Opinions of the Author
In an astonishingly insensitive move, the official Queen Margaret Union magazine QMunicate has compared their fellow student union, the occupied Free Hetherington Research Club, to Vichy France.
Under the headline ‘Further Fiasco at the HRC: Campus sees occupation unrivalled since the time of Vichy France,’ the union’s organ proceeded to unleash a series of series of bizarre claims about the hugely successful occupation and re-opening of the Hetherington.
Most prominent among these was the claim that:
“A source from inside the SRC [not named in the article but it’s the same quote in the Herald credited to Tommy Gore] revealed concerns that the protest may distract from the upcoming publication of the cost reduction plan and the following debate at the university court, among the most pressing actions concerning the economic cuts affecting the University of Glasgow.”
In fact, when the devastating level of cuts being imposed by university management were revealed, the occupation became a hive of activity, with students converging on it as a space to organise to try and save their departments and courses. It has become a hub for contacting the media, organising flyering and promoting the student-organised march on the University Court on Wednesday February the 16th in Qudos.
The idea seems to be that the occupation of the Hetherington is acting against the political fight to save education at Glasgow University. In fact it is a space encouraging the politicisation and self-organisation of students, something the so far relatively inactive QM board of management could do well to learn from.
QMunicate claims that we are confused about whether our protest is aimed at the Scottish or UK governments, claiming our focus on the Tories ignores the reality of devolution. Our answer is simple: we oppose all authorities who seek to damage education for the sake of dogma, whether they are located in Westminster, Holyrood or University Avenue.
QMunicate seems to think that the Hetherington building would be better used as part of the university’s plan to convert it to arts labs and office space, rather than what the vast majority of students want – the return of a much loved student facility. This seems to reveal a level of ignorance of the views of ordinary students.
But by far the most offensive aspect of the article is the flippant reference to a fascist government. Presumably the reference to Vichy was meant to be humorous, but the joke falls flat when even a cursory examination is made of the real historical record.
Since it re-opened, the Free Hetherington research Club has carried out its academic mandate by establishing a free university open to all, with GU staff volunteering to give their time for free lectures and talks, making the student movement’s demand for free education a reality. We have created a venue open for the use of community groups and student societies, which has been a massive success. And we have opened a successful, autonomous, non-commercial, democratically run space providing students with a place to go on campus to sit, relax, study and socialise with free meals and tea and coffee.
Let’s compare this open and democratic success story to the historical record of Vichy France. The regime of Marshal Petain was established by the Nazis after the conquest of France. They enthusiastically collaborated with the German occupation, and all the violent horrors it unleashed. The Vichy puppet government was staffed by anti-Semites and racists. As soon as the Vichy government came to power it began a campaign against “internal foreigners” – Jews, left wingers, gypsies, homosexuals. They implemented policies of eugenics.
They then proceeded to establish internment camps for the tens of thousands of people who had been declared to be no longer French citizens. They served as transit camps for the groups viewed by the Nazis and their French collaborators as subhuman, from where they were transported to death camps for extermination.
We acknowledge that QMunicate puts in the small print on its back page:
“Views expressed in QMunicate do not necessarily represent the views of the Queen Margaret Union.”
However, in this case this disclaimer is not going to cut it. A colossal failure of editorial control has taken place in allowing a supposedly “joke” headline to go out which in fact is an insult to Jewish people, gay people, Holocaust survivors and the memory of the French Resistance. We demand that the staff of QMunicate disassociate themselves from this article, and issue an apology for their ridiculous insensitivity. If this is not forthcoming in a timely fashion we will have no choice but to highlight the issue to Holocaust memorial groups and all those dedicated to making sure the memory of those who were victims of the Nazis and their collaborators is not taken in vain.