Chairperson of Communist Youth of Finland, Jiri Mäntysalo, participated to the European Left's and transform! europe's Summer Seminar 'Hopes for a post-pandemic world' on 3rd July 2021. In the Seminar was heard speeches from many European youth organizations.
"To the post-pandemic world of solidarity and enpowering activism
First of all thank you for this opportunity to speak today in this EL Summer Seminar. I see it very positive that though we are still in this global pandemic and do not have very much possibility to see and meet physically, so we can use these digital platforms and keep on debating and focusing on important questions European-wide and internationally.
As it is said in this event's description; the Covid-19 pandemic has shaken the world. And we have seen that just like in any political issue, there is plenty of ways how to respond or not respond to this crisis. The way to respond to coronacrisis is also political question, though many figures, politicians have said that coronacrisis should not be politicized. I've grown with the large idea of politics – that everything you do, every chance you take, does have impact on other things and it has political meaning. So I'd say that even coronacrisis and its treatment is question of politics.
Impacts of Covid-19 pandemic are visible for a long time ahead and the length depends how each country and administration has treated pandemic. If there's an administration that was in the very beginning of Covid-19 ready to take bold steps to stop virus and its spreading and administration that has done the required decions for the health of people, so most probably those countries and regions will survive better on other impacts of pandemic, social and economical, too.
Finnish experiences from the youth field
Question of providing tools for activism in the post-pandemic world is essential. Civil society as whole, in large scale, does have impact on crisis and the crisis does have impact to civil society.
Many administrations have cared about the companies and private business and how they are doing during this pandemic but many civil societies and non-profit organizations have been forced to face the reality of new conditions because of Covid-19. My question is that how many administrations have been really interested how it's going on the field of organizations and civil society. And even better question is that what has been done for the field of organizations and civil society.
I am the Chairperson of Communist Youth of Finland, which is the youth organization of Communist Party of Finland. I can say few words how the Finnish government, led by Social Democrats and Prime Minister Sanna Marin, has treated Finnish youth field during this coronacrisis.
In Finland we have the totally different way to finance youth field by public funds that other sectors of society don't have. Youth organizations are supported with the profits of Finnish gaming company called Veikkaus.
As you guess, so the profits of this gaming company have been lowered because of Covid-19 – the game halls and gaming machines have been closed due to the virus. Off course the youth field has been worried that these lowered profits of Veikkaus mean cuts to the support of organizations too.
For a long time before corona, Finnish youth field has campaigned and demanded that this unwanted tie between gaming company and youth field must end and public funding for organizations must be provided from the genaral budget of state. Because, first of all, there is no logical reason why youth field's funding have to come from the profits of gaming company. And secondly, we see the real moral problem in this system. When the people play games and lose money, so that money will go to youth organizations, among others. Especially, when we have over 100 000 people in Finland facing the gaming problems that will cause many other problems to everyday life, so it is the real contradiction.
But – for now when this funding system is what it is so we were worried in the youth field about the cuts that were possible. We protested against those cuts. In April this year government decided to compensate the lowered gaming company profits but in total the youth field faced cuts of 5 million euros - the cut was not so big what we expected but it's still a lot of money. That money is all gone from the actions of youth field.
When we look the government's and institutions' actions so I can not say that the civil society in general has got much help. But off course the whole action field has changed for civil society. Few things are like they used to be and much has happened. Nearly all campaigning and work has moved to online until it's possible to meet people again on the streets.
New age of digitality
I think it's reasonable to see also some good impacts of this pandemic. And I think that this kind of situations when several things are not like they used to be – it's a brand new opportunity to rethink own work and working methods – what can I do to improve them to even better.
When we look the forms of activism, there has been taken huge steps forward what it comes to the digital platforms, social media and online campaigning.
We in Communist Youth of Finland were also in front of new times when it became clear that it's not possible to organize physical event – we had to take a pause from it for a while. But nearly right after that, one comrade proposed what if we start organizing stream broadcast on political themes on Facebook. And that was the starting point on our journey to use digital platforms for political work. First, we didn't have very much knowledge about streaming and virtual event but with this concrete work and learning more and more, we managed to organize several virtual events, mostly on Zoom and Facebook Live, that gathered in total likely more people to listen and participate than it would be possible physically.
In the beginning of new age, when we held our first virtual events, there was surprisingly many people online. After like one and a half year of these digital times – it's much more difficult to active people to attend event online and debate if there's chance for it – I see it like that. Some of us have become tired with all online meetings and webinars so it might feel that there's is no much more to give. I understand that kind of feeling very well. We have to find a balance for our activism and attendings to feel better. I am waiting very much the golden time – or should I say the red time - of hybrid event; that there is a possibility to attend physically and also online.
Though we might feel ourselves tired at same point, I think strongly that every leftist worker, activist, politician, expert should admit the role of digital platforms, social media and online campaigning as the real part of the political work. I want to encourage every leftist to get into and start using social media if you still haven't done it. We have to always remember that everyone should find and take their own place in politics and activism but on social media the focus is what the masses do – and that's why we need to be there with masses.
Just like it is with physical political work – when everyone does something little so together as a collective we make results. And when everyone does even a little on social media, so we gain more and more audience to our message and enpower oppressed people and people in solidarity to join our struggles. It is also true that every oppressed comrade is not on social media so we will always need physical political work too. Whenever it's possible due this health situation – so we have to be there on the streets meeting people and giving them alternatives and views on changing this world, changing this system. But important is to think that physical and digital political work will not close each other out – both are needed and both need always new comrades.
I mentioned the enpowering earlier. Personally I think that this word: enpowering, has some many important meanings when it comes to the future of politics – leftist politics – and activism. This coronacrisis has deepened injustices, invisibility and the political apathia. Many workers do not see reasons to be interested about politics or even show solidarity when there is need to it. Off course this is reason of long-term negative progress that has started in many countries, like in Finland, from neoliberal right-wing economy and social politics, the market-driven way to implement politics but now I have started to feel that it's not enough that left parties and candidates are visible during campaigns – that working people does not care although they have choises to protect their own rights.
We need enpowering. We have to save working people, our comrades, from this political apathia. With this mission it is a big help if we have concrete political programs and upcoming events where to invite people and find their own places in this struggle. That's why all physical and digital ways to campaign will be needed.
And it's not just enpowering others who belong to the working class. We need to enpower ourselves too and inspirate ourselves to learn and search more. Learning has always been the key way to drive this movement forward. Let's enpower comrades organize versatile political actions. Let's enpower comrades to join social media and at least like pages and posts, share content and message about 'In whose troops are you standing'.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak you today!