Migrant Tales insight: The op-ed piece below gives another view of Finland that appears to always be the best, the happiest, the most successful in everything. All of this is happening, as the authors, Ilari Kaila and Tuomas Kaila correctly point out how the Finnish welfare state is being eroded with the rise of the far right.
The op-ed piece was published in Jacobin Magazine.
The Finnish welfare state is being eroded, and the far right has gained momentum. As the country turns one hundred, what’s happened to Finland?
You’ve got to hand it to Finland: in its centennial year, the country enjoys “strong brand recognition” and “positive brand sentiment” — to use the kind of corporate-speak that’s in vogue with much of Finland’s contemporary political class.
Judging by the international news stories circulating on social media, our native country is a veritable Shangri-La. Its citizens are ecstatically happy — perhaps because we are a mysterious people “of quiet strength and pride,” or because we’ve uncovered the “Secret to Success With Schools, Moms, Kids . . .and Everything.” Finns aren’t just technologically but socially innovative. Everyone is taken care of, from the cradle to the grave, by a friendly Santa Claus state: even as we speak, Finland is pushing the boundaries of its already stellar public education and social welfare systems. The country is welcoming and egalitarian, with free health care for all and high speeding tickets for millionaires. It’s inclusive and progressive; last in corruption, number one in homoerotic postage stamps.
But here’s a more urgent story you aren’t likely to see: much of what once made Finland an exceptional place to live is being systematically dismantled. Finland should not be held up as a beacon of equality and progress. All the media hype and myths notwithstanding, there is no secret Nordic formula for social justice. The famed Finnish welfare state, while still much more generous than the US’s, mirrors the trajectory of other industrialized nations, from its advancement after World War II to its current erosion. And with the curtailment of the welfare state, political space is opening up for the far right.
So how did we get here?
Read the full story here.
The Rise and Fall of a Nordic Welfare State
On New Year’s Eve 1917, a Finnish delegation, seeking an audience with Russia’s new Bolshevik leadership, waited patiently in the ice-cold lobby of the Council of People’s Commissars in St Petersburg. The place was brimming with people: chain-smoking commissars, civil servants, typists, sailors, Red Army officers.
Shortly before midnight, the fur-coat-clad Finns were presented with a letter: their appeal for independence had been granted. Nominally, it was just a proposal addressed to the Central Executive Committee; in practice, it was an order, bearing the signatures of Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin.
Lenin was reluctant to go and shake hands with the overjoyed delegation. “What,” he said, “am I supposed to say to those bourgeois?” Trotsky, too, refused to do the honors, joking: “I wouldn’t mind having the lot of them arrested.”