Goldsmiths, University of London Students’ Union (SU) has suspended its LGBTQ Society after a series of bizarre tweets from the society’s official twitter account, which appear to defend the Soviet-era system of forced for political dissenters.
The comments have been met with near universal condemnation both on Twitter and elsewhere.
This is not the first time Goldsmiths SU societies have courted controversy. But this latest incident appears to have been further fallout from revelations that Goldsmiths University academic Natacha Kennedy, has been waging a harassment campaign against leading academics at rival UK universities.
Transgender Academic Incites Campaign Of Dick Pics
Self-proclaimed ‘bolshie trans woman’ Kennedy, who also appears in the Goldsmiths staff directory under birth name Mark Hellen, is accused of soliciting supporters name and shame academics who question trans activists’ views that biological men can become women.
Rosa Freedman, a professor of law, conflict and global development, at the University of Reading, claims she came under fire from Kennedy’s supporters for suggesting that biological males should not have access to refuges for battered women.
She told the Times newspaper, that her views got her were reported for hate speech and she bombarded with dick pictures, as well as messages from trans activists telling the the legal scholar to “suck my girl cock”.
Other academics claim to have been targeted for questioning whether it should be considered impolite for a lesbian woman to turn down sex with someone who has a penis.
Feminist Academics Should Be Sent To Gulags…
A representative of the LGBTQ Society tweeted that feminist academics who challenged Kennedy should be ‘sent to Gulags’.
When special educational needs teacher Claire Graham, questioned whether this sort of rhetoric was appropriate, the LGBTQ Society representative responded with the bizarre pro-Gulag, anti-orientalist screed.
… But Only For Their Own Good.
As is the case with most UK university, while the Goldsmiths Students’ Union does receive funding from the university, it operates independently and under separate governance.
The author of the offending tweets remains unknown, but in most university student societies the person running their social media accounts is often an elected officer of the society; positions usually taken on by undergraduates.
While Edward Said’s Orientalism is assigned reading for many Goldsmiths undergraduates, who are often in the habit of quoting what they haven’t read, history is not a compulsory subject at GCSE level in UK schools.
This means many students will not have studied history beyond the age of fourteen. Even when history is taken, few schools cover this aspect of 20th century history in any depth of detail.
The fact that the anonymous LGBT Society tweeter felt the need to remind their readers that the USSR had, in fact, fallen and that Russia was no longer governed by a communist party, may seem rather strange; until you remember that many first-year students enrolling on courses this autumn were born in the year 2000.
The most generous interpretation of these tweets is that they were the work of a very young adult, who was operating out of genuine ignorance.
However, with forced labor and reeducation camps by no means confined to the last century, it is sobering that students at a progressive educational institution have yet to learn the lessons of what can happen when totalitarian ideologies go unchallenged.
So What Was So Bad About The Gulags?
The system of forced labor camps known later as Gulag, originated in the first days of the USSR, built on the previous of Tsarist system of penal servitude known as katorga.
Famous katorga convicts include writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky and the man who was to become synonymous with the brutality of Russian communism, Josef Stalin.
Stalin’s own time as a convict did not soften his attitude to those locked up in the Soviet labor camps however. At the time of Stalin’s death in 1953 approximately 2.4 million people were detained in prison camps and penal colonies, of whom around 465,000 were considered to be political prisoners.
But calculating the human cost of the Soviet prison system has never been a straightforward task for historians. The population of the Gulag system fluctuated, with famine, political purges and World War all leaving their mark on prisoner numbers.
The Gulag system housed both political and criminal prisoners, but also received waves of persecuted ethnic minorities, and in the wake in WW2 hundreds of thousands of returning Soviet Prisoners of War, who were considered traitors for having been taken alive by the Nazi enemy.
Unlike Nazi extermination programmes against Jews, disabled people and certain ethnic minorities, the Soviet Gulag never operated specialized death camps in the manner of Treblinkla or Sobibor.
But as in Nazi work camps, many Gulag inmates died as a result of the brutal conditions of their incarceration. Overwork, exposure in freezing temperatures, lack of medical care, starvation, and violence at the hands of guards were common place.
Contemporary historians estimate that between 1934 to 1953 1.6 million people perished in the camps, although this figure does not account for those whose lives were shortened by harsh camp conditions.