David WilkinsonView More
Finland First - Understanding the European revolt against the EU - 3
What kind of political party is Finland First?
(Understanding the European revolt against the EU - pt 3)
Listen here to Marco de Wit in English
There was a Russia First. It is not like that. There was Italy First. Not much like that. There is also a rather accomplished little BNP spin-off, Britain First. It is nothing like that.
Finland First is interesting on the international scene because it is part of this new wave of patriotic parties that are most like those 19th century liberal nationalists that built the nations that would make that Europe of free nations at the collapse of the old empires in 1918 - and before they were snuffed out by the rise of supra-national ambitions in the late 1930s.
Finland First is for Fixit (Finnish Exit) and against mass Islamic immigration (but not anti-Islam as a faith for those people)
How you see the Finnish example of this new wave of parties depends on how you interpret what is happening with True Finns party, (now called Finns Party but everyone still calls them True Finns). They were elected to government and their leader was Foreign Minister in the coalition. Timo Soini has been somewhat side-lined now and is Deputy Prime Minister. Did they compromise too much in order to exert the influence of being in coalition? Did they just sell out when the nice jobs were on offer? Were they too disorganised and lacking discipline to begin with? Or maybe they have not failed at all and will stay around as a renewed force? But how could they regain trust after this governement so gladly opened the borders to mass migration?
If you have given up of True Fins you are likely to be moving to Finland First.
Finland First, more than True Finns, could be described as a party of the politically more desperate (or is that more politically aware?) but it would be unfair to see them as a party of the extreme. In fact, even the Left in Finland recognise the difference. How do they talk? Seldom but like 19th Century liberals, like Sibeleus, but maybe less intellectual.
People often forget that Finland only became an independent country for the first time at the end of the World War I . Of the four Baltic States, only Lithuania had a history that included independence - and Empire. Estonia had a well organised military resistance to Teutonic Knights but that was before Finalnd was discovered. Finland has less history than Ireland. Less confused but still less. Even Poland had been divided up and only came back into existence then and celebrated November 11th as it's Independence Day.
Finland has yet to celebrate her 100th birthday. The Finns made themselves, their literature, their architecture (when they learnt to build with stone as well as logs), their music (not even the Czechs, not even the Poles with that bugler who is silenced have anything that gets you like Sibeleus) even their language in the 19th century. And unlike some countries who became independent after WWI, they have not become professional victims but, despite an horrific civil war, wars against USSR (and Nazi Germany sort of) when they lost a great proportion of Finnish territory and a foreign social elite, have become a nation to respect. Finns have this tough resilience as their national virtue but they have never really done anyone any harm. Yes, everyone likes to make fun of Finns, they can be a bit ridiculous and not even Finns take each other seriously but there is no reason to destroy all that they have created of and for themselves over the last century.
Twenty years ago, Finns voted to join the EU because they thought EU was a guarantor of their nationhood, of their freedom to be Finns. Now, a growing number fear the EU as the means of their very destruction.
That is the political context of the Finland First Party.
When I first went to Finland it was to help in the campaign against joining the EU. Friends will have heard a story I tell of giving out leaflets in some northern town when two aggressive old men came up, making machine-gun noises and shouting at me. I was told that they were angry with people who did not want to joi the EU: they did because they wanted Germany on their side again in the next war with Russia. This episode taught me almost all of what I needed to know about pro-EU politics (apart from the gravy train) that I needed to know for some years.
In Putin's early years, Russia was a little bit threatening. Relatively insecure, Putin had a round of little squabbles with small neighbours so as to consolidate popular support. Closest to our hearts was the Bronze Soldier crisis when Moscow mobilised the Russian speaking people in Estonia with scary effectiveness. But the EU was best freinds with Russia at that time (it was before the Obama relationship), German chancellors retired to Gazprom and no one really made a fuss.
Since then things really have changed for the nationalist in a Blatic state. Putin has matured. He no longer has any interest in people smashing shop windows in Tallinn. He is now sorting out the Middle-East. He has gone from the new boy who inherited Yeltsin's humiliations to being by far the worlds most respected statesman.
Elite local Baltic politicians will go on BBC and Deutche Welle saying they are concerned about this non-existent Russian aggression but that is because that is what Brussels tells them to say - and they are nothing if not obedient.
Normal people in Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania do not go around worried that Russia is about to invade and make them all Orthodox.
People worry that the EU is going to turn their town into Malmo!
It is a million merkel migrants that represents a destruction worse than, - worse than what? What is it Putin is supposed to be threatening to do? It is not Moscow and Putin that evoke our darkest fears tonight but Brussels and Merkel. Swedish cities are burning and it not by Putin's bombs, is it?
That is the political context of Finland First.
It is widely understood, and by widely I mean even those countryside Finns who still hibernate in the winter, that there is a breakdown in the conventional democratic state. Politicians do not represent the people, they work for Brussels. They are a tier in the EU hierarchy, they are not an expression of the people. And the state is failing in its fundamental duties to protect the people from invasion and everyday terror on the streets. Do you remember in the 1980s when law and order was not maintained by the state in the shape of New York? The New York Metro and streets were patrolled by vigilantes in red berets called "Guardian Angels". Can you believe that today, in Finland, there needs to be such an organisation called Soldiers of Odin to patrol even small towns in Finland? But there is and it has members are from all ages and classes.
Finland First is not a large party nor a powerful one. But it is one to watch as it is part of a new kind of political revolt that happening in Europe and goes way beyond what you would understand by listening to what the BBC tell you about Donald Trump.
Marco de Wit is a chairman of Finland First. He is a historian and founder of the Finnish Libertarian League. He is also a businessman.