Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Aleksandr Dugin -- a ‘Zhirinovsky for the Intellectuals’

Paul Goble

Istanbul, May 14 – Aleksandr Dugin and his outspoken support for an anti-Western alliance between Orthodox Christianity and Islam and for the establishment of an effective dictatorship in Russia have generated a great deal of attention and concern, but most observers have dismissed him as little more than an intellectual rabble rouser.
Now, an examination of his career shows that he represents a far more serious danger because he has provided a superficially attractive ideological statement to cover a truly dangerous program that could under certain conditions lead to the rise of a radical national socialist Russia.
In an article in the current issue of “Russkiy zhurnal,” Mikhail Duinov argues that Dugin’s rise has less to do with his own thought and efforts than with his ability to reflect and articulate some of the deepest feelings of contemporary Russian nationalist thought as they have evolved since the late 1980s (http://www.russ.ru/stat_i/glavnyj_kochevnik_rossii).
Dugin, who has enjoyed support from within the government in the past, has recently become more critical of the regime, leading some to speculate that the Eurasianist leader is uncomfortable with being a regime loyalist and may be planning to help form a new nationalist opposition.
Unfortunately, Duinov indicates, “the problem is deeper” than Dugin’s personality: His recent moves are part of a broader “disappointment within the contemporary political elite” that Vladimir Putin did not “become a dictator” but rather played at democracy and handed over the Kremlin to Dmitry Medvedev whose policies will leave Russia “without a future.”
Because that feeling is widespread, Duinov says, Dugin’s shift in recent months makes it imperative to examine his career and the strange mix of theosophical, geopolitical, mystical, and paranoid ideas he has offered because they undoubtedly reflect the views of other groups who may soon challenge the Kremlin for power.
More than anyone else, Dugin has tried to weave together in a superficially plausible way the enormous diversity of ideas that have split “the national-conservative” strain of Russian thought since the waning days of the Soviet Union and thus to create a platform that will bring him and others like him to supreme power.
Like some of the most thorough-going of these people, Dugin in the late 1980s joined the Pamyat organization and rapidly rose into its leadership ranks. He was later excluded, either because he was too ambitious -- according to people who knew him at the time -- or because he spoke out against that group’s notorious anti-Semitism -- his explanation now.
Dugin later employed his journalistic skills to introduce to Russian audiences the works of Guenon, Karl Schmidt, and “many other [other] ultra-right” figures, including some he extracted from the archives of the Third Reich’s notorious German Society for the Study of Ancient German History and the Heritage of Ancestors.
Then in a series of books, including “Paths of the Absolute,” “Conspiracy Theory,” “The Hyperborean Theory,” and “The Conservative Revolution,” Dugin succeeded in finding a way forward for the old right of the late Soviet period by arguing that all politics is a combination of conspiracies and geography.
In 1993, he took a major step forward in his career when he cofounded with political activist Eduard Limonov the National Bolshevik Party (NBR). “Unlike previous organizations which were built on models close to the CPSU, Dugin and Limonov took as their model the German NSDAP” – with much of its ideological baggage as well.
That party failed to get much support but it did attract attention and support from the extreme right in Europe, something that prompted Dugin to leave the party and seek greater “respectability” as a commentator, counting on people to forget his immediate past links to Limonov.
So successful has he been in rebranding himself as a completely respectable figure that he is frequently cited by major Western news agencies as an authority on Russian political life and even appears as a regular guest on Western-financed radio to discuss the latest developments in the Kremlin.
After the 2000 election, Dugin clearly thought he had found in Putin a leader who would share his views, particularly with regard to opposing the United States and organizing a Eurasian alliance of states, in particular Iran, capable of blocking American geopolitical moves in the Middle East and elsewhere.
But although Putin accepted many of Dugin’s arguments, he and his government were never prepared to sign on to all of them, thus leaving Dugin outside the charmed circle and rendering him, according to Duinov, “an intellectual Zhirinovsky,” an often outrageous court jester rather than a trusted insider on foreign policy.
Disappointed in Putin and with no great expectations for Medvedev, Dugin may now try to become the intellectual leader of the opposition, pushing “the ideology of a conservative revolution” whose national socialist ideas and seeking to unite a broad group of otherwise unconnected groups from the far left to the far right.
The Eurasian leader is clearly open to such alliances at least for tactical purposes, but at present, Duinov says, neither the classical conservatives, nor the national socialists, nor the “Orthodox reactionaries” find Dugin acceptable as a partner. But he appears to be counting on “a new wave of nationalists” consisting of those who have fled one or another camp.
Such political migrants, Duinov says, have demonstrated their lack of principles and their lust for power. Consequently, this new force could line up behind Dugin, who many believe is marked by similar characteristics, simply because he articulates what appear to them to be big ideas capable of returning Russia’s greatness.
Duinov is clearly skeptical that this could happen, but he suggests that Dugin could assemble some of the various ideological strands he has followed in the past and thus construct a program that could under certain circumstances allow him to play a key role in a direct challenge to the current system and power a drive for the kind of dictatorship he favors.
Should that happen, then Dugin could possibly serve as the leader of the left wing of a rightist movement, a role resembling the one Col. Rohm played in the rise of the Nazis in Germany until Hitler, having achieved office, purged Rohm and his left-wing followers in what has come to be known as “the night of the long knives.”

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