Why the Left Wing needs a gun culture

Robert and Mabel Guns

We become depressed when we look around and see 1100 white supremacist militia groups, and some of our names at the top [of their kill lists]! You say ‘Oh my god, they got 1100 right-wing militia groups—how many left-wing ones we got?’  ‘Well, we’re working on our journal…’  I got nothing against journals, but it’s lopsided!

– Cornell West, Left Forum 2014 keynote address


When you are attacked by a rabid dog you don’t run or throw away the walking stick you have in your hand.

– Gloria Richardson, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee organizer, Cambridge, Maryland, July, 1964 ¹


We live in a historical moment where everything seems upside down. A proto-fascist seemingly despised by the political establishment has ridden into the White House. That same establishment is now squirmingly trying to accommodate itself to that which it formerly despised. Social media—once thought of as the domain of lefty social justice warriors—turned out to be the far-right’s pathway to power. And while the reactionary candidate praised “the common man,” the liberal candidate gave secret speeches to Wall Street.


Now is the time to reconsider long-held preconceptions, as they embody precisely the thinking which led us to this point—this point where hate crimes against minorities are growing, and economic and ecological hopes are rapidly shrinking. At a juncture where liberals’ wholesale denunciation of “violence” and “gun culture” are revealed to have done nothing to reduce either one, the Left needs to disentangle the issue of oppressive force from that of necessary self-defense against oppressive force.


Brutality against minorities is escalating in the aftermath of the election, and we can only imagine what level it will reach as the Trump administration entrenches itself. Reports of attacks are too numerous to recount here, but the recent murders of a famous Black athlete (Joe McKnight) a young Black musician (Will Sims) and a 15-year old Black boy (James Means) are the most notable manifestations of the racist terror which is growing across the country. As the federal exoneration of George Zimmerman demonstrates, a state crackdown on such murders has never been in the cards, and will be even more remote under the Trump regime.


Reports from the BBC and other major news outlets show that gun ownership in the Black community has begun to grow in recent years. A Pew survey shows at least 54 percent of African-Americans have a favorable view of firearms, up from just 29 percent in 2012. The last poll was taken in 2014—in the years since then, a Southern Christian Leadership Council official has publicly called for armed self-defense, and Black Twitter, in the face of the Charleston massacre, has trended the hashtag #WeWillShootBack—so today the figures are likely higher.


Is the growing black gun movement succumbing to blind emotion and sowing the seeds of destruction? A look at progressive African-American history would suggest not. Although many sectors of the Left prefer to ignore it, there is now a small bookcase of academic studies with names like This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible. The importance of these studies is far from academic, however. They redefine our understanding of the most important American social movement of the past fifty years.


One of the first arenas of that struggle was the campaign to expose lynching in Mississippi, specifically the 1954 murder of Emmett Till. The key organizer of that campaign, TRM Howard, not only carried guns for his own protection, but made sure that there were armed guards at all times around campaign spokespeople like Mamie Till. After the rise of Martin Luther King, nonviolence became the image of civil rights, but this nominally pacifist movement never renounced its right to bear arms. When the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) came to the Deep South to organize, they encountered a vigorous Black gun culture among those who were prepared to campaign for equality. Fannie Lou Hamer, legendary founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), told one interviewer that, “I keep a shotgun in every corner of my bedroom and the first cracker even look like he wants to throw some dynamite on my porch won’t write his mama again.” Prior to the MFDP’s work, voter suppression of African-Americans was the rule in Mississippi, but after its ascendance in the late 1960s, Blacks had full ballot access and the Klan was in retreat. The Mississippi movement represents the most effective organizing of the post-war Left; Their policy on armed self-defense can teach us a great deal, particularly as the whole country begins to feel more and more like the Jim Crow South.


But aren’t guns inherently oppressive, reactionary and patriarchal? This idea has found currency in the years since the end of the civil rights movement, but the years since the civil rights movement haven’t been especially good for the Left. From Jimmy Carter to Obama—not to mention from Reagan to Trump—the US has steadily slid to the Right in all but the most superficial ways. In place of working-class activists like Fannie Lou Hamer, we’re now led by pseudo-working-class celebrities like Michael Moore, who cemented the gun control consensus with his sensationalized documentary Bowling for Columbine. Just as Moore denounces the Democratic Party in three year cycles but always comes back to them at election time, his film admitted that there are more important factors contributing to violence than guns, but finally dumped the whole problem at the feet of the NRA. It is revealing that the very same Hollywood establishment that gave Moore an Oscar for Bowling for Columbine proceeded to boo him at the ceremony for opposing the Iraq War. For them, gun control has nothing to do with genuine peace, but everything to do with an orderly and centralized capitalist empire.


It’s inevitable that liberals’ perception of guns is formed hegemonically through the mainstream news media, despite the Left’s claim to be skeptical of it. While such outlets often tell us that guns kill 33,000 people per year in the US, we’re seldom reminded that alcohol kills over 80,000, and prescription drugs kill a devastating 120,000 each year. This may have something to do with the fact that pharmaceutical companies give corporate media over $5 billion per year in advertising, alcohol companies spend $2 billion on the same, and gun manufacturers comparatively nothing. The conventional liberal wisdom is that gun advocates make up for this in lobbying dollars, but shockingly, prescription opioid manufacturers alone spend eight times more courting politicians than the NRA does. Perhaps the gun lobby would like to spend more, but as The New York Times once acknowledged, “guns are a relatively small business in the United States.”


Some liberals sincerely believe that gun control will bring us closer to a humane society, of course, but there’s little in the history of gun regulation anywhere in the world to support that theory. Hillary Clinton and other Democrats often hold up Australia’s compulsory gun buyback as a model, but decades after the confiscations, Australian society is not any kinder: The country maintains a level of economic inequality comparable to the US, and has a growing prison population. As in the US, a disproportionate number of these prisoners are immigrants and ethnic minorities. Recently video leaked out of Australian guards torturing a 14 year-old Aboriginal boy. Contrary to prominent liberals’ implications, an anti-gun culture like Australia’s just doesn’t inspire much in the way of anti-racist, anti-nationalist, or anti-capitalist culture and policy. Likewise there is no evidence that gun culture precludes a progressive society—the pioneering open-carry state of Vermont has elected Bernie Sanders to the US congress for twenty years. The autonomist Kurds of Northern Syria, “the most revolutionary women’s rights movement in the world,” according to The Independent, are explicitly armed.


The Left’s gag reflex at the Second Amendment is a Pavlovian one, conditioned by mainstream liberals’ association of gun rights with conservatism. But the unilateral disarmament of the American Left is a recent development. Eugene Debs, reputed to be the hero of Bernie Sanders, responded to the 1914 Ludlow Massacre by urging labor activists to acquire “enough Gatling and machine guns to match the equipment of Rockefeller’s private army of assassins…The constitution of the United States guarantees to you the right to bear arms, as it does to every other citizen…” Howard Zinn wrote that “Thousands of dollars were sent for arms and ammunition,” to the Colorado miners from union halls across the country. The post-World War I era collapsed the labor movement across the board, but when it roared back in the early 1930s, it was ushered in by armed miners in campaigns like the Harlan County War (Urban unions hired mobsters to do armed defense against strikebreakers in this period, most likely because gun control laws prevented them from doing it themselves). It was this militant labor resistance that created the New Deal.




At the climax of the razor-close presidential contest of 2000, the Florida Election Commission ordered a hand recount of Miami-Dade County to decide between George W. Bush and Al Gore. As the election workers attempted to begin their task, a mob of Bush supporters stormed into the  offices and physically shut down the recount. This episode was dubbed “The Brooks Brothers Riot” because it involved a straight-laced group later revealed to be Republican Congressional staffers. The recount was never restarted, and we wouldn’t learn until after W.’s inauguration that Gore had actually won the decisive state of Florida. As Rachel Maddow once acknowledged, “The single most important piece of the history of the Brooks Brothers Riot is that it worked.” Participants weren’t prosecuted, and some of them later listed the mob action on resumes to conservative institutions.


We can expect many more Brooks Brothers Riots in the coming years. The Florida episode was organized by thuggish GOP operative Roger Stone, who is now one of Donald Trump’s confidantes and campaigners. But it’s unlikely that Trump’s mobs will be as button-down as the Bush brigade, and it’s also unlikely that they’ll be unarmed. An atmosphere of gun-toting far-right intimidation hung over the Republican National Convention and even Election Day itself in 2016.  In the lead-up to the RNC, Roger Stone rallied supporters of the real estate mogul to provoke personal “confrontation” with anti-Trump delegates. During the convention, armed proto-fascist protesters stalked the streets. As the November election approached, Trump made veiled threats of assassination in the event that he lost, while his supporters, including Kentucky governor Matt Bevin, were more explicit, directly calling for bloodshed if Clinton won. These credible threats of armed rebellion may well have been a factor in low voter turnout and the final decision of the Electoral College.


Meanwhile, the audacity of right-wing militias continues to grow. The Bundy family’s movement has now marched through multiple states undermining hard-won environmental protections. They’ve faced relatively little resistance from government, with Ammon and Ryan Bundy’s charges for taking over a federal building at gunpoint ending in acquittal. The New York Times writes that this outcome “puts a target on the backs” of conservation workers. We can expect lots of targets on people’s backs in the coming years: The level of neofascist impunity is now at a point where Jon Ritzheimer, the most openly racist player in the Bundy circle, is withdrawing his guilty plea for armed extortion in spite of the immense amount of evidence against him. With Jeff Sessions set to be confirmed as Attorney General,  why should white power terrorists have anything to fear from the government? As Masha Gennsen famously wrote of a Trump presidency, “Institutions will not save you.”


If leftists believe they are accomplishing anything by personally boycotting guns, it’s not working either politically or culturally. Whether pacifists like it or not, bearing arms is a US citizenship right—and has been a citizenship right for most of our history. If conservatives have successfully claimed this privilege, then it makes no sense for the Left to disarm itself and unilaterally renounce the Second Amendment. The Right won’t follow their example, but will instead briskly proceed to consolidate their monopoly on non-state force. There are ample signs that progressives are coming to understand this. The Liberal Gun Club, a national organization with nine chapters, reports a surge in membership since the election; a more radical local group, the Phoenix John Brown Gun Club, has a long track record of promoting armed defense against white supremacists in Arizona.


While left-wing self-defense won’t make the country any more dangerous, it is likely the only hope of making it safer. The genie of violent neofascism is out of the bottle. It’s an outgrowth of the shrinking of old economic horizons, which in turn is partly a result of now-irreversible climate change. The years of living dangerously are here to stay. The only question is will those of us who value an egalitarian internationalist community survive them. This doesn’t mean that leftists ought to shoot at common racists, much less at authorities, merely because of political differences. The majority of activity should continue to be nonviolent direct action. But as social movement analyst Francis Fox Piven has noted, guns can “be used strategically, and often defensively to permit the disruptive action, the withdrawal of cooperation, to continue” in the face of right-wing vigilantism.² This is how the Black freedom movement of the Deep South faced open white supremacy the last time. Contrary to the warnings of mainstream liberalism, historian Robin DG Kelley found that “armed self-defense actually saved lives, reduced terrorist attacks on African-American communities, and laid the foundation for unparalleled community solidarity.“


The Left is correct to denounce the right-wing’s fetishization of brute force, but we are getting nowhere mirroring it with an equally crude fetishization of vulnerability. We can no longer dream that the Electoral College, or a CIA coup, or a safety pin, is going to save us in the age of brutal white power reaction. We must recognize that dissidents and oppressed people are on their own for the next four years—and possibly longer—and must take defense and security into their own hands. When racists and fascists declare “open season,” we will not allow innocent people to be the prey. We must vow to protect each other by any means necessary.






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Mad. Nuts. Insane. Mentally challenged. Drunk, maybe? Do not touch a gun in that case. Or in any other case. simply go home, relax, sit down and read graswurzel.net

Someone hits you on the right cheek, you turn your left one as well ? Ok, do so if it makes you happy.

Doesn't mean that everybody with a different position is insane.

I side with the author of the article. We are living in times of unrest, rapid change and violent conflict. Now violence is a very ugly thing, and best to be avoided. But sometimes you are in a situation where non violence is not an option, because you would be killed as a consequence.

I´ve noticed that not only in the US, but also in europe right wing extremists gain to arm themselves. In Ukraine, they have already managed to establish a double structure, a political wing behind and a fully equiped military formation on the front. In the baltic states and in poland paramilitarian formations, mostly containing right-wing nationalist, are going to be established at the moment. Hungary has already or is going to follow. German racists discuss getting armend on platforms like achgut.com, pi-news.net or simply by from (so german media explain) outlaw motorcycle onepercenters.

But still we are not the US! There is a chance to keep political conflict somehow civilised at least in western europe. On the level of theory we have concepts developed by Chantal Mouffe, eg, and on the practical level we can still simply.... have fun in Judo as a sport and ressource for situations, we don´t want.

We are not naive. Just peaceful.

to answer your question: Yes, that´s the way we do it. We turn the left one as well. In my City of Dortmund we suffered about five persons being killed by Nazis during the last ten years and no Nazi has ever been killed or severely harmed by Antifascists. We are not seeking revenge or something. We want to reduce their space of activity by blocading their marches, maybe sabotage their infractrure (cars and so on). And are severly opressed by Police for that. Beaten, encarcerated, courted and so on. Turning the left cheek, as you said. But we never took "an eye for an eye". If you want to accuse us beeing pussy and faggot: "That´s great. Amazing. You should try it" (D.Trump). Is he your rolemodel? Sorry, but u started beeing offensive.

Also, bei uns hat es ja auch einen NSU-Mord gegeben. Aber natürlich hat niemand mal eben aus Rache einen der örtlichen Nazis umgebracht. Mein Englisch ist nicht so gut. Halten die GenossInnen aus Amerika uns dehalb für feige und schwach ("pusssy und faggot", frei übersetzt, hoffentlich nicht zu frei, das ist so nen sexistisches Wortspiel, richtig)? Meinen die echt, wir hätten das tun sollen? Please excuse my bad english.

white? living in germany? over-privileged? know-it-all, maybe? simply stay home, keep on relaxing, stay seated and read whatever you want. everything works.

Because communists, anarchists, etc. don't get killed by nazi-scum... right. You're an idiot. Go in a safespace and read whatever you want.

Im Rahmen der hier vorgeschlagenen Aufrüstung und dem damit einhergehenden Rüstungswettlauf zwischen rechts links, welche schon an sich Skepsis hervorruft, ist das Titelbild doch mehr als Fragwürdig. So ist die Waffe der linken Person eine Walther P38.


Diese Waffe, ein in Deutschland gefertigter Rückstoßlader, war im zweiten Weltkrieg die Ordonnanzwaffe der Wehrmacht und der SS. Mit dieser zuverlssigen Mordmaschine wurden unzählige Freiheitskämpfer und Juden ermordet, wodurch sie zu einer Vernichtungswaffe avancierte. Vor diesem Hintergrund ist es absolut falsch diese Waffe als Zeichen, ja selbst nur als Titelbild zu verwenden, besonders wenn es darum geht das Gute vor dem Bösen zu Schützen.

Die Idee des "Rüstungswettlauf" suggeriert (ähnlich wie das Gerede von einer "Gewaltspirale"), dass Nazis nur bewaffnet sind, weil Linke es auch sind.

Nazis versuchen immer an Nazis zu kommen.

Berichte über Waffenfunde bei Neonazis und Reichsbürgern gibt es zur Genüge. Von einer hohen Dunkelziffer muss ausgegangen werden.

Nazis sind tendenziell bewaffnet und gewalttätig. Ganz egal ob die Gegenseite es auch ist oder nicht.


Und die Herkunft einer Waffe hat ja nicht unbedingt viel zu bedeuten. Eine Waffe ist ein Gegenstand.

So haben zum Beispiel auch Widerstandskämpfer und Partisanen erbeutete Wehrmachts- und SS-Waffen benutzt. Warum auch nicht?

Sogar das junge Israel hat sich ehemalige Wehrmachts-Karabiner (K98) auf Nato-Kaliber umbauen lassen und genutzt. Auch Luger-Pistolen oder die Schmeisser-MP 40.

Was Bewaffnung angeht, kann man nicht immer wählerisch sein.


Better to have it and not need it, then to need it and not have it.

ja. haste recht. irgendwie vielleicht vom schreoibtisch aus suboptimal.

dahaste ahnung von den knarren. und copy-paste fähigkeiten.


dann bleibt die frage, warum stellen die mods von linksunten dieses foto online?


in dem artikel geht es um solidarität und die notwendigkeit von militantem widerstand, nicht nur, aber vor allem für minderheiten, unterdrückte, marginalisierte. und der artikel ist betitelt mit einem foto, auf welchem zwei people of color pistolen in den händen halten. eine der pistolen ist eine walther p38. aha.


ein mensch zielt auf einem foto mit einer pistole. die herkunft und geschichte einer industriell eine million mal hergestellten waffe ist dir für die einordnung, ob wer aufseiten der "guten" oder "bösen" kämpft, offenkundig wichtiger, als die reflektion darüber, dass du von deiner eigenen position aus eigentlich zwei poc vorschreibst, welche knarren sie vermuteterweise in nordamerika auf einem foto zur schau stellen sollten, damit ihr kampf auch klar als der deiner "guten" seite dargestellt werden kann? irgendwie indirekt so?



wenn auf dieser belehrenden, die eigene position nicht mitbetrachtenden positionierung (schließlich schreibst du dazu nichts) dann die vorgeschlagene aufrüstung bei dir den begriff "rüstungswettlauf" hervorruft und für dich mit "an sich schon skepsis" bewertet werden muss, dann will ich dem, was du zur schau stellst auch schon ganz an sich mit skepsis begegnen.


[ich bin weiß, able-bodied und habe einen deutschen pass]

"dann bleibt die frage, warum stellen die mods von linksunten dieses foto online?" -> das stellen keine mods online. indymedia ist open posting, jede/r kann das veröffentlichen. in dem fall hat jemand einen artikel von einer linken, us-amerikanischen seite kopiert und dazu ein foto hier hochgeladen.

Beschäftige dich lieber mit den auf dem Foto abgebildeten Persöhnlichkeiten anstatt so einen Mist zu schreiben, es kann einem ja wohl herzlich egal sein mit was für einer Waffe man sich gegen RassistInnen verteidigt.


Zum weiterlesen:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_F._Williams (Auf dem Foto)


As the article's written in English and readers might wish a translation of your postings, especially if they contain criticism, we try to give translations for some of the comments.


Bad Aftertaste

Within the here suggested armament accompanied by an arms' race between the left and the right, which itself evokes scepticism, the frontispiece is yet more than questionable,
as the left person's gun is a Walther P38. This weapon, a recoil-operated gun produced in Germany, was the Wehrmacht's and SS' olderly weapon during WWII.
With the use of this reliable murder machine innumerable freedom fighters and Jews were killed, whereby it became a weapon of mass destruction.
Against this backdrop it is absolutely fallacious to utilize it as a symbol, may it just be the article's frontispiece, in particular in a situation, when it's about protecting the good from the evil.


referring to the German original "Fader Beigeschmack"

Ich benutze im privaten einen Bezinkocher Typ Juwel 34, hergestellt im Unterdrueckerstaat DDR, basierend auf einem Modell, welches deutsche Soldaten in Russland verwendet haben. Damit bin ich doch quasi schon Hitler, oder?


Die P38 eine 'Vernichtungswaffe' - wie alle anderen Schusswaffen auch. Nur weil ein bestimmter Waffentyp von Menschen verwendet wurde, macht es den Gegenstand 'an sich' nicht boese.

Der Text bietet ganz andere Ansatzpunkte ueber die man sich streiten kann, genauso ueber die Bewaffnung an sich. Da ist das Titelbild herzlich egal.

interessanter Artikel:


Know Your (Gun) Rights! A Primer for Radicals


komisch, dass hier der Aufschrei groß ist, aber bei dem "martial arts"-Artikel der Satz "The more good people who know how to fight, the better place the world is." einfach durchging.

Generell ists doch so, dass angestrebt werden sollte: The less people use violence as a form of communication, the better the world is.


Ist aber natürlich nicht die Realität, weshalb es durchaus angebracht sein kann, sich damit auseinanderzusetzen.

Im Kampfsport gibt es aber auch Formen die nur defensiv ausgerichtet sind, also nicht zuschlagen, Leute "platt machen" uä beinhalten womit es wirkliche Selbstverteidigung ist.

Bei Waffen wird das Thema schwieriger, aber sicher nicht verunmöglicht.

Generell ist Aufrüstung am Ende immer ein Wettrüsten auch wenn sie aus dem Gefühl der Selbstverteidigung gestartet wurde.


Macht(gefühle) über Gewaltausübung (mit oder ohne Waffen), Stärke als Ideal uswusf sind eben nicht mit allen Ideen/Utopien in Einklang zu bringen und wie weit sich davon entfernt werden sollte?

Klar ist der Weg über zB Aikido, aus-dem-Weg-gehen-und-später-"zuschlagen", Stärke durch Masse, Sabotage, Liebe/Empathie uä steiniger, aber inwieweit will ich mich auf  das Spiel des Gegners einlassen? Wo kann ich darauf verzichten, weil mir/uns was besseres eingefallen ist...uswusf?


Schwierige Entscheidung, die sicher stark vom Wohnort und der empfundenen Unsicherheit/Angst/Vereinzelung anhängt.

wenn sich diese ansicht auch hierzulande durchsetzen wuerde. aber nein, wer auch nur das wort "waffe" - egal ob scharfe waffe, schreckschusspistole oder pfefferspray - in den mund nimmt, wird gleich als macker, waffennarr etc. abgetan.

wir als linke szene muessen endlich aufwachen und feststellen, dass sich die andere seite, bullerei wie nazis, mehr als gut bewaffnet hat. und es ist fahrlaessig ohne ende, dass wir denken, mit einem bluemchen gegen einen bis hinter beide ohren aufgeruesteten nazi antreten koennten.

Blümchen werden nicht reichen, aber Dummheit wird es auch nicht bringen.