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Ayn Rand, “The Left: Old and New”

Week 6

Ayn Rand, “The Left: Old and New”

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Week 6

Executive Summary

In this 1970 article, Rand analyzes a major shift in leftist strategy. As compelling evidence increasingly connected capitalism to reason, achievement, and prosperity, leftists increasingly turned to non-rational and irrational socialisms and attacked the very idea that productivity and progress matter.

  1. The old left claimed to be champions of progress. It held that scientific socialism would liberate humans and bring a higher standard of living. The transition to the New Left happened in part because the Soviet Union and National Socialist Germany did not bring freedom and prosperity—quite the contrary. “The old-line Marxists used to claim that a single modern factory could produce enough shoes to provide for the whole population of the world and that nothing but capitalism prevented it. When they discovered the facts of reality involved, they declared that going barefoot is superior to wearing shoes.”
  2. Consequently, the New Left resolved the tension between their aspirations and reality by rejecting reason and its consequences. The hippie movement, the revival of astrology, the rise of New Age religions, and ecological socialisms are manifestations of this trend.
  3. All reject the modern world of reason, individualism, and competition for a post-modern world of feelings, tribalism, and communalism. Their fundamental principles of “mysticism-altruism-collectivism” have not changed—rather the New Left is “cruder and more honest” in its explicit goals and practical methods.
  4. The New Left is harsh in its “crusade” against modern capitalism’s valuing work over leisure, its “overproduction” and “consumerism,” and its technology that despoils and pollutes “natural beauty.”
  5. Ecological socialism is an ultimate manifestation: capitalism “destroys” raw nature with highways, medicine, and skyscrapers. But rather than combating problems like pollution with clearly-defined “appropriate and objective laws” based on science, the New Left seeks to eradicate technology, capitalism, and, ultimately, the rational human being.
  6. Psychologically, all leftist movements tend to the lust to destroy. Under the guise of a purer life with the natural environment, they promote envy and hatred towards any conscious activity, and are willing to use any and all means of social pressure and government power available.​

Read Ayn Rand’s essay here. Summary by Andrei Volkov and Stephen Hicks, 2020.

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