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Interview with a Finnish anarchist

Yavor Tarinski of Greek libertarian journal Aftoleksi interviews Antti Rautiainen, from Finnish antiauthoritarian group A-ryhmä, on the latest developments in Finland as it applies for Nato membership.

YT: Hello, can you introduce yourself (where are you from, where you participate)?

AR: I live in Helsinki, Finland, and participate in local anarchist group A-ryhmä, which was established in 2006. A-ryhmä is member of the Autonomous Revolutionary Nordic Alliance (ARNA) with a number of other groups from Denmark, Finland and Sweden. From 1999-2012 I was living in Russia, where I participated in libertarian communist organisation Autonomous Action. I was expelled from Russia in 2012 due to my political activities.

Can you tell us few words about the state of libertarian/anti-authoritarian thought and practice in Finland

Anarchist and anti-authoritarian ideas came to Finland during the Russian empire, and they have also been influential in large Finnish emigrant communities in the USA and Sweden. In Finland there were only few individual anarchists between 1939-1967, but since then there has been some sort of continuity. Most of the groups are closed affinity groups or centered around some kind of project, our group is open for new people.

Are there any links between the Finnish grassroots movements and movements of the so-called BUR (Belarus, Ukraine and Russia ~ ed)?

Our group has close connections to Russian anti-authoritarian movements. Since 2014, we have been involved in organising ”Father Frost Against Putin,” a festival in Helsinki which has offered a possibility for Russian grassroots movements to gather without fear of repression. However in 2021 and 2022 it was not organised, as borders have been closed under the pretext of Covid. We plan to organise it again in January of 2023, calling it ”Feast after Plague.” There is also now a community of Russian anarchists and anti-fascist refugees in Finland, and lately some Ukrainians have also come.

Also what was so far your stance regarding the war in Ukraine (solidarity, support etc.)?

We are supporting Ukrainian anarchists who have organised themselves into the Resistance Committee, and fight alongside Ukraine’s regional defense forces and other army units. In addition, we support Russian anarchists’ nonviolent and violent actions against the war. There is very little sympathy for Russian politics in Finnish society, and also very little sympathy to claims that war is provoked by Nato. Even most of the traditional communists are not claiming this line.

How has the Russian invasion of Ukraine affected people in Finland?

Thus far not much. There is a wide sentiment of solidarity with Ukrainian people. There have been big demonstrations organised by, first of all, the Ukrainian community in Finland. Lots of solidarity for refugees. But most of the people live as usual. Limits and bans against Russian imports will push up the cost of living, as everywhere in Europe. Finland is somewhat dependent on Russian energy imports, but less so than Germany for example. Vast majority of people support even wider sanctions than established by EU this far, and our group supports them as well. There are no Belarusian anarchists in Finland, but we have supported protests by the local Belarusian community here. Belarusian migrants have often a very positive view of Belarusian anarchists, even when they are not anarchists themselves.

How strong is the feeling that Russia might invade your country as well? How likely is this to really happen, based on your own estimations?

I do not think there is much of any chance. There are no ongoing disputes with Russia, so the only way a war might start is if a conflict in some other region spreads north due to Finland’s military alliances. I have seen some truly bullshit news coverage in Italy, Portugal and even in Britain about panic and threats in Finland, but none of this is true. The only people I know of who are afraid are expats in Southern Europe who follow the bullshit media coverage in their countries.

Can you briefly introduce us to Finland’s central political stance in relation to the Russian State?

During the Cold War years Finland was basically a capitalist ally of the Soviet Union, a bit like the mirror of China, which was a State socialist ally of the US. This position was promoted not only by the pro-Soviet left, but also for example by segments of industry which found trade with with the USSR very profitable.

After the Cold War Finnish political elites decided to join the European Union, but still maintain as good a relationship with Russia as possible. In general, for the last 100 years there have been three main sentiments related to Finland’s relationship with Russia and the Soviet Union.

    1. Fear
    2. Optimism that lots of money can be made with Russia
    3. Distrust of the West

This last is due to the fact that no country intervened to support Finland during the Winter War, although Finland was a member of League of Nations and had a close and friendly relationship with Britain and France. The first two are the reasons why 80% of Finnish people were against Nato membership until February 24th this year. Since then reason 1 has been dominating, which is the reason why less than 20% are now against, according to opinion polls.

Is there any open political confrontation or backstage issue between the two countries that we should know about?

No. The return of territories lost in WW2 was still a minor political issue in the 1990s, but nowadays no-one is talking about it.

In light of a potential inclusion of Finland in Nato, what does the abolition of neutrality mean to you? In a recent statement A-ryhmä said that as an EU member, Finland is already in a military alliance with all the other member states, and thus in a sense it is already “protected.” Meaning that joining Nato would not be so much a matter of defence but of identity? Can you expand on that?

There has been no abolition of neutrality. EU treaties have common defence clauses, so Finland is already militarily aligned with other EU countries.

It is true the EU does not make concrete plans for common defence or undertake military exercises, as EU members which are already Nato members find them redundant. But it is absolutely impossible that Russia would invade Finland, occupy Helsinki, print its own euros and that Germany and France would then say ”this is not our business”. Of course, Nato defences could react more quickly as there are common plans, and the US has much stronger army than Germany and France. But war between Finland and Russia would nevertheless always become an EU/Nato vs. Russia war, even if Finland did not join Nato.

So basically, vocal supporters of Nato in Finland have been supporting Nato first of all as an identity, due to their wish for full acceptance into the ”community of democratic Western values” – that is, the traditions of Western imperialism. In practice, this would be little different from the existing situation. Now of course Nato support has grown a lot, and for most of its new supporters this support is not about identity but fear, and a wish to say ”fuck you” to Putin.

[NB: The stated position of A-ryhmä on Nato membership is here.]

YT: Are there any alternative and/or libertarian Finnish media which you can highlight, so that we can get a more accurate idea of what is going on in Finland in future?

A-ryhmä doesn’t have a website of its own, but we are present on various social media. We seldom publish in English, as we deal mostly with domestic topics which are almost never interesting to anyone outside Finland:

Telegram | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter 
Youtube | Twitch | Soundcloud | Spotify 

And here are some other anarchist resources from Finland.

Takku: DIY media project with free publishing
Toimitus: Libertarian online project
Makamik: Anti-authoritarian space in Helsinki
Mustan Kanin Kolo: Anarchist infoshop in Helsinki Anti-fascist network,
Kapinatyöläinen: Anarchist magazine since 1989
Pinkkimusta: Queer-anarchist collectivemedia

Pics from A-ryhmä instagram

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