Abstract: Business, Politics, and Ideology in the Age of Extremes: A Case Study of the Finnish Consumer Co-op HOK-Elanto 1905-2014

Sakari Siltala


The paper studies the close links and interaction among consumer cooperatives, ideologies, and politics in Finnish society. The aim is to examine how business developments intertwined with the ideological and political main currents of the twentieth century, capitalism and socialism. The closeness of Russia, from which Finland declared independence in 1917, accentuated the ideological struggles. The Finnish cooperation rose at the beginning of the twentieth century as a third path between capitalism and socialism. However, strong ideological disagreements quickly reached a critical point. The civil war of 1918 broke connecting ties, and the cooperative movement split into two separate political lines. After the war in 1919 the bourgeois residents of Helsinki established their own consumer co-op, HOK, to compete with workers' Elanto, founded in 1905. The competition between the two political constitutions and consumer co-ops continued through the Age of Extremes and the Cold War. In the 1960s consumer cooperation was faced with troubled times, which lasted almost unbroken for forty years. Ultimately, the severe recession of the 1990s wrecked most of the ''red capital'' of the labor movement and forced the competing groups back together. The merger of HOK-Elanto occurred in 2004.