The roots of anti-Roma racism

by Daniel Pitt.


The expected influx of Romanians and Bulgarians to the United Kingdom has failed to materialise, but there remains a pervasive atmosphere of intolerance towards the Roma with uncomfortable historic parallels. During the Second World War more than 800,000 Roma were executed and an elaborate raft of discriminatory legislation introduced by Hitler to encourage the persecution of this community. Subsequently, Stalinist Eastern Europe targeted Roma with poisonous social policies to settle them forcibly, and remove ‘anti-social’ traits; the majority of Roma still face segregation in housing and education. They continue to face a great deal of prejudice and have been further marginalised by poverty, inadequate housing, poor health, low literacy rates and violent racism in countries where extremist parties have gained prominence on the political scene.

Ten million Roma live in Europe and they are still the most disadvantaged and alienated community. There is an open war against them where self-proclaimed vigilantes harass and threaten them. Walls are built around towns they live in and their homes are burned to the ground. They come to countries like ours to seek refuge from this unspeakable cruelty and make an honest living for themselves, but often end up in low-paid jobs. Some resort to begging or even stealing to feed their families.

roma map

Our own government has taken a hardline stance on Eastern European migration to attract the right-wing populist vote, and directly compete with UKIP in who can appear ‘tougher’ on immigrants. The inconvenient truth of it however is that the ruling-class depends on scapegoats to conceal the failures of capitalism by dividing communities with sinister propaganda while our collective liberty is eroded.

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5 Responses to The roots of anti-Roma racism

  1. Permission to reproduce this story in a yiouth magazine, Bolshie Youth? Attribution Daniel Pitt International Green Socialist.

    Gerry Downing

  2. Johan Strand Johansen says:

    The roots of anti-Roma alleged racism are that Gypsies who filter into West Europe in groups work for larger criminal mafias. They are involved in the drug trade, white slavery, and various scams and petty crimes that filter money up the vertical ladder. Because the authorities in many places are compromised by contacts with these criminal mafias, Gypsies are often given free rein at least to commit misdemeanors for which any normal citizen would be fined.

    In Bulgaria and Romania there are many types of Gypsies as they have lived there for many centuries. There are urban ghettos of Gypsies (also in Prague and Budapest) that the police won’t enter. There are well integrated Gypsies who work as merchants. There are rural Gypsies who live relatively stable, if poor, lives in villages and travelling Gypsies who steal. Gypsies who go abroad en masse to beg and engage in various criminal activity are not, according to charities in Balkan countries, the most needy ones. The most needy ones live in poor ghettos and villages in countries like Romania and perhaps the men used to work in factories under Ceausescu but now that is all closed up so they either rely on charity, beg, or steal for a living.

    The Left will not get anywhere accusing everyone of being racist. People resent Gypsy migration because Gypsy gangs get away with breaking numerous laws. Statements like this are particularly ridiculous: “Stalinist Eastern Europe targeted Roma with poisonous social policies to settle them forcibly, and remove ‘anti-social’ traits”

    You’re not supposed to squat on the street or in parks and aggressively harass people. It is not anyone’s cultural right to do so! It is not anyone’s cultural right to decide not to work on farms or in factories or in offices or shops but to travel around and parasite off the general population. What ever happened to the republican ethic that there are principles and laws that apply to everyone from all cultural backgrounds equally? You see, even when you have a group that ostensibly is poor and dispossessed and give them special rights, they are often being manipulated and used by Grand Capital or large criminal mafias. By permitting them free reign, you are harming the cause of social justice and only aiding criminal elements in society, which is reactionary.

    Note it was the criminal Blair government that codified many of these rights for “Travellers” in the Human Rights Act of 1998. There is nothing socialist about it.

  3. igseditor says:

    The article arose in connection with the recent scare stories concerning Romanian and Bulgarian integration into the EU. The predicted mass influx has not occurred but you’re quite wrong in saying that the roots of discrimination lie in modern criminal activity. Discrimination against Roma travelers goes back centuries.

    Your attitude towards them may depend of course on what newspapers you read. Newspapers like the Mail and the Express like to demonize and whip up sentiments. They do this in relation to the existing population if they are unemployed or on sickness benefit. The right wing press loves a scapegoat.

    A more sober and more accurate assessment can be found in papers such as the Independent:

    “Responding to the child-snatching headlines, which fit a generations-old stereotype, native populations have two choices: French and British people can allow the stigma against the Roma to grow. Or – like the Germans have – they can support investment in education and social services to root out crime, and slow the traffic of Roma children into criminal gangs. One is easier, but will make the problem worse. The other is harder, but might make it better”.

    Criminality in the forms that you describe arises from poverty and desperation, not from genes or ethnicity, not even from an itinerent lifestyle.

    After the 1917 Russian revolution, the Roma, for the first time, received civil rights along with other ethnic groups. This stimulated a considerable amount of Roma educational and cultural activity. The Communist government also tried to settle the nomadic Roma with a limited amount of success. This ended in the 1930s under Stalin’s policy of assimilation and after 1937, nothing was published in the Romani language until 1989. After World War II, when many Russian Roma were killed by the Germans, Stalin’s anti-nationalist campaign continued. This resulted in severe discrimination against the Roma, along with other ethnic groups, until his death in 1953. In 1956, however, Khrushchev outlawed nomadism altogether. Despite this, the new law was enforced unevenly, and many Roma continued their nomadic ways. Until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the reaction of Russians toward the Roma was mixed. While some surveys showed a negative attitude towards the Roma by the Russian people, other surveys did not. However, after the collapse, the rise of nationalist fascism has brought a new wave of racial prejudice to Russia, including fatal inter-group communal conflicts with attacks by ethnic Russians against Roma, especially in recent years.

    As to the human right act you have to be kidding! Anyone who thinks that the establishment of human rights in law is means to privilege minorities is living in a different reality. It’s the same sort of distorted thinking that holds the victim responsible for their own oppression and imagines that pre-existing privilege has been turned upside down. Human rights legislation does nothing of the sort.

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