The proclaimed triumph of liberal democratic ideals failed to eradicate ethnic and religious divisions.
Francis Fukuyama famously proclaimed the triumph of liberal democracy in his 1992 seminal classic, “The End of History and the Last Man.” He argued that the legitimacy of liberal democracy had become unrivalled after defeating oppressive political ideologies such as fascism and communism. Democracy, upheld by its principles of liberty, equality and justice, was hailed as the metaphorical wind of change that received widespread credibility.
However, the triumph of liberal ideals failed to eradicate certain ethnic and religious divisions. These divisions laid the foundation for secessionist movements and religious extremism in the post-Cold War world. After the relative suppression of extreme ideologies that spread ethnic and religious discord in the West, the question is, What comes next?
Despite the challenges of occasional religious extremism, will liberal ideals continue to enjoy their indisputable status? Not anymore. Radical-right ideologues argue that traditional cultural identities can be used to develop an overarching thesis that can resonate with people across the globe in an attempt to defeat liberal values. By an accident of history, a relatively unknown man, a Russian named Aleksandr Dugin, has come to the fore as one of the key proponents of this ideology, with the intention of safeguarding cultural traditions, the Eurasian identity and the collective loyalties of homogenous communities.
The Eurasian Movement
Aleksandr Dugin is on a mission. He is a philosopher, credited with formulating Russian nationalism in the post-Soviet era that aimed to put Russia back “on the map.” Dugin is the leader of the Eurasian Movement, and his neo-Eurasianism ideology is often said to influence the Kremlin’s geopolitical outlook. At the movement’s launch in 2003, the then-Russian deputy foreign minister, Victor Kalyuzhny, and the deputy speaker of the Russian senate, Alexander Torshin, were listed as members of its higher council.
The Eurasian Movement has an offshoot — the Global Revolutionary Alliance (GRA). Its manifesto, dated April 1, 2017, espouses an apocalyptic vision that humanity is at the verge of an end to “capitalism, resources, society, nations, peoples, knowledge, progress.” The GRA downplays the significance of wider social transformations and places the blame for these processes — rather conveniently — on the “global Western-centric world” and “the ruling class of globalism.”
The GRA calls for a global revolution: “liberalism … must be destroyed, crushed, overthrown, obsolete.” It brands the United States as the “country of absolute evil,” vowing to partner with any anti-US, anti-Western, anti-NATO, and anti-liberal countries in their revolution. At its core, the GRA manifesto synthesizes conspiracy theories about a “deep state,” globalization, mutants, cyborgs, the sinister meaning of the Statue of Liberty, and so on. What is unsettling is that the manifesto does not read at all like a conspiracy theory. Instead, it is framed as reality, aiming to unite people around the world to safeguard their “normal” way of life in collectives and railing against the freeing individualization and “atomization” of the West. At the foundation of the GRA ideology is so-called neo-Eurasianism. As Dugin explains, triumphant liberalism moved out of the political realm to metamorphose into “biopolitics,” absorbing into flesh and blood to become a lifestyle. He asserts the need for an ideology to defeat neoliberalism. If it is not defeated, the only remaining option is a “dissolution” into triumphant liberalism, its lifestyle and its global world. Dugin offers a solution that he believes is powerful enough to strike down neoliberalism and its lifestyle.
What is problematic for Dugin is an ideological gap: opponents of globalization are diverse, and there is no single belief system that unites them. On the other hand, he suggests that neoliberalism fails to offer individuals identity and roots; they are free and fluid in a melting pot of networks, detached from traditional collectives and, thus, deep inside them, lies an ache for identity and belonging.
This is where neo-Eurasianism strikes, offering what Dugin sells as a complete package: a cause, an ideology and a strategy for a revolution to reclaim one’s identity and tradition. In essence, Dugin proposes “an alternative model of a conservative future.” Neo-Eurasianism includes such conflicting notions of “fundamental conservatism (traditionalism), social-conservatism and conservative revolution.” Such palingenesis in Dugin’s ideas intertwine with the ideas of Julius Evola, an Italian fascist traditionalist, who venerated traditional society and considered modernity as corruption.
A Guide to the Alt-Right
Dugin is on a crusade against liberal values to strengthen traditional collectives, such as racial and cultural identities. Can we see such ideas already at work within the wider radical right? Well, yes. Dugin envisages “an alternative model of conservatism,” which includes fundamental conservatism and a socially conservative revolution against current mainstream conservatism. There is a parallel here between Dugin’s idea and the alt-right movement that denounces conservatives of the establishment as “cuckservatives.” The alt-right embraces “natural conservatives” — people who are naturally self-conscious of their race, creed and color — an idea that is similar to Dugin’s fundamental conservatism.
In its fundamental form, conservatism is about “tradition, self-consciousness, organic relations, instincts, and customs.” Milo Yiannopoulos and Allum Bokhari, in a 2016 Breitbart article titled “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right,” introduced the alt-right as a subversive movement borne out of the internet. Yiannopoulos and Bokhari present alt-right activists as “intellectuals.” Nothing falls from the sky: There must be functional roots to such an intellectual movement, and there must be an active, stable nucleus that develops and deploys its ideology to galvanize followers and sympathizers.
Yiannopoulos and Bokhari also mention Julius Evola, among others, as a thinker who inspired the origin of the alt-right. Dugin, however, was fascinated with Evola long before the alt-right. As Dugin admits in an interview, Evola’s “readings changed my life.” The early roots of Dugin’s fascist ultra-nationalism can therefore be found in the late 1960’s French political movement, the Nouvelle Droite, or the New Right. Aleksandr Dugin and his contemporary Aleksandr Panarin had close ideological ties with the European New Right.
In their article, Yiannopoulos and Bokhari highlight the alt-right assault on Western liberalism and democracy. In its place, the alt-right wants “natural instincts, tribal psychology, and identity politics: the preservation of tribe and its culture.” This overall idea can be found in Dugin’s work: “liberal individualism is destructive and criminal. It separates individuals from their collective identities.” According to Yiannopoulos and Bokhari, the alt-right aims to build “homogenous communities to preserve traditional identities: a separation from liberal cultures.” Dugin’s outrage over neoliberalism underlines all of these ideas.
The relative obscurity of Dugin’s work in Western countries may have kept these links vague, but the fingerprints of Eurasanism are visible. Dugin celebrated the union between Italy’s far-right League party and the populist Five Star Movement, claiming that Matteo Salvini’s government was the first concrete expression of his visions. To understand the wider ideological context of the contemporary radical right, it is imperative to identify the shadowy hand of the Global Revolutionary Alliance. A suitable signpost can be, “Beware of preachers of Duginism.”
Dr Chamila Liyanage is a Policy and Practitioner Fellow at CARR and Researcher/Content Developer at Radical-R: Radicalisation Research. See her profile here.
© Chamila Liyanage. Views expressed on this website are individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect that of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). We are pleased to share previously unpublished materials with the community under creative commons license 4.0 (Attribution-NoDerivatives).
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