Several thousand people participated in protests organised in many towns and cities of France against the fascist attacks and deportations of the Roma people.
In recent weeks, the French government has stepped up attacks on the Roma people and deported several thousands of them. On September 14, 2010, the French Senate also approved a ban on the wearing of veils and burqa in public places, specifically targeting people of the Muslim faith. Earlier, laws have also been passed to permit the revocation of French citizenship for immigrants found guilty of attacking police officers. These racist attacks come at a time when the French working class has been fighting tooth and nail against their increased exploitation through proposed ‘reforms’ of the pension system, according to which workers would have to work for longer periods in order to qualify for pension after retirement.
The Roma are nomads, the majority of whom live in Romania, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. As member states of the European Union, the citizens of these countries are now supposed to enjoy freedom of movement across the 27-nation European Union bloc. Like their non Roma brothers, the Romas too have been migrating to countries like France and Italy in search of livelihood. Some of the Roma people living in France however are part of long-established communities of nomads who are French nationals.
The Roma are required by a discriminatory French law to have a work permit and prove they have the means to support themselves if they intend to stay in the country for more than three months. This provision is being used to whip up racist and xenophobic hysteria against the Roma people. These attacks on the Roma people are not new – the Roma have been attacked earlier by the Nazis who targeted them for extermination along with Jews. The French government, for all its rhetoric on human rights, is following the example of Hitler when it comes to dealing with the Roma.
European governments, including that of France are facing an economic crisis, and there is massive unemployment. The French working class and people are up in arms against the plans of the French government to make the working people bear the burden of the crisis. Over two million working people came out on the streets just a few weeks ago to protest against the plans of the government to ‘reform’ the pension system. The racist and fascist attacks on the Roma people, like the attacks on the people of the Muslim faith, are in line with the time tested response of bourgeois governments to the crisis. They are resorting to racist and fascist attacks to split the unity of the working people, to disguise the source of the attacks on all the working people.
However these attacks on the Roma have not been accepted by the French working class. In the early days of September 2010, protest marches took place in Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Bordeaux and some 130 other towns and cities in which over 100,000 people took part. In the main protest march in Paris, thousands of demonstrators from trade unions and other organisations marched in bright sunshine through central Paris, led by Roma people. They waved flags and placards and chanted slogans including "Stop repression" and "No to Sarkozy's inhumane policies".
The protest actions organised against the attacks on the Roma people show that the working people in France regard the attack on the Roma as an attack on themselves. By regarding “an attack on one as an attack on all”, and strengthening their unity in action, the French working people can aim to defeat the nefarious plans of their government to make them bear the burden of the crisis and drag Europe back to the dark days of racist and fascist reaction.