The Finnish Social Democratic Party (SDP) has just lost the parliamentary elections.
It received its worst result in the party’s history, a mere 16.5 % of votes cast. The equally poor showing of the Left Alliance (7.1 %), a party left from SDP, is hardly a consolation.
The political left has never been as weak as this in the political history of modern Finland. The winner of the elections, the Centre Party, has alone more seats in parliament than the left combined.
The ultimate irony is that the roots of the Centre Party, a successor party of a progressive, social reformist Agrarian League, are in a Finland, that as a society does not even exist any more.
While the rural Finland of the Agrarian League ceased to exist long ago, the political party remains, and will form the next government. Its successful transformation begun already in the 1960s, when Finns moved away from the countryside into towns.
Not only did the Finns start to work in new professions, they also began to think differently. The Centre Party was quick to adapt to the new circumstances, and with the help of its older traditions of social progressivism to embrace and attract also the new, post-1960s urbanite liberals.
While the SDP right now, a week after its historic defeat at the polls, seems to be sliding towards an internal tug of war (to put it mildly), the Centre Party should be its inspiration and role model.
If a party rooted in a society that no longer exists can win an election hands down, this should be good news for the party strategists of the left. If Finland’s agrarian society is long gone, so is the industrial Finland where SDP for more than a century so successfully garnered its electoral support.
Alas, this does not appear to be the party leadership’s conclusion. They hark back to SDP’s roots. That is, into a time and space, that is no more, and never will be. And what remains, is slowly, but irrevocably vanishing.
Finland’s political left should be able to remake itself just as its more successful competitor has done. To mould itself to changing societal circumstances and address the needs of the people who live in these circumstances.
Some of the younger generation in the left have grasped it, but they are still far away from power. And not many of them are heavy-built men with backgrounds in the industrial trades.
Neither will their future voters be. That is why they, while keeping to the left, should look at the centre.