Statements of Radical Socialist

RS Code of Conduct

Published on Sunday, 17 July 2022 10:04
Written by Radical Socialist

[Adopted by All India Conference, May 27-29, 2022]

 

The 2022 Conference of RS resolves to approve the following document which lays down rules and norms for dealing with

a)     A comrade’s ‘personal’ life.

b)     Relationship of comrades to one another within the Group.

c)     Relationship of individual comrades with other organisations and their non-RS participants.

All of us have some awareness of what constitutes a ‘revolutionary’ but it can happen that comrades of any gender are confronted with practical problems like their relationship with other comrades or whether a group member should be a member of the managing board of a company, and many similar problems. This Code of Conduct lays down how to properly deal with these issues or give satisfactory guidelines or answers. Comrades sometimes confront such problems and have been hesitant in squarely dealing with them for fear of alienating the comrade concerned who might otherwise be an active member of the Group.

A person is deemed to be revolutionary not only by the political beliefs that they adhere to, but also by the personal life that they lead.

1.     A person may be a staunch supporter of the Group’s position on gender justice and yet in their personal life might be extremely oppressive as far as relations with partner, family members and other comrades or outsiders are concerned. We cannot remain silent spectators to this and satisfy ourselves with the fact that at least that person's ‘public image’ is in consonance with that of the Group position? In so far as the relations with the partner, family members and other comrades or any other persons are concerned, it can, depending on circumstances, become a group concern. In such cases it has to be handled carefully and sensitively and can lead to the establishing of a gender diverse Inquiry Committee of a minimum 3 persons. A comrade’s political life cannot be completely separated from their personal life. There can be certain comrades now or in the future who have extremely conservative and traditional views regarding gender, and yet may go along with the majority position for fear of being branded. Conservative beliefs may have become ingrained over a period of years and might be difficult to change. But this does not mean that the question should not be discussed. It becomes even more imperative that we bring these problems however ‘minor’ they might seem into the open and sort it out.

2.     Similarly a comrade might publicly oppose any form of communalism, racism, ableism, ageism or caste-ism and yet in their personal relations either with comrades or persons outside the group they might adopt, for example, a communalist or caste-ist attitude and behaviour. Every communalist and/or caste-ist incident on the part of the comrade may constitute that proper action be taken. It cannot be taken lightly and must be discussed in the group. And if it is a serious incident it might even necessitate the expulsion of the comrade concerned. The same applies to other forms and practices of social discrimination and also includes insensitive attitudes and behaviour towards those having mental health issues.

3.     As far as Religion is concerned, many but not all might be atheists. A recruit, from the working class or otherwise, might be a militant and yet in their personal life be extremely religious. Here we should remember Lenin’s dictum that we are out to create a heaven on earth and not preoccupied with disproving the existence of heaven above. There should not be a compulsion on recruits to be atheists. How a member expresses their religiosity can be left private. There is no absolute separation between the private and the public and it is another matter if public expression takes a form which can be considered obscurantist, undemocratic or oppressive. This is unacceptable. To bring about greater clarity and sanity in our approach to religion, such matters and others that are closely interwoven with the personal lives of members and comrades, should be taken up for discussion.

4.     The next most important question that we will have to deal with concerns our relationship with comrades who either run a business and employ labourers or are on the managing board of a company in their personal capacity. (i) There can be comrades who run a business establishment and for the purposes of which they engage employees. (ii) There may be others who engage agricultural employees on their plots of land. (iii) There may be comrades on the managing boards of companies of NGOs.  The question therefore is whether comrades should at all allow themselves to be put in a position where they have to play the role of an employer. However well intentioned the comrade might be conflict of interests are bound to arise. For example, to what extent can a pro-labour executive member of the board ‘change’ the views of other members?  Similarly, the interests of the owner of a commercial establishment or landholder are basically counter-posed to the interests of the labourers. A group member who holds such a position must eventually give up that position so as to prevent any eventuality where he/she might have to take up such a stand which could be basically counter-posed to the interests of the oppressed.

 

Insofar as recruiting new members are concerned we have to adopt fairly strict criteria. No persons who are owners of factories, establishments can be recruited to the Group. They can remain sympathisers.

Existing members/sympathisers who are owners of factories and/or engage employees, the following norms must be followed:

a)     Where agricultural workers are employed, all the labour laws, including payment of minimum wages, should be applicable. There can be no excuse that the comrade concerned is facing severe financial hardships.

b)     Those on the managing boards of companies should make arrangements to withdraw.

c)     Those running a factory or engaging a large number of workers should dis-associate themselves from the position of an employer.

 

An individual comrade’s relationship be with other organisations.

There is the particular issue of NGOs. These work for the most part in specialised areas like health, documentation, women, adivasis, rural development, civil liberties, law, etc. The majority of these organisations have been started by activists who were already working in that particular area. They may not be funded by the government.

However, some receive funds from foreign agencies. It may well be the case now or in the future that some of our comrades are actively involved in such bodies, possibly playing a leading role. Even when foreign funded in their specific fields they have taken up activist issues and have succeeded in mobilising a large number of people who are interested in working on specific areas like women, health, etc. On the other hand, there may be organisations which have evoked controversy among activists. In such cases if or when our comrades are involved an embarrassing situation for the group can be created whereby withdrawal from that body may be required. Some of the problems which can crop up in bodies that are partially or fully funded by foreign agencies are:

(i)              Since these organisations get a major chunk or all of their funds from foreign agencies, there is the constant fear of misuse and misappropriation. The comrade concerned might not be personally involved in it, but is bound to be associated with any scandal that might come to light.

(ii)            Secondly, a dependency might develop amongst persons receiving funds.

(iii)          Thirdly, the organisation may become detached from the problems of activists and those working in the foreign funded NGO may develop a ‘holier than thou’ attitude since one is providing a ‘vital service’ to the community. Funding issues may assume disproportionate importance at the cost of alienating oneself from the movement. The shift towards accepting the dictates of funders may become increasingly important if not paramount.

(iv)           Organisational set-up—A comrade who is a member of the executive committee is bound to be confronted with the problem of what should be the organisation’s relationship with its employees. What should be the wages paid to employees? Should their wages be graded according to their ‘skill’.

 

Recommended Guidelines:

 

Comrades should work in these organisations only if the following conditions are met:

A.    The organisation should be activist oriented.

B.    There should be no political strings attached to the funding organisation.

C.    The funds that the organisation gets from various foreign agencies should be open to public scrutiny. The audited accounts and balance sheets should be available to anyone with the organisation.

D.    If the comrade who is a Trustee member is placed in an embarrassing position regarding relationship with employees, the comrade should discuss it in the group at the local level. Though the group cannot dictate terms to the organisation or overrule the decision of the Trustee Board, the group can certainly discuss and decide whether the continuation of the comrade in the organisation would be detrimental to the interests of the group.

Developing a culture of decency by word and deed.

a)     Whether inside or outside the group there is no place whatsoever for sexist, racist, caste-ist, communalist language to stigmatise people. These should not ever be used by members either with respect to each other or to sympathisers or to ‘outsiders’.

b)     Expletives and cuss words are best avoided. If used, judgement of acceptability or otherwise is determined by evaluation of the context in which these utterances occur. Under no circumstances can demeaning labels be used in reference to anyone.

c)     Intimidation by word or act towards members must be shunned and in general a culture of routine civility be developed and also extended to interactions with outsiders.

d)     Reform and education rather than punishment must be the guiding principle of our efforts. Disciplinary action, if required, must be proportionate to the gravity of the incident.

 

Limitations and Necessity of the Code of Conduct:

No Code of Conduct can ever be comprehensive enough to anticipate all exigencies that would require moral-political judgement as to what should be the proper action to undertake by the organisation and its members. But having a Code of Conduct, howsoever incomplete, is always a necessity and whose purpose in laying down norms and principles to follow helps cultivate a deeper and wider ethos of compassion and integrity that will guide the behaviour of RS members towards one and all, in and outside the organisation.