My mention of Ayn Rand in my post about The Jungle and Patrick Prescott’s comment about it set me thinking: what if Ayn Rand’s efforts to ridicule socialism went further than anyone realized? What if the style of her books, with their interminable preaching and sprawling, momentum-killing speeches detailing various points of philosophy and economics, were meant as a deliberate counterpoint to socialist novels that did the same thing?
Look at some of the covers of Rand’s books, especially this edition of Atlas Shrugged, and notice how much it looks like Soviet propaganda art. The structure and marketing of these books was ironically basing itself off of socialism’s propaganda.
Even Rand’s “fan club” called itself “the Collective”–again, a joke, since they were a collective of radical individualists. They were always mocking socialist ideas and terms, so why not in the very style of the books themselves? And, most interesting of all, what if the increasingly totalitarian bent of “The Collective” was just an elaborate satire on how socialism itself went from being a theory-based social movement to a fanatical, quasi-religious cult based on the worship of idols like Marx and Lenin.
Maybe Rand was pretending to be as much of a zealot as the collectivists she hated. Maybe she was the Sacha Baron Cohen of her time, deliberately playing a certain role to reveal something about her audience. Like Orwell’s Animal Farm, she was showing how the principles of an idealistic revolution give way to less rational behavior in the end.
Ok, in all honesty, I don’t believe that Rand did any of that on purpose. She was too humorless and kept it up too long for it to be a joke. But still, it’s almost uncanny how the evolution of “Objectivism” mimics that of socialism, (especially Russian socialism) starting as a theory, being advanced with zealousness and ham-fisted propaganda, and finally turning into a totalitarian cult of personality.
It’s even more ironic when you consider that “Objectivism” was devised as the mirror opposite of socialism, and socialism was itself the mirror opposite of capitalism. I think there must have been subtle distortions in the mirror, though.