Not too long ago, London’s Goldsmith LGBTQ+ Society described life in the Gulag system as “a rehabilitory one and self supporting, a far cry from the Western, capitalist notion of prison,” adding that “The Soviets did away with life sentences and the longest sentence was 10 years. Capital punishment was reserved for the most heinous, serious crimes.”
Having established the ‘fact’ that concentration camps in totalitarian states are a noble idea, they went on to say that the ‘anti-trans bigots literally kill and must be eradicated through re-education.’
Was the Gulag system a rehabilitative one and self supporting, and how does it compare to the Western notion of prison? The most objective way of comparing those two would be to compare food rations in Western prisons and in the Gulags.
According to official figures the food budget for the Irish Prison Service in 2014 was €8.3m, to ensure that all criminals can savour the menu that – as stated by Minister Fitzgerald in a written Dáil response to Independent TD Tommy Broughan – “provides a wide variety of wholesome and nutritious food and drink each day, properly prepared and well presented.”
A fair day’s food for a fair day’s custodial sentence includes gluten-free diets, beef stews and steaks – foods that a considerable percentage of Ireland’s renting and mortgage paying population cannot afford, given that average rent in Ireland is more than 26% higher than the high point during the Celtic Tiger years, which is no mean feat for ruling Fine Gael (to inflate the housing bubble even more than Fianna Fáil did).
So that’s what is involved in “the Western, capitalist notion of prison” – and the Irish prison system isn’t even the most lavish (not even close) when it comes to pampering criminals. This is best exemplified by the infamous Anders Breivik and his truly royal imprisonment – yet he won his court case against Norway, as the Oslo court ruled that his confinement violates Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which forbids keeping prisoners in ‘inhuman or degrading’ conditions.
In Breivik’s case, “inhuman and degrading” conditions mean three fully equipped cells to himself – one for living, one for studying, and one for exercise. Norway is not in the EU, yet this didn’t save it from embracing far left ideologies and political correctness to such an extent that Norway’s native, Silje Garmo, applied for political asylum in Poland because the state of Norway wanted to take away her daughter because of her mother’s Christian views, in keeping with the fascist principle ‘Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.’
So if Irish prisoners live on a rent-free diet unaffordable to many Irish renters, surely the Gulag food must have been even better? Well, not quite. By NKVD Order 00943, 14 August 1939, “On the introduction of new standards of nutrition and clothing rations for prisoners in the correctional labour camps and colonies of the NKVD of the USSR,” those who fulfilled the USSR’s exorbitant production quotas, received 1,200g (2.65lb) rye bread, 60g (2.12oz) wheat, 130g (4.59oz) kasha (groats), 600g (21.2oz) potatoes and vegetables, 158g (5.57oz) fish, 30g (1oz) meat, 13g (0.46oz) sugar and 20g (0.7oz) salt.
Perfectly re-educated Stakhanovites who exceeded work quotas were given a little bit more: 1,400g bread (3.09lb), 110g (3.88oz) wheat, 750g (1.65lb) potatoes and vegetables, 192g (6.77oz) fish and 180g (6.35oz) meat. When we mention 1oz and 6.35oz of meat, we must bear in mind that as a result of extensive corruption at all levels of the Gulags administration, meat, sugar and vegetables were reserved exclusively for the administration and the so-called ‘pridurki’ (informers).
Just to put it into perspective, the pre-famine Irish labourer in a workhouse received between 10lb to 12lb potatoes a day; and even during the Great Famine (November 1845), inmates of the Dungarvan Workhouse received 0.5oz of meat a day on average (so more than most Gulag prisoners, who received none). This, of course, doesn’t include buttermilk, cabbage or whatever scarce quantities of meat the pre-famine Irish labourer receive from the British occupiers.
In other words, the “self-supporting” Gulag prisoners were receiving – in temperatures up to forty degrees Celsius lower – less than half the food (4.87lb of food in total for good workers, a little bit more for top workers) that Irish paupers would receive in what certainly must be considered the worst of the “capitalist notion of prison”: the British workhouse in rural Ireland.
Had the members of London’s Goldsmith LGBTQ+ Society lived in Soviet Russia, they would have had a great chance to experience first hand the benefits of eradicating their bigotry through re-education in the Gulags (after all, Article 121 of the Soviet criminal code prohibited homosexuality with up to five years of hard labour, and since 1933, Soviet propaganda depicted homosexuality as a sign of fascism), where their longest sentence would have been 10 years.
Admittedly, few Gulag prisoners lived to see the end of the longest sentence – that a new 10 years sentence could have been (and often was) added “to the longest 10 years sentence,” and that a lot of prisoners (i.e. in Kolyma Gulag, 30 percent) died every year – that didn’t occur to London’s Goldsmith LGBTQ+ Society.
On the other hand, given their wishes to use the State’s apparatus to eradicate through forced re-education anyone who doesn’t share all their views, perhaps describing them as fascists is actually quite accurate?