The Democratic Socialists of America National Political Committee Interim Steering Committee decided on August 15 to enter mediation with elected NPC member Danny Fetonte, who is the subject of heated debate due to his past involvement with the police union organization CLEAT.
The Madison DSA chapter chose to make no statement on this matter before the decision because our executive committee was split, and we preferred polling our members to make a democratic decision on the stance that we as a chapter should take. We did not have a general membership meeting prior to the decision, however, and thus made no statement. We were asked by several other chapters to co-sign their statements, but declined for this reason as well.
Now that the matter has entered mediation, we expect an agreement will be reached that satisfies both parties in this dispute. While the dispute is being resolved, we should return our focus to organizing with our communities to fight for the working class and for a Democratic Socialist future. With the present day reality of white nationalists organizing and a president who enables and encourages them, DSA’s mission is more important than ever.
For our fellow DSA members, in our chapter and beyond: many inside and outside of DSA will ask you about this decision in the weeks and months to come. We encourage our members to emphasize the three points below:
- The structure of DSA gives local chapters a large amount of agency and power, and while the NPC advises and releases statements on behalf of DSA, the NPC is not DSA — DSA is its members.
- An individual NPC member makes up only one vote on a sixteen person committee. While an individual is certainly in a position of power and prestige, a single member of the DSA NPC is in no position to dictate an entire organization’s agenda.
- As a democratic organization there are always issues and flaws exposed over time. We can remedy these issues and flaws through the democratic process, much like we were able to do at the National Convention earlier this month.
With respect to the third point above: our executive committee urges DSA to examine the process for selecting NPC members so that all relevant information about a candidate is known and all delegates and members can make a fair and accurate assessment of those running for election.
In the buildup to this decision, many have used vitriolic and uncomradely dialogue in public and semi-private forums — sometimes between members, and sometimes with others in our communities. When we communicate with members in person or over the phone, we ensure that we put the DSA community agreements front and center, which emphasize that we (among other things) assume best intentions, ask ourselves if we are contributing positively to the discussion, and listen to what others have to say. This is difficult to implement in a digital world; people appear only as words on a screen, and any communication can be seen not only by the other person, but by potentially anyone online.
Madison DSA hopes to work with others across the country, including the volunteer members who moderate semi-official and unofficial DSA forums and chat rooms and the new National Political Committee, to publish DSA Online Community Agreements. We envision this to be one part training to ensure members are aware of their audiences as they communicate online, and part enforcement for ensuring that DSA online communication channels are spaces where harassment is kept to a minimum and members can feel safe communicating with other DSA members.
The National Convention was a wonderful opportunity to meet DSA members from all over the country and hear everyone’s stories about the work they do in their communities and how to bear the burden of our shared struggle against capitalism. Let’s bring this humanity to our chapters’ work and our discussions, both online and offline, as we continue to grow and challenge the capitalist order.
Madison Area DSA Executive Committee