An Outside View: Is Finland in line for a Fascist prime minister?
2018-09-01 16:25:01 -


By Panu Höglund


When Timo Soini left the chairmanship of the Finns Party, Jussi Halla-aho became the new leader. Halla-aho is one of the most ill-reputed characters in Finnish political life, as he has done more than anyone else to mainstream racism in our country.

When Soini was in charge of the party, he had many conflicts with Halla-aho, being an old-school populist with the appearance of having some kind of understanding of the country’s particular interest and of that of poor people.

Halla-aho, on the other hand, could not care less of either. Basically, his only ideology is the kind of racism you’d hear from the ‘alt-right’ of the United States, and he has even little understanding for traditional Finnish right-wing radicalism, as he is not at all interested in any kind of Finnish culture. Typically enough, he has not even served in the army – a symbol of the difference between him and the old hands of the extreme right (20 years ago, no conscientious objector could have any kind of status in those circles).

It seems, though, that Halla-aho is not able to really control his troops. He might prefer modern racism to old-fashioned populism, but he’d also prefer to become the prime minister of Finland someday. To accomplish this, he needs to keep the most rabid racists out of the party. And that’s the problem.

In the good old days, Halla-aho was the new god of the extreme right, as he is a learned man with a PhD in Slavic languages. He was very much at variance with the traditional image of neo-fascists, who used to be associated with skinheads and petty delinquents. Many of the middle-class people who preferred to vote conservative might have neo-Nazi sympathies but were too snobbish to give support to the ideology of street urchins and lumpenproletarians. When Halla-aho turned up, they finally had a right-wing radical they could vote for.

Halla-aho is in some trouble, however, when he is stating that he isn’t the same as those delinquents. Ideologically there is no difference between him and racist skinheads. In the old days, he was the only Finnish blogger who was able to express racist ideas in an academic-sounding way, and that was what distinguished him from skinheads.

Since then, things have changed. Finnish Neo-Nazis aren’t common juvenile delinquents any more. Now even they are trying to express themselves in a literary way and to appear as intellectuals. And so they feel tempted to ask themselves the question: why should they stay loyal to Halla-aho?

Neo-Nazi racism is such a radical ideology that it isn’t acceptable in any state where there is a democratic constitution. It is so radically at variance with democracy that it is impossible to create a moderate kind of racism. And with racism being the only idea Halla-aho has for his political party, he can’t give it up. On the other hand, if he clings to racism, the skinheads won’t be happy to give him his due as they used to. They have no reason anymore to see him as their leader.


Panu Höglund is a Finn who writes in Irish.

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