Soviet Russia

The essential characteristic of socialism is the denial of individual property rights; under socialism, the right to property (which is the right of use and disposal) is vested in “society as a whole,” i.e., in the collective, with production and distribution controlled by the state, i.e., by the government.

Socialism may be established by force, as in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—or by vote, as in Nazi (National Socialist) Germany. The degree of socialization may be total, as in Russia—or partial, as in England. Theoretically, the differences are superficial; practically, they are only a matter of time. The basic principle, in all cases, is the same.

The alleged goals of socialism were: the abolition of poverty, the achievement of general prosperity, progress, peace and human brotherhood. The results have been a terrifying failure—terrifying, that is, if one’s motive is men’s welfare.

Instead of prosperity, socialism has brought economic paralysis and/or collapse to every country that tried it. The degree of socialization has been the degree of disaster. The consequences have varied accordingly.

In more fully socialized countries, famine was the start, the insignia announcing socialist rule—as in Soviet Russia, as in Red China, as in Cuba. In those countries, socialism reduced the people to the unspeakable poverty of the pre-industrial ages, to literal starvation, and has kept them on a stagnant level of misery.

No, it is not “just temporary,” as socialism’s apologists have been saying—for half a century. After forty-five years of government planning, Russia is still unable to solve the problem of feeding her population.

As far as superior productivity and speed of economic progress are concerned, the question of any comparisons between capitalism and socialism has been answered once and for all—for any honest person—by the present difference between West and East Berlin.

Instead of peace, socialism has introduced a new kind of gruesome lunacy into international relations—the “cold war,” which is a state of chronic war with undeclared periods of peace between wantonly sudden invasions—with Russia seizing one-third of the globe, with socialist tribes and nations at one another’s throats, with socialist India invading Goa, and communist China invading socialist India.

An eloquent sign of the moral corruption of our age is the callous complacency with which most of the socialists and their sympathizers, the “liberals,” regard the atrocities perpetrated in socialistic countries and accept rule by terror as a way of life—while posturing as advocates of “human brotherhood.” . . .

In the name of “humanity,” they condone and accept the following: the abolition of all freedom and all rights, the expropriation of all property, executions without trial, torture chambers, slave-labor camps, the mass slaughter of countless millions in Soviet Russia—and the bloody horror of East Berlin, including the bullet-riddled bodies of fleeing children.

When one observes the nightmare of the desperate efforts made by hundreds of thousands of people struggling to escape from the socialized countries of Europe, to escape over barbed-wire fences, under machine-gun fire—one can no longer believe that socialism, in any of its forms, is motivated by benevolence and by the desire to achieve men’s welfare.

No man of authentic benevolence could evade or ignore so great a horror on so vast a scale.

The collectivization of Soviet agriculture was achieved by means of a government-planned famine—planned and carried out deliberately to force peasants into collective farms; Soviet Russia’s enemies claim that fifteen million peasants died in that famine; the Soviet government admits the death of seven million.

At the end of World War II, Soviet Russia’s enemies claimed that thirty million people were doing forced labor in Soviet concentration camps (and were dying of planned malnutrition, human lives being cheaper than food); Soviet Russia’s apologists admit to the figure of twelve million people.

When you hear the liberals mumble that Russia is not really socialistic, or that it was all Stalin’s fault, or that socialism never had a real chance in England, or that what they advocate is something that’s different somehow—you know that you are hearing the voices of men who haven’t a leg to stand on, men who are reduced to some vague hope that “somehow, my gang would have done it better.”

The secret dread of modern intellectuals, liberals and conservatives alike, the unadmitted terror at the root of their anxiety, which all of their current irrationalities are intended to stave off and to disguise, is the unstated knowledge that Soviet Russia is the full, actual, literal, consistent embodiment of the morality of altruism, that Stalin did not corrupt a noble ideal, that this is the only way altruism has to be or can ever be practiced. If service and self-sacrifice are a moral ideal, and if the “selfishness” of human nature prevents men from leaping into sacrificial furnaces, there is no reason—no reason that a mystic moralist could name—why a dictator should not push them in at the point of bayonets—for their own good, or the good of humanity, or the good of posterity, or the good of the latest bureaucrat’s latest five-year plan. There is no reason that they can name to oppose any atrocity. The value of a man’s life? His right to exist? His right to pursue his own happiness? These are concepts that belong to individualism and capitalism—to the antithesis of the altruist morality.

Half a century ago, the Soviet rulers commanded their subjects to be patient, bear privations, and make sacrifices for the sake of “industrializing” the country, promising that this was only temporary, that industrialization would bring them abundance, and Soviet progress would surpass the capitalistic West.

Today, Soviet Russia is still unable to feed her people—while the rulers scramble to copy, borrow, or steal the technological achievements of the West. Industrialization is not a static goal; it is a dynamic process with a rapid rate of obsolescence. So the wretched serfs of a planned tribal economy, who starved while waiting for electric generators and tractors, are now starving while waiting for atomic power and interplanetary travel. Thus, in a “people’s state,” the progress of science is a threat to the people, and every advance is taken out of the people’s shrinking hides.

Under the inept government of the Czars and with the most primitive methods of agriculture, Russia was a major grain exporter. The unusually fertile soil of the Ukraine alone was (and is) capable of feeding the entire world. Whatever natural conditions are required for growing wheat, Russia had (and has) them in overabundance. That Russia should now be on a list of hungry, wheat-begging importers, is the most damning indictment of a collectivist economy that reality can offer us.

Early in 1960, Anatoly Marchenko, a twenty-two-year-old laborer in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, happened to be present when a brawl erupted among some workers in a hostel. Every person found on the scene—innocent or guilty—was arrested and sent to a Siberian prison camp. Marchenko was one of them. He escaped from the camp and fled toward the Iranian border. Fifty yards from it, he was captured. While Western “humanitarians” were loudly applauding the “new liberalism” of the Khrushchev regime, Anatoly Marchenko was convicted of high treason and sentenced to six years in Russia’s concentration camps.

My Testimony is Marchenko’s report on those years. “When I was locked up in Vladimir Prison I was often seized by despair,” he writes in his preface. “Hunger, illness, and above all helplessness, the sheer impossibility of struggling against evil, provoked me to the point where I was ready to hurl myself upon my jailers with the sole aim of being killed. Or to put an end to myself in some other way. Or to maim myself as I had seen others do.

“One thing alone prevented me, one thing alone gave me the strength to live through that nightmare: the hope that I would eventually come out and tell the whole world what I had seen and experienced. I promised myself that for the sake of this aim I would suffer and endure everything. And I gave my word on this to my comrades who were doomed to spend many more years behind bars and barbed wire.” . . .

Marchenko’s account of his life in Vladimir [prison] is so horrifying that it becomes, at times, almost impossible to continue reading. Anyone who doubts the nature of the Soviet system should read every word. . . .

For more than fifty years, the West’s liberal intellectuals have proclaimed their love for mankind, while being bored by the rivers of blood pouring out of the Soviet Union. Professing their compassion for human suffering, they have none for the victims in Russia. Unable or unwilling to give up their faith in collectivism, they evade the existence of Soviet atrocities, of terror, secret police and concentration camps—and publish glowing tributes to Soviet technology, production and art. Posturing as humanitarians, they man the barricades to fight the “injustice,” “exploitation,” “repression,” and “persecution” they claim to find in America; as to the full reality of such things in Russia, they keep silent.

If anyone has any doubts about the moral meaning of the liberals’ position, let him read—and reread—every detail of Marchenko’s experiences. Let him remember that these horrors are not accidental in the Soviet Union and are not a matter of a particular dictator’s character. They are inherent in the system. They are the inevitable products of a fully collectivist society.

If anyone has any doubts about the evil of establishing cultural exchange programs or of building “trade-bridges” to the Soviet Union or of buying the products of slave labor, let him remember how Marchenko felt when he stood in front of a shop window in Moscow, after his release. “That television set has cost my friends our sweat, our health, roasting in the cooler and long hours during roll-call in the rain and snow. Look closely at that polished surface: can you not see reflected in it the close-shaven head, the yellow, emaciated face, and the black cotton tunic of a convict? Maybe it’s a former friend of yours?”

The Objectivist

Susan Ludel, “Review of Anatoly Marchenko’s My Testimony,”
The Objectivist, July 1970, 10

I would advocate that which the Soviet Union fears above all else: economic boycott. I would advocate a blockade of Cuba and an economic boycott of Soviet Russia; and you would see both those regimes collapse without the loss of a single American life.

Playboy Interview: Ayn Rand
Playboy, March 1964

It is immoral for the U.S. (and for all free or semi-free countries) to engage in any undertaking with Soviet Russia as a partner. It is particularly immoral if the undertaking is intellectual or cultural. Such a partnership necessarily implies and proclaims the acceptance of Soviet Russia as a peaceful, well-meaning, civilized country.

“Comments on the Moscow Olympics,”
The Intellectual Activist, Feb. 1, 1980, 1

There is only one form of protest open to the men of goodwill in the semi-free world: do not sanction the Soviet jailers of [the dissidents]—do not help them to pretend that they are the morally acceptable leaders of a civilized country. Do not patronize or support the evil pretense of the so-called “cultural exchanges”—any Soviet-government-sponsored scientists, professors, writers, artists, musicians, dancers (who are either vicious bootlickers or doomed, tortured victims). Do not patronize, support or deal with any Soviet supporters and apologists in this country: they are the guiltiest men of all.

Copyright © 1986 by Harry Binswanger. Introduction copyright © 1986 by Leonard Peikoff. All rights reserved. For information address New American Library.


Excerpts from The Ominous Parallels, by Leonard Peikoff. Copyright © 1982 by Leonard Peikoff. Reprinted with permission of Stein and Day Publishers. Excerpts from The Romantic Manifesto, by Ayn Rand. Copyright © 1971, by The Objectivist. Reprinted with permission of Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. Excerpts from Atlas Shrugged, copyright © 1957 by Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead, copyright © 1943 by Ayn Rand, and For the New Intellectual, copyright © 1961 by Ayn Rand. Reprinted by permission of the Estate of Ayn Rand. Excerpts from Philosophy: Who Needs It, by Ayn Rand. Copyright © 1982 by Leonard Peikoff, Executor, Estate of Ayn Rand. Reprinted by permission of the Estate of Ayn Rand. Excerpts from “The Philosophy of Objectivism” lecture series. Copyright © 1976 by Leonard Peikoff. Reprinted by permission. Excerpts from Alvin Toffler’s interview with Ayn Rand, which first appeared in Playboy magazine. Copyright © 1964. Reprinted by permission of Alvin Toffler. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Plume, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.