Photo by Steve Harvey on Unsplash

Reliving We the Living — An Invitation to Live and Grow Together


What is going on in 2020 America? Financial repression via central planning of the money supply and government purchase of bonds and debt has advanced to unthought-of levels. Speech codes imposed by one class of people on the others are brutally enforced. There are riots and violence in our city streets.

These conditions did not come into being without any preceding history. It is important for us to examine the precedents to us to help us understand current trends and occurrences. What are the stories from the past that got us to today?

Part I

It is no secret that Ayn Rand was a prolific and controversial writer and philosopher. To this day, her life’s story and work are admired by individualists around the world, and reviled by collectivists who merely know her name. Rand’s most well-known product is her greatest, and last, novel, Atlas Shrugged. Published in 1957, it is the defining, fictional statement of her philosophy of Objectivism. For a small sample of its principles, this column quoted Rand’s character, oilman Ellis Wyatt, on July 10th,

Only those who produce, not those who consume, can be anybody’s market. I deal with life-givers, not with cannibals. Here, we trade achievements, not failures — values, not needs. We’re free of each other, yet we all grow together. What greater wealth is there than to own your life and to spend it on growing? Every living thing must grow.

What is not well known is Rand’s uniquely important first novel. Published in 1936, We the Living described the conditions and despair that prevailed in 1920’s Soviet Russia, and from which Ayn Rand escaped as a young woman. On December 24, 2018, the Poetic Justice Warrior Spotlight Series explained,

We the Living was Rand’s opening salvo for her sense of life in the world of fiction. As an émigré from Soviet Russia in 1926, she could speak with authority about the life-sapping totalitarianism that held her country hostage. So it makes sense that she was shocked to find acceptance of Soviet style oppression among American intellectuals and politicians.

From this immovable platform, Rand launched a career that improved the lives of millions of people who are driven by the irresistible force of reason, purpose, and pride. As Rand herself wrote many years later, and re-published in the 60th anniversary edition of We the Living,

I had not read this novel as a whole, since the time of its first publication in 1936, until a few months ago. I had not expected to be as proud of it as I am. In regard to We the Living, I had felt that my means were inadequate to my purpose, and that I had not said what I wanted to say as well as I wished. Now, I am startled to discover how well I did say it.

Part II

Now, it is our turn to re-examine this novel of life-sapping totalitarianism that holds a country back. We’d like to invite our readers to re-examine this story from the past with us, and to reflect on what we can learn about the forces at work in our present day from the pages of We the Living. You can obtain your own copy of the novel here and we invite you to comment on it. We’ll monitor the comments sections to keep them respectful and to avoid “spoilers”.

It’s our belief that this project is relevant to your life’s experience in 2020 America, and this will be revealed to each participant, on your own terms, as each chapter unfolds. Our online forum has been set up as a Private Group, so it is not searchable, and membership will not show up on your Facebook profile.

We will learn together about the virtues, vices, and motivations of each character, and the ethical and political context of their actions. We will also relate the individuals and political climate of the novel, 1920’s Soviet Russia, with their counterparts in 2020 America.

For example, what is the dominant philosophy that drove the Soviets, and how does it manifest itself in our postmodern culture? Most importantly, what can we learn from the leading character, Kira Argounova, that could and should guide our personal conduct and culture so that every human being can live and grow?

Post Script

Look for our discussion group on Facebook! The online forum is private, and the conversation is meant to be engaging, polite, and productive!



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Mark Shupe

Mark Shupe

Mark Shupe writes about economic and political freedom.