What is the Nature of Multiculturalism?
by Baron Bodissey
I got some criticism of my essay about Multiculturalism and Political Correctness, labelling the latter as “cultural Marxism.” Since some of this criticism came from people I respect, such as Danish writer Lars Hedegaard, I will take a second look at some of my assertions.
Hedegaard has said that he believes Europe suffers from a death-wish following the world wars and de-colonization, and that Europeans allow themselves to be replaced through immigration because they want to die as a culture. It is true that there is a loss of cultural confidence in Europe, but there is one catch to this thesis: Many Europeans have never expressed any such desire to be wiped out.
Professor Sigurd Skirbekk of the University of Oslo notes that “In 1994, the German periodical Focus pointed to opinion polls taken in Germany, France and England in which 55, 52 and 50 per cent, respectively, felt that their countries accepted too many immigrants.” “From Norway we have a representative study from 1987 which showed that 51% of the people felt that the country should accept fewer immigrants; 25% felt that politicians should stick to current practice, while only 8% wanted to accept more immigrants. A similar study in Sweden, made a couple of years later, showed that 54% of Swedes felt that too many people were immigrating to Sweden.” “In later studies the figures have varied somewhat; but there have always been more people who have favored a restrictive policy than those who favored liberalization.”
Thus, according to Skirbekk, “the extent of recent immigration cannot be explained on the basis of popular opinion [my emphasis].”
I do agree that the fact that such massive changes can take place without the consent of the people, sometimes in direct opposition to it, is disturbing. It may reveal something disturbing about how certain élite groups can impose their will on a reluctant public. Or it may reveal that democratic nation states have been weakened by supranational organizations such as the EU, as well as human rights legislation, to the point where they have lost control over their own borders and get overwhelmed by migrants. In both cases, we are dealing with serious, and potentially lethal, flaws in our democratic system.
American political analyst Tony Corn claims that “The recent referenda on the EU Constitution [in 2005] have proven, if anything, how disconnected EU élites have become, not just from world realities, but from their own constituencies. It should now be clear to all that the intra-European gap between élites and public opinion is greater still (and in fact older) than the transatlantic gap between the U.S. and the EU. For Washington, there has never been a better time to do “European Outreach” and drive home the point that the existence of a “Sino-Islamic Connection” calls for closer transatlantic cooperation and a reassertion of the West.”
Bat Ye’or thinks this is caused by the stealth agenda of the EU élites to create a larger entity of Europe and the Arab world. The promotion of Islamic culture under guise of Multiculturalism is an essential part of this plan. She talks about a conflict between Europeans and Eurabians, with the latter holding sway for now because they dominate the media and the political establishment. However, there are similar conflicts in Canada, Australia and the United States, too. I sometimes wonder whether the West at the beginning of the 21st century is mired in an ideological civil war between Westerners and post-Westerners. Although left-wingers tend to be more aggressive, post-Westerners have penetrated deep into the political right-wing, too. This is true.
I have pointed out that there is usually a high concentration of Marxists in our anti-racist organizations. Professor Skirbekk, however, wonders whether there is a semi-religious undercurrent to the anti-racist movement, and that it is quite literally the equivalent of the witch hunts of previous ages:
“A number of researchers have come to see that certain issues in the migration debate has religious connotations. The Norwegian social anthropologist Inger Lise Lien, for instance, has written that ‘racism’ in the public immigration debate has become a word used to label the demons among us, the impure from whom all decent people should remain aloof.” “We have every reason to believe that the use of the term ‘racist’ in our day has many functional similarities with the use of the word ‘heretic’ three hundred years ago.”
“It is presumably fully possible to join anti-racist movements with the sole motive of identifying with something that appears to be politically correct, or in order to be a part of a collective that entitles one to demonstrate and to harass splinter groups that no one cares to defend.” But “behind the slogan ‘crush the racists’, there might well be something more than a primitive desire to exercise violence. The battle also involves an element of being in a struggle for purity versus impurity. And since racism is something murky, anti-racism and the colorful community it purportedly represents, becomes an expression of what is pure.”
What are the origins of Multiculturalism? Well, that depends on your perspective. Some elements of the fascination with more “primitive” cultures can be traced back to Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the 18th century and his praise of the “noble savage” who had not been corrupted by society and civilization.
Dutch novelist and commentator Leon de Winter thinks that is one of the unforeseen effects of the “hippie” cultural revolution in West in the 1960s. “Certain values were cherished: anti-fascism, feminism, secularism, pacifism, anti-colonialism, anti-capitalism, et cetera. It is here where the ideas of multiculturalism first showed up. It started with the so-called ‘sub-cultures’ of pseudo-bohemian artists, academic Marxists, all pretending that the existing values of Western civilization were overdue.”
American author Claire Berlinski claims that Multiculturalism is “completely incompatible with doctrinaire Marxism.” “Many leftists did indeed end up as multiculturalists after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but multiculturalism is functioning here as a substitute for anti-capitalism (in turn a substitute for something else), and not as its natural extension.”
Lars Hedegaard believes Multiculturalism was produced in the United States following the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, and from there exported to Europe. By the 1980s and 90s, when the term began to be widely used even in Europe, it had “turned into an ideological platform on which the left could base its claim to power” when Socialism was becoming discredited. Thus although Multiculturalism “is not a weed that has grown” in the Socialist garden, it is now the core ideology of the Left. Hedegaard doubts whether there is any Utopianism embedded in the new ideology, though:
“For now the multicultural ideology functions as an umbrella under which a variety of political and economic interest groups — left, right and center — may comfortably pursue their particular interests. In Denmark it was very clear that once the left had abandoned its anti-capitalist rhetoric and no longer called for the nationalization of the means of production, the capitalists lost all interest in ideological matters. The result can be described as an implied social contract: The capitalists and much of the traditional political center and right are perfectly willing to accept the left’s ideological hegemony so long as the leftists do not threaten their special interests. In fact, as long as it works, it is a perfect system where nobody is interested in rocking the boat. The left may continue to import its social clients — and voters — and the right may feel secure because the Muslim newcomers do not settle in their neighborhoods and have no other political agenda than identity politics.”
He thinks this alliance was displayed during the Muhammad cartoons crisis, “when the entire left allied itself with the cultural, academic and media élite, most of the Christian church and prominent capitalists and bourgeois politicians to condemn the cartoons and Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen for refusing to compromise free speech.”
I appreciate many of these points, and I agree that Multiculturalism is not exclusively the recourse of the political Left, which may indicate that its roots are complicated and not entirely based on Marxism. However, I disagree with those stating that the closely related form of mind control called Political Correctness has no ties whatsoever to traditional Marxism.
Koenraad Elst describes how Ruby Schembri, a white 35-year old Maltese national who moved to Britain in 2004, earned £750 by taking her employer, HSBC Bank, to court claiming race discrimination because she had overheard a private conversation between colleagues. Watford Employment Tribunal found both Debbie Jones, a local bank manager, and HSBC guilty of racial discrimination after Ms Schembri claimed that she had overheard Ms Jones say “I hate foreigners” and “I am against immigration” in a conversation with a colleague in April 2005.
This was one of the first cases to find that that a comment not made directly to another person, who in this incident was also of the same race as the accused, can be construed as racism. Moreover, the court ruled that using the term “foreigners” is racist. The verdict also indicated that the mere fact of “disliking” foreigners constituted a crime, even if one’s dislike was purely private and not shown directly in one’s behaviour towards a foreigner. Elst points out that thanks to the Multicultural society and its guiding ideology PC, people who in the past would have pursued careers as Inquisition officials or Stasi informers in Communist East Germany can now snitch on colleagues and neighbors.
In another story from the UK, the Labour government is considering denying multimillion-pound contracts to companies that fail to employ enough black and Asian workers. Private firms could be asked to provide figures showing the numbers of black and Asian employees on their payroll. This would then be compared with the proportion of people living in a surrounding area. According to writer Neil Davenport, “the ‘affirmative action’ proposals are less about tackling racial discrimination per se than they are a mechanism to bring the private sector within government control.”
As both these examples from the UK — and many more could be added — demonstrate, there are, in fact, quite a few common features between Multiculturalism/Political Correctness and traditional Marxism. In Marxist societies, the public is continuously bombarded with ideological indoctrination through the media. This constant brainwashing to demonstrate that the ruling ideology is benevolent is a very good indication that exact opposite is true. In case this isn’t be enough, there is also a system for snitching on those who won’t comply with the directives, as well as punishment, public harassment and “re-education” of those individuals who fail to submit to the Official State Ideology.
This Ideology implies that the state has to seize control of, or at least regulate and interfere with, all sectors of society, which leaves little room for individual freedom and thus real democracy. If we notice all the new laws restricting speech and behavior in the Multicultural society, not to mention the massive re-writing of our history and the total change in the very nature of our institutions, we understand that our countries moved rapidly in a totalitarian direction the very second Multiculturalism was adopted as the ethos of the state.
There is little doubt in my mind that this post-democratic ideology was desired and encouraged by certain groups. If we look at the people supporting the most totalitarian and anti-freedom aspects of Political Correctness, it becomes apparent that it is frequently the same organizations and sometimes individuals who a generation earlier supported traditional, economic Marxism. They now hide their goals under slogans of “diversity” and “anti-racism,” but the essence of their ideas is still the same.
Berlinski, Hedegaard and others seem to argue that our problems lie less in any deliberate ideological project among certain political groups and more in a general loss of cultural confidence in the West. This is, however, a false dichotomy. It is both.
I agree with Bat Ye’or that the rise of Eurabia is closely tied to the European Union. There is also little doubt in my mind that many Leftist intellectuals in our media and our universities want to erase the foundations of Western civilization and replace them with something else.
It is true that these groups could never have been so successful in implementing this if there had been stronger popular resistance. There is indeed a loss of cultural confidence, sometimes bordering on active self-loathing, that has penetrated deep into the general populace, not just some élite groups. Europe’s faith in itself was severely wounded in the trenches of WW1, and perhaps mortally wounded in Auschwitz.
However, as the numbers quoted by Skirbekk demonstrate, there has never been any unanimous enthusiasm for the Multicultural project. It has been championed at best by only parts of the population, but by a disproportionate amount of powerful post-Westerners in the media, the academia and the political establishment, not to mention by unsupervised supranational organizations such as the EU. Perhaps Multiculturalism is also championed to hide the fact that national authorities have lost, or deliberately vacated, control over their borders.
The prevalence of hate speech laws and the sheer force of the pro-Multicultural propaganda are powerful indications of the resistance to it in sections of the public. Neither would have been necessary if everybody had been thrilled about the project or happily embraced their own extinction, as Hedegaard implies. The draconian Discrimination Act in Norway was passed by stealth, almost entirely without public debate, for precisely this reason. Multiculturalism must increasingly be forced by co-option or deception on a reluctant populace.
I agree with Mr. Hedegaard that there sometimes seems to be an alliance of convenience between left-wingers and right-wingers. The European Union, for instance, cannot exclusively be explained as a Socialist undertaking. Some Marxists have been rather critical of the EU, but they are usually critical of it for the “wrong” reasons, because they think the common market is a neo-liberal conspiracy to promote more capitalism. Their judgment thus cannot be trusted on other issues.
French Socialists were for instance worried that plumbers from Poland might do the work cheaper than local plumbers because of the EU. They did not object to the EU encouraging Multiculturalism, anti-Americanism, demonization of Israel and pro-Islamic policies, since these issues all suited their own ideological agenda. Indeed, some of the same argument about the lack of democratic accountability and massive bureaucracy could be made about organizations such as the United Nations, and the UN is always applauded by left-wingers. Which shows that Leftists are not critical of the EU primarily because it is “too undemocratic,” but because it is “too capitalist.”
All in all, I admit that it may be a tad simplistic to label Political Correctness as cultural Marxism, but I disagree with assertions that there is no connection at all between Multiculturalism and Marxism.