Lecture 8: Radicalism, reformism and revolution

Introduction: Revolutionary situations at the end of the First World War

  1. Sweden: Revolutionary threat 1917; first parliamentary government, Oct. 1917; social democratic minority cabinet, March 1920 (Branting).
  2. Denmark: Industrial unrest, political turmoil. 'Easter crisis' 1920: king dismisses liberal Zahle government. Social democrats form minority cabinet 1924 (Stauning)
  3. Norway: Industrial, political conflict; workers' councils, strikes. Norwegian Labour party joins Comintern 1919 (leaves it in 1923).
  4. Finland: Collapse of tsarist rule March 1917; Finnish independence declared Dec. 1917; civil war between Whites and Reds, January-May 1918; German intervention; reprisals.

Radicalism versus reformism

Within each country but also contrast between Norway/Finland and Sweden/Denmark (see Lecture 5). Focus on the most extreme case, Finland.

What made Finland unique?

Alapuro (State and Revolution in Finland): Scandinavian-type social and economic structure combined with east European-type political status. This influenced:

  1. Development of Finnish nationalism: radicalised in early C20th; impact of 1905 revolution.
  2. Development of Finnish labour movement: late emergence, rapid growth of Social Democratic Party (SDP). Contrasting interpretations: (a) outgrowth of national movement (Haapala 1987) (b) autonomous roots, especially in countryside, but lack of political experience (Kirby 1978, 1989)
  3. Emergence of revolutionary situation in 1917-18:
    1. impact of war on Finnish economy; development of disorder, unrest.
    2. power vacuum after collapse of tsarist regime
    3. opportunity after Bolshevik seizure of power in Petrograd.
  4. Why this developed into a civil war: Lack of political experience (Kirby 1978). Two parallel wars which became intertwined: (a) Civil Guards/Whites against Russian troops - a 'war of liberation' (b) SDP leadership and Red Guards launching revolution - a 'class war'. Developed into a 'civil war' between Whites and Reds (Manninen 1978).