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Finnish Left slams government’s ‘decommunisation’ attempts

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Picture: Tuomas Forsell/REUTERS/file – Finland’s centre-right Prime Minister Petteri Orpo. The Orpo-led government has been widely criticised for defending two ministers in the right-wing coalition with a history of making racist comments and for trying to use a recently announced anti-discrimination drive to ban communist symbols.

By Peoples Dispatch

Workers and anti-fascist groups in Finland protested the attempt by the Petteri Orpo-led government’s to ban communist symbols in the garb of combating racism and discrimination. Opposition parties, including the Left Alliance, also slammed the government’s duplicity in its anti-racist and ant-discrimination initiative, as it has defended ministers who have been accused of making racist remarks. The Communist Party of Finland (SKP) and its youth group Kommunistinuoret were among the groups that protested the government’s bid to ban communist symbols by equating them with Nazi symbols.

Recently, the right-wing coalition government was roundly criticised when two of its ministers — Finance Minister Riikka Purra and Minister of Economic Affairs Wille Rydman — were accused of making racist comments. The ministers belong to the right-wing Finns Party. Rydman’s predecessor, Vilhelm Junnila from the same party, resigned in June after revelations of his having made jokes about the Nazis.

As the controversy over these comments peaked, the Orpo government, in August, came up with a programme for what it claimed was the promotion of equality and non-discrimination in Finnish society. The controversial programme would also explore the possibility of criminalising the use of symbols of Nazism and communism, equating the two polar opposite ideologies.

However, the opposition parties continued protest marches in Helsinki and other cities demanding the resignation of the ministers from the Finns Party.

On September 6, the government told the parliament to go ahead with the initiative while protecting the two ministers, with the right-wing majority voting down a non-confidence motion introduced by the opposition.

Earlier on September 2, in its statement, the Communist Party of Finland (SKP) said that the banning of communist symbols is undemocratic. SKP has stated that it is a registered political party, operates legally, and does not violate Finnish laws in its activities.

According to the SKP, parties and many associations have their own flags and emblems, many of which have long historical roots and traditions, as does the Communist Party of Finland.

The SKP also pointed out that unlike Nazism, which is fundamentally an ideology that claims “superiority of one part of the population over others” and “justified the killing of millions of those considered inferior”, communism “as an idea proclaims equality of the people”. Furthermore, the statement argued that equality is “hindered by the capitalist economic system”, which the communists aim to overthrow.

Earlier in 2019, the European Parliament had passed a controversial resolution equating Nazism and communism and called for the erasure of all memorials of “totalitarianism” across Europe, including memorials dedicated to the Red Army.

With the rise of the right-wing and far-right governments, decommunisation efforts and attacks on Soviet memorials have been on the rise across Europe. This has been accompanied by the persecution of communists and attacks on communist parties, which has intensified during the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

On September 8, the Left Alliance also strongly criticised the government’s statement on racism, which it said “does not cover the racism problem within the government as the entire politics of one of the governing parties (Finns Party) is based on the hierarchical separation of people and hate spewing”.

“Orpo’s right-wing government’s programme has built in more structural discrimination. Discriminating [against] immigrants over social security, tying the level of unemployment insurance to language skills, weakening healthcare rights of the undocumented, and lowering the reception allowance for immigrants … putting them in an increasingly unequal position,” the statement further added.

This article was first published on Peoples Dispatch