The Communist Party

Finland Table of Contents

The Communist Party of Finland (Suomen Kommunistinen Puolue-- SKP) was founded in August 1918 in Moscow by exiled leftists after their defeat in the civil war. Its Marxist-Leninist program advocated the establishment of a socialist society by revolutionary means. Declared illegal the following year, the SKP was active in Finland during the 1920s through front groups, the most notable of which was the Finnish Socialist Workers' Party (Suomen Sosialistinen Työvaenpuolue--SSTP), which received more than 100,000 votes in the 1922 national election and won 27 seats in the Eduskunta. The rise of the radical right-wing Lapua movement was a factor in the banning of all communist organizations in 1930, and the SKP was forced underground.

The Stalinist purges of the 1930s thinned the ranks of the SKP leadership resident in the Soviet Union. A survivor of the purges and one of the founders of the party, Otto Kuusinen, was named to head a Finnish puppet government set up by the Soviets after their attack on Finland in 1939. It did not ever attract the support from the Finnish workers that the Soviets expected, nor did the SKP succeed, during the Continuation War, in mounting a resistance movement against Finnish forces fighting the Soviet Union. At the war's end, the SKP was able to resume open political activity within Finland; in the 1945 election it won forty-nine seats and was rewarded with several posts in the resulting cabinet.

In this election, as in all elections since then, the SKP worked through an umbrella organization, the Finnish People's Democratic League (Suomen Kansan Demokraattinen Liitto--SKDL), established with the aim of uniting all left-wing elements into a common front. Although mainly composed of noncommunists, and usually led by a noncommunist socialist, the SKDL has generally been dominated by the SKP. Despite its initial electoral success, however, the SKDL has not been successful in attracting all Finnish leftists, and the bulk of the SDP has refused to work with it.

The SKDL was not able to retain its hold on the voters in the 1948 Eduskunta election, and it lost eleven seats. Rumors of a planned communist coup contributed to this defeat. During the 1950s and the early 1960s, the SKP/SKDL continued to participate in the electoral process, but with mixed results. The SKP/SKDL did not enter government again until 1966, when Kekkonen insisted that the group be given ministerial posts so that a broadly based coalition government could be formed. After this date, the party was in most governments until December 1982, when Prime Minister Sorsa forced it to resign for refusing to support a part of the government's program.

Tensions long present in the SKP became more pronounced in the second half of the 1960s, when social changes began putting pressure on the party to adapt itself to new conditions. Internal migration within Finland, from the northern and eastern areas where "backwoods communism" had always been a mainstay of party support, deprived the SKP of votes. The gradually increasing service sector of the economy reduced the size of the blue-collar vote in the south that the SKP had traditionally split with the SDP. A more prosperous economy also softened social divisions and made the classic Marxist remedies expounded by the party seem less relevant. Failure to attract younger voters worsened election results in addition to leaving the party with an older and less educated membership. These threating trends, combined with the SKP's participation in governing coalitions since 1966, brought to a head political disagreements between those in the party who supported the system of parliamentary democracy and those who were attached to a totalitarian Stalinist ideology. After 1969 the party was virtually split, although the formal break came only in 1986 following years of bitter dissension.

Through the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s, two factions, a majority reformist or revisionist wing, led first by Aarne Saarinen (1966-82) and then by Arvo Aalto (1982-88), and a minority Stalinist wing, under Taisto Sinisalo, fought for party dominance. Each group had its own local and regional organization and its own newspaper--the moderates, Kansan Uutiset and the doctrinaire faction, Tiedonantaja. Both groups remained in the SKP largely at the insistence of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). The revisionists, sometimes characterized as Eurocommunists, took posts in cabinets, but the Stalinists, or "Taistos" as they are often called after the first name of their leader, refused to do so, preferring to remain ordinary members of the Eduskunta instead. To heal the rift, a third faction appeared in the early 1980s, and for a time one of its leaders, Jouko Kajanoja, was party chairman.

The 1984 election of Aalto to the party chairmanship marked the end of the attempted reconciliation, and in 1985 the revisionists began to purge the Stalinists, who late in the year named their faction the Committee of SKP Organizations. The revisionists resisted pressure for unity from the CPSU, and for this they were punished in late 1985 when the Soviets cancelled the highly profitable contract with the SKP to print Sputnik, an international magazine. The CPSU gave the contract to a printing firm controlled by the minority. The resulting financial losses meant that Kansan Uutiset could appear only five days a week.

In 1986 the split was formalized. Early in the year, the reformist group published a new program that stressed the importance of an independent, yet friendly, relationship with the communist parties of other nations. In April the Stalinists set up an electoral organization distinct from the SKDL, the Democratic Alternative (Demokraattinen Vaihtoehto--DEVA). In June the SKDL party group in the Eduskunta expelled the DEVA representatives from its ranks, and the latter then formed their own parliamentary group. Later in the year, the two factions set different party congress dates, further formalizing the split. In the 1987 election, the two groups competed with one another, and they had separate lists of candidates--the DEVA members led by the actress Kristiina Halkola and the SKP/SKDL led by Arvo Aalto. The Stalinists lost six of their ten seats in the Eduskunta, while the reformists lost one.

In the late 1980s, the two factions appeared more and more irrelevant as actors in Finnish politics. The reformists supported the democratic system, yet they attracted few new recruits. The Stalinists, opposed to the central values held by most Finns, split even further. In 1988 some of them formed a new party, the Finnish Communist Party--Unity (Suomen Kommunistinen Puolue-Yhdenaisyys--SKP-Y), and campaigned with DEVA in the local elections of the fall of that year. An even smaller number, claiming to represent the truest principles of communism, refused to join this new party and formed their own.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress