During the House and Senate debates on the Employee Free Choice Act, some of my friends got riled up by all the right-wing nuts attacking the EFCA because the Communists support it. I got a lot of e-mail from folks disturbed by the red-baiting and anti-communism. Some were indignant, and some worried that the Communist Party’s support for the EFCA was being used to taint the legislation.

I had a different reaction. Thank you, National Association of Manufacturers. Thank you, Senators McConnell, Chambliss and Isakson. Thank you, Reps. Foxx and Brown-Waite. And thank you, Fox News. All of you blasted the EFCA by saying that the bill is supported by the Communist Party. You’ve given us great publicity and helped make it clear to millions where the Communists stand on labor issues.

The Republicans in Congress mentioned above, swelling with emotion, posed their opposition in terms of defending the sacred rights of the American worker. Who are they trying to kid? The AFL-CIO rates them all below 17 percent on their lifetime voting record for labor. And the NAM and Fox News? Give me a break! Their positions on labor are clear and long established.

Not one member of either the House or the Senate who supports the EFCA got defensive about the anti-communist attack. Even the smarter anti-labor Republicans ignored it. And most important, no one in labor freaked out. Anti-communism just ain’t what it used to be.

Anti-communism has a terrible history in our country and remains a hiding place for scoundrels — mainly anti-labor, pro-big-business scoundrels.

Let’s be clear. Disagreeing with Communist positions or ideas is not anti-communism. We have to debate, defend and explain our ideas like everyone else in a democracy. Anti-communism is attacking, fear-mongering and demonizing in order to intimidate and stop debate. In the U.S. it has mainly been used to attack labor, civil rights and other progressive movements. It’s as irrational as the bogeyman. I always liked the Fred Wright cartoon of years ago that showed a policeman beating someone on a picket line carrying a sign that reads “Anti-Communist union.” The caption has the cop saying, “I don’t care what kind of Communist you are!”

At the end of World War II, the powers that be unleashed the infamous Sen. Joe McCarthy. His main target was the new and growing CIO industrial unions. The NAM, the Chamber of Commerce and the big corporations were right in there with McCarthy. Hundreds of great labor leaders, both Communist and non-Communist, were driven out of their unions and their jobs. Everyone on the left from mildly liberal to Communist was targeted. Even some conservatives who actually believed in and defended civil liberties got the treatment.

The fear lingered on for years. While many progressives and many in labor long ago rejected anti-communism for what it really is, it wasn’t till the last few years that the AFL-CIO and some big industrial unions like the Steelworkers removed anti-communist exclusion clauses from their constitutions.

But now it’s gone beyond just tolerance and the basics of democracy. Increasingly, many in the labor movement see the real contributions and hard work that Communists bring. We hate the system — capitalism sucks! We support the workers and the people against the giant transnationals. Every picket line, every union struggle, every anti-capitalist-globalization movement, we are there. It’s kind of like the old “Ghostbusters” movie: Who you gonna call? You want get rid of ghosts call ghostbusters. You want to fight the corporations and the right wing for workers, call the Communists.

Anti-communism remains the refuge of scoundrels. Just look at how the ultra-right is able to demonize the word “liberal.” Their anti-liberal baiting is just a “kinder, gentler” form of red-baiting. It’s all about fear and being bullied. It’s all about not wanting to face real debate or to be exposed as shills for corporate and right-wing interests. Don’t want the basic right of free association for workers? Call it undemocratic and blame the Communists. Don’t want to join the rest of the industrialized world in recognizing health care as a right and making it universal and free? Call it socialized medicine — that should stop the debate.

Besides, the red-baiters in Congress have bigger fish to fry than workers’ rights. Take Sen. Saxby Chambliss. Remember, he’s the guy who demonized Max Cleland to win election in 2004 — Cleland, a triple amputee from his stint in Vietnam, was not patriotic enough. Now Chambliss has hot legislation to abolish all federal taxes and the IRS and substitute a state-by-state flat tax. In addition, he has a bill to name July “National Watermelon Month.”

Well, Communists probably don’t have much of a beef with National Watermelon Month, but yea, Saxby, we Reds do oppose your wing-nut scheme to shift all taxes off the corporations, banks and billionaires and onto the backs of working people. Typical Communists!

Scott Marshall (scott@rednet.org) is chair of the Communist Party USA’s Labor Commission.