On 19 September 1944, Finland signed an interim peace treaty with the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom which ended her participation in the war on the German side. But although this had been the consequence of military defeat during the summer fighting, it did not involve unconditional surrender: the country was not subjected to military occupation. There had been a change of President and government, but this had been done constitutionally and the continuity of the democratic process had been maintained. Under the treaty an Allied Control Commission (A.C.C.) was established in Finland with broad powers of intervention to secure observance of the terms of the treaty, and although it contained British representatives, it was in fact a Soviet A.C.C.: the chairman was A. Zhdanov, whose rank in the Soviet hierarchy indicates the importance the Russians attached to this body. While there was no military occupation of Finland, Soviet forces were established in an extensive base area at Porkkala, within thirty minutes' driving time of the capital, Helsinki, and the Finnish armed forces were reduced to a peacetime footing. Consequently the country was always open to a swift Soviet military takeover: in addition the treaty bound Finland to pay heavy war reparations, which gave the Soviet Union economic leverage over her. Therefore, while the treaty preserved the formal sovereign independence of Finland, the actual political and military situation reduced the country to something very close to a protectorate.
Against this background the Finnish Communist party--S.K.P.-- began its legal public existence in Finland: it had been illegal since its foundation in 1918 and the anti-communist laws of 1930 and wartime regulations had effectively prevented any considerable activities inside Finalnd. The membership was about 2000, who composed a skeleton, underground party: on the other hand it had been demonstrated repeatedly that, given a chance, a large part of the Finnish working class would choose to follow Communist rather than Socialist leadership. Therefore in spite of the small formal membership of the party, a potential mass support was known to exist.1
The main weakness of the party lay in its leadership, which fell into three groups. The bulk of the leadership in Finland were Communists who, after a period of exile and training in the Soviet Union, had returned to underground work and imprisonment. This group, which included