Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Hundreds attend forum on Watergate

First Published: The Guardian, May 1, 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Some 275 people turned out for the Guardian Forum on “Watergate and Fascism,” held in New York City April 19.

The event, which took place at New York University’s Tishman Auditorium, was seen by its organizers as a contribution to the nationwide buildup for the April 27 protests to throw Nixon out of office.

The main aspect of the gathering, however, was seen as part of the ideological struggle within the left. Questions posed in advance to the speakers included: “Did Watergate represent a fascist trend?” “Is a section of the ruling class playing a progressive role?” and “What are the tasks of the left in the impeachment movement?”

The speakers were Carl Davidson from the Guardian, Jerry Tung from Asian Study Group, Dave Davis from Anti-Fascist Commentator and Sara Lee Hamilton from the New American Movement.

Davidson opened up the debate and gave a detailed explanation of how Nixon’s “plumber’s squad’*had, in fact, engaged in terrorist activities against the people’s movements that he called “experiments with fascist methods.” He insisted, however, that the splits in the ruling class did not represent a progressive trend on the part of a section of the ruling class. He said the split was simply to be taken advantage of in the struggle for socialism. He ended his speech by underscoring the importance of building a new communist party.

Jerry Tung was the second speaker. He presented a summary of the growing economic crisis over the past two decades and the rising power of the third world. This represented the context for Watergate, he said, which did contain a fascist aspect. Tung stressed, however, that the present period was one in which the task of the left was mainly the ideological consolidation of the advanced workers. He hit hard at the ideology of pragmatism and how “Mussolini himself declared that he was an American pragmatist.”

Tung was followed by Dave Davis, whose views were challenged most by the other speakers and by the audience. He argued that Watergate not only represented fascism, but that the contradiction between democracy and fascism was the principal one in the U.S. As a result, he said, a section of the bourgeoisie was playing a progressive role and was to be united with in an effort to “restore bourgeois democracy.”

Sara Lee Hamilton began her remarks by stating that the New American Movement had been among the first organizations to take up the impeachment struggle. Now she stressed the importance of building it in a “multi-issue way” that included a “socialist analysis.” She offered the suggestion, however, that the left try to apply the “anti-capitalist structural reform” theory of French revisionist Andre Gorz.

The discussion that followed was lively and centered mainly around the question of the strategic aim of the united front and the tasks of party-building, particularly the struggle against “economism.”