What do modern communists think about gun control?

This is part 2 in a series about leftists and guns. Part 1 gave an overview of the historical relationship between communists and anarchists and firearms and you can read it here. Today we will examine the ongoing debate about gun control among leftists and in our next installment we will try to draw some conclusions about guns from the leftist perspective.

Armed Leftist

Many modern leftists are opposed to state-measured gun control.

Now that we have a basic understanding about the relationship between historical communists and anarchists and firearms we can begin to examine the way modern leftists feel about gun control. Whereas the vast majority of liberals tend to be in basic agreement that more gun control is a good thing, contemporary leftists have a wide range of views on guns. Nearly every time I’ve seen the topic of gun control brought up in a leftist space the debate has raged on endlessly about the proper way for leftists to view and deal with the issue of private gun ownership.

As I have explained in my previous video, I personally am more or less neutral on the issue of gun control in my home country of the United States of America. I will give further details on my reasons for being “gun agnostic” in Part 3 of this series, but for now suffice to say that I see the merits of both sides of the debate and I think it’s a heavily nuanced issue without a single “cure-all” solution when examined from a leftist perspective. As such, I will do my best to be as objective and thorough as possible in outlining all of the various perspectives and opinions on private gun ownership which I have been exposed to.

There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get started!


Argument 1: Impact on Minorities and Oppressed Groups

Pro-Gun Control Point:
The oppressed are being disproportionately harmed and killed by guns.

Don't Shoot protest poster

It is unquestionable that blacks and other minority groups are statistically more likely to be shot in the USA.

The statistics are telling. Here are but three key facts to consider:

  • Black men are 13 times more likely to be shot and killed than white men.
  • Female domestic violence victims are 5 times more likely to be killed if their partner owns a gun.
  • LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be victims of gun violence than straight people.

According to this argument, because guns harm oppressed and exploited groups disproportionately to oppressor groups (i.e. white males), gun control measures would be a palliative/alleviative measure to improve the lives of these populations under capitalist society.

Anti-Gun Control Counterpoint:
The oppressed need guns to defend themselves.
Gun in front of rainbow flagSome oppressed individuals feel safer with guns.

Many LGBTQ+, female, and racial/ethnic minority leftists state that they need to arm themselves precisely because they are more likely to be victims of violence.They claim that they feel much safer because they own firearms, especially when they live in areas with a high rate of intolerance and violence towards minorities and other groups of oppressed people.

 

 


Argument 2: Police Violence

Pro-Gun Control Point:
The police won’t disarm unless we do first.

UK cops

Most police in the UK do not carry firearms.

This is an argument related to police violence, which nearly universally harms minorities and oppressed groups disproportionately to the dominant members of society. According to this argument, police need to have their guns taken away so that they will stop murdering minorities. This simply will not happen as long as private citizens are allowed to carry firearms.

Anti-Gun Control Counterpoint A:
The cops won’t disarm no matter what.

The last time massive gun control legislation was passed in the USA it was a move to disarm black people.

Many leftists believe that the police are an inherently violent and oppressive arm of the capitalist status quo and that there is no chance for them to disarm or demilitarize, especially in the USA. Of course pro-gun control leftists can point to places where most police do not carry firearms in public, such as in much of Europe and Asia.Anti-Gun Control Counterpoint B:
Who do you think they’ll disarm first?

The last time massive gun control legislation was passed in the USA it was a move to disarm black people.[/caption]This argument relies on the prediction that any gun control measures will be applied to minorities and oppressed groups of the population and probably won’t affect the privileged/ruling classes. There is precedence for this argument throughout the history of capitalism. In the US the gun control debate in its modern form was basically kicked off when Black Panthers began carrying firearms and watching police in Oakland, California. This kicked off a huge wave of attempts to restrict gun ownership (targeting blacks specifically) that was cheerlead by none other than President Ronald Reagan. The NPR show More Perfect did a really great podcast on this little-known story of modern history which you can listen to here.

 


Argument 3: America-Centrism

Pro-Gun Control Point:
Being opposed to gun control is an America-centric perspective.

Assault rifle on American flag

Are American leftists too obsessed with guns?

Many leftists in Europe, Australia, Asia, and other places where private gun ownership is banned or heavily restricted claim that American leftists are particularly and absurdly “obsessed” with guns. They claim that the material benefits of gun control in their home countries are incontrovertible and that American leftists are foolish for wanting to live in an armed capitalist society given the statistics in the USA.

Anti-Gun Control Counterpoint A:
“Sorry, comrades, you’re just plain wrong!”

Leftists with guns.

Some American leftists believe we are lucky to be able to arm ourselves.

Some American leftists argue that Europeans are quite simply wrong about this issue, and believe that USA-based leftists are at an advantage for being able to own and carry firearms for all the reasons above and below, the issues of gun violence in the USA notwithstanding.Anti-Gun Control Counterpoint B:
“This is a uniquely American issue.”

There is also an argument to be made that this really is an America-centric issue, and that US politics and circumstances require us to take a different approach to guns in the the USA.

 


Argument 4: Revisionism

Anti-Gun Control Point:
Marx and other historical communists argued passionately for arming the proletariat.

Marx argued in favor of arming the workers.

Marx argued in favor of arming the workers.[/caption]Leftists opposed to gun control will point to quotes like the ones I shared in part one of this series to argue that all Marxists should be in favor of arming the proletariat, and we should therefore oppose gun control by the capitalist state. These leftists would see any desire to restrict gun ownership for the working class as revisionist and against the teachings of Marx and other revered leftist figures and thinkers of the past.

Pro-Gun Control Counterpoint:
Things have changed a lot since Marx and the Cold War!

19th century firearm

Things have changed a lot since Marx’s day

This argument is based on a change in material conditions since the days of the old guard communists. For one thing, Marx could never have predicted the kinds of firearms that are manufactured today and the ways they are being used to harm and kill workers. Additionally, Marx primarily spoke of arming organized Proletarian Guards to face off against armed capitalist militias – a problem that was unique to his time and circumstances. Modern leftists face much different challenges.

Author’s note: in my view, the above point/counterpoint debate has interesting parallels to the USA liberal/conservative debate over the 2nd amendment, with many Republicans saying the framers of the constitution wanted everyone to own a gun and Democrats pointing out that firearm technology has changed a lot since the black powder musket era of the 18th century when the constitution was drafted.


Argument 5: Community Defense and Cop Watching

Anti-Gun Control Point:
We need to set up community policing and cop watch programs!

cop watcher with camera

Should cop watchers be armed with more than cameras?

The Black Panthers started the first “panther patrols” back in the 1960s. During these patrols, Black Panthers would walk through cities armed with firearms, observe police, and confront them whenever they witnessed police behavior which they considered to be abusive, oppressive, or illegal. Today the Black Panthers are joined by other community policing, and cop watch organizing groups like Redneck Revolt and the John Brown Gun Club. In addition to watching cops these groups aim to build leftist militias, community defense initiatives, and train minorities, LGBTQ+, and other oppressed groups on the use of firearms.

Pro-Gun Control Counterpoint:
We don’t need an arms race with cops!

Militarized police

The police are becoming increasingly militarized in the US.

Some leftists believe that armed patrols and other confrontational use of firearms by leftists will only lead to the police militarizing and arming up even more than they already do. They see this as harmful to oppressed groups for reasons already explained, such as disproportionate police violence against minorities. These anti-gun leftists believe it’s best to deescalate and disarm the public so that we can also begin working on demilitarizing and disarming the police. Only by disarming the police can oppressed minorities’ lives be spared from incessant police violence.

 


Argument 6: Leftist Weakness

Anti-Gun Control Point:
Leftists are weak, fascists are strong

Armed neo-nazis

There are armed neo-nazis all over the world.

Currently leftists are incredibly weak. We have no popular movement, no political power or representation, and essentially very little strength and very small numbers. The fascists have us out-gunned and out-powered in society, so gun control is essentially helping Nazis far more than it’s helping the anemic left!

Pro-Gun Control Counterpoint:
We need guns so we can defend ourselves from Nazis and other reactionaries!

White supremacists will always have better access to firearms in a society that favors whites over other minorities. It’s well established that white supremacists have even made inroads into police and military units. Because fascists are carrying firearms, we need them to defend ourselves and fight fire with fire. We need guns BECAUSE the fascists have them, so we can defend ourselves and our communities!

 


Argument 6: The proletariat are already armed!

Anti-Gun Control Point:
The military is working class

Army mechanic

Most soldiers are working class

This argument goes that enlisted members of the working class are already working class. In order to have any sort of successful revolution we will need to win military members over to our cause.
In this sense, the working class is already armed since soldiers are part of the proletariat. Therefore if we want any hope of armed revolt we should work on indoctrinating military members to the left, which would simultaneously weaken the capitalist class.

Pro-Gun Control Counterpoint:
We can’t bet on indoctrinating the military!

US soldiers with nazi flag

Are soldiers too far gone to become leftists?

Capitalist state militaries spends enormous fortunes and psychological manipulation tactics to instill patriotism and loyalty in soldiers. Furthermore, most military members are already right-wing when they join, and the alt right has made inroads in most capitalist militaries. There is precious little hope to win soldiers over to our cause when they are so thoroughly indoctrinated by the reactionaries.

 


Argument 6: Revolution

Anti-Gun Control Point:
Guns are required for revolution!

Castro holding a gun in victorious gesture

Castro wouldn’t have gotten very far without any guns.

How can we overthrow the violent oppressive state without arming the masses? As Vlademir Lenin, Mao Zedong, Che Guevara, Vo Nguyen Giap, and countless other Communist revolutionaries pointed out, it’s of primary importance to arm the workers for a proletariat revolution. We must be armed in order to resist oppression!

Pro-Gun Control Counterpoint:
Your AR-15 is not going to help you against a Predator Drone.

USA aircraft carrier

Oh, you have an AR-15. Cute.

Personal firearms are too small and puny to stand up against the might of a major capitalist superpower’s incredibly powerful military. The USA, for instance, has aircraft carriers, Predator drones, Tomahawk missiles, and highly trained and skilled professional soldiers who will blast away any would-be revolutionaries before they even know what hit them.

Anti-Gun Control Counter-counterpoint:
Look at Vietnam!

vietnamese farmer smiling

Viet Meme

The Viet Cong were a bunch of farmers with rudimentary weapons and they defeated the USA. They did it before and we can do it again! Furthermore, the USA hasn’t had a definitive victory against any guerilla force since World War II. Korea ended up a draw, Vietnam was a loss, and look at Iraq and Afghanistan today. Dedicated guerillas could easily defeat a modern superpower, as we see again and again in modern history.

Pro-Gun Control Counter-counter-counterpoint:
The Vietnamese had jet fighters.

NVA tank

“Thanks for the tanks, Russia!”

Vo Nguyen Giap himself said that the first priority for the Vietnamese military was to obtain better weapons. Furthermore, the Vietnamese had heavy support from the Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea, and other communist countries. Soviet military experts trained Vietnamese in military tactics and operations and a tremendous amount of military hardware was delivered to Vietnam from communist allies. Tanks were used to liberate Hue and Saigon, sea mines were used to defend the harbors of the North, mortars and rockets were used to keep the US marines pinned down at Khe Sanh, MIG fighter jets and anti-aircraft cannons were used to resist US bombing raids and even to make attacks on Saigon, and crates of AK-47s and explosives were delivered via the Ho Chi Minh trail to Viet Cong fighters. Even with all this aid, the Vietnamese suffered incredibly heavy losses. True, farmers did use improvised and non-military weapons when necessary (and it was often necessary) but without military aid from powerful Communist states the US would have quickly rolled over Hanoi.

Author’s note: this is the point where the debate usually becomes a circular loop of parading out accounts of individual battles and dates and so on to try to establish whether or not modern leftists would have any hope for defeating a modern capitalist state military.

Obviously this doesn’t cover the entire breadth and width of leftist perspective and debate over the issue of gun control, but it does cover most of the ground that I see debated in leftist communities every time there’s a mass shooting.

Once more I’d like to note that I’ve done my best to be as neutral as possible about these arguments and to present each side as fairly and accurately as possible. In the third part of this series I’ll give a more editorial perspective of my own thoughts and feelings on the issue of gun control.

Until then, stay safe out there, comrades!

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