The Right Fight for One National Identity, Not Multiculturalism
Barely a quarter century after their defeat of the Soviet Union and its international socialism, the U.S. and Europe are faced again with the national question. To wit, in the age of Islamist terrorism that knows no borders and migration patterns that threaten cohesion, can Western countries put the evil genie of multiculturalism back in the bottle and promote an inclusive national identity?
The struggle, as British Prime Minister David Cameron is finding out, will not be easy. The New Left does not prattle on about the “international proletariat” or the “class struggle” with the same gusto as before. Instead, it has become very adept at using multiculturalism as a tool to remake society while selling it as homespun goodness.
So when Cameron makes common sense statements about the need to end multicultural policies that create separate groups within one nation, the left from The Guardian in Britain to NPR in the United States goes all haywire.
The Prime Minister fired his latest salvo in what has now become one of his signature battles in a column last week in The Times of London. In it he had the temerity to write:
All too often, because of what I would call “passive tolerance”, people subscribe to the flawed idea of separate development …. It is time to change our approach. We will never truly build one nation unless we are more assertive about our liberal values, more clear about the expectations we place on those who come to live here and build our country together, and more creative and generous in the work we do to break down barriers.
Cameron’s assertion that Muslim women in Britain were isolated from the national culture when they did not speak English, making the recruitment of their children into ISIS all the easier, and his pledge to spend more money on English-language classes, sparked particular outrage, ironically from quarters that are always the loudest in defending the independence of women. So too did his proposal that those applying to settle permanently in the UK must be able to speak intermediate English and pass a “Life in the UK” test, based on British history, culture and values.
The term One Nation, which Cameron employs often, has an old pedigree in the United Kingdom, especially among Tories. It was used by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in the late 19th century as an ideology that would heal societal divisions by emphasizing the interlacing obligations between classes. It is no coincidence that Cameron has referred to Disraeli as his favorite conservative.
When used in the present context, in a UK that is perhaps more riven now by racial divisions than by those of class, it can be a useful device to rally the country around one set of values.
Cameron has zeroed in on multiculturalism—the belief that the differences between groups in society must be preserved, and that the nation state can survive and even thrive as it is thus balkanized—as a dangerous approach.
Already back in 2008 he attacked that notion for what it is. “It means treating groups of people as monolithic blocks rather than individual citizens,” he said in a speech which criticized the then-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for saying that Sharia Law should be extended into Britain.
In that speech Cameron also did something that conservatives must always remember to do: He identified multiculturalism as a tool of the left, and as offensive to the principle that all citizens are entitled to equal protection under the law. “Multiculturalism,” said the then opposition leader, “was manipulated to entrench the right to difference – which is a divisive concept. What we need is the right to equal treatment despite difference.”
American conservatives must support Cameron and draw lessons for the United States as well. In a special report published this month, I detail our long history of immigration and patriotic assimilation, and how elites at mid-century began to turn back on this model and emphasize the multicultural approach. Under President Obama, the multicultural, non-assimilationist approach has gone faster than ever. We couldn’t imagine President Obama saying any of the things the British Prime Minister has.
As we can see with the hysterical backlash against Cameron, multiculturalism is a key front for the left, and leftists will take to the parapets to defend it. Political correctness has been a useful weapon. Multiculturalism has become the choice medium through which leftists undermine traditional national identity and its basic tenets, and create a balkanized society that only a strong government can rule.
Writing in 1913 in “Marxism and the National Question,” Joseph Stalin observed that “a nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.” It was, therefore, a threat to international socialism. “The national type of organization is a school of national narrow-mindedness and stagnation.”
We should side with Disraeli, and Cameron.
Mike Gonzalez is senior fellow at the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies.
This piece originally appeared in Forbes. Read the original and more at