14 November 2012

The Red and the White 3: Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin

After discussion of Solzhenitsyn and Dostoevsky, Aleksandr Dugin seems to be a
Алекса́ндр Ге́льевич Ду́гин
strange man to follow. He is not a former prisoner or literary author. Rather, he belongs to a different species: a politically active academic, attached to the Department of Sociology at Moscow State University. The appointment has drawn criticism from various corners of the Western academy; we are used, in the West, to hearing a clamour of condemnation whenever an even vaguely conservative or traditional voice rises in the halls of academia, and it does not take long for the self-regulating forces of organised nihilism to begin the work of discrediting all voices of heresy. True, the system does often catch the legitimately illegitimate - the dishonest scholar, the crank, the sophist - as it did when Hitlerian David Irving was silenced, or when anti-gun radical Michael Bellesiles was shamed. In both cases, though, the authors in questions provoked their attackers in some way that was (more or less) unrelated to their ideology
—Irving unwisely sued someone for libel for calling him a Holocaust denier, and Bellesiles engaged in vulgar verbal brawls on the internet about his book with several amateur scholars who did not share his own prejudices.

Others, however, do little to provoke the attacks on their names and work than hold an uncommon or illiberal view of the world, which seems to be the case with Dugin. This makes him of particular interest to any and all conservative and traditional thinkers regardless of their stripe or their agreement with him on specifics. It has been adroitly argued by several authors that Dugin does not fall within the purview of Traditionalism in the tradition of Guenon and Coomaraswamy. This in fact may not be a problem for Western conservatives—the influence of Theosophy on the Integral Tradition movement makes it necessarily repugnant to believing Christians. Perhaps the most concise and comprehensive examination of Dugin’s relationship with Traditionalism, which several hints at Dugin’s actual political leanings, can be found in “Is Aleksandr Dugin a Traditionalist? ‘Neo-Eurasianism and Perennial Philosophy” by Anton Shekhovtsov and Andreas Umland. In it, the authors make a very thorough examination of Dugin’s relationship to Traditionalism, tracing it through what they consider the corruptive influence of Julius Evola, the (very broad) category of “European New Right” ideologues, including such thinkers as neo-pagan Alain de Benoist, National Anarchist Troy Southgate, and Yockeyite Jean Thiriart. They also list among his influences what they call the “oxymoronic” Conservative Revolution movement of Weimar Germany, whom they cast as “passive accomplices of the Nazi movement” for not being sufficiently liberal or endorsing the Weimar regime, ignoring the fact that several authors of the movement, including Spengler, Moeller van den Bruck, and Edgar Julius Jung (who was murdered in the Night of the Long Knives) were ardent anti-Nazis.

Without a doubt, Dugin had and has friendly connexions with Benoist, Southgate, Thiriart, Steuckers, Faye, and others of various “New Right” movements in Europe. Most of the impetus for these connexions, however, seems to have come from Europe rather than Russia. Thiriart, especially, became extremely devoted to Dugin’s political ideas in the last years of his life. Dugin does show strong signs of Conservative Revolution influence—his own Eurasianist convictions seem heavily influenced by Spengler’s prediction of a Slavic future, especially. However, authors looking to Europe for his roots may be disappointed to find out that several European authors were ante-dated in their ideas by some decades by Russian authors with whom they had little contact. Spengler, who read Russian avidly, may have been aware of Nikolai Danilevsky, who in 1869 wrote Россия и Европа. Взгляд на культурные и политические отношения Славянского мира к Германо-Романскому (“Russia and Europe: A View of the Cultural and Political Relations of the Slavic World to the Germano-Roman”), in which he proposed a cyclical view of history echoed by Spengler in his own Untergang des Abendlandes of 1917. Danilevsky, it should be noted, began his writing career in the Petrashevsky Circle in the company of Feodor Dostoevsky and the great satirist Saltykov-Shchedrin, with whom Danilevsky shared the good fortune of escaping Dostoevsky’s fate.

In addition to this, it is impossible to overstate the influence exerted on interwar German conservative and radical right-wing thought by the White émigré community, the European legacy of the Bolshevik usurpation of power. Likewise rooted in this émigré community was the original Eurasianist movement resurrected by Lev Gumilev and in which Dugin has become heavily involved after his movement away from National Bolshevism. Combining the traditional Orthodox attitudes of the initial émigré community with the conservative and more world-historical attitudes of later Soviet exiles like Solzhenitsyn as well as Soviet citizens like Gumilev, Dugin presents a truly unique voice in radical conservative thought—a voice that Yigal Liverant (of Tel Aviv University) is terrified reflects “the dominant trend in current Russian politics and culture. If we wish to understand the zeitgeist that prevails in Russia today, it is essential for us to acquaint ourselves with this thinker, who expresses the innermost feelings of many of his fellow countrymen and their leadership.

Westerners are often ignorant of how important
Orthodoxy remains to Russians of all stripes.
Shekhovtsov and Umland are quick to dismiss the last uniquely Russian aspect of Dugin’s ideology and worldview, namely his Orthodox Christianity. Like Dostoevsky, Danilevsky, and Solzhenitsyn, Dugin’s Orthodoxy is unique even among the mainstream of Russian Orthodoxy. He belongs to the Единове́рие group of Old Believers who have been reconciled with the Russian Orthodox Church. This phenomenon of Old Believers returning to the Patriarch of Moscow is similar to those Traditionalist Roman Catholics who have reconciled themselves to the post-Vatican II church but maintained their own ecclesiology and rites—groups like the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and Institute of Christ the King spring to mind in the Catholic milieu. The Old Believers themselves are a group of highly conservative Russian Orthodox who split from the Patriarchate of Moscow in 1666. Depending on one’s view of the affair, they are either the original Orthodox or heterodox schismatics. Shekhovtsov has described Dugin’s identification with the group of the sect which has reconciled itself to Moscow as a purely political move to create good relations with the Patriarchate and nevertheless keep him from being fully “mainstream” to create a veneer of non-conformism. This is perhaps an underestimation of Dugin’s own religiosity and sense of Russianness that would make such a religious alignment less practical than part of the general trend in Russia to return to the Faith now long bereft of vitality or socio-political significance in the Western context.

Whatever the case, it is impossible to say that Dugin is not at least intriguing. His ties to neo-Fascism in his youth may have once made him a hot potato politically speaking. Times, though, are changing: the stigma once associated with the "far right" has not been felt so strongly in conservative circles in the US, and "paleoconservatives" like Sam Francis are once again gaining some ground. Dugin has his difficulties – there is no doubt there – but the value of his ideas to Western conservatism does not reside in mimicry, or in importing him; the best course (the most conservative course) is study and critical consideration. What kind of man is he in relation to his culture—and why is that a positive or negative thing; why is he hated by the Western left so much, and endorsed by the Russian establishment so readily? Western conservatives could gain tremendously from looking into what drives Russian conservatism and why it is such a popular and powerful force, such that the premier academic establishment in the country has appointed a man like Dugin the head of a prestigious institute within it and he enjoys close relations with the Russian government. It would seem, after the public outcry against the anarchist P**** Riot, that Conservative concerns have a majority voice in Russia, a voice which is tied distinctly to the Church. In America, on the other hand, the Republican Party is writing off European Americans and Christianity as failures, and abandoning even the thin veneer with which they pretended conservatism in the face of Barack Obama's re-election. Conservatism right now needs to look outside of America for the future if it wants to survive in the post-Republican era.

3 comments:

  1. A very balanced and erudite piece.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, a very fair, well-written analysis.

    I do have to always stress the importance Yockey, himself an American, has for Americans, studying his thoughts can help bridge the gap between native American right wing thinking and Russian.

    ReplyDelete