A New Foco Theory
By Michael McGehee at Oct 29, 2009
What is a nonviolent, borderline pacifist, anti-authoritarian, vanguardist-despising anarchist like myself arguing for a new foco theory?
On the surface it seems like a good question.
Before continuing, I am still a nonviolent, borderline pacifist (I proudly have an autographed copy of Dave Dellinger’s autobiography, From Yale to Jail), anti-authoritarian, vanguardist-despising anarchist. Nothing has changed on that front.
However, I would emphasize the “new” in the title.
What I want to know is: Is there something to Che’s theory that could be adapted into a nonviolent, borderline pacifist, anti-authoritarian, vanguardist-despising anarchist theory?
Yes, I think there is.
The concept of “foco” I am going with is small, organized groups of individuals using nonviolent tactics to bring focus to certain issues. These were not groups intended to exist in the future socialist society, but groups in the present aiding in building that society by confronting oppressive forces for all to see. Where Che used violence, I propose the use of non-violence – not without saying that I agree with Che when he wrote in Guerilla Warfare (and which, coupled with other factors, I think applies to us): “Where a government has come into power through some form of popular vote, fraudulent or not, and maintains at least an appearance of constitutional legality, the guerrilla outbreak cannot be promoted, since the possibilities of peaceful struggle have not yet been exhausted.”
In practice we see this when Greenpeace hangs a banner or when single-payer activists get arrested while doing a sit-in at some insurance company’s offices or when the Yes Men pull a prank. Small groups of organized individuals are confronting oppressive forces for all to see in planned hopes that it will lead to (a) increased consciousness on certain issues; and (b) progressive change.
In this sense I am not offering or saying anything new. I am just trying to organize it for conceptual purposes.
I have had a discussion with a friend (Mark Evans) on the concept of “vanguard” and while I object to the common or traditional interpretation of a revolutionary vanguard – this conversation was provoked by my quoting the infamous Zapatista, el Sup, when he said that “I shit on all the revolutionary vanguard of this planet” – I do agree with his concept of differentiating between a libertarian and authoritarian vanguard. While we don’t aspire for power or centralism, we do aspire for solidarity, self-management and accompaniment. We do, through our voices or the strokes of our keyboards, try to rouse social consciousness on various issues pertaining to social and ecological justice and democracy. In that sense we could be called a “libertarian vanguard.”
Moving on – what I intend in writing this is sparking discussion and consideration of a new foco theory. We may decide to call it something else entirely. That’s to be decided.
But what I do propose is that we use some existing conceptual tools.
First, Complementary Holism (here, here, and here): How we see society should be a basic. Finding unity in diversity and a better and clearer understanding of society is immensely important to any effort for social liberation.
Second, vision and strategy:
- Vision: We envision a liberated and free society. By liberated, I mean a society where oppression is not built-in to our social institutions; and by freedom, I mean a society where all people have the right and ability to cooperate in formulating their options and choosing among them to the degree they are affected. (How we envision those institutions and practices and how we envision getting there is being discussed in the Reimagining Society Project)
- Strategy: I am a firm believer of the idea that structure breeds structure. That we won’t overcome oppression with oppression. Evil begets evil. Therefore when determining our strategy to attain our vision we should hold close to the logic that “our means must compliment the end.” We should act in ways that we feel will best achieve our goals while adhering to our values.
How we see the world and how we then in return organize our efforts to effect change for making the world as we want to live in will help us organize our efforts and focus on how best to achieve them.