Unrepentant Twitter Bullies

A terrible situation came to a terrible end in the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) on Friday.  It’s a long story, which I’ll elaborate on below, but essentially, a social media mob bullied a longtime talented organizer out of DSA, and some seem proud of their tactics.  Observe:

To be clear up front: others who are not Twitter trolls shared their general view and had legitimate points that deserved to be (and were) heard.  But it’s my impression that it was specifically the bullying that led to this outcome.  And this bodes ill for DSA as an organization and therefore for our cause.

For my part, not speaking up loudly enough against these bullies was my contribution to this sad state of affairs.  So it’s time to do so.  My imagined audience includes both non-members (whose outside perspective I would value) and anyone from DSA, whatever their perspective, who stumbles across this.  My policy of parrhesia—frankness—applies as always, though I would remind commenters that eunoia—good will—is also part of that bargain.

The Backstory

The issue concerns a man who we elected to our National Political Committee (NPC) in early August.  The NPC is essentially DSA’s board of directors and consists of 16 members who are elected to a two year term at our biennial conventions.  The victor in question is Danny Fetonte, who, as he notes in his campaign statement, has worked for over 30 years as a union organizer.  The trouble started when some delegates (including several who had voted for him) learned only after the election that Danny had worked for a time for the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT), a police union affiliated with his longtime employer, the more progressive Communication Workers of America (CWA).  And some people, especially newer members whose racial justice work is based on the Black Lives Matter platform, consider the police an indisputable enemy, so many people started calling for him to resign or be expelled from the NPC.

Some people went even further: as stated in this Left Voice piece, “It is not enough to simply remove Fetonte from leadership; the DSA and other left organizations must make concrete steps to say that cops, or those that work directly on their behalf, cannot be socialists.”

For the record, I enthusiastically support everything in Campaign Zero (including the tenth plank, which addresses serious harms done by police unions) as things to pursue in the near term to end the war on Black people.

And it’s precisely because these goals are so important that I’m worried about that declaration in Left Voice, and the unrepentant Twitter bullies who are policing our movement for them.

The “Right Wing” of the DSA: Enemies Within?

On August 27, the NPC (minus Danny) voted 8.5 to 7.5 that Danny had done nothing wrong and therefore must be seated.  Here’s how a leader of Left Twitter reacted (and to be clear, I do not see this as an example of bullying; it is, however, important context for what’s going on):

This is a good time to elaborate on what I personally am doing in DSA and what I hope to gain through it, because I suppose these folks think of people like me as “the right wing of DSA” and a “social democrat,” i.e., not a true socialist.  This is nonsense because I expressly think social democracy—i.e., any effort to strengthen the welfare state within a capitalist system—is ultimately doomed to fail for structural reasons and, therefore, that our choice is between socialism and barbarism.  That’s why I’m in DSA in the first place.

The fundamental question, then, is how do we get to the point where we can replace capitalism with socialism?  It’s clear that there are a lot of things that have to be done right to get there, and that means there are roles for a broad coalition of anti-capitalists with many different views and many different temperaments.  That’s why DSA’s famous “big tent” pluralism is a tremendous strength (even if other Left organizations deride us for it).  It’s our only hope for figuring out a workable path to socialism.

That’s why I focus my activist work on socialist education.  Getting new ideas out there into the mainstream is foundational to this effort.  This means that, yes, I spend a lot of my time on the so-called “right wing” of DSA.  What I’m doing there is holding out a hand to try to help people step to the Left.

It’s part of shifting the spectrum of allies.  The Bernie campaign strongly suggested that there are a lot of passive allies who could become active socialist allies out there, as well as neutral people who could become passive allies.  Jonathan Smucker gives a good visual depiction of this in his excellent book Hegemony How-To (which I reviewed for Democratic Left), and in a post on his website, where I found this graphic and which is worth a read:

Meanwhile, I’ve seen it said on Twitter that “the tankies are having a field day laughing at us!” for electing a “cop” (actually a union organizer, not a cop) to the NPC.  For those not versed in the jargon, tankies are people who, like DSA, are on the far left of the political X-axis (economics), but who, quite unlike DSA, proudly place themselves far to the authoritarian end of the Y-axis (personal liberty).  See also Urban Dictionary.  A big tent does still have edges, and authoritarians have always been expressly outside of DSA’s tent.

So I don’t much care what the tankies think of DSA, and it’s not just because I think they’re sorely misguided in important ways.  (To be fair, they are good on racial justice.  The Communist Party always was.  Credit where credit is due.  I criticize them more for spending their time trying to charge DSA convention delegates twenty-five cents to read their denunciations of DSA.  And for defending North Korea.)  But no, it’s not because of those things that I’m not concerned about their criticisms; it’s because I generally don’t see anything to be gained strategically by heeding them.  I’m more concerned about what people with a budding awareness the cracks in our capitalist system think, because those people are the group we need to bring on board if we want to achieve meaningful social change.  Right now, that means I wonder what they think about this whole situation around Danny Fetonte’s election.

And I can tell you, because several of them have confided in me, that they are scared.

Who Is Danny Fetonte, Anyway?

So on that note, let me introduce some concrete information about Danny.  I don’t know him well; I met him at the 2015 convention and again in 2017 when he came around to ask for my vote for NPC and handed me the now-infamous campaign literature that did not say anything about his work organizing police officers.  But I’ve heard a fair bit about him, both before and after the scandal, because of all the good work he’s been doing in his now-former home chapter of Austin, Texas.  Many in the chapter credit him as the engine of its growth from 15 people to over 150 members even before our membership swelled in late 2016; it’s now at 700, and that’s still thanks in large part to Danny’s efforts.

We’re talking about a guy who has been doing concrete organizing work for years—getting out there and acting on projects to support working class people and marginalized groups of all kinds.  Danny played a prominent role in the campaign against SB-4, the Texas law that would have given local law enforcement the ability to ask about a person’s immigration status during routine traffic stops (I heard he was arrested for his role), and he helped organize Texas Muslim Capitol Day.  He’s the guy in bright(er) red next to Bernie in the top left photo below, and the one whose hands are zip-tied at a protest against SB-4 in the bottom photo:

I also heard from a member of the organizing committee of the Dallas DSA chapter that Danny drove the three hours from Austin to help them write their by laws.  That’s not anyone’s idea of a good time.  That’s the unglamorous and even tedious work of organizing, but it needs to be done well.

This all seems pretty commendable to me.  Like someone we want to have in DSA!

Regarding the relationship between police unions and DSA, Danny wrote,

Texas DSA has at least a dozen members who organize or work with law enforcement. DSA in Texas has a past NPC member — who while serving on the NPC — organized police and correctional officers. There is no secretive group within DSA who stands with police when there are abuses. Myself and others oppose the organization of the present criminal justice system, oppose the way corrections and law enforcement is organized in America, and think the whole system has to be changed from top to bottom.

Hmmm.  It sounds to me like he sincerely thought that it would help the cause of a multiracial working people’s coalition if he organized police officers.  There is obviously room to disagree here.  The point of this article is not to take a side, but to preserve that space for tactical and even strategic disagreements among people who share the goal of ending our racist and exploitative criminal justice status quo.  That, after all, has always been part of DSA’s culture: come in the door and let’s talk about how we get there.

Unfortunately, Left Twitter sees it differently:

Anti-Capitalists of All Stripes, Unite!

So, I don’t actually know of any police officers in DSA, but I for one would welcome all those Black (and even white!) law enforcement officers who stood up for Colin Kaepernick into DSA in a heartbeat, if they wanted to join us.  I’d love to talk to any police officers who are sincerely trying to do racial justice work inside the police department where they work.  From where they stand, it may look like the most promising path.  Others may not agree that it is, and can even say so to constructive effect, but I’m glad for any officer who’s thinking and trying.  We need all hands on deck to fight police brutality, and we need it now.

And then there are the others who are terrified that the capitalist dirt they have on their professional hands will be discovered and used to make them the subject of the next Twitter-led purge.  They’re asking themselves, will the line be drawn at police union organizers?  (That’s already bigger than just police officers, after all.)  What about lawyers who have taken on cases about which they had mixed feelings?  What about people who work in, say, finance?


Personally, I’d love to welcome finance professionals whose own daily work helps them understand the problems with capitalism—and actually, we have, and our big tent is better for having their experience and knowledge under it.  They help us get those who aren’t yet with us but could be to stop and think.

The list could go on.  Do we really want to throw all these people out, along with the sincere anti-capitalist energy they have to offer?

It seems that Left Twitter does:

Michael Harrington was the chair of DSA from its founding in 1982 until his death in 1989, which is egregiously left out of this Britannica article that otherwise is a great writeup of his life and legacy.  Comrades, it is foolish to try to get rid of people like this.  We’re only 30,000 strong, guys.  That’s nothing.  Getting people in the door to hear what we have to say—that’s still our major challenge.  If you are into expelling people, then I have no faith in your ability to build a meaningful movement.

Heeding the Better Angels of Our Nature

Here is a statement by Danny Fetonte after the rest of the NPC voted 8.5 to 7.5 to seat him, because they could not find any basis to remove him for malfeasance, which is what would be required under DSA’s constitution to boot him out.  It’s true that it was a defensive statement; that’s exactly what I would expect from a person who’s been blindsided by genuinely unexpected public vitriol and even subjected to doxxing by people inside our movement. [ETA 9/12: To be clear, the info I saw released was a phone number, not SSNs or anything like that, which someone has informed me doesn’t count as real doxxing; moreover, it may have been by someone who is not a DSA member.  So evaluate it as you will.]

And Twitter responded to the NPC’s vote by expanding its witch hunt:

We already saw above that this group wants to purge those they mistakenly label “socdems” from DSA.  It strikes me that their cohort is mainly people who joined DSA in the wake of the 2016 election on a wave of fury directed at the Democratic Party—a fury I share, by the way.  I guess many of them had been trying to work within the DNC, but they weren’t able to take it over, and they’re angry.

So instead they came in and seek to take over DSA, and are congratulating themselves for doing it.  But comrades, as I said, WE ARE STILL REALLY TINY.  There’s absolutely no cause to congratulate yourselves at this stage.  Hillary Clinton and Company aren’t going to suddenly realize how wrong they were just because you came in and bullied Danny Fetonte out of our organization.

Unrepentant Twitter bullies don’t have what it takes to build the a meaningfully large movement.  It is okay if we disagree, even vehemently.  That is part of the tradition of this organization, too.  We can dislike—we may even despise—other people in DSA; we are human beings, after all.  We can and should absolutely campaign against concrete actions proposed by other members if we think they are wrongheaded.  But don’t let that get in the way of watering every single seed out there that’s beginning to recognize that capitalism has big problems.  It makes no sense for us to be spending our energy fighting against the alleged “impure” within our ranks—people who are actively doing real work to organize in support of, say, immigrants facing real and urgent threats—when there are so many real enemies out there.

And recognize that others are looking at you on social media, and they are opting out.  If that’s what it takes to be a socialist, then I guess I’m not a socialist, they think.  I guess they’d probably find something wrong with me, too.

DSA has always had a culture that welcomes those people in the door, talks to them, listens to them, and gives them a safe space to think and develop politically.  If we lose that, then we lose our most important asset.

On that note, I thank you for reading this and welcome any thoughts.

Author’s note, 9/12: I have yet to see anyone who disagrees with me respond to this post by addressing the concerns of people who are not Danny Fetonte but are afraid that they could be subject to the same treatment.  This is what most of the positive responses have focused on, so I encourage commenters to focus their attention here.  I am reluctant to approve further comments specifically about Danny’s case, as that is now merely the backdrop; I may do so on a case by case basis, if they are considerate and relevant to this larger discussion.


75 thoughts on “Unrepentant Twitter Bullies

  1. “It is not enough to simply remove Fetonte from leadership; the DSA and other left organizations must make concrete steps to say that cops, or those that work directly on their behalf, cannot be socialists.”

    Wow. Just, wow. This Left Voice article that you linked outlines the history of abuse by police officers and clearly states that “The police force is the armed wing of the capitalist state,” but it carefully avoids answering the one question that I’m interested in: What would the role of police be in a socialist society?

    From a brief glance at social media, I see a lot of discussion about the goal of socialism being a “copless society.” Much like the concept of a “society without prisons” for which DSA recently voted, I just can’t wrap my head around how a society without police would work in practice. This is an example of what I see as a harmful trend in socialism that I’ve discussed with you before: the reduction of every issue into a purely economic problem. In reality, people commit crimes for a lot of reasons, some of which are economic, and some of which are not. When, for example, a person in a socialist society kills their adulterous lover in a fit of rage, or a serial killer kills people for no reason because they are a psychopath, we are still going to need someone to come arrest them, and that means police officers and the accompanying police unions. Envisioning socialist societies as utopias in which there are no social problems is both ahistorical and harmful to the socialist movement.

    Sorry, Jessie, I think I’m going to have to pass on joining the DSA. This organization looks like it’s full of the tribalism and other nonsense that I got off social media to avoid.

    Liked by 6 people

      1. I really did consider joining. Unfortunately, DSA, like the rest of the Left, seems to be mired in endless cycles of ideological purification struggles and inane virtue signaling detached from any real problems. To have any hope of defeating Donald Trump, we need: 1) People who are willing to see the world and the American people as they really are, and then be there with them even if they aren’t perfect; and 2) An institutional argument focused on enacting proportional representation, campaign finance, and a series of other political reforms, to combat Trump’s institutional argument (that the institutions we have spent 200 years building should be swept away and replaced with strongman politics and chaos) with an institutional argument of our own (that our institutions can be reformed to create a genuinely responsive democracy). Unfortunately, I’m not seeing either of these things at present.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I suppose, in the police-less future the kinds of perpetrators you envision would be dealt with by vigilante mobs. Because has served so well in all societies where it’s been tried. (He says with dripping sarcasm.)

        More seriously, I suppose a society without police, or at least without professional police, may be possible. But I doubt that the people who mobbed Danny Fetonte are the ones who can construct it. Still, I’m sticking with DSA for the time being, but I think we need to work to build networks of people who stand for the old values.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Hear hear, David. It’s become clear that we need to make building these networks a priority, and making our voices heard. The first step is just to let people know we’re out there, and that you can have these views and still be a democratic socialist. Our voices tend to be less public, but we’re DSA, too.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. “What would the role of police be in a socialist society?”

      This is an important question that ‘left Twitter’ has utterly failed to explore. A “copless society” is a cop-out, a handy device to avoid dealing with the difficult issues Dana raises about how crime and punishment would be handled in a society animated by socialist solidarity rather than capitalist greed.

      “Prison abolition” and a “cop-less society” is pie-in-the-sky utopianism and must be rejected by serious socialists. Karl Marx hailed the Paris Commune not for abolishing cops and prisons (the Commune did neither) but for thoroughly de-politicizing and democratizing the police force. This got the Paris police force out of the business of persecuting political radicals for their beliefs and made them accountable to the commune (basically the equivalent of our city councils). In most cities in the U.S., police chiefs are appointed by the mayor but in some cases, there are direct elections. Convicted crooked cop Joe Arpaio is no longer a sheriff thank God because he lost an election in November 2016 even though the country went for Trump. Socialist Angela Walker ran against pro-Trump nutbag sheriff David Clarke (who is a Democrat!) and did fairly well even though she didn’t win; if she had won, the whole country would’ve been a lot better off.

      We are not going to end or even make a significant dent in the ubiquitous problem of police brutality in this country by calling for nonsensical crap like police/prison abolition, first because it’s a ridiculous notion on its face and second it’s not going to mobilize the masses to fight the system and get organized. The only way to get the job done is for us to take direct control of these out-of-control police forces by running progressives — specifically socialists and Black Lives Matter activists — for mayor, sheriff, and so on. (Maybe police chiefs should be appointed by city councils instead of mayors, I don’t know.) As it stands now, civilian review boards are largely toothless and can’t issue subpoenas; departmental rules banning chokeholds are routinely ignored (see Eric Garner); federal and local investigations hardly ever result in successful prosecutions of killer cops. Socialist police chiefs or socialist-appointed police chiefs would have a hell of a lot of power over the force. We could re-write the rules governing the use of force, especially deadly force; the protocols for what happens in officer-involved shootings needs to change; officers need to be held to a higher standard than simply ‘ok he/she wasn’t convicted of murder, so he/she can stay on the force.’ In countries like Finland and Norway, police shootings happen like once every 10 years, if that; we should take a hard look at how and why their cops are almost completely free of lethal incidents of any kind.

      As for what a police force would look like under socialism, we are so far away from that that it’s hard to say anything with certainty about what it might be like. I tend to think it would be impossible to completely do away with certain aspects of a professional police force (forensic investigators and scientists, detectives who put a bunch of clues together to solve crimes). I also tend to think in the U.S. that replacing a professional police force with a bunch of part-time armed citizens would lead not to law and order but a lot more shootings and violence (imagine in rural areas of America where these heavily armed right-wing militia types become the de facto ‘people’s police’) because the U.S. has a serious problem with gun culture and gun violence that is a contributing factor to our police violence problem. I suspect you won’t find those answers very satisfying but it’s the best I can do. There are alternatives to prison — corporal punishment, community service, and the like but for serious and violent crimes I tend to think prisons will have to be a last resort because we don’t want dangerous people to prey on the vulnerable and at the same time we don’t want to execute everyone who engages in such behavior either. Or at least I don’t.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I agree that we are ‘so far away from envisioning a Socialist society’. However, this mess with Danny Fetonte did nothing to forward the vision nor to increase popularity with ‘the masses’. It was mishandled from beginning to end, not the least of which was the continued ginning up of absolute hatred for him and his rather tangential role within CLEAT. If what I have since found out was true, there were definitely people AT the convention who KNEW his background and actively campaigned against him, but he still won. I have never received a satisfactory answer to the question that I posed during this fiasco and that is: What IS the fear of ONE GUY? How is he SO POWERFUL that if seated (now not even possible) he will literally destroy the rest of the NPC and advocate some kind of relationship with the police that involved a ‘coalition’? How does one man, with ONE VOTE that is no more important than the other 15, do such a thing? To add to this question, may I remind you that the NPC only meets four times a year—it doesn’t meet every day or even once a week or month.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. “If what I have since found out was true, there were definitely people AT the convention who KNEW his background and actively campaigned against him”

          Of course this is true. People on the convention floor (specifically from Los Angeles) were smearing him as a “cop” according to this report by a delegate from San Francisco. Yet none of the folks outraged by Fetonte’s ‘deception’ — including Proud Internet Bully — are outraged about the outrageous campaign of lies by DSAers and even convention delegates directed against Fetonte. And none of the guilty parties have been disciplined by the organization for their use of Karl Rove-style attacks against fellow socialists.

          Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree completely. I’ve been thinking for a long time that we need concrete goals to rally people around (both ordinary citizens and elected officials), and this prison abolition idea just drives this point home. You mention a lot of immediately achievable goals worthy of socialist organizers’ time and energy that could make a difference in the medium or even short term.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Dana! Thank you for your comment. It was a good way to kick off the discussion here.

      Personally, I have the same take on prison abolition (particularly in the nearer term) that you have, and particularly wonder what we’d do with the likes of Dylann Roof. I strongly share concerns about police brutality, but would like to aim for the Norwegian model (i.e. rehabilitation) and work to change the focus of the police. And so do many others in DSA, as it turns out, now that we’re talking about it.

      But the good news — and I’m glad life kept me from responding for almost a week, so I had a chance to hear this news and share it with you! — is that after our convention, other DSA members have been hearing about what happened and have started perking up their ears and getting more involved. I think I saw some evidence presented recently (though maybe it was just speculation) that those members who tend to be picked as delegates in situations like these are often not wholly representative of the group’s beliefs as a whole. So watch this space to see if some moderating forces begin to emerge.

      So on that note, I must concur 100% with Nicholas Kiersey’s comment below, that I can’t blame you for not joining; and at the same time, I’d like to tag on that there appears to be some hope. So I’d particularly like to invite anyone reading this who was on the fence but is now put off to JOIN US, so we have your votes to counteract this trend and your voices to speak up in just these situations! DSA has truly been a great place to have nuanced discussions for anyone left of center, including social democrats, by the way (I always say that clearly in Socialism 101, though I didn’t convey it here). I’m going to do what I can to make it that way again. Maybe one day I’ll have cause to try to get you to reconsider. In the meantime, I very much appreciate your outside perspective.


  2. I think there’s something really valuable in the willingness to grapple with the internal challenges of a group like this, as an insider of that group, in such a public way. I appreciate the transparent, honest way of wrestling with these things. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in this space.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Thank you, Rose. It would have been my preference to talk about it privately, and that’s why I delayed posting anything. But then, how does one respond to very public statements being broadcast on Twitter? What if people see those and don’t realize there’s another side? Eventually my concern about public discussion started feeling like an excuse for not saying anything. I didn’t do a perfect job of it (the situation was too complex; I had to chop this blog post down a great deal just to get one point across, and let other points not be made), but that too just started to feel like an excuse. Well, however clumsy it may have been, I hope some good will come of it. Your thoughts on this, as someone who devotes so much energy to social justice, mean a lot to me.


  3. I’m overwhelmed by the amount of new (to me) information here, as a person from New Zealand – but I will say that I wish personal shadow work was a requirement of activism. The two need to go hand in hand because an unconscious activist can be as harmful, militant, intolerant, and oppressive as that which they oppose. Most activist groups probably need to learn, together, how to go about their work in a healthy way – prior to much else being done. It’s fundamental.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. This is a wonderful idea. I’m trying to think of ways that we might be able to include empathy and self-reflection in our organizing training. It’s not just to be “nice” as an end in itself; it’s because compassion is an actual, effective organizing skill. One thing that has struck me is how it’s easier to have compassion for abstractions of oppressed people; it can be harder when facing real, messy people standing right in front of us.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes on both points. I’d also add that (at least in my own country) victim mentality is a huge drag on the resources of the Left. When people imbued with victim mentality come to advocacy, it does not progress as it otherwise would – and often just devolves into a brawl in the mud. We had a woman throw a pink silicon dildo at a minister’s face whilst he was giving an interview. She received no punishment, was lauded by the Left… and my goodness, the memes. It was all ‘OK’, because the people of the Left are victimised (though to be honest, most of the vocal Lefties online are pretty darn privileged – they ‘piggy-back’ on the suffering of others in a most perverse way). Anyway, I was a part of all that time wasting junk until I realised that ministers I do not like are people too. When I started to mention this fact to others of the group I was very quickly given my marching orders. But yes, looking back it was victim mentality that caused the trouble; people thinking that it gave them carte blanche to disregard the humanity of other human beings. Being a shit online for a few months was literally the only time in my life I’ve ever felt part of a social group. Perhaps that’s another reason why some people behave badly online. That falls under the umbrella of ‘victim mentality’ as well though. In short – learning about and replacing victim mentality in your organisation with positively assertive empowerment techniques might be useful. Though the term ‘victim mentality’ would have to be left out of it of course.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. You say something in here that set off a bit of a eureka moment for me — “Being a shit online for a few months was literally the only time in my life I’ve ever felt part of a social group.” I mean, yes, I knew people were doing that…but I’ve heard from someone else who I think has some things in common with you — and you are both people of whom I think highly and who have evidently high levels of Dabrowskian developmental potential (DP) — and yet, you passed through this stage. That’s something more people might get something out of pondering….

          We are social beings and everyone wants to belong, but some people (often those with high levels of DP!) find it very hard to find those spaces. And even as I call them out for their behavior, which appear to me to be threat to the prospects of our movement and to the very goals they seek to advance, I share their ultimate goals and sympathize with their anger. I’m thinking about ToBeContinued’s post below about the leftypol people, and at the same time, about the fact that all the people who exhibited such callousness (and sometimes cruelty) toward a fellow human being…surely also includes people who will reflect on this stage of their lives similarly to the way you reflected on that stage of yours that you described.

          And then there’s the medium, which exacerbates some of the worst tendencies of humans and pulls people who would otherwise go “up,” “down” instead, into the muck of 4chan and Twitter and the like, because they find friends there, and who is going to risk their only friends to speak up against the crowd when they go after Just Some Guy who isn’t part of the circle? Well…not many. But you did. And it didn’t get rid of the vile circles, but maybe we can be there with a net to catch a few others, if they want to follow the same path you did….

          In other words, this “victim mentality” is a phase that we might be able to help at least a few speed through as quickly as possible. (I think perhaps it corresponds to early Level III in TPD…. Though some will also be at Level II.)

          Okay, so, none of that was revolutionary, but I feel like maybe there’s a deeper, actionable realization that you’ve led me to here. Thanks for sharing your experiences so frankly.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Addendum: I was sort of trying to get at that with this post: https://counternarration.wordpress.com/2017/07/10/positive-disintegration-for-aspiring-organizers/

          That post was a decided flop, whereas this one has spread like wildfire (both among allies and antagonists, I presume). That probably has some significance to our conversation….

          (I could become very depressed here thinking about leftypol and the others who disregard the humanity of others, but I’m trying to focus on the few for whom this is just a chapter in their growth….)

          Liked by 1 person

      2. By the way, I think it’s normal to feel repelled by dysfunctional people. It’s a survival mechanism that should probably not be overridden. It is definitely a good thing to be aware of it though, so as to stay on middle ground – not totally avoiding/neglecting dysfunctional ‘problematic’ people, but also not overcompensating and putting yourself at unnecessary risk. Pretty much every dysfunctional person has some tragedy or other in their past that they did not bring on themselves. One has to accept that unfair reality, whilst enforcing strong boundaries because… the person is dysfunctional. I’ve had this done to me many a time, and I begrudge nobody for it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ro, what a striking example of parrhesia, eunoia, and episteme all in one comment. Everyone interested in Dabrowski, allow me to draw your attention to the above, a very high level example of the dynamism subject-object in oneself.

          (And it seems a strong indication that people who are really struggling at Level III — to the point of dysfunction — can get past this stage.)

          Liked by 1 person

  4. The doxxing Twitter warriors seem to be displaying the same kind of bullying mentality & behaviour that they despise within the police force. Both are made of the same stuff – people on each side telling themselves that they are the righteous ones, justified in doing what they do. I have seen within my own country that many people use ‘left activism’ as a way to vent their rage and bullying tendencies in a way that allows them to continue thinking of themselves as ‘good and righteous people’. And that’s just one of the disturbing motivations I’ve seen within left activism.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. Ro and Brad, I see it that way, too. We’ve seen it in movements in the past that were ostensibly for Good, and we know how those turned out. This is why compassion is a sine qua non of organizing for me.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh WOW!!! I had that second picture in my mind all through the ‘campaign’. Thank you for so graphically and historically illustrating what was going on. I am still ‘in’, although too much more at either a local or national level, will have me ‘out’ and I have family ties to DSA, from the very old NAM days to the present.After much hounding, mostly good natured by my sister about DSA being the ‘right place’ for me politically because there was no ‘party line’, I found myself in the middle of the mess you just described. I have done other things to protect myself from dealing with these people online–my ‘friends’ list grew out of people who were asking the same questions and getting booed (or the cyber equivalent) and bullied just as hard. Thank you so much for writing this. Hopefully we can survive to meet up sometime.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Jacqie, thank you for your comment! I was talking about this issue with someone who is an expert on China and wrote about the Cultural Revolution for his master’s thesis, and he said himself that it reminded him of the way the Red Guards behaved. Even if we may not be that bad, I’d rather not get any closer.

      I’m still in, too. I was amazed at how widely this post was shared; though some of those people obviously were not supporters of my thesis, many were. I’m hopeful that this points to growing support and new voices to speak out in favor of what’s been so great and so welcoming about DSA!


  6. Fetonte lied his way onto NPC. He had previously run with his CLEAT affiliation fully disclosed and lost; lo and behold, this time his work organizing cops is euphemistically referred to as “organizing state workers.” What an amazing coincidence.

    He denigrated the legitimate concerns of fellow members by calling them internet know it alls, extremists, etc. He had his wife post a message to DSA Facebook that said the rest of us weren’t fot to carry his “shit bucket.” At no point did he acknowledge that anyone might have a sincere concern about his background or his actions in concealing it, insisting that it was all lies dreamed up by an internet lynch mob.

    He chaired a meeting of Austin DSA that was an absolute sham, introducing and presiding over the vote for a resolution in support of himself that he had written. He ignored stack and only allowed his supporters to speak, treating the mic, the meeting, and the audience as though they were all his personal property. When members of Austin DSA posted recordings of the meeting to the chapter’s twitter account he claimed that the tape had been doctored to make him look bad.

    He retained a lawyer and threatened to sue DSA if the NPC exercised its right to vote him out.

    Despite all of this, NPC voted to allow him to stay. Subsequently, of his own volition, he resigned both his NPC seat and the organization overall. Nobody forced him to do anything. He chose to take his ball and go home because he couldn’t stand being criticized for actions that we all know for a fact he took.

    Danny Fetonte famously does not use Twitter. Pointing to a few posts that are hostile to him and making the leap of logic that these somehow forced him to resign does not pass the laugh test. He was willing to sue DSA to keep his seat, but a few mean posts he never saw on a website he doesn’t use pushed him to the point that he felt so bullied he had no choice but to resign? Comrade, please be serious.

    There is plenty of room in DSA for socdems and people who otherwise disagree with the radicalism of our new members. The vast majority of the chapter statements supporting fetonte’s ouster mentioned that the role of people who’ve done police organizing, etc. is one that is worthy of debate and that the real problem with Danny’s behavior was his choice to eliminate the opportunity for anyone to have that debate by lying about his background.

    Comrade, what you’ve done here is the equivalent of a mainstream news story that aggregates a few tweets in an attempt to ‘prove’ what people on the internet think about something. You’ve completely ignored the nuanced statements voted on and put out by actual chapters in order to cherry pick a few tweets – some of which aren’t even from DSA members! – in an attempt to prove that Fetonte was “bullied” out of the organization. That you do this while ignoring Fetonte’s own tendency to insult anyone who disagrees with him, and throw around his organizing background in a clear attempt to rank out anyone to his left, does not speak well of the sincerity of your concern about so-called bullying. If Fetonte saying that anyone who hasn’t done as much organizing work as him is for neither to have an opinion on this matter nor to “carry his shit bucket” – coming from a newly elected NPC member, not the random accounts you’ve chosen to pull tweets from which, again, are not even comprised entirely of DSA members (the user that was continually posting Fetonte’s phone number is a known DSA-hater who would respond to requests that they delete the posts with Fetonte’s dox with ie, “no, f*** your s****y socdem org”, yet again you’ve portrayed their actions as emanating from within DSA itself) – isn’t bullying then I don’t know what is. If Fetonte’s actions during the Austin DSA meeting where he ran a reverse show-trial on himself don’t show why people have concerns about his character and leadership abilities, I don’t know what does.

    This is an exceptionally one-sided telling of the story, where a 30-plus year organizer is “forced” to quit the organization entirely because some accounts he doesn’t know exist made some mean tweets that he never saw. Also left unmentioned are the issues that his presence on NPC were already causing building coalitions with groups like Defend Our Hoodz (Austin) and BLM, the latter of whom had an organizer at an NYC rally call out the Fetonte situation by name as a reason his group felt mistrustful of DSA going forward. To leave all of this out while hinging your argument on Andrew random tweets hardly speaks well of your willingness to really examine the totality of what went on here, as does your invocation of the now-familiar internet trope where anyone who receives harsh criticism of their actions is necessarily being “bullied.” This is a cheap strawman designed to deligitimize the concerns of thousands of members, represented as they are by the dozens of chapters that issued statements against Fetonte, and I hope anyone thinking about joining DSA will not take your word as Gospel on what’s going on within the org.

    Your contention that Fetonte left the organization through anything but his own free will is false, and your decision to down play and excuse his own abusive (sorry, “defensive”) actions here hints that your concern is not about the general issue of so-called bullying in the org as a whole, but displeasure that Fetonte ultimately left of his own free will because he could not tolerate having his actions criticized.

    Fetonte wanted due process and he got it. He wanted a vote allowing him to keep his NPC seat and he got that as well. Getting everything he asked for was not good enough for him, so he resigned of his own free will. He abused both his comrades in the org and his power as co chair of Austin DSA. Some people on Twitter posted things that he never saw, because again, he does not use Twitter. To post a long blog where you go so far as to use a five-dollar synonym for frankness in order to show how seriously you take being honest about this while omitting the parts of Fetonte’s behavior that you don’t outright defend, and using a half dozen cherry picked tweets to conjure an image of a crowd of berserk Communists tearing Fetonte apart while ignoring all the nuanced chapter statements, Medium posts, etc. that would have shown the situation to be more complex and rationally-handled than the picture you’re painting, is incredibly dishonest and unbecoming.

    If you want to “Stan” for Fetonte, as the internet-bully lingo goes, feel free. Just don’t pull out the thesaurus to artificially bolster the idea that you’re being even handed while you do it. Your post is anything but.


    1. Jeez, Proud Internet Bully, it would be so cool if you would read and research as closely and carefully as you are claiming the author should. One small example: The post that Danny’s wife shared in which people persecuting Danny are not worthy of carrying his shit bucket was actually written by a good friend of Danny’s, not Danny himself.

      Another small example: The author acknowledges there was more to this that the twitter bullying. “To be clear up front: others who are not Twitter trolls shared their general view and had legitimate points that deserved to be (and were) heard.”

      The bigger problem that people like to ignore, in favor of bonding over pillorying Danny Fetonte and law enforcement, is how this shitshow got started. We could have had an open, clean conflict over the role of law enforcement in a democratic socialist society, and the role of people who work in law enforcement in our movement. But we didn’t. Why was that?

      Some people were circulating false rumors that Danny was a cop while people were filling out their ballots for the NPC on AT THE CONVENTION. Check out this article:


      Here’s some salient lines from the article:

      “Don’t vote for him. He’s a cop”.

      Turns out, comrade Danny’s claim to have “organized state workers in Texas” left out a crucial bit of information: some of those state workers were police officers during his time organizing with CLEAT.

      I quickly changed my ballot.”

      Hmm, let’s ponder why no one thought of raising the issue publicly and directly with Danny or to the newly elected NPC or even the entire convention, while the convention was happening. That would have been the way to handle this situation productively, as people who are committed to DSA and to building a movement for social justice.

      Imagine: people could have asked Danny directly about his involvement with CLEAT, what his years working with CLEAT meant to him, his thoughts on ending police brutality and abolishing police and prisons, and what he, Danny, stood for and hoped to accomplish on DSA’s NPC. Instead, they resorted to the sleazy, cowardly, manipulative tactic of spreading inflammatory and misleading info on social media first…info that understandably incensed people horrified by police brutality and mass incarceration. It deliberately pushed their buttons.

      And then people who should have been capable of critical thinking let themselves be easily led. Led into vilifying–and continuing to vilify–a decent human being, and anyone who objects to his demonization and dehumanization. Who profits from this situation?

      The notion that Danny would hide anything in order to win a seat on the oh-so-powerful National Political Committee of DSA is ludicrous. It isn’t in line with his character or his style–as you may have noticed. He isn’t cowardly or manipulative and doesn’t use those tactics. That deviousness is more the province of some slick folks (many with elite educational credentials and plenty of cultural capital ) who have been leading the charge against Danny. These are people who use all the fashionable lefty lingo, hide their true emotions and motives, and smile and make people think they are doing ’em a favor while they are actually knifing ’em in the back. People who have the cultural capital that the upper-middle class and elites value tend to mess people over with the written word, via contracts and documents and snarky social media posts and tweets. Those tactics, and passive aggression, are so much more subtle and CLASSY.

      The irony: after the slick types lecture everyone about intersectional analysis and tone policing, they and their followers go on to tone police Danny–a working-class guy who doesn’t talk about organizing for justice, but actually does it. Successfully. It is so unseemly for him to get visibly angry and combative after he’s been unjustly attacked! How uncomradely! How un-leader-like! (READ: “We like the working class in theory, but not in practice. Not when they don’t fit into our neat abstract notions of what they should think, say, and do.”)

      I appreciate the author’s sharing her observations. And I respect her for the fact that she doesn’t hide behind social media handles.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. While I considered not approving this comment because it doesn’t hold up to the eunoia plank in my comment policy, I made an exception in part so that people could hear more of your side, and in part so that I could have a chance to respond to accusations made by someone holding your stance, even though you may not see them yourself since you didn’t leave a real email address. So here goes:

      It is indeed true that the story was more complex than I listed here. Indeed, when listing the things I glossed over, you didn’t note all the examples of things supporting my argument that I left out, such as the attacks on not only Danny, but on Austin DSA members. But I chose to create a brief synopsis because trying to write a full overview of the whole scandal was going to make this a very unwieldy blog post. And the story that I wrote here is, I think, pretty faithful to the way that the members of DSA who are now feeling anxiety about being in the organization see it, which is my main point; it particularly focuses on the tenor of the conversation directed at him right from the start, when I saw this erupt on Twitter early in the morning after the convention, before he had a chance to react in the ways you are now faulting him for. So the attacks on him weren’t based on those things, and it makes me wonder how anyone else might behave under those circumstances. I certainly welcome others stating if they disagree with this take. (By the way, it seems that you may have missed that my reference to parrhesia was an invitation to other people to practice it.) To respond to your accusation of “cherry picked” tweets, I actually had many, many more tweets included in previous drafts of this post, but they didn’t add much substance beyond just pointing out more meanness, so I cut out all but the few that advanced the broader points I was trying to make about the climate and how many perceive this as intimidating. I trusted that those within DSA would have seen plenty of others, while those who hadn’t could focus on the broader point.

      I think some of your other comments have been addressed quite well in other replies, so I’ll leave this here.


  7. Joe – This sort of nonsense is what drives me away from ‘socialist’ organizations. I appreciate your views and think they are sensible. Two comments: (1) The Orwellian language (“socdems” etc) of the critics here, their intransigence, and their seeming inability to acknowledge the importance of basic forms of legitimate opposition are totally off-putting and bound to alienate potential members or allies. So, you don’t like someone on the governing board? Watch them carefully and hold them accountable if they slip up. Run against her or him at the next chance. Or prove malfeasance by required standards. Or whatever! But hectoring is out of bounds. And (2) and example of the sort of people you might want to recruit are precisely people who worked in finance and so have an understanding of the laws and regulations etc governing that sector. I am thinking here of the folks who formed Occupy the SEC and intervened productively inthe rule making process re: Dodd-Frank and the Volker rule. Sure this is likely to be considered bourgeois bullshit, or purely formal democracy, or whatever, but the way rules are made and interpreted makes a difference to many many people in terms of (say) whether the banks can or cannot legally speculate with their savings. But those folks at Occupy the SEC worked for Wall Street firms! … You see where that is going. Best. Jim

    Liked by 2 people

      1. No apology necessary; you got a laugh out of me there! Thanks for sharing your thoughts here, Jim. It’s good to hear what this sounds like to sympathetic outsiders.


  8. Excellent and well written piece. I too wrote a similar article (although not as well done) at mindofmcgarr.wordpress.com. I completely agree with you. And what I find more troubling is how many people are excusing thr bullying, harrassment, doxxing (e.g. end justifies the means so they don’t care) and ignoring very real concerns by members.

    Hell, I was verbally assaulted by another member on chapter slack over those same concerns about purges and how we handle internal issues. And the result was… nothing really. I never got feedback from leadership. Mentioning the need for a Code of Conduct was met with a “no we really don’t”. So, we have at least tacit OK of harrasment, bullying, doxxing. It really doesn’t surprise me many of these same people OK with this conduct (or not wanting to stop it) are fans of Chapo. I couldn’t get through 5 minutes of that.

    DSA is at a crossroads. Is it an org about building an egalitatian, justice based, peaceful Socialist future… Or is it a bunch of angry people wanting a turn at being the subjugators.

    I really hope we can rein in the vitrol so it’s channeled appropriately and constructively… Otherwise I will have to step away.

    This whole thing was handled all sorts of wrong. And unfortunately the people who need to learn these lessons are already with fingers in ears.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. “Is it an org about building an egalitarian, justice based, peaceful Socialist future…Or a bunch of angry people wanting a turn at being the subjugators?” That is a good, concise way of expressing some questions that have been rolling around in my mind.

      I don’t expect DSA to always feel comfortable, but finding productive ways to deal with dissent and conflict while still moving the world a bit closer to our ideals was something that our organization always strove for. Do people still want that? I think when people have a concrete project to work on, people don’t cling to labels and advancing their ideologies as much.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks very much for this comment! I completely agree with your take, and I’m sorry to hear that you face this kind of attitude on your chapter’s Slack. I’d be very much in favor of a Code of Conduct–and would suggest that it extends to any real DSA members who are identifying themselves as such on Twitter or other public fora. Even if we can’t enforce it there, if we could promote a culture in which people didn’t put up with this kind of behavior (i.e., not necessarily being upset about Danny’s background per se or wondering if he deliberately concealed it, but the way the info was spread, the belligerence, etc.), it would increase our resistance to people who aren’t actual DSA members and just want to make us look bad. Among other benefits!

      I’ve never listened to Chapo myself. I feel like maybe I should, to be aware of what other people are judging the Left by, but…well, there are so many other practical organizing tasks to do, and I just haven’t gotten around to it….


      1. I don’t think you’d enjoy Chapo. It’s millionaires trying to approach socialism in the way Opie and Anthony or “The Drunken Peasants” would, which is fine if you’re into that kind of low brow, crassness but if you want something serious, it’s to be avoided.

        Liked by 2 people

  9. One of the most repressive parts of the Taft-Hartley Act was Section 9(b)(3), which prevents guards from organizing with non-guards. The Republicans in 1947 were terrified that socialist ideology would infect the protectors of capitalist order, not the other way around. But Left Voice seems to think that Taft and Hartley were wrong. If they knew what was good for capitalism, Taft-Hartley would have encouraged guards and cops to organize with everyone else, because according to Left Voice socialist solidarity is powerless to have any effect on them. Instead, the slightest contact with anyone working a police or guard job, no matter how progressive they are, will make the entire movement turn into a pumpkin. That’s a telling sign that Left Voice does not genuinely intend to create a revolutionary movement. They just get off on trolling anyone that does, using the tactics of personal destruction that Breibart apparently learned from the Sparts.

    So why stop at cops? The American labor movement was born as the infrastructure for FDR’s war machine. Every CIO union is intimately connected with the military-industrial complex. Nuclear weapons are 100% UAW- and IAM-made. The Mine Workers, OCAW and the Building Trades all depend on carbon pollution, nuclear power, and environmental destruction. So why isn’t Left Voice demanding the purge of anyone connected with any industrial union? If socialism is so weak it can’t handle cops, why can it handle coal miners? In fact, why bother with the actual American working class at all, if DSA exists just to spit on those who are insufficiently intersectional?

    Sometimes I wonder if these guys are Russian bots. Seriously.

    And by the way, Joe, one of the perks of being an anarchist is you never have to worry about getting thrown out of your organization. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Michael, thanks for your comment. This is an important point in the discussion about police unions that’s going on. If it weren’t for the hostility directed at a decent human being, it would have been a great discussion.


      1. If by moving leftward, it meant become an independent socialist force, then yes. But this commentator probably means adopting ultraleft stances, which will just alienate people from the organization as some fringe crazy group, like what happened with Occupy.

        Liked by 2 people

  10. This piece repeats the incorrect information that CLEAT is affiliated with CWA. If you would take strong issue with those who called Danny “a cop” (in earnest or otherwise among peers), you should address this apparently contagious falsehood. The following is a statement from CLEAT’s then-president Chris McGill, made in 2012, apparently during Danny’s tenure with that organization:

    “LIE #2. In this same city, another rumor started that CLEAT is affiliated with organized labor. The fact is that CLEAT was affiliated with the Communication Workers back in the 1990s but dropped the affiliation many years ago. Whoever started this silly rumor clearly hasn’t been paying attention.” (source: http://docplayer.net/amp/38235384-The-texas-police-star-a-publication-of-the-combined-law-enforcement-associations-of-texas.html )

    CLEAT vigorously denounced involvement with CWA and in fact the entire labor movement during Danny’s time there. The reason for this should be clear: CLEAT sees any perception that it is foremost a labor union is a threat to its primary activity of reactionary political advocacy.

    Regardless of whether your interpretation of that statement leads you to this same conclusion or a conclusion that excuses it, you should not claim that Mr. Fetonte nor CLEAT was a part of CWA during his tenure there, and encourage your comrades to pursue the correct information before inadvertently spreading what Chris McGill calls a “lie” and a “silly rumor”. This misrepresentation is an insult to the good work of CWA, and its prevalence among Mr. Fetonte’s defenders is evidence that they have been grossly misled by those closest to him.


  11. I think the issues in this debacle are multiple. One is an influx of Millennials who are either unwilling to draw lines with communists and anarchists about democratic socialism (OK, born after 1990, but please read something about the 20th century), or who flirt with communist or anarchist symbols and memes (anyone wade into the cesspool of hammers and sickles in Facebook’s “Dank DSA Memes” Group? – I did), or, as with the recently announced Communist Caucus, are in fact Communists or anarchists. Danny was correct to note that these folks were instrumental in the campaign of vilification. I don’t mind the anarchists so much, and they have organized a “Libertarian Socialist” caucus that I think could provide some interesting ideological diversity. But I’ve been in DSA for 37 years, and the idea of our “big tent” being exploited by MLers, organized entryists or not, is a direct contradiction to my understanding of the parameters of democratic socialist thought.

    Second there is a lot of generational animus directed at the DSA “old guard” for alleged political failings (for instance membership in the “neoliberal” SI), and Danny was a sacrificial goat for those sins. Old Guard “Harringtonites” have been bending over backward to welcome and celebrate the Millennial influx, mindful of the tragic divorce between the Socialist Party and SLID/SDS that Harrington’s anti-Communism helped trigger. (Although remember that it only took SDS eight years to turn from democratic socialism into a splatterfest of ML sects and the Weathermen. So Harrington’s suspicions about anti-anti-communism were vindicated IMHO.) Because of this history, a lot of Boomer DSAers have been biting back criticisms of jarring new politics, looking on the bright side of explosive growth and visibility, and trying to not be crotchety. Danny came off pretty crotchety, and I wish he had comported himself better because he played into generational suspicion. But I doubt I would have done better under this torrent of abuse.

    Third, there is the abrupt and unexamined onboarding of the police/prison abolition idea, which I thought was harmless utopianism until it was immediately used as a rationale for hounding Danny. We need to re-visit this issue between now and 2019, and have a serious debate that isn’t knee-capped by protestations that the supposedly monolithic BLM won’t like us if we don’t sign on. The vast majority of people of color would not welcome proposals to replace police with armed block committees, and none of our elected officials or endorsed candidates will be running on platforms of removing police from their neighborhoods or emptying prisons, as opposed to police and prison reform/accountability/decarceration. Nor is it conceivable in any push-comes-to-shove revolutionary situation that “popular forces” can win without significant allies in the police and military, and you don’t get there from here. Short of needing cops on our side when we storm Mar-a-Lago, if abolition folks are thinking that the goal is Norwegian criminal justice, and that Scandanavian cops and prisons aren’t “cops” or “prisons”, then we can probably find some kind of compromise. (And tankies, please read your Lenin on how quickly the state is supposed to “wither” and what he thought that meant.)

    At least the Momentum caucus voted to just censure (with a political microstory I’d love to hear, since their allies in DSA chapters around the country had already demanded Danny be expelled), which was the best compromise possible, although still galling, and which allowed Danny to resign. But yes, it all is disheartening and bodes ill. I remain hopeful that the majority of folks in DSA, most of them not in radical urban enclaves on the coasts, can mobilize to uphold the politics and comradely behavior that I learned from DSA.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As an outsider, I largely agree with your analysis. However, DSA will end up belonging not to whoever has the most support among working and oppressed people but to whomever fights hardest for it. So far, the ‘old guard’ — including people in the national leadership — completely capitulated and rolled over in the face of … social media bullying.

      Fetonte would have done a better job handling this crap if he had some backing but there was none; he was completely and thoroughly betrayed by a leadership that repeatedly disregarded the organization’s own bylaws to appease an un-appease-able lynch mob. His resignation marks a new stage (or qualitative turning point) in the inner-DSA struggle with the ‘left’ communists/anarchists in which your side is no longer represented on the NPC and therefore ya’ll are at a yooj disadvantage from an institutional point of view.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This is another reason I felt compelled to say something. Either there were significant numbers of people out there afraid to say something (and I had evidence that there were at least a few) but were afraid of the mob, or else DSA isn’t the organization it was (or that I thought it was). Thoughtfulness was a major factor that made people become socialists in the first place before the Sanders campaign, and in my experience, the organization largely reflected that and was something that made me want to stay. And then suddenly, that became a liability.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. J. Hughes, I think your analysis is spot-on. You managed to write in a blog comment a take that eluded me as I tried to write a full blog post, which originally was so long and unwieldy that I narrowed it to a single thread. But they really did weave together into quite a strong rope.

      The intergenerational animus baffles me, frankly. (I say this as a Millennial, but one on the older end of that generation, and I think in the DSA sphere, there’s a gap between 80s babies and 90s babies.) But I always looked up to the elder DSA veterans as people who stood up for this cause when it was decidedly unpopular. And yet I hear people essentially blaming these veterans for the rest of their generation–the ones they stood against–selling out. It doesn’t make sense to me.

      As for the prison abolition issue itself, though I touched on that, it’s worth another blog post (or a series, really) to delve into it, but after hearing a lot of thought-provoking arguments on both sides, I see it as you described here. In an earlier draft of this post I had included a conversation I had with a Black man in a blue uniform who chatted with me when I was wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt. It was just one man’s voice, but it was a thought provoking voice. So I want to hear lots more voices on this. I’ve heard people of Color on both sides of the argument, though it’s worth noting that the loudest voices (at least that I could hear where I was standing) were white people. But if I’m going to get into anecdotal supports, I have to do a lot more research to see if they’re representative of any larger point, since I know every group can pull out its representative Black person. What I want to know is simple: how can we best develop a concrete plan for taking on police brutality?

      Thanks for the great comment.


      1. Interesting dichotomy. I’m technically an 80s baby, because I was born at the end of 1989, but since I grew up in the 90s and 2000s, that makes me a 90s/00 baby, yet I seem to agree with the older crowd in DSA far more.


        1. There’s not going to be a clean divide between the two groups generation-wise, but when I say “babies,” I mean literally people born in those decades. I was born in 1982 myself, and I’ve spoken about this with people as young as 1987 (and maybe younger, but I didn’t know their years of birth). You’re the first person I’ve spoken to born in 1989, so maybe you’re evidence that the 89/90 split really does work and isn’t just rhetorically convenient. 🙂 I do know that Bhaskar Sunkara, publisher of Jacobin, was also born in 1989, and I’ve at least seen him mocked on some of the memes, though I’m not familiar enough with the context to make a solid judgment here. So here’s hoping I misinterpreted that, because if people think Bhaskar is the enemy, then we’re really in trouble.

          But of course, it must be said that whether this divide generally holds true or not, older people can ABSOLUTELY agree with the stances I’m attributing to “90s babies,” and people born after Jan. 1, 1990 absolutely can agree with older folks. There’s been so much assumption about people’s views based on their generations (generally “Boomers” vs. “Millennial”), and it’s often wrong. I brought up the divide within Millennials only to highlight that. Generational analysis can be a useful tool, but it’s vastly preferable to actually talk to someone and see what they think and why!


          1. Thanks for the clarification, hope I didn’t add to any confusion.

            “I do know that Bhaskar Sunkara, publisher of Jacobin, was also born in 1989, and I’ve at least seen him mocked on some of the memes, though I’m not familiar enough with the context to make a solid judgment here. So here’s hoping I misinterpreted that, because if people think Bhaskar is the enemy, then we’re really in trouble.”

            I can’t speak for these new members of the DSA, but if they’re anything like the crowd I’ve been describing here, they most certainly hate Sunkara. I remember seeing him at a joint DSA-Socialist Alternative conference and he was questioned on when the Russian Revolution “went wrong” (always the vital question of the day) and he said 1918 or 1919, because he’s a “reformist” (some backstory, the Bolsheviks began shutting down soviets that voted against them in 1918 and began banning opposition parties, which helped trigger the Russian Civil War. By 1919, all pretense of democracy was basically ended, though many freedoms wouldn’t be officially curtailed until 1921.) Remember, Socialist Alternative are Trotskyists, so this is basically like admitting to a Christian you don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead. They were polite to him, but the leftypol internet denizens aren’t, they see him and Jacobin Magazine as “succdems” and “Bernie Sander’s magazine (not honestly that far off from the truth).

            Now I don’t like Jacobin either, albeit for actual reasons that aren’t idiotic, but still. Sunkara and his magazine don’t pass the purity tests of these type of “leftists”

            Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m sorry to hear Danny resigned . I’ve been a member of the Communist Party USA since 1977 and also a member of DSA since January of this year. Danny is a great DSA and Union organizer . His resignation from DSA is a loss which will be hard to be replaced. I consider him a friend and and a friend of the left. On the question of the state and the police Marx made it very clear in the Communist Manifesto that the capitalist state had to be replaced by a workers state. In fact this was the only change he made to his pamphlet. The state in the end are armed bodies of men and women backed up by courts and the bureaucracy using force to insure the rule of the 1 %. Their have been some decent police ,though they are a minority. And yes we will have to have a police force after the revolution. But it will be a police force like the new state ,democratic, and used to protect the 99 %. The state will still use force (otherwise the 1 % will rise up and kill or imprison us all,Chile,Paris Commune,etc.) only now against the capitalists. I don’t believe police unions are real unions. I don’t believe this because they these unions are used to protect abuses their members perpetuate on the working class. Danny was a organizer of state workers which included police. It was the union that did this ,don”t blame Danny for doing his job. Bernard Sampson

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bernard, thanks for sharing some historical context as well as your point of view on this complex situation. It is certainly possible to reject police unions and still see Danny’s departure as a loss to DSA!


      1. No one is perfect,we all make mistakes. That’s being human. Whatever Danny did in the past is far out wade by what he did in building DSA in Texas. By the way is our past without mistakes ? DSA in Austin like Houston had almost no members. We in the CPUSA were many times more active and had usually around 3 times the membership. Here in Houston the CPUSA had around 23 members while DSA had around 6-7 members. Today DSA in Houston has a little over 200 (while the CPUSA has 170). In Austin DSA has over 750 members ! While the CPUSA has around 50. Danny has alot to do with this change in 1 year. I wish he was a member in the CPUSA. It’s important to have the right program but without the numbers the program can not be carried out and thus is only talk and no action. Unity is the key. Even political parties are coalitions of individuals with with different views and back grounds. I don’t agree with my wife on everything but we are still together after 32 years. Like any 2 people or more we must look at where we agree and work together. Compromise or ignore the differences. If you attack or try to force people to agree with you when they really don’t you have only an artificial unity which will break apart at the 1st crisis. Even in the CPUSA we have these problems. Don’t be dogmatic,most differences will be resolved in the results of applying one’s views to the real world and then seeing if it works or not. We need unity to do this. We all have the same goals even though we may disagree on how to achieve it. Lets not treat each other as if we are the enemy. The enemy is in Washington and delights in what is happening in DSA. Unity ,overcoming our differences,and action is what the 1% fear.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Yes, I agree completely, especially with this: “We all have the same goals even though we may disagree on how to achieve it.” We need to remember this above all.


  13. Thanks for this run-down of the DSA drama, it was very informative. I was considering joining the DSA back in 2016 before their massive growth, because it seemed like the only serious socialist group with any potential, and it would be a place I wouldn’t have to wade through tankie and anarchist trolls who want to have their own insular sect instead of actual political organizing, and where I can openly talk about Marxism without someone accusing me of being “impure” because I cite Ralph Miliband and not Fidel Castro. Well, how wrong I was about that!

    All this DSA drama doesn’t surprise me however. Besides the left’s tendency to destroy itself through incessant infighting, the reality is here in the US most of the people who want to do serious political (including electoral) activism and who would be the base for a new democratic socialist party (what I was hoping the DSA would become) have still, rightfully or wrongfully, stuck with the Democrats and have largely entered orgs like the Justice Democrats, leaving groups like the DSA at the mercy of the tiny ultraleft circlejerk to zerg rush into and predictably tear apart. Hopefully enough people in the DSA reject this to save the org or break off and form their own serious democratic socialist org that could have mass appeal, but for the moment I’m not holding my breath.

    I already have experience with these types. I was a “fellow traveler” in the “Marxist” (I put this in quotations because their actual knowledge on Marxism was poor, they’d literally just read a few books from Lenin or Trotsky or Stalin from some org approved book reading list) and communist community on YouTube, where “dank memes” and radical posturing by dudes who couldn’t lift 50 lbs and live off their parents dime dominate. They’ll make videos huffing and puffing about capitalism, but they all have a shared hatred of actual real life political organizing, and just like to congregate on /leftypol/ and twitter to trade Stalin and Bakunin memes and talk about how they hate “socdems” and how much they “pwned” some alt right or conservative person on social media. When I’d engage them with actual Marxist critiques of their views and works, they’d just literally respond with “have you read X” like Mormon missionaries asking if you’ve read the Book of Mormon, that is to say they felt if you disagreed with them, you just haven’t read their holy texts (which was always “State and Revolution” from Lenin or something from Trotsky and Luxemburg, because there’s no possible way you could disagree with them!). When I’d ask if they’ve read Hal Draper, Ralph Miliband, Louis Althusser, Ernest Mandell (a random spattering, I know, but you get my point) or even Karl Marx himself, they’d admit no (none of them knew Marx said it was possible to have a peaceful road to socialism, for example), and in fact would get hostile and tell me to fuck off when I’d recommend actual Marxist literature (for free from Marxists.org) to read so they can gain a further understanding of the nuance of Marxism(s). They also showed extreme hostility to anyone who backed people like Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, PODEMOS in Spain, stuff like that. They hated the few people working in politics for solidarity more than the capitalist class itself. So I concluded that there was nothing to be gained engaging with this small group and they had zero potential to form any kind of online movement of Marxists and socialists to counter the internet “alt right”.

    So when the DSA exploded on the scene, I was excited, now there can be a real org for Marxists to organize online and offline, but when I engaged with DSA members on Reddit and other social media recently, most of them reminded me exactly of the YouTube commie circlejerk that I had just left. It’s the same type of people entering into the DSA, as proven by the most ridiculous demands like “police abolition”. So I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s nothing to be gained joining the DSA as long as it’s run by a lynch mob that will go after me for being an actual democratic socialist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I should also add that I’ve encountered a good number of people online using the term “democratic socialism” to mean an attempt to rehabilitate 20th century “communism” as democratic socialism. It’s becoming so that everyone calls themselves a democratic socialist, even tankies, so the term is losing all meaning in popular discourse.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh, yuck. This is the kind of stuff that we need to get DSA members to go out and try to counter, and why I felt it was worth stirring up the pot and calling out Twitter culture, which I meant to encompass reddit and Facebook groups and the like, too. Those people would need to have nerves of steel, though, as moderators can get pretty burnt out doing this….

      Sadly, what you said about all those positive things about DSA as a serious socialist group with potential were true prior to November 2016; then, it seems, we were taken over by a group with a different approach. I started trying to be more active on Twitter because that seemed the best way to get to know the new folks. But the culture there was off-putting. Same goes for dank memes laden with hammers and sickles (not to mention in-jokes that would alienate any new person who didn’t come in through the same channels). Do we want to change Americans’ minds about (democratic) socialism and build a truly large movement, or do we just want to declare how angry we are, however justifiable that anger? That’s the decision we have to make.

      My hope is that now that the DSA members who aren’t active in these channels are more aware of this situation, we can present a different face. As some of us said to Dana above, it’s understandable why you wouldn’t want to join DSA at the moment, given what you’ve seen. I’m going to stick around for now and see if we can’t do something to make the culture more welcoming to that broad coalition. They were joining during Bernie’s campaign–and not just so-called “Bernie bros!” That was truly a golden year.


      1. I cannot stand any and all social media. I recently tried Reddit again with a throwaway account, and it just taught me how much I hate anonymous social media internet communities and culture. I think in fact they’ve become a detriment to human communication, and so I don’t have a facebook, twitter, reddit or whatever account. I prefer to blog and vlog (on YouTube) and gain an audience receptive to my ideas, instead of just being a voice in a crowd full of idiots who don’t even want to listen. Say what you want about blogging and video blogging, it’s far preferable to social media IMO.

        >>Sadly, what you said about all those positive things about DSA as a serious socialist group with potential were true prior to November 2016; then, it seems, we were taken over by a group with a different approach. I started trying to be more active on Twitter because that seemed the best way to get to know the new folks. But the culture there was off-putting. Same goes for dank memes laden with hammers and sickles (not to mention in-jokes that would alienate any new person who didn’t come in through the same channels). Do we want to change Americans’ minds about (democratic) socialism and build a truly large movement, or do we just want to declare how angry we are, however justifiable that anger? That’s the decision we have to make.<<

        Well, you have to understand the type of people I'm talking about are, for lack of a better term, the "leftypol" (in case you don't know what that is, it's an imageboard on 8chan, a leftist version of the infamous Neo-Nazi leaning /pol/, so you already know something's wrong here. It's pol if pol were tankies to put it simply) and "/r/socialism" types who don't actually believe in trying to change peoples minds, to them socialism and leftism in general are exclusive clubs of theirs that they want to hang out in. You have to understand that these types are largely seclusive ultra nerdy types (I say this as one of those rare nerds who isn't seclusive) who spend all their time playing video games and eating junk food and hate "normal people" who they dub "normies", which just means people who don't spend all their time on the internet trading "dank memes" and trolling people. This is proven by the fact that their two biggest hangouts, leftypol and /r/socialism had a schism over…whether they could post anime porn or not. Do I really need to say anything more? This is the reason tankies and anarchists are so visible in left wing circles online, it's not because these ideas are all of a sudden gaining popularity in society, it's because these types know the internet in and out and know how to get noticed and seen on it, the same with the internet neo-nazis. It can give off the false impression that left wing groups are just becoming unrealistic, crazy extremists. People who are into democratic socialism seem to tend not to be reclusive super nerdy types, which also should tell you something. I could go on and on about this, but I don't want to bore you with all this.

        If you need a more direct example, you can visit the small far left community on YouTube. Just look up "Xexizy" (a Trot), "TheFinnishBolshevik" (a Stalinist), "BadMouseProductions" (an anarcho-communist) to name a few, and it's just people making videos about which part of the USSR (or Anarchist Catalonia) was paradise on Earth, how much "succdems" suck, how gulags and secret police are funny and awesome, how Lenin and/or Stalin "dindu nuffin" and of course, video shitfights about whether Stalin was a socialist or not. All of these people promote extremely toxic views out of touch with reality but they make up most of the YouTube "left of center" scene, the only alternative on there are center-left Democrat types. And as for "democratic socialism" these types in fact hate democratic socialism and while some (Xexizy for example) will give it a bit of lip service to try to win some people over (he made a video praising Jeremy Corbyn when he actually hates the guy and thinks of him as a "class traitor"), they all think democratic socialists are evil traitors who will murder any "real socialists" first chance they get, and unless you're forming a police state that's massacring people and crushing all opposition, you're not a real socialist. This is something tankies and trots largely both agree on deep down, which is why Trots IMO are actually just tankies as well. Anyway…

        As for joining the DSA, I might actually join my local chapter (I live in Orange County, California) anyway just to see what happens. It will at least give me material to blog and vlog about.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I agree with you about social media. In fact, one of the draft posts I have to this blog is a “get off my lawn!” style reflection about the Internet in the 1990s and what I think was great about it, and how we might be able to get it back. I think blogs are the closest thing to keeping that tradition alive. I’ve been making an effort to spend most of my free Internet time on blogs and on social media as little as possible (after my efforts in Twitter were a dismal failure, measured first and foremost by my optimism about not only socialism but the world in general). I’ve contemplated cutting the cord entirely, but I do have a lot of family on Facebook, and it’s a good way to get traffic to my blog, but…yeah. Even then I’m not sure it’s worth it. An email list might work just as well for that.

          Have you read Kill All Normies? I thought it was great. It inspired another of my recent posts: https://counternarration.wordpress.com/2017/08/16/could-there-be-negative-levels-of-development/ A lot of that will sound like psychobabble if you’re not familiar with the Theory of Positive Disintegration, but I guess the ideas are clear enough. My broader point is that I’d like to do a more in-depth examination of on-line culture, and I’m glad that there are authors out there working on it already.

          Join DSA! We can never have too many thoughtful people. You can always quit later if the type of people you describe here seem to have an unshakeable grip on power.

          (Re: your post above, oh, geez. So they do think Bhaskar is the enemy. Okay, that’s good to know. That brings things into focus a bit more, even on top of your description here, about which I’ll have more to say momentarily in a thread above.)


          1. “I agree with you about social media. In fact, one of the draft posts I have to this blog is a “get off my lawn!” style reflection about the Internet in the 1990s and what I think was great about it, and how we might be able to get it back. I think blogs are the closest thing to keeping that tradition alive. I’ve been making an effort to spend most of my free Internet time on blogs and on social media as little as possible (after my efforts in Twitter were a dismal failure, measured first and foremost by my optimism about not only socialism but the world in general). I’ve contemplated cutting the cord entirely, but I do have a lot of family on Facebook, and it’s a good way to get traffic to my blog, but…yeah. Even then I’m not sure it’s worth it. An email list might work just as well for that.”

            I understand where you’re coming from. I recently tried Reddit as I mentioned above, and it was a nightmare. I got rid of Facebook a few years ago in fact, because I saw no use for it, as I was mostly just contacting people I knew IRL. I don’t even have a twitter account. Granted, the people closest in my life also don’t use social media, or don’t care that I don’t, making it far easier to not use it, but I still think social media is a detriment. I want to make a video or a blog post about this in the future, probably a YouTube video and go into all the details on why I think it’s such a detriment.

            That being said, I think interconnectivity via stuff like vlogging and blogging is actually a good thing, and very much “Web 1.0” if you get my drift. One problem IMO with social media is how byzantine it makes people, everyone gets their own social media corner, complete with an echo chamber and there’s no actual human interaction. Creating content to reach a wider audience is the exact opposite, whether its a podunk blog or a video channel with mass appeal. It’s an odd contradiction, because on the other hand, people share their entire personal lives online. I’m now probably not even making any sense so I’ll stop.

            “Have you read Kill All Normies? I thought it was great. It inspired another of my recent posts: https://counternarration.wordpress.com/2017/08/16/could-there-be-negative-levels-of-development/ A lot of that will sound like psychobabble if you’re not familiar with the Theory of Positive Disintegration, but I guess the ideas are clear enough. My broader point is that I’d like to do a more in-depth examination of on-line culture, and I’m glad that there are authors out there working on it already.”

            I haven’t, and will read your post and the book itself, and will be reading your blog from now on, as you seem to cover interesting topics. Thanks for the suggestion.

            “Join DSA! We can never have too many thoughtful people. You can always quit later if the type of people you describe here seem to have an unshakeable grip on power.”

            I’m going to sign up, unlike the sectarian groups like Socialist Alternative, there is no interview process or vetting process, it is truly a big tent entering in, which I like. Of course, if what I read is true about some DSA chapters, they may try to water that down or remove it, since one chapter has apparently adopted “democratic centralism”, which is just…lol. That being said, despite all that’s happened, I still see the DSA as the best chance right now to form a nationwide socialist party, which is my main goal politically, so of course I want to join.

            “(Re: your post above, oh, geez. So they do think Bhaskar is the enemy. Okay, that’s good to know. That brings things into focus a bit more, even on top of your description here, about which I’ll have more to say momentarily in a thread above.)”

            Oh well, yeah. Most of the people I see, at least the loudest ones, are the kind of leftists who will find Sunkara and his Jacobin effort to be a useless “social democrat” effort and treat it like a shitstain. Sunkara after all is a self-admitted “reformist socialist” who even is friendly to the idea of socialists running in Democratic Party primaries, was enthusiastic from day one about Bernie Sanders (most of these leftists dismissed Sanders as a fraud or a loser, or are newbs entering in that type of leftist sphere), and says Finland is his destination, not Soviet Russia or Cuba or whatever. If you want, I can go more into detail here or elsewhere, I have a lot of experience with the far far far left, especially Trots.


          2. *most of these leftists dismissed Sanders as a fraud or a loser at first

            Most of them, even the tankies, began embracing Sanders when it looked like he would win, they’re total opportunists.


    1. Not at all! Your comments are great. I’m just moderating comments on this post in the hopes of discouraging trolls and flame wars (and then was away from my computer for a while).


    1. “The only way a cop won’t be racist or oppressive is when they are out of our communities.”

      Then why don’t they go to the people of Austin, or the people of their neighborhood and ask them if they want no police whatsoever? They don’t because they know what the answer is going to be. They don’t give two shits about forming a mass movement, they just want a LARPing sect club, which is why I suspect sooner than later the DSA is going to be facing splits, between those who want to be serious and those who don’t.

      “Many of those excusing Fetonte try to claim that ‘he’s done good work’, while separating him from his pig union work. This is liberalism and opportunism in action.”

      Lenin actually wrote about this kind of mentality in his screed against “Left Wing Communism”. I’m not a Leninist but it’s a good read on this topic.


  14. This is a bit random, but I did some searching about the DSA’s latest election and found this interview: https://theclarionmag.org/2017/08/31/dsab/ where I saw this quote:

    “There were several motions that would have moved DSA to the left on the question of independent political action. Two (I was involved with both) would have had DSA take a more critical attitude toward the progressive Democratic Party organizations such as Indivisible, MoveOn.org, and Our Revolution. A third would have had DSA become a political party and run its own candidates. And a fourth would have had DSA endorse the Draft Berne on a People’s Platform movement. The first two and the last one failed, the third one was table, so none was adopted. Speakers from DSA longtime leadership as well as newer leaders all opposed Trump, the Republicans, and the neoliberal Democrats, and most members seem to be prepared to back progressive Democrats, socialists running as Democrats, and independent socialist candidates. There is not much enthusiasm in DSA for the Green Party. I think that – in my view unfortunately – DSA will continue as it has in previous decades (whether officiall or unofficially) to end up backing not only socialist Democrats and progressive Democrats, but almost any Democrat standing against a Republican. I hope that future debates over candidate endorsements will lead more DSA members to become more critical of the Democratic Party and more interested in building an independent alternative.”

    So becoming a political party and running your own candidates is way too radical, but police abolition isn’t? You see what I mean? It’s an organization that’s adopting a bunch of ultraleft fluff positions that will just turn people away, but rejects any real radical moves. I’m not even saying the DSA was wrong to reject this, though personally I admit I’d want them to become their own independent socialist party, but it’s really funny that stuff like this was too far but a police free no law’s society isn’t. Makes you think.


    1. “The ‘abolition of the state’ is one of the oldest ideas in the history of social dissent, older and more primitive than either socialism or anarchism as ideology or movement. …

      “Anti-statism in general (like the later anarchism) has flourished best among individual and isolated producers, like peasants and handicraftsmen and home workers, who do not readily see the connections between their own personal labour and the work of society. In this limited framework, the state is only an alien intruder. By the same token, the hoped-for ‘abolition of the state’ appears to be a matter only of will and force: one flourish of the knife and the useless cancer is lopped off the body of productive society. …

      “Anti-statism appears also in less generalized form as blanket hatred and distrust of laws (even more of lawyers and law-men) and of officialdom, the representatives of the alien state. Away with laws, down with officials, abolish the state – these are the oldest slogans in the class struggle.

      “While many states have been overthrown, the state has never been ‘abolished’. From the Marxist viewpoint, the reason is clear: the state has been a social necessity. Primitive discontent is unable to offer any substitute for the state’s indispensable positive functions, no matter how strong a mass movement it gathers or how often it wins. The state conquers its conquerors as long as society cannot do without it. (The so-called ‘iron law of oligarchy’ is a statement about most of the past; it has nothing to say about the future).

      “As soon as primitive anti-statism ceases to be merely negative, as soon as it even raises the question of what is to replace the state, it has always been obvious that the state, ‘abolished’ in fancy, has to be reintroduced in some other form. It is sometimes amusing and always instructive to see how true this is even of ‘anarchist’ utopias, where the pointed ears of a very authoritarian state poke out as soon as there is a hint about the positive organization of society.”

      – Hal Draper, “The Death of the State in Marx and Engels.”



  15. Left Voice writes: “It is impossible for a police officer to act as the armed wing of the capitalist state and, simultaneously, work to overturn capitalism.”

    Exactly and that’s also exactly why you need members and leaders like Fetonte to succeed – because that contradiction must be pressed.

    Liked by 2 people

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