Introduction: The Struggle Behind Watergate

September 25, 2007

To most Americans the Watergate affair consists of the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters, its coverup, the many White House resignations, and most recently, the "battle of the tapes" which resulted in the firing of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. But a thorough analysis of the Watergate affair must go beyond these events to take into account the network of economic interests represented by the central conspirators. This issue of the NACLA-Report will focus on that network and the institutions and mechanisms through which the conspirators have operated. The activities of Nixon's and Mitchell's law firm, Stans' investment bank as well as Charles Colson's links to the military, demonstrate that Watergate was a natural outgrowth of the daily business of these institutions. Before proceeding to this discussion, how- ever, it is important to look at the political context within which the Watergate break-in and the subsequent coverup occurred. One of the most important elements in this picture is the war in Indochina with the resulting social and economic upheaval that has engulfed the country. Certainly one of the lessons of Watergate is that there are deep splits among the powerful interests which rule America today. One of the strains producing these splits has been caused by the victory of liberation movements in Indochina-- and the rise of nationalism abroad in general-and the sub- sequent policy debates over how to respond to these setbacks for U.S. hegemony. Another strain producing divisions within the ruling groups has been caused by the development of a domestic opposition to the war and to capitalism in general. There are obvious differences within ruling circles as to how to face these issues and preserve the privileges the present system affords the owners of America's wealth. The Watergate revela- tions have shown us that while many Americans on the left were despairing over their ineffectiveness and sense of power- lessness, those in power were reading the balance of forces in a much different way. The Watergate affair and Nixon's greatly weakened position are as much linked to the Indochina war as was President Johnson's political demise and George McGovern's nomi- nation. It was the anti-war sentiment which made McGovern's ascendency possible, and it was partly due to the strength of the anti-war movement that a system of bugging, surveillance, lies and coverups became the order of the day for Nixon and his aides-all under the legitimizing mantle of "national security." In a time when the established media are increasingly talking about "plots," "conspiracies," "dirty tricks" and "coverups," many Americans have become more open to reevaluating the past and have begun to question the official interpretations of other events such as the Kennedy assassi- nations, the Kent State massacre, the systematic repression of the Black Panther Party, the incursions into Laos and Cambodia, the energy crisis-the list expands daily. The recur- rence of the CIA throughout this issue of the Report is no mere coincidence, but rather a reminder of the pervasive presence of this organization and its methods in the imple- mentation of U.S. policy at home and abroad. What We Looked For in Watergate Who do the conspirators work for? The key Watergate conspirators are products of the major capitalist institutions; and thus an understanding of Watergate depends upon an analysis of those instutions and the role these men played in them. It is not surprising to discover that while in government, these men worked to protect and service the needs of major economic interests groups.* A primary link between those involved in Watergate and the corporate system was campaign financing. "Money talks" is an old American saying which Watergate has helped to illustrate. Campaign financing is necessary for a candidate's election and it provides, under capitalism, a powerful mechanism for maintaining control over those in office. In 1972, when the bipartisan business coalitiont was confronted with economic and political crises at home and abroad, it united behind Nixon and poured over $60 million into his campaign. The eight members of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP) Finance Committee and the clients of Nixon and Mitchell's law firm alone contributed over one million dollars. Investigations have shown that the Watergate operations carried out by the Nixon administration used money provided by the business community.4 By tracing the conspirators back to their economic insti- tutions, we can substantiate with concrete examples how those economic interests use public officials to carry out their policies. Whether it's Mitchell's Justice Department fixing a case for one of his law firm's clients, or Secretary of Commerce Stans relaxing pollution standards for corporations which gave large contributions, the reason these men hold public office is to service the needs of the powerful economic interests and protect them from social and political forces at home and abroad who oppose their policies. The Press: Part of the Problem Most of the U.S. press never sent its reporters to investigate the Watergate affair. That task was taken on by a few influential papers, The Washington Post, Washington Star- News, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times. While these papers dug out much of the information, they have failed to present an adequate explanation of the Watergate disclosures. -These papers are themselves large corporations, and as such, are linked to powerful economic interest groups; thus it is not in their interest to thoroughly analyze the system which produced Watergate. -The press mainly focused on the economic interests which were closest to Nixon (represented by Robert Abplanalp, Bebe Rebozo, Howard Hughes, C. Arnholdt Smith and Robert Vesco). However they do not delve into Nixon's similar illicit relationships with the more powerful established Eastern economic interests (which helps to substantiate the thesis that the investigation and prosecution of the Watergate conspir- ators grows out of a conflict between powerful economic and political interests). -The press portrays the conspirators as unique isolated individuals who made the Watergate decisions on their own rather than as men following clearly defined roles in the world of corporate/government relations. -The press has failed to draw the link between the CIA's "dirty tricks" overseas and those at home. E. Howard Hunt and the other burglars have had a long history of "dirty tricks" in Latin America, to which the press has given little coverage. -The press has also focused more attention on the lower- level operatives who were caught at the Watergate, than on the Republican and business elite who ultimately set the context for these activities and who benefit most from them. (See article on Stans, CREEP's Untold Story.) A look at Watergate also reveals how corporate interests work closely not only with the government, legal and financial institutions, but also how they interact with compromised labor officials--a relationship which has contributed to the recent upsurge of rank and file labor. One connection exam- ined in the Report is between Haldeman's and Ehrlichman's lawyer, John J. Wilson, and the deposed president of the United Mine Workers, Tony Boyle, who is presently under indictment for the murder of progressive union leader Joseph Yablonski and his family. Wilson was chairman of the National Bank of Washington which was controlled by Tony Boyle and the UMW. Further, the current Teamster leadership has chosen Charles Colson and his law firm to handle their "legal" business. The fact that Watergate surfaced and was acted upon reveals that the various U.S. ruling groups are not unified in their support of Nixon's policies. The splits developed over a variety of issues, including the ending of the war, the use of executive power, favoritism toward certain economic interests, the social service cutbacks and domestic and international economic policy. Our task, now more than ever, is to speak to the mass disillusionment and anger felt by the American people toward the political and economic institutions in this country; and to provide an explanation which shows that Watergates, while natural extensions of our present system, do not have to be tolerated. For other radical analyses of Watergate, see: - "Watergate & Indochina," Monthly Review, June, 1973. - Carl Davidson's continuing series on Watergate in the Guardian. - "Watergate" editorial by Fred Block in Socialist Revolution, May-June, 1973. - Special Watergate issue of Indochina Focal Point, Indochina Peace Campaign, 181 Pier Avenue, Santa Monica, Ca. 90405. - Peter Dale Scott, "From Dallas to Watergate: The Longest Coverup," Ramparts, November, 1973. - Kirkpatrick Sale, "The World Behind Watergate," New York Review of Books, May 3, 1973. * We use the term economic interest group to refer to the alliance of specific institutions from various sectors of the economy (banks, investment houses, insurance companies, corporate law firms, industrial corporations, media companies, etc.) which are under common control and whose activities are coordinated to meet the objectives of the controlling group. (Often a family or group of related families.) Examples of different interest groups are the Rockefellers, Morgans, Murchisons (Texas). The different institutions within each group tend to work together while competition for economic and political power tends to occur between the different groups. However, all economic interest groups are unified around a commitment to maintaining the capitalist system. Two useful books on interest group theory are: The Empire of High Finance by Victor Perlo (International Publishers, 1957), and Millionaires and Managers by S. Menshikov (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1969). t The bipartisan business coalition is composed of the major economic interest groups. Their power over the political process is exercised through the financing of campaigns and the selection of candidates and advisors. The coalition includes corporate elites affiliated with both the Republican and Democratic parties. When the candidates do not differ on important policy questions the coalition finances both of them. In the 1972 presidential campaign, Nixon received the coalition's total support. The bipartisan business coalition is discussed in greater detail in NACLA's Report: Nixon and the Election (October 1972) in an article titled "Opening the Watergate."

Tags: Watergate, Richard Nixon, capitalism, corporations, press

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