Every time a tragedy befalls the United States in the form of the most recent school shooting, the liberal and conservative pundits (in the UK at least) come out in full force to call for the end of the second amendment to the US constitution, the right to bear arms. The origin of this amendment was in order to ensure that despots could never take power and ensured the right of armed resistance to such despots in a country where the bourgeoisie overthrew the tyranny of a feudal monarch. The bourgeoisie didn’t set up this law out of the kindness of their hearts once taking power, but in order to restrain the revolutionary fervor of the masses. It was a concession won by the masses in the fledgling colonies from the bourgeoisie in order to stave off the type of situation that occurred in France more than a decade later which attempted to carry the initial revolution beyond a bourgeois democratic one.
In my discussions on this subject previously with members of the UK left, I have often been at a loss as they describe their opposition to the ability of the working class to purchase and own weapons and quite frankly, their inability to understand that the second amendment was won by the masses from the bourgeoisie. In fact many people say it is irrelevant for the US working class (or even the UK working class), which has been so defeated and smashed under foot, to have the right to weapons because they would simply be crushed by the superior might of the US military in any case.
Now certainly, one would have to be some kind of fantasist to claim that the working class in the US is anywhere near a situation that would require them to organise trained citizen armies to overthrow the US government, but a vital question remains. Why do liberals and even some socialists call for the eradication of the second amendment in the US?
The argument is usually along the lines that in order to stop such tragedies as occurred earlier this week from occurring, guns should be made illegal for the majority of US citizens and only be allowed in the hands of the state via the army and police or various private security firms.
There are two fundamental problems with this view. First, the state is the ultimate perpetrator of violence, however horrible these individual events of kids shooting up kids in schools may be. It is completely backward and irrational to call for the disarming of the US population while leaving the state, army and police armed. This is clearly evidence by the death tolls coming out of Iraq daily.
Secondly, this view is understandable if one is a liberal and supports the capitalist system but is inexcusable for a revolutionary, who believes in the overthrow of capitalism. The demand for the eradication of the right to bear arms in the US gives support to the lie that revolutions happen peacefully through democratic means.
One might ask why, then, do the conservatives in the US hold on so dearly to this amendment while the more progressive elements tend to call for its eradication? To me the answer is clear. They know that they may not always be in power nor have the majority of the population or even the military on their side. However, the leadership of the conservatives in the US know that it’s better to have armed supporters when the going gets tough. This is by no means to say that people generally outside of a small group at the top think in this strategic manner. For most people, having the right to a weapon has to do with hunting, self-defence or defence of property.
However, if one is looking at the issue from the point of view of a revolutionary socialist, it is clear that calling for only the state to have weapons is entrusting the state and not the working class to make a better society. Notice how the Guardian and the Daily Mail ask the same questions about why US citizens are still allowed to own weapons.
Why, then, do kids walk into schools with guns and shoot up their classmates? Why do kids in London stab one another? These are social problems created by the capitalist system itself, not because these kids have access to guns or knives. Capitalism perpetuates violence by its very nature. It encourages alienation, isolation and individualism. It is this system that must be eradicated and not the right of US citizens to bear arms against tyranny.