Monthly Archives: March 2010

Anarchist Accountability

by Thomas- Miami Autonomy & Solidarity (MAS)

This disease of disorganization has invaded the organism of the anarchist movement like yellow fever and has plagued it for decades…There can be no doubt, however, that this disorganization has its roots in a number of defects of theory, notably in the distorted interpretation of the principle of individuality in anarchism, that principle being too often mistaken for the absence of all accountability.” –Delo Truda Group[1]

“…[O]rganization, far from creating authority, is the only cure for it and the only means whereby each one of us will get used to taking an active and conscious part in the collective work, and cease being passive instruments in the hands of leaders.” – Errico Malatesta[2]

The assessment of the Delo Truda Group from 1926 is as true today as it was 84 years ago.  But if that’s the case; and if, as Malatesta suggested, organization is the only cure for authority, how do we as anarchists differ from others in how we view organization?  Or more specifically, how does our view of individuality differ from the common misconception of anarchism as the “absence of all accountability”.  Perhaps it’s best summed up by Lucien van der Walt and Michael Schmidt in their exhaustive account of the history of anarchist ideas, Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism. They explain:

“…[G]enuine individual freedom and individuality could only exist in a free society.  The anarchists did not therefore identify freedom with the right of everybody to do exactly what one pleased but with a social order in which collective effort and responsibilities- that is to say, obligations- would provide the material basis and social nexus in which individual freedom could exist.”[3]

This essay will describe anarchist accountability and how it differs from the types of accountability we’re trying to replace.   Implementing accountability in all of our practices is fundamental to our effectiveness now in our practice and how it prefigures the kind of society that we want to replace the existing society.

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