The story is clichéd. A teenager discovers a book. It challenges his religion. It rips apart his morality. He radically changes his behavior within days. The path of his life is forever altered. As Jerome Tuccille titled his book about the libertarian movement, It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand.
Even a casual glance at the American scene shows Rand’s influence is growing. Sales of Atlas Shrugged are brisk, and Rand’s magnum opus is consistently ranked in polls as one of the most influential books in Americans’ lives, just behind the Bible.
Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, is unapologetically selfish. Rand proclaimed “greed is good” well before Gordon Gekko. Family, religion, nation, and race were all collectivist “mysticism” that a free man must ruthlessly swipe aside. Objectivists heaped scorn upon the very concept of race, declaring that the individual holds no allegiance to anything except those loyalties that are freely chosen. Background is an accident; heritage an irrelevance. The Russian Jewess Ayn Rand (real name Alisa Rosenbaum) seems a bizarro version of Emma Goldman designed to wean the American Right away from White racial nationalism. Objectivism, in theory, is a mortal threat to White racial identity — another rabbit hole for White Americans to fall down in their never ending quest to pursue every ideology, party, or platform except the ones that might allow them to take their own side. In fact, Objectivism denies that they have a side at all, or even that there is a “they.”
And yet, despite it all, for a surprising number of White advocates, it usually begins with Ayn Rand. The journey from the world of the heroic architect Howard Roark to Jared Taylor or even Julius Evola is not uncommon. Strange as it seems, the writings of an anti-racist Jewess have real value to White nationalists even beyond serving as a stepping stone to greater truths. A closer examination of Rand’s life and work reveal that some of the assumptions behind Objectivism can lead to White advocacy. It may seem contradictory to interpret Alisa Rosenbaum as some kind of proto-White nationalist. However, as Francisco d’Anconia said in Atlas Shrugged, “Check your premises. Contradictions don’t exist.” The answers we find might surprise us.
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To answer the question, “Who is John Galt?” one must first know “Who is Ayn Rand?” Alisa Rosenbaum was destined to create a philosophy of deracination, as her own roots were shallow. She was the daughter of a pharmacist in St. Petersburg who nursed a quiet hostility for Bolshevism. The Rosenbaums, middle class Jews in the midst of tsarist Russia, were an oddity, and the young Rosenbaum had an economically comfortable but isolated early life, with no participation in Jewish religious life, the resentment of the peasantry, or the Orthodox Russian upper class whose glittering existence she could only glimpse. Rand’s family was non-observant but even the ultimate individualist had to be aware of a distinction between her Jewish family and the Orthodox masses of Holy Russia.
Rand, even at an early age, was recognized for her fierce intelligence and aloof attitude towards those she considered intellectually beneath her. Family was never terribly important to Rand, with even a real relationship to her father dependent on intellectual agreement. It is also not surprising that Rand despised what she saw as the “mystical” soul of her Orthodox homeland and looked west, especially to England and America, for a place that fit what she called her “sense of life.” Perhaps reading into the Anglosphere what she wanted to see, she viewed the English-speaking world as a bastion of reason, liberty, and science in contrast to the Oriental despotism of Russia. She was proud of her westward looking home city of St. Petersburg, calling it a “monument to the spirit of man.” Rand supported the downfall of the Tsar and the rise of a parliamentary regime, identifying her first hero in Alexander Kerensky. Unfortunately for Rand and for Russia, the Kerensky regime was only a placeholder for the more disciplined and dedicated Bolsheviks.
The Bolshevik Revolution destroyed what order existed in Rand’s world, with her “bourgeois” father’s wealth confiscated and his shop destroyed. Rand genuinely respected her father and saw with shock how the work of a lifetime was destroyed in the name of revolution. Rand’s life was a nightmare world of grinding poverty, constant hunger, and creeping terror that at any time she would be denounced or arrested. Rand was also forced to study Marxist ideology as part of her education. The Revolution became the formative experience of her life. Rand could justifiably state that she thoroughly understood Communism as both theory and practice.
Rand’s unique background combined with her oppression at the hands of the Bolsheviks provides the key to understanding her work. Rand’s Jewish heritage and scorn for Russian culture prevented her from conceiving of the Communist Revolution as a hostile or “foreign” movement. Rand could not identify with any resistance to the Bolsheviks couched in terms of traditionalism, Orthodoxy, or Russian patriotism or identity. However, Rand’s “bourgeois” background ensured that she also did not conceive of the Revolution as liberation or as revenge for anti-Semitism that she never experienced. She and her family suffered horribly at the hands of their supposed co-ethnics amidst the Bolsheviks, a persecution she could only explain as a product of class hostility divorced from considerations of race or religion.
Rand’s forced education in the historical dialectic also affected her interpretation of Bolshevism. Rand boasted that she had never been affected by Marxist propaganda and “learned in reverse” by critically analyzing everything she was taught and formulating reasons as to why the Communists were wrong. The dialectical method of education emphasized the interplay of philosophical principles with economic and social factors that led to “inevitable” conclusions. Thus, Rand viewed history as the conflict of abstractions in the real world. She created her own dialectic, in which “values” determine the success or failure of societies and individuals. Rand absorbed much of the Marxist method — she just changed the conclusions. For a society — or a person — to succeed, it was simply necessary to have the correct principles and all else would follow, systematically and inevitably.
Thus, because of her background and education, Rand did not view the Russian Revolution as an ethnic struggle between Jews and non-Jews, the byproduct of a poorly waged war, the victory of professional revolutionaries or even the end product of a host of complicated factors. Instead, it was the inevitable result of mistaken philosophy, the real world manifestation of an abstract ideological battle. Indeed, decades later, Ayn Rand would say to the graduates of West Point, “politics is not the cause, but the last consequence of philosophical ideas.” Hence, Rand would later say that the “most evil man in history” was not Marx, Lenin, or Stalin, but Immanuel Kant.
A central premise of Rand’s worldview is control. Rand tried to “name her path, to grasp it, to conceptualize it, and, most important, to put it under her conscious control.” The moral man guides himself through the dispassionate application of his reason to his chosen goals, sweeping all else before him. He is therefore successful. If a person neglects to choose any particular course and simply follows everyone else (a profoundly immoral act in Rand’s view), he will be condemned to flail wildly throughout his life, a victim of circumstance and the machinations of “collectivists” and “mystics” that seek to exploit him. The immoral, irrational man will be a failure.
Of course, Rand’s own life was heavily affected by the uncontrolled. Her own intellectual outlook was at least partly a product of her background. The fact that she was able to get an education only occurred because the Communist Party spared “bourgeois” students in her school years while purging them the next year. She also was fortunate in securing her escape from Russia. Her family randomly received a letter from relatives in America in 1925. Seizing the opportunity, Rand announced her intention to leave Russia and stay with her relatives, thus beginning a nearly impossible bureaucratic struggle to obtain the proper paperwork from Bolshevik authorities. Her family also raised the necessary money for the journey, an almost insurmountable obstacle in its own right. Rand lied on her paperwork and was not caught, and also noticed a minor clerical error that would have prevented her from leaving. Only through luck, unchosen family ties, and the sacrifice of others was Alisa able to emigrate from Russia.
Her parents were not so lucky — they would never obtain permission to leave Russia and died in the Siege of Leningrad. However, this narrow escape did not seem to affect Alisa Rosenbaum’s emerging worldview, nor did it challenge her conception of herself as entirely self-made. Her American relatives were perturbed at her seeming indifference to their existence and lack of gratitude, and she quickly moved to Hollywood where she worked as a screenwriter and costume designer. She also began her writing career, formally adopting the nom de plume Ayn Rand, breaking even in name from her Russian past and Russian family.
Rand’s first novel, We the Living, is an autobiographical tale of a young woman trying to survive in the new Soviet Union. In many ways, it is her best work, with complex characters and plot details that can only come from someone who has lived the experience. The heroine, Kira, falls for a free-spirited bourgeois man named Leo. Ultimately, the relationship collapses under the harsh reality of life under the Bolsheviks. Intriguingly, the most admirable character in the book is probably Andrei, a loyal, honest, and dedicated Communist who falls in love with Kira. Kira, who values him as a friend, becomes his lover in order to secure treatment for Leo’s tuberculosis. In the end, the book ends in tragedy, as Leo abandons Kira to become a gigolo, Andrei commits suicide, and Kira is shot while trying to escape Russia.
Anthem, a dystopian novella, is about a collectivist future in which even the word ‘I’ is banned. Uniquely for such a novel, technology has degenerated and the world is far more primitive than our own. A man named Equality 7-2521 rediscovers electricity but is punished by his society for doing so. Escaping from his society and joined by a woman he loves, he finds books that contain the word ‘I’. Inspired, he prepares to chart a new cause for humanity.
The Fountainhead is the work that made Ayn Rand a household name. It focuses on Howard Roark, an architect of genius who struggles to find work in a world ruled by compromise and cowardice. He falls in love with Dominique Francon, who is so disgusted by the world that she would rather destroy greatness than see it corrupted. Ellsworth Toohey, a socialist architecture critic, manipulates the culture to defeat Roark because he does not want to see greatness survive anywhere. Gail Wynand, a newspaper owner, had the potential to be a great man, but pursued power and is defeated when he finds that such a path leads to him being ruled by the masses, instead of ruling. In the end, Roark triumphs through the force of his genius.
Finally, the monumental Atlas Shrugged is about a strike by “the men of the mind.” As America sinks into socialism, men of ability around the country are mysteriously vanishing. Dagny Taggart, a beautiful female railroad tycoon, struggles to hold her railroad together. Eventually, she meets John Galt, Rand’s ideal man, a scientific genius who is deliberately withdrawing the men of ability from the country in order to collapse the collectivist system. In reality, though Taggart and Galt share the same values, they are enemies, as Taggart fights to keep the country going, and Galt wishes to see it destroyed in order to be reborn. In the end, Taggart admits Galt is right, and the country collapses as the lights go out in New York. The novel ends, however, on a note of hope, as the men of ability prepare to return.
Rand presented her worldview through her work. However, are her novels really “Objectivist?” Ayn Rand’s early experiences show a clear tendency on her part to reinterpret her experiences and views in order to be consistent with her abstract ideology. As Objectivism crystallized, Rand ultimately put more demands for obedience on both her readers and ideological followers, outlining the correct moral choices on matters such as politics, architecture, music, and even sex.
Few of these choices can be justified purely through reason, as Rand’s own life would later demonstrate when she would try to rigorously apply her philosophy to her life. Rand married a bit actor named Frank O’Connor. However, in order to fit into her own self-conception, she ludicrously proclaimed that O’ Connor was not a failed actor but a misunderstood hero “on strike” against the world. Actually, O’Connor allowed Rand to dominate the relationship, reversing what Rand held to be the ideal. Later, the much older Rand began a sexual affair with the already married Nathaniel Branden, her chosen intellectual heir. Because sex was held to be an inevitable outgrowth of deeply held metaphysical principles, Rand forced the affair to be approved by O’Connor and Nathaniel’s wife Barbara.
Of course, it ended in disaster. Branden’s marriage was destroyed and O’Connor desperately cried out that he wanted to leave Rand but he had been so beaten down he couldn’t. When Nathaniel could no longer maintain his sexual attraction to a much older woman and began a relationship with someone younger, Rand interpreted the rejection as intellectual betrayal, expelled Nathaniel from all Objectivist organizations, removed the dedication to him in Atlas Shrugged, and practically gutted the emerging “official” Objectivist movement, a sad consequence of the attempt to subordinate sex to ideology.
A careful reader can see the premises that contradict Rand’s own ideology even within her own books. Even though the novels are often castigated as being simply collections of speeches by characters who serve as either Objectivist mouthpieces or collectivist straw men, the truth is more sophisticated and complex. Of course, as Francisco d’Anconia of Atlas Shrugged, tells us, “Check your premises. Contradictions don’t exist.” Rather than adopting a premise and using reason to arrive inexorably at one corollary after another, Rand’s approach is more akin to arriving at a desired conclusion and then retroactively rationalizing the philosophic steps needed to get to that point. In her fiction, it is actually the world presented, not the rationalizations created to get there, that are attractive to so many readers. Let’s check Ayn’s premises. The result actually shows that Rand might have more to teach White nationalists than libertarians.
A term often used by Ayn Rand to describe herself, her followers, and her enemies was “a sense of life.” This refers to the value judgments and emotional responses that a person has to the things he encounters. Ultimately, these derive from the philosophical principles a person implicitly believes or consciously chooses. “A sense of life” is a Weltanschauung as observed through the prism of Objectivist theory and the premise that such reactions can always be determined by rational choice. Hence, if a piece of music, a book, or another person created a positive or negative emotional reaction in someone, one could analyze that person’s deepest beliefs and character according to those likes or dislikes. If we accept this premise, we find Rand’s sense of life is similar to what would one expect for any White nationalist.
Rand’s first literary hero was the character Cyrus from an adventure story called “The Mysterious Valley.” Cyrus was a handsome, dashing British officer who foiled a plot by superstitious Indian natives to overthrow the British Raj and ravish a young blonde English girl. Cyrus rescues the girl and uses dynamite to blow up a dam, flooding the natives and killing them all. Cyrus triumphs through daring, intelligence, and courage, easily outsmarting the colored masses and laughing in his victory. One can compare Cyrus to John Wayne fighting Indians, the stories of Rudyard Kipling, or even to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. If Edward Said, author of Orientalism, read this story, he would surely grind his teeth in rage.
However, Rand was thrilled by the story and later told a biographer, “the kind of feeling I had for [Cyrus], it still exists, it’s in essence everything that I’ve ever felt for Roark, Galt . . . or all my values.” Barbara Branden comments, “Howard Roark in The Fountainhead was Cyrus, John Galt and Hank Rearden and Francisco d’Anconia in Atlas Shrugged were Cyrus.”
Rand’s hero-worship of the Aryan peoples had much to do with simple aesthetic appeal. One of the most important experiences in Alisa Rosenbaum’s life was when she saw a young girl named Daisy Gerhardi from England, who wore stylish clothes and played tennis, which was unheard of for young Russian girls. She would later say, “It amazed me. . . . it was a creature out of a different world, my idea of what a woman should be. I can still see her today, a very active, tall, long-legged girl in motion.”
It is therefore not surprising to us, but surprising to those who accept Rand’s individualist rhetoric at face value, that all of the heroes of Rand’s novels are clearly, even comically Nordic. Howard Roark, the heroic architect of The Fountainhead, is described as having “hair neither blond nor red, but the exact color of ripe orange rind” and “a body of long straight lines and angles, each curve broken into plains.” His great love, Dominique Francon has grey eyes and pale gold hair. The great love of the hero of Anthem is simply referred to as “The Golden One.”
In Atlas Shrugged, the heroine Dagny Taggart , has grey eyes and brown hair. The heroic steel plant owner with whom she has a torrid affair, Hank Rearden, is described as having eyes with “the color and quality of pale blue ice” and ash-blond hair, with prominent cheekbones. Ragnar Danneskjold, the Scandinavian pirate who raids foreign aid ships in order to fight against the collectivists directly, has “gold hair and a face of . . . shocking perfection of beauty.” John Galt, the ultimate hero of Atlas Shrugged, the scientific genius and ideal man, has “chestnut-brown” hair, “the loose strands of the hair shading from brown to gold in the sun . . . his eyes were the deep, dark green of light glinting on metal.” He has “angular planes” for cheeks, once again, suggesting a Nordic phenotype.
There is one possible non-Aryan hero in Atlas Shrugged — Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastian d’ Anconia. However, even here Rand writes, “Nobody described his appearance as Latin, yet the word applied to him, not in its present, but in its original sense, not pertaining to Spain, but to ancient Rome. . . . His features had the fine precision of sculpture. His hair was Black and straight, swept Black. The suntan of his skin intensified the startling color of his eyes: they were a pure, clear blue.”
Most revealingly, Rand inserts herself into the book in an Alfred Hitchcock-like device. In Atlas Shrugged, the heroes that oppose socialism have a secret hideaway called “Galt’s Gulch” where they live “on strike” from the rest of the world and wait for it to collapse. As John Galt and Dagny Taggart walk by, a “writer who wouldn’t be published outside [Galt’s Gulch]” looks up at them. “She wore slacks, rolled above the knees of her bare legs, she had dark disheveled hair and large eyes.” As she looks at Galt, her glance contains “hopelessness, serenely accepted.” Though this worship was rationalized by Rand, clearly the Objectivist “sense of life” prizes the Aryan physical ideal — an ideal the Jewess Alisa Rosenbaum could worship, but never possess.
In contrast, rather than the Aryan supermen cum corporate overlords that are the heroes of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, Rand’s villains are some of the most brutal character sketches of the liberal elite ever written. Howard Roark’s antithesis in The Fountainhead is Ellsworth Monkton Toohey, who has a “thin little body” like that of a chicken just emerging from the egg, in all the sorry fragility of unhardened bones.”A great forehead dominated the body. The wedge-shaped face descended from the broad temples to a small, pointed chin. The hair was Black, lacquered, divided into equal halves by a thin White line . . . the nose was long and thin, prolonged by the small dab of a Black mustache. The eyes were dark and startling.”
Toohey is an architectural critic but is also much more. He organizes writers, architects, artists and others into various councils which do nothing but mouth leftist pieties. His writings promote equality and human rights, but in a witty, ironic, self-deprecating way that communicates that everything should be mocked and nothing should be taken seriously — except the destruction of the dissenter. Toohey is a murderer who never lets his victims see what it is that has destroyed them. He explains, “Don’t you find it interesting to see a huge, complicated piece of machinery, such as our society, all levers and belts and interlocking gears, the kind that looks as if one would need an army to operate it — and you find that by pressing your little finger against one spot, the one vital spot, the center of all its gravity, you can make the thing crumble into a worthless heap of scrap iron?”
It is impossible for White nationalists to not laugh at the portrait of respectable society that Rand draws. Toohey states, “Mr. Alvah Scarret [a worker at an anti-socialist paper], the college professors, the newspaper editors, the respectable mothers and the Chamber of Commerce should have come flying to the defense of Howard Roark — if they value their own lives. But they didn’t.” Replace Howard Roark with White advocates, and you have the situation today.
Similarly, the best scenes of both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged take place in the drawing rooms and cocktail parties of polite society. Empty-headed society women honor postmodern literature and new age spirituality for seemingly no other reason than fashion — fashion created by culture distorters such as Ellsworth Toohey. Meanwhile, men of genuine accomplishment and serious works of literature, art and music are destroyed, not through real criticism, but through mockery and the refusal of the average person to even comprehend what is being done.
In defiance of the egalitarian parasites she portrays, Rand advances a proudly inegalitarian creed. Her heroes are described as “ruthless” with “contemptuous mouths” that react to difficulty with suppressed emotion. Randian heroes are classic Nordic character types in both appearance and behavior. If the primary virtue of the Left is to be defined as “equality,” the works of Ayn Rand firmly maintain that men are not equal and that human lives are not of equal value.
According to Objectivism, no man has the right to initiate force against the use of someone else. Despite Rand’s supposed condemnation of force, her books show that her definition of “initiate” is somewhat flexible. Rand argues that not intervening to help the less able, even to save their lives, is a moral necessity. The entire plot of Atlas Shrugged focuses on the men of ability withdrawing their talents from an immoral society, condemning millions to starvation or violent death. Even if the argument of “sin by neglect” is rejected, the first edition of her 1936 novel We the Living has the heroine proclaim, “What are your masses but mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned for those who deserve it?” Though this was removed from a later edition, it is questionable whether there was actually a real transformation in Rand’s thought. When Dagny Taggart attempts to rescue John Galt from a government prison near the end of Atlas Shrugged, she calmly murders a guard because he can’t make up his mind what to do.
Rand’s views on the non-White world are also quite clear. She heaps scorn upon the idea that anyone owes the Third World anything. Angelina Jolie claims to be a fan of Ayn Rand, but she obviously missed John Galt speak on how “random females with causeless incomes flitter on trips around the globe and return to deliver the message that the backward peoples of the world demand a higher standard of living. Demand — of whom?” In Jean Raspail’s classic The Camp of the Saints, the activists who hurry to welcome invading immigrants cry, “We’re all from the Ganges now!” In Atlas Shrugged, John Galt asks, “Which is the monument to the triumph of the human spirit over matter: the germ-eaten hovels on the shorelines of the Ganges or the Atlantic skyline of New York?”
Most critically, Rand outlines an important concept — the sanction of the victim — that all White nationalists would be wise to adopt. In John Galt’s climatic speech, he outlines again and again the incredible accomplishments of the modern world and asks who makes it possible. Since it is obviously not the liberal literati or the champagne socialists, why are they able to direct the vast majority of the energy and wealth of the world, as well as determine the culture? According to Rand, it is because the productive have let them. “Your destroyers hold you by means of your endurance, your generosity, your innocence, your love — the endurance that carries their burdens — the generosity that responds to their cries of despair — the innocence that is unable to conceive of their evil and gives them the benefit of every doubt, refusing to condemn them without understanding and incapable of understanding such motives as theirs . . . in the name of your magnificent devotion to this earth, leave them, don’t exhaust the greatness of your soul on achieving the triumph of the evil of theirs.”
Such words can easily be directed at the Whites who serve the armies of an America that despises them, who pay the taxes to fund welfare programs for non-Whites, and who keep America going while receiving nothing but scorn in return. Who cannot think of the acceptance by Whites of the catch-all explanation of “racism” for every racial discrepancy in crime, education, income, or intelligence? Regardless of the Jewish media, White Americans are in the situation they are in today because they have given “the sanction of the victim.” Who makes this world possible? Like Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden, White Americans have to say, “We do.”
It is an obvious point to state that Rand’s world of capitalist Übermenschen, like libertarianism in general, is premised upon a White world, a world where uniquely Western values such as individualism, the rule of law, and limited government are taken for granted. Rand does not address how such a world of rugged individualists would survive in a country besieged by millions of hostile ethnics who practice ethnic solidarity. Nor does she explain how her childless heroes will build a world that could last more than a generation. Of course, oppressed White individualists could “go Galt” and withdraw their productivity — but as the example of Zimbabwe shows, the new non-White rulers probably don’t care. It is also obvious to point out that Rand’s rejection of the reality of race or the importance of unchosen, immutable genetic characteristics or facts of background blinded her to any real understanding of the world.
That said, the greater truth here is that Ayn Rand’s “sense of life” is deeper than her own superficial ideology. It assumes not just a White world, but an Aryan code of achievement, appreciation of hierarchy, and a robustly defended philosophy of greatness. Rand lays out a forthright defense of excellence as opposed to equality, not just in the realm of economics but throughout all human existence. Rand’s heroes are intelligent, productive, courageous, taciturn, admirable and attractive — and they are all obviously of Aryan heritage to boot. While White nationalists often look to past warriors, the Randian heroes show how Whites at their best could act in a peaceful, modern world.
Rand also shows the depravity of the left-wing elite, showing their motivation, appearance, and operations. While she obviously doesn’t address the question of Judaism, her novels remain one of the most powerful portraits of America’s parasitic rulers ever created.
Finally, Rand, through her concept of the “sanction of the victim” identifies the key moral precept that keeps White Americans in chains, and suggests that withdrawing it could blow apart the entire system that mandates our genocide.
Because of Rand’s background and personality, this essentially healthy worldview was turned into a universalistic abstraction. Nonetheless, a heretical kernel of a White nationalist “sense of life” endures in her novels. As with libertarianism in general, it remains for White advocates to “check Rand’s premises” and take her ideas to conclusions she could not have expected, including White identity and racial nationalism. In the end, the closest thing to Rand’s valley of heroes, “Galt’s Gulch,” might be found in the White Republic of the future.
1. “‘Atlas Shrugged’ 50 Years Later,” Christian Science Monitor (March 6, 2007). [Link]
2. Ayn Rand, “Philosophy: Who Needs It.” Lecture given at West Point, 1974. [Link]
3. Barbara Branden, The Passion of Ayn Rand (New York: Doubleday Books, 1987).
4. Branden, 12.
5. Branden, 9.
6. Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead (New York: Signet, 1996), 3.
7. Ibid, 105.
8. Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (New York: Plume Reprint Edition, 1999), 20.
9. Ibid, 34.
10. Ibid, 690.
11. Ibid, 643.
12. Ibid, 114.
13. Ibid, 660.
14. Rand, The Fountainhead, 231.
15. Ibid, 356.
16. Ibid, 357.
17. Ibid, 955.
18. Ibid, 963.
19. Ibid, 979.