Trump and Nixon: A lesson not learned by the U.S. left

The radical, leftist trajectory of the grassroots resistance movement of the 1960’s and early 1970’s was brought to a screeching halt as a result of “Watergate” when a coalition of right wing and liberal bourgeois political factions in Congress united to bring down Richard Nixon in 1974.

Rather than leading a mass movement against Nixon and the system, the progressive sector of society was reduced to the status of spectators watching the sanctimonious, corrupted, reactionary, elite politicians of both parties rant and rave about Nixon’s wrongdoings. Liberals could sit at home and cheer on as pro-imperialist and racist politicians (aka “elected officials”) united to topple the hated Nixon.

The radical left, those who had been in the forefront of the struggles for peace and justice, completely lost the leadership of the anti-Nixon movement.

It was the FBI, or elements from within the FBI, that brought down Nixon. Mark Felt, the number two person after J. Edgar Hoover, was the “deep throat” source for Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward whose articles led to the congressional investigation and eventual resignation of Nixon.

The FBI had its own reasons for hating Nixon. Since the FBI was then and still is the main spy agency leading the charge against socialists, progressives and Black liberation fighters, their opposition to Nixon had nothing to do with any “progressive” cause.

Today, following Trump’s firing of James Comey, the Democratic Party and scores of liberal organizations that function as its happily wagging tail are closing ranks behind their call for a special prosecutor to “protect our democracy” from the Russian menace. Suddenly, James Comey, Mr. FBI himself, appears in the stream of diatribes from the mass media and official liberalism as the martyred champion of “our democracy” and “rule of law.” Comey unexpectedly appears as the one man who could have exposed the Russian takeover of America.

We are told that Trump fired him in a Nixon-like cover-up of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — as if Comey was the one person who had the goods on Russia and Trump knew that by firing him he would silence Comey and the FBI investigation would suddenly go away. Without our White Knight, James Comey, “our beloved FBI” would not be able to do its job in this life-and-death investigation that will finally prove that it was the Russians who tipped the scales in the swing states of the Rust Belt in the direction of Trump on Election Day.

The vile hypocrisy, vapidness and base partisan politics — not to mention the obvious stupidity — of this whole affair could not be more apparent.

If Hillary Clinton had become president she would have undoubtedly fired James Comey who she blamed for her unexpected defeat in the 2016 election. Clinton could have convincingly claimed that if it were not for the Electoral College, a relic from the political institutions of slavery, she would be president after winning the popular vote by more than 3 million. But she did not do that. Instead she blamed Comey first for her defeat. The Russians came in a close second.

All of her supporters in the corporate-owned mainstream media would have supported the firing of Comey, who they have been pillorying as untrustworthy and unsuited for the position of FBI Director.

But now that Donald Trump fired Comey, the entire Democratic Party establishment and the capitalist-owned media has completely changed its tune, calling the dismissal a great travesty of democracy and justice, even a “constitutional crisis.”

Trump’s utter failure as a political leader, his narcissism, superficiality and hot-headed arrogance make him an easy target. Trump is such a fool that he actually expected the Democratic Party elites to cheer for the firing of Comey because they had all been denouncing the FBI Director. In February, the New York Times editorial board itself said “Comey, the embattled F.B.I. director, can’t be trusted to be a neutral investigator” in the FBI’s Russia proceedings.

The fact that parts of the progressive left could become the enraptured defenders of the FBI chief indicates their absolute bankruptcy. It is one more piece of evidence that the label “left” has virtually no meaning in the United States.

Comey was the number one cop in the United States. It was he who coined the derisive phrase “The Ferguson Effect,” by which he meant that the the police’s range of actions would now be limited by the remarkable Movement for Black Lives to hold police accountable for their routine executions and racist violence.

One big difference between Watergate and Russia-gate

Unlike the Russia-gate investigation, the Watergate investigation was based on an actual criminal act that Nixon and the Republicans covered up. Republican Party operatives broke into Democratic National Committee offices in June 1972 to plant recording devices.

The burglars didn’t get away in time and were arrested. It turned out their actions were part of a larger Republican Party undercover operation that was dubbed as “The Plumbers.”

The allegations that Trump colluded with the Russians, or even that the Russian government hacked the Democratic Party email servers, is not only as yet unproven — but not one single hard fact has been offered.

In fact, these allegations, for which there has been no evidence provided whatsoever so far, come originally from the FBI.

It was the FBI that told the Democratic National Committee that its email servers had been compromised by “Russian hackers.” The DNC seized on the allegation to blame the Russians for the revelations proving that they had stacked the deck against Bernie Sanders in the nomination process. Yet they repeatedly told the FBI that they would not give the agency access to their e-mail server to carry out a forensic investigation.

If the DNC was the target of a Russian hack why wouldn’t they cooperate with the FBI? And in such a serious case, presumably affecting the national security of the country, why didn’t Comey and the FBI demand that the Democratic Party cooperate? The FBI could certainly have subpoenaed that server given the grave nature of the allegation — that a major foreign power was directly attempting to manipulate the U.S. presidential election.

But the FBI instead allowed CrowdStrike, a privately owned Democratic Party-aligned cybersecurity firm, to provide the evidence that it was “the Russians” who did it. CrowdStrike is owned by Dmitri Alperovitch, who is Russian and a virulent opponent of Putin.

Shouldn’t progressives stop and think about that? It’s worthwhile to stop for a moment in the middle of this witch hunt and remember how it all started. It’s important because a witch hunt is an expression of frenzy. Without facts or evidence, those in the frenzy demand everyone accept their fundamental premise. Anyone who defies the conforming assumption becomes a witch themselves.

There are a thousand urgent reasons to fight Trump — to stand up to his racism and sexism, to defend health care coverage, stop his corporate giveaways, oppose his reckless militarism, save and expand environmental protections, stand up for immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights, among others. The beginnings of a powerful grassroots movement to do precisely that have already appeared, but the Democratic establishment now threatens to sabotage such potential by channeling the popular anger against Trump in the most reactionary, hawkish direction, and fighting Trump with special prosecutor on the basis of “national security” and “treason”.

The racist billionaire oligarchs and war-hawks that Trump has fully empowered do not come from Russia, and their war on the public sector and poor and working-class people is no Russian plot. This has been their program for decades and it won’t be reversed or overthrown by any special prosecutor, or by replacing Trump with Pence or Ryan.

The People’s Congress of Resistance initiative offers a way forward for those who want to fight the Trump regime on the basis of independent politics, to organize the people to defend their communities and interests, to offer real resistance to the Trump regime’s class war.

Nixon was gone after Watergate, but with the grassroots radical movement in rapid decline, the corporate ruling class — having disposed of the villain Nixon — launched a decades-long war that eviscerated people’s rights and living conditions. It is time to learn the lesson of Watergate.


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