JP Väisänen at EL Summer University: "The oppressed and some tools of fighting back"

(from the left ) Eva Brenner, experimental theatre, Vienna, Austria, Olga Athaniti, Syriza, Greece and JP Väisänen CPF Finland in European Summer University Cultural Politics work shop about "Culture of the Oppressed


Culture of the Oppressed -

The oppressed and some tools of fighting back

JP (Juha-Pekka) Väisänen opening speech at European Left Summer University 3.-6.7.2013 Porto, Portugal

Culture is much more than elitist art´s scene and difficult conceptual arts. ( That´s what I have training for). Culture is much more than intellectual English debate in ART news, Flash Art or any other bourgeois publication. Culture is much more than Oscar gala in Los Angeles, Goya in Spain or Jussi-Gala in Finland.

Culture is much more than private business, productization of the arts and individual expression. - Yes indeed - Much more that we are used to hear that arts and culture is.

In my opening speech I present four samples of the oppressed; Working class, Saami- and Sahrawi people and the LGTB- international community. In my eyes they are all victims of capitalism and barbarian cultural bullying by egoist and uncivilized Europeans.

After saying few words of each example I present concrete examples that it really is possible to fight back and create a culture of contra hegemony.

Sound of Europe

In 1972, the Council of Europe adopted Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" theme as its anthem. In 1985, it was adopted by EU leaders as the official anthem of the European Union. Such cultural occupation of an innocent peace of art!  Without words, the melody should express the European ideals of freedom, peace and solidarity.

In today's Peace time EU, with increased collaboration with Nato, these classical rhythms of Beethoven talk about high unemployment rates -  especially here in South of Europe.

For young people there is less joy in these European rhythms. EU  has clearly shown its values. Neoliberal politics of the troika government in many countries including my own is responsible of the catastrophic unemployment rates. In some countries the unemployment of the youth has reached  60 % of the working age population. Working class struggle creates sounds of resistance, alternative sounds of Europe and  fights against oppression.

Indigenous rights and rights to independence

Saami-people in the Arctic regions of Europe still don´t have recognition of their full rights for land and culture. Finnish political elite has a hypocrite tradition. Every time forming a new government it says that the ILO 169 convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries will be signed. Still Finland hasn't signed it. Struggle for indigenous rights still going strong - next year 25 years fight against oppression.


Sahrawi-people  remain according to the United Nation one of the world's last remaining major non-self governing territories. Morocco occupies most of the territory as its Southern Provinces, but the legality of this is not internationally recognized by any country. Polisario Front claims right to referendum of independence for the territory as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). On going colonization and oppression since the late 19th century.

Rainbow rights

Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Bi and inter sexual people form part of today´s  sexual revolution, that in the west started in the 60´s. Queer emancipation is about a social movement that challenged traditional codes of behavior. Hate crimes, school bullying, machismo and homophobia at work are the top three issues in LGTB-rights in Europe. Rainbow struggle and oppression since birth of human being.

Tools to fight back

Language as a tool

We Finnish communist say that we have all the time 1. of may celebration and every day is an election day " Aina vaalit ja koko ajan vappu" (sounds better in Finnish) Last time when it really was  the day - 1. of May  - we had Ailu Valle, saami rap singer from Europe's most northern municipality Utsjoki play in Helsinki at the 1. of May stage.
Ailu Valle´s art is a perfect example how the arts are taken as tools in the struggle against oppression. Ailu´s art is done in one of the four indigenous languages in Northern Saami-language (pohjois-saame). Lyrics that talk about visions of society without oppression of the people and nature are in saami-language to reach the saami-youth.

Participation as a tool

Red rainbow is a LGBT-working group of my party. Last weekend we marched through the city of Helsinki carrying a banderol saying "Queer is beautiful". - like the Afro-Americans said black is beautiful in their emancipation campaign in the 60´s.

To be able to be beautiful one needs to have the possibility to leave own step marks in the jungle of the culture of the majority. In that forming of minority cultures  and strengthen their identities for example theater groups,magazines, events and organizations to meet and  network are strongly needed. Culture can´t be bought. A perfect example of hegemonic fight back is Finnish choir Out ´n Loud. It is a male gay-choir that has left notably footprints in the Finnish cultural life and maybe without much of strategical thinkin it has become an excellent symbol of the demand that also minorities have right to own culture.

Attention as a tool

Many Sahrawi- people live in refugee camp-conditions. You would not firstly imagine that an internationally interesting film festival is run yearly at the camp in Algiers. Sahara International Film Festival - Fi Sahara - is an outstanding world class example of cultural tools taken in action against oppression.

Penelope Cruz, Pedro Almodovar, and lately Javier Bardem haveshown solidarity to Sahrawi people. With a movie star world wide fame and glamour these actors have been able to show international light to the Sahrawi cause.

Politics is made when the arts is used as tools against the oppression. 

My art teacher once said that art without soul is only decoration. I like to think that art without politics is so last season.

To end my presentation and to throw the ball to the audience I´d like to ask why is it so difficult to find public funding for the arts in general and especially for the the minorities and projects where art and culture plays a larger role than just decoration and entertainment?