AYN RAND: I regard him ideologically as lower than the rulers of Russia. He is the worst public caricature of a monster that has emerged in this age, which displays an awful lot of public caricatures and unappetizing characters. Before you speak of Solzhenitsyn or ask anything about him, please read the letter that he sent to the Soviet authorities shortly before he was deported. Read that letter. It has been published; it has been translated. I read it in the original Russian. In it, that man proclaims, in effect, that he is a totalitarian collectivist. He says so openly – though not in those words. He is merely against Marxism. He wants Russia to remain a dictatorship, but a dictatorship run by the Russian Church. He wants Russian religion, the Greek Orthodox Church, to be a substitute for Marxism. In other words, he wants to take Russia back to the stage before Peter the Great, to the seventeenth century or earlier. He is anti-industrial and wants to take Russia back to being an agrarian country. And that horrible, pretentious person is held as some kind of hero of liberation. He doesn’t want to free the world. He is denouncing the West; he is denouncing Western civilization. He is that ancient, chauvinistic aberration: a Slavophile. He says, in that letter of his, that he wants the Russian government – the Communist Party – to keep all its economic and political power; he lists specifically the power over production, trade, and distribution, over foreign relationships, over the army. All he wants is that the government allow people to speak and write freely. Now remember, he’s a writer.
And in the conclusion of this unspeakable document, he says the following (I am quoting from memory): I want nothing for myself, I am sure that you, the rulers, have never seen and cannot imagine a man who is not asking something for himself – well here I am, please look at me. Is this a “selfless” person? Or is this an example of the worst kind of conventional “selfishness” and vanity? Well, that’s as much of a motive as any religious mystic-altruist would ever project. That’s all that his disinterested “selflessness” means: give me freedom to write, and the other human activities and professions can be enslaved, I’m quite willing to put up with it. With ideas of that kind, to come here and posture as a prophet of freedom is really adding insult to injury. Sure, what Solzhenitsyn wrote about the Soviet concentration camps is true. Better people have said it before. We should consider them, not a man who is philosophically the exact opposite of everything the West stands for or should stand for – a man who is a profound enemy of individualism and of reason. That is my opinion of Mr. Solzhenitsyn.
Boston, Ford Hall Forum, 1976.