Four years of antifascist mobilisations – what have we learned from the Independence Day demonstrations of 2015-2018?

Helsinki ilman natseja -mielenosoitus.

This is a translation of a Finnish original published in 26th of December 2018.

Four years of antifascist mobilisations – what have we learned from the Independence Day demonstrations of 2015-2018?

After the year 2018, the fascist 612 demonstrations  that have been organised during Finland’s Independence Day since 2014 have been opposed four times. A variety of events, mobilisations and different kinds of strategies to oppose nazis have taken place in the years 2015-2018. The last four years have also brought forward plenty of new discussions about what antifascism actually means and how it realises itself on the streets and in our everyday lives or in how we discuss social movements and the political situation in Finland. However to open up this discussion in a meaningful manner, we must together take a look back and think about how we’ve reached the point we’re at now.

Demonstrating on the Independence Day is a rich tradition in Finland. Since the 1990s the key themes of the demonstrations have been strongly anticapitalist and anti-nationalist. After a break that started in 2009, a return to this tradition was made in Finland in 2013 in the Kiakkovierasjuhlat (“Ice hockey ball”, refering to the presidential nationalist and bourgeoisie ball that is always organized on independence day) demonstration in Tampere in 2013. This demonstration mixed class struggle politics with humorous ice hockey theme and took a stance against nationalist policies trying to cover up the class divide. During the demonstration people stormed the riot fences and police and smashed windows of banks and luxury cars. In 2014 in Helsinki people also organized a demonstration called Luokkaretki lähiöst linnaan (“Classtrip from suburbs to center”, another pun that loses part of its meaning in translation to English) on the 6th of December. The demonstration took the metro from the eastern suburbs of Helsinki to the city center and attacked the symbols of capitalism that are most visible in the middle of the city. Both of these demonstrations were characterised by shaky and confused police action, as on both occasions the demonstrators were able to move faster and more determined than the police.

Kiakkovierasjuhlat in Tampere brought the tradition of Independence Day demonstrations back to the streets.

However, 2014 also saw the beginning of another demonstration tradition which is going to be key for this text. In the same year the Lähiöst linnaan demonstration took place, the first fascist 612 torch parade was also gathering. The demonstration was organized by the neo-fascist magazine Sarastus led by Timo Hännikäinen, who’s publishing house Kiuas was kicked out of the Helsinki Bookfair in 2018, the neo-fascist group Suomen Sisu and the neonazi organization Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM). The members of NRM took almost sole responsibility for the safety of the event and according to Esa Holappa, the former leader of the group, NRM also had the initiating role in organizing the march. NRM themselves have recently admitted they were involved in starting the torch march and thus showed that they’ve lied about this for years.

In its first year 612 gathered together between 130 and 150 people. One question that’s been asked many times during the last years is that could an early intervention and opposition to the march in 2014 have had an effect on the ability of far right actors joining their forces so efficiently? Should we have opposed the event with a separate mobilisation or should the existing mobilisations simply have taken it into consideration? The answers to these questions might be hindsight, but it’s clear that the first 612 march created an organizational basis for the far right actors which only became stronger after the events and societal changes in 2015.

Tensions in the streets: what did 2015 mean for antifascists?

The spring of 2015 went by quietly. There were local struggles all over the country and the upcoming elections were a hot topic. The situation reached its climax in May, when the currently governing Sipilä government was formed. Back then the hardline right-wing government was formed by the still intact Finn Party, the conservative National Coalition and the Center Party. The government immediately started an aggressive austerity policy which can be described, rather than “adjustments”, simply as income transfers from the poor to the rich. The first action against this was carried out by students on the initiative of autonomous actors when they hit the streets immediately after the government was formed in May. During the summer, Olli Immonen of Suomen Sisu declared war against open society and for social control, and people gathered as a response to several antiracist “We have a dream” demonstrations (in Helsinki only there was 15 000 participants). In August the Joukkovoima (“Collective Power”) coalition organized a demonstration against the government’s policies and austerity measures. The event brought together around 8000 people to oppose the government and stopped traffic for 15 minutes in a joint action in the middle of the city. Later in the autumn labour unions organized their own #STOP demonstration with 30 000 people after which a group of students occupied the Porthania building of Helsinki University for a week.

In the summer of 2015 anti-austerity protest movement Joukkovoima brought together 8000 people who stopped the traffic by sitting down.

Meanwhile, things were brewing up under the surface. A record number of people seeking asylum arrived in Finland in the autumn of 2015, which also caught the attention of the far right. Previously unseen amount of racist and far right demonstrations were held in the autumn of 2015, asylum centers were attacked and racist movements were being organized. A lot of racists who had been active at the outskirts of all kinds of movements against the government started to organize around the “Close the Borders” movement – out of which later on several tiny sects split, including the since tragicomical Finland First “party”. The demonstrations around the country were held nearly every week.

In Helsinki, several counterdemonstrations were held. People tried different tactics, from making noise to blocking the march routes, sometimes with success and sometimes having to retreat. Also in other parts of Finland, such as Turku, Tampere, Tornio and Jyväskylä people rose up to oppose racist mobilisations with different methods. Eventually the never-ending demonstrations resulted in exhaustion. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember the successes when thinking back to this autumn. Often times, antifascists outnumbered the far right by multiple times and the racists were never able to go unbothered. One of the Close the Borders -demonstrations was successfuly blocked so that it never reached its planned destination but had to settle with an alternative demonstration location at the Helsinki Senate Square, where antifascists also arrived to greet them.

The autumn of 2015 was for many a period that wore them down, as it combined several struggles and brought the laboratory of tactics from the meetings to the street. Many activists who opposed racist gatherings in the city during the weekend spent their weeks organizing action against austerity or being part of the student movement against cuts in education funding. The air was full of tension brought on by demonstrations of thousands of peoples in the city and it was certain that a lot of it would unravel on the Independence Day.

In October 2015 demonstrators successfully stopped a Close the Borders demonstration to the Senate Square by blocking the Snellmaninkatu street, thus preventing the demonstration from getting to its planned destination. Later on antifascists scattered from the blocking spot and gathered at the Helsinki Cathedral to still send their final greetings of the day for the far right demonstration.

On the 6th of December 2015 a demonstration called Vapaus pelissä (“Freedom at stake”) was organized, which opposed specifically the 612 march during the Finland’s Independence Day. The tensions that had been ongoing for a while between antifascists and far right movements started to become visible in police preparations as well as in the media. On the day of the actual demonstration the police had occupied the streets of Töölö district where the demonstrations took place and closed off several intersections and was checking the people in the trams passing by. The belongings of those deemed suspicious enough by the police were raided and several people were turned away. Regardless of this tactic that almost resembled an occupation, the demonstration brought together 300 people near the Taivallahti field. Bus almost full of antifascists had also arrived at the location from city of Tampere. The police had already announced early on that the demonstration would not be let to go anywhere near the march, but the demonstration had already stormed off when the police were announcing warnings from their megaphones. After a long and twistful run the demonstration finally met with the 612 march on the corner of the Mechelininkatu street. After short greetings police decided to intervene by shooting the demonstrators wit a “non-lethal” FN 303 projectile weapon for the first time in Finnish history, hitting one person in the eye. Later the police was also shooting people in the back with projectiles on the Temple Square church when people were leaving Töölö and kettled around 130 people who were all caught. People who participated in the demonstration were fined with completely made-up reasons. In December of 2018 this demonstration still came back to haunt the fascists, as the organizers of 612 suddenly announced they’ve filed a criminal report about the event that took place over three years ago.

Vapaus pelissä brought together 300 people who determinedly tried to stop the 612 march. Despite the darkness, flares light up the way very well.

Vapaus pelissä was the culmination of the tensions of the autumn, which erupted on the Töölö streets to show the far right that it’s not wanted here and people arrived from all over Finland to show them that they are hated more than they could possibly imagine. The 612-march in 2015 was however partly successful for the far right, as it was successful in finding a new support base from the racist demonstrations of the autumn and bring them to the streets as one group. From the very beginning the march attempted to present itself as simply “patriotic” in its own texts and to the media, even though the group behind the march is composed of people ranging from different kind of neofascists to nazis who worship Hitler. This year and especially the Independence Day due to its intensive antifascist tactics left behind tiredness and questions about how could we respond more efficiently to the actions of the police who protect the nazis. However, the discussions of 2015 also gave path to the events of the following three years.

A new year brings new openings

2016 started out very differently from the year before, defined by active reactions to the right-wing developments in Finland both on the streets as well as in the parliament. Different movements had lively discussions about what to do after the active initial stages and what kind of structures we need to set up so that activity can continue. The amount of racist demonstrations declined a bit but they had also focused more tightly around a few different actors. This was also the year that saw the political organization of the asylum seekers kicking off, which would also define the years to come. New and different initiatives were slowly being created.

The far right started to become more visible on the streets as well, trying out new ideas during 2016. Some of these initiatives made them stronger on the streets, while some of them were nothing but a waste of resources, which would later on destroy those whose background was in the racist demonstrations of 2015. It was however very clear that we were not alone in the streets and a considerable amount of discussions from 2016 to this day center around the question: should we develop our ability to react to racist street movements or should we put our resources towards our own projects and initiatives (in practice many have done both while trying to maintain a balance). When we look at the years 2016-2017 it’s clear that lots of resources went into developing the ability to react and while this investment made it easier for us to organize counterevents and to analyze some social developments, it also took away resources from elsewhere and decreased discussions about the mid-to-long and long term plans for the antifascist, feminist and anticapitalist movements.

Things started happening again during the summer and the autumn. People formerly affiliated with Close the Borders -movement started to organize almost-weekly demonstrations in a square called Tallinanukio in Itäkeskus (Eastern Helsinki), trying to disrupt the lives of the people living there while spreading their hateful propaganda. The demonstrations were met again with several counterprotests where several different kind of ideas were implemented. People were shouting and making noise, they were throwing food at the racists. Eventually the far right’s attempt to take over the square was successfully prevented as their demonstrations swindled down in size and the racist mobilizations reduced to nothing. Some of the former Close the Borders actives started to fight amongst themselves, which also seemed to harm their ability to organize large gatherings. Regardless of this, demonstrations were actively held in few cities across Finland, even though their participation numbers had started to collapse.

Finland First organized several demonstrations in Itäkeskus (East Helsinki) in the summer and autumn of 2016. Counterdemonstrations however often gathered nearly double the amount of people and despite police protection, the racists were not able to demonstrate in peace or undisturbed.

In September 2016, a Fortress Europe demonstration was organized in an eastern district of Helsinki, Vuosaari. Behind the demonstration were people familiar from the Close the Borders -movement as well as people inspired by the rise of the European Islamophobic right. The demonstration brought together people from across the far right, who later on went to form a far right coalition called Kansallismielisten liittouma (“The Alliance of Nationalists”) which also attempted to operate as a project for uniting people from across the far right scene. The Nordic Resistance Movement was also supposed to participate in this event, but later on it announced its boycott of the event due to the selected speakers and instead decided to hand out flyers in the Railway Square of Helsinki. Jimi Karttunen who happened to stumble upon this event told the nazis what he thought of them and their misantrophic politics. As a result, long-term NRM active Jesse Eppu Tornianen kicked Karttunen in the chest, resulting in Karttunen hitting his head. Jimi Karttunen died about a week later as a result of injuries he received.

Word of this incident spread like a wildifre and people from different backgrounds and movements started to organize a demonstration against Nazi violence. Hundreds of people gathered in the Railway Square to honour the memory of Jimi Karttunen after the tragic news were heard, decorating the area with flowers, candles and stickers. Eventually a demonstration called Peli Poikki was held in Helsinki which gathered 20 000 people to show that Nazi violence must come to an end, and that we’ve turned a blind eye to it for far too long. Similar demonstrations were organized in other cities as well, with large participation numbers. The strong, antifascist demonstration was enabled by the work of comrades and their incredible ability to organize so big demonstration on such a short notice.

“Peli poikki” demonstration brought together 20 000 people to oppose nazi violence and to pay respect to Jimi Karttunen

During the autumn of 2016 discussions on how to oppose the far right on the Independence Day were started anew. After long discussions, getting something done was hastened by NMR’s announcement to have the first open demonstration in their history on the 6th of December. The demonstration could not be seen as anything but open provocation after the deadly violence they had used earlier. Soon after this the invitation to the first Helsinki Without Nazis demonstration was published, which was organized by the anarchist A-ryhmä, antifascist network Varis and the Left Youth in Helsinki. Very quickly, the demonstration gathered a huge amount of supporters and hype on social media, not only as a result of NRM’s violence but also due the growing racist atmosphere in Finland and people’s willingness to do something about this.

NRM had announced that they would want to march from the district of Hakaniemi to the statue of J.V. Snellman and set up a “national socialist zone” in Helsinki. The embarrasing end to this narrative was partly due to the work of the Helsinki Without Nazis coalition. About 3000 people came to the Railway Square in Helsinki and marched towards the nazi route, ending eventually up to a closed up demonstration area in the Kaisaniemi field. Social pressure and the fear of a conflict forced the police to cut the nazi route in half and redirect them to the opposite side of Kaisaniemi park. Despite their tough talk, the NRM demonstration that had about 150 participants decided not to show themselves on the other side of the field but held their speeches in the dark woods behind the field, eventually walking past the demonstration to Töölö to participate in the torch march. At the end of the night, a Swedish nazi leader Emil Hagberg received also a welcoming message from an antifascist after the police had locked them both up in the same police van. It was however worrisome that NRM was able to gather about as many people in their demonstration as the 612 torch parade only two years before when it started in the year 2014.

Helsinki Without Nazis demonstration gathered 3000 people to oppose Nordic Resistance Movement’s demonstration in its first year. Pictured above is the demonstration on the street Aleksanterinkatu.

In 2016 the provocation by NRM took away the attention from many antifascists and not a lot was done against the 612 march. Some people gathered to the streets of Töölö to shout at the march, but this year turned out to be a success for them, with more participants than ever before (estimates ranging between 700 and 800). The march was still aiming to maintain a narrative of an innocent “patriot” event even though it had Finnish and Swedish neonazis and other openly fascist actors marching in its ranks. This year brought to the surface the need for even broader forms of resistance and communications, so that the situation could be affected and the attempts by the organizers of 612 to legitimize themselves as “apolitical” and “patriots” could be disrupted. The most important achievement by the counter-demonstration was that its participation numbers were the largest out of all the demonstrations that day. Keeping up and growing the amount of people coming to the demonstrations would later on become an important theme to be discussed in these mobilisations, as well as how they can be made more inclusive and encouraging while offering opportunities to oppose the nazis in a concrete manner.

How to broaden the co-operation?

Ateneum Art Museum hung up a painting by street artist EGS as a show of solidarity for asylum seekers keeping a protest camp in the Railway Square in Helsinki.

In February of 2017 in front of the Helsinki Museum of Modern Art Kiasma, Iraqi and Afghan asylum seekers set up a protest camp called Right to Live, opposing the inhumane policies of the Finnish Immigration Office. The protest that was supposed to last only for a few weeks ended up becoming a struggle for a more humane life and asylum seekers rights, lasting for half a year. From the very beginning the camp was covered in the media in a way that centered the disruptions caused by the far right, especially by the so-called “Finnish Maidan” which the sect Finland First organized on the opposite side of the road from the asylum seekers’ camp. Finland First – which eventually became entertainment for the whole country for their surreal livestreams – was not able to break the will of the refugees to fight for their rights. Eventually the demonstration moved to the Railway Square, where it received broad support from different social movements as well as the larger society. For example the Ateneum Art Museum right next to the square took a stance to show solidarity for the camp.

Eventually the police decided to evict the camp for reasons related to its own safety, after having constantly downplayed the level of racist harrasment in the camp. It was nothing but excuses. The only threats present on the square were the members of Finland First, guilty of constant assaults and drunken mayhem, part of which were removed from the square straight to jail on several nights. During the year many demonstrations were also held on the Helsinki-Vantaa international airport, where people were opposing ongoing deportations. During one demonstration, people tried to prevent deportations of several people first at the Helsinki police headquarters and then at the airport, using their bodies to stop the police vans and concretely taking a stand against the deadly immigration policies.

The “Right to Live” concert in the winter of 2017 brought vast masses of people supporting the refugee protest camp on the Railway Square. Nazis had been boasting they would “clean up” the square that day, but the actions by the small group who eventually arrived were nothing but yelling at cops and causing drunken mayhem.

The discussion to ban NRM that had already started out near the end of 2016 went on in 2017. Eventually the Police Administration announced they are filing charges against NRM and demanding its dissolution. However, the legal process that is to this date ongoing, can not be the sole response to stop the society from sliding to the right. We also need active resistance on the streets to show that we do not accept this kind of political activity anywhere.

The anti-NRM demonstrations in Gothenburg were a major inspiration for many in Finland and brought with them discussions about new kind of tactics. Pictured are people participating in the mass demonstration in Heden taking down the riot fences and moving to confront the nazis on the streets.

In September 2017 the Swedish section of NRM decided to organize a demonstration in Gothenburg during the local bookfair, inviting nazis from all across the Nordics to participate as well. The Gothenburg Bookfair had invited a far-right publishing house as well, after which several Finnish and international guests canceled their appearances to the bookfair. NRM had been spreading terror in the Gothenburg area before this, its members committing bombings in, for example, a left-wing book café and an asylum center. The situation at the end of September in Sweden was thus quite heated. An antifascist counter-protest in Gothenburg at the end of September gathered tens of thousands of people to the field of Heden to express their opposition. After the official demonstration, thousands of all kinds of people took down the riot fence the police had put up and hit the city streets to look for nazis who the police had closed off while they tried to storm out of their assigned route. Eventually the antifascists found the demonstration and tried to break the police lines to greet the nazis. An intensive street fight followed between the police and the demonstrators right in front of the doors of the bookfair. This showed both the police and the bookfair that they can’t protect nazis forever. Finnish antifascists also participated in the demonstration. Varis, Tampere Anarchist Union and anarchist group A-ryhmä in Helsinki organized a trip to Gothenburg together with the Autonomous Revolutionary Nordic Alliance. The demonstration in Sweden came back to Finland as new energy and ideas, which people wanted to try out in practice, modified to fit the local situation.

About 800 people gathered in Tampere to oppose NRM in the autumn of 2017. People tried to actively get on the route of the nazis and also tried to disturb it with other means.

In the autumn of 2017 NRM announced they will organize their first ever demonstration in the city of Tampere (less tha 200 kilometers north of Helsinki), where they wanted to take a stand against their banning process. Soon afterwards, the demonstration Koko Tampere vihaa natseja (“Whole Tampere Hates Nazis”) was also announced. Several of its organizers had participated in the victorious antifascist mobilisation in Gothenburg not even a month earlier and were inspired to try a new approach in their own city. People in Tampere were talking about the “Gothenburg model” where antifascist coalitions were trying to create large demonstrations reaching out to the masses while also agitating as many people as possible to participate in blockades and other forms of mass civil disobedience.

The demonstration in Tampere was in its local context large, with approximately 800 people gathering at the central square in Tampere. The demonstration kicked off an hour before NRM’s own demonstration in Laukontori square so that people could oppose the nazis in a more active way, in addition to the symbolic takeover of the central square. After the information about the nazis being on the move spread, in a move that surprised nearly everyone, nearly the entire demonstration with the exception of some dozens of people started to move in order to block the nazi route. People followed the NRM nazis throughout the city, threw bangers and smokes at them and insulted them when they were returning from their demonstration destination. The energy people had found from Gothenburg was unleashed. For the first time ever NRM had also allowed other organizations to have their symbols in their demonstration. This move was clearly an attempt to woo its supporters and build credibility but it mostly meant other nazis like Soldiers of Odin wearing their vests and members of neo-nazi music network Blood & Honour. To look like an even somewhat credible street movement they claim to be, the nazi organization had to attract others to their demonstrations to grow their numbers but wasn’t successful.

Demonstrators trying to block the nazi demonstration in Tampere in 2017. The police prevented the demonstrators from accessing the route by closing off bridges. Demonstrators were throwing smokes and bangers to confuse the police that tried to close the route of the antifascists.

In the autumn, people started to think about the already traditional antifascist response to fascists emerging again on the Independence Day. Helsinki Without Nazis was decided to be organized for the second time, this time aimed against the 612-march. In addition to the torch march NRM had again announced they will march in a demonstration called “Towards Freedom”. This year the national socialist demonstration was not officially organized by NRM but by “Independent Finnish national socialists” and it allowed the symbols of any organization in the event (you can read more of the participants from Finland and abroad from this text). Trying to blur who is behind the demonstration was most likely a practice move and a test in preparation for the upcoming ban.

Like the year before, 3000 people gathered for the antifascist demonstration, making it the largest demonstration of the day. Even though the district court had decided to ban NRM it nevertheless marched in police protection with about 300 people joining its ranks. 612 reached their so far last peak year with about 1400 to 1600 participants. However this was the year when their narrative finally broke down thanks to dedicated media work. From now on it started to become clear to everyone also from outside activist circles who is behind 612.

Helsinki Without Nazis in 2017. The demonstration was again the largest demonstration of the day with about 3000 participants.

After the experience of first year the idea behind Helsinki Without Nazis was developed more for the year 2017. The idea of demonstration which was open to everyone and easy to approach while having a radical message about a free society again brought thousands of people to the streets. A lot was however left to say and do when the demonstration was over. Even though Helsinki Without Nazis has become a large, strong mobilization it also leaves a lot of space for other comrades to act. This potential was not however realised in 2017. It became clear that even though Helsinki Without Nazis was more diverse than before, more co-operation and a broader movement was needed.

The present and the future

Coming back to 2018 it’s clear that we’ve achieved a lot, while a lot remains ahead of us. In the spring of 2018 one could already see that antifascism had come to stay. More diverse crowds than ever started to take stances against nazis and many new people were finding their way to different kind of projects, where they are involved to this day. Very much like in 2016, in parts of Finland people were starting to feel exhausted while in other places, people were finding new energy and a new desire to act. In spite of this, the situation was getting better and different kinds of struggles were becoming more active through the right to asylum, antifascism as well as solidarity shown to Afrin and Rojava. The reactionary development growing in Europe in the last few years and the policies of the right-wing Sipilä government have offered us constantly something to react to In Finland. The start of the year was defined by the trade unions discussing the “activation model” for the unemployed by the government and the massive demonstration the unions organized against it in February.

Later on in the year the struggle by the unions against the government reached their climax in labour struggles, this time because of a new law which tried to make it easier for small businesses to fire people. The law failed. The Joukkovoima (Collective Power) demonstrations that started out in 2015 have continued to this day but their inability to renew themselves have caused their participation numbers to go down. They have become more of a ritual that was repeated as some kind of show of power but it became clear that the movement against austerity was not coming back the way it had started off and time had driven past it for now. It was time to find new forms of action.

The “Voice for the unemployed” demonstration organized by the blue-collar Central Organization of the Finnish Trade Unions gathered 10 000 participants. The actions of the government and the “activation model” made people angry, but no kind of long-term structures existed that could’ve channeled the frustration into actions.

As spring 2018 was turning into summer, certain developments could already be recognized. The remnants of Close the Borders -movement were scattered and the relationship between the tiny groups that had split off from the movement were becoming so hostile that they were entirely unable to act at all, whether in co-operation or mobilizing people. The exile of the editor-in-chief of the racist fake news site MV-magazine Ilja Janitskin had reached comical levels as he was trying to escape deportation back to Finland wherever possible, eventually failing. Demonstration gathered in support of Janitskin in the summer brought together the supporters of this movement in its last effort, led by both Finnish and Swedish nazis from NRM. Regardless of the attempt to create a big spectacle, the demonstration was very modest in size. After this the movement has been practically dead. After Janitskin’s trial their ability to mobilize has been close to zero and not even their own cadre has been interested in their events. What came of all of this was mostly comical attempts to disturb different kind of leftist or antifascist events, sometimes waving lonely Finnish flags, sometimes using toilet paper as arm-bands.

In August 2018 NRM decided to have a demonstration before their case was handled in the Finnish Supreme Court. The demonstration was opposed by the coalition Turku Without Nazis – a coalition name familiar from Helsinki and Tampere – who also organized a demonstration by the same name. Again antifascists were successful in having a locally significant demonstrations, as around one thousand people participated in the demonstration, several times more than in the nazi events of the same day. After NRM demonstration the larger far right coalition “The Alliance of Nationalists” organized demonsration called 188-Kukkavirta (“Flower Stream 188”). This 188-demonstration was held on the shores of river Aura, trying to exploit the memory of a terrorist attack that had taken place in Turku a year before. Members of the Finns Party and nazis were hugging each other during this event, trying to form some kind of co-operation.

The people of Turku however expressed their contempt of the nazis by throwing vegetables at them and booing furiously over their slogans. Different kinds of tactics were witnessed during these demonstrations, trying to disturb the nazis together, sometimes trying to block the march altogether and sometimes using other forms of active disruption. The largest challenge to autonomous street tactics was also witnessed in Turku: the level of police preparation. After 2014 police has spent lots of time to improve their crowd control capabilities and they can dissolve attempts to reach contact with the nazis very quickly. Many familiar ideas from 2015 were used in Turku to confront the nazis and to spread resistance. It’s time to think how we can together develop these tactics to better deal with both the fascist plans and the repression by the police.

Turku Without Nazis brought one thousand people to the streets. During the day all kinds of expressions of emotion and different kind of tactics were witnessed when among other things, people got excited about tossing the nazis with vegetables.

In preparation for the grand mobilization of 2018 Independence Day Varis-network was also touring across Sweden at different radical and anarchist bookfairs to talk about antifascist action in Finland in the past few years. The experiences from Sweden have proven to us that we can act efficiently against nazi marches with the means of mass militancy, as the hatred people have for nazis is eventually much more widespread than we often ourselves might think.

Helsinki Without Nazis in 2018. This year 2000 people arrived to demonstrate.

Helsinki Without Nazis in 2018 gathered about 2000 participants, being again the largest demonstration of the day. NRM organized their own “Towards Freedom” march, choosing for some inexplicable reason to march through the working-class and bohemian district of Kallio to the sports hall and jail in Töölö. A spontaneous demonstration called with one day notice called Kallio ilman natseja (“Kallio district Without Nazis”) brought angry locals on the route to shout at the nazis, who first fought with the police over the swastika flags they had brought and lost their leader to being detained, marched through a hostile territory. The torch parade in 2018 gathered only around 1300 participants, a first significant decline from the earlier years. The event was also a continuation of the co-operation between nazis and the Finns Party, which had grown closer over the last few years. The keynote speaker in the event was Mauri Peltokangas, a Finns Party municipal representative from Kaustinen and the party chairman Jussi Halla-aho also arrived at the demonstration spot to pose with the nazis. Some reasons for this decreased size of the parade could be the exhaustion from the 100th anniversary of Finnish independence the year before, the overall weakening of the far right in 2018, the incredible capability of the demonstration to not show any signs of renewing itself during all these years and the pressure its organizers have faced during the last year. It’s also clear that actions antifascists have organized and large scale mobilizations have had an impact, because the streets have never been left to the far right alone, and we’ve returned time after time with larger numbers than before. The invitation text to this year’s Helsinki Without Nazis demonstration highlighted this and also offered a vision of what kind of world we want to build without nazis.

Nearly 400 people gathered in Kallio to tell the nazis of NRM that their presence is not appreciated and followed them through their entire route all the way to the Sports Hall in Töölö.

During the last few years antifascist resistance in Finland has usually been focused around large mobilizations. Despite difficulties and the large amount of work required this tactic has often also worked. It encouraged people to try to get on the nazi route in Tampere in 2017 and it encouraged people in Helsinki in 2015 to run around the city, chasing the fascists and trying to be more mobile than the police. It encouraged people to follow the nazis through Kallio on the 2018 Independence Day. The huge advantage of these broad mobilizations is that it brings lots of people who think the same way to the same location, at the same time. It’s important in the future as well that we consider how to utilize our common power through these mobilizations. How can we share information to the people about where you should be and what can you do? In addition to encouraging everyone to work with their own methods and ways, we must also offer support and resources in the streets to others, so we can efficiently act as one diverse mass. This can mean offering first aid as well as legal support, but it can also mean spreading information about openings and situations and recognizing various forms of danger we face. We must also think more about how we can offer an opportunity for people to participate in the antifascist movement after these mobilizations, when a lot of people are willing to keep up with the work against Nazism.

We must be able to open a line of communication with the people who don’t come from social movements or are not already politically active, but share our hatred for nazis. In doing so, we can move from just building our own militancy towards a more everyday militancy where nazis are faced as a common problem among colleagues, neighbors and friends. In addition to mobilizations often being our strongest points, it’s important for us to understand that they’re also the weakest point for nazis. The far right’s ability to mobilize is often dependent on individual and shocking events in society and they still don’t have our numbers. NRM’s ban process has weakened their ability to act at all and the decreased numbers in 612 has caused their organizers to panic, which could be seen from the attention-seeking updates they were posting day after the demonstration on Facebook. These events are an opportunity for us to become stronger together and also make the next year even more difficult for the far right. In addition to the Independence Day the year has 364 days and none of them belong to the nazis.

It’s clear that there is a need for big mobilizations. We need a broad front which can offer a way for the people to oppose nazis both together and separately. This means that while for many the large demonstration is a show of force in itself and a shared way of acting, for others it can also mean a gathering point for an entirely different political action. It’s important that with these demonstrations and public calls we’re also there to remind people that we are more, and we can do more. The diversity of actions in year 2018 was a step towards the right direction, and this was shown to us by all of those who arrived to Narinkkatori square ready to march, all of those who followed nazis through Kallio, those who decorated their apartments windows with antifascist messages and glued posters across Helsinki and all of those who stuck around the demonstration route of 612 to shout at its participants. None of this is by itself enough. We’re stronger together and only together we can avoid the stumbling blocks of the past years. Even though we’re yet to do a separate analysis of what went down in 2015-2016 as well as the entirety of the Finnish antifascist movement in the 2010s, it’s important to understand that only by sharing responsibilities and by supporting each other can we avoid fatigue and lack of insight.

So now it’s necessary to thank all of those, who during all these years have been part of antifascist initiatives, demonstrations, discussions and events. The year 2019 will show what forms of action we can build together to face the fascists both in our home streets as well as in the parliament.

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