14. Testimonies from BAMN/RWL & why them and RIL/MFJ are a cult

Movement for Justice’s sister organisastion By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) is also a front for the trotskyist cult.
Revolutionary Internationalist League (RIL) and Revolutionary Workers League (RWL) are sister cults that had set up their respective fronts MFJ and BAMN.

The abusive tactics are pervasive.

Read the testimonies here: https://archive.is/zQGqG

Letter from an RWL member of his experience leaving including being sectioned at a psychiatric institution: http://www.regroupment.org/main/page_appendix_3.html

BAMN’s betrayal of sexual assault survivors – including a BAMN (RWL also?) member comment at the end of the article; https://www.michigandaily.com/opinion/11yardain-amron-bamn-betrayal26

How to recognise a political cult, example site (partcularly the bullet points):

On how MFJ/RIL is a cult, from former members:

” Why RIL/MfJ is a Cult

            “The aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions but to            destroy the capacity to form any.”

Hannah Arendt

As former members of Movement for Justice, we would like to make a statement in support of those who have already come forward. We have similar experiences of abuse and urge anyone involved with MfJ or thinking about getting involved to read up about the organisation and it’s sister organisation in the US, the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). There are a few links at the bottom of this piece with testimonies from former members of BAMN.


If you want to understand MfJ you have to understand who the real leader is. In 1976 Leland Sanderson and Peter Sollenberger set up the Revolutionary Workers League (RWL), a militant Trotskyist group working out of Detroit. In the early 80s the group split and Sanderson became the main leader, along with new recruit Shanta Driver, whom Sanderson recruited. Driver is the chair person for the front group BAMN and is also the main public speaker. Both Sanderson and Driver state that they are Harvard alumni. We haven’t, however, been able to confirm or deny this. RWL’s British counterpart, the Revolutionary Internationalist League (RIL), was formed at around the time the RWL leadership split. Two of the original members from that time remain in the group. The other two were recruited around the time MfJ was formed in 1995.


Not much is said about Leland Sanderson in any of the criticism written about MfJ or BAMN and we do not think this is a coincidence. It may be because BAMN and MfJ like to portray themselves as black, people of colour, student and immigrant-led and he is a white man in his late 60s/early70s. It may also be the case that he doesn’t like the limelight. Either way, it is clear to say that RWL/RIL and their front groups BAMN/MfJ would not exist if it wasn’t for Sanderson. When we were in the group he was living in a run-down house in Detroit with other BAMN members and only seemed to come downstairs to give hours long studies. If it weren’t for a trip some of us made to the US in 2011, we wouldn’t have realised that it was him that was behind everything. If he is still alive, he is probably reading through all of this blog and telling the UK group how to respond.


Another thing to understand is that RWL and RIL are not going away. Now that MfJ has a bad name a new front organisation will be formed and new rounds of recruitment will begin. It is our belief that so long as Sanderson and Driver are around, there will be front groups of some sort.


MfJ has been to court for many asylum seekers and argued for many progressive ideals over the years but there is a dark underbelly to this organisation that you don’t get to see until you’re deep in. MfJ is a cult, not because of any particular beliefs the group’s members hold, but because of the relationships it cultivates between members (who will be referred to as recruits) and leaders. We have used research carried out by cult experts Robert Jay Lifton and Alexandra Stein to compare the definition of a cult to the behaviour we observed in the organisation over the years.

1) Authoritarian and charismatic leadership


The most important aspect of a cult is the leadership. Everything, the group structure, beliefs, everyday activities, turns on what the leader(s) want(s). Shanta Driver is the main speaker and more effective recruiter but Leland Sanderson is the main leader. Driver is a woman of colour and is loved and idealised by MfJ recruits and RIL leaders to the point where no one can be critical of her.


This is because you soon learn to fear Driver, her level of influence over your life. The relationship is very psychologically abusive, with the leadership being very warm and then very cold towards you. A recruit will, over time, learn to rationalise away the abuse they receive and it is this weird, twisted love that they form for Shanta and other group leaders that will hold them once the real nature of the organisation has been revealed.


All decisions in MfJ are made from the top down and recruits are expected to obey them without question. There is no negotiation or compromise as only the leaders ‘truly understand’ the political situation and what’s needed in order to ‘lead the oppressed’ or ‘bring down the government’. The answer is always, of course to ‘build the movement’, which really means ‘recruit more people’.


2) Confession


MfJ encourages confession through the weekly Sunday group meetings and one-on-one conversations with RIL leaders. Those present are encouraged to think about all the ways in which they lack/have done something wrong and speak about it. In this way RIL members will slowly learn as much as possible about recruits and work out their vulnerable areas (are they alone, have they been abused, do they have a good/bad relationship with their family? etc) and slowly break down boundaries. These confession breed guilt and shame, psychological states in which it is easier to control the recruit.


3) Milieu control


MfJ controls the level of information and communication between members. Contact with family and friends are discouraged over time and members will soon become isolated and emotionally (sometimes financially) dependent on the group. Recruits will get  to the point where they stop communicating with themselves, as it were, deferring their own thoughts and feelings to that of the leadership. BAMN seemed to have much more control over its members, as many live together in ‘BAMN’ houses.


4) Strong insider/outsider dynamic – or dispensing of existence


Things are very black and white in MfJ. The ‘bad’ people exist outside of MfJ, the ‘good’ people exist inside and the leader(s) represent(s) what is ultimately good. This is clear by the fact that recruits are not allowed to speak badly of the leadership, even when they are being clearly abusive towards recruits. Those who leave will be spoken about in such a way as to convey the feeling that they were lacking in someway: ‘he left because he was privileged enough to get out of struggle’, ‘she couldn’t apply the Marxist method to her life’, ‘he isn’t seeking our support because he has illusions in the British state’, ‘she left to go back to her abusive boyfriend’ and so forth. Unlike in a normal political group, no one can legitimately leave MfJ. If someone leaves, it is ultimate their fault.


5) Demand for purity


You will never be good enough. You can’t do enough, say enough, leaflet enough, or give enough money to the organisation and so you’re always in this constant state of striving to be whatever the leaders want. They find what is most shameful, guilt-inducing and use this as a means of control. Maybe you’re ashamed that you’re middle class, or you earn a lot. Maybe you’re in a relationship and that’s ‘holding you back’. Whatever it is that they can use to shame you into doing more, giving more, confessing more, they will.


6) Sacred texts


MfJ has a document written by RWL/RIL leadership in the 1980s detailing how the ‘political vanguard’ will need to be racially integrated in order to ‘lead the oppressed’. You don’t get to read the text until you are deeply involved. This, along with Marxist, Leninist and Trotskyist texts are ‘sacred’ and questioning them too much might lead to emotional abuse and isolation.


7) Limiting language


MfJ uses a lot of simple phrases over and over to reduce complex political situations and, more importantly, reduce the critical faculties of its recruits. ‘The oppressed can win’, ‘build the movement’, ‘bring down the movement’, ‘they are letting off steam’, ‘they have illusions’ etc. None of this makes sense to outsiders, but if you’ve been involved a while, you will be familiar with the above. These phrases are introduced slowly to new recruits and used in different ways, depending on how involved a recruit it. You can see some of it peppered throughout their literature.


RIL/MfJ is a highly demanding, highly damaging group and has taken years – in some cases decades – from the lives of its recruits, including some of those who are currently doing all they can to protect it. As individuals only briefly involved with the group, we can say that the effects have been long-lasting and we hope no one has to go through what we have. It’s psychological abuse on a scale we’d never imagined.


Links about RWL/BAMN and RIL/MfJ















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