A Non-Pacifist's Critique Of The Gun Debate

  • Posted on: 6 July 2016
  • By: Anonymous (not verified)

Radicals around me from the far-Left, mainly anarchists, Marxists, and non-affiliated anti-fascists, since Obama was elected, have been up in arms about the looming potential of maybe losing their arms. After another example of mass death via the easy accessibility of mass-murdering weapons, Democratic politicians in the US are trying again to reform the legalize-faire laws on guns. People I know are saying guns=revolution, that they, as a small minority in arms, will have the ability to stop the neoliberal-State and/or fascist-State. But, as it stands, the masses are not up in arms and ready to seize the governmental and economic apparatuses, through force (or not).

Recently re-reading Durruti: In The Spanish Revolution, I have connected it to what is going on in the far-Left and guns. There are many examples of “The People In Arms” in this social-autobiography of the Spanish Anarchist movement, the largest non-authoritarian far-Left movement to ever exist. The book highlights a struggle that lasted a century (mid-1800’s to mid-1900’s), one in which people saw a illegitimate system and took the means to change it through every method, many being non-violent, like strikes. So, when there were a series of off-and-on-again Fascist Dictatorships in Spain in the 1930's and anti-human actions by the democratic governments that popped up in-between, there would be armed insurrectionary moments fomented by the Anarchists.

Here is an example (the CNT is the far-Left anarchist union):

On November 23, 1933, the CNT and FAI’s National Revolutionary Committee set up base in Zaragoza, which would soon be the city most engaged in the insurrection… [The CNT] divided a map of Spain into colored zones, with each color indicating a region’s potential. In the red zones (Aragón, Rioja, and Navarre) the insurrection would be the most aggressive; in the blue zones (Catalonia, in particular) it would begin with a general strike and then become revolutionary; in the green zones (Center and North), where the Socialists dominated, there would be a general strike and an attempt to draw Socialist workers into the struggle. Valencia and Andalusia were marked in red-blue.

The National Revolutionary Committee (NRC) printed pamphlets urging the workers to take immediate control of the means of production by occupying the factories, mines, and workshops. They were to set up Workers Committees in the workplaces, which would federate locally and form the Local Workers’ Council. People in rural areas were to form Free Communes and federate by county. They would seize the large food depots and distribute food products through cooperatives. They would also create an armed workers’ militia that would provide revolutionary security. It would be organized in small and highly mobile guerrilla detachments, using trucks and other vehicles to get around. They sent these pamphlets to the CNT Defense Committees and FAI groups, who reproduced them in large numbers and distributed them in all the villages.

Notice the focus on democracy and that the emphasis on arms as secondary? They were able to organize their insurrections well in advance amongst a large swath of people because they had their trust. Also, they did so in a democratic manner. Seriously, they were just giving out pamphlets about an illegal insurrection like it was not a big deal! Not surprising in that they represented a rational alternative to the status-quo for many people, from all strata of life, so they could go to where the weapons were and well, just take them.

The far-Left now thinks the fascist-state is looming or already exists, either through neoliberalism or Trump's far-Right Populism. [The far-Right thinks without their arms the NWO (Zionist, Feminist, Masonic, etc) will take over and turn everyone into cattle and put them into one mass prison]. And to draw on the logic of Georges Fontenis, Capitalism and the State are just a tool for exploitation, not the root of it. They do continue to be utilized to make the world worse for some: violence and terror if you're non-white, a women, poor, not heteronormative, and/or in a country colonized or under siege by the National and Transnational forces. However, things are different now. The US has a military whose supremacy is beyond comprehension; and its domination almost global. And the automized-globalized changes in our world from an industrial society to a post-industrial society developed a cybernetic revolution that revolutionized how we interact as a society. This, in part, is why BLM has developed and not another mass armed Leftist group. Murray Bookchin's analysis of the Spanish Anarchists and their Revolution of 1936-1939 is informative:

The Spanish Civil War of 1936–39 was, at its inception, the last of the classical European workers’ and peasants’ revolutions — not, let me make it clear, a short-lived “uprising,” a cadre-controlled “guerrilla war,” or a simple civil conflict between regions for national supremacy. And like so many life-forms that appear for the last time, before fading away forever, it was the most far-reaching and challenging of all such popular movements of the great revolutionary era that encompasses Cromwellian England of the late 1640s and the working-class uprisings of Vienna and Asturias of the early 1930s.

...Our period, which stresses the development of the individual self as well as social self-management, stands in a highly advantageous position to assess the authentic nature of libertarian organization and relationships. A European or American civil war of the kind that wasted Spain in the thirties is no longer conceivable in an epoch that can deploy nuclear weapons, supersonic aircraft, nerve gas, and a terrifying firepower against revolutionaries. Capitalist institutions must be hollowed out by a molecular historical process of disengagement and disloyalty to a point where any popular majoritarian movement can cause them to collapse for want of support and moral authority. But the kind of development such a change will produce — whether it will occur consciously or not, whether it will have an authoritarian outcome or one based on self-management — will depend very much upon whether a conscious, well-organized libertarian movement can emerge.

So many communities now (those who just suffered from mass murder or who deal with mass murder daily as we see in Chicago and cities now approaching Chicago) are saying they want less violence from guns, but also from the State or Capitalists. They want their families to not be put in jail, deported, and/or to receive true justice when in their lives or workplaces they suffer injustice. That is the call now.

A Plea To The Armed Left:

My comrades in arms who feel revolution is made mostly through arms, you're not part of the vanguard of a mass revolutionary movement because one at present doesn't exist (whether this is the fault of the Left, Right, or history is for a different article). Your revolution by a minority in arms sounds too much like Russia in 1917, Mussolini in 1921, etc. And, if we are thinking clearly, means to counter “The People” from taking power in the future will be covert and nebulously postmodern, as it is being done now or always has been done (hegemonically). There is plain-and-simple gradual and seemingly non-violent austerity that deprives people of energy and life, etc. Or, to get futurist, they will take the form of bio-political strikes or oppression, or computer-based warfare. Those of you who continue to focus on gun battles, your desire for danger is self-centered, reflecting the privilege you have in not recognizing what violence people are actually experiencing. Maybe, later, you can be heroic if you are needed. Get ready to actually help people or start doing it now; calm down about guns; go build a movement like BLM; organize your community; and/or build an actual legitimate alternative to what exists, if you feel that what exists is inherently unable to become something more emancipatory. Guns for any of those are not needed now.



Sure, guns are not needed for any mass movement, organization, or project. But if mass society is the enemy, so are the alternatives you mention.

How can one tell the oppressed people to don't get guns "for now" when they've been already shot at by fascists, KKK and cops alike?

This sounds like more pacifist manipulation.

...and also patronizing.

How many more deaths of POC and homeless people you gonna need to stop telling people to not arm themselves at protests?

...And yet the only Bookchinists building a new society are the ones armed to the teeth in Kurdistan...

In this context, history and culture of struggle precedes revolutionary theory by four decades at least. Bookchin never advocated this kind of struggle, it's the Kurds who took inspiration from his theory.

Theory is just a bunch of concepts. It doesn't fight a war.

This only proves my point.

The Kurdish experiment in Municipal Communalism is first and foremost very much a cultural struggle. They spend an inordinate amount of time on the cultural part of the fight, the violence part of it is more about self-defense than the idea that this is how you win a revolutionary civil war.

Ultimately, as American Anarchists, I only see the Kurdish example as lesson to be learned from, so, again, cultural struggle. We need organizations, some exist, to tease out what is good from this experience and translate that into what should be a long term vision for the world.

Also, in terms of the militaristic fight, what is going on in Kurdistan is not what happen in other places. The level of war they're engaged in is only bordering on postmodern, in that the area that they are defending and the militaries involved are not resorting to the postmodern means like biological warfare or nuclear weapons in a manner that actually end the fight in a second.

Why this is, I don't know, but I'm happy it hasn't resorted to that. However it could and the Kurdish far-Left lacks the ability to counter, say, a serious invasion by the US with its insanely advanced military.

That is something that I feel is important to be said, because lot's of people are gonna shit-talk it, and not notice that it is saying something that (at least as far as I know) is not being said in anglophone anarchist online conversations right now.

That said, I have some problems. First off, I am skeptical about the size or significance of this "armed left". I know more Yankee anarchists own guns than Canadian ones, but in terms of the number of people who talk about owning guns, and stress the importance of doing so... I just don't think there are that many. I have met "gun nuts" in anarchist and anarchist-adjacent spaces throughout the years, who might actually own guns or not, but I don't think there is a serious number of people who are not already "calm about guns".

As to the issue of gun access, I think it isn't something that it is cool to dismissively tell people to "calm down" about. Very few people do actual activism on this issue in the scene, but when it comes to those who do, and who have been doing it for a long time (such as, say, the North Carolina Piece Corps, who were putting out "pro-armed" analysis/provocation into the scene already several years ago), I think it is worthwhile to see the value in the projects that they are doing. Unless, of course, you think that their ideas are totally wrong, which would be fair enough.

The suggested action paths at the end are very poorly conceived. For one, "building an alternative" can mean almost anything, including an alternative in which it might be necessary, or at least to helpful, to have guns... This is something that isn't just happening in Rojava (which a U.S.-centric perspective might consider far too distant from "our context"), but also rather frequently in indigenous-led land occupations here on Turtle Island, for instance. Also, I have less certainty in what the utility of guns will be in the future than you do. Maybe guns will become a completely obsolete technology - but there are plenty of reasons to think that this is not true, at least not in the next thirty years say, and that also doesn't invalidate their possible utility at this precise historical moment.

Finally, I think this piece has a very problematic element in it, the theme of "following black leadership". The way the drive for less guns in Chicago's neighbourhoods is mentioned here, it seems as though the assumption is that this is good because it emerges from (an essentialized conception of) black opinion. There is no articulation as to why this might be a good in itself. Such a case could, I am sure, be articulated - but the lack of it here really shapes the way I take the text as a whole. It reads like an admonishment for bad behaviour (which I largely think is not even happening, since gun nuts are only a small part of the movement), not a concrete suggestion for "improving practice" or whatevs.

Shadow's being too generous. I look around the anarchist and broader leftist milieus in NA and the problems that stand out aren't exactly a matter of rowdy, armed revolutionaries firing pistols in to the air. Ha! I say again, HA!

It's just a tool, although I can't speak to the anxiety of living in some places in the states where everyone is strapped all the time. Doesn't matter, gun control is always going to be worse than the problems it's allegedly solving by ceding more power to the state. This is bedrock anarchist analysis, occasional killing-sprees perpetrated by a tiny portion of the mentally ill population aren't nearly as dangerous to liberty as making excuses for the police state. Spare us this condescending drivel.

I wrote the above article.

I should have noted that it was addressed to my fellow white people as I wouldn't think to be able to speak to people of color's relationship with guns. Please check out the following for more of an idea of where I am at: https://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2016/07/the-2nd-amendment-is-so....

'People of Color', as well as 'white people' are abstract categories that cannot possibly represent all the people you assume fall into those categories. Essentializing people will not end racism. You can't speak to anyone else's experiences ever. When you try to speak to 'white people' and not to 'people of color' as if everyone you assume fits these categories shares some kind of real thing in common, you perpetuate the victimization of poc and the supremacy of white people. It's like how charity is inherently patronizing.

said "Death to White people and Officers".

rest in Peace, Micah Johnson. and all who've fallen.
solidarity means love

categorizing is the basis of scientific and rational/analytical thinking that Western civilization has put into an unnatural precedence over the relational understanding that comes from experience-based intuition. as nietzsche observes, that unstable inversion is in the process of collapsing.

'categorizing' a thing gives it a semantic identity-in-itself based on 'its own' components and properties. it is based on 'circular reasoning' [flawed logic] as shown by henri poincaré.

in nature, relations prevail over categories, as where black and white children are raised in one family. relations generally prevail in shaping dynamics that language attributes to categories. in nature, relational tensions are the source of violent eruptions (release of tensional energy), not the players through which the venting manifests; e.g. in events where white cops shoot poc, the physically real source is the relational tensions. as relational tensions rise, the number of people that experience tensions exceeding their threshold tolerance increases, and they start popping off like popcorn in a hotting-up social-relational ambiance.

if you are a person who prefers to put abstract logical truths in precedence over experience-based intuition, you will argue that it is sufficient to go after the doer of the bad-assed deed and to hold him fully and solely responsible. if you hold that experience-based intuition is in a natural precedence over logical truths, you will see the same dynamics in terms of relational tension driven 'popping-off' aka 'self-organized criticality' [a basic natural phenomena].

Western justice is retributive, employing 'logical propositions' in combination with 'moral judgement' that attributes full and sole responsibility to 'independent beings' for 'their acts'; i.e. it looks at the 'popping of corns' [a relational figures-in-ground activity] and sees it as 'corns popping off' [figures-on-their-own dynamic], a reduction that nietzsche calls an 'error of grammar' of the 'lightning flashes' variety. the 'corns popping off' are then seen as the full and sole source of the problem, ignoring the relational-tensional ambiance and imputing some sort of internal evil to be the local jumpstart source of the bad-assed actions. in the natural 'relations'--before--'things-that-do-stuff' view of indigenous anarchism, justice is restorative, acknowledging that the popping corns are secondary ['it takes a whole community to bring an individual to his popping off point] and is therefore a justice that acts to restore RELATIONAL balance and harmony.

'categories' such as 'blacks' and 'whites' are logical abstractions that ignore relational 'fetalization' that is in a natural precedence over logical truths. in the physical reality of our actual experience, relations are in a natural precedence over 'categories'. [i.e. epigenetic influence is in a natural precedence over genetic expression (the fetalizings of cells with identical DNA varies according to environmental influence)].

movements that aim to 'protect a category' (BLM) build into their foundations a legitimizing of 'categorizing', and implicitly advocate a 'fair management of the diverse multiplicity of categories' approach to social dynamics management. such a society replicates Western civilization in that it puts logical abstraction into an unnatural precedence over experience-based intuition [i.e. it sees 'what things do' as the source of relations [the machine worldview] rather than relations as the source of 'what things do'; i.e. it puts Newtonian physics into precedence over Einsteinian physics]

I appreciate you actually taking my desire to inject "pomo" analysis into the debate, but I don't see how you're Nietzschean active-nihilist ahistoricism is going to bring about any shift in reality beyond the necessity of its critique. However it doesn't end there. The radical power of pomo analysis is the desire to get beyond any failings of the past Left. Should this not mean the fusion of history and practice with an understanding of their failings? As to ensure future victories? Tautological exercises are not enough.

That was probably the clearest and most well written emile post I have ever read.....there must be a copycat!

I believe an entire reconceptualization of Being, or relational movements, is far more helpful than clinging on to traditional materialist categories....those of which emile has taken to task.

What is meant by 'doing something', author of this piece?

You want to bring about a shift in reality? Read it again bro. Ahistoricism, so hot right now.

as howard zinn showed in 'A People's History of the United States', one can select the facts one wants to prove the truth of one history or prove the truth of its direct contradiction: "the colonizers constructed a wonderful new world in the Americas" ... "the colonizers destroyed a wonderful established world on Turtle Island".

logic-based semantic realities such as 'histories' are radically incomplete skeletal representations that fail to capture [are innately incapable of capturing] the physical reality of our actual, natural experience.

purificationism that aims to optimize some combination of theory and practice that can purportedly generate successful construction of a 'desired future' should reflect on the nonlinearity of the physical world we live in wherein "the dynamics of the inhabitants are conditioning the dynamics of the habitat at the same time as the dynamics of the habitat are conditioning the dynamics of the inhabitants" -- Mach's principle

have the descendants of those enslaved and colonized agreed to a statute of limitations regarding the addressing of impact on their forebears even though it continues to play out in the situational circumstances they are finding themselves in, and their families and emerging heirs?

if not, then historical events that supposedly tell the story of 'what happened' cannot be relied upon since the books are not yet closed. in fact, it is only by grammatical device that we close the books on 'events' and confine them as completed things-in-themselves to 'the past'. 'Columbus discovered America' is not an 'open-and-closed' 'event-it-itself' but a boil in a boiling relational continuum that historians have subjectively bundled and celebrated and/or reproached, as the precursor of a great conquest and extension of empire, and/or as the outwelling of a condition of malaise whose transformative influence continues to impart flavour/aroma in the transforming relational continuum [a stirring of cream in the coffee].

the recording of 'historical events', as if in a timeline from past to future, is a convenient way of arranging observations [according to one's subjective preference] that departs radically from the physical reality of our actual experience in the continuing now of a transforming relational continuum that stirs us up so that we can do some stirring of our own.

p.s. ... we know that histories written in russia are different than histories written in the U.S. and we know that academia uses histories as the basis for political analysis and policy formulation, and we know that the Western media subscribes to a very uniform historical foundation, and given the attacks on history by Zinn, Nietzsche and others, why should we continue to believe that history provides us with a solid 'operative reality' for organizing our individual and collective behaviour?

the global collapse of belief in politics and in political theorizing points to a misguided faith in the integrity of all timeline based 'semantic realities' [including 'economic growth' and 'Darwinism']. it would seem a worthy topic of discussion.

Again, this is not a very charitable discussion space. I appreciate the contribution - and I'd be curious if you had any substantive responses to the things I said.

Well I'm the person you replied to but but I don't see why. In your piece, you assume too many things about your comrades. What they are and aren't doing … I don't know, I get the sense like you had a few conversations with people who overemphasized the 2nd amendment but I'm not even american. The anarchist milieu especially doesn't seem to have a gun culture problem in my experience and even if it did, there's no way to address it while remaining an actual anarchist so … it's a strange direction to write in.

I concur that there isn't necessarily a gun culture in the anarchist and far-Left. I was speaking specifically to the responses that every time there is a mass-murder via guns certain part of the anarchist and far-Left milieu tend to get reactionary and defend guns. Ultimately my point was there is a time and place for revolutionary violence, however you have to be pragmatic and be real.

Only people who potentially want to harm you like statists and fascists want you disarmed. "Gun control" means more state monopoly on violence. If shtf situation occurs and a violent war starts, how will you protect yourself? Will you call the cops? Or maybe the liberals will come to your rescue?

Dude dude when the aliens invade, you gonna grab the butter knife and yee haw?

Even the aliens will not resist against the FULL POWER of our (slightly more) edgy slogans and banners. But watch out next for when we'll unleash... the nighttime anti-imperialist graffiti in the backstreets!

Can't stop the chaos.

SHTF scenarios are for right-wing persecution complex fantasy syndromes. The shit has already hit the fan for tons of people out there... it's just not happening like in some bad TV/video game series with zombies.

But sure... guns can be helpful for these situations. Just don't draw them for any stupid reason.

I count on the absolute superiority of our revolutionary theory to shield me against attacks by the fascists. "El pueblo unido" and stuff...

"If shtf situation occurs and a violent war starts, how will you protect yourself?"

We're at war now. Why aren't you using your guns to protect yourself?

I love gun nut logic. Their 'protection' from government (or whoever) is always in some distant mythical future.

Not for Micah Johnson. Anyway, my chainsaw sits in the garage for months/years without being used but remains the best tool for certain jobs. There's a big gap between the "social war" and a gun fight, pray that it doesn't change in your lifetime if you fancy yourself the polar opposite of a "gun nut".

Not for Micah Johnson, not for anyone. If you wait for a direct gun fight, it's already too late.
Wake the fuck up.

What the hell are you talking about dickhead? Are you just trolling? You don't know shit about me or what I'm doing except that I thought your straw-manning of "gun nuts" was lazy as fuck.

You build an actual mass movement that, if needed, will have a broad enough of a base or support within the "monopoly on violence" to utilize it (im not sure how we could utilize nuclear weapons, hence my Bookchin quote) to its revolutionary ends. Otherwise you're just going to be a separatist cell, lonewolf, etc., and you're going to lose anyway.

What I was speaking to is building a cultural front first that proposes a challenge to the legitimacy to what exists. BLM is an example of that. Is it perfect? No, but it's a start. Way more of one than a few leftists who go shoot guns on the weekend and talk about how they're going to take on the State with their tiny militia.

The gun debate is about gun control. State laws that prohibit guns or some guns. Framing a discussion of whether or not we as an ideological category should be armed within the gun debate is nonsensical.

Further, my biggest anxiety about gun control isn't me losing my arms (which is not the form that any gun control would take anyway, and I've never heard anyone who isn't a right winger think that), but about the new laws that will disproportionately affect non-white people. You know, like all other laws.

Second this: Anarchists aren't about "gun control" for the same reasons we don't vote, etc. It's a totally bogus framing of the issue. Logic fallacy from the get-go and if the writer is just trying to say don't walk around strapped all the time and call that anarchism, most of us definitely aren't doing that. Must be a very niche audience for the article.

spot on. But he hesitates when he should be brutal. The general idea is that since we won't really need weapons in some distant glitter-flecked future when the Revolution is achieved in one huge orgasmic global consensus is patently ridiculous. Or that we should be " get[ting] ready to actually help people...or organiz[ing] our communities" reeks of the rot of leftism. Let people help themselves, if the community needs organizing, then it can do it on its own terms, not mine. Finally, tying the ownership of weapons, and understanding their use as somehow privileged, is typical alt-left bullshit. Just take a look at the contemporary John Brown Brigade, or historically the incredible example of Robert F. Williams--groups and individuals from communities that the regressive left fetishisizes. They recognize[d] the need to arm and defend themselves, why shouldn't we?

I was raised in Northern Colorado and have never not owned a firearm of some type. While most of my friends in the anarchist milieu have no interest in firearms, for those who do, my advice is simple. Find a firearm you are comfortable with, learn to shoot it well, learn to field strip it and clean it in the dark, secure 1,000 rounds of ammo for it. Hide it where the forces of law and disorder cannot find it. Be ready.

The one place where the OP gets it right is the "desire for danger is self-centered." As an individualist, no greater motivation is required.

My fav firearms are those you can DIY... Which means nearly unlimited range of designs as far as your tools and imagination allowd, and dirt-cheap ammo consisting of ball bearings and nailgun cartridges. For instance a box of 100 .22 caliber blanks costs about 7$ (ormcan be stolen easily) in a hardware store, and it's been demonstrated these rounds are significantly more powerful than usual .22 LR rounds. Ball bearings from bicycles also have perfect sizes to fit in either 5/16 or 1/4 tubes, and have high penetrating and long range qualities. Youtube will tell you the rest.

Also prevents from tracking or snitching in contexts of extensive gun control.

Some of the language this essay uses is perhaps accidentally provocative, at least to those of us who are anti-left anarchists. But the argument parallels that of the class insurrectional text, The Fullness of a Struggle Without Adjectives, found here: http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/canenero-the-fullness-of-a-strugg... . Perhaps they can be discussed together?

Ward Churchill's Pacifism as Pathology, is a helpful historical piece.
I liked the Canenero piece!


Damn that's a good read! Haven't seen it in years, thanks filbert!

I'm heavily influenced by Churchill's essay. However times are different than when he wrote it. I think the Maoist and Anarchist approach to the rev, the isolated cell enacting propaganda's by the deed to light a spark that will start a prairie fire only works in certain historical contexts. I dont think it worked in the 1960's-1970's in the USA and will surely not work now. My article is simply calling for a renewed interest in building a mass movement that will actually represent a legitimate challenge to what exists, so much so that it will have enough ability to recruit from those currently within the "monopoly on violence" and/or gain its support. Before this happens do I think there could be a period where there is a slow convergence of these forces before revolution? Of course. It would be totally wise fo women, poc, and other minorities to be given training in arms, along with things like hacking. So when the revolution comes it wont be a bunch of white dudes leading it because they have all the skills/still have the "monopoly on violence". This should happen. Also though there should be a real movement that engages culturally and truly poses a threat in that manner because that is where politics certainly are and should be, until they can't be anymore, and then well, armed revolution.

I just can't understand anyone thinking anarchists and the far-Left have the #'s and support to actually foment a worldwide revolution, which it ultimately have to be. We want violence and injustice to stop, but we still don't know how. When we do then we will have that challenge to legitimacy and we should try with all our means to win a culture war. Do you seriously want a generation of children to grow up in a revolutionary civil war? You'll have so much trauma and ptsd that things wont go well for your revolution.

Arms, force, and violence are the way, always, when dealing with those who bear arms, force, and violence.
Your argument stinks as tho you are an agent of the state.
Movimiento 26 de Julio alone proves your dribble as just that.

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