Political Sociology: A Reader

By S. N. Eisenstadt | Go to book overview

79
The Radical Vote and the Social Context:
Traditional and Emerging Radicalism
Erik A llardt Political radicalism on the left and radical leftist voting are usually interpreted as reflections of discontent and deprivation among the lower classes. It has also been assumed that a large Communist vote in non-socialist countries is an indication of political instability. While these assumptions are reasonable and supportable in many contexts by research findings, it also seems clear that they can be questioned and need to be made specific. Deprivation associated with a radical vote can be of different kinds, and Communism has different implications in different contexts.Finnish data and research findings are useful for dealing with these questions. 1 This paper presents some findings about the social sources of Communist voting strength in Finland, and also contains a discussion of the theoretical implications of the results.Several reasons why Finland provides a good case for testing propositions about the social sources of radical political movements on the Left are:
1. The Communist movement in Finland has had rather heavy mass support. During the period after World War II the Communists have received between 20.0 and 23.5 per cent of the total vote in national elections.
2. The Communists have had strongholds in very diverse social and economic regions. Since World War II the Communist vote has been large in some communities in the industrialized and developed Southern and Western parts of the country as well as in some communities in the more backward, but now developing Northern and Eastern parts of the country.
The working class vote is divided between the Communists and the Social Democrats. During the elections from 1945 to 1962 the Social Democrats and the Communists got about equal shares of the

working class vote but in the most recent elections of March 1966 the Social Democratic vote surpassed the Communist. A total of 80 per cent of those working class voters who actually vote in the elections support either the Social Democrats or the Communists. Accordingly, one can say that class based voting is high in Finland but it should be pointed out that class-based voting in itself is by no means something rare or unusual in the Scandinavian countries. This is clearly seen from Table 79-1 in which voting by social class in Finland and Sweden is compared.

There are some differences in the classifications used, and the table can hardly be used for very detailed comparison. However, if class-based voting is defined either by the proportion of working class voters who vote for a working class party or by the proportion of middle and upper class voters who do not vote for a working class party it is obvious that class-based voting is by no means higher in Finland than in Sweden. The most striking difference, however, is that the Communists are much stronger in Finland than in Sweden, and that the working class voters in Finland are divided between a more radical and less radical alternative.

The assumption that the Communists are more radical than the Social Democrats is, however, in its general form dubious. From all that is known the leadership and the party platforms demand more radical social change among the Communists than the Social Democrats. It is, however, difficult to make the same contention without qualifications when focussing on rank-and-file members and ordinary voters. Survey studies of class identification indicate that the Social Democratic voters classify themselves more often as workers than the Communist voters. A segment of the Communist voters classify themselves as farmers which is a reflection of the fact that the Communists receive a heavy vote from individuals who are both small farmers and

____________________
Printed by permission of Professor Erik Allardt of the University of Helsinki.

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