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Kent Union branded 'disturbing' for using Joseph Stalin poster to plug leadership elections at the University of Kent in Canterbury

03 February 2014
by Joe Walker

A students' union has sparked outrage by using a poster of murderous tyrant Joseph Stalin to promote its upcoming leadership elections.

The portrait of the evil dictator – complete with cartoon googly eyes – appears on notices plastered across the University of Kent campus in Canterbury.

They are being used to plug a week of political events – called Campus Takeover - in the build up to an election next month to find five new paid staff members for the Kent Union. 

The controversial poster used to promote student union election

The controversial poster used to promote student union election

Union staff say the design is intended to “spark discussion” and encourage students to think about politics and activism.

But some students have questioned the need to use a picture of the former Soviet Union ruler, whose regime of terror caused the death and suffering of tens of millions of people.

Third year American and English literature student George Hopkin, 21, who chairs a university forum called Your Union, has asked for the posters to be pulled down.

He said: "It's disturbing. It's basically like putting Hitler on a poster. People are going to associate Kent Union with Stalin and no good can come from that.

Your Union chairman George Hopkin

Your Union chairman George Hopkin

Mr Hopkin added: "They've obviously tried to grab attention with some kind of pop culture reference, but it hasn't had the effect they were after.

"I don't think it's right for a charitable organisation with a political arm to be associating itself with a murderous tyrant like Stalin. 

"They should take all of the posters down and choose a new design, because this is just awful."


David Lewis, 22, who chairs the Your Community zone at Kent Union, said the campaign is "distasteful and alienating".

He said: "I can't understand the humour at all really. Equating a murderous tyrant of tens of millions of innocent people with Kent Union elections is incredibly distasteful and alienating. It's just not funny."

And Elliott Johnson said: "It seems that it's OK to a glorify a tyrannical dictator who killed 62 million people, over 40,000 every single week on average.

"This begs the question of why Kent Union wished to celebrate such an awful man?

"Stalin is not cool. He was an oppressive dictator and he will never be funny even if you put some googly eyes over him."

A Kent Union spokesman said the poster is based on two pieces of famous protest art.

The first was used in the New Labour, New Danger advertising campaign, which depicts Tony Blair with a pair of demon eyes.

The second is a film poster for Red Monarch, showing Stalin with a tomato squashed against his nose.

Design was based on these two famous protest posters

The design was based on these two famous protest posters

A union spokesman said: "The posters and leaflets for Campus Takeover are designed to promote and spark discussion. 

"The material is not aimed at aligning the organisation with any particular political campaign or party but rather to set out to profile one of the Campus Takeover events – to show the power of cartoons in politics."

The controversial poster used to promote student union election

The controversial poster used to promote student union election

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