Dugin Contra Racism
Most White Nationalists are aware at this point that Alexander Dugin is not one of us. Dugin has stated that he views race as a social construct. We can safely assume that he is not simply being disingenuous, since this claim is consistent with his postmodern and relativist theoretical orientation, as well as with statements he has previously made to the effect that the idea of white racial solidarity is both unrealistic and potentially dangerous:
When it comes to the myth of ‘the solidarity of the white race’, it is a complete utopia that leads not only to the Holocaust of the Jews, but also to a genocide of the Slavs. The remains of the Third Reich are a basis for this miserable, contradictory and completely false conception. The Anglo-Saxon world is one sociopolitical and cultural reality. The inhabitants of Central Europe are something different. The Eastern world of Orthodox Christianity and Slavs is a third reality. I am certain that many non-white peoples of Eurasia are a thousand fold closer to us in spirit and culture than Americans. (Alexander Dugin, “The Magic Disillusion of a Nationalist Intellectual“)
In other words, Dugin holds the view that any form of positive racial identity among whites will inevitably and fatally lead to “a new holocaust.”
Presumably, Dugin follows Alain de Benoist in viewing the concept of race — and the phenomenon of racism — as a product of the Enlightenment, a modern phenomenon (and for Dugin, “modern” always means “bad”). Alain de Benoist is correct that the concept of race was first formulated in the context of the Enlightenment, as one of the foundations of the new science of anthropology.
This does not in itself constitute sufficient grounds for rejecting the concept of race. Even before the concept of race was formed, race was a biological fact, just as DNA existed before the emergence of the science of genetics.
But as a social and linguistic constructivist, Dugin would contest the idea that race can exist in the absence of a concept of race. Philosophically, Dugin takes the view that nothing has being outside of language and social relations. He argues that postmodern relativism is philosophically compatible with traditionalism, since “[f]rom the point of view of the ‘integral tradition’, the difference between ‘artificial’ and ‘natural’ is generally rather relative, as Tradition never knew anything similar to Cartesian or Kantian dualism, strictly separating the ‘subjective’ from the ‘objective’” (“From Sacred Geography to Geopolitics”). Dugin tries to interpret postmodernity — with its relativist critique of the universality of enlightenment Reason, the basis of the project of modernity — as opening the way to a resurgence of traditional, pre-modern, pre-rational modes of thought, outside of the “Western logos.” Dugin’s relativist approach is integral to the entire project of the “fourth political theory,” since it is also the philosophical basis for the idea of an ethno-pluralistic, multipolar world.
It may be that Dugin subscribes to the idea that in order for the biological concept of race to be meaningful, that is, in order for it to be possible to categorize individuals as belonging to a certain race, there must exist a racially pure individual who could embody a norm or standard of comparison. Since on a genetic level, there are arguably no such individuals, the concept of race is supposedly deprived of its scientific foundation and revealed to have only a social meaning.
Since Dugin views race as a purely conceptual construct, he can freely manipulate and extend the meaning of the term “racism” to include various forms of discrimination that are not normally included under this term: cultural, civilizational, technological, social, economic, and even glamour and fashion racism. The concept of “racism” is stretched and expanded (simply becoming synonymous with discrimination on the basis of norms that are subjective or relative) to the point that almost anyone can claim to be the victim of it. Defining racism as “any attempt to raise a subjective assessment to the status of a theory,” he can claim that not only Nazism and fascism, but also communism and liberalism are racist, since they posit a certain political subject as normative (the proletariat or the enlightened, bourgeois individual). There are indubitably racist elements in the writings of Marx. He viewed colonialism favorably, as a means of modernizing and industrializing non-European nations, which was a necessary pre-condition for the final transition to communism. He was also convinced that some races were doomed to perish, since they were inherently incapable of surviving the inevitable historical progression to communism.
Dugin also turns anti-racism against modernity and progressivism. It is “racist,” for example, to judge sub-Saharan or Arab immigrants negatively because their inability to adapt to a modern, technologically advanced Western societies. In fact, the traditional views of Arabs and Africans with regard to women, homosexuality, the raising of children, and evolutionary science, would be a sign of their superiority. On the other hand, he sees the idea of progress itself as inherently racist, since it implies that modern society (which means Western society) is universally normative and superior to non-Western, traditional societies. The latter, he says, should not be thought of as stuck in archaic social forms merely because they lack creativity or the intellectual ability to build civilizations. On the contrary, it is because they are purer, less decadent and have conserved tradition more fully than the white race. They are technologically and materially less advanced, but spiritually superior to the merely materialistic civilization of the West.
From the perspective of the Enlightenment, all societies are inherently striving towards the normative type of Western modern society, but have simply not yet succeeded in achieving it. Rightists explain this failure as the proof of the racial inferiority of non-Western populations, while leftists explain it as the consequence of colonial exploitation and Western imperialism. Both share the implicit premise that Western modernity represents the most advanced and desirable form of society. In Western societies, being “modern,” along with youth, dynamism and “open-mindedness,” is the anthropological norm, in the sense that those who either reject it or fail in some way to live up to it are judged negatively as being backwards, mentally deficient, socially unpresentable, etc. This is undoubtedly a social — and consequently also political — disadvantage for conservatives of all types, one that they share with non-Western immigrants in Western societies. Dugin concludes from this that conservatives should ally themselves with conservative immigrants (especially Muslims), against the liberal, white establishment (no, not the Jewish establishment — Dugin turns a blind eye to the Jewish question, and he believes that Western “decadence” is simply the full ripening and manifestation of the essence of the West).
However much the most “progressive” Westerners may try to rid themselves of racism and racist exclusion, in a mechanism that psychoanalysis call “the return of the repressed,” it keeps sneaking back in through the back door, taking on new, unconscious forms, so that, as Dugin correctly observes, even political correctness itself is “transformed into a totalitarian discipline of political, purely racist exclusions.” Not only white “racists” but religious conservatives and nationalists are subjected — with complete impunity — to forms of social exclusion, aggression, openly exhibited contempt, bullying, physical and psychological violence that are clearly an acting out of precisely those patterns of behavior that in all other contexts are denounced as “racist.” These groups, which are often made up of the “underdogs” of white society, its socially and economically most vulnerable groups, including the working class, the unemployed, inhabitants of rural areas and pensioners, are routinely spit upon and humiliated by the establishment’s media as culturally, morally, intellectually, and biologically deficient (“white trash,” “inbred hillbillies,” and so on).
Dugin’s incessant denunciations of racism sometimes suspiciously resembles an intentional parody of contemporary political correctness, which sees discriminating norms everywhere, and it is possible that while accepting the postmodern deconstruction of the concept of race, he intends to turn it into a deconstruction of the term “racism” itself, extending the term ad absurdum, to the point of emptying it of meaning and turning it against itself. Rather than attempting, like most conservatives, to resist postmodern relativism by upholding certain absolute moral norms, the authority of the western tradition and universal, objective standards of rationality, his strategy is to overcome the last residues of modern ideological presuppositions by pushing them to their extreme, postmodern conclusions. In other words, his strategy is to co-opt postmodern relativism, rather than resisting it.
However, a contradiction arises when in The Fourth Political Theory, Dugin condemns racism, and above all, German National Socialism, not only on epistemological grounds, but also on moral grounds. Dugin’s condemnation of the moral consequences of racism is simply taken as axiomatic and not subjected to any philosophical criticism. It is not clear on what moral basis this condemnation of Western racism is compatible with absolute relativism, the denial that there is any universal point of view from which normative judgments about other cultures could be made (including moral judgments). Are slavery and genocide only morally reprehensible when committed by modern Westerners, but not when committed by other groups? Dugin apparently thinks so, as is shown by the following statement he has made on Facebook about the enslavement and exploitation (as food!) of black Africans by other black Africans:
There are African tribes in West-Atlantic shore who breed human slaves to eat them. I find it perfectly reasonable and fully responsible. If we kill animals by our hands, contemplate them suffering and dying, cut off their skin and separate bones, touching their inner organs — or at least if we vividly imagine that act each time when we eat our meal, we are completely sane and we could proceed eventually applying — in wars — the same attitude toward human. In the war it is essential to take responsibility of act of killing. The very similar responsibility is connected with the act of eating animal food. But animal signifies sentient, that presupposes suffering. Let us do it with full responsibility — eating as well as fighting, in one word — the responsibility of killing. Or abstain. It is free choice.
We may assume that this is a statement made in good faith and not simply a banal attempt to “shock the bourgeois.” It is completely consistent with Dugin’s position of cultural relativism, according to which all normative statements about other cultures must be suspended, since there are no universal norms on the basis of which such statements could be made (although we may wonder how this kind of moral relativism is philosophically consistent with his claim to be a Christian). Dugin is apparently criticizing bourgeois hypocrisy, that is, the failure to take moral responsibility for the killing and exploitation that presumably are the conditions that make “decent” bourgeois society possible. Dugin elaborates his apology of cannibalism in the following way:
To kill or not kill (to eat or not to eat): ‘do what thou wilt’ but never lie. (Continuing vegetarian/cannibal topic). What is good or bad depends on the set of the values accepted in the society. We live in one society the other people live in other. Every society kills, murders and commits the acts of violence — on the human beings or animals. But some societies recognize that and embed the death, killing and violence in their sacred concepts. The other societies, making just the same or worse hypocritically, deny that, appealing to non-violence, tolerance and promoting peace via murder and war. So I don’t judge the violence in itself that depends on the culture — some cultures sacralize it some not — but each human group commits the same acts — kill, torture and eat. So I have only pointed out that it is the fact. The peoples who do it consciously are more civilized and cultivated, more honest and spiritually developed, less infantile and more grown up than those who commit the same act without noticing it or denying its cannibal nature. The world is built on the act of killing (and eating) — God — Man — beast. That is the sense of priesthood. The priest is primordial killer. So existence is painful. We must accept it as it is. We cause pain, we feel pain. It is quite normal situation. The cannibalism is not ‘disgusting exception’ and ‘horrible sign of moral depravity’. In some way it is natural. Indian tradition affirms that ‘kshatryas eat vaishyas’. Vedic hymns are full of the eating (killing, devouring) metaphors. I only try to stress that we are responsible of what we eat, of whom we kill and destroy. The African and Oceanian tribes give us example that I find beautiful and pure.
Given that he seems to accept moral relativism, it is not clear how Dugin can consistently condemn the National Socialist extermination and enslavement of Slavs or Jews, or, for that matter, the enslavement and genocide of other populations by European colonists — none of which is by any means historically unique to Western Europeans (cf., for example, the Old TESTAMENT). What moral universal standard is he referring to? The ideology of universal human rights? Probably not. Christian morality, which he refuses to apply to West African cannibals and slave traders? It is also not clear how he can accuse racists of hypocrisy, since not all aggressive racial supremacists are inconsistent or hypocritical about their genocidal intentions. Finally, it is not clear at all how Dugin can without hypocrisy condemn National Socialism from a moral standpoint while at the same time rehabilitating figures like Stalin and Pol Pot as “national communists.”
Although Dugin views “racism” as a typically Western “disease,” it is not particularly difficult to find examples of it among non-Western and traditional or archaic societies, especially if we define “racism” as “viewing one’s own ethnic group as normative.” This is particularly true of tribal societies, where the name of the tribe will often simply be the word for “humanity,” and members of other tribes are viewed as more or less non-human or sub-human. For example:
An instructive case is that of the Yanoama of the Amazon basin, who not only call themselves ‘humanity’ (the meaning of their name) and all others ‘lesser subhuman beings’ (nabä) but carry the process still further: members of of one Yanoama village habitually accentuate the minor differences of dialect (or the like) that separates them from residents of other villages; then they deride the others for being less than fully Yanoama, which is to say, somewhat subhuman. (Bruce Lincoln, Death, War and Sacrifice: Studies in Ideology and Practice, p. 142)
Wilhelm Mühlmann, whom Dugin refers to as the source of his own concept of ethnocentrism, makes it clear that this type of racist ethnocentrism is a universal, rather than Western phenomenon:
Jacob Burckhardt wrote that “The opposite, through which Greek consciousness completed itself, the non-Greek, is called barbarian”; but this attitude according to which other peoples are barbarians, with its concomitant feeling of higher ethnic self-esteem, is not only Hellenic, but almost universal, and is hardly weakened among modern, highly civilized peoples. One holds one’s own culture, attitude towards life and language to be absolutely normative, and even to be the only ones that are truly human. This opinion is expressed in the most naive way when the name of one’s own people is the same as the word for “human beings” in general, as for example koikoin (among the Hottentots), yamana (Terra del Fuego), ainu(Ainu), inuit (Eskimo), bantu (Bantu), leleges (a Carian aboriginal group, in Asia Minor), or with the word for “Man,” as is the case among many North American Indians.
[…] In general, every people sees itself as the center of cosmic events. Every tribe that Preuss encountered during his travels in South America, had its own mythic creator, who made the world specifically for that people, brought it into being as the first people of mankind, and provided it with a cult before all others. Azara writes of the Guaikurù: ‘They consider themselves to be the most noble nation of the world, the most magnanimous and the bravest, and as those who keep their word most loyally. They are far superior to the Spaniards in stature, beauty and elegance and see the European races as vastly inferior to themselves.’ […]
Every socially healthy tribe tends to feel superior to its neighbours. Their own life-style is the only correct one, while that of the neighbours is deviant, wrong and even repugnant. If the neighbouring tribe speaks another dialect, then it is only a corruption of their own dialect, or else its members are incapable of speaking correctly; if their legends are different, they are simply ‘lies’; if their ceremonies differ in particulars, then they are bad copies of the ‘correct’ ceremonies, etc.
Ethnic self-esteem is not the same as a feeling of being powerful. The Papua can fear their neighbours as WIZARDS or warriors a great deal but still see themselves as ‘better’. Similarly, the Netsilik Eskimos fear the power of Europeans, whose technological resources they believe are inexhaustible, but nonetheless view them as inferior. They see whites as a kind of powerful barbarians, who through their wealth and strength deserve some consideration. One has also be somewhat patient with the white men, since they are like children: easily angered, when they do not get what they want, capricious and full of odd ideas and silly notions. They themselves (the Netsilik) are also better at building igloos, dogsledding and paddling kayaks, in short, at everything that is connected with living in a cold land. […] Pride of culture and pride of race coincide. […]
[F]or traditional Netsilik, it is self-evident that both Indians and whites are bastards, fathered by a useless person, i. e., and Eskimo woman who copulated with a dog. […] Another important trait is the tendency to view the members of a foreign people only as part of a collective, i. e., only as members of their community, and not individually. (Krieg und Frieden: Ein Leitfaden der politischen Ethnologie, 1940, pp. 39-42)
Dugin also makes no distinction between the simple recognition of race as a reality and relevant factor in history, and racism in the sense of racial supremacism. An example of imperialist racism (white supremacism) would be the following statement by Winston Churchill from 1937:
I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.
The vast majority of American “White Nationalists” or European ethno-nationalists today are, however, far less “racist” or “white supremacist” than Winston Churchill. Even those who do believe that the white race is innately superior to other races, as opposed to merely recognizing the reality of racial specificity, do not usually see this as being a moral justification of the enslavement or genocide of other races. For the most part, contemporary racialists merely assert the right to racial separatism and the right of each race to build a society adequate to itself and to cultivate its unique characteristics and potentialities.
As for the historical validity of Dugin’s interpretation of National Socialism as a project of world domination (the creation of a “planetary Reich” analogous to world communism or global liberalism), it is dubious, to say the least. Certainly the pursuit of world domination was not a universally accepted idea among National Socialists, as this statement by Léon Degrelle demonstrates:
German racialism has been deliberately distorted. It never was anti-”other -race” racialism. It was a pro-German racialism. It was concerned with making the German race strong and healthy in every way. Hitler was not interested in having millions of degenerates, if it was his power not to have them. Today one finds rampant alcohol and DRUG ADDICTION everywhere. Hitler cared that the German families be healthy, cared that they raise healthy children for the renewal of a healthy nation. German racialism meant re-discovering the creative values of their own race, re-discovering their culture. It was a search for excellence, a noble ideal. National Socialist racialism was not against the other races, it was for its own race. It aimed at defending and improving its race, and wished that all other races did the same for themselves.