On November 2nd, 2015, the mayor of Seattle declared a state of emergency. What this means is unclear. Ed Murray publicly announced that the current level of homelessness constituted a citywide emergency. In their official proclamation, the City of Seattle stated quite simply that “individuals living within the City of Seattle should have access to basic shelter.” The bureaucrats at City Hall then went on to state that “members of our community should not be forced, by a myriad of circumstances…to live and sleep outdoors or on the street.” These simple statements are in fact just a means for the City of Seattle to absolve itself for creating this homeless emergency in the first place.
Since the incorporation of Seattle in 1869, a homeless population has been maintained outside and on the streets. In the beginning, the homeless population consisted of dispossessed indigenous people and poor Europeans who were out of work. Today, it consists of people from every corner of the globe and country. Because the City of Seattle has always been a capitalist corporation, it has needed to keep a reserve population of redundant workers on hand. Homelessness and poverty are necessary for the functioning of capitalism. Without a reserve force of unemployed and homeless, workers would be able to control every aspect of their workplaces, seize the factories, and expropriate from the capitalists. In the end, the capitalist does nothing and the workers are effectively in control of production. But if there is a reserve force of poor, homeless, hungry, and traumatized people desperate for work, then rebellious workers can be fired as they emerge, unions can be broken by armies of poor scabs, and the working class will remain pitted against itself as it scrambles to climb the pyramid.
If you are hungry and broke all your life, you will come to desire the luxuries that the idle and wealthy classes flaunt on the street everyday. The longer people are kept in poverty, the greater their desire will be to achieve monetary wealth. No one wants to be poor. They are kept poor. The conservative capitalists blame these unemployed and homeless for being lazy and unmotivated. The liberal capitalists schizophrenically attempt to rationalize their dependence on the same system that keeps people poor and homeless. In the end, capitalism decides who is rich and who is poor. From a secret handshake to an arts grant, the ruling class picks and chooses who will thrive and who will suffer. As long as capitalism functions, there will be inequality, exploitation, and misery. It has never operated differently, and we should have no illusions about that.
Which brings us back to the new state of emergency declared by the City of Seattle. It basically amounts to some words on paper, although there will be a few material consequences from this new proclamation from City Hall. For one, the mayor has announced that the most “dangerous” homeless encampments will be removed. Naturally they will be the ones to decide what is “dangerous” and what is not. The other material consequence of this proclamation will be the creation of more shelter beds in the city. Aside from those two things, the homeless emergency will not change. A few hundred more people will be housed, but they will still have no money. If they are clean and showered and well dressed, they might be able to get a job. There will be several dozen lucky winners in this dystopian and very real Hunger Games. They will advance beyond homelessness and be able to rent an apartment in Skyway. They will take the bus every day to Seattle so they can work as a janitor at the Westlake Mall. But everyday they will see the same homelessness they emerged from, unhindered and unchanged. The odds are never in their favor.
The solution to all this madness is extremely simple. People must stop paying rent, paying their debt, paying their taxes, and remember that money is not real. It is made real. People must take over everything necessary to survive: the water supply, the electrical supply, the sewage system, and all fertile farmland. This can all be done quite peacefully overnight, but there is no guarantee that the capitalists will not order in the National Guard the next morning. In fact, it is certain that the capitalists would do this. But in the end there are simply too many of us for them to win. There are only 20,000 soldiers kept on hand at JBLM to deal with a population of over 3,000,000 in the Seattle metropolitan area. The only thing preventing us from accomplishing the task of destroying capitalism in the region is ourselves. We are simply not organized to do so. Yet.
According to King County officials, nearly 35,000 people are made homeless in this region every year. 35,000 people is a small army, and this army could trigger a revolt against capitalism. There is enough locally generated electricity to keep people warm and illuminated and more than enough clean water to drink. But there is not enough for the capitalist way of life. That much is a given. There can be no more luxury in our future. There can only ever be just enough. Never again will there be the wealth disparity we see so blatantly displayed in such a wealthy place as Seattle. But while we work towards this future outside of capitalism, let us occupy every empty building we find. Let us take the food we need from corporations that have too much. If the local capitalists in City Hall want to stop us, we can just crumple their proclamation up and toss it in their face. If they want to send police in to stop people from taking abandoned property, we will gladly let the whole world see their disgusting behavior. The time for action is now. Don’t look to City Hall for answers. Revolution is illegal.