grow. The government raises hands as Nokia, Metso and many other large companies, including state-owned companies Finnair and Itella, lay off workers. The whole shipbuilding industry has come under strain because of government refusal to expand state business.

The project of creating large municipalities prepared under the leadership of the Conservative Party does not provide relief to the financial problems of municipalities, on the contrary. The government has cut municipal services for over a billion a year. It destroys local services, weakens the situation of female-dominated sectors and cripples the municipal self-government.

Poverty of families with children, of the elderly and of many other people is increasing, but the government does not even have an anti-poverty program. The increase of the basic unemployment benefit has already been taken back with the other hand because of the increase in indirect taxes, rise of housing costs and cuts in public services. Although the price of housing is of growing concern, state-funded rental housing programs are run-down.

Environmental crimes such as the situation around the Talvivaara mine as well as new nuclear power plant projects will be a monument for future generations reminding them of the "achievements" of government and its green ministers. In addition, the government continues participation of Finnish forces in the war in Afghanistan, and broadens participation in NATO operations, including air surveillance of Iceland.

Disappointment with major political parties has led many to protest by voting for the True Finns. But what is line of the True Finns Party? Is it the deterioration of municipal services and privatization, as it happens in Espoo city under the leadership of Timo Soini, president of the Party? Or undermining working conditions and employment security, as proposed by the economic committee of the True Finns led by MEP Sampo Terho? Or maybe incitement to discrimination of refugees, Roma, homosexuals and other minorities in the MP Jussi Halla-Aho's way? Or the rejection of non-alignment, as agreed upon by the Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee under the chairmanship of Timo Soini? – Will those who wished for a change of politics be content with this, or shall we see the stronger emergence of other voices from within the True Finns?

Lessons from the Finnish situation

There is broad dissatisfaction with the policy of the Katainen government and its "fantastic" arrogant activity. We see workers marching out of their workplace when employers decide to lay-off. Several trade unions have seen the emergence of groups demanding more combative line, closer to the rank and file. We witness a "municipal rebellion," and the people’s movements in favour of proximity services. There is Stop Talvivaara movement, the Climate legislation campaign called Burning Question, Attac, and many other social movements. The radical left-wing has become the largest of the political groups in the student union elections. The Left Group (2 MP’s who were expelled from the group of the Left Alliance, because they did not accept the policy of the government) offers alternatives in parliament.

Yet, resistance is still fragmented. Particularly striking is the silence of the leadership of the trade union movement compared to many other countries. Struggles are often limited to specific questions, even if the causes of the problems are related to the political line as a whole and to the power of big business. Talks of "competitiveness" and "sustainability gap" have spread from the Confederation of Finnish Industries and the Ministry of Finance also into the SDP and Left Alliance and to the trade union movement's leadership. These slogans hide the real conflicts and to silence demands for change.

What conclusions can we draw from the situation in Finland? How are we going to struggle to change the course?

In addition to the Action Plan for Resistance and Alternatives, this meeting will deal with a Motion for a Different Economy. An economy that is more just, more employment oriented, more public, more ecological, more democratic and solidarity oriented.

Finland is not on the verge of bankruptcy, although continuous claims for cuts could make us believe that it is. It is first and foremost a question of how the results of workers labour are used.

We want first of all to reorient these results away from casino economy of speculation, towards the real economy, where work creates wealth and new values. When the private market is not interested in investing and developing the economy, the state, municipalities and cooperatives must set up new production. Thus we can develop new forestry products, renewable energy, public services, IT software for public services and construction activity.

Secondly, when we think of how, for example Nokia, Stora Enso, or STX shipyard managers and large owners have in fact induced the destruction of productive tool, it is necessary to demand for the employees the right to influence the distribution of business profits, investment and employment decisions. Opening the way out of the crisis requires the breaking of the power of financial markets, including social ownership and democratic control of the major banks.

Third, we call for a radical change in the distribution of income. The national agreements on income and social policies which have been signed over the last 20 years have allowed a record-high transfer of income from wage earners to owners of capital. At the same time the tax burden on capital has been reduced to a level under EU average.

Income distribution must change in favour of people with low and middle income. It means that we need to struggle to get a fair wage increase in Euros, to reduce working hours and to prevent the raising of the retirement age. In the Motion A different Economy, we propose that the minimum income levels be raised through the next three year period to EUR 1 200 per month and the minimum wage to 1 800 EUR. This would correct the distortion of income distribution and revitalize the domestic market.

In addition, we present a new direction of a local government reform. We want to secure local services, reduce inequalities and strengthen municipal finance through progressive taxation. The labor movement fought once in Finland for broad local self-government. We want to continue along this road developing participatory democracy and participatory budgeting based on grassroots democracy. At the same time we want to bring about democratic provincial government.

The money needed for these and other reforms can be found by changing the distribution of income between labor and capital in favor of wage-earners, by tightening taxation of large income and capital income, canceling corporate tax cuts, putting a tax on securities transactions and reducing the armaments’ build-up. The reforms will also partly fund themselves, since they will among other things generate employment. It's not question about whether we can afford the reforms, but whether the well-being of our people is more important than profits and stock exchange rates.

Free from the chains of EU Treaties

When Finland joined the European Union, it was supposed to bring stable development. But what has really happened? Europe is going through the worst crisis ever since World War II. No one knows where the EU heading to. What is certain, is that it cannot continue like this.

Setting free movement of capital as a priority has led to a situation where a small group of bank managers and large investors were given decisive power position. Speculation has led to the debt and financial crisis, the bill of which is now presented to others. Banks have access to bail outs, the ECB has promised to save the banks, whatever the cost. When the economy in different countries is tied to the euro and to financial discipline agreements, the euro has become an internal devaluation straitjacket cutting wages and public spending. The number of unemployed is greater than ever, and the EU's internal divisions exacerbate.

The European Union is at a crossroads. The road paved by the Euro elite is that of impoverishment for the people, decline in real economy, shrinking democracy, and narrowing the independence of nations. It is the way towards intensified neo-liberalism and an increasingly authoritarian federal state. This policy has been met with a large number of mass protests. Their representatives are currently meeting to work out a different route at the Alter Summit, an alternative summit in Athens.

Resistance to austerity policies has given birth to a new co-operation between the European trade union movement and non-governmental movements opposing EU agreements. For example, the Alter Summit counts with the participation of the ETUC and central trade union organizations of many countries as well as the European Anti-Poverty Network, Attac, Greenpeace and Alternative to the EU. It is important in Finland too, to obtain a greater involvement of the trade union movement, delivering the message from local union to local union and expanding the action of the Network of critical trade unionists.

The Finnish six-pack government plays a special role inside the Euro group and the EU. Under the leadership of Katainen and Urpilainen, the government has acted as a loyal gun carrier of the German right-wing government. In no other European country have any left party on the left side of the Social Democrats agreed to EU-fiscal compact and called on countries in difficulty, to submit to impoverishing, privatization and dismantling of democracy. In addition, austerity policies do not only apply to the others. Katainen's government has introduced cuts in public spending and tax increases for an amount of over five billion Euros, the equivalent of a tenth of Finland state budget.

CPF is part of the European mass movement against austerity policy, whose goal is to liberate development from the power of financial markets and to broaden democracy at every level.

At the initiative of Communists, demonstrations have been organized in Finland on the occasion of ETUC days of action and within the framework of the Occupy movement, Communists have called for strikes and demonstrations against austerity. We are calling for a referendum on the EU Treaties.

The struggle against EU treaties is not about isolation or about turning a blind eye to the European peoples in difficulty. We do not only demand that Finland should become free from the EU Treaties, but also that the rest of Europe be freed from these EU treaties. At the same time we struggle to break the power of financial markets, including through a public and democratically-controlled banking sector. Thus, states could be released from debt dependence on private banks and obtain preferential loans for socially useful investments, for example directly from the central bank.

We want to build a Europe based on cooperation, where priority is given to the human wellbeing and nature, to workers' rights, democracy, equality and solidarity. On this basis, we are going to prepare for next spring's European Parliament elections in cooperation with the European Left, with other communist and other radical left-wing political parties, as well as with the GUE / NGL Group in the EU parliament.

The Crisis of Capitalism and Socialism of the 21st Century

Crises have always been part of capitalism's history and its attempts to solve problems. However, at present we are not just confronted to a cyclical crisis. It is a crisis of the capitalist system, which is characterized by the destructive role of enormously grown financial markets. Speculation with stock exchange rates and virtual values subdues and robs the rest of the economy. Another special feature is the simultaneity of many crises. The over accumulation crises of capital goes together with, among other things, the financial, energy, food and environmental crises, and the crisis of parliamentary democracy. It is also a crisis of the current economic, social and ecological model of development.

According to the International Labour Organisation one out of 3 workers, a total of 1 100 million people, is unemployed or subsisting in poverty. Uncertain, precarious work has become an international benchmark for the labor market.

New technologies, especially information technology, and globalization have transformed the structures of the economy. Instead of using them for the sake of cooperation and to serve the common good (as commons), transnational corporations have used these technologies as tools for the economic warfare, and for social dumping. Because of the search for profit inherent to capital it has not been possible to widely adopt energy-saving and renewable energy technologies to mitigate climate change. Only a fraction of the 1 500 billion dollars used every year in the military build-up would be sufficient according to UN estimates to solve the most urgent poverty and environmental problems in the world.

Interdependence as a result of the end of the Cold War and globalization were supposed to lead to peace. However, the imperialist competition for energy resources and world domination has made local and regional wars into a structural component of global capitalism. And it is not by chance that the wars in recent years have been waged in the Middle East region and around: Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.

Finland has been connected to war and NATO forces step by step. It's time to stop this course and return to the policy of peace and of non-alignment.

The leaders of the United States and other Western powers have wanted to strengthen the G-8 and G-20 meetings, in replacement of the UN. Resorting to neo-liberal and neo-colonial policies, they have increased inequality, insecurity and deprivation. In addition, the dissemination of threats of "clash of civilizations”, has fed xenophobia and racism.

At the same time, the world has also witnessed other changes. The balance of power has changed, among other things, with the economic growth of the BRICS countries - China, India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa. China, India and Russia are getting closer to each other.

The change in the balance of power is also reflected in the anti-imperialist and pro-socialist revolutions in several Latin American countries, which the USA in the past considered as "its backyard". Latin America is also an example of the importance of cooperation of militant trade unionism and civil society movements for the progress of the Left.

In addition to the international trade union movement, the peace movement and the women's movement new international movements, such as the world-wide environmental movement have emerged.

The International Meetings of the Communist and Workers’ parties and developing the co-operation of these parties play an important role in strengthening the counter-forces of capitalism and imperialism. The Communist movement is the only truly global political movement. This is expressed in our slogan "Proletarians of all countries, unite!"

Above all, the question is that the major problems of mankind cannot be solved within the framework of capitalism. Or is there somebody who really believes that financial markets and transnational companies, stock exchanges and bankers, Shell and McDonald's will solve the problems of poverty, unemployment, inequality and climate change? We need a fundamentally different society in which ownership, money and power positions do not allow anyone to exploit and dominate others.

It is the Communists who can open horizons of revolutionary changes, of the 21st century socialism. This is a big challenge for the discussion on the up-dating of the Party program, the discussion, which is to be launched in the up-coming period after this Congress.

Coalition of Radical Left and Red-Green forces

In Finland those in power have always used anti-communism to intimidate and stigmatize people, to divide and isolate movements. After the collapse of Soviet Union it seemed for some time that to combat alternative arguments it was sufficient to state that the presenter was a Communist. But today, more and more people are interested in the ability of the Communist Party to bring about the left-wing alternative, which the Left in Government has lost.

Many Finns remember that the labour relations and the society were renewed when the Communist Party was strong. And many young people are interested in Marxism and far-reaching reforms beyond the framework of capitalism. The Communist Youth League has gained new strength. While our proposals are often received positively, poor election results show, however, that only few believe in our ability to implement these proposals. Using Lenin's words, what is to be done?

We are offered a place on the margin of politics, because the Communist Party does not have parliamentarians. Also in our own organizations, we hear sometimes that with such power relations we cannot do this or that. However in politics the situations and power relations are not static. They are constantly shaped through initiatives, discussions, uniting forces.

We have had discussions to bring about a radical left and red-green coalition for the next parliamentary elections in April 2015. We have not provided any pre-set programs or models for cooperation. Such a coalition can not be built proclaiming it from the top. It can only be built as a result of tens and tens of discussions and growing cooperation at grass-roots level.

In particular, in the Left Alliance, but also within the rank and file of the Social Democrats and the Greens there are a lot of people who are disappointed. On the other hand, in the trade union movement and in civil society movements many people act without political support and political channels allowing them to influence directly policymaking. There are people, groups and organizations that, if they are united, can break the circle of lack of alternative, circle where the same policy will continue, even if the results of the elections and governments vary.

The Radical Left and Red-Green co-operation can create a new political culture where people are not called merely to support politicians, but to shape themselves the politics in accordance with their own goals and their own power. It can build a participatory democracy and cooperation beyond party borders in the workplace, neighborhoods, schools, culture and other fields.

A New generation in the Lead of the CPF

With political acts we can redeem wider public confidence in the Communist Party of Finland and confer visibility to our initiatives. For a working-class party it means to broaden essential contacts to workplaces and to the trade union movement. We can every one of us act so that others can see the Communists wherever there is needed to assist vulnerable people and organize the struggle. We have the knowledge, experience and contacts that can be taken more effectively our common force. We have our weekly “Tiedonantaja”, which we can offer to readers and subscribers also in social media. In the CPF, we are ready to move from words to deeds to unite communist forces.

Dear comrades, a new generation is taking responsibilities in the CPF leadership at all levels. It will bring new ideas and new working methods. And best of all, it will bring more contacts and prospects for the party.

Today and tomorrow we shall have many discussions and a lot of work to do before we can say using the words of poetess Elvi Sinervo, "the road signs have been placed, the way to battle is open." Comrades, friends, let’s start working!

Yrjö Hakanen