Philly Socialists 2012 Constitution

__This is the 2012 Constitution; perhaps you’re looking for the current [[Constitution]]?__

 

====== Article I – Statement of Values ======

 

Our organization is united around certain core values. These inform and direct our actions, strategies and goals. Our principles are as follows:

 

//Science — Prove it//

 

Science is our guiding methodology. We reject all dogma and orthodoxy, seeking instead to encourage critical thinking among the masses.

 

//Human Rights — Everybody matters//

 

The rights of the people are the supreme law. The fulfillment of basic human rights is the responsibility of any legitimate government.

 

//Democracy — Everyone decides//

 

Democracy is a fundamental desire of all people. Democracy is a process and a set of institutions which rests on this foundation of individual and collective rights and liberties. Disagreement is a fundamental right, and a social good.

 

We take it as our task to work toward the enactment and elaboration of these values for the good of all.

 

====== Article II – Structure ======

 

==== A. The name of the organization is Philadelphia Socialists (or Philly Socialists). ====

 

==== B. Free association and voluntary collective discipline. ====

 

– [[:philly_socialists|Philly Socialists]] is committed to the principle of free association. As an association of individuals united around common values, we have no official existence or standing within the legal system. Individuals in the collective may have relationships with other legal entities, but the organization as a whole does not.

– The organization functions on the principle of voluntary collective discipline. Collective discipline means that individuals voluntarily assume responsibility to one another, first and foremost in the sense of agreeing to carry out decisions agreed upon by the organization. Failure to implement decisions in the manner listed below (see Section II.J) will result in the severance of ties between the member in question and the the organization, i.e. all individuals implementing a decision to freely disassociate with said member.

– This principle is not enforced by legal means, but rather by the means of free association.

 

==== C. The Constitutional Congress ====

 

– The Constitutional Congress is the highest authority of Philly Socialists, and the final decision-making body.

– Constitutional authority is limited temporally. When a convention meets, it should specify the reconvening of a new Congress in a time no greater than 2 years.

– A quorum of 50% + 1 members in good standing, in person or by alternate means of communication, is required for a binding Constitutional vote. The organization will provide the means for ALL members to participate.

– The constitution can be altered by the Congress by vote of 2/3 majority of quorum.

– The guidelines for convening, deciding and ratifying the Congress will be elaborated in Constitutional Bylaws, to be adopted by the General Assembly before the next Congress. Thereafter, the Congress retains the authority to decide the Bylaws.

– An emergency Constitutional Congress can be called by a vote of 2/3 of existing members. Such a convention must be announced at least 1 month in advance.

– In the event that a new Constitution is not passed by the above majority, the prior iteration of the Constitution will remain in effect and a new Congress will be convened in no more than 1 year.

 

==== D. The General Assembly ====

 

– The General Assembly is responsible for determining organizational policy, and tracking the progress of the movement as a whole. The power of the General Assembly is only superseded by the power of the Constitutional Congress.

– The powers of the General Assembly are as follows:

– Determine organizational goals and strategies in keeping with the principles established by the Constitutional Congress.

– Approve or reject the Treasurer’s proposed budget, i.e. allocate funding and revenues from all Autonomous Groups. This includes line item veto power.

– Hear report-backs from AGs and Committees.

– Make announcements concerning AG events, Committee decisions, etc.

– The management of meetings, including voting procedures, will be handled in accordance with Section IV of the Constitution.

– Via majority vote of the central committee

– By any memeber. For an individual member to convene a General Assembly, they must be in good standing, and collect signatures of other memebers in good standing totalling 10% of the general membership, or 10 members, whichever is less. In this event, signatures will be presented to the arbiter, who will be responsible for chairing the subsequent General Assembly.

 

==== E. The Central Committee ====

 

– The Central Committee is the executive body elected and empowered by the organization to make decisions based along organizational policy lines in between General Assembly meetings or constitutional conventions. The committee is understood to provide leadership to the General Assembly, although the General Assembly retains final authority over the committee. The General Assembly retains legislative power and sets organizational policy; it’s day-to-day implementation is executed via the Central Committee. This committee includes a Chairperson, Secretary, Treasurer, Chief Fundraiser, Spokesperson, and at least two (2) at-large members.

– Executive Chairperson – The Chairperson is responsible for writing and sending out agendas in advance of the General Assembly meetings. This individual is responsible for moderating meetings. At the chairpersons discretion they can turn over control of a meeting to a member in good standing of the General Assembly. The chairperson will also provide to the General Assembly, a recounting of the minutes and decisions voted on both by the General Assembly and the central committee on a weekly basis.

– Secretary – The secretary is responsible for keeping minutes of General Assembly meetings. They will also, with the assistance of the treasure and chief fundraiser, keep active records of the ranks of the Philly Socialists. When votes of the General Assembly are being tallied either through secret ballot or a show of hands the secretary will tally the votes and announce the outcome of any decision. In the absence of the executive chairperson the secretary will run the meetings of the organization using the agenda written by the chairperson.

– Treasurer – The treasurer disperses funds to the committees or AGs of the organization. Working in unison with the chief fundraiser and secretary they keep an active accounting of members in good standing of the organization. The treasurer is tasked with making labor agreements and collecting all monetary dues from members. The treasure, along with the chief fundraiser, will write the organizational budget and advise the General Assembly on financial decisions.

– Chief Fundraiser – The chief fundraiser is responsible for collecting donations to the organization. They will also help in the planning and collection of funds from fundraising events. Along with the treasurer and secretary the chief fundraiser is responable for keeping accurate records of finances and a list of members in good standing of the organization. (For more on Dues, see Article III.C.2) The Chief Fundraiser may work with a volunteer committee on fundraising projects (Fundraising Committee).

– Spokesperson – This individual is charged with implementing communication directives in line with organizational policy. The Central Committee is empowered to determine organizational message based on policy as directed by the General Assembly. The Spokesperson may work with a volunteer committee (Communications Committee). The Spokesperson may authorize any other member of the organization to speak on behalf of the organization, however the Spokesperson bears full responsibility for whatever is said. The Spokesperson handles inquiries for information by media outlets, as well as the general public.

– Individuals will be elected to the Central Committee at the Constitutional Congress, and their term of office will last until the next Constitutional Congress.

– Central Committee members are expected to attend 2/3 of CC meetings over the course of a six month period. Central Committee members are likewise expected to attend 75% of General Assembly meetings. Failure to attend regularly may result in removal of the individual in question through a recall as specified in Section II.J.

– If at any point a member of the central committee cannot continue in their job duties they must notify the organization as soon as possible. All documents related to the position, and organization must be turned over and General Assembly elections must be held within a month to replace the former member.

– If at any time the ability of a central committee member comes into question the central committee member can be recalled from their position following a majority vote of due paying members in good standing.

– Quorum for Central Committee meetings will consist of a minimum of 50%+1 of Central Committee members.

– Any or all Central Committee members can be recalled from their positions, for any reason at the behest of the General Assembly, in the manner listed in Section II.J.

– ONLY Central Committee members may vote on Central Committee matters, however, all meetings of the Central Committee are open to attendance by any member of Philly Socialists, and all meeting minutes will be made available to the organization.

 

==== F. Arbiter and Ad Hoc Grievances Committees ====

 

– The General Assembly will elect one member — an Arbiter — to be responsible for accepting formal complaints (grievances) and handling appeals. This person shall not be a member of the Central Committee, nor the head of any project or other committee. Positions will be filled as in

– Any member of the General Assembly, or any committee or project, can approach the Arbiter at any time to help resolve an interpersonal conflict with any other member of Philly Socialists.

– Informal discussions with the Arbiter, if they have not been lodged as a formal complaint, will be kept private and off the record.

– At the behest of any member, the Arbiter can attempt to resolve any issue or conflict by consulting with all parties and coming to a mutually agreed upon resolution. If this does not work, it is the right of any individual to lodge a formal complaint (grievance).

– After receiving a grievance, the Arbiter will then form an ad hoc Grievances Committee composed of five (5) randomly-selected members of Philly Socialists. The newly-formed committee will deliberate on the case with the guidance of the Arbiter with the purpose of making a recommendation. The Arbiter is not allowed a vote in these proceedings. Deliberation can be done in private, either in the presence of the Arbiter, or not, at the discretion of the Committee.

– The ad hoc Grievances Committee will handle the case in the manner described below. The grievance and appeals committee can:

– Determine the grievance has no merit. In this case the matter will be considered closed, unless the complaintant wishes to appeal.

– Determine if the grievance has merit. If so they may pass the case on to the General Assembly for final adjudication. The Committee may optionally make a recommendation as to the ruling, or not, at its discretion.

– The Arbiter may be recalled for any reason, by a majority (50%+1) vote of the General Assembly.

 

==== G. Standing Committees ====

 

Standing committees operate continuously to ensure the day-to-day functioning of the organization. New standing committees can be created, altered or disbanded by a majority vote of the General Assembly. Membership to a standing committee is voluntary. Members of a standing committee can be on other committees; however, the General Assembly may alter this rule once the organization is large enough.

 

Fundraising Committee

 

Outreach Committee

 

==== H. Autonomous Groups / Campaigns / Projects ====

 

Autonomous Groups must follow the Constitution of Philly Socialists. However, Autonomous Groups are free to run their projects however they see fit, within the purview, scope, and values dictated by the General Assembly. Autonomous Groups are the lifeblood of the organization. Our projects are how we relate to the masses.

 

Existing Autonomous Groups include:

 

– Free English Classes

 

– Red Plenty

 

– Free Socialist Internet

 

==== I. Affinity Groups ====

 

– Affinity groups are factions, caucuses, or groups of like-minded members or self-identified people. Affinity groups can be organized around political tendencies (e.g. Marxist-Leninists, or anarchists), identity (e.g. women’s caucus, people of color caucus), or common interests (e.g. sewing circle, archery afficiandos).

– Affinity Groups do not have control over Philly Socialists resources, though they may organize to push resources to one or another project, or push to start new projects and autonomous groups, committees, etc.

– Members of Affinity Groups are encouraged to notify all members of Philly Socialists of any pending meetings, and afford all members an opportunity to attend and participate in some manner.

– Reports of the outcomes and subjects of such meetings to the full membership are encouraged.

– Affinity groups are free to establish criteria for membership to the Affinity Group.

 

==== J. Sanctions and Appeals ====

 

– Any member can request a sanction against any other person or group. This request is vetted by the Arbiter via the means discussed in Article II.F above. The General Assembly is free to determine the process of sanctioning using the guidelines enumerated below.

– An ad hoc Grievances Committee can institute a sanction. Any member or group can be sanctioned.

– Sanctions against individuals function in the following ways:

– Recall – Recall is a means to remove an elected officer from their position. Recall simply means that a vote is taken to ascertain whether another person should assume the position in question. If a recall is successfully pursued, a new election will be held for the position.

– Removal – Removal removes the person from a group.

– Expulsion – Expulsion means the person is kicked out of the organization. Expulsions can only be decided by the General Assembly. This is only done if someone has undertaken a serious breach of the organization’s values.

– Serious breach of organizational values includes, but is not limited to, the following:

– Taking bribes or corruption.

– Financial chicanery for personal gain.

– Engaging in espionage against the group.

– Practicing harassment or bullying based on, though not limited to, gender, sexual orientation, race, or religious affiliation.

– Undermining in a serious way the trust of the masses in the organization.

– Serious breach of organizational values is not meant not include any of the following:

– Publicly or privately expressing disagreement or dissatisfaction with the organization, organizational direction, or leadership

– Advocating any given political line, tactic, policy, or strategy

– An Autonomous Group can be sanctioned. Sanctions against groups function in the following ways:

– Recall of any or all officers or members (to be replaced by sortition or election, as per the particular AG)

– Individual members can be sanctioned (as above per above)

– A particular AG can be disbanded.

– Persons and groups who are facing sanction must be made aware of the charges against them, and given opportunity to defend themselves. Members facing expulsion and AGs facing disbandment are given one appeal.

– Assistance should be given to help comrades overcome weaknesses and shortcomings, when possible. A deep sense of solidarity and understanding should undergird all actions.

 

==== K. Relationship between Philly Socialists and sister organizations ====

 

– The Central Committee is under obligation, based on the principle of free association (see Section II.B), to elect themselves and themselves alone to the Executive Board of Friends of Socialism.

– Any Central Committee member who does not relinquish membership (upon a vote by the General Assembly, as per Section II.J) on the Executive Board of Friends of Socialism will be subject to immediate disassociation by the collective.

– Autonomous Groups and projects that wish to incorporate separately are free to do so, in line with the protocols elaborated in this Constitution.

– In the event that a project decides to incorporate, members of an Autonomous Group or project are under obligation, based on the principle of free association (see Section II.B), to elect themselves and themselves alone to the Executive Board of the incorporated project.

– Members of an Autonomous Group or project who do not relinquish membership (upon a vote by the General Assembly, as per Section II.J) in the Executive Board of an incorporated project will be subject to immediate disassociation by the collective.

 

====== Article III – The rights and responsibilities of members; reciprocal expectations and duties of the collective. ======

 

==== A. Membership qualifications ====

 

– Philadelphia Socialists seeks to end all forms of oppression. Membership is open to all persons. Philly Socialists will not discriminate based on individuals being identified as a person of a historically oppressed group.

– Questions of fitness for membership will be determined by the General Assembly.

– Prospective members are expected to adhere to the constitution and follow the values of the Philly Socialists.

 

==== B. Rights of members and expectations of the collective. ====

 

– Philly Socialists recognizes the rights of all peoples, as enshrined in documents such as the US Bill of Rights, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, as well as additional rights proclaimed or as yet unspoken.

– Members in good standing are allowed to vote in any collective they are a member of — Congress, General Assembly, Committee, Autonomous Group or Affinity Group.

– Philly Socialists functions on the principle of One Person One Vote.

– Any member may move at any time for a secret ballot on any issue or motion as described above.

– Members in good standing may be elected to any office for which they are eligible.

– Members can expect to be provided with any and all information, relevant or irrelevant, by all collective institutions within Philly Socialists. All collectives are expected to make a good faith effort to provide as much information as possible about meeting times, minutes etc.

– Members are allowed to join any collective which receives resources from Philly Socialists. Members may be denied membership in an AG if they are unable or unwilling to abide by the AG’s bylaws. Participation may also be limited due to logistical issues, e.g. too many people.

– This does not apply to Affinity Groups, which are not allowed direct access to Philly Socialists resources. Members can be accepted into or rejected entry from an Affinity Group at the full discretion of members of the Affinity Group in question.

– Affinity Groups are the space for factional caucuses, as well as caucuses based on identity.

– Any member may apply at any time to the General Assembly to form an autonomous group and apply for resources from Philly Socialists.

– Any member can at any time form an Affinity Group. However, there is the expectation that members will announce the formation of such an Affinity Group, and present as much information to the collective as possible.

– Members have the right to file for recall, impeachment or expulsion of any officer(s) or any other member(s), as outlined above.

– Demand a recount of a vote.

– Request a re-vote if pertinent information was not brought up at the time of the initial vote.

– Challenge a vote as unconstitutional.

– File a complaint about the activities of an Autonomous Group. The Arbiter looks at the complaint, as detailed above.

– Prospective members who are denied membership can appeal to the Arbiter.

– Appeal any decision to the Arbiter.

– Members have the right to be educated in the principles and practices of Philly Socialists. Members have the right to be fully informed of their rights and responsibilities as members, collective expectations for their behavior and the duties of the collective.

– Furthermore, members can expect that they will have access to whatever training that the organization has the resources to provide, be it technical training, leadership, mentoring, etc.

– Philly Socialists exists in order to create a better world, and members should expect their involvement to make them better off materially, ethically, and emotionally.

– Members’ labor will not be exploited.

– Members have the right not to be harassed or pressured.

– Members’ monetary contributions will be used in accordance with the Constitution.

– Philly Socialists recognizes that members may demand the codification of additional rights into the Constitution.

– Any perceived violation of any of these rights may be brought before the Appeals & Grievances Committee, and investigated, as above.

– We take it as a point of principle that people should be able to be involved in decision making and work regardless of space or distance.

 

==== C. Responsibilities of members and duties of the collective. ====

 

– Abide by the values and guidelines of the organization. – Prospective members must affirm their commitment to the Statement of Values, and agree to abide by the guidelines set forth in the Constitution.

– Dues.

– Members of the organization are expected to contribute regularly to the sister organization Friends of Socialism (Philadelphia).

– Individuals can contribute to Friends of Socialism (Philadelphia) and not be members of Philly Socialists.

– Regular contributions of Philly Socialists members to the sister organization Friends of Socialism (Philadelphia) will be referred to as dues.

– Dues will be used to generate revenue for general operations (flyers, paper, printer cartridges, etc). It will also be used to fund our projects. Money will go toward the Free English Classes (making copies, tutor transportation, etc.). It will also go toward creating and promoting Free Socialist Internet (purchasing infrastructure, flyers, etc.). The organization will set priorities for spending, in what proportion, etc.

– Dues held on a sliding scale from $25-$100 a year. This amounts to between $2-8 a month.

– In cases of financial hardship, individuals can request to contribute labor instead of capital. Labor will take the form of 12 hours per year of gruntwork, such as flyering (meetings do not count toward labor contribution), working on a project, etc.

– Dues can be paid in advance for an entire year, or monthly.

– Middle class workers and individuals from financially privileged backgrounds should expect to contribute proportionally more to the organization than poor and working class people. If an individual makes over $40K/year they should seriously consider donating $1000/year to the movement.

– Open books of finances will be available to all organization members.

– A Treasurer accountable to the movement will be elected by the group. Treasurer will be tasked with collecting dues and dispersing money in line with organizational directives and on organizational projects.

– Voting on group policy and decisions will be contingent on being in good standing with the organization vis-a-vis the above membership requirements. Folks who do not want to contribute either time or money can be involved, but will not have voting privileges.

– Members are responsible for keeping track of the hours they contribute to the organization.

– All members are expected to contribute to bettering the organization to the best of their abilities.

 

====== Article IV – The Structure of democratic decision-making.======

 

==== A. Agendas ====

 

– The General Assembly will elect a Chair to the Central Committee. The Chair is tasked with writing agendas for Central Committee meetings. Any Central Committee member, project leader, or committee leader may add an item to the agenda.

– The Chair is tasked with writing agendas for General Assembly meetings. The Central Committee must approve all General Assembly agendas. Any member in good standing can add an item to the agenda, by contacting the Chair.

– Agendas must be sent out before meetings. The agenda can be modified up until 24 hours before the meeting time. The group meeting must approve or reject the agenda at the beginning of the meeting.

 

==== B. Minutes ====

 

– A Secretary will be elected to the Central Committee. The Secretary will take minutes of all meetings. The body must approve the minutes of the prior meeting at the beginning of every current meeting. Minutes will be made available to all members.

 

==== C. Voting procedures ====

 

– Any vote by the General Assembly will pass with 50% + 1 of votes cast. If a member does not wish to vote they may abstain.

– At this time the General Assembly does not require any quorum; however, the General Assembly is empowered to create a quorum as necessary.

– A request to fund a new project must be tabled for one meeting, unless a 2/3 majority vote is held, in which case funds can be dispersed to said project immediately.

– A Majority and Minority opinion can be requested on any vote, by any member, at any time.

– Members have all democratic rights enumerated in Article III.B, including the right to call for a secret ballot on any measure.

 

====== Conclusion ======

 

We do not know the future. We admit our own ignorance. We place our hope in the transformative power of work and in the guiding principle of democracy. We take courage from the great acts of humanity, from our liberatory traditions, and from the capacity for creativity and decency which all human beings possess. We agree to abide by this Constitution as we work toward the transformation of our society.

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