Friday, February 26, 2010
Aleksandr Dugin's Neo-Eurasianism
The doctrine of Neo-Eurasianism29 propagated by Dugin, as well as his 'path from a marginal extremist to an ideologue of the post-Soviet academic and political elite' - to cite the title of one of the articles30 - is well researched,31 while the "fascist nature" of Dugin's ideology is "widely discussed.32" This study, however, focuses on a subject that is rarely subjected to thorough analysis, namely the phenomenon of the New Right version of ultranationalism that constitutes - together with the concept of the socio-political rebirth of the 'cultural-ethnic community'33 - a compound core of Neo-Eurasianism. Methodologically, the study is based on the approach elaborated by Roger Griffin who defines generic fascism as follows:
A revolutionary species of political modernism [...] whose mission is to combat the allegedly degenerative forces of contemporary history (decadence) by bringing about an alternative modernity and temporality (a 'new order' and a 'new era') based on the rebirth, or palingenesis, of the nation.34
This approach advances the conceptual framework of a certain 'new consensus' in fascist studies35 and allows it to transcend the boundaries of the research field by considering fascism, modernism, and political religions. It is also important that the approach is applicable both to the interwar and post-war epochs: As Griffin's concept of generic fascism is developed on the middle, theoretical, rung of the ladder of the abstraction,36 it is possible to go down the ladder to the lowest, empirical, rung to analyze appropriate time- or country-specific ideological features of a movement, party or network.
From the Right to Difference to Ethno-cultural Ghettos
It is seemingly difficult to apply the concept of a nation to the ENR, as the thinkers associated with this network certify (or glorify?) the irrevocable death of a nation-state. As de Benoist assumes, '[t]he idea of the nation-state, which reigned in Europe from the Peace of Westphalia until the first half of the 20th century, is today reaching its end'.37 However, it is possible to surmount this conceptual contradiction in this study as Griffin's approach implies an organic conception of the nation that is not necessarily equated with the nation-state or its existing boundaries, and which is indebted to modern notion of the sovereignty of the 'people' as a discrete supra-individual historical entity and actor.38
By repudiating the 'modernist' idea of the nation-state, or a political union of the nation-states (i.e., the European Union), the ENR thinkers propose a seemingly 'post-modernist' concept of 'a decentralized federation of organic, ethno-cultural identities that portray the deep "historical" spirit of cultural Europe'.39 The concept itself is a result of the ultimately modernist, or rather alternative modernist, re-synthesis of the older notion of organic nationalism that holds that 'nations and their characters are organisms that can be easily ascertained by their cultural differentiae' and 'that the members of nations may, and frequently have, lost their national self-consciousness along with their independence', while 'the duty of nationalists is to restore that self-consciousness and independence to the "reawakened" organic nation'.40 The re-synthesised nature of the ENR's concept of an organic nation incorporates the New Left's ideas of political regionalism, thus shifting the emphasis from an organic nation to a federation of organic nations, or mythologized 'ethnie[s] as homogeneous historical or ethnic communities]'.41
Dugin fully agrees with the ENR concept of organic nations, and defines the 'etnos' (Russian word for the 'ethnie') as an 'immediate identity of an individual of the traditional society, from which he [sic!] draws everything - language, customs, psychological and cultural attitudes, life programme, and system of age-related and social identifications'.42 Thus, according to Dugin, the etnosy are 'principal values and subjects of human history', which 'live in reconciliation with natural organic cycles, wave-like mutation, etc.'.43
As Dugin believes the nature of an ethnic community to be superior to, and deeper than, that of a state, Neo-Eurasianism refutes the idea of a modern nation-state, even the Russian one, and promotes the concept of a 'Eurasian empire' built on the principles of 'Eurasian federalism'. According to the concept, all the political units of this 'empire' should be established in accordance with cultural, historical, and ethnic identifications rather than simple administrative division.44
In the 1980s the ENR, especially the Nouvelle Droite, took a 'cultural turn' and its thinkers began highlighting the cultural essence of an ethnie. The 'turn' allowed them to distance themselves from a biological conception of ethnicity by using the notion of a culture as a euphemism for an ethnie. World cultures or cultural identities, seen as 'historic', 'rooted', 'authentic', or 'traditional', became the most important and valuable entities for the ENR. Yet as sovereign peoples may be deprived of their culture, there is a need to preserve and protect cultural authenticity by any means. It is significant to note that the contemporary ENR perceive their own ethnic community, or rather a European national community and culture, as suffering a decadent phase that should be surmounted by reviving, reinvigorating, and restoring the spiritual substance of the community. Therefore, this way of 'preserving' the cultural authenticity is hardly related to conservative thinking as the European community should be rejuvenated to create history rather than be kept as a historical museum piece.
The Neo-Eurasianist doctrine does not stress culture and cultural identity as prominently as the ideological constructs of its French counterparts. Dugin does speak of cultural authenticity but, in his view, culture is only one - even if very important - of the manifestations of an ethnic community, an ethnie. This peculiarity of Neo-Eurasianism is rooted in Dugin's adoption of the Soviet ethnologist and anthropologist Lev Gumilev's theory of ethnogenesis.45 Since the 1970s, Gumilev's pseudoscientific 'research' on ethnic communities became increasingly influential in the academic circles of the Soviet Union. He virtually legitimised the racist discourse within allegedly internationalist Soviet science. According to Gumilev's theory of ethnogenesis, etnos is a biologised organic community - with its life-energy determined by the forces from outer space - subject to certain irresistible laws of historical development, as it passes the stages of the rise, climax, and convolution. Dugin unequivocally perceives his own, Russian, ethnic community as in the state of decline. He believes the Russian nation is going through a phase of dilapidation stemming from its alienation from its mystical essence. In his judgement, the improvement of the Russian people's severe 'condition in the ethnic, biological and spiritual sense' means appealing to a Russian nationalism defined in cultural ethnic terms.46
If the cultural (and therefore ethnic) identity is seen by the ENR as the most important and valuable entity, then it is logical to assume that the ENR's principal enemy is a force perceived as being opposed to the preservation and rejuvenation of world's unique national communities. Thus, the radical rejection of multiculturalism (the liberal project) and internationalism (the socialist/communist project) are inherent to the ultranationalist core of the ENR's world-view. The movement's ideologists believe that 'homogenizing' and 'assimilationist' practices (first of all, miscegenation) associated with these concepts dilute the differences between cultures and turn them into one universal culture. Multiculturalism and internationalism do not remain abstract in the ENR's world-view: if the relevance of the USSR-promoted internationalism (at least officially) dramatically decreased after the fall of the Soviet Empire, multiculturalism is still embodied by the "Great Melting Pot" of the US. The Anglo-American world in general is viewed as synonymous with materialist decadence, with a world where 'cultural diversity, human solidarity, and spirituality are obliterated in the march towards Americanization and the final victory of the homo oeconomicus'.47
At this point Neo-Eurasianist doctrine completely concurs with the ENR's world-view. Dugin sees today's globalisation as a process, in which the Western (first of all, Anglo-Saxon, American) cultural approaches become universal, while different socio-political, ethnic, religious, and cultural aspects are often violently or artificially reduced to a single pattern.48 Within the terms of Neo-Eurasianism, the globalisation and universalism of the Western liberal model led to the decomposition of ethnic communities into autonomous individuals - the process that in turn leads to total mixing of races and peoples, as well as a birth of a new cosmopolitan human. The American multicultural society is hence understood as a purposeful blurring of ethno-cultural differences:
The levelling of economic and political models on a planetary scale assumes the establishment of a single cultural stereotype. It is reasonable to suggest that the modelling of this stereotype shall be done by those forces and poles, which come to be sponsors and guardians of the whole globalisation process. The American way of life, clichés of Americanized ersatz culture transmitted via global media shall supplant local cultural projects, adjusting the historically established diversity to one-dimensional preset patterns.49
In his most important book, Osnovy geopolitiki [Foundations of geopolitics], Dugin - 'a sort of mouthpiece and ideologue' of 'the demonization of Western values'50 - has geopolitically grounded Neo-Eurasianist aversion to the US and the Anglo-Saxon world in general. According to the imperialist geopolitical theories to which he adheres,51 the planet is roughly divided into three large spaces: the World Island (principally the US and the UK), Eurasia (predominantly Central Europe, Russia, and Asia), and the Rimland (the states between the World Island and Eurasia). According to the Neo-Eurasianist doctrine, there is a perennial irresolvable confrontation between the 'Sea power' associated with the US dominated 'homogenizing New World Order' and the 'Land power' of the Russia-oriented 'New Eurasian Order' which resists globalisation and ethno-cultural universalisation. In classic Manichean tradition, Dugin demonises the US and the whole Atlanticist 'World Island' as a 'reign of Antichrist'.52
The propagators of both a decentralised federal Europe ('a Europe of a hundred flags'53) and the Eurasian empire of ethno-cultural regions assume the Third World states that allegedly embody the rooted traditional communities to be their natural allies in a battle against the 'homogenizing New World Order'. According to de Benoist, the cultural 'diversity is the wealth of the world',54 and the ENR promote the idea of anthropological culturalism in their 'struggle against the hegemony of certain standardising imperialisms and against the elimination of minority or dominated civilizations'.55 Here the ENR imitate - in a rather twisted way - the democratic call for the right of all peoples and cultures to be different. As the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples affirms, 'all peoples contribute to the diversity and richness of civilizations and cultures, which constitute the common heritage of humankind', while 'recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to consider themselves different, and to be respected as such'.56 The ENR turn this right into an imperative, so 'exclusion is given a place of honour'.57 Now,
'[t]he right to difference' changed from being a means of defending oppressed minorities and their 'cultural rights' into an instrument for legitimating the most extreme appeals for the self-defence of a 'threatened' national (and/or European) identity.58
As a result, the ENR tend to support cultural-ethnic pluralism of the world rather than cultural pluralism (multiculturalism) of a given society or community. The ENR demonstrate pro-Third World solidarity, but eventually the ENR's respect for other indigenous cultural and/or national communities is a way of legitimising European exclusionism and rejection of miscegenation (for a graphic representation of this thesis see Figure 3).
This kind of legitimisation was required to maintain respectability as the tragic developments of the twentieth century discredited biological racism and it was 'no longer possible to speak publicly of perceived difference through the language of the "old racism"'.59 Therefore, the ENR claim the insurmountable difference not in biological or ethnic terms but rather in terms of culture, while - in a politically correct manner - rejecting the idea of the hierarchy of cultures. However, the main thrust of the ENR is of European identity, and their ideal is 'a federal Europe' made up of 'homogeneous ethnic-cultural communities'.60
As the name suggests, Neo-Eurasianism refers to Eurasia rather than Europe. Dugin advances the idea of 'positive ethnic pluralism', a project focused on keeping a positive or at least zero sum demographic balance to prevent the disappearance of Eurasian ethnic communities. It is precisely the idea of this project that explains the need for a politically divided Eurasia to give way to a federal Eurasian empire led spiritually by the Russian Federation. All political frontiers are expected to be abolished in favor of new 'natural, organic, ethnic borders'. Dugin asserts that these borders do not imply the political domination of one ethnic community over another, however, they inherently lead to the appearance of ethno-cultural ghettos. In the terms of Neo-Eurasianism, this is called an 'organic cultural-ethnic process' intended to create individual 'national realities' for the Russians, as well as for Tatars, Chechens, Armenians, and the rest.62
Although he claims that Neo-Eurasianist ethnic differentialism excludes mixophobia and sometimes ethnic mixing is an inevitable and positive process,63 Dugin stresses that the Russian nation is in need of keeping its ethnic identity and that there should be special legal regulations to secure preservation of the Russian nation's ethnic identity within the supranational Eurasian empire.64