Finnish People's Delegation

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A 1918 poster announcing the revolution in Finland, part of the Finnish Civil War. The lower-right section contains a law adopted by the People’s Delegation.

The Finnish People's Delegation (Finnish: Suomen kansanvaltuuskunta) was a governmental body, created by a group of members in the Social Democratic Party of Finland (SDP), to serve as the Government of the Reds during the Finnish Civil War. Chairman of the Delegation was former Speaker of the Parliament Kullervo Manner.

The Delegation seized power at the start of the civil war by supplanting Pehr Evind Svinhufvud's first senate and the Parliament, after which it passed laws and enactments aspiring to a controlled social reformation as per the policy of the labor movement. A corporate Workers' General Council also operated alongside the Delegation, although its' role in the Reds' administration remained rather minor. The most ambitious of the Delegation's legislative undertakings was a proposition for a new constitution, which aimed at keeping a Democratic foundation. The act could not be implemented amidst the war and the progress advanced in the complete opposite direction; eventually the Chairman of the Delegation Manner was even declared dictator of Finland. The Delegation faced major difficulties in organizing the administration and the economy, and it could not prevent the terror exercised by the Red Guards.

Soviet Russia was the only nation to recognize the Delegation as Finland's lawful government. At the final stages of the war at the beginning of April 1918, the Delegation moved from Helsinki to Vyborg from where its' members eventually fled to Petrograd.

Formation and immediate actions[edit]

The decision to start an armed revolution was initially made by Red Guards' leadership and by a branch split from SDP's party committee on 23 January 1918 called "Finland's workers' executive committee", whose members represented the most radical wing of the labor movement. On the night of 27 January, the executive committee ordered the Red Guards to arrest members of the senate led by P. E. Svinhufvud, and a host of other leading capitalist politicians, including 33 members of Parliament; however, this failed completely. Red Guards' Supreme military staff postponed the coup by a day because of unfinished preparations, so the senators were informed of the arrest warrant through a prematurely issued public handout, and had time to hide. The assembling of Parliament on 28 January was blocked and a few members that turned up were arrested.

The People's Delegation was established on 28 January 1918 and it set to lead the revolt started on the same morning. The founding of the Delegation was announced on 29 January in the newspaper Työmies in a declaration that also named the delegates, and in which the fundamental objectives of the Red government were briefly explained. The Delegation already on its' first day occupied the Senate House in Helsinki (current Government Palace).

The Red administration's first action was to discontinue all capitalist newspapers, already on 28 January in the capital, and over the next few days in other cities. On 2 February, the Delegation confirmed the "counterrevolutionary" press to be suspended "indefinitely". The suspension even applied to the right wing social democratic Työn Valta and Itä-Suomen Työmies newspapers. After this the only papers allowed to be published were the papers of the Social Democratic Party and the Christian labor movement. The Whites' Senate discontinued all social democratic papers correspondingly. In March the Delegation's Postal and Announcement Department placed preventive censorship on the remaining papers' reporting on the military and foreign affairs.

On 2 February, the Delegation ordered the Red Guards to be maintained by the government, and the Guards were essentially placed under its' authority. In practice the Delegation was later forced to confess that it could barely control the actions of the Guards, and reduced the number of military affairs cases it handled. The relationship between the Red Guards and the Delegation remained problematic throughout the war, as the Delegation regarded the Guards' actions to be arbitrary, and many guardsmen in turn saw the delegates as "parasites" who were estranged from the realities of the battlefront.

The Delegation assembled for a session in Helsinki 89 times in all, and in Vyborg less than ten times. In its' set of decrees it published 45 statutes in all, and favoured concised and scant language. Most of the Delegation's time went into producing new legislation. It has been estimated that about two thirds of its' written laws were reactions to acute administerial issues, and the rest aimed at ideological goals or increasing support. Particularly the laws passed on ideological grounds were modeled after the legislation produced by the Paris Commune of 1871 and also the Russian Bolshevik Revolution, but mostly after Finland's labor movement's previous programmes. The laws passed by the Delegation were announced in the newspaper Suomen Kansanvaltuuskunnan Tiedonantoja.

Finnish People's Delegation members[edit]

The delegation members were given similar roles as ministers in a government:[1]

Seats on the Supreme Workers' Council were allocated by the People's Delegation as follows:

Constitutional proposal[edit]

The People's Delegation drew up a new Constitution,[2] taking influences from the American and Swiss Constitution and ideas from the French Revolution. A referendum on the proposal was planned.

End of People's Delegation[edit]

After the Civil War the members of the People's Delegation fled to Soviet Russia and abroad. The proposed Constitution was forgotten.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The revolutionary government of Finland.". histdoc. Retrieved 28 December 2016. 
  2. ^ "Ehdotus Suomen valtiosäännöksi". hlstdoc (in Finnish). 23 February 1918. Retrieved 28 December 2016.