Life and Death of CHAZ/CHOP 

By the Editorial Board

The ongoing protest that made international headlines, referred to either as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), or Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP), was officially cleared of its last holdouts by Seattle police in the early morning hours of July 1.

The dismantling of the protest marks the end of a short anarchist influenced experiment that provides clear lessons on the limitations and failures of the ideology and practice that drove the CHAZ/CHOP. CHOP was also referred to by some as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, which may have been the most accurate, but the fact that the protesters could not agree to a name is perhaps a more fitting indicator of the project than a name could ever be.

The reports about Capitol Hill are as conflicting as the views of those who took part in it. Before getting into these views and reports, it is important to defend certain undeniable aspects of the protest in Seattle. The area was a minor conquest of the struggle, that is to say every block that the police cannot patrol is due to the combative energy of the people of Seattle who bravely fought the police for days. Even unable to agree on a name, program, tactics and strategies, the people on the ground have agreed to a few demands, all relating to the police and anti-racist, anti-repression issues.

The first two demands seek reasonable legal reforms to policing, and while limited, anything that impacts the inflated police budgets across the country is at least a start to get people discussing what is really needed. The third demand is quite important; drop all the charges against US protesters in the Movement for Black Lives. According to Rolling Stone, the city of Seattle has already agreed to drop protest-related charges.

Favorable and unfavorable views converge on the idea that the movement in Capitol Hill is “leaderless” and this must be challenged from a point of scientific reason; while it was nebulous with rotating leaders, it was not, nor could it have ever been leaderless. It was simply disorganized and subject to the temporary rule of personality, charisma, or greater threat of force. This must not be confused for the reorganization of society along more democratic lines. This defect is treated as one of its progressive aspects by the ruling class, precisely because it limits what could be accomplished when the police are forced to temporarily retreat from part of a major city.

On one hand the existence of the protest without police interference gives a platform to the voice of the people, and this is of course progressive and democratic. The loudest voices championing the protest in Capitol Hill as a strategic solution to the issue of policing are the anarchists, and their views are simple enough to debunk.

The empty analysis of anarchism bows to spontaneity and disorganization, and erases the need for a class that must lead revolution, which can only be the proletariat. Anarchism also denies the fact that after conquering power, a dictatorship of the proletariat is the only way to ensure that gains can be defended and the defeated enemies of the people cannot reclaim power.

A banner hung along a fence in Capitol Hill read “this is only the beginning,” attempting to signify the emergence of a utopian, anarchist dream—pure idealism without the direction of a coherent political program. The old idea that through protest and mutual aid a new society is possible is the idealism of a daydreaming middle class, who attempt to erase the role of class violence in shaping society. These ideas, rooted in the worship of spontaneity, have been promoted for hundreds of years by anarchists and have not accomplished the massive transformations of society that the socialist revolutions have. The very defects of the Capitol Hill protest spell its limitations for anyone keen enough to look closely. It was a valiant stand, but not one which will provide any revolutionary solution or workable strategy to end the exploitative and oppressive society inflicted upon the world by the US.

Another big myth which anarchists and the liberal sections of the ruling class media tend to agree upon is the idea that it was “peaceful” or like a block party. The latter days of the CHOP dispelled this notion, with multiple shootings, and the deaths of two people under unclear circumstances.

It is unknown who shot the victims, but a small section of the liberals and anarchists were known to be carrying weapons and acting as security forces. But in conflict with this fact was the dominant liberal sentiment to treat guns as taboo (at least when they aren’t in the hands of the capitalist state), and thus deny the principle that ‘political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.’

Armed guards seen in the CHOP

This denial also precludes the universal truth that the people must have a People’s Army to defend themselves, and without this, the people have nothing. This left any security forces to operate of their own volition and in a shadowy manner, without discipline or centralized leadership to guide their methods of defense or politics.

Apart from the outright violence that occurred at CHOP/CHAZ, it must be emphasized again that any temporary ‘peace’ and people’s control seen in the few blocks in Seattle for a month was the result of tumultuous class violence against the ruling order that erupted across the country. The four blocks in Seattle were only possible because of the hundreds of blocks burned down in Minneapolis, and because of the combative protests that occurred in Seattle itself.

If the people are to make sacrifices, which we saw how clearly they are willing to do in the May Uprisings, why should they not defend their conquests, earned through fire and blood? The anarchists, for all their postmodernist accusations of ‘disposability politics’ against their critics, are those who dispose of the people and only seek to redirect them back into unpredictable and diffused rebellions that lead to limited, temporary conquests.

The people, in particular the working class, deserve more, so much more, than occupying a few blocks with pop-up tents in a gentrified neighborhood. And the people are willing to fight for more – to conquer power and maintain it, not through the spontaneous explosions of the people’s rage – but through the concentrated force of the proletariat, the Communist Party and its People’s Army, which will win not only blocks – but entire cities, the countryside, and ultimately this entire territory, so the people may thrive under the rule of the proletariat.