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In 1913 Wälläri left Finland to become seaman. In 1916, he settled in the United States and joined the Industrial Workers of the World. Because of his political activities, Wälläri was deported back to Finland in 1920. Wälläri became active in the underground Communist Party of Finland (SKP) and the public Socialist Workers' Party of Finland (SSTP). Wälläri was chairman of SSTP in 1922–1923 and he was jailed at the Tammisaari prison camp when the party was disbanded. In the late 1920s Wälläri became frustrated with communists. This eventually led to a split in 1929. Wälläri was one of the main organisers behind the short-lived Left Group of Finnish Workers.
Wälläri joined the Social Democratic Party of Finland in 1935. Social Democratic Association of Transport Workers was his stronghold. During the Second World War Soviet Union radioed anti-Wälläri propaganda.
After the war Wälläri left SDP and joined the Finnish People's Democratic League and the Socialist Unity Party. He became famous as the leader of the seamen's trade union, when he constantly threatened the economy with strikes in order to gain benefits for the union.
- Wälläri, Niilo in Biografiskt lexikon för Finland (in Swedish).
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