Socialist Worker

Why are Travellers oppressed?

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2269

Oppression exists because it benefits those at the top of class society. When capitalists built the Atlantic slave trade, for example, they developed racist ideas to justify their appalling treatment of slaves.

How does this apply to Travellers?

The rise of capitalism saw the ownership of land become concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.

What had been common land was now privately-owned. Travellers, who had previously moved between areas of common land, were now seen as a threat to capitalists and landlords.

Our rulers also encourage us to fear strangers—or at least not to trust them. They don’t want us to think that we can cooperate because they dread the prospect of us uniting against them.

They want people to feel divided by nationality or ethnic group, to mask class divisions and whip up fear of “outsiders” to divide us. But Travellers, regularly arriving in new places, are by definition outsiders.


Travellers have often lived in tight-knit groups—largely as a response to discrimination. Yet this means they can be more vulnerable to scapegoating.

The less direct experience people have of a group, the more likely they are to accept stereotypes about it. This helps to explain why racism against Travellers has remained so persistent.

The idea that there are alternative ways to live—and especially that we can have a say in how we live—is a challenge to the ruling class.

Many Travellers have tried to exercise more control over their work, too. But our rulers hate the idea that individual workers can choose what work to do—and when and where to do it.

It’s true that Travellers can be useful for capitalism. Bosses have to provide things like pensions and sick pay for permanent workers. If they want to sack people, they might have to pay out redundancy packages.

Yet Travellers often work for a time and then move on—leaving no obligation on bosses to provide anything.

But scapegoating Travellers helps to divide ordinary people and divert attention from the real enemy—the capitalist class. That’s why it persists today.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Tue 13 Sep 2011, 18:23 BST
Issue No. 2269
Share this article



Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.