WSM Code of Conduct


Passed by WSM National Conference, May 2008.

Amended by WSM National Conference, July 2017.

1. Introduction

This document has been agreed by the WSM because we want to make our politics relevant to the world we live in. Here we set out how we would deal with problems which could arise from an abuse of power within our own organisation. It is a work in progress and we hope it can provide some useful ideas for those developing dispute resolution policies within other working class organisations.

WSM members are required to behave in a way that is consistent with basic anarchist principles and which does not bring the organisation into disrepute. Anarchism’s goal is to eliminate the unequal power structures of our society and the exploitation which flows from them. Therefore, in order to be consistent, anarchists should always strive to behave in such a way so that they do not abuse power relations or exploit others.

Rather than spelling out a list of rules that members must follow, this document provides a basic explanation of how anarchist principles apply to everyday life. This document is supplemented by case-studies and “best practice” guidelines for specific areas along with a dispute procedure through which complaints against members for breaches of the code can be evaluated and resolved.

2. Inter-Personal Relations

Anarchists should not exploit the power conferred upon them by their physical strength, knowledge, gender, sexuality, race, quick-wittedness or any other trait, physical or mental, to persecute, intimidate or oppress other people.

3. Economic Relations

Anarchists seek to overthrow the capitalist system which ultimately depends upon that power which flows from control of economic wealth. Therefore, anarchists should not partake in exploitative economic relations with others.

4. Structural Relations

Capitalism depends upon many institutions to enforce the power of the ruling class. There are many roles within corporate, state, NGO and even informal structures which are largely concerned with enforcing capitalism’s unequal power distribution. Anarchists should generally avoid positions whose function requires them to work to actively increase the power of the ruling class and assist capitalism’s structural forces of exploitation.

It should be noted that it is impossible to draw up a definitive list of positions which are “guilty” of furthering exploitation and repression. A very large number of jobs within modern capitalism contain some element of control and exploitation, but relatively few are purely exploitative or repressive in nature. The important thing is what the individual does and the effects of what they do, not the position or job-title.

5. Collective Relations

WSM members must be capable of working in a collective way and collaborating with other members constructively to achieve the shared goals of the organisation. Thus members are expected to display a basic level of honesty, civility, reliability and respect towards one another. If you are not capable of working constructively as part of a collective, the WSM is not for you.

6. External Relations
Members of the WSM are, whether they like it or not, anarchist role-models. The impression that WSM members make on external groups and individuals in their personal dealings with them is the most important factor that defines our collective reputation and the reputation of anarchism among the Irish working class. As an organisation which strives to persuade the working class of our ideas, our reputation as a serious and trustworthy organisation is crucial.

Therefore, WSM members should strive to act in a manner which maintains the reputation of the organisation and avoid behaving in ways that are likely to bring anarchism into public disrepute. When representing the WSM, members should behave in a manner appropriate with the representative of a dignified and serious organisation.

7. Privacy & Confidentiality

In order to allow members to freely and openly discuss matters, members are expected to respect the confidentiality of internal communication and of other members’ personal details. In general, although members are encouraged to discuss the politics and practice of the WSM openly and freely in public, unless express permission is received from the entire group and all the individuals involved, they should strictly refrain from sharing any details of the private internal communications of the WSM outside the organisation.

8. Smoking

Passive smoking is a health hazard. Bearing this in mind it is requested of all members that they refrain from smoking during any indoor meetings. In consideration of members who do smoke, time will be allotted at meetings for smoking outside the meeting room.

9. Childcare

No member should be forced to miss anything because they have to mind children. Any member who requests it will be reimbursed in full for the cost of childcare. Childminding facilities will be advertised for all public meetings. Those requiring childcare will be requested to contact us in advance to enable us to provide facilities.

10. Internal Conduct

Since the WSM is not a vanguard organisation (except in the sense of a vanguard of ideas) we must avoid the internal characteristics of a vanguard organisation. To this end we must encourage all members to take part in speech writing, article writing, proposing perspectives, and similar activities. When tasks such as these come up we will always ask the question "Who has not done this before (or has done it least)?" so that we can try to include less experienced people.

We must also ensure that people do not get left behind. This means assuming that people have less knowledge about the group than is generally accepted. Explanations are needed about how decisions are made, what conference is for, what branch meetings are for, how the paper is organised, etc. If members do not understand something it should be automatic that somebody will take time to explain the matter thoroughly. Although it is nice to win arguments, we should not underestimate the importance of bringing up issues and encouraging people to explore ideas. For peoples politics to develop they have to be able to articulate their ideas. We must not let ourselves be drawn into adversarial style debating. It is not, nor ever shall be part of any members responsibilities to hassle, harass, humiliate, embarass, guilt-trip or put down in any way, any member, or for that matter anyone else, by comparing work done by different members or any similar method. Members shall not be asked at any meeting why they will not be attending any event. At the same time, we must ensure that the same people do not get stuck with the same tasks all the time, and, conversely, that everyone takes part in some activity. While debates may sometimes become heated, it must be accepted by all members that every member of the WSM is a committed anarchist, and their activities and comments/statements are directed at reinforcing the group's libertarian credentials.

When debating or intervening at meetings name calling etc should also be avoided. The other traditional tactics of rolling your eyes, heckling etc when the other person is speaking should not be used. This sort of stuff is very intimidating for anybody new to politics, it also can make it look like you are unable to answer the points being made.

Appendix – Examples of Behaviours which Breach the Code

1. Introduction

This appendix fleshes out the code of conduct by giving several examples of behaviours which breach the code in each area.

2. Inter-Personal Relations

Behaviours such as the following conflict with basic anarchist principles:

• Bullying, physical or mental
• Assault and Murder.
• Malicious Defamation.
• Racism, sexism or any other prejudicial and discriminatory behaviour.
• Rape and Sexual Harassment

3. Economic Relations

Some examples of exploitative economic relations are listed below:
• Gaining significant income from the labour of others (i.e. being a capitalist).
• Scabbing, taking bribes.
• Exploitation of labour through the enforcement of sub-standard pay or conditions.
• Usury.
• Exploitation of personal relationships for personal profit.
• Exploitation of political relations for personal profit.

4. Structural Relations

Some examples of positions that would be difficult for anarchists to perform without actively helping the repressive and exploitative nature of capitalism:

• Corporate Executive.
• Senior Manager
• Police, intelligence services
• Military Scientist.
• Heroin Dealer

5. Collective Relations

Some examples of behaviours that WSM members should avoid to ensure that they help the organisation function as a collective.

• Spreading rumours about members.
• Personalising political disagreements.
• Regularly getting angry and aggressive in debate.
• Being seriously inebriated at political events.
• Failing to attend events without apologies after making a commitment.
• Accusing people of acting in bad faith without overwhelming evidence.

6. External Relations

Some examples of behaviours that WSM members should avoid to help maintain the organisation’s good name.

• Harassing or intimidating members of the public.
• Reckless endangerment of members of the public.
• Derogatory exchanges with members of rival organisations in public fora.
• The use of denunciation as a regular approach to debate.

7. Privacy & Confidentiality

Some examples of behaviours that contravene the WSM membership requirement for confidentiality.

• Sharing a member’s home address, place of work or any other personally identifying information about them without receiving their express permission.
• Publicising specific details of individual members’ contributions to internal debates. Members may describe the outline of internal debates to those close to us, but they should be very careful about identifying specific members with specific contributions.
• Knowingly passing any confidential information whatsoever to any external organisation.

Complaints & Dispute Resolution

1. Introduction

We aim to create a respectful organisational culture in which our members are free to participate openly and freely. In order to help victims of abusive behaviour feel confident enough to report it, we provide a formal procedure to ensure that all complaints will get a fair hearing. The goals of this procedure are:

1. To support victims of abusive behaviour and to help their recovery.
2. To ensure that those making complaints are supported and treated with the greatest sensitivity.
3. To ensure that those accused are treated as innocent until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
4. To function in a way which is as transparent and open as possible, where all involved are given a reasonable opportunity to state their case.
5. To encourage those who perpetrate serious abusive acts to take responsibility for what they have done.
6. To seek ways to prevent such abuses from occurring again.
7. To resolve disputes through mediation leading to mutual agreement wherever possible.

2. Limitation of Competence

Our complaints procedures are limited to our members. We have no authority to apply any sanctions to non-members. We do, however, have the authority to insist on a certain level of acceptable behaviour by all members. If we conclude that, beyond reasonable doubt, a member has acted in a clearly unacceptable way, we may decide, through our disciplinary procedures, to remove them from office, to revoke their membership or to impose conditions upon their continuing membership of the organisation: that is the limit of our competence.

It is important to stress that these procedures are not an alternative to the state’s judicial system. We have neither the resources, nor the expertise to properly investigate serious, complex crimes or to take the type of actions that might be required to protect others from being at risk of an offender re-offending. We are not in a position to enforce justice within broader society.

3. Guidelines for Complaints

Making a formal complaint about a member is a serious business which will inevitably impact negatively on the reputation of the accused. Complaints should be related to behaviour that is clearly in breach of our code of conduct, and is serious and/or persistent in nature. All of our members have a right to privacy in their personal lives and it in only when allegations are made about serious abuses of power that complaints related to a member’s conduct in his or her private life will be considered. Making frivolous or malicious accusations, especially repeatedly, is itself grounds for disciplinary action.

In general, we recommend that members make all reasonable efforts to resolve disputes and to address abusive behaviour informally before making a formal complaint. If a member considers that another member’s behaviour constitutes a clear breach of our code of conduct, he or she should clearly identify the problematic behaviour to the offender, explain why the behaviour is a breach of our code of conduct and seek a mutually satisfactory resolution. If this proves impossible – due to a disagreement over the facts, or over the nature of the behaviour or due to a repeated failure to desist from the abusive behaviour – local, informal mediation should be sought. If the dispute arises in the context of a branch, the branch secretary could be approached to act as a mediator, if it arises in a working group or committee, the coordinator could serve in the role, but any experienced comrade who is acceptable to both parties can be asked to mediate.

In general, it is only when local and informal attempts have been exhausted, without resolving the dispute or addressing the abusive behaviour, that formal complaints should be made. However, this is a general recommendation, not a rule. There are a multitude of reasons why, in certain situations, local mediation might not be appropriate. For example, when complaints are related to particularly serious abuses, such as assault or rape, the victim may reasonably feel that local resolution of the problem is impossible. Thus, all members have the right to make a formal complaint at any time, but we recommend that all reasonable steps to resolve a dispute are attempted before a complaint is made.

4. Making a Complaint

A complaint is formally made by informing either the Internal Secretary, or a branch secretary in writing. An individual can do this themselves if they feel comfortable doing so, or if they prefer, ask someone to do it on their behalf. The complaint should indicate, as clearly as possible, the individual or group whose behaviour the complaint is about, the nature of the abuse and the names of the members who are making the complaint.

Once a formal complaint has been received by the Internal Secretary or a branch secretary, they are obliged to report the complaint to the next delegate council.

If the officer who receives a complaint deems that the allegation is very serious in nature, and urgent action is required to prevent further abuses, they are obliged to report the complaint an Emergency Delegate Council.

If contacted in relation to a complaint, the Emergency Delegate Council can decide to suspend the membership of the individual who is the subject of the complaint.

5. Complaints & Privacy and Confidentiality

In investigating complaints we attempt to protect members’ privacy to as great an extent as possible. If a complaint is made against a member, it does not mean that their personal lives should be treated as an open-book to be discussed and speculated upon by the entire membership. Thus, in general, information from ongoing investigations into complaints is strictly confidential and only accessible to those mandated to carry out the investigation. As part of the resolution of an investigation, a decision will be made as to what information to release as part of the report, all other private information gleaned from complaint investigations retains its status as highly confidential indefinitely.

Due to the fact that mere knowledge of the fact that there is an outstanding complaint against a member may be enough to permanently damage their good name, the specific details of a complaint will be kept confidential unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise (e.g. the security of other members), at least until a preliminary investigation has taken place.

6. Notifying Delegate Council

The WSM officer who receives a complaint against a member must notify the next Delegate Council of the complaint. At this stage of the complaints procedure, as few details as possible of the complaint will be shared with Delegate Council. Where possible, the nature of the allegation will be explained, without identifying either the complainant or the accused. Delegate Council may, however, decide to elicit further information in cases where it deems that it is required in order for it to sanction the decisions taken.

7. Investigative Panel

Delegate Council shall select 3 members from the WSM’s elected Investigative Panel and shall assign them the task of investigating the complaint. Delegate Council may also define specific instructions on how the investigation should proceed. However, in general, the tasks of the complaint investigators are the following.

7.1. Establish the facts

The first task facing the investigators is to establish, to the best of their ability, the facts relating to the complaint. Depending on the severity of the alleged abuse, this may range from simple solicitation of statements to thorough efforts to gather corroborative evidence. In establishing the facts, investigators must treat all parties with sensitivity and respect and limit their enquiries to the strictly necessary given the nature of the complaint. The following basic rules govern the investigation:

• Members are expected to cooperate fully with investigations into complaints, unless there are compelling reasons preventing them from doing so.
• Members have the right to be accompanied by one member of their choice in all dealings with complaints investigations.

Delegate council may appoint an external chair (i.e. not a member of the WSM) to the investigative panel if the investigative panel feels the need for outside assistance. The chair will have no decision making power. The chair’s role is to assist the committee in following this policy and ensuring that the process followed is fair to all parties involved. If any party objects to the chair, the chair will automatically be removed and either replaced or dispensed with.

7.2 Investigate the possibility of mediation and resolution.

Having established the basic facts, and identified those areas where the facts are disputed, the investigators may decide that there is a serious possibility of resolving the complaint through a mediated agreement. In such cases, they may choose to put forward proposals to the involved parties which would resolve the dispute to their mutual satisfaction or arrange mediation for the parties in pursuit of such an agreement.

7.3 Produce a report for Delegate Council
The investigators must produce a report for the next Delegate Council. It should contain:

• A summary of the case.
• A recommendation for action.

The report shall contain as little personally identifying information as possible and details about members private lives will only be included when strictly necessary. Investigative reports are confidential to members of the Delegate Council, which may solicit more information when it deems it necessary.

If, for whatever reason, the investigators can not produce a completed report for the next Delegate Council, they must provide interim reports for every subsequent Delegate Council until they conclude.

The subject of a complaint has the right to attend Delegate Council to hear the evidence and has the right to make a statement in their own defence.

8. Resolution

Having received the report, Delegate Council may decide to apply sanctions to the member who was the subject of the complaint. It is not bound to follow the investigators’ recommendations.

The following sanctions are amongst those that may be applied by Delegate Council

• Expulsion
• Conditions on membership (e.g. apologies, attendance at counselling, etc..)
• Suspension for a period of time (on full dues).
• Removal from Office (e.g. paper committee, national secretary, etc).

Once they are resolved, a report of the case and how it was resolved will be published, anonymised where possible and appropriate, in order to keep the membership properly informed and to serve as precedents for future complaints.

The WSM has authority, through our complaints procedure, to regulate our membership. That is where our authority ends. However, in certain cases involving the most serious of offences, Delegate Council may decide to share information with other bodies if it deems this to be necessary to prevent the offender harming others.

9. Appeal

A member who has sanctions applied by Delegate Council has the right to appeal against the decision to National Conference.

10. Informing New Members

Each new member will be handed a copy of the Code of Conduct and Complaints & Dispute Resolution  policy  on joining.

11. In place of Delegate Council

If there is no delegate council, a committee comprising the elected national officers will replace delegate council in the above policy.

Edited April 2012

Protocol on Offers of Accomodation to WSM events

Accomodation is provided on a voluntary basis.


Availibility and type of accommodation (e.g. single bed, double bed, sofa, floor space..),  and any preferences of the member/supporter offering accommodation should be clarified in advance of announcing availibility.

The working group responsible for an event e.g. Bookfair organising committee will appoint one member to take responsibility for collating availability, letting members/supporters know what accommodation is available and matching requests to offers.

Anyone requiring accommodation is asked to give at least one weeks' notice to the organisation.

Only members and supporters who are known to and vouched for by a member will be offered accommodation.

Guest and host will discuss house rules in advance.

Guest will adhere to universal rules of personal and house safety, non discrimination and privacy and commit to read and understand WSM policy in place here

Host will adhere to universal rules of personal and house safety, non discrimination and privacy.
Host and guest will prediscuss length of stay and costs if any.
Guest will adhere to host's  house rules re drugs, alochol, party.
Host can withdraw her/his offer of accommodation without having to give a reason.   In this event WSM will endeavour to source alternative accommodation for the guest providing there has been no abuse of this protocol by the guest. This will be subject to availibility.

December 2014




Edited in April 2013:

Edited in April 2013: Document still refered to "Interim Decisions Committee" which has been replaced in our stuctures by an "Emergency Delegate Council" (Internal Secretary).