Featured image: Students took over the hall of the University of Helsinki. Source: Yle
Students have protested for three weeks against the plans of the government to among others make cuts on the housing benefit. The movement started from the Helsinki university, and spread to many major cities, such as Tampere, Turku, Jyväskylä, Oulu, Lahti, Lappeenranta and Kuopio, and also to high schools, with thousands of students taking part around the country. Method used by students is “occupation” of the schools, which in Finnish tradition means staying on school property at least overnight. Punalippu writes that despite the movement is still moderate, it portrays the development of the spirit of the masses, with the movement gaining unusual width. The students have also successfully resisted attempts to remove them from the university spaces for example in Helsinki, where the university first told the students to leave ahead of a seminar, where the Finnish president would be speaking, but had to let the hundreds of students to stay in the end when they refused to leave.
In Finland, the students can get financial support for studying, which consists of 268 Euros of study grant and 650 Euros of state-backed loan monthly. On top of this, the supplement given for housing costs (around max. 430 EUR monthly) is important for students. Especially the cuts proposed to this supplement acted as a catalyst for the protests, but is not the sole reason. In recent years, different governments have reduced the amount of study benefit and increased the amount of loan, and made other deteriorations against students. At the same time, cost of living has rapidly been increasing. The restrictions made on the pretext of the COVID-pandemic and online-studying have also affected the students negatively.
The movement also shows solidarity with the struggle of the proletariat. Some of the students have taken part in union demonstrations and have expressed their will to support the proletariat in the struggle. At the University of Helsinki protesters also held a banner calling for a general strike. The students also protest against the racism of the reactionary government and for the rights of international students. The reactionary Orpo government has launched an open attack against the working class, and is using racist demagoguery to split the workers. The government is making the conditions of immigrant workers and students worse, for example by proposing that a work-based residential permit will be overturned after three months of unemployment. The government has also proposed to for example make it easier to fire workers, make the first day of sick leave unpaid and to reduce unemployment benefits, among others. Facing the very same enemy the students now joined the workers struggle.