Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Nixon and Watergate: Toughing It Out

First Published: The Commentator, No. 6, July-August 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Watergate is almost two years old. And yet Nixon is still in office.

In the beginning, the press, many Senators and Congressmen, the Senate Watergate Committee, McGovern and others played a very useful role in exposing not only Watergate, but Nixon’s attack on democracy generally. Moreover, we had been through a period in which Nixon had been conducting an ever mounting attack on democracy and the people’s liberties – from shooting down the Panthers, the Kent and Jackson State students, mass arrests, attacks on the press, on Congress, stacking the Supreme Court with reactionaries, wage controls, his law and order campaign aimed at whipping up support among white working people for the use of police power against Black and third world people, etc.

Gradually these exposures put Nixon on the defensive. After the firing of Cox, it started becoming the common opinion that Nixon would fall, whereas before that, the common opinion was that he could never fall.

But, also gradually, the liberal and Congressional opposition has become less and less bold, more divided, less inclined to deal with issues of substance, more inclined to piddle with secondary issues. Nixon’s tactics have skillfully made use of all these things – more skillfully than most would acknowledge. Worst of all, the opposition to Nixon has allowed things to drag out interminably. They completely failed to strike when the iron was hot. They are losing popular support by these tactics. The issues have become more and more clouded in the popular mind.


Now, some will admit, it is not at all so sure Nixon is coming down.

For some time now, it has been a standoff – back and forth a little, but not too much happening. True, Nixon has had to pull in his horns a little, to bide his time for a while – and the country has not gone so far to the right that we can’t even recognize it, as Mitchell promised at one point. But there has been no great era of reform ushered in either. It has been a very uneasy period of stalemate.

This is not a good thing. It gives Nixon a chance. It gives reaction a chance. The opposition is throwing away all its moral capital. It is squandering public support. It is allowing itself to be weakened and undermined. If this continues, Nixon will go over to the counter-offensive at some point. He has tried it before and failed. But, if things continue, at some point he will start succeeding, he will break out. And he will resume his reactionary offensive.

Remember this, Nixon has not done the things he has done so much in his own interests, although clearly he has amply feathered his own nest. He has conducted his attacks in the interests of the biggest banks and corporations in this country. They have profited from it. In so doing, he stepped on the toes of many lesser interests – even though still very big monied interests. It is these interests that form the basis for the liberal opposition, and part of the even not so liberal opposition. This is the reason this opposition is so unreliable, so unwilling to go in for the kill so to speak, so afraid to really rally the people behind them. They themselves are exploiters, and their devotion to democracy, even capitalist democracy is very limited.

One of the reasons for Nixon’s initial attacks on democracy and liberty were the movements of the 60’s, the anti-war movement, the civil rights and Black Liberation movements, the student movement, and others. These movements were definitely obstacles to the U.S. rulers fighting the people in Vietnam, and fighting the people here. Unfortunately, to a certain extent, the Nixon attacks on these movements succeeded.

Today, we are faced with a new issue. For many reasons, the U.S. rulers are faced with a deepening crisis, and they are trying desperately to shift this crisis onto the backs of the people. This will inevitably lead to the people fighting back. The people will inevitably strive to utilize the freedoms we have in this country to fight against the big monopolists, the big capitalists.

For this reason, it is not at all certain that the big monopolists are done with Nixon and his program. For this reason, some of the lesser interests are even more half-hearted in opposing him, since they are beginning to fear the people even more.


The unfortunate thing is that the left is very weak in this country right now, and has been unable to contend with the liberals for the leadership of the impeachment movement – which is nothing if it is not an anti-fascist movement.

The rightists in the left, the CP, are torn by their “Loyalty to Moscow,” which dictates going easy on Nixon because he favors detente, and their inclination to tail the liberals, who inconsistently oppose Nixon, but are too suspicious of detente. The ultra-leftist trend inclines in the direction of not regarding defense of bourgeois democracy as respectable for Marxist-Leninists, revolution is the only answer to fascism, and in any case considers that the fight between Nixon and his opponents is not over an issue in which Marxism-Leninism can take sides, since they’re all capitalists.

Nevertheless, it remains our opinion that the only correct tactics for the left and progressive forces today are to reach and rely on the working people, and ally with all others to the extent they are willing to fight, and as long as they are willing to fight – against the danger of fascism, against letting Nixon get away, for impeachment, for preserving and expanding the rights and liberties we have. The people will need these rights both to fight the attacks against them, and to train and educate themselves to one day do away with the capitalist system.