Lipstick on a pig: The attempts to prettify fascism

BY:Taryn Fivek| December 22, 2021
Lipstick on a pig: The attempts to prettify fascism


Why should we be concerned with an eccentric Russian nationalist here in the United States? It seems almost conspiratorial, as if ideas and notions are driven by lone wolves and not social and historical forces. In Aleksandr Dugin’s case, he is elevated by virtue of our circumstances: capitalism in crisis and a burbling far-right movement. His rise accompanies a deepening demoralization among a section of the working class, particularly many youth, who, facing a lifetime of global climate crisis, see their electoral efforts end in disappointment. This is precisely the nature of a bourgeois democracy founded on slavery and genocide, a deeply conservative governmental apparatus that is lorded over by unelected Supreme Court judges and cops alike.

The thwarting of the Bernie Sanders campaign by this apparatus dealt a severe blow to collective hopes and aspirations towards possibly reforming the system in a way that was more democratic. Increasingly, our working class sees diminishing value in continuing the attempt to win more space for democratic power. Despite a record number of uprisings across the country against police violence last year, police departments saw their budgets increase. Migrant children are still in cages at the border. Other issues that seem to powerfully mobilize our class — global warming, health care, labor and voting rights, infrastructure plans, student loan debt — crash into a seemingly intractable brick wall no matter which party our class supports in the general election. They ask themselves: is bourgeois democracy even worth defending at this point? The urgency of the issues seems overwhelming. Rightfully so, they want to see these issues and injustices resolved immediately.

There is a growing number of people on the Left who, on becoming demoralized, begin to doubt their political orientation. They see either action or inaction. Some even see the January 6th fascist riots at the Capitol as an effort to overturn the bourgeois democratic process, and they become excited. They see history in motion and think it’s good news. They say that the worker is fed up with bourgeois democracy! What they want to put in its place is not perfect, but they imagine it could be negotiated on. Whatever this new system is, it must be better than liberalism, whatever that means to those who say it.

However, the January 6th riots were not supported by the masses. This is self-evident in that the putsch, or attempted coup, did not succeed. But January 6th was surely a temperature check of how welcoming the waters might be. And make no doubt, it will continue to be a rallying point for the extreme right, and increasingly perhaps a wedge to introduce destructive ideas into our own ranks.


Co-option of democratic struggles

There is, first of all, a disagreement about democratic struggles: the fights against racism and sexism, for expansion of voting rights, and for the rights of women, immigrants, and LGBTQ people. From the point of view of a section on the Left, democratic struggle is not class struggle. Some leftists think this because capital has cynically adopted cosmetic forms of solidarity. This is manifest in corporate pride months, statements supporting the Black Lives Matter struggle, and the Cheryl Sandbergs of the world who believe that women’s problems might be solved by embracing capitalism and becoming the best manager one could be. Confusion arises because corporations appear to be on the side of the democratic struggle, using it to distract from what they consider to be color-blind, asexual class issues like power on the job, poverty, healthcare, infrastructure spending, etc.

If we look under the hood of these supposedly apolitical class issues, we can see that they’re deeply gendered and raced in their manifestations. But some who consider themselves leftists do not seem to understand. They think that liberalism, wearing its false solidarity with these democratic causes, is hiding behind people of color and women to continue capitalist oppression of the working class, even recruiting them into the wrong side of the class war. Because this co-option seems so entrenched, and given their demoralization, they feel that it might be worthwhile instead to build common cause with the right wing. They want to reach out to the January 6th protesters, U.S. flag in hand, to assure them that, regardless of what they think about these democratic issues, there is still the possibility for a twisted united front with the far right.


Dugin’s milieu

We return now to Aleksandr Dugin and his “Fourth Political Theory” because we this is where the strategy of uniting Left and Right crystalized by his ideology. But this polemic intends to prove that both this strategy and its ideological foundation are fascist. One could simply point to his milieu as evidence enough that he is a fascist, and a dangerous one at that, but it is also important to tackle his ideas, since they seem to be popping up all over the country.

First, for the record, his milieu:

Dugin’s works are translated into English and published exclusively by Artkos media, the Verso (so to speak) of the fascist right. It was initially founded by Jason Jorjani, a Dalton graduate who made the circuit of Fordham and New York University before settling on doing his PhD in philosophy at SUNY Stonybrook. He hails from the so-called metropolitan elites and professional-managerial class he would otherwise criticize. In 2017 he was dismissed from his position at the New Jersey Institute of Technology for being caught on video predicting that “We will have a Europe, in 2050, where the bank notes have Adolf Hitler, Napoleon Bonaparte, Alexander the Great. And Hitler will be seen like that: like Napoleon, like Alexander, not like some weird monster who is unique in his own category — no, he is just going to be seen as a great European leader.” He filed a $25 million lawsuit against the university for defamation and lost, as his writings about using genetics to restore the racial greatness of a nation (in this instance, Iran) were considered proof that his comments about Hitler were not taken out of context. Earlier that year, he’d co-founded “AltRight Corporation,” a failed media venture, with white supremacist and Charlottesville’s “Unite the Right” organizer Richard Spencer.

Artkos is now run by Daniel Friberg, a man referred to as a global leader of neo-fascists and of Alt-Right movements. They publish fascist philosophers such as Julius Evola, C. Z. Codreanu, Guillaume Faye, and Alain de Benoist. To say that Aleksandr Dugin ended up at Artkos by mistake would be to insult the intelligence of all involved, including Dugin himself and the editorial staff who work there.


A fourth political “theory”

“The establishment of democratic, popular and liberal systems, the embracing of coloured peoples, and the dulling of conscience among younger generations are but signs of one phase in the process of subversion,” says A Handbook of Traditional Living, a recommended Artkos title that instructs its readers to cut off all family and social ties and join up with a fascist gang of “brothers” (they are always brothers) to begin some sort of inner restoration towards action. What action do they speak of? As with most fascists, the author gets a bit mealymouthed here. Hidden behind winks and innuendos is their tacit admission that fascism’s main vulnerability is in its exposure, in the collective hell no that rises up from working-class and oppressed people worldwide when we smell any trace of Nazi in the breeze.

This acknowledgement of the vast majority of humanity’s outright rejection of fascism is important to keep in mind as we proceed to examine Dugin’s ideas. This is precisely why he takes great pains to paint himself as anything but a fascist, instead dressing up its grotesque skeleton as some sort of “Fourth Political Theory/4PT.” This masquerade is rooted in contempt for our class; charlatans like Dugin think that we would not be able to tell the difference by his slapping a new label on old trash.

Those who cannot see or do not want to see the fascism hiding behind his “Conservative Revolutionaries,” his yearning to embrace and defend “tradition,” have some soul-searching to do.


Liberalism as the main enemy

Dugin says that in the 21st century there is no “left” and “right,” only those who oppose the status quo and those who support it. He clears out these historically rooted distinctions because his intention is to consume the left completely, to negate it. He wants to wear the skin of the Communist Party like the mystical huckster he is to summon his neofascist demons. His book, The Fourth Political Theory, first and foremost, is an overture to the sections of the so-called Left that Dugin considers “salvageable.” Not only do these “leftists” fail to grasp the basic tenets of Marxism, but they also view liberalism (a word much abused in today’s United States) as the primary political tendency to struggle against. The small-d democratic struggle is embarrassing and shameful for them. They do not want to lower themselves to the level of the working class. They want to stand with strong, disciplined (male) stormtroopers.

As spewed about on Fox News, liberal implies weak, pathetic, queer, educated, and girlish. (Meanwhile, some voters who support women’s liberation and are anti-war would describe themselves as liberal.) Dugin associates liberalism with the Enlightenment and modernity, globalization, as well as with gender-bending nightclub patrons, homosexuality, and women drivers (229). He believes that liberalism is equal in its damage with both fascism and Communism. This alone should give any reader pause — wait, isn’t Dugin supposed to be a fascist? But some of his acolytes claim that he uses the Fourth Political Theory to discredit fascism.


Cobbling together fascism and communism

What he actually does is claim that his Fourth Political Theory is made up of the best parts of Communism and fascism, cobbled together to wage war on liberalism. And what parts should be totally discarded? He says that for fascism (or what he alternatively calls the “Third Way”), racism should be rejected. He does not say much about why, or how, but is quick to point out that “it was racism — in theory and in practice — that criminalised all other aspects of National Socialism and fascism, causing these worldviews to become the object of curses and vilification” (47). Indeed, “without racism, National Socialism is no longer National Socialism, either theoretically or practically, and becomes harmless and decontaminated” (50).

This is the ideology of the Proud Boys, who accept men of color into their ranks and are even run by an Afro-Cuban man. Racism is allegedly not tolerated, mainly for PR reasons, because our class righteously loathes it and is actively seeking its abolition — a struggle that Communists must help win and defend from the likes of the Proud Boys.

But Dugin somehow insists, with no explanation, that fascism can be divorced from racism. This is as nonsensical to us as saying that capitalism can somehow shed its racism. The antiracist struggle is fundamental to Communism. We understand that such a decontamination of fascism is not possible. Therefore, when it comes to what must be rejected from Communism, Dugin says the first and primary rejection must be of historical materialism, along with “materialist reductionism and economic determinism” (52). Indeed, it is only by discarding all of the above and embracing Dugin’s fairy-tale epistemology that one might somehow believe that fascism could be cleansed of racism.

And what is left when you cobble together fascism and Communism, as if this could ever be possible? Dugin tells us: “The point of intersection between different anti-liberal political theories of the past (namely Communism and the Third Way [read: fascist] theories). So we arrive at National Bolshevism, which represents socialism without materialism, atheism, progressivism, and modernism, as well as the modified Third Way theories” (241). Dugin says it’s not so important to articulate what exactly he intends to modify about fascism, beyond the racism, as the very notion of articulating the concrete elements of his 4PT exists outside the ideology’s very paradigm. “Perhaps, it is more important to leave some things unsaid, to be discovered in expectations and insinuations, in allegations and premonitions” (60).

This is the Trump agenda laid bare. His administration allegedly denounced racism out of one side of their mouths while at the same time calling down the Klan and other fascist gangs to try and overthrow the bourgeois democratic process at the Capitol. These are the “conservative revolutionaries” Dugin dreams of. “Make America Great Again” is the perfect slogan for his 4PT precisely because of his rejection of historical materialism. By turning history into a subjective concept and denouncing progress or thinking about the future, he insists that we are instead caught in a cycle of ages: the “iron age” of decadence and corruption we’re currently living in, Dugin’s Angelpolitica (angelic politics) (215) as “golden age,” and a return to the garden of Eden, the “Ancient” — paradise (29). Yet America will have to be made great again and again in this cycle, as this golden age then degrades into the silver age, and then into the bronze age, which is “characterised by the affirmation of wild and materially inclined virility, the spiritual element now having been secularised. Genuine authority no longer exists in this age — the age of violence and usurpation — only power affirmed by means of force” (Handbook, 23). Nonsense dreck, all of it.

This disorienting siren song to the Left repeats itself at the close of the book:

We have here an interesting basis for the conscious cooperation of the radical Left-wingers and the New Right, as well as with religious and other anti-modern movements, such as the ecologists and Green theorists, for example. The only thing that we insist on in creating such a pact of cooperation is to put aside anti-Communist, as well as anti-fascist, prejudices. These prejudices are the instruments in the hands of liberals and globalists with which they keep their enemies divided. So we should strongly reject anti-Communism as well as anti-fascism. Both of them are counter-revolutionary tools in the hands of the global liberal elite. (242)


“Calling all Nazis”

If this formula — discarding both the left and the right and critiques of both — seems like a back door for Nazis, it’s because it is. Elsewhere, Dugin locates his intellectual tradition in the vein of Martin Heidegger (Nazi), Carl Schmitt (Nazi), Werner Sombart (Nazi), and Othmar Spann (Nazi), along with other “dissidents of National Socialism” (109). He also embraces the National Socialism of Gregor Strasser and National Bolshevism of Ernst Niekisch, saying they would have been brought into his Traditionalist Conservative Revolution as family or perhaps be allowed their own “distinct school” of helpful thought (114).

Dugin is calling in all the failed and chastened Nazis, as well as so-called Communists devoid of “modern, atheist, materialist and cosmopolitan” tendencies.

As Communists, we know that history cannot repeat itself and that it is useful to examine it to help understand the present. Therefore, let’s look back at the last time that such thinkers and thought were being developed under crisis conditions.

Capitalism, of course, is precisely what Dugin fails to examine in his 200+ pages of disingenuous fascist apologia. Crisis goes unmentioned beyond the moral hysteria of liberalism’s “support [of] not only the freedom of abortions, but even the freedom from sexual differentiation (supporting the rights of homosexuals, transsexuals, and so on)” (171). While he dwells on the United States’s geopolitical power, he does not take into account the economics of the thing, perhaps because he does not see the working class as the motor force of history. All well and good for us to rile up the workers against abortion and gay marriage, because the working class is not expected to do anything but roll over, drunk on backward ideas like geese being stuffed for fois gras, while “Conservative revolutionaries” launch their attack, striking while bourgeois democracy lies floundering under its own contradictions and while capital desperately reaches for its ultimate bailout — fascism.

Dugin and his followers fall in line with their intellectual predecessors: the Nazis exist; he is just refusing to look at them. “The appalling consequences of this ideology are too well known to dwell upon them” he says of fascism, locating its historical subject in the so-called Aryan race. To Dugin, the historical subject is more properly “not the individual, class, state, race, or nation on their own, but instead, a certain combination thereof” (41). He wants to embrace Heidegger’s Dasein, that of “man as being,” and tells readers to go off and read nine years of Heidegger if we want to understand what that means exactly.

When examining fascism, we must be careful to consider what is not said just as much as what is said. Fascists are coy because they fear being challenged. For example, what of Dugin’s mysterious and sporadic-but-insistent infatuation with fascist philosopher Julius Evola in the pages of The Fourth Political Theory?

He speaks of giving a talk in Rome twenty years after Evola’s death entitled “Evola — Visto da Sinistra” (“Evola, a View from the Left”) but does not mention the content of his talk beyond suggesting that the “Left” take a “good look” at the philosopher. In his address (Google translation from the Italian) he says that “the various anti-liberal ideologies — including ‘left’ revolutionary ideologies — should have a relationship with Tradition. Now, if this appears obvious in the case of hyper-conservative ‘extreme right’ ideologies, it is problematic in the case of ‘left’ ideologies.”

Indeed, we leftists are allergic to the kind of ideology Evola proclaims: racism, casteism, sexism, antisemitism, mysticism, and anti-democracy in the name of embracing and protecting “tradition.”


“Leftists” shedding historical materialism

We would like to think that all can smell the Fourth Political Theory for what it is, but the very necessity of this essay indicates that’s not the case. This writing comes from a desire to differentiate ourselves from fascism, and not just to each other, but to our class. Swept up in a torrent of racism, sexism, and mystical conspiracies, thousands of Americans laid siege to the Capitol earlier this year, and they may do it again. With Joe Biden as the creaking façade of a crumbling liberal order, there are some who would call themselves Communist that see value in joining with the  far right to smash liberalism once and for all. “We should have been there on January 6th!” they cry, being sucked into the ahistorical web Dugin has spun. They fall into his lies because they have, perhaps unwittingly, shed the “materialist and modernist aspects of Communism” that Dugin rightfully sees as preventing its marriage to the  extreme right.

There’s desperation here, a real fear of the future married to demoralization. This, again, is because some on the Left have abandoned the core value of Marxism, which is precisely found in its method of historical materialism. They have lost faith in our class and now see it as Trump and Bannon and Tucker Carlson tell them it is: white, male, and reactionary. In accepting this fantasy, they cut themselves off from both our history and the reality of our struggle.

Dugin claims that his Fourth Political Theory is the only theory that is “capable of mobilizing the vast masses throughout the world,” and some on the Left believe him. They crave engagement and validation from all the wrong places. They accept the erroneous idea that culture war and class war are two different things because it seems like a good way to rally the masses. They accept Fox News lies about Black Lives Matter being a liberal hashtag, they embrace the trans panic, they say we must tolerate “socially conservative views” without explaining to their comrades exactly which views we, their Black and Brown and women and trans and queer and disabled and immigrant comrades, are supposed to tolerate. They say that we can go back in time to “restore” our party to greatness by wrapping it in the U.S. flag and watching our tone.

To say we’re out to protect and embrace tradition, to say that we should tolerate backward ideas in an effort to build a united front against liberalism is not just ahistorical, it’s fatal. It assumes that the progress made over the past 75 years is liberal in nature as opposed to hard-fought for by Communists and other progressive elements in the working class. It drives a wedge between Communists and our base of support, which is not some idealistic Dasien but the working class and oppressed. This separation is ultimately a betrayal of the lives we fight for, since fascism fills its camps and cannon-fodder armies with our class — and that includes us, the Left.

Image: “Proud Boys in Raleigh (2020 Nov)” by Anthony Crider is licensed under CC BY 2.0.



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