NEW YORK — Liberal politicians and media pundits from the editors of the New York Times to former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens are using the killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and supposed concern for the youth there to target the Constitution’s Second Amendment and the rights of working people.
Hundreds of thousands took to the streets coast to coast March 24 in what they called a March for Our Lives. The well-financed marches were promoted by Democratic Party politicians and liberal celebrities, with an unprecedented volume of unpaid publicity by media bosses. Some see this as the issue to use to defeat Republican candidates in the upcoming elections and get at President Donald Trump. Others see the working class as dangerous “deplorables” who must be disarmed and restrained.
It comes at a time when workers increasingly see the need to rebuild the labor movement and fight the tyranny of capitalist class rule.
March organizers demanded a ban on semi-automatic weapons, raising the age limit for buying guns, stricter background checks for gun purchases and other restrictions and regulations on gun ownership.
Former Justice Stevens says the Second Amendment is a long outdated relic that should be repealed. This, he says, would “eliminate the only legal rule that protects sellers of firearms in the United States.”
The protests were answered by some rightist forces. These deadly opponents of the working class also anticipate growing class combat and are interested in protecting their guns accordingly.
The debate takes place as working people are engaged in strikes and labor protests in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky and elsewhere, drawing attention and solidarity from workers everywhere, and beginning to point a way forward for the labor movement.
In this context, our political rights are crucial.
Restrict rights, more armed cops
On the eve of the march, school district officials in Broward County, Florida, announced that starting in April Parkland students will be allowed to use only see-through backpacks and must wear identification badges at all times. And they are planning to install metal detectors. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is sending eight armed state cops to guard the school. And from now on the district will station at least one armed cop at every school there.
Similar measures are being taken around the country. So the call for restrictions and regulations on the right to bear arms are coupled with moves to increase the presence of armed cops, in the schools and on the streets.
“That’s an invasion of privacy,” New York high school student Felix Rodriguez told the Militant at the march here when he heard about the clear backpacks.
Importance of Second Amendment
Like Stevens, some march participants carried signs saying, “Repeal the Second Amendment.” The amendment says, “The right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
It was enacted because of popular pressure as part of the fight for the Bill of Rights — a series of defense measures against the interference of the government with the rights and struggles of workers and farmers by the newly created U.S. government. Taken together with bars against government attacks on free speech, free exercise of religion, the right to protest, against unreasonable search and seizure, against being forced to testify against yourself, for the right to a speedy trial and not to be deprived of life, liberty and property without due process of law, these protections are crucially important to the working class today and its ability to fight.
No working-class voice
Absent from the debate in bourgeois politics over “gun control” is a working-class point of view.
With the exception of the Socialist Workers Party virtually every organization in the U.S. that calls itself socialist — including the Communist Party, Workers World Party, International Socialist Organization, Socialist Alternative and others — has caved into the pressure from the liberal left and embraced the protests as a road forward.
Mass shootings like in Parkland, gang violence and crime are not new. They’re not products of the existence of guns. They are products of the dog-eat-dog morality and violence of the workings of capitalism, exacerbated today by the crisis of capitalism and its effects on working people — from drug addiction to crime. Capitalism’s anti-working-class culture of “look out for number one” and “step on anyone who gets in your way” breeds anti-social violence.
The biggest threat to working people today is the violence of the propertied rulers — deaths and maiming on the job, premature deaths from their refusal of medical care, cop brutality, the U.S. rulers’ bloody wars to defend their imperialist interests abroad.
“Graft and crime and extortions and rackets are the symptomatic products of a diseased social system and its false values,” James P. Cannon, one of the founders of the Socialist Workers Party and its first national secretary, wrote in 1951. “These dark and evil symptoms can’t be eliminated, or even seriously curbed, until they are tackled at the source. A party that says this … is not excusing crime and criminals or evading the issue; it is, rather, dealing with the issue realistically and fundamentally.”
As the class struggle heats up, the rulers will be more and more interested in curtailing our rights and at the same time assuring that their cops and rightist goons are armed to the teeth. The stakes for the working class — and most everyone else — are huge.
We can push back anti-social violence of every description in only one way — with working people in their millions standing up and fighting for better working conditions, against police brutality, for women’s rights, against imperialism’s wars around the world. A byproduct of young people and others having something to fight for, of seeing solidarity in action, will be a decline in crime and in senseless acts of violence.
This can only be made permanent through a social revolution, where the working class takes political and economic power out of the hands of the capitalist class once and for all, transforming ourselves in the process, and joins the worldwide fight for socialism.