The Real Dugin: Alexander Dugin’s Political Theories and his Relevance to the New Right
By Lucian Tudor
Alexander Dugin is by now well-known in “Right-wing” circles of all sorts across the world—whether we are speaking of nationalists, Fascists, traditionalists, cultural or national conservatives, or New Rightists (also known as Identitarians). Upon the translation of his book The Fourth Political Theory in 2012, Dugin has received a significant amount of international attention from anyone interested in Right-wing or Conservative theory. Since then, a number of other essays by Dugin on the topics of Eurasianism (also spelled “Eurasism”) and also the Theory of the Multipolar World (both of which are interconnected with each other and with what he calls the Fourth Political Theory) have been translated into English, among other languages, allowing us a better view into his thought.
There is no need to discuss Dugin’s theories in any depth here, since his own essays achieve that sufficiently. However, a problem has arisen among Right-wingers in the West in regards to Dugin: while many have appreciated his works, a large number have completely dismissed or attacked him and his theories largely on the basis of misunderstandings or propaganda from Dugin’s political enemies. The situation is certainly not helped by the fact that well-known Identitarian writers such as Greg Johnson, Michael O’Meara, Domitius Corbulo, and some others in Europe have denounced Dugin with reasoning based upon such misunderstandings. Personally, I had once considered these critiques as being essentially valid, but upon a more thorough investigation of Dugin’s writings and thought, I concluded that these critiques were based on flawed premises and assumptions. My intention here is to point out what the most common reasons for denouncing Dugin have been and why they are based on misconceptions and propaganda rather than reality.
Position on Race
First, one of the most difficult issues is the claim that Alexander Dugin believes that race has no substantial reality, that it is a “social construct” and must be completely abandoned as a harmful product of modern Western society. Certainly, he critiques racialist theory, but this is not the same as rejecting race entirely (since one can assert the importance of race without resorting to “racism.” See my essay “Ethnic and Racial Relations”). It must be admitted that Dugin has not taken a clear stance on the matter of race, and occasionally makes statements which imply a dismissal of race (although it is significant that, for the most part, he leaves it an open question). On the other hand, he has also made statements implying an appreciation for racial identity to some extent, such as when he wrote the following:
Being White and Indo-European myself, I recognize the differences of other ethnic groups as being a natural thing, and do not believe in any hierarchy among peoples, because there is not and cannot be any common, universal measure by which to measure and compare the various forms of ethnic societies or their value systems. I am proud to be Russian exactly as Americans, Africans, Arabs or Chinese are proud to be what they are. It is our right and our dignity to affirm our identity, not in opposition to each other but such as it is: without resentment against others or feelings of self-pity. (quoted from “Alexander Dugin on ‘White Nationalism’ & Other Potential Allies in the Global Revolution”)
However, let us assume, for the sake of argument, that Dugin truly does believe that race is a “social construct”, as some have assumed. Would this be enough reason to declare Dugin a subversive intellectual in the Right? If this was the case, it would follow by the same reasoning that any past Right-wing intellectual who did not believe in the importance of race (or at least the biological form of race) must also be denounced. This would include such notable thinkers as Oswald Spengler, Francis Parker Yockey, Othmar Spann, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, Oswald Mosley, and numerous other Fascist or nationalist intellectuals and leaders who did not place much importance upon physical race. Yet, paradoxically, many of those we see denouncing Dugin today would not do the same for such thinkers. This is not to imply that previous Fascist or nationalist intellectuals are entirely agreeable for us today (in fact, most New Rightists reject Fascism and old-fashioned nationalism), it is only to point out the self-contradiction which has gone unnoticed.
Furthermore, it is important to remember that Dugin clearly believes in the importance of ethnicity and culture and advocates ethnic separatism. Similarly to German Revolutionary Conservative and Völkisch thinkers, Dugin has unmistakably placed the Volk or ethnos as one of the highest values of his philosophy: “The subject of this theory [the Fourth Political Theory], in its simple version, is the concept ‘narod,’roughly, ‘Volk’ or ‘people,’ in the sense of ‘peoplehood’ and ‘peoples,’ not ‘masses’” (quoted from “The Fourth Estate: The History and Meaning of the Middle Class”). Thus, it is clear that even if he does not value race, Dugin certainly does value ethno-cultural identity. Of course, this is not to say that rejecting the reality of race is not at all problematic, only that it is not enough to denounce a philosopher. However, those who like to claim that Dugin dismisses race as a “social construct” are reminiscent of those who say the same thing about Alain de Benoist, whereas it is clear that Benoist asserts the reality of race and advocates racial separatism–specifically from a non-racist standpoint–in many of his writings, one of the most notable in English being “What is Racism?”.
Empire vs. Imperialism
The second problematic notion about Dugin is that he is an advocate of a type of Russian imperialism, usually suggested being of a Stalinist and Soviet type. However, this claim has no basis in fact, since he has renounced Soviet imperialism and has also distinguished between true empire and imperialism (which also made by Julius Evola and many other Traditionalist and New Right authors). In his essay “Main Principles of Eurasist Policy,” Dugin has asserted that there are three basic types of policy in modern Russia: Soviet, pro-Western (liberal), and Eurasist. He criticizes the Soviet and Liberal types while advocating the Eurasist policy: “Eurasism, in this way, is an original ‘patriotic pragmatism’, free from any dogmatics – be it Soviet or liberal… The Soviet pattern operates with obsolete political, economic and social realities, it exploits nostalgia and inertness, it lacks a sober analysis of the new international situation and the real development of world economic trends.” It should be clear from Dugin’s analysis of different forms of political approaches that his own viewpoint is not based on the USSR model, which he explicitly rejects and critiques.
Moreover, it is often overlooked that when Dugin advocates a Eurasian empire or union, there is a distinction between a true empire—in the traditionalist sense—and imperialism, and thus an empire is not necessarily an imperialistic state (for a good overview of this concept, see Alain de Benoist’s “The Idea of Empire”). Unlike domineering and imperialistic states, the Eurasian Union envisioned by Dugin grants a partial level of self-government to regions within a federalist system:
The undoubted strategic unity in Eurasist federalism is accompanied by ethnic plurality, by the emphasis on the juridical element of the “rights of the peoples”. The strategic control of the space of the Eurasian Union is ensured by the unity of management and federal strategic districts, in whose composition various formations can enter – from ethno-cultural to territorial. The immediate differentiation of territories into several levels will add flexibility, adaptability and plurality to the system of administrative management in combination with rigid centralism in the strategic sphere. (quoted from “Main Principles of Eurasist Policy”)
Of course, it must also be remembered that Dugin’s vision needs to be differentiated from the policies of the present Russian state, which, at this time, cannot be said to adequately represent the Eurasists’ goals (despite the influence of Eurasism on certain politicians). Furthermore, it should be mentioned that while Dugin currently supports president Putin, it is clear that he does not uncritically accept all of the policies of Putin’s government. Therefore, a sound analysis of Dugin’s proposed policies will not equate them with those of the Russian government, as some of his critics have erroneously done.
The “West” as the Enemy
Another common misconception is that Dugin is hostile to Western European civilization and even advocates its complete destruction. It is important to recognize that Dugin’s conception of the “West” is similar to that advocated by the European New Right (in the works of Pierre Krebs, Alain de Benoist, Guillaume Faye, Tomislav Sunic, etc.). The “West” is not a reference to all of Western-European civilization, but rather to the specific formulation of Western-European civilization founded upon liberalism, egalitarianism, and individualism: “The crisis of identity […] has scrapped all previous identities–civilizational, historical, national, political, ethnic, religious, cultural, in favor of a universal planetary Western-style identity–with its concept of individualism, secularism, representative democracy, economic and political liberalism, cosmopolitanism and the ideology of human rights.” (quoted from the interview with Dugin, “Civilization as Political Concept”).
Thus, Dugin, like the New Right, asserts that the “West” is actually foreign to true European culture—that it is in fact the enemy of Europe: “Atlanticism, liberalism, and individualism are all forms of absolute evil for the Indo-European identity, since they are incompatible with it” (quoted from “Alexander Dugin on ‘White Nationalism’ & Other Potential Allies in the Global Revolution”). Likewise, in his approving citation of Alain de Benoist’s cultural philosophy, he wrote the following:
A. de Benoist was building his political philosophy on radical rejection of liberal and bourgeois values, denying capitalism, individualism, modernism, geopolitical atlanticism and western eurocentrism. Furthermore, he opposed “Europe” and “West” as two antagonistic concepts: “Europe” for him is a field of deployment of a special cultural Logos, coming from the Greeks and actively interacting with the richness of Celtic, Germanic, Latin, Slavic, and other European traditions, and the “West” is the equivalent of the mechanistic, materialistic, rationalist civilization based on the predominance of the technology above everything. After O. Spengler Alain de Benoist understood “the West” as the “decline of the West” and together with Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger was convinced of the necessity of overcoming modernity as nihilism and “the abandonment of the world by Being (Sein)” (Seinsverlassenheit). West in this understanding was identical to liberalism, capitalism, and bourgeois society – all that “New Right” claimed to overcome. (quoted from “Counter-hegemony in Theory of Multi-polar World”)
While Dugin attacks the “West” as modern liberal civilization, he simultaneously advocates the resurrection of Europe in his vision of the multipolar world: “We imagine this Greater Europe as a sovereign geopolitical power, with its own strong cultural identity, with its own social and political options…” (quoted from “The Greater Europe Project”). Similarly to the previous statements which we have quoted, he asserts here that European culture has multiple ideological elements and possible pathways in its history which are different from the liberal model: “Liberal democracy and the free market theory account for only part of the European historical heritage and that there have been other options proposed and issues dealt with by great European thinkers, scientists, politicians, ideologists and artists.”
Domitius Corbulo has argued, based on statements Dugin made in The Fourth Political Theory that liberalism and universalism are elements which run throughout Western civilization, that Dugin condemns Western-European culture in its entirety. However, it is important to recognize that these arguments are largely borrowed from Western-European authors such as Spengler, Heidegger, and Evola. These authors also recognized that anti-universalist, anti-liberal, and anti-materialist elements also exist in Western-European culture, and thus that there have always been other paths for the destiny of this culture. It is evident that Dugin would assert the same fact from his essays which we have cited here (as well as books not yet available in English, such as ¿Qué es el eurasismo?, Pour une théorie du monde multipolaire, or in Russian in Четвертый Путь, among others). It is important to remember here that The Fourth Political Theory is not a complete and perfect statement of Dugin’s thought, and that what he says there must be balanced with what he says in his other works.
It is often assumed that, considering his hostility to the liberal “West,” Dugin also advocates a complete destruction of the United States of America, which is seen as the epitome of the “West.” However, the very essence of his theory of the multipolar world is the idea that each civilization and nation must be granted the right to live and to determine its own destiny, political form, and way of life. For this reason, Dugin advocates the global combating of American cultural and economic imperialism, which denatures non-Western cultures. However, in the multipolar scheme, the United States also has the right to exist and to choose its own path, which means allowing the American people the right to continue the liberal model in the future, should they desire to do so. Of course, the liberal model would naturally be discouraged from abroad and be limited in its influence. This position can be drawn from Dugin’s key essays explicating the Theory of the Multipolar World: “The Multipolar World and the Postmodern” and “Multipolarism as an Open Project”.
The Fourth Political Theory vs. Reactionary Traditionalism
Some writers, such as Kenneth Anderson (“Speculating on future political and religious alliances”), have interpreted Alexander Dugin’s thought as a form of Radical Traditionalism (following Julius Evola and Rene Guenon) which is completely reactionary in nature, rejecting everything in the modern world–including all technological and scientific development–as something negative which needs to be eventually undone. This interpretation can be easily revealed to be incorrect when one examines Dugin’s statements on Traditionalism and modernity more closely. It is true that Dugin acknowledges Traditionalist thinkers such as Evola and Guenon among his influences, but it is also clear that he is not in full agreement with their views and advocates his own form of conservatism, which is much more similar to German Revolutionary Conservatism (see The Fourth Political Theory, pp. 86 ff.).
Unlike some Traditionalists, Dugin does not reject scientific and social progress, and thus it can also be said that he does not reject the Enlightenment in toto. When Dugin criticizes Enlightenment philosophy (the ideology of progress, individualism, etc.), it is not so much in the manner of the Radical Traditionalists as it is in the manner of the Conservative Revolution and the New Right, as was also done by Alain de Benoist, Armin Mohler, etc. In this regard, it can be mentioned that critiquing the ideology of progress is, of course, very different from rejecting progress itself. For the most part, he does not advocate the overcoming of the “modern world” in the Traditionalist sense, but in the New Rightist sense, which means eliminating what is bad in the present modern world to create a new cultural order (“postmodernity”) which reconciles what is good in modern society with traditional society. Thus Dugin asserts that one of the most essential ideas of the Eurasist philosophy is the creation of societies which restore traditional and spiritual values without surrendering scientific progress:
The philosophy of Eurasianism proceeds from priority of values of the traditional society, acknowledges the imperative of technical and social modernization (but without breaking off cultural roots), and strives to adapt its ideal program to the situation of a post-industrial, information society called “postmodern”. The formal opposition between tradition and modernity is removed in postmodern. However, postmodernism in the atlantist aspect levels them from the position of indifference and exhaustiveness of contents. The Eurasian postmodern, on the contrary, considers the possibility for an alliance of tradition with modernity to be a creative, optimistic energetic impulse that induces imagination and development. (quote from Eurasian Mission, cited in Dugin, “Multipolarism as an Open Project”)
It should be evident from these statements that Dugin is not a reactionary, despite his sympathy to Radical Traditionalism. In this regard, it is worth mentioning that Dugin also supports a “Third Positionist” form of socialism as well as a non-liberal form of democracy. In regards to socialism, he has written that the “confusion of mankind into the single global proletariat is not a way to a better future, but an incidental and absolutely negative aspect of the global capitalism, which does not open any new prospects and only leads to degradation of cultures, societies, and traditions. If peoples do have a chance to organize effective resistance to the global capitalism, it is only where Socialist ideas are combined with elements of a traditional society…” (from “Multipolarism as an Open Project”). Whereas some have accused Dugin of being anti-democratic, he has plainly advocated the idea of a “democratic empire”: “The political system of the Eurasian Union in the most logical way is founded on the ‘democracy of participation’ (the ‘demotia’ of the classical Eurasists), the accent being not on the quantitative, but on the qualitative aspect of representation” (quoted from “Main Principles of Eurasist Policy”; see also the comments on democracy in his “Milestones of Eurasism”).
References to Leftists and Cultural Marxists
Finally, one of the most recent attacks on Alexander Dugin is based on his reference to Cultural Marxist and “Leftist” philosophers, which is seen by some as an indicator that Dugin himself is sympathetic to Cultural Marxism (see Domitius Corbulo’s “Alexander Dugin’s 4th Political Theory is for the Russian Empire, not for European Ethno-Nationalists”). However, Dugin has clearly pointed out that while he uses ideas from Marxist and “Leftist” theorists, he rejects their ideologies as a whole: “The second and third political theories [Fascism and Marxism] must be reconsidered, selecting in them that which must be discarded and that which has value in itself. As complete ideologies… they are entirely useless, either theoretically or practically.” (quoted from The Fourth Political Theory, p. 24).
If one notes that Dugin occasionally makes use of Marxist thinkers, then it should not be overlooked that he places even more importance on Right-wing thinkers, who clearly form the greater influence on him; the intellectuals of the Conservative Revolution (Heidegger, Schmitt, Moeller van den Bruck, etc.), the Traditionalist School (Evola, Guenon, Schuon, etc.), the New Right (Benoist, Freund, Steuckers, etc.), and the conservative religious scholars (Eliade, Durand, etc.). Furthermore, Corbulo objects to Dugin’s use of Claude Levi-Strauss’s work, yet respected New Right thinkers like Alain de Benoist and Dominique Venner (see Robert Steuckers, “En souvenir de Dominique Venner”, citing Venner’s Le siècle de 1914) have also referenced the ideas of Levi-Strauss on matters of culture and ethnicity, among other authors that Dugin uses, such as Jean Baudrillard.
In a recent interview, Dugin has clearly agreed with the European Right’s position on immigration (which advocates the restriction of non-European immigration), mentioning the threat that liberal cosmopolitanism brings to European culture: “The immigration changes the structure of European society. The Islamic people have very strong cultural identity. The European people weaken their own identity more and more in conscious manner. It is human right and civil society individualistic ideological dogma. So Europe is socially endangered and is on the eve to lose it identity” (quoted from “The West should be rejected”). Thus, when we take a less biased view of Dugin’s writings and statements, it is clear that his overall position is very far from that of the Cultural Marxists and the New Left.
From our examination thus far, it should be obvious that there are too many misconceptions about Alexander Dugin’s thought being circulated among Right-wingers. These misconceptions are being used to dismiss the value of his work and deceive members of Right-wing groups into believing that Dugin is a subversive intellectual who must be rejected as an enemy. Many other important Right-wing intellectuals have been similarly dismissed among certain circles, due to practices of a kind of in-group gleichschaltung, closing off any thinker who is not seen as readily agreeable. It is important to overcome such tendencies and support an intellectual expansion of the Right, which is the only way to overcome the present liberal-egalitarian hegemony. People need to take a more careful and unbiased look at Dugin’s works and ideas, as with other controversial thinkers. Of course, Dugin is not without flaws and imperfections (nor is any other thinker), but these flaws can be overcome when his thought is balanced with that of other intellectuals, especially the Revolutionary Conservatives and the New Rightists.
Tudor, Lucian. “The Real Dugin: Alexander Dugin’s Political Theories and his Relevance to the New Right.” Radix Journal, 30 August 2014. <http://www.radixjournal.com/journal/2014/8/30/the-real-dugin >.
Note: On the issue of bias and hostility towards Dugin and Russia in general, see Michael McGregor’s “Bipolar Russophobia”: <http://www.radixjournal.com/blog/2014/9/13/bipolar-russophobia >.
For an overview of the vision of a Multipolar World from an Identitarian perspective, see also Lucian Tudor, “The Philosophy of Identity: Ethnicity, Culture, and Race in Identitarian Thought,” The Occidental Quarterly, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Fall 2014), pp. 83-112.