Socialist Action’s Constitution
(Adopted at the June 1997 Socialist Action Conference)
Section 1. Name, Objectives, Programme.
1.1 The name of the organization is Socialist Action – Ligue pour L’Action socialiste. This name may be used in its entirety, English part only, French part only, according to the circumstances.
1.2 The objective of the organization is to build a mass working class revolutionary party capable of leading the working class to power, dismantling the capitalist Canadian state, and replacing it with a voluntary alliance of independent workers’ republics based on democratically elected workers’ councils, for all nations wishing to join it.
1.3 The principles and fundamental objectives of the organization are stated in the “Statement of Principles” document inherited from our predecessor organizations: against capitalist exploitation; against the oppression of women; for the national liberation of Quebec, up to and including independence, full emancipation of the aboriginal peoples, other oppressed nations and national minorities; for lesbian and gay liberation; for an ecological society; for world socialism.
1.4 SA is in political solidarity with the Fourth International, the world Trotskyist movement. SA is recognized by the Fourth International (Fourteenth World Congress, June 1995) as “an organization of partisans of the FI in the Canadian state”. SA embraces the programme of the FI, as developed at regular World Congresses, notably on the struggle for Women’s Liberation (1979 and 1991 World Congresses), and on Socialist Democracy and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat (1985 World Congress).
Section 2. Membership.
2.1 Any person who accepts the objectives, programme and statutes of the organization, who participates actively in its work as decided by the appropriate organizational body, and who regularly meets the dues requirements, is eligible to become a member of the organization.
2.2 All members form part of duly constituted local branches of the organization. If there is no local branch, the member is responsible to the appropriate cross-country leadership body (or designated branch).
2.3 New members are accepted by vote of the branch – where such a structure exists. In the absence of a local branch, recruitment is voted by the cross-country convention, or by the leadership body elected at convention, or by the branch designated to carry out this function.
2.4 New recruits undergo a period of provisional membership, during which time they enjoy the same rights and duties as other members, excepting that their votes shall be indicative only, and that they are not eligible to hold positions of leadership responsibility in the organization.
2.5 The organization must ensure the theoretical, political, and practical education of members by holding regular discussions, workshops, and cadre schools. Provisional members are required to participate in these activities.
2.6 The provisional member, on the basis of participation in the activities of the group and an understanding of the programme, may become a full member after a minimum period of three months, by vote of the body responsible for the recruitment. Provisional membership will not normally extend beyond six months.
2.7 The recruitment of leading members of other political organizations, of former members of the organization, or of already constituted groups which accept the programme and statutes of SA must be ratified by one of the bodies specified in Article 2.3.
2.8 Only a convention of the organization, or a two-thirds majority vote of all full members in good standing, may decide on a fusion with another organization if that involves modifications to the current statutes or programme, or the relationship to the Fourth International.
2.9 Members must safeguard the security of the organization when confronted with repression, and must not by their own behaviour endanger it unnecessarily. The personal conduct of a member must be in accordance with the principles of workers’ democracy and with the struggle of the Fourth International against the various forms of oppression.
2.10 A member who wishes to be relieved of responsibilities in the organization for a given period may request a leave from the appropriate body. Such a leave does not normally exceed a three month period.
Section 3. Structures.
3.1 Local branches are established and recognized by one of the bodies specified in Article 2.3. To be constituted, a local branch must have at least three full members.
3.2 As soon as numbers and implantation permit, a local branch may establish cells or fractions based on work areas or sectors. A minimum of three members, full or provisional, is required for such a sub-unit. The distribution of members among the sub-units is decided by the branch, which may also dissolve or re-organize the sub-units it has formed. Such decisions may be taken at a duly convened local branch conference.
3.3 A branch may be dissolved only by the higher body which has jurisdiction over it.
Section 4. Leadership Bodies.
4.1 A branch will, at minimum, elect a Secretary, responsible for preparing the branch meetings, and a Treasurer, responsible for collecting membership dues.
4.2 A branch leadership is responsible for organizing the work of the branch.
4.3 At the appropriate time, the SA Convention will create a national structure responsible for the publications and political work in Quebec to implement our historic commitment to an autonomous Quebec wing of the organization.
4.4 The SA Convention will be held at least every two years. Until there are at least 50 members, Convention is a plenary gathering for all members, with each full member in attendance exercising a vote.
4.5 When the membership of the organization exceeds 50, delegates to Convention will be elected in the branches according to a ratio established by one of the bodies specified in Article 2.3, and proportional to the points of view expressed in the pre-convention debate.
4.6 At a delegated Convention, the delegates will elect a Central Committee, its size to be determined by the Convention, and its composition proportional to the points of view expressed at the Convention.
4.7 When established, the CC is the highest body of the organization between conventions, meeting at least twice a year, four times if possible. It may create any administrative body, commission or working group considered useful to the fulfillment of its tasks.
Until the size of the organization warrants it, the convention will simply elect an Editorial Board responsible for the newspaper of the organization, and delegate some or all of the functions of the CC to the Toronto branch.
4.8 When established, the CC will elect from among its members a Political Committee. This body will be responsible for calling CC meetings and for maintaining relations with the FI, with foreign organizations, and with other organizations inside the Canadian state. It will ensure the conduct of political work, within the framework of the perspective adopted by the convention and/or the CC. It may take such decisions and initiatives as are necessary, within the framework of the CC’s mandate.
4.9 The regular bodies of the organization are the recognized local branches and fractions or cells, the elected city leaderships, the newspaper Editorial Board, and at the appropriate time, the Central Committee, a Quebec structure, the Political Committee, and a Control Commission.
Section 5. Standards of Behaviour.
5.1 Members will maintain standards of behaviour which respect the dignity and rights of all other members.
5.2 Members who exhibit sexist, racist or homophobic behaviour, language or jokes, sexual harassment, physical or verbal violence, are subject to sanction.
5.3 Members who discriminate against people on the basis of race, colour, physical or mental ability, national or cultural background, or sexual orientation, are subject to sanction.
Section 6. Women in the Organization.
6.1 The organization strives to establish and maintain the best possible balance between men and women in the leadership of its branches and higher leading bodies by favouring female candidates where competence and capacities are equal.
6.2 At meetings of the organization, the speakers’ list will alternate between women and men.
6.3 In accordance with the material resources of the organization, organizers of internal and public meetings of the organization will consider the provision of childcare, in collaboration with the parent members and guests, as one of the given tasks.
6.4 Internal texts, resolutions, articles and other publications of the organization will be written in the feminine and masculine persons, in accordance with recognized linguistic norms.
6.5 When it is established, the CC will elect a Women’s Commission which will be responsible for the work of the organization among women. The commission will elaborate positions on issues and perspectives concerning women’s liberation, submit those to the CC and convention, and monitor the political functioning of women within the organization.
Section 7. Bylaws and principles.
7.1 SA functions in accordance with the principles of democratic centralism, which implies democracy in internal discussion and decision making, and discipline in the implementation of decisions, under the supervision of the appropriate regular bodies and the elected leadership.
7.2 The quorum of a body is fixed at over 50% of the full members. Vote results are determined by a simple majority (over 50% of those full members present and voting), except as otherwise stated in these statutes. In the event of a tie, the motion is defeated.
7.3 All bodies and all members are obliged to carry out the perspectives and priority campaigns decided by the regular higher bodies. Any body, or individual member may try to reverse a decision at a succeeding meeting of the responsible higher body, but in the meantime such decisions remain in force.
7.4 In internal votes, there is at no time an organizational requirement to vote in a pre-determined way. Members of a body are at all times at liberty to vote for the positions which they consider to be the best, in light of the discussions.
7.5 In SA, all leaderships are elected by the appropriate regular body, beginning at the base. Any leadership may be renewed at a regular meeting of the body which elected it. Any eligible member may present his or her candidacy or that of any other eligible member. All elections are conducted by secret ballot.
7.6 The essential political criteria for the election of a leadership may be summarized as follows: the formation of a functional leadership, reflecting the political will as expressed in the discussions; the proportional representation of any divergent opinions expressed in the debate, with a working majority for the current that obtained the most support; the representation of current and planned areas of implantation; and the inclusion of women in accordance with the principle set out in Article 6.1.
7.7 Only in exceptional circumstances which make it impossible to follow the statutes, may an elected leadership either co-opt non-elected members to fill vacancies in the leadership body, or nominate subordinate leaderships. In all cases, such drafts or nominations must be ratified, following the regular procedures, as soon as it is possible to do so.
Section 8. Meetings and Standing Orders.
8.1 The meetings of each regular body are normally called by its secretary, or by the immediately superior body which it has elected.
8.2 The body or person convening a meeting is responsible for proposing an agenda, for soliciting reports to introduce the agenda items, and for distributing the documents to be submitted for vote to all members of the body, in advance if possible.
8.3 Although the committees and other structures must do their best to find times for meetings such that the maximum number of members may attend, the organization must function and meetings must be held even if some comrades cannot participate at the decided time.
8.4 Members are required to participate in the meetings of the structures to which they belong, unless prevented by sickness, work, family obligations, or priority political assignments in mass work areas as approved by the competent body. Comrades must justify non-attendance, if possible in advance, to the person or body calling the meeting.
8.5 The Convention may be convened by demand of one third of the full members of the organization. When established, the Central Committee may be convened by demand of one third of its members.
8.6 The meetings of the regular bodies of the organization are normally limited to the members of those bodies, who may however invite other members or non-members to attend, without voting rights, and with or without voice, according to the reason for their presence.
Section 9. Rules of Debate.
9.1 A leadership body must regularly report on its activities to the membership and to subordinate institutions of the organization, provide all information necessary for a clear discussion of the issues at stake, and submit its evaluations and assessments for ratification to its superior body.
9.2 The body which decides to open a debate leading to a vote at a conference or convention must make its positions known to the organization by publishing a discussion bulletin available to all members and open to written contributions from the membership or other structures. Limits on the length of articles may be specified, if necessary.
9.3 There is no `caucus’ discipline in the internal debates of the organization, nor is there `leadership solidarity’ in opposition to the members. A comrade is at liberty to differ with positions adopted or expressed in any body of which s/he is a member, when these issues come up on the agenda of the regular meetings of other bodies of which the comrade is also a member.
9.4 SA places no limitations on the political discussions which members have amongst themselves. All `discussion’ or `working groups’ must, however, declare their basis of unity and report on their activities to the regular bodies, as soon as they acquire a permanent existence.
9.5 SA recognizes the right of its members firstly, to form internal tendencies or factions on the basis of written platforms accessible to all members, and secondly, to present their positions to members verbally or in text form, during the allotted period for pre-convention discussions.
9.6 The organization’s Convention is preceded by a discussion period of at least three months duration, between the date of the convention call and the date of the event itself. Branch conferences which involve making assignments, the formation of fractions or cells, or the election of the city leadership must be convened with at least two weeks notice.
9.7 The authority to decide on how internal debate is to be carried on between conventions, as well as the publicity to be given, or not, to these debates outside of the organization, resides with the regularly constituted bodies of the organization.
Section 10. Finances.
10.1 Every member affiliated to a local branch pays monthly dues to that institution. Members-at-large pay their dues directly to the Treasurer of the central institution designated as responsible for their collection by the Convention.
10.2 The setting of dues for each member is determined by the branch, or in the case of at-large members, by the body designated in Article 10.1, taking into account the personal situation and familial responsibilities of the member, where applicable.
10.3 Members will pay monthly dues of between 5 and 10 per cent of disposable income, with a minimum of $5 for those totally unwaged.
10.4 The organization’s Convention determines the allocation of budgetary resources for the functioning of the national leadership bodies and the political campaigns and projects, including such things as travel costs, tours, international contributions, etc.
10.5 A member three months behind in the payment of dues ceases to be a member in good standing. A member six months in dues arrears is subject to suspension.
10.6 Only members in good standing are counted when establishing representation of the branches of the organization at conferences and conventions.
Section 11. Publications.
11.1 SA recognizes the obligation to distribute and promote the publications of the Fourth International, with all the means at our disposal.
11.2 The newspaper(s) of the organization (whether in English or French) is/are published under the authority of the highest elected leadership body, and in the absence of such, the elected Editorial Board, which may also publish in either English or French any documents, brochures, declarations, or other publications deemed to advance the work of the organization.
11.3 Local branches and fractions or cells of the organization have a duty to distribute the central publications of the organization, and the right to publish under their own authority documents, leaflets, and regional publications, within the framework of the general line of the organization.
11.4 Except for particular situations authorized by the branch, fraction or cell, each member is required to sell or circulate whichever central publication of the organization is used in the region or nation, as well as the documents and leaflets designed for mass distribution, as decided by the appropriate institution.
Section 12. Control Mechanisms.
12.1 Any violation of the statutes by members or bodies of the organization is subject to sanction.
12.2 Authorized sanctions consist of: criticism, demotion to provisional membership status, provisional suspension, and expulsion.
12.3 Sanctions are voted at the appropriate organizational level by a two-thirds majority vote of full members, present and voting.
12.4 Any member or body subject to sanction must be informed of the accusation giving rise to the charge, and has the right to defend his/her/it -self before the body deciding the sanction, and where possible, to confront the accuser at that level.
12.5 Any sanctioned member or institution has the right to appeal the decision to the higher competent body, up to and including the Convention.
12.6 Sanctions, once voted, take effect immediately, even if appealed. All sanctions must be ratified by the competent superior body, which may modify or quash sanctions imposed by the subordinate body.
12.7 At a delegated Convention, delegates elect in a separate vote a Control Commission, whose members may not simultaneously serve on the Central Committee. The task of the Control Commission is to ensure compliance by both members and leadership institutions with the statutes and norms of functioning of SA. The Control Commission may initiate inquiries on its own, or at the request of members or institutions. It determines the form of the inquiry and has the right to call any member as a witness. It formulates recommendations to the regular institutions, which alone are authorized to take executive decisions.
Section 13. Amendments.
13.1 Only the convention of the organization may amend the present statutes, by two-thirds majority of those present and voting.