Rall's new book is The Anti-American Manifesto; this interview is in the CUNY [City University of New York] Graduate School Advocate.
Reluctant Revolutionary: An Interview With Ted Rall
Advocate: . . . In your new book you explicitly advocate the use of revolutionary violence. It’s hard to get any more radical than that and I can’t imagine the decision to write such a book was an easy one to make. Indeed, in conversations with friends about the book I’ve found that even the mention of revolutionary violence is almost universally greeted with disdain, shock, or disbelief. I am really interested in how you came to this decision to write the book, the events or ideas that led you to this argument, and why you felt compelled to write this book now?
Ted Rall: Well, it was a very difficult decision, from a career standpoint as well as from the standpoint of being a simple American citizen. As a student of history I am well aware of the fact that revolution is dangerous and violent and brutal and can make things worse before they make things better, so it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. I want to be very clear that even though the book is a call to arms and a call to get rid of the current government, and it does definitely defend the use of violence (I would say that there is no such thing as non-violent revolution; no radical change has ever taken place without violence or the credible threat of violence), but I think there is a tendency to sensationalize the violent aspect of the book. Most revolutionary activity is inherently non-violent actually. It’s just that violence is part of the revolutionist’s toolbox; it has to be, otherwise there is no way to credibly remove the state. The rich and the powerful don’t give up wealth and power voluntarily so you can’t fight it nonviolently without effectively tying one hand behind your back.
In terms of the decision to write the book I kind of followed a simple, logical process, which is to ask myself and many other people whether there was any possibility that this system, the Democrats and the Republicans and the corporatist capitalist system that they support, could or would address any of the really serious pressing problems that are faced by the Unites States today — whether those are income inequality or the environment and climate change, or skyrocketing deficits, or war and militarism, or healthcare — and I don’t think so.
. . . When Obama refused to be the new FDR I knew that, Obama being about the best most progressive, smartest president we were gonna get out of this system, I knew that the time had arrived to call for revolution. Now I wish that other people were doing it, I wish that I could join someone else’s movement. I don’t want to stick my neck out; it’s not fun to attract all of this heat, but no one else is doing it. There’s no Left whatsoever in the United States. All there is is wimpy liberals. So, I wrote this book in order to start a conversation. This is not revolution for dummies, this is not a how-to guide, this is not the anarchists’ cookbook. If you are picking this up looking for how to overthrow the US government buy another book; this is not that book. This is a book that creates the space to have a discussion that is just not even part of American politics. American politics occurs strictly between the Ds and the Rs. We don’t even talk about the Greens and the Libertarians, much less the possibility of getting rid of the system entirely.
Advocate: Along those same lines, how has your life changed since the publication of the book? What’s the last month been like for Ted Rall? What have you learned about America, particularly concerning the subject of this book?
TR: I guess many things did not come as a surprise. The fact that the media and the political system are so deeply entrenched and unwilling to consider actual change came as no surprise. The fact that there are many very reactionary, hateful people who defend the status quo no matter what came as no surprise either. But what did come as a surprise were the huge crowds that came out to my book signings, which indicated to me that there is a thirst for talking about these sorts of options. Many, many people have been over the system for a long time, but that conversation doesn’t take place, so I provided a forum for that kind of dialogue to happen. What I’ve learned, and it’s kind of what I suspected, is that there are a lot of people out there like me. I wouldn’t have written the book if I thought I was alone. I don’t think I’m such a unique thinker. A lot of people can look at the same set of circumstances and draw similar conclusions, and they have. So in terms of how my life has changed, I mean, it hasn’t really, except for being very, very busy doing interviews, but that’s about it.
I've always said that, despite the persistent, ignorant and usually imaginary fear of socialism and communism that runs through US history, the real danger to US democracy has always been from forces on the right. I've blathered about this ad nauseum on wmtc, no need to flog the "fascist shift" theme here. Now, events in the Middle East, the successful leftist movements transforming South America, and the sudden spark of progressive engagement emanating from Wisconsin and rippling through other states, are combining to give me new hope. These events are reminders that none of us can predict the future.
No people's movement, no matter how successful, has ever known the outcome of their struggle in advance. All we can do is keep on keepin' on.