Eugene Democratic Socialists of America seeks to be a voice for all those fighting oppression in Lane County, Oregon, the United States, and the world. We recognize that for our struggle to be meaningful, it must be intersectional. Our organization must not only welcome diversity, but seek it out, and we must join in the struggle with people of all colors, all genders, all sexual orientations, all differences in ability, and all cultural backgrounds to fight for equity, freedom, democracy and socialism. And we recognize that the foundation of solidarity is respect for one another.
We strive to conduct ourselves in a comradely manner in our interactions with fellow members of DSA and those with whom we work for progressive social change. Sexism, racism, discrimination, harassment, bullying and violent abuse are endemic under capitalism.
These behaviours not only damage individuals and communities but also pose a serious threat to democracy in our organisation and the political solidarity and mutual confidence so essential to building a united team of activists and an effective political leadership.
Members join DSA with very different political experiences and different levels of consciousness, and the distortions and divisions of class society affect us all.
Eugene DSA deals with these differences politically by seeking to develop in all members a consciousness of all forms of oppression, an understanding of their origins in the social structure of class society, and a commitment to act against all manifestations of such oppression and to struggle to eradicate the basis of such oppressions.
Conduct in Eugene DSA meetings
Eugene DSA is dedicated to developing the political skills of all its members and strengthening the political effectiveness of the organization. In order to do so, it is important that all meetings of the Local are run in a thoroughly democratic way aimed at maximising participation and effectiveness.
DSA Local meetings are important forums through which many viewpoints can be considered and decisions made democratically.
The chairperson is the member through whom discussion is facilitated and meeting effectiveness ensured. Within the framework of an agreed chair, agenda and meeting procedure, we uphold the right of all attendees to express their opinions.
Where the expressed opinions contravene principles of comradely conduct, the meeting is encouraged to take steps to make that clear and redress the situation. Meeting participants are encouraged not to talk over one another during formal proceedings or discussion.
The duties of the chairperson should be rotated so that all members can gain the experience and skill necessary to lead others.
Membership in other organizations
Freedom of discourse within the parameters of the principles of the DSA is key to the success of the Local. Eugene DSA members should not also hold membership in organizations that are fundamentally at odds with the principles of the DSA, or that require them to espouse particular political positions in discussions within the DSA. Event announcements are acceptable, but in general Eugene DSA resources and meetings may not be used for recruitment to other organizations.
Broadly, discrimination is treating a person or people less favorably than others, because they are a member of an oppressed group. Discrimination is not always conscious — many people who discriminate are unaware that they are doing so.
Discrimination both produces and reinforces marginalisation and oppression. All members should actively build a culture of comradely respect and mutuality in DSA and consciously combat discrimination.
Debate within DSA is encouraged and passion and enthusiasm are celebrated elements of socialist practice. However, all members are encouraged to reflect on their behaviour, and refrain from verbal or physical acts that others might find threatening or intimidating.
Bullying behaviour can range from raising one’s voice and finger pointing to more extreme forms of physical and psychological intimidation. It can also include physical behaviour designed to undermine the confidence of a person when they are speaking.
Harassment can vary in severity from annoying to abusive, depending on its nature and on the degree of social, economic, organisational or other power held by the harasser in relation to the person or people they harass.
Harassment includes the use of sexist or racist language, and unwanted sexual advances. Racial vilification is a very aggressive form of harassment. Harassment is unacceptable in DSA and will not be tolerated.
All Eugene DSA members have a responsibility to treat their fellow members in a way consistent with this policy at all times. Sexual harassment is defined by the Human Rights Commission as “Any unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour, which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.
Sexual harassment is not interaction, flirtation or friendship which is mutual or consensual.” It can vary in severity from annoying to abusive, depending on its nature and on the degree of social, economic, organisational or other power held by the harasser in relation to the person they harass.
The Local Coordinating Committee may be able to halt isolated or unwitting incidents of sexual harassment by discussion and education, however persistent and/or serious sexual harassment by a member should trigger prompt consideration of their membership status in accordance with the constitution, whether or not the harassment would constitute an offence under criminal law.
The Coordinating Committee should consult the Guidelines below in dealing with reports of sexual harassment. These guidelines may also be useful in dealing with other forms of harassment.
No violence or abuse
Anti-social violence or abuse (including sexual violence) is a threat to the security and democracy of Eugene DSA and will not be tolerated within the Local under any circumstances. These behaviours undermine solidarity and democracy within the working class organisation we are striving to build and in our class as a whole.
Eugene DSA is a political organisation and is not constituted to conduct forensic investigations or court proceedings or to dispense justice to survivors or perpetrators of violence and abuse. We do, however, have democratic processes in place to determine our membership.
Perpetrators of antisocial violence and abuse — either within the organisation or outside — are not welcome in DSA. The Local bylaws have provisions to expel members whose behaviour threatens the solidarity and democracy on which our existence depends.
The Coordinating Committee should consult the Guidelines below in dealing with reports of sexual assault or rape. These guidelines may also be useful in dealing with other forms of violence or abuse.
What can I do?
Any member, who feels or has felt harassed, discriminated against, bullied, intimidated or who has experienced violence or abuse by another DSA member, whether in one-on-one interactions or in larger groups during meetings or other activities of the DSA, is encouraged to raise the matter with a member of the Coordinating Committee.
All members with knowledge of violence or abuse perpetrated by another DSA member have a responsibility to report it to the Local leadership.
The Local may elect one or more Grievance Officer(s), who can act as a first port of call for issues such as bullying and harassment. These issues should then be raised with the Coordinating Committee for it to deal with them as necessary.
It should be made clear to members who the grievance officer(s) is/are, in whatever way is appropriate, so members feel comfortable reporting issues and know clearly to whom to report.
Members may still bypass the grievance officer(s) and raise issues with any officer of the Local directly.
Guidelines for dealing with reports of sexual violence, sexual harassment and assault
The following guidelines have been developed to assist the Local to deal with sexual harassment and assault, especially of women by men, which is endemic in American society.
They can also be applied to deal with same-sex sexual harassment and assault affecting gender non-binary people, or other forms of sexual violence.
They do not set out a judicial or quasi-judicial process but rather guidance for leadership bodies to carry out their democratic role, under the constitution, in relation to the suspension or termination of membership. The process is not intended to replace or replicate criminal laws.
Eugene DSA recognises that there are serious flaws in the way the American legal system deals with both survivors and perpetrators of sexual violence. We are struggling to replace sexist bourgeois law with socialist laws and processes that truly address and reduce all forms of violence.
But we also support the feminist demand that sexual assault — inside or outside a sexual relationship — should be treated as a serious crime under the existing legal system. We do not agree with those who argue that survivors of sexual assault should not access the criminal justice system.
We support the feminist organisations that have fought and continue to fight for justice and safety for survivors in the here and now.
The process used by the Coordinating Committee dealing with a report or observation of sexual harassment or assault by a member should be appropriate to the circumstances of each case, but the following are intended to provide guidance.
Guidelines for dealing with reports of sexual harassment in Eugene DSA
- A member who experiences sexual harassment against them by another member should initially approach an Officer of the Local.
- The Coordinating Committee has responsibility for dealing with reports of sexual harassment and should support the complainant in exploring options for dealing with the matter. This may include a more informal or formal process, depending on what is appropriate to the circumstances and taking account of the wishes of the complainant.
- When dealing with a report or observation or formal complaint of sexual harassment the Coordinating Committee should act as promptly, and confidentially, as fair process allows.
- Examples of an informal process may include, for example, addressing the behaviour directly with the respondent by the complainant with the assistance of an Officer of the Local, or having the matter raised with the respondent on their behalf, by designated members of the Coordinating Committee.
- Officers of the Local should familiarize themselves with the Code of Conduct and the Bylaws for this purpose.
- Both the complainant and the respondent should be assigned contact people on the Coordinating Committee to keep them regularly informed of the progress of the matter and for them to contact when they want to. There should be maximum transparency and accountability of process balanced with respect for confidentiality.
- Members of the Coordinating Committee dealing with a report of sexual harassment who are friends of the respondent, or have worked closely with them, should excuse themselves from any decision-making process regarding the matter.
- If the complainant or the respondent are members of the Coordinating Committee, then they shall excuse themselves from all deliberations and decision-making regarding the matter.
- If a member who has reported or complained of sexual harassment against them by another member wishes to withdraw their report, their wishes should be respected.
- When dealing with a complaint of sexual harassment, the Coordinating Committee may decide to form an investigation subcommittee to investigate a matter.
- Any member with knowledge of the matter should be allowed to speak to the Coordinating Committee or investigation subcommittee, on request, but no information about the facts of the case should be provided to members making contributions in this way. The Committee’s role should only be to listen to their contribution.
- Any recommendation made on membership should be presented for ratification by the Local concerned in accordance with the bylaws.
Guidelines for dealing with reports of sexual assault in DSA
- Sexual assault is unacceptable within DSA.
- A person who reports sexual assault against them by another member should be supported to access professional counselling and advice regarding their options including reporting the matter to police for investigation. The Coordinating Committee should familiarize themselves with the organisations and resources available in their local area for this purpose, such as sexual assault counselling services and women’s health centres.
- When dealing with a report or observation of sexual assault, the Coordinating Committee should act as promptly, and confidentially, as fair process allows. The Local Coordinating Committee should familiarize themselves with the Code of Conduct and the Bylaws for this purpose.
- A decision according to the constitution regarding the membership of a member accused of sexually assaulting another person should not be delayed pending the result of criminal proceedings.
- The role of the Coordinating Committee, i.e. as decision-maker on membership and not as a quasi-judicial body judging guilt or innocence, should be made clear to all members involved in a report of sexual assault.
- If a person who has reported a sexual assault against them by a member wishes to withdraw their report, their wishes should be respected.
- All reports of sexual assault to the Coordinating should be notified to the National Organization.
- Both the person reported to have been assaulted and an accused member should be assigned contact people on the Committee to keep them regularly informed of the progress of the matter and for them to contact when they want to. There should be maximum transparency and accountability of process balanced with respect for confidentiality.
- Members of the Coordinating Committee dealing with a report of sexual assault who are friends of the accused member, or have worked closely with them, should not participate in the decision-making process.
- If either the person reporting the assault or the accused are members of the Coordinating Committee, then they shall excuse themselves from all deliberations and decision-making regarding the matter.
- The Coordinating Committee, when dealing with a report of sexual assault, may decide to form an investigation subcommittee to investigate a matter.
- Any member with knowledge of the matter should be allowed to speak to the Committee, on request, but no information about the facts of the case should be provided to members making contributions in this way. The Committee’s role should only be to listen to their contribution.
- Any decision made on membership should be presented for ratification by the Local in accordance with the Bylaws.
Adapted, with permission, from the 2015 Socialist Alliance Code of Conduct.