In the session on the Constitution at our forthcoming National Conference I shall move the following amendment:
Insert the following new sentence at the end of 8.1:
The National Executive may charter branches on a non-geographical basis where this helps the organisation of members.
So that 8.1 would read:
8.1 The basic unit of the Socialist Alliance is the local branch. A branch shall have at least seven members. Each new branch must be ratified by the National Executive taking into account the location of other branches, including in relation to federal and state electoral work. All Alliance members will be assigned to a branch by the appropriate district organising committee (see below) or, in the case of remote regions, by the National Executive. Members will normally live in the area covered by their branch, but alternatively may indicate the branch in which they will be active to the district organising committee or National Executive. The National Executive may charter branches on a non-geographical basis where this helps the organisation of members.
As the Socialist Alliance has developed its work, an increasing number of members have become active in political arenas other than local branches. This is particularly the case in Melbourne and Sydney, where Socialist Alliance members make their political contribution through, for example, their union or a rank-and-file group within it or through activity in their local Your Rights at Work group.
If we maintain geographical location as our only basis of branch creation, then such comrades will increasingly be disenfranchised when delegate elections for state, national and district conferences occur.
The amendment would empower the National Executive to charter branches on a non-geographical basis, for example, an industry, a union or an area of political activity. This is already standard practice in many broad socialist parties, like Spain´s United Left. The new member chooses what sort of branch he or she would most like to belong to, and henceforward is active in it.
As a result there is not only, for example, a Lavapies branch of the United Left (a Madrid suburb), but also a bank employees branch. Members who want (and have time!) to be active in both sorts of branches have to make a choice as to the “basic unit” to which they will belong (and hence where they have the right to vote and stand for election).
The Socialist Alliance is still a long way from consolidating this sort of structure, but we need to have the flexibility to adapt our forms of organization to the real activity of members, and giving the National Executive the right to charter branches on a non geo-graphical basis means that our organization will have tthe freedom to develop structures that can boost and better organise the involvement of members.