A Brief Introduction to NYU’s Leftist Clubs

A brief introduction to three of NYU’s most politically left organizations.


Anna Letson

NYU has a number of leftists student organizations and clubs.

Sayer Devlin, News Editor

While many college students spent Club Fest on Sept. 6 browsing Greek organizations and cultural affinity groups, a handful of NYU’s leftist clubs lined the room hoping to add to their legion of activists.

Students for Justice in Palestine, NYU’s chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America and the International Socialist Organization are a few examples of leftist political clubs at NYU. All three wrote essays that were recently featured in NYU’s Disorientation Guide — a zine outlining some of NYU’s activist groups and the university’s various conflicts of interest — that was circulated to members of the NYU community at the beginning of this semester.

WSN talked to some of the clubs’ organizers about their ideologies, membership and goals for the semester.

Democratic Socialists of America

Democratic Socialists of America has seen explosive growth in its membership since last November. In fact, membership has increased fourfold from 7,000 to 28,000 since the election, and DSA is the largest socialist party in the United States. NYU students formed a chapter in January.

GSAS graduate student Jeremy Cohan, who studies sociology, manned NYU DSA’s table at the Club Fest.

“We need a society not based on concentrated power in the hands of a few rich people, but a real democracy where resources are spread out and we need to achieve that through healthcare for all, free higher education, affordable housing, higher minimum wage, right to unions — all of these important things that none of our politicians stand for,” he said to a student at Club Fest. “Bernie Sanders is around where our politics is.”

DSA aims to be a big-tent organization, and the group does not have an agreed upon definition of what socialism means and anyone who believes in its mission can join. DSA believes strongly in getting involved in electoral politics and has endorsed numerous candidates in local, state and national races, including Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary.

NYU DSA meets every Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and DSA-endorsed Jabari Brisport, who is running for City Council in New York’s 35th District, will speak in front of the club Sept. 20. The focus of meetings alternates between planning actions and discussing and debating current events and the definition of socialism.

International Socialists Organization

Though the International Socialists Organization is more ideological than DSA, it is still deeply involved in activism at NYU. ISO is staunchly against capitalism and pro-revolution. In the past the club has worked on a slew of issues — organizing around Black Lives Matter, defending DACA and campaigning to shut down the Rikers Island Prison Complex, among other issues.

“We’re trying to build a united front of left-leaning clubs on campus,” CAS senior Nikki Camera, who was leading ISO’s table at Club Fest, said.

“If you’re in the ISO, you’re fighting for the rights of the most marginalized, and we believe that marginalization comes from capitalism which is why we’re socialists, we see socialism as the alternative,” Camera said. “If we’re going to overthrow capitalism were going to need a broad base working class movement, so we’re hoping to get as many people involved as we can.”

Though ISO believes that democratic socialism is a step in the right direction, the group does not view it as the answer to capitalism, according to Camera.

“Capitalism — no matter how much or little of it you have — is still an international system and is still internationally oppressive,” Camera said. “We’re looking for something that eliminates capitalism because we know that capitalism has been the agent of maintaining oppression and exploitation by virtue of exploiting workers.”

NYU’s branch of ISO will meet Sept. 13 in the Kimmel Center for University Life room 405 at 8:30 p.m.

Students for Justice in Palestine

Students for Justice in Palestine is a movement that fights for freedom and equality for the Palestinian people. According to its website, SJP believes that Palestinians “have been living without basic rights under illegal Israeli military occupation for decades.” SJP has over 190 chapters across the nation.

“We support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement which is a nonviolent movement to use economic, cultural and academic pressure to force the government of Israel to change its apartheid policies,” CAS sophomore Itay Barylka, an organizer for SJP, said. “We want equal rights for Palestinians and to end discrimination on the basis of religion and race, which is the current state in occupied Palestine.”

Barylka hopes to recruit more students and shift the narrative of the mainstream Israel-Palestine narrative from one of controversy to one of basic human rights. In the past, SJP ran campaigns against NYU Tel Aviv and Birthright. The club hopes to make a serious effort at a boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign this year.

Email Sayer Devlin at [email protected]