The following constitution was adopted at the Socialist Alliance national conference on Saturday 1 December. It will now be subject to review by a drafting commission appointed by the new national executive, but this will simply be to rectify any anomalies resulting from amendment, etc. The constitution was passed by overwhelming vote on a show of hands and comes into effect as from Saturday 1 December 4.45pm.
Constitution of the Socialist Alliance
adopted at the national conference on Saturday 1 December 2001
A: Statement of aims
A1: The Socialist Alliance in England is working towards a fair and truly sustainable society. The transition to such a society will require fundamental social, economic, political and cultural changes, which will only be possible through the involvement of a clear majority of people. It is essential to pursue change through a variety of avenues in the community, in the workplace, in elections, through appropriate educational and campaigning efforts according to the opportunities and expediencies of the time and the place. We therefore aspire to offer organisation, facilitation and encouragement, as appropriate, to whatever efforts and developments are contributing to this process of change. We will also provide political support and solidarity to those who are involved in fighting back against environmental destruction and all other injustices of capitalism, here and across the world.
A2: This is because we believe that there is an alternative to the global, unregulated free market and that the wealth exists in society to meet people's needs. We aim to galvanise mass opposition to the injustice, inequality and environmental damage which the market causes and to replace it with a popular socialist republic, based on democratic common ownership and democratic control of the key sectors of the economy, a system based on social justice and ecological sustainability.
A3: We recognise that the current Labour leadership has dismantled whatever aspiration to socialism the Party ever had. It has embraced the free market and removed all methods of reversing this new direction from within the Party. In its failure to challenge current conservative free market ideology, Labour encourages a climate where far right and fascist views may fill the vacuum.
A4: Opposition to this must therefore come from developing policies, campaigns and political representation which engages socialists with the environmental, direct action, anti-racist and industrial struggles, working together in genuinely new ways to put forward the alternative to New Labour and its partnership with multi-national business and media tycoons. Our intention is to do this by establishing a broad organisation, through the Socialist Alliance, based on accepted principles and open to all individuals and organisations who support these and who agree to join in working together in non-sectarian, co-operative and positive ways.
A5: Our overall aim is actively to help create a socially just and ecologically sustainable society. This is one in which social justice is defined as incorporating:
* the political organisation of society in the most open, democratic, participative and accountable manner practicable;
* the maximum freedom of the individual commensurate with the freedom of others;
* the fight against and ultimate abolition of sexism, racism, homophobia, discrimination against people with disabilities and on grounds of age;
* the ultimate abolition of all forms of economic exploitation and social oppression, in such ways as to secure for the people the full return of all wealth generated by industries and services of society, by means of common ownership and democratic control;
* the promotion of peace, nationally and internationally, and of a system of justice which gives defence from tyranny, prejudice and the abuse of power, and in which ecological sustainability is incorporated;
* the promotion of only those social, economic and cultural structures which may be sustained indefinitely without causing any form of irreversible damage to the global ecosystem;
* the guaranteeing and, where necessary, restoration of such biological diversity as is essential to the viability of both global and local ecosystems.
A6: To achieve our ultimate aim, bearing in mind the prevailing political, economic and social conditions, imperatives and opportunities of any given time and location, we shall from time to time develop strategic and tactical objectives. These will be:
* attainable goals valuable in themselves
* stages towards greater change
* catalysts for the wider propagation and discussion of information, ideas and action commensurate with our aim.
In pursuit of our aim, or of any strategic or tactical objective conducive to this, we may assist, encourage, enjoin or affiliate with any local, national or international organisations.
A7: The aim of the Socialist Alliance is to build a broad-based political alternative to New Labour. We seek to do this by building the SA as a campaigning organisation at both national and local level, supporting workers in struggle, initiating and supporting progressive campaigns, working in the unions to strengthen the left and build for a fight-back, and by fighting on a socialist platform in elections. We want to build local Alliances which are rooted in local campaigns and the local labour movement. Our manifesto, People Before Profit, adopted for the 2001 general election, constitutes the current agreed platform of the Alliance.
A8: We have developed as an organisation which recognises the variety of views held by the many different perspectives within the Socialist Alliance; indeed we see this as a strength. We have agreed to unite and campaign around the policies we can all accept.
A9: The Socialist Alliance at all levels should be representative of the gender, ethnic minority and age balance in the population, amongst our voters and membership. We also recognise the desirability of balance and inclusiveness for political trends within the Socialist Alliance at all levels of the organisation. All local Socialist Alliances as well as individual members attending national conferences are encouraged to take this into account in electing officers, steering committees and selecting candidates.
B1: Any individual who broadly agrees with the aims of the Socialist Alliance and agrees to abide by the structure and the anti-sectarian, co-operative and positive way of working which are involved in it may join the Socialist Alliance.
B2: The Socialist Alliance is a broad, open, inclusive and flexible organisation, based on voluntary participation. The Socialist Alliance is politically pluralistic and encourages all individuals and perspectives to participate fully in our vision of a socialist society and our way of working as an alliance. Members of other parties, organisations and groups who join the Socialist Alliance are expected to be able to keep their identity as members of these organisations whilst participating fully within the development of the Socialist Alliance.
B3: To further this, membership of the Socialist Alliance assumes a political and financial commitment. It also assumes a commitment to the anti-sectarian and co-operative way of working, looking to build unity rather than set out a position to create discord, positively supporting and encouraging the notion of alliances and ensuring that any critical debates are conducted in a positive manner and without personal attacks. All members should be paid up to the Socialist Alliance.
B4: Individual members are thus welcome from other groups and organisations and membership of these should be declared on application/renewal of membership of the Socialist Alliance.
B5: There will be a unified individual membership of the Socialist Alliance. The annual fee for individual membership will be determined by the Annual Conference of the Socialist Alliance, including the division of the membership fee between national and local organisations. Normally an individual will join the local Socialist Alliance nearest to where they live, work or study, and pay their subscription to this Alliance. Membership is on the basis of membership of only one local Socialist Alliance at any time. Membership entitles members to participation as appropriate at all levels of the Socialist Alliance. If there is no appropriate local Socialist Alliance, membership will be of the national organisation alone, to which the membership fee will be paid directly.
B6: Affiliation of local and regional Socialist Alliances will be based on an affiliation fee to be determined by the Annual Conference, and will require that membership lists are passed on to the national organisation to compile a national membership list. Other forms of affiliation and affiliation fees will also be determined by the Annual Conference
C: National policy-making and structure
C1: National policy will be decided democratically by an Annual Conference, open to all members.
C2: There will be political meetings and conferences of the Socialist Alliance in addition to the Annual Conference, open to all members to attend, at the discretion of the National Executive or National Council or on the basis of a request from 25 percent of the membership. Such conferences may alter the policy and constitution of the Socialist Alliance.
C3: The implementation of national policy and national activities between Conferences, and the organisation of the Annual and any other Conferences, will be carried out by the National Executive, which will be elected at the Annual Conference.
C4: The National Executive will be elected at the Annual Conference. Nominations to the executive must be by slate drawn up and presented to conference. Election will be by alternative vote*. The number of members of the National Executive will be determined by the Annual Conference
*The Alternative Vote system means voting will be by indicating the order of preference between the slates presented for election. If no slate has an absolute majority of the votes cast, the slate with least votes will be eliminated and those votes redistributed according to the next preference. The process of elimination and redistribution will continue until one slate does have an absolute majority.
C5: The National Executive will appoint officers from amongst the Executive at its discretion to take on particular responsibilities. These will include six named officers (chair/'leader', nominating officer, treasurer, campaigns officer, membership secretary and secretary) and should also include a youth officer, a black officer, a women's officer, a trade union officer and officers responsible for developing Socialist Alliances locally and regionally, e.g. convening meetings of members in the regions, informing local Socialist Alliances of developments, supporting Alliances in setting up and ensuring liaison between local, regional and national levels of the organisation. Officers may be replaced by simple majority vote of the Executive and officer posts, with the exception of the named officer posts, may be changed at the discretion of the National Executive.
C6: The National Officers will be accountable to the National Executive, the National Council and the Annual Conference. The National Executive will be accountable to the National Council and the Annual Conference of the Socialist Alliance. The National Officers and Executive are obliged to carry out the decisions of the Annual Conference and the National Council.
C7: The National Executive may co-opt additional members to the Executive by vote of two thirds majority of the Executive. The National Executive will appoint spokespersons on all the major aspects of policy to communicate with the media and also to develop policy and action in these areas (eg employment, environment, women, racism). The spokespersons are accountable to, and subject to recall by the National Executive, Conference and other national elected bodies. To develop policy and action in their subject the spokespersons, will be able to call meetings of interested members, taking into account regional and access needs.
C8: The National Executive will meet monthly. Individual non-executive members may attend such meetings by invitation of the National Executive. The National Executive will endeavour to decide issues wherever possible by agreement but where no agreement is possible decisions will be made by majority vote.
C9: The National Council will consist of the members of the Executive and one delegate from each of the affiliated local and regional Socialist Alliances.
C10: The National Council will meet quarterly or more frequently at the discretion of the National Executive.
C11: The National Council will be able to determine policy at their meetings by simple majority vote.
C12: The National Executive and the National Council will be responsible for the running of the national organisation, for finance, membership, arrangements of national meetings, communications with local groups and individuals, national bulletin production and distribution, liaison with other groups and organisations, arrangements for seeking and enabling electoral unity; and any other matters delegated to them by the Annual Conference.
C13: The National Executive will have the power to disaffiliate local Socialist Alliances and remove individual membership or refuse to ratify candidate selection if it is concluded that the basic statement of aims has been breached by a Socialist Alliance, by an individual member or by a candidate.
C14: Decisions of the National Executive relating to affiliation of local organisations or ratification of candidates can be appealed to the National Council and such decisions of the National Council can be appealed to the Annual Conference. The Annual Conference has the final authority to decide all issues relating to the Socialist Alliance.
C15: The Socialist Alliance may be dissolved by a resolution of a Special Meeting, called for this purpose by the National Executive or the National Council or by request of 25 percent of the membership. Any assets of the Socialist Alliance shall be distributed to any organisation or organisations having aims consistent with those of the Socialist Alliance, as agreed at such a Special Meeting.
C16: The constitution of the Socialist Alliance may be changed by resolution of the Annual Conference or by resolution of a Special Meeting open to all members called by the National Executive, National Council or by request of 25 percent of the membership of the Socialist Alliance, provided such resolution receives a simple majority.
C17:Conference will elect an Appeals Committee with a membership of five, who must not be members of the executive. The committee shall elect a convenor from amongst its membership, who will have the right to attend the executive on a non-voting basis.
The functions of the committee shall be as follows:
1. Membership - Where a local alliance or national body wishes to reject an application for membership, or expel an existing member, the request must be made in writing to the appeals committee, who will have the final decision.
2. Disputes - Any disputes about the balance of rights and duties between individual members or members platforms, or complaints about the conduct of individuals or members platforms shall be referred to the appeals committee. The decision of the committee will be binding on all parties concerned.
3. Elections - Where disputes arise locally around endorsement of candidates, which seats are to be contested etc, the executive may ask the appeals committee to investigate the situation and make recommendations for a course of action. The final decision on these matters will remain with the executive.
The expectation is that all disputes should be resolved locally where possible, in line with the SA's principles of non-sectarian, positive cooperation. Disputes should only be referred to the appeals committee where local attempts to find a resolution have failed. All decisions of the appeals committee can be overturned at a conference by a simple majority vote.
C18: Membership of the Alliance carries an obligation not to obstruct campaigns decided on by the Alliance. We recognise, however, the right of minorities publicly to promote their views. In the event that an organised minority intends to take any action conflicting with a majority decision nationally or locally, that minority should inform the Alliance at the relevant level of its intention to do so.
D: Local and regional organisation
D1: Local and regional organisation will have to be flexible to take account of the fact we are a small but growing organisation and the fact that effective campaigning and fighting different kinds of elections will require different organisational forms. These local and regional Alliances must however demonstrate that they comply with certain common criteria in order to be viable (to be further developed by the Executive during 2001-2002 for presentation to the 2002 AGM):
(a) the Alliance has an organising group (or steering committee) with specific named responsibilities (including treasurer and membership secretary).
(b) the Alliance has a regular meeting, publicly advertised, open to all members (and potential new members).
(c) The Alliance maintains an up-to-date membership list and provides membership details to the national organisation as required.
D2: The boundaries of a Socialist Alliance should in the first instance be a matter for members to determine locally. If there is dispute over boundaries, this may be referred to regional body for resolution and the relevant regional officer on the National Executive if appropriate or, if this is not feasible or successful, to the National Executive as a whole, with the right of appeal to the National Council and then to Conference.
D3: Local Socialist Alliances should operate on similar principles to the National Executive, trying to reach agreement where they can but deciding issues by majority vote where they cannot.
D4: To help co-ordinate and facilitate the campaigning and election work of local Socialist Alliances, it may be appropriate to establish a regional level of structure. The structure of such a regional body should be established at an open meeting for all members of the Socialist Alliance in that region, in consultation with the relevant regional officer, as appropriate, of the National Executive or, if not, with the National Executive as a whole.
D5: Recognition of local and regional Socialist Alliances as affiliates of the Socialist Alliance nationally will be determined by the National Executive, subject to review by the National Council and Conference.
E: Selection of candidates
E1: The local Socialist Alliance will have the responsibility for all elections contested by the Socialist Alliance within its area (eg council, Westminster etc) and for all arrangements regarding local candidate, agent, treasurer, in line with Socialist Alliance requirements nationally.
E2: Socialist Alliance candidates must be selected at properly notified meetings open to all Socialist Alliance members of the appropriate local or regional organisation on the basis of one member, one vote. If a Socialist Alliance does not exist in an area where someone wishes to stand as a Socialist Alliance candidate, a local Socialist Alliance can be established by the relevant regional body or by the National Executive to carry out a selection process. The national Nominating Officer should monitor the selection of candidates and report regularly to the National Executive. In case of dispute or objection to the selection of any Socialist Alliance candidate, confirmation of nomination must be sought from the National Executive
E3: The steering committee of the local Socialist Alliance or a relevant regional body or the National Executive, in consultation with one another, may nominate the Socialist Alliance candidate to stand in a particular election in exceptional circumstances. The final decision will lie with the Nominating Officer who is accountable to the National Executive.
E4: Socialist Alliance candidates will be expected to support the agreed policies of the Socialist Alliance and to promote the Socialist Alliance on public platforms.
E5: Should Socialist Alliance candidates be elected to office, they will be expected to support Socialist Alliance national policy.
Charter of members' rights
All members have the following rights:
1. The right to take part in the selection of candidates for elections at all levels
2. The right to put themselves forward as candidates for selection
3. The right to take part in the formation of policy at all levels
4. The right to hold all officers or representatives to account through democratic mechanisms
5. The right to freedom of opinion and expression
6. The right to write for, sell or distribute publications
7. The right to information about all SA activities and decisions
8. The right to establish short-term or long-term political platforms on whatever political basis members see fit.
The requirements of membership are:
1. Support for Socialist Alliance candidates and campaigns in elections
2. Behaving in a democratic and co-operative manner
3. No racist, sexist, homophobic or discriminatory behaviour
4. Payment of the relevant membership fee