Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Letter: League’s tactics have damaged MEChA, community

First Published: The Stanford Daily, Volume 197, Issue 66, 29 May 1990.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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I WAS ASKED TO JOIN the League of Revolutionary Struggle during the fall quarter of my sophomore year. The person who recruited me explained the League ideology to me and told me that if I “reasoned well enough,” I would conclude that socialism was the logical progression for my “politics.”

This individual told me a personal tale of League involvement and explained why the League’s “struggle” would “liberate our people.” The person went on to ask me to come to the study groups. I said I would think about it, which I did, before I said no. I explained how honored I felt at being asked to join such an elite club, but I was not a socialist, not a revolutionary, so basically ... no thanks.

I was co-chair of Stanford MEChA at the time. Little did I know that by turning down the League’s gracious invitation, I virtually relinquished all power I had within MEChA. For the rest of the year, I was excluded from important decisions and left uninformed about events. For example, I, like most of the MEChA membership, had no knowledge of the takeover of University President Donald Kennedy’s office until the night before it happened. (MEChA is notorious for working through undemocratic means – like Central American elections, you can vote but they tell you what and who to vote, for and why – or else.) Moreover, the friendship between my recruiter and myself deteriorated really quickly.

This was a year and a half ago. Ever since, I have heard that I was a bad co-chair because I refused to join the League and “(I) wouldn’t even go to the study group.” A drunken League member approached me at a party with the accusation that I was “too much of an individual.” (He was obviously spouting League rhetoric that forever and unquestionably favors the collective over the individual.) He meant it as an insult and, at the time, I took it as such. Now I know better.

During all of this year, I was caught in a bind between two equally unappealing options: I could either protect the League by keeping its secret and letting MEChA fall to pieces as more and more people became alienated by the radical League agenda in MEChA, or I could attack the League and MEChA in the process. I couldn’t do either, so I decided to do nothing at all.

I took a noted absence from MEChA. I contemplated the problems with the League and the information I stumbled upon over the summer about its infiltration of the MEChA statewide network. But I couldn’t talk openly about it; I had been told not to ask any questions, not to tell anybody. I felt severely alienated from almost everybody in my community: the reactionary anti-MEChA elements and the manipulative League members who thought they had cornered the Chicano progressive movement. I can honestly say it was one of the darkest periods in my life.

I agonized over the decision to talk to The Daily, but I did it. I didn’t have the courage to go on the record. I was afraid of the harassment I knew the League was capable of (the example of Juan Iniguez’ expulsion from the deanship of El Centro Chicano comes to mind).

But now I kind of have to go on the record, so this is what I am reporting: the League’s infiltration, the “outside agitators” (non-students who still play key roles in Stanford student politics), their crafty recruiting tactics, the fact that they stifle dissent and the secrecy that shields them. I don’t want to indict them for their ideology. I believe in academic freedom, and I respect their right to be Marxist.

Because the left has historically been persecuted in our society, any time any one of us decides to speak out against the left we run the risk of seeming like red-baiters. This very fact paralyzed me and many others for years, and it also granted the League virtual immunity from criticism. Anything that challenged the League’s agenda, whether it be from the left or the right, was labeled “racist, fascist, red-baiters” or some other sweeping term. Character assassination is the League’s favorite tactic.

My intention is not to damage the multicultural movement, but I know that inevitably it will be damaged.

Anyone who knows me knows that I support the progressive agenda. I believe that people of color are economically, politically and socially marginalized, that the power structure will not change out of its own volition and that I must do as much as I can to help change it.

I believe this because I was raised in the biggest barrio in the United States: East Los Angeles – Chicano Mecca. I have been studying Chicano scholarship since I was 12 years old. I am not going through my college radical phase; this is my life, and it is part of the reason why the revolutionary rhetoric doesn’t appeal to me. Try telling “the people” that you advocate revolution on their behalf – it’s silly.

People will ask me if I am doing this because I have personal gripes with League members. Let me put it this way: When people befriend you, make you co-chair of MEChA as an inexperienced sophomore because they think they can manipulate you and then proceed to screw you over when you decide not to join their cult, you feel used and hurt . . . very personally.

But that is not the reason I am exposing the League. I am doing this because the League has such a strong hold on MEChA, and dissent is so stifled that disagreement is not tolerated and reform from within is impossible.

This should be a time of introspection for both the Chicano community and for all those who claim to believe in the progressive agenda. A friend of mine put it well when he said that the healing process should involve dialogue between non-League and League members, but this can not happen until the League decides to be up front with us – just stop lying.

Lastly, I want to respond to the charge that criticizing the League in public has hurt the progressive agenda. I am sensitive to the fact that we are strongest when united and that airing our dirty laundry threatens that unity; nevertheless I think that being radical is to be constantly rethinking and re-analyzing.

Unity is most important when we are a small fringe group fighting the power structure. But in Stanford’s student politics, the “Progressive Agenda” has managed to become a part of the power structure. In MEChA the League has gained so much power that it silences much needed criticism, and I for one have kept its secrets long enough.

Delia Ibarra Junior, history MEChA co-chair 1988-89