Slowly and gradually the intellectual left is becoming completely irrelevant. Some of its last bastions include universities where publicly paid university professors are free to propagate ridiculous theories without having the possibility of ever getting fired if they get it wrong. Massive amounts of literature are going to be discarded and it’s going to be relegated in the historiography section titled “How we got it wrong”. Whole departments will face existential crises. Quoting Daniel Marwecki in his latest article, yesterday’s intellectuals have become today’s useful idiots having previously written stuff that is very much in line with what Russia is propagating today as excuses for its invasion of Ukraine. The fraudsters and the rent-seekers in academia will become ever more irrelevant as their theories and ideas have been exposed for what they are: total rubbish. And these fraudsters are gradually exposing themselves with their own stupidity, too.
For example, recently in Malta, a university academic who happens to be Russian and claims to be “left-wing” argued against Western sanctions on Russia by invoking poor Russian women who had to pay ten times more for their tampons, without, of course, making any reference to the women in Ukraine who are literally being bombed and shot to death. It’s not just the bad taste of the argument, it’s actually part of the fascist Russian rhetoric itself – Westerners will always punish all Russians because of Russophobia. The West is equally murderous and imperialistic as Russia is and both are empires that exploit their poor working classes. By this twisted logic, the current war on Ukraine is a war waged and perpetuated by both Western and Russian elites who are equally culpable. There is also a strong element of psychopathy in this left-wing rhetoric which is equally shared by Dugin and Russian imperialists. The masses always seem to be objects of greater forces either political, religious, cultural, transcendental, whatever. Apparently, the masses in Ukraine have no agency too according to this twisted logic and are picking up arms to fight the Russians only to pursue Western interests of war. Tell me again why the anti-NATO left has no philosophical inclination to fascism?! By the way. It always surprised me how communists insist to trade with the evil capitalist machine of the USA. Communists seem to hate the USA but most of them still want to have access to, quoting the fictional character, Ron Swanson, the most precious paper in the world: the Dollar. If Cuban communism works, and Russian imperialism works too, I would assume that not trading in Dollars is not going to be a problem, but in reality, it seems it is. It seems that somehow we still need capitalism to keep poor people from not going poorer. If the price of tampoons is equivalent to access to Dollars, why wouldn’t Russian communists go full communist and call for the Rouble to be replaced with the Dollar?
After the Second World War, dictatorial powers have used their largesse to promote their theories and propaganda. For example, throughout the Cold War, the Soviet Union spread millions of copies of English and other language books worldwide on its politics, ideology and vision. It collaborated with foreign communist parties to spread this literature, held youth festivals and whatnot and was always present in intellectual circles. Many Western intellectuals were courted offered trips and scholarships, research grants and more. The practice still goes on today and also in different ways. From my experience, at international book fairs, the dictatorships always ensure to have a strong and forceful presence. In Egypt for example, the biggest pavilion is usually owned by Saudi Arabia and the Minister of Culture will often inaugurate the fair by first visiting Saudi Arabia’s stand. Recently, many dictatorships built their own media houses with which they permeated the Western information-sphere: Xinhua, Al Jazeera, Russia Today and others who constantly propagate the ideas and biases of their dictatorial owners. According to these media houses, they have their own reality which they would like to put out in the world along with Western narratives. But that’s not all. We have also had Saudi Arabia building mosques all over the Muslim world and running them with its lunatic Imams, the Russian backing of the world’s worst dictators such as Bashar Al-Assad and Nicolas Maduro and the Chinese imperialist renaissance which aims to bring China as once again the Middle Kingdom of the world. It’s all relative to culture and geopolitics a non-Marxist communist would say, so does Dugin.
Basically, I will argue, concisely, as a starting point for a much bigger textual exercise which I would like to pen in the future, that we are finally at a stage when we are witnessing in practice and in real life whole philosophies crumbling apart: relativism, post-modernism, structuralism, Althusserianism and the many other gibberish and philosophies which have shaped the Western philosophical discourse of the 20th and 21st century which today is used to rationalise the existence of brutal dictatorships like Russia, China and Saudi Arabia and others. I am not arguing that these philosophies or theories are valid and were abused by negative actors – on the contrary, these theories and philosophies are actually dangerous and gibberish and reckoning of the intellectual left is coming.
Alex Dugin, Russia’s official intellectual and vocal proponent of Russian imperialism has given a short lecture promoting the official Russian rationale behind the invasion of Ukraine. He promotes Russia’s fascist ideology and imperialist ambitions under the guise of multipolarity: the idea that the world should be divided into separate powerful centres representing their continental-cultural-ethos. This is traditional imperial rhetoric. He backs his pro-Russian imperialism by using Wittgenstein to argue that truth is delineated by linguistic relativism. In other words, absolute truth does not exist for Dugin, but there exist various truths according to language and culture. Someone who would have read Samuel Huntington’s famous essay “Clash of Civilisations” would assume that Dugin is actually following Huntington’s advice. This is what Huntington said in 1993 (Samuel P. Huntington, “Clash of Civilizations?”, Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993.).
“At a superficial level, much of Western culture has indeed permeated the rest of the world. At a more basic level, however, Western concepts differ fundamentally from those prevalent in other civilizations. Western ideas of individualism, liberalism, constitutionalism, human rights, equality, liberty, the rule of law, democracy, free markets, the separation of church and state, often have little resonance in Islamic, Confucian, Japanese, Hindu, Buddhist or Orthodox cultures. Western efforts to propagate such ideas produce instead a reaction against “human rights imperialism” and a reaffirmation of indigenous values, as can be seen in the support for religious fundamentalism by the younger generation in non-Western cultures. The very notion that there could be a “universal civilization” is a Western idea, directly at odds with the particularism of most Asian societies and their emphasis on what distinguishes one people from another.”
And bingo. It’s exactly what Dugin thinks. Is Dugin abusing relativism? No, he isn’t, and actually, he is using it perfectly well. This passage above basically includes many of the philosophical, historical and political errors of Western philosophy in the 20th and 21st centuries. The current implosion of the left with its anti-imperialist rhetoric feels eerily similar to the German intellectuals like Martin Heidegger who used relativist philosophical concepts to normalise Nazism. But in reality, Heidegger never invented or discovered anything new in philosophy: his magnum opus, “Being in Time” is a ridiculous and ambiguous treatise that makes no sense. Bottom-line it always boils down to the justification of dogma, which Dugin admits openly: it’s all about belief. Here is Heidegger to the rescue of dogmatism:
Taken strictly, a certainty which is ‘only empirical may be attributed to death. Such certainty necessarily falls short of the highest certainty, the apodictic, which we reach in certain domains of theoretical knowledge. (Page 301, Blackwell Publishing translation of 1962).
Now, Immanuel Kant too distinguished between empirical knowledge and pure knowledge but what distinguished Kant from many other philosophers who sought to go beyond empiricism, is that Kant’s philosophy was guided by his moral compass which was based on his Christian religion. Kant was no relativist and his absolutes were guided by the “divine”: the Christian God. What is so consistent in Nietzsche, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Althusser, and many others is that their moral compass is based on the relativism of humanity. There is no relativism in Kant. What the relativists, the structuralists and the post-modernists did was to consistently separate the absolute from religion and give back the absolute to the people: giving back the power to the people in the full philosophical sense in terms of philosophical emancipation. It’s humanity that decides on absolutes and they are not inscribed either in literal or figurative divine stone.
Let’s for the sake of philosophy assume that this is true. Let’s assume that humanity chooses its relative absolutes, but if this is true, the question begets “who gets to choose these absolutes?”. Here, we need to basically fall down from philosophy to go back to the empirical earth. What are people choosing to believe? If we were to conduct a scientific survey of the political and religious beliefs of a particular group of people we have to consider this question too: what choices do these people who are choosing actually have? Let’s take a practical example. Assad is still Syria’s dictator after having crushed a rebellion with Russian air support, massacred hundreds of thousands and displaced millions of people. Assad has been kept to power thanks to the choice of the Russian government which has decided to back him and the majority of people don’t back him. Assad is an absolute by sheer and brute force. Consistently in history, empires have survived by sheer brute force and brute force is also the only reason why Russia as a country still exists in the first place. Even Russian scholars themselves admit that the only reason why the Soviet Union did not break up or lose itself to the Japanese Empire in the East or to Nazi Germany in the West, is by Stalin massacring millions of people in his intricate plan to create a super-power and preserve the Russian empire. So, by Dugin’s own logic, we should also be able to conclude that after Ukrainians chose to believe in the Western truth by opting to look West in their aspiration to join the European Union, imperial Russia wants to reverse their choice. Today, Russia is imposing its truth on Ukraine by bombing it. Similarly, we can make the same argument with Islam in Saudi Arabia, probably one of the most barbaric States in the world whereas similarly to Iran women are literally controlled by patriarchy and have significantly fewer legal rights than men and gay people are executed in public. What choice do Saudis have and why do they choose Islam? Who controls the absolute truth of Islam in Saudi Arabia? Similarly to the Russians, the Saudis are bombing the Houthis in Yemen to impose their truth on them. Can we, therefore, by the same logic also apply this to the Iraq War against Saddam Hussein in 2004? Didn’t the Americans impose their truth on the Iraqis? Actually, a large section of the Iraqi population choose to vote for parties backed by Iran and antagonistic to the US with the Sadrist Movement having the largest block of seats in parliament. Ironically, Saddam Hussein’s biggest enemy after the US was Iran. Indeed, one of the biggest criticism made to George Bush’s invasion of Iraq is that he has literally given Iraq to its worst enemies.
There is one historic case that left-wingers conveniently ignore when they argue that democracy can not be imposed on a people. It was Nazi Germany in 1945 where the Western allies made a concerted effort to force the Germans to learn and adapt a democracy, starting right away by showing them the crimes the Nazis perpetuated by literally rounding up the civilians and taking them to look first-hand at the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. Even today there is a discussion about the extent of the Russian collective responsibility of Putin. After all, Putin was widely supported even after he bombed Checyna and installed brutish thugs to control it. I have Russian friends who are in prison for having protested the war and I will not be as pretentious as to judge the Russian people, but consistently and factually, the masses too have a strong role to play in the formation and foundation of their leaders and empires. Boris Yeltsin was a well-loved politician by Moscow and was literally a people’s man having made sure to be with them in protest during the army coup of 1990. Putin was well-loved too, however, Putin restricted the options of Russians by eventually killing his opponents or jailing them ensuring that he has no competitor to power. Absolutes in Russia are dictated by Putin too and he can do so only because he uses brute force. In addition, it is also important to note that the last time a country annexed another country before Russia tried to conquer Ukraine was China which took direct control of Hong Kong against the will of the people in Hong Kong.
If in the empirical world, violence and brute force seem to be a common factor in every relative cultural and political absolute that positions itself against the West or against liberal values. Finally, we are getting somewhere. It seems like we have a geopolitical imbalance then whereas the geopolitical competitors of liberalism are able to compete as geopolitical competitors only by sheer brute force, but the bottom line is that for every other choice there will always be the Dollar that dominates, figuratively and metaphorically. With the end of the Cold War, the US dismantled its imperialistic hand. Obama accelerated this de-imperialism by refusing to put more booted in the ground in the Middle East. Trump began pulling out American troops from the Middle East and Biden wanted to have nothing to do with it. As soon as the US was trying to absolve its past sins by refusing to retain its role as the world’s police, Russia comes in to consolidate its imperial ambitions. And there is one major difference between the so-called “West” and Russia which makes NATO literally the good guys of today. We in the West have institutions and rule of law which has developed and advanced strongly enough to prevent and punish anyone who would mischievously and intentionally bomb other countries at will or start wars and coups. There was a time when the US could get away by bombing the presidential palace of a democratically elected Chilean President, but today it’s rather different. The American President is not only answerable to a more educated and conscious electorate which would definitely not accept such actions but he or she is also answerable to stronger institutions than those of yesterday which recently have also been able to investigate and decimate the President’s own inner circle. Imagine the equivalent of Bob Mueller in Russia: it can never happen.
The left has been mired in dogma for many years, and a lot of this dogma has been manufactured by dictatorships themselves. In turn, this dogma finds a welcoming home in gibberish philosophy and university departments under the guise of “understanding complex concepts”. Relativism has given much wide legitimacy to bullshit philosophies and political concepts like Dugin’s. There is no relativism in the fact that Eastern Europeans are democratically choosing to join the European Union and even NATO. The fundamental direction of Eastern Europeans is not guided by ideology or politics: on the contrary. In politics and ideology, the Eastern Europeans are opposed to Western Europeans on many more fronts and are culturally more similar to Russians than they are to Mediterraneans or Northern Europeans. So what makes them want to join NATO and the EU? It’s simple. Because the EU provides more freedoms than being in an economic block with Russia and NATO guarantees the security of these freedoms.
I would go even further than that. I would argue that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has started a new revolutionary era in Eastern Europe similar in process to the European revolutions of the 19th century where the masses are increasingly breaking away from the ruling elite of the past to look forward to new political systems with more freedoms. This time round what is restraining the full-blown effect of this revolutionary wave is an imperial power threatening the world with nuclear annihilation. Indeed, liberalism can only be threatened with brute force because it is rather difficult to convince people not to have the right to choose.