The Huey P. Newton Gun Club in Dallas, Texas. Photo courtesy of HPNGC and Guerrilla Mainframe.
By: Gene Patrick
Hate crimes and the formation of armed hate groups are on the rise in this country. The left, people of color, and LGBTQ and Jewish communities have reacted in a seemingly unexpected way: they’re arming themselves. After Trump’s election win, traditionally liberal areas saw a spike in gun sales when nationwide sales were expected to go down. Leftist groups like the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, the John Brown Gun Club, and the Socialist Rifle Association have seen a surge in membership . How much of this is fear of far right terror and how much is a fear of a dystopian future? Was this election result a call to arms?; Only for people who have been put to sleep by liberalism for the past eight years. Considering establishment liberalism’s modern emphasis on gun control, the idea of the left embracing firearms might seem like something new. It is not, and exploring why highlights one of the many differences between leftists and liberals.
Let’s take a step back in time to the 1960s. Huey Newton and Bobby Seale created one of the most revolutionary groups in American history: the Black Panthers. One of the Panthers’ core tenets was arming communities of color and protecting them from police brutality. There are many gun control laws still on the books today that were instituted as retaliation against the Panthers arming themselves; the white establishment loved open-carry laws until people of color started to carry too. The systematic suppression, smearing, and frivolous prosecution of the Black Panthers by the government are clear evidence of what the establishment fears. They fear empowerment. By providing meals and schools that the government wouldn’t, by grassroots organizing to stop gentrification, by teaching young black men they don’t have to be afraid of brutality, the panthers became too powerful to ignore.
When being killed in the streets and denied equal rights in an oppressive system, taking up arms was not just a revolutionary act but a necessary one.
Let’s take a step even further back to the 1940s. One of socialism’s most prominent writers, George Orwell, was a believer in the necessity of a free country to be armed. Orwell was a fierce anti-fascist and even volunteered to fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War. He did so at the cost of great personal injury from a sniper’s bullet through the neck, thankfully surviving but losing much of his voice. As a lifelong socialist, with anarchist leanings, Orwell had this to say: “That rifle on the wall of the labourer’s cottage or working class flat is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.” Orwell understood that monopoly of violence in the hands of the state is anathema to a free democratic society. As often as this quote is cited by gun activists on the right, it’s important to not take it too far out of context. The quote was delivered while Orwell was discussing the formation of a home guard to repel fascists in England, whether they be domestic or european invaders.
Now let’s fast forward to the present. This idea of an anti-fascist armed guard or militia has manifested in an entity called the Redneck Revolt. Their name is a nod to the armed workers’ rebellion in 1920s West Virginia. They’re a syndicate of armed groups, usually in the form of a John Brown Gun Club chapter, popping up in many states all over the country, including right here in Pennsylvania.
They work to keep poor, working class, Jewish and LGBTQ communities and communities of color safe by teaching armed defense and the principles of mutual aid. Redneck Revolt routinely protects counter-protesters at hate rallies and stops cross burnings. This is vital direct action to stop the rising wave of white nationalism. White nationalist hate groups are forming political parties, running campaigns, and forming armed “defense forces” all across the country, especially in the South. Without groups like Redneck Revolt, who will be there to protect the most vulnerable among us? The police? We all know better than that; we have to defend ourselves. Mutual aid is our only way forward.
To be blunt, the hope for an America without guns or any sort of meaningful gun control is naive at best and dangerously delusional at worst. In terms of guns and ammunition stockpiles, the far right has us beat by 10 country miles. This is a very dangerous side of the ratio to be on in a world of increasing fascism, xenophobia, economic instability, and environmental catastrophe. Arming yourself and your community is a revolutionary act and always has been. Consider contacting a local gun club and signing up for a firearms course, whether it’s the John Brown Gun Club, the Socialist Rifle Association, the Huey P. Newton Gun Club or any other—I know I will.