Community theatre troupe not afraid to take on controversial political icon

In reality, Ayn Rand is dead
Community theatre troupe not afraid to take on controversial political icon

It’s been almost 25 years since David Fennario’s Black Rock Theatre brought a Karl Marx-waxing Joe Beef to the Pointe. Now PSC Community Theatre is picking up the torch. Don't expect to hear quotes from the Communist Manifesto, though. PSC’s next project is to be a production of ultraconservative Ayn Rand's first play, "Night of January 16th", the story of an individual's search for himself in a world of increasing moral decadence (

Of course there are some truly great right-wing writers: Elliot, Pound, etc. Personally I’m quite a fan of the apocalyptic God-will-have-His-revenge-on-atheists-and-feminists novels of Flannery O'Connor.

But Ayn Rand? Failed screenwriter, second-rate novelist and theorist of objectivism,
Rand is famous for her promotion of a utopian, ultra-laissez faire capitalism that was so extreme, it even turned off free marketeers. For the duration of her life Rand had almost no intellectual heirs and made no indent in academia.

That’s not to say that no one read her.

In the 1950s a group of graduate students began to dedicate themselves to the study of her work (at least one of them, Nathaniel Brandon, studied more than just her work, maintaining a rather morally decadent illicit affair with her). Though her accolades were few, they were from influential sources, including later Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan. Brandon founded the Nathaniel Brandon Institute, which promoted Ayn Rand speaking tours, and later his colleague Leonard Peikoff founded the Ayn Rand Institute, which distributed Rand op-ed pieces to newspapers around the world. Over the last 20 years the ARI, as it is known, has found sympathetic ears in the corporate community and in right-wing politics. Rand believed in a totally free market and abolishing the state. She would, though, retain its repressive arms – the police and the judiciary – to protect us from moral decay. If this sounds like Stephen Harper’s electoral program don’t be surprised.

The growing number of institutions dedicated to the proliferation of Rand’s ideas have now amassed massive funds, created think tanks and embarked upon various projects that aim to make Rand’s views known, including the distribution of 700,000 copies of Rand’s books to high schools in the US (since 2005 a Canadian branch of the ARI has been doing the same here). Their success is palpable. A trip to any bookstore catering to a business crowd (a Reisman-owned megastore for example) will likely find a collection of Rand’s works ten times larger than the next most popular philosopher.

Rand thought that the United States was “the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world.” She thought that "the Arabs are one of the least developed cultures…Their culture is primitive, and they resent Israel because it's the sole beachhead of modern science and civilization on their continent." She was disgusted by homosexuality because "there is a psychological immorality at the root of homosexuality" since "it involves psychological flaws, corruptions, errors, or unfortunate premises." Rand was opposed to racism, but was also opposed to government intervention to stop discrimination based on race or sex. In 1947 she appeared as a “friendly witness” (read eager witness) to the House Committee on Un-American Activities to denounce Hollywood artists who portrayed Russia in a sympathetic light.

So why is it that a community theatre in Pointe St-Charles has seen the need to promote someone who seemingly has so little to say to 2008? Is it because she’s considered a rebel, since she never gained formal credibility? Or perhaps it’s a just mark of our times, of community groups that have bought into the ideas of the dominant class, completely oblivious that those ideas have nothing to offer them.


  1. There are a lot of errors here. I'll point out a few:

    - Ayn Rand was not "ultraconservative". She was a radical for capitalism and saved some of her harshest criticism for conservatives.

    - Night of January 16th has been a staple of community theater for decades. I wouldn't read anything into its choice other than that they think it's clever (the audience jury gimmick is probably what attracts people to it).

    - "Rand believed in a totally free market and abolishing the state. She would, though, retain its repressive arms – the police and the judiciary – to protect us from moral decay." I see a slight contradiction here. Anyway, Rand was for a limited state, one whose sole function is to protect individual rights. Nothing about protecting people from moral decay. She didn't mind if people decayed morally as long as moral people weren't prevented from living their lives without interference.

    - Stephen Harper an Ayn Rand fan? Please. I only wish it were so. If he were running in the US, he'd have to run as a Democrat.

    - "She was disgusted by homosexuality." This is true, but she also made a point to say that the government had no business interfering in private, consensual sex. And her personal views on homosexuality were never mentioned in any of her works. Incidentally, there are many gay Objectivists (myself included), some prominent and affiliated with ARI.

  2. Oh, thank you so much Mark for saving me a bunch of time writing my own comment. Your points are perfectly made. But I would also like to give Matt some credit for having earned your effort to make them. (You will find, Matt, that Objectivists never just give or receive. They are always exchanging value for value.)

    What I mean is that contrary to so many anti-Rand blogposts, there are enough facts in Matt's to demonstrate that a somewhat honest effort was made to base the comments on more than just hearsay. And Matt et al do face some significant hurdles in criticizing Rand they could never imagine in advance.

    The primary hurdle is that Rand's social and economic positions are not derived from a quest for quickie pragmatic solutions. They derive from a comprehensive and tightly reasoned philosophy that precedes and supports them. No blog writer is going to take the couple of years it requires to work through her system in order to be able to draw accurate conclusions in every situation. The eagerness to exploit this newfound power of their own blog results in a rush to judgments of Rand using assumptions made in the context of current philosophies and politics entirely alien to hers. Consequently, the sheer mass of the Rand's oeuvre can be a treacherous obstacle course for anyone traveling at blog-speed.

    The second hurdle is that Matt, like so many, is self-satisfied in not being completely objective. That prevents him from escaping his own prior prejudices. For instance, Matt, your use of the word "business" is a perfect replica of how my southern red-neck grandparents used the words "Jew" and "nigrah". You are in this respect an unmitigated bigot. I am going to hope you and other readers will get this without further explanation. But if not, just ask, and I will be happy to provide. But don't fret, it is not genetic, and can be easily cured with some regular doses of objectivity over a protracted time.

    Finally, I would like to expand on Mark's correction of your mistaken view of Rand's politics as right-wing. On your commission of this error I am also of two minds. When I explain it, you will see that her explanation of the persistent left-right dichotomy is original and profound, and not easy to fully integrate without working your way through more of the philosophy. And in that sense I want to excuse you.

    But, on the other hand, how did you miss the fact that radical capitalism guarantees everyone the right to do anything they want regardless of what the rest of society thinks so long as they do not initiate the use of physical force against another in the process? That pits her against any restrictions by government of the so-called victimless-crimes between consenting adults: prostitution, drug use or sale, sexual perversion, and abortion. Calling that position right-wing is a real stretch. (Perhaps it is just a flare-up of that old prejudice malady.)

    In politics, Rand rejected both the left and the right as false alternatives. Her radical capitalism is neither. It occupies the extreme position on the political axis that stretches from her entirely reason-based and unadulterated liberty at one end to the entirely mysticism-based tyrannies of Pol Pot and the like at the opposite extreme.

    The point at which left and right are most extremely opposed is the half-way house on the road from pure liberty to pure tyranny. The left seeks to liberate our spiritual values while dictating our material ones. The right seeks the reverse. Rand integrated and liberated both. Consequently, she supported the liberties allowed by the left and right while condemning their inverted tyrannies.

    The pivotal issue separating Rand from all other politics is initiated force. The issue separating left from right is which aspect of our struggle to survive and flourish the two sides want to use force to control. It is therefore not possible to move to the left or right of Rand without abandoning a liberty in favor of coercion.

    As those on the left and right come closer to Rand by favoring more liberties, they also come closer to each other and harder to tell apart (Libertarians).

    As those on the left and right come closer to Pol Pot by favoring more coercion, they also come closer to each other and are harder to tell apart (Hitler and Stalin).

    The left/right division is not just a convention, it is a manifestation of a profound philosophical error, the mind-body dichotomy. To understand the philosophical underpinnings better, there is a brief summary by Rand under "Conservatives" vs. "Liberals" in the Ayn Rand Lexicon at

    And, by the way, if you want to be a well-informed Rand hater, you should always check out the ideas you are attacking in the Lexicon first. You can save yourself a bundle of embarrassment.

  3. I guess this sort of thing is to be expected in the Pointe.

    The gentrification of the area has been underway for at least a decade.

    Their next logical step is for the city to allow parasitic developers to demolish what's left of Griffintown while rebuilding it for corporate scumbags and yuppies.

    My only question is, what took them so long?

    We local socialists have dropped the ball here....

    Capitalism like nature abhors a vacuum. So, of course they'll move in with a PR blitz to try to convince residents that they will "improve" the situation.

    As for Ayn Rand and her books no one with an IQ above room temperature could get through a paragraph of her convoluted, constipated prose.

    Intellectually, the woman was a stopped clock. (Like her followers.)

    Early on in life she found an ideology which appealed to her limited reactionary mind. Then she spent the rest of her life parroting its catch-phrases by rote.

    The more fanatical members of the cult of capitalism have, since her death, been attempting to elevate her to the status of a high-priestess of the cult. But she contributed nothing original to the ideology.

    The ideas she advocates in her books were old even before she was born.

    As for Michael M.'s comments, let me get this straight:

    If you have an ideological opposition to capitalism that makes you a racist?

    What a pathetic schmuck! Are you smoking crack little boy?

    Did you think this stupidity up all by yourself? Or like Ayn Rand are you parroting what you've heard somewhere else?

    Your whole commentary reads like some eager freshman trying desperately to impress the prof by vomiting out half understood lecture notes into a term paper.

    Apparently, you seem to think if you can't blind them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

    Your point that one cannot be "objective" unless one buys completely into a right-wing agenda is ludicrous.

    But that is the sort of hypocrisy we've come to expect from the political right....

  4. Very intriguing post and blog.

    Your instincts are correct. There are better rebel playwrights around, try Brecht.


  5. Holy Sh*T Jones... making less than $30K as per and still thinking socialism works. wow.



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