The significance of Pim Fortuyn, the Dutch politician assassinated on May 6, was that he brought into question the compatibility of two cherished institutions of the Left — mass immigration and sexual identity politics.
Fortuyn favored immigration restriction and for that the political and media establishment of Europe branded him as “far right.” His name was frequently mentioned alongside those of Jean-Marie Le Pen and Joerg Haider. Aside from their similar views on immigration all that the three of them had in common was charisma, which marked them as populists in contrast to the colorless politicians of the European mainstream.
Fortuyn was also a homosexual, and a flamboyant one at that. He boasted to the press of his exploits with “rent boys” and of his affairs with men of all races, which he cited as proof that he was not a racist. Not the sort of thing one would associate with the “far right” of men like Le Pen, who once said that “…homosexuality and sodomy are to blame for Aids, but the only rule in my party is patriotism. Although I like heterosexuals, because I am heterosexual, I don’t think homosexuals are so bad they should be put in prison.” Yet in the eyes of Europe’s socialists, Fortuyn’s heretical position on immigration was enough to make him and Le Pen bedfellows.
Ironically, Fortuyn’s homosexuality contributed to his desire to restrict immigration. He was incensed by the attitudes of Muslim immigrants toward homosexuals and women. He feared that they were a threat to traditional Dutch tolerance. In one sense then Fortuyn was a conservative, trying to preserve Dutch customs, but the particular customs he had in mind were not the ones usually associated with the political right. He was however for slightly smaller government than most of his rivals; his platform was vaguely Thatcherite, calling for lower taxes and getting tough on crime. But it was immigration that made him “far right.”
From this one might conclude that the Left cares more for immigration than for sexual identity politics, but that would be a mistake. In truth the multiculturalist creed holds that “gay rights” and mass immigration, even of socially conservative Muslims, are not in contradiction. Fortuyn’s sin was to call that tenet into question.
Fortuyn did not believe that Muslims were assimilating to Dutch culture, and therein lies what the Left would consider the root of his error. Contrary to what conservatives and libertarians tend to think, the Left in fact believes wholeheartedly in assimilation — but not assimilation to any nation’s culture, be it that of the Netherlands or of the United States. The assimilation in which the Left believes is to the principles of democratic socialism and multicultural tolerance. To be sure that includes tolerance and even affirmation of homosexuality, but the Left is confident that Muslims will eventually accept that doctrine, after they’ve received “education.” Christianity and the traditional culture of the West, including the free market and the bourgeois family, are the Left’s first and foremost targets for destruction.
Mass immigration is too valuable a means toward achieving that goal to be repudiated. For one thing the more occupied Christians and Western traditionalists are with Muslims, the less time and energy they have to fight socialism. Ideally Christianity and Islam will destroy one another, leaving the field clear for the State. Even without the religious dimension, mass immigration works as a wonderful solvent against the accumulated crust of tradition. And on the most practical level, immigrants make useful new voters to be swayed by handouts or multicultural rhetoric. In the short term Muslim immigration may jeopardize tolerance, but the Left is confident that in the long term it will only help.
Immigration is not more important than lifestyle politics to the Left. On the other hand, the Left considers immigration restriction a much greater threat than mild free-market reforms such as abolishing the sales tax (one of Fortuyn’s proposals). The latter policy will not win you any friends on the Left, but it’s the former that will earn you the epithet of “far right.” If you’re as unlucky as Profesor Pim, it may even get you killed.
Daniel McCarthy [send him mail] is a graduate student in classics at Washington University in St. Louis.