Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Goldsmith’s Student Union Rejects “Eurocentric” motion to Commemorate European Genocides.

with 13 comments

As student supporters of the NUS decision not to back the Kurdish struggle against Islamist genociders claim that the motion to commit them would “outsource” NUS campaigning to “MI5 and MI6” we get the following claim,

the bottom line is that Malia promised to, and has, rewritten the motion to fully condemn ISIS

Well, it’s a claim, but her supporters seem a lot, a real lot, more concerned to “defend” Malia than to anything to defend the Kurds.

Now, this crops up.

From The Tab (October the 15th).

student politicians have rejected a motion to commemorate the Holocaust – after claims it would be “eurocentric” and “colonialist”. 

A motion was proposed at the Goldsmiths Students’ Assembly yesterday to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day and victims of genocide.

Education officer Sarah El-alfy urged students to vote against the proposal, rejecting it as “eurocentric”.

….

One student added: “The motion would force people to remember things they may not want to remember.”

Another suggested she couldn’t commemorate the Holocaust because she thought the Union was explicitly “anti-Zionist”.

One of the students present said the proposal should be voted against as it would affect the Union’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The unfortunately-named President Howard Littler said after: “Someone brought up Israel-Palestine out of the blue but I made a point of information and said I didn’t want to conflate the two.”

He later audaciously added that the whole thing is just “a storm in a teacup”.

This report should be treated with extreme caution but here is the  following.

The Tab asks. 

Would you vote for or against the motion? Read it in full and have your say

Motion for the Student Union to commemorate the victims of genocide, totalitarianism and racial hatred

The Student Union recognises the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust, of the other genocides, of totalitarianism and racial hatred. It further recognises that commemorating the victims of genocide, racial hatred and totalitarianism, and promoting public awareness of these crimes against humanity, is essential to sustaining and defending democratic culture and civil society, especially in the face of a resurgence of neo-fascism, racial hatred and neo-Stalinism across Europe.

The Student Union shall organise commemorative events for students and members of the public on Holocaust Memorial Day (27th of January), on the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism (23rd of August annually), on the Holodomor Genocide Memorial Day Act (4th Saturday in November, Annually) and on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day (24th April annually).

The motion fell by one vote.

The report continues.

The SU have yet to release minutes as they agree on the contents for the next meeting on 18th November.

But those attending are encouraged to live-tweet the event using the hashtag “GSUAssembly”.

One student named T. Walpole, present at the Assembly, objected: “Our union is anti-Zionist.”

They added: “This is a colonialist motion. Vote it down.

“White people should not be proposing motions to condemn genocides without a lot of thought. This does not have that thought.”

Now let’s disregard these (reported) morally cretinous comments.

The fact is that Holocaust Memorial day is not just about the Shoah,

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) is the charity which promotes and supports Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD). 27 January is the day for everyone to remember the millions of people killed in the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur. 27 January marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

Holocaust Memorial Trust.

The trust does not include the Ukraine (Holodomor) or the Armenian genocide (Turkey).

Bu Goldsmith does not include, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.

Or, something many consider a genocide,  by Pakistan and  its Islamist allies, Bangladesh in 1971.

In this light, and the complications that this could cause, and vagueness about ‘civil society’, the motion appears badly worded (Hat-tip Bob B).

But the issue of how to commemorate these mass killings, even by ‘white people’, and, by people of different political ideologies and faiths or none at all,  is obscured by something which cannot be wished away.

This is what the College’s “Education officer” tweeted,

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 12.47.38

She now comments (I checked on the Tweet), with no further explanation whatsoever,

Thanks for mass misinforming people and wrongfully framing such an important issue.
There is also the person who tweeted this,
Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 13.09.38

LGBTQ* Officer Cyd Thomlinson also said the motion was “time wasting” and called the proposer “a toddler throwing a tantrum”.

They boasted: “We did just collectively destroy his self esteem if that helps.”

Thomlinson also argued for the inclusion of the Transgender Day of Remembrance in the motion but did not propose an amendment for it.

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 15.08.00

Goldsmith’s SU has a lot of answering to do.

Updates:

More including some (evasive) ‘explanations’ from the union on the Huffington Post.

And  by the Students’ Union.

On Tuesday night a Motion was voted down by a majority at Goldsmiths Students’ Union’s Students Assembly – a democratic meeting in which all students are invited to discuss and vote on issues that are important to them.

Subsequently The Tab wrote a piece entitled ‘vile SU refuse to commemorate Holocaust [sic]’. It is worth noting at this point that the article was co-authored by the proposer of the original motion, both of whose motions were voted down at the Student Assembly.

Many baseless claims are made, however the central tenet is that the Students Assembly and the Students’ Union opposed remembering the victims of the Holocaust. This is an insulting misrepresentation. We have in the past commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day and will in the future.

A nuanced discussion about how best to effectively and collectively remember these events was had at Students Assembly. Re-drafting motions and re-entering them at a later date isn’t unusual in Students’ Unions and shouldn’t be misinterpreted as opposition. Sarah El-alfy, GSU Education officer, offered to help the proposer re-draft the motion and bring it to the next Student Assembly and this reflected the positivity in the room about the motion with the ambition to strengthen it further. A motion that includes remembering the Holocaust will be brought to the next Student Assembly in November. We feel these facts have been ignored in the subsequent reporting.

We will be writing to the Editor of The Tab in due course to seek correction of many of the factual inaccuracies in the report. Seperately, The Tab, in their article misgendered one of our students. We would like to ask for this to be corrected along with the rest of the article.

Signed

Goldsmiths SU executive team

Misgendering is the least of their problems.

What about the Tweets, starting with the one by  Sarah El-alfy?

 

13 Responses

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  1. I have a lot of trouble with the Holocaust Memorial Day, not because I feel that Hitler’s Holocaust should be forgotten or diminished within historical considerations — far from it — but because I think that without an understanding of why it occurred, that is, without an understanding of European (in general) and German (in particular) history, it becomes an inexplicable example of the human capacity to do dreadful things to each other, that is, mystified. Moreover, because of that and also because of the loose use of the term ‘genocide’, it is somewhat paradoxically trivialised, as if it was just another inhuman act like the day-to-day unpleasantness we see on the telly, if on a large scale.

    It seems to me that the further away from the last war we go, the more Hitler’s Holocaust is invoked, the less it is actually comprehended, and therefore the more it is mystified and trivialised.

    I agree with Toby Abse (writing about this post on Facebook) about the Ukrainian famine and the use put to it by Ukrainian nationalists. The famine also hit southern Russia, the Caucasus and Kazakhstan with equal severity. Stalin may have used the famine to try to finish off Ukrainian national sentiments, but this — if true — was a by-product, not the intent. And it has been argued (by Bob Davies) that the Soviet famine was not deliberate but was an unintended result of an ill-thought-out agricultural project.

    There are many other examples of mass deaths through human actions: for example, the Bengal famine during the last war, which cost several million lives. This could have been avoided had different policies been implemented, but was it actually engaged in knowing that millions would die?

    The term ‘genocide’ is thrown around carelessly. It was used in Yugoslavia, and lately in Gaza, in respect of nasty but not exterminatory actions. The cynic in me tends to feel that in this time of victim culture and identity politics every nationalist or religious advocate seeks avidly to find some atrocity committed against his group and thus claim that it has been the victim of a genocide, and thus rise up the pecking order of victimisation. I’m surprised that I’ve not come across ‘genocide’ used as a verb, that is, that so-and-so nationality has been ‘genocided’.

    Having said this, I do rather suspect the motives of some of these operators in the NUS. It could be that they’re just young, inexperienced kids playing with grown-up concepts when they should really do some serious reading before opening their mouths. (But then I guess we’ve all been there at some earlier point in our lives.) On the other hand, I do wonder what might make some of them tick.

    Dr Paul

    October 16, 2014 at 10:44 pm

  2. ” … a resurgence of neo-fascism, racial hatred and neo-Stalinism across Europe.”

    Has anyone noticed this ‘resurgence of neo-Stalinism across Europe’? I’ve seen a number of post-communist, democratic parties of the radical left win a significantly bigger vote (SYRIZA, PODEMOS, IU, Left Front, Red-Green Alliance among others). I’ve haven’t noticed any ‘neo-Stalinist’ parties picking up support; the KKE would fit the bill I suppose, but their vote has been going down. But I have seen a lot of dishonest smears directed at the likes of Tsipras, Pablo Iglesias etc., accusing them of being totalitarian, a threat to democracy, and equating them with the far right (absolutely bog-standard to talk about the ‘two extremes’ in Greece, equating SYRIZA and Golden Dawn). Including that line at the very start of the motion achieves the same effect, intentionally or otherwise.

    Ed

    October 16, 2014 at 11:16 pm

  3. A poisonous combination of petty bourgeois third-worldism, identity politics and antisemitism has infected student politics in recent years. The failure to clearly condemn ISIS and the desicable refusal to support Holocaust Memorial Day represent new depths of political and moral bankruptcy. Sections of the “left” who pander to this reactionary nonsense should be ashamed of themselves.

    Jim Denham

    October 17, 2014 at 8:47 am

  4. That line from a Davic Bowie song replays continually in my head, ‘Oh you pretty things, don’t you know you’re driving your mothers and poppas insane.’, except I don’t suppose David Bowie meant it about politics. Dr Paul, you are several tiers of intellectual sophistication above the opponent of this motion, I doubt if she considered the (valid) points that you make, just plaiin ‘Holocaust-denial’ and kick the Jews by any means at hand. We know that only full-blooded socialism will defeat these people and there isn’t much of that around at the moment, is it any surprise that the average Joe and Josephine Public is confused? If a re-written motion is brought before either student body, I would liek to see it include clear references to the Armenian massacre, Rwanda and the Yazidi massacre. Doubtless there are a few others as well that could be mentioned.

    Interesting point you raise by the way, Dr Paul, about intentionality. If millions died because of policies implemented by colonialist, is that the same as a deliberate massacre. I think that is a distinction with the Final Solution in that the German State organised a production line of death. The rail network was turned over to transporting people to deathcamps, their body parts were harvested for use by Germans, those to be murered were selected purely on basis of ethnicity or sexual and political orientation. Thre was a liquidation of a culture that had lasted thousands of years. In many ways, it was a unique event, and I hope it remains unique. But, one does need to be aware of the Islamist hait of parroting teh language of the left for reactionary purposes.

    Sue R

    October 17, 2014 at 10:00 am

  5. Student politics. What do you expect? The original motion is highly selective in its choice of massacres, whether through ignorance or design, who knows? Probably both. And the responses seem to be no less crass. But – none of it matters. Student politics is pretend politics.

    If groups of students who personally feel strongly about these issues want to campaign on them, good luck to them. But this “the student union shall…” sort of stuff is just meaningless posturing. Resolutionary politics of the most vacuous kind.

    Francis

    October 17, 2014 at 10:20 am

  6. And as for the motion’s inclusion of the 23 August date, some of the dangers associated with the Prague Declaration and the sort of historical revisionism it can encourage are well documented here: http://defendinghistory.com/

    Francis

    October 17, 2014 at 10:31 am

  7. I just find it frightening what a Pandora’s Box has been opened in British/European politics. Still, as they keep telling us, they share ‘British’ values. I worry for the future of this country, these people are students now, but they will be establishing families of their own soon and so on. And, as for the original motion being selective, no-one says that people can’t bring other motions such as deploring the Yazidi genocide. Oh, sorry, that’s Islamophobic to mention that….

    Sue R

    October 17, 2014 at 11:23 am

  8. Vice magazine inteviews Aaron Keily over the NUS’s failure to condemn ISIS. Worth a look, doesn’t let him off lightly.

    https://news.vice.com/article/britains-student-union-votes-against-condemning-the-islamic-state-because-that-would-be-islamophobic

    Jim Den ham

    October 17, 2014 at 12:22 pm

  9. He says nothing about the Kurds.

    That seems the rub of all these ‘anti-imperialists’.

    I agree with others about the motion’s details.

    But I was more struck by the comments by student activists, full of prejudice.

    Andrew Coates

    October 17, 2014 at 12:43 pm

  10. It seems like a good idea to close all post colonial studies. Their only purpose seems to keep classic anti imperialism alive. The poor young students don’t seem to know enough of modern political economy and development economy pointing forwards.

    Niels Christensen

    October 17, 2014 at 5:41 pm

  11. If you don’t agree with the motions details, does that mean you would have voted against it?

    Sue R

    October 17, 2014 at 7:40 pm

  12. Sometimes Andrew your remarks are rather gnomic, and I don’t know how to read them.

    Sue R

    October 18, 2014 at 10:52 am

  13. Amendments I suppose would be one way of dealing with this.

    Andrew Coates

    October 19, 2014 at 11:53 am


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