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"All I know is I’m not a Marxist."
               Karl Marx

"Libertarians are a monstrous, disgusting bunch of people."
               Ayn Rand

Late in their lives, both Karl Marx and Ayn Rand bristled at the movements that advanced their ideas. The ideologies that they had spawned from ideal representations in their minds had become real actors in the world, driven by the principles they set down yet unpenned and autonomous of their architects. Purity of vision had been compromised by its implementation. If mere implementation brought about unsupportable consequences, then it must be due to the failings of the faithful and not to the faulty logic of its founders. And when that transformation confronted the ideological champion of unrestrained capitalism, Ayn Rand felt a peculiar resonance with the father of all-consuming communism, Karl Marx.

"Anyone using that name [Objectivism] for some philosophical hodgepodge of his own, without my knowledge or consent, is guilty of the fraudulent presumption of trying to put thoughts into my brain... This made me feel a little bit of sympathy for Karl Marx who, on being told about some outrageous statements made by some Marxists, answered: 'But I am not a Marxist.'" Ayn Rand, Introduction to the first issue of Harry Binswanger’s The Objectivist Forum, Feb, 1980

It was from this position as the prophet victimized by her own pennon-streaming disciples that Rand expressed a closer kinship with Marxists than with Libertarians whom she regarded as "scum."

"All kinds of people today call themselves ‘libertarians,’ especially something calling itself the New Right, which consists of hippies, except that they’re anarchists instead of collectivists... They sling slogans and try to ride on two bandwagons. They want to be hippies, but don’t want to preach collectivism, because those jobs are already taken. But anarchism is a logical outgrowth of the anti-intellectual side of collectivism. I could deal with a Marxist with a greater chance of reaching some kind of understanding, and with much greater respect." Ayn Rand, The Moratorium on Brains, 1971

For Rand to look into the mirror and see a superposition of Karl Marx is remarkable given her full-throated revulsion to Marxism and professed love of all things capitalist. Perhaps it was a decades-long slip. But, more likely it was an admission, not by a Marxist but by a mimic. To reach the same endpoint points to something deeper in the trajectory of Marx and Rand, a strange attractor that appears entangled from the start.

Indeed, in a side-by-side analysis of direct quotes from Rand and the Marxist trinity of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Vladimir Lenin it is surprisingly difficult to distinguish between them. Their goals, aspirations, methods, and rationales seem cut from the same cloth. Witness:

"There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience. A scoundrel may be of use to us just because he is a scoundrel." Vladimir Lenin

"Why do they always teach us that it’s easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It’s the hardest thing in the world – to do what we really want. And it takes the greatest kind of courage. I mean what we really want." Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

Machiavellian extremism in pursuit of one’s ends was a hallmark of the Marxists just as it has become among the inheritors of Rand’s ideas in the current American Right. Like the Marxists, Rand both espoused its use on one hand against those she despised and decried it on the other when she or her ilk might be its victims. The key to understanding this parallel paradox is that both Rand and the Marxists conceived of reality in terms of a central organism. This primary organism would provide the frame for understanding the world as it ought to be in the structure of human affairs.

Marx designated the central organism as the collective unit. Rand simply cribbed Marx’s approach and shifted the location of the center to the singular unit. It is from this slight frame shift of the collective organism to the singular organism that everything else follows. The justifying arguments are the same; the difference only being one of scale. The Marxist collective itself is an analogue of the single self, a collective acting as a single unit in pursuit of its own ends, much like a colony of ants or bees or naked mole-rats can be perceived as a single super-organism. This organismic view of reality results in two ideologies that seem composed of opposing arguments on the surface but parallel each other beneath the pitch and roll.

Consider that all biological organisms in their environment, be they singular or collective, advance with the same need for survival, the same need for domination, the same need to proliferate. Ideologies reconfigure the biological thrust for survival and project it as a goal where their ideology is envisioned to operate free of hindrance, threat, and restraint. That goal manifests itself as the ideology’s Utopian vision, effectively a state corresponding to the organism’s open-ended survival quest (i.e. immortality). Utopia = the projected immortality of the organism.

"If we have chosen the position in life in which we can most of all work for mankind, no burdens can bow us down, because they are sacrifices for the benefit of all; then we shall experience no petty, limited, selfish joy, but our happiness will belong to millions, our deeds will live on quietly but perpetually at work, and over our ashes will be shed the hot tears of noble people." Karl Marx, letter to his father (1837)

"In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man’s proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in the lonely frustration of the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours." Ayn Rand

Like Marx, Ayn Rand was a revolutionary championing a Utopian vision (for Rand, the product of perfectly self-regulating self-interest) against the enemies of the base organism, what I term the primary center. The primary center is the all-important reference that becomes a starting point in defining world-views, philosophies, ideologies, the center of reality.

Where does one locate the chief repository of reality, the primary organizing principle that gives meaning and structure to the world? What unit are we using as our starting point? Is it the state? The clan? The community? The King? God? The collective? The self? The central unit is the reality-defining fundamental frame from which everything flows, the organization of society, the obligations, the roles and goals of aspiration, the structure of attainment as reward for supporting the ideology of the primary center, the intent of the society as expressed against both inner dissent and outer threat, and the moral justifications for actions of both individuals and state – all of which feeds into the society’s meta-narrative.

A Taxonomy of Primary Centers

SystemPrimary CenterRationale*
Monotheism**God (Church)Authoritarian derived from God
TheocracyPriesthoodAuthoritarian derived from doctrine
MonarchyKing or QueenAuthoritarian derived from Divine Right
Aristocracy***ClanAuthoritarian derived from privileged heredity
NationalismState (Dictator)Authoritarian derived from clan superiority
CommunismOrganism (collective)Intellectual-organismic (man in nature)
ObjectivismOrganism (self/mind)Intellectual-organismic (nature of mind)

*Note that rationales are generalities and that some systems will borrow and mix rationales from other systems. An Imperial clan may also assert itself as having Divine Right, for instance, and that authoritarianism is a measurable outcome of all systems derived from primary centers.
**There are many tenors of religion, playing in different registers, for the purpose of this analysis, I am using monotheism to connote the generalized assertion of western religion as being the vehicle for God’s will rather than to connote an individual’s religious experience.)
***Used to connote all forms of rule by a privileged class, i.e. Plutocracy, Oligarchy, etc.

Marx's assertion was that the primary center was the collective organism.

"Society does not consist of individuals, but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations within which these individuals stand." Karl Marx

Rand's intellect was forged in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution as an oppressed reaction against it, but tempered by the romance of revolt. Her contention was that the center belonged to the organism of the self.

"Every form of happiness is private. Our greatest moments are personal, self-motivated, not to be touched." Ayn Rand

Both Marx and Rand used an organismic argument to anchor their claims of rationality. Reality was not an emanation derived from gods or in an external source; it arose within the natural mechanism, the organism of man (whether singular or plural). The inference was that their ideologies were conferred an authenticity via the known reducible mechanism rather than by superstition or unprovable claims.

"Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence. They have no history, no development; but men, developing their material production and their material intercourse, alter, along with this their real existence, their thinking and the products of their thinking." Karl Marx, German Ideology (1845)

"The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics is: man's life -- man's survival qua man -- or that which the nature of a rational being requires for his proper survival. The Objectivist ethics, in essence, hold that man exists for his own sake, that the pursuit of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose, that he must not sacrifice himself to others, nor sacrifice others to himself." Ayn Rand

Though Rand frequently offered deranged contempt for the natural world ("Anyone over 30 years of age today, give a silent ‘Thank you’ to the nearest, grimiest, sootiest smokestacks you can find."), this is directly attributable to her attempt to counter Marx’s collectivism modeled upon the natural world. But, it wasn’t the rationale from nature at which Rand recoiled, it was its use to support a collective ideology.

Like Marx, Rand used the same argument from the biological mechanism to justify and upon which to establish the foundation of her own ideology. With the shift of the primary center from the collective to self, however, also came a shift in rationale from the natural world in which man resided to the natural world within man, e.g. the products and desires of man’s own mind. It is Marx’s argument simply framed through the lens of the self rather than the collective.

"Natural science has invaded and transformed human life all the more practically through the medium of industry; and has prepared human emancipation, although its immediate effect had to be the furthering of the dehumanization of man. Industry is the actual, historical relationship of nature, .... <The nature which develops in human history — the genesis of human society — is man’s real nature; hence nature as it develops through industry, even though in an estranged form, is true anthropological nature.>" Karl Marx

"Every man builds his world in his own image. He has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice." Ayn Rand

The result is that the mechanical construct of man’s world is declared a natural product of the organism. It is an important statement to note because by inference Rand and Marx are asserting that their ideologies reside as the logical consequence of the same process.

"A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality." Karl Marx

"From the smallest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and everything we have comes from one attribute of man - the function of his reasoning mind." Ayn Rand

Rand’s skyscrapers were the natural reflection of man’s inner mechanism just as surely as the outer natural world reflected upon Marx’s collective. For both Rand and the Marxists, the grandness of the mechanism of man supplanted the mysticism of the competition.

"I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York's skyline. Particularly when one can't see the details. Just the shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them. The sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need?" Ayn Rand

"Nature is proof of dialectics, and it must be said for modern science that it has furnished this proof with very rich materials increasingly daily; and thus has shown that, in the resort, Nature works dialectically and not metaphysically; that she does not move in the eternal oneness of a perpetually recurring circle, but goes through a real historical evolution." Friedrich Engels, Socialism: Utopian & Scientific (1880)

By establishing the primary center in the organism rather than an external or conferred idea, Marx and Rand attempt to secure their ideologies’ primacy over other centers by equating the function of the mechanism itself with logical proof. That is, mechanisms have a cause and effect input/output functionality that the argument from the mechanism mistakes for simple logic. This is the way it is because this is the way it works. (It is very much a mutation of the monotheistic boundary condition – this is the way it is because God made it that way.) No need to ask questions beyond the function because by self-definition, those questions are illogical and can have no meaning.

"Reason has always existed, but not always in a reasonable form." Karl Marx

"I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows." Ayn Rand

The claim of rationality has a two-fold objective:

  1. It establishes the claim of central primacy for the given ideology as authentic, as the reality, while simultaneously discrediting all other claims to the center as irrational and therefore false.
  1. It justifies any negative outcomes that its system produces as necessary, allowing a disconnect from empathy and therefore also of conscience from actions. The pursuit of the ideology’s Utopia can then be unhindered by negative local effects. The rationale is that the suffering or death the ideology inflicts on people is inconsequential to the big picture of history, and in fact is a necessary step to securing its goals, to aligning the world to its self-defining logic. Allowing one’s intellect to succumb to silly emotion would thereby only delay the Utopia, be it heaven or the end of the rainbow. The same justification allows an Inquisition, a Holocaust, a Jihad, a Gulag, a Libertarian wasting neglect of poverty, health care, and education, or a grandiose Neo-Libertarian think-tanking of tanks over safely unseen lives.

For the two seemingly opposed ideologies of Rand and Marx to claim reason as the wellspring would seem a contradiction. Yet it actually exposes their fundamental agreement, not on the source of the center, but on the insistence that their definition of the center provides the answer. In the narrow relation of Objectivism and Marxism, reason is perceived by both as the natural, logical product of the mechanism. In the broader sense, all ideologies produce self-defining systems of internally consistent logic as a consequence of their claim on an exclusive center. As logic is not seen to apply outside of the self-definition, ideologies must proclaim their primacy in order to be correct. All other claims (and their accompanying logic and rationales) are therefore pronounced irrational, evil, ignorant, or corrupt.

For this reason, all ideologies must defend their claim in the same authoritarian controlling way. The Nazis not only created human ovens; they burned books. In monotheism, contradictions of internal logic became heresy. Correspondingly, all Marxist states criminalize books, media, arts, and information that have the potential to seed contrary ideas. As it is in many theocracies, those in possession of banned materials or producing them are subject to persecution and imprisonment. And despite her public condemnations of the scouring censorship of other ideologies, Rand would be no different. Holding court over a cadre of students and followers, Rand would determine what information could and could not be digested by her sycophants.

In Goddess of the Market by Jennifer Burns, one of Rand’s NBI (Nathaniel Branden Institute) students recalled, "There was more than just a right kind of politics and a right kind of moral code. There was also a right kind of music, a right kind of art, a right kind of interior design, a right kind of dancing. There were wrong books which we should not buy, and right ones which we should....And on everything, absolutely everything, one was constantly being judged, just as one was expected to be judging everything around him....It was the perfect breeding ground for insecurity, fear, and paranoia." Offenders found themselves on show trial, presided over by Rand and forced to repent of their thought crimes or face excommunication.

"I am not looking for intelligent disagreement any longer.... What I am looking for is intelligent agreement." Ayn Rand (conversations with the philosopher John Hospers)

"My policy is – I don't deal with those who disagree." Ayn Rand, Phil Donahue Show

"It is true that liberty is precious; so precious that it must be carefully rationed." Vladimir Lenin

Primary center ideologies can only deal in absolutes for only their definition of the center can be admitted. To consider the possibility of a dynamic self that is embedded within numerous centers (such as conceived in the democratic-republic of the American Revolution), is to admit to the limits and potential fallacy of their singular answer.

"I can accept anything, except what seems to be the easiest for most people: the half-way, the almost, the just-about, the in-between." Ayn Rand

"What is genuine is proved in the fire, what is false we shall not miss in our ranks." Friedrich Engels

The parallel to censorship is propaganda. The ideology’s internal logic must be cleansed of contradiction on one hand and its self-narrative reinforced on the other hand. Propaganda is necessary to ingrain the right way of thinking because the self-evidentiary rationality of the ideology sometimes escapes a good chunk of the population. Its tendrils extend in all directions from the primary center – to the past in the form of historical revisionism, to the present in the form of fictional narratives, and to the future in the form of a mythologized Utopian age.

Propaganda past: Historical revisionism is a way to write the ideology into the lineage of the state it wishes to control – as if it were an embryonic promise awaiting its moment of fulfillment and therefore synonymous with the state’s founding destiny. In this way it disguises itself as original intent in order to persuade the populace to enthrone it at the seat of the primary center. Historical revisionism is the equivalent of the co-opting of a native land’s sacred places by an invading religion, building one’s temple upon the conquered shrine or absorbing its festivals and rites into the victor’s holy days. Rand was perpetually at the game of historical revisionism, guilty of trying to put thoughts into the brains of America’s founders.

"To the glory of mankind, there was, for the first and only time in history, a country of money-and I have no higher, more reverent tribute to pay to America, for this means: a country of reason, justice, freedom, production, achievement. For the first time, man's mind and money were set free, and there were no fortunes-by-conquest, but only fortunes-by-work, and instead of swordsmen and slaves, there appeared the real maker of wealth, the greatest worker, the highest type of human being-the self-made man-the American industrialist." Ayn Rand

In contrast, the Marxists dispensed with local revisionism and named themselves not the fulfillment of a nation’s destiny but of the world’s destiny.

"The entire movement of history is therefore both the actual act of creation of communism---the birth of its empirical existence---and, for its thinking consciousness, the comprehended and known movement of its becoming. Its movement---production and consumption---is the sensuous revelation of the movement of all previous production---i.e., the realization or reality of man." Karl Marx, Economic & Philosophical Manuscripts, 1844

Propaganda present: In the present, propaganda is used to create and maintain a belief system in the internal narrative and to utilize it to deflect challenges. A seedbed of intelligentsia is often used to produce authoritative thought to bubble up into the popular media, airwaves and print, and provide the rational excuse for madness in the masses. Facts are reconfigured or discarded in order to fit the preconceived narrative as this is the ideology’s only allowable reality, and the actions of detractors are assigned demonized motives as they would otherwise threaten the ideology’s self-defined reality.

"The press should be not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, but also a collective organizer of the masses." Vladimir Lenin

"Come and join us. There is so much at stake — and so little time left. Let us have an organization as strong, as sure, as enthusiastic as any the Totalitarians could hope to achieve. Let us follow our faith as consistently as they follow theirs. Let us offer the world our philosophy of life." Ayn Rand, To All Innocent Fifth Columnists, a rambling, tract-like open letter to conservative intellectuals to form an organization to dispense Objectivist thought in the media, 1941

Propaganda future: Utopian propaganda is a necessary adjuvant to both historical revisionism and narrative-structuring in the present because its end game is the catalyst for moving the masses – it instills the prescriptive goal for all the chaos, calamity, and confusion of the present age and names itself as the answer. The delivery method for the imaginal, the resolution and relief to be found in the psyche’s projected tomorrow, is the arts because the arts can play act the outcome for the populace through plays, film, music, literature, and more. Rand, of course, famously took on the task directly in her novels and plays. But, both Rand and Marx saw the arts as the tool to mythologize the internal narrative, to implant a culture of popular heroism in achieving the ideology’s Utopian ends.

"Art is always and everywhere the secret confession, and at the same time the immortal movement of its time" Karl Marx

"Romantic art is the fuel and the spark plug of a man’s soul; its task is to set a soul on fire and never let it go out." Ayn Rand

The Utopian vision represents a destination, proclaiming itself to be the remedy to a deteriorating society. The prescriptive message offers enormous appeal to the population, its message of simplicity cutting a straight path through the nebulous and uncertain complexity of the world. Its self-proclaimed antidote to society’s toil and trouble, often dovetailing its historical revisionism with segments of society who feel they have lost or been denied their rightful place of privilege, can at these times become an unstoppable force. That momentum in turn is used by the ideological leaders, puppets to prophets, to marshal their forces into the central seat. The ruthlessness of the impending scourge is seen as purification, necessary cleansing, through the ideological frame.

"The policy of Russia is changeless. Its methods, its tactics, its maneuvers may change, but the polar star of its policy, world domination, is a fixed star." Karl Marx

"The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me." Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

For both Rand and Marx, the metaphor of that metastasis was a railroad, train locked to its unyielding tracks, pistons steaming forward, undistracted, un-diverted, undiluted, toward its Utopian destination.

"Revolutions are the locomotives of history." Karl Marx

"Man's life must be a straight line of motion from goal to farther goal, each leading to the next and to a single growing sum, like the journey down the track of a railroad, from station to station." Ayn Rand

The clear certainty of course derived from internal logic drives the ideologue’s engines with an evangelistic fervor. Primary centers provide the prophets and adherents with a complete belief system that is 1) operative, i.e. structuring of society in a way that provides a role for believers to fulfill the primary center’s objectives, 2) a panacea, i.e. a corrective answer to all that is perceived to have "gone wrong" in society, and 3) projected immortality within the body of the primary center, i.e. heaven or Utopia. The totality of an ideology’s belief system fuels the religious zeal to wipe clean the slate and found the Earth anew.

"I have only one religion; the sublime in human nature. There is nothing to approach the sanctity of the highest man possible, and there is nothing that gives me the same reverent feeling, the feeling when one’s spirit wants to kneel bareheaded... do not call it hero-worship, because it is more than that. It is a kind of strange and improbable white heat, where admiration becomes religion and religion becomes philosophy and philosophy, the whole of one’s life." Ayn Rand

"Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and...the alteration of men on a mass scale is, necessary. ...a revolution; this revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew." Karl Marx, German Ideology (1845)

The primary center as the nexus through which reality is ordered and defined is conceptually synonymous with the seat of God. Monotheistic religions and theocracies explicitly construe God in these terms. For other systems, recognition of the primary center as the place of godhood becomes an implicit equation. This is most apparent when the ideology’s primary center is inevitably commanded a near mystical veneration. All manner of kings, emperors, and dictators insert themselves upon the seat of God and demand deference, platitudes, and worship. But the same is true of the organismically based ideologies of Rand and Marx – the reality structuring property of their primary centers similarly becomes a point of reverence and glorification.

"All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned ..." Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, Communist Manifesto (1848)

"And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. This god, this one word: ‘I.’" Ayn Rand, Anthem

The cult-like nature of the primary center ideologies of Rand and Marx not only involves the proclamation of godhood, but like all cults, the totalism of its their belief systems also requires a complete severance with the believer’s past. Thinking is to be replaced with adherence to the internal narrative. Empathy is to be extinguished. Commitment to the cause is to be absolute.

"The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours. But to win it requires total dedication and a total break with the world of your past, with the doctrine that man is sacrificial animal who exists for the pleasure of others." Ayn Rand

"Communism is the riddle of history solved, and it knows itself to be this solution." Karl Marx

Because Rand and Marx are supplanting the seat of godhood with the organism, it is vital that religious claims be overthrown. Outside of theocracy, religion shelters within the parameters of the state as a shadow ideology and is not confined to state boundaries. This makes religion particularly ubiquitous and dangerous to its occupant state. Supplanting ideologies must either assimilate its belief system and utilize it for their own ends or they must eradicate it. Religion is a particular threat to organismic systems because they are inherently structured on the inner mechanism in opposition to outer mysticism. The God of religion both occupies their primary center and directly undermines their internal narrative. Because of this, the idea of God and religion is declared absolutely illogical and meets with particular disdain from both Rand and Marx.

"Religion is the impotence of the human mind to deal with occurrences it cannot understand." Karl Marx

"The good, say the mystics of spirit, is God, a being whose only definition is that he is beyond man's power to conceive- a definition that invalidates man's consciousness and nullifies his concepts of existence...Man's mind, say the mystics of spirit, must be subordinated to the will of God... Man's standard of value, say the mystics of spirit, is the pleasure of God, whose standards are beyond man's power of comprehension and must be accepted on faith....The purpose of man's to become an abject zombie who serves a purpose he does not know, for reasons he is not to question." Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual

"The first requisite for the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion." Karl Marx

"Faith is the worst curse of mankind; it is the exact antithesis and enemy of thought. . . . I want to be known as the greatest champion of reason and the greatest enemy of religion." Ayn Rand

But, peculiarly, because they now declare themselves to occupy the seat of the godhood, they equate their central organism with God and proclaim it with religious zealotry. In effect, they transform their own internal narrative into a belief system for the worship of the self, singular or collective.

"If a life can have a 'theme song' -- and I believe every worthwhile one has -- mine is a religion, an obsession or a mania -- or all of these -- expressed in one word: Individualism." Ayn Rand

"Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence. They have no history, no development; but men, developing their material production and their material intercourse, alter, along with this their real existence, their thinking and the products of their thinking." Karl Marx, The German Ideology, 1845

Rand’s faithless faith and Marx’s metastasized metaphysics thus turned worship of the seat of god into an idolatry of the organism, and specifically an idolatry of the functionality of the mechanism. Machinery took on metaphysical qualities. Skyscrapers became temples to the heavens. And for Marx, the collective was to be venerated by propaganda, in essence a religious mythology of the collective.

If the people prove unable to be missionized, then they must be forcibly run over or moved out of the way. Certainty of belief necessitates that any other occupant of the primary center is anathema, "anti-life" in Rand’s terms, and demands removal. As long as the ideology is not seated at the primary center, it is not truly alive and is in danger of being still-born.

"The government is tottering. We must deal it the death blow at any cost. To delay action is the same as death." Vladimir Lenin

"There is no personal neutrality in the world today. Repeat that and scream that to yourself. In all great issues there are only two sides — and no middle. You are alive or you are dead, but you can't be ‘neither’ or ‘in between.’" Ayn Rand, To All Fifth Columnists, 1941

Forcible conversion may be the only option for survival if the ignorant masses are unable or unwilling to join the crusade.

"Communism differs from all previous movements in that it overturns the basis of all earlier relations of production and intercourse, and for the first time consciously treats all natural premises as the creatures of hitherto existing men, strips them of their natural character and subjugates them to the power of the united individuals." Karl Marx

"I loathe your ideals. I admire your methods. If one believes one’s right, one shouldn’t wait to convince millions of fools, one might as well force them. Except that I don’t know, however, whether I’d include blood in my methods." Ayn Rand, We The Living (1st edition), the character Kira is addressing Andrei, a Bolshevik

Whether bourgeoisie or beggar lay in the ideology’s path, any hint of empathy must be dismissed, lives disregarded and derogated as meaningless for the locomotive of history to barrel over them. For Marx’s collective organism, the obstacles were categorized in the form of other collectives, a class struggle. For Rand’s singular organism, the obstacles appeared in the form of other individuals.

"A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon – authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionists. Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois? Should we not, on the contrary, reproach it for not having used it freely enough?" Friedrich Engels

"If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject." Ayn Rand

It is an artifact of ideologies that as they see the world through the lens of their own self-definition, their march for dominance coalesces against others they see in the same shape of themselves. Other claims may be suppressed and marginalized, but the catalyzing foe is always the image in the mirror, the "imposters" in the shape of their own self-definition. In many ways this reaction is similar to what is described in psychology as the "uncanny valley effect," an instinctive, sometimes violent reaction against an inauthentic imposter (such as surreal manikins, human-looking robots, and deceptive aliens). Marx’s collective organism launched itself upon other collectives in terms of class struggle. Kingdoms waged relentless bloody territorial wars against other kingdoms. Monotheistic religions unleashed holy hell upon other monotheistic religions. Hitler’s hereditary Aryans sought to eliminate the chosen Jews. And Rand peered from the lens of her primary center in the self and turned her enmity toward other selves.

"To be free, a man must be free of his brothers. That is freedom. That and nothing else." Ayn Rand, Anthem

"We will turn our hearts into steel, which we will temper in the fire of suffering and the blood of fighters for freedom. We will make our hearts cruel, hard, and immovable, so that no mercy will enter them, and so that they will not quiver at the sight of a sea of enemy blood." Vladimir Lenin, 1 September 1918 edition of the Bolshevik newspaper, Krasnaya Gazeta

Belief in the infallible rightness of the ideology’s internal logic, proclaimed as rationality, allows for empathic disconnect and makes possible both Marx’s revolution of elimination as well as Rand’s bloodless yet blind withering of others unworthy or unfortunate. But when we disconnect logic from wider frames of knowledge that are informed by emotion and empathy, we shutter out a great deal of what it means to be human. A very good case can be made, for instance, that human survival has long been contingent upon our ability to foresee, anticipate, and discover new ways of doing things, new ways of adjusting, new solutions. As such, the potential of each individual becomes our greatest human resource, a resource that empathy preserves and strengthens. Consequently, a dehumanization must take place to designate victims of the ideological march as both inhuman and deserving of their victimization.

"The petty bourgeoisie will hesitate as long as possible and remain fearful, irresolute and inactive; but when victory is certain it will claim it for itself and will call upon the workers to behave in an orderly fashion, and it will exclude the proletariat from the fruits of victory. ... the rule of the bourgeois democrats, from the very first, will carry within it the seeds of its own destruction, and its subsequent displacement by the proletariat will be made considerably easier." Karl Marx, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League (1850)

"[The Native Americans] didn't have any rights to the land and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using.... What was it they were fighting for, if they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their ‘right’ to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or maybe a few caves above it. Any white person who brought the element of civilization had the right to take over this continent." Ayn Rand, Q & A session following her Address To The Graduating Class Of The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, March 6, 1974

The result is a specious concept of reason for empathic identity is so integrated into our analogical thought that a truly human assessment cannot be made without it.

"Poverty is not a mortgage on the labor of others - misfortune is not a mortgage on achievement - failure is not a mortgage on success - suffering is not a claim check, and its relief is not the goal of existence - man is not a sacrificial animal on anyone's altar nor for anyone's cause - life is not one huge hospital." Ayn Rand

"We have no compassion and we ask no compassion from you. When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror." Karl Marx

Marx and Rand presented the disconnect as a liberation of the primary center from systems of belief in which the self was bound in servitude to something outside of itself, be it God, king, clan, or state that demands adherence to illogical codes of morality. When one switches off human empathy for the cold logic of the mechanism, though, it invites the inhuman consequences that always plague ideologies. Disconnect from others is shadowed by an inner disconnect from one’s humanity, in effect producing a kind of megalomania. The holder of the one and certain truth also becomes the arbiter, the judge, the determiner of death for those who stand outside of its umbrella. Historically, concentration camps, dungeons, and death squads pave the road to Utopia. Those who contradict or stain the purity of the ideology’s narrative are banished or eliminated. Marxism led to the Gulag just Hitler’s Clan centrality led to gas chambers just as kingdoms led to dungeons just as theocracy led to the Inquisition.

The Marxists put their megalomania into practice.

"We will let loose the floodgates of that sea. Without mercy, without sparing, we will kill our enemies in scores of hundreds. Let them be thousands; let them drown themselves in their own blood. For the blood of Lenin and Uritsky, Zinovief and Volodarski, let there be floods of the blood of the bourgeois - more blood, as much as possible." Vladimir Lenin, 1 September 1918 edition of the Bolshevik newspaper, Krasnaya Gazeta

Rand dreamt of it. She found her ideal of a Nietzschean über-man in William Hickman, a psychopathic rapist and murderer of a 12-year-old girl in 1927 whom Hickman proceeded to dismember and mail back in pieces to the police as a taunt.

"He has the true, innate psychology of a Superman," Rand wrote of the character she modeled on Hickman for a play. "He is born with a wonderful, free, light consciousness—resulting from the absolute lack of social instinct or herd feeling. He does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning or importance of other people." And of the psychopath himself, Rand gushed that Hickman was an "amazing picture of a man with no regard whatever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul."

Like Marx’s ideal collective that erases all that came before, Rand’s ideal man stands alone in illogical disconnect as a center established out of context from human history, the society and community, and family within which the self arises. Instead, it takes ownership of the context as if it were the author. Rather than purpose and self-worth arising out of connection and context, it produces the pomposity and self-aggrandizement born of isolation, and rather than enrich the further context of civilization and the world, it plunders it like rapist for whom nothing else exists. In short, it poisons the very ground of purpose and self-worth within which the self-determination and potential of others is nurtured.

Rand’s self, therefore, has two faces, the delusional exclusivity of the self, and the disconnect from the continuum with others. On one side it champions its own egoism and the other it trashes the intrinsic potential of others as if cultivation were parasitism.

"The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent. He is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves." Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

Among Rand’s great contradictions, the championing of the über-man industrialist as the model individual requires that many more common men submit to rote mechanistic labor in order to create his singular greatness. For them, the arrangement makes purpose a mechanism of productivity and turns those who aren’t pegged like cogs into the machine grist for its turning. The inevitable resolution of Rand – the useful versus the useless, therefore, leads directly to Marx’s collective machine-like organism with mindless servitude to the collective state simply replaced with mindless servitude to the corporate state.

"Productive work is the central purpose of a rational man’s life, the central value that integrates and determines the hierarchy of all his other values. Reason is the source, the precondition of his productive work—pride is the result." Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness

"Nothing can have value without being an object of utility." Karl Marx

For the popular inheritors of Rand’s vision of unapologetic, reality-defining self-centeredness, her ideology has become incorporated. The corporation has now become a proxy for the self replete with all the qualities of Rand’s über-man. Partly this is due to Rand’s championing of the industrialist and businessman as the representation of her ideal and her equation of money and wealth with moral right, but it is also more than this. It is a synthesis of Marx and Rand, a hybrid organism, part amorphous, all-consuming collective super-organism, part proxy for the unfettered, unhindered self.

That merger has produced a veritable cult of corporate hegemony where corporations occupy the primary center of reality, an intermediate collective of executives, management, stockholders, and workers forming a proxy self that demands superior rights – speech, property, and legal rights – to the human individual. This über-mechanism simultaneously demands Marxist Big Brother-like control of both workers and users of its goods or services to watch, to censor, to test, and to fire or freeze out any person, any component, that is deemed to challenge its benevolent authority.

And from across the shores, Marxism too has morphed toward this hybrid kin at the nexus of Marx and Rand in Capitalist/Communist China. There corporations grow communes for workers, dictate their meager wages and conditions, with loyalty demanded like patriotism for the dominating survival of the corporate organism. And like Rand’s unrepentant willful self, these corporate organisms pollute, pillage the environment, and operate outside of health and safety regulations at whim for profit, for advantage, for the triumph of the central organism. It is a model envied in Rand’s West where continual and relentless efforts are made to deregulate, to weaken the laws governing their conduct and the regulations that maintain them in some obligation to society.

It isn’t that corporations are inherently evil, nor are all corporations bad actors – it is a matter of ideology polluting the public perception of what corporations are, what they do, and what they are owed in the broader context of human civilization. The result has been a radicalization of thought that has made primary centers of these entities, one that poses a real danger to both individual liberty and collective forethought to anticipate and correct our human course in response to ourselves.

Both empathic identity and forethought, the two key arbiters of survival at the heart of human consciousness, have been replaced instead by money and profit. The internal logic of the ideology has, in essence, mistaken the (corporate) organism’s survival for humanity’s survival. Without a will to act according to anything other than the bottom line, though, humanity faces an end as perilous and certain as an economic collapse based on a bubble.

As a byproduct, CO2 and the oceans rise. Forests fall. Life is snuffed out, species by species. Perpetual war razes the land. Individuals disengage from the inevitable. We do not foresee what it portends because we are bound to belief in the narrative as if it owed our allegiance. This is the legacy of Ayn Rand and Karl Marx, a legacy in which they would deny ownership, a legacy in which they were entangled from the start.


A spectre is haunting the planet. It needs no warrant for being. It does not exist for others. It draws all nations into the primacy of its center, grinding the masses between the millstones of Ayn Rand and Karl Marx. And it requires your sanction.


Someone once gave series of brief answers to a short questionnaire. It was either Karl Marx or Ayn Rand.  

Your favorite virtue ... Simplicity
Your favorite virtue in man ... Strength
Your favorite virtue in woman ... Weakness
Your chief characteristic ... Singleness of purpose
Your idea of happiness ... To fight
Your idea of misery ... Submission
The vice you excuse most ... Gullibility
The vice you detest most ... Servility
Favorite occupation ... Book-worming
Favorite poet ... Shakespeare, Aeschylus, Goethe
Favorite hero ... Spartacus, Kepler
Favorite maxim ... Nihil humani a me alienum puto [Nothing human is alien to me.]
Favorite motto ... De omnibus dubitandum [Everything must be doubted.].

(I’ve omitted only personally identifiable information. If you haven’t read it before, make a guess and then check yourself with a search. Either way, you will be right.)

Originally posted to ignatzmouse on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 12:31 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You got the start of a book here (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mz Kleen, Jimdotz, beemerr, Neon Vincent

    and the more I learn about Ayn Rand, the less I think of her and her inconsistent philosophy.

    However she must've been quite a charismatic person as she had some fanatical followers among those that knew her.  

  •  I am blown away. Great Diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mz Kleen, Jimdotz, Neon Vincent

    It seems to cojoin somehow with my belief that ideologies and utopian visions are necessarily bloody because they ultimately rest on one persons ideas. No 2 people share the exact same mind...

    All that groups that appear to share the same ideology are.. are coalitions of minds that think in the same style or with one strong and influential mind delivering thoughts into other minds (willing or not).

    It is as I told my son. If you too influenced by someone so as to not think for yourself it can be shown in two ways... either you follow them as close as possible or you do exactly the opposite...either way they control your mind.

    As for corporations, i have repeatedly asserted that they are necessary to accomplish large goals and to spread a world wide awareness of ideas. They can be great sources of wealth building and good.

    The problem is when these money making machines are granted personhood. Then it is humans who are ground up & used and the corporation then becomes a threat... Those who benefit from these machines are frequently ideologues who do not see others (humans, animals and plants) as anything but sources for money making. The end result is definitely not good for humans or animals or plants.

    What happens to earth does not matter to earth because it is not conscious and feels nothing and will be here long after we are gone. It would not matter to earth if it was bare of water and 1000 degrees C. It would still exist.

    It is amazing to me how many people are threatened by not being able to abuse others or to grab everything for themselves or to be able to dispose of others as if they were flotsam. How can your self-value be based on denying or decreasing anothers... Is that life enhancing?

    Fear is the Mind Killer

    by boophus on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 01:01:18 AM PST

    •  Personhood and beyond (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gooserock, jlb1972, Neon Vincent

      I agree with you on corporations. There are great corporations, and corporations can be not only a productive part of a society but also add greatly to it.
      The problem begins with personhood, as you say, but it is extended even beyond personhood because of the influence a corporation can yield over governments and legislatures. In that sense, they really do become a proxy for Rand's uber-man. There is also the problem of a radicalization of thought, chiefly on the Right, that makes corporatism (what I call a cult of corporate hegemony) an ideology to which their lessers owe allegiance.

      •  Press Freedom is Specifically a Corporate Freedom (8+ / 0-)

        with personhood having nothing to do with it. We have half a dozen global content providers working for all the other corporations, informing 95% of the electorate.

        The madhouse this makes of our dominant information environment is enough to wreck civilization no matter how we constrain the other corporations.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 04:33:39 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Corporations are sociopaths (6+ / 0-)

        Practically by definition. They must put shareholder gains above all else, by law.

      •  It is as if a car or a computer were allowed (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jlb1972, Neon Vincent

        free reign. THe corps don't do things to living creatures and the environment we all share on thier own. There is a user(or users) who have amoral goals driving these machines to harvest profits. Once they are done, they leave the machine rotting and pay for no damage they have done.

        Someone downstream mentions media corporations embodying freedom of speech. While that may be true, those same media corporations should not be allowed to plow through our country devastating it for private profit. We as a nation have the control of airwaves and satellites. They have got into thier behemoth machines and run rampant over the landscape using the peoples common resources.

        This whole issue reminds me of religious types who claim that they have the right to preach at me as part of the freedom of speech. That is true but they cannot open my front door and come in. They cannot use my childs school as an arena to preach at my child. They cannot stand at the voting booth and pass out tracts and grab hold of me to preach at me until I yield to them. And they certainly cannot expect me to pay for them to preach at me using my megaphone.

        I know that I am not presenting my argument about media well. But the fact is that todays media is not what we had as humans even 50 years ago. I think I must reread Marshall McLuhan...  

        Fear is the Mind Killer

        by boophus on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 11:09:37 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  About your last paragraph... (4+ / 0-)

      It is amazing to me how many people are threatened by not being able to abuse others or to grab everything for themselves or to be able to dispose of others as if they were flotsam. How can your self-value be based on denying or decreasing anothers... Is that life enhancing?

      I'm reminded of something Monbiot wrote:

      A new movement, most visible in North America and Australia, but now apparent everywhere, demands to trample on the lives of others as if this were a human right. It will not be constrained by taxes, gun laws, regulations, health and safety, especially environmental restraints. It knows that fossil fuels have granted the universal ape amplification beyond its Palaeolithic dreams. For a moment, a marvellous, frontier moment, they allowed us to live in blissful mindlessness.

      The angry men know that this golden age has gone; but they cannot find the words for the constraints they hate. Clutching their copies of Atlas Shrugged, they flail around, accusing those who would impede them of communism, fascism, religiosity, misanthropy, but knowing at heart that these restrictions are driven by something far more repulsive to the unrestrained man: the decencies we owe to other human beings.

      "The party of ideas has become the party of Beavis and Butthead." ~ Paul Krugman.

      by Neon Vincent on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 06:14:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm reading Leszek Kolakowski's (4+ / 0-)

        'God Owes Us Nothing', which centers on the 17th century Jansenist-Jesuit theological conflict in Louis XIV's France. The Jansenists were right-wing Catholics (barely) in essential agreement with the Augustinian-Calvinist tradition stressing total human depravity and the "salvation" of only a relative few. What is astonishing to me is the enormous effort and ingenuity devoted over the centuries to demonizing and dismissing the majority of the human race. It's revolting to read "Christian" theologians write about how the saved in heaven will exult in the torments of the damned in hell - it was one thing to project eternal torment on the Romans and other historic oppressors of the ancient Jews and Christians, it's another entirely to project this on people who disagree with your hatred of the world and its beauty.  

        Modernity has claimed pan-humanism to be sure, but insofar as it follows Protestant capitalism it endorses an ethic of winners and losers. And for such an extreme ethic an ideology must be contrived, which can be either religious or naturalistic. Contemporary America has the dubious distinction of combining both in its dominant ideology of Calvinism/(Social) Darwinism. You could say they are two sides of the same coin, but a more accurate description would note that outwardly you cannot tell them apart.

        Then let us learn our range: we are something but we are not everything - Pascal

        by jlb1972 on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 06:41:35 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  WOW great quote (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jlb1972, Neon Vincent

        Fear is the Mind Killer

        by boophus on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 10:53:41 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I collect quotes that are critical, snarky, or downright insulting about Ayn Rand and her creations, particularly Objectivism and Atlas Shrugged.  Monbiot's is one of the more insightful.

          "The party of ideas has become the party of Beavis and Butthead." ~ Paul Krugman.

          by Neon Vincent on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 02:24:50 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Hmmm... (9+ / 0-)

    I skimmed much of this, because I already knew most of this, having read the originals when I was a crazed Ayn Rand fanatic teen in the late 60's, early 70's.  The quote about Hickman really threw me, though, and set me googling, because it didn't sound very consistent.  It turns out that she wrote that in 1928, when she was only 23, so maybe she should get a little bit of ideological slack on that one, rather than tying it into an Objective Ideological GUT theory.

    You might have mentioned that she called her Objectivism coffee-clatch "The Collective."  There was quite a bit of Marxism parody in everything she did, and it might not have even been intentional.  It seems like her whole philosophy, as it developed, was a kind of harsh critique of Bolshevism, and not all of it was political or ideological, but visceral, something related to her personality.

    I'm going to throw in something cryptic here about something I hated when I was a kid that for some strange reason always felt to me like some key explanation for my early attraction to Rand.  There was a famous Coke commercial where some young people stand on a hill and sing, "I'd like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony..."  And that commercial drove me fucking crazy.  At some level, to me, it was like it encapsulated everything I didn't want to be.  I didn't want to stand on a hill with a bunch of hippies holding a Coke, singing a stupid jingle.  But I also knew how that was going to affect most of the other teens I went to school with, that they would all want to be on that hill, too, drinking Coke, because everybody else was.  I was offended in a way that I couldn't voice coherently.  And then, in The Fountainhead, I found something diametrically opposed from that, an individual who pissed everybody off and held everybody in contempt and (from the author's POV) deservedly so.  I wanted to be Howard Roark, not one of the Coke-People.  I offer this as way of explanation, not a defense of Rand at all.  There is a seductive element to her work that is non-ideological.  (And I still consider Fountainhead her best work.)

    •  Individualism (6+ / 0-)

      Championing individualism is a good thing. But with all things Rand, there was an extreme duplicity in what she said on one hand and what she practiced on the other hand. Individualism and empathy are not mutally exclusive, but they had to be in Rand's ideology because no one else could occupy her center. In her vision, other selves were only a corruption.

      •  I don't think it's a good thing. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jlb1972, kafkananda, thethinveil

        I'm not even sure individuals really exist as separate and definable things.

        "Intolerance is something which belongs to the religions we have rejected." - J.J. Rousseau

        by James Allen on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 01:54:26 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Context: (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sandino, Neon Vincent, James Allen

          when Rand was developing this philosophy, she was living in a country that was clamping down on people who were not toeing the ideological line.  It's easy to see why she went this route, and her critiques of Soviet censorship and mass ideology are pretty much correct.  (Not the reactionary individualism she developed, though.)

          Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

          by pico on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 03:33:14 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I guess I'm proposing that Rand can be analyzed (5+ / 0-)

        from a subjective psychological point of view, sort of a forensic point of view, as well as from an ideological point of view.  Her whole philosophy can be tossed away, temporarily, and be treated as something created by her own inner demons rather than the result of pure reason that she claimed it to be.  I'm suggesting now that there was a rebellious aspect to her own personality that created Objectivism as its vehicle.  Look at that quote of yours about Hickman.  That's a very interesting on her part in a Dylan Klieboldish kind of way, that she would find that so fascinating.  

        If I could quote from her own dogma, I recall that she later said in one of her books (Romantic Manifesto, probably -- I read it around 1974 so cut me some slack), that romanticism, unlike realism, focused on the way things should be, rather than just the way things are, and that there was something immoral about an author that chooses to write a story that justifies the actions of a monster based on psychological motives, as often happens in realistic novels.  Now contrast that with the Hickman quote from 1928 and you get an interesting insight into her, back at a time when she had no overarching bullshit philosophy that she had to use to justify herself.  She found herself fascinated by just such a monster, enough to want to make him a central character in a work.  

        And that, too, was at a time when she was toying around with Nietzsche and his ubermensch crap.  I've always found the interesting thing about Nietzche and the ubermensch is that it proved to be such a fantastic Rorschach test in terms of how people chose to interpret it.  If you interpret it the way Kaufman did in his analyses of Nietzsche, you get something totally at odds with the way Rand seems to have interpreted it, as a kind of justification of the Roark personality.  (In the earliest draft of Fountainhead, she opened with a quote from Nietzsche, which she later removed, also disavowing anything Nietzschean).  At the same time, the German right was interpreting the ubermensch in even another way.

        So what did she find in Hickman and in Nietzsche's ubermensch that contributed to Howard Roark?  We see a despised outsider as a romantic idealized figure, somebody superior to the people, the rabble, who despise him and yet aren't worth the ground he stands on.  What a tremendous amount of misanthropic contempt for people there is in such a creation.  And yet she throws in all that stuff about the sanctity and beauty of man the ideal, as if it's something that other people don't live up to and that failure is unforgivable.  That's the root source of her philosophy, which is far less impressive to me than her early art which presaged it.

    •  Speaking of Rand's fascination with Hickman. (4+ / 0-)

      Alternet published an essay about it a few days ago.

      Ayn Rand, Hugely Popular Author and Inspiration to Right-Wing Leaders, Was a Big Admirer of Serial Killer

      Exiled reprinted it, and gave it an even more sensationalistic title.

      ATLAS SHRIEKED: Ayn Rand’s First Love and Mentor Was A Sadistic Serial Killer Who Dismembered Little Girls

      With either title, the author, Mark Ames, is unrelenting in his critique of her and her ideas.

      There's something deeply unsettling about living in a country where millions of people froth at the mouth at the idea of giving health care to the tens of millions of Americans who don't have it, or who take pleasure at the thought of privatizing and slashing bedrock social programs like Social Security or Medicare. It might not be as hard to stomach if other Western countries also had a large, vocal chunk of the population who thought like this, but the US is seemingly the only place where right-wing elites can openly share their distaste for the working poor. Where do they find their philosophical justification for this kind of attitude?

      It turns out, you can trace much of this thinking back to Ayn Rand, a popular cult-philosopher who exerts a huge influence over much of the right-wing and libertarian crowd, but whose influence is only starting to spread out of the US.

      One reason why most countries don't find the time to embrace her thinking is that Ayn Rand is a textbook sociopath. Literally a sociopath: Ayn Rand, in her notebooks, worshiped a notorious serial murderer-dismemberer, and used this killer as an early model for the type of "ideal man" that Rand promoted in her more famous books -- ideas which were later picked up on and put into play by major right-wing figures of the past half decade, including the key architects of America's most recent economic catastrophe -- former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan and SEC Commissioner Chris Cox -- along with other notable right-wing Republicans such as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Rush Limbaugh, and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.

      As I wrote, it's brutal.

      "The party of ideas has become the party of Beavis and Butthead." ~ Paul Krugman.

      by Neon Vincent on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 05:49:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I wonder (6+ / 0-)

    if you might have hit on it with Hickman.  It is the philosophy of a psychopath (in the clinical sense of that word).  

    Die energie der Welt ist constant; die Entropie der welt strebt einem Maximum zu. - Rudolf Clausius, 1865

    by xgy2 on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 01:26:07 AM PST

  •  You shoulda posted this during the day (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mz Kleen, BonnieSchlitz

    this is right up my ally but I'm in no shape of mind to read it right now. I'm about to pass out at the keyboard.

    Toyota: Proof US Union Labor Still Does it Better

    by VelvetElvis on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 01:47:34 AM PST

    •  Hey, Velvet, do what I do (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kafkananda, Neon Vincent

      If I want to mark something to read later, I click on the little plus-sign in a circle next to the title. The DKos software marks it for you and you can go back and find it later (in the "Your Hotlist" section). If you like an author, you can also click on Subscribe.

      Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government.

      by Dbug on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 03:39:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good, good (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mz Kleen

    shit, im. I'll be back in about 7 hours... Maybe I'll be in thinking, commenting shape by noonish.  

  •  I agree (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mz Kleen

    Me too. Sleep, work, commute... I won't be online again until after 11pm.

  •  As impressive as some of this is, (5+ / 0-)

    it's really not so kosher to yank Marx and Rand out of their contexts and trying to place what you see as similarities side-by-side.  It's not that similarities don't exist; it's that both were part of larger movements with similar roots (misreadings of Hegel, 19th century positivism, etc.) such that you'd be hard pressed to find any major philosophical currents that don't share some of these qualities.  The reason Rand can imagine having a conversation with Marxists is the same reason some progressives can imagine having a conversation with libertarians (unlike with, say, evangelicals): it's not a common overlap of values, but a sense that those values were arrived at rationally, and therefore can be discussed.  This isn't a slip on Rand's part.  

    e.g. Rand's idealization of Hickman, I don't think it's uncommon in any mainstream early-to-mid 20th century philosophy not to wrestle with Nietzsche and find examples of supermen that, frankly, look frightening to the rest of us: look at Sartre referring to Che Guevara as history's only "complete man".  So now we have Marxism and Leninism (not the same thing, although you frequently conflate them in the essay) and Randism and Nazism and Sartre and Kierkegaard and... at this point it's just better to show that these are mainstream currents rather than trying to make it a specially Marx-Rand link.

    In fact, you'd have a much better essay here if you turn it into a study of the striking lack of empathy in the major philosophies for that century or so.  This is the century of Meursaults.

    Rand was a utopian revolutionary because there's no one coming out of Russia at this time who isn't: it's a deeply ingrained cultural tendency that marks all of Russian social, political, and religious philosophy from the 19th century through ... honestly, you still see a lot of it today.  And in this she's a 19th century leftover, and a Romantic, just as much of early Soviet thought.

    On this:

    Reality was not an emanation derived from gods or in an external source; it arose within the natural mechanism, the organism of man (whether singular or plural).

    I'm not sure what you mean by this, but Rand's philosophy is that perception begins with the individual organism: but reality itself is independent of us and exists as-such.  This is an important difference, because it allows Rand to argue for absolutes that are in fact independent of rationalism (including good and evil), but to which only our rational facilities give us access: the rational mind doesn't order or define reality but strives to access it.  She's a modern-day Aristotelian philosopher (and anti-Plato) on most of these issues.  

    Now, you're right that this leads to a cult of the individual personality, but in this she's mostly reacting (hard) against the cult of the masses.  That's the root of the Hickman thing, too: disgust at a sanctimonious society.  

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 03:14:06 AM PST

    •  Oh, I meant to add (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jlb1972, Neon Vincent, Archie2227

      thanks for a thought-provoking diary.  I think there's an inherent problem with jumping through such a broad spectrum of quotes for a compare/contrast essay, but you've done a nice job at least of dealing with many of the issues in a sophisticated way.  Cheers!

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 03:31:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Existence and Context (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jlb1972, Neon Vincent

      To clarify, the point of the piece is that Marx and Rand are more alike than other ideologies in that they locate the primary center of reality in the mechanism. The justifications and rationales derive from seeing the world from a common vantage with the shift being attributed to whether they are defining that center as a super-organism or a singular organism.

      The intention of the quotes, therefore, is to look at a similarity of approach. It is a different criteria than simply looking at context because that gets you stuck in the same paradigm flush against their specific ideological battle to claim the center. As noted, from that perspective, they appear to be wholly opposites. I intended to step back from that and look at Rand and the Marxists in different light -- how they responded as organismic ideologies to outer and inner threat, how they structured their claims, how they projected their vision, how they derived their truths, and how they legitimized their actions from the starting point of an organismic center.

      I'm well aware of Rand's "existence exists" mantra. She was also fond of saying that at death, it wouldn't be her that ceases to exist but that the world would cease to exist.

  •  Superb (4+ / 0-)

    There are so many resonances here - Eric Voegelin, Stephen Pepper, Jean-Francois Revel ... I'll return to this one for sure!

    One quick impression: I've been thinking lately about the negative influence of some immigrants to the US who came from traumatic political experiences elsewhere and in reaction uncritically exalted American capitalist distinctiveness and brute power - Rand, Leo Strauss, Leszek Kolakowski, Zbignew Brezinski, John Yoo, etc. Part of this just reflects the entirely-natural Eastern European revulsion toward the Soviet system that put in the reactionary John Paul II one step ahead of Thatcher and Reagan - sort of the Yakov Smirnov syndrome. The point is not that such people were wrong about the Soviet Union, it's that they were inadequately skeptical about Americanism - and their Miranda-like enthusiasm could be put to good use by such as the University of Chicago.

    Then let us learn our range: we are something but we are not everything - Pascal

    by jlb1972 on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 03:15:23 AM PST

    •  Superb (3+ / 0-)

      Maybe the fault lies with these immigrants who foist their psychoses upon a basically uninterested and unwilling nation (is Ayn Rand really popular?  One remembers how Brezinski was hated, with good reason, for restarting the Cold War).  Maybe native American thought-inspired by Rousseau, Paine, Jefferson-really has merits.

      One knows that it is difficult for people here to criticize others, instead of oneself.  But non-Americans can be just as wicked and stupid as Americans, and Americans can be just as progressive and enlightened as non-Americans.

      •  Yes, and all thought rises out of concrete (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Neon Vincent

        experience and has to be tested in context. It sometimes seems that there is only one idea in America - Americanism - and so we are intellectually gullible and too-easily impressed by Europeans bearing ideas. There is much to be said for the American tradition of genuine pragmatism (not the debased trimming and  opportunism that calls itself such now) - especially when it is guided, as you say, by positive impulses and thinkers, and when it constantly returns to the rough ground to rethink ...

        Then let us learn our range: we are something but we are not everything - Pascal

        by jlb1972 on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 07:13:06 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I very much enjoyed your essay (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Vincent

    Tipped and rec'd.

    I would never have considered comparing Rand and Marx, but your arguments coalesced and made sense. They're plausible. I've read and tried to believe both Rand and Marx -- when I was in college, trying out new political philosophies. Like donning new clothes, just to see if they look good on you.

    I knew that Rand was born in Russia and hated Communism (and you get extra points for your provocative title).

    Your taxonomy of political systems is a killer chart. It should be included in all political science classes. You omitted the American system (democracy/republic/federalist system), which if you look at the ideas of the 18th century is based, sorta, on unalienable natural rights and the consent of the governed. Or maybe you'd call it something else. John Locke and Thomas Paine. And I'd like to see what you think of Jean Jacques Rousseau.

    Anyway, good job, well-written, and cheers!

    Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government.

    by Dbug on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 04:02:24 AM PST

    •  Centers, Dynamic and Static (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jlb1972, Neon Vincent, Dbug

      Thanks for the comments on the taxonomy. The chart is specifically analyzing primary center ideologies, what they name as their center, and why they unfold an internal logic along predictable and destructive paths. The reason why the American system was left out is because the American founding was wholly different.

      The founders were establishing a principle of each individual as a center in contrast to the King’s claim to be the center. For the American founders, no person had true claim to exclusivity as the center, but as a center, each person had equal right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." In short, every center has the inalienable right to pursue the fulfillment of one’s potential, not in isolation, but as a connected union of individuals. It was a dynamic center that recognized centers on a multiplicity of levels -- as individuals in pursuit of one's happiness, as We the People, and as embodied as equals with the frame of the (Deists') Creator and time.

      This dynamic center is different than the Marxist center which is firmly located in the collective singular. Note also that the American founding ideal of each person as a center is fundamentally at odds with Rand who by repositioning the center from the Marxist collective organism to the center of the organism of the self, in effect, retreated to the ordained centrality of the King – it’s just that any sufficiently rational person could claim his or her own kingship or czardom as the case may be. Whereas the American translation of the Enlightenment recognized all men as a center, Rand would demand that each man should establish himself as the center, existing in a quasi-vacuum as the King or Czar of one’s own universe.

  •  Looks like you put a bit of work into this, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jlb1972, Neon Vincent

    what I read on the danger of ideological choice or belief, it seems that you prioritize freedom of belief while condemning all beliefs or ideologies. To me, it comes off as some of the "end of ideology" arguments you would hear from neo-conservatives in the late fifties up to, well, even today.  

    Eventually you have to make a choice and we cannot continually defer the question of the solution to problems such as inequality, climate change, social distrust, and more. And when that happens, tensions and fights occur, when someone says they have a solution. And there ARE solutions. Because what is most ideological, what is most removed, are our actions and just as much our inaction. And this action is as unavoidable as our social problems. Must not become stuck in a paralysis of thought as Joyce would say.  As always fights must be fought with the fierce urgency of now. But there is no such thing as transcendence of ideology. Post-ideology, is yet another ideology, it just prefers not to be named, so it too won't be responsible for what it has done.

    I am guessing Rand on the questionnaire.  

    "What is the robbing of a Bank compared to the FOUNDING of a Bank?" Bertolt Brecht

    by thethinveil on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 04:52:44 AM PST

    •  Ideology is probably inevitable, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sandino, Neon Vincent

      but it needs to declare itself on the basis of value or benefit offered rather than claim some special knowledge of inevitability or excellence. And it must always be challenged as it who exactly would be enhanced by it and who would not.

      Then let us learn our range: we are something but we are not everything - Pascal

      by jlb1972 on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 04:58:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree with your second statement (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jlb1972, Neon Vincent

        somewhat but isn't that from one of those ideologues mentioned?'

        When Lenin said, I am paraphrasing here, "Freemdom? Yes. But whose freedom?"

        Lenin, Marx and Rand were very precise about who they wanted to liberate though. For Marx it was the worker, the soldier, etc. and for Rand it was the outcast(even if they were a serial killer, maybe especially so), and capitalist.

        BTW both have been tried, but of course, not in distilled pure forms. Greenspan was a disciple of Rand and he ran our economy for nearly a quarter century. They also tried Friedman's neo-liberalism in Chile, but of course, neither worked out as planned.  

        But my point in the first comment was when you condemn all future plans, goals, guiding principles, or "ideology", what we are condemned to is the status quo. Which is of course, centrally, a neo-conservative proposition. The Third wayer wraps it up with words like coming together to find common cause, but it leads to the same result. The status quo happens to be neo-liberalism mixed with nationalism, against the backdrop of the gains made by the Left, and various worker's parties - 8 hour working day, anti-discrimination laws, voting rights, the end of slavery, etc. And yet there is more to be done.

        But the Third way, DLCers amd Neo-cons scream that it reeks of purity, and ideology to implement, or even work for solutions such as Single Payer. You know, one of the few solutions out there that actually work. Not that I am arguing for utilitarianism, but neither are they. Their argument against both Right and Left because they are ideological and not idealistic enough - ie. we cannot afford to change because it will cost us too much - lives, wealth, individuality, community, everything etc. Ignoring that every (in)action has it's benefits and it's costs. In fact, they tend to  ignore the discussion completely, even more so than the ideologue.


        "What is the robbing of a Bank compared to the FOUNDING of a Bank?" Bertolt Brecht

        by thethinveil on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 07:12:25 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree with you entirely, (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Neon Vincent, thethinveil

          and realized too late that I squinted the idea too much. My point was really not that some technocratic approach beyond ideology is possible but against the gnostic pretension of knowing the true plan of History or Reason or God and taking those great names in vain for what at bottom looks very much like self-interest. Neoliberalism in the Reagan era tried to sell itself to the public as a more efficient way of producing universal social goods ( a pitch that seems to have been dropped for brute entitlement). Marxism was, as you say, plain about the benefits it promised. With any ideology, one could and should ask what benefits specifically accrue to  those promoting the ideology and even to what degree unconscious provincialism can blind one. Rand's is a particular case for me in that I was automatically suspicious of a "philosophy" that exalted selfishness - what could be more predictable?

          And I cannot agree with you more in feeling contempt for the "third way." There literally has to be some concrete way truly forward beyond incentivizing the investor class, or we have truly had it.

          Then let us learn our range: we are something but we are not everything - Pascal

          by jlb1972 on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 07:30:35 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Ideology vs Dynamic + answer to Questionnaire (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jlb1972, Neon Vincent

      I define an ideology as a philosophy, world view, religion, cult, etc. that produces a belief system based on the naming of a primary (read exclusive) center to reality. This always produces destructive, negative consequences for reasons outlined in the essay.

      In contrast, systems that allow for a dynamic center allow for both freedom and responsibility because it is the relations between centers (self>family>community>country>humankind>planet) that are emphasized. These systems are not ideologies, in my view, though they can provide a strong and clear system of understanding and action. For what it's worth, religion can be either -- it does not always have to operate on an exclusive center. A structure of philosophy does not automatically equate to the internal logic produced by an exclusive center. Structure, understanding, and action is not the equal of an ideology.

      To say so is not to become stuck in a paralysis of thought, but in my view actually strengthens the resolve to act, preserve, and potentiate the dynamic center -- and that means working for equality, justice, compassion, and to protect the planet. Ideologies, on the hand, counter the will to act on such levels because they always work exclusively toward their Utopian goal as if it were the prescriptive answer.

      (btw, the answer to the questionnaire was... Karl Marx. The questions were given to him by his daughters Jenny and Laura in 1865 as part of a school assignment.)

      •  How? (0+ / 0-)

        Define how you can a structure and understanding not rely on a center? What do mean? Like dialectics, which is by definition fluid and dynamic?  And for something to occupy that center, an ideology must clear it by forcing others out. This is inevitable. I am not saying that it will hold forever but it will take place and has. But obviously, your formulation is ideological on its face as it lays the ground for particular ideologies exclusive of, at the very least, Marxism and Objectivism, at most, all ideologies. This of course should include dynamic center ideologies, or your theory becomes entirely inconsistent. There is no position where your own set of beliefs of dynamic center ideology, get to occupy the center, being beyond reproach when you yourself have cited that as the very cause of all social ills.  

        This is exactly what has become of the Left, we abandoned our post while allowing the Right to become ever more rabid. As a result of this, the decay of the New Deal over the past forty years.

        If there is no transcendental philosophy, why try to make one up?

        "What is the robbing of a Bank compared to the FOUNDING of a Bank?" Bertolt Brecht

        by thethinveil on Wed Mar 03, 2010 at 09:32:36 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  A cosmological analogy (0+ / 0-)

          As I've stated there is a difference between a center and something or someone who defines itself as the center. A cosmological analogy (which I believe is relevant as cosmologies have historically accompanied worldviews) is the difference between a Geocentric or heliocentric cosmology that placed the Earth or the Sun at the center of the universe (and by extension man in a privileged position at the center of God's favor) and an Einsteinian cosmology based on relativity in which all positions are centers and in which a given center can perceived as incorporate with larger centers -- the Earth is a center but is also incorporate with the solar system as a relativistic central position which is also incorporate with the galaxy as a central position which is also incorporate with the local cluster as a central position, etc. That is what I mean by a dynamic center.

          I am a center but not the center. My center is also incorporate with family as a center which is also incorporate with community as a center which is also incorporate with my country as a center which is also incorporate with humankind as a center which is also incorporate with the planet as a center and by extension, also with the universe. As a center, I hold my own views but I am also understood to be a responsible actor within the other centers in which I am incorporate. That means I do not demand to my nation that I am the center (like a dictator or king).

          If I make that demand or if my religion, clan, or state makes such a demand of exclusive centrality, it is an ideology. It is, then by analogy, arguing for a Ptolemaic or Copernican worldview versus an Einsteinian worldview. It is not only a backward perception but is also an open invitation for perpetual war as endless series of ideologies compete to claim the center and extinguish the others.

  •  really impressing work (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Vincent, Dbug

    like most a I was really surprised by the acuracy of the taxonomy table. But above all the discovery of the parallel or vicious circle of censorship/propaganda. It's so obvious, but why I have never thought about it?
    Thanks for this great piece

  •  Interesting stuff. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Vincent, Dbug

    Bush Bites is a subsidiary of Bush Bites Inc., a registered corporate personhood.

    by Bush Bites on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 05:36:21 AM PST

  •  Ayn Rand's ideas were faulty enough on their own. (4+ / 0-)

    She didn't need followers to fuck them up.

    Did you know that she championed a man who kidnapped, killed and mutilated a 12-year-old girl?

    [careful, some pretty gruesome stuff here]

    She was one warped human being.

    'The great religions are the ships. The poets are the lifeboats. Every sane person I know has jumped overboard. - Hafiz'

    by AlyoshaKaramazov on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 06:40:43 AM PST

  •  Ultra-Individualism versus Democracy (0+ / 0-)

    One error of a premise that individualism and collectivism may ultimately be "the same", is that it conveniently ignores the stark fact that international monopoly capitalism was the dominant paradigm, exercising absolutely ruthless power over the entire planet, at the time of the Russian revolution.

    It was not a level playing field, and nothing that happened in Russia occurred in a vacuum.

    Most significantly, US industrialists deliberately financed and technically supported Hitler, to build up the Nazis, to sic like a mad dog on Russia, to kill or cripple the revolution.  

    WW1 and civil war in Russia had already bled the Russian people severely, and destroyed much of the infrastructure, thus already handicapping the revolution substantially, in terms of resources available for the new paradigm they sought to implement (ie: to put the rational popular democratic public interest over and above arbitrary, capricious pursuit of private profit by elites, against the public interest).

    On the other hand, imperialist monopoly capitalism had profited hugely and consolidated wealth substantially as a result of WW1, the enhanced military and economic power from which was all brought to bear against Russia to support the most heinous monarchist and other reactionary elements during the civil war...and then Hitler.

    Any draconian aspects of what manifested as Bolshevism and Soviet "communism"  were a direct result of that realpolitik of brutal, vicious, ruthless attack, encirclement, blockade, and boycott by international monopoly capital, to try to destroy, or failing that, to cripple the revolution, and then a protracted campaign to infiltrate and subvert the revolution with relentless Faux "News" style propaganda, bribery and skulduggery of all kinds, to agitate sedition and sabotage against the revolution.

    So...Russia, and other "communist" countries, in the face of such pressures, suffered great hardships, and made egregious errors, not the least of which including a resort to throwback methods of elitism and martial law, to survive, it may be true, more or less...(people really need to consider how much we can trust the "information" and "analysis" reported by monopoly corporate fascist commercial mass media, in this regard) but such was not their intention or desire, nor their ultimate professed goal...unlike capitalist imperialism, which is entirely based upon, and much more inherently characterized by, unabashed elitism and coercion.

    These circumstances in no way "prove" any inherent flaw in the social theory of communism (ie: popular democracy) but serve more to point to the continued urgent necessity for it, in the face of the pathological misanthropic depravity promulgated and exercised by monopoly corporate fascist imperialism, including it's "liberal" face, "Libertarian" anti-collectivist ultra-individualist "social Darwinism".

    Communism is not about suppression of the masses, for the benefit of elites.

    That's capitalism.

    Communism is really all about democracy, in the public interest, which, indeed,  must be imposed, by coercion, upon traitorous anti-democratic elements, in direct proportion to their resistance to the popular democratic will.

    Naturally, the capitalist (or monarchist, or whatever) elites will scream bloody murder about their own suppression...but no mercy or "empathy" is in order, for those who would rape and dismember society for their own self-gratification and amusement.

    Death to capitalism as we now know it, and it's moribund form, fascism!

    All Power to the People!

    Bring the Better Democrats!

    All Out for 2010 and 2012!

    "...a printing press is worth 10,000 rifles..." Ho Chi Minh

    by Radical def on Tue Mar 02, 2010 at 10:02:45 AM PST

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