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(en) Finland, Black and Green days 2000-report II (2/2)

From Antti Rautiainen <antti@polly.phys.msu.su>
Date Mon, 21 Feb 2000 16:20:32 -0500

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

Organisational discussion - SAL experiment

 Helsinki situation characterices the whole Finnish scene. De facto
collapsing of the Finnish Anarchist Federation SAL in the winter 1997-1998
has resulted lots of discussion in Finland. Different people have made
different conclusions of the history, but the current situation is more a
result of spontaneous evolution than of consciencious choices between
organisational methods. 
 The history of SAL is too long to be repeated here in all it's details. But
shortly, organisation never survived the internal fighting of 1994-1995, and
when the boom of "new enviromental movement" started in 1995-1996 with the
birth of Muutoksen kevät-paper, some other groups and huge wave of
ecological and animal rights-related sabotage actions, most anarchists
started to favor "campaigns" to "permanent anarchist organisation". Lack of
people's will to take care about mininum bureaucracy required to maintain
anarchist organisation resulted continuous conflicts and bad feelings in
SAL, and finally all members practically refused from the task of organising
national meetings in the fall of 1997. Controversially, skipping of all
democracy and structure resulted boom of activity organised in the name of
SAL - a festival of 500 participants in Järvenpää in the summer of 1998, and
best anti-election campaign ever organised in 12 cities in the spring of 1999. 
 Until recently, SAL still existed as a "ghost-organisation", signing
leaflets and being among co-organisers of some events. In the last phase,
SAL had 10 local groups with P.O. Box adresses in paper, from which maybe 5
had any anarchists meetings, althought not in the name of SAL, and rest had
become more like a contact adresses of local activist scene, if P.O. Boxes
were used at all. 
 Finally people in Helsinki decided to form completely new group, HIT
("Self-governed action of Helsinki"), inspired of anti-organisational ideas
which autonomist movement emerged in Finland 1999 has imported. Autonomists
did not joined HIT anyway, but stayed in their own small group "Autonome
Offensive". However, "Autonome Offensive" is a part of "Self governed
movement" of Helsinki, and Finland in general, for example they were
co-organising black and green days (they participated the meeting but did
not reported about other ongoing activities except publicing their own
webpaper). Ideas of autonomists have penetrated Finnish movement in general,
for example new Megafoni-paper of Jyväskylä has thrown away all ideological
labels. (Finnish autonomism has more to do with the Italian than the German

Beyond SAL

 Since existing of organisation does not require any real activity but
people identifying themselves as members, SAL exists still in Helsinki in
the sense that some people see themselves as a part of it. People of
Hämeenlinna also use SAL-name, but there is no any information if they are
doing something or not. Practically there is 6 different anarchist or
related collectives in Helsinki, and mostly their activists are not
 In some sense the situation is better than ever, likeminded people have
complete liberty to do whatever they want, and no-one is trying to "claim
control" over the movement. But in the general discussion about the Helsinki
situation, some serious questions were also thrown to Helsinki activists.
How can new people come to movement, is the only way to form their own
collective? Is there any sense to create an organisation for 12-14 years,
and then just throw the name away and start from the zero point in the sense
of generall awareness about the name? Is forming of new group between each 2
years nothing else but an artifical trick to maintain motivation and false
image that things are proceeding? If each of the Helsinki collective has
less than 20 members and maybe 5 active people in average, how can anything
bigger be done if wanted? Some experience also shows that there is problems
in the information exchange between Helsinki groups, which has created
 IWW is a different story. Solidaarisuus was formed already in the fall of
1996 by people who in other hand were pissed with the anti-organisational
wing of SAL, and in other hand wanted to have radical class-struggle
activity open also to good people who do not identify themselves as
anarchists. In 1999, Solidaarisuus finally become a part of IWW after a long
process which still is not completely finished. In the general discussion in
Tampere, IWW was mentioned as a relevant alternative for those who want more
organisational activity. It is excellent that there is something for
everyone, but my personal opinion is that Finnish IWW has suffered because
of the new trend to create "spontaneous collectives" instead of
organisation. (IWW has had activity in Hämeenlinna, Turku and Tampere, but
right now it wouldn't be very wrong to say it only exists in Helsinki). 
 Somewhat Peppi AFL was completely skipped in the "news" discussion (maybe
because it was men running the discussion). However, I understood that Peppi
is re-activating itself, after temporary collapsing due to internal schisms
during winter 1998-1999.  
 "Makhnovist fraction" was originally label given by people who wanted to
get rid of SAL to those interested to save SAL, but just sitting in the pub
instead of doing actions. Now this label seems to be adopted by people
themselves. And positively, they are proceeding with the age-old plan to
start their own bar! 
 Good frontpage to Helsinki scene is the one by autonomists, 
 General discussion about organisational methods did not resulted anything,
and of course it was just the beginning - the results will be visible after
many years. In some sense the discussion is mostly relevant in Helsinki,
althought Jyväskylä anarchists also noted that activity has moved to
campaigns -  there was a failed attempt to create anarchist platform around
the weekly meetings of JOA and SAL in their city. People from smaller cities
mostly did not get what was the point in the discussion, or at least they
did not said a lot. In smaller cities the practice has always been that all
activists form a circle of friends, and it is quite secondary which are the
names used in the actions - if there was activity under various names, same
people were behind it anyway. And in Finland, small city means small - many
cities present have less than 50 000 inhabitants. 
 Organisational discussion was continued in bar after the meeting, where it
was noted it is not such a big difference after all if people keep living in
the year 1936 and believe that non-existing organisations (=SAL) are
existing, or form new groups each 2 years imagining that things are
proceeding to somewhere. And anyway, if no-one wants to do the work to
maintain anarchist organisation it is useless to whine there should be one.
So maybe things can float around a couple of years and we can see where the
natural evolution of Finnish movement leads into. At least it is going
somewhere, since there was maybe more people in the working group seriously
discussing about the situation of anarchist and related movement in Finland
than I've ever seen before. There was also discussion why there is no
collectives in Tampere outside animal rights campaign, FNB, motorway
resistance and Muutoksen kevät, without answers - althought Tampere is the
secondmost largest city in Finland, it still cannot maintain the critical
mass when young people keep moving in between the cities.  

Something more practical

 Only Helsinki people came to the meeting of the collectives with an
initiative about common action. The idea was to organise a national action
day 25th of march for 50 FIM (8 euros/$)/hour mininum wage, 100% raise from
the old one. Traditionally the aspect has been more in the campaining for 6
hour day, but people organising the action had made analysis that raise of
the mininum wage has more effect in the time when more than half of labour
force is depending on irregular contracts. People work a time long enough to
get a certain money - thus raise of the wage is THE way to cut working time. 
 There was discussion about realism of the demand, which ended up so that
people pointed out there is no point in demanding anything less. Besides,
people in anarchist scene has biased view of society in general - actually
after statistics less than 10% of labour force earns lot less than 10% an
hour, althought many anarchist present noted that they know no-one earning
more! (This reflects more young middle-age of Finnish movement than its
class composition). People from northern Finland were a bit sceptical about
the idea, 100% raise in the mininum wage sounds a bit utopian since few of
them had work, and many would find a wage of $6/hour a really great thing.
No other city promised to do anything, but I guess it is nothing so special
in this phase.  
 There was also discussion about 1st of may. Political contents of 8 street
parties organised in Finland this far have been dynamical compromises
between ravers and activists. Politics has usually been about the traffic
policy, never against the capitalism or ruling class. Some people in
rave-scene have been disappointed with the new initiative by Helsinki scene
to organise class-conscious street party 1st of may, as if it was attempt to
take over the idea. However, people from other cities understood that it is
right of anarchists to organise something better than dead-boring marches of
leninists they have usually followed in the backline. Finnish 1st of may
site is available in http://www.dld.fi/~ravelre/m1/
  In this evening there was only one concert, which was sold out - maybe
some stupid fire security regulations, since there was maybe 600 people
inside but still lots of space. Seems like we have to move to a stadion next


10 am started working groups about animal rights campaigns and Ecotopia
gathering coming to Finland next summer. After spending a while in the
"social networking and human resources-group", I jumped to animal rights
group. It is nice to see that Finnish animal rights movement is alive and
well althought the hysteria of 1995-1997 is gone. New groups keep emerging
to replace the dead ones, for example 3 groups have born or been
re-activated recently in the Finnish Lapland, and 4th one might be emerging
in the very north. There was some minor organisational discussion in this
group as well. I personally see Finnish animal rights network "Oikeutta
Eläimille" as a best example of practical anarchist organising in Finland,
althought barely half of it's activists ever described themselves as
anarchists. Anarchist movement (I mean SAL) itself was similar scale only
very short time in year 1993, which was before I joined. Oikeutta Eläimille
can be defined as anarchist since it is almost completely federalistic, the
inter-city structure ("council") only decides about the financial questions,
whoever is allowed to participate the "council" and "council" has never
refused any demands of money by local groups since it's creation in 1995.
Network has never employed anyone. 
   "anarchy" has also created some difficulties: since everything is
depending on volunteership, information distribution and democracy was not
always maintained as it could be at the best. Since middle age has always
been very low (I estimate not more than 18 in the beginning of 1996, not
more than 20 today), older activists have been big authorities. Since the
structure of the network is illegal, legal double structure has been made
which creates problem with the maintentance of the democracy. The
organisational discussion in the animal rights working group was about the
fact some groups in last 1.5 years have changed their name to distant
themselves from the network for various political differences or just for
the sake of the autonomy. 
 There was discussion about the protest campaign against Karttula dog
breeder of the summer 2000, camp was organised also in 1998 and 1999, and in
1999 it was a fiasco. People were quite optimistic about the coming camp
anyway. Some Russians also participated the group - maybe there will be
animal rights movement in Russia in a couple of years. Currently there is 26
locals in "Oikeutta Eläimille"-network, althought all of them are not active.
 In 11.30 two new groups started, about recent legal reforms against
activism and prisoner support. Legal group was a very good idea, everyone
should be well aware about the new dirty plots by the Finnish governement. I
participated the prisoner support working group.  There was speakers from
Union of Consciencious objectors which works for total objectors (currently
some 18, 4 of whom are anarchists), EVRTR (ALFSG) and ELF supporters group
in formation. There is no EVR or ELF prisoners in Finland. AMR (ABC) was not
present, due to the fact it is currently hardly existing in Finland - very
few persons in Jyväskylä were involved in regular basis, and now they have
other business. Unfortunately the group was not very dynamic, propably
because the groups are quite distant from each other, or at least Union of
CO's is quite distant from two others as a traditional pacifist and
anti-militarist organisation with large, and sometimes not so radical member
base. So the group became more like a lecture about activities of different
groups, instead of platform to plan concrete work. EVRTR has also had a
problem with small interest of the people. Formation of the new ELF
supporters group was inspired after recent oppression in Sweden against
members of the Socio-Ecological Action. 
 Last event of the festivals was a fleamarket, which was a very good idea
since it freed other events from the stress to get materials distributed.
Food supply also worked well as during the whole festival. 
 In general, the festivals gave me very good and positive feelings. Last
year I was more pissed about the subcultural character of the whole thing,
and of course the same critics can be repeated this time as with any other
anarchist event. Opposing the genetic technology is for sure also in the
interest of masses of other peoples outside the ghetto, and I doubt
everything possible was done to reach these people. 
 However, knowing the realities in Finland even the existence of events this
big is a small miracle. Sad but true, small number of activists have to make
huge efforts to create a spectacle to each demonstration to attract people
to the next one, instead than participators created the spectacle
themselves. After all, I get a feeling that things had proceeded a little
bit from the last year, althought just a little bit.   

Contact of the Black and Green days 2000:

Organisers of the Black and Green days 2000 were
Tehdas (Factory-collective), Tampere
Itsehallinnollinen toiminta (Self-governed action), Helsinki
Oikeutta Eläimille (Justice to animals), http://www.oikeuttaelaimille.net
Autonome Offensive 99, http://www.ecn.org/finlandia/autoff99
Turkisvapaa Tampere (Fur free Tampere)
Ruokaa, ei aseita (Food not bombs)

Antti R.

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