Yavor Tarinski of the Greek Libertarian Journal Aftoleksi interviews Antti Rautiainen, from the Finnish anti-authoritarian group A-ryhmä, about the latest developments in Finland in its application for NATO membership.
YT: Hello, can you introduce yourself (where are you from, where do you participate)?
AR: I live in Helsinki, Finland, and participate in the local anarchist group A-ryhmä, which was established in 2006. A-ryhmä is a member of the Nordic Autonomous Revolutionary Alliance (RNA) along with a number of other bands from Denmark, Finland and Sweden. From 1999 to 2012 I lived in Russia, where I participated in a libertarian communist organization Autonomous action. I was expelled from Russia in 2012 due to my political activities.
Can you tell us a 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 were also influential in the large Finnish emigrant communities in the United States and Sweden. In Finland, there were only a few individual anarchists between 1939 and 1967, but since then there has been a kind of continuity. Most groups are closed or project-based affinity groups, our group is open to new people.
Are there any links between the Finnish popular movements and the movements of the so-called BUR (Belarus, Ukraine and Russia~ed)?
Our group has close ties with Russian anti-authoritarian movements. Since 2014, we have been involved in the organization of “Father Frost Against Putin”, a festival in Helsinki which offers Russian popular movements the possibility of coming together without fear of repression. However in 2021 and 2022 it was not organized, because the borders were closed under the pretext of Covid. We plan to organize it again in January 2023, calling it “Party after the plague”. There is also now a community of Russian anarchists and anti-fascist refugees in Finland, and lately Ukrainians have also come.
Also, what was your position so far regarding the war in Ukraine (solidarity, support, etc.)?
We support the Ukrainian anarchists who have organized themselves into Resistance Committee, and fight alongside the Ukrainian Regional Defense Forces and other army units. Moreover, we support the non-violent and violent actions of Russian anarchists against the war. There is very little sympathy for Russian politics in Finnish society, and also very little sympathy for claims that the war is caused by NATO. Even most mainstream Communists do not claim this line.
How did the Russian invasion of Ukraine affect Finns?
So far not much. There is a broad sense of solidarity with the Ukrainian people. There were big demonstrations organized by, first of all, the Ukrainian community in Finland. Lots of solidarity for the refugees. But most people live as usual. Limits and bans on Russian imports will drive up the cost of living, as they do everywhere in Europe. Finland is somewhat dependent on Russian energy imports, but less than, for example, Germany. The vast majority of people support even broader sanctions than those established by the EU so far, and our group supports them as well. There are no Belarusian anarchists in Finland, but we supported the protests of the local Belarusian community here. Belarusian migrants often have a very positive view of Belarusian anarchists, even when they are not anarchists themselves.
How strong is the feeling that Russia might also invade your country? How likely is this to actually happen, based on your own estimates?
I don’t think there is much luck. There are no ongoing disputes with Russia, so the only way a war could start is if a conflict in another region spreads north due to Finland’s military alliances. I’ve seen some really silly reports from Italy, Portugal and even Britain about panic and threats in Finland, but none of that is true. The only people I know who are scared are southern European expats who follow the bullshit media coverage in their country.
Can you briefly introduce us to Finland’s central political position in relation to the Russian state?
During the Cold War years, Finland was basically a capitalist ally of the Soviet Union, much like the mirror of China, which was a socialist state ally of the United States. This position was promoted not only by the pro-Soviet left, but also, for example, by segments of industry that found trade with the USSR very profitable.
After the Cold War, Finnish political elites decided to join the European Union, while maintaining the best possible relations with Russia. In general, over the past 100 years, there have been three main feelings associated with Finland’s relations with Russia and the Soviet Union.
- Optimism that a lot of money can be made with Russia
- Distrust of the West
The latter is due to the fact that no country intervened to support Finland during the winter war, although Finland is a member of the League of Nations and maintains close and friendly relations with Great Britain and France. The first two are the reasons why 80% of Finns were against NATO membership until February 24 this year. Since then, reason 1 dominates, which is why less than 20% are now against, according to the polls.
Is there an open political confrontation or a behind-the-scenes issue between the two countries that we should be aware of?
No. Restitution of territories lost in World War II was still a minor political issue in the 1990s, but today nobody talks about it.
In light of Finland’s possible inclusion in NATO, what does the abolition of neutrality mean to you? In a recent statement, A-ryhmä said that as a member of the EU, Finland is already in a military alliance with all other member states, and therefore in a sense it is already “protected”. Does this mean that joining NATO is not so much a question of defense as of identity? Can you expand?
There was no abolition of neutrality. EU treaties have common defense clauses, so Finland is already militarily aligned with other EU countries.
It is true that the EU does not make concrete plans for common defense or undertake military exercises, because EU members who are already members of NATO find them superfluous. But it is absolutely impossible for Russia to invade Finland, occupy Helsinki, print its own euros and then Germany and France say “it’s none of our business”. Of course, NATO defenses could react faster because there are common plans, and the United States has a much stronger army than Germany and France. But the war between Finland and Russia would nevertheless always become an EU/NATO war against Russia, even if Finland did not join NATO.
So basically the staunch NATO supporters in Finland initially supported NATO as an identity, because of their wish to be fully accepted into the “community of western democratic values” – that is i.e. the traditions of Western imperialism. In practice, this would be little different from the current situation. Now, of course, support for NATO has increased a lot, and for most of its new supporters, that support is not about identity but about 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 that you can highlight, so that we can get a clearer idea of what is happening in Finland in the future?
A-ryhmä does not have its own website, but we are present on various social networks. We rarely publish in English, because we mainly deal with domestic topics that hardly ever interest anyone outside of Finland:
And here are some other anarchist resources from Finland.
Takku: DIY multimedia project with free publication
Toimitus: Libertarian online project
Makamik: Anti-authoritarian space in Helsinki
Mustan Kanin Kolo: Anarchist infoshop in Helsinki
varisverkosto.net: Antifascist Network,
Kapinatyolainen: Anarchist magazine since 1989
Pinkkimusta: queer-anarchist collective media
Photos from A-ryhmä’s Instagram