Ayn Rand and Stalin

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Tue Aug 31 09:58:48 MDT 1999

>From an article on Ayn Rand by Scott McLemee on the Lingua Franca webpage

Sciabarra claims that Objectivism likewise rejects the inherited
dualisms--and synthesizes a new system transcending them. (One recalls John
Hospers's first encounter with Rand: "Her ideas did not fit into any of the
usual philosophical categories....") The evidence that Rand knew her
professor's work in any depth is slim indeed. But a painstaking comparison
of their systems is justified, Sciabarra thinks, insofar as Lossky's
writings embody themes and ambitions common to Russian intellectuals of the

Placing Rand's work in this historical context also leads to some insights
that are, to put it mildly, provocative. Rand's definition of art as "the
technology of the soul" has a futurist ring to it. But to anyone familiar
with Soviet history, it also brings to mind Stalin's pronouncement that the
writer is the "engineer of the human soul." Sciabarra notes the parallel
without flinching, and finds its source in the era's more grandiose
ambitions for cultural and social transformation. . .

>From my article on Soviet ecology

Stalin adapted a crude version of Marxism based on a "productivist" reading
of the Communist Manifesto. Gone was any attempt to view society and nature
as in harmony. Instead, man would conquer and tame nature like a hostile
beast. Scientists and artists were sensitive to Stalin's new views and
helped him find the words to express them. Leonid Leonov wrote a novel
called "Soviet River" whose protagonist is the engineer Uvadiev. His
antagonist? Nature itself. "From the moment when Uvadiev stepped on the
bank, a challenge was cast at the River Sot'...and it seemed as though the
very earth beneath his feet was his enemy." Another square-jawed,
broad-shouldered hero is the Soviet manager Sergei Potemkin who had a dream
to turn forests into newsprint. Leonov rhapsodizes:

"Gradually...his dream had swollen...Potemkin sleeps not; he straightens
and deepens the ancient bed of rivers, increasing fourfold their carrying
capacity...unties three provinces around his industrial infant...opens a
paper college...Cellulose rivers flow to foreign lands, the percentage of
cellulose in the newspaper world is tripled. The dreams urge on reality,
and reality hastens on the dreams."

(Doesn't this sound a bit like an Ayn Rand novel? Apparently this Russian
emigré must have sopped up the culture of such proletarian novels and
simply transposed them to the capitalist world.)

Louis Proyect


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