I am one of the token migrants Revolutionary Internationalist League (a trotsky-marxist group secretly running Movement for Justice, see earlier posts) tried to recruit. The other EU migrant was made full member the day I was appointed ‘an apprentice’ despite not completing the obligatory indoctrination ‘study programme’ of Trotsky’s book and a long document from 1980s, by undisclosed author (with suggestion the RIL theorist was the co-writer) on ‘special opression’.
I was told RIL is happy to have me as it significantly boosts their ‘average age’, and the fact we are both migrants from Europe is important.
Progressively in meetings I was allowed to attend I realised I am only useful as long as I help with the build-up and repeat in speeches the RIL perspective, whilst saying Im ‘a queer migrant’. It was always highlighted to me to make sure I say that at the beginning of each speech. I noticed that none of RIL members ever introduce themselves as such in public and followed suit, assuming there was a good reason of safety.
In RIL meetings the other EU migrant mostly sat quiet, citing difficulty speaking. That might well be completely true, however RIL recruited this migrant to the ‘movement’ as ‘an apprentice’ several years ago – and that speaks volumes on how they ‘develop migrant leaders’. This person has often expressed no particular needs or preferences about anything, and often reacted with hostility to any questions asking consent, ridiculing them as ‘liberal’. I quickly learnt that any consent questions are either patronisingly allowed or outright shut down, and the person asking is made to feel uncomfortable for being a ‘liberal’ with considerations for others’ boundaries. I felt the expectation that if a RIL member doesn’t have particular boundaries neither should I.
In my time of ‘training’ I was eager to study with various RIL members, and read various texts. I was not interested in labels or dogma, but with what worked politically. I was impressed with MFJ’s work and really wanted to learn how to do things well myself. My migration straight after high school and escaping an abusive family meant I always had to work to support myself and was only able to complete my degree this July, via distance learning. Hungry for knowledge and intellectual challenge I did not want to be ‘sectarian’ nor dismiss people I knew personally because of some coded labels like ‘trot’, ‘tank’, ‘commie’ etc. In my country discussing communism is not an easy option, so I didnt have much knowledge on various fractions of Marxism on the left etc., nor was particularly interested at the time. I wanted to learn in general about politics and understand how to change the world for better. I was looking for people intelligently and convincingly putting forward political arguments. This was used to indoctrinate me about one ‘correct’ perspective.
Because I believed at the time in the good will of RIL, who were treating me in a very helpful manner (before I signed the house lease and became treated like property that disobeyed), I repeatedly attempted to highlight shortcomings I was noticing. This is a non-exhaustive list of my attempts to fix the RIL: concerns raised below.
– secrecy of RIL (the only time you’d learn who is in it, or that it exists, is if you attend a Sunday MFJ meeting, and it was always said in person, never put in writing or leaflets, never explained RIL is the leadership, what the structure and roles within RIL are, their ways of deciding strategy and MFJ text contents)
Hostility towards other groups and left fractions was repeatedly a topic at the few RIL meetings I have attended, but when I raised the question of meeting up and finding out what exactly the differences are now and how can we work on the same front now when UK is in crisis, it was never addressed.
– never returning to Grenfell or communities affected by police brutality this summer. I truly believed #DayOfRage was the action that was the beginnig of something wide and bigger than MFJs opportunist bandwagon jumping. My repeated concerns, shared by other MFJ members too, about never returning for anything substantial were shut down with ‘we don’t have any contacts there’ by the RIL/MFJ chair, or ‘it was taken over by mis-leaders already’. We never returned. MFJ rarely returned to most of communities they had engaged with as there was ‘a struggle’ going on. Once people spontaneously started resisting MFJ was told by RIL to show up, once the people spontaneously stopped MFJ never returned and only criticised in Sun meetings how others are ‘misleaders’ shutting down the fights and how we need to ‘learn from this’.
I attended almost every single Sunday meeting for a year, so I know there was nothing I missed.
– inadequate communication channels. I really wanted MFJ to succeed and believed in its cause, made many friends in the movement, and recognised the importance of the anti-racist and anti-immigrant-bigotry fight. Even before being accepted as an ‘apprentice’ I set up a chat group for the ‘leaders’ to communicate with each other, as they were not even doing that collectively before – there were one-to-one phone calls and texts, and it was absolutely impossible to figure out who knows what or decides what and when.
These were the people who wanted to train leaders for a ‘revolution’.
– sharing information with MFJ members. When I joined I didn’t even realise 90% of activities that RIL members representing MFJ were doing in public. Only later some of the stuff started being shared to the chat group to ensure people even know what panels, speeches, interventions and meetings RIL members (mainly the chair) were attending as MFJ. I took it up on myself to write down in the chat group notes from each Sunday meeting, otherwise everyone was randomly informed in mass texts, or just being called to show up, often with no or little notice or political explanation (longer than a text message). This obviously meant that people were not able to discuss the actions taken or their content. MFJ members were however always made aware and invited to ‘interventions’ where MFJ had to show it had asylum seeker lead. At the time whoever was not able to attend Sun meeting & study had no idea what was going on in MFJ most of the time. And definitely did not participate in decision making. Yet we were repeatedly told by RIL asylum seekers dont come to meetings often as they are dispersed – this was never amended further than offering Skype ins. Requests for recording the ‘critical political studies’ of Sun meetings to share with members who couldn’t make it were denied without much explanation.
– leaflets being too long, with long sentences in ancient language, with oldschool layout. As someone who is trained in ESOL and speaks English as a second language, I was certain language grading or at least awareness would be crucial for an international group that wants to reach out to migrant community. I was told that ‘everybody who joins says that but we need to aim high and raise consciousness’, it was also suggested dismissively that I am patronising towards migrants and ‘liberal’; then at meeting s leaflets started being read out to prove that nobody has questions about the language. As a language teacher I know directly asking in a big group if people ‘understand’ as only method of checking actual understanding is not the right way to ensure inclusivity. I have however been led to believe I was completely wrong, and most people stayed silent or asked about singular words. However, when MFJ members were asked to convince others in their communities of MFJ politics they repeatedly came back to meetings saying they don’t know how to argue the points and why we’re doing what we’re doing. They usually received another lengthy ‘explanation’ from RIL chair or another RIL member, and that was it. The RIL members chairing meetings and writing leaflets are all native English speakers. The language power imbalance was apparent to me, yet never addressed. To be fair, recently some leaflets were translated to Spanish which was a needed effort. However, for last demo it was done so late it barely gained traction.
– asylum seekers not speaking much during the meetings or making decisions. It was a concern raised by other MFJ members too, in quiet conversations as not to be accused of being ‘liberal’ and asking question about representation not based on ‘correct politics’. In private, a RIL member explained to me as ‘the asylum seekers take leadership in other aspects, like demos, and in detention centres’. I cannot deny nor confirm to what extent this is true as information on asylum work is mainly between asylum seekers and RIL who control information to other MFJ members. No asylum seeker is a part of RIL.
– students not being supported in their ‘leadership roles’ at universities. No proper support structures or training was given, rather than a RIL member showing up to set-up meetings in the beginning of a group forming at a university. Lack of support was also evident in often severely delayed communication from RIL, and incomprehensible sequences of ‘checks’ and approvals on political decisions. The chain of command was confusing and unreliable. I couldn’t confirm anything on time to students I was in contact with, and so many people MFJ was organising with or ‘supporting’. It felt truly disrespectful and letting people down in important work, often asking a lot of them yet disposing of them or putting on hold indefinitely when not useful for new RIL ‘priority’ work. It was claimed ‘manpower’ was not enough, but no lasting attempts were made to share workload with others (and thus control, information, and making self accountable and visible) to ensure what needs to be addressed properly is addressed. You will notice MFJ always replies last minute to invites yet expects a place, relying on their social capital of the ‘radical migrant-led movement’ to get in.
I recently had to tell a relatively newly joined student who came from a different city to attend a demo on Sat and study on Sun, paying for their own ticket, that we will have a sudden long meeting they can’t attend and will be left to own devices for a few hours. I was not comfortable with that, or the way it was not communicated to that student before, and raised it with RIL – was told dismissingly this student ‘is not a baby’ and ‘will understand’ and that this RIL member ‘really didn’t understand why I think this is not ok’. I then had to wait on standby for hours for the RIL chair to decide when she’s back so we can have that meeting. It was a dinner discussion.
– not ‘developing politically’ people who have shown commitment and been reliable. Because I understood RIL as leadership of people who do a lot of MFJ daily work and can be trusted with sensitive data [sic!] I continually suggested members who in my view were working hard for MFJ. However, now I understand why it was rejected – RIL was primarily interested in students with history of trauma or links to Labour, and asylum seekers who already spoke good English. Basically, people who they could already use to ‘build the movement’ and indoctrinate them rather than DEVELOP anyone. They wanted people who already had the skills or vulnerabilities to exploit.
– asylum seeker court cases not supported properly. This is when it gets serious, considering MFJ has a long standing reputation for supporting asylum and immigration cases. I can only share what I witnessed during the recent year of intense activism with MFJ. During this time, due to secrecy and control RIL was solely dealing with asylum cases and did not engage many MFJ members in regular support – other than sometimes requesting witness statements or showing up at courts. As a non-asylum migrant I had no idea about the exact details of how RIL/MFJ supports the asylum seekers. However, since I became more trusted by the RIL I was given private information on cases – Im assuming from experience without consent – including detailed history of abuse. I have witnessed a key RIL member who has health issues forgetting deadlines, rushing paperwork on the day before, cancelling case review meetings with MFJ asylum seekers, not being available to speak on the phone, yet rarely sharing any of the workload with others, even as simple as typing ready things up which would free her to review the case or do other tasks her experience was required for. I have repeatedly suggested we ask for help the mass support base we have, or at least other MFJ members, or refer to other orgs to patch up where we cant help. To no avail. There was recently a suggestion from that RIL member to train key MFJ people to help with asylum cases and do community work but it never happened. Other actions and ‘interventions’ took priority.
I have no idea what the outcomes were of these controlling tactics and failures of proper support, as the asylum work was not an MFJ thing but a strictly controlled RIL area of work. We also don’t know which members truly won because of MFJ (although everything was always proclaimed ‘our victory’), and how many asylum seekers actually got into trouble or lost their cases. When people lost or had tough cases they sometimes requested RIL not to tell MFJ members, which is absolutely understandable. However, I don’t know how many cases could have been lost and we were simply never told. Many asylum seekers didnt come back for months, or ever, and there was little seen effort to check on them. I once heard RIL say they dont even know where many of the asylum seekers in MFJ live, so they can’t check if their not coming to meetings is not due to deportation. RIL members often complained in private the asylum seekers are just not helping each other and expecting RIL to do the work. Now asylum seekers are seemingly told that me disclosing MFJ’s abusive tactics is endangering their cases.
There were plenty more, I was usually verbally acknowledged yet weeks passed and no changes were made. After three months it became clear I may be ‘an apprentice’ and attend meetings, but I am not there to challenge any decisions from the RIL theorist, chair, or other long-term members. I was there to help them draw students in because of my age, immigration status, being a student, and ability to engage with people. I was just a useful prop. However, useful enough to not want to be let go of and allowed a private life taking away my focus from MFJ/RIL work. For details of what happened, see previous posts on abuse.