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own staff. I can’t even believe Ronnie would seriously maintain otherwise, yet he does in his recent column. On the more difficult issue of violence, it seems to me that Ronnie’s almost obsessive distrust of Reavis led him to reassess my own position about violence and political change. When I interviewed for the job, I had shown Ronnie a manuscript of a novel nam Era characters avenging their outrage through a series of assassinations of politicians they believed to have been war criminals. Let me reiterate that this was fiction. While I was editor, it is true, I veered to the Left politically. Who wouldn’t, trying to make sense of the vicious outrages being perpetrated on the people of Texas? The noxious campaign of 1980 darkened my mood and I wrote a column, “If Six Were Nine,” in which I speculated on the cloud of racism, war, etc. that I saw coming. I also dismissed the political races of that year, state and national, including those between Jim Wright and Jim Bradshaw, between Carter and Reagan, with this phrase: “It makes no difference. A difference that makes no difference is no difference.” Ronnie, having finally seen the light himself, trying to start a third party, cites this column as one of the factors in his decision. But then I looked like a Bolshevik. Apostasy from the system further indicated my dangerous theoretical tendencies. Then I hired Dick, and that was the last straw. I told Ronnie then that I thought his position on violence was oddly drawn and didn’t seem like a real renunciation of political violence in general. He insisted on limiting the refusal to the “domestic” setting, i.e., within the United States. To me, that implies that only people in the U.S. who suffer the violence of the national security state have to promise never to strike back. By that I mean striking workers beaten by cops and “security guards,” minorities assaulted night and day by the police, immigrants harried and murdered along the police-state border, laborers whose occupations are filled with ongoing, daily job dangers caused by what the unions have long called the “silent violence” of the workplace. None of them dare raise a hand in defense, if that hand carries retaliatory violence against its oppressors. I know what Gandhi said. But Gandhi ex tended his famous proscription to violence anywhere. Dugger, at that time very much a cold-war Democrat, adhered to geopolitical boundaries. Nowhere in the revised masthead credo Ronnie wanted to run in the Observer if I remained editor was the American government to renounce violence internationally, for example in the upcoming Reaganite war in Central America. He would not add that language. This was a telling, and to me, damning distinction. While Ronnie thinks he would be a “coward” not to make it, it seems to me here he has become pompous, even smug, insisting on lecturing us on a difference, if I may suggest this again, where there is none. I don’t want to get into an extended discussion about violence/nonviolence. As I told Ronnie then and still believe, nonviolence is a strategic goal that I in fact do strongly endorse. I am not a violent person, though I did once wear a military uniform and learned violent ways. I admire Dr. King’s movement and believe nonviolence was a successful strategy in the South. Today I live in Birmingham and see the long-term results. I think nonviolence involves enormous courage, and it may truly be the best route to winning many human rights struggles. But I also believe political violence, as a last resort, has to be reserved as a right of any free people in any country, if provoked sufficiently. Hell, I think Thomas Jefferson said that. To Ronnie, my refusal to accept his new oath of fealty in the masthead, coupled with my decision, as editor, to bring on Maoist who was also a good, honest writer and dedicated journalist, threatened some identity of the Observer that Ronnie wanted to protect. Yes, he owned the publication and he had the legal right to undertake the action he chose. And he did choose. One evening shortly after I was fired, I went back to the office in that great old house on West Seventh Street, where editors, writers, and friends had come and gone freely for years, to pick up my personal effects. I couldn’t get in. Ronnie had ordered Cliff [Olofson, then the Observer business manager] to change the locks. I was stunned, even hurt. Later I realized the symbolic meaning. Rod Davis Homewood, Alabama Ronnie Dugger responds: I, too, regret the return of this old controversy, which was painful to all concerned. But obviously the letters from Dick Reavis required that I write out for Observer readers, a second time, what happened between Rod and me. I made plenty of mistakes when I was editor or publisher of the Observer, but in my opinion this was not one of them. Rod is correct in conjecturing that it was my reading his novel in manuscript that caused me to ask him, before hiring him, whether he favored the use of violence at that time to cause social change in the United States. He said no, and I hired him. At no time, in that context or in 1981 when I asked him the same question again and he replied that he could no longer answer No, was the subject under discussion self-defense against physical attack. The subject I asked him about was not self-defense, it was the use of violence to cause social change. Evidently Rod does not understand why I limited the question I asked to the United States at that time. As I said in the Observer March 5, the justifiability of the use of force to cause social change depends on the circumstances, and I was asking Rod, not about his philosophy on that subject, and not about his political ideology, but for his opinion for or against the use of violence then in the U.S. for social change. The reason for my decision to fire him was not his hiring Reavis, but the fact that by 1981 he had changed his position on that subject. I don’t recall having an intention to change the credo in the masthead, but doing that could have come up as a possible way for Rod to stay on with an understanding that he would adhere as editor to a policy of nonviolence concerning work for social change in the U.S. On a tangential matter, the Alliance for Democracy, the populist, anti-corporatism organization I’m associated with that Rod indirectly alludes to, is not a third party, and has adopted a policy statement that we are committed to nonviolence in our work for social justice. I did not then and do not now doubt Rod’s sincerity, and I continue to wish him well. APRIL 16, 1999 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23