The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Nixon, Ford and Watergate:
Dumping the man to save the system

Jan 8, 2007

When Gerald Ford died at the end of December, a lot of noise was made about how he had “healed the nation” and “saved the system.” And that’s exactly what he did: he and Watergate saved the system, so the ruling class could continue to use it against us.

Looking back today, it can seem strange that a president was ousted over a “two-bit burglary” and an attempt to bug the opposition party’s campaign office, since politics is filled with such dirty tricks. But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Because of the movements and rebellions that had grown and exploded in the 1960s, the political system of the country was increasingly unstable and an atmosphere of distrust in that system was growing. As Nixon’s presidency continued, more and more facts were revealed that, in another time, would have remained hidden. Among them: a number of illegal buggings of political enemies and assassinations of activists; a secret fund to be used against the Democratic party; illegal deals for clemency in return for silence on Nixon’s involvement; and millions of dollars in illegal campaign contributions from the largest corporations in the country.

In addition, the My Lai massacre and the carpet bombing of Cambodia finally made it into the news, years after the fact.

In a few short years, the government was shown to be what it is – run by thugs and hoodlums and willing to kill anyone to keep a lid on an out-of-control war in Vietnam and social movements at home.

Of course, this was no different from how the government operates in other periods. But because of the movements and rebellions, those who knew about it had the courage to bring it out into the open.

To the American capitalist class, the situation was so volatile that Nixon and his cronies had to go. First his vice president, Spiro Agnew, was indicted on bribery charges and resigned. Then, the Watergate hearings got into full swing.

Though a number of other illegal activities were revealed at the time, the Senate hearing – and the media covering it – focused almost exclusively on the Watergate break-in and the cover-up after it. Focusing on one small crime was used to cover up the many much larger crimes and atrocities.

Nixon was urged to resign, instead of “dragging the country through impeachment proceedings.” And when he did resign, everyone in Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, breathed a sigh of relief – and so did the entire ruling class standing behind them.

Into his place stepped Gerald Ford – a little-known congressman who could be painted as having nothing to do with all the corruption that had gone before him. The image was pumped up of the bumbling, nice-guy, scrupulously honest man from mid-America. The message: Someone the public could trust was now in charge.

But the government Ford headed continued to do the same things, and carry out the same policies, that it had done under Nixon – sometimes with the same people. Henry Kissinger stayed on as Secretary of State, presiding over the continued destruction of Vietnam – only now, the new face of Ford could provide the final withdrawal and admission of defeat there.

And, of course, one of the first things Ford did was to pardon Nixon – guaranteeing that those hearings and trials would go no further.

By removing a man who had become the face of all the corruption and evil in the system and replacing him with a different face, the rulers of this society made sure that nothing fundamental was challenged in the American system and that all of the same policies could continue, both here and around the globe.

Everything we’ve seen in the last six years is the living proof that the same system is still functioning in the same way.