Written By Ian Ezinga
Gathered in the Political Science Student Lounge in James Hall, a small group of students met to discuss the formation of the Brooklyn College chapter of May Day. The chapter is the latest extension of the broader student activist group that formed in 2018 in order to organize against The New School management’s decision to lay off cafeteria staff. With their success in helping the unionized workers keep their jobs through a sit-in occupation lasting twelve days, May Day is seeking to expand its membership and create a broader coalition.
The meeting was held on Thursday, February 27 and was attended by the editorial secretary of May Day, Jesse Gauger, and five Brooklyn College students. Three of the students present were in line to take up leadership positions in the chapter once it received approval. This meeting served as a rundown for the new members for what sort of work they could expect to be involved in as well as the values that are inherent to the revolutionary student organization.
Revolutionary is entirely self-ascribed and fitting description considering the demands they have set forth and hope to achieve. Among these demands are free and open admission to public higher education, democratically governed universities, erasure of student debt, realization of full democratic rights for students, and for “bringing the politics of the socialist revolution to the student body, in solidarity with people everywhere fighting for democracy and progress.”
The last demand is taken straight from the organization’s program which can be found in full on their website. This demand speaks largely to one of the organization’s broader goals: to unite the needs and demands of students with other oppressed groups in order to obtain the greatest reforms.
“There is always going to be another lay off, there is always going to be another tuition hike, so we wanted to find a way to link these local struggles to a broader political project with revolutionary politics,” said Gauger, calling for a united front. May Day hopes to act as the catalyst for uniting these struggles through collective organizing.
Building coalitions out of different factions in order to achieve maximum progress is not an old idea and has been a big talking point in recent mainstream politics. Especially in light of this year’s presidential campaigns, politicians frequently use language that calls for unity in order to defeat a greater social ailment. May Day, however, is firm about working outside of electoral politics.
“We understand the state not as an instrument of mediation through which people can actually advance their own interests, but rather as a tool of domination by the ruling class,” said Gauger. So while they do not discourage voting, May Day sees their function as continually demanding reforms from whoever is in power, whether it is Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders.
“It is in our interest to develop that political power first to even say how we are going to use it,” added Peter Cerallos, who is now the president of the chapter. This largely echoes one of the other major goals of May Day, which is to use the power built through organizing in order to extract reforms through school administrations.
Being in accordance with the minimum qualifications to become an official chapter, the Brooklyn College May Day chapter is now laying the groundwork for their organizing efforts here on campus. “We are going to focus on gathering members and coordinating in work with other clubs like the SJP, QSAA, and BCSU,” said Cevallos when asked about the club’s direction.
While being a dues-paying member of May Day requires full adherence to the revolutionary program, the organization wants to work with any individual or group who shares at least some common ground. Whether in organizing for free tuition, making spaces more accessible for people with disabilities, or kicking the cops out of CUNY, May Day wants to work with you.