The far-right Awakening conference will be held for the second time in Finland on the 6th of April 2019. The conference brings together fascists, Nazis and identitarians internationally as well as members of the Finns Party (Perussuomalaiset, PS, formerly known as True Finns in English).
The location of the event has not been announced yet, but it has been advertised to take place in the province of Finland Proper near Turku in southwestern Finland. This article will present the speakers of the conference as well as their connections to Finnish and international far-right organizations from Ukraine to the United States.
Five out of the six speakers at the conference will also be appearing the weekend before at Scandza Forum in Sweden on March 30th. Scandza Forum is a similar conference arranged by Fróði Midjord and other Scandinavian identitarian fascists.
The first Awakening conference was held in 2018 in Helsinki but this year the event has been moved to South-Western Finland. The secretive conference was a new kind of opening move from the Finnish fascist movement and it took inspiration from events like Etnofutur in Estonia, American Renaissance in the US, and European “Identitary” and Alt-right gatherings.
The 2018 conference was mainly arranged by Tuukka Kuru, Jarno Alander, Timo Hännikäinen, Jarkko Pesonen, Tiina Wiik and Junes Lokka, all of whom are members of the Finnish fascist organization Suomen Sisu (SS). They all have written articles for the online magazine Sarastus which is connected to Suomen Sisu. Many of them have also been active organizers of the 612 demonstrations that have brought Finnish far right together since 2014. The demonstrations were initially organized together with the since-banned nazi organization Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM). Suomen Sisu can be considered one of the key organizers of the conference even though last year its official organizers were only Sarastus and Radio Monokulttuuri.
The organizers seem to be the same people this year, with some additions. Finns Party politician Viljam Nyman is here promoting the event on far-right webpage Hommaforum.
The first Awakening conference was held in Helsinki in the restaurant Ravintola Kaisaniemi which later went bankrupt. In the public debate following the conference, Tuukka Kuru was thrown out of the Finns Party Youth but he has anyways stuck onto his “ethnonationalist” views giving, for example, interviews to the Nordic Resistance Movement website. NRM has always given support to the “racial racists” such as Kuru within mainstream fascist organizations such as Finns Party and Suomen Sisu, for as Nazis they are more in line with pseudoscientific racial theories than the “cultural racism” of many other people in Suomen Sisu and Finns Party. According to Kuru, he will once more be in charge of “the guests and other arrangements” while Tiina Wiik will be moderating the discussions.
Olena Semenyaka from Ukraine has already reached headlines in Finland and it’s no surprise, as she is easily the most extreme speaker this year. Semenyaka is representing the Ukrainian antisemitic and fascist movement Azov which emerged as a paramilitary force in the Ukrainian civil war in 2014. Before getting involved with Azov, Semenyaka had been a member of “The Right Sector”, another Ukrainian fascist organization. The Azov movement has since the civil war been divided into three divisions: the military, the paramilitary and the parliamentarian wings. Semenayaka is taking care of international relations for the parliamentary wing, the National Corps. This means that she has spent a lot of time touring far-right conferences around Europe, visiting parties like the German NDP and Italian CasaPound.
A recently published report shows that Azov has been making efforts to spread their agenda internationally. Azov commander Andriy Biletsky was quoted in an article of British paper The Telegraph in 2004: “The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival. A crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.”
So it is apparent that fascination with Nazism and outrageous antisemitism are part of Azov’s politics. Semenyaka’s political views have been approved by both the webpage Sarastus and the PVL since both have published interviews with her.
One of the other best know speakers is Kevin Macdonald from the United States, who the civil rights organization Southern Poverty Law Center describses as “the favorite academic of the neo-nazi movement”. The arrangers have several times described Macdonald as “the grand old man of evolutionary psychology”, but during the last years Macdonald have been criticized even within his own “field”. He is known for his theory of “Jewishness” as an evolutionary strategy, which in the long run would have led Jews to “provoke forth” events like the Holocaust and other antisemitic attacks. As a scientific theory it has been debunked and critiqued by his peers.
Macdonald´s most influential work is his book series “The Culture of Critique” which defends antisemitism and spreads the idea that jews control western societies. In 2007 the California State University distanced themselves from some of his publications and the nazi material which used him as a source in their propaganda material. Macdonald retired in 2014 and has since then spent more and more time performing at white supremacist events and publishing articles for far-right papers. Macdonald is at the moment the editor of Occidental Observer, a paper which according to themselves works to preserve “white indentity” and mainly publishes vulgar racial and antisemitic material.
Sarastus published a Macdonald interview by Tuukka Kuru in 2019. Macdonald’s and Semenyaka’s antisemitism has been spread several times by the Finnish far-right, as well as by NRM. Macdonald is a popular speaker at nazi events due to him being an established and well-known antisemite.
This year Finland is represented by the Finns Party student association HAPSU (Helsingin Akateemiset Perussuomalaiset) through history student Jasmina Ollikainen. Since HAPSU is a youth organization of the electoral party the Finns Party, they receive financial aid from the state to spread their racist messages on fascist conferences. As of March 2019, HAPSU is under investigation from HYY (the Helsinki University student association) since they are suspected to break the rules.
Ollikainen is a newcomer to the far-right scene, and it is possible that she simply inherited her role as speaker from her colleague Nico Saramo who spoke at Awakening in 2018. Saramo is the chairman of HAPSU and an admirer of feudal societies. When she is not hanging around nazis and representing HAPSU, Ollikainen is writing a blog about her career as a writer – she is writing children’s books for on-demand services.
The fact that this year HAPSU officially participates in the event can be a sign of the Finns Party losing control of their youth organisations even after several members were excluded after Awakening 2018.
Fróði Midjord spoke at last year’s Awakening conference, and we wrote about his background:
Swedish/Icelandic Fróði Midjord is active in Norway where he has been a part of local identitarian fascist projects. In 2017 he arranged Scandza Forum (a neofascist conference) together with Olav Torheim in Oslo on August 1st. Midjord also wrote for the paper of the now defunct Swedish party Svenskarnas Parti and for the Me Ne Frego podcast (Me Ne Frego – “I don´t care” was one of Benito Mussolini´s catchprases).
Out of all the international stars at the conference, Jared Taylor is speaking in there for a second time already. Taylor has been a part of different nazi movements in the United States for two decades and is famous for his magazine American Renaissance which promotes racist propaganda and white supremacy. The paper is published by New Century Foundation which is a known distributor of racist material. Taylor and American Renaissance became known in the US when they started conferences and networking events with Ku Klux Klan and David Duke. Taylor´s speech at last years Awakening was in the popular style of the alt-right, obscuring racism and antisemitism with synonyms and “dog whistle” vocabulary, but when Taylor is read in the context of the far-right international movements he is nothing more than a nazi spreading nazi ideas.
A new speaker this year is Martin Lichtmesz (real name Martin Semlitsch) from Wien, Austria. He has recently become known to be a cultural influencer in the German speaking far-right movements, and his career started as a movie critic in the ultra-conservative paper Junge Freiheit which ideologically represents the so-called “Identitäre” and “New Right” movements in Austria and Germany. Later on Lichtmesz began co-operating with metapolitical activist and publisher Götz Kubitschekin, who have tried to unite the German far-right. Lichtmesz became an important part of his magazine Sezession and the publishing company Antaios which spreads identitarian fascist publications from France and Germany. Lichtmesz has become the voice of “identitäre” in Austria and is a close friend of Martin Sellner, another important figure in the movement. Sellner is known for his failed attempt to patrol the Mediterranean sea to stop refugees reaching Europe. Sellner also made the news recently because Brenton Tarrant, the fascist terrorist attacked the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand had made a € 1,500 donation to Sellner in 2018.
In Austria as well as in other countries, the identitarian movement has been attempting to rebrand the country´s failing nazi organizations. The identitarian tactic is to influence culture through active social media use and bold public actions. The movement was rapidly growing a few years ago but has then slowed down, realizing that the white race can´t be “saved” by simply youtubing. Strong antifascist counter-measures against the activists of the movement has also played a big part in the stagnation.
Pyhä Kuolema (“Holy Death”) is the alias of Mikko “Riimu” Pöyhönen when performing fascist neofolk music (See our English articles on the Finnish NS music scenes). A conference booking an apoliteic neofolk artist is a common practice in the US far-right, since the music genre fits the middle- and upper class image of conferences better than a rowdy RAC or NSBM band. It is also an attempt to distance the conferences from the white power skinhead movement, which connects to neo-Nazism too directly. Despite this, the Finnish music scene is so small that Pyhä Kuolema has been a known part of the fascist musical underground for years already. In 2016 HOK-elanto cancelled a Pyhä Kuolema concert from their premises and the website Sarastus arranged it instead. Pöyhönen is also a member of Vapaudenristi, the most active Finnish RAC band. Vapaudenristi has performed at many neo-Nazi concerts as well as at the fundraiser for NRM Jesse Tornianen (jailed for the murder of Jimi Karttunen).
Alongside the official speakers there is an another American guest: Greg Johnson, the founder of the publishing house Counter Currents, will appear to sell his books and have a short speech. Johnson´s background was presented in the article we wrote about last year’s Awakening. He has been in the spotlight recently due to his conflict with Swede David Fridberg who runs far-right publisher Arktos. The reason is Johnson´s homosexuality, which has provoked anger from the homophobic far-right.
Why is the far-right arranging conferences?
Awakening can be seen as a development of the political strategy adopted by the Sarastus magazine. It has been clear from the start that Sarastus wants to do more than the website, and their goals are to spread far-right theories and discourse further than internet forums. Awakening is in this sense similar to the 612-parades; their function is to combine theoretical debators and metapolitical activists by giving them events to network at. In addition to this, Sarastus and Monokulttuuri FM are trying to spread new fascist trends like identitarism and etnonationalism as well as bring local Finnish far-right projects into an international context. In the promotion of the event they have opted for a semi-public profile, in the hope that not only friends of the speakers will attend.
While Awakening is mainly an inside event for people already active in the far-right circles, it is also an attempt to reach people outside the scene. Last year several members of the Finns Party Youth attended and the event has been promoted at sites like Hommaforum. Even if the event was criticized by some nationalists, it is an attempt to radicalize more modest conservative Finns Party supporters and other nationalists. The younger members of the Finns Party have been increasingly radicalized since the party split in 2017, with Jussi Halla-aho taking control of the “original” Finns Party. The youth organization has begun spreading pseudo-scientific racial theories and made the headlines several times because of this. The point of Awakening is to normalize racist and fascist ideas in the society and in the public debate. This has happened to some extent but the influence of these conferences is still marginal in Finland since most of the organizers and activists lack the influence, charisma or social capital to do it.
Far-right conferences are venues for spreading propaganda and ideology between activists and to dream of “ethnostates” which could be achieved only through violent means. These are not just opinions but political activity which aims to harm a lot of people. This is the reason why Awakening and similar conferences should not be given space anywhere and the far-right can not be allowed to mingle.
Do you have information about Awakening 2019 – the adress, arrangements or activists? Tip us on varistoimitus[ät]riseup.net.