Redneck Revolt is an armed left-wing organization that has come to prominence in their opposition towards the alt-right. Founded in Kansas in 2016, Redneck Revolt now operates predominantly in rural working-class areas across the USA. Members ascribe to a range of anti-capitalist, anti-fascist, pro-gun rights, and libertarian socialist views. The group’s activities consist of protests, firearms training, and mutual aid. Redneck Revolt is an offshoot and a sister organization of the John Brown Gun Club (JBGC). Members train with and openly carry firearms.
History & Foundations
Redneck Revolt formed in 2016 as an offshoot of the JBGC. The JBGC itself was founded around 2004 and holds similar positions to Redneck Revolt. It was active in anti-government protests throughout the early 2000s as an alternative to the right-wing militias arising at the time, such as the Minutemen (1). Its namesake, John Brown, was a 19th century abolitionist who took up arms to prevent Kansas from becoming a slave state and attempted to start an armed slave revolt, for which he was arrested and executed (2). JBGC chapters remain active across the USA and John Brown remains a large ideological influence on both Redneck Revolt and the JBGC.
In 2016, after a hiatus, the JBGC reformed nationally and Redneck Revolt was established as a sister organisation. The group set its sights on the growing alt-right, and it began counter-protesting various right-wing events, such as the Unite the Right and numerous Donald Trump rallies, as well as groups like the Klu Klux Klan and other white supremacist organizations (3). Redneck Revolt has come into major legal trouble several times because of its choice to openly carry firearms. It was named in a 2017 lawsuit brought against militant groups involved in the Unite the Right rally, for which it had to sign a decree banning them from organizing in Charlottesville (4).
Objectives and Ideology
Redneck Revolt holds various far-left, socialist, libertarian, pro-gun rights, and anti-fascist views. Its primary goals are to fight white supremacists, provide mutual aid, and organize armed resistance. It believes that direct action and armed resistance is necessary to achieve its objectives. The organization is not ideologically strict, as it chooses to outline only a broad set of principles and members hold a variety of leftist beliefs (5). However, Redneck Revolt defines itself culturally instead -- it argues that America’s white working class has been exploited by capitalism and the state, and thus has more in common with other oppressed groups than white elites. The group’s use of “redneck” refers to this background; the phrase having originated from the sunburns on the backs of poor white southern farmers’ necks from work. It also seeks to reclaim a word which they perceive has been used to demean working-class whites and turn it into a term of cultural pride.
During the Coal Wars, a series of late 19th and early 20th century labour conflicts, striking workers came to be known as ‘rednecks’. Members wear red bandanas like those worn by workers during the Battle of Blair Mountain, a strike-turned-battle during the Coal Wars (5). Redneck Revolt takes political inspiration from such labour movements, along with groups like the Black Panthers and the Young Patriots (3). Although the group is primarily focused on organizing in rural white areas, it holds anti-racist positions and many members are people of colour (5).
Capabilities & Approach to Resistance
The group advocates for gun ownership as a means of personal defence. Firearms training programs are organized by the group and members are armed during demonstrations. However, it does not actively call for or engage in insurrectionary violence, nor does it have a plan for revolution. Its arms training centers on defense and safety, as firearms serve a largely symbolic purpose (3). Besides direct action, the group organizes mutual aid programs for local communities, like food and clothing drives, first aid training, and harm reduction services (6). Despite their ideological, structural, and strategic similarities, Redneck Revolt distinguishes itself from many anti-fascist groups in its choice not to cover their faces. The group claims that remaining anonymous would go against its goals. It also chooses to organize in many typically right-wing spaces, such as gun shows, county fairs and rodeos, motorsports events, and country concerts (8).
Since Redneck Revolt and the JBGC are decentralized, it is unclear exactly how many chapters exist. However, as of 2018, there were approximately 45 active chapters in the United States (6). The group is horizontally organized and has no leaders. It does not actively organize revolutionary activities and focuses instead on what it perceives to be more immediate issues, such as poverty and racism (5). Because the group unites on a regional cultural identity, it has not and is unlikely to expand internationally.
Alliances & Relations
Redneck Revolt has demonstrated alongside a wide range of groups, including anti-fascists, Black Lives Matter, and even Juggalos (3). Its libertarian ethos and working-class background has given the group an appeal to right-wing individuals and members include former republicans and 3 Percenters (7). Because of its unique identity and ideology, the group has attracted plenty of media attention. During the presidency of Donald Trump, Redneck Revolt often found itself caught in the media crossfire while counter-protesting at right-wing rallies, such as in Charlottesville. It has chosen to be generally open towards the media and offer interviews in order to spread their message.
Works Cited (Chicago-style)
(1) - Counter Extremism Project (2022). John Brown Gun Club. https://www.counterextremism.com/supremacy/john-brown-gun-club
(2) - De Witt, R. M. (1859). The Life, Trial, and Execution of Captain John Brown. https://archive.org/details/lifetrialandexe00cogoog/page/n6/mode/2up
(3) - Watt, C. S. (2017, 11 July). Redneck Revolt: the group that wants to stamp out fascism. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/11/redneck-revolt-guns-anti-racism-fascism-far-left
(4) - Arria, M. (2018, 29 April). Why Is Charlottesville Suing Two Anti-Racist Groups Over Last Year’s Violent “Unite the Right” Rally? Truthout. https://truthout.org/articles/why-is-charlottesville-suing-two-anti-racist-groups-over-last-years-violent-unite-the-right-rally/
(5) - Redneck Revolt (n.d.). Principles/About. https://www.redneckrevolt.org/principles
(6) - Maza, C. (2017, 27 December). What Is Redneck Revolt? These Left-wing Activists Protect Minorities With Guns. Newsweek. https://www.newsweek.com/redneck-revolt-left-wing-activists-protect-minorities-guns-760923
(7) - Bray, M. (2017). Antifa: The Antifascist Handbook. Melville House Publishing. https://files.libcom.org/files/Antifa,%20The%20Anti-Fascist%20Handbook.pdf