“Gun Control” Is Not a Solution to Violent White Supremacy

June 22, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


When a white supremacist murdered nine people in a historic Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, he reportedly told the victims, “You’ve raped our women, and you are taking over the country ... I have to do what I have to do.” According to press reports, he has told authorities he committed the crime to start a “race war.”

In the face of what is undeniably a racist mass murder in a racist society, Barack Obama’s response to the massacre said: “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it.”

Only after that did Obama acknowledge: “The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history. This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked.”

Two African American men lynched in Marion, Indiana, 1930.
A specific defining factor in the history and culture of the United States is that this country is built on genocide and white supremacist violence carried out not only by the official forces of violent repression (the army and police) but by significant sections of armed white people. Above: Two African American men lynched in Marion, Indiana, 1930. (Photo: Library of Congress)

The horrible murders in Charleston are a product of and component of vicious, violent, societal white supremacy that runs from the Confederate flag above the South Carolina State House to the AmeriKKKan flag on the shirts of police who murder Black people from New York to California and everywhere in between.

Yes, the United States is unique among powerful imperialist countries like those in Western Europe, Japan, Australia, or Canada, in the number of guns in people’s hands and the amount of violence associated with that. The question is why, what that serves, and what’s the solution?

And then how do calls for “gun control” (in quotes because “gun control” advocates are not in any way calling for controlling all guns!) fit into this picture?

Guns in AmeriKKKa

We live in a society of intense exploitation, alienation, and—correspondingly—an ethos of “might makes right.” That he who has the most and biggest guns gets to assert his interests. And a specific defining factor in the history and culture of the United States is that this country is built on genocide and white supremacist violence carried out not only by the official forces of violent repression (the army and police) but by significant sections of armed white people.

From the gold mines of South Dakota to the farms of Oklahoma, as the army drove Native Americans from their land, armed settlers who occupied that land were formally or informally “deputized” to enforce their “right” to that stolen land with guns. Mexicans were also frequently the targets of lynch mobs in the Southwest, from the mid-1800s until well into the 1900s, to drive Mexican landowners from the land.

The iconic American myth of the “rugged individual” supposedly defending “his” farm, his ranch, his claim, his property from so-called “savages,” is set on a stage of genocidal massacres of Native Americans and theft of land from Mexico.

Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy book coverCommunism and Jeffersonian Democracy (RCP Publications, 2008) by Bob Avakian

Bob Avakian takes on the ideals of Jeffersonianism, and convincingly locates even its “loftiest aspirations” in social relations of exploitation and oppression—the social relations out of which those ideals grew, and which they served and continue to serve. In doing so, he draws on a wide range of scholarly research and polemically takes on major contemporary defenders of Jeffersonian democracy. Avakian demonstrates why and how these ideals of democracy co-existed with—and, indeed, arose on the basis of—the enslavement of Black people and the deep embedding of white supremacy into the body politic and ideological psyche of the U.S. But he goes further: not only showing why events turned out that way, but why those ideals themselves could only and can only generate and serve relations of exploitation and the division, and polarization, of people into antagonistic classes. . .into oppressor and oppressed. Moreover, he convincingly points the way to a vision and future that is truly emancipatory—to a vision of freedom far more radical and thoroughgoing than anything imaginable within the constricted horizons of Jeffersonianism. In doing this, Avakian includes a devastating critique of the “free marketplace of ideas,” contrasting it to a genuinely unfettered search for the truth—and he shows what kind of economic and political system would be necessary for that to flourish.

Order here

The deep economic, political, and cultural roots of this mentality in the psyche of “white America”—the “yeoman” mentality, in short—are gone into in the pamphlet Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, by Bob Avakian.

After the Civil War, the oppression of Black people in slavery-like conditions and the enforcement of Jim Crow laws took the form of official state violence, but also the lynch mob, the Texas posse, and the KKK. Movies like Birth of a Nation glorified lynching and Klan terror as “defending traditional Southern culture and way of life”—which was a tradition and culture of slavery.

And the history of the United States is a history of wars of aggression around the world, against rival reactionary powers, and against rebellions and revolutions. The murderers are glorified as “heroes,” and the victims demonized with racist venom (as “Japs,” “Chinks,” “Gooks,” or “Sand Niggers”). George Bush II told his generals in Iraq, “Kick ass! If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them!”

This “might makes right” gangster, “kick ass,” bullying “logic” and “morality” trickles down and infects this society very broadly. In the United States, all kinds of people resort to violence with guns for all kinds of reasons—and many of those reasons are very bad, including too many of the most oppressed killing each other over nothing.

But this system and its spokespeople legitimize white supremacist, male chauvinist, anti-immigrant, and racist gun violence, both by their official enforcers (like the police and army) and by vigilantes and “lone wolf” racists and reactionaries.

A number of commentators have pointed to the fact that the massacre in Charleston isn’t being treated as a terrorist attack by the media. If the killer was a Muslim, he would have been branded a terrorist. And can anyone deny that had the murderer in Charleston been Black, he would have been branded a “thug” and Black people as a whole would have been blamed and vilified? In either instance, the incident would have been used to ratchet up racist demonization and repression. And imagine if one of the recent victims of racist violence—either at the hands of police like Eric Garner, or at the hands of a racist like the person who killed Trayvon Martin—had exercised a right to armed self-defense? What do you think the authorities, or the National Rifle Association, would have to say about that?

“Gun Control” Is Not the Solution, But It Would Ratchet Up Repression

Not every gun owner is doing something bad with their gun, or planning to. And individual gun ownership and the ability to train in firearm use is actually an important right of the individual against the state, one which is upheld in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). At the same time, right now, in capitalist-imperialist America, there is an epidemic of reactionary violence committed with guns. But what would be served by passing new laws restricting gun ownership in light of everything we’ve pointed to about the nature of this system?

First off: the police kill hundreds of people every year in the United States, many of them Black or Latino and unarmed. Is anyone advocating disarming the police? The U.S. military inflicts mass death around the world. The U.S. invasion of Iraq alone was responsible for the deaths of over a million people. Are any “gun control” advocates talking about taking the guns (and drones and nukes and poison gas) out of their hands?

And why is it that the powers-that-be, as a whole, either do not want to or do not dare move to disarm these white supremacist militias, border vigilantes, and other armed fascists? For some in the ruling class, they count on these paramilitary fascists to enforce the status quo and to be a violent force in future societal clashes, and to be ready and able to try to crush a serious attempt at a liberating revolution.

As for others in the ruling class, they don’t dare stir up the hornet’s nest that would be set off if they seriously moved to disarm these forces. People should remember a year ago when a fascist named Cliven Bundy organized all kinds of white people to take up guns to “defend his property” against the federal government and totally got away with it. What do you think would happen if Black or Latino people did anything even remotely similar in the inner cities of this country? One thing for sure—the government would not have “stood down”! (For more on the ominous implications of the Cliven Bundy incident, see “Three Outrages in Four Days in AmeriKKKa.”)

The reality is, “gun control” has historically been used and would be used as a tool for ratcheting up repression directed against the oppressed. We are not here advocating anything, but to pose a hypothetical: How do you think stricter “gun control” laws (or even the ones on the books now) would be used in a future situation where there might be legitimate resistance and self-defense against racist attacks either by police or unofficial racist vigilantes? And how would these laws be used in the event of an attempt at a revolution—under conditions that do not exist today but that could emerge?

And get real: Who do you think would be targeted for any “gun control” clampdown? We’ve already seen how so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws that set an atmosphere where a white racist could kill Trayvon Martin in Florida were applied completely differently when a Black woman defended herself and her children—by firing a warning shot into the ceiling of her own apartment―from a man who was threatening them. (See “The Whole Damn System is Guilty, Free Marissa Alexander!”)

New laws that gave the authorities—the State—more of a monopoly of control of guns would not address or solve the problem of violently enforced white supremacy. And would not be a good thing. But revolution can solve the problem of white supremacy, along with providing the basis to overcome and end all oppression and in so doing put an end to all antagonistic conflicts among people. That would be a good thing!



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