Persecution of Gypsies in France and Europe

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The new ‘Socialist’ government in France came to power with the slogan “the change is now”. But like the previous government, the new one has made use of the summer period to mobilise its cops against gypsies. The forces of repression carried out a real manhunt in the suburbs of Lille and Lyon. Nothing like the summer holidays, when so many people are away, to push through such brutal measures with less risk of any reaction from the population.

The fact that the Socialists are carrying out the same policies as the UMP government should come as no surprise. In the 1980s, the Socialist government built up a real arsenal of repression against immigrants[1]. The ‘Voix des Roms’ association has commented ironically that the new minister of the interior, Manuel Valls, “could wear the UMP colours in 2017”. So there’s no ‘betrayal’ here, even if, during his presidential campaign, François Hollande hypocritically declared “we can no longer accept families being chased from one place to another[2].

In reality, this persecution of marginal, vulnerable populations, who are easily criminalised, is a general practice of the bourgeoisie. All governments, whatever their political colouring, are obsessed with ‘public order’ and are always looking for scapegoats, above all in a time of crisis. Thus, at almost the same moment that Valls and his cops were doing their dirty work in France, the Greek police in Athens were engaged in a vast anti-immigrant operation, baptised ‘Xenos Zeus’, in which 1595 people were arrested and 6000 more were issued with summons. The real aim of this was to criminalise illegal immigrants and blame them for the dramatic economic situation, when they are its first victims. The Greek minister Nikos Denias came out with this nauseating statement about the operation: “in the name of your patriotism and the survival instinct of the Greek citizen, I ask you to support this effort. The question of illegal immigration is one of the country’s biggest problems, along with the problem of the economy[3]. The police were so violent that an Iraqi they were chasing was killed.

The Italian bourgeoisie uses the same methods in hunting gypsies: very regularly, camps are viciously destroyed in Milan and Rome. In Germany, although the Nazi past imposes a certain level of discretion, the 10,000 gypsies who fled the war in Kosovo are also fearfully expecting expulsions since Berlin decided to kick out 2500 people a year. Even in a ‘social’ country like Sweden, where 80% of gypsies are unemployed, begging is a pretext for deportation. 50 gypsies have already been deported this year[4]. We could multiply examples of this kind of contempt and terror[5].

The fact that France is being put under scrutiny by the European Commission over its ‘management’ of the gypsies is just hypocrisy, like the dishonest proposals of politicians who use similar tactics. Thus, Manuel Valls, who claims that his policies have nothing to do with the methods of Nicolas Sarkozy, uses exactly the same justifications as former foreign minister Bernard Kouchner when he defended the former president over his measures against the gypsies: “the president of the republic will never stigmatise a minority on account of its origins”[6]. A real carbon copy! Similarly, Michel Rocard, when the Sarkozy team was in place, exclaimed “we haven’t seen this kind of thing since the Nazis!” In response, we got a lot of stories about ‘problems of hygiene’, ‘criminality’, ‘threats to public order’ being handed down by the team in power, and they are being repeated today.

Behind both the open crudity and the hypocritical concern of the ruling class lies the cold mechanics of capital. The working class can only express its anger and indignation in the face of this barbarity.  RI 5/9/12


[1] The Joxe law, arrests and deportations under the minister Edith Cresson, etc.

[5] In Britain of course we have had the Dale Farm evictions of travellers and gypsies, and more recently the new laws against squatting and the expulsion of foreign students.

[6] Cited in Révolution Internationale 415


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