Philly Socialists 2014 Constitution

This is the current Constitution. One may wish to visit the [[2013 Constitution]] or [[2012 Constitution]] to see what’s changed.

 

====== 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.

– Approve or reject the establishment of a new project.

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

– A General Assembly will be called in one of two ways:

– Via a majority vote of the Central Committee; or

– By any member. For an individual member to convene a General Assembly, they must be in good standing, and collect signatures of other members in good standing totaling 10% of the general membership, or 10 members, whichever is less. In this event, signatures will be presented to an Arbiter. The Arbiters 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 and at least six (6) at-large members. Central Committee positions are positions of responsibility, not positions of power. All Central Committee members are responsible for the financial health of the organization and are expected to participate in budgeting and fundraising. As elected representatives of the organization, Central Committee members are held to highest possible standards in how they represent the organization internally and externally. They should expect to live, embody, and communicate the organizational values, adding both hard work and strategic perspective to the organization.

– 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.

– 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.

– At the discretion of the Central Committee, a majority vote will succeed in approving funding for a project, including stipends, to the project leaders. This vote is binding unless overturned by the General Assembly.

– Any member of the Central Committee can be recalled by a super majority of the central committee as a whole, with a vote of all Central committee members minus one. Positions will be filled as per Article II.E.4.

 

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

 

– The General Assembly will elect two members — Arbiters — to be responsible for accepting formal complaints (grievances) and handling appeals. These individuals shall not be members of the Central Committee, nor the head of any project or other committee.

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

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

– At the behest of any member, an 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, both Arbiters 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 Arbiters with the purpose of making a recommendation. The Arbiters are 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 Arbiters 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.

– Project leaders (the leader of all AGs) will be chosen in the following ways:

– Being appointed by a majority vote of the Central Committee.

– By the gathering of a majority of signatures of members in good standing within the AG in question.

– In the event that these two methods produce conflicting candidates, a General Assembly will be called, chaired by the Arbiters, to settle the question.

 

==== 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 Arbiters 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 or appointed 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, follow the values of the Philly Socialists, and sign a membership card expressing this conviction.

– In addition, members are expected to pay regular minimum dues.

– Members in good standing are expected to volunteer for the organization regularly, with a recommendation of two hours per month to be accounted annually. Attendance at meetings, socials, political education events, or leadership development events do not count toward this minimum, unless the member is filling some support role during that period, such as cooking or taking care of children.

– There are a number of ways a member can fulfill their volunteer requirements, most prominently by being a part of a project. Additionally, flyering, being part of the phone bank, translating, and other activities count toward the requirement.

– Volunteer hours are to be tracked by the member. If a another member feels that someone is not fulfilling their volunteer requirement, they may request a sanction against the member in question by contacting an arbiter in the manner detailed in II.F.

 

==== 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 Arbiters will look at the complaint, as detailed above.

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

– Appeal any decision to an 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.

– Members may also join and retain membership rights in other political organizations, provided that this is done in an open and transparent way, and that the values of the organization in question do not fundamentally contradict the values of Philly Socialists. Regardless of additional affiliations, all members are expected to uphold the responsibilities toward the collective listed below in III.C.

 

==== 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.). The organization will set priorities for spending, in what proportion, etc.

– Dues are to be assessed at $10 per month. If for any reason a member cannot pay the assessed amount, they are expected to pay $1 or more per month. The remainder will be complemented from solidarity sponsorships paid by other members.

– 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.

– The Central Committee will be accountable to the movement and will be elected by the group. The Central Committee 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 The Central Committee 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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