National Bolshevism - Limonov v Dugin

There was always a question as to how seriously the National Bolshevik Party should be taken. Its leader was the poet and novelist Eduard Limonov, author of a book that has been published in English translation as Memoirs of a Russian Punk, an account of a very violent childhood in the well-known Russian city, Kiev. The name 'Limonov', a pseudonym for Eduard Veniaminovich Savenko, evokes a lemon but also the Russian soldier's slang term for a hand grenade. Other novels describe a chaotic life in the United States where, among much else, he was once the proud possessor of a ripped T-shirt that had previously belonged to Richard Hell (of Richard Hell and the Void-oids, in case there’s anyone who doesn’t know - PB). He has become particularly known in France through a best selling account of his life by the journalist Emmanuel Carrère.

Dugin and Limonov, closely associated in the early days of the NBP, have now parted company. Limonov in 2010 teamed up with the very pro-western Gary Kasparov in an alliance of opposition to Vladimir Putin, The Other Russia. In an interview published in 2010 in The Observer he says of this: 'I always try to keep myself separate from Kasparov when he is being strongly pro-American. I leave the press conferences. I want to look pure for my people; I don't even want the shadow of the west to fall upon me ... Westerners are not our enemies but I have no reason to look for support from them. If, for example, the US president or even a senator said they supported Limonov at the elections, this would damage me so much. So please, fuck, don't do it!’ (1)

His book Limonov v Putin is available in a rather awkward English translation on the internet. In it he says:

'Putin’s autocracy’s main defect does not even consist of keeping the population in poverty. Putin’s group’s regime should not be measured by economic indicators (although even by these it looks miserable) but by the quantity of humiliations, suffering, pain and non-freedom brought to the citizens. By these indicators Putin’s regime must be condemned as inhuman. The unbearably haughty, anti-democratic, anti-civilizational, medieval attitude to the person – this is its principal defect. The model of a paternalist State with a severe father, its highness the “President-Boss” at the head of it is really a GUIN [Russian acronym for the Kyrgyzstan prison system - PB] model of a prison camp. I was detained in one of those, Number 13, in the Zavolzhie steppes. There, obedient detainees are rewarded only with not being beaten, while the non-obedient ones are beaten, injured and killed. The model of a State-camp does not have to exist in the XIX century. Such States are not normal, they are gloomily old-fashioned.'

According to Dugin on the other hand, anticipating some of the themes that will be discussed in more detail later in the present article: (2)

'The new big Russia which is now being resurrected inside the Eurasian area is the idea of a new sovereign resurrected Empire. It is not Soviet, because that ideology is dead, but neither Russian, because we have no common religious direction here. The Eurasianity suggests resurrection of a Big Space in place of the former Russian empire and the Soviet Union. This project strongly opposes the Russian Westerners and Atlantists. Putin has come from the Atlantist regime of Eltsin, but has changed the Eltsin’s direction 180 degrees. When he came, the main idea was to fit Russia into the western world in order to become, as they said, "a normal country". Now the idea is: Russia is a great country. Not "normal". It is a country, reestablishing its planetary meaning, thus leading its independent policy, free from globalist pressure and the Single-Polarity world. This is what Putin and Medvedev are implementing now, and this is a geopolitical program of building the Empire.'

Dugin left the National Bolshevik Party in 1998 but he continues to take the notion of National Bolshevism - a blending of ideas we might associate with Communism and ideas we might associate with Fascism - seriously, arguing in The Fourth Political Theory that it represents a substantial intellectual tradition going back in Russia to Nikolai Ustrialov, executed under Stalin in 1937 and in Germany to Ernst Niekisch who passed the war in a German concentration camp. This historical National Bolshevism could be described as an interpretation of what Bolshevism was - the force that against all odds, when the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires were being destroyed, held the Russian Empire together. Ustrialov memorably described Bolshevism as resembling a radish - bright red on the outside, white on the inside.

In his article 'The Metaphysics of National Bolshevism' Dugin says:

'The term “national-bolshevism” can mean several quite different things. It emerged practically simultaneously in Russia and Germany to signify some political thinkers` guess about a national character of bolshevik revolution of 1917, hidden in orthodox Marxism internationalist phraseology. In Russian context “national-bolsheviks” was a usual name for those communists, who tried to secure the integrity of state and (either consciously or not) continued the Great Russian historical mission geo-political policy. Those Russian national-bolsheviks were both among “whites” (Ustrialov, Smenovekhovtsy, left Eurasians) and among “reds” (Lenin, Stalin, Radek, Lezhnev [presumably the literary critic Abram Lezhnev - PB] etc.). In Germany the analogous phenomenon was associated with extremely left forms of nationalism of 20s-30s, in which the ideas of non-orthodox socialism, the national idea and positive attitude to Soviet Russia were combined. Among German national-bolsheviks Ernst Niekiesch was undoubtedly the most consistent and radical, though some conservative revolutionaries may also be referred to this movement, such as Ernst Juenger, Ernst von Salamon, August Winnig, Karl Petel, Harro Schultzen-Beysen, Hans Zehrera, communists Laufenberg and Wolffheim, and even some extremely left National-socialists, such as Strasser and, within a certain period, Josef Goebbels.'

The articles on Dugin's '4pt' website are unfortunately not dated but I would guess that 'The Metaphysics ...' belongs to the period when Dugin was still defining himself as a National Bolshevik and had not yet adapted the terminology of the 'Fourth Political Theory' (apart from anything else the quality of the English translations of his most recent texts is much improved). As the title of the article suggests, however, the essay expands 'National Bolshevism' into something more than a nationalistic Communism. Referring to Karl Popper's book The Open Society and Its Enemies he says:

'The most felicitous and full definition of national-bolshevism will be as follows: “National-bolshevism is a superideology, common to all enemies of the open society”. Not just one of the ideologies hostile to such society, but it is exactly its full conscious, total and natural antithesis. National-bolshevism is a kind of ideology, which is built on the full and radical denial of the individual and his central role; also on giving to the Absolute, in which name the individual is denied, most extended and common sense. We could dare to say that National-bolshevism supports any version of the Absolute, any justification for rejecting the “open society”. In National-bolshevism there is a clear tendency to universalise the Absolute at any cost, to advance a kind of ideology and philosophical program, which would be the embodiment of all the intellectual forms that are hostile to the “open society”, bringing them to a common denominator and integrating them into an indivisible conceptual and political bloc.' (I have done some tidying of the English - PB).

(1) Interview with Marc Bennetts, Observer 12/12/2010.
(2) Vladimir Putin and the Empire - 4pt website