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Ayn Rand hated communism, which had deprived her of what would have been a very sheltered and privileged life, and socialism, which she regarded as synonymous with it, and her followers have endorsed that view, to the extent that merely to call something ‘socialist’ is sufficient to damn it, without the need for further discussion. What few of them seem to have understood is that the government described with such scorn in Atlas Shrugged, far from being either socialist or communist, had far more in common with the right-wing, military-backed populist governments of the 1930s, when she began writing the book, than with the communist regimes that existed in various parts of the world when it was finally published. Or indeed, with the modern, increasingly  right-wing, conservative party.

This thought came to mind when contemplating the disintegration of the UK’s own right wing government, the take-over of the Conservative party by populists, the craven submission by the non-populist elements of the party, who nonetheless prioritise power over morality, and the disintegration into factionalism as it became less and less likely that the party would win the next election. A disintegration epitomised by the division of the right into ‘tribes’.

There have been various attempts to define them all, as memberships shift and overlap, but a rough outline is possible. There are the Free Marketeers, who see themselves as Thatcher’s heirs but seek to go where even she had more sense than to tread, the Northerners, culturally conservative and Brexiteers almost to a man (and woman) but keen to see government money funneled into their constituencies to save their seats, the culture warriors of the laughingly named Common-sense Group, seemingly now embraced by the Prime Minister, but with Kemi Badenoch as its standard bearer and the recently self-ejected Suella Braverman lurking in the wings, there is, heaven help us, the successors of the equally bizarrely titled European Research Group, which never did much research, and there is the last despairing gasp of the Johnson loyalists, incapable of understanding how the party to whom he gifted a stunning majority have somehow lost faith in him.

Liz Truss, as she likes to imagine herself.

Now the Free-marketeers have fissured still further, with the shameless Liz Truss hosting, on 4 February, the inaugural meeting of the ‘popular conservatives. Tin-eared to the last, she has failed to notice two things about the chosen name, the first being that it is inviting contemplation of just how unpopular the Tory party has become and the second being the irresistible association with ‘pop-corn’, inflated, full of air and ultimately unsatisfying.

What is most striking about these groupings is how, despite their world views being much the same, with slight differences in emphasis being their only distinguishing features, they seem dedicated more to in-fighting than to presenting a united front to an electorate that is known to view divided parties with disdain.

What has all this to do with Ayn Rand?

It is an illustration, if such were needed, of the unreality of her world view and her ‘philosophy’, as epitomised in her best known work, Atlas Shrugged’. In its thousand plus pages, a confederation of the ‘men of reason’ withdraw themselves from the rest of the United States to a secret commune in the rocky-mountains where, under the guidance of their supreme leader, John Galt, everything at last works perfectly. Rather oddly, in a book which is widely regarded as a celebration of free-market capitalism, in this commune there is no competition. There is just one steel-maker, just one mining entrepreneur, just one oil baron, just one banker and, because the cultural side is not neglected, just one great actress and one great composer. There is even just one master criminal of the brute force variety.

There is no dissent.

How unlike our own right-wing politicians, with their plots and cabals. But how very like the reality of human nature that would inevitably an Ayn Rand paradise crashing down, should it ever be established.