Che Guevara said that a true revolutionary is motivated by love i.e. love of the oppressed, the poor, the children dying from preventable illnesses. This phrase of his is true but has been used by reformists and their more hippy wing have taken advantage of it to sell the falsehood that the revolution is an act of hugs, candlelit vigils and respect for our enemies.
Nothing could be further from the truth and the thinking of Che.
First we should be clear that it is love that motivates us, we fight for a better world, for a love towards our fellow human beings and against capitalism that knows no love but rather the price it can place on any feeling. Now following the murder of 13 people in Bogotá at the hands of the police, the usual suspects come out talking about love, forgiveness / pardon and how hate has no place in our struggle. Is it true that we can’t hate? That is what this article is about.
In the face of the murder of 13 youths at the hands of the police, the city’s mayor, Claudia López, held an act of reconciliation. There is no lack of congresspeople and NGOs with their expensive courses financed by international aid that talk of the non-violent resolution of conflicts, of love, reconciliation and how to overcome hate. But should we overcome hate? And, if that is so, hate of what exactly?
First, let’s talk in general terms like Che’s phrase. Faced with the capitalist system, do we have the right to hate it? I would say that not only do we have the right to hate it, but rather we have the duty to do so. For example, we see in the health system that physical and mental well-being is a business. Being a business doesn’t just mean that someone makes money treating patients but also that someone makes money not treating them or that some situations are not dealt with because they are not profitable.
Great progress has been made at a global level in terms of infant mortality. For example, according to UNICEF one in every 27 children now die before they reach the age of five as opposed to one in eleven in 1990. Even so, we are still talking of 5.189 million under-fives dying in 2019 and there was an average of 2.44 million neo-natal dead i.e. those who die in the first 28 days of life. The reasons are simple: poverty, imperialism and the profits of the companies. For example, Colombia has a rate of 14.2 for every 1,000 live births compared to a rate of 3.7 in Germany.(1) The countries with the worst rates are African and also some Latin American countries such as Bolivia which has a rate of 26.8, a significant reduction from a rate of 121.1 in 1990. Even so, it continues to be high and the reduction in neo-natal deaths has been lower, but whether we look at 1990 or 2018/19 we get a similar picture: the countries that were victims of imperialism, the so-called ‘poor’ countries are the ones where more children die. How could you not hate an economic system based on that?
Amongst the most common causes of death we find illnesses such as pneumonia (15%), diarrhoea (8%) and malaria (5%) (2), generally speaking poverty-related illnesses. In the case of neo-natal deaths, the common causes are pre-term birth complications (36%), intrapartum-related events (24%) sepsis (16%).(3) There are many factors at play, amongst them lack of access to a good health systemand ye currently kill millions of people a year, or malnutrition which, when it doesn’t kill, still leaves the person debilitated and causes an endless list of other problems.
Going from that to more specific things,can we hate key people in the capitalist system?
One thing flows from the other. You cannot criticise the capitalist system and its consequences without criticising the capitalists and their lackeys. People like Luis Carlos Sarmiento in Colombia, Jeff Bezos in the USA or Richard Branson in Great Britain became rich counting corpses (in some cases, literally so, due to their investments in the health business or more precisely in the business of denying health care). You can’t love the victims without hating the victimisers, anything else is an exercise in whitewashing an image, of easing one’s own conscience or public relations. Whoever does not hate Luis Carlos Sarmiento does not want any type of change in Colombia!
He is in charge, even though he doesn’t directly hit anyone, in the physical sense; that falls to his lackeys in the police. The police killed 13 youths in addition to Javier Ordóñez, how could you not hate them? Moreover, It is far from the first time they have killed someone. Javier died from various blows to head after being electrocuted and similar things have happened to many youths and students, including the infamous case of Nicolás Neira, a youth murdered by the riot squad (ESMAD), whose Dad continues to fight to bring his executioners to justice and all this time he did not receive the support of those who now preach love and non-violence.
Abstract love is a right-wing discourse, of the state, of the bourgeoisie.
You cannot love the poor and not hate those who make them poor.
You cannot love those who die under the blows of the cop’s baton and not hate the cop who batons. The cop lashes out in order to protect a system and a social order, a supposed exercise in love and reconciliation such as that held by the Mayor is good for nothing if that system and its socio-economic, political and repressive violence is left intact, with barely some changes in style.
Some such as senator Gustavo Bolívar say that we have to defeat this government at the polls, but there are two years to go and we don’t know how many deaths, how many women will be raped in police stations and neither do we know whether the Polo (aleftiish social-democratic coalition) would change things. They say they would, but then everyone says that and there are no reasons to expect they will do so. The cops are to be defeated in the streets, making them afraid to hit anyone, not with inefficient laws nor transferring the police institution to the Ministry of the Interior, but rather through organisation and self defence.
So the love of the oppressed preached by Che is still valid but its corollary, hatred of the system, the rich and their lackeys and murderers in the police is even more valid still. You cannot love light without detesting darkness. The true revolutionary does not just love but also hates and although many reformists continue to use the word revolution, in its light version, there is no hate nor class struggle and it is for them an issue almost like having a coffee amongst friends where one fights to pay the bill.
“A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.” – Mao Zedong, Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan, March 1927.
1 Data taken from https://data.unicef.org/resources/levels-and-trends-in-child-mortality-2019/
2 United Nations (2019) Levels and Trends in Child Mortality, New York, UN pp15-16.
3 Ibíd., p. 15.