Seriously. Spoilers ahead. Stop reading if you have not seen the movie.
“Solo: A Stars Wars Story1,” tells us about the iconic Han Solo’s life before we all met him in a Mos Eisley cantina in “A New Hope.” “Solo” opens with a young adult Han on his home planet of Corellia. He is Dickensian orphan under the thumb2 of the gangster Fagin . . . errr . . . I mean, Lady Proxima and her organization. Han is already brash and reckless. He and his girlfriend, Qi’ra, dream of getting off the planet and breaking the bondage of what amounts to slavery. In their attempt at escape, they are separated.
Three years later, they reunite. Both are involved, to different degrees, with Crimson Dawn, a crime syndicate. Crimson Dawn has a tentative peace with the Pyke Syndicate, another competing group of space gangsters. Crimson Dawn makes a lot of money stealing coaxium, a powerful and explosive fuel source. A competing group known as the Cloud Riders keeps trying to thwart these heists and take the coaxium for themselves.
We eventually learn that the Cloud Riders, led by Enfys Nest, are actually fighting the Empire. Enfys, we discover after she takes off her Road Warrior headgear, is a teenage girl.3 She leads a group of people4 who have come from worlds devastated by the evil Empire.
Crimson Dawn works with the Empire, selling them the coaxium. Crimson Dawn is, therefore, working with the government. One can imagine the Pyke Syndicate has a similar relationship with the Empire. The gangsters are merely agents of the state.
And what do we know of the Empire? How did it come to power? It came to power through violence and deception and fear. How do criminal gangs come to power? The same way.
So what’s the difference?
I will leave that to you.