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Around the World, Across the Political Spectrum

Continentalism v. Dugin: 1:0 for Europe

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Continentalism, a geopolitical concept coined by Algis Klimaitis, adviser to Algirdas Brazauskas, the first President of Lithuania after it became independent, stands for a Europe focused on itself.[1] Continentalism is directed against transatlanticism, because it stands for a European social market economy, in other words the continental model of “Rhenish capitalism” and not the Anglo-Saxon model of “shareholder/stakeholder capitalism”, for a Christian-conservative culture, as opposed to the “woke” ideology that has come from the United States, and for a European security system that eclipses NATO. Not spatially foreign powers (Carl Schmitt) like the United States but the Europeans themselves, in accordance with a European variant of the Monroe Doctrine, should be able to guarantee the security of Europe – by both conventional and nuclear means – in a spirit of internal resilience and external military restraint. Common policies and institutions in the realms of foreign and security policy, economics and trade (free trade area) based on a new European confederation will characterise the new continentalist Europe of the twenty-first century.

Russian neo-Eurasianism is known in the West through its prophet and enfant terrible Aleksandr Dugin. Dugin, who is married to a feminist LGBTIQ activist, was formerly an adherent of neo-paganist heathen cults and is now, at least according to the image he projects, a Russian Orthodox Christian. He is often overestimated in the West.[2] What is certain is that he does not have the great influence on Russian foreign policy that is often attributed to him (by interested parties). Dugin is not “Putin’s state philosopher”.[3]

Dugin’s neo-Eurasianism shares with continentalism its aversion to transatlanticism.[4] It is not directed against the American people, it should be noted, but against the oligarchic political caste of the globalists who undermine national sovereignty and exploit the middle classes in the United States as in Germany and the rest of Europe. Globalists versus patriots – that, to interpret Donald Trump, is the fundamental antithesis of our age.

Academics such as Dr Karlheinz Weissmann and Dr Alexander Gauland, the elder statesman of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, speak of the antithesis between globalists and communitarists but use both labels to mean the same thing.[5]

Dugin himself equates continentalism with Russian neo-Eurasianism. Is that legitimate? No, it is not, and for several good reasons, namely the neo-Eurasianist premise that Russia is an essentially Asian country, the relativising or glorification by neo-Eurasianists of communism and of its crimes against humanity and their advocacy of the inefficient and economically bankrupt system of command economics or the so-called “third way” – a kind of cross between market and command economies which is reminiscent of an economic Frankenstein’s monster. Continentalists, moreover, call for peace and stability in Europe, whereas neo-Eurasianists hold forth about a new Russian empire, to be achieved partly through military expansionism.

But let us first examine the genesis of neo-Eurasianism. As the name says, neo-Eurasianism was born of Eurasianism, a Russian philosophical school of the inter-war years. Lev Gumilev, Nikolai Trubetzkoy, Pyotr Savitsky and others helped to shape Eurasianism – many were émigrés, while some lived in the Soviet Union and publicised Eurasianist ideas under the cloak of the Marxist-Leninist state ideology. Russia, according to the Eurasianists, was deeply and primarily influenced by Asia and had been since the Mongol-Tatar yoke of the thirteenth century. Cultural studies in the fields of ethnology and linguistics would confirm this, the Eurasianists claimed.[6]

Here, indeed, lies the first crucial point, the first major difference from continentalism. In Klimaitis’ view, what continentalism emphasises is that Russia belongs to European civilisation, to a Christian Orthodox orient which, with the Catholic/Protestant occident, forms one of the two lungs of Europe. Russia has certainly contributed great cultural masterpieces to the pan-European heritage in music, literature, painting, cinema and science. Surely it would scarcely cross the mind of anyone in China, India or elsewhere in Asia to describe the Russians as Asians. Even Vladivostok on the Pacific, not far from Japan and North Korea, is a European city.

The Eurasianists themselves adapted to the Bolshevist regime, whether under duress (in the Soviet Union) or voluntarily (as émigrés), and emphasised its Asiatic essence, that is to say its – in their opinion – Russian essence.

This is precisely what the neo-Eurasianist Dugin is doing when he speaks of the achievements of the Soviet Union, glorifies the Bolshevist coup, otherwise known as the October Revolution of 1917, as the Russian uprising against the “Europeanisation” of the country by its Tsarist-aristocratic leaders and holds forth on importing the good elements of communism into the twenty-first century. Continentalism, on the other hand, emphasises that communism, as the first form of totalitarianism to emerge in the twentieth century, was one of the gravediggers of European civilisation. Nor will Russia recover, as the world-famous dissident and Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, before all of the communist crimes have been researched and imprinted on the public consciousness. It is clear to the continentalists that numerous Russians lost their lives in that era and that communism was not simply the product of the prevailing Russian culture but rather an alien ideology which usurped elements of that Russian culture.[7] In this respect too, the contrast with neo-Eurasianism could not be greater.

From the glorification of communism and its barbarous crimes against human beings and humanity, its numerous genocides and its hundreds of millions of victims, it is not a huge step to glorification of the command economy or of a mythical Third Way – mythical, because it has never existed in reality. To continentalists – and to anyone who has ever really engaged with economic theory and practice – it is clear that the command economy is the “road to serfdom” (Friedrich Hayek). The social market economy is efficient and just; the command economy is inefficient and unjust. It eliminates the right to property, which is the basis of political freedom. Between a market economy and a command economy there is no “middle way” – tertium non datur.

Another fundamental difference between continentalism and neo-Eurasianism is to be found in the field of foreign and security policy. While continentalism emphasises peace and stability and rejects military adventures, neo-Eursianism offers an ideology of empire. In his seminal work Osnovy geopolitiki (Foundations of Geopolitics), Dugin writes of the “mistake” made by the Soviet Union in not simultaneously launching military offensives to the south (Afghanistan, access to the Indian Ocean through Pakistan) and to the west (against NATO, access to the Atlantic). He also holds forth on the need to station Russian troops in Europe to guarantee the security of the imperial territory controlled by Russia. For neo-Eurasianists, Russia is the “middle kingdom” – what the Chinese call Zhongguo, referring, of course, to China itself. The European and Asian periphery would be organised around Russia, as the core of the empire. Continentalists, by contrast, are committed to stability, peace and security in Europe and Asia – against the influence of spatially foreign powers but also against neo-imperialist ambitions and military adventurism, whatever their source. Continentalism favours stabilising zones of influence and mutual security guarantees and opposes the expansion of power blocs, security alliances like NATO and empires.

To sum up, continentalism differs fundamentally from neo-Eurasianism:

Neo-Eurasianism

Continentalism

Russia as an Asiatic power, Russian culture influenced by Asia

Russia as a part of European civilisation

Glorifying communism, relativising its crimes

Anti-totalitarian consensus – opposition to both red (communist) and brown (Nazi) socialism

Predilection for command economics or the “Third Way”

Clear commitment to social market economics – “Rhenish capitalism”

Russia’s neo-imperial ambitions and military expansion

Peace and stability through security guarantees and zones of influence in Eurasia

The fact is that having a common adversary does not automatically make nations best friends. On the contrary, neo-Eurasianism is what makes it easier for Russia’s adversaries to cast it as an aggressive Asiatic power that has nothing to do with Europe. Here is the point of convergence for committed transatlanticists and confused Dugin disciples, who exist in Germany too. Two pathways to the same abyss. Continentalism, on the other hand, is the way for Europe to experience a renaissance by drawing on its own intellectual roots.

Dr. Anton Friesen, Former Member of Parliament (Bundestag), Doctor of Political Sciences, Scientific Assistant, Internation

 


[1] See A. Klimaitis: Europäischer Kontinentalismus. Wo steht Europa im fragwürdig gewordenen Transatlantismus? Vienna, 2014.

[2] Even the opposition in Russia know that he is far from being „Putin’s state philosopher“. See, for example, https://meduza.io/episodes/2022/05/27/zapadnye-smi-nazyvayut-evraziytsa-aleksandra-dugina-ideologom-putina-i-dazhe-ego-mozgom-dugin-pravda-tak-vliyatelen-chto-u-nego-za-idei (available in Russian only; last checked on 15 May 2023).

[3] See, for example, https://www.bpb.de/themen/deutschlandarchiv/506103/der-philosoph-hinter-putin/ (in German; last checked on 16 May 2023).

[4] See, for example, A. Dugin, Osnovy geopolitiki. Moscow, 1997.

[5] See,for example, A. Gauland, ‘Warum muss es Populismus sein?’, in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), 6 October 2018. Available online (in German) at https://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/alexander-gauland-warum-muss-es-populismus-sein-15823206.html (last checked on 15 May 2023).

[6] See P. Robinson, Russian Conservatism. Ithaca, NY, 2019.

[7] On this point, see, for example, L. Ensel, ‘Kommunismus? Daran sind nur die Russen schuld! – Die posthume Renationalisierung der Sowjetgeschichte’, in Nachdenkseiten, 15 May 2023. Available online (in German) at https://www.nachdenkseiten.de/?p=97808 (last checked on 15 May 2023).

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