THE TRAGIC events at Dunblane continue to reverberate. Much of the discussion by politicians and the media has focused not upon what factors in modern society create so much alienated hatred that a person is prepared to massacre innocent children, but on the means of that killing. Gun control is seen as an answer, indeed the only answer, as to how such events can be prevented from happening again.
The fact is gun control is not the answer to a sick society. Guns will always be readily available through the black market to those who want them, and in most British cities these days guns in large numbers are held by countless criminal gangs. More pointedly, they are held quite legally by the forces of the state such as the police in Britain, who regularly shoot to kill suspects (particularly if they happen to be black or Irish), and the RUC, army and other state terrorists in the Six Counties, whose murderous record is well known. The point is the gun has many roles depending who holds it. It brings to mind the following lines from "The Rifle", a poem by R.F. Magon that was published in The Syndicalist (Vol.1, No.2, February 1912):
"I am the rifle, the liberticide when I serve the masters, the emancipator weapon when I serve the slaves.... I shall exist as long as there shall exist on this earth a stupid humanity divided into two classes: the rich and the poor, those who enjoy life and those that suffer."
The Syndicalist, in which Tom Mann played a leading role, came out of the strike wave that developed before the First World War. The previous issue of the paper had contained the famous "Donít Shoot" letter that called on soldiers not to attack their fellow workers during the strikes, but to join them and win "the world for the workers". Although anonymous, the letter led to Tom Mann, along with the paperís editor and printers, and workers caught distributing the appeal, being jailed for sedition. In fact the letter had been written by a Liverpool stonemason, Fred Bower, and had originally appeared in Jim Larkinís Irish Worker (Bower had contacted Mann saying he wanted to give himself up to help those in jail, but Mann refused to let him).
This episode of the past has lost none of its significance, and nor has the poem it inspired. The gun can both oppress us and liberate us; as part of the problem it is at the same time part of the solution, which brings us back to Dunblane. The aftermath of those terrible events has seen the establishment, by some of the parents of the murdered children, of the "Snowdrop" campaign to ban ownership of weapons. Whilst the parentsí position is understandable in the circumstances, we cannot let our sympathy for their loss to mean we then agree with their campaign, particularly when their backers include a coalition of some of the most reactionary political and media forces in the country. These backers are clearly imposing their own right-wing morality and widening the issue in an attempt to mount a crusade to censure such things as "violent" films (any film with guns in it, apparently). Such a campaign serves the interests of the ruling class very well by ignoring the real rottenness of their society. The real, and only, answer is to end capitalist society, and with it the violence and alienation it breeds. In other words, liberation through socialist revolution. When the time arrives for that liberation we will, unfortunately, need to use the gun for the cause of progress and against reaction. At the same time we should again be ready to issue the call to rank-and-file soldiers: Donít Shoot!