The last two weeks have seen something of a media frenzy concerning the car bombing death of Darya Dugina, which most people assume was really targeted at her father, Russian ultranationalist ideologue Alexander Dugin.
Michael Millerman, a Canadian apologist for Dugin, joined the fray by offering the following encapsulation of the world view of Dugin and his like-minded daughter: “anti-liberal, anti-communist, anti-fascist, anti-globalist, anti-Atlanticist, anti-woke, pro-Eurasian, pro-multipolar, pro-traditionalist, pro-Russian.” This sketch is skewed in Dugin’s favour because it forgets to add “pro-genocide,” which father and daughter certainly were (and in Dugin’s case, still is).
But what particularly upset critics of Dugin in Millerman’s description was the attribution “anti-fascist.” Is it accurate?
Relevant here is that Dugin makes no secret of the fact that one of his intellectual heroes is Julius Evola. One of the first works of the young Dugin was a Russian translation of Evola. Evola too was in a sense “anti-fascist,” but not for the reasons that you or I might be. He thought European fascism was too plebeian for his tastes, and he was enamoured of the Nazi SS because it came closer to his vision of an “aristocratic” version of fascism, breeding a caste of warrior-priests to avoid sinking into the quicksand of modern decadence. Another major influence upon Dugin is Carl Schmitt, the Nazi jurist who reduced the whole of politics to authoritarian decision-making in a world strictly divided into friends and enemies.
Dugin traffics in esoteric mythologies, of the kind that were popular in Germany in the generation leading up to the Third Reich. He himself drew attention to this when he named the press he founded “Arktogaia” (like the similarly named far-right press, “Arktos”), hearkening back to demented theories of “Hyperborea” and a primeval Aryan superior race supposedly migrating from Arctic regions. Dugin has forged alliances with figures in the alt-right such as Richard Spencer, who published one of his books (translated by Spencer’s now-ex-wife), and he has endorsed outright neo-Nazi groups such as the Traditionalist Worker Party.
Dugin didn’t hesitate to describe himself as fascist in the 1990s, when he co-founded the National Bolshevik Party with another erratic extremist, Eduard Limonov. In fact, in an uninhibited text entitled “Fascism — borderless and red,” Dugin, like Evola, demanded a purer, more stringent fascism.
But he subsequently became more cagey. He called his ideology “the fourth political theory,” intended to supersede the three previously dominant ones: liberalism, communism and fascism. The positive content of this new theory or ideology is pretty vague, whereas its negative aspect is far easier to discern: he violently hates the West, disdains liberal rights and freedoms, and yearns for a cleansing apocalypse that will annihilate modernity.
I once watched online a short video clip in which Dugin told a small gathering of followers in confidence that there is no “fourth” political theory; it’s really the third (namely fascism). No doubt, that video has been scrubbed from the internet, as have other incriminating Dugin videos (including one I also saw in which Dugin referred repeatedly to the contemporary world as “Pax Judaica” — clear proof of his ugly anti-Semitism).
Cathy Young, in an extremely helpful profile in The Bulwark of Dugin’s weird and often just plain crazy intellectual and ideological career, rightly offers this reflection: “The deeper one goes down the Dugin rabbit hole, the more one starts to wonder whether he believes anything he says, and whether his entire career is a long, elaborate mystification.”
Young also quotes a 2007 interview in which he states that “Putin is becoming more and more like Dugin, or at least implementing the program I have been building my entire life.” Fifteen years on, one can’t disagree. Dugin added: “The closer [Putin] comes to us, the more he becomes himself. When he becomes 100 per cent Dugin, he will become 100 per cent Putin.” As we’ve all witnessed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Putin becoming 100 per cent Dugin puts the whole world in dire peril.
There are legitimate disputes about how to define fascism. But rest assured: anyone who loves Evola and Schmitt, envisages “globalism” as a Jewish conspiracy, stokes up dreams of imperial grandeur and sees violence as spiritually cleansing is fascist enough. And so is Putin’s Russia, to the extent that it understands itself according to Duginite notions of superior civilizational destiny.
Ronald Beiner is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Toronto.