Ayn Rand, Capitalist Cheerleader

Jamal Hannah jamal at bronze.lcs.mit.edu
Thu Sep 21 15:44:01 MDT 1995


Chris Sciabarra said:

> 	When I refer to Rand's dialectical savvy it has less to do with
> her understanding of right and wrong, and more to do with her entire
> approach to the study of society.  She sees society as an organic
> totality, one in which all institutions, cultural practices, even
> individual psychologies are internally related.

Yeah, I noticed this, and I think youre finding something which wasnt there.
Like, wishful thinking.  I do not think Rand was dialectical any more
than one could say the average person, or the average, foaming-at-the
mouth anticapitalist was "dialectical".    Rand rejected dialectics
like she rejected Marx.

> Hence, for Rand, as for
> Marx, revolution must be total -- it must counter the forces of
> oppression on every level of generality, not just economically, not just
> politically.

Rand was a counterrevolutionary.. a reactionary.  She was quite happy
with the New York city skyline, and had no desire for any "total
revolution"..  Marx did... but you are repeatedly trying to blur
the distinction between Marx and Rand and, I must say, it's outright
ridiculous.  (I guess it just goes to show that one can rationalize
anything.. especially a "good" Marxist scholer)

Rand complained and complained about how screwed up and un-Reason-able
she felt everyone was.  If she wanted a revolution to change all of that,
it would have been a facistic imposition of her own ideals onto others.
The tight structure of her group and her authoritarianism toward
her fellows tended to give this strong impression.. she really
wanted to _mould_ people to her thought.  I suppose it just goes to show
how one can become what they are franticly fighting against... Stalinist.

I consider Rand more of a "female Stalin" than a Marx. She simply didnt
have the opportunity to (directly) command a massive army.  She DID
address the US army boys during Viet Nam, telling them how they were
fighting for freedom and all that.  I dont accept her lame excuse that
she wasn't playing up to "flag waving nationalism", but instead was
"sincerely a believer in America and freedom".  What a load of hooey.
Her nationalism was the nationalism of capital.. of profit, and the
expanding, octopus-like tenticles of the United States profit system.
Her "flag" was her pin with a doller sign on it.  The doller sign ($),
by the way, is actualy a "U" superimposed on an "S".  You can
see this on the very erliest doller bills.  It simply became more
abstrtact and simplified over time.  When Rand defended "money"
in a long rant in "Atlas Shrugged", she was defending pure US
imperialism.  Just look at the last line of the book "Atlas
Shrugged".  It's goofy.

Too bad she got to play "American Patriot" but anarchists who came to
America from other countries were kicked out ever since McKinley was
shot.   Shows the double-standard.. capitalists are allowed freedom
to "organize the masses", and propagandize America to death with
their pro-capitalist tracts and speeches, but not the socialists.
Tsk tsk.  (the anarchists had long denounced violence as a tactic
after that... and Malatesta had rejected it clearly in his writing.)

Capitalists are allowed ultimate freedom in Russia today, too.  But
I wonder how Yeltsin would respond to anarchist immigrants to Russia?
When capitalists complain about "one world government" they are
never complaining about their own one-world corporate multinational
government.. which they pretend does not exist. (ha!)

> 	Rand was first and foremost a novelist given to theatricality and
> hyperbole, and her dismissals of Marx are downright embarrassing at
> times.  Nevertheless, in her more studied moments, she shows greater
> respect for the old master.

Ah, whatever. I dont buy this at all, nor will I ever forget who or
what Rand was, or gloss her over and say "Oh, that's just good ol'
sweet Rand!"  The woman was, to put it roughly, a paranoid, obsessive
anticommunist.

> 	The NEW YORKER piece was a good one in many ways, actually.  And
> you are right, she is prone to using imagery in her novels to show vice
> and virtue-- but this is not unlike most Russian novelists who used
> characters as symbols in the dialectical interplay of ideas.  As for her

Eh.  Nope.. wrong again.  My understanding of "Russian writers" was this
intense focus on the negative.. self pity.. darkness, despair and
ugliness.  Heroes were anti-heroes.  Russia was and is a tough place
to grow up.  I'm talking "Dostoyevskian" here.  Rand rejected this
type of prospective and went for the "all capitalists are blond
and blue eyed angels" kind of thing, which the origionaly wonderful
Russian Social(ist) Realism degenerated to under Stalin (but the
worker or the "leader" was the pretty-boy).

I do not think it was bad that Russian writing focussed on negative
issues and aspects of life.  Pain is an emotion that is a part
of being a whole human being.  The point is not to "worship" pain
but to accept it as a part of what life and reality is about.  Rand
used the underhanded tactic of interpreting this admittance that
life can be negative (at times) by claiming that it meant Communists
worshiped pain.  Rand was less honest than the true, decent
communists she dispised.  I blur the distinction between "Russian
Writing" and Social Realism because I think this aspect of Russian
writing was one of Russian culture's contributions to the communist
movement. (one can take it or leave it, if they so desire.)

Rand was big on "Romanticism", which isnt dialectical.. it's
like Virtual Reality.  It lulls one into a sense of unreality
and unconnectedness with the world.  One thing Rand was ardent about
was the "neccesity" to oppose communism.. She was really hard-core
about that.. but everything else was like a world of fantasy.

A good example of this is Art Spiegelman's "Maus" graphic-novel
about the Holocaust.  The origional version from the early 70's
underground comic had cartoony (read: romanticized), cute mice
in a concentration camp.  No matter how misirable they looked, they
were cute and it distracted from the ability to use rational thoaght
to make a jugement about the Nazis.  The newer version resolved this
contradiction with a different art style that was not "cute" but more
social realist.  "Cute" cartoon artwork evolved out of market
force's inherant tendency to push it's cartoonists to produce
characters which stimulate humans in a certain way that will make
them pay money to see more and more cartoons.  To take the traits
of a baby, which are naturaly attracting to humans and stimulate
certain responses, and then add them to a cartoon character is
to sucker the human mind and commodify the art form.  Youth today
would say that communism is boring because it criticizes capitalism
at _all_ levels, even aesthetics, and would make life "no fun anymore".
But humans actualy _can_ enjoy regular, non-spicey, non-sugar-loaded
food if they fall back on a diet of food that is not commodified,
not "romanticized"... the same goes for the art form.  (of course these
days capitalism is commodifying "ugly" art, by going in the other extreme
direction.  It's still the taint of capitalism affecting art.)

A Russian writer would more likely have the communist hero not
neccesarily be all that great looking, but have a hardened honesty
about him (like in the American Upton Sinclairs' "The Jungle").. whereas
the capitalists WOULD still _look_ great, sure.. but their dishonesty
would be the main problem.  Rand didnt allow her "bad guys"
to even look good.  Rand would have claimed that to make the heroes
look "ugly" and the villans look "good" was a projection of
"success hatred" (This is something the Unabomber accuses the
left of being guilty of.. what a dork.)  The right will never admit that
the left's rightful resentment of _exploitation_ does not equate some
"inborn psychological jelousy".. but they use this accusation as a
propagandistic smear, and Rand was no exception.

Rand's perspective was tainted by her capitalist philosophy..
capitalism says that you demand what _appears_ to be the best, not
neccesarily what _is_ the best.  So "if someone looks sexy, they
must be great at sex, and a great lover, and who cares about anything
else."  This type of attitude can get you a lot of dissapointment.
(I'm not saying ugly people make the best lovers.. most people
are just average, thus, the best lover is probably some relativly
"Average" person.)

Social realism was dialectical in that it forced one to make a moral
judgement about the subject matter.. whereas romanticism doesn't
give one much chance, since it's subject is forced to be "good" no
matter what, even if it's really "bad".  (A sexy, romantacized Nazi
woman is considered "good" because she looks good, not bad even
though she unjustly killed someone.)

I can appreciate both realism and romantacism.. but I dont kid myself
about which is which!  Also.. neither realism or romantacism alone will
ever overthrow capitalism.  (Both can be absorbed by it.)

Part of Rand's whole strategy was understanding what bourgeois people
like and playing this up to the max.  Like lots of sex?  Accuse the
commies of being anti-sex and capitalism (and "selfishness") to be
the bringer of good sex.  Have a Nietzchien "will to power" fantasy?
Play up that in capitalism you can be a God, cuz you can follow
the social darwinistic principle of "he who kicks the most butt wins".
It's all deeply dishonest.   I also do not think Rand really is
all that popular outside of petty-borgeois circles.. especially
impressionable college students.  Of course when _IN_ an environment
prone to that type (such as this one)  one can say "Rand is one of
the most-read philosophers in the world" and this is seemingly hard to
dispute.  Most thinking people consider Rand to be a pure crackpot.  Her
whole mission in life was to attack commies with any mental and logical/
symantec construction she could muster.  If only that book "The
True Believer" had considered Rand, and mentioned that she
would have been better off as an artist or an athlete, rather
than a raving anticommunist all her life.  (of course, the book was
anticommunist, so it's not going to go into that.)

> practiced -- relates to that "How to Win Friends" thing you cited;
> civility and tolerance are foremost virtues.  You simply can't gain any
> understanding of yourself or your opponent if you think you are in

An opponent is an opponent.. there's little point lulling oneself into
a false sense of "we can all get along"-ness.  There's a point to
keeping one's cool, however.   The "How to Win Friends" mentality
is _specifically_ an ideology intended to keep the wheels of
capitalism running smoothly, just like the psychiatric profession.

In times of revolution, people simply become more honest about how
they _really_ feel.  The capitalist class oppresses the working class,
and thats just the facts.  Most people deny it every day because
it's easier or safer to capitulate than to scream and yell and do
what would (psychologically) ultimately make one feel a _lot_ better.

Dr. Helen Caldicott was right when she said, in a speech, that if
asked "How are you?" one should say "I'm horrible", if they really
_are_ feeling horrible.   The Punk and Grunge movements were an attempt,
by youth, to utilize this honesty to resist capitalism.. but honesty alone
will not defeat capitalism.  Organisation and militancy ultimatly will.
(and Punk and Grunge rejected these important things)

 - Jamal H.



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