Hillary Clinton, in her recent speech on human rights, said that, along with the oppression of tyranny and torture, the “oppression of want” should be of major concern these days.
Predictably, her statement drew rounds of condemnation from the ultra-right, many of them using the Internet and right-wing talk shows to accuse her of talking like a Communist.
But in an excellent Jan. 5 Foreign Policy in Focus article titled “The New New Anti-Communism,” John Feffer drew attention to the fact that the mainstream media, via The Washington Post, has apparently seen fit to join the rabid right’s revival of the old anti-Communist crusade.
The Post complained that “Ms. Clinton’s lumping of economic and social ‘rights’ with political and social freedom was a standard doctrine of the Soviet Bloc, which used to argue at every East-West conference that human rights in Czechoslovakia were superior to those in the United States, because one provided government health care that the other lacked.”
Feffer, who pointed to neo-Nazi websites calling Clinton a commie, really took the Post to task, however, for following the ultra-right lead.
“I can just visualize Hillary Clinton and her speechwriters over at State sifting through arcane historical texts for inspiration,” Feffer wrote. “They pull a book from the shelf. It’s old and hasn’t been touched in quite a few years. Is it Marx’s Capital? Lenin’s State and Revolution? No, it’s the collected speeches of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In his famous ‘four freedoms’ speech from 1941, FDR identified ‘freedom from want’ as ‘economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants – everywhere in the world.’ Sounds a lot like ‘oppression of want’ to me.”
Outrageous, too, is the fact that the Post launched its attack on Clinton by using the existence of universal health care under socialism as an example of something that has nothing in common with democratic rights. What is the massive movement for universal health care in the United States – a movement that expresses the will and the power of the vast majority – if it is not a movement for greater “democracy?”
The Post editorial tried to imply that only in the “Soviet Bloc” would the right to health care be considered a democratic right. The Post used anti-communism as a subterfuge to hide the fact that many millions in advanced capitalist countries enjoy free, universal health care which they consider one of their most important democratic and human rights. There is no democracy for people who are dead because they lacked access to medical care.
The Post broadened its attack on Hillary Clinton by challenging the entire foreign policy emphasis of the Obama administration on economic development, which it also counterposed to “democracy.”
The editorial said that Obama, “working with friendly but unfree countries, would choose the easy route of focusing on development, while downplaying democracy.”
Here Feffer blasted the Post again. “Washington has always downplayed democracy in order to secure access to oil and cement military ties with such countries,” Feffer wrote. “Now it may (or may not) downplay democracy in order to improve the lives of ordinary people. Obviously that’s a more unpardonable sin.”
Following a year in which the ultra-right has repeatedly resuscitated the old anti-communism to sabotage first the economic stimulus programs, then the fight for health care reform and now the struggle for massive jobs programs, Feffer’s article serves as an important reminder that anti-communism is a tool that the opponents of real democracy are always willing to use. The article serves, too, as a reminder that those opponents of real democracy can and will creatively reinvent their anti-communism. Within the bounds of their new anti-communism Hillary Clinton, or anybody else for that matter, can be put on the list of “communist sympathizers.”