The Left’s Case for Arms

That rifle on the wall of the labourer’s cottage or working class flat is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.

George Orwell

Those who think access to psychoactive drugs is a matter of personal liberty are almost always opposed to the right to own a gun; and those who consider the right to bear arms inalienable are often entirety against the freedom to possess or take drugs. This is a strange state of affairs.

The dichotomy is laid bare nicely in a debate between Will Self – pro-drugs, anti-guns – and Peter Hitchens – anti-drugs, pro-guns. It is worth watching should you find the time.

Along with many leftists, Self believes the government has no legitimacy regulating who takes this or that substance. You are, as a citizen of sane mind, better placed to decide if you should get steamed, high, shitfaced, bombed or cunted, than all the civil servants in Whitehall.

Firearms, however? Good grief no, they’re dangerous, scary, and more than a bit vulgar (i.e. American). Best to leave those weapons in the hands of the State, and only there.

There is a tradition on their Left that’s largely been forgotten. One based upon faith in the citizenry, and contempt of the State. It holds that the people have a right and duty to protect themselves from oppression, namely: overbearing and tyrannical governments. The only surefire way to do that is with weaponary. In its way, the right to bear arms is the best guarantor of all other rights. Bronterre O’Brien, during the early, volatile days of the Chartist movement:

What course then, do we advise? Our advice is that you rigidly obey the law; but at the same time be prepared to make your oppressors likewise obey it. Be upon your guard against spies or madmen, who would urge you to illegal practices, but at the same time bear in mind that you have the same right to arm that your enemies have, and that if you abandon that right your liberties are gone for ever

The best way to motivate elites into doing the right thing, history has taught, has been the majority’s ability to project a threat of violence. This was true in O’Brien’s day, when the working class demanded their rights; and when Orwell was writing – when that same constituent was required to defend those rights in the face of fascism.

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