Socialist Alternative Constitution
1. AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
Socialist Alternative is a revolutionary Marxist organisation. We stand for the overthrow of capitalism and the construction of a world socialist system. International revolution, led by the working class, is the only means to this end. All of the activities, policies, structures, and resources of the organisation are subordinated to this aim and designed to serve it.
The working class can only seize political power and overcome the resistance of the capitalist class if it has, in its great majority, broken from the policies of the openly pro-capitalist parties and from the reformist forces that represent capital within the workers’ movement. Similarly, the only means by which the workers movement can seize power is by pitting against the might of the capitalist state machine an equally cohered and centralised force. For this, a revolutionary party is needed, consisting of the most advanced sections of the workers’ movement, cohered around a revolutionary program. Our aim is to contribute to the construction of such a party in Australia. To that end we are building an organisation that both promotes Marxist ideas and also attempts to act in solidarity with, build and lead struggles of workers and the oppressed.
2. MEMBERSHIP RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS
2.1.1 Subject to 2.1.4, a member is a person who supports and advances the aims and objectives of Socialist Alternative (herein after ‘the Organisation’), accepts its Constitution, rules, principles and policies, pays dues and any financial levies struck by the Organisation and has been admitted to membership by an appropriate responsible body.
2.1.2 If an applicant for membership cannot conveniently attend any branch, a national body may admit them to membership-at-large.
2.1.3 Applicants for membership who have previously been a member of the Organisation, or are current or recently past members of a rival political organisation, must have their application approved by a national body.
2.1.4 National bodies can overturn decisions about membership made by local bodies or take control of membership applications.
2.1.5 Disputes about members’ financial status or eligibility to be National Conference delegates which have not been resolved at a branch level shall be decided upon by the Financial Disputes Committee. This body shall consist of two experienced members elected by National Conference plus one appointee of the National Executive. Decisions of this body can only be appealed to National Conference.
2.1.6 The appropriate leadership body may lapse a person’s membership, after discussion with the member concerned where possible, when the member falls more than 3 months behind in their dues, or fails to attend organisational activities for 6 months.
2.1.7 Members may resign at any time by communicating their resignation to any body of the Organisation.
2.2 Rights and obligations
2.2.1 Members are required to support and advance the aims and objectives of the Organisation, and defend it against class enemies and political rivals.
2.2.2 In general, members are required to actively help build the Organisation, sell its publications and participate in its regular activities. Members who work are required to be a member of the relevant trade union and fight for a
class-struggle policy in their workplace and their union. Members are required to pay their regular dues and any financial levies struck by the Organisation.
2.2.3 Members have the right to attend, speak and be heard in their branch and district meetings. Members have the right to write and distribute documents that do not imperil the security of the Organisation. Members have the right to be advised of decisions affecting their membership.
2.2.4 Financial members have the right to move and vote on motions. Financial members have the right to vote in elections for and to stand for leadership bodies and National Conference delegate positions. A financial member
is one who is up to date with their dues payments and levies and does not have other outstanding financial obligations to the Organisation.
2.2.5 In general, members are expected to implement the decisions of the Organisation, and their political activities are under the direction of the relevant responsible bodies. Members who strongly disagree with a decision of the Organisation shall be encouraged to actively implement the decision in order to test it in practice. If they cannot, they shall not sabotage the decision. Subject to 2.2.1 members have the right to publicly express disagreement with decisions and policies of the Organisation.
2.2.6 Members have the right to form an openly declared faction on any program consistent with the aims and objectives of the Organisation. Factions are expected to publish their program as soon as possible after formation. Factions are expected to seek to realise their program by submitting it to the appropriate National Conference or relevant decision-making body of the Organisation.
3. ORGANISATIONAL STRUCTURE
3.1.1 The basic unit of the Organisation is the branch. A branch is a group of three or more members, organised by locality or, in the case of larger districts or cities, divided up according to location, workplace, campus, industry, or whatever combination of these or other considerations the district committee or a higher body considers appropriate.
3.1.2 Branches shall be formed, recognised, and/or dissolved by district or national bodies in line with political objectives determined by National Conference. Any decision to dissolve a branch is subject to review by the next National Conference.
3.1.3 Decisions of branches are made by a simple majority vote of financial members of that branch at a branch meeting. Votes are taken by a show of hands. Abstentions are neither counted nor considered.
3.1.4 Branches have the power to elect a branch leadership (the branch committee) to organise and lead the work of the branch. Branches have the power to direct that leadership and to make decisions about activity and policy within the confines of the agreed policies and perspectives of the Organisation as a whole.
3.1.5 Branches and other bodies of the Organisation may adopt policies, rules and procedures as long as these do not contradict policies, rules and procedures set out by higher bodies.
3.1.6 Branches have the right to pass motions approving, objecting to, or demanding changes in policies of the
3.1.7 Where national bodies have appointed branch organisers, branches have the right to reject them and request another. If national bodies delegate the appointment of organisers to branches, those branches have the power of appointment and dismissal.
3.1.8 Branch meetings should follow the Organisation’s general rules for meetings.
3.2.1 In a city with more than one branch, a national body can constitute a number of branches into a district.
3.2.2 The primary decision making body of a district is an aggregate meeting of members in that district.
3.2.3 Decisions of district aggregate meetings are made by simple majority vote of financial members of that district aggregate meeting. Votes are taken by show of hands. Abstentions are neither counted nor considered.
3.2.4 A district aggregate meeting has the power to elect and direct a district committee. A district committee has the same relationship to district aggregate meetings that branch committees have to branch meetings.
3.2.5 A district committee or district aggregate meeting can overrule a decision of a constituent branch. Decisions of district committees can be overruled by a district aggregate meeting or a national body.
3.3 National bodies
3.3.1 The supreme decision-making body of the Organisation is the National Conference. It has the right to make and amend the Constitution, rules, principles and policies of the Organisation.
3.3.2 National Conference is to be convened by the National Executive no more than 18 months after the previous National Conference. For an ordinary National Conference, the National Executive must give a minimum of two months’ notice, and must organise a regular discussion bulletin to which all members may contribute, in
the lead-up to National Conference. An extraordinary National Conference can be called at shorter notice by either the National Committee or a petition of one-third of members. If an extraordinary National Conference is called by either the National Committee or a petition of one-third of members, the National Executive must convene a National Conference in accordance with the decisions of the National Committee or petition of one- third of members.
3.3.3 National Conference consists of delegates elected by their branches or districts, using the slate system, plus the outgoing National Executive. The number of delegates per branch or district is determined by a series of ratios of members to delegates, varying according to the size of the branch or district, which shall be set by the National Executive before the elections.
3.3.4 Every member of National Conference has one vote. Proxies are not permitted. Branches or districts do not have the power to mandate delegates.
3.3.5 All National Conference decisions, including changes to the Constitution, are made by a simple majority vote.
3.3.6 National Conference is responsible for the election of national bodies to lead the Organisation between National Conferences.
3.3.7 National Conference shall elect a National Executive to co-ordinate and lead the work of the Organisation.
3.3.8 The National Executive shall consist of members elected by National Conference using the slate system.
3.3.9 The National Executive is responsible for the implementation of the policies and perspectives of the Organisation, the decisions of National Conference and the National Committee. It is responsible for finances and the administration of the Organisation’s property. Between National Conferences and meetings of the National Committee, the National Executive has the power to make and amend the rules and policies of the Organisation, so long as they do not contradict the Constitution or clear decisions of the National Conference or National Committee. It is responsible for publications, the national office, international liaison, staffing, national allocation of resources and representation of the Organisation. The National Executive is responsible for maintaining the orderly functioning of the Organisation, defending its Constitution and principles and ensuring its security.
3.3.10 National Conference shall elect a National Committee, which is superior to the National Executive. Unlike the National Executive, the National Committee is not a day to day leadership body, but between National Conferences, the National Committee has the power to make and amend the rules and policies of the Organisation, so long as these do not contradict the Constitution or clear decisions of the National Conference. A National Committee meeting can be called at any time by the National Executive, a National Conference or a petition of one-third of the members or a majority of National Committee members. The National Committee shall consist of the National Executive plus members elected by National Conference using the slate system. The number of National Committee members shall be determined by National Conference prior to submission and voting on National Committee slates.
3.3.11 The National Committee has the power, by a two-thirds majority vote, to co-opt additional members to itself or to the National Executive.
3.3.12 Members of the National Executive and the National Committee can only be removed from those bodies by National Conference or, in the extreme case that their ongoing membership of those bodies constitutes an immediate and serious threat to the security of the Organisation, by a two-thirds majority vote of the National Committee.
3.3.13 The National Committee and the National Executive are empowered to create additional national bodies and positions, appoint members to them and delegate responsibilities.
3.4 Other bodies
3.4.1 Branch, district and national bodies may establish other bodies of members in an ad hoc or ongoing way. Such bodies may include (but are not limited to) student clubs and fractions of members involved in a particular campaign or in a particular industry, union or workplace.
3.4.2 Fractions or clubs can be empowered to make decisions on policy and action insofar as it affects them and does not conflict with the general political approach of higher bodies and the Organisation as a whole.
3.4.3 Fractions or clubs are subordinate and immediately responsible to the body that established them.
3.4.4 The basic unit of clubs or fractions is the caucus meeting of members.
3.4.5 Campus, campaign, workplace, union and industry caucuses can elect leadership bodies as they see fit. Such leadership bodies have the same relationship to the caucus meeting of members that elected them as a branch committee has to a branch.
3.4.6 Where local or national bodies have appointed organisers to clubs or fractions, these groups have the right to reject them and request another. If local or national bodies delegate the appointment of organisers to such groups, those groups have the power of appointment and dismissal.
4.1 Discipline is subject to the membership rights and obligations set out in section 2.
4.2 Branches and leadership bodies have the right and obligation to ensure that no member(s) sabotage(s) the aims and objectives of the Organisation and the clear decisions of the Organisation. This may be exercised by discussion, counseling, direction, warning, censure, suspension or expulsion. Expulsion shall be exercised only as a last resort.
4.3 In determining whether to take disciplinary action against a member, the following principles are to be applied to the greatest extent permitted by time, security, and political circumstances:
(a) eyewitness evidence and first-hand knowledge are the best guide to facts;
(b) the member threatened with discipline has the right to know the accusations made against them and the right to be heard;
(c) other members have the right to know and to debate the necessity for disciplinary action; and
(d) after discipline there is a right to appeal to a higher leadership body, where one exists, and ultimately to
4.4.1 Members have the right to raise, at the local level, a grievance against another member for uncomradely behaviour not directly connected to a political dispute.
4.4.2 Serious grievances that are not able to be resolved at a local level shall be dealt with by a Grievance Committee, which is convened and appointed by the National Executive. Decisions of the Grievance Committee can be appealed only to the National Committee, except in circumstances where the appellant claims that the grievance is in significant part a political rather than a personal dispute. In this latter case the appellant can address the National Conference, which can decide whether or not the assertion is justified and whether it will consider and adjudicate the substantive case.
4.4.3 Where there is a serious threat to the reputation and integrity of the Organisation or where the security of members is seriously threatened the Grievance Committee is empowered to investigate cases where a formal complaint has not been made.
4.4.4 The procedures set out in 4.3 are to be applied by the Grievance Committee to the extent that is reasonable once the rights of the accuser have been weighed against the rights of the accused. While Grievance
Committees should give heavy weight to the rights of members of oppressed groups in their activities and procedures, in order to avoid exacerbating the original offence alleged, this does not override the accused person’s right to fair treatment.
4.4.5 Disciplinary measures as a result of grievance proceedings may include discussion, counseling, direction, warning, censure, suspension or expulsion. Expulsion shall be exercised only as a last resort.
5. Access to the Constitution
5.1 The Constitution, rules and principles of the Organisation shall be made available to members.