“National Bolshevism”: Russia’s new ideology

Vladimir Putin’s speech annexing the Crimea echoes the language of a new political ideology being formulated in Russia, according to Canadian journalist Doug Sanders.  A melange of postmodernism, nationalism, and Russian Orthodox mysticism, it goes by the name of “Eurasianism” or “National Bolshevism” (cf. “National Socialism” ).

The ideology’s founder is Alexander Dugin, who calls his movement a “Fourth Way” between liberal democracy, fascism, and communism.  Though the big enemy is liberal democracy, so that he calls on an alliance between fascists, communists, Islamists, and other pre-modern forces to overthrow it.  He describes his ideology as “socialism without materialism, atheism, progressivism and modernism.”  Read about it after the jump, noting my highlights, and then read my reflections.

From Doug Sanders, Has Putin bought into these dangerous ideas? – The Globe and Mail:

His speech’s blend of Orthodox Christian ethnic-Russian nationalism with conspiratorial anti-Americanism is a major tip of the hat to the movement known as neo-Eurasianism, an ultra-nationalist political philosophy whose explosive language has become either Mr. Putin’s new guiding belief or, more likely, an important rhetorical tool in his political arsenal.

The central figure in this movement is the bearded philosopher Alexander Dugin, who has played an on-and-off advisory role in Mr. Putin’s political party for 14 years and who has frequently spoken to the media on behalf of Kremlin interests during the Ukraine crisis.

In the years after communism collapsed, Mr. Dugin and other activists revived Eurasianism, a pre-communist movement that saw the Russians as a fully independent third “civilization” between East and West. To this he added more Orthodox mysticism, the ideas of Martin Heidegger and of anti-globalization thinkers such as Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, a sprinkling of gender studies and critical theory, and came up with a movement whose declared enemies are liberal democracy, modernism and the Enlightenment, which he sees not as ideas with their own proud and independent history in Russia (which they are) but as tainted Western imports.

In 1992, months after the Soviet Union collapsed, Mr. Dugin wrote proudly that “the Endkampf, the final struggle will burst upon us very soon … the decisive hour is already at hand, the hour of Eurasia. The great war of the continents is approaching.”

It is unlikely (we can hope) that these words are what Mr. Putin has had in mind when his speeches have referred to neo-Eurasian ideas. After all, the President showed little sign of being an ethnic nationalist or Eurasianist during his first two terms in office, or even the beginning of his third; this new language has emerged in recent years, after Russia’s liberal middle class revolted against him and he sought a new political base.

Rather, he seems to be drawing from Mr. Dugin’s 2009 manifesto The Fourth Political Theory, which became a sensation in Moscow circles. The other three political theories to which the title alludes are liberalism, fascism and communism; the first, (economic and political liberalism, including liberal democracy), is to be opposed by all means possible. Fascists and communists, Islamists and “defenders of the spiritual traditions of the pre-modern West” are described as crucial allies in this struggle. He refers to his own ideology, the fourth, not just as neo-Eurasianism but frequently as “National Bolshevism” (a reference to National Socialism – he is an admirer of the Nazi legacy). He describes his ideology as “socialism without materialism, atheism, progressivism and modernism.”

This sounds very much like fascism, as I study it in my book Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview (Concordia Scholarship Today).  The difference seems to be that the National Socialists were arrayed against every facet of the Biblical worldview, as symbolized by the Jews, seeking to “purge civilization of its Jewish elements”; that is, the influence of the Bible.   The Nazis sought to purge even Christianity of its “Jewish elements,” which liberal cultural Christianity–which had already downplayed the authority of Scripture–was quite able to accommodate.  (See my book, which documents all of this.)

This Russian version of fascism–and there were fascist movements for the whole range of nations and ethnic groups in Europe–seems to integrate fascist thinking with Russian Orthodox Christianity.   I’m curious how that works.

And I have a question for my Orthodox friends and readers:  What do you make of this?  Western Christianity, both in its Roman Catholic and its Protestant forms, is “catholic”; that is, it is a universal religion for every nation, language, and tribe (as it says in Revelations).  There are often efforts to turn it into a cultural religion–that is, a religion that gives spiritual authority to a particular culture–but that usually doesn’t last long, since any remnant of Biblical teaching will undermine that perspective.

My assumption is that Orthodoxy too is such a “catholic” faith, and yet it definitely has strong ethnic ties.  And Russian Orthodoxy seems to lend itself to supporting that mystical view of Russia that goes back through Dostoevsky.  Is Russian Orthodoxy a special case, perhaps a distortion of orthodox Orthodoxy?  Or is there something in the Orthodox theology of culture that lends itself to this kind of politics?

Also, could a form of Dugin’s ideology take hold here, in the various nations of Western Europe and the United States?  Aren’t even many of us conservatives looking for a Fourth Way?   Might a “socialism without materialism, atheism, progressivism and modernism” sound attractive?  Maybe what many of us conservatives  are looking for is a liberalism without socialism, materialism, atheism, progressivism, and modernism.

Still, could this new ideology be the wave of the future, either as a political ideology here or as the major rival of Western democracy in a new cold war?

In the meantime, as all of this unfolds, I think people had better read my book:

 

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About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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