Accounting for Ourselves – A Review and Interview

June 30, 2013 at 10:38 pm (Interviews, Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

6bAccounting for Ourselves – A Review and Interview

How do restorative and transformative justice processes work in practice?

In April, the anarchist collective CrimethInc published a new pamphlet critiquing accountability processes and suggesting ways forward. “Accounting for Ourselves” is not an introduction to accountability processes, nor to the concepts of restorative or transformative justice, but an attempt to evaluate the current implementation of these concepts in political subcultures.

My interest in this topic has come from participating and supporting friends and comrades in this work over the last ten or so years. Accountability processes attempt to put many of my values into practice—mutual aid, respect, direct action, a DIY ethic, an acknowledgement that “crime,” safety, harm, and support are complex. Accountability processes haven’t been a perfect solution, however, and many of the participants I know have left these processes frustrated. At the same time, a lot of the collective knowledge about what works and what doesn’t work is scattered, unwritten, and lost as ad-hoc groups come and go around particular crises.

I started thinking about doing a writing or research project on accountability processes, motivated by the urgent feeling that we must do this better. After I began talking with friends and comrades about collecting best practices, I discovered that a friend had already done a lot of good thinking in this area, and I read some early drafts of this pamphlet.

“Accounting for Ourselves” is a necessary critique done in an effort to move us toward a better process. Though written as a reflection of the practice of accountability processes in Anarchist circles, the writing offers accessible insights to anyone interested in these issues. I find this type of honest self-reflection both rare and urgently important.

If you are unfamiliar with accountability processes, the following Q & A with Nikita, one of the primary authors of the pamphlet, is an introduction to these ideas and to the pamphlet. The pamphlet itself (available for free) also gives historical context for how these concepts have developed over time and how they have been put into practice. It includes an excellent (and thorough) list of articles, books, ‘zines, and organizations. We recommend starting with these five resources:

“Accounting for Ourselves – Breaking the Impasse Around Assault and Abuse in Anarchist Scenes” and is available for free online here: http://www.crimethinc.com/texts/recentfeatures/accounting.php

This interview was conducted in May 2013.

Q: Could you give us an idea of what an “accountability process” is?

A: “Accountability process” is a broad term for alternative methods for responding to harm on a community level. Instead of focusing on punishment through the criminal legal system, these processes try to actually address the harm that was done, on the terms of the person harmed rather than those of the state. These processes can be as simple as a few friends coming together to support someone and confronting a person who’s hurt them, or can involve more complex mediation between collectives of people who support and intervene.

“Accounting For Ourselves” focuses on these alternative processes as they’re applied in situations of sexual assault and abuse. We chose this focus because these are some of the primary forms of harm that folks have attempted to address through accountability processes, in part because the criminal legal system is notoriously ineffective at providing resolution and preventing harm in these situations.

Q: How do accountability processes fit into your political framework? How did you come to be involved with this work?

A: I first got involved in men’s anti-violence education and rape crisis support work because so many of my friends and loved ones had experienced sexual violence. I was also getting involved in anarchist organizing and prison abolition work, and community accountability brought together these visions on an intimate level.

Accountability processes attempt to put anti-authoritarian ideals into action. If we’re struggling against police violence and the prison industrial complex, but we don’t have tools to address harm in our own circles, we’re unlikely to dismantle this society or successfully create alternatives.

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Talking about Occupy Wall Street

October 10, 2011 at 2:41 pm (Actions) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’ve been absolutely thrilled with the amount of talking that has been going on about the Occupy Wall Street actions. When is the last time that so many people were talking so much about class and capitalism?

So many people are saying so many smart and interesting things, I wanted to share some of my favorites – and I hope you will too. I don’t agree with everything everyone has said here but I’ve refrained from editorializing, and although I’ve highlighted some of my favorite quotes here, most of the pieces are really just excellent through and through. As I was reading over them to pick quotes, I just kept thinking, “Fucking brilliant!” It’s been a long time since people have been so inspired.

  • Crimthinc: “Dear Occupiers: A Letter from Anarchists”: “The problem isn’t just a few “bad apples.” The crisis is not the result of the selfishness of a few investment bankers; it is the inevitable consequence of an economic system that rewards cutthroat competition at every level of society. Capitalism is not a static way of life but a dynamic process that consumes everything, transforming the world into profit and wreckage. Now that everything has been fed into the fire, the system is collapsing, leaving even its former beneficiaries out in the cold. The answer is not to revert to some earlier stage of capitalism—to go back to the gold standard, for example; not only is that impossible, those earlier stages didn’t benefit the “99%” either. To get out of this mess, we’ll have to rediscover other ways of relating to each other and the world around us.” And then: “Police can’t be trusted. They may be “ordinary workers,” but their job is to protect the interests of the ruling class.”
  • Isabell Moore, “Why I Support the 99%: An Open Letter to My Family”:  “I believe this financial crisis is not our faults. But I do I believe actual people, banks and corporations, the 1%, made it happen because of their obsession with a “thing-oriented society,” as said by Dr. King. They have gotten richer during this whole thing while most of the rest of us have gotten poorer. This is the way capitalism works and I don’t like it one bit. We will all benefit from a shift to a “person-oriented society.”
  • Malcolm Harris, Jacobin, “Occupied Wall Street: Some Tactical Thoughts”: “This is a marathon, not a sprint or a hamster wheel. “
  • The New York Times Op Ed from Sunday 10/9, “Protesters Against Wall Street“:  ” It is not the job of the protesters to draft legislation. That’s the job of the nation’s leaders, and if they had been doing it all along there might not be a need for these marches and rallies. Because they have not, the public airing of grievances is a legitimate and important end in itself. It is also the first line of defense against a return to the Wall Street ways that plunged the nation into an economic crisis from which it has yet to emerge. “
  • Manissa McCleave Maharawal, guest post on Racialicious, “SO REAL IT HURTS: Notes on Occupy Wall Street: “For some people this is the first time they have thought about how the world needs to be recreated. But some of us have been thinking about this for a while now. Does this mean that those of us who have been thinking about it for a while now should discredit this movement? No. It just means that there is a lot of learning going on down there and that there is a lot of teaching to be done.” Read the rest of this entry »

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