Book review: The Fourth Political Theory, by Alexander Dugin

Peter Rushton adds (August 2022): Please note that this review was first published in May 2013 in Issue 54 of Heritage and Destiny. So it predates Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and invasion of Ukraine in 2022, both of which were aggressively promoted by Dugin. During this review I indicate that I found myself on Dugin’s and Putin’s side in the 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia – but as many H&D readers will know I completely reject Dugin and Putin’s later ahistorical, blatantly imperialist justifications for their invasion of Ukraine.
Therefore today the balance of my review would be even more critical of Dugin – see my article in the forthcoming Issue 110 of H&D (September-October 2022) – but I have republished the 2013 review unamended. My criticisms nine years ago of Dugin’s “National Bolshevism” and Russian imperialism have I think been vindicated by later events.
Issue 111 of H&D (November-December 2022) will include a broader debate on this year’s Russo-Ukraine war.

Alexander Dugin, The Fourth Political Theory, published by Arktos Media, 2012, ISBN 9781907166655, 211pp (Softcover), available from for $29.50. Also available in Hardback for $39.50

In Issue 52 I reviewed Dr Mark Pitchford’s history of the relationship between The Conservative Party and the Extreme Right and that review should be read alongside the present one. These are two very different books by very different authors, yet from contrasting perspectives they illuminate a vital question for 21st century nationalists. To what extent should we see ourselves as “right wing”, let alone as “extreme right”? Can we expect to find allies on the right wing of the Conservative Party (or its overseas equivalents such as the U.S. Republican Party), or does the Conservative leadership represent our eternal foe? If the latter, can we expect substantial defections to our cause from the Tory right, or are Conservatives simply very different from nationalists? Can a distinct and coherent nationalist political philosophy be developed which is not an evolution from modern Conservatism, but in some sense a repudiation of it?

Alexander Dugin of Moscow University – the intellectual leader of the Eurasia Movement and a sometime academic adviser to Vladimir Putin – has probably never been to (or even heard of) Oldham. Yet a controversy earlier this month in Oldham’s council chamber encapsulates one of the insights into the latest phase of modern democratic politics contained in Dugin’s new book, which is an essential guide for those seeking a path across the postmodern political wilderness.

Oldham’s Mayor John Hudson (a veteran Conservative councillor) spoke out against the increasingly prevalent practice of his fellow councillors using Twitter during meetings. This process had started with the apparently laudable aim of making council debates more open to the public. But predictably enough it degenerated into councillors grandstanding for cheap public attention on Twitter rather than taking part in the actual debate.

The young Oldham council leader Jim McMahon in seeking to rebut Cllr Hudson’s argument, rather proved his opponent’s point: “John Hudson doesn’t like Twitter in council, but the public do and engagement is better than ever. Move with the times.”

In other words actual debate – the clash of informed opinion through the process of logical argument – doesn’t matter. “Engagement” no longer means real engagement with ideas and arguments, just the pretence of interaction with the public through facile “tweets”. This is a classic fulfilment of an analysis by the French Marxist critic Guy Debord, published in his influential 1967 book The Society of the Spectacle and quoted by Dugin:
“All that once was directly lived has become mere representation.”

As early as 1994, when the French ‘situationist’ radical Guy Debord (above) died, Alexander Dugin was praising Debord’s critique of Western capitalism’s “society of the spectacle”.

One of Tony Blair’s most irritating habits was that whenever confronted by a difficult issue he would divert the argument by stating: “what people are really interested in is this…” In other words the terms of debate were to be defined not by his interlocutor nor by the objective facts, but by Blair himself. In effect, there was no longer to be any debate.

Dugin lays bare the ultimate enemy of our times: the tyranny of liberalism. An ideology whose very name implies freedom (from the Latin noun libertas, meaning “freedom” – as well as the name of a short-lived party that splintered from UKIP – and the verb liberare, meaning to deliver from tyranny, to “liberate”) becomes paradoxically the ultimate tyranny.

This paradox according to Dugin is traceable to the roots of liberalism, including the liberal belief that “the individual is the measure of all things”; “the abolition of any governmental, religious and social authorities who lay claim to ‘the common truth’”; “the dominance of market relations over other forms of politics”; and perhaps worst of all, “certainty that the historical path of Western peoples and countries is a universal model of development and progress for the entire world, which must, in an imperative order, be taken as the standard and pattern.”

As Dugin points out, liberals believe in “freedom from” rather than “freedom to” – “on the whole, liberals insist not only on ‘freedom from’ tradition and sacrality (not to mention previous forms of traditional society), but even on ‘freedom from’ socialisation and redistribution.” The 21st century triumph of liberalism means that “private property is idolised, ‘transcendentalised’, and transforms from that which a man owns to that which owns the man.”

Moreover liberalism has moved on from seeing the individual as the measure of all things. Just as “freedom” has become a globalist tyranny, in the 21st century the focus is no longer on the individual but on the sub-individual – on transitory “desires, emotions, moods and inclinations”. He thus becomes the ideal consumer, since these sub-individual inclinations easily merge with others to create a trans-individual multitude.

Thus for Dugin liberalism’s “‘freedom from’ is the most disgusting form of slavery, inasmuch as it tempts man to an insurrection against God, against traditional values, against the moral and spiritual foundations of his people and his culture.”

Dugin warns that the “demonisation of the state” is something encouraged by the post-political, liberal new world order. Many readers will resist this perception, but I have long argued that the conservative wing of our movement – on both sides of the Atlantic – is profoundly wrong to join in with the media throng in jeering at the entire notion of politics. The Gadarene rush to repudiate the state in fact serves the interest of our true oppressors, whose weapons are the supposedly free market and its associated cultural degradation, creating what Dugin terms “this dispersed nebula of multitude that is deliberately destroying the structures of the will that belong to the political.”

Alexander Dugin (above right) with the pro-White activist and former Louisiana state representative David Duke. They are strange allies, given that Dugin’s ‘Eurasianism’ is explicitly anti-White.

U.S. readers should note that (in common with most Europeans, though among Britons only those with advanced political education) Dugin would define most U.S. conservatives (apart from sections of the paleoconservative spectrum) as “liberal”.

Oldham’s council leader demands that we “move with the times”; Dugin prefers to demand that we move against our times. He defines conservatism as “a ‘no’ said to that which is around one” – a “no”, rather than merely an occasional stepping on the brake pedal of historical “progress”, as practiced by those he defines as “liberal conservatives”. But the author (correctly in this reviewer’s opinion) chastises 20th century traditionalist conservatives such as Julius Evola and René Guenon for failing to understand that Communism – the apparent ultimate enemy of traditionalists – had “much …in it of traditional elements.”

Clearly Dugin has more sympathy with Conservative Revolutionaries who do not wish simply to head back to a particular point in the past, nor merely to slow down our headlong descent into the future: rather they seek to identify what elements in our past and present are causing this degradation – and remove those elements through our own form of revolutionary action.

As leading conservative revolutionary Arthur Moeller van den Bruck put it: “Earlier conservatives attempted to stop the revolution, but we must lead it.”

Dugin criticises what he calls the “racism, xenophobia and chauvinism” inherent in the “Third Way” theories of some sections of the political right, regarding them as contaminated by the same ethnocentricity as American imperialism itself. Many nationalists are just another type of globalist, committing the same “intellectual violence” against other traditions. (As will be seen later in this review, however, Dugin’s own ideological and cultural roots lead him into a problematic attitude towards the competing ideologies of the 20th century.)

He summarises the Fourth Political Theory as a combination of some Third Way, post-fascist theories together with “socialism without materialism, atheism, progressivism and modernism.”

To these ideological foundations of “national bolshevism” Dugin seeks to add sources of inspiration drawn from Plato’s ideal Republic as well as pre-modern theological concepts of the state, including the mediaeval Christianity which underpinned “Merrie England”, lauded by traditional Catholic Bishop Richard Williamson in a recent address to the London Forum.

Dugin urges a reassertion of the concept of Dasein, associated with the 20th century German philosopher Martin Heidegger, seeing this as a repudiation of our own century’s postmodern nihilism. This is a subject that many readers will find difficult to comprehend, but at its simplest Dasein means an assertion of our existence not merely as sub-individual consumers with petty personal “freedoms”, but as individuals rooted in a broader community and tradition: as part of an organic cultural unit.

Seeking to distance himself from the discredited labels attached to 20th century nationalisms, Dugin insists that an assertion of Dasein does not imply the annihilation of other ‘Daseins‘ in other cultures and traditions. The real tyranny is exercised by those who in the name of tolerance and multiculturalism would subsume all cultures beneath a triumphant market liberalism.

For this reviewer there are occasional flaws and lacunae in Dugin’s analysis of international affairs. He points out the divisions within the American foreign policy establishment, seeing essentially three alternative paths – neocon imperialist; Obama’s “multilateralism”; and an accelerated globalised new world order project associated with George Soros and the Council on Foreign Relations. Yet (perhaps inevitably in a book that covers a huge span in only two hundred pages) Dugin’s analysis is heavily compressed – I would have appreciated a more detailed explanation of how he sees the nuances between these three approaches; to what extent there is any difference between them in terms of the effect on the victims of U.S. policy; and perhaps most importantly, to what extent are these policies formed independently in Washington, or influenced (even dictated) by external lobbies.

Dugin’s resistance to the global tyranny of post-modern Liberalism is rooted in German philosopher Martin Heidegger’s concept of “Dasein”.

Dugin’s book was completed before Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012, so there is no assessment here of two aspects which are relevant to Dugin’s argument. Has demographic change within the U.S. accelerated the development of a post-political landscape, where there is simply no point in Republicans seeking to articulate a defence of White America because they can no longer win? Is this truly a demographic fact already, or more a reflection of a failure of political will, a treason of the political elite, a decadent post-democratic culture? And in terms of foreign policy, is there a genuine debate about U.S. policy in the Middle East, with even the Zionist lobby dividing between the traditional AIPAC (which strongly backed Bush’s war on terror) and the new group J Street (which has criticised both Bush and Netanyahu and is close to some in the Obama Administration)? This apparent division was most evident in the controversy during early 2013 over the confirmation of Obama’s new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, accused by the traditional Zionist lobby of harbouring heretically sceptical ideas about the U.S. commitment to Israel. Or is all of this just another attempt to channel discourse away from a serious debate on the central issue: the fact that Israel only exists because of the unquestioning support of the “West”?

Similarly Dugin does not precisely analyse the challenges to the “Western model” of New World Order. In writing of “the Islamist world vision” he does not properly distinguish between the supposed Al-Qaeda model of a Universal Caliphate, many of whose proponents are clearly covert (or in some cases barely disguised) agents of the “West”, and the genuine challenges posed variously by the Islamic Republic of Iran; by Hezbollah acting in coalition with other Muslim and Christian groups in the Lebanon; and by Dr Mahathir Mohamed’s former government in Malaysia, which at one stage looked as though it would form the centre of a new non-aligned multi-national bloc.

Sadly another potential challenge to the New World Order might now be in crisis following the premature death of the Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez. Dugin briefly mentions the “Eurasian Union” project initiated by Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev, as being another potential element of a “multipolar world”, in which even a Washington-dominated NAFTA would be just another player. The most practical current test of his analysis will be to what extent Moscow and its allies will manage to resist pressure to overthrow Syria’s government.

Dugin at a conference with Lauren Southern, who was at that time a leading figure in the so-called ‘Alt-Right’

Dugin is very acute in his critique of some of the trendier elements of the New Left, such as the “post-Marxist” philosophers Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, most famous for their book Empire published in 2000, and their street-oriented equivalents in the various occupation and anti-globalisation movements. This New Left seeks a revolution that moves away from humanity itself towards a post-human future familiar from science fiction, the Internet and Hollywood (with or without the help of mind-altering substances). The individual is “free” in this virtual world to construct his own reality, his own rationality, even his/her/its own gender.

As Dugin writes, the practical efforts of these revolutionaries, whether occupying city centres, supporting squatters, defending ecology or whatever, end up “all reminding one of a carnival”. Or as the leftist philosopher Gregory Elliott wrote of an earlier pseudo-revolutionary trend in the 1960s:
“One of the abiding sins of 1960s anarcho-psychedelicism in Britain was its confusion of painting the town red with making the revolution.”

(Elliott was probably not aware that he was echoing G.K. Chesterton, who used a similar phrase when criticising not mindless “revolutionaries” but mindless “jingoists” of the Edwardian era, when of course to paint the map red meant not Bolshevism but the extension of the British Empire, whose possessions were always marked in a pinkish red on maps of the period. “The slaves of that saturnalia were not only painting the town red; they thought that they were painting the map red – that they were painting the world red.”)

Speaking of Reds, we must turn to the most problematic aspect of Dugin’s work. His commendable reassessment of traditional left-right boundaries is unfortunately coloured (perhaps more than he would admit) by his own Russian chauvinism. On occasion I have no problem with this and would for example find myself on Dugin’s (and Putin’s) side in the 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia, a war that was provoked by cynical Western support for the charlatan Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili.

But the political exemplars that Dugin holds up for Western nationalists to emulate are another matter. These are Harro Schulze-Boysen and Ernst Niekisch, prominent German exponents of National Bolshevism. In his 1932 book Hitler: Disaster for Germany, Niekisch called for a spirit of defiance against the spirit of the age, just as Dugin seeks to conjure against the liberal New World Order of our own age:
“The dignity of man consists in the fact that he can always say ‘no’. He can always rebel. He can always rise and fight against even that which seems inevitable, absolute and unbeatable. And even if he loses, he gives an example to others. And others take his place. And others say ‘no’. That’s why the most fateful and fated occurrences can be defeated with the strength of the soul.”

Unfortunately Dugin seeks inspiration for anti-liberal resistance in the wartime activities of the “anti-Nazi” Red Orchestra, controlled by Leopold Trepper (seen above at London’s Heathrow Airport in 1973 en route for his new home in Israel).

The term National Bolshevism was first used during the devastation of Germany immediately after the First World War. Both the traditional left and the traditional right were shell-shocked. The mainstream left (as across Europe) had split in 1914 over whether to uphold the doctrine of international socialism, or to rally behind the various national flags and participate in the war between European brothers. The patriotic right struggled to comprehend how Germany could have been defeated in the autumn of 1918 after Ludendorff’s offensive had seemed so successful in the spring of the same year.

So would Germany’s salvation lie in the restoration of the monarchy and a revival of the Prussian aristocratic order; or in trying to make the best of liberal-capitalism, eventually seeking a renegotiation of the punitive peace terms imposed by the victorious Franco-British Entente; or in the new gospel of communism which had just created the Soviet Union; or in a radical nationalism rooted in a semi-mystical attachment to German blood and soil?

During 1919 two small factions – moving from opposite ends of the spectrum – suggested a new synthesis. Leaders of the German Communist Party’s Hamburg Circle called for a nationalist form of communism that via a workers’ revolution sought to rebuild Germany as the great power created by Bismarck in 1871. Simultaneously the Jewish law professor Paul Eltzbacher (who before the war had been a prominent writer on anarchism but was now a Reichstag member for the DVP, the conservative-nationalist German National Party) published Bolshevism and the German Future, calling for a nationalist policy of state ownership and Bolshevik-style workers’ soviets. Both Eltzbacher and the Hamburg Communists found themselves dubbed “National Bolsheviks”, a epithet that was first coined as an insult by the more orthodox Communist leader Karl Radek and was never proclaimed as a positive title by those who are now given the label.

During the last week of the war German communism had enjoyed its first brief success when the journalist Kurt Eisner led a revolution in Munich that created the Bavarian “free state”. Eisner failed to hold on to power and was assassinated by a fellow Jew, maverick nationalist Anton Arco-Valley, in February 1919. He was neither a nationalist nor really a Bolshevik, but a younger leading activist in the abortive Bavarian revolution became perhaps the most important (and sincere) figure in the history of National Bolshevism.

This was Prof. Dugin’s hero Ernst Niekisch, who was initially a member of the mainstream SPD (the German equivalent of the Labour Party). Just after Eisner lost power, Niekisch – not quite 30 years old – became chairman of the Bavarian Soviet, the nearest thing to a Bavarian government during a few weeks of chaos, before an eccentric gang of socialist playwrights and anarchists gave way to a bloody Bolshevik cabal, which in turn was overthrown by the Army and nationalist paramilitaries.

Niekisch was not personally implicated in these crimes, and indeed went on to develop an honourable Dugin-style political synthesis, campaigning against the vicious peace terms of the Versailles treaty and being particularly radicalised in a nationalist direction by the French occupation of the Ruhr in 1923. This turn towards nationalism led to Niekisch being expelled from the SPD in 1926, after which he carried out a curious political manoeuvre, taking over what had been a “moderate” SPD splinter party in Saxony and turning it into a radical National Bolshevik party, though he never himself adopted this term, which as noted above was in this period a term of abuse.

The problem was that this faction – the “Old Socialist Party” – managed not to synthesise left and right but to alienate both, without building a significant political base for itself. Niekisch quickly lost his early support base within the trade unions, while discussions with nationalist groups, including the National Socialists, soon collapsed because Adolf Hitler and his allies were suspicious of Niekisch’s ambiguous position on the interlinked issues of Marxism and the Jewish Question.

From their electoral peak of 1926, when they won four seats in the regional parliament (Landtag) of Saxony, the Old Socialists quickly collapsed and failed to win a single Reichstag seat, and by the early 1930s the party split two ways, with its right and left wings either joining the National Socialists or rejoining the SPD.

The very aspects which guaranteed Niekisch’s failure in the late 1920s have of course recommended him to modern nationalists seeking an “anti-Nazi” heritage: either as Western European nationalists trying to avoid establishment smears, or as Russian nationalists attempting to rescue something honourable from the wreckage of the Soviet Union. The truth is that in their own time the main practical function of the National Bolsheviks was to act as the (perhaps unwitting) agents of sinister forces, both among sections of the German elite aiming to divide National Socialists and prevent Hitler’s rise to power; and later in the Soviet intelligence services attempting to subvert the Third Reich before and during the Second World War.

Another section of the Red Orchestra was run by Harro Schulze-Boysen, commemorated on this East German postage stamp. Dugin singles out Schulze-Boysen for praise as an early ‘National Bolshevik’.

While Ernst Niekisch was again not personally implicated in this treason – having been arrested in 1937 – Dugin’s other German hero cannot be so easily acquitted. Twenty years younger than the lower middle-class Niekisch, Harro Schulze-Boysen was born in the heart of the Imperial German officer class: his great-uncle was the legendary Admiral Tirpitz, effective founder of the Kaiser’s Navy. As a 14 year old in Duisburg he found himself on the front line when the French occupied the Ruhr, and naturally reacted against this, eventually joining the nationalist youth group Young German Order.

By the end of the 1920s Schulze-Boysen was the leading German contact for what remains a little understood French “non-conformist” group called New Order, which criticised capitalism and communism, calling for a “Third Way”, and became a model for many European nationalists fifty years later. Two of the main French leaders of this New Order – the Jewish political philosopher Robert Aron and the Russian Jewish emigré and Catholic convert Alexandre Marc – were to become important figures in the movement for European federalism after 1945.

Schulze-Boysen’s predecessor as German contact for New Order was Otto Abetz, then a young art teacher, who was attempting to build bridges between left and right, as well as between France and Germany. While this all sounds very commendable, there were other agendas at work. Having at first been ambivalent towards national socialism, and having links to the anti-Hitler faction of the NSDAP around Otto Strasser which became the “Black Front” in 1930, Abetz joined the party in 1937 and was immediately appointed as a German diplomat in Paris.

Expelled from France for alleged bribery and espionage activities in 1939, Abetz returned to Paris as Ambassador in 1940. There are curious ambiguities about his role in Paris, as despite apparently successful services to the Third Reich, Abetz was an active freemason, and had some very odd connections in international Zionist circles. His great-nephew Eric Abetz (born in Stuttgart) is today the leader of the opposition Liberal Party in the Australian Senate. [note: this was the case in 2013 when this review was first published. Abetz lost his seat in the 2022 Senate elections, partly due to the fallout from controversial remarks he had made about sexual misconduct allegations involving some of his colleagues.]

What is not at all ambiguous is that Otto Abetz’s friend Schulze-Boysen, who on the surface had also reconciled himself to the Third Reich and had become a civil servant in the Air Transport Ministry in Berlin, was working secretly for the Soviet Union’s military intelligence service GRU, controlling a ring of agents as part of the “Red Orchestra”. His wife Libertas, who worked in the German offices of the Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, was also a Red Orchestra operative. They were both arrested and executed in 1942, so didn’t live to see the brutal triumph of their Soviet masters or its consequences for their fellow Germans.

The chief conductor of the Red Orchestra – with agents across German-occupied Europe and in Switzerland – was Leopold Trepper, a Polish Jew who left the Soviet bloc for Israel during the mid-1970s. Whatever the ideological pretensions of the early National Bolsheviks, they ended up as Stalin’s agents – and while Dugin might be justified in rehabilitating aspects of Stalinism, he should beware of canonising those who gave their lives in service of anti-European conspiratorial forces. An attempt to rescue some form of nationalist-socialist synthesis from the disastrous brothers’ wars of the 20th century cannot ignore the practical record of those involved.

Prof. Dugin correctly insists that in seeking a genuine alternative vision to combat tyrannical New World Order liberalism we must learn to set aside our various nationalist chauvinisms, in so far as these sought (or seek) to suppress other national cultures and other forms of self-determination. Yet that means he too must remove the blinkers that require loyalty to Slavophil imperialism and its Stalinist successor. If we are expected (rightly) to engage in a critical re-evaluation of the British Empire and its exploitation by alien forces, the same applies (arguably a fortiori) to the anti-fascist mythology of Russia’s “Great Patriotic War”.

Peter Rushton, Manchester, England

Note: This review was first published in Heritage and Destiny issue # 54 – May-June 2013

Dugin in South Ossetia shortly before the 2008 Russo-Georgian war
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