Melodrama and Tragedy: 1974

WATERGATE fills the media. Each new day brings its sufficient evil--buggings, attempted bribery of judges, suppression of evidence, executive defiance of the Constitution, presidential lies. Not even Henry Kissinger's threats to resign can quiet the awakened American press and American people. Watergate has aroused a necessary critical spirit in this country, and that is well and good. But in the last year there have been events that touched us more intensely, events that touched us more intensely, events that live in our memories because of the heroism of their actors or the tragedy in which they ended--heroism and tragedy which the Watergate scandals, for all their absorbing melodrama, have never approached.

Remember Vietnam

WE remember the last year for the death of a great man, Salvador Allende Gossens. Allende was not the only person who died when Chile's upper classes decided that democracy couldn't extend to working people. But because Allende devoted his life to the oppressed, because he tried to see that the undernourished children of the slums of Santiago would have milk to drink, he stands for all the Chilean junta's victims. For more than three years, Chile held out a beacon of hope to the rest of the world. It seemed to prove that people could take power over the places where they worked--over their own lives, in the last analysis--without violence, without infringing on traditional liberties, without an abrupt break with the past. Now that beacon is gone.

Elsewhere in the world, beacons flickered, shot off sparks, were extinguished and flared out again. In Thailand, students struggling for democracy toppled a military dictatorship. Korean students rose in an effort to shake theirs. In Greece, the indomitable courage of students and workers undeterred by repression and torture brought down one dictator, though a more efficient one took his place. The ten-year independence struggle of Portugal's African colonies sparked revolutionary change within Europe's oldest dictatorship--change that isn't over yet, change whose unexpected depth and growth is testimony to the survival of people's love for freedom even under the most secure constraints.

Americans should take comfort and inspiration from the struggles of their sisters and brothers throughout the world. But most of all, the people of one area taught us what heroism means. For decades the people of Indochina have fought on--against Japan, against France, against the United States--for the right to live quietly in their own land. The American military had billions of dollars, thousands of tons of bombs, the most up-to-date electronic weaponry. The National Liberation Front and North Vietnam had less sophisticated weaponry and less practiced troops, but they also had a reciprocated faith in the people of their country. And they fought the United States to a standstill.


Americans should take solace in the victory of the Vietnamese people, for it grew out of values that Americans share--belief in ordinary people's intelligence, charity, and ability to make important decisions by themselves. We take no pride at all in our government's refusal to accept that victory. As long as the United States continues to prop up and pay for reactionary governments without popular support, the Indochina war will continue, and Vietnamese and Cambodians will continue to die unnecessarily. General Thieu will continue to hold and to torture tens of thousands of political prisoners. The peoples of Indochina will be unable to rebuild their war-ravaged countries, unable to enjoy the all but destroyed lands they refused to surrender to foreign invaders or their native henchmen. And as long as the United States continues to help impose totalitarian governments on people elsewhere in the world, sloganeering liberals interested only in Watergate--Nixon's much more limited, watered-down march toward totalitarianism at home--will sound like hypocrites and frauds.

Impeach Nixon

LIKE President Johnson before him, President Nixon merits impeachment for a crime so high other misdemeanors pale beside it: Waging war, for years on end, against a nation whose only crime was to struggle for freedom. It's almost comical that Nixon should also merit--and conceivably undergo--impeachment for obstructing justice in the Watergate case.

Congress should impeach President Nixon. The United States will survive even if it doesn't, and the day-to-day business of government will go on, somehow. But the democratic spirit that once made this country the hope of the world will be dealt another in the series of blows that have reduced it to its present state of crisis.

Impeachment is a serious step. In a state ruled not by a king but by an elected representative of its people, impeachment shouldn't be unthinkable, but a viable threat to any president who steps too far out of line. Thomas Jefferson said that the tree of liberty needed the nourishment of a revolution every 20 years. Jefferson was a radical and a revolutionary, to be sure, but even the most moderate believer in the democratic safeguards of the Constitution shouldn't find an impeachment once a century at all excessive.

Impeachment would raise possibilities for self-scrutiny and change in the American government in a way that nothing else has in recent years. Replacing Richard Nixon with Gerald Ford wouldn't normally represent an important change--though it might rid the presidency of the petty corruption and vindictiveness that today make it an object for laughter as well as sorrow. But an impeachment trial, with the full presumably cathartic public discussion it would inevitably entail, could help spark a rebirth of democracy and a militance about popular participation in making decisions that hasn't been seen in this country since the New Deal. Nixon is right. It is time to stop wallowing in issues of personal guilt or innocence. It's time to defend ourselves against assaults against democracy and to ensure that the fruits of that democracy are shared equally by all. By one of history's ironies, Watergate, the culmination of those assaults, offers us an opportunity to begin to move on to other issues--building a world of peace, ending racial and sexual discrimination, and redistributing wealth and power. Even the first steps--for example, fighting the inflation Nixon's economists have tried to stop by freezing wages while helping corporate profits soar--will be infinitely easier if the Watergate cancer is treated as it should be with excision.

Support the Strike

LIKE the Nixon administration, Harvard likes to ask those who can afford it least to bear inflation's burdens. This year, 36 members of the Graphics Arts International Union, with wages ranging from $110 a week for some typesetters to $240 a week for certain classes of pressmen, are striking for 10-to 14-per-cent wage increases.

The typesetters' wages are about 25 per cent below Boston rates for workers of their skill level. Most of these workers are not unionized. The printers' wages are about 20 per cent below those paid to other GAIU printers in the area. Harvard maintains that it can't afford more than a 5.5 per cent increase without forcing the University Printing Office's costs above those of commercial shops.

If Harvard can't pay competitive wages and break even at the same time, maybe it isn't running its printing office right. And it's hard to see why Harvard's workers--faced with annual cost-of-living increases considerably greater than 5.5 per cent--should pay for what John B. Butler, director of personnel, describes as the University's effort to "slow inflation."