MEMOIRS (38)

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2001

Finn Forum VI — Jyväskylä

My prime activity for the year 2001 was attending the academic conference Finn Forum at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland from June 13 to 16. Chaired by Dr. Olavi Koivukangas. Director of the Migration Institute in Turku, the conference drew 27 academics from Finland, United States, Canada. and Australia to lecture on the theme: ‘Entering Multiculturalism: Finnish Experience Abroad.” Subjects included the Finnish emigre experience in the 1930s Soviet Karelia, Finnish migrant women, gender expressions of ethnicity of Finnish-Americans, Finnish-American cranberry farming on Cape Cod, a documentary film about the Finnish cooperative community of Sointula, BC, Finns in Australia, and the story of a Finnish-American Russian spy. I had attended Finn Forum II in Toronto on 1979, also a profound learning experience on my own Finnish roots.
 

Kaarlo R. Tuomi, Finnish-American Russian Spy

Kaarlo Tuomi

Michael G. Karni, PhD

Focus of this essay is the story of Kaarlo R. Tuomi, a Finnish-American Russian spy and Cold War double agent, a lecture given by the late Michael G. Karni, PhD (1941–2002) at Jyväskylä. Mike was an old friend, a free lance Finnish-American scholar I had heard lecture on a variety of subjects beginning with Finn Forum II in Toronto in 1979. Frequently, his FinnFest topics were about the history of the Finnish-American cooperative movement. He was editor of the magazine Finnish-Americana and founder of the Sampo Publishing Company, publisher of English language books on Finnish-American history and culture. I had appeared with Mike on a panel at the 2000 Finn GrandFest in Toronto on “Karelian Fever: The Survivors,” along with Dr. Alexis Pogorelskin and Rudy Pinola, moderated by Anita Hokkanen Middleton, who had produced a documentary film, “The Suvivors: North American Finns in Stalin’s Russia.” Unfortunately, Mike died prematurely at age 60 in 2002.

Kaarlo R. Tuomi, was born on Nov. 30, 1916, to a leftist Finnish immigrant family in Rock, on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. While still a high school student in Rock at the height of the great Depression in 1933, his embittered unemployed stepfather Robert Saastamoinen, a Communist Party member, decided to move his family to Soviet Karelia whose recruiters promised plenty of work and a good life. With his American education ended, Kaarlo found work in the forests of Uhtua in Karelia where in a couple of years he became a journeyman lumberjack. Being in a remote place like Uhtua and his young age. Kaarlo escaped the Stalinist purges of hundreds of his older North American Finnish comrades in Karelia in 1937–38. In 1940, he was drafted into the Red Army and fought on the Finnish front during the Continuation War from 1941–44. After his discharge he went to school on a Soviet sort of GI Bill, and he became an English language teacher. During that period Tuomi married a Russian woman who bore him three children. But by the mid-1950s, the Soviet system had other plans for him. Because of his command of American English from the land of his birth and still the holder of a US passport, he was a prime target to be trained as a spy for the KGB to be groomed to work in America. After some pressure and as still a loyal Communist, he agreed to the proposition.

So for the next three years Tuomi was schooled in the arts and crafts of becoming a KGB spy. He learned to process and plant microfilm messages, an essential tool. But most importantly he had to be convincing as a genuine lifelong Finnish-American, besides being further indoctrinated in Russian politics and Communist ideology to reinforce his loyalty to the Soviet Union. He was sent several times to Finland to develop his image as a genuine Finnish-American businessman all the way to dress and grooming. This Americanization of Kaarlo was further enhanced by trips to other Western European capitals. All this time he was being paid enough to support his family and was even rewarded with a new washing machine.

Finally. the KGB dispatched Tuomi for assignment in the United States in 1959. But shortly after his arrival, he was arrested in Superior, WI by the FBI and taken to a lakeside cabin for questioning. They appeared to know the smallest details about his life both in the United States and Soviet Union, undoubtedly established by US secret agents. After five days of intense interrogation, Tuomi admitted to being a KGB agent. They made a proposition to him, either go to work for the United States as a double agent or spend the next 35 years in Federal prison. With no inspiration for martyrdom, he chose the former course. He service to the FBI centered on providing information on the United States doctored by the Feds to be deposited at regular intervals in a cannister in a secret hiding place in New York for Russian agents to pick up. The information provided by the FBI was accurate enough but was of little importance to benefit the Soviets, From the canisters Tuomi also got money to support himself although he worked as a bookkeeper at Tiffany’s Jewelry in NY. Meantime, he had fallen in love with a Finnish-American widow from Cook, MN living in NY. So the FBI financed a trip for him to Mexico to divorce his Russian wife to marry her.

This charade kept up until 1962, when after the Cuban missile crisis, the Soviets ordered all its foreign agents to return to Russia. Tuomi had a panic attack and asked the FBI for asylum as he was unsure what his Russian bosses knew about him. The Feds offered him a new identity and job as his career as a double agent was over. But he preferred to keep his old name and contact with the Finnish-American community of his birth. So at that point since the KGB did not hear further from him he was considered a “non-person” in his homeland of 25 years. He then moved to Cook, MN with his new bride to live a quiet life of anonymity. But that was not to be. In 1970 Readers’ Digest wrote a two-part article on Tuomi’s double life as a spy. So with all this unsolicited publicity, he made the most of it by arranging a national speaking tour at hundreds of public meetings to cash in on his notoriety. Now the USSR could brand him as an “enemy of the state.” He even wrote an unpublished manuscript of this aspect of his life for which he sought ghostwriters. He fired two of them and was turned down for that chore by a prolific author of critical texts on Communism, Dr. John E. Haynes. Finally in 1984, Werner Söderström Publishers of Finland published a Finnish language book on his political life with the English title of “The Story of a Man Without a Country: The Memoirs of a Finnish-American Spy.” A paperback account appeared in 2114: “Spy Lost, Caught Between the KGB and FBI,” with an introduction by John Earl Haynes. A spy is not the most popular or enviable figure in political life, particularly a double agent. It ends up frequently in chaotic and bizarre personality traits for such parties involved. This was true of Kaarlo Tuomi, truly a man without a country who really belonged nowhere. Dr. Haynes, who knew him well, talked of his anger, rage, and paranoia and mood swings of a conflicted personality. I only met him twice to talk to him, at the second Hancock FinnFest in 1985 and at the Florida FinnFest of 1991, and didn’t feel comfortable around him. Probably Mike Karni who wrote and lectured about him may have felt differently. The late Reino Hannula, publisher of Finn Heritage magazine, saw him as a genuine patriot for asserting his loyalty to the United States after abandoning his earlier commitment to the closed society of the USSR. I saw him as something of a tormented personality who did not come across as a happy camper to me. His emotional scars always seemed to remain livid. Kaarlo R. Tuomi died at 78 in Lake Worth, Florida in 1995.
 

Nine-Eleven Terrorism

The Twin Towers and the Pentagon

Osama bin Laden

I had just returned home from my 2001 summer in Finland in early September when a few days later my Strawberry Creek Lodge neighbor Al Benson alarmed me about the three hijacked planes which had struck the twin towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan and the Pentagon culminating in the deaths of the 19 hijackers as well as nearly 3000 innocent people including cops and firefighters. Everybody now knows that the mastermind for the horror was Al Qaeda jihadist Osama Bin Laden, son of a billionaire Saudi Arabian family, and a member of the fanatical Wahhabi cult of Muslimism that hated the West as the great Satan whose people deserved to die. There once was a prominent Marxist movement of Arab Socialism which rationally analyzed the imperialist motives of Western capitalism to control and profit from the vast oil resources of the Middle East. But this movement had faded into obscurity, replaced by a holy war of Muslim fanatics out to destroy the Infidels and their Satanic evils. Bin Laden had been given sanctuary in Afghanistan by its fundamentalist Taliban rulers who were now unwilling to be the fall guy for him any longer. The Taliban lost Kabul and other cities swiftly to US troops and their Afghan allies and retreated to their Southern strongholds. Bin Laden’s last refuge in the country was in the rugged mountains around Tora Tora in the East but the American troops chasing him were refused the additional reinforcements needed to nail him, so he and his remaining retinue were able to slip across the Pakistan border into sanctuary for a decade. On May 1, 2011, a team of US Navy Seals were secretly flown to his Pakistan hideout at night and killed him.

2002

George W. Bush Blames 9-11 on Iraq

Saddam Hussein

President George W. Bush considered 9-11 as a conspiracy hatched up between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden and he and his neo-con advisers, VP Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz thought it more important to finish the job in Iraq his father had failed to do, leaving Saddam with a more limited power after the Gulf War. The stakes were much bigger than Bin Laden since control of the oil resources of the region were a priority. So a war to effectuate regime change in Iraq received top billing and all of 2002 was spent in preparing for war once the leading capitalist powers of the West were sufficiently consolidated to make the war a success.

Defense Secretary Madeleine Albright

Not that the Bill Clinton administration preceding W’s didn’t do its part to effect regime change in Iraq. He never removed the Gulf War sanctions against the Saddam regime and though there were no boots on the ground, intensive bombing of the country by the US continued and because of the economic sanctions, over a half million Iraqi children died of malnutrition and disease. When Salon magazine questioned his Defense Secretary Madeleine Albright whether a half-million children’s deaths were worth the price, she coolly responded they were worth it. Albright also supported the argument there were “weapons of mass destruction” in Saddam’s possession. Any trace of such armament was gone since the 1990s, although it became the Big Lie perpetuated by the younger Bush’s regime to start Gulf War II. So like the old baseball combination play of Tinkers to Evers to Chance, it was now Bush to Clinton to Bush in a much more lethal game.


CONTINUE NEXT COLUMN

Bush made his case to the UN Security Council for support but the veto power of Russia and China precluded that option. Prez W. commenced to develop his “Coalition of the Willing” to make possible an international force to pursue the combat phase. Some 48 countries became Coalition signatories although only three made a significant contribution to the combat itself: USA, UK, and Australia. Some sarcastic comments were heard over the name of the Coalition itself. Columnist Laura McClure of Salon called it the “Coalition of the Billing,” British activist Tariq Ali called it “Coalition of the Shilling,” and conservative Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of Virginia called it “COW” with the US being “milked like a cash cow.”
 

HUGE ANTIWAR MOVEMENT DEVELOPS

As Bush’s war buildup grew to attack Iraq all during 2002 it became obvious that such a development was not a question of “if” but “when.” The global antiwar movement which played a major role in bringing an end to the Vietnam War in the 1970s, was no less prominent in building a massive resistance against the commencement of this one. Huge demonstrations numbering millions took place throughout the latter part of 2002 and in 2003 in many parts of the world to match the military buildup by the so-called “Coalition of the Willing.”

2003

Antiwar Protests in London, San Francisco and Montreal

Globally, the largest of these rallies was when one million people gathered at a rally in London’s Hyde Park on Feb. 15, 2003. Demos numbering 100,000 or more were seen in many cities in Europe and the United States, with smaller ones even to the village level throughout the world. I recall being part of a march in San Francisco numbering upwards of 50,000 early that year. The parade here was led by the trade union contingent from the waterfront up Market Street to the Civic Center. I was in the front row of the march in the center holding the banner of the Alameda County Central Labor Council as a WWII veteran, flanked by two husky Vietnam vets marching on either side of me. It was clear to us that the majority of the American people were against military engagement with Iraq with hundreds of thousands on the streets throughout the country sending a powerful message to Bush of NO WAR! When the media pointed all of this out to the President, he simply dismissed them as the work of “special interest groups.”
 

Bush Attacks!

W Bush-in-Iraq-photo op

On March 19, 2003. the dogs of war were unleashed against Iraq by Bush and his UK and Aussie allies. The military phase ended very quickly as their troops toppled the Saddam regime, not for Iraqi’s “freedom,” but to secure the control of its oil for the unimpeded profits of world capital, as historian Kevin Phillips points out in the 2006 paperback edition of his book “American Theocracy.” According to Phillips, Bush expected the oil wells of Iraq to almost immediately pump unlimited amounts of the black gold for the free flow of profit for Western capitalist coffers. He was wrong as continuous insurgent rebellion and sabotage diminished instead of freed the flow of oil for years. It was no loss to capture the tyrannical Saddam Hussein from a hole in the earth and condemned to death and executed by a corrupt puppet government that succeeded his rule. He had plenty of blood on his own hands. (Phillips also indicated that Bush had another reason beside the oil to invade Iraq. A devout evangelistic Christian, Bush at times intimated he had been chosen by God to “liberate” Iraq from its unholy bondage, which he would publicly deny.) Iraq is hardly a liberated country to this day. It’s had its share of corrupt governments and civil war, whether Shiite or Sunni. US imperialist intervention has made things worse than better there. At this writing in early 2017, another desert civil war is going on between an always corrupt central government, armed and advised by the USA, and another fanatically religious group called Isis which uses beheadings as a device for conformity, including those of some Westerners. The only area of Iraq that appears to have a stable civil society is the Kurdish north. In addition, Syria is in the mire of war now as well.
 

Conclusion of 2003

SUMMER IN KALLIO

The Summer of 2003 saw me living in the traditional old working class district of Kallio in Helsinki. Usually when I lived in Finland during the summer months I stayed in the likewise cosmopolitan city of Tampere, two hours north by train from the capital. But this summer my old retired psychiatrist friend Paula Erkkila from the Guerneville, CA environs rented a large partially furnished one-bedroom flat in Kallio and invited me to spend the summer with her and kick in for part of her rent. Paula occupied the bedroom and I a couch in the living room, since we weren’t lovers. The arrangement worked very well as we both had our own daily agendas. We both did our own cooking or ate out. Breakfasts were at home, lunches out, and dinners both ways. I often ate lunches at the Helsinki University or downtown cafeterias. Usually I did calisthenics and yoga first thing in the morning before breakfast. Then off to the Kallio branch public library to read newspapers and use the computer. Then I either walked, bicycled, or bussed downtown where I’d hang out in the main library, bookstores and parks or rendezvous with friends. The headquarters of the Finnish Free Thinkers’ organization was a hangout as well as the anarchist bookstore where I’d meet comrades. Weekends I’d see my Helsinki cousins or old friends like my old Finnish-American comrade Bill Hellberg and his wife Arja. Bill spent his time translating Helsinki University Finnish language textbooks into English as a living then.

I traveled around Finland to see my cousins in Oulu and Kemijärvi. Frequently I’d go to cities all over the country to see track and field meets called the Elite Games (Eliitti Kisat) where the country’s top athletes would compete. I attended the National Championships on seven different seasons called Kaleva Games (Kalevan Kisat), the highlight of my Finnish summers.
 

FORSSA LEFT ALLIANCE PARTY CONVENTION

The Social Democratic Party of Finland was founded in Forssa, Finland in 1903, strongly influenced by the German Marxism of Karl Kautsky and August Bebel. Its history from the beginning with its rapid growth was based on pragmatic reforms popular with the Finnish working class. Nationalization of basic industry stayed mostly on the theoretical drawing board for some time in the far future which never seemed to arrive. (An outstanding example of public ownership, however, is the State Railway System (Valtion Rautatie)). So 2003 marked the 100th anniversary of the SDP. But in that 100 years there were several political splits in the political labor movement. Today the SDP is still the largest party, has led the government several times and adopted the market economy as a given under the more recent leadership of Paavo Lipponen, a former Prime Minister. The Left Alliance Party is a few steps to the left of the SDP and champions democratic values and is more strongly critical of the capitalist West than the SDP and considers itself Red/Green politically. . At present (2017) LA holds 12 Parliamentary seats and is led by a 29-year-old woman MP, Li Andersson from Turku, as national chairperson. The third labor party is the Communist Party of Finland which is a shadow of its former self during the Post-WWII period when it was strongly influential in a broader left party, the SKDL, (Finnish Peoples’ Democratic League), a predecessor to the Left Alliance. The Communist Party has no MPs in Parliament but does have a couple of city council members in Helsinki and Tampere. A smaller communist party, Finnish Communist Workers Party, is a tiny Marxist sect that supports the CP government of North Korea as its political lodestar.

There were celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the historic SDP in Forssa in the summer of 2003 held separately by the SDP, Left Alliance, and CP on different weekends. There obviously was no real movement toward a united labor anniversary of that historic milestone. I definitely wanted to be at Forssa for at least one of them. I chose the Left Alliance’s weekend as I considered myself closest to the LA, although my basic orientation is anarcho-syndicalist.

It was an exciting weekend for me at the LA Convention which consisted of dramatic skits of its history, lectures, discussion workshops, women’s issues seminars. music, dancing, dinners, group singing and poetry. I met and talked to numerous LA members and supporters and felt comfortable mixing with them. My favorite dinner companion was Liisa Mutru, a middle-aged woman from Helsinki, who was a marine cook and steward and a member of the Finnish Seamen’s Union. You can be sure I had a grand time discussing my great hero of the Finnish labor movement, Niilo Wälläri, the great leader of the Seamen’s Union, with her.
 

PARIS WORLD ATHLETICS CHAMPIONSHIPS

My summer was rounded out with my long-planned visit to Paris to see my first World Track & Field Championships in the suburb of St, Denis at the Stade de France (Olympic Stadium). All the top athletes of the world competed here. I commuted to the Stade daily from my hostel in Central Paris on the Metro to see my favorite sport. I took a Finnair flight to Paris and most of the Finnish team was on my flight. While waiting to board, I chatted with several of its members. One was Kenyan-born Wilson Kirwa, a middle distance track runner who had won several Finnish national championships where I had seen him compete in the 400, 800, and 1500-meter distances in Finland. His running Club was the Lahden Ahkera Club of Lahti. Speaking in perfect Finnish, he said Ahkera was the most supportive of Finnish clubs for African-born athletes. I also chatted with Johanna Halkoaho, who I had seen win several national championships in the long jump and as I remember the hurdles. During the off-season the friendly Johanna was a school teacher. Unfortunately, neither Wilson or Johanna made it out of the preliminary qualifying rounds at Paris. The most successful Finnish athletes were women’s javelin ace Mikaela Ingberg who was fourth with 60.89 meters at Paris and the men’s top spearman Aki Parviainen who was fifth with 83.05. (Olli-Pekka Karjalainen, Finland’s record holder in the hammer (83.30) never made the finals.) Sergei Makarov of Russia won the men’s javelin with 85.44m with his compatriot Tatiana Shikolenko the women’s with 63.79.

I made a point to stand out in the streets of downtown St. Denis to watch the brunt of the men’s and women’s 20K racewalks and the men’s 50K, my favorite all time sport in which I had competed myself in the Masters’ age groups. Starting and finishing on the Stade track, men’s 20K winner was Jefferson Perez of Equador in 1:17:21 and Yelena Nikolaeva of Russia was first woman in 1:28:52. Both were world record holders at one time. I have seen Yelena compete in Finland a couple of other times. Robert Korzeniowski of Poland won the men’s 50K in a then world record time of 3:36:03. This concluded a most rewarding European summer for me in 2003.


End of Installment 38