“Slaughter and bloodshed in Syria”: an imperialist act of aggression

One of the victims of the imperialist US airstrike. Courtesy of SANA.

The Syrian Arab Republic is under attack! Yesterday afternoon, two US destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at Syria’s Al-Shayrat Air Base, in Homs Province, with the US government claiming, falsely, that this was where a chemical weapons attack had been initiated. [1] This strike, deemed a “vital national security interest” by the Trumpster himself, rests on the idea, reminiscent of Bush’s attacks on the Republic of Iraq in 2003. The  top echelons of the war machine once again claim that “there can be no dispute” that Syria carried out a chemical weapons attack, and that there is a “high level of confidence” of Syrian involvement, with the US striking the air base’s logistics. [2] At the same time, oil man Tillerson has reversed his more reasonable position that BasharAl-Assad’s “long-term status” should be determined by the Syrian populace to calling for outright regime change. More dangerously was not Trump’s predictable argument that past approaches to Assad “failed very dramatically” or that Trump is contradicting himself by opposing Obama’s war in 2013 and now authorizing similar action, but that Russians were at the air base hit by US missiles! [3] This portends that there will be a wider war. This is hinted by a number of facts.  For one, 900 marines, Army Rangers, and other troops are currently in Syria, which may include or add to the 279 Military and Civilian Personnel who are currently in Syria. [4] It is not known whether they were participate in this war or not. Regardless, Trump is a clear warmonger, engaging the same strike plan Obama readied in 2013, building on the imperialist Obama legacy of eight years.

While I am aware that this war is a distraction from Trump’s fascist agenda to cut down funding for social services, support police murders, greenlight pipelines like Keystone XL and Dakota Access, among many others, that trample on the rights of indigenous people, and many other horrors, I do think this deserves some treatment so this war can be effectively written about, the bourgeois liberals and bourgeois progressives can be exposed, and an anti-imperialist strategy forward to oppose a war that the capitalist class is giddy about can be proposed.

The reasons for war

Like in Bosnia (1999), Iraq (2003), Libya (2011), and many actions since, this war has a humanitarian reason behind it. While this military action is hypocritical since the US coalition killed more civilians than Russia or ISIS (called Daesh in the rest of this post) last month, that the amount of explosives in Syria and Iraq will take 40-50 years to clean up, and that this missile strike is one of the many US military forays in the 21st century, with this one putting the US in a proxy battle with Russia’s military, the Pentagon doesn’t seem to care about these consequences. [5] On April 4, the Trumpster declared that the “chemical attack in Syria” was “reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world,” saying that the actions by the “Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution,” claiming that Obama’s administration “did nothing” (not true), and going on to say that the US “stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this intolerable attack.” While this is typical imperialist boilerplate, it should be debunked right here and now.

While the narrative pushed by the Western capitalist government and compliant media claim that Syria is responsible for the attack on Apr 4 in Idlib, indications seem to say this isn’t the case. Even the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) showed itself to be an organ of imperialism when it declared that “the Syrian regime [needed] to stop using the war machinery, torture and killings against its own people.” Apart from the rush to judgment in this case, the Russian narrative that the SAA (Syrian Arab Army) bombed a terrorist stockpile with chemical weapons, which they didn’t know were in there, seems compelling and credible. [6] This is made further ridiculous by the fact that Syria has already destroyed their chemical weapons stockpile and even if they did, they wouldn’t use them. They have done so in compliance with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is still investigating the attack as I write this. Recently, Russia stood up for Syria in the UN Security Council by stopping a Western-backed resolution on the chemical weapons attack which presumes that the “guilty” party (who they peg as Syria) cannot be allowed to be innocent, leaving countries like Iran to call for disarmament of all terrorist groups in the country, something the West won’t dare to say.

By April 6, the foundation was set for war. When asked about military action in Syria, Trump gave no specifics to the compliant media, only saying that “what Assad did is terrible…what happened in Syria is one of the truly egregious crimes,” indicated that he may talk to Russia in the future about it, and declared that “what happened in Syria is a disgrace to humanity. And he’s there, and I guess he’s running things, so something should happen.” Such vagueness was in line with the new Pentagon position to not reveal how many troops are fighting Daesh, with 3,825 in Iraq and 300 in Syria, as of June of last year, the latest numbers. It also is reminiscent of Trump’s “secret plan” to defeat Daesh that he “didn’t want to reveal” during the presidential campaign.

In his speech later that day at his lush resort in Mar-A-Lago, a show of how he is a fascist capitalist, Trump showed that he is a murderous imperialist just like the presidents before him. He called Bashar al-Assad a “dictator,” saying that he was responsible for killing “lives of helpless men, women, and children” and declaring that he ordered “a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched” which he said was a “vital national security interest” of the US, along with declaring that Syria used “banned chemical weapons,” violated the Chemical Weapons Convention, that previous attempts to change “Assad’s behavior have all failed,” and called on “all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.” It is this speech that the title of this article comes from, although I twisted his phrase to use it in an anti-imperialist manner rather than an imperialist one. He ended with a typical religious message, claiming ridiculously that as “long as America stands for justice, then peace and harmony will, in the end, prevail.” Anyone with sense knows this is an utter lie, that the US empire is a ravenous, blood-sucking beast.

Later that day, oil man Tillerson, the Secretary of State, and war criminal McMaster, the National Security Advisor, gave a wide-ranging press conference. Tillerson spoke to the media, knowing that they were not adversarial, declaring that there had been two “chemical attacks” carried out by the Syrian govt. on Mar. 25 and 30th, saying that the US government had a “very high level of confidence” this was the case, sounding eerily like the arguments for the Iraq invasion in 2003, part of the first thirty year war on the country (1991-2011). He went on to blame Russia for being responsible for not following UN resolutions, claimed laughably that Assad is “normalizing the use of chemical weapons” (no, the Western-backed terrorists are), arguing that the strike was  “proportional…against this heinous act,” said that the US government did not have any “discussions or prior contacts” prior to the attack with Moscow or Putin, saying that the US operated under “military de-confliction agreements in place with the Russian military.” If this wasn’t enough, he went on to expect that the Kurds and Turks would applaud the action while Bashar al-Assad and Russia, would oppose it, saying that the US wants to “stabilize areas in the south of Syria…Restore them to local governance,” use the Geneva Process to “resolve Syria’s future in terms of its governance structure,” and push out Assad, and said out right that “our target was this airfield and the Syrian regime.” This is just imperialist rhetoric, but it could indicate a broader war in the future. McMaster, also the NSA Director, had a lot to say as well. He noted that the attack had been two days of planning, repeating that the US had a “very high degree of confidence precisely where the location originated, and…the sort of chemicals that were used in the attack” thanks to the intelligence community, going on to give a vague story of “three options” available to Trump, but no specifics, and claiming that “the regime will maintain the certain capacity to commit mass murder with chemical weapons we think beyond this particular airfield,” when those committing mass murder is really the murderous US empire. McMaster went on to say that “this was not a small strike,” claimed widely that there had been “50 chemical attacks previously, post-2013, when the U.N. resolution went into effect,” saying that this was “entirely a U.S. operation” did not have “Russian permission” (why would it?)

So apart from the imperial lies and distortions, it is important to recognize the consequences of this murderous action by the Trump administration.

The consequences of international murder

As the Russia hacking narrative seems to fade away into the wind or at least will be pushed away by war, people are suffering from US military aggression in Syria. Before getting to that, it must be recognized that this came at a time that US military aggression in Yemen is increasing, with a US-made famine, a new US drone policy has been declared, more money has been set aside for war, and the SAA is advancing in its fight against Daesh, with the liberation of Aleppo most notably, as the US engages in varied war crimes. [7] So, this was comes at an opportune time. With low approval ratings of Trump’s presidency from Gallup and Pew Research Center, among others, reported relatively recently, the war provides a way for Trump to take advantage of the rally ’round the flag effect to boost his approval rating. Also, it is undoubtedly a distraction, like all wars are, and a way to flex US muscles.

Each of 59 the 2,900 pound Tomahawk missiles, hit “aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars” at the Al-Shayrat Air Base, as the Pentagon claimed, backed up what they implied was “actionable intelligence.” [8] Early indications are that six to nine people, including four children and three SAA soldiers, were killed, with the Syrian media now saying that 20 were injured and one killed, but there is no doubt that this strike makes the US partner of the Western-backed (and Gulf-backed) terrorists within Syria, with unfounded claims by “experts” in the Western bourgeois media. [9] There are questions whether most of the missiles were shot down, but indications seem to say this was not the case. What is clear is that the air base attacked by US missiles had 45 airplane hangers, which were very fortified, reportedly used by Russian jet fighters, along with helicopter gunships, all to fight the terrorists within the country, Daesh and its affiliates. [10] Global Security described more of what the base had:

“…military ammunition and equipment warehouses…fuel materials storage…In 2015, Russia expanded the runways to accommodate Russian aircraft. The forces of the 50th Air Brigade, in particular the 677th and 685th squadrons of the Su-22M3/M4 fighter bombers and the 675th squadron of the MiG-23ML/MLD fighter jets, were based there. Some of the MiG-23s had not moved for many years and obviously were in a state of incapacity. Taking into account losses for previous years, probably, there could be about one and a half dozen of the combat-ready Su-22s at the airbase at the moment of the missile strike…In February of 2016, the Russian military doubled the number of attack helicopters stationed at Shayrat…Russia’s 120th Artillery Brigade with six 152 mm 2A65 Msta-B towed howitzers was deployed at a Syrian Arab Army base to the south of the airbase. There are reports that the Russians also allowed Iranian Air Force squadrons to utilize the facilities.”

In sum, apart from the smoke and broken fences, the damage was extensive: “runways, refueling stations and MiG-23 planes in their hangars” were destroyed, as Russian air defense systems ‘did not act as the Tomahawk cruise missiles flew past them.” One assessment said that “some 20 Syrian waplanes have been destroyed by US cruise missiles.” ISi, a satellite imagery company, said on a webpage which is sadly only available through Google cache, the following:

“…the total of 44 targets [were] hit. Several targets may have hit twice…An in-depth examination of the damage to the objectives shows that 13 double hardened aircraft shelters (HAS) got 23 hits. 5 workshops got hit.  The workshops are not necessarily related to WMD, but to aircraft and their ability to do maintenance and fly…Ten ammunition storages got hit. Seven fuel reservoirs of the AFB got hit at two sites with eight hits total. Two locations remain untouched. One SA6 Battery utterly destroyed along with its radars and control systems. In total, five SA6 Battery elements hit…The results show that the target hits were accurate and that the Tomahawks have been used effectively against quality targets. Although 58 missiles hit the base, it seems that the overall damage to the base is limited because the warhead of the Tomahawk is not considered large”

To get to the point, the base that was bounded was used to fight Daesh, so it only an unsurprising coincidence that ISIS would attack the airbase AFTER the missile attack (also see here). Its almost like they knew it was going to happen. So in that way, the US attack, which is aggression and an act of war, seems aimed at stalling the Syrian anti-terrorism effort.

Other consequences are as dire. Attempts to keep in place the UN ceasefire, will be harder than ever. Also, relations between the United States and Russia will become more frayed. With Russia suspending a 2015 agreement of military cooperation with US, condemning US military strike as “aggression against a sovereign government,” there were also claims that the US-Russia communication line was cut, although this was just rumors and untrue since the US contacted the Russians before the missile strikes. [11] Beyond this, Russia has pledged itself to shore up Syria’s air defenses, gave its military bases enhanced air cover, and sent a warship bound for Syria’s port of Tartus. The US, with this aggression, is dangerously close to a military clash with the Russian military, as Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday, saying that the strikes were “one step away from military clashes with Russia. President Putin views the U.S. strikes on Syria as aggression against a sovereign state in violation of the norms of international law and on a made-up up pretext. This step by Washington will inflict
major damage on U.S.-Russia ties.” [12] The Russian Foreign Ministry put out an even broader statement condemning the attacks:

“The United States conducted strikes against Syrian government troops in the early hours of April 7, using chemical weapons attacks in Idlib Province as a pretext. The US opted for a show of force, for military action against a country fighting international terrorism without taking the trouble to get the facts straight. It is not the first time that the US chooses an irresponsible approach that aggravates problems the world is facing, and  threatens international security. The very presence of military personnel from the US and other countries in Syria without consent from the Syrian government or a UN Security Council mandate is an egregious and obvious violation of international law that cannot be justified. While previous initiatives of this kind were presented as efforts to combat terrorism, now they are clearly an act of aggression against a sovereign Syria. Actions undertaken by the US today  inflict further damage to the Russia-US relations. Russia has expressed on numerous occasions that it was ready to  cooperate on resolving the most urgent issues the world is facing today, and that fighting international terrorism  was a top priority. However, we will never agree to unsanctioned action against the legitimate Syrian government  that has been waging an uncompromising war on international terrorism for a long time. Seeking to justify military  action Washington has totally distorted what had happened in Idlib. The US could not have failed to grasp the fact that the Syrian government troops did not use chemical weapons there. Damascus simply does not have them, as confirmed a number of times by qualified experts. This was the conclusion reached by the Organisation for the Prohibition of
Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Over the recent years this organisation inspected almost all the facilities linked or possibly linked to Syria’s chemical weapons programme. As for Idlib, the terrorists operating there used to produce toxic land mines intended for use in Syria and Iraq. These manufacturing facilities were put out of operation in a military operation carried out by the Syrian air force. The US pretends that it does not understand obvious things, turning a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons in Iraq, officially confirmed by Baghdad. The US refuses to believe the evidence provided by certified documents confirming the use of chemical weapons by terrorists in Aleppo. In doing so, the US is abetting international terrorism and making it stronger. New WMD attacks can be expected. There is no doubt that the military action by the US is an attempt to divert attention from the situation in Mosul,  where the campaign carried out among others by US-led coalition has resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties and an escalating humanitarian disaster. It is obvious that the cruise missile attack was prepared in advance. Any expert understands that Washington’s decision on air strikes predates the Idlib events, which simply served as a pretext for a show of force. Russia suspends the Memorandum of Understanding on Prevention of Flight Safety Incidents in the course of operations in Syria signed with the US. We call on the UN Security Council to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the latest developments.”

With the UN Security Council meeting on the missile strike, which I’ll discuss in the next section, there is no doubt that this war will not get any easier, even with Mossad supporting US imperialism with their false claim that Syria engaged in chemical weapons attack, and Russia standing by Syria. [13]

The condemnations and international reaction

First and foremost, the Syrian government rightly condemned this imperial act of aggression. The People’s Council, or what is called the “People’s Assembly” in Syrian state media, with Hadiyeh Khalaf Abbas as its speaker, condemned the missile strikes, saying that “this blatant aggression came in defense of the collapsed terrorist organizations and in an attempt to revive them since that Israel failed to carry out this mission before…This new US aggression…reveals again the falsity of the US allegations on combating ISIS terrorist organization.” Additionally, Bouthaina Shaaban, the Presidential Political and Media Advisor, criticized the action as contradictory, the Syrian military said that the attack makes the US partners of Daesh, and duly elected President Bashar al-Assad argued that the attack was “an unjust and arrogant aggression…an outrageous act that clarifies in conclusive evidence once again what Syria has been saying that the succession of administrations of this regime does not change the deep policies of its entity which is represented by targeting states, subjugating peoples and the attempt to dominate the world.” Syria was not alone in this condemnation, with many countries showing their solidarity.

Iran and Russia were the main countries that condemned the attack. For Iran, they argued that US strikes were unwise, dangerous, destructive, and violate international law with one Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani, saying that it is an “utter lie” Syria engaged in chemical weapons attack and “anti-US” slogans shouted at Friday prayers. [14] For Iran, the attack is worrisome because the possibility of a war with Iran looms larger than ever. The US is, as Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister, put it, the US is “fighting on same side as al-Qaida & ISIS in Yemen & Syria.”

As for Russia, as previously discussed, condemned the attacks as aggression, saying that they will help bolster Syrian military defenses. Before April 6 meeting of the UN Security Council, Russian Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov argued that

“It has come down to us that we do not cover the regime, but that we are in the country at the invitation of a legitimate government and that we are conducting an anti-terrorist operation there. Therefore, if there is a national point of view, it should remain within the national framework, and not be presented as truth in absolute authority…We will review the information, but we do not forget that on April 5, 2003, preparing the ground for the war in Iraq, General Powell, then the US Secretary of State waved a test tube with anthrax. Speaking of intelligence about the…types of WMD which in Iraq have never been found…They are trying through their project to gain access throughout Syria. This is unclear, because the investigation must be conducted at the crime scene.”

The embattled Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela showed their solidarity. Their Ministry of the People’s Power for External Relations issued a similar, statement, actually talking about US imperialism unlike the Russians:

“The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela rejects the unilateral attack, contrary to the Charter of the United Nations and International Law, perpetrated by the United States of America against the Syrian Arab Republic, by launching missiles at the Syrian air base Ash Shairat in the Province of Homs, yesterday. Venezuela points out that neither the United Nations nor the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have yet reported the results of their investigation into the chemical weapons incident on 4 April Resulted in a tragic loss of 86 deaths and dozens of injuries. The Venezuelan Government condemns the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons by any country, person or entity, in any part of the world, whatever the circumstances and the reasons. It is deeply concerned that imperial factors justify and legitimize military interventions by endorsing actions by terrorist and extremist groups to the Syrian government through false positives. This attack has also allowed the logistical reconstruction of the terrorist groups, who then attacked the Syrian national army. The US attack on the Syrian Arab Republic constitutes an aggression to the sovereignty of this country and violates the principles and purposes of the UN Charter, such as the principle of territorial integrity, self-determination of peoples, non-interference in matters States and sovereign equality. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela reiterates its deep friendship with the sister Syrian Arab Republic, a member of the Non-Aligned Movement (Mnoal), and reaffirms its commitment to all political and diplomatic efforts for the sake of peace. Syria, respecting its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.”

Likely, the DPRK will soon voice their solidarity as well after Syria opposed imperial machinations in the Korean Peninsula aimed against Iran and because of the cordial relations between the two country, along with their brotherly solidarity.

At the U.N. Security Council’s Meeting on U.S. Airstrikes in Syria today, streamed live by C-SPAN, numerous member states spoke out against imperial aggression. Bolivia’s representative gave an impassioned speech to UN Security Council, saying, while holding up a picture of Colin Powell, that

“Now the United States believe that they are investigators, they are attorneys, judges and they are the executioners. That’s not what international law is about…I believe it’s vital for us to remember what history teaches us and on this occasion (in 2003), the United States…affirmed that they had all the proof necessary to show that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction but they were never found… never were they found”

As for Russia, they opposed war, as did Senegal, although the latter’s reasoning was weak, sounding like an imperial puppet state. As for Kazakhstan they supports negotiations, doesn’t want ceasefire to go away and opposes war, saying
sovereignty of states must be respected, and said that OPCW is working with Syrian govt., Ethiopia said that if situation worsens the Syrian state could collapse,
terrorists win, we need to be wise now, and have good statesmanship. UK, France, Sweden and Ukraine’s representatives supported the airstrikes, even though the Swedish ambassador wounded if the US strike follows international law. Then there was horrid Nikki Haley, who happened to be the chair of this meeting of the UN Security Council, for some reason. She claimed widely that the Syrian government has murdered hundreds of thousands, said it is “beyond a doubt” that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons, claimed that US “destroyed the airfield.” She went on to say that that the Syrian government engaged in “crimes against humanity,” that Iranian andRussian governments have a major responsibility for attack, and that US doesn’t want to strengthen Assad but this will lead to “more murder.” Her charges went further, declaring thar Russia is lying about chemical weapons, that US strikes are “measured” but they are “prepared to do more” and they want a “political process” to push Assad out. The Syrian representative arguably had one of the best speeches apart from the one by Bolivia’s representative. He argued that the US engaged in a “barbaric act of aggression,”leading many to be injured and wide-ranging damage, that the US has used false pretexts of chemical weapons, the very same pretext used by terrorists and their supporters in the West. He went on to say that Syria does not have chemical weapons and has not used them, that terrorists had chemical stockpiles, that the illegal American aggression violates UN charter, and that this is a grave extrapolation which came out of US covert assistance to opposition groups. He went further to say that the US has become
a partner of terrorists, trying to weaken SAA and its allies, with this action saving Al-Nusra after grave damage by SAA,and that the US,UK, and France, are spreading the same sorts of lies they used to attack Iraq. He ended by mentioning the Colin Powell speech, saying that US is using fabricated information for attack, saying that US wants to target states and assert their hegemony across the world, that the West haven’t cared about human rights for years, want hegemony and control of resources, and that this military action will lead to more chaos and threatens peace and security in the region. Right after this, Russia’s representative was recognized once again, saying that it is not right for other countries to insult Russia, like Nikki Haley. It was right after that the meeting is adjourned, with no more speakers.

With this open meeting showing broad opposition to US action, except from a few countries, who were US allies. This was bolstered by the fact that today, Moscow and Beijing proposed that “a United Nations panel investigating chemical weapons
use in Syria be extended to Iraq,” which was rejected by the UK, of course. For its part, China called for a UN investigation of the chemical weapons attacks on multiple occasions. These countries were not alone in their condemnations.

Numerous international organizations showed their solidarity. Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement, said that they support any Syrian response to the US aggression. Hezbollah, also called the Lebanese Resistance, argued that the US missile strikes were a continuation of aggressive policy toward Syria “in the service of the Zionist entity and to achieve its ambitions in the region” and that it is a “stupid action by the Trump
administration will mark the beginning of a major and dangerous tension in the region and increase the complexity of the situation around the world.” The Syrian Communist Party- Bakdash, had one of the strongest statements against the imperial aggression:

This attack is a new step from the American imperialist aggression on our homeland Syria, which was preceded by the landing of American military units in the north-east of our country without any accepted justification in international law…This aggressive step comes in the context of imperialist and Zionist policy aimed at the depletion and division of Syria, which is a steadfast fortress in the face of total colonial domination over the Eastern Mediterranean and the Arab world in general…America is the largest international terrorist in the world. The Syrian Communist Party calls upon the masses of our proud people to close ranks more and more in the face of the imperialist aggression and to provide all support to our brave national army in its fierce battle against the aggressors and their accomplices from terrorist gangs. The Syrian Communist Party goes to the world progressive public opinion, to all the progressive and democratic forces, to the free world, in a call to denounce the American imperialist aggression on Syria and increase their solidarity with the Syrian national steadfastness that contributes effectively to the struggle of global liberation forces against imperialism and imperialism.

This was followed by a statement by the party’s Secretary General, Ammar Bakdash, toto Damascus Radio, saying the following, in part, in much stronger words:

“What happened today is a continuation of the American aggression on our country. This attack on a military base of the Syrian army is a continuation of the American aggression…This aggression proves once again what we have already pointed out that the main enemy of our people is American imperialism and its ally in the Zionist-Israeli region…America once again proves that it is the world’s greatest terrorist. It practices State terrorism against all the peoples of the world in accordance with its expansionist colonial interests…America has a consistent expansionist policy throughout the world, especially in our region, and all the disasters that have been taking place in the region and the tragedies that our people have been living for more than six years are mainly due to the policy of American imperialism. Our main enemy is America, which has never disappeared from the scene…Therefore, anyone who thinks that America can have a positive role in terms of the peace process in Syria, is also important, this is the catch of the wind, and the void of falsehoods. America is in its interest to subjugate the peoples of the region to its full dominion by setting up its chief agent, Zionist Israel, as an agent for this region.”

The Communist Party of Italy also condemned the attacks in similar terms, saying that Trump has “declared war…against a country already destroyed by a violent imperialist war by the US and NATO,” saying (translation of this one is not exact) that “the use of chemical weapons by Syria would be political suicide” and that the

“US military attack against Syria is nothing but an extension of the long and strategic imperialist attack against the entire Middle East region, horrendous and bloody attack that continues, unpunished for decades and has already seen complete destruction of Iraq, Libya and Syria, with hundreds of thousands of dead and missing, of entire peoples thrown into despair and hunger, destruction of entire nations…it is equally clear that the US and NATO, and believe they have done the dirty work in Iraq and in Libya…it must be remembered how, with a fierce apology and cynical, the US and NATO attacked Syria in 2011: then, a vast arc of forces…(USA, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, the UK) invested politically and economically in the construction of “social movement orange” against Assad and even more invested in the construction of ” Free Syrian Army ‘against Assad, “Free Army” of 100,000 men who joined in the military struggle against the legitimate Syrian government, the jihadists of Al-Nusra Front and the militia of the Caliphate…now that Assad, backed by Putin’s Russia, fought back and defeated on the field is the ‘ “Free Army” imperialist that the Caliphate…the US attack again…Trump “promises” war everywhere. The danger of imperialist world war…it really is time that the communist forces, leftist, democratic, pacifist all, come back, joined in the field, to fight and to reconstruct what is missing too long: a struggle and mass movement against the war. Against the imperialist policies against rearmament and the exit from NATO…THE PCI is in the field, it will be in every street, to struggle and to build the broadest unity against the war.”

The the National Secretariat of the same Communist Party said something similar. They strongly condemned the war, saying that is no evidence that the Syrian military used chemical weapons, saying it “would be a political suicide for the Syrian
government,” that Trump has “threatened war against North Korea, he has threatened China. Now he has launched an attack on Syria.”  They further argued that

“A new wind of World War II threatens the world, driven by US imperialism. The struggle for peace is the first task of the communist forces, leftist, democratic. You need to rebuild a mass movement against the war, is now closer than ever. The PCI is in the field and calls on all progressive forces and anti-war unity.”

Within the United States, the Workers World Party (WWP), Answer Coalition, and the Party of Socialism and Liberation (PSL) professed their solidarity with the Syrian state and against US imperialism. The WWP argued that the US government reversed its position, with warmongers in Washington and their allies blaming the Syrian government for chemical attacks, saying that imperialist politicians, pro-war forces, and bourgeois press “reeked of another U.S. invasion and wider war,” saying that a similar pretext was used in Vietnam in 1964 and Iraq in 2003. The statement goes on to say that Trump “transformed before our eyes into the Clinton interventionist,” that the US stance reeks of hypocrisy. They further said that

“What smelled familiar about this lie wasn’t just the record of past wars. In 2012, Obama drew what he called a red line in Syria, the Damascus government’s alleged use of chemical weapons. Syria possessed chemical weapons as a deterrent to Israeli nuclear weapons…Obama’s statement encouraged the proliferation of chemical weapons among the reactionary contra forces…in 2013 a chemical weapons attack struck the Damascus suburb of Ghouta…Obama threatened a “no-fly zone”…The corporate media marched lockstep with the Pentagon…Russia negotiated the removal of Syria’s chemical weapons to appease the Western war appetite, a process overseen by international observers. The Syrian state no longer has any chemical weapons, yet the media nearly four years later continue to mimic the Pentagon’s argument, as if this had never happened…With Islamic State on its last legs, it became clear that the U.S. role on the ground in Syria would evolve…Those who mistakenly believed Trump would be  anti-intervention may find this change shocking. Those who understand the nature of U.S. imperialism knew it was inevitable….Often, the U.S.-led coalition struck Syrian soldiers, paving the way for IS advances…Syria today stands at the front line, defending itself against a massive imperialist assault. It is the last truly independent Arab state. For six years, Syrians have faced a multifaceted fight to the death against dozens of countries, yet they and their allies are closer to victory than ever before…It is the duty of those living in the belly of the beast, in the U.S., to unequivocally demand imperialist forces leave Syria. We have to combat bourgeois propaganda until our vocal cords are worn…The liberation of the workers and oppressed peoples in the U.S. is dependent on our ability to unite our struggles with the independence struggles of oppressed nations.”

The Answer Coalition and PSL had similar statements. The Answer Coalition declared that Trump’s administration is “waging a new war of aggression in the Middle East,” noted that Killary Clinton “emerged back into the public spotlight to demand that Trump carry out military strikes against Syria,” and that US “imperialist military actions  [are] against an independent, sovereign Middle Eastern government” under the pretext of “protecting civilians from weapons of mass destruction,” bombing the “secular government of Bashar al-Assad at the moment that the Syrian national army was defeating al-Qaeda, the so-called Islamic State and other terrorist armed organizations.” They go on to say that “every person in the United States should assume that the U.S. government, the Pentagon, and the CIA are lying when they seek to justify this new military aggression” and that these “military strikes…pose a grave danger of escalating into a regional or even global confrontation” since the Syrian government “has the support of Russia and Iran” and they called for anti-war protests across the country. The PSL reposted the same statement and it was also promoted by World Can’t Wait. Then there is the World Peace Council which denounced the imperial action, saying

“The World Peace Council denounces and condemns the recent missile attacks of the USA against Syrian targets on 6th April,as an act of further escalation of the imperialist intervention in Syria and the region, based on the alleged use of chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun town near Idleb by the Syrian army, a crime with suspicious motives. The US bombing of Syria constitutes not only the violation of the principles of the UN Charter but is also the continuation of the US policies of the previous US administrations, now by the Trump administration…The WPC expresses its solidarity with the Syrian people and the peoples of the region for their rights to determine freely and without any foreign interference their fortunes. We denounce also the hyprocrisy and double moral of the imperialists, who support and/or carry out attacks on peoples and nations, driving hundreds of thousands to become refugees, and at the same time “shed tears” about the displaced people who run away for their lives. The WPC calls upon its members and friends to condemn the imperialist interventions and plans in the region and to express their solidarity with the peoples in need.”

Bourgeois progressives and libertarians also opposed the war. The socially democratic Green Party of the United States, condemned the attack, only for the reasons of not having congressional approval, international support, while Ajamu Baraka of the Green Party went further, saying that the “U.S. has no moral right to wage war on Syria.” Then, there was the people of CodePink. Medea Benjamin, of the latter organization, and Ann Wright, said that in 2013, “four years ago, massive citizen opposition and mobilization stopped a possible U.S. military attack on the Assad government of Syria,” said that “the U. S. military is already heavily involved in the Syrian quagmire,” and cited the Iraq War as an example. Of course, neither the Green Party peoples, Benjamin, or Wright declared their solidarity with the government of Syria or mentioned the word imperialism. This was reflected in the fact that CodePink blared out that there should not be a war in Syria, that war is not the answer, that there is congressional authorization, and rejecting US escalation, showing that they have a bourgeois analysis. The same goes for Katrina vandenHeuvel of The Nation‏, who only said there is no “military solution” to the “crisis” in Syria, Rep. Ted Lieu who opposes US war in Syria but has no solidarity, or libertarian Senator Rand Paul who condemns what happened in Syria and says that intervention in Syria will not make the US safer, that there needs to be congressional authorization. Even Ben Norton and Max Bluementhal teamed up to write an antiwar article which says “U.S. intervention would be the last hope for Syrian rebels, and a shot in the arm to al-Qaeda, which has grown to record size thanks to America’s military meddling across the Middle East” but barely mentions the words “Russia” and “Assad,” never using the word imperialist or capitalist.

Worst of all are the statements of bourgeois progressive groups. CREDO, Peace Action, Win Without war and MoveOn put out a joint statement saying that the attack was  unilateral, reckless, and without an “apparent plan for what comes next and with no legal authorization,” saying that “this was an illegal act of war, launched in violation of the U.S. Constitution and international law” and saying that “Trump cannot bomb his way to peace,” adding that Trump should “be leading the world in a diplomatic effort to end the war, increasing American support for humanitarian assistance, and welcoming Syrian refugees to the safety of America.” As I have discussed before on this blog, diplomacy of the United States is a form of imperialism. Then there’s Paul Kawika Martin, senior director for policy and political affairs for Peace Action, who argued that “only a political solution can end the carnage in Syria” and that if we go too far, the US would “risk retaliation against U.S. troops stationed in Syria, and could dangerously escalate tensions with Russia and Iran,” adding that “Congress has not authorized the use of military force against the Assad government, which should be a prerequisite to any military action.” [15] These pathetic, milquetoast statements will not get anyone anywhere. In fact, Martin’s statement is basically an imperialist one, worrying about risks to US footsoldiers of imperialism! These bourgeois progressives are clearly, and likely will never be, comrades of the Syrian people. They are as bad as the dumb liberals who are still complaining about Russian involvement, saying that “Assad is a butcher” (progressive talk radio host Sam Seder), which just leads to more war. Even Democracy Now! is entertaining the notion that Trump’s attack “could” violate international law, not saying it DOES violate international law. Even British politician Nigel Farage, formerly of the fascist UK Independence Party (UKIP) and self-declared Trump supporter said that Assad is secular and that “previous interventions in the Middle East have made things worse rather than better,” with the same in this case.

We then get to the people who support the war. Clearly, the Democrats want more war with pathetic words from people like Rania Khalek which do not inspire confidence. More directly, US Senators Mitch McConnell, Mark Warner, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, and John McCain applauded the action, Barbara Lee called for a vote, like Nancy Pelosi, Seth Moulton and Steve Russell, former vets, only are concerned because there is “no plan” presented yet. [16] Beyond this, NATO’s Secretary General, Angela Merkel of Germany, Francois Hollande of France, Justin Trudeau of Canada, Carl Bildt of Sweden, Donald Tusk of EU Commission, Saad Hariri of Lebanon, and the governments of the UK, Jordan, Bahrain, Turkey, Japan, France, Britain (also see here) Italy, Australia, Israel, Germany, Netherlands, and Saudi Arabia, support the attack while the UN Secretary General, who caved to Israeli and US demands recently, tried to take a middle position. They were joined by Shlomo Bolt of Syrian-American Council who said that says Trump made “right decision” to go to war, horrid Erdogan of Turkey, who clearly wants more war, the Democratic “Socialists” of America clearly as anyone can see, and last, but not least, Bernie Sanders, an imperialist worth despising. Of course, the big capitalist enterprise of Rayethon supports the war since their stock is rising as a result of the use of their Tomahawk missiles in the strike, as does the Syrian National Coalition and the neoliberal NDP (National Democratic Party) in Canada with its weak response, as does the oil companies with oil prices rising since the attack. [17] Even Chomsky continued his imperialist run, declaring that “the Assad regime is a moral disgrace. They’re carrying out horrendous acts, the Russians with them.”

Then there’s the bourgeois media. Some, of course, went further, saying that Trump is taking a “stand for humanity,” while NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, who earns $10 million a year, said that he was wowed by the “beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments,” which some were angry about ONLY because Rachel “Madcow” Maddow wasn’t allowed to give her warmonger speech, saying that MSNBC was being sexist. [18] It really is a silly complaint not because the allegation of sexism is wrong but because the imperial warmongering would have delivered either way. If that wasn’t enough as the US beats drums for WWIII with its illegal missile strike, the bourgeois media in the US was gushing for war, from CNN to the New York Times, with Fareed Zakeria even saying that air strike made Trump a “president,” and beyond, along with opinions saying that there cannot be any peace under Assad, that Trump should “commit” to Syria, and that we shouldn’t be shocked by chemical weapons in Syria. [19]

A conclusion

There is no doubt that wars have been escalating under Trump’s watch, even with Steve Bannon seemingly out of the picture, and that this war should be opposed. Speaking of Bannon, it seemed like suspicious timing that ONE DAY before the military strike McMaster replaced Bannon on the National Security Council.  Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of CounterPunch agrees with me on that point, while seeming to not side with the Syrian or Russian governments, a weird sort of middle position:

“I don’t know who was behind the grisly chemical attack in the northern Syrian city of Khan Shaikhoun…Obama…made the right call in 2013, when he rejected the demands of many in his inner circle and in Congress to escalate the US intervention in Syria…All of the incentives for launching this attack favor those who want the Syrian war prolonged and the Assad regime overthrown. And it seems to have worked…Trump…swiftly followed suit, mumbling his own fatwa against the Assad regime a few hours before those missiles hit Homs…So mission accomplished for the neocons and the Hillaroids…Little Marco Rubio said Congress would be “open to ground troops” in Syria and the New York Times’ Lt. Gen. (honorary) Nicholas Kristof advised that it was “Trump is right to make Syria pay a price for war crimes, and taking out airfields is the best approach.”…A few hours before Trump fired his volley of cruise missiles at the Shayrat Air Force Base, Hillary Clinton…advised Trump to “take out Assad’s airfields”…Trump’s Rasputin, Steve Bannon…went into a rage and threatened to quit after getting 86’d off of the National Security Council, but stayed after Trump assured him he can continue to attend meetings…Bannon needed to be evicted from NSC before the Syrian airstrikes could be launched.”

Other than what St. Clair says, we should recognize that for one, the Syrian Coalition, an opposition group, welcomes the senseless missile strike, which may just “reinforce the balance of power between the combating factions rather than lead to a turning point,” even though it is evident that that the Trump policy is now regime change by military action. [20] It is interesting that Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, condemned use of chemical weapons in Syria, but said the country is “concerned with unilateral actions by any parties, including the use of Tomahawk missiles, in responding to the chemical weapon attack tragedy in Syria.” Of course the bourgeois media declares that Syrians are “split” over the US missile strike, with the narrative that those in rebel-held regions supporting the strike, and those in government-held regions think differently, although there is no doubt broader opposition than their claims. [21] There will be even more opposition since it seems evident that only ground forces in Syria itself can topple the duly-elected government of Bashar al-Assad and the National Progressive Front.

For any of those who said that Trump would be non-interventionist because of his campaign promises and not understanding how he took a more pro-military position as the campaign progressed forward, like the often cited and anti-leftist analysis from the libertarians at antiwar.com, Zero Hedge, or anywhere else, they were completely wrong.  Even as the Syrian government is open into international inquiries of the chemical  attacks, the future of the war seems bleak, with more money going to war, and the Senate not coming out of recess to vote on Syria war. [22] But that doesn’t mean we can’t stand in solidarity with the Syrian people and the socially democratic, secular state of Syria against the imperialist monster which threatens to tear the country apart.

With the slim, but affirmed victory in Ecuador of Lenin Moreno, there is still hope on the horizon. There is a possibility for opposing “limited action,” an imperialist war, in Syria, and we don’t have to listen to the propagandists like Avaaz who declare that “some have gone so far as to suggest that the Syrian Army did not actually drop the Sarin gas. This is such a far-fetched claim I can only assume they have been captured by Russian propaganda media,” or the bourgeois media who reprints commentaries by US generals about what is “happening” in Syria. There is no doubt that Trump angered his base, those who voted for him originally, while an approval rating bump is in question.

As radicals, revolutionaries, socialists, communists, or what have you, the first step as of now is to protest this horrid imperialist war which will benefit the capitalist class, causing them to smile in glee. This strike, I feel, is only the beginning of something greater, which was hinted at by Tillerson and Haley in recent days. This will again support terrorist propaganda that the “Christian nation” of the United States is bombing a “Muslim” nation in Syria. I don’t want to say it will lead to blowback, which is a distorted version of what former CIA analyst Chalmers Johnson declares in his many books about US empire since he is talking about foreign response to covert actions, not overt actions like military strikes, but also because I think the idea of blowback seems to bring with it, at least how it is commonly interpreted, a sort of Orientalism. I have credit my fellow comrade, Karen (kazahann) with that insight, which I’ve built upon here.

I don’t see this as a one-off strike which will go away. While we can stay critical of independent capitalist Russia, as William Blum has called it, we should stand in solidarity with the Syrian state and the proletariat therein as the PSL, WWP, Answer Coalition, and Communist parties, among others, of the world have done. As most of the readers who encounter this post likely live in the core, we must do what we can to stop the imperialist beast. What that entails is up to personal discretion. But, a powerful peace movement would be a welcome addition to what currently exists now. As critics and those trying to spread our ideas to the masses, we must counter the bourgeois liberals and bourgeois progressives, exposing their milquetoast ideas as garbage, showing that there are better ideas to move the world forward. I would have provided a more through analysis here of Syria, its history, politics and whatnot, but do to certain complications, I cannot do that at this time, but promise that such a post may come in the future. For all of those comrades out there who stand against this hideous war and those living in Syria especially, I stand with you.

UPDATE:

There are numerous statements and sayings that I missed in working through this article. Just today, the DPRK’s state media released a statement saying that Kim Jong Un, chairman received a reply from Bashar Al-Assad two days ago, thanking the former for “his kind congratulations on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Syria’s Baath Arab Socialist Party” and expressed thanks for him “having appreciated the role of the Party guiding the Syrian Arab people in the struggle to meet such challenges as sinister actions of the world’s terrorists and encouraged Syria to successfully weather the crisis without fail.” [23] The statement also said the relations between the two countries should stay strong. There was also, as international media reported that the DPRK said that “the U.S. missile attack against Syria is a clear and unforgivable act of aggression against a sovereign state and we strongly condemn this,” even though the KCNA did not report ANY articles with such words. There was then, the stories that the US wants more intervention in Syria, just like I had said yesterday, that no proof of chemical weapons use from the Syrian airfield has been presented. Apart from statements by other groups, a study guide of articles on the Syrian conflict has been assembled by a fellow comrade.

Now, for the statements of differing groups. I start with the statement of the American Party of Labor which was issued yesterday:

“The American Party of Labor condemns in the strongest terms the attack of April 6, 2017 of the United States Navy against a Syrian airbase…this attack is clearly an effort to bolster the hegemony of the United States in the midst of Trump’s own catastrophic incompetence and a myriad of evolving geopolitical environments…Trump has openly vilified refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict, showing that his administration and its supporters have little care or respect for the lives of oppressed people except when it is politically expedient. Both Trump and his administration are but the newest faces in the evolution of American imperialism…this attack by the U.S. is not done for the sake of humanity or any ethical principle. The U.S. has been sinking its teeth into Syria for years now…The pronounced ethics of the imperialist state are nothing more than a sham. This attack also demonstrates the strengthening of the international antagonisms between the imperialist powers…The threats of war are now being expressed more openly than ever. Imperialism sees war as a solution to the economic crisis and stagnation…There is an increasing risk that regional wars instigated by the imperialist powers, particularly the USA, may escalate to world war. This attack is another blatant example of “humanitarian” imperialism and has grave consequences for the peoples of the world…The American Party of Labor…condemns in the strongest terms the neo-fascist Trump regime, its warmongering and militaristic aggression, and its violation of the sovereignty of Syria.”

Of course, the Trotskyists had to get their foot in the door too, with their group, In Defence of Marxism (part of the International Marxist Tendency). They condemned the attacks but said, almost parroting imperialist propaganda, that “…the Assad regime is fully capable at carrying out such an attack…It has the upper hand in the civil war, thanks to Russia’s backing,” and going to claim that the “Russians and the Syrians were bombing Aleppo” without saying that this was part of the liberation of Aleppo! Even if you said their statement was partially anti-imperialist, they said that the war is a plan to “divide the Russia-Iran-Assad alliance and to prepare to negotiate the future of Assad,” even as they said that “there is nothing progressive in the Assad regime or in the dirty games of Russia in Syria,” although this is ridiculous especially when it comes to the Syrian government, and they add that “the only real solution is a clear independent class position…we cannot give any support to the competitors of our own imperialists, to Putin, Assad or the Mullahs in Iran.” Such absurdist reasoning shows why for one Trotskyists cannot be trusted and two that they are not believing in international solidarity.

BAYAN-USA, a progressive Filipino organization, used some of the same rhetoric as the Trotskyists but also took a more principled position:

“President Trump’s decision to launch 59 US Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syrian Air force base in Homs province was not driven by his humanitarian desires to help the Syrian people against the Assad regime…the US war in Syria will never resolve the problems in the country and will only create more chaos, destruction, and death. The proxy war in Syria can seem very complicated, but underneath all the political rhetoric of good versus evil…thousands of innocent Syrians have been killed and thousands having to flee their home country as refugees is due to US monopoly capitalist interest…The root of all US wars of aggression lies in imperialist geopolitical interest to expand its hegemony over land, natural resources, trade routes, consumer markets for US surplus products and cheap labor markets…Both the Trump and Assad regimes are using the same exact rhetoric of “Fighting the War on Terror” as their reasoning behind their attacks on the Syrian people, but we must uncover the truth behind their interest in this war which is economic power in a centrally located oil rich region of the world…We demand an end to US warmongering and intervention for the sake of humanity. We call on all peoples of the world to stand in solidarity with the Syrian people and their rights to self-determination for their own country.”

In news beyond this, CNN spouted imperialist propaganda about “another” chemical weapons attack, citing unnamed activists (like we should trust that), the US engaged in an airstrike supposedly aimed against Daesh but actually killing 13 Syrians when it hit an internet cafe, along with protests outside US embassy in Turkey, UN Office in Syria, followed by condemnation from Turkey’s Patriotic Party. [24] Beyond this, while the Saudis praised the attack, Western moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani condemned it, while Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi condemned the “US’s open aggression against Syria.” There’s also the reported news that the SAA attacked a a U.S. recon aircraft in Northern Syria.

I think that’s all for updates for now. More may be added in the future.

Notes

[1] Luis Martinez, David Caplan, and Adam Kelsey, “US launches military strike on Syrian airbase,” ABC News, Apr. 6, 2017; Luis Martinez, David Caplan, and Adam Kelsey, “US launches strike on Syria air base after chemical weapons attack,” ABC News, Apr. 7, 2017.

[2] Ibid; Barbara Starr and Jeremy Diamond, “Trump launches military strike against Syria,” CNN, Apr. 6, 2017; Dana Bash, Jeremy Herb, Barbara Starr, and Jeremy Diamond, “Trump on Syria’s Assad: “Something should happen”,” CNN, Apr. 6, 2017.

[3] Barbara Starr and Jeremy Diamond, “Trump launches military strike against Syria,” and Dana Bash, Jeremy Herb, Barbara Starr, and Jeremy Diamond, “Trump on Syria’s Assad: “Something should happen”.”

[4] Luis Martinez, David Caplan, and Adam Kelsey, “US launches military strike on Syrian airbase,” ABC News, Apr. 6, 2017. Also see the recent data (Dec. 2016) from the DMDC for the data on the 279 military and civilian personnel in Syria

[5] Rachel Roberts, “US-led coalition killed more Syrian civilians than Isis or Russia in March, figures show,” The Independent, Apr. 3, 2017; Edith M. Lederer, “UN: 40-50 years needed to clear weapons in Iraq and Syria,” ABC News (originally an AP story), Apr. 4, 2017; Josh Lederman, “Syria Strikes Add to List of 21st Century US Military Forays,” Bloomberg News (originally an AP story), Apr. 6, 2017. The missile strike in Syria adds to the list of US military forays in Afghanistan (started 2001), Iraq (started 2003), Libya (2011, recent years), drone wars (esp. 2009-2014), and ISIS (2014 onward).

[6] Darius Shahtahmasebi, “What the Media Isn’t Telling You About Yesterday’s Chemical Attack in Syria,” The Anti Media, Apr. 5, 2017; Scott Horton, “4/6/17 Philip Giraldi says IC-Military Doubt Assad Gas Narrative,” The Libertarian Institute; Paul Antonopoulos, “Something is Not Adding Up In Idlib Chemical Weapons Attack,” Information Clearing House, Apr. 4, 2017; Curt Mills, “Was Assad Behind the Idlib Chemical Massacre?,” U.S. News & World Report, Apr. 6, 2017; Sarah D., “‘Shame on you!’ Dem Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s condemnation of Syrian attacks rings hollow,” Twitchy, Apr. 5, 2017; From “ashamed” to a defense of Assad: Republican lawmakers offer varied reactions to recent chemical attack in Syria,” Salon, Apr. 5, 2017; Al Jazeera, “Syria denies using chemical weapons in Idlib,” Al Jazeera, Apr. 6, 2017; “US Syria Strike Was Illegal, No Matter Who Carried Out Gas Attack,” The Real News, Apr. 7, 2017; Phyllis Bennis, “Trump, Syria, and Chemical Weapons: What We Know, What We Don’t, and the Dangers Ahead,” The Real News, Apr. 2017; Vijay Prashad, “Is Trump Going to Commit the Next Great American Catastrophe in Syria?,” AlterNet, Apr. 5, 2017. Basically, Tulsi Gabbard and Thomas Massie were wary of making conclusions yet, with people claiming they are “Assad apologists” as a result.

[7] For more information, and other related articles, see: PressTV, “Syria launches counterattack near capital after militant incursion,” Mar. 21, 2017; PressTV, “Syrian forces retake Damascus areas from militants,” Mar. 20, 2017; PressTV, “Iran commander: US will regret any adventurism,” Apr. 3, 2017; PressTV, “Russia: US covering up Daesh crimes in Iraq’s Mosul,” Apr. 2, 2017; Prensa Latina, “Syria, six years of manufactured war,” Granma, Mar. 30, 2017; Deirdre Griswold, “U.S. war crimes escalate in Syria, Iraq,” Worker’s World, Mar. 28, 2017; PressTV, “Iran urges ‘war crime’ hearing into US killings in Mosul,” Mar. 28, 2017; PressTV, “UN deeply concerned over US-led airstrikes on Mosul,” Mar. 25, 2017; PressTV, “Over 230 killed under rubble after ‘US-led raid’ in Mosul,” Mar. 24, 2017; Julie Ray and Neli Esipova, “Economic Problems, Corruption Fail to Dent Putin’s Image,” Gallup, Mar. 28, 2017; PressTV, “Trump hails US troops in Iraq despite deadly Mosul raid,” Mar. 29, 2017; BBC, “Mosul battle: US ‘may be responsible’ for civilian deaths,” Mar. 28, 2017; OIC, “OIC Regrets Casualties among Citizens in Mosul,” Mar. 27, 2017; PressTV, “Daesh shelling, US airstrikes raise Syria dam breach fears,” Mar. 29, 2017; PressTV, “Russian general criticizes US-led coalition’s bombing of Syria dam,” Mar. 28, 2017; Mike Whitney, “Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below,” CounterPunch, Mar. 28, 2017; Gene Clancy, “Hands off Syria!,” Workers World, Mar. 26, 2017; Carl Lewis, “Gov’t squeezes workers, bloats Pentagon,” Workers World, Mar. 22, 2017.

[8] Pentagon, “Statement from Pentagon Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis on U.S. strike in Syria,” Apr. 6, 2017; Zeina Karam and Sarah El Deeb, “Russia condemns U.S. missile strike on Syria as ‘significant blow’ to relationship,” Chicago Tribune (originally AP article), Apr. 7, 2017.

[9] What you need to know about US strike on Syrian air base,” CNN, Apr. 7, 2017; CNNWire, “At least 6 killed in Syria: Russia calls U.S. military strike an ‘act of aggression’,” Fox8, Apr. 7, 2017; Lizzie Dearden, “Syria attack: US ‘deliberately avoided bombing sarin stockpile at Assad airbase’ during Trump air strikes,” The Independent, Apr. 7, 2017; Holly Williams, “Russia, Syria’s explanation for chemical attack countered by experts,” CBS News, Apr. 6, 2017; Raja Abdulrahim, “Rebels Hail U.S. Strike, Syria Says 16 Killed,” Wall Street Journal, Apr. 7, 2017; Lizzie Dearden, “Syria chemical attack: Sarin gas likely weapon used in Idlib as experts say Russian claims ‘don’t add up’,” The Independent, Apr. 5, 2017. In the latter article, Dearden cites the commander of the Free Idlib Army rebel group, Hasan Haj Ali; a research fellow at Chatham House and former member of NATO, Beyza Unal; a volunteer with the traitorous White Helmets, Hamid Kutini; analyst at the Centre for Science and Security Studies and bourgeois “expert”, Hassan Elbahtimy; and a citizen journalist and Reuters photographer, Ammar Abdullah, as “experts.” Amnesty International, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and World Health Organisation (WHO) are also mentioned, but no specific person is quoted. Clearly, their “experts” are total crap. Lest us forget that Jan. 2013 article in the horrid Daily Mail, which has now been deleted, which said that the US planned to launch a chemical weapons attack on Syria and blame it on Assad. Did that happen in this case? Its hard to know.

[10] Jack Stubbs and Maria Tsvetkova, “Russia’s military presence in Syria is as ‘powerful’ as ever,” Reuters, Apr. 15, 2016; Tom Parfitt, “Russia sends MORE jets to Syria in bid to wipe out evil ISIS as Putin builds ANOTHER base,” Express Newspapers, Dec. 1, 2015; Reuters, “Syrian Observatory: Russia expands air base near Homs, uses another in the province,” Dec. 3, 2015; Now News, “Russia plans new Syria airbase: report,” Nov. 30, 2015.

[11] David Filpov, Russia condemns U.S. missile strike on Syria, suspends key air agreement, Washington Post, Apr. 7, 2017; BBC, “Syria war: US warns of ‘more’ after missile strikes,” Apr. 7, 2017. This article also says that Syria used to have an effective air defense system but it has been weakened by civil war and that the fact that there are Russian surface-to-air systems makes airstrikes by US warplanes unlikely and cruise missile strikes continuing as a possibility.

[12] Steve Holland, Andrew Osborn and Tom Perry, “U.S. strikes on Syria came close
to clash with Russia: Medvedev,” Reuters, Apr. 7, 2017.

[13] Associated Press, “The Latest: US calls for transparency in UN Syria summit,” Apr. 7, 2017; Bethan McKernan, “Syrian chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun approved by ‘highest levels’ of Assad regime, Israel’s Mossad finds,” The Independent, Apr. 6, 2017; Deutsche Welle, “World powers clash with Russia at UN over Syria suspected chemical attack,” Apr. 2017; Thomson Reuters, “Russia stands by Syria at UN over chemical weapons attack,” Apr. 5, 2017.

[14] Ramin Mostaghim and Shashank Bengali, “Syrian ally Iran blasts U.S. missile strikes as ‘dangerous, destructive and a violation of international law’,” Los Angeles Times, Apr. 7, 2017; CBS, “Allies and adversaries react to U.S. attack in Syria,” Apr. 7, 2017.

[15] Congress wants a say on Syria strategy, split on timing, what to do,” Kaine: ‘No legal justification’ for Syria strike,” CNN, Apr. 7, 2017; Deirdre Shesgreen, Nicole Gaudiano, and Bill Theobald, “Syria strikes draw Capitol Hill support, calls for greater congressional role,” USA Today, Apr. 7, 2017; Leah Barkoukis, “Even Schumer, Pelosi Applaud US Airstrikes in Syria,” Town Hall, Apr. 7, 2017; Courtney O’Brien, “Pelosi Demands Immediate Debate on AUMF for Syria,” Town Hall, Apr. 7, 2017; Democracy Now!, “Syria Attack Launched Without Congressional Authorization,” Apr. 7, 2017; Susan Jones, “Rand Paul, Barbara Lee, Tim Kaine: ‘Unconstitutional’; Schumer Tells Trump, ‘Come Up With a Strategy’,” CNSNews.com, Apr. 7, 2017.

[16] Twitter, “World reacts after US forces launch strikes on Syria,” Apr. 7, 2017; Patricia Zengerle, “U.S. lawmakers back Syria strikes, ask for broader strategy,” Reuters, Apr. 7, 2017; CBS, “Allies and adversaries react to U.S. attack in Syria,” Apr. 7, 2017; Lizzie Dearden, “Syria chemical attack: Pope Francis appeals to ‘conscience’ of culprits as Russia vows to support Assad,” The Independent, Apr. 5, 2017.

[17] BBC, “Syria war: US warns of ‘more’ after missile strikes,” Apr. 7, 2017; Michelle Nichols, Andrew Osborn and Tom Perry, “Russia warns of serious consequences from U.S. strike in Syria,” Reuters, Apr. 7, 2017; Jessica Resnick-Ault, “Oil rises after U.S. missile strike in Syria, weekly gain 3 percent,” Reuters, Apr. 7, 2017; Fred Imbert, “Stocks close mostly flat despite Syria attack, mixed jobs report,” CNBC, Apr. 7, 2017.

[18] Associated Press, “Brian Williams calls images of US missile launch ‘beautiful’,” ABC News, Apr. 7, 2017.

[19] Sam Sacks, “Guest after guest is gushing. From MSNBC to CNN, Trump is receiving his best night of press so far. And all he had to do was start a war,” Apr. 6, 2017; Sam Sacks, “I mean, we’re just weeks removed from her Trump tax return spectacle & now is making the Trump admin’s case for war to her audience,” Apr. 6, 2017; CNNI, “”What is it going to take?” Watch ‘s emotional appeal to the world about Syria after gas attack,” Apr. 4, 2017; NBC News, “So, what IS a Tomahawk Land Attack Missile?,” Apr. 6, 2017; John Harwood, “on CNN, ex-CIA director Jim Woolsey suggests that Trump respond to Assad gas attack with military strikes against both Syria and Iran,” Apr. 6, 2017; earwulf, “fuck the New York Times, seriously,” Apr. 7, 2017; Walid, “CNN hits a new low with it’s interview with Bana on alleged Sarin attack. How can this interviewer go through with this charade?,” Apr. 6, 2017; Walid, “Congressman is a known supporter of the Jihadist insurgency in . CNN asked him how he would respond to Bana,” Apr. 7, 2017; Kersten Knipp, “Opinion: No peace under Assad,” Deutsche Welle, Apr. 2, 2017; Farzana Hassan, “Trump needs to commit to Syria,” Toronto Sun, Apr. 6, 2017; Michael Petrou, “No decent politician should profess to be shocked by the latest chemical attack in Syria,” CBC, Apr. 5, 2017.

[20] Harout Akdedian, “Will the US missile strike be the turning point in Syria’s shifting war?,” Asia Times, Apr. 7, 2017; Reuters, “UPDATE 3-U.S. allies show support for strikes on Syria,” Reuters, Apr. 7, 2017.

[21] John Davidson, “In divided Syria, U.S. strike both welcomed and condemned,” Reuters, Apr. 7, 2017; Asharq Al-Awsat English, “Syria: Khan Sheikhun Families Grateful for US Strikes,” Apr. 7, 2017; Hamin Mostaghim and Shashank Bengali, “Syrian ally Iran blasts U.S. missile strikes as ‘dangerous, destructive and a violation of international law’,” Los Angeles Times, Apr. 7, 2017.

[22] Reuters, “Syrian government sets terms for any inquiry into gas attack,” Apr. 6, 2017.

[23] KCNA, “Reply Message to Kim Jong Un from Syrian President,” Apr. 8, 2017; Ju-min Park and Jack Kim, “North Korea calls U.S. strikes on Syria ‘unforgivable’,” Reuters,

[24] Associated Press, “The Latest: Syrians protest outside UN office in Damascus,” Apr. 8, 2017; Syria strikes: Site of chemical attack hit again,” CNN, Apr. 8, 2017.

Gun control in capitalist America

This quote from this YouTube video, which is an excerpt of the documentary titled "The Black Power Mixtape, 1967-1975."
This quote is an excerpt of a documentary titled “The Black Power Mixtape, 1967-1975.” The bombing referred to here is the infamous act of white supremacist terrorism in 1963.

With the beginning of the “Trump era,” the calls for gun control have been partially (but not fully) muted. This article will go beyond the critical history of gun control and armed resistance by discussing my justification for rejecting gun control and, instead, an embrace of armed self-defense and armed resistance, terms which I will explore later in this post.

The battle between gun control, gun rights, and armed resistance

Gun control and armed resistance, with the latter used to defend against acts of oppression, have been often at odds. When the White European settlers came to the Western Hemisphere, indigenous peoples “offered heroic resistance” but they were ultimately suppressed because “Europeans possessed a huge superiority in weapons.” [1] At the same time, armed resistance has been an effective form of self-defense. During the Reconstruction period, Black militias were formed to defend the Black population against racist Whites, sometimes even unifying with poor whites to achieve this goal. [2] Examples of such self-defense later on includes Robert F. Williams and his gun club, called the Black Armed Guard, as noted in a previous post, meaning that “becoming a threat to the capitalist order and defending the gains of the workers movement and democratic rights through force if necessary” is important. The long history of racial domination in the United States (1510-2017), with “systematic transportation of African slaves to the New World” beginning on January 22, 1510, shows that the right and ability to own guns is an essential tool to “stand up to white terrorists and overt racist ideologues.” [3] This has been flaunted by the fact that, as also noted in the previous post of this series, some of the first gun control laws were aimed at Blacks, which is why many view the debate over such control with caution, and the fact that the KKK was first a “gun-control organization,” and that policies like “stop and frisk” were driven by gun control desires, feeding an “exploding prison population.” [4] Such history allows gun rights supporters on the “Right” to claim that gun control has racist roots, even though some liberals say that this claim does not negate the possibility of adopting any gun regulations in the present. [5]

The history of guns and gun rights have become politicized. Some claim that the assertion that gun control is racist and that the civil rights movement succeeded because blacks “were willing to take up arms against their oppressors” came from libertarian and “obscure right-wing” websites. [6] Some of these people have also used the example of gun control laws enacted after the Civil War and that Martin Luther King, Jr. was “blocked by segregationists when he tried to get his concealed carry permit” to argue against current gun control efforts, criticizing “Obama or his gun-grabbing cohorts,” saying that gun control is racially motivated. [7] This claim reportedly was tied with the claim that “slavery might not have lasted so long in America if black people had been granted the right to bear arms at the outset of their arrival in the new world.” [8] To digress a bit here, not only is the claim that armed enslaved Blacks could have resisted their bondage with guns ahistorical (because why would the white overlords give enslaved Blacks guns at all? wouldn’t that undermine their whole system of control?) but it implies that enslaved Blacks did not resist their chains of human bondage. Any analysis of history shows this to be completely false. Yet again, gun rights supporters will do anything they can to promote the use of guns. Saying that, the liberal arguments for gun control are at times so deluded as to be a joke.

Ladd Everitt, the former communications director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV), a gun reform organization, is one of theses people. In his article on Waging Nonviolence, one of those progressive publications, he scoffs at the idea of gun control being racist, asking “if gun control laws had targeted blacks for disarmament, how would they have been able to successfully engage in armed resistance against White terrorists during Reconstruction and the civil rights movement?” [9] This ignorant argument doesn’t even make sense, because it disregards the fact that enslaved Blacks gained guns during the Civil War and due to evasion of gun control laws, allowing them to engage in armed resistance. Apart from Everitt’s silly argument, he then claims that calling gun control racist doesn’t make sense because “for most of our 234 years, the entire U.S. legal system has been arrayed against blacks” and that history is “replete with examples of African-American communities being severely punished and repressed after they did take up arms against white terrorists.” [10] Now, he is correct that the entire US legal system has been arrayed against Blacks and that some Black communities did suffer backlash from armed resistance, but he dismisses the obvious reality that such resistance allowed Blacks to survive through years upon years of bondage, discrimination, and bigotry.

As the years have gone by, the “political forms of the left-right axis” have begun to change. In 1976, cities like DC led the way in gun control, with the majority black city council banning “residents from owning or carrying handguns (excluding guards, police, and those with already registered handguns).” [11] By 1989, the NAACP voted to support gun control measures, and four years later, during “the peak of gun homicides among African-Americans,” 74% supported gun control.” [12] Still, a number of groups have historically engaged in armed self-defense, including the Deacons for Defense and Justice, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, the Brown Berets (which has a modern version formed in 1993) the Young Lords, the Young Patriots, and the still-existing American Indian Movement. Currently there is the Fruit of Islam, Muslim Girls Training, the Red Guard Party (Maoists in Texas), Brothas Against Racist Cops, Redneck Revolt, Black Guns Matter, the John Brown Gun Club/John Brown Militia, the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, and the Indigenous People’s Liberation Front, among many others, showing that “marginalized communities and their supporters [can use]…firearms for self-defense and the defense of others against hate crimes, protection against the police, and as a means of challenging oppression from across the political spectrum.” [13]

There have been a number of current developments when it comes to gun rights. In 2008, the Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller, held that the Second Amendment “guarantees an individual’s right to possess a gun” rejecting the existing D.C. law that  someone could own a shotgun but could not use in self-defense apparently, but Antonin Scalia had a whole set of exceptions to this declaration of gun rights including allowing “laws banning guns in sensitive places…laws prohibiting the mentally ill from possessing guns, [and] laws requiring commercial gun dealers to be licensed.” [14] This decision was also one of the first fortes into “gay rights activism for the Second Amendment rights of sexual minorities and of all other Americans.” [15]

In 2010, the Supreme Court hit another nail in the coffin of gun control in the United States. In a 5-4 decision in McDonald v. Chicago, the longstanding ban in Chicago of handguns was overturned, with the declaration that the Second Amendment applies to states. Justice Alito, writing for the majority, noted Black Americans who used guns throughout US history, noting that “Reconstruction-era efforts designed to grant equal citizenship to black Americans were equally as much about gun rights as they were about civil rights.” [16] The amicus brief for the Pink Pistols group declared “Recognition Of An Individual Right To Keep And Bear Arms Is Literally A Matter Of Life Or Death For Members Of The LGBT Community,” which was cited by Justice Scalia, contending that gun rights are “especially important for women and members of other groups that may be especially vulnerable to violent crime.” [17] Scalia further argued that even the Fourteenth Amendment contemplated guns rights because it was based on the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which is not likely referring to the law itself, since it NEVER mentions the words “gun” or “arms,” but rather to the fact that “advocates of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 cited the disarmament of freed blacks as a reason the law was necessary” as the arch-conservative National Review claims. While these claims may seem erroneous, a number of books seem to back up this assessment as a correct one. [18] There is no doubt that gun rights were on the minds of Radical Republicans in Congress since the State of Mississippi had enacted a law in November 1865, part of the “Black Code” in the state, saying

“…it shall be the duty of every civil and military officer to arrest any freedman, free negro, or mulatto found with any such arms or ammunition, and cause him or her to be committed for trial in default of bail…That if any white person shall sell, lend, or give to any freedman, free negro, or mulatto any fire-arms, dirk or bowie-knife, or ammunition, or any spirituous or intoxicating liquors, such person or persons so offending, upon conviction thereof in the county court of his or her county, shall be fined not exceeding fifty dollars, and may be imprisoned.”

Furthermore, the Second Freedman’s Bill the following month declared in Section 7 that

“…whenever in any State or district in which the ordinary course of judicial proceedings has been interrupted by the rebellion, and wherein, in consequence of any State or local law, ordinance, police or other regulation, custom, or prejudice, any of the civil rights or immunities belonging to white persons, including the right to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold and convey real and personal property, and to have full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and estate, including the constitutional right of bearing arms, are refused or denied to negroes, mulattoes, freedmen, refugees, or any other persons, on account of race, color, or any previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude, or wherein they or any of them are subjected to any other or different punishment, pains, or penalties, for the commission of any act or offence, than are prescribed for white persons committing like acts or offences, it shall be the duty of the President of the United States, through the Commissioner, to extend military protection and jurisdiction over all cases affecting such persons so discriminated against.”

White racist attacks on Southern Blacks and efforts to take guns away from them by the KKK and other terrorist groups likely influenced the provision in the 1868 Mississippi Constitution saying “All persons shall have a right to keep and bear arms for their defense.”

Back to the McDonald case, Clarence Thomas had a concurring opinion which was evidently different than Alito’s. He noted how “blacks were disarmed by state legislatures and denied protection from white mobs” and after this, and the decision itself, articles appeared in numerous conservative publications saying that gun control was racist. [19]

Fast forward to 2013. That year, the Washington Post came out with an article about Black gun clubs in Maryland such as the Metro Gun Club, Big Foot Hunt Club, and elsewhere. The members of the club who were interviewed said that they loved “their guns and recalled growing up in black farming communities where every family had guns for hunting — and protection” noting that such love for guns “spanned generations in their families.” [20] Members had a variety of opinions, with some believing that  “guns should be in the hands of decent, honest people” but that assault rifles should be “restricted to military and law-enforcement personnel,” some saying that guns could protect women  from rapists, others saying there are new challenges being in favor of guns “in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December and talk of tighter gun control laws,” and one long-time gun owner saying “I’m torn. I don’t want guns to shoot people, but I don’t want you to take away my guns either.”

As the years past, more began to question peaceful protest and thought that violence could be the answer. One writer put it in 2014 that “weeks of peaceful protests and outright riots in Missouri have accomplished nothing” and said that people should act to “preserve their own life” from an out-of-control police state, and then posing the question “is it time to start resisting police with violence?” [21] This question is nothing new, as resistance to police has taken a more combative tone in the past, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, during the main thrust of the Black Power movement.

In 2015, the tension between gun control and gun rights continued. That year, 60 percent of Black Americans believed firmly in gun control, while White Americans believed the opposite. However, the racist history of gun control is present for some in the Black community, with the right to bear arms seen as civil rights issue, support for gun control in this community decreasing in the last 20 years, and support for gun ownership by black Americans has grown, especially since the massacre at the Charleston Emanuel AME Church when gun control was pushed as a solution by President Obama. [22] Taking this into account, it worth remembering that “gun control and race…are inextricably linked.” The idea of gun ownership as a form of civil rights may result in some balking from liberal gun control supporters. One point they can dispute is the idea that guns are used in self-defense. From first glance, it may seem that firearms are not used in self-defense, with gun rights supporters countering that “in most cases shots are never fired, because simply displaying a weapon can deter a criminal.” [23] The idea of guns being used for self-defense is supported by many Americans, even if evidence may not be as clear, especially when it comes to armed civilians ending acts of mass killing, with date from places such as the Violence Policy Center. However, it is worth noting that even the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, cited by gun control advocates, says that “firearms are used far more often to intimidate than in self-defense.” [24] While they say that this isn’t a use of self-defense, this is actually the idea entirely. It is worth quoting this Center in full:

“We found that firearms are used far more often to frighten and intimidate than they are used in self-defense…We found that guns in the home are used more often to frighten intimates than to thwart crime; other weapons are far more commonly used against intruders than are guns…We found that these young people were far more likely to be threatened with a gun than to use a gun in self-defense, and most of the reported self-defense gun uses were hostile interactions between armed adolescents…Compared to other protective actions, the National Crime Victimization Surveys provide little evidence that self-defense gun use is uniquely beneficial in reducing the likelihood of injury or property loss.” [25]

You could say that this disproves the idea of armed self-defense, but actually I would say that in a sense, it actually proves the idea by saying that guns can frighten and intimidate. And isn’t that part of self-defense?

In 2015, the Pink Pistols filed an amicus brief in the case of Fyock v. Sunnyvale. They argues against a ban on standard magazines for common defensive arms, such as popular handguns from Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Springfield or Glocks, making clear the idea of a “relationship between gay rights and gun rights.” [26] That same year, there was a powerful argument against gun control. The writer said that the idea to do something after a tragedy is nothing new, but new gun laws have consequences for Black people. He argued that any new criminal laws should be “carefully considered” saying that  gun laws, like many criminal laws have “contributed to sky-high rates of incarceration for minorities,” citing the story of Marissa Alexander, and saying that “strict gun laws with harsh penalties aimed at punishing violent criminals can also ensnare law-abiding people who make mistakes.” [27] He goes on to say that gun control, historically has “been directly or indirectly tied to race,” citing bills such as the Gun Control Act in 1968 and the Mulford Act in 1967, noting that these laws, among others in the years to come, “opened the floodgate to further federalization of criminal laws and the “tough on crime” mindset that dominated late 20th century American politics.” He ends by saying that while “every gun death is a tragedy,” with loss of life being horrendous, gun laws, even if well-intentioned, disproportionately burden the black community, arguing that “as calls grow for more gun laws, let’s not compound a tragedy by continuing the same mistakes of the past.”

From 2015 to the present, Black Lives Matter fits into this equation. They didn’t focus on gun control as a priority possibly because of the “racist history of gun control” and the fact that such gun laws are “are more likely to be used against African-Americans than whites.” [28]

There have been a number of developments in the fight between gun rights and gun control. The NRA, which declared that women with guns can stop abusers and rapists, called for armed guards in schools after Sandy Hook), was mum when unarmed Blacks (incl. Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, and Tamir Rice) were killed, even when a black man with a concealed permit, Philando Castile, was killed. [29] They weren’t the only game in town. In Dallas, Texas, a Black man named Mark Hughes was marching with an AR-15 rifle across his chest in a solidarity rally to protest the deaths of Castile and Sterling, shooting began and he was referred as the “suspect” in the shooting on Dallas police officers by Micah Xavier Johnson, leading Black gun owners to feel, rightly, that “they’re discriminated against for exercising their constitutional right to bear arms.” [30] Clearly, the NRA is “a bunch of old white guys, and honestly, I don’t think they have the tools and minorities in the organization to address these types of issues” as Michael Cargill, the owner of Central Texas Gun Works, put it, even as he said that they were “afraid to make the wrong statement,” which just seems like a convenient excuse. [31]

In the Black community in the United States, there have been strong calls for Black gun ownership and establishment of a Black nation within the US. [32] As General Babu Omowale, national minister of defense for the New Black Panther Party and co-founder of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club argued, “we [Black Americans] are a defenseless people and surrounded by a hostile society here in America…Blacks and African people need to be armed, We look at our history in this country…Being surrounded by white supremacy like we are, we are in the most volatile position of any race in the world.” [33] Such feelings means that as Victoria Bynum, author of The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War, a book on Newton Knight, a white Mississippi farmer, soldier and Union sympathizer who united with Confederate deserters and escaped slaves to secede from the Confederacy, puts it, “we’re at a critical juncture of history in terms of race relations, reminiscent of the post-Civil War era” with independence and separatism viewed as the only recourse. Christian Davenport, author of How Social Movements Die: Repression and Demobilization of the Republic of New Africa, adds that “it is fairly easily for African-Americans to form a Black nation within the United States” including organizations like the Nation of Islam occupying “decent size areas in American cities.” [34] Apart from this, other groups have been formed. In February 2015, Philip Smith started a group, the National African American Gun Association (NAAG), for “law-abiding, license-carrying gun owners who happen to be African-American” which had grown to over 11,000 members in all 50 states, a sign of more interest by Black Americans in gun ownership, especially from Black women. [35] This has also manifested itself on protests by armed members of the New Black Panther Party (with questionable beliefs) and the Huey P. Newton gun club against the anti-Muslim hate group named the Bureau of American Islamic Relations (BAIR), with the horrid group declaring that, in typical fashion, “we cannot stand by while all these different anti-American, Arab radical Islamists team up with Nation of Islam/Black Panthers and White anti-American anarchist groups, joining together in the goal of destroying our country and killing innocent people to gain dominance through fear! We will be going in full gear for self defense only. This is a full gear situation.” [36]

Since Trump’s election, there have been a rise in memberships in gun clubs and gun ownership because they are worried about their safety, especially threatened by white racists, bigots, and neo-Nazis emboldened by the Trumpster. This includes more members in the Liberal Gun Club, which will be described later, Black Guns Matter, and the NAAG among “non-traditional” people such as self-described liberals, non-binary folks, Black Americans, and Latino Americans. [37] This included people, like Yolanda Scott, who said “I’m not the type of person who is afraid of my own shadow. I’m going to protect myself, whatever that means.”

In 2016, there were a number of other developments. After the shooting at the Orlando LGBTQ nightclub, Democrats in the US Senate pushed forward a “gun control” measure to demonize Muslims by pushing to exclude those in on “watchlist” that the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center maintains. [38] Bursting to the forefront was the Pink Pistols, a decentralized “LGBT self-defense” group founded in 2000, headed by a disabled woman in Philadelphia named Gwendolyn Patton, with 45 chapters nationwide and 1,500 to 25,000 members, declaring “armed queers don’t get bashed.” [39] The group also files court cases on their behalf. They describe themselves as people dedicated “to the legal, safe, and responsible use of firearms for self-defense of the sexual-minority community…We change the public perception of the sexual minorities, such that those who have in the past perceived them as safe targets” and sometimes work with the NRA on certain cases, but not always. [40] At the present, there is another gun group, called the Liberal Gun Club. This group aims to “provide a voice for gun-owning liberals and moderates in the national conversation on gun rights, gun legislation, firearms safety, and shooting sports.” [41] They also describe themselves as an “education and outreach non-profit” Beyond this, they declare they provide a place for gun owners who do not agree with “right-wing rhetoric surrounding firearm ownership” a voice. [42] With a range of opinions, the long-time contributors and annual meeting attendees (not all members), who they call “elders,” believe in stronger mental healthcare, addressing homeless and unemployment, along with poverty, enforcement of existing laws instead of new laws such as the Assault Weapons Ban, uniformity in permits for guns if they are the law of the land, licenses for carrying a concealed weapon. [43]

There are a number of aspects worth keeping in mind. For one, at the present, as Democrats push forward gun control measures, including a number of Black politicians, White politicians oppose the measures, along with the NRA, which wants gun use to be deregulated without a doubt, and “conservative entertainment complex.” [44] Perhaps those who call for Communist Gun Clubs to “learn basic skills of using weapons and armed self-defense, could become a basis for future workers militias that will fight all forms of reactionaries,” recognizing that the principle of self-defense is universal, that views of guns are racialized, and that “opposition movements [to bigots] cannot function without simultaneously building communities.” [45] Once we realize that, we should not reject those in the heartland of the United States who may oppose fracking but also strongly believe in their right to have firearms, with “liberals” possibly a section of the citizenry which is “less well informed than it believes it is, more driven by emotion and prejudice than it realizes,” leading it to harboring “dangerous biases,” as shown in the recent presidential election. [46]

Where we stand now

With the beginning of Trump’s presidency, a grueling four years (or horrifyingly eight) is ahead. While there are some who say that gun control laws are classist, some say that gun control efforts are not racist, others who demand the removal of all gun laws, there is no need to delve in such areas [47] There is no doubt that there are people in the United States who feel that guns make them safe, whether they are part of the largely White NRA or not. [48] As it stands now in the US, gun laws will contribute to the white supremacist order. [49] More specifically, such laws are related to the fact that class rule in all states and in the US at large, reply on “bodies of armed men,” such as police, prisons, a standing army, and other “instruments of coercion” to maintain order, manifesting itself in the Klan disarming Blacks, the “stop and frisk” laws in New York City, and creating “ore reasons for police to suspect people of crimes,” bringing with it more justifications for a militarized police force. [50] Already, over 7 million Americans are subject to a form of correctional control, with gun control efforts as a major factor, coupled with Supreme Court decisions that authorized exceptions to the Fourth Amendment since policing guns, with unequal and unfair enforcement, can said to be like policing drugs.

While practical measures, such as increasing funding for mental health programs should occur, we have to turn to “mutual help and self-defense” to strengthen the solidarity between all of those never meant to survive under the unjust system of capitalism. [51] Additionally, a “reasonable gun control regime” is not possible in the US currently, with the need for racial justice ignored, even as some claim that “permissive gun laws [in the US] are a manifestation of racism,” and claiming that gun control are anti-racist measures, which doesn’t even make sense. [52] Some who are in favor of gun control have proposed all sorts of “technological fixes.” This includes support of (1) “smart guns” that can only be fired by “authorized users” and connected to cell phones perhaps; (2)”gunfire detectors” or make a school a “fortress” with lockable doors and a computer terminal at a local police department allowing police to control the school; (3) using robots to detect those who “don’t belong” in an effort and ultimately having “lethal robots” to kill suspected shooters. [53] In all, each of these ideas is horrible and should not even be considered as a “solution” as they would increase police power and reinforce the problems with the (in)justice system. Others are vehemently opposed to guns, like one person who was incensed with “gun ads” on TV, the rhetoric of the NRA, and romanticizing gun efforts. [54] One piece specifically, mocking those on the “Left” who “active oppose gun control,” says that it doesn’t make sense that people need “guns to wage an eventual revolution and liberate themselves from the shackles of the state and corporate America,” saying that such “leftist dreams” would not occur because of a “toxic gun culture….with a lethal cocktail of supercharged masculinity, racism, and provincialism” and that “disarming the Right” would do more, even saying that “guns hardly keep away the police or help communities fight back against the cops” and implying that such laws are “against patriarchy and other forms of oppression.” [55] While the piece may have some good points, it misses the bigger picture. Gun control laws are not the the “only ways to reduce gun violence and save lives” and such laws don’t help protect marginalized communities, arguably disarming them at most, or weakening their protection at minimum. [56]

As the Trumpster continues to sit in office with his cronies and state violence increases across the country by police, immigration enforcers, and bigots, we should listen to Lorenzo Raymond. He said that in this “historical moment,” hate crimes and racist terror is growing and the “Left” needs to recognize the right of “necessary self-defense against oppressive force.” Raymond goes on to say that there is a growing “black gun movement” in the US based on past history, remembers that there has been a “virgorous Black gun culture” in the South when the Black freedom movement was working to overturn segregation, and that gun control for most of the establishment isn’t about peace but has to do with “an orderly and centralized capitalist empire.” He adds that while guns kill 33,000 a year, alcohol (80,000 a year) and prescription drugs (120,000 a year) kill more, with more lobbying by these interests than the NRA since as the New York Times put it once, guns are a small business in the US at large. He goes on to say that gun control won’t bring us to a humane society, noting that Australia has such control and their society isn’t humane, while saying that the “open-carry state of Vermont” has elected imperialist “progressive” Bernie Sanders, and citing the “autonomist Kurds of Northern Syria,” who are not as radical as he portrays them but are actually serving the interests of imperialism in helping to split up the Syrian Arab Republic, as examples. Raymond has more. He says that “unilateral disarmament of the American Left” is new, with Eugene Debs calling for guns after the Ludlow Massacre to protect from Rockefeller’s assassins (and goons), armed miners in Harlan Country in the 193os, and armed protection by urban labor unions. He ends by saying that armed resistance by the Right-wing is likely in the coming year, such as by right-wing militias and white terrorists, that there is a need to recognize the right to bear arms like conservatives, joining groups like the Liberal Gun Club and Phoenix John Brown Gun Club, since it is the only hope of making the country safer, defending from bigots and others by any means necessary, even as the “right-wing’s fetishization of brute force” should be refuted most definitely.

While Raymond is right, he is only putting forward part of the puzzle. A month ago, in an article where I attempted to predict the likely agenda of Trump’s administration, I declared at the following:

“…Considering that US society is racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and otherwise bigoted, it is criminal and irresponsible to fight for gun control. Anyone who is a person of color, whether female, transgender, bisexual, homosexual, intersex, or is otherwise considered a “minority” in current society, should have the right to defend themselves with arms as necessary. That right is already claimed by white, straight men, so why can’t others in society arm themselves to fight off bigots? You can’t fight a revolution with flowers and sayings, but political power, as Mao Zedong put it, “grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Gun control, if decided as necessary, should happen after a socialist revolution, not before it.”

Now, in saying this, I am simply saying that any “minority” should have the right to self-defense by arms as necessary. Also, in saying that revolution can’t be fought with “flowers and sayings” but that political power grows out of a gun barrel, I was trying to say that there should be a diversity of tactics. When I pointed out that gun control should happen after a socialist revolution, not before, I was arguing out that such self-defense cannot occur as effectively with gun control measures in place. Also, I was trying to say that the focus on gun control should be removed from the equation, with other approaches instead, which are more effective.

Guns have been seen as necessary by those advocating for socialist revolution. Karl Marx, in his 1850 Address to the Communist League, declared that

“…it is necessary to organize and arm the proletariat. The arming of the whole proletariat with rifles, guns, and ammunition must be carried out at once; we must prevent the revival of the old bourgeois militia, which has always been directed against the workers. Where the latter measure cannot be carried out, the workers must try to organize themselves into an independent guard, with their own chiefs and general staff…under no pretext must they give up their arms and equipment, and any attempt at disarmament must be forcibly resisted.” [57]

Marx was not the only one to make such a declaration. Vladimir Lenin, one of the leaders of the Great October Socialist Revolution, supported “special bodies of armed men” as part of a socialist revolution and believed that armed people can make communism a possibility. [58]

He even went as far as saying, in earlier years that workers should be immediately armed and said something that should make liberals tremble:

“…only an armed people can be a real stronghold of national freedom. And the sooner the proletariat succeeds in arming itself, and the longer it maintain its position of striker and revolutionary, the sooner the soldiers will at last begun to understand what they are doing, they will go over to the side of the people against the monsters, against the tyrants, against the murderers of defenceless workers and of their wives and children” [59]

There is no doubt that guns can be a tool to allow socialist revolution to succeed. Why should the “Left” focus on limiting such a tool? Sure, guns can be used for malevolent ends and have often been used in such a way as gun violence on the streets of cities across the US, in the slums and ghettos of the oppressed, demonstrates. However, they can also be used to allow socialist revolution to succeed in countries such as China (1949), Russia (1917), Cuba (1959), and the DPRK (1948-1950), among many more.

Finding the way forward requires looking at the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. I am aware that the document in its entirety is classist and bourgeois in character. However, I think it is worth reprinting here:

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Apart from the fact that this Amendment reads like an unfinished sentence, one can still have an interpretation. I think it is fair to say that the amendment says that militia units in states should be well-regulated for the purposes of securing the State from “undesirables” (whoever the elites and society think they are) but also declares that “the people” which means the whole population of the US, over 324 million people, have the right to “keep and bear Arms,” a right which shouldn’t be infringed.

Now, while the Second Amendment is mainly said to be about gun rights, I would argue that is too narrow. The word “arm,” which has been associated with weapons since its origin in Indo-European languages is defined by “any instrument used in fighting” or a “weapon,” with a weapon defined as either an organ used for defense or an “instrument of any kind used to injure or kill, as in fighting or hunting” as noted by Webster’s New World College Dictionary and numerous thesauruses. This means that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” applies to ALL weapons, not just guns. Hence, people, as noted by Akinyele Omowale Umoja in We Will Shoot Back, on pages 7 and 8, have the right to defend themselves with “fists, feet, stones, bricks, blades, and gasoline firebombs,” along with guns of course.

Keeping this in mind, it worth defining a number of terms. Umoja, in We Will Shoot Back, on page 7, defines armed resistance was the “individual and collective use of force for protection, protest, or other goals of insurgent political action and in defense of human rights,” while also including armed struggle, armed vigilance, guerilla warfare, spontaneous rebellion, retaliatory violence, and armed self-defense. He also defines armed defense, on the same page, as the “protection of life, persons, and property from aggressive assault through the application of force necessary to thwart or neutralize attack.” Adding to this, Black’s Law Dictionary (Third Pocket Edition), defines force (which they break down into eight types), on page 294, as “power, violence, or pressure directed against a person or thing,” meaning that one does not have to kill or maim someone to apply force. These definitions are suitable for describing tactics used in the current political climate of the United States.

As we watch the Trump Administration from our TVs, computer screens, phones, or read it in the papers, we must recognize the need for resistance and act on such feelings. Still, we cannot be roped into the bourgeois milquetoast resistance by the Democratic Party and their lackeys and instead engage in solidarity, at minimum, with those under attack by the capitalist system within the US and across the world as a whole. It is not worth “waiting” for revolution. Rather, it is best to act in the present against the threats that face this planet and its people, even when one should do so without illusion, whatever form that takes offline or online.

Notes

[1] LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, Vol. 1, no. 1, p. 6.

[2] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016.

[3] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[4] Ibid; Joe Catron, “Gun control and bigotry,” Worker’s World, June 24, 2016; accessed January 17, 2017; David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017.

[5] David B. Kopel, “The Klan’s Favorite Law: Gun control in the postwar South,” Reason, February 15, 2005; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. The latter piece Ends up advocating for gun control.

[6] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017. Everitt heads the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV). He goes on to talk about Nat Turner’s rebellion, the Colfax Massacre, and numerous other instances to disprove the gun control is racist idea.

[7] Newsmax, “Top Firearms Group: Gun Control Has Roots in Racism,” February 25, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[8] Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[9] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Logan Marie Glitterbomb, “Combating Hate: A Radical Leftist Guide to Gun Control,” Augusta Free Press, January 11, 2017; accessed January 16, 2017. Reposted from the website of the Center for a Stateless Society which states that this article is only “Part 1.” They also note the Sylvia Rivera Gun Club for Self-Defense as an example but this group could not be found despite internet searchings. It is possible the group exists but may be a small group with little publicity or its name has changed from the past.

[14] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[15] David Kopel, “The history of LGBT gun-rights litigation,” Washington Post, June 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[16] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017. Everitt heads the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV).

[17] David Kopel, “The history of LGBT gun-rights litigation,” Washington Post, June 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[18] Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture, and the Law, Vol. 1 (ed. Gregg Lee Carter, Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2012), 9; John Massaro, No Guarantee of a Gun: How and Why the Second Amendment Means Exactly What It Says (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2009), 652; Markus Dirk Dubber, Victims in the War on Crime: The Use and Abuse of Victims’ Rights (New York: New York University Press, 2002), 93; Deborah Homsher, Women and Guns: Politics and the Culture of Firearms in America: Politics of Firearms in America (Expanded Edition, New York: Routledge, 2015), 292; Christopher B. Strain, Pure Fire: Self-defense as Activism in the Civil Rights Era (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2005), 19, 197; Charles E. Cobb, Jr., This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible (New York: Basic Books, 2014), 45; Philip Wolny, Gun Rights: Interpreting the Constitution (New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2015), 26.

[19] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017.

[20] , “Black gun clubs and the right to bear arms,” Washington Post, February 19, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[21] Rob Los Ricos, “The US police state is out of control – is armed self-defense a necessary option?,” rob’s revolting, November 15, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017; Justin King, “When Should We Start Forcibly Resisting Police Tyranny?,” September 19, 2014, TheAntiMedia; accessed January 16, 2017.

[22] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Gun control’s racist reality: The liberal argument against giving police more power,” Salon, June 24, 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[23] The Week Staff, “The truth about guns and self-defense,” November 1, 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[24] Michael McLaughlin, “Using Guns In Self-Defense Is Rare, Study Finds,” Huffington Post,  June 17, 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[25] Harvard Injury Control Research Center, “Gun Threats and Self-Defense Gun Use,” accessed January 16, 2017.

[26] David Kopel, “The history of LGBT gun-rights litigation,” Washington Post, June 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[27] Jonathan Banks, “Gun Control Will Not Save America from Racism,” Vice, June 22, 2015; accessed January 16, 2017. I know its horrid Vice, but so what.

[28] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[29] Claire Landsbaum, “NRA Ad Claims ‘Real Women’s Empowerment’ Is Owning a Gun,” New York Magazine, July 13, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Max Plenke, “When Black Men Are Shot and Killed, the NRA Is Silent,” Mic, July 7, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[30] Tessa Stuart, “Black Gun Owners Speak Out About Facing a Racist Double Standard,” Rolling Stone, July 14, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Korri Atkinson, “Black Gun Owners in Texas Decry Racial Bias,” Texas Tribune, July 9, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[31] Hannah Allam, “For black gun owners, bearing arms is a civil rights issue,” McClatchy DC, July 15, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Korri Atkinson, “Black Gun Owners in Texas Decry Racial Bias,” Texas Tribune, July 9, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[32] David Love, “Is it Time for Black People to Reconsider a Black Nation Within a Nation and Armed Self-Defense?,” Atlanta Black Star, July 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Hannah Allam, “For black gun owners, bearing arms is a civil rights issue,” McClatchy DC, July 15, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[36] RT (Russia Today), “New Black Panthers in armed showdown with anti-Muslim militia in Texas,” April 6, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[37] Charmaine Lomabao, “Liberal Gun Club Experiences Increasing Membership Since Trump Victory,” Newsline, December 27, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Shantella Y. Sherman, “Black Gun Purchases Reportedly Skyrocket Since Trump Election,” Afro, January 4, 2017; accessed January 16, 2017; The Grio, “Gun sales to blacks, minorities surge after Trump win,” Aol News, November 28, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; , “Firearm sales rise among minorities,” WBCD (NBC Affiliate), December 28, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Ben Popken, “Trump’s Victory Has Fearful Minorities Buying Up Guns,” NBC News, November 27, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Teryn Payne, “Gun Sales Among Blacks See Increase,” Ebony magazine, November 29, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017. Reprinted from Jet magazine; Brian Wheeler, “Why US liberals are now buying guns too,” BBC News, December 20, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Joe Schoenmann, “Fearing Trump Supporters, Now Liberals Are Buying Guns,” KNPR, January 10, 2017; accessed January 16, 2017; Teresa Walsh, “Now it’s the liberals who are arming up,” McClatchy DC, December 23, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Brandon Ellington Patterson, “African American Gun Ownership Is Up, and So Is Wariness,” Mother Jones, July 12, 2016; Brandon Ellington Patterson, “African American Gun Ownership Is Up, and So Is Wariness,” Mother Jones, July 12, 2016.

[38] Minnie Bruce Pratt, “Gun control or self-defense?,” Worker’s World, June 22, 2016; accessed January 17, 2017; Joe Catron, “Gun control and bigotry,” Worker’s World, June 24, 2016; accessed January 17, 2017.

[39] John Burnett, “LGBT Self-Defense Site ‘Pink Pistols’ Gains Followers After Orlando Massacre,” NPR, June 23, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Julia Ioffe, “The Group that Wants to Arm Gay America,” Politico, June 13, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; David Kopel, “The history of LGBT gun-rights litigation,” Washington Post, June 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[40] Pink Pistols, “About the Pink Pistols,” accessed January 16, 2017.

[41] The Liberal Gun Club, “Who We Are,” accessed January 16, 2017.

[42] The Liberal Gun Club, “What We Do,” accessed January 16, 2017.

[43] The Liberal Gun Club, “Talking Points Regarding Regulation,” accessed January 16, 2017.

[44] Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Niger Innis, “The Long, Racist History of Gun Control,” The Blaze, May 2, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[45] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016; Nicholas Johnson, “Negroes and the Gun: The early NAACP championed armed self-defense,” Washington Post, January 30, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; Alexander Reid Ross, ““Death to the Klan” and Armed Antifascist Community Defense in the US,” It’s Going Down, July 26, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[46] Barbara Nimiri Aziz, “Profile of a Progressive Gun Enthusiast,” CounterPunch, Accessed January 16, 2017.

[47] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[48] Ehab Zahriyeh, “For some blacks, gun control raises echoes of segregated past,” Al Jazeera America, September 1, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Stephen A. Nuňo, “Gun control is people control, with racist implications,” NBC Latino, July 24, 2012; accessed January 16, 2017.

[49] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016.

[50] Gun control’s racist reality: The liberal argument against giving police more power,” Salon, June 24, 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; Minnie Bruce Pratt, “Gun control or self-defense?,” Worker’s World, June 22, 2016; accessed January 17, 2017.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Gun control’s racist reality: The liberal argument against giving police more power,” Salon, June 24, 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; Gary Gutting, “Guns and Racism,” The New York Times, December 28, 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[53] William Brennan, “Bulletproofing,” The Atlantic, January/February 2017.

[54] Bruce Mastron, “My Latest Reason to Boycott the NFL: Guns,” CounterPunch, January 16, 2017; accessed January 16, 2017; Ken Levy, “If You Don’t Support Gun Control, Then You Don’t Support the Police,” CounterPunch, July 16, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[55] Andrew Culp and Darwin BondGraham, “Left Gun Nuts,” CounterPunch, May 29, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017.

[56] Logan Marie Glitterbomb, “Combating Hate: A Radical Leftist Guide to Gun Control,” Augusta Free Press, January 11, 2017; accessed January 16, 2017. Reposted from the website of the Center for a Stateless Society which states that this article is only “Part 1.”

[57] Karl Marx, “Address to the Communist League,” The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 67.

[58] V.I. Lenin, “The State and Revolution” (1918), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 572, 591.

[59] V.I. Lenin, “The revolution in 1905: The beginning of the revolution in 1905” (January 25, 1905), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 508-509.

Gun control and armed resistance: a critical history

Courtesy of Akinyele Omowale Umoja's We Will Shoot Back (p. 197)
Courtesy of Akinyele Omowale Umoja’s 2013 Black resistance history, We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement (p. 197)

The days in the United States may seem dark indeed but with Trump in power and the authoritarianism will increase from its current murderous norm. This means that any pretense for nonviolent respectfulness as a “solution” on its own should be abandoned. Last month, I promised to write about this subject and now I am delivering on that promise, with views which are different from those I expressed in the past. [1] To be clear, I’m no “gun nut” or “gun enthusiast,” a label that liberals and progressives throw around, and do not subscribe to the views of the NRA (National Rifle Association) or any of its supporters. This article is the beginning of a two part series, with this article recounting the history of gun control laws, which is interconnected with the story of armed self-defense and armed resistance. In order to construct this history, those of liberal, conservative, and radical viewpoints are used together.

A critical history of gun control, armed self-defense and armed resistance

For much of US history, gun laws have been interlinked with racism and racial politics, at minimum. The first targets of gun control measures were enslaved Blacks, with the fear of “Black rebellion and…fear of weapons in Black hands,” aiming to prevent the possession of weapons by Black people in America. [2] Specifically, the first gun control measure was in colonial Virginia in 1664, with similar measures passing in 1712 and in 1831 after Nat Turner’s rebellion. [3] From here, it is worth jumping forward to the traditional founders, often called the “Founding Fathers” in our hero-centric culture. When the Second Amendment was proposed as part of the bourgeois freedoms (“The Bill of Rights”), demanded by Anti-Federalists, later the first Republicans, which mainly included dispossessed farmers and slaveowners, it was not racially equal. Those who wrote and ratified it, had numerous laws on the books which were racially exclusive, banning enslaved Blacks (and even free Blacks) from having guns, in fear of revolt across the thirteen states of the new country. [4] Some have even argued that the amendment itself was not meant to protect individual’s right to bear arms but to prevent the federal government “from usurping control of state militias and undermining their slave patrol duties” and was used by the author of the amendment, James Madison, as part of his “1789 campaign to win election to the House of Representatives” and gain support for the “Bill of Rights” on the whole. [5]

After the new rights were put in place, there were some gun laws were so intrusive that they would be emphatically rejected by the NRA and others if laws of a similar character were proposed today. One such law, in 1792, on the federal level, mandated that “every eligible man…purchase a military-style gun and ammunition for his service in the citizen militia” with guns inspected and put on public rolls. [6] Some may take this to mean that such laws were not racist after all. However, such a law was likely to prevent rebellions by farmers and dispossessed revolutionary war veterans, like those in Western Pennsylvania, in 1786 and from 1791-1794, over economic inequality, taxes (of numerous types), foreclosure, debt enforced by the courts, and other forms of resentment. [7] Hence, such gun laws were a form of social control aimed at Whites. Laws that were racist continued into the 19th century, with Blacks allowed to possess arms in Virginia in the early 1800s but “had to obtain permission from local officials” which was unlikely. [8] Another form of social control aimed at White gun owners were concealed carry laws in the 1820s where purportedly “violence-prone men” were limited in using their weapons, an example cited by gun control advocates as “the first modern gun control laws” with the aim of “reducing criminal violence among whites.” [9] Such an explanation is historically inaccurate because the first gun laws were in the 17th century, as noted in the previous paragraph. Additionally, the first bans on concealed weapons were in the Southern states of Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, seen then limiting a practice of criminals. Then, by the mid-1900s, most US states had concealed carry laws rather than banning guns completely within their state borders, implying that they these laws were a form of social control.

For enslaved Blacks, guns were an important and vital tool (one of many tools) of resistance against their chains of human bondage. They were used to protect against violent White supremacists, police, and terrorist vigilantes. Without guns, they were defenseless and could not win their freedom or initiate an armed rebellion, rejected by most as a “losing strategy” since enslaved Blacks were a “minority in a predominantly white country.” [10] Still, they were at least “313 slave actions, or alleged revolts by groups of ten or more slave[s]” from 1526, 16 years after the first 50 enslaved Blacks are transported to the North America (on January 22, 1510) and start of the African slave trade in the Americas, until 1860, compared to thousands in other parts of the Americas (not within the United States). After one such rebellion, in 1831, by Nat Turner, which was recently Hollywoodified in Birth of a Nation, planters repressed abolitionists and actions of rebellious Blacks as guns were controlled even more tightly. [11] Such restrictions were not a surprise. Brutal slaveowner Thomas Jefferson, one of the “Founders,” worried to John Adams, in an 1821 letter, that enslaved Blacks, once free, would have the right to bear arms and that they might “seek and gain political influence and power,” leading to possible revolt. [12]

Some advocates of gun control have said that it is “sad” to admit that “our gun rights history…is stained with racism,” which commenced when Blacks, free and enslaved, were banned from owning firearms, with the means of enforcing this being “slave patrols” where armed White men went around to “ensure that blacks were not wandering or gathering where they were not permitted, engaging in suspicious activity or acquiring forbidden weapons” with such functions in some areas “taken over by state militias.” [13] I’m not sure why it is sad to admit this. It is better to recognize it as a part of US history which is glossed so easily that heart-throbbing gun rights advocates have taken up the cause of spreading this information instead of progressives, which is a damn shame. Anyway, Blacks being prohibited from owning guns was even ruled as legal by North Carolina and Georgia Supreme Courts in the 1840s! [14] At the same time, during the Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) case, denying Blacks, like Dred Scott, an enslaved Black man whose story is not fully known, whether enslaved or free, standing (or humanity) in court, declaring the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, and saying that enslaved Blacks in U.S. territories cannot be freed by an act of Congress, guns was part of the reason cited by racist and bigoted Chief Justice Roger B. Taney of the Supreme Court, for this decision. [15]

Gun control was clearly aimed at Blacks (enslaved and free) and Whites (to an extent) as a form of social control before the Civil War. Some resisted this imposition, including Harriet Tubman, who was a “conductor” of the underground railroad, carrying a firearm (debate it if was a pistol or rifle) to fend off “possible attacks from slavecatchers” and rescuing more than 300 people from slavery with her gun by her side. [16] Frederick Douglass, one of the major leaders of the abolitionist movement, declared that a good revolver was critical for Blacks to stay free, specifically commenting that gaining freedom in the South would require “the ballot-box, the jury-box and the cartridge-box.” [17] Before the Civil War, some Black female fugitive slaves fired back at slavecatchers, while others engaged in armed self-defense or armed resistance, even as Blacks in the South were not allowed to possess guns, with such guns used in these struggles taken from those in the hands of White folks. [18] With the onset of the Civil War, Blacks gained guns, legally, for the first time, with Black soldiers as a decisive force during the war. [19] 

But, the victory for the Union, and ultimately for Black peoples in the American South mainly, would not last. Many southern Blacks predicted that they would need their weapons to “defend themselves against racist whites unhappy with the Confederacy’s defeat,” a prediction proven true when “recalcitrant white racists committed to the reestablishment of white supremacy determined to take those guns away from blacks” and reassert control. [20] It was then that “Black Codes” were passed to reestablish White power across the South, with measures banning Blacks from owning liquor and guns, with some laws cloaked in “neutral, non-racial terms,” which was enforced by groups of White men who “began terrorizing black communities.” [21] These vigilante enforcers took different names in every locale, but mainly came to be known by the name of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), along with many others, with intimidation campaigns which disarmed Blacks and served as gun control organs arguably. [22] Newly freed Blacks were not passive or fell into their “assigned” state of subservience, but actively resisted such intimidation and White terrorism, forming Union Leagues with Black militia attachments and Black rifle clubs, even as there was no attempt to disarm such White racist vigilantes, leading to some communities unable to resist racist assaults as they were left “vulnerable and disarmed.” [23]

Such gun control efforts in the Reconstruction period have been used by guns rights supporters on the right-wing, in the present, to advance the argument that “gun control is racist.” This argument seemingly assumes that gun control began during the Reconstruction period. While gun control supporters are right that this is incorrect, some argue laughably that laws before the Civil War were “enacted to provide for the public’s safety, not to discriminate against any particular minority, and were enforced uniformly against all state residents” which whitewashes the actual history to make it sound nice, happy, and glad, denying that laws were racist and/or a form of social control. [24] Still, such people cannot deny that there were “discriminatory gun control laws at this time—and other times—in our history that specifically targeted blacks.” It is more accurate to say, like Detroit Black man Rick Ector, that “gun control has racist roots” even if you disagree with his assertion that denying people “the opportunity to own a gun and to protect themselves…is the epitome of racism.” [25]

In the following years of the Reconstruction, the ability of Black Americans to own guns was under attack. The Supreme Court eviscerated the true meaning of the 14th Amendment, in United States v. Cruikshank  and The Slaughter-House Cases, among others, which allowed racism to be further greenlighted in the South, with groups, like the KKK, engaging in forcible disarmament of free Blacks and imposing White supremacy through “rape and murder of countless ordinary blacks” as they gained (and held) power throughout the American South. [26] Once again, this did not happen without resistance. In 1892, in pamphlet entitled “Southern Horrors,” Ida B. Wells, a Black female crusader against lynching, declared that mob violence was only ameliorated when “blacks exercised manly self-defense” because “a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home.” [27] Specifically, the resistance to White terror after the rise of the KKK and legal violence of Southern government led to what became the modern civil rights movement starting in the early 20th century. [28]

The NAACP and W.E.B. DuBois were at the forefront of such a movement. In 1906, after the Atlanta “race riot,” DuBois patrolled his home with a shotgun. His aggressive statements following this event and his purchase of a gun were not just a one-time event. [29] In fact, as the editor of the NAACP’s magazine, still printed today, called The Crisis, DuBois championed “armed self-defense,” casting it as a duty, a viewpoint also held by NAACP leaders Walter White and Louis Wright, among others. During the 1919 “race riot” in Chicago, DuBois urged robust self-defense through the use of “bricks and clubs and guns” even as he cautioned against “blind and lawless offense against all white folk” and in 1921 he invoked self-defense as he urged Blacks to migrate into the North. Organizationally, the NAACP cut its teeth defending those Black Americans who engaged in armed self-defense, with major litigation. This included defense of a Black sharecropper, named Pink Franklin, who shot the planter “who laid claim to him under a peonage contract” in 1910, and was freed by 1919. Another case was that of Ossian Sweet, a man who feared White “mobbers” and being called a coward when going into his home in 1925. So he carried “a sack full of guns and ammunition” and a mob gathered. By the end of the encounter, one white man was killed by “Negro gunfire” and the NAACP hired “Clarence Darrow to defend the Sweets” while they used the “case to fuel a fundraising juggernaut.” Some instances didn’t go as well, such as Sgt. Edgar Caldwell, a WWI veteran, who shot (and killed) a trolley driver who stomped on him “after throwing him from the whites-only section.” Caldwell only survived two years on death row “before he was executed” despite the NAACP raising money for his defense. Finally, it is worth noting that DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, and Marcus Garvey came together in thought (likely not in reality), as they found “basic agreement” on the idea of armed self-defense by Black Americans.

Dr. Ossian Sweet & his East Side Garland home
Dr. Ossian Sweet & his East Side Garland home

Beyond the NAACP, Black Americans were fending for themselves. Up until the 1950s (and beyond), Black women defended themselves from harassment and physical assault by White men with pistols or “handy” rifles. [30] As Jim Crow and Jane Crow intensified in the wake of the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) decision which legalized “separate but equal” racial segregation in the American South, states enacted “gun registration and handgun permit laws” with such laws passed in Mississippi (1906), Georgia (1913), and North Carolina (1917), along with others following in Missouri (1919) and Arkansas (1923). [31]

At this point, gun control laws expanded beyond social control of White folks and anti-Black racism to other marginalized social groups. Such laws included the infamous Sullivan Act, which was put in place to “keep the immigrant populations from carrying pistols” and served as what some call the “the forefather of today’s modern “may issue” gun permit laws” for concealed carry. [32] Some guns rights advocates claim that California’s roots of its gun control legislation is “tied to white anxiety over Mexican-Americans and Chinese-Americans at the beginning of the 20th century.” [33] While more research would be needed to see if this claim is accurate, there is one reality that is clear: discriminatory gun laws in the Northern United States were passed from the 1910s until the 1930s. These laws, which came about as a result of immigration of “unsavory types”, were thoroughly embedded with racism and directly promoted and crafted by the National Rifle Association (NRA). [34] Specifically as a response to urban gun violence and crime often pegged on immigrants, especially those from Italy and Eastern Europe, the president of the NRA, Harvard-educated lawyer Karl Frederick, helped draft “model legislation to restrict concealed carry of firearms in public.” These laws, such as the Uniform Firearms Act in Pennsylvania in the 1920s, allowed police to determine who was “suitable” to carry a gun, with “racial minorities and disfavored immigrants…usually deemed unsuitable.” [35] Later on, in 1934, when Congress was considering restrictions on “”gangster guns” like machine guns and sawed-off shotguns,” the NRA endorsed the law, showing that it was not the “aggressive lobbying arm for gun manufacturers” that it is today. [36]

During the 1930s, some of those in the working class directly engaged in armed self-defense. The Communist Party (CP) mobilized mass support with “the Scottsboro defense campaign, the miners’ strike of 1931, the unemployed movement, and the underground and armed self-defense organization of thousands of sharecroppers under conditions of the most vicious repression,” helping to prepare the working class for “the enormous battles of the late 1930s.” [37] Such sharecroppers came together in the Sharecropper’s Union, starting in Alabama in 1932, which expanded its membership to “about 12,000 poor farmers and farm laborers,” who were mostly Black, with some White workers, “in five Black Belt states of the Deep South.” [38] With the CP’s members among the leadership, this union organized rural poor to resist plantation owners and ally with urban working class folks. Since the conditions in the South made “elementary demands” have “revolutionary significance,” the sharecroppers organized their struggle as one with arms, engaging in “revolutionary armed self-defense” to meet what they saw, accurately, as “counterrevolutionary terror” with pitched armed battles in Tallapoosa County, Alabama (Camp Hill in 1931 and Reeltown in 1932) and Lowndes County, Alabama, in 1935. [39]

As the years went by, armed self-defense was undoubtedly still used but no new gun control legislation was passed, with new laws not reappearing until the 1960s. One person who threatened armed self-defense was Paul L. Robeson. In 1946, he challenged the refusal by President Harry S. Truman to sponsor anti-lynching legislation by telling him that if the federal government would not protect Blacks, they would “exercise their right of armed self-defense.”[40] This threat was not based in thin air but in the reality and likely actions of Black Americans. Robeson later attended a world peace conference in Paris in 1949, saying that Black Americans should not fight “against the Soviet Union on behalf of their own oppressors” and as a result, the bourgeois media and US government “launched an attack of unprecedented ferocity against Robeson that lasted for nine years.”

By the 1950s, the tradition of armed self-defense continued. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the up and coming leaders in the civil rights movement, took measures to protect himself, making his home an “arsenal.” [41] He applied for a concealed carry permit, under a law that the NRA had promoted thirty years earlier, in 1956, after his home was bombed, but the application was rejected. Still, his house was protected by armed guards for sometime before he fully endorsed the methods and practice of nonviolence. However, he was not the first one.

In 1954, those in the NAACP chapter, mostly “upper-class Blacks,” in Monroe, North Carolina, fled due to attacks by the Klan, leaving Robert F. Williams and Dr. Albert E. Perry as the only two members. [42] With Williams (henceforth referred to as Robert) and Perry at the helm, the Monroe NAACP branch gained a new life and character. Soon enough the organization consisted of veterans in the leadership, housewives and “fed up” working-class people from the local area. [43] In 1958 and 1959, Robert, a WWII veteran, led the chapter, apart from civil rights activism, to defend two “black children below the age of ten were sentenced for sexual molestation because a white girl kissed them,” in what was called the “Kissing Case.” They were pardoned due to popular pressure, resulting in the Klan engaging in vigilante action by burning crosses in front of their houses.

However, the equation changed in May 1959. A Monroe court acquitted a “white man for the attempted rape of a black woman,” leading Robert to declare on the steps of the courthouse that “this demonstration today shows that the Negro in the South cannot expect justice in the courts. He must convict his attackers on the spot. He must meet violence with violence, lynching with lynching.” [44] He later clarified his statement by saying that he was only saying that if the US Constitution could not be “enforced in this social jungle called Dixie,” then Blacks need to “defend themselves even if it is necessary to resort to violence,” explaining that

“that there is no law here, there is no need to take the white attackers to the courts because they will go free and that the federal government is not coming to the aid of people who are oppressed, and it is time for Negro men to stand up and be men and if it is necessary for us to die we must be willing to die. If it is necessary for us to kill we must be willing to kill.” [45]

Of course, this resulted in his suspension as president of the NAACP branch, leading his wife, Mabel, to be elected president in his place. [46]

Other than the civil rights activism, the NAACP chapter had another role. In 1957, Robert, along with his wife Mabel, and others in the community, organized a rifle club to defend themselves from attacks by the KKK, with the base of the club coming from the NAACP branch that Robert led. While Black men dominated the new club, some Black women were members, and the club’s actions were broadly a success. [47] Robert, and the actions of the club, became a “classic example” of armed self-defense and “militant community action,” meaning that he and his chapter were controversial, with disputes with Martin Luther King, Jr. himself, just like Malcolm X years later. [48] The club, which was associated with the NRA likely because they thought those in the club were White, hilariously enough, the club used guns to defend Freedom Riders and the local community. [49] Anger from moderate bourgeois civil rights organizations like the mainstay of the NAACP and continuing horrid conditions in the South led Robert and others to question the usefulness of nonviolence, showing that the “meaning of civil rights activism was not set in stone but constantly contested and reconstructed.” [50] Robert later formed a unique ideology “from elements of black nationalism, Marxism, and radical republicanism.” [51]

Robert and Mabel Williams with pistols, training in Cuba.
Robert and Mabel Williams with pistols, training in Cuba.

Throughout the late 1950s, armed self-defense was advocated by numerous peoples of the Black community, organized mainly in “small and scattered groups” until the early 1960s. [52] Most of those who took up arms were Black men, who dominated the “organized and formal” armed self-defense in the South. However, some women took up arms to defend their families and later nonviolent civil rights activists. [53] Ultimately, Blacks in the South saw their struggle as one to stay alive, and then to fight for the right to vote, among other political rights, meaning that they were not about  revenge as White slaveowners like Jefferson had guessed. [54]

While it is valid to say that nonviolent direct action defeated racial segregation, American apartheid more accurately, in the South, it is also worth acknowledging that field organizers, nonviolent in their stance, in the Deep South, were “often protected by armed farmers and workers.” [55] It is also worth remembering that a “civil rights victory” was not inevitable, but that the role of armed Blacks helped this occur. In 1964, Robert P. ‘Bob’ Moses, director of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)’s Mississippi project, declared that “it’s not contradictory for a farmer to say he’s nonviolent and also pledge to shoot a marauder’s head off.” [56] Like Moses, many advocates for Black civil rights and for desegregation appreciated the importance of guns in the South, especially by Black veterans and informally organized community groups. Such groups and individuals helped protect racial justice advocates, seeing the protection as a necessity, with CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), SNCC, and Martin Luther King (MLK) refusing to publicly criticize the use of armed self-defense. [57] This made it clear that, the saying that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people” was true in the south, for the “southern freedom movement.” [58]

The tradition of armed self-defense in the US South was connected with the civil rights movement, with many believing in nonviolent resistance, with gunfire and the threat of gunfire helping nonviolence, which some veterans of the movement describe as “aggressive confrontations,” serving as an effective tactic for change. [59] While this was the reality, and this resistance did end “mental paralysis” which made Blacks unable to break free of “white supremacy” fully, nonviolence was not a way of life for many in the southern Black community with households having guns and armed supporters protecting field organizers. [60] Conflict between fears of bigoted (and racist) Whites and needs of Blacks to defend themselves arose again later in the 1960s, leading to more radical Black activists who believed in varying forms of Black liberation and Black nationalism, and splitting from the arguably bourgeois civil rights movement. [61] Many Blacks, not just Black activists, apart from Malcolm X, were undertaking the slogan of armed self-defense as a way to protect themselves from violent repression of Blacks by racist Whites. [62]

Robert, Mabel, and the other members of the Williams family suffered from his strong stance against nonviolent respectfulness and in favor of armed self-defense. In August 1961, Mabel held off police who were coming to arrest Robert for a “so-called kidnapping of a white couple,” when he was actually trying to free the white couple from an angry mob. [63] Eventually, each one of them fled to Cuba after he was pegged with “kidnapping” changes. In the process, Robert rejected the idea of Black nationalism, along with Marxism, thinking that it “putting class before race,” at least as he saw it. These beliefs, while readers may disagree with them, are not a surprise for him since the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA), which had supposed “rigid Marxism,” was engaging in destalinization and embracing Khrushchev’s revisionism, as opposed to anti-revisionism. As a result, Robert made a lasting friendship with the Socialist Workers Party, a Trotskyist group, but also produced a newspaper named The Crusader and broadcast a radio show for Southern Blacks called Radio Free Dixie. [64] While he said that the Cuban government was limiting his work, it is more likely this was the work of the CPUSA, which had, at the time, removed themselves from actively supporting the struggle of suffering Blacks. As a result, in 1965, after arguing in favor of radical internationalism, he moved to the People’s Republic of China, where he stayed in exile. He later returned to the United States in 1969, and was pardoned of his “crimes” in 1975. Still, to many, his actions (which were not his own of course) still represented “the tactical power of armed self-defense as a tool against reactionaries of all stripes” and the power of Black nationalism. [65]

Through the 1960s, while Williams was in political exile (1961-1969), Blacks in the United States were not giving up the use of the gun to protect themselves and/or assert their rights as human beings. In 1964, while SNCC respected the desire of the Black masses to engage in armed self-defense, James Foreman admitted that “I dare say that 85 per cent of all Negroes do not adhere to non-violence. They are allowing the non-violent movement to go ahead because it is working.” [66] The same year, the Progressive Labor Movement, a radical communist group formed two years earlier which had been expelled from the CPUSA for pro-China sentiments, declared that

Black people, if they are to be free, must develop political power outside of the present power apparatus through armed self-defense, political councils, the creation of an economic base, seizing land and factories and finally, uniting with all workers struggling for revolution.” [67]

At the same time, a former preacher for the socially conservative, but Black nationalist, Nation of Islam (NOI), Malcolm X, who has been mentioned earlier, became even more spoken out. In 1964, Malcolm argued for Black rifle clubs, which the White commercial press were “hysterical” over, and for armed self-defense against White reactionaries, even telling Lew Rockwell, the head of the Nazis, that if MLK or anyone in his demonstration were harmed, then the Nazis would face “maximum physical retaliation.” [68] This belief was centered around the idea that nonviolence in and of itself was a lie that would hurt more Blacks, meaning that people should be armed and able to defend themselves rather than giving up their rights. [69] Malcolm directly embodied this in an iconic image in Ebony magazine, in 1964, with unknown origins, showing him with a M-L carbine, standing at the window, watching for those who were out to kill him.

Iconic Ebony picture, in 1964, of Malcolm x with gun
Ebony picture of Malcolm X with a gun

Sadly, Malcolm was gunned down by NOI members, on February 21, 1965, with twenty-one bullets riddling his body, likely with the help of the NYPD, CIA, and FBI, all who would have an interest in seeing him dead and “neutralized.”

Apart from Malcolm, there was one group that engaged in armed self-defense to protect civil rights activists. It was called the Deacons for Defense and Justice. This group defended civil rights workers against attacks from the KKK and other White supremacists, with a masculinist appeal and awareness of their place in history. [70] The group expanded across the Deep South, including into Louisiana’s Natchez area, with Black women not being actively involved (since they were actively excluded) but they did participate on an “individual and informal basis,” with women defending their homes “with armed force,” and others participating with men in target practice in auxiliaries called Deaconesses. [71] Specifically, there were at least six women associated with the Deacons, showing that armed self-defense wasn’t only a male phenomena.

Some gun control advocates claim that the Deacons do not support the idea that the “armed resistance won the civil rights movement,” which no one is arguing, saying that the Deacons were a “little-known group that had no discernible impact on the national civil rights movement.” [72] The argument, which rests on the fact that the group didn’t form until the summer of 1964, ends up citing certain “respectable” historians and uses huge MLK quotes. Ultimately, the Deacons, who were roughly active from 1964 to 1968, helped the national civil rights movement by allowing it to have victories in the Deep South, showing that fighting against segregation and racial injustice was a worthy cause. While one can argue that the results of the movement did not challenge the White power struggle on a national level, laws such as the Civil Rights Act in 1965 or Voting Rights Act in 1964 would have not been possible without the work of the Deacons. Without the Deacons protecting civil rights workers, it would have been harder to push for such laws since there would have been fewer victories against Southern racial apartheid, regardless of how much they accomplished in retrospect.

By 1965, Blacks were becoming more impatient than ever at the pace of the civil rights movement, and nonviolent respectfulness, which did not fundamentally challenge the White power structure nationwide. That year, in Watts, a neighborhood of Los Angeles, these emotions came out. The Progressive Labor Party (PLP), called the Progressive Labor Movement in earlier years, declared that this action was unorganized and faced tremendous odds, but that for a brief time of two days the people “liberated their own community and kept out the police.” [73] Still, they lamented that such resistance is too weak to meet the enemy at hand, meaning that there needed to be self-defense organizations to help them organize to defend themselves, along with independent political organizations to fight for their demands and lead them forward. Not everyone held this opinion of course. MLK argued that the Watts uprising was no model to be praised, but did recognize that such “riots” were the “language of the unheard.” The same year as Watts, there was a battle waged in “Bloody Lowndes” County, Alabama, which ended in 1966 with defeat, even as the efforts of a southern grassroots Black Power movement was gaining more strength, with visions of such Black freedom not yet realized. [74] It is worth mentioning here that there was armed self-defense in the North as well, during the 1960s and before, but this writer has not read about this in detail so they such instances have not been included in this article.

In October 1966, a new group came into the political scene: the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP), formed by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. This organization began in Oakland, California around the “basic need for armed self-defense” and creating an “all-round program of self-defense” with demands for basic, human needs, a minimum program “designed to unfold into the maximum program of socialist revolution.” [75] The Panthers, influenced by Robert and Malcolm’s efforts, used guns as self-protection by openly carrying them in public and displaying them for everyone, especially the local police to see. The regular practice of “policing the police” in patrols happened after an incident in February 1967 when Newton, Seale, and several others, armed with guns, were stopped by police, with Newton refusing to let the police see a gun, with the police, after a huge crowd gathered, not challenging him and backing off. [76] Newton and Seale were frustrated with civil rights movement’s failed promise, leading to more violence and oppression by the police, pushing the belief that the gun would be a way to gain liberation. As for recruits who were within the BPP, they were taught about socialism and Black nationalism, in classes organized by other Panthers, and learned how to “clean, handle, and shoot guns.” [77]

Black Panthers inside of the California state house on May 2, 1967
Black Panthers inside of the California state house on May 2, 1967

One event of the Panthers electrified the nation and brought gun control back into the picture. In 1967, in an effort to stop the Panthers from brandishing guns in “an effort to police the police” and prevent police brutality, a measure was proposed to reduce their self-defense efforts. [78] In May of that year, a number of Panthers, with loaded weapons, went to the state legislature in Sacramento (in a “gun-in”) to oppose this form of racial repression, in an act which some say was the “birth” of the modern debate over gun rights, but this is inaccurate as such armed self-defense efforts had surfaced for years and years before. [79] On May 2, a day when eighth grade students were gathering to lunch with California’s new governor, Ronald Reagan, thirty young Black Panthers, with the 24 men holding guns and six women only accompanying them as comrades, took to the steps of the state capitol building carrying “revolvers, shotguns, and pistols.” [80] On those steps, Seale, reading a statement written by Newton (part of which is here), declared the following, connecting domestic and international struggles, a true statement of “intersectionality”:

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense calls upon the American people in general and the Black people in particular to take careful note of the racist California Legislature, which is now considering legislation aimed at keeping the Black people disarmed and powerless at the very same time that racist police agencies throughout the country are intensifying the terror, brutality, murder and repression of Black people. At the same time that the American government is waging a racist war of genocide in Vietnam, the concentration camps in which Japanese Americans were interned during World War II are being renovated and expanded. Since America has historically reserved the most barbaric treatment for nonwhite people, we are forced to conclude that these concentration camps are being prepared for Black people, who are determined to gain their freedom by any means necessary. The enslavement of Black people from the very beginning of this country, the genocide practiced on the American Indians and the confining of the survivors to reservations, the savage lynching of thousands of Black men and women, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and now the cowardly massacre in Vietnam, all testify to the fact that towards people of color the racist power structure of America has but one policy: repression, genocide, terror and the big stick. Black people have begged, prayed, petitioned, demonstrated and everything else to get the racist power structure in America to right the wrongs which have historically been answered by more repression, deceit, and hypocrisy. As the aggression of the racist American government escalates in  Vietnam, the police agencies of America escalates the repression of Black people throughout the ghettoes of America. Vicious police dogs, cattle prods and increased patrols have become familiar sights in Black communities. City Hall turns a deaf ear to the pleas of Black people for relief from this increasing terror. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense believes that the time has come for Black people to arm themselves against this terror before it is too late. The pending Mulford Act brings the hour of doom one step nearer. A people who have suffered so much for so long at the hands of a racist society, must draw the line somewhere. We believe that the Black communities of America must rise up as one man to halt the progression of a trend that leads inevitably to their total destruction.” [81]

While this act, and the subsequent marching inside the assembly chambers, gave the Panthers a nationwide reputation, a fear of Black people with guns led to new gun restrictions. [82] Specifically in response to this incident, Republican assemblymember Don Mulford, pushed forward the Mulford Act stronger than before, pledging to make the bill tougher. Then-Governor Reagan declared that there was “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons” and said that guns were a “ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will,” imposing no “hardship on the honest citizen” (referring to good-natured White people) signing the bill into law only a few months later. [83] Of course, the NRA supported this law and other gun control in the 1960s.

The following year, in 1968, the US Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and Gun Control Act of 1968, with both laying the foundations for the existing carceral state. The latter law, which banned felons from buying guns, expanded gun dealer licensing, and prohibited import of cheap “poorly made guns that were frequently used for crime by urban youth,” making it clear that the law wasn’t about controlling guns but “was about controlling blacks.” [84] Yet again, the NRA supported the law, praising it in their American Rifleman publication, along with a federal report in 1968 following suit blaming urban unrest, to an extent, on “easy availability of guns,” and arguing for firearm controls. Some claim that the passing of these laws meant that “attitudes toward gun rights shifted” for a temporary time “in favor of more racially neutral gun control policies” but this denies the idea that gun control laws are a form of social control yet again. [85]

In the meantime, the Black liberation movement was gaining strength. In 1968, the Republic of New Afrika (RNA) was formed, lasting until 1971, embodying the ideas of economic independence, Black empowerment, and self-determination by “creating a Black nation within a nation,” calling for a homeland in “the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina — subjugated land in which people of African descent were enslaved,” states that are part of what is commonly called the “Black Belt.” [86] As part of RNA practices, they had a “cadre of young black men armed with rifles,” willing to engage in armed self-defense, with armed women serving as security for the RNA’s Land Celebration Day in 1971, with a picture from that day opening this article.

A handbill for the RNA
A handbill for the RNA

As for the BPP, there was also a change. As the male bravado of the Panthers was tamped down, Black female writers changed the game, along with illustrations by Emory Douglas, especially, in The Black Panther newspaper, showing “poor black women resisting authority in everyday life.” [87] Such women carried guns and were framed as equals with men, not those who were subservient. In later years however, the FBI engaged in infiltration and psychological warfare against the Panthers (among many other radical left groups) as part of COINTELPRO, even as they started the free breakfast program in January 1969 and were hated by FBI head J. Edgar Hoover with a passion. Organizational disputes between SNCC, the BPP, and other organizations led to divisiveness, even as newspaper circulation of The Black Panther reached 250,000 in 1970, with Eldridge Cleaver kicked out of the party in March 1970, leading to the creation of the Black Liberation Army (BLA). After this point, the remaining parts of the party leadership were torn apart, with Cleaver, Seale, and Newton going their separate ways, and the party collapsing in 1982.

Back in the late 1960s, support for gun control was across the board. In the 1968 presidential election, Bobby Kennedy, before his assassination, supported gun control of “private citizens” but not cops of course, and George McGovern also supported gun control, which some said would be “a major step in disarming the people.” [88] The following year, the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence or National Violence Commission for short, declared in the introduction to their final report that “violence in United States has risen to alarmingly high levels…[which is] dangerous to our society…it is jeopardizing some of our most precious institutions, among them schools and universities…it is corroding the central political processes of our democratic society.” [89] Specific measures they recommend, to bring violence “under control” and “better control,” are is creation of “central offices of criminal justice” and private citizen organizations “as counterparts” (possibly the idea of police unions) and most importantly, “the adoption of a national firearms policy that will limit the general availability of handguns.” [90] In later pages, the commission said that there needs to be a push for “responsible participation” by young people in America “in decision-making” as a possible “substitute for the violence that born in frustration,” along with admitting that “without the deterrent capability essential for security against external attack, internal freedom and security would not be possible,” implying that a huge military with a Soviet boogeyman is needed to keep US citizens “in line.” [91] They also argue that all Americans have to recognize “the basic causes of violence in our society and what must be done to achieve liberty and justice for all” and that strong measures must be taken to end the “rising tide of individual and group violence.” [92]

The commission was not alone in these remarks. Wacked out general Ramsey Clark, who has the imperialistic idea of “progress” across the continent, by saying it created conditions making crime “common,” declared that “revolutionary crime and illegal conduct intended to alter institutions impose rioting, mob violence, unlawful confrontation, arson and trespass on a weary society.” [93] Adding to this, he said that one of the elements of a “violent environment” which “violent crime” springs from is the “prevalence of guns,” implying that he supports gun control. [94] Others said however, in 1970, that violence was an “ambiguous term” and that “order,” like violence, is “politically defined” and argued that national commissions in 1919, 1943, and 1968 do not mention (or consider) the connection of war (in this case in Vietnam) and domestic violence, an important fact to consider. [95]

On the far right, there was a new development. The gun control efforts in the 1960s, which aimed to disarm “urban and black radicals” led to backlash. Hardline NRA supporters took over the leadership of the NRA, changing it from fighting for sport shooting into a group engaging in “aggressive political lobbying to defeat gun control” and leading to the modern gun-rights movement today. [96] People like Maxwell Rich, of the old NRA, were pushed out of the way, with a man named Harlon Carter, leading his allied rank-and-file members to engage in a coup to take over the leadership in May 1977. [97] He and his loyal followers transformed the NRA, for the worse, into a pro-gun powerhouse and juggernaut where mistrust of law enforcement was one of the main beliefs. At the same time, as the GOP and NRA rejected gun control, Blacks, faced by increased violence in US cities and the crack cocaine epidemic, driven in part by the CIA’s activities, embraced it. [98]

As for the Left, support for armed self-defense and armed resistance was continued by certain sections and groups. Some argued that the “question of armed struggle” was a matter of expediency determined by political crisis in the country, potential of support from the masses at-large, and need of the people to engage in armed self-defense. [99] A few years later in April 1972, the “Revolutionary Union” group declared that “…even in an organized mass way, armed self-defense is incapable of completing the revolutionary task, and in time will even become less useful for defense,” saying that ultimately the only “real defense” of the populace is to “destroy the enemy…[through] offensive action and an organized military force.” [100] One such ideology that included armed self-defense were the ideas of Maoism, which also defended extra-legal tactics and preparation for military struggle, contrasting from the cautious perspectives of “Old Left”groups, the former which was embraced by those such as the BPP. [101] In the Chican@ community, called the Mexican-American community today, armed resistance was used. The Chican@ nationalist organization, the Brown Berets, composed of “lumpen” and working-class elements, proposed the Chicano Moratorium (1969-1971 at least) to raise awareness about the Vietnam War as a “civil rights issue,” also advocated for armed self-defense and armed struggle, as part of their anti-capitalist viewpoint, as necessary tools for liberation. [102]

Picture of eleven members of Brown Berets, the date of which is not known
Picture of eleven members of Brown Berets, the date of which is not known

While some argued against armed resistance, saying it was illegal and coercive, numerous groups still supported it. [103] In 1974, Ethel Shepton of the African Liberation Support Committee (ALSC), in Boston, argued against racial segregation, fighting for community control of schools in Black neighborhoods, along with armed self-defense against racist reactionaries, the right of “Black children to go to any school,” and the demand that the government “break up the fascist gangs.” [104] As years passed, gun control was cited as part of a “fascist offensive” to win allies of the proletariat to the “side of capitalism” while Robert, in 1977, declared that Mao Zedong was a “invigorator of rebellion and revolutionary thought,” saluting the victories of China, not surprisingly. [105] The same year, one group argued that they actively supported the right of White and Black working-class peoples, specifically those who were Black, to “defend themselves with arms against attack and lynching” with organization of armed self-defense in Black communities as “an important aspect of our leadership in the oppressed Nation.” [106]

During the later 1970s, one slogan began to be used more than ever: “Death to the Klan” as the KKK expanded throughout the US in groups like the “Invisible Empire.” In 1979, the left-wing Communist Workers’ Party (CWP), an offshoot of the PLP, a communist group, pushed forward “militant, anti-racist opposition to the Klan” by organizing within existing textile unions and against racism in the community as a whole, with positive results. [107] Of course, the Klan would not stand for this, doing what they could to stop the activism. As the CWP became more militant and organized a march on November 3, 1979, to counter the racist KKK, the Klan responded in force, with local Neo-Nazis, accompanied by FBI and police informants, arriving at the protest, taking “sidearms and rifles out of the trunk,” opening fire on participants, killing five in all, and likely wounding of many others, in what some called the “Greensboro Massacre.” [108] In the aftermath of this, the community was confused but also horrified, with the police nowhere to be on the scene and the leadership of the CWP being heavily criticized by established politicians and other radicals even as the lesson from the experience led to “better methods of anti-Klan organizing.”

The CWP was not the only group organizing against the Klan. In Northern Mississippi, the United League organized the masses, engaging in armed self-defense and taking precautions against Klan threats, along with similar anti-Klan and anti-Neo Nazi protests across the country. [109] As for the CWP, the more restrictions were put on them but this didn’t stop them. In January 1980, charges against nine people who transported weapons to the funeral march for the five killed during the Greensboro Massacre was dismissed, which some called a “victory for the Communist Workers Party and the masses in the struggle for right to armed self-defense” even as all confiscated weapons were ordered destroyed. [110] This victory allowed the CWP to continue to rally the people for nonviolent demonstrations even as they fought for the right of the masses to engage in armed self-defense, going against politicians like Ted Kennedy who supported gun control laws. [111] In 1981, one publication noted that the Klan was dedicated to engaging in “armed suppression of the workers’ movement and all progressive political movements” meaning that such reactionary terror cannot be stopped by being unarmed, but that “common sense tells us that armed self-defense is the only protection that the masses have against the reactionaries’ terror,” which liberals reject, claiming that “the masses are not prepared to accept the necessity of armed self-defense.” [112] In the same year, other measures were afoot. After the attempted assassination on Ronald Reagan in March, the news media pushed for gun control, as part of “”anti-crime” hysteria” which some say was a way to justify more authoritarianism, a bigger police apparatus, and turning the U.S. “into one big convict camp for forced labor, a chain gang working for the profits of the monopolies.” [113]

Handbill for Nov. 3 march by the CWP in Greensboro, NC
Handbill for Nov. 3 march by the CWP in Greensboro, NC

Despite criticisms of groups like the CWP, the chant of “Death to the Klan” became a national rallying cry. This was especially the case when the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee (JBAKC), originally emerging out of struggle by Puerto Rican and Black prisoners in New York, published a newsletter titled called Death to the Klan. [114] The organization was deeply rooted in the Black liberation struggle and Arab liberation struggles in Asia. [114] One lesson that was clear, it seemed, from the rhetoric of the CWP and its predecessors, along with grassroots organizing in Dallas, Texas, was a clear need for “synthesis between community defense and mass organizing” with self-defense as an imperative for people of color. By the mid-1980s, JBAKC had trouble articulating a “mass self-defense strategy” as they tried to get rid of racist graffiti, but were beat back by a racist skinhead gang in 1985 who were armed with shields and weapons. [115] As a result, some anti-racist skinheads organized armed self-defense and openly organized against those spreading hate and violence, including creation of a self-defense strategy with confrontations with racist often ending peacefully, without bullets being fired except in a few occasions. [116]

Undoubtedly armed self-defense continued as a practice by some individuals. One example of this was during the “Rodney King riots” in Los Angeles, in 1992, Korean shopkeepers had armed themselves, with Black “rioters” and Koreans portrayed negatively by the media, which diverted attention away from “a long tradition of racial violence,” with tensions among people of color “woven into U.S. history for the past 500 years.” [117] There is more on the history of armed self-defense, gun control, and armed resistance after 1992 but this was often engaged in by White individuals with not as much emphasis on actions by people of color.

Conclusion

In the original version of this article I was aiming to write about the history of armed resistance and gun control as the first section, followed by my views on the subject as the second section, reinforced by what I had said above. However, with over 117 footnotes and thousands upon thousands of words (over 8,600 not including footnotes), and with such a rich history, it seemed best to split this article into a two-part series. Even with this, there is no doubt that I did not cover all the history on this subject, so no one needs to get on my case about that in any way whatsoever. It is worth saying that anyone, on either side of the debate over guns in US society should recognize the clear history in this article to inform their viewpoint so they don’t laugh off the other side as ignorant fools while ignoring the reality which is right in front of their noses. As always, I look forward to your comments on this important subject.

Notes

[1] Other tweets of mine on the subject include: criticizing CodePink for implicitly rejecting armed self-defense, saying that calling for nonviolence at the upcoming women’s march doesn’t make sense, that liberals don’t care about safety of people of color because if they did they would call for armed self-defense, that armed self-defense shouldn’t be led by men, that these anti-fascists have the right idea, Korryn Gaines in Baltimore County has a right to armed self-defense, talking about armed self-defense in the Black community, challenging Hands Up United to endorse armed self-defense, asking if Muslims should arm themselves for self-defense, and so on.

[2] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[3] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017.

[4] Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[5] Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[6] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[7] LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encylcopedia,” Soviet History, Vol. 1, no. 1, p. 11, 13.

[8] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[11] LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encylcopedia,” p. 17.

[12] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[13] Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[14] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017.

[15] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Niger Innis, “The Long, Racist History of Gun Control,” The Blaze, May 2, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[16] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[17] Ibid; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[18] Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017, Charles E. Cobb, Jr., “This nonviolent stuff’ll get you killed,” Washington Post, July 28, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017.

[19] LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” p. 21; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[20] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control.

[21] Candice Lanier, “MLK’s Arsenal & The Racist Roots of Gun Control in the U.S.,” RedState, January 17, 2013; January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017.

[22] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Niger Innis, “The Long, Racist History of Gun Control,” The Blaze, May 2, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[23] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; David B. Kopel, “The Klan’s Favorite Law: Gun control in the postwar South,” Reason, February 15, 2005; accessed January 16, 2017; Stephen A. Nuňo, “Gun control is people control, with racist implications,” NBC Latino, July 24, 2012; accessed January 16, 2017; LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” p. 22-24. The rhetoric in favor of such armed self-defense was often masculinist in nature.

[24] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017. Everitt heads the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV). He goes on to talk about Nat Turner’s rebellion, the Colfax Massacre, and numerous other instances to disprove the gun control is racist idea.

[25] Ehab Zahriyeh, “For some blacks, gun control raises echoes of segregated past,” Al Jazeera America, September 1, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[26] David B. Kopel, “The Klan’s Favorite Law: Gun control in the postwar South,” Reason, February 15, 2005; accessed January 16, 2017; Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016.

[27] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[28] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[29] Nicholas Johnson, “Negroes and the Gun: The early NAACP championed armed self-defense,” Washington Post, January 30, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017. This whole paragraph comes from a summary of this source.

[30] Noted in old issues of the NAACP’s The Crisis.

[31] David B. Kopel, “The Klan’s Favorite Law: Gun control in the postwar South,” Reason, February 15, 2005; accessed January 16, 2017.

[32] Niger Innis, “The Long, Racist History of Gun Control,” The Blaze, May 2, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[33] Stephen A. Nuňo, “Gun control is people control, with racist implications,” NBC Latino, July 24, 2012; accessed January 16, 2017.

[34] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control.

[35] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[36] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Also see the Federal Firearms Act of 1938 which was also reportedly drafted by the NRA.

[37] Paul Elitzik, “The CPUSA and Black Workers in the 1950s,” Class Struggle, No. 9, Spring 1978, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[38] Carl Davidson, Chapter 7: Revolutionary Upsurge, part of the book, “In Defense of the Right to Self-Determination,” 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[39] Ibid.

[40] “Glossary of People: Ro,” see the entry for “Robeson, Paul Leroy (1898-1976),” Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[41] Adam Winkler, “MLK and His Guns,” Huffington Post, January 17, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017. There are a number of articles also worth reading on the subject: “Nonviolent Philosophy and Self Defense” (Library of Congress), “The Important Role of Armed Resistance in the Black Civil Rights Movement” (AlterNet), and “Gun Control and the Disarming of the Black Community,” (The Root).

[42] Carl Davidson, Chapter 10: The Civil Rights Movement, part of the book, “In Defense of the Right to Self-Determination,” 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[43] Noted by examining the members and history of the Black Armed Guard in Monroe, North Carolina.

[44] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016; Sylvia Shin Huey Chong, The Oriental Obscene: Violence and Racial Fantasies in the Vietnam Era (London: Duke University Press, 2012), 315].

[45] PBS, “Independent Lens: Negroes with guns: Rob Williams and Black Power,” accessed January 17, 2017.

[46] This reality should surprise no one and it shows that both Mable and Robert were involved in the struggle for black freedom.

[47] Seems evident from the fact that attacks in the region were reduced.

[48] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[49] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[50] Davarian L. Baldwin, “The Civil Rights Movement,” The New York Public Library, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[51] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016.

[52] “On the Black Panther Party,” Speech at the Second National Conference
of the Marxist-Leninist Party, USA — Fall 1984, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017.

[53] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control. The conclusion that women were arming themselves is not in and of itself out of the question.

[54] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Jim Dann and Hari Dillion, CHAPTER 3: RETREAT FROM THE BLACK LIBERATION MOVEMENT, part of “The Five Retreats: A History of the Failure of the Progressive Labor Party,” 1977, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; “Bob Moses also said that“I don’t know if anyone in Mississippi preached to local Negroes that they shouldn’t defend themselves.””

[58] Charles E. Cobb, Jr., “This nonviolent stuff’ll get you killed,” Washington Post, July 28, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017.

[59] Ibid.

[60] Charles E. Cobb, Jr., “This nonviolent stuff’ll get you killed,” Washington Post, July 28, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[61] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[62] “Hail the Formation of the Black Revolutionary Party,” The Black Revolutionary, Vol. 1, No. 1, May 1971, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[63]  Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016. Also noted in a publication of the Freedom Archives, Robert and Mabel Williams Resource Guide which is cited in another article of this series.

[64] Ibid.

[65] Ibid; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[66] Jake Rosen, “War on SNCC: Turning Point for Freedom Fighters,” Progressive Labor, Vol. III. No. 2 February 1964, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[67] Progressive Labor Movement, “Statement of Principles and Strategic Concepts,” Marxist-Leninist Quarterly, Vol. II, No. 2, no date [1964], Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[68] Pili Michael L. Humphrey, Chairman of the Afro-American Commission Central Committee of the League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L), “Commentary: Revolution and Black Liberation in the 1980’s,” Unity, Vol. 3, No. 9, April 25-May 8, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; “Progressive Labor Editorial Comment: Malcolm X and Black Nationalism,” Progressive Labor Vol. III, No. 5, May 1964, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[69] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[70] David Love, “Is it Time for Black People to Reconsider a Black Nation Within a Nation and Armed Self-Defense?,” Atlanta Black Star, July 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017. This masculinist appeal is also noted in Umoja’s We Will Shoot Back and Estes’s I Am A Man.

[71] Noted most prominently by Lance Hill in his 2006 book about the Deacons for Defense but is also noted elsewhere.

[72] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017.

[73] “A statement from the National Committee of the Progressive Labor Party: Army Occupies Strategic Hamlet of Watts,” Challenge, Vol. II, No. 6 August 24, 1965, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[74] Davarian L. Baldwin, “The Civil Rights Movement,” The New York Public Library, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[75] Venceremos, “Against Revisionism: In Defense of the Black Panther Party, 1966-1970,” September 1971, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[76] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[77] Ibid.

[78] Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “MLK and His Guns,” Huffington Post, January 17, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[79] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Revolutionary Communist League (Marxist-Leninist-Mao Tse Tung Thought), “History of the Congress of Afrikan People,” Unity and Struggle, Vol. V, No. 6, June 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[80] “On the Black Panther Party,” Speech at the Second National Conference
of the Marxist-Leninist Party, USA — Fall 1984, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[81] Huey Newton, “In Defense of Self-Defense: Executive Mandate Number One,” The Black Panther, 2 June 1967.

[82] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[83] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[84] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “MLK and His Guns,” Huffington Post, January 17, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[85] Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[86] David Love, “Is it Time for Black People to Reconsider a Black Nation Within a Nation and Armed Self-Defense?,” Atlanta Black Star, July 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[87] There have been numerous articles about Emory Douglas in publications across the web, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

[88] Cleveland Draft Resistance Union, “Johnson Quits,” 1968, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017; “National Elections and the Revolutionary Movement: George McGovern – Friend or Foe?,” Pamoja Venceremos, Volume 2, Issue 14, July 21-August 4, 1972, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017. McGovern is also criticized for his continued support of Israeli Zionism and US imperialism.

[89] National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, “Introduction to the Final Report of the Commission,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 2. Other documents submitted to the commission of note “crimes of violence” and “mass media and violence.”

[90] Ibid, 3.

[91] Ibid, 4-5, 8.

[92] Ibid, 11-12.

[93] Ramsey Clark, “Selections from Crime In America,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 13-14, 18.

[94] Clark, 21; Edward C. Banfield, “How Many, and Who Should Be At Liberty?,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 31. Clark also said that “mental illness, addiction, alcoholism, widespread property crime…police brutality and criminal syndicates” are also factors. He also argued that there is “a political element in every large scale riot.”

[95] Jerome H. Skolnick, “Selections from the Politics of Protest,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 47-48, 63-64.

[96] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[97] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[98] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[99] Carl Davidson, “Whither the Weatherman,” Guardian, December 26, 1970, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[100] “The Franklin group: The Military Strategy for the United States: Protracted Urban War (A Draft),” Red Papers 4, 1972, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[101] Max Elbaum, “Maoism in the United States,” Encyclopedia of the American Left, Second Edition, 1998, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[102] The League of Revolutionary Struggle (Marxist-Leninist), “Chapter 3: The struggle of the Chicano people,” part of “The Struggle for Chicano Liberation,” Forward, No, 2, August 1979, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; “Chicano Liberation and Proletarian Revolution,” Revolutionary Cause, Vol. 1, No. 2, January 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017. The Brown Berets were also joined by the Black Berets.

[103] Ernest Van Den Haag, “Political Violence,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 72, 74.

[104] “Commentary on the Greensboro shooting: The Klan: henchmen of imperialism,” Unity, Vol. 2, No. 23, November 16-29, 1979, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[105] “Robert Williams Speaks in Chicago: ‘Chairman Mao Was Our Brother’ Says Black Liberation Fighter,” The Call, Vol. 6, No. 36, September 19, 1977, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; Committee for Scientific Socialism (M-L), “Two Lines on Revolutionary Practice: Science Versus Spontaneity,” Forward! no. 1, June 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017.

[106] Marxist-Leninist Organizing Committee, “RESOLUTION ON THE BLACK NATIONAL QUESTION,” part of “Documents of the First Congress of the MLOC – Resolutions,” Class Against Class, No. 10, January 1978, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[107] Alexander Reid Ross, ““Death to the Klan” and Armed Antifascist Community Defense in the US,” It’s Going Down, July 26, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[108] Ibid.

[109] “500 attend busing forum in N.Y.,” The Guardian, December 25, 1974, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[110] “Turn the Country Upside Down to Avenge the CWP 5!: Victory for Right to Armed Self-Defense,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 2, January 21, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; “Chattanooga! 9 Pigs Fall to People’s Armed Defense,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 28, August 4-10, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[111] Cynthia Lai, “The Role of Practice in the Marxist Theory of Knowledge,” The 80’s, Vol. II, No 1, January-February 1981, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017; ““C”PML Works with Cops in Feb 2nd Demo: Calling for “Peaceful Transition to Socialism,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 6, February 23, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; “Miami Conference: U.S. People Demand New Leadership For The 80’s,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 21, June 16, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[112] Mark Evans, “For a Revolutionary Struggle Against Fascism,” Workers Herald, Vol. 1, No. 3, January 1981, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[113] “On the Attempted Assassination of Reagan by a Nazi: The Chickens Come Home to Roost,” The Workers’ Advocate, Vol. 11, No. 5, April 20, 1981, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017.

[114] Alexander Reid Ross, ““Death to the Klan” and Armed Antifascist Community Defense in the US,” It’s Going Down, July 26, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[115] Ibid.

[116] Ibid. Organized anti-racist gangs included the Red and Anarchist SkinHeads (RASH) and the SkinHeads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARPs), along with the non-skinhead CHD (Coalition for Human Dignity) group.

[117] Newsweek Staff, “They Armed in Self-Defense,” May 17, 1992; accessed January 16, 2017.

Obama’s legacy: nice, kind imperialism?

Obama's statement not surprisingly was basically endorsed by Huffington Post.
Obama’s statement not surprisingly was basically endorsed by Huffington Post.

Recently, the Chinese Communist Party publication, Global Times, rated Obama positively in a “fair review” of his legacy. They mentioned Obama’s farewell speech, saying that  Obama’s accomplishments included “economic performance…better than other major Western nations” with an increased GDP per capita, lower unemployment rate, and a long bull run for the US stock market. The piece then declared that one of Obama’s legacies is Obamacare, devoting himself to “Affordable Care Act and gun control” which they almost implied was worth the effort. They even said that Obama was not as “bold” as Bush, relatively “cautious in military actions,” saying that he was the most “peaceful US president compared with several of his immediate predecessors,” not leading the US into any new wars, and not taking a leading role in the war in Libya. Even on the East Asia/Pacific pivot, which was “unsuccessful” in their view, they said that Obama was “not radical in the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy,” which prevented ruptures in Sino-US relations, adding that there are “mechanisms for bilateral exchanges” between the US and China, with ties between the two complicated but “mature” at the same time. They ended by saying that “Obama is a nice person, calm and not too extreme” but that he failed “show his special leadership,” and criticized Donald Trump without naming him, calling Trump a person who “wants to be different in every category…and is obsessed with seeking the limelight.” In terms of criticisms of Obama’s presidency, the piece only mentioned that the US had “made the Syrian civil war last for five years, which led to the emergence of the Islamic State and the refugee crisis” leading to a weakening of “Washington’s control over the Middle East” and that “the gap in income distribution is growing larger,” with US citizens “feeling little sense of accomplishment.” Since such revisionist thought does not accurately describe the Obama legacy, it is important to set the record straight.

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Obama was an imperialist of the highest order. Clearly the Global Times was writing a hit piece on Trump, who I wrote about two days ago, which should surprise no one since Trump is spewing BS on the issues of pharmaceuticals, the F-35 program, hacking, and others. For these, he may be partially right in one aspect but wants to push his image as a “tough” president, including supporting Taiwan to the hilt. As for Obama, the idea that he was a “nice person, calm and not too extreme” (or a “Woodrow Wilson“) is invalidated by his imperialist declaration last month that Russia was a “smaller” and “weaker” country that didn’t “produce anything that anybody wants to buy except oil and gas and arms,” but still said it could pose a serious threat, somehow (that doesn’t even make sense!). I guess this is no surprise for a president who loves Reagan and has an administration that promotes the Russian hacking conspiracy, not a “kinder” imperialist by any stretch. With Trump administration coming in it is clearly time for armed self-defense.

Let’s go through the “accomplishments” and “legacy” of Obama and his administration one by one:

  1. Voting AGAINST UN resolutions condemning glorification of Nazi and denial of Nazi war crimes in 2014 and 2016, supported by 115 member states in 2014 and 131 in 2016, a resolution proposed by the Russian Federation since 2006 reportedly. Last year, the US claimed that the resolution had an “overly narrow scope and politicized nature” and said it called for “unacceptable limits on the fundamental freedom of expression,” showing that the murderous empire values speech of Nazis (and white supremacists) above all others.
  2. As Nick Turse wrote in an investigative piece earlier this month, US special forces can be found in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, partnering with “unsavory types” (you know who they are). Specifically, he noted that 70,000 special forces under Special Operations Command (SOCOM). across the world, are engaged in “shadow wars against terror groups…[along with] activities…outside acknowledged conflict zones…every single day” with the most elite forces of the US, including Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets “deployed to 138 countries in 2016” which is the highest Obama’s presidency, typifying “what has become the…murky twilight between war and peace.”
  3. Continuing the imperialist war in Afghanistan, with 8,400 troops STILL stationed there, with no end in sight under Trump.
  4. Increase in the use of private mercenaries under Obama’s watch, who may be threatened by Trump. However, Erik Prince of Blackwater backed Trump, with the latter with an even more direct connection manifested in the fact that the brother of his Secretary of Education pick, Betsy DeVos, is Erik Prince! As of August 2016, the “number of U.S. service members in Afghanistan is dwarfed by the nearly 29,000 Department of Defense private contractors [private mercenaries in actuality] in the country, outnumbering American troops three to one” which is a decrease from the past, but the use of them is a still major part of imperial operations. Even The Atlantic bellowed that “America is waging a war largely via contractors, and U.S. combat forces would be impotent without them. If this trend continues, we might see 80 or 90 percent of the force contracted in future wars” with such contracts as big business for those cashing in.
  5. As Cornel West recently argued, “today we are on the edge of an abyss…[in] the most powerful empire in the history of the world” leading to a “postmodern version of the full-scale gangsterization of the world” where Obama’s reign contributed to the “nightmare of Donald Trump.” West also argued that Obama followed the advice of his “neoliberal advisers to bail out Wall Street,” that no Wall Street executives went to jail (doing too little too late), he continued drone strikes killing civilians, he replied to Black Lives Matter with “with words about the difficult plight of police officers” and in response to Israeli aggression he funded the Israeli army with many more millions of dollars, along with calling black youth in Baltimore “criminals and thugs” (so did Jay Carney). West also reminds us that “Obama’s education policy unleashed more market forces that closed hundreds of public schools for charter ones,” “labor insurgencies” in the Northwest overlooked, demonizing “truth-tellers” (mainly whistleblowers), creating a market-based healthcare policy which “provide[d] healthcare for over 25 million citizens, even as another 20 million are still uncovered.” West finally added that Obama was a “deporter-in-chief – nearly 2.5 million immigrants were deported under his watch” which prefigures “Trump’s barbaric plans.”
  6. As Glen Ford wrote last month, “looking at the number from a different angle, Obama released only one out of every two thousand of the nation’s 2.3 million prison inmates, the largest incarcerated population in the world, both in raw numbers and in the proportion of U.S. society living behind bars. In other words, Obama’s clemencies, like all other presidents’, are statistically meaningless and morally and politically distractive. But, of course, that’s what Obama’s good at – distracting people.”
  7. As Jon Reynolds argued, “…when President Obama oversaw the brutal force-feeding of untried prisoners at a detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, they [pro-Obama liberals and progressives] said nothing. When President Obama’s mass-deportations of undocumented immigrants in the US outpaced deportations under his predecessor, they stayed silent…when President Obama spent his first term in office outspending his predecessor on raids against legal marijuana dispensaries , his supporters had little to say…When President Obama extended the US military occupation of Afghanistan until 2024, anti-war Democrats under George W. Bush were nowhere to be found. When President Obama fabricated a reason to bomb oil-rich Libya in 2011, and then just a year later, reauthorized the US invasion of Iraq, they were voiceless…when it came to light that President Obama had a “kill list” and US citizens were on it, and were being killed, all without due process — again, barely a peep. When Obama granted legal immunity to telecom companies that had conducted invasive spying during the George W. Bush years, when he extended the Patriot Act, when he prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act…when he expanded the NSA’s surveillance programs, and…green-lit indefinite detention of US citizens without trial, Democrats remained complacent. From January 2009 to the end of 2016, there has been a near-virtual silence from those identifying as Democrats against a variety of violations committed under President Obama, violations which were widely protested during the George W. Bush years…under a Democratic president, the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan was continued, US boots hit the ground in Syria and Iraq, US bombs fell in Libya, US drones terrorized the skies over Pakistan and Yemen, America’s nuclear arsenal was upgraded, and highly provocative military drills were conducted along the borders ofRussia and China. Eight years of warmongeringObama, like Bush before him…offered support to regimes like Saudi Arabia , which are notorious for oppressing homosexuals and women…from 2008 to 2014, one-quarter of a million people were deported for nonviolent drug offenses, often due to low-level marijuana possession. The idea that the Democratic Party is in any way, shape, or form entitled to the moral high ground over the equally horrific opposing party is a beyond ridiculous assertion without any basis in reality…Kill lists, defense of torture, mass surveillance, US citizens being picked off by drone missiles, the continued buildup of a vast empire [all under Obama].”
  8. Expanded Bush’s drone program to create a “kill list” where he would select people to be killed in the world every Tuesday, what is called “terror Tuesday” by some, killed by the secretive JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command), engaging in what are arguably war crimes.
  9. Hopes that race relations between whites and blacks would improve were quickly dashed, the bourgeois “middle class” continued to be “hollowed” out, income inequality reached its highest level since 1928, more Mexican immigrants have returned to Mexico than those who enter the US, partisan divides are harsher than ever, ordinary Americans were skeptical of the government’s economic policies toward the populace (and toward national policies in general), serious concerns about privacy rose, anger at the established media remained, and pessimism in the US is rising as noted in a recent Pew Research report.
  10. “Normalizing” relations with Cuba and Iran, which allowed US capitalists to salivate even as restrictions remained on these “new” markets ready for Western capitalist exploitation of the highest order.
  11. The auto bailout in 2008 and 2009, begun by Bush and continued by Obama, which “saved” the auto industry but didn’t change ANYTHING about it, even though the industry was temporarily nationalized and new jobs could have been created, maybe even in renewable energy, who knows.
  12. The refusal to prosecute ANY Bush administration officials for torture.
  13. The failure to close the hellish Guantanamo Prison Camp, which still has 55 detainees, where people are routinely tortured and numerous people have died from hunger strikes, or the huge naval base there. The base at Guantanamo which occupies over 5,880,483 square feet, with 1,362 buildings, according to the US military’s count. Furthermore, the base, which occupies 45 square miles, according to the official site, ensures, “regional security” in the Caribbean, supports U.S. Navy, and Coast Guard ships, while helping the wicked Department of Homeland (In)Security “care” for migrants, and helping “control the flow” of undocumented immigrants into the United States. The “official history” of the base which boasts about their “self-sufficiency” doesn’t mention, context for seizure of Gitmo or the US military’s three imperialist occupations of Cuba (1898-1902, 1906-1909, 1917-1922), with the land taken “during the [imperialist] Spanish-American war of 1898, then codified in the Cuban-American treaty of 1903″ which was signed during a time when the sovereignty of Cuba was limited.
  14. The New York Post says Obama’s legacy is a “devastated Democratic Party,” an assessment which is actually pretty accurate to be honest.
  15. The presence of 5,000 troops in Iraq, one of the wars that Global Times forgets for some reason.
  16. As noted by NBC News, “the president’s policy moves…firmly aligned Latinos with the Democrats…[while] white, economically-insecure American increasingly drifted from his party [to Trump], despite Obama policies aimed at them.”
  17. Even a pro-Obama tepid liberal in Truthout argued that under Obama, “as with the torturers, none of the Wall Street thieves who eviscerated the economy to their great profit were ever prosecuted for any of their crimes…[he] all but ignor[ed]…Standing Rock as he champions fracking and tar sands oil pipelines…[he] champions the middle class while peddling the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership [along with other “free trade” treaties and he] sold more weapons to the world than any administration since World War II.”
  18. Beyond an increase in national debt, he escalated US presence in Syria with special forces rushing to the country, backing “moderate” Syrian rebels who are actually terrorists and “rebels” in Ukraine to fight “Russian aggression.”
  19. Pushing for a war or some sort of conflict with Russia, an idea advocated by US intelligence agencies, Democrats, the US media, and numerous others like Joy Ann Reid, and so on
  20. As James Bovard argued, Obama “became judge, jury, and executioner” when it came to drone bombing, the US is bombing, as of now, “seven foreign nations” (Libya, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, and Pakistan). rebels backed by the Pentagon and those backed by the CIA have battled each other. Beyond this, the opinion notes that during the US bombing in Libya in 2011, the US joined “the French and British assault on the Libyan government” and toppled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, while “federal agencies slammed the door on routine requests – especially from the media” with numerous FOIA denials, and the TSA “became far more intrusive and abusive” to say the least.
  21. As further strengthened the repressive capacities of the state” including increasing its propaganda abilities, to “curtail speech and control information” [which I talked about here] connecting to its legacy of “increased surveillance of the public to the use of the espionage act to prosecute journalists and whistleblowers.” Baraka said that the “latte left” and liberal allies have fully collaborated with this, with efforts to “weaken the incoming administration by attempting to split it from its Republican legislative arm,” with Trumpism becoming “a useful tool for enforcing neoliberal ideological consensus,” leading to the reappearance of the phenomenon of neo-fascism, nothing new to Black America who which has “suffered from the racist, arrogant assaults of this criminal state to maintain the Pan-European colonial/capitalist project.”
  22. Said “no” to Israel recently, but has consistently supported Israel through its numerous bombing campaigns over the years. Trump aims to be even more Zionist than Obama, which is apparently possible.
  23. Leading on the “environmental movement” and bourgeois environmental groups so they would “await” his rejection of Keystone XL which happened, but also didn’t since he approved the southern half in 2012 (when he boasted about more pipelines) and “disapproved” of the northern half but actually didn’t since oil-by-rail continues onward as noted on Wrong Kind of Green and elsewhere.
  24. Continuing the imperialist assault on states like Zimbabwe, Russia, Eritrea, the DPRK, and others full force, without stop. Trump will likely increase this with his “Trumpian diplomacy” with intervention in the African continent on the rise.
  25. Using states ranging from Saudi Arabia (including voting against that 9/11 bill) to Qatar as imperial proxies to carry about US policies of mass murder over the years.
  26. As I noted in my post in July, President Obama “extended the imperial war and occupation in Afghanistan beyond his time in office, leaving more troops “than planned” with the empire as “strong as ever” despite “growing US debt from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” I also pointed out the lack of domestic opposition to imperial adventures, with most peace groups as bourgeois, noted that there have been “US-backed coups in Ukraine (2014), Honduras (2009), Paraguay (2012), Maldives (2012), and Brazil (2016), coupled with drone strikes across the Muslim world from secretive drone bases, shadowy attack teams (JSOC, CIA, and so on), private mercenaries-for-hire, and authoritarian imperial proxy states such as Saudi Arabia.” Additionally I noted that “Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Cuba, Syria, Belarus, and the DPRK are under fierce overt and covert imperial assault coupled with imperial destabilization efforts” along with saying that “the United States certainly has colonies like the “empires of old” manifested in its inhabited territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa (supposedly “self-governing” since 1967), Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands” along with the “mainstay of the murderous empire comes in the hundreds of military bases, numbering 500 at minimum (most of which the military calls “installations” [11]), scattered across the world.” This shows that quotes like these are true.

There’s no doubt that even if Obama was “better” than Bush in some regards (which I seriously doubt), he was a bloody imperialist. There are numerous aspects I didn’t touch on here, especially in the realm of social policy, but I wanted to avoid praise here as I’m trying to be critical in this area rather than having the idea of “balance” whatever that entails. I could go on and give other aspects of Obama’s legacy. However, rather than continuing the list I’d like to show some charts:

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As noted from a revised map I put on twitter.
Countries the US is currently bombing as I noted on twitter
Countries the US is currently bombing as I noted on twitter
sofmap1_large
This map displays, as noted by Nick Turse, “the locations of 132 of those countries” with 129 (blue) supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command and 3 (red) — Syria, Yemen and Somalia — “were derived from open-source information.”
U.S. Special Operations forces deployed to 138 nations in 2016. Locations in blue were supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command. Those in red were derived from open-source information. Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and Russia are not among those nations named or identified, but all are at least partially surrounded by nations visited by America’s most elite troops last year.
As Nick Turse notes in the original caption for this image, “Locations in blue were supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command. Those in red were derived from open-source information. Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and Russia are not among those nations named or identified, but all are at least partially surrounded by nations visited by America’s most elite troops last year.”
sofmap3baltic_large
Original caption by Nick Turse: “a closer look at the areas of the “undeclared campaigns in the Baltics, Poland, and Ukraine” mentioned by retired Lieutenant General Charles Cleveland. Locations in blue were supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command. The one in red was derived from open-source information.”
US bases near Iran, as of 2015
US bases near Iran, as of 2015, an image usually used to demonstrate US imperial power in the region
US bases near China as of Feb. 2016
US bases near China as of Feb. 2016
US bombs dropped in 2016 in the Middle East (and part of central Asia), most of which were in Syria, Iraq & Afghanistan.
US bombs dropped in 2016 in the Middle East (and part of central Asia), most of which were in Syria, Iraq & Afghanistan. Data here comes from the CFR, but also uses this map and bombs from this anti-US poster in Iran. A US flag was put on each bomb, with some countries, like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, representing the exact number of bombs, while others (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria) are just representational
libya-2016-bombs-dropped
A graphic I made, putting into place each bomb individually (taking about an hour at least) showing ALL the bombs dropped on Libya in 2016, using this map as a basis, with data from CFR.
us-bombs-dropped-in-2015-300x184
After making all those maps, I’m a bit tired, so here is a chart of US bombings in 2015 also from the CFR. Part of the reason I didn’t make a map also is that Iraq & Syria are put into one category.

I don’t really have anything else right now since I’m tired and this post is going out later today. But, comments are welcome.

David Swanson, the USSR, and the Kellogg-Briand Pact

screenshot_2017-01-06-01-59-55-1
A screenshot from a 1949 animated Soviet propaganda film by Victor Gromov, titled “Mr. Wolf,” focusing on a pacifist capitalist, like Andrew Carnegie perhaps, who, fed up with the horrible nature of war, moves to an “island of peace.” But when he finds oil, he gets greedy, dropping his belief in pacifism, demands control of it, reveals his secret stash of arms, and seizes control of the oil with the help of (presumably) the US Navy. The message of greedy capitalists and duplicitous pacifists is very clear while some are flummoxed.

As Trump promises to increase military spending, including 350 more ships for the Navy (likely costing over $126 billion dollars), strengthening the murderous US empire, which builds off the brashly imperialist foreign policy of the Obama administration, it is important to recall our history. This article will first outline the narrative by David Swanson, a former press secretary for bourgeois Democratic “peace” politician, Dennis Kucinich, during his presidential candidacy, and peace activist, on the history of how the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 came into fruition, summarizing his book to the best of my ability, there will be a counterpoint to his history, and finally it will end with my conclusion on where to go from here.

David Swanson’s narrative of what happened

David Swanson’s book is a good place to start. While he is not radical, and arguably a bourgeois pacifist, he does help tell this story. As he tells it, the peace movement in the 1920s, depending on new female voters, united around the idea of war outlawry, previously split by the League of Nations, seen as a glorious and noble cause. [1] This movement was strengthened by outrage at the horrible effects of WWI, despite the manipulation of emotions, by Woodrow Wilson’s “propaganda machinery,” in the form of the Committee of Public Information, to influence Americans to support war. [2] Such manipulation was preceded by Wilson winning election in 1916, with slogans like “he kept us out of the war,” but turning around and involving the US in WWI in April 1917. Many in the US, disillusioned with promises of war, distrusted European peace efforts, as the US membership in the League of Nations and World Court did not materialize, along with other failed negotiations in the 1920s, the peace movement grew. [3] Leading intellectuals, robber-barons, like Andrew Carnegie who founded the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and politicians, like Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, promoted peace. At the same time, “peace societies” were created in the US, along with a litany of other pro-peace organizations, such as the American Friends Service Committee and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, some of which spread  “a barrage of peace propaganda.” [4]

There are number of individuals who specifically pushed for “war outlawry” or the abolishment of war. Swanson cites 22 individuals. [5] One of these individuals was Salmon Oliver Levinson, a Yale graduate and Chicago lawyer who led the American Committee for the Outlawry of War, which tried to make war illegal and recognized as an institution. [6] Others, such as Kirby Page and temperance activist Carrie Chapman Catt, also pushed for war outlawry, allied with other forces, like the Progressive Party which represented interests of farmers, petty urban bourgeoisie, and trade unions, collapsing after the 1924 election, along with public opinion in favor of prohibiting war. [7] Pro-peace clubs and organizations sprung up by the hundreds, with thousands of members, eliminating the divides in the past between more wealthy organizations, like the Carnegie Endowment and the American Foundation for Peace, and more radical ones pushing for disarmament and opposing militarism. [8] The former profited from war with hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonds from the U.S. Steel Corporation. However, it is worth pointing out that Outlawrists, tapping into widespread skepticism of collective defense agreements, “favored the rule of the written word” to prevent war, creating a world court which had international jurisdiction, but were muddled when they didn’t always consider the distinction between “aggressive” and “defensive war.” [9] Beyond this, such a push for outlawing war was an effort to change people’s conceptions of what they consider “morally acceptable,” hoping that society could be organized for peace, but not always taking into account that some engage in statements of desire about ending war and peaceful resolution rather than the reality. [10]

From then on, there was a push for Western diplomats to negotiate what became the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Illegal diplomacy by pro-peace US citizens, led to debate among French, German, and British diplomats about being involved in the treaty, boosted by supportive writings in The New Republic, New York Times, and Foreign Affairs, along with sympathetic congressmembers like socially conservative William Borah and Republican Robert LaFollette, among others. [11] Aristide Briand, a long-time prime minister, advocate of “personal diplomacy,” and breaker of a railroaders strike, made the first move, with a Minnesota Republican, Secretary of State Frank Kellogg, no active advocate of peace, forced into action even as he cursed pacifists privately. [12] Obviously in an effort to reinforce US imperialism, Kellogg was willing to threaten war to enforce the Monroe Doctrine in the Americas, derided by the new Soviet government, but was pushed into action by a strong peace movement, negotiating a treaty with the French secretly, making it multilateral even though Briand did not want this to happen originally. [13] Some of the French showed their true colors, like Paul Claudel, who said that outlawing war was sentimental and would please “cranks,” Bolsheviks and socialists, proposing a joint declaration of principles but Kellogg stuck by his demand for a treaty, later coming over to public negotiations of the treaty as the US and British allowed their respective imperialisms to fall under the idea of “self-defense” and not be covered by the treaty. [14] The Kellogg-Briand Pact, also called the Pact of Paris, was signed in Paris in 1928, picketed by feminists saying that an equal rights treaty should be proposed and anti-imperialists who said that US imperialism would continue, and survived the US Senate (votes in favor 85-1), despite broad questioning of its effectiveness, then entering the canons of international law in July 1929. [15]

Swanson continues by saying that the pact’s ideas were influential. He says that it inspired the UN’s principles in 1945 and International Criminal Court, claiming the pact was the “first U.S. recognition of the Soviet Union’s existence.” [16] He also says that Henry Stimson tried to stop the USSR and nationalist China from supposedly going to the “brink of war.” He doesn’t note that this was part of a “Sino-Soviet conflict over the Manchurian railway line,” which was settled with a protocol that “affirmed the original status of the railroad as a joint enterprise” and Soviet victory. At the time, Persia (Iran) defended the USSR rhetorically when it took defensive measures against nationalist China in the 1929 spat. [17] Swanson also points out Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931, Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, and Germany invading Poland on Sept. 1, 1939 and the Soviets on Sept. 17, 1939 as violations of the pact. Not surprisingly, Swanson does not say that this intervention was in accordance with the secret Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact since the Soviets felt that the Polish could no longer defend themselves because of the collapse of their state after a Nazi attack, and the Soviets were welcomed by the Polish people as “true liberators.” Swanson goes on to say that the treaty was not ordinary, but meant to outlaw war, with the reality that the US quickly violated the pact, with peace structures not stopping the coming war. Some supported Outlawry at the time (Stimson) but opposed it later, and others, such as, a Wall Street lawyer named William Chanler, a friend of Stimson, used it as a basis for criminal trials of the Germans and Japanese for war crimes at Nuremberg and the UN Charter as a whole. [18] Eventually, Kellogg was given a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the treaty even as he didn’t stop advocating for US imperial aggression.

Before ending the section on Swanson’s narrative, it worth noting how taken in he is about this story. He thinks war outlawry be revived and that we should have a “Kellogg-Briand Day” on August 27 every year, celebrating a “step toward peace” but war’s abolishment or end. [19] He goes on to say that his book, dispelling the well-kept secret that war is illegal, continues the campaign for outlawry, which includes pushing countries to comply with the pact, and says that a public referendum on war is an intriguing idea. [20] At the end of his book, he outlines numerous proposals for reducing the US war machine, [21] and says that his self-published book, where he had complete editorial control, is meant to help people learn about the Kellogg-Briand Pact and study peace activism that got us to Outlawry. [22]

What Swanson missed

Another screenshot from the Soviet animated film "Mr. Wolf."
Another screenshot from the Soviet animated film “Mr. Wolf.”

In his happy good lucky story of the road to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, Swanson glosses over a number of details, almost portraying the US imperialists as “peacemakers” in the process. As the Great Soviet Encyclopedia argued, the US tried to use the Paris Peace Conference, from 1919-1920, to marginalize the USSR, Harding’s administration, favoring monopolies, used the Washington Conference of 1921-1922 to force the UK to agree to equality between US and UK battle fleets, Coolidge’s administration was unfriendly to the USSR, and US warships helped bomb Nanking in 1927. [23] Additionally, Swanson’s book barely ever mentions the Soviets, usually only referring to them in passing except for one time when he notes that a delegate from the USSR,  Maxim Maimovich Litvinov, proposed to the League of Nations’s commission on disarmament in Nov. 1927 that there be the “immediate and total abolition of all armies, navies, and air forces; the sinking of all warships; the scrapping of all war material; and the demolition of all arms factories” but Western governments rejected this, and the French even voted to expand their navy. [24] He never expands on other Soviet policies in favor of peace but has a very Western-centered approach, likely written with his audience of liberals and progressives in mind who scowl at the Soviet Union.

There is another aspect of the process that Swanson barely talks about, if he even alludes to it: the interests of Western capitalist states who engaged in the pact. Kellogg himself wanted to desperately avoid the treaty, which was, as some writers put it, “the product of Realpolitik and cynical political calculations,” with the French seeing the pact as a possibility for a “defensive alliance aimed at Germany” while in the US, many believed that “the solution to the scourge of war lay in the universal renunciation of its practice.” [25] More specifically, while Briand’s offer for negotiations on a treaty to end war “thrilled pacifist-minded Americans,” it also served “France’s strategic needs,” a way to sideline the US “should France go to war” but Kellogg understood “what Briand was trying to accomplish and wanted nothing to do with the offer” and did not like Briand’s “bid to energize U.S. peace groups and thereby box in the Coolidge administration.” Beyond this, Kellogg agreed to talk with the French, engaging in a multilateral treaty outlawing war rather than a bilateral treaty, which supposedly “rendered it largely ineffective, more a toy handcuff than an iron manacle” and Briand was hardly in a position to argue against it. Paris served as “the site for the historic meeting to renounce war” and US Senators had few illusions about the treaty, knowing “it was the international equivalent of an air kiss,” voting the same day “to fund the construction of fifteen new warships.”

The US State Department admits this much in their write-up about the pact. They argue that the pact had “little effect in stopping the rising militarism of the 1930s or preventing World War II” but also note the movement that pushed for the peace pact. France was facing, they note, “continuing insecurity from its German neighbor and sought alliances to shore up its defenses,” but the US was less eager to enter into a bilateral peace pact, worrying that it “could be interpreted as a bilateral alliance and require the United States to intervene if France was ever threatened” so they suggested that it be multilateral, which aligned with war outlawry being “immensely popular in international public opinion.” The State Department history also says that the pact’s language “established the important point that only wars of aggression – not military acts of self-defense – would be covered under the pact,” resulting in many nations signing it, and the U.S. Senate ratifying the agreement after making “reservations to note that U.S. participation did not limit its right to self-defense or require it to act against signatories breaking the agreement.” The pact was first tested, argues this history, during the Mukden Incident which led to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, but the fact of a “worldwide depression and a limited desire to go to war to preserve China” led to no action from the League of Nations or the US. Later threats to the agreement “from fellow signatories Germany, Austria and Italy” made it clear there “was no way to enforce the pact or sanction those who broke it” with many ways around the terms, the pact not helping prevent WWII but very idealistic in the view of the State Department history.

In missing this aspect of the pact, Swanson, of course, did not mention the imperial nature of the pact itself. The Great Soviet Encyclopedia argued that the pact was originally used by the US and other imperialist powers as a “means of isolating the USSR” but that under “the pressure of public opinion they were forced to invite the USSR to subscribe to the pact.” [26] The Soviets adhered to the pact on August 29, 1928, details of which will be discussed later in this article. Such an action led to anger from Trotskyists who saw themselves as righteous in their “revolutionary” feelings, even though Leon Trotsky supported a continuation of the NEP, opposed measures to ensure the security of the Soviet state from opportunists and foreign enemies, and pushed the idea of “permanent revolution” while rejecting the more practical idea of “socialism in one country” proposed by Joseph Stalin, as noted in a previous post on this blog. The Trotskyists claimed that the signing of this pact marked a departure from a “revolutionary path,” strengthened “bourgeois illusions,” struck at Lenin’s work, and that Western powers are not interested in peace but wanted to check the “successful robber activities of the Nipponese competitor,” Japan. [27] While most of these statements take an unrealistic counter-revolutionary viewpoint, the last statement about Western powers is one the Soviets would actually agree with.

The Soviet government had a good reason for signing the pact regardless of what the counter-revolutionary Trotskyists said. While they would have, a few years before, possibly sneered at the effort as “bourgeois sentimentalism,” the USSR wanted to join the world community even as the initial invitations for the pact excluded the Soviets, leaving them to believe there was the tacit formation of an anti-Soviet bloc, but the French invited the Soviets to be signatories and they did so, with their affirmation of the pact showing a “Soviet desire for peace.” [28] Signing the pact was also a continuation of previous Soviet policy. Beyond what Swanson briefly mentioned, in the 1927 and 1928 disarmament conferences, Litvinov offered wide-sweeping proposals for disarmament, which was popular among the public, even when the USSR adhered to the pact, one newspaper, the Inprecor, argued that Britain, France, and capitalist satellites like Poland, were continuing preparation for war on the USSR. [29]

However, not everyone in the Soviet government wanted to ratify the pact. The People’s Commissar of the Soviet Union (1924-1930) Georgy Chicherin, opposed ratification, while Nikolai Bukharin (who supported NEP’s continuation and wanted socialism at a “snail’s pace”) and Litvinov supported it, arguing that it would allow Western powers to interfere in Soviet foreign affairs, the same reason he opposed the Soviets joining League of Nations. [30] His supporters pointed to British & French reservations about the pact, arguing that it would have no effect.

Despite this argument, the Soviets signed the pact, but mad they were not invited to signing ceremony [31], taking the position that “all international wars must be prohibited, in particular, wars with the aim of suppressing movements of national liberation,” along with prohibition of “intervention, blockade, military occupation of foreign territory, foreign ports” along with “severance of diplomatic relations” since this “contributes to…an atmosphere that favors the occurrence of war.” [32] The Soviet government as a whole took the position that signing the pact showed they were consistent advocates of peace, and believed that only a “universal and complete disarmament plan” could prevent armed conflicts, while admitting the pact would be a dead letter unless growth of arms was limited. Some, such as Evgeny A. Korovin, argued that the pact was a “serious blow to the system of the Anglo-French capitalist bloc” and that it weakened the League of Nations. [33] The Soviets also declared that the pact did not go far enough renouncing war by “failing to cover all methods of aggression,” saying that the fact that the pact didn’t have provisions for disarmament showed the “insincerity of bourgeois pacifism.” [34] Looking at articles 1 and 2 of the pact itself [35] shows their criticism to be valid, as it is very loosely worded, only condemning recourse to war internationally and renouncing it as form of national policy:

ARTICLE I: “The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.”

ARTICLE II: “The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means.”

Additionally, the pact, unlike Soviet treaties of nonaggression which renounced war “completely, totally, and without qualification,” seemed to exclude warlike action and the right of self-defense from the pact’s operation, meaning that it, arguably, watered down and truncated the “concept of nonaggression.” [36] Later on, the Soviets would argue that a declared war or any “de facto military actions initiated by any state” should be considered a breach of the pact. [37]

More importantly, the pact inadvertently gave Soviet foreign policy a boost. As a result of the pact, the Soviets proposed their own security policy, inviting neighbors to bring the pact into force by themselves, with what was called the “Litvinov Protocol,” named after the Soviet diplomat, signed by the USSR, Poland, Latvia, and Estonia, later joined by Lithuania, Turkey, Persia, and Free City of Danzig, with Finland not as a signatory. [38] This showed that the USSR was a champion of the principles in the pact and an “active proponent of the idea of curbing the freedom of states to indulge in waging war in order to promote their interests.” This pact, signed in February 1929, represented the “spirit of the Pact of Paris,” while it renounced the use of force and recourse to warlike measures, and while it provided little security for the neighbors of the USSR, its intention was more important than its application. [39] Part of the text of the agreement is reprinted below:

“…[the following governments] being desirous of promoting the maintenance of peace between their respective countries and for this purpose of putting into force without delay, between the peoples of those countries, the Treaty for the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy, signed at Paris on August 27, 1928, have decided to achieve this purpose by means of the present Protocol…

Article I. The Treaty for the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy, signed at Paris on August 27, 1928…shall come into force between the Contracting Parties after the ratification of the said Treaty of Paris of 1928 by the competent legislative bodies of the respective Contracting Parties.
Article II. The entry into force in virtue of the present Protocol, of the Treaty of Paris of 1928 in reciprocal relations between the Parties to the present Protocol shall be valid independently of the entry into force of the Treaty of Paris of 1928…
Article IV. In order to give effect to Article I of the present Protocol, each of the High Contracting Parties, after ratification by its legislative bodies of the Treaty of Paris of 1928, shall immediately notify the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and all the other Parties to the present Protocol, through the diplomatic channel.”

This agreement, also called the Moscow Protocol or more formally the “Protocol for the Immediate Entry into Force of the Treaty of Paris of August 27, 1928, Regarding Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy,” was immediately effective unlike the prolonged Kellogg-Briand Pact, with the Soviet negotiated agreement entering into force many months before the latter pact, and helping to improve Soviet relations with Poland. [40] The Soviet pact also disapproved the views of Western capitalists that “Red Russia would [not] keep a pledge to disarm.” [41]

Later on, in 1933, the USSR concluded a convention on the definition of aggression with Afghanistan, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Persia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey, and the next day a similar convention with Czechoslovakia, Turkey, and Yugoslavia. [42] This agreement defined aggression as a “declaration of war, invasion, assault, naval blockade and support of armed bands” along with outlining false excuses and justifications for such aggression by capitalist states. [43] Over the years to come, as even noted by this anti-communist but partially fair account of Soviet foreign policy, the Soviets recognized the danger posed by the Nazis, trying to “restrain German militarism by building coalitions hostile to fascism,” adopting a policy of “cooperation with socialists and liberals against fascism, thus reversing its line of the early 1930s,” with the county joining the League of Nations in 1934, and Litvinov advocating “disarmament and collective security against fascist aggression.” Beyond this, the Soviets also, in 1935, made alliances with France and Czechoslovakia, and “from 1936 to 1939 it gave assistance to antifascists in the Spanish Civil War,” leading to Germany and Japan signing the “Anti-Comintern Pact in 1936” but the West did not want to “counter German provocative behavior,” and after France and Britain appeased “Hitler’s demands for Czechoslovak territory at Munich in 1938,” Stalin then abandoned his “efforts to forge a collective security agreement with the West” apparently.

After this, Stalin came to an “understanding with Germany,”replacing Litvinov with his confidante, Viacheslav Molotov as commissar of foreign affairs, with the Nazis and Soviets engaging in “intensive negotiations,” leading to the Nonaggression Pact of August 23, 1939, which “pledged absolute neutrality in the event one of the parties should become involved in war, while a secret protocol [that] partitioned Poland,” and soon thereafter the WWII began. Despite this, one cannot blame the Soviets for war, since felt they could not trust the Western powers to fight the Nazis by allying with them, and they did not want destruction of their country like happened during WWI. In later years, the Soviets pushed the UN for a new definition on aggression which encompassed viewpoints from across the Third World in 1953 and 1956. [44] After that point, when Khrushchev unfairly and traitorously denounced Stalin in his “secret speech” and cozied up more to the Western capitalists, revisionism took hold in the country, only to be uprooted by 1964, seemingly, when Leonid Brezhnev took power. All of these aspects will be covered in later articles about Soviet history.

The fact that Swanson did not address the Soviet perspective on the pact at all is not much of a surprise. While he is good-intentioned in writing about this subject and his book is a worthy history, he also is a bourgeois pacifist who does not talk about the role of capitalism, class relations, or imperialist struggle in bringing this agreement to fruition. I don’t wish to talk about that history in regards to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, as that would require a good amount of additional research on the subject. As a result, this article is just meant to criticize Swanson and bring a new perspective to light on this subject, leading to future discussion.

Concluding thoughts

Final screenshot from the Soviet animated film "Mr. Wolf" I'm using in this article.
Final screenshot from the Soviet animated film “Mr. Wolf” I’m using in this article.

Some may say that it isn’t even worth reading the works of a bourgeois pacifist like David Swanson and that I’m giving him free press. While I can see where such a viewpoint is coming from, I also think it is unfair. It is worth reading other points of view in order to improve your own. There is no doubt that Swanson spent time and resources on writing his history, but his ideological viewpoint distorted his history so he did not, as a result, recognize the full reality. What I mean by this is that he is writing from a white, privileged, and Western perspective geared toward audiences in the United States. You could even add in that his perspective does not mention perspectives by women, not even white women, since only a smattering of the war outlawrists he cites are women. Additionally, where is a mention of race in this book? Doesn’t the Kellogg-Briand Pact effect people of color across the world? Also, a more robust analysis of European imperialisms and US imperialism would have improved the narrative to be more critical of established power structures. This agreement led to a sort of “capitalist peace” you could say.

The current Kellogg-Briand Pact, coupled with Articles 1 and 51 of the UN Charter, is a good tool to restrain the murderous empire. However, one must be wary of the demands of bourgeois pacifism in this regard, as such pacifism does not recognize the possibility of revolutionary wars for liberation and often says that people should not have the right to armed self-defense, instead just engaging in peaceful measures. This should be rejected wholesale. If Palestinians have the right to fire back rockets in response to never-ending Israeli bombing then blacks in the United States have the right to defend themselves with arms against bigots trying to harm them. To be realistic, there will only be peace once socialist revolutions sweep the world and remove the virus of capitalism because militarism is deeply tied to such a horrid economic system. Sure, we can support the idea of outlawing war. However, we should not think that it, even if connected with an international court and other instruments of international law, will bring justice in a way that prevents capitalist exploitation. This is especially the fact if such a push does not include a demand for strong enforcement mechanisms, something that the Kellogg-Briand Pact lacks, not even allowing for sanctions, as much as they can be destructive and an instrument of imperialist aggression, of countries that violate its provisions. [45]

Notes

[1] David Swanson, When the World Outlawed War (Charlottesville, VA, 2011), p. 6, 11-12.

[2] Swanson, 11-15, 19-20. Such propaganda stayed in people’s minds before Wilson saw public opinion as “something to use, rather than avoid,” Swanson argues.

[3] Ibid, 16-17.

[4] Ibid, 17-18. The organization that paid for this was one group called the National Council for Prevention of War.

[5] War Outlawrists that Swanson cites: John Dewey, Robert Farrell, Thomas Hall Shastid, Sherwood Eddy, Robert Farrell, Murray Butler, James Thomson Shotwell, Andrew Carnegie, Salmon Oliver Levinson, John Chalmers Vinson, John E. Stoner, Kirby Page, Charles Clayton Morrison, Arthur Capper of Kansas, William Borah, Warren G. Harding, John Haynes Holmes, Raymond Robins, Frances Keller, Calvin Coolidge, James Brown Scott, and Carrie Chapman Catt.

[6] Swanson, 24-27, 30-33.

[7] Ibid, 27-28, 60-69, 111-114; LeftistCritic, “Annotating A Section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 38.

[8] Ibid, 20-23, 73-74.

[9] Ibid, 34-37, 41-42. The idea of such enforcement was a court of law, with enforcement of rulings relying on good faith of nations, not military action, an economic blockade or sanctions, with the court as a form of “dispute resolution.”

[10] Ibid, 37-40, 43-47.

[11] Ibid, 49-59, 75-82, 90-91, 100-106.

[12] Ibid, 5, 71-72, 84-85, 92-99.

[13] Ibid, 85-89, 107-110.

[14] Ibid, p. 111-123.

[15] Swanson, 6, 125, 131-134, 136-142.

[16] Ibid, 144-146; Kellogg said that the pact did not mean the US recognized the USSR, but the Soviets hoped the pact would be a way to gain rapprochement (American Foreign Relations Since 1600: A Guide to the Literature, Vol. 1 (ed. Robert L. Beisner and Kurt W. Hanson, Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2003), 851.

[17] Also see “The Sino-Soviet Border Conflict, 1969: U.S. Reactions and Diplomatic Maneuvers” published on the National Security Archive’s website in 2001.

[18] Swanson, 6, 146-155. As Chen Tiqiang argues, “Article 1 of the Anti-War Pact of Paris concluded on August 27, 1928, stipulates that the signatory countries to the pact “renounce…recourse to war as an instrument of national policy.” The Judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East; pronounced on November 12, 1948, pointed out that a war in violation of the Paris pact is illegal by international law and that “those who plan and wage such a war with its inevitable and terrible consequences are committing a crime in doing so.” Thus, it is clear that wars of aggression had already been prohibited by international law before Japan launched its war of aggression. The Japanese Government, therefore, had launched its war of aggression against China wittingly and deliberately with full knowledge of its legal significance” (Chen Tiqiang, “Conclusions Confirmed by History,” Beijing Review, Aug. 30, 1982, vol. 25, no. 35, p. 27). Another writer notes that “in the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact (or Pact of Paris), the States Parties solemnly declared “that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.” The Pact did not, however, specify criminal liability either for States or for individuals in the event of a violation of the Pact; whether the norm set forth in the Pact reflected a general rule of international law or one binding solely upon those States that had ratified the Pact was uncertain. As such, after the outbreak of World War II, many believed that no “international agreement criminalising wars of aggression was in force in 1939, and therefore, on the basis of the nullum crimen sine lege principle, the Allies were not legally entitled to prosecute the top Nazi leaders for aggression” but at the San Francisco conference in April 1945 they asserted that the original intent of the Kellogg-Briand Pact requires trying Nazis and Japanese fascists as war criminals (Sean D. Murphy, “The Crime of Aggression at the ICC,” Public Law and Legal Theory Paper No. 2012-50, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-50, 2012, p. 3-4). It is worth noting that WWII commenced even with the pact in place, but that the pact influenced Japan’s pacifist constitution.

[19] Swanson, 6-8.

[20] Ibid, 5, 9-10, 49, 163-165.

[21] Other peaceful proposals include simple disarmament, disentangling ourselves from alliances that cause us to go to war like NATO, pressure those in power, enacting numerous strategies and create a holiday for the pact on August 27, that war is good for nothing (p. 165-167, 169). His ideas, outlined in p. 166 to 167 include: (1) cutting half of a trillion dollars out of the national security budget, half into tax cuts for everyone, half into useful social spending; (2) bring the National Guard back home and de-federalize it; (3) ban redeployment of personnel suffering from PTSD; (4) ban no-bid military contracts; (5) restore constitutional war powers to Congress; (6) have a public referendum before any war; (7) close foreign bases; (8) ban weapons from space; (9) ban extralegal prisons; (10) ban “kangaroo courts” outside the US justice system; (11) restore habeas corpus; (12) ban use of mercenaries; (13) limit military spending; (14) ban secret operations, agencies, and budgets; (15) ban drone strikes; (16) forbid transfer of student info. to military recruiters without permission; (17) comply with Kellogg-Briand Pact; (18) reform or replace the UN; (19) join the ICC and make it independent of the UN; (20) disarm.

[22] Swanson, 157-162, 170-171.

[23] LeftistCritic, “Annotating A Section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 35, p. 37-39.

[24] Swanson, 106.

[25] James M. Lindsay, “TWE Remembers: The Kellogg-Briand Pact,” Council on Foreign Relations, August 27, 2011.

[26] LeftistCritic, “Annotating A Section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 39.

[27] Max Shachtman, “War, Kellogg Pact and the Soviet Union,” March 1929, The Militant, Vol. II No. 5, 1 March 1929, pp. 1 & 4; Jack Weber, “March of Events,” July 13 1935, New Militant, Vol. I No. 29, 13 July 1935, p. 3; Sam Gordon, New Developments in Far East: Western Imperialists Register Protests as Japs Hold on to Booty, February 1932, The Militant, Vol. V No. 6 (Whole No. 102), 6 February 1932, p. 1.

[28] Alastair Kocho-Williams, Russia’s International Relations in the Twentieth Century (New York: Routledge, 2013), 52; Akira Iriye, The New Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations: The Globalizing of America, 1913-1945, Vol. 3 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 84-85, 106.  Some say that the USSR remained “somewhat isolated diplomatically” by the West at least, but this is only one opinion on the matter. It is also worth noting that the provisions of the Kellogg-Briand Pact also applied to Soviet relations with Finland, Latvia, and Lithuania (Jan F. Triska and Robert M. Slusser, The Theory, Law, and Policy of Soviet Treaties (Sanford, CA: Sanford University Press, 1962), 250-251).

[29] J.L. Black, Canada in the Soviet Mirror: Ideology and Perception in Soviet Foreign Affairs, 1917-1991 (Canada: Carleton University Press, 1998), 66. The Comintern didn’t take Litvinov’s moves them seriously and got ready in case of invasion.

[30] Jan F. Triska and Robert M. Slusser, The Theory, Law, and Policy of Soviet Treaties (Sanford, CA: Sanford University Press, 1962), 259.

[31] On August 5, 1928, Chicherin argued that “the exclusion of the Soviet government from these negotiations leads us…to the assumption that among the real objectives of the initiators of this pact there obviously was and is an endeavor to make of this pact a weapon for isolating and fighting the Soviet Union. The negotiations regarding the conclusion of the Kellogg Pact was obviously an integral part of the policy of encircling the Soviet Union, which at present occupies the central point of the international relations of the whole world” (Xenia Joukoff Eudin and Harold Henry Fisher, Soviet Russia and the West, 1920-1927: A Documentary Survey (Sanford, CA: Sanford University Press, 1957), 352).

[32] Triska and Slusser, 259.

[33] Triska and Slusser, 260.

[34] Triska and Slusser, 262. On the subject of the Litvinov Protocol also see Rudolf Bernhardt, Use of Force · War and Neutrality Peace Treaties (N-Z) (New York: North Holland Publishing Company, 1982), 36.

[35] Documents about it here on the Avalon Project’s website.

[36] Triska and Slusser, 258.

[37] International Law and International Security: Military and Political Dimensions (ed. Paul B. Stephan and Boris Mikhaĭlovich Klimenko, London: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1991), 9, 296.

[38] George Ginsburgs, Moscow’s Road to Nuremberg: The Soviet Background to the Trial (London: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1996), 4.

[39] Richard C. Hall, Consumed by War: European Conflict in the 20th Century (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2010), 97; Miron Rezun, The Soviet Union and the Iran: Soviet Policy in Iran from the Beginnings of the Pahlavi Dynasty until the Soviet Invasion of 1941 (Geneva: Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales, 1981), 148, 154, 247; Marcel Mitrasca, Moldova: A Romanian Province Under Russian Rule : Diplomatic History from the archives of the Great Powers (New York: Algora Publishing, 2002), 8, 124, 330, 372, 377.

[40] KAZIMIERZ GRZYBOWSKI, “INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FROM THE SOVIET POINT OF VIEW,” p. 885; David A. Kaplow, “Nuclear Kellogg-Briand Pact: Proposing a Treaty for the Renunciation of Nuclear Wars as an Instrument of National Policy,” Georgetown University Law Center, p. 139; “When the Soviet Union Entered World Politics” ebook, “Diplomatic Isolation and the Beginnings of Stalinism” chapter, UC Press.

[41] Time Magazine, “RUSSIA: Litvinov’s Protocol,”KAZIMIERZ GRZYBOWSKI, “INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FROM THE SOVIET POINT OF VIEW,” p. 885.

[42] KAZIMIERZ GRZYBOWSKI, “INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FROM THE SOVIET POINT OF VIEW,” p. 885.

[43] Triska and Slusser, 262-263.

[44] Ibid.

[45] The lack of such provisions in the Kellogg-Briand Pact is not a surprise because Western capitalist states would have never stood for strong enforcement, rejecting it in an effort to defend their own empires.

The Great October Socialist Revolution and early history of the Soviet Union

"Woman-worker, the cooperative frees you from the reign of the kitchen and the cooking pot." 1923, as noted by Soviet Visuals.
“Woman-worker, the cooperative frees you from the reign of the kitchen and the cooking pot.” A 1923 poster in the Soviet Union as noted in a post by Soviet Visuals.

The absurd, unsubstantiated conspiracy that Russia (or more specifically Vladimir Putin) rigged the U.S. election so Donald Trump could win is currently dominating the bourgeois media. Recently, Western-friendly reformer Mikhail Gorbachev, who presided over the end of the Soviet Union and past Estonian president Toomas Hendrick Ilves declared that a new Russian nationalist union could be formed within the borders of the former Soviet Union. [1]

Regardless of whether such a union is a possibility, with the strong degree of nationalism and justified anger at the United States within the Russian Federation, the history of the Soviet Union is more important than ever. Due to the bourgeois and Trotskyist distortions of Soviet history and the nature of the socialist state, writing such a history is a challenge but is possible in a way that depicts the nation accurately, rather than within malice. This article is the beginning of a series on Soviet history, this article covering the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917, the early years of the revolutionary Bolshevik government which fought against imperialist invaders (1917-1922), and the first decade of Soviet existence (1923-1933).

The Czarist monarchy and the lead up to the Great October Socialist Revolution

The peasants and the population as a whole suffered under the iron fist of the Tsar/Czar. Meanwhile, the Russian middle class, which can be viewed as synonymous with the bourgeoisie, enjoyed leisure tine, the “western import” of national theater, in which actors were commodities, and were supported by heavy state subsidies in certain industries, a feature of Russian capitalism.” [2] These privileged Russians included Sergey Produkin-Garsky who traveled around the empire with funding from Tsar Nicholas II to take “more than 10,000 full cover photographs” which captured “the diverse people who…made up the Russian Empire, before the revolution.”

In 1905, the equation changed. Only two years earlier the Bolshevik sect was formed, with the overarching party, the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDRP), agreeing on the need for a coming revolution with the ultimate end of establishing socialism. In this party there were also the Mensheviks who believed in the broad base of membership but the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, believed that there should be only militant revolutionaries in the party. Both of ideas were formed as the proletariat rose up. This was described by Lenin, in late January 1905: “…the proletariat has risen against Tsarism…the general strike in Petersburg is spreading…The revolution is spreading to waiver.” [3]

Lenin further called for the “arming of the people,” saying that “only an armed people can be a real stronghold on national freedom,” and that all revolutionaries must unite for the immediate overthrow of the bourgeois Tsarist government. [4] Years later he was much more critical. While he talked about the massacre of workers (“Bloody Sunday”) who petitioned the Tsar on January 22, 1905, the mutinies in the army, and the proletariat were at the head of the revolution and struggle forming Soviets (worker’s councils) but that its social content was “bourgeois-democratic.” [5] Still, the revolution had a broad significance. Even as bourgeois scholars like Max Weber downplayed it, the revolution was “the prologue of the coming…proletarian socialist revolution” which occurred twelve years later. [6] This was even confirmed by communistphobic scholars like Louise McReynolds. She wrote that the revolution in 1905 not only led to fears about the “violent potential of the lower classes” but it led to easing of restrictions on political expression, which, when combined with an expanding economy, led to growing commercial leisure for the bourgeoisie. [7]

After the revolution, elements of the RSDRP went head-to-head once again. The Mensheviks were dedicated to the idea of the proletariat being a revolutionary force on their own while the Bolsheviks argued that the proletariat, along with the peasants, would lead the revolution. Furthermore, the Bolsheviks said that the 1905 revolution was bourgeois, showing that there was a strong capitalist Russia, while the Mensheviks believed that an autocracy still existed meaning the that Tsar should be overthrown and replaced with a bourgeois government! Ultimately, as the 1910s passed, the Bolsheviks would take a hard line against the First Wold War, calling it, rightly, an imperialist war which would slaughter and divide the working classes of Europe, leading to vicious police persecution of the party itself.

At the same time, the laborers in North and Central Russia were suffering. A British correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, Morgan Phillips Price wrote that the peasants, skilled artisans, and others all suffered “in different ways under the same yoke of Tsarism” while the Russian capitalist class shared spoiled with French, Belgian, German, and British capitalists, who owned much of the economy. [8] This was all part of, as Price put it, the “maintenance of Tsarism and the system of exploitation of the Russian workers and peasants.”

1917 was an eventful year for the Russian people. In the first two months of the year, thousands of soldiers deserted, the Bolsheviks organized demonstrations to commemorate Bloody Sunday (mentioned two paragraphs earlier), crowds of women in Petrograd (later called Leningrad and currently Saint Petersburg) sporadically broke into stores, and thousands upon thousands of workers from 58 workers went on strike. On February 23, the “February Revolution” began.

The Tsarist government was in total turmoil. While the non-cohesive Russian army was breaking down, so was the economy, coupled with industrial mobilization during wartime which hurt the proletariat and led to violent demonstrations in Petrograd in late February. [9] As the established Duma, dominated by bourgeois members, discussed its mandate, the worker’s councils (Soviets), that represented the common people, wanted to replace and supplant Tsarist authority. [10] On March 2, the Tsar abdicated (some question the legality of this action), leading to the creation of a provisional government the next day which was supported by the Ispolkom/Petrograd Soviet, not yet with Bolsheviks in the majority. [11] Of course, the Bolsheviks wanted immediate peace and to end the imperialist war in Europe even when the majority of the members in the Soviets, like the one in Petrograd, did not necessarily agree with them.

In March 1917, Lenin wrote about the situation in Russia, just like he had written about the revolution in 1905:

“The first revolution engendered by the imperialist world war has broken out…the first stage of our revolution will certainly not be the last…the February-March revolution of 1917…has been marked…by a joint blow at Tsarism…the workers of the whole of Russia…fought for freedom, land for the peasants, and for peace, against the imperialist slaughter…[but] this new government…[is made up of a] class…of capitalist landlords and bourgeoisie which has long been ruling our country economically…the Tsarist monarchy has been smashed, but not fully destroyed.”

The provisional government was by no means a revolutionary one. Years later, the Great Soviet Encyclopedia described as a “bourgeois-democratic revolution” which made US elites uneasy so they recognized the provisional government with millions of dollars. [11*] This provisional government, soon led by Alexander Kerensky, was timid. While the peasants, urban workers, and other members of the proletariat wanted peace to prevent a “terrible catastrophe” in Russia caused by German invasion, but the Kerensky government did not try and control the war profiteers or industrial syndicates created by the Tsar. [12] Of course, the Mensheviks supported this governments, with hopes of influencing it, which led to “industrial anarchy” as pro-landlord policies came down the pipe, with, as Price puts it, “complete anarchy…reigning in the central provinces of Russia on the eve of the Bolshevik revolution” as the outlook of the masses seemed hopeless. [13]

Lenin acknowledged these issues in his articles through March. He wrote that the proletariat cannot support a “war government” and that a workers militia should be formed, along with mass organization of all able-bodied people of “both sexes.” Later in the month, he added that the new government could only be overthrown if bourgeois intelligentsia and the Russian bourgeoisie’s organization is countered, with the need of revolutionary government which is not bourgeois. The same month, Lenin wrote about the imperialist nature of World War I, saying that there can only be peace when power is in the “hands of the workers and poorest peasants” rather than the Russian bourgeoisie, and that victory is possible even as the “transition to socialism” cannot be established in one stroke.

As the months neared toward the socialist revolution, the Bolsheviks were under attack. While socialist intellectuals and populists had excluded the Bolsheviks from power in Kerensky’s provisional government, Lenin was rallying the Bolsheviks, telling them that property, land, and banks needed to be nationalized, a people’s militia created, end to the imperialist war, and all power given to the Soviets. [14] As the months passed, the “masses of people” opposed the Kerensky government, supported by the Menskeviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, with some Soviets remaining conservative, meaning that, as socialist writer John Reed put it, Russia before the “November insurrection seems…almost incredibly conservative.” More specifically, during this time period, Prvada, the Bolshevik publication begun publishing again, Poland’s independence was refused by the provisional government, there were massive May Day celebrations, the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets met, and the Mensheviks not surprisingly became very anti-Bolshevik. Beyond this, the Russian font against the Germans began folding away as soldiers deserted and millions went on strike in early July. As time went on, it was on the side of the Bolsheviks, who, after a failed attempt to seize power in Petrograd in July, were itching for a “second revolution,” this one of socialist and proletarian character and content. [15]

As revolution came to its final conclusion, the Bolsheviks were gaining ground. In September, General Lavr Kornilov tried to make himself a “military dictator” in Russia, with the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks not helping protect the city of Petrograd from imminent attack. [16] Ultimately, the government could do nothing to maintain order, but the Petrograd garrison, mainly composed of the pro-Bolshevik and working class elements, defended the city and its inhabitants. Even as the Petrograd soviet voted to not strike and voted against the death penalty, the Bolsheviks held off Kornilov’s invading forces and resolved to create a socialist (and Soviet) government. In September, the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs) tried to reassert their influence in the Petrograd Soviet, but failed, and in October, there was mass mutiny in the front lines. The Bolsheviks took an understandable hard line, saying that they would not participate in the conferences put on the Kerensky government, and instead were fully dedicated to overthrowing it instead.

Recounting the Great October Socialist Revolution

In Late October, the revolution sprung to life. On October 24 and 25th, the Red Guards, under the command of Lenin, seized important institutions in Petrograd, allowing the Bolsheviks to be in control. [17] The following day, October 26, Lenin announced the formation of a new government. By November 5, the Mensheviks and SRs had walked out of the Second All-Russian Congress of the Soviets, Kerensky fled and started a counter-revolutionary rebellion, and the Bolshevik government [18] said it will censor hostile bourgeois newspapers, a declaration of rights for the Soviet people was announced and Moscow was secured by the Bolsheviks. [19]

John Reed meticulously accounts the days of the Great October Socialist Revolution (October Revolution for short). On November 4, he writes that immense meetings were planned across Petrograd as the provisional government seemed hopeless. Three days later, on November 7, the Bolsheviks declared they had overthrown the provisional government as Red Guards fought “Junkers,” former imperial Russian officers, and there was an “atmosphere of recklessness,” with all “great Russia to win–and then the world,” begging the question if others would follow. [20] The following days led to more excitement. On November 8, the whole nation was up in “long hissing swells of storm” with rumors of Kerensky spreading throughout Petrograd, with vitriol from anti-Bolshevik newspapers, some of which was consolidated into the Committee for Salvation in the planned offensive against the Bolsheviks. [21] Still, they held on, as did the left SRs (right SRs were anti-Bolshevik), with Lenin and Leon Trotsky/Trotzky leaving themselves dedicated to the new Bolshevik government while others, like followers of anarchist Peter Kropotkin, refused to support this new government because the revolution had “failed” to arouse the “patriotism of the masses” in their view. [22]

The following days only increased the pressure on the young Bolshevik government. On November 9, the Soviets in Petrograd defended the city, with the Red Guard and sailors fighting to defend the revolution, a government of “united democracy” which did not ally with the bourgeoisie, with the Bolsheviks thinking that the fate of the revolution rested on their shoulders. [23] The following day, the Committee of Salvation, right SRs, and Mensheviks all worked against the Bolsheviks, with the arsenal in Petrograd remaining in the hands of counter revolutionaries, and, as the invasion of Petrograd seemed imminent, the “revolutionary proletariat [was] defending…the capital of the workers’ and peasants’ republic!” [24] The following day, Kerensky entered the city of Tsarskoye Selo, trying to command soldiers to disarm, but they refused to do so and were subsequently killed. [25] Also on that day, the city of Petrograd was clearly under Bolshevik military control with desperate fighting by the Junkers/Yunkers, and the Bolsheviks seized the switchboard room in the city. As John Reed tells it, when the hardened fighters entered the room, “many pretty girls” who had been switchboard operators left and hurled insulted at them even though these fighters did not insult anyone, with the result of their departure meaning that there few volunteers to operate the telephone line switchboard. [26] Still, with the force and dedication to revolution, enough people were found to make sure the telephone lines were operational. Later in the day, the Committee of Salvation was outlawed, and the “telephone girls” who had insulted the Bolsheviks told the committee that they “suffered” at the hands of the proletariat, as they kissed up to established power structures.

Two days later, the revolution was advancing with speed. Petrograd was clearly under Bolshevik control but there was the “question of finances” since banks didn’t want to cooperate with the new Bolshevik government. [27] In the days that followed, it was clear that the Bolsheviks, on whom the landless peasants, “undemoralised soldiers,” sailors, and rank-and-file workers supported, were up against investors, landowners, army officers, students, shopkeepers, and many more, were a powerful force. [28] In Moscow, on November 16, Bolsheviks hung banners declaring the beginning of the revolution, with poor and toiling marching across Red Square. [29] Additionally, the Bolshevik government published a declaration of rights (mentioned earlier), which said that all peoples shall have sovereignty, equality, ability to develop minority and ethnic groups freely, right to self-determination, and abolition of privileges and disabilities for nationalities and religious persuasions. [30] The provisional government was gone but the Bolsheviks were in for a big fight, with restrictions on newspapers that were anti-Bolshevik, fighting to “erect the framework of the new” and against those who tried to win in the coming civil war. [31]

Imperialists try to destabilize a new nation: 1917-1922

The Bolshevik government had acted quickly. Not long after its creation, the Second Congress of Soviets had declared that land would be given back to the peasantry and peace formed on all fronts. Some, such as feminist and political scientist Valerie Bryson, have declared that feminist concerns of Russian women were pushed aside by the revolution (and Bolshevik government), seen as not a “political priority” by Lenin, and praised Trotsky for a “progressive” view on the subject. Beyond this, Bryson also cites Left Oppositionist Alexandra Kollantai’s “failed efforts” and “sexual morality” of communism preventing needed changes in society, including in child rearing, before Kollantai apparently lose “real influence” in Soviet society in 1923, painting Stalin as “bad.” [32] Apart from the obvious bourgeois analysis here, Bryson is clearly wrong on the implication that the October Socialist Revolution was not “feminist.” Sir Arthur Newholme and John Adams Kinsbury wrote in the early 1930s the following about women in Soviet Russia:

“Sex differences were swept away by an early act of the Soviet government; and equality was carried into the marriage relation. Either partner is free to dissolve it [marriage] at his or her own free will or caprice.”

Another place to look for evidence of Bolshevik accomplishment is the constitution of 1918, of the RSFSR, a precursor to the USSR in 1922. This constitution declared that:

  1. “all private property in land is abolished, and the entire land is declared to be national property and is to be apportioned among agriculturists without compensation of the former owners, to the measure of each one’s ability to till it” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  2. “All forests, treasures of the earth, and waters of general public utility, all equipment whether animate or inanimate, model farms and agricultural enterprises, are declared to be national property” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  3. “complete transfer of ownership to the Soviet Republic of all factories, mills, mines, railways, and other means of production and transportation” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  4. “annulment of loans made by the Government of the Czar, by landowners and the bourgeoisie” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  5. “…transfer of all banks to the ownership of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  6. “Universal obligation to work” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  7. “decreed that all workers be armed, and that s Socialist Red Army be organized and the propertied class disarmed” (Article One, Chapter 2)
  8. “abrogating secret treaties, of organizing on a wide scale the fraternization of the workers and peasants of the belligerent armies, and of making all efforts to conclude a general democratic peace” in the first imperialist war (WWI) (Article One, Chapter 3)
  9. Insistence on ending “the barbarous policy of the bourgeois civilization which enables the exploiters of a few chosen nations to enslave hundreds of millions of the working population of Asia, of the colonies, and of small countries generally” (Article One, Chapter 3)
  10. Supports “the full independence of Finland, in withdrawing troops from Persia, and in proclaiming the right of Armenia to self-determination” (Article One, Chapter 3)
  11. “the exploiters should not hold a position in any branch of the Soviet Government” (Article One, Chapter 4)
  12. “…leaving to the workers and peasants of every people to decide the following question at their plenary sessions of their soviets, namely, whether or not they desire to participate, and on what basis, in the Federal government and other Federal soviet institutions” (Article One, Chapter 4)

Article 2 continued in the same vein. This article declared that working people and peasants shall have the power in the country, especially in their Soviets, along with the declarations that:

  1. “For the purpose of securing to the workers real freedom of conscience, the church is to be separated from the state and the school from the church, and the right of religious and anti-religous propaganda is accorded to every citizen.”
  2. “…abolishes all dependence of the Press upon capital, and turns over to the working people and the poorest peasantry all technical and material means for the publication of newspapers, pamphlets, books, etc., and guarantees their free circulation throughout the country.”
  3. “offers to the working class and to the poorest peasantry furnished halls, and [the government] takes care of their heating and lighting appliances.”
  4. “the task of furnishing full and general free education to the workers and the poorest peasantry” is offered by the government
  5. The government “considers work the duty of every citizen of the Republic, and proclaims as its motto: ‘He shall not eat who does not work.'”
  6. The government “recognizes the duty of all citizens of the Republic to come to the defense of their socialist fatherland, and it therefore introduces universal military training. The honor of defending the revolution with arms is accorded only to the workers”
  7. Granting “all political rights of Russian citizens to foreigners who live in the territory of the Russian Republic and are engaged in work and who belong to the working class.”
  8. Offering “shelter to all foreigners who seek refuge from political or religious persecution.”
  9. Recognizing “equal rights of all citizens, irrespective of their racial or national connections, proclaims all privileges on this ground, as well as oppression of national minorities, to be contrary to the fundamental laws of the Republic.”
  10. The government “deprives all individuals and groups of rights which could be utilized by them to the detriment of the socialist revolution.”

I could go on, as the Constitution has Articles 3, 4, 5, and 6, but I think you get the point.

As the revolution’s conclusion was evident, the bourgeois press in England and France bellowed about “cruelties” of the Bolsheviks. [33] So, the propaganda spewed against revolutionary governments of Iran, Syria, and Cuba (to give a few examples) in the present-day, is nothing new. What the propagandists in 1917 and 1918 didn’t realize was that, as deaf-blind socialist and writer Helen Keller wrote

“…the Russian revolution did not originate with Lenin…I see the furrow Lenin left sown with the unshatterable seed of new life for mankind, and cast deep below the rolling tides of storm and lightning, mighty crops for the ages to reap.”

The seizure of power by the proletariat, which had been carefully thought out and planned, was what, Anne Louise Strong, a long supporter of communist movements in Russia and China, called this “common consciousness in action.” Mao Zedong, who later was one of the leaders of China’s communist revolution, recognized the same in 1927, when he wrote that “the October Socialist Revolution ushered in a new epoch in world history…it exerted influence in the other countries of the world.” The Great Soviet Encyclopedia also echoed this, writing that the impact of the “Great October Socialist Revolution,” as they called it, had profound significance, especially by “strengthening the revolutionary movement in the USA.” [34]

While there were many forces aligned against the Bolshevik government, the Russians still defended the social revolution, fighting for the working class, with Russians seeing the revolution as meaning “peace, land to the peasants, and workers’ control of industry.” The Bolshevik government was trying to keep in place its proletarian state as the capitalist apparatus of power instilled by the provisional government, was swept away, following the ideas of Lenin. [35] By this time, the revolution had matured, clearly, from its earlier days. [36] But it was not wholly secure. For one, the socialist revolution in October had pushed to lead the country out of “imperialist war and economic ruin” as Josef Stalin put it. [37] While the path to socialism was cleared for the “middle non-proletarian peasant strata of all nationalities and tribes,” getting Russia out of the imperialist war was harder. [38]

The necessity of ending Russia’s participation in the imperialist war was evident, as it was necessary to preserve “the social revolution in Russia.” [39] The Bolshevik government tried to push for peace. However, after the Germans lost patience with the new government, they advanced at an alarming pace into the country in “Operation Thunderbolt” as they called it. [40] With the signing of the Treaty of Breast-Livotsk, on terms that, arguably, benefited Germany and their empire but removed Russia from the war. Lenin’s words about soldiers deserting from the front, as “voting with their feet” with peace could also be applied to the signing of this treaty. After this peace was evident, the Bolshevik government did not have many traditionally disciplined soldiers, leading to the creation of a Red Army, and recognizing Finland’s independence. [41] What followed was civil war.

The Bolsheviks were under attack from all sides. While they were under siege, they tried to take control of strategic natural resources in central Asia but were originally unsuccessful. [42] Famed British military (and bourgeois) historian, John Keegan, who supported wars in Vietnam, Kosovo (1998), and Iraq (2003), had an interesting and bizarre perspective on the Western intervention in Russia. He first claimed that Trotsky invited British marines to help the Red Army gain armaments and fight anti-Bolshevik forces, that the Bolsheviks held a “common interest” with the Western allies until at least April 1918, that the allied intervention was apparently not originally anti-Bolshevik but became so with Western allies supporting the White Russians, Czech forces, and other anti-Bolsheviks, while the Germans were “neutral” in the civil war. [43]

Like with all propaganda, there is a kernel of truth. In 1918, after the end of the imperialist world war, the British, French, Japanese, and US intervened in Russia. However, to act like they are “innocent” in this intervention is silly. The US State Department admitted this much, saying that “all these operations were to offset effects of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia,” showing that the idea the Allies entered to stop Germany from seizing Russian supplies and assisting Czech troops, who had been part of the Austro-Hungarian empire’s forces, was a convenient excuse to deny imperialist aims. [44] As Stalin put it in a speech commemorating the 24th celebration of the Great October Socialist Revolution, which was on the eve of the Great Patriotic War, often called World War II in the West:

“Recall the year 1918, when we celebrated the first anniversary of the October Revolution. At that time three-quarters of our country was in the hands of foreign interventionists. We had temporarily lost the Ukraine, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Urals, Siberia and the Far East. We had no allies, we had no Red Army–we had only just begun to create it–and we experienced a shortage of bread, a shortage of arms, a shortage of equipment. At that time 14 states [Czechoslovakia, the UK, Canada, Australia, India, Japan, Greece, Poland, the United States, France, Romania, Serbia, Italy, and China] were arrayed against our country but we did not become despondent or downhearted. In the midst of the conflagration of war we organized the Red Army and converted our country into a military camp. The spirit of Lenin inspired us at that time for war against the interventionists, regained all our lost territories and achieved victory.”

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia added to this. They noted that the US and other countries tried to engage in broader intervention and a blockade of Russia even as the Soviets proposed normalization of relations with the US as an option, but this was rejected. [45] While the imperialists may have schemed to use the Kellogg-Briand Pact to isolate the Soviet Union in later years (originally they excluded them but included them after international pressure) and the Paris Peace Conference of 1919-1920 in the same way, the masses of the world didn’t necessarily agree. [46] There was a campaign against US intervention in Russia from those such as John Reed (quoted extensively earlier in this article), socialist leader Eugene Debs, and ordinary folks in Seattle and San Francisco. [47] Ultimately, the Great October Socialist Revolution not only led to the formation of a pro-Bolshevik Communist Party, in the US, in 1919, but it resulted in the end of US involvement in Russia in 1920 due to popular pressure, deportation of radicals to Russia, and the partially failed Palmer raids in 1920. [48] Sadly, in Germany, in 1919, a communist revolution, led by Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebkrecht, among others, was brutally crushed, with both of them killed by state police. [49]

The situation back in Russia is worth noting. During the five year brutal civil war, mainly fought from November 1917 to October 1922, with some resistance hanging on until June 1923, the government adopted an economic program of “War Communism” as it was later called, in order to survive, which was later replaced during the rebuilding period with the New Economic Policy and other policies. At the same time, the officers of the Red Army were in hundreds of schools, with the most important part a political-cultural department which tried to spread communist propaganda among the ranks of the army, which was made up of “ignorant peasants” as John Reed described it. There were also “labor armies” which were helping repair destroyed bridges, once the war was over, with a more established Bolshevik (and later Soviet) order than ever. Such labor armies harkened back to the idea of “industrial armies” in agriculture proposed by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the Communist Manifesto. [50] As for the education in the Red Army, an organization that was like the “special corps” of armed workers envisioned by Marx in his 1850 address to the Communist League, it was similar to the ideas of political education proposed by Lenin on multiple occasions. [51]

Of course, bourgeois scholars like Louise McReynolds have declared that the Bolsheviks saw themselves as intelligentsia (wrong), created a new Soviet culture that nationalized the commercial market (likely true), and co-opted leisure which had been for the bourgeoisie to promote socialist ideals (also likely true). [52] By 1921, the 21 people who were on the Bolshevik’s Central Committee in 1917 has partially gone their separate ways, with some going into the Political Bureau, and others (Lenin, Trotsky (until later), and Stalin) were in a more of a leading role, and some joining the anti-Bolshevik forces. Still, as Helen Keller argued, the Russians were a people who “were trying to work out their form of government.” She also said, in words that some favorable to the Russian government could repeat today, that she loved “Russia and all who stand loyally by her in her mighty wrestlings with…imperialist greed,” while condemning workers in the US for not standing with the new country, and saying that famine in Russia was a result of war and imperialist blockade.

The first Soviet decade: 1923-1933

On December 29, 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was formed. The measures of War Communism were abandoned in place of the New Economic Policy (NEP) which introduced market measures in order to, in theory, rebuild the country from war, an ideas which was proposed (and advocated by) Lenin. This led to a struggle within the Russian Communist Party, which had evolved from the RSDRP’s Bolshevik section established in 1912, or Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) formed in 1918. Ultimately, in order to preserve the USSR as a socialist state, the “Left Opposition” was purged in 1927, as was Trotsky and Nikolai Bukharin. While some may say this is anti-democratic, they must consider that Stalin was following, for one, what he said years earlier: that the Communist Party needs to have “iron discipline,” unity of will, and purge “opportunist elements” so it can effectively serve the proletariat. [53] Other than this, Stalin was also preserving the party as an “organized detachment” of the proletariat, a vanguard of the working class, allowing the party to reorganize along “new, revolutionary lines.” [54] Additionally, there needed to be unity in order to counter the “need of a constantly expanding market” for the bourgeoisie and to make sure the Soviets are the “grave-diggers” of capitalism in Russia and elsewhere, not supporting it with certain measures, like NEP, even if it was partially good. [55] Ultimately, there cannot be a “revolution in permanence,” a precursor to Trotsky’s idea of “permanent revolution” which is discussed later, without a unified party. [56]

Before getting to the other aspects of the first years of the USSR, it is best to acknowledge a number of aspects, including of the NEP period (discussed more in detail later). Anna Louise Strong said that in 1925, at least, every factory, mine, and economic entity was hungry for credit, and industries were supposed to be “self-supporting” after the beginning of NEP. While some may cringe at this, justifiably, there were a number of good strides, even in hard times. For one, there were strong restrictions on alcohol in society, a war against bootleggers, with the focus on drinking not as an individual problem but as a “social injury.” At the same time, there was a major focus on teaching in Russia, just like the political education of Red Army members mentioned in the previous section of this article. As Strong noted, from April to August 1923, the Moscow Government Publishing House printed 160 million copies of textbooks for the new system of education modeled on the “Dewey ideas of education.” This form of education was advanced and a “gorgeous plan,” with education projects assisted by the government even as some teachers were antagonistic to the changes in education due to their ignorance.

While this was going on, there was political strife, which was referenced earlier. Strong, in 1925, in an opinion that seemed to lean toward Trotsky, after Lenin’s death, claimed that Lenin was the “father of the revolution,” Trotsky as “popular” leader, and Stalin as a tactful politician. She continued by claiming that the old Bolsheviks were behind Stalin, who didn’t know many Western languages as Trotskyists, and differ on the debate over socialism in Russia, with Trotsky “broken” by Stalin. She even claimed that “no one would die for Stalin” which is totally absurd. Putting aside the pro-Trotsky viewpoint of Strong, it is important to talk about the debate between Trotsky and Stalin over socialism in Russia. In the Foundations of Leninism, a quote of which is reproduced here, Stalin wrote that socialist revolution which is successful in one country must not be self-sufficient but should aid the the “victory of the proletariat in other countries” so that the victory of socialism is clear. The main debate is this, as highlighted by one WordPress blogger: the idea of “permanent revolution” posed by Trotsky expands on the idea that revolution can occur in a “backward” country rather than an “advanced country” and that revolution cannot succeed if cannot be successful in the rest of the world. As for Stalin’s idea of “socialism in one country,” this recognizes the successful socialist revolution in Russia, but says that socialist construction under NEP, for example, can happen in one country, with socialism ultimately successful worldwide. [57]

Stalin himself, explained what “socialism in one country” meant in December 1925:

“… the possibility of the victory of Socialism in one country…mean[s] the possibility of solving the contradictions between the proletariat and the peasantry with the aid of the internal forces of our country, the possibility of the proletariat assuming power and using that power to build a complete Socialist society in, our country, with the sympathy and the support of the proletarians of other countries, but without the preliminary victory of the proletarian revolution in other countries. Without such a possibility, the building of Socialism is building without prospects, building without being sure that Socialism will be built. It is no use building Socialism without being sure that we can build it, without being sure that the technical backwardness of our country is not an insuperable obstacle to the building of complete Socialist society. To deny such possibility is to display lack of faith in the cause of building Socialism, to abandon Leninism…the impossibility of the complete, final victory of Socialism in one country without the victory of the revolution in other countries…mean[s] the impossibility of having full guarantees against intervention and consequently against the restoration of the bourgeois order, without the victory of the [proletarian] revolution in at least a number of countries. To deny this indisputable thesis is to abandon internationalism, to abandon Leninism…And if our country is discredited the world revolutionary movement will be weakened.”

Christina Kaier, a professor at Northwestern University who specializes in “Russian and Soviet Art,” among other aspects gives the next part of the story. She describes the NEP, a period she says lasted from 1921 to circa 1928, was a “relatively peaceful and semicapitalist period in Soviet history,” which retreated from the War Communism during the Russian Civil War, with “free exchange” legalized and pushed by Lenin, which was seen as the next step to a socialist future, with Soviet state-owned enterprises competing in the NEP market. [58] A major downside of NEP was the creation of the “Nepmen” or NEP bourgeoisie which supported avant-garde artists but also were very greedy, with a noticeable disparity between workers and management, class distinctions reappearing in society, and firms dominated by the profit motive. [59] Despite all these downsides, in a country with a mainly agricultural economy at the time, there were positive elements. The creation of a “communist culture” in the new nation was realized by making constructivist art a political project of the state to counter bourgeois art with useful, utilitarian objects for the “new socialist collective” but also the ideas of an “object as comrade” or “socialist object” to replace commodity pleasures. [60] To promote such utilitarian objects, and tap into “commodity aesthetics and consumer desires” during the NEP, with advertising to promote products, which were seen as “transitional objects” as well, they were displayed at an avant-garde exhibition in Paris in 1924, at a time that Soviet industry was still recovering from wartime. [61] The philosophy of those creating the objects was put forward by Aleksander M. Rodchenko in the spring of 1925:

“The light from the East [the Soviet Union] is not only the liberation of workers, the light from the East is in the new relation to the person, to women, to things, our things in our hands must be equals.”

Examples of this are abound, some of whom were in the October Group of Soviet constructivist artists. Vladimir Tatlin, who shifted to creating utilitarian objects, creating a stove, pot, and other items to help in the home. [62] As for Lubov Popova and Varvara Stepanova (married to Rodchenko), they proposed designs for “everyday, utilitarian things,” specifically a simple “flapper dress” which was “mass-produced and distributed in Soviet economy.” [63] These dresses were austere but unisex and androgynous. [64]

By 1926, the gradual dismantling of NEP was beginning, scrapped by the 1928/1929, when Stalin was in a more powerful position than before. [65] Kaier, apart from her bizarre Freudian claims about Soviet objects, seemed to be writing a fair history (not communist or radical however) except when it came to what happened next and aspects of the Soviet government. In an almost negative tone, she mentioned the “mechanisms of party control over people’s lives,” the “Stalinist socialist realism in the 1930s,” and seemed to be snarky about the hardline approach by the Soviets toward prostitution and “nonparty women.” [66] Hence, while Kaier makes valuable contributions to history of the USSR, she falters by acting like Stalin is “bad” as he came to the scene. Trotskyist Chris Harman, in a similar vein, claims that Stalin gained “real” power in 1923-1924 and “absolute” power in 1928-1929. Without citing the specific page in his book, A People’s History of the World, praised by “popular historian” Howard Zinn, Harman is deluded. Even a quick glance at Stalin’s wikipedia page shows that he was the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU from April 3, 1922 to October 18, 1952, over thirty years, but Harman may be referring to his “consolidation” of power in 1928-1929 possibly, who knows.

Kaier and Harman are not the only ones that sneer at Stalin. Louise McReynolds, who was criticized earlier in this article, follows suit, treating the trumpeting of socialist values in mass culture of the USSR by the CPSU as “bad.” [67] These claims are further preposterous when one considers that Stalin pushed for rapid industrialization and and end to the NEP, coupled with collectivization of agriculture when there was a shortfall in grain stores. Of course, a few, such as Nikolai Bukharin and Alexey Rytov opposed these policies but the Politburo rightly sided with Stalin, meaning that Rytov and Bukharin were pushed out for good reason. Lest us forget that under Stalin’s direction (and not only him), the first five-year plan was proposed in the USSR as a centrally-planned economy began to be constructed. Stephen Gowans noted, in his article about publicly-owned and planned economies, that they work despite the bourgeois propaganda that asserts otherwise.

“The Soviet Union was a concrete example of what a publicly owned, planned economy could produce: full employment, guaranteed pensions, paid maternity leave, limits on working hours, free healthcare and education (including higher education), subsidized vacations, inexpensive housing, low-cost childcare, subsidized public transportation, and rough income equality. Most of us want these benefits…when the Soviet economy was publicly owned and planned, from 1928 to 1989, it reliably expanded from year to year, except during the war years. To be clear, while capitalist economies plunged into a major depression and reliably lapsed into recessions every few years, the Soviet economy just as unfailingly did not, expanding unremittingly and always providing jobs for all. Far from being unworkable, the Soviet Union’s publicly owned and planned economy succeeded remarkably well. What was unworkable was capitalism, with its occasional depressions, regular recessions, mass unemployment, and extremes of wealth and poverty…What eventually led to the Soviet Union’s demise was the accumulated toll on the Soviet economy of the West’s efforts to bring it down, the Reagan administration’s intensification of the Cold War, and the Soviet leadership’s inability to find a way out of the predicament these developments occasioned…the Soviet economic system had…worked better than capitalism…Encouraged to believe that the Soviet economic system had failed, many people, including both communist supporters and detractors of the Soviet Union, concluded that a system of public ownership and planning is inherently flawed…the Soviet model of public ownership and planning…never once, except during the extraordinary years of World War II, stumbled into recession, nor failed to provide full employment…The benefits of the Soviet economic system were found in the elimination of the ills of capitalism…Among the most important accomplishments of the Soviet economy was the abolition of unemployment…From the moment in 1928 that the Soviet economy became publicly owned and planned, to the point in 1989 that the economy was pushed in a free market direction, Soviet GDP per capita growth exceeded that of all other countries but Japan, South Korea and Taiwan…the Soviet economy grew rapidly from 1928 to 1989 [but] it never surpassed the economies of North America, Western Europe and Japan…Soviet leaders recognized that a planned, publicly owned economy was an anathema to the captains of industry and titans of finance who use their wealth and connections to dominate policy in capitalist countries…Every year, from 1928 to 1989, except during the war years, the Soviet economy reliably expanded, providing jobs, shelter, and a wide array of low- and no-cost public services to all, while capitalist economies regularly sank into recession and had to continually struggle out of them on the wreckage of human lives.”

Stalin did make mistakes including thinking that the KMT, led by Chiang Kai-Shek was an effective force to defeat the imperialists, an idea discarded after the Shanghai Massacre in 1927 when the KMT murdered 300-400 Chinese Communists. At the same time, Trotsky turning into a virulent critic and Lenin saying Stalin should go hurt the unity of the CPSU, which made Stalin’s job in a governing position of the USSR even harder. Still, the continuation of the anti-religious campaign, which began in 1921, was wholly justified in an attempt to counter the nasty aspects of religious distortions in society which would ruin the attainment of human betterment.

The Soviet Union was at a good place, especially after Stalin took power. By 1932 and 1933, the medical field in the country was well organized and well established. Doctors were state officials who worked 6-6 1/2 hours every day and there were a total of 76,000 physicians, an increase of 50,000 since the Great October Socialist Revolution. There was also free social and medical help, open attendance at child birth regardless of class, free dental work, public medical centers for workers, the idea of unified medical work in the factory and hospital, and vacations ranging from 12 days to one month depending on the age and type of work. Doctors were also in touch with other elements of the medical practice, there was a specific focus on venereal disease, along with integration of medicine within and outside institutions, coupled with more hospital beds and progress in medical provisions. Other than this, the USSR made progress in fighting tuberculosis, venereal disease, especially syphilis, doctors outside the “field of monetary compensation” and near fulfillment of a “good medical service” with improvements needed to make it better since no medical service is perfect. The 1930s report on Soviet medicine concluded by saying that the Soviet government was “the most gigantic experiment in the deliberate public organization of social and political life in the world” with abolition of the “motive of private profit,” and engaged in “socialization of medicine” which in some respects goes beyond Western countries, presenting a challenge to other countries. [68] In times that we despair about the horrid condition of abortion rights in America, we should remember that abortion in the USSR was legally allowed under a number of parameters, which are reprinted below, showing that there were feminist policies in place:

“In most countries the purposeful production of abortion except for medical reasons is regarded as murder. The Soviet Government in 1920 repealed the existing laws against abortion and legalized it under certain specific conditions. This law contained the provisions summarized below, which are more fully stated in Mrs. Field’s Protection of Women and Children in Soviet Russia.

1. Abortion must be undertaken only by a licensed surgeon. Midwives are prohibited from performing abortions.

2. It must, as a rule, be the result of a surgical operation, and not of drugs.

3. The patient must afterwards remain in bed in the hospital or place of operation for three full days.

4. She must not be allowed to go to work for two weeks after the operation.

5. For a first pregnancy an abortion must not be performed unless childbirth would seriously endanger the mother’s life.’

6. Abortion is forbidden if the pregnancy has lasted for more than two and a half months.

7. A doctor cannot refuse an application for abortion, except as stated under 5 and 6. He may, however, discourage it in any way he thinks fit.

8. It is recommended that all abortions be performed in those State hospitals which have a division for this purpose. An insured woman or the wife of an insured man can claim abortion free of charge in a State hospital. For others a small charge may be made.

9. A private doctor or anyone else producing an abortion which results in death can be tried for manslaughter. Women cannot be punished for performing on themselves.

10. The doctor is recommended to discourage a woman from abortion if there are no social, economic, or medical reasons for it, and particularly if she has fewer than three children, or has adequate means for supporting another child.

It is stated that few abortions are asked for by women desiring to conceal illicit relations…No difficulty has arisen because of the unwillingness of women to come to hospitals for this purpose. No distinction is drawn between married and unmarried women.”

With the available resources, there isn’t much else I can say about this time period. I can say that on November 16, 1933, the US finally established diplomatic relations with the USSR as noted in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia. [69]

Conclusion

Looking through the sources I gathered for this article, I realize now that I missed a number of aspects: I could have looked more at Stalin’s writings, spanning 1901-1952, a book about the early times of a Bolshevik (1894-1914), and histories of of the USSR, among many other aspects. [70] There are a number of bourgeois and academic sources I found, but alas, I did not go through those either. [71] This article could undoubtedly be better, but I am only a learner on this subject. I found some sources on r/communism in some quick searching today, but I likely missed something. So, comrades who are reading this, if you can help by providing any sources about Soviet history from 1933 onward, that would be great since there will be future articles in this series.

Notes

[1] Adam Taylor, “Soviet leader, Gorbachev says a new union could rise again,” Washington Post, December 13, 2016; Damien Sharkov, “Mikhail Gorbachev on the Soviet Union collapse, Democracy in Russia and Putin’s popularity,” Newsweek, December 13, 2016; Paul Goble, “If the Russians Come Back Again, They Won’t Be Constrained By Communism,” Estonian World Review, December 14, 2016.

[2] Louise McReynolds, Russia at Play: Leisure Activities at the End of the Tsarist Era (London: Cornell University Press, 2003), 4-6, 14, 29, 54.

[3] V.I. Lenin, “The revolution in 1905: The beginning of the revolution in 1905” (January 25, 1905), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 500-507,

[4] Ibid, 508-509; V.I. Lenin, “The State and Revolution” (1918), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 588-591.

[5] V.I. Lenin, “Lecture on the 1905 revolution” (1917),  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 510-513, 518-519, 524.

[6] Ibid, 529.

[7] McReynolds, 9, 136.

[8] See Morgan Phillip Price’s four penny pamphlet titled “Capitalist Europe and Socialist Russia,” published in 1918.

[9] John Keegan, An Illustrated History of the First World War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001), 300-301.

[10] Ibid, 301, 306.

[11] Ibid, 306-308.

[11*] “A Soviet View of the American Past: An Annotated Translation of The Section on American History in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” The Wisconsin Magazine of History, Vol. 43, No. 1, Autumn 1959, p. 33

[12] See Morgan Phillip Price’s four penny pamphlet titled “Capitalist Europe and Socialist Russia,” published in 1918.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Keegan, 308.

[15] Ibid, 309, 311, 316.

[16] See Chapter 2  (“The Coming Storm“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook the World.

[17] Keegan, 316.

[18] The term “Bolshevik government” is used here to refer to the rule from 1917-1922. The government that was created after 1922, is called the “Soviet government.” Some say that the “Soviet government” began in 1917, but to say this is confusing since the Soviet Union was not officially created until 1922.

[19] By the end of the year, the Bolshevik government said that citizens could recall politicians from office, salaries of high-paid officials were limited, peace talks with the Axis powers began, leaders of the Cadet Party (anti-Bolshevik) are ordered arrested, an eight-hour day is introduced for railway workers, and public education is no longer monopolized by the Russian Orthodox Church. Beyond this, the Council of People’s Commissars says that Ukraine has a right to succeed, the nationalization of banks is announced, and the independence of Finland is accepted.

[20] See chapter IV (“The Fall of the Provisional Government“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[21] See Chapter V (“Plunging Ahead“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[22] See Chapter VI (“The Committee of Salvation“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[23] See Chapter VII (“The Revolutionary Front“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[24] Ibid.

[25] See Chapter VIII (“Counter-Revolution“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[26] Ibid.

[27] See Chapter IX (“Victory“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[28] See Chapter X (“Moscow“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[29] Ibid.

[30] See Chapter XI (“The Conquest of Power“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[31] Ibid; see Chapter XII (“The Peasants’ Congress“) of John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World.

[32] Valerie Bryson, Feminist Political Theory: An Introduction (New York: Palgrave MacMillian, 2003, Second Edition), 114-125.

[33] See Morgan Phillip Price’s four penny pamphlet titled “Capitalist Europe and Socialist Russia,” published in 1918.

[34] “A Soviet View of the American Past,” p. 34

[35] V.I. Lenin, “The State and Revolution” (1918), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 569-570, 572, 582-583.

[36] V.I. Lenin, “Marxism and Uprising” (Sept. 1917), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 606-607; V.I. Lenin, “The crisis has matured” (October 12, 1917), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), p. 612-613.

[37] Josef Stalin, “The October Revolution and the National Question” (1918),  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 620-621.

[38] Josef Stalin, “The October Revolution and the Question of the Middle Strata,” The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 632.

[39] See Morgan Phillip Price’s four penny pamphlet titled “Capitalist Europe and Socialist Russia,” published in 1918.

[40] Keegan, 317, 354, 356, 359.

[41] Ibid, 318, 355.

[42] Ibid, 356, 359-360

[43] Ibid, 360-361, 363-364.

[44] Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (New York: HarperPerennial, Fifth Edition, 2003), 409; Chronicle of America, “U.S. severs ties with Bolsheviks” (Mount Kisco, NY: Chronicle Publications, 1988), 605.

[45] “A Soviet View of the American Past,” 34, 36

[46] “A Soviet View of the American Past,” 34, 37

[47] Zinn, 373, 380, 400, 409; Chronicle of America, “Pacifist Debs gets 10 years in prison,” p. 606.

[48] Chronicle of America, “Left-wing socialists establish own party,” p. 611; Chronicle of America, “US withdraws troops from Soviet Russia,” p. 610; Chronicle of America, US in crusading mood, deports 249 radicals to Soviet Russia,” p. 611; Chronicle of America, “Palmer raids net thousands of leftists,” p. 612; “A Soviet View of the American Past,” p. 35

[49] Keegan, 392, 403.

[50] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “The Communist Manifesto,” The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 46

[51] Marx and Engels, 67; V.I. Lenin, “What Is to Be Done?,”  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 483; V.I. Lenin, “Lecture on the 1905 Revolution” (1917),  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 516.

[52] McReynolds, 12-13, 33, 292.

[53] Josef Stalin, “Foundations of Leninism” (1924),  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 647-651.

[54] Ibid, 637-638, 640-641.

[55] Marx and Engels, 26, 36

[56] Marx, “Address to the Communist League” (1850),  The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 71

[57] This blogger claims that speeding up “socialist construction” in the USSR ultimately led to the USSR’s demise, which is silly since the USSR was in existence from 1922 until 1911, so this person doesn’t know what they are talking about. At the same time, they claim that “the possibility of eventual failure of socialism was built into Stalin’s theory” which just isn’t true. Still, they make a possibly valid point that Stalin’s theory’s includes ideas from Trotsky.

[58] Christina Kaier, Imagine No Possessions: The Socialist Objects of Russian Constructivism (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005), 2, 18-19, 38, 165.

[59] Ibid, 19-20, 23, 25, 29, 81, 173, 264-265.

[60] Ibid, 1, 4-5, 8, 10, 27, 140.

[61] Ibid, 17, 47, 49, 183, 200-201, 206, 212.

[62] Ibid, 43, 52, 71-73, 82-83.

[63] Ibid, 89, 92, 100-101.

[64] Ibid, 113-114, 117, 124.

[65] Ibid, 244.

[66] Ibid, 27, 58-59, 61, 259.

[67] McReynolds, 293.

[68] It turns out that these authors are at least partially Trotskyists. Still, they offer good analysis when it comes to medicine. Other chapters I didn’t include talk about the USSR’s government, industrial and agricultural conditions, religious and civil liberty, women in Soviet Russia (cited earlier in this article), care of children, maternity,

[69] “A Soviet View of the American Past,” p. 46

[70] Other aspects worth mentioning are Alexandra Kollontai talking about the years of revolution, a first-hand account of the October Socialist Revolution by Louise Bryant, a book with biographies of certain personalities in the revolution, Anne Louise Strong’s book about John Reed’s colony on the Volga, a page about party Congresses, a page about Soviet foreign policy, a page about Kronstadt, a page chronicling Lenin’s writings, a page chronicling Luxembourg’s writings, a page about the Soviet government, a page chronicling John Reed’s writings, and a page chronicling Soviet history.

[71] See “The History of Both the February and October Russian Revolutions” on About.com, “War and Revolution in Russia 1914-1921” by Dr. Jonathan Snee on BBCNews, “Causes of the Russian Revolution” on About.com, “Russian Revolution, October, 1917” on Spartacus International, Owen Hatherley, “The constructivists and the Russian revolution in art and architecture” on The Guardian, and Leon Aron, “Even Vladimir Putin Cannot Kill the Russian Revolution” in Foreign Policy. Academic sources include “The Deepening of the Russian Revolution: 1917” on a MIT website, the Internet Sourcebook documents on the Russian Revolution, and a book about the Russian revolution hosted in part by the Library of Congress.

Is Star Wars really anti-fascist?

han-solo-quote

Recently, a group of neo-Nazis has declared that the upcoming Star Wars movie, Rogue One, is “anti-white,” “SJW propaganda,” and “another Jew masturbation fantasy of anti-white hatred,” saying that the film should be boycotted, with advocates incensed after screenwriter Chris Weitz said “please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization,” and Write Gary Whitta retweeted this, adding that it was “opposed by a multi-cultural group led by brave women.” Of course, the reactionary forces will make wild proclamations but I thought it was best to come back to the topic of Star Wars and politics once again after my last post months ago, in which I wrote that “I still have some hope in the Star Wars series…this hope could obviously be shattered into many pieces,” which is what I aim to take aim at once again.

In order to go forward a summary what I pointed out in my last post on the subject is not necessary. [1] There is no reason to make the same points again. I have tended, in the past year, to drift away from Star Wars to Futurama, because of the incessant mention of war, and said that I wouldn’t watch the new movie. But, now with this controversy, which is probably, like with liberal anger at Trump’s diplomacy, fake outrage, I am intrigued. I wholehartedly recognize that the series is white-dominated by nature, easily quotable by imperialist politicians, seems to be nostalgic, can be used to ward off apologists for anti-Syrian terrorists, and has a growing number of female fans in a fan-base that is still male-dominated. On top of that, some may have made reference to Star Wars when talking about supposed anti-Trump resistance, along with the claims that politics is “like Star Wars.”

There have been a plethora of thinkpieces on the subject of Star Wars and politics as of late. Since I think the pieces are crap, I think it is worth just listing the titles and publications, just for laughs and giggles:

  • “Star Wars isn’t political, says Disney chief responding to boycott by Trump supporters. He’s wrong.” (Washington Post) (says that films don’t exist in a political void, Vietnam references in the early Star Wars movies, echoes of Vietnam in Rogue One, soldiers of empire are called stormtroopers and modeled a bit after Nazis, and ends with no strong conclusion)
  • “Star Wars Is Not Anti-Trump, But It Is Anti-Fascism,” Esquire magazine
  • “Star Wars Is and Always Has Been Political,” Gizmodo
  • “Outrage Warriors Are Only Ruining Their Own Fun by Trying to #DumpStarWars,” Forbes
  • “Disney’s CEO is wrong about Star Wars and politics, but right about the Rogue one boycott,” The Verge
  •  “Disney’s Star Wars screenwriters need to shut up about politics,” Red Alert Politics
  • “Why Star Wars Needs To Be Political,” The Young Folks
  •  “#DumpStarWars Is The First Shot In A New (Pop) Culture War,” Forbes

I could go on, but I think you get the point. There is undoubtedly public enthusiasm about Star Wars, but the connection to politics is nothing new, with horrid neoliberal comedian (who isn’t all that funny) declared that Star Wars Episode II (2002) could be analogous to Bush’s government, and some liberal critics casting Bush as Darth Vader and Cheney as Chancellor Palpatine. [2] But there are fundamental truths about the series, which will undoubtedly carry into the newest movie. For one, apart from weak character development in some movies, there is the creation of an “ideologically conservative future…[a] modern quest narrative” with Princess Leia in Episode 4 as a “damsel in distress” and the movies serving as a harbinger of “renowed American conservatism of the Reagan presidency” with the rebellion lead by “clean cut, well-spoken white youths.” [3] To add onto this, the Rebel Alliance, while it is fighting against an “evil empire,” is hierarchical (possibly authoritarian), celebrating its victory (at the end of episode 4) in a scene that seems to echo famed Nazi propagandist Leni Reifenstahl, with the white males “naturally” in positions of authority, with alien races downgraded while gender, class, and race relations are not challenged. [4] This return to “traditional morality” is not an “adventurous quest-narrative” that was part of Hollywood’s “revitalization” but it is a blockbuster which promotes nostalgia for the 1950s. [5] If this isn’t enough, the series, which has interwoven itself into familial relationships, and originally meant for children, moving family films back to the center of the global entertainment industry, while closing the “window for creative experimentation” in filmmaking that had supposedly begun in 1970. [6]

There is much more to be said about Star Wars. Apart from the obvious nostalgia for the past, and in this case for past films of the Star Wars franchise, dominates the spectator with crowd-pleasing entertainment, with a sword-wielding “elite warrior cadre,” the Jedi, honored in film after film of the series. [7] With the films being almost like a “myth of a fairytale,” a cultural dream, which have situations like athletic contests where various characters engage in a story set in a mythological time, with a story of broad proportions, supports the idea of male dominance. [8] There is no doubt symbolism in the movies with Chewbacca embodying a “wild man stereotype” some say, Christian imagery, a simplistic good vs. evil conflict, and some dreamlike locations like Dagobah in Episode 5. [9]

But there is more than this. It seems that progressives and bourgeois liberals saying the movie could be anti-fascist, and by extension the whole series is anti-fascist. In theory this would be a feat for such a successful franchise, even mocked hilariously in Mel Brooks’s Spaceballs, to be against fascism. However, that is too easy of a connection to make. There is no doubt that the Empire and First Order (the latter in ‘The Force Awakens’) are fascist and imperialist. The allusions are obvious. But what about the resistance? Well, in episodes 4, 5, 6, and 7, the Rebel Alliance, New Republic, and Resistance are undoubtedly anti-imperial forces. However, they are not like the soldiers of Cuba who fought in Angola against the murderous US imperialists and South African racists, the Soviets who fought off the Nazi fascists, the Koreans who fought off the US imperialists, or the varying anti-colonial efforts against faltering European empires. These forces, and no doubt those in the new movie, might be anti-fascist, you could say, but they are not by extension anti-capitalist. This means that the Rebel Alliance, New Republic, and Resistance, along with rebels in animated series, are bourgeois liberal forces. So, nothing to cheer for, really.

To expand on this topic, the Rebel Alliance in episodes 4-6 has monarchist elements (Princess Leia), underworld elements (Han Solo and Chewbacca). This puts doubt on whether this organization is really anti-fascist. Any radical with any sense would decry monarchical rule as anti-democratic and call for something more representative, so to sympathize with the rebels is to support monarchy, glimmers of fascism in an organization basically run by young white men, and underworld elements. In episodes 4-6 there is a subplot of Han Solo and Chewbacca, who represent the lumpenproletariat, are painted as outcasts, rebels-for-hire who are on the run from the wealthy Jabba the Hut (a crime lord that is like a Mafia figure) who demands payment, works with the empire, and has hired goons (bounty hunters who track down Han Solo in episode 5). In the animated series, these horrid figures return, and also have state sponsors, this time the Confederacy of Independent Systems (CIS) which is a bit like the early United States (1776-1787) which had a similar form of government.

One may ask about the first three movies (1, 2, and 3). In the first movie, a beleaguered galactic republic, a bit like the United States’s federal-style of government, is plagued by an invasion in a capitalist haven of Naboo by the mercantile alliance called the Trade Federation, with their own private army of robots that serve to enforce their interests. Ultimately, the Sith Lord, a person who led an order of ancient religious warriors, Palpatine/Darth Sidious takes power in the republic in order to carry out his ultimate plan to massacre the widely regarded elite religious warriors called the Jedi. In episodes 2 and 3, Palpatine engineers a brutal war between the republic and the CIS which had a legislative body, the Separatist Senate, a bit like the British House of Commons, more than the House of Lords, with both sides having profiteers gaining fat sums from the war. With the end of the war in episode 3, an empire is established in place of the galactic republic, and the Jedi are almost all killed in a pogrom (order 66), with the clones becoming the stormtroopers who enforce the dictates of the new empire. So, these movies don’t necessarily take an anti-fascist take. You could say they are critical of authoritarian government, but the forces on both sides, the Republic and the CIS are not forces to cheer for, although the audience is supposed to sympathize with the Jedi and the Republic, as was made clear in the animated series.

There’s not much left to say here. I’d say that the politics in Futurama, the Simpsons, and Star Trek, among other science fiction, are much better and leave much less to be desired than Star Wars. I haven’t decided if to watch Rogue One when it comes out later this week, but regardless of this we should stay critical of the Star Wars franchise while looking at imagined Communist life in space, existing relationships between socialism and science fiction, manifested in authors like H.G. Wells. By the same token, depending on films in the Star Wars series to be anti-fascist (if it even is), without looking to actual examples of anti-fascism such as the Soviets fighting the Nazis (mentioned earlier), the Black Panthers standing against the capitalist system with their form of black liberation, and new efforts to defend one’s self using armed self-defense against bigots and fascists from Robert F. Williams in the 1950s to the unfortunately dogmatic Red Guards in Austin, Texas and people pushing to arm themselves since the advent of Donald Trump as President. As always comments are welcome.

Notes

[1] I argued, replying to another commentary on the subject, that: (1) Jar Jar Banks is a racial stereotype, a “modern version of Stepin Fetchit; (2) greedy Neimodians of the Trade Federation who could represent an Asian stereotype; (3) the major “six Star Wars movies are white and male-dominated with female characters mostly pushed to secondary roles [for the most are]…and male characters are put in the primary role. Literally there are only two black characters I can think of”; (4) Rebels (in episodes 4-6 and in the animated series) are not leftists, only a rebellious force and arguably right-wing, with monarchist elements, and almost a guerrilla movement, but could still be considered a state to an extent; rebellion is made up of middle-class folks; (5) Leia is part of rebellion, not leading it; (6) Galactic Republic is not elitist but like the “American federal system”; (7) Galactic Empire is evil, and not democratic, authority goes to the Emperor; an authoritarian government, a worthless legislative body, the Imperial Senate, abolished in Episode 4; (8) First Order in ‘The Force Awakens’ is also not democratic, and is a fascist military junta; (9) Luke is part of the petty bourgeoisie?; (10) Rebellion includes, arguably “lumpenproletariat people like gangster Han Solo and his companion Chewbacca”; (11) Naboo had an elected monarchy and was not a democracy; (12) Jedi almost act a bit like slavemasters of the clones; they are elite warriors but also arguably religious leaders (the Force is a religion); (13) Jedi want a coup in the Galactic Republic which would have made them “theocrats and actually kinda philosopher kings too in a sense”; (14) Jedi didn’t start the war, it was started by Dark Sidious; (15) Audience is cheering for “right-wingers/rightests [sic]”; (16) Not accurate to say that the Gungans in episode 1 are “slaughtered by Aztecs as that almost implies that the movie condemns imperialism which it obviously does not”; (17) Jedi are not racial supremacists, but might believe in genetic supremacy, which is akin to the Nazis; this doesn’t arguably constitute eugenics; the Jedi could be arguably theocrats but are not fascists; (18) Jedi and Smith are conflicting religious warriors who are rogue; (19) Blowing up of the Death Star (and the space station in ‘The Force Awakens’) is not “ludicrous” because the Empire was “over-confident”; (20) Luke and Leia were never in charge of the rebellion; (21) Han later becomes “a loyal footsoldier of the Rebellion”; (22) Yoda never headed an “official state religion,” and never was more than a religious force or feeling of any government of force; (23) Luke was not a leader, only a valued footsoldier of the rebellion; (24) “Palpatine was more like a religious leader who masqueraded as a political leader than the latter. He is almost more a theocrat than the Jedi since he holds a leading position in government”; (25) Anakin is “a religious warrior who will serve an authoritarian Empire and/or the Emperor” and is not won over by democratic values; (26) “Jedi were like high-level thinkers or philosopher kings to some extent, except that they didn’t really have political power but had political prestige”; (27) “if the Empire is secular, it is a murderous secular state”; (28) Empire that blew up Alderaan, not the force; (29) Star Wars is not a “state propaganda film”; (30) There is no “Skywalker regime” but only “two rightist forces fighting each other”; (31) Lucas was “broadly a conservative and wanted to reinforce “traditional” values coming from the 1950s”; (32) “…the six major movies have a conservative element and reinforces traditionalism along with arguably patriarchalism”; (33) one historical analogy in Star Wars is Vietnam in Episode 4 with the killing of Skywalkers family (a My Lai), help from the natives and “Third World mystics” in the “anti-imperial adventure” some argue; (34) others argue that the film is not critical of the United States, saying Episode IV with the West and the Empire with the Soviet Union, painting the West in a positive light, allusions to Vietnam and the US in Episodes 4, 5, and 6, and say Luke is an “optimistic Reaganite,” (35) another author says that the episodes 4-6 constitute a “post-Vietnam critique of military superiority” with the films offering a dual reading of US military might, with the rebels and empire as one and the same side; (36) yet other writers says that episodes 4-6 portray the Vietnam War positively, and feeds into feelings of frustration in the audience while endorsing “traditional structures of racism, sexism and social hierarchy that have helped to create and maintain those frustrations”; (37) in a book about the making of Star Wars, Lucas originally said he wanted to make “Apocalypse Now…a very antiwar and anti-Vietnam War film” and Lucas, since he was apparently in debt and poor, turned to Star Wars, implying that “Star Wars was about the Vietnam War with political ideas he was going to put in that movie going into Star Wars” including the idea, as Lucas puts it of “a large technological empire going after a small group of freedom fighters or human beings”; (38) numerous books say Star Wars is “a reflection on the Vietnam War”; (39) “argument that the Rebels and the Empire are just two sides of the same coin, representing different elements of the United States, is relatively convincing”; (40) both forces, “good” and “evil,” are arguably right-wing”; (41) “I guess I still have some hope in the Star Wars series and think that it has at least some value due to its deeply problematic aspects. But, this hope could obviously be shattered into many pieces”; (42) we need to stay critical of Star Wars.

[2] Marc Diapolo, War, Politics, and Superheroes: Ethics and Propaganda in Comics and Film (London: McFarland & Company, 2011), 32, 169, 180.

[3] Peter Lev, American Films of the 70s: Conflicting Visions (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000), 166-168, 170. Lev also says that “some phrases borrowed from the film became key ideological points during the Reagan years.”

[4] Lev, 171, 174, 175.

[5] Lev, 179; “Introduction,” Action and Adventure Cinema (ed. Yvonne Tasker, New York: Routledge, 2004), 2, 7; Martin Flangan, “‘Get Ready for Rush Hour’: The Chronotype in action,”  Action and Adventure Cinema (ed. Yyonne Tasker, New York: Routledge, 2004), 103, 108; Yvonne Tasker, “The family in action,” Action and Adventure Cinema (ed. Yyonne Tasker, New York: Routledge, 2004), 254; Peter Kramer, “‘It’s aimed at Kids–The Kid in Everybody’: George Lucas, Star Wars, and Children’s Entertainment,” Action and Adventure Cinema (ed. Yyonne Tasker, New York: Routledge, 2004), 358.

[6] Kramer, 361, 363-366; Barry Langford, Post-Classical Hollywood: Film Industry, Style and Ideology Since 1945 (Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press, 2010), 128.

[7] Langford, 207, 221, 230, 250, 278.

[8] Steven A. Galipeau, The Journey of Luke Skywalker: An Analysis of Modern Myth and Symbol (Chicago: Open Court, 2001), 1-2, 4, 5, 11, 14, 16.

[9] Galipeau, 38, 60, 66, 116.