“We are against the crisis programmes for Greece, Portugal etc”
When the Left Alliance joined the new government led by the Finnish Conservatives, two MPs voted against. “The government’s programme is completely different to what we ran on in the election campaign,” says Markus Mustajärvi in an interview with Offensiv, newspaper of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (RS).
We met him on a day when the Finnish Parliament had one of many hearings dominated by the euro crisis. “We could not agree to support the government. The euro crisis was the main issue. We are against the crisis programmes for Greece, Portugal and so on. I support the general strikes in Greece.”
Marcus Mustajärvi being interviewed
Markus Mustajärvi and Jyrki Yrttiahu voted against both the new prime minister, Katainen, from the Conservative Party and the government platform. They were expelled from the parliamentary group, but not from the Left Alliance. They have now formed their own parliamentary group.
“Our criticism is also about the economic situation in Finland. The government’s platform means higher taxes and cuts in the social sector”, says Markus Mustajärvi.
“Our assessment is that the economic crisis is rapidly deepening. The unemployment rate will be much higher in a year. Then the cuts will become worse. They will say that the government does not have enough money, though there is money.”
The Left Alliance is the third largest of the six parties in the government. The Conservative Party and the Social Democrats dominate. Also included are the ‘Greens’, the ‘Christian Democrats’ and the liberal ‘Swedish People’s Party’.
“The main reason for the Left Alliance to join the government was that the Social Democrats said ‘you have to’. Also the union leaders wanted the Left to join. They wanted to avoid any left criticism of the government,” says Markus Mustajärvi.
The two critics were supported by many members of the Left Alliance, but there is also a faction that always supports the leadership. The Left Alliance was previously in government with the Social Democrats and the Conservatives, during the years 1995 to 2003. Markus Mustajärvi is convinced that more and more people in the Left Alliance will recognise that the critics are right.
Markus Mustajärvi has been in Parliament for eight years. He has a very strong mandate from his constituency in Kemijärvi in Lapland, where he received 24 percent of the vote.
“I am a Socialist, always have been. My father was a Communist, I have seen poverty and now class divisions are growing again. Welfare systems built by the left parties are destroyed”.
At the end of our interview Markus Mustajärvi demonstrates what the balance of forces in parliament looks like. On behalf of the only opposition from the left, he has only received 0.43 percent of speaking time during question time. During our visit, he could not ask any questions in parliament, while the True Finns had several speakers.
Outside parliament, however, a real left has great opportunities of developing in Finland.
Warning of cuts
From an interview with Mark Mustajärvi in Tiedonantaja, Journal of SKP (Finnish Communist Party)
"The economic situation in the municipalities is becoming worse. Central government grants will be cut. The government has decided to cut subsidies and work programmes for unemploymed people. Markus cannot accept this. Unemployment is a major problem that is becoming even greater.
Markus believes that the left must criticise the EU economy. The entire EU must be questioned. The euro crisis will get worse and worse. If the left is uncritical, the True Finns will get more and more space for their populist EU criticism, which has no content.
Markus Mustajärvi strongly criticizes the government’s EU policy.”
Translation: Juha Tapio
In addition, the government is also reducing money for education. This means that work-training schools and high-schools will be reduced quite dramatically.
Where did the True Finns come from?
From Markus Mustajärvi’s speech on May 1:
"Friends and comrades, income inequality and the number of outcasts are increasing in Finland and the national debt grows. While the rich continue to get away with not paying tax, the low-paid are punished with increasingly direct taxes. People in the entire euro area are fighting for their existence and the world, ruled by speculative capitalism, is on the edge of the abyss. But in the elections, all protests were channeled in one direction: to a right-wing party, with a leader around whom a semi-religious personality cult was created.
How could this be possible? There are several reasons. First, consensus party politics in the 1990s dissolved the differences between the parties, incorporating also the Left as part of the power apparatus. The Left Alliance cleaned itself up after the old bourgeois government, participated in cuts and toned down its anti-EU stance. With a skillful rhetoric, the True Finns appeared to be a new party which was against all the other parties.
EU resistance was associated only with the True Finns and with it all the discontent in society found an outlet, whatever the spirit of protest was due to. When steam started, it found its route, like flood waters that always find a way.
Second, ’True Finns’ is a one-man party. Since the SMP – the Rural Party, Soini’s old party – went bankrupt, Soini has been able to shape the party’s line, the main theme for individuals, for action and the political language of his own opinion. Because of this, the party seems to act consistently if you do not go deeper than the surface. Meanwhile, Soini has carefully avoided comments on topics which could divide his potential voters. For example, he used the term "workers’ party without socialism" to combine a claim to represent workers with a hostility to the Left.
Thirdly, a party of the Left never could never expect such large and criticism-free column space in newspapers and air time as Soini and his party received. (…) The Conservatives own and control the media and the True Finns were a harmless enough way to channel the protests…
Fourth, other parties, including the Left, gave far too much leeway to the True Finns. They directed all too little attention to the difficultlies and change with many causes, which reach all sectors, strata and members of society. A difficult time favours simple solutions and false truths."
Translation: Heikki Moisio
Facts about the election:
The former ruling party the Centre lost a third of the votes while the True Finns with their right-wing populism and racism almost 5-fold in the election last spring. Here are the results of the six major parties:
Coalition Party 20.4% (-1.9), the Social Democrats 19.1% (-2.3); True Finns 19.1% (+15), Centre Party 15.8% (-7.4), Left Alliance 8.1% (-0, 7), the Greens 7.3% (-1.2)
What needs to be done?
Socialists in Finland can support several issues that Markus Mustajärvi emphasises. He has in particular highlighted the increasingly uncertain conditions in the workplaces, with a sharp increase in precarious jobs. He has also criticised in parliament wage cuts and worsened conditions for the civilian employees in the army, such as kitchen staff.
Markus Mustajärvi has also called for resistance against the EU and NATO. To advance a socialist and internationalist alternative in this field is a key issue for socialists.
The true Finns must also be met from the left, with a clear programme against racism and for joint struggle by workers and young people against the EU and all government cuts.