While the Finnish ‘Six-pack’ coalition government in its new budget continues to implement cuts and attack workers and youth, and the trade union federations – SAK, STTK and Akava – accept a historically poor central wage agreement. This has led to broader interest in political alternatives in Finland. Last weekend, Sosialistinen Vaihtoehto (SV, Socialist Alternative, CWI sympathisers in Finland) organised its first public meeting and activities in Turku (the third largest city in Finland) where the SV recently has been able to win new members and sympathisers.
The meeting, which was held on Saturday, 31 August, was attended by activists and interested people, some of whom had met the group at its activities in the centre of the town the same morning or the night before. Copies of the new issue of the SV paper in Finnish, also named ‘Sosialistinen Vaihtoehto’, were sold during and after the meeting. The paper’s mix of articles on current events, history and theory received a lot of interest amongst residents of Turku. The meeting’s topic was the crisis in Southern Europe. The focus was on debunking the myth that the capitalist crisis was caused by workers living beyond ‘their means’.
But the other key topic was naturally the central wage negotiations in Finland, which ended on 30th August. SV has been campaigning against the "zero-line" on wage increases demanded by the employers. Even though marginal increases are included in the deal - 20 euro after four months, followed by an additional 0.4 % after 12 months from the first increase - it can at best be described as scandalously bad and totally in line with the employers’ organisation, EK’s, aims.
This will serve to further deepen the economic crisis, as it will lower the consumption power of the workers, with an estimated 0.5 % the following year. Also, the government’s new, anti-worker budget agreement for the next year was much discussed during the days of SV activities.
Relentless attack on council services
The 2014 budget deal foresees cuts of 2 billion euro in the municipalities, signifying a relentless attack on the already hard hit city council services. This is another step in the destruction and privatisation of public services. It imposes additional cuts of 90 million euro in all kinds of state funded social services, such as schools, polytechnics, social and health institutions and elderly care, explained Tiago Silva, a SV-member during the public meeting in in Turku.
It also reduces the students’ benefits and unemployment benefits for younger people. Unemployment benefits and the social welfare provisions are going to suffer cuts of 105 million euro. Some state-owned companies are going to be privatized and ‘consumption taxes’ will be increased. All this is done so that the rich can be presented a gift of more than 1 billion euro, with a decrease in corporate tax and also of stock-market dividend taxation, said Tiago.
The Finnish government dances to the same tune as other governments throughout Europe: austerity, cuts, privatizations, anti-worker policies, and so on. With the aggravating circumstance that, in Finland, the traditional political parties regarded as on the ‘Left’ (the social democratic SDP and the Left Alliance (ex-communist party)) participate in the neo-liberal assault, leaving the workers without a political alternative. Hence the necessity of building a strong socialist working class alternative to overcome the crisis, concluded comrade Tiago Silva at the successful Sosialistinen Vaihtoehto public meeting in Turku.