A new report describes how two of Britain’s most influential right wing think‑tanks have used the fear of terrorism and of Islam to push an authoritarian agenda.
The report’s co-author, Professor David Miller of Strathclyde University, told Socialist Worker, “The policies advocated by the Centre for Social Cohesion and Policy Exchange detailed in the report inevitably mean the curtailment of civil liberties and the narrowing of political debate.
“The consequences for British Muslims, though, will be even more serious.”
The report, The Cold War on British Muslims, shows how the think-tanks have revived discredited counter‑subversion policies from the Cold War era—policies that targeted a generation of trade unionists and labour activists.
According to Miller, “One part of this project is the continuity from the people who spied against the left in the 1970s and 1980s who are pushing an agenda today. In some cases, it is the same people. But it is also the shared agenda, which is to emasculate oppositional thought.”
The report argues that right wing think-tanks have understated the rise of Islamophobia on the far-right and in some cases condoned the rise of groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) because of their own links to the “counter-jihad movement”.
The Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) line is that Islamist terrorism was only part of a broader ideological challenge comparable to communist propaganda efforts during the Cold War.
Douglas Murray, the centre’s director, is the author of Neoconservatism: Why We Need It. In a 2006 speech he argued, “Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board.”
Murray has recently commended the EDL as “a grassroots response from non‑Muslims to Islamism”.
The other think-tank, Policy Exchange, has a wider remit but wallows in similar filth.
Policy Exchange’s first chair was Michael Gove. In July 2006, the same month Policy Exchange published its first report on Islamism, it hosted a book launch for Gove’s neoconservative polemic Celsius 7/7.
In the book, Gove argued that what he called “fundamentalist terror” had been facilitated by the “sapping of confidence in Western values encouraged by the radical left since 1968.”
The think‑tank’s campaigns over Islam have targeted universities and libraries.
The report notes that the election “brought the advocates of this approach to the very centre of political power”.
“Schools and universities are now under the control of Michael Gove and David Willets respectively, whilst libraries are under the control of Ed Vaizey,” it says. “All three are influential members of the British neoconservative movement.”
According to David Miller, “It is important to recognise that what are intellectually respected ideas in conservative circles are shared with the far‑right. That does not mean they caused the attack in Norway but the link is nonetheless important.”
As the report points out, the think-tanks’ efforts “should be understood as a response to a resurgence in progressive political movements which have challenged the militarism of the United States, Britain and Israel, as well as the model of globalisation championed by these states.”
David Miller added, “Think‑tanks are not about influencing you or me. It doesn’t matter to them what we think. Rather they are about organising factions within the ruling elite.”
“Whenever you criticise think‑tanks the response is that they don’t have as much influence as suggested.
“But ideas do matter. It isn’t that there is a neoconservative conspiracy, but there is real influence.”
Download the full report from www.spinwatch.org