The Short Happy Life of Pim Fortuyn
and Other Observations on Europe's Return to the Right
By Bruce Gatenby

In the sum of the parts
these are only the parts
—Wallace Stevens, "On the Road Home"

What’s the world coming to when a right-wing, gay, anti-immigration, pederast politician is murdered by a left-wing, vegan, fundamentalist Christian, animal-rights activist?

Welcome to the world of political extremism, European-style.

In the past two months, far-right politics have taken center-stage in Western Europe. Jean-Marie Le Pen’s primary victory in France sent fascist shock waves through the other member-states of the European Union. The conservative CDU and FDP victory in local elections in Saxony-Anhalt gave Edmund Stoiber, the conservative Bavarian politician, new hope of becoming Germany’s next chancellor.1 And the above-mentioned Pim Fortuyn’s rapid political ascent in Holland added more fuel to the pyre of post-WW II Socialist democracy–that is, until he was shot 6 times in the head and chest by Volkert van der Graff, the above-mentioned left-wing vegan.

Suddenly, all we are hearing in Europe is anti-immigration this and law and order that, nationalistic rhetoric the likes of which haven’t been around since the early 1930’s. Even in traditionally liberal countries like Italy and Denmark, right wing anti-immigrant and law and order parties swept into power in elections last year.

Nationalism these days is usually equated with fascism, and fascism in Europe has a bad name (well, actually, two bad names: Hitler and Mussolini). But today’s budding fascists come in all sizes, shapes and colors. Pim Fortuyn, a former sociology professor-turned-politician, advocated sex with underage Moroccan boys and halting any further Muslim immigration into Holland. Conflict of interest? Not at all. On the 3FM radio show where he was interviewed just prior to being killed, he promised not to molest any more preteens if elected Prime Minister.

Fortuyn was a flamboyant, telegenic media figure, who rode around the streets of Rotterdam in a chauffeured Daimler limo, his shaved head and cobalt blue eyes irresistible to photographers and TV cameras. In addition to his anti-immigration policy, he advocated zero tolerance for crime, mandatory four-year military stints for juvenile offenders and reinstating border controls for the Netherlands, a violation of the EU’s Shengen agreement, that cornerstone of an "open" and "united" Europe.

The author of "Against the Islamicization of Our Culture," Fortuyn was a nationalistic promoter of Dutch culture for Dutch people. Questionable sexual practices aside, he felt the land of tulips, wooden shoes and legal hashish was full up with Muslims and other undesirables, defined as those who refused to be fully assimilated into the hegemonic culture. Which is strange, since immigrants to the Netherlands have to take 800 hours of mandatory Dutch lessons. If ten months of Dutch won’t help you assimilate, I don’t know what will.

But as the recent election on May 14th showed, Fortuyn’s ideas will live on after him. The ruling Social Democrat party was defeated soundly, coming in third to the center-right Christian Democrats and the Lijst Pim Fortuyn party. Any new coalition government in the Netherlands will thus have a strong LPF influence.

In the press, Fortuyn has been compared to Le Pen, Jörg Haider of Austria and even the original Dr. Evil, Adolf Hitler. But voters in the Netherlands were ready to embrace him. They spoke of his charisma and his charm, in much the same tone that former Nazi functionaries and film makers spoke of the charisma and charm of the Führer. By definition, European politicos are a dull and boring bureaucratic lot. I remember a few months ago, standing outside the Senate building in Rome and getting a glimpse of Silvio Berlusconi on his way out. I was singularly unimpressed. No wonder the Dutch voters responded so enthusiastically to someone without a Bill Murray-esque combover.


Thank god for the two party system.

Unlike the American system of government, Europe’s parliamentary systems are built of coalitions between parties. It’s nearly impossible for a card-carrying member of the lunatic fringe to get into power in America (this is why Lyndon LaRouche, Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan or Ralph Nader will never be President. Hilary? Well...). What Thomas Pynchon has called "that recklessness transatlantic" has built the most stable form of democracy in world history.

Most Americans cannot understand how a certified buffoon like Hitler ever became chancellor of Germany; after all, in the July 1932 election, his NSDAP party received only 37.3% of the vote. In America, he would have been the loser. But when building a coalition government between competing parties, 37.3% gives you a lot of power to set the agenda. Even after becoming chancellor, Hitler’s NSDAP party received only 43.9% of the vote in 1933. By then it was too late. The Bundestag had granted him emergency powers to govern as dictator. After all, charisma and charm can only take you so far.

This also explains how Le Pen’s National Front party will influence French policy (with only 17.9% of the vote), how the Lijst Pim Fortuyn party will influence Dutch policy (with 24% of the vote) and how the Green party in Germany has saddled us with Claudia Roth and a phony recycling program (with less than 20% of the vote).

There will never be a viable third party in America, because in America it’s winner take all. The way it should be.


The recent school shooting in Erfurt, Germany has added anti-American sentiments to all this far-right blather as well. Some 19 year-old fuck-up walks into his old school and kills 18 people–it’s America’s fault. It’s the fault of exported violent video games, action films and heavy metal music. Lara Croft, Woody Harrelson in Natural Born Killers, and Marilyn Manson: meet the new faces of evil in Deutschland.

It’s not like anyone ever killed in Germany before video games, films or metal music. Or even before the advent of America itself.

Let’s just bypass the easy example of the 20th century. In the late 16th century, for example, during the Reformation, Protestants burned hundreds and hundreds of Catholics to death in front of the impressive, stone cathedrals of Southern Germany. Funny, no one ever suggested banning Christianity to stop further killings. Augsburg, where many of these burnings took place, bills itself to tourists as a "Renaissance," not a Reformation, city. Hmmm, there’s no mention anywhere of what really happened in the Münsterplatz there.

So now the German Bundestag, in an effort to prevent any further school shootings, is ready to blacklist violent video games.

That’ll help.

As an American, I’m particularly offended when Germans (or anyone, really) blame America for their home-grown problems. German schools are some of the worst in Europe, illegal guns from the East are easily available at almost any flohmarkt (flea market) and there’s a noticeable rising tide of nationalistic feeling in the air. Synagogues are being bombed or burned in Berlin. Jews and other immigrants are being attacked by gangs of skinheads. It’s particularly chilling to hear chants of "law and order now" coming out of political rallies in Hamburg. Believe me, crime in Germany is minuscule compared to, say, Los Angeles. One school shooting and it’s the decline and fall of Western Civilization. Bring back the fascists.

I was in a German Toys ‘R Us the other day, looking for a model of a Messerschmidt ME-109 to place on my desk. I was surprised to find they actually had one, but there were no swastikas anywhere on the plane. I found this historically inaccurate, politically correct version of the feared Nazi fighter plane an apt metaphor for the German forgetfulness about their not-too- distant attempt to conquer Europe.

As John Humphrys recently pointed out in the Times of London, the entire concept of the EU is in place to prevent "German panzer divisions invading France or the Luftwaffe bombing the East End of London [again]."

Contemporary Germans may choose to forget their past, but the rest of Europe hasn’t.


The resurgence of nationalism in Europe is a reaction against a united Europe lead by the now-fading economic juggernaut of Germany and the bland bureaucrats in Brussels. Immigrants are seen as a threat to nationalistic ideals as well, whether they be Muslims in the Netherlands and France, Turks in Germany, or Albanians and Africans in Italy. There is no melting pot of diverse cultures in Europe and, despite the best efforts of those bureaucrats, there never will be. Add in rapidly dropping birthrates among the native populations and the need for new workers to support the ever-growing population of pensioners and you have the makings of a real stew of nationalistic fervor–or what Nietzsche called "fatherlandishness," the sentimental attachment to old loves and hatreds.

Of course, there are "European" ideals that transcend national borders and fatherlandishness. Café life, liberal attitudes toward drinking, smoking, nudity and sex, lots of holiday time and limited work hours are among my personal favorites. In May, for example, we had 4 three-day weekends, with many people turning them into four- or even five-day weekends. And there’s zero guilt about not being at the office. Europe, in general, is a far more relaxed place to live than America. I probably won’t die of a stress-related heart attack here.

But there is a sense of real tension growing here. And that tension is being expressed, more and more, through violence, another time-honored European tradition. The killing of the ill-named Pim Fortuyn may have been what the Italians call a regolamento di conti–a settling of accounts–and there will almost surely be more casualties from the birth pains of the new Super Europe.

Perhaps even a united Europe itself.

1That, and a just-settled court case over whether or not current Chancellor Gerhard Schröder dyes his hair. According to the judges and Schröder’s hairdresser, he doesn’t. And Germans think Americans are shallow and superficial.