Monopoly on Violence and the State

Any state cannot exist without a monopoly on violence,
otherwise it will fall apart from internecine warfare.
The countries at risk are Mexico, Russia and, oddly enough, the US.

The new policeman on the beat - the monopoly gang defies him!
Image by F. Opper, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The monopoly on violence is a very important aspect of life of any state, and delegating it to someone else would have catastrophic consequences.

Any state cannot exist without a monopoly on violence. Therefore, one should expect a coup d'état or collapse in the United Mexican States soon historically — within 5-10 years. In Russia it will happen even earlier, literally within 1-2 years. These countries have already failed to retain or gave up their monopoly on violence. In the US there is a constant political struggle over gun control, which is essentially a question of the state's monopoly on violence. So far, the Republicans - the opponents of any control - are winning, not realizing that with the loss of the state monopoly on violence they risk to lose their country.

Mexico has shared its monopoly on violence with the drug cartels and now has a civil war on its territory.

In Mexico, gangster clans have been at war for years to control the flow of drugs to the rich American market from South America, and many civilians have been killed in the shootouts. I've written before on this subject in some detail.

Specifically, in October 2019, Mexican authorities captured the son of a drug lord El Chapo, but the Sinaloa cartel fighters freed him in a real 1-day war using military-grade machine guns and armored vehicles. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador acknowledged then that security forces went to capture the guy on a judge's order. Mexico's Security Cabinet eventually suspended the operation "to protect the lives of the people”.
The drug cartel won the battle against the state. This is the loss of the state's monopoly on violence.

Almost nothing has changed since then in Mexico - shootouts, cars set on fire, bodies lying in the street. It's even worse - the drug mafia is after cops, too. More than 400 police officers were killed in 2021.
There is a real war going on in a large democratic country that the world has already stopped paying attention to.

I wrote in that article that Mexico would not exist long in its present borders, in particular, because it lost its monopoly on violence. This prediction has not yet come true, but it will. The states die longer than people. It doesn’t matter that technically Mexico as the state still exists. The country has come to a standstill and the only way is falling apart. People are fleeing Mexico because of the threat to their lives and the government has absolutely no control over the situation. Many state officials have to be on the payroll of the drug mafia, it can't be otherwise. The country is being rotten from within. Up to 30,000 civilians die each year in gangland shootouts. It is impossible to live like this, so people are fleeing to the US and it’s understandable.
It’s understandable also that many Americans do not want to see so many Mexicans in their country. This is a problem for both countries, but it is worse for Mexico.

Putin deliberately shared some of his monopoly on violence with oligarchs because he needed that then. Now he does not, but it is too late and the internecine war is coming.

Mr. Putin let the genie out of the bottle in 2014 - he handed over some of the rights to violence on behalf of Russia to his ally and oligarch Y. Prigozhin and his private military company (PMC) Wagner.

The Wagner Group, officially known as PMC Wagner, is Russian state-funded paramilitary organization, composed of mercenaries. It was created by Mr. Prigozhin as the private army for President Putin to perform special tasks that could not be assigned to the Russian Armed Forces for political reasons. From the very beginning, PMC Wagner operated beyond the law - there was no concept of a "private military company" in Russian law, but it was very convenient for Mr. Putin.

Mr. Prigozhin's mercenaries fought in different countries of the world — Ukraine (Crimea and Donbass), Syria, Libya, Mali, Central African Republic where they solved Mr. Putin's political problems, while making money for Mr. Prigozhin. For example, Wagner Group attacked US-backed Kurds in Syria, trying to seize their oil field in February 2018. US armed forces killed around 50-100 of Wagnerites then by air strike in response. Mr. Prigozhin actually has extensive business interests outside of Russia, particularly in Africa, and the Wagner Group helps him well to serve these interests.

At first, Mr. Prigozhin refused to publicly acknowledge his connection to MPC Wagner, but in August 2022 he was already openly advertising it and recruiting fighters in PMC Wagner Center in St. Petersburg (Russia).

Mr. Prigozhin, who holds no public office, was even allowed to substitute for justice: he recruited prisoners to participate in the war in Ukraine, and promised pardon and honorable retirement on behalf of Russian state to the survivors. Members of PMC Wagner once openly executed
their former fighter, Y. Nuzhin, who had defected to Ukraine, and Mr. Prigozhin commented that: «Dog's death for the dog». Neither the General Attorney office nor the Investigation Committee of Russia opened an investigation. The spokesman of Mr. Putin, D. Peskov, when asked about the incident, answered that this was not their business.

These are the sharing of the state monopoly on violence and Mr. Putin's big mistake in managing the country.

Everything in the world has a downside.
Mr. Putin needed Wagner Group for specific tasks and everything was all right until Mr. Prigozhin gained a lot of power due to making big money and success in battlefield. He began to criticize harshly elite, military (Defense Minister S. Shoygu), special services and even hint at Mr. Putin.

Mr. Shoygu has issued an order to subordinate PMC Wagner to the Russian Ministry of Defense until July 1, i.e. Mr. Putin decided to take the Wagner Group away from Mr. Prigozhin and thus put the genie he had created back into the bottle. Losing PMC Wagner means losing money, influence and possibly life for Mr. Prigozhin, so he launched a military revolt. On June 24, his fighters seized military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don city, and the same day Mr. Prigozhin quickly moved with his 25,000-strong army to Moscow, which pretty much scared everyone, including "unyielding" Mr. Putin. After making a brief statement on June, 24 morning, Mr. Putin vanished from sight, making no further appearances during the dramatic uprising and its aftermath. Then his government announced a deal with Mr. Prigozhin, despite Mr. Putin had publicly called Mr. Prigozhin’s actions “traitorous.”

Mr. Prigozhin's mutiny at the head of the Wagner Group has become a sensation in Russia and around the world. Why? Because Mr. Putin has never looked so weak and helpless. Actually, Mr. Prigozhin was the first guy who dared openly challenge Mr. Putin's system, even though he called the top of the Russian Ministry of Defense his enemies. Mr. Putin has promoted him for some time, but could not stop his activity after.
Mr. Prigozhin is an extraordinary personality and we will hear more about him soon if Mr. Putin doesn't eliminate him quickly.

Now the conflict is frozen for some time.
Mr. Prigozhin and a part of the Wagner Group seem to be in Belarus. Mr. Putin has already begun to vilify Mr. Prigozhin personally and try to separate him from PMC Wagner, but it was too late. It is clear to everyone that Mr. Prigozhin has launched some kind of irreversible process in Russia. Mr. Prigozhin's failed mutiny has shown Mr. Putin's weakness and incompetence, the weakness and vulnerability of Russia under his leadership, and caused a great discontent among Russian elites, who, God willing, would move on to an urgent search for a successor to the Tsar Vladimir and ways to end the war.

These are the main consequences of putting the monopoly on the use of violence in Russia into private hands. There will be more troubles in Russia because there are also the personal army of the head of Chechnya, R. Kadyrov, and several smaller private armies in addition to PMC Wagner.

It's going to be a internecine war in Russia soon, and the imperialistic war in Ukraine exacerbates all the inner problems and accelerates all the processes.

Republicans in the US want to disperse the monopoly on violence among all citizens, not realizing that they are destroying their state by that.

The established culture of owning, carrying and using the firearms in the US has resulted in a death toll of Americans that is off the charts compared to all developed countries. I've written before on that subject, too. The fresh statistics is: over 21,000 of US citizens (11,946 suicides and 9,351 gun violence deaths) have died during first six months of 2023 (as of June 30, 2023) because of the use of firearms by US citizens. That's too much for the country which claims to be #1 in the world. It looks like a small (compared to a population of 333 million) civil war is quietly going on in the US.

Florida state recently has passed the law which allowed the concealed carry of firearms without a permit. It goes into effect on July 1, 2023 and I know that will just increase the number of deaths. I can't imagine how police officers can serve safely for themselves and fellow citizens when everyone has a gun. It's just Russian roulette. I think that's why police often shoots first and then asks for the documents. Maybe that's why there are so many cases of police officers using their guns and so many complaints against the police.

In addition, the preparation and election of the US president in 2024 (apparently, Trump vs. Biden) will also exacerbate the contradictions in society and we may get not a veiled, but a real civil war with a lot of deaths. Citizens will for sure defend their constitutional right to express their opinions with the help of firearms. Kari Lake, the Republican former candidate for governor of Arizona, has recently expressed the readiness to stand for Mr. Trump: “And I’m going to tell you, most of us are card-carrying members of the N.R.A.

I wonder if that is exactly what the Americans want to get from a democratic political struggle which is supposed to improve their lives?

I understand Republicans and traditions of this country. One of the favorite US heroes created in the minds of many generations of Americans by books and movies is the lonely, fair, noble, and invincible gunslinger like characters of Gary Cooper, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. All of them, by the way, were Republicans, just Clint Eastwood became a Libertarian in 2009, apparently out of desperation.

Indeed, everyone has the right to defend himself. And really it's not so much about the guns as it is about the people who use them (although we do ban cigarette advertising, for example). But…

Life has changed greatly since the colonization of the West. There were no state and laws in the new territories, so vendetta was the law. Vendetta ("an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth") has always governed mankind (and it will), even before the first states appeared around 5,000 years ago.

However, as a state strengthened and developed, it increasingly took over the function of maintaining justice among its citizens and order in the country through the monopoly on violence as the right (and necessity) to make a disobedient to submit. Guns are the instrument of violence, whether it is just or not. Strict state control of guns is necessary to maintain the state's monopoly on violence. The Republicans are wrong here.

In my article «The end of democratic state» I wrote that «… the Americans live basically safe lives». Yes, compared to Mexico. Everything is relative. Living in the US is unsafe compared to Europe, but it is still safer than living in Central and South America.

So, we live in the US, a collective and lawful state, despite Mr. Trump keeps trying to prove the opposite to the world. This means that the monopoly on violence in the US is held by a collective of citizens, represented by their elected and appointed officials, judges, law enforcement forces (the police), penitentiary service (I’m consciously omitting here the army), and… Ideally, it should be nobody else (I know, it won’t work for the US, that’s why “ideally”).
The primary function of any state is to protect its citizens from strangers (from its own citizens, too) and to maintain the order in the country. The Republicans propose to remove gun control as much as possible and allow the citizens to arm and defend themselves, thus breaking the state's monopoly on violence. It appears that they do not realize that if they succeed, the US will simply cease to exist as a state, like it will happen soon in Russia and Mexico.

If citizens protect themselves and their families on their own - there is no need for police, courts, prisons, and, in general, the state itself.
Why pay taxes if it's every man for himself?
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