The violent and hostile language of Finnish populists against Others

by , under Enrique Tessieri

For those that sighed with momentary relief and claimed that the new government’s immigration policy won’t be as bad as they expected haven’t seen anything yet. Behind the populist and nationalistic rhetoric coming from people like Perussuomalaiset (PS)* chairman Timo Soini, there’s nothing but suspicion and hostility against Finland’s migrant and ever-culturally diverse community.

What are we to make out of the new government’s policies as the mist clears? Soini gave us an eyeful Saturday when when he stated that “the blue and white” can be clearly seen in government policy.


Näyttökuva 2015-5-24 kello 21.20.30

Read full story (in Finnish) here.

What are we, Finland’s migrant and culturally diverse community, supposed to make out of such a nationalistic catchphrase?

Are we, the migrant and minority community in this country, who are struggling to survive by working and paying taxes, belong to that group that Soini labels Finnish labor?

What is even more shameful is that mainstream parties like the Center and National Coalition Party (NCP), who should know better, have with their complacent silence gone to bed with such rhetoric. The reason why they have accepted such rhetoric and a party like the PS in government is because they generally agree with the PS leader.

Of course we don’t belong to that group the PS leader and other nationalistic politicians refer to as Finnish labor. We are the enemy, the Other, those who came to Finland and stole those jobs from real Finns and caused as a result unemployment to soar). We are also the ones responsible for most of the crime and rape that occurs in this country.

We are the scapegoats.

We are the scapegoats because politicians like Soini and others haven’t effectively addressed high unemployment, kickstarted the economy and dealt with ever-growing poverty in this country. We are, therefore, the scapegoated – their failures are our fault.

We’ve been at this juncture of history before. For those old enough to remember, that period started at the dawn of World War 2 and ended in the early 1990s with the demise of the Soviet Union.

Finland’s “blue and white” was everywhere back then. Our suspicion of the USSR, coupled with our xenophobia, made it difficult draw clear lines between fascism and nationalism. The fact that the PS, which is the second biggest party in parliament, has grown rapidly since 2011 is one of the unfortunate paybacks of this lack of leadership.

In sum, that nationalistic policy during the cold war was fed by our fear of the USSR. During that seventy-year stint there was a huge sign outside Finland that reads: No trespassing by foreigners. Enter at your own peril.

strange-days-dog
This cartoon by Rabah Boussuira was published in Strange Days (1984).

The nostalgia that politicians like Soini evoke, with the help of government parties like the Center and NCP, is a return to that 70-year period when Finland was geopolitically isolated.  

One of the sweet lures of that period especially for anti-immigration populists is that Finland’s foreign population was miniscule. It was a period when social policy authorities like Heikki Waris claimed that, “Racial homogeneity particularly characterizes the Finnish people who have practically no racial minorities…Consequently, racial prejudice and discrimination are nonexistent (sic!).”

A return to those days would be hell for migrants and minorities and especially Finland.

The Finnish name of the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.

  1. steve

    Don’t make such quick conclusions. There’s no reason for panic. Read the news-article again. It is about businesses and companies, not about immigrants as such. The message is: all great investments (referring mainly to construction) are done by using finnish companies, finnish subcontractors. This means money stays in Finland and this is good for finnish economy.

    To answer your question:

    “Are we, the migrant and minority community in this country, who are struggling to survive by working and paying taxes, belong to that group that Soini labels Finnish labor?”

    If you are living in Finland, yes, you clearly do belong to that group.

    I would like to point to your own rhetoric. You seem to connect the word ‘violent’ with PS a lot, like in this post and in your previous post, where you said:

    “if you use violence, or other harsh means against other people, you can expect the same ending happening to you.”

    I think this is unnecessary provocative. Then you used the word ‘evil’ referring to PS. This polarizes and prevents a proper dialogue.
    Note for example the use of the term: ‘Axis of evil’ to justify the war against countries.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axis_of_evil

    Words have great power.

    Sorry for my bad english. I hope you understand, what i’m trying to say.

    • Migrant Tales

      Hi Steve, thank you for your comment.

      I do agree the words have great power and can move mountains. That’s why what politicians say and imply impacts a lot of people. If a PS politician, for example, victimizes a whole group then life for that group is made harder, not easier. Does it help them find work? Does it promote their respect and inclusion in our society? All these are important questions. For a white Finn, even a white foreigner coming from the United States, the impact of anti-immigration rhetoric probably does not affect them as some groups.

      The language of the PS, as an example, is a violent language against migrants and Others. It promotes exclusion as opposed to inclusion. You would really have to be such a minority to understand.

      Another matter that surprises me about Finland is that somehow through respectful dialogue we can stop racism and discrimination. This has a lot to do with consensus politics of the cold war. But here’s the question: Who is making such statements? The targets of such rhetoric or white Finns?

      You’ve made yourself perfectly clear.

  2. steve

    Ok, you use the word violence in a broader sense. Using the quote from the bible: ‘Live by the sword die by the sword’ and your comment together sounded like you want the party to have a violent ending, someone to stick a sword into them. That kind of shocked me.

    “somehow through respectful dialogue we can stop racism and discrimination”

    But I don’t see any other way. Probably there are racists, that no talk can make a difference, but I say most of them are those, that you can reach, they are somewhere in the middle ground, but if you attack and polarize, you force them to take a stronger stand, you’ll pull them away.

    • Migrant Tales

      –But I don’t see any other way. Probably there are racists, that no talk can make a difference, but I say most of them are those, that you can reach, they are somewhere in the middle ground, but if you attack and polarize, you force them to take a stronger stand, you’ll pull them away.

      I sure wish it would be that easy and if it were we would have found a solution to racism in many European countries. In my opinion one of the best examples of challenging intolerance is the US Civil Rights Movement (1955-68).

      If you want an answer to your question, check to see who is leading the anti-racism debate in this country. As far as I can gather they’re not minorities or migrants.

      The language used by anti-immigration groups and politicians is violent because it aims to destroy lives and exclude people from society.

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