Detroit DSA on the Danny Fetonte ‘Scandal’
We wish to register our support both for Danny Fetonte and for our elected leadership, the National Political Committee (NPC). Both have been the objects of scathing personal attacks recently. We are dismayed by both the content and the vitriol of these attacks.
Danny Fetonte is a superb organizer. Under his leadership, Austin DSA has grown from nothing to a membership of over 700 — one of the largest chapters in our organization. DSA was the foundation of the Sanders campaign in Texas. Furthermore, Danny executed the strategy developed by the previous NPC — namely, that successful work on the Sanders campaign would be a vehicle to recruit new members to DSA. He has proven his organizing “chops.” For that reason alone, he will be a valuable addition to the new NPC.
The gist of the attack on Danny is that he once worked as an organizer for a police officers’ union and then failed to disclose this in his candidate’s statement for the NPC. First of all, Danny was under no obligation to reveal his work for the police officers’ association. He answered the questions he was asked truthfully. Secondly, even a casual review of Danny’s biography (such as his candidate statement for the 2015 NPC election) would have revealed his work for the police union. He did not misrepresent himself. If members feel they need more detailed information about candidates before an election, they could propose rule or process changes for the next election.
More to the point, what is wrong with organizing police officers? As socialists, we recognize that the police defend the prerogatives of capital. In doing so, they frequently brutalize poor and working class communities (particularly communities of color). In the fight against systemic and institutionalized racism and the incarceral state, police unions may sometimes help and often hinder the struggle but are not themselves the enemy. Police officers, like other workers, deserve the right to unionize to improve their wages and working conditions. Danny was given this assignment by the Communication Workers of America (CWA). We see nothing wrong with that. Some of the criticisms of Danny seems to stem from a misunderstanding of both the role and value of union organizers. DSA views union organizing and building alliances with labor as essential to our movement. A number of other national unions such as AFT, SEIU and IUOE include law enforcement and/or corrections locals. However, CWA is one of the most progressive unions in the country and was solidly behind the Bernie campaign.
The most disturbing aspect of the attacks on Danny is the complete absence of fairness. The critics demand that Danny resign or be expelled by the NPC. They do not give him an opportunity to defend himself. They do not even list the particulars which would constitute malfeasance (the only reason for which one can be removed from the NPC). In short, where is the due process which we would demand for ourselves or for anyone else?
Finally, the attacks on Danny demonstrate a particular shortcoming of the Left. We reserve our harshest criticism for comrades who do not strictly adhere to the ideological perspectives we hold dear. This practice of the “circular firing squad” is extremely self-destructive. Comrades, we have real enemies with whom to contend — Trump and the Republicans and neoliberal Democrats. Let us not turn our fire on each other.
on behalf of the executive board of Detroit DSA