FOCO THEORY (or FOCOISM, FOCALISM, FOQUISMO, etc.)
A strategy for revolution associated with Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and formalized by Che and the radical French writer Régis Debray. According to this theory it is not necessary to wait until conditions are right to launch either an insurrection or else a people’s war (depending on the nature of the country). Instead, at least in oppressed Third World countries, a dedicated band of revolutionaries can launch very small-scale, roving semi-guerrilla warfare at any time, which will supposedly serve as a focus (Spanish: foco) and inspiration for the rapid growth of more general guerrilla warfare and/or at some relatively early time a general uprising capable of seizing political power. The theory is that these paramilitary roving bands can themselves create the necessary conditions for revolution through their vanguard actions and moral example.
Unlike genuine people’s war, the foco theory is based on the assumption that a band of heroes can create a revolution, and that the mere existence of the foco makes it a vanguard without any necessity to merge deeply with the masses, forge close ties with them, participate seriously in their own struggles, and actually lead the masses in their own struggles. Foco theory, or focoism, is therefore a strongly elitist theory of revolution.
The origin of the foco theory lies in an idealist generalization of the experiences of Che and Fidel Castro in the Cuban Revolution. However, given the stategy followed by Castro, the success of that revolution was pretty much a lucky accident. This was at the time when there was already mass disgruntlement on the verge of boiling over against the Batista dictatorship. In other words, while the foco theory says it is not necessary for conditions to be particularly ripe for revolution, in Cuba itself they actually were. This circumstance also led to tremendous demoralization and ineffectiveness in Batista’s army, which almost totally fell apart after Castro’s small guerrilla force of a few hundred men took over a similarly small Cuban Army garrison of 250 men near the city of Santa Clara in December 1958 (the Battle of Yaguajay).
Attempts to apply the foco strategy in other countries have always failed dismally. In Africa Laurent-Désiré Kabila, with the direct help of Che, attempted it with very dismal results in the Congo. The most famous example is that led by Che himself in Bolivia, where his approach failed to connect up with the Bolivian peasants and led to his swift capture by the Bolivian Army with the help of the U.S. CIA. (The actual cold-blooded murder of Che after his capture is said to have been done personally by the notorious CIA agent Felix Rodriguez.) This humiliating failure led Cuba to back off on supporting similar focoist adventures for a number of years, and revolutionary groups around the world which had been inspired by the Cuban revolution began splitting into factions, and shifting more toward alternative strategies. In the mid-1970s, however, Cuba resumed its support for international revolution in a big way. In Africa it deployed its own troops and also supported the MPLA guerrillas in Angola. In the Caribbean area it resumed substantial support for groups following the foco strategy. In Argentina, the People’s Revolutionary Army (ERP), led by Roberto Santucho, tried the foco method in Tucumán Province, near Bolivia, but apparently without Cuban military or financial support. It was also rather easily defeated by around 3,000 Argentine soldiers, partly by using vicious state terror tactics against the small number of ERP supporters in nearby towns.
While the original foco strategy was designed for revolutionary efforts in rural areas in oppressed Third World countries, in the late 1960s the foco idea was also adapted for urban areas in some Third World countries and even in the United States! Needless to say, the results of this urban guerrilla warfare were even more ignominious defeats. (See: Venceremos Organization and Weather Underground organization.)
See also the articles “Guevara, Debray, and Armed Revisionism”, by Lenny Wolff (1985), at http://www.bannedthought.net/Cuba-Che/Guevara/Guevara-Debray-Wolff.pdf , and “Focoism vs. People’s War: Problems of Exaggerated Universalism”, by Mike Ely (2009).
A rather snobbish term used by psychologists and philosophers to belittle the ideas of mind and mental phenomena as expressed or implied in ordinary language by ordinary people. It is true that folk psychology often implicitly supports dualism, and insofar as it does this it is naive and mistaken. However, rather ironically, in some cases folk psychology is actually considerably more sophisticated than the views of those who laugh at it, such as the philosophical idealists, the behaviorists and those who champion various naive materialist theories such as eliminativism.
To make food impure by the addition of foreign or inferior substances, inert or otherwise. In other words, the mixing of improper, sometimes inedible, and occasionally even quite dangerous, materials into the food products sold by capitalist corporations to the unsuspecting public. Although there are laws governing the adulteration of food in almost all countries today and which usually require the labeling of all contents, these laws are weak, and—worse yet—often not enforced. This means that a lot of food sold by capitalist companies to the people are actually adulterated in one or more ways. This is done, of course, in order to lower the costs of producing these foods and therefore in order to increase profits. The obvious moral here once again is: The capitalist profit motive is incompatible with the genuine welfare of the people.
With the growth of giant agribusiness into its modern national and international form, and with ever more concentration on the “bottom line” (profits), food adulteration has been taking more and more serious forms with the spread of serious illnesses through food contaminated with dangerous bacteria such as E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella. Many thousands of people have become sick or even died in this way. This sort of adulteration is not done of purpose, of course, though it is an inevitable outcome when safety procedures cost money (and therefore harm profits).
As bad as things are in the U.S., the situation in some other countries—such as China and India—is even worse. A few years ago there was a notorious case in China where milk and infant formula was being purposely tainted with the industrial chemical melamine in order to make it appear in routine tests that these products were richer in protein. In tests done in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu in 2013-14 it was found that nearly 40% of all food items were adulterated in one way or another. Capitalism marches on.
“When agents from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration paid a
surprise visit to a Pennsylvania cheese factory in November 2012, they found evidence
that Castle Cheese was doctoring its so-called 100 percent Parmesan with cut-rate
substitutes and fillers such as wood pulp. ...[A]dulterated grated Parmesan and
Romano cheeses remain a very real problem.” —Lydia Mulvany, “Let Them Eat Wood”,
Bloomberg BusinessWeek Feb. 22-28, 2016, p. 25.
[You might think that this one raid by the FDA at least resolved this particular problem, but you would be wrong. When, more recently, a lab hired by Bloomberg tested the Parmesan cheeses of other companies it found that wood pulp cellulose was 3.8% of Kraft’s “100% grated Parmesan”; 7.8% of Walmart’s “Great Value 100% grated Parmesan”; and 8.8% of “Jewel-Osco Essential Everyday 100% grated Parmesan”. Thus even for a food product which is already well-known to the Food and Drug Administration to be commonly adulterated, the adulteration continues almost unimpeded. —Ed.]
“When an industry doesn’t want a law enacted but fears a public backlash if it openly opposes the proposed law, it quietly makes sure that there aren’t enough funds to enforce it. This was the case when the food industry went along with the Food Safety Modernization Act, which became law in 2011, after thousands of people were sickened by tainted food. Subsequently, the industry successfully lobbied Congress to appropriate so little to enforce it that it has been barely implemented.” —Robert B. Reich, Saving Capitalism (2015), p. 71. [Reich, a former Secretary of Labor in the Bill Clinton administration, provides endless examples of how capitalism goes against the interests of the people, and controls the government. And yet he still thinks it can somehow be “reformed”. His own book shows how foolish that notion really is! —Ed.]
[In scientific investigation:] “The first principle is that you must
not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very
careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other
scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.”
—Richard Feynman, American physicist, “Cargo Cult Science: Some Remarks on Science, Pseudoscience, and Learning How to Not Fool Yourself: The 1974 Caltech Commencement Address”, in his book The Pleasure of Finding Things Out (1999), p. 212.
“Every day around the world, some 39,000 girls under the age of 18 are forced into marriage, with their families often selling them off for dowries—often, to much older men.” —Associated Press report, quoted in The Week magazine, March 22, 2013, p. 18.
FORCES OF NATURE
There are at present four forces of nature known to physics:
• The electromagnetic force
• The weak nuclear force
• The strong nuclear force
Recently, however, evidence has been found that—according to the usual “Hubble’s Law” interpretation of galactic red shifts—the known universe is not slowing down in its rate of expansion, but rather is actually speeding up. If that is so, it appears there must be at least one more force of nature which is causing it by counter-acting gravity on the cosmic scale. In some science literature this is being referred to as the “dark force”, since nothing much is known about it.
FORD, Henry (1863-1947)
American industrial capitalist and the founder of Ford Motor Company. Although he did not invent the automobile, he was a pioneer in the use of assembly line techniques of mass production, and because of that, along with the vicious exploitation of workers, he was able to produce large numbers of automobiles at relatively low prices for a wider market than ever before. This allowed large numbers of “middle class” Americans to buy automobilies for the first time.
Ford himself became extremely rich off the labor of “his” workers, and more and more tyranical. A phony story of “Fordism” has been constructed about him which falsely claims that he produced inexpensive cars for the working class while simultaneously paying high wages to his workers so they could buy those cars. In reality he did no such thing, and was one of history’s most vicious capitalists and a ferocious and murderous opponent of labor unions.
Henry Ford was also a notorious anti-Semite who wrote large numbers of anti-Semitic and racist articles, and a sympathizer of Naziism in Germany.
“In Germany, Ford’s anti-Semitic articles from The Dearborn Independent were issued in four volumes, cumulatively titled The International Jew, the World’s Foremost Problem published by Theodor Fritsch, founder of several anti-Semitic parties and a member of the Reichstag. In a letter written in 1924, Heinrich Himmler described Ford as ‘one of our most valuable, important, and witty fighters.’ Ford is the only American mentioned in Mein Kampf.” —From the Wikipedia entry on Henry Ford (accessed on March 5, 2013).
“The history of capitalism is replete with cases of successful
captains of industry who, suddenly concerned with their place in history, decide to
write a book celebrating their achievements, while articulating a new philosophy of
philanthropic capitalism—usually with the help of a ghostwriter or ‘collaborator’ of
“The most successful instance of this is Henry Ford, who famously introduced the five-dollar day for a majority of the production workers in his auto-assembly plants to counter the enormously high turnover in those plants—the result of horrendous working conditions. Journalist Samuel Crowther collaborated on three books (beginning with My Life and Work in 1922) with Ford, in which the latter, ostensibly in his own words, was portrayed as a far-sighted entrepreneur who understood that high wages were needed in the age of high-production, high-consumption capitalism. The term ‘Fordism’ was widely adopted in the Europe of Ford’s day to refer to the supposedly benign capitalism of Crowther’s Ford. However, in the United States, where the reality of Henry Ford was better known, the notion of Fordism in this sense failed to take hold until the 1980s, some forty years after Ford’s death (finally entering into works like Michael Harrington’s The Next Left). U.S. labor could not easily forget the extreme exploitation in Ford’s plants, Ford’s virulent anti-Semitism, or the severity of his opposition to the New Deal. In 1932 Ford’s notorious Service Department under Harry Bennett—along with the police (the police chief was a former Ford detective)—opened fire with pistols and machine guns at point-blank range on the Ford Hunger March in Dearborn, Michigan, wounding around fifty and killing four marchers outright (a fifth died later of his wounds). A New York Times photographer got a bullet in the head. Bennett himself, Ford’s right-hand man, emptied his pistol on the marchers (see John Bellamy Foster, ‘The Fetish of Fordism,’ Monthly Review, March 1988; Maurice Sugar, The Ford Hunger March).
“Today, however, Crowther’s doctored version of Ford prevails. The mythology of a progressive ‘Fordism’ is now avidly promoted by right and left alike—as in the PBS documentary on Ford’s life that aired in January 2013 in celebration of the 150th anniversary of his birth. The documentary managed to avoid all mention of the Ford Hunger March, or ‘Ford Massacre’ as it was also called—though it did allude to Bennett and his brutal tactics on behalf of Ford in less murderous contexts.” —Notes From the Editors, Monthly Review, Vol. 64, #10, March 2013.
[Capitalist finance:] The legal seizure of property by a creditor after the borrower fails to make the payments of interest and/or principal as agreed upon in the mortgage contract. The creditor (usually a bank or equivalent financial institution) will then normally proceed to sell the property to somebody else.
So-called “foreign aid” sent to other countries by the U.S. and other imperialist nations is invariably for the purpose of promoting the interests of the imperialist ruling class which sends that “aid” rather than for the purpose of actually helping the ordinary people in the recipient countries. Among the great many ulterior motives behind such foreign aid by the U.S. are:
• Promoting American markets overseas;
• Promoting American military power and strengthening the rule of its client regimes (since the largest part of this “aid” is in the form of weapons);
• Expanding the profits of the American corporations who produce the goods sent (which the U.S. government buys to send overseas);
• Forcing various sorts of concessions by the foreign governments which are in the interests of American corporations (such as by allowing them to ignore various laws in those countries); and
• Bribing foreign politicians to support the U.S. in its wars and other nefarious activities.
Sometimes naïve conservatives and petty-bourgeois individuals in the U.S. will oppose foreign aid to other countries, or demand that it be slashed, for quite the wrong reasons. In their amazing ignorance they do not understand that the real purpose of foreign “aid” is to promote the economic interests of the United States, and is not really a form of “giving” or “hand-outs” at all! Equally naïve liberals, on the other hand, often support the expansion of foreign “aid” based on their usually quite erroneous idea that this actually benefits the poor in other countries.
See also: CHINA—Principles of Aid to Other Countries (During Maoist Era)
FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT (FDI)
The acquisition by corporations of one country of real assets in another country, such as factories, mines, or businesses. These assets may be acquired by building new factories, etc., or by simply purchasing existing factories and companies. FDI does not include the purchase of foreign securities (e.g., stocks and bonds), unless this amounts to buying a major or controlling influence in the foreign company that issues these securities. (A common guideline is that ownership of more than 10% of a foreign company is considered to be FDI.)
Foreign investment by imperialist transnational (or multinational) corporations is one of the main mechanisms by which neo-colonialism occurs in the Third World today. The foreign imperialist owners of these local factories, mines and plantations, exert enormous influence on both the local government and on their own imperialist government—which in turn often indirectly controls the foreign government when it comes to matters which it considers to be important.
FOREIGN EXCHANGE RESERVES
Foreign currencies, gold, liquid investments in foreign countries (and thus easily transformed into foreign currencies via their sale), or balances held by the country with international institutions such as the IMF, any or all of which are held by the central bank of a country. Such reserves are needed in order to be sure that the country will be able to buy the goods it needs from foreign countries, even if its sale of its own goods to other countries is inadequate during some period to directly finance those purchases. Moreover, countries operating under the current world capitalist system may wish to buy or sell foreign currencies in order to adjust the relative worth of their own currency on international markets. For example, buying foreign currency with the country’s own currency is a way of keeping the value of its own currency low, thus promoting the sale of goods to foreigners and supporting its own manufacturers at the expense of foreign manufacturers.
“The experience of the Chinese revolution, that is, building rural base areas, encircling the cities from the countryside and finally seizing the cities, may not be wholly applicable to many of your countries, though it can serve for your reference. I beg to advise you not to transplant Chinese experience mechanically. The experience of any foreign country can serve only for reference and must not be regarded as dogma. The universal truth of Marxism-Leninism and the concrete conditions of your own countries—the two must be integrated.” —Mao, “Some Experiences in our Party’s History” (Sept. 23, 1956), SW 5:320. [This was part of a talk with representatives of some Latin-American Communist parties.]
FOREIGN MILITARY BASES
See: UNITED STATES IMPERIALISM—Foreign Military Bases
FOREIGN SALES OF U.S. CORPORATIONS
See: UNITED STATES ECONOMY—Foreign Sales
1. [In general and in discussions of dialectics:] A kind of thinking that emphasizes form in a one-sided way, regardless of real content, or emphasizes the appearance of something without analyzing its essential nature. Formalism in this sense refers to one type of what Marxists call undialectical or “metaphysical” thinking.
2. [In ethics:] The approach to ethics, or the assumption, that some formal logical aspects of morality hold and dictate the essential nature of ethics, as opposed to any analysis of the content and social nature of morality. For example claims that some abstract formal principle (such as the Golden Rule or Kant’s categorical imperative) determines what is right or wrong, rather than any consideration of what is in the beneficial interests of individuals or groups of people.
Kant’s ethical theory is also properly considered to be an example of formalism because he focuses on the will (or psychological attitude) of individuals rather than on the content or consequences of their actions. [See: CONSEQUENTIALISM]
3. [In art:] The method of focusing exclusively on form, or absolutizing aesthetic form as opposed to the subject and content of the work of art or its social impact or function. Thus art which is, among other things, opposed to realism.
Formalistic schools (or styles) in art developed around the end of the 19th century and have characterized bourgeois art ever since. These include futurism, cubism, surrealism, expressionism, and abstract art. While there are considerable differences among such schools, they all tend to divorce art from reality, separate artistic form from content and from social ideas, and make abstract form into the supposed essence of art. The underlying outlook of formalism is that art is outside the control of reason, is independent of human or social interests and concerns, and has nothing whatever to do with society and social ideas. This strong trend toward formalism in art in modern bourgeois culture reflects its decadence and dead-end nature.
4. [In bourgeois literary criticism:] An approach to the analysis and criticism of literary texts, inspired by Roman Jakobson, which supposedly rejects subjective opinions and instead focuses on various structural characteristics and techniques in the writing. This approach assumes that it is not the content of the work, nor the writer’s intentions, nor the social impact of the work, which make it good or bad, but rather primarily (or only!) its objective structural features.
5. [In mathematics:] The trend which attempts to resolve problems concerning the foundations of mathematics by means of the construction of formal logical axiomatic systems. Gottlob Frege, David Hilbert, Bertrand Russell, Alfred North Whitehead and many others have employed this approach, but its limitations were exposed by various paradoxes which arose in some of these formal systems, and then in a more general way in 1931 by Kurt Gödel who proved the incompleteness of all such formal systems. (That is, these axiomatic systems which were put forward as the foundation for all of mathematics necessarily contain propositions which can neither be proved nor disproved within their logical framework.)
FOSTER, John Bellamy (1953- )
The current editor of the socialist magazine Monthly Review, and a professor of sociology at the University of Oregon at Eugene. He has adopted and further elaborated the blend of Marxism and Keynesianism characteristic of the Monthly Review School of political economy, which was originally developed by Paul Sweezy, Paul Baran, and Harry Magdoff. He has also given considerable attention to ecology and the environment.
Among Foster’s numerous books are: The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism: An Elaboration of Marxian Political Economy (1986), which is a good exposition and overview of the Monthly Review School’s conceptions, The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet (2009), and The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences (with Fred Magdoff, 2009).
FOUCAULT, Michel [Pronounced: mish-shell foo-ko] (1926-1984)
French bourgeois philosopher and sociologist who taught at universities in both France and the United States. He was variously closely associated with structuralism, post-structuralism and postmodernism, though he ultimately rejected all those labels. (Bourgeois philosophers, especially adherents to the schools of Continental Philosophy, very much dislike being pinned down on matters big or small. Besides not wanting to have to defend any definite philosophical positions, they often think they are so great and so unique that any existing label could only demean them!) In later years, however, Foucault did describe his thought as a critical history of “modernity” rooted in Kant. Besides Kant, he was also greatly influenced by Nietzsche, and in one interview he openly stated that “I am a Nietzschean.”
But despite this variety of deeply bourgeois connections and associations, including some of the most reactionary like Nietzsche, Foucault is often considered a “leftist radical” in academia, and someone worth seriously studying, discussing and following! Indeed, the Wikipedia (from which a lot of the information in this entry is taken) says that in 2007 Foucault was listed by the [London] Times Higher Education Guide as the “most cited intellectual in the humanities”. Foucault is said to be “best known for his critical studies of social institutions, most notably psychiatry, medicine, the human sciences, and the prison system, as well as for his work on the history of human sexuality”. So if you are interested in discussions of those topics from the perspective of Kant, Nietzsche and postmodernism, then I guess Foucault is your man. But if you want a revolutionary Marxist perspective, then look elsewhere.
Foucault was an inactive member of the revisionist Communist Party of France for a few years, but never anything like a real revolutionary Marxist, either in theory or practice. In the late 1970s, in the midst of a turn in French society away from radicalism, a number of young philosophers who had previously considered themselves to be “Maoists” completely abandoned that perspective and shifted strongly to the right. These so-called “New Philosophers” often cited Foucault as their major influence. While Foucault himself is said to have had “mixed feelings” about this, any genuine revolutionary would have been completely disgusted and totally embarrassed by it! But this shows the sort of influence which Foucault has actually had.
This is the name given by the Chinese during the Mao era to the following four points which concisely and powerfully sum up the essence and meaning of communist revolution:
1) The abolition of class distinctions generally.
2) The abolition of all the relations of production on which they rest.
3) The abolition of all the social relations that correspond to these relations of production.
4) The revolutionizing of all the ideas that result from these social relations.
These four points are taken verbatim from a passage in Marx’s pamphlet, “The Class Struggles in France” (1850), MECW 10:127.
FOUR BIG FAMILIES (in Pre-Revolutionary China)
This refers to the four extremely rich and powerful families in pre-1949 China, headed by Chiang Kai-shek, T. V. Soong, H. H. Kung and Chen Li-fu. During their two-decades domination of the economy and government of China they amassed enormous fortunes, valued even at that time as between 10 and 20 billion U.S. dollars. They monopolized the economic lifelines of the entire country and formed the core of the bureaucrat-capitalist class (or big bourgeoisie) that ruled China in an alliance with the domestic landlord class and in association with foreign imperialist powers such as the United States.
A mass campaign in China, circa early 1966, as part of the Socialist Education Movement, to clean up (i.e. remove bourgeois influences in) politics, ideology, organization and the economy.
Shorthand for a list of four priorities that members of the Communist Party of China and the People’s Liberation Army were expected to keep in mind during the Mao era. First place must be given:
1) To man (humans) in handling the relationship between man and weapons;
2) To political work in handling the relationship between political and other work;
3) To ideological work in relation to other aspects of political work; and
4) In ideological work, to the ideas currently in a person’s mind as distinguished from ideas in books.
That is to say, first place to man, first place to political work, first place to ideological work and first place to living ideas.
Companies of the People’s Liberation Army in China during the Mao era which were good in political and ideological work, in the “three-eight” working style, in military training and in arranging their everyday life.
In Maoist China, departments of the People’s Liberation Army (and perhaps government departments in general) which were good in political and ideological work, in the “three-eight” working style, in their specialized work and in arranging their everyday life.
The four great attributes ascribed to Mao Zedong during the early years of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution: “Our great teacher, great leader, great supreme commander and great helmsman Chairman Mao...”. For a period this was almost an obligatory phrase at least for the first reference to Mao in any article or speech. It was part of the effort to build a cult of personally around him. After a few years, however, that cult was drastically toned down and the “four greats” were seldom mentioned any more.
Shorthand for a set of ideological targets of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China: old ideas, old culture, old customs and old habits.
FOURIER, François Marie Charles (1772-1837)
Important French utopian socialist. He put forward the idea of an ideal community called a phalanx, based on his elaborate design of a central building called a phalanstère. While sometimes ridiculed for this, architecture can in fact be of some importance in the promotion of cooperative social consciousness. Fourier was far ahead of his time when it came to the promotion of equality for women, and was the inventor of the term feminism.
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