INTERVIEW with M V Smith – International Gypsy Union

OND: The executives of the International Union, e.g. the General-Secretary and the other two, are in their positions for life!

1. Is that true?
2. If so, is that not rather undemocratic?

MVS: I would have to say yes to that on both counts.

1. The founder members of the International Gypsy Union/Internationale Zigeuner Union do hold their positions for life. That is correct.

2. While this may indeed be undemocratic it has to be said that:

ONE; we have never made any pretence of being a democratic organization and that is plainly laid out in the statutes of the Union, when it was founded in the first days of March 2006, under the original name, which was then stolen, and:

TWO; the reason that the founder members are executives for life is so that we and the Union can get on with working for the good of our members and the Gypsy People as a whole without infighting (no elections). Democracy is in truth nothing but mob rule and has caused many problems in Rom-Gypsy organizations in the past (and still does).

As stated previously; the statutes of the Union, when it was originally founded under the original name, the “World Gypsy Union”, in the beginning of March 2006, clearly stated that the Union’s executives, who are the founder members, would hold their positions of leadership for life.

The Gypsy Union does not make and never has made any pretence of being a democracy.

No one forces anyone to become a member and our work is not funded from any source other than the pockets of the founders.

It is the aim of the International Gypsy Union to unite all true Gypsy People and we do not think that democracy is needed for that. What is needed are people in leadership who are willing to work for the people without asking how much they can gain from it.

We aim to facilitate networking for members and also and especially ways of mutual support for members (and even Gypsy People who are not members but are in need of help) as, when, where and how possible. It has to be remembered that we are not funded and therefore our finances are rather limited.

OND: Should a Union of any kind not be run on democratic principles with all leadership positions, etc. being open to election?

MVS: Why? There are some Unions that are democratic and some, even trade unions, that are not. The idea of the work counts and what is proposed, and carried out, and being done and a Union should not be measured as to whether it is democratic or not.

OND: But your members pay membership fees and, therefore, should they not have a say on how the Union is run and by whom?

MVS: All membership dues are actually voluntary and will remain so. It is up to each and every individual member whether or not to contribute the suggested minimum donation (membership fee); he or she may give more or less, as they see fit and according to their own wishes. It is up to the person. We will not enforce any payment of such dues and membership is not dependent as to whether membership dues are paid or not. Membership is voluntary, as is the payment of dues and as is also the level of activity and involvement in the work of the Union a member wants to be.

May I stress that, while there are and will be no elections to the Union’s “presidium”, a democratic process shall be in place for other affairs of the Union, such as the decisions as to what to do with funds – as and when they arrive (ever) – which projects to pursue, etc.

OND: But how can you make yourself “leader” for life?

MVS: Why not? The founder of any successful company usually is and remains chief executive for life.

At least the International Gypsy Union makes no pretence, as I have reiterated several times, of involving ‘democracy’ with regards to its leadership. We’ve all seen the ways whereby “Democracy”, can be and is abused and misused.

Other organizations have clamoured for “Democracy”, and then scheme to flood meetings with their cronies in order to ensure that leadership and important offices are filled by persons of favour, rather than best for the organization.

Other examples too could be mentioned of people who, though deposed through democratic elections, still claim to be in charge. There are even people who, though never having been in charge, claim that they were and are still!

Though stated several times already, I will say this again; we do not make any pretence to democracy, this is largely because the world of Gypsy politics is full of rogues, it would seem, who are quite prepared to do whatever it takes to seize control of something good that others have set up, in order to use it for their own ends. This we have seen more than once.

I sincerely hope that this explains things a little more clearly maybe, and that readers of this will now come to understand why we at the International Gypsy Union work the way we do.


Yes, this is no real interview but it was considered that the interview style might aid better understanding as to why we have chosen a mixed approach to the work of the International Gypsy Union.