Heading toward dictatorship: Another Ayn Rand novel for our times

by Scott Holleran

The world is full of dictatorships — Iran, Saudi Arabia and China — yet, because it was founded on individual rights, America stands alone as man’s best hope for freedom. But it is changing from a nation based on rights to a state run by government control. If you do not know what that means, to paraphrase Ayn Rand — who lived under and escaped dictatorship, and wrote about it — We the Living will help you to know.

THOUGH INCREASED sales of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand have been getting the attention, Rand’s lesser-known first novel, We the Living (1936), is also relevant in today’s turbulent times. Rand once described We the Living, adapted for film in 1942, available for the first time on DVD, and recently published in trade paperback, as “a book for Americans.”

The story, set in Soviet Russia, dramatizes the evil of totalitarianism. In her foreword, Rand, who had lived under communism, wrote: “We the Living is not a story about Soviet Russia in 1925. It is a story about dictatorship, any dictatorship, anywhere, at any time, whether it be Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, or — which this novel might do its share in helping to prevent — a socialist America.”

Scott Holleran is a freelance writer in California. This column was originally published in the Providence Journal.
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