Proposed by Tina Becker, seconded by Robert Eagleton. This motion won more votes than the safe space policy document, but a majority at conference refused to ratify it. Which means that Left Unity has neither a code of conduct or a safe spaces policy.
Conference considers that the method of the “Safer Spaces Policy” confuses a number of issues which ought to be kept separate. It therefore resolves to adopt the following
(1) Code of Conduct for LU members
(2) Rules for Disputes Procedures
(3) Equalities Policy for LU internal procedures
(4) Amendments to the LU Constitution to remove references to the “Safer Spaces policy” and create a simpler and more transparent allocation of responsibility for handling disputes
1. Code of conduct for LU members
Left Unity aims as far as possible within the deeply unequal society within which we live to combat all forms of oppression and discrimination, to develop all our members as leaders, and to develop a culture of free discussion accessible to all members. We recognise that this is most likely to be achieved by a political culture in which fully open debate, including accusations of sexism, racism, class prejudice, scabbing, etc, or saying that ‘the emperor has no clothes’, are possible; and in which members are free to communicate with each other and to organise themselves for common ends. This code of conduct therefore merely sets certain minimal limits which are necessary to LU’s ability to function and pursue these goals.
Members may not:
- violate this constitution;
- actively disrupt LU’s agreed common actions (eg, election campaigns);
- persistently actively disrupt LU internal meetings;
- intentionally assist Redwatch or similar far-right organisations which target leftists with violence and threats, employers’ blacklisting organisations or mass-media witch-hunts;
- ‘troll’ LU online forums;
- behave in a way which brings LU into disrepute: for example, by violence against other members, persistently oppressive conduct towards other members, or the exploitation of party office for private purposes.
LU recognises that we do not have the resources to properly investigate and handle complaints of serious crimes against other members: for example, rape or wounding/GBH; and that by attempting to do so we may contaminate evidence and thereby prevent justice being obtained.
2. Rules for Disputes procedure
A body handling a complaint or disciplinary charges against a member must:
- act as promptly as possible (having regard to the following points);
- give the person complaining sufficient opportunity to formulate their complaint, and the person complained against sufficient notice of the nature of the complaint and sufficient opportunity to formulate their answer to it;
- allow both the person complaining and the person complained against to have the unpaid assistance of another person;
- where facts are disputed, allow both the person complaining and the person complained against to call witnesses and to ask questions of witnesses they have called and of witnesses called against them, and to offer other evidence (such as documents, emails, medical reports, etc);
- conduct any hearing with fairness to both sides;
- where the complaint is not dealt with in a branch, publish to the region (if dealt with in a regional committee) or to LU generally (if dealt with in the National Council, Disputes Committee or Appeals Committee) a summary of the decision and the body’s findings and reasons.
These procedural obligations do not prohibit dealing with complaints by voluntary negotiation, mediation or reconciliation procedures, whether before or at any stage of formal complaints procedures.
Where a complaint is upheld or a disciplinary charge found proved, the sanctions imposed may range from censure of the member complained against, through other penalties, up to suspension or expulsion from membership of LU.
In deciding on sanctions, account should be taken of the seriousness of the complaint, the extent to which a persistent course of conduct is involved, and of the level of political experience of the person complained against.
A vote to expel a member does not take effect until ratified by the National Council or Disputes Committee on the basis of a report from the body hearing the complaint.
3. Equalities policy for LU internal procedures
Left Unity recognises that we live in a society characterised by profound systematic inequality, not just on the basis of class, but also of the oppression of women, discrimination against members of ethnic and religious minority groups, and LGBT people and of age hierarchies, as well as both direct discrimination and the inherent bias of market society against people with disabilities.
We aim for a party in which all people can fully participate.
We also recognise, however, that there are serious limits on the extent to which the life of the party can overcome the inequalities of capitalist society or ‘prefigure’ the future, and the complete and disastrous failure of previous attempts to create party ‘liberated zones’ or ‘prefigurative politics’. In addition, a number of forms of discrimination and inequality, particularly around caring responsibilities and disabilities, immediately engage the questions of material resources and time; and the recent evolution of capitalism has been to reduce the resources in both space and time available to workers generally and to workers’ organisations. For instance, we may and should aim to meet in accessible rooms, but such rooms may simply be unavailable or not available at a price which small LU branches can afford.
What follows is therefore an incomplete list of recommendations for LU’s organisations for good practice in combating the effects of inequalities and discrimination on our decision-making. Most of these recommendations are hence subject to ‘as far as possible’ (generally, more will be possible for national meetings than for local meetings).
Meetings should be held in accessible spaces and with hearing loops, and so on.
Scheduling of meetings should take account of members’ or potential members’ caring responsibilities (for children, for people with disabilities, etc). Childcare arrangements should be provided. IT (streaming, Skype, etc) should be used to facilitate participation of those unable to attend.
Agendas and motions should be circulated well in advance.
Every effort should be made to avoid overcrowded agendas, which tend to cramp participation in discussions (and hence set up conflicts between open discussion of debated issues, on the one hand, and prioritising the contributions of oppressed groups, on the other).
Chairing should be sensitive to the need to draw in contributions from those who might not ‘normally’ speak, as well as to the need to clarify differences and allow full debate. On the other hand, some rotation of chairing is desirable to allow other comrades to gain experience of that duty.
Meetings of any length should include appropriate access breaks.
Left Unity needs to actively promote workers’ education and similar initiatives to empower those who have had less access to formal education. The party as a whole, and branches, need to develop party education for the same purpose.
4. Amendments to Left Unity constitution
Clause 3, Membership, subhead (f): “abides by the principles and guidelines of behaviour set out in the safer spaces policy (appendix 1)” – Delete.
Clause 10, Direct democratic participation …,subhead (d): “All discussion and debate will be expected to be respectful and adhere to the standards of behaviour set out in the safer spaces policy (appendix 1)” – Delete.
Clauses 18, Disputes Committee, and 19, Appeals Committee:
Rewrite as follows:
(18-19) DISPUTES AND APPEALS
(i) A Disputes Committee shall be elected annually by national ballot. This committee will consist of seven people, but shall include no members of the National Council. Its role will be to investigate disputes and complaints about the behaviour of individual party members in appropriate cases.
(ii) The Disputes Committee may form a sub-committee of at least three members to consider any one case.
(iii) The Disputes Committee shall adopt its own procedures and standing orders, subject to approval and amendment from time to time by national conference.
(i) An Appeals Committee shall be elected annually by national ballot. This committee is the last stage in any disputes resolution procedure and its decisions are final.
(ii) The Appeals Committee will consist of seven people, but shall include no members of the national council or disputes committee. Its role will be to hear appeals from members against disciplinary action taken against them. The Appeals Committee may form a sub-committee of at least three members to consider any one case.
(iii) The Appeals Committee shall adopt its own procedures and standing orders, subject to approval and amendment from time to time by national conference.
Disputes and disciplinary action
(i) Individual members have the right to make complaint against other members, or LU officers or organisations, complaining of violations of this constitution or of the code of conduct (appendix 1).
(ii) The National Council may refuse any applicant for membership or take disciplinary action against an individual member. The individual concerned has a right to appeal to the appeals committee. Such action must be explained in writing to the member or potential member concerned, and such explanation must include a statement that the member or applicant is entitled to appeal to the appeals committee.
(iii) Complaints should, subject to (iv) below, be dealt with at the most local possible level. Individual members’ complaints against other members of the same branch should be dealt with in that branch. Complaints between members of different branches within a region may be appropriately dealt with by the relevant regional committee. Complaints against national officers or LU organisations must be dealt with by the National Council or the Disputes Committee.
(iv) A complaint or disciplinary proceeding shall be transferred from a branch to a regional committee or to the Disputes Committee, or from a regional committee to the Disputes Commmittee, on the request of the person complaining or complained against on the ground that the circumstances make a fair handling of the complaint in the branch or regional committee impossible. A branch or regional committee, or the National Council, may refer any complaint or disciplinary action which is to be dealt with before them to the Disputes Committee if it appears to them that this is required by the seriousness of the matter or if it appears to them that circumstances within the referring body make fair handling of the complaint impossible.
(v) People aggrieved by a decision, disciplinary action, or refusal to act on a complaint, by a branch, regional committee, the National Council or the Disputes Committee have the right to appeal to the Appeals Committee.
(vi) Bodies handling complaints or disciplinary actions must act in accordance with the disputes procedure (appendix 4).