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Leon Trotsky 19100225 The Finnish elections

Leon Trotsky: The Finnish elections

[my own translation of the Russian text in "Pravda" No 10, 25 (12) February 1910, corrections by English native speakers would be extremely welcome]

The brain of the Finnish governor general Zeyn, by his own admission, is faced with the task of a complete return to Bobrikov's times. And specifically: the laws of Finland are trampled underfoot; new taxes are imposed by unspecific regulations, the governor general changes the budget, the Tsar confirms the changes; old, slightly wrinkled Bobrikovist figures, that the whirlwind of 1905 had stripped of their seats, appear around Zeyn one after another; here and there, too, "constitutional" officials and judges resign; the Finnish Senate (Ministry) is replenished with people of Zeyn's politics – "as they command", from time to time there is a rumour of Zeyn's appointment as a deputy to Tolmachev "himself"; all over the country there are searches of arms and iron shops, illegal Brownings and unsuitable bullets are confiscated...

In turn, the Finnish public authorities tried to use the tactics of passive resistance on the issue of the stamp duty, as in Bobrikov's times. But it was precisely this attempt that showed that history does not repeat itself. In Bobrikov's times, the Finnish proletariat was only waking up – the public opinion of the bourgeoisie was cheerful and arrogant. Protesting officials felt an atmosphere of general sympathy and believed in the power of their "legal" fighting methods. But the last five years were not in vain for anyone. The bourgeoisie saw with her own eyes that the parchment shield of Finnish "rights" in a critical moment is too weak a protection against the iron strikes of the Tsarist regime. After the general strike, after the Sveaborg uprising, no addresses, petitions or demonstrative resignations of officials are capable neither of stirring up public opinion nor of striking the imagination of the Tsarist bureaucracy. It did not see such kinds of events. And it is no longer standing alone, as it was before the revolution, but relying on Russia's agricultural and capitalist classes – it defends not only its own, but also their imperialist interests, fighting against the economic and political independence of Finland. Even the shot of a new Shauman would now be little louder than a child's clapper. No, Bobrikov's times have passed forever.

But what remains for the bourgeois parties? The appeal to the power of the masses – Finnish and Russian. But this area is completely hostile: where the masses are, there is Social Democracy. Hence the political skepticism of the Finnish bourgeoisie, distrust to itself, enmity towards the workers, and fear of tsarism - all of this, barely covered by the rotten speeches about the ultimate triumph of "national rights". Today, the thin protest of German and Dutch professors against the policy of Stolypin and Zeyn gives rise to a burst of vigour in the hearts of the Young Finns and Swedes, and tomorrow they are once again seized by hopeless despondency, when the husky barking of a nationalistically-black-hundred bastard responds to foreign interference in our "domestic" robbery affairs...

Under these circumstances, elections to the fourth Seym after the revolution took place. The Finnish proletariat has carried out a new election campaign in the grip of severe unemployment. In the streets of Helsingfors, representatives of the unemployed walked the streets, with their money boxes in their hands. To the dreary ringing of the copper coins the socialist agitation of the party, the embodiment of the future of Finland, took place. In vain, Governor General Zeyn was distributing money to unemployed women, hoping to buy their conscience and their votes. In vain the bourgeois press attacked social democracy from all sides. The workers' party emerged victorious from the struggle once again. While the Swedish and Young-Finnish parties only held their old positions; while the clerical-agrarian Old-Finnish party, ready for any deal with tsarism, lost six seats, the Social Democracy won four new mandates and gathered 40% of all votes cast around its 86 deputies. The Swedish workers, who had gone on to vote for their bourgeoisie in the previous elections, voted for Social Democracy together with the Finnish workers this time. Along with it, only the small farmers' Toilers' Party won four mandates. The new Seym stands before the Tsarist government as an irreconcilable enemy to an even greater extent than the dissolved Seym. The situation has worsened and the outcome has become nearer. And the full weight of the situation falls on the fraternal Social Democratic Party of Finland.

It makes no difference, if the fourth Seym will be immediately overtaken like the three preceding ones, if the Finnish electoral law will be changed. For us it is not necessary to speculate about it now, but to intervene as much as we can in the great struggle that is unfolding before us. To vigilantly watch the Finnish events, to respond to them with proclamations and oral agitation, to open the eyes of the popular masses to their true meaning, to build and strengthen their revolutionary organizations – this is the duty of the advanced Russian workers in relation to their own class – In Finland, as well as in Russia!