East Bay DSA Local Council Statement on Danny Fetonte

August 13, 2017 04:34

On August 10, DSA's Interim Steering Committee (ISC) stated that it would be investigating Danny Fetonte's conduct in the recent National Political Committee (NPC) election, specifically regarding his nondisclosure of police union work. On August 11, Fetonte issued a statement of his own, in which he clarified his employment history and accused the ISC of lacking "moral courage" and a "backbone."

As the East Bay chapter's Local Council, we refrained from weighing in publicly until Fetonte responded to the matter. Now that he has, we feel that Fetonte's hostility to members who have valid concerns and his dismissal of the severity of the conflict do not reflect well on his leadership abilities. In order to avoid further division and damage to our organization, we urge him to resign before the situation develops any further.

Our delegates came back from the national convention brimming with energy and optimism, and ready to build a local capable of fighting against structures that oppress working people every day — including the inhumane prison industrial complex, police brutality, crushing student debt, private healthcare, inadequate housing, broken school systems, a capitalist system that steals our humanity, time, and labor. Like the majority of delegates at the convention, East Bay's delegates voted in favor of the priorities resolution on police and prison abolition. We agree with the statement of our chapter's Abolition of Police and Prisons Caucus that the scandal around Danny Fetonte has "thrust the DSA into a crisis that threatens to overshadow the arduous work we did at the 2017 convention to build an organization that stands opposed to state violence and in solidarity with the communities it targets."

We believe that in order to demonstrate guidance and care for DSA in a moment of acute tension, it was incumbent upon Fetonte to show humility by acknowledging the real political division caused by revelations of his past employment. The Local Council of our chapter feels strongly that police formations are agents of ruling class domination, and that law enforcement union work is qualitatively different from other union work. Even if Fetonte did not agree, we would have liked him to at least acknowledge the harm his connection to police might do to our comrades' efforts to organize in communities rightly suspicious of law enforcement, particularly poor communities of color. Instead, Fetonte attacked the ISC for taking seriously the opinions of concerned members, whom he dismissed as uninformed at best.

We acknowledge that internet debate has reached regrettably acrimonious levels, and we are disappointed by the uncomradely nature of those conversations, particularly the personal attacks on Fetonte and his supporters. We value the important political work being done within Austin DSA, and stand in solidarity with our Texas comrades for whom this has been a painful process. And we accept the sincerity of Danny Fetonte's lifelong personal commitment to building collective power.

Now it's time for him to set that value into motion by stepping down from the NPC, as this is a national position and has national considerations and consequences. This dispute has already demanded countless hours of labor from comrades across the country. We fear that the scandal will only escalate from here, and will continue to monopolize DSA's most valuable resources — the time, energy, and solidarity of its membership, which could be spent blocking ICE, campaigning for single-payer, or building our locals into powerful fighting forces for left politics.

Worse yet, if Fetonte refuses to resign, the NPC may be compelled to vote on the question of his removal. That scenario promises to be even more divisive than the current situation, at a time when we should be more united than ever before. The sustained and deepening division we are witnessing does not benefit locals, does not benefit DSA as a whole, and threatens to derail us into infighting at precisely the moment of greatest political danger and opportunity the US socialist left has seen in a generation or more. Fetonte's continued presence on the NPC, combined with his dismissive statement that incites further division, has caused serious consternation and distress for members of our organization, and that only redounds to the benefit of the ruling class and the forces of the right.

Danny Fetonte's resignation would demonstrate a commitment to collective power over individual power, and to movement strength over personal pride. His continued refusal to resign would confirm for us that he lacks the temperament and strategic foresight to effectively steward this organization. We urge him to do the right thing for socialism in America and step down.

The Local Council of East Bay Democratic Socialists of America*

*Local Council At-Large member and National Political Committee member, Jeremy Gong recused himself from discussion of and voting on this statement.