Individuals with links to right-wing think-tanks, political lobbying and the Conservative Party have established an anti-Communist “educational” organisation that does not reveal the sources of over £30k per year in funding.
The “Museum Of Communist Terror”, a business rather than a charity, was founded in 2017 and declares its purpose is:
“to keep alive knowledge and understanding of the deaths, terror and economic failure that took place under Communist regimes, primarily in the 20th century. The strategy is to do this through social media, this website, talks and films for schools and universities, lobbying for improvements in the teaching of the history of Communist regimes, events and the creation of one or more small museums leading up to the development of a full-size museum in London.”
Despite claiming on its FB page that “the organisation is young and seeks funding in order to grow and fulfil its ambitions”, MCT has declared at least £30,000 in assets for each of the last two years recorded. The organisation does not identify any of the sources responsible for this funding on any of their public platforms, nor in any of their annual financial declarations to Companies House. This is not illegal, but does raise questions over who exactly is financing the project, and why.
Questions could also be asked about whether the educational services offered by MCT violate new Department of Education guidelines over political impartiality in schools. Although identifying the board members and chairman of the organisation on its website, MCT do not provide any biographical information on these individuals, many of whom are intimately associated with Libertarian and free-market organisations, and actively promulgate a specifically conservative political agenda.
Facebook ads for the MCT overwhelmingly target users aged 13-17, and the organisation specifically “provide talks/films for schools and unis (sic)”. New legislation for teachers published by the Department of Education states that:
“you must not encourage pupils to support or adopt a one-sided view expressed with a political purpose. This covers many of the policies of political parties, as well as some views held by campaign groups, lobbyist, charitable organisations and other external agencies. You can of course teach about partisan political views and explore them with pupils. This will be an important part of teaching about many historical and political issues.”
A spokesman for the Communist Party of Great Britain stated that the MCT “sounds like a rightwing outfit, whose aim is not to reveal the truth, which would be a good thing, but to discredit communism as such.”
The Museum of Communist Terror did not respond to a request to contribute to this article.
Below we profile each of the MCT board members in order to illustrate how the organisation could in fact be potentially promoting an explicitly “one-sided view expressed with a political purpose” in UK schools.
LOBBYISTS AND LIBERTARIANS
George Monbiot coined the term “Infrastructure of persuasion” to describe the insidious activities of the UK’s free-market think-tanks, which, for example, includes long historical collusion with the Tobacco industry. As you will see from our investigation, the entire MCT board is fully immersed in this right-wing infrastructure, a structure designed to influence UK political discourse with a very specific, partisan ideology, more often than not without disclosing how, or by whom, their activities are funded.
- 13 of 13 individual MCT current and former board members are journalists and/or public commentators that have promoted explicitly free-market, Conservative and/or Libertarian ideology and philosophy.
- 10 of 13 are associated with at least 1 right-wing think-tank (3 with Adam Smith Institute alone).
- 8 of the 13 worked for, or publicly supported, Pro-Brexit campaigns.
- 8 of 13 worked for, or as, candidates for the Conservative Party.
- 8 of 13 are associated with at least one organisation or activity that has been criticised for alleged Dark Money activity and/or for other lack of financial transparency.
Eamonn Butler is an economist and co-founder/director of the libertarian Adam Smith Institute. His brother and co-founder of ASI, Stuart Butler, is a former director at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
The Adam Smith Institute have been rated as “highly opaque” by the think-tank analysts Transparify, who state that the organisation has a long history of ”stealth lobbying” for big tobacco companies and overall:
“its organisational structure is opaque, and it has a tradition of publishing material by other parties under its own name, it is not only unclear who gives the money that funds its lobbying efforts, but also who takes it. Our research suggests that most Adam Smith Institute outputs and activities may be financed from abroad, raising concerns that foreign interests may be using opaque think tanks to secretly influence British voters and politicians.”
Borwick is the former Vote Leave chief technology officer who worked for Cambridge Analytica’s parent company. He is also a former deputy chairman for Cities of London and Westminster Conservatives. Borwick has been investigated by OpenDemocracy several times for his involvement in alleged dark money political Facebook campaigns, data mining electoral registers, the anti-repeal campaign in the Irish abortion referendum and his company’s involvement in at least 4 APPG. His mother is former Conservative MP Victoria Borwick and his father is conservative peer Jamie Borwick. His company, Kanto Systems, built the MCT website.
Former Conservative MP, pro-Brexit member of the European Research Group and board member of Leave Means Leave. Founded UK 2020 think-tank which was shut down after allegations of dark money practices around two speaking trips to right-wing think tanks in America. Paterson resigned from parliament after the Randox lobbying scandal and is married to the sister of MCT Honorary President Viscount Ridley (see below).
Former Conservative MEP and founder of Vote Leave. Journalist and editor in chief of The Conservative, Hannan was appointed to House of Lords by Boris Johnson and serves as an advisor to the British Board of Trade. A founding president of Institute for Free Trade, he is an international board member of Students for Liberty, an organisation that is also part of the Koch brothers network. Hannan founded the influential “party within a party” Conservative European Research Group.
Baron Nigel Vinson
Businessman and Conservative peer. Early financial backer and vice president of the free-market think-tank Institute of Economic Affairs and a council member of the libertarian Freedom Association. A staunch Brexiteer, Vinson was a co-founder of the Centre for Policy Studies with Margaret Thatcher and is a trustee of Civitas think-tank. (All three of these right-wing think-tanks are also rated “Highly Opaque” by Transparify).
Viscount Matthew Ridley
MCT Honorary President Viscount Ridley is a former Times journalist, author and businessman. A proponent of Brexit, he sat as a Conservative peer in the House of Lords until 2021. He was Chairman of Northern Rock when it suffered a run in 2007 which led to its nationalisation. A staunch Libertarian, Ridley has been criticised for his scepticism towards climate change and advocacy of fracking, as well as operating an opencast coal mine on his estate. He is a board member of the controversial climate sceptic lobby think-tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation.
An author and former banker, James Bartholomew is a journalist for the Spectator, Telegraph and Daily Mail. He stood as a candidate for The Brexit Party in the 2019 European Parliamentary elections and is a fellow of the Adam Smith Institute.
JP Floru is an author and former parliamentary liaison officer at the Adam Smith Institute and is a former senior parliamentary assistant for Steve Baker MP. He has also stood as a Conservative councillor and EU parliamentary candidate. Describes himself as a “libertarian conservative”.
Author and historian specialising in the history of the Soviet Gulags. He regularly publishes articles in the Daily Mail, UnHerd and Standpoint. Council member of the Keston Institute, an organisation that studies and promotes religion under communist governments.
Author of several books including a personal account of dissident movements in Czech Republic and Romania before 1989. She also founded the Mihai Eminescu Trust, “a foundation to preserve Europe’s unique cultural heritage of medieval villages and land in Saxon Transylvania.” Widow of former Times Editor Charles Douglas-Home, she is also Director of the Roger Scruton Legacy Foundation. She worked with Scruton to build the “underground Universities” in Communist countries during the 80s.
Roger Scruton [Former Director of MCT]
Influential Conservative philosopher, author and founding editor of the Salisbury Review. The “right-wing moralist” was widely criticised for writing articles supporting the tobacco industry whilst failing to disclose payments from Japan Tobacco International, including jointly releasing reports with the IEA criticising the WHO. A vocal proponent of Brexit, Scruton was a senior fellow of the American right-wing think-tank Ethics and Public Policy Centre.
Chloe Westley [Former Director of MCT]
Chloe Westley is currently a special advisor on social media at No 10 Downing Street. Previously she was the head of social media for the Vote Leave campaign and a former adviser to Michael Gove during his leadership campaign. Westley was also head of campaigns for Change Britain, the post-Brexit incarnation of Vote Leave and campaign manager for the right-wing libertarian organisation the Taxpayers Alliance.
George Monbiot has been warning us for years about the growing influence of right-wing think-tanks (many of whom are mentioned above) on UK politics:
“There are dozens of groups in the UK which call themselves free market or conservative thinktanks, but they have a remarkably consistent agenda. They tend to oppose the laws which protect us from banks and corporations; to demand the privatisation of state assets; to argue that the rich should pay less tax; and to pour scorn on global warming. What the thinktanks call free market economics looks more like a programme for corporate power.“
If we consider the backgrounds of the individuals involved in the Museum of Communist Terror, a pretty clear agenda emerges. These disciples, all immersed in the libertarian influence machine, have made a conscious political decision to focus only on the crimes against humanity committed in the name of their ideological enemy.
Founded in September 2017, at the height of a left-wing resurgence in UK politics under Jeremy Corbyn, the MCT focus on travesties committed under Communist regimes, such as the Holodomor, yet ignore similarly murderous famines committed in the name of, say, British Imperialism, such as in Ireland or India. This behaviour is consistent with the programme for corporate power outlined by Monbiot. It is a pre-emptive strike to neutralise young people’s interest in left-wing politics.
The question is, should there be a greater demand for transparency, around personnel and funding, for organisations such as the Museum of Communist Terror? How do we teach young people to critically analyse purposefully opaque organisations which seem more interested in propaganda rather than education, in lobbying rather than learning?
Follow Sean Rankin on Twitter: @ClydesiderRed
[We make no suggestion that any of the Board Members, nor MCT as an organisation itself, are involved in any illegal and/or otherwise improper activities. We acknowledge the partisan nature of our own website, although we do not explicitly target schools and young people as MCT does. We also acknowledge that the Communist system and ideology are not exempt from critical analysis, and that crimes against humanity perpetuated under the system should be properly investigated and exposed, as should those of all political ideologies, including those espoused by the individuals profiled above.]