Okay, let’s turn to the word ‘communist’. For many in Britain (and many more in the United States) it is a scare word. As a result many on the anti-capitalist left prefer to talk of ‘democracy’ (prefacing the word with ‘radical’ ‘direct’ or economic’ so as to distinguish it from its ‘liberal’ variant). Why should we talk of a ‘communist’ horizon?
Because ‘communist’ is the one word we have that signals anti-capitalism more than anything else. Really, when the anti-capitalist left uses the word 'democracy' they are signalling their own accommodation with capitalism. They aren't really anti-capitalist at all. They usually want capitalism with a human face, with a little bit less exploitation and immiseration. So-called radical democrats were at the forefront of jettisoning class analyses, of moving away from the economy and toward culture.
But for many, ‘communist’ also signals ‘gulags’, ‘secret police’, ‘show trials’ and so on. The current predilection of Republicans to call everything, from Obama to a single payer health system, ‘communist’ is indicative of this.
Actually, that Republicans call Obama a communist means that they are deeply threatened by anything that does not fall into lockstep with their own agenda of finance capital plus militarism. In other words, if they really thought that communism signalled 'gulag' then they wouldn't think it was attractive enough to be an actual threat in the contemporary US. Communism would be 'dead' and 'past,' 'over' and 'defeated' rather than something with emancipatory and egalitarian promise. So, I don't think that they are just repeating Cold War rhetoric. I think that they are inadvertently noting the truth of communism, its commitment to equality, to ensuring that each has access to employment, education, housing, food, and health care.