The municipal elections saw an interesting shift in Finnish politics: essentially, all the old parties and the far-right True (or Rudimentary) Finns lost ground to a significant degree. Municipal elections, of course, don’t directly reflect the national level of politics but they do serve as a distant mirror for them. Dissatisfaction in the right-wing cabinet of the utter failure at a political career which is Juha Sipilä, is clearly visible, as is the blind hate for the True Finns who sold out their voters far worse than any party in recent history has done.
The major winner was the Green Party, raising their support from 8.55% percent in 2012 to 12.5% and the number of Green council members rose from 323 to 534. Considering that local level politics often do not represent national interests, it’s still a rather stunning victory and one where for the first time the Greens became a major municipal player outside Helsinki.
We can analyze the reasons for this if we want to, but it should suffice to say that for the most part, failure of the government parties and the Social Democrats, who are severely struggling to remain relevant, is a major factor, but another major factor is that Ville Niinistö has taken the party a step towards the left and framing the party as a defender of education and welfare, when the cabinet has been cutting both. A smart move, since the cabinet is very unpopular and will remain so, when austerity keeps strangling the working class and the lower middle class. Of course the party still remains, fundamentally, a capitalist party since it does not have a vision outside the market economy.
What is maybe the most fascinating thing is that the neoliberal faction inside the Green Party is in a state of something that can be called full-blown panic. Panic of an ideological nature, since the neoliberals inside the party have always held to the line that going left is unpopular by nature and will drive away voters. Former Party leader, Osmo Soininvaara, has been blogging about how there should be a left-wing bourgeois liberal party in response for the former party secretary of the Social Democrats not getting a council seat. I wrote about that particular thing in Finnish earlier on, but suffice to say, Soininvaara has a rather firm belief in that his technocratic neoliberal ideas are the only valid ones, and there’s a problem with the nature of reality if these remain fringe thought.
To quote Slavoj Žižek quoting Frederic Jameson, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. Likewise, the failure of neoliberal politics in raising support for the Green Party has left the neoliberals in a state of ideological crisis. “The voters will not support left-leaning politics” is an article of faith for the neoliberal Greens, and one that has served as a major instrument of justification in taking the party towards the right earlier. However, it’s worth noting that this rather unprecedented level of success was only reached when chairman Niinistö decided to step back from neoliberalism, proving that his predecessor Soininvaara was on a fundamental level wrong.
The ideals of startup cultishness, internationalism (for first world citizens only, of course), an uncritical attitude towards the European Union, workfare, social benefits cuts and so on, that Soininvaara represents do not really resonate among the majority of the electorate. Especially not in a country where a million people live below the poverty line. These people do not have the means to improve their lives in a neoliberal technocratic state but they do have it in a welfare state. Even if people cannot always formulate their position, they do tend to know that social benefits and free education are good things.
Which of course is an ideological crisis that the neoliberal Greens simply cannot deal with, since they do not have the language or the tools to deconstruct what they even are. The neoliberal Green position is fundamentally untenable and unstable when faced with outside pressure. In this case, success of other than neoliberal politics is a severe threat since it discredits their world view. That position is one that is only viable when the status quo of the nineties supported it, and now that there exists an economic crisis that seems more or less permanent, the position cannot be defended any longer.
So, what is left for the neoliberal right and especially the neoliberal Greens? Increased marginalization if the more left-leaning Greens maintain control of the party, and should the neoliberals put back in charge of the party, the party will fail.