Alex Jones, the ultra-right-wing radio host, has made a name for himself in recent weeks by rabidly denouncing proposed gun control legislation. He yelled at CNN interviewer Piers Morgan, but in his tirade Jones stated many historical inaccuracies.
For example, he claimed that socialist countries like the former Soviet Union outlawed guns. In reality, hunting was a national past time in the former USSR and many people owned firearms. In modern socialist Cuba many people are armed.
Another false statement made by Jones is that “Hitler outlawed guns.” A closer look at the history of Germany in the 1920s and 30s shows not only the inaccuracy of this statement, but a clear historical lesson about the nature of the capitalist state that is highly relevant in the current debate about gun control in the aftermath of the horrendous shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The Red Front Fighters League
In the 1920s and 30s, there was extreme poverty in Germany after it lost World War I, and it was forced to pay massive reparations to Britain and France. German workers were unemployed and suffering immensely, even before the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929.
In response to this poverty and suffering, the German working class fought back. They formed militant unions and unemployed councils. In his book “Unemployed Struggles,” British communist Wal Hannington tells of visiting Germany in the 1920s. He described how unemployed workers poured into downtown Berlin, smashing store windows and distributing the food inside. The police who attempted to stop the unemployed workers from seizing food were then met with gunfire from the rooftops of nearby buildings.
Who did the shooting to defend unemployed workers who seized food for themselves and their families? It was the Red Front Fighters League. This was an organization, led by the German Communist Party, that carried guns and trained its members in firearm use. Much like the Deacons for Defense or the Black Panther Party decades later in the United States, the RFFL was an organization of progressive people who used firearms to fight injustice.
On May 1, 1929, the German Communist Party called for a peaceful parade on International Worker’s Day. During the parade, the police opened fire on the peaceful crowd. The RFFL responded to the police violence, shooting back in self-defense. For the next several days, Berlin was the site of a massive working-class uprising. Barricades went up and communists led armed battles with the police.
The capitalist press blamed the violence following the May Day parade on the communists. The Red Front Fighters League was outlawed, and a ban on firearms was put into effect.
Nazis kept their guns
Another political party also existed in Germany at that time and used guns to further its aims. It was called the Nazi Party. Armed bands of Nazis, called “Stormtroopers,” openly carried guns as they terrorized and shot people while preaching extreme racism and anti-Semitism.
While the German government actively disarmed the communists, the Nazis continued to stockpile weapons and terrorize people. Among the ranks of the Nazis were many military and police officers.
In 1933, the Nazi Party took power. The communists and social democrats could have formed a united front to defeat Hitler, but did not do so. Guns had already been outlawed, and Hitler assumed power without a single shot being fired. The Weimar Republic’s ban on guns did not stop Nazi terror. It merely hindered the people’s ability to fight back.
When the Nazis took power, they outlawed trade unions, the Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and all other progressive organizations. The Nazi regime rounded up Protestant ministers, pacifists and educators who publicly denounced them; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people; those with disabilities; and millions of Jewish people, exterminating 12 million people in gas chambers and through forced labor, starvation and rampant disease.
Capitalists won’t disarm fascists
The lesson to be learned is this: Capitalist governments will not disarm fascists. This has always been the case, as Sam Marcy, founder of Workers World Party, documented in his book “The Klan and the Government: Foes or Allies?”
Racist murderers are usually on friendly terms with the police. In Greensboro, N.C., the Ku Klux Klan worked hand in hand with the FBI to assassinate leaders of the Communist Workers Party in 1979. More recently, Hal Turner, the neo-Nazi radio host, received thousands of dollars from the FBI while threatening the life of progressive Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.
Gun laws in the U.S. have mainly been used to disarm formerly enslaved people. The first gun law was passed in Louisiana in 1751 as part of the racist French “Black Codes.” (“The Racist Roots of Gun Control,” firearmsandliberty.com) In New York City, gun control now takes the form of stop-and-frisk in which Black and Latino/a youth are frequently profiled and searched without justifiable cause by the cops.
The recent wave of mass shootings reveals how U.S. society is loaded with racism, economic instability and violence. In such a society horrific acts of merciless violence can and do occur frequently. However, we should not be fooled into trusting the Wall-Street-run capitalist state to protect working-class and oppressed people. It never has.