To-day in Anarchist history: The pacifist-Anarchist Gustav Landauer was martyred 90 years ago today, on 2 May 1919, when he was imprisoned and then stoned to death by soldiers sent on the orders of state socialist politician Gustav Noske, to crush the independent Bavarian worker’s councils and force the Bavarian Free State back under the political control of
One can throw away a chair or destroy a pane of glass; but those are idle talkers and credulous idolators of words who regard the state as such a thing or a fetish that one can smash in order to destroy it. The state is a condition, a certain relationship among human beings, a mode of behavior between human beings; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently toward one another…. We are the state, and we shall continue to be the state until we have created institutions that form a real community and society of people.
— Gustav Landauer, Schwache Stattsminner, Schwacheres Volk, in Der Sozialist (June, 1910).
To-day in Right to Keep and Bear Arms history: On May 2, 1967, 42 years ago today, the California State Assembly debated the Mulford Act, a bill to ban the open carrying of firearms. In response (since the bill was largely targeted at criminalizing their practice of openly carrying while on cop-watching patrols), the Black Panther Party staged a march to the state capital and walked onto the Assembly floor openly carrying rifles, shotguns, and holstered handguns. (The weapons were unloaded and were kept pointed either at the ceiling or at the floor.) Bobby Seale then read a declaration written by Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver, urging that
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.After they left the capitol building and began to head home, they were surrounded by a battalion of cops and arrested en masse for
conspiracy to disrupt a legislative session.
anti-gun-controlconservative politician-saint Ronald Wilson Reagan was governor of California at the time all of this went down. When the Panthers showed up, Reagan ran and hid inside the capitol building. Shortly thereafter, he showed his commitment to the right to keep and bear arms by signing the Mulford Act after the state legislature passed the bill.
traditional marriage, women’s property rights, and conservative mythistory-as-justification: killjoy, wreckage found floating (2009-04-19): daily dose of stoopid
On bottom-line principles for a constructive secessionism: Carol Moore, Vermont Commons (2009-04-16): SECEDE & SURVIVE: Prepare to be Overwhelmed by Secession
On Leftist anti-statism and the class structure of the State: Chris Dillow, Stumbling and Mumbling (2009-04-17): Shrink the State: A Leftist Aim
On assumed audiences and gender politics in FLOSS and web development: Shelley Powers, Bb RealTech (2009-04-29): Open Arms
On the literacy monopolists and popular writing tools: BLDGBLOG (2009-04-22): How the Other Half Writes: In Defense of Twitter
On Enron, corporate privateers and
deregulatoryrhetoric: Jesse Walker, Hit & Run (2009-04-03): The Smartest Guys in the Tomb. Jesse mentions along the way:
Leftists and liberals have a word for polluters who pose as careful environmental stewards: greenwashing. We need a similar word for times when the eager beneficiaries of the corporate state pose as free-market entrepreneurs. A word, that is, for propaganda like the Enron ad.
Of course, I’ve promoted the use of the word privateering for something that’s roughly in the neighborhood, but
privateeringis really suited to a different purpose (it has to do with a critique of phony
privatization, which is often bundled with, but not identical to, phony
deregulation; and it focuses on the phenomenon, not the use of rhetoric around it). So, what’s your best suggestion for a left-libertarian counterpart to
greenwashing,when state capitalist firms pose as free-market entrepreneurs?
My own best effort, to date, is
gold-plating.Thoughts? Comment away.
Here’s something that you may have thought you’d never see in the pages of the Rad Geek People’s Daily: Condoleezza Rice is absolutely right.
Over at Stone Court (thanks again, Feminist Blogs!), Fred Vincy’s pointed out Condoleezza Rice’s stance on gun control, offered up by The Times (2004-11-21):
Violence was turning her hometown intoBombinghamas Alabama’s governor George Wallace fought a federal court order to integrate the city’s schools. The Ku Klux Klan bombed the homes of blacks who were beginning to move into white neighbourhoods. Among the targets was the home of Arthur Shores, a veteran civil rights lawyer and friend of the Rices. Condi and her parents took food and clothes over to his family.
With the bombings came marauding groups of armed white vigilantes callednightriderswho drove through black neighbourhoods shooting and starting fires. John Rice and his neighbours guarded the streets at night with shotguns.
The memory of her father out on patrol lies behind Rice’s opposition to gun control today. Had those guns been registered, she argues, Bull Connor would have had a legal right to take them away, thereby removing one of the black community’s only means of defence.I have a sort of pure second amendment view of the right to bear arms,she said in 2001.
Condi’s experience wasn’t out of the ordinary. During the hardest fights of the civil rights movement in Mississippi and Alabama, ordinary Black families and civil rights activists defended themselves against the Klan terror by arming themselves. (Yes, organizers who were passionately committed to the principles nonviolent civil disobedience did too—nonviolent demonstrations don’t mean letting the night-riders burn or bomb your house. When they asked Fannie Lou Hamer why her house in Sunflower County never was dynamited, her answer was
I keep a shotgun in every corner of my bedroom.)
And I think they were right to do so. So I can’t agree with Fred when he objects:
My initial, flip reaction, was — well, that’s not the lesson I would have drawn. Vigilantes make a practice of driving through your neighborhoodshooting, and you conclude that making guns more available is a good thing?
Yes, it is—because the night riders wouldn’t have any trouble getting guns even with stringent gun control laws. Stricter gun control in Bombingham would have only meant fewer Black families able to defend themselves against the night riders. And what would they have done? Called the cops? Bull Connor’s cops? Condi is right to point out that what gun control means is that somebody in the government—usually the sheriff or the police commissioner—has the power to decide who can arm himself or herself and who can’t. It means that the government prohibits some substantial portion of the population from buying the weapons that they can use to defend themselves, in the expectation that they will depend on the Authorities for the protection of their lives. But for a Black woman in Bull Connor’s Birmingham, depending on the Authorities to defend your life was a sucker’s bet. Depending on Bull Connor to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous white supremacist terrorists was a sucker’s bet. And the fact is that, for all the progress we’ve made, it’s still far from clear that relying on the cops is a good bet for Black people—or for that matter, for women, for Muslims, for any number of people who have historically had the boots on their necks (see, for example, GT 2004-11-14, GT 2002-02-13, GT 2001-10-25, GT 2001-04-21, and GT 2001-04-04).
You might be inclined to say: look, Jim Crow is over; things got better, and they still can get better. (I think this is the take that Fred’s suggesting when he says
for Rice, the deeper lesson of growing up in Birmingham in the early 60s was that government is fundamentally corrupt and untrustworthy.) Yes, gun control now wouldn’t be as bad as it would have been in Bull Connor’s day. But it will still be bad. The answer is not to throw the wankers out and find the right people to head up the gun control regime in their place. There’s a strong historical argument against that suggestion: the first gun control legislation in American history were laws to ban free blacks from owning guns in the South; later efforts were driven by fear-mongering against the alleged criminal (or revolutionary) tendencies of labor leaders, Slavic and Italian immigrants, and urban Blacks. And I can’t see any good reason to set the history of gun control aside when we consider what it means for real people in the present world.
Even setting the historical arguments, though, I still can’t find a good reason to trust the
right people to manage a gun control regime. In fact, I’d argue that there aren’t any right people to find: the power to disarm a whole class of people is inevitably a corrosive power. There is no way to do it without creating a class of people who are completely dependent on the ruling class and their agents for the defense of their very lives and livelihoods: that’s what gun control means. As Leftists—opponents of unjust and arbitrary power—it should be very troubling to those of us on the Left when the powerful have all the weapons and the people over whom they have power have none to defend themselves. That’s absolute power, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. You see it today in the professional paramilitary police forces that occupy most major cities today; and it’s important to see how it’s a power that can’t help but corrupt any class that seizes it.