Muskets, Rifles, Cannons & Ammunition
Matthew J Zink
“The whole proletariat must be armed at once with muskets, rifles, cannons and ammunition…under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary.”
~Karl Marx (Address of the Central Committee to the
Communist League) – London, March 1850.~
Marx was right; Marx is wrong.
In mid-19th century there was a definite need for workers and the common man to be armed to protect themselves not only from the government but private militias and paramilitary groups that were involved in a variety of unsavoury practices like strikebreaking. There are numerous instances from Marx’s time such as the Portage Riot that took place in New York State in 1851. The ‘riot’ was really just striking railroad workers fighting for higher pay. The response by the state was to send in the police and they executed two protestors. Even the death of two of their members didn’t deter the strikers so the next day the state militia was sent in and broke up the strike for good. If the striking workers were well-armed (or presumed to be so) by the local police or state militia would their response have been different? I would think that at the very least the two men shot dead would probably not have been. There are hundreds of similar examples just like this from 1850 to the early 20th century from all over the world.
One incident that marks a turning point of sorts was the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921. This was the largest, best-organized, and most well-armed uprising since the American Civil War and it involved striking coal miners. 10,000 of these workers confronted 3000 lawmen and strike-breakers, the battle ended after a million rounds were fired and the United States Army intervened by a presidential order issued by Warren Harding. The fighting was so intense that during the battle private planes were hired by the coal-mine owners to drop homemade bombs (of the gas and explosive variety) on the miners. The end result was mounds of dead strikers and 1,000 men being charged with various crimes.
I’d like you to consider that if the best-organized and most heavily armed rebellion against the state failed, might we not then have to conclude that Marx was right up to a point but after the Battle of Blair Mountain he was wrong. If the state and the people have approximately equal power, equal amounts of firearms, and enough people are willing to rebel, then a revolution of the sorts Marx envisioned may be plausible. In the 19th century it was an entirely realistic situation, however, in the 21st century, it is not. Even in countries where people are relatively free to buy firearms legally and illegally, the state has such an abundance and concentration of power over weaponry that you might as well be using a slingshot to try to take down a stealth fighter jet.
In the 21st century, it is absurd to believe that owning firearms can somehow protect you from the government. This is a line oft-touted by those on the right and it seems to rely on two closely related propositions that simply can’t be true.
Proposition 1: If the citizenry had no guns the government would be more tyrannical. In this worldview Justin Trudeau (or Barak Obama, or any slightly left of center politician) is just an evil person who if elected in a country with no guns would infringe on your rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately for the people making these arguments, this is quite easily dismantled.
In the UK guns are extremely regulated and the government is no more tyrannical than that of the US or Canada (where guns are more freely available). Guns are extremely regulated in authoritarian countries like China as well as their democratic and free neighbours like South Korea and Japan. China has an estimated 50 million guns in civilian possession (3.6 per 100 people) while South Korea has 79,000 (0.2 per 100 people), yet the South Korean government is indefinitely less tyrannical than the Chinese government.
Venezuela is 35th out of 230 countries for private gun ownership per capita and it hasn’t prevented the tyranny of that government. The facts simply don’t add up to support the idea that if people had no firearms that the government would be more tyrannical. If proposition 1 were true we should be able to see a very clear correlation between countries with very few guns and government tyranny and that is just not the case.
Proposition 2: If people have guns, it protects them from authoritarian tyranny. So once again the government is just looking to screw with you over and take your things but fortunately you have a gun and they cannot mess with you. Let’s face it, if the government wants something from you like your money or land they will take it. If you resist you may be able to do so temporarily, but then the amount of force they exert will exponentially grow until you are crushed. If you shoot at the police, they’ll send in the SWAT team. If you defeat the SWAT team do you really think the government will just throw up their hands and go “Well we tried to infringe on this guy’s liberty, but we just couldn’t do it, you win!” and then leave you to live your life in peace? How silly a thought.
Those on the left calling for increased gun control are missing the target on the key issue that is the underlying cause of gun violence - relative inequality. Guns in and of themselves do not cause gun violence unless you finagle the data enough to reach the conclusion you wanted. In this manner attempts at solving gun violence through more restrictions or legislation are for the most part bound to fail.
Very few things can be linked as a cause of gun violence, however, one of the strongest indicators is the amount of inequality in an area as measured by the Gini Coefficient. The Gini Coefficient runs from 0 (everyone is completely equal) to 1 (one person owns everything and everyone else has nothing) and for each 0.01 increase in Gini Coefficient firearm homicide rate increase by 4.6%.
The Gini Coefficient also predicts more than half the variance in murder rates between American states and between countries around the world. Gun ownership also rises when the Gini Coefficient does and inequality predicts homicide rates better than any other variable. That’s not to say that inequality is the only factor in gun crime, but to deny its importance would be foolish.
The real challenge that the left is woefully unprepared to deal with is the snowball effects from inequality and the uncomfortable facts that come along with them. We know that the importance of honour culture is higher in areas where inequality is higher. We also know that inequality strips men of the usual markers of status in matters such as respect (which tends to be given an undue amount of focus). We know that in 50% of murders, where the root cause can be discerned are instigated by the ‘other’ argument (not robbery, love, drugs, domestic violence or money) but rather because someone had ‘dissed’ them.
It’s no surprise that 90% of all murders in the US are committed by men. And of that 90%, a disproportionate number are African Americans that are living in areas where the Gini Coefficient is higher than the national average. It’s also no surprise that in countries with a lower Gini Coefficient the balance between murders committed by men and women skew more towards being even. Until the left is willing to accept facts such as these, it will be impossible to implement any policies to address the root causes of violence with guns issue. We simply can’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend that Muskets, Rifles, Cannons & Ammunition will save us from the government or restricting them through legislation will save us from each other.
Matthew Zink hold a BA in Contemporary Studies and BEd in the Primary/Junior division. He lived in China for a decade before returning to Canada in 2018. When he’s not busy reading or writing about political/social issues he spend as much time as possible with his 4-year-old daughter Zoe and his lovely wife Zhen. All other time is devoted to PoliQuads Magazine.