As sent by a reader:
To All Innocent Fifth Columnists
Ayn Rand – 1941
You who read this represent the greatest danger to America.
No matter what the outcome of the war in Europe may be, Totalitarianism has already won a complete victory in many American minds and conquered all of our intellectual life. You have helped it to win.
Perhaps it is your right to destroy civilization and bring dictatorship to America, but not unless you understand fully what you are doing.
If that is what you want to do, say so openly, at least to your own conscience, and we who believe in freedom will fight you openly.
But the tragedy of today is that you — who are responsible for the coming Totalitarian dictatorship of America — you do not know your own responsibility. You would be the first to deny the active part you’re playing and proclaim your belief in freedom, in civilization, in the American way of life. You are the most dangerous kind of Fifth Columnist — an innocent subconscious Fifth Columnist. Of such as you is the Kingdom of Hitler and of Stalin.
You do not believe this? Check up on yourself. Take the test we offer you here.
1. Are you the kind who considers ten minutes of his time too valuable to read this and give it some thought?
2. Are you the kind who sits at home and moans over the state of the world — but does nothing about it?
3. Are you the kind who says that the future is predestined by something or other, something he can’t quite name or explain and isn’t very clear about, but the world is doomed to dictatorship and there’s nothing anyone can do about it?
4. Are you the kind who says that he wishes he could do something, he’d be so eager to do something — but what can one man do?
5. Are you the kind who are so devoted to your own career, your family, your home or your children that you will let the most unspeakable horrors be brought about to destroy your career, your family, your home and your children — because you are too busy now to prevent them?
Which one of the above are you? A little of all?
But are you really too busy to think?
Who “determines” the future? You’re very muddled on that, aren’t you? What exactly is “mankind”? Is it a mystical entity with a will of its own? Or is it you, and I, and the sum of all of us together? What force is there to make history — except men, other men just like you? If there are enough men who believe in a better future and are willing to work for it, the future will be what they want it to be. You doubt this? Why then, if the world is doomed to dictatorship, do the dictators spend so much money and effort on propaganda? If history is predestined in their favor, why don’t Hitler and Stalin just ride the wave into the future without any trouble? Doesn’t it seem more probable that history will be what the minds of men want it to be, and the dictators are smart enough to prepare these minds in the way they want them, while we talk of destiny and do nothing?
You say, what can one man do? When the Communists came to power in Russia, they were a handful of eighteen men. Just eighteen. In a country of [170,000,000] population. They were laughed at and no one took them seriously. According to their own prophet, Karl Marx, Russia was the last country in which Communism could be historically possible, because of Russia’s backwardness in industrial development. Yet they succeeded. Because they knew what they wanted and went after it — historical destiny or no historical destiny. Adolf Hitler started the Nazi Party in Germany with seven men. He was laughed at and considered a harmless crank. People said that after the Versailles Treaty Germany could not possibly become a world power again, not for centuries. Yet Hitler succeeded. Because he knew what he wanted and went after it — history or no history. Shall we believe in mystical fates or do something about the future?
If you are one of those who have had a full, busy, successful life and are still hard at work making money — stop for one minute of thought. What are you working for? You have enough to keep you in comfort for the rest of your days. But you are working to insure your children’s future. Well, what are you leaving to your children? The money, home, or education you plan to leave them will be worthless or taken away from them. Instead, your legacy will be a Totalitarian America, a world of slavery, of starvation, of concentration camps and of firing squads. The best part of your life is behind you — and it was lived in freedom. But your children will have nothing to face save their existence as slaves. Is that what you want for them? If not, it is still up to you. There is time left to abort it — but not very much time. You take out insurance to protect your children, don’t you? How much money and working effort does that insurance cost you? If you put one-tenth of the money and time into insuring against your children’s future slavery — you would save them and save for them everything else which you intend to leave them and which they’ll never get otherwise.
Don’t delude yourself by minimizing the danger. You see what is going on in Europe and what it’s doing to our own country and to your own private life. What other proof do you need? Don’t say smugly that “it can’t happen here.” Stop and look back for a moment.
The first Totalitarian dictatorship happened in Russia. People said: well, Russia was a dark, backward, primitive nation where anything could happen — but it could not happen in any civilized country.
The next Totalitarian dictatorship happened in Italy — one of the oldest civilized countries of Europe and the mother of European culture. People said: well, the Italians hadn’t had much experience in democratic self-government, but it couldn’t happen anywhere else.
The next Totalitarian dictatorship happened in Germany — the country of philosophers and scientists, with a long record of the highest cultural achievements. People said: well, Germany was accustomed to autocracy, and besides there’s the Prussian character, and the last war, etc. — but it could not happen in any country with a strong democratic tradition.
Could it happen in France? People would have laughed at you had you asked such a question a year ago. Well, it has happened in France — France, the mother of freedom and of democracy, France, the most independent-minded nation on earth.
What price your smug self-confidence? In the face of millions of foreign money and foreign agents pouring into our country, in the face of one step after another by which our country is [moving] closer to Totalitarianism — you do nothing except say: “It can’t happen here.” Do you hear the Totalitarians answering you — “Oh, yeah?”
Don’t delude yourself with slogans and meaningless historical generalizations. It can happen here. It can happen anywhere. And a country’s past history has nothing to do with it. Totalitarianism is not a new product of historical evolution. It is older than history. It is the attempt of the worthless and the criminal to seize control of society. That element is always there, in any country. But a healthy society gives it no chance. It is when the majority in a country becomes weak, indifferent and confused that a criminal minority, beautifully organized like all gangs, seizes the power. And once that power is seized it cannot be taken back for generations. Fantastic as it may seem to think of a dictatorship in the United States, it is much easier to establish such a dictatorship than to overthrow it. With modern technique and modern weapons at its disposal, a ruthless minority can hold millions in slavery indefinitely. What can one thousand unorganized, unarmed men do against one man with a machine gun?
And the tragedy of today is that by remaining unorganized and mentally unarmed we are helping to bring that slavery upon ourselves. By being indifferent and confused, we are serving as innocent Fifth Columnists of our own destruction.
There is no personal neutrality in the world today. Repeat that and scream that to yourself. In all great issues there are only two sides — and no middle. You are alive or you are dead, but you can’t be “neither” or “in between.” You are honest or you are not — and there is no neutral “half-honest.” And so, you are against Totalitarianism — or you are for it. There is no intellectual neutrality.
The Totalitarians do not want your active support. They do not need it. They have their small, compact, well-organized minority and it is sufficient to carry out their aims. And they want from you is your indifference. The Communists and the Nazis have stated repeatedly that the indifference of the majority is their best ally. Just sit at home, pursue your private affairs, shrug about world problems — and you are the most effective Fifth Columnist that can be devised. You’re doing your part as well as if you took orders consciously from Hitler or from Stalin. And so, you’re in it, whether you want to be or not, you’re helping the world towards destruction, while moaning and wondering what makes the world such as it is today. You do.
The Totalitarians have said: “Who is not against us, is for us.” There is no personal neutrality.
And since you are involved, and have to be, what do you prefer? To do what you’re doing and help the Totalitarians? Or to fight them…
No matter what.
By any means necessary.