are were a few statues depicting Lenin in public spaces in Finland. I don’t care much for them, they look boring but I get a melancholic vibe in their presence. They feel like puzzles or glitches which echo desires from a past, in a language I don’t understand. They feel displaced and lonely.
After Russia invaded Ukraine, there has been an urgent push to remove all references to Lenin and our ties to Soviet Union from public spaces. Turku
is having had their minuscule Lenin bust, situated at the corner of a silent street removed and Kotka is planning did the same. Helsinki has a park called Lenin’s park which might get renamed. There might be others too.
Right-wing conservative politicians in Turku argue that their statue
is was due to removal because it “depicts an undemocratic and tragic phase in history, which does not manifest the developing cities strategy or the humane values of contemporary Turku city” (A loose translation of a statement by Turku major Minna Arve). Their critique does not extend to statues depicting different Russian tsars or Swedish kings. They want Lenin removed because it reminds them of communism.
In a recent debate regarding the renaming of a miniscule Leninpuisto (Lenin Park) in Helsinki 25 city council politicians reiterated that the renaming is a necessity because of Lenin’s “monstrous deeds” and claim that their efforts to rename the park is a feminist project, aiming to designate more public sites after historically significant women. This lie over the motivation is a disgrace to Otto Meri, the National Coalition Party member behind the recent renaming initiative. I’m not motivated to campaign against their effort because there are real political concerns which demand attention.
Their argumentation manifest the spite which past right-wing generations felt over the achievements of organized labour movement. I see present day right-wing conservatives rallying against communism engaging in hauntological work. Their traumatic project aims to claim and taint “lost futures” as defined by Mark Fisher (introduced in a short 2021 article by Nicholas Diaz). More pressingly, the project is an attempt to evade discussing present day political relations and ties with Russia. Debating the removal of a statue is a convenient way to evade guilt over the fact that we –as the west we were– enabled Putin’s regime to emerge.
This evasion is useful for the present day Finnish politicians, who have leaned on Putin’s Russia and benefited economically from its exploitative and corrupted regime. For example Turku Energy was invested in the Fennovoima/Rosatom nuclear initiative and remained onboard in the project despite the Russian invasion of Crimea. Similarly National Coalition Party politicians have been acceptive to Russian oligarch investments (and a lot Finnish companies still operate in Russia), past Social Democratic Party leaders have worked for Nord Stream II lobbies and Centre Party leaders have taken positions in Russian banks and institutions.
The manner which the statues of a past communist figurehead is discussed, portrays them as been erected by an invading force. They were not. We did it because wanted to. It felt like a good idea at the time. Similarly, we have not been coerced into working with Putin – We took him as an opportunity and this backfired. Our wilful ignorance regarding the concerns Russian human right organisations, opposition activists and citizen voiced through the years is a reason why Russia started its attack against Ukraine.
Removing a Lenin statue is much easier than removing the stench of failed business deals. The attention they are receiving is a symptom of diminishing political agency. People feel powerless, that they cannot change the current system. They are taking revenge on an image of past communist leader, because this is easier then figuring out why establishing liberal economical ties with the Russia state failed in developing a democratic society. Lenin has a few theories as to why… #☭
Edit: I resigned from the army reserve because the manner in which politicians use the war as a device for revising the legacy of socially progressive movements demands a response. They are building a Finland which does not exist for me. I’m working to leave this barren plain with my space comrades and no longer maintain a fantasy that defending these borders with guns aims for democracy.
Populist claim that present day Russia and its attack against Ukraine is derived from socialism, communism and is practically a project of the Soviet Union. People who make these claims very dangerously ignore that the 1917 Russian revolution was organized against an expansive imperialist state. The revolution was fuelled by a desire to end the many wars which the Russian Empire was engaged in at the time and an attempt to designate class (not ethnicity) as a foundation for nations.
Not unlike today’s Russia, the Russian Empire grounded its expansive campaigns on an ideal of a national destiny (partially defined by the church) and ethnically characterized patriotism, set to dominate the cultural diversity of the continent. If we want to learn anything from the revolution and it’s failure, it is that any appeals for a historic destiny of a nation and ethnically defined nation state projects, should be constrained by open democratic processes, public debates and legislative robustness which defaults to protect the weaker.
Democracy is threatened because ruthless politicians use emerging crises for short term political gain, and are eager to maintain a constant state of exception. Finland, for example, joined NATO without any public debates or a vote. Officials in charge at the time, even declared that entering a public debate in the matter, would open our ranks to Russian influence: We are told to comply and differing opinions were demonized. A historic destiny narrative of Finns as “neighbours to the bear” is being used to issue conservative restraints on cultural development. The state is buying automated biblically named weapons systems from Israel to protect its borders, while pressing cuts to social support and culture. Without a democratic culture and commons to share, we don’t have anything to fight for. They are protecting borders and don’t care about the quality of the content inside.
Working against wars is presented as a weakness and the strength I have is needed for peace-work. Under these conditions everyone should resign from the army. It is only a requirement portal for NATO, which conscripts are set to serve for free. It took a lot to arrive at this conclusion because my time in the army was a very rewarding experience, which helped me to understand Finns better. I don’t regret it but we deserve better.