The Class Struggle Is Not Contrary To Love (1971) [Presencia 19]

[The following text was written anonymously and published in the Chilean (as far as I can tell) section of the Movimiento Obrero de Acción Católica in the 19th issue of their journal Presencia from 1971. According to Carol Ann Drogus, and Hannah Stewart-Gambino’s book Activist Faith: Grassroots Women in Democratic Brazil and Chile: “both the MOAC and the JOC [Juventud Obrera Cristiana] provide[d] a space within the Catholic Church in which pobladores could be both Catholic and political leftists. For example, the theological model ‘see, judge, act’–one legacy of organizations such as MOAC and JOC–may be the readiness with which the church was willing to cast its protective umbrella over grassroots partisans after the coup [in Chile].”]

“Every living thing loves its own sort, 
and every man his neighbour.
Every creature mixes with its kind, 
and man sticks to his own sort.
How can a wolf and lamb agree?
– Just so with sinner and devout.
What peace can there be between hyena and dog? 
And what peace between rich man and poor?
Wild donkeys are the prey of desert lions;
so too, the poor are the quarry of the rich.

When the rich man stumbles he is supported by friends; 
when the poor man falls, his friends push him away.
When the rich man slips, there are many hands to catch him,
if he talks nonsense he is congratulated.
The poor man slips, and is blamed for it,
he may talk good sense, but no room is made for him.
The rich man speaks and everyone stops talking,
and then they praise his discourse to the skies.
The poor man speaks and people say, ‘Who is this?’
and if he staggers they push him down. . .

Many will be surprised to know that this text is from the BIBLE (Ecclesiastes [Sirach], Chapter 13). It was written 200 years before Christ. You may ask yourself if [it] does not contradict the words of Christ on love for enemies:

… You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

(Gospel of Matthew, 5:[43-48])

These words of Christ do not contradict the previous text: Christ himself has said: “I have not come to abolish but to fulfill” everything that is written in the Bible. [“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.“ Matthew 5:17] The first text PREPARES and MAKES POSSIBLE the realization of the second. To understand the relation between these two texts will allow us to better understand how to situate the CLASS STRUGGLE IN A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE.

The Lamb Cannot Coexist With The Wolf

It has always been the case that whoever has riches tends to exploit the poor and to reject them when they no longer serve him, encouraged by the “society” that defends the rich and crushes the poor.

But in a primitive society, the individual power that a rich person had to oppress others cannot be compared with the power of a group of capitalists, masters of the modern means of industrial production, to keep on their dominion an immense mass of poor people, with the complicity of laws and institutions that they themselves invented.

Yet [even] in a less dramatic scenario, the author of Ecclesiastes advised the poor not to rub shoulders with the rich, because there cannot be peace between men when one seeks to destroy the other, just as the wolf desires to eat the lamb.

It is true: the rich seek to destroy the lowly [humildes]: 

The rich destroy the workers materially, robbing them of their salary, their health [salud], their life itself: the history of workers knows it too well. 

The rich destroy the workers humanly and spiritually, stealing their liberty, and above all their solidarity: by harvesting any favors that the boss offers them or by making themselves a place in the privileged group of capitalism, many workers separate themselves from their brothers. This is, for example, the case of a young girl who is granted a scholarship to an expensive college, who refuses to go back to where their fathers and mothers live, because it is a slum [poblaciones callampa]. This is also the case when a group of workers are infected by a divisive mentality, they demand that the same percentages of increase be applied to them as to the lowest paid colleagues.

Can We Criticize the Lamb for Not Wanting to Live with the Wolf?

Many accuse the Worker Movement, and within the Church, movements such as the JOC [Juventud Obrera Cristiana] and MOAC [Movimiento Obrero de Acción Católica] of divisionism, because they are preoccupied with defining “who are their friends and who are their enemies”.

But what do the workers who are constructing a house do? Before anything else, they raise up a fence: do they want to divide this house from the rest of the neighborhood [bario]? No.  They simply do not want anyone to come in and steal their materials, or tread on fresh cement. After the building is finished, they can remove the fence: the house stands with its own resistance and doors. . .

The Worker Movement raises up a fence when it invites the workers to love those they can love without being robbed of life or dignity, without the fresh cement of the fraternity that unites the exploited being destroyed by the footsteps of individualism. One has to first build the unity of the workers, to develop their own culture, to learn to love man in the poor brother.

The rich man has many friends: do they love him? No. They love his riches: it is “convenient” to be in good relations with the rich.

The poor man, on the contrary, has no friends: To love the poor “is no grace” because it does not signify any material advantage. But the person capable of loving the poor loves them for what they are and for what they are worth as human person[s], [loving them as a sibling], or as the Bible says: love them as one’s “own flesh”.

He who pretends to love the rich, without being capable of first loving the poor, is fooling himself. And he will never be capable of loving all human beings, because the search for individual interest will slow him down and, finally, obscure all authentic love.

Love of the rich? Yes. But just as the surgeon loves their patients: with a scalpel.

Who loved the poor more than Christ? No one. Therefore, no one can doubt the quality of his love for the rich: He did not covet their riches, but only their repentance: that they recognize that it is an error to trust in the possession of material goods more than in the justice and love for all [of ones] brothers and sisters, the only way to love the invisible God.

By sustaining solidarity with the most lowly social categories, the love that the world of workers has to show their enemies, the capitalists, and that we, Christian workers, have to preach, IS A SCALPEL with which we want “SLICE OPEN” THE TUMOR OF THE RICH, the tumor of arrogance, of egoism, and the accumulation in a few hands of the riches destined for all humanity. We will love the rich, not to end up winning a place at their table, but to SUPPRESS THE SAME POSSIBILITY THAT THE RICH AND THE POOR WILL CONTINUE TO EXIST ON THE EARTH.

He that preaches Christian love to all, without saying this, BETRAYS THE MESSAGE OF CHRIST.

Whoever truly loves the lowly is capable of giving their life for humanity.

The rich do not like to be loved by a scalpel. They defend themselves until they kill their doctor: this is what they did to Christ, after they deceived the people into supporting the condemnation. On their part, it was logical.

But for what reason did Christ deliver himself up as a victim to them? They believed him to have been destroyed: “He saved others; himself he cannot save.” They were mistaken, because three days later, Christ was resurrected. CHRIST COULD GIVE HIMSELF UP BECAUSE HE WAS INDESTRUCTIBLE. In Him there was something that not even death had the power to take away: the total security that, in giving his life, one finds life, because the love is in him; and God who is love can restore life to those who want to live with him.

The selfless worker struggle prepares the workers to be “indestructibles”, because, contrary to popular belief, it instills love in them: they learn to love humanity exactly as it should be loved; to appreciate living in a just peace, more than having riches. Even though many militants ignore it, God, with this, is living with them. And God uses them to challenge their own Church, to see if someday we Christians will remember “what spirit we are,” perhaps giving our life to release the poor from the claws of the “lion in the desert”, perhaps transforming the desert of egoism into a paradise in which all goods are shared between all, revealing that Christ risen is really living in us and the world.