Riccardo Steiner is a Member of the British Psychoanalytical Society. Amongst other distinguished contributions to psychoanalysis, he edited, together with Pearl King, the important work expounding the intellectual and organisational controversies that developed in the British Psychoanalytical Society between Kleinian, Viennese and 'middle group' analysts during the Second World War.
This paper has both depth and breadth and we are most grateful for his permission to allow us to reproduce this paper here in the first edition of the British Psychoanalytical Society & Institute of psychoanalysis Website. It was first presented by Riccardo on November 28th 1998, at a special day of scientific papers in celebration of the contributions of Pearl King.
Steiner, R. (2000): "The (Ir)resistible Lightness of Our Past"
When Pearl asked me to take part in her eightieth birthday celebration and to contribute a few words on the relationship between British psychoanalysis and the outside world, I felt both moved and frightened by her invitation. Indeed, trying to do justice to such a topic in fifty minutes is worse than trying to tour the world in eighty days, to borrow from the title of Jules Verne's famous science fiction book. This book, incidentally, is completely out of date today due to enormous progress in travel technology - a technology which I wish I could rely on in dealing with these vast amounts of materials.
There are several dangers inherent in my attempt to elaborate my topic and I would like to mention these briefly. Firstly, the time at my disposal is very limited and I do not want to fill it with a rambling discourse. Moreover, due to the circumstances in which I had to write this paper, I cannot say I am fully satisfied with it. Secondly, there is the issue of my ignorance concerning specific areas of the history of our Society. The lack of any detailed studies of this Society entails that we are not in a position to fill in many gaps and blank spaces. Just consider what one could learn from an in-depth investigation of the impact that our Society has had on the press and the media generally in the eighty years of its life and of the ways in which psychoanalysis has penetrated the language of British culture. Studies of this kind have been undertaken in France, in the US and even in Italy!
Consider also how much we could learn from a detailed study of the practical impact of British psychoanalysis on hospitals, nurseries, child guidance centres, old people's homes, prisons and the educational system at every level. If we indeed look at our Society from the point of view of its impact on the outside world, we have to take into account the influence that hundreds of less important or less known British psychoanalysts have had and have on legion aspects of British (and not only British) life, alongside the impact made by major thinkers and clinicians of our Society. Even an attempt at a microhistory of our society, set against the complex problems of a city like London, its institutions and population, should not neglect the unnamed, anonymous or relatively anonymous professionals working in medical, penal and educational institutions because they constitute the main bulk of the body of our Society. They have tried, and are still endeavouring, to bridge the gap between the Alma Mater (located for the time being at 63 New Cavendish Street) and the outside world.
I would like this contribution of mine to be seen in this kind of context and wish to emphasise the presence and contribution of those marginalised colleagues; though I will, inevitably, have to refer mainly to the more famous names and to their achievements! I do not aim at a commemoration of the greatness and lightness of our past which, once the gallery of old statues has been revisited and re-established, would amount to an invitation to participate in a celebratory Friday of psychoanalytical ashes; or, to use a ritual image from another religious tradition, at a celebration of our past which would culminate with the choral singing of a Kohl Nidrei acknowledging our sins and limitations in comparison with the irresistible lightness of our ancestors (hence the pun in my title). At the end of this contribution, I will talk about ways in which we can use the past and about the relationship between the past and the present.
There is a final difficulty or problem that I wish to mention. This pertains to what - chronologically speaking - may be regarded as our historical past and to the related issue of periodisation which is of crucial importance even in an attempt at microhistory like mine. Many illustrious historians maintain that it is practically impossible to produce historical accounts of the recent past because there is not sufficient distance between the historian and his/her materials and because it is arduous to understand people and events if the researcher is still part of what Halbwacks (1992) called the living memory of certain events. Furthermore, as I said, I am not familiar with many aspects of the life of our Society, though I hope that everyone taking part in Pearl's celebration will be able to fill in the gaps. Therefore I am quite open to objections and criticisms of the particular selection I have made. After careful consideration, and having consulted Pearl on a number of occasions to ensure I would fulfil her wishes, I decided to examine the relationship between some of the principal figures, works and events in our Society and the external world, from its inception to the 1960s.
Incidentally, even the archives of the Foreign Office in this country, if I am not wrong, only start releasing certain documents after thirty years have elapsed since the events referred to in those documents occurred.
You will all be familiar with the famous passage in Freud's 'The Psychology of the Masses and Analysis of the Ego' (1921) where he tries to clarify the actual nature of individual psychology, concluding that:
in the individual's mental life someone else is invariably involved as a model, as an object, as a helper, as an opponent and so, from the very first, individual psychology in the extended but entirely justifiable sense of the at the same time, social psychology as well (1921, p69).
If we go back to the so-called official origins of British Psychoanalysis as an institution, these seem to confirm and further validate Freud's statements of 1921: exactly two years after the foundation of our Society. One of the Society's first publications - alongside the first numbers of The International Journal of Psychoanalysis which immediately tried to establish the rank and role of British psychoanalysis in the outside world - was the prestigious anthology On War Neuroses edited by S. Ferenczi but wanted, in English, by E. Jones. This book was actually published in 1919, immediately after the end of the First World War, and it contained the most substantial papers on war neuroses and the possibility of their psychoanalytic treatment.
It is therefore significant that the book that inaugurated, together with papers by Putnam, The International Library of Psychoanalysis should be devoted to so momentous a social and cultural event.
The links between British psychoanalysis as a distinct form of therapy and as an explorative discipline aiming at the creation of a new model of both the psyche and social and political issues were established with the foundation of the British Psychoanalytical Society itself. Undoubtedly, the constitution of the International Library had per se the potential of becoming an enormously powerful tool for the diffusion of British psychoanalysis in the outside world. Other factors should be added to this crucial initiative: for example, the fact that Jones had by then already published not only several papers dedicated to a general audience but also the first version of his famous essay on Hamlet (1913); a piece which, according to the great scholar J. Starobinski, ranks even today amongst the most outstanding psychoanalytical interpretations of literature. Taking these various factors into consideration, one can begin to see what impact British psychoanalysis was trying to make on the external world during the first six or seven years of its existence as a proper institution. We should not forget, however, that at this stage the Society was rather restricted in membership. By the end of the 1930s, before the arrival of the Viennese, there were still only around forty-five members. In spite of this, there is another important factor to consider. As you know, since the Society's foundation it was Jones's and his friends' policy to admit non-medical colleagues, many of whom were women. This probably gave the Society opportunities for expansion in areas of British cultural life which were not controlled exclusively by psychiatric medicine or by the natural sciences.
Beside Jones, we should remember Eder, Low and Sharpe as instrumental to the dissemination of psychoanalysis in the educational domain, and E. Glover as one of the first to consider the applicability of psychoanalysis to the study of juvenile and adult criminality. Political and social issues play an important part in this context. Unfortunately I am only able to cite a few names and titles here. But just take as an example the all too often ignored paper by Eder (1923) on British politics, where he presented an acute analysis of the ways in which splitting and idealisation functioned in British politics, associating the Prime Minister and the Parliament with the function of discharge of tension and aggressiveness and the Monarchy with the idealised function. According to Eder, this dynamic gave British political life a certain kind of stability. Further developments in this area witnessed the creative involvement of many members of our Society in social and political issues. Beside producing papers on applied psychoanalysis relating to Ireland and other issues, Jones, in the Preface to Social Aspects of Psychoanalysis (1924) - a book containing contributions from various psychoanalysts and destined for a broad audience - insisted that governments should accord psychoanalysis the importance it deserved if they were genuinely concerned with the mental health of their citizens and the implementation of saner societies. I wish to stress the words 'sane society' because these words would later become the leitmotif in further attempts to apply psychoanalysis to social and educational issues. Alongside the books and papers I have already mentioned, we should also remember the huge financial efforts made by this group of doctors who had not embarked on a financially rewarding career and by the at times eccentric scholars, both men and women, of whom there were no more than twenty in the 1920s as official members of our Society.
The establishment of the Institute in 1924 felicitously coincided with the establishment of links with the Hogarth Press via the Stracheys and other members of the Bloomsbury Group associated with L. Woolf and V. Woolf, and the institution by the British Society of public lectures covering a variety of topics from psychology to anthropology, the arts, theology and its relation to psychoanalysis in its zealous determination to divulge psychoanalysis in the outside world. Of course there is not enough evidence for the penetration by psychoanalysis of the cultural and social realities of London and Great Britain generally. Nevertheless, besides D. H. Lawrence and others' interest in psychoanalysis it is significant that R. Fry (1924), one of the most prominent European art critics of the time, should have produced a small yet very important book about the relationship between psychoanalysis and the arts, and that even B. Russell should have become interested in psychoanalytic issues through the Cambridge connection. L. Strachey's biography of Elizabeth and Essex, (1926 / 1981) in which he used psychoanalytic insights and which was so much appreciated by Freud, is another significant example of the impact that psychoanalysis had on British culture. These developments would have been impossible without the efforts of a restricted group of enthusiasts willing to work for no reward well into the small hours and to attend endless meetings even outside the Society. The correspondence between Freud and Jones (Steiner, 1993) bears full witness to these realities.
All this resulted from an exceptional concatenation of events. Psychoanalysis is not different, in this respect, from other disciplines. What happened to psychoanalysis is analogous to what happens in other fields when fresh discoveries and theoretical input are in their status nascendi. The great personalities, the founders of new cultural, scientific or political movements are able to attract a great number of creative people. Changes during the status nascendi of those movements and great discoveries happen quite frequently. That is what made also the status nascendi of British psychoanalysis so exciting. Both historians of science and cultural historians have observed all this. Even the oldest tradition, which goes back to the first compilers of biographies of illustrious figures more than two thousand years ago, stresses the existence and the characteristics of the status nascendi in the fields of the arts, politics, philosophy, science, etc. (Dihle, 1937 / Momigliano, 1993). Despite the diversity of their cultural backgrounds and the enormous personal tensions between them - just think of Jones in relation to the Stracheys, to J. Riviere - due to their common enthusiasm, nourished by the constant presence of Freud's creativity, these analysts managed to propagate and to promote psychoanalysis outdoors. When Klein arrived in England in the mid-Twenties, her presence and creativity constituted a further stimulus.
Bear in mind that it was in the early Twenties - as I have highlighted in other papers of mine (Steiner, 1987 / 1991) - that the Society and the Institute planned and began to execute the first systematic translation of Freud's work, under die Regierung of Jones and with the assiduous commitment of the Stracheys and, in particular, Riviere. Although I do not know how many of you would be interested in this kind of discussion - even if I had the time to pursue it here, which I do not - I would very much like to present you with data concerning the diffusion of psychoanalytical language and technical terms outside the boundaries of our Society during those years through The Lancet, Mind, The Spectator, The Times Literary Supplement and even the popular press. This would certainly be a way of understanding the full impact of psychoanalysis. I do not have sufficient time to discuss the specific influence of psychoanalysis on the literary world. Unfortunately, we owe to a German, the scholar Hoops (1934), the most complete study of the effect that psychoanalysis had on British literature in those years. The study is out of date but still extremely useful in its examination of Rebecca West and others. Today, of course, we are in the process of gradually filling certain theoretical lacunae by means of studies of authors such as V. Woolf.
What must be emphasised is that the first translations undertaken at the time under discussion became the fundamental terms of reference for all those who were beginning to become interested in psychoanalysis in the English-speaking world (and therefore not only in England). These translations were competing with Brill's own, even though generations of analysts in England learned to read die Traumdeutung in Brill's translation.
Psychoanalysis was also beginning to attract thinkers in the social sciences. Consider, for example, Cambridge figures like Rivers, McDougall (who had tried to use psychoanalysis in the First World War) and, in London, Malinowski, who was involved in a heated controversy with Jones in the late 1920s. Due to a variety of complex factors, primarily an enduringly traditional and Victorian climate, the penetration by psychoanalysis of the English academic world was extremely slow. Notable exceptions are Flò gel at UCL and S. Isaacs at the Institute of Education. I will return to her later. However, nothing could be compared with what was happening in America - though Freud was not too happy about any of it.
There were, of course, internal problems which, compounded with a limited membership and hence reduced forces, hindered the move towards the outside world. In 1990, Trist pointed out the extremely elitist character of British psychoanalysis under the aegis of people like Jones and Glover, who preferred the aristocratic system to the democratic one - as stated by E. Jones to A. Freud on 21st January, 1942. It is with the Second World War, the arrival of immigrants from Central Europe, the Controversial Discussions and the advent of a new generation of analysts eager to project themselves outside the Society, that the first attempts to democratise the Society manifest themselves. In its early days, then, the Society was elitist: Strachey himself, in the speech delivered on the occasion of the Society's 50th anniversary, called it 'a monarchic system'; particularly by comparison with an institution like the Tavistock which was much more eclectic right from the start. (However, it is also worth remembering that the Tavistock always benefited from the Institute's and the Society's input in spite of Jones's vetoes and in spite of his at times brutal way of running the affairs of the Society).
S. Payne once used a marvellous expression by stressing the necessity of not diluting the gold of psychoanalysis, namely its clinical character, which has been a defining feature of our Society from its inception. One of the main practical outcomes of this ethos was the creation of the Clinic, probably the most moving social achievement of our Society and Institute, in 1926. Here the tradition of the caring profession, the dedication to the patient which has always moved me as a foreigner, found the opportunity to express itself at its best. Rickman literally gave part of his life to the establishment and consolidation of the Clinic (there were hundreds of consultations in just the first nine months of the Clinic's existence and twenty patients were been seen daily). The Clinic started treating people who were unable to afford private therapy and analysts who were already overworked committed themselves to devoting one hour of their time every day to a patient of the Clinic with no or hardly any remuneration. (According to the data in my possession, psychoanalysis was not a financially rewarding profession even in those days, with just a few notable exceptions.)
The Clinic also enabled a number of young analysts to receive proper training and to start working in external psychiatric institutions and child centres, although we should not forget that the NHS did not yet exist at that time, and that therefore the introduction of psychoanalysis into those areas was quite a difficult task. Nevertheless, from the early Thirties onwards, psychoanalysis gained a place in great teaching hospitals such as the Maudsley and there are people in this room who know better than me what happened there in later years and into the Eighties. Furthermore, although diagnostic recommendations were restricted (only very few homosexuals and no psychotic patients could be taken on), the Clinic's provision of treatment for the poor had a profound social meaning for the London of those days. I say London because psychoanalysis was then restricted to this city. This is an endemic problem which has been approaching resolution only in recent years, in spite of the pioneers being well aware of its existence, due to a complex series of reasons: the personalities of Jones and his subordinates, the limited number of their cohorts, and the fear of dispersing and diluting their message, restrained them from venturing outside London. Regrettably, even as up-to-date a social history of London as R. Porter's completely ignores psychoanalysis.
There were serious problems for psychoanalysts to contend with in the outside world. Realising this makes our ancestors' achievements all the more remarkable, although it could be argued that those very problems largely stimulated such achievements. A great European writer of the nineteenth century said that deprivation stimulates the soul's creativity. This sentence should not necessarily be taken literally, for it was formulated in a particular context and with profound sense of humanity and irony. Yet it contains some truth and this is testified by some of the ordeals that our Society has had to face: attacks from both the specialised and the popular press, and campaigns driven by distinguished scientists to ascertain the scientific credentials of psychoanalysis show that psychoanalysis in England was under siege in the mid-Twenties. Not only did it arouse the suspicions of the Church - sexuality being rather a convoluted issue in Victorian and Edwardian society, as attested by Jones's misadventures - but it was also subjected to scrutiny by the BMA. After more than two years of investigation and more than twenty meetings between representatives of British psychoanalysis led by Jones, Glover and Flugel (doctors and academic troika) and representatives of the medical profession, the BMA finally acknowledged psychoanalysis as a reliable discipline. In 1929, after twenty-eight meetings, the British Medical Journal was finally prepared to state that 'the followers of Freud's claim are entitled to use the definition of psychoanalysts and the use and definition of the term are just and must be respected'. This became the Magna Carta of psychoanalysis in Britain. Without it, psychoanalysis would not have been able to survive as a respectable discipline in the austere British medical world of the time. The efforts made by Jones and his associates to build up a scientific image for psychoanalysis can also be detected in certain aspects of the first translation of Freud's work. Jones and his friends accomplished a memorable political and institutional task in persuading the outside world of the legitimacy not only of Freud's theories but also of the British Psychoanalytical Society and of the Institute as custodians and developers of those ideas.
On its twenty-fifth anniversary in 1939, this small group of our ancestors came together, joined by the genial Wandering Jew M. Klein, who had landed in England in 1926, and by psychoanalysts from Berlin and Vienna who had come to this country to escape Nazi persecution. Isn't it telling that, on this occasion, even the Minister of Health Sir W. Elliot took part in the celebrations, thereby acknowledging the role that British psychoanalysis was playing in the outside world? Isn't it also significant that the commemorations were attended by some of the brightest stars of the British intelligentsia - V. Woolf, H. G. Wells, R. West, R. Church - beside an interminable list of acclaimed academics?
No history of the involvement of psychoanalysis with the outside world would make sense without some reference to the impact of psychoanalysis on childcare and education, as well as on the broader socio-cultural sphere in the course of the Thirties, of World War II and of the post-war period. Of course Britain was somewhat separate from the Continent and from the situations which various dictatorships were setting up in those years. The social commitment of British psychoanalysts cannot be directly compared with that of Aichorns, Bernfeld, A. Freud and her co-workers in the red Vienna of the Thirties, as historians have called it. And London was not Berlin either. One needs simply read the reports of the psychoanalytical Clinic in Berlin to be convinced of this. Nor could it be claimed that London had figures of the stature of Bernfeld, Fenichel, Reich, E. Jacobson and others to support the engagement of psychoanalysis with politics. (Those figures, incidentally, did not arouse enthusiasm in either Freud or his daughter.)
Fortunately, Britain was then still under a non-dictatorial regime but even psychoanalysis was hit by the Great Depression. One wonders how our colleagues were able to develop all sorts of initiatives in substantially restricted financial conditions. Important papers were published during the 1930s whose audience was wide and not exclusively psychoanalytical: Sharpe's papers on aesthetics, Klein's, Rickman's and later Fairbairn's. We should also consult the list of public lectures held by the Society.
In my view, it is in the field of child and family education that the British achieved the most impressive results. Here, their interest in child analysis, compounded with the discoveries of M. Klein and a tolerant atmosphere of curiosity surrounding her views, were of paramount importance. Once again, it is painful and frustrating to have to limit oneself to citing names and titles. But this is not the context for a detailed discussion of Klein's theoretical developments. Suffice it to say that what has always struck me since my first reading, more than thirty years ago, of Klein's paper on 'The early development of conscience in the child' is Klein's statement that psychoanalysis should not be restricted to the individual and that this is particularly crucial in the psychoanalysis of children. The paper was published in 1933, a terrible year for the destiny of democracy and hopes in Europe. These were the times of Hitler's advent to power and the beginning of the persecution of the Jews. Klein's statement echoes certain views already put forward by Freud and by Ferenczi in 1919, when the Bela Kuhn revolution in Hungary had for a brief period allowed psychoanalysis to become part of a social revolution.
Though aware that her ideas could sound utopian, Klein hoped they might be actualised and that child analysis might one day 'become as much part of everybody's personal upbringing as school education is now'. 'Then perhaps,' Klein claimed,
that hostile attitude springing from fear and suspicion which is latent more or less strongly in each human being and which intensifies a hundredfold in him every impulse of destruction, will give way to a kinder and more trustful feeling towards his fellow human beings and people may inhabit the world together in greater peace and good will than they do now (1933, p216).
It is impossible to comment in depth on this utopian dream. It was quite a common dream, as you probably know, amongst many analysts of that generation on the Continent too and it came abruptly back during the student revolution of the 1960s. I will return to this issue in my discussion of British psychoanalysts' attempts to influence, or at least be involved in, the socio-political life of the Thirties and Forties.
As far as children's education and prevention of mental illnesses are concerned, we should not forget, as I said at the beginning of this contribution, the work of analysts less well known than Klein and her followers and that of the young generation that was beginning to merge in the Thirties. Its activities included the numerous paediatric consultations carried out by Winnicott in Paddington and the first sketches of studies on juvenile delinquency produced by Bowlby (published in 1946). These had a considerable impact on areas other than psychoanalysis and, of course, paved the way to subsequent developments which revolutionised certain aspects of childcare, both in this country and abroad, whatever one may think of his later work. These analysts were all, incidentally, gravitating in Klein's orbit at that time.
One figure deserves special attention: S. Isaacs. I am not thinking only of her main project, namely the famous Klein-inspired experiment of the Malting School in Cambridge in the Twenties that attracted serious consideration by Piaget. And I am not thinking only of her two books resulting from this experiment and destined to become a landmark in educational psychology either. What I am particularly interested in is her immense activity as a reviewer, as a means of convincing wider audiences of educationalists of the importance of psychoanalysis. Crucially important is Problems of Children and Parents, published in 1948.
This book contains a selection of the four hundred letters exchanged by Isaacs with parents of difficult children and with difficult parents during the Thirties. In this correspondence, Isaacs was playing the role of agony aunt under the pseudonym of Wise. The letters were published in an extremely open, liberal-radical periodical called New Era. Of course, Isaacs was in touch with a minimal portion of the British population, mainly with an open bourgeois background, and her enterprise thus calls to mind the famous image of St Augustine trying to collect the ocean into a shell. Yet the book had quite an impact at the time of its publication and without it, Isaacs would not have been able to organise and direct the famous evacuation scheme for children during the London blitzes of the early Forties (1941). In this, she was assisted by Milner, Bowlby and even Klein.
Alongside with Isaac's astonishing work and touching efforts and results of the new 'British analysts' (a title which the Viennese would not have accepted easily in those days) - by this I mean the war nurseries of A. Freud, D. Burlingham and (1941, 1942, 1944) their helpers (e.g. I. Hellman, K. Friedländer and the young H. Kennedy) - and the work undertaken by Winnicott and his future wife in childcare centres during the war (1944) constituted the most important and lasting achievements of British psychoanalysis as far as the mental welfare of children and of future generations was concerned during the late Thirties and Forties. As has been already mentioned, it is incredibly sad that R. Porter should have ignored these facts in his history of London. Yet this omission may also help us understand some of the difficulties we are facing now.
Although Cliff will speak at length about these activities, I would nonetheless like to devote a few more words to the quality of the public lectures held in those years and to the attempts made by our predecessors to reach a wider audience and throw light on very complex issues. Just consider, as an example, the wealth of valuable information supplied by a series of papers resulting from public lectures and collected under the title On Bringing up Children, published in 1936. This collection contains some of the most moving and clearly written papers produced by Isaacs, Searle, Low, Klein and Sharpe. It also contains an all too often neglected introduction by Rickman where he stresses the role of the family, the importance of the father figure, emphasised by Klein, in the first months of the child's life and the social implications of these factors. (Of course, our French colleagues may find these statements bizarre but this is because they constantly misunderstand Klein's views.) Moreover, much may be gleaned from a close reading of Isaac's paper (1936) in which she emphasises the social role played by nurseries which, like Klein's paper (1936), contains precious hints at issues we tend to marginalise, ignore or forget in the name of our so-called neutrality. But neutrality is always relative because, whether we like it or not, we carry moral and social values in our profession which very often reflect or interact with the codes and problems of the society wherein we operate. What is most striking about these papers is their frequent insistence on words and phrases such as liberal attitude, tolerance, understanding of the baby and his/her needs. These words also feature in Klein's paper 'On Weaning' which in my view remains one of the most touching and direct pieces she ever wrote. The analysts under discussion believed that they had the potential to change society through their work and that the initial seeds of change must begin to develop through the earliest object relationships in the family and in the nursery. These beliefs were, I repeat, largely stimulated by the pressures of the time but also interacted with a certain indigenous British culture and its values.
This becomes evident if we look at another series of lectures published by Klein and Riviere under the title On Love, Guilt and Reparation (1936). At one point, Klein significantly addresses even the psychodynamic unconscious resonances of unemployment, implicitly indicating a model of social intervention. Klein is always represented as remote from social involvement. Yet she did assist Isaacs with the Evacuation Scheme in Cambridge and also lectured on the radio for 'France Libre' in 1944 in an attempt to help the families and the children of regions exposed to evacuation and Nazi occupation, where whole villages were being bombed or had to be abandoned. Klein's radio lectures stressed the importance of a good internal object for both children and parents and the need of maintaining it even in such difficult circumstances as a way of overcoming the tremendous anxieties bred by their traumatising experiences. I found these lectures at the Wellcome Institute years ago.
These reflections lead me back to the political and social involvement of British psychoanalysis in the Thirties and Forties; something we have nearly forgotten. Again, I am forced to rely on names and the titles of papers and books to illustrate these issues. I have already mentioned the interest exhibited by Jones, Eder and others in the idea of 'the sane society'. And it is no wonder that the Thirties and Forties should be the Golden Age of such speculations and aims. It would be possible to spend quite a lot of time studying an early paper by Money Kyrle on 'The unconscious reasons of War' (1936). Very few people are aware, to the best of my knowledge, that he was also the author of a sort of science-fictional novel entitled Aspasia (1932) in which he sketched out a utopian 'sane society' of the future. His statements regarding eugenics, a pseudo-science fashionable amongst upper-class English intellectuals of the time, are, however, rather disturbing. But what about Glover's publication in 1933 (consider again the significance of this particular year) of War Pacifism and Sadism? This book was reprinted several times and fascinated the young H. Segal. In tandem with another fairly science-fictional series of papers in the fashion of H. G. Wells, collected in The Danger of Being Human (1936), the book constituted the core of Glover's final version of War Pacifism and Sadism, published immediately after the war (1946). Here Glover, with enormous and uncanny courage at the time of the Nuremberg Trials, posed the question of whether sadism was a specifically German prerogative from which the Americans and the Jews were immune. If you also consider what he wrote about Hiroshima and Nagasaki and later world events, you may accept that he was not far from the truth, even though the Holocaust had its own specific characteristics. As you probably know, besides influencing Fornari, Glover re-emerged with antinuclear group instituted in our Society in the 1980s by Segal and M. Laufer. Well, in the case of Glover, a line of continuity was preserved. But what about the others?
Just think of a small, relatively unknown but extremely fascinating book written by Bowlby and Durbin (a friend of his) in 1939 on Personal Aggressiveness and War. This text supplied a semantic analysis of Hitler's speeches, trying to highlight the hidden racism and destructiveness of Nazi propaganda even where it seemed to be simply a rhetorical extravaganza. Consider also another small book, exceptional in those days, entitled Psychoanalysis and Politics and published in 1951. Here the author tried to explain Hitler's rise to power and the phenomenon of German consensus by comparing different family structures in Germany and in England and by using - as did Bowlby, Glover and others - Klein's views on the early, archaic superego. Gathered together, these materials would constitute one of the first systematic attempts to examine Nazism and its consequences from a psychoanalytical point of view which may well prove more satisfactory than Adorno's The Authoritarian Personality, a text which relied excessively on classical notions of the superego. The extent to which these writings had a practical impact on British cultural and political life is a moot point. It is nonetheless crucial to realise that there was a real mobilisation of efforts in this field.
To the texts I have already cited, we should add three books by Flò gel on war (1941, 1945 and 1947) and Jones' papers on 'Evolution and revolution', 'On quislinguism' and on 'How civilisation could be saved', where the model of a 'sane society' is explicitly promoted as a third formation poised between capitalism and proletarian communism, utilising Klein's theories about excessive and normal splitting. I could further pursue this line by mentioning the interventions made by Rickman in the public press, The Lancet (1940, 1946), where he commented on political issues trying, at one point, in 1940, to explain from a psychoanalytical perspective why England should intervene against Nazism. Of course, the motion of 'the right war' was not his invention.
What is both moving and interesting, however, is to see a strong interaction between psychoanalysis and an indigenous value system which could be defined as liberal-socialist - even though at times, as in Glover's case, it contained an uncanny, anarchic and conservative dimension. In some ways, the most amusing example of this trend is Rickman's intervention at a conference on 'How To Prevent War' held in Geneva after the Second World War (1948). Here he fought his way, confronting some of the greatest intellectual gurus and objecting to Horkheimer's views, to demonstrate that the true democratic leader was Churchill: 'We won the war and our democratic system is the best', said Rickman, forgetting perhaps the help given to Britain by the Americans. All this would sound as pure waffle if we ignored the real impact of British psychoanalysis during the war. Pearl has written a seminal paper on that topic (1989) and I warmly invite you to peruse it.
At times it seems absolutely incredible that such a small group of people should be able to achieve so much. Focusing on social issues, it is important to acknowledge the intervention made by British psychoanalysis in the field of childcare immediately after the war. Read New Era, the periodical of those days. Bear in mind that we had just been through the Controversial Discussions. Remember also that people had difficulties communicating at that time. Yet, if you consider the issue of New Era on the absent father (1945), for example, you will see our Society at its best. Freudians, Kleinians and representatives of indigenous British psychoanalysis joined forces in attempting to explain the syndrome which affected millions of families in those days and not only in England. This small publication could be reprinted today without changing one single comma and sent around the world, especially to countries ravaged by war where it would be of great help. I mentioned the Controversial Discussions: it was at this juncture that problems which were not related exclusively to the war emerged and that the need for intervention became particularly pressing. The issue of social welfare surfaced in the 'Plan for Childcare' discussed during the Controversies. This anticipated what was to become one of the central concerns and achievements of our Society, socially and politically speaking, in the period just after the war. The Clinic managed to remain independent from the NHS and to preserve its psychoanalytical status, while at the same time obtaining support from the NHS thanks to the political skilfulness of our administrators. This enabled us to continue working for the community and for the society which the Clinic had inaugurated in the Twenties.
It is around these issues that British psychoanalysis has written, and in a sense is still writing, not only books, papers and lectures but also one of the most important chapters in the history of our involvement in the interests of society at large. Of course, I am thinking of all those analysts, particularly training analysts who, immediately after the Second World War and later still, went on to train - very often with scanty remuneration - generations of young analysts who would then work in the NHS. We should not forget any of these facts.
I know that Cliff and others will talk about the Tavistock, the Hampstead Clinic and the nurseries, about our relationship with those institutions and our commitment to the training of their members after the Second World War. However, I would like to draw your attention to another example of our intervention in the community which reflects the passionate enthusiasm of the years following the war: the experience of the psychoanalytically oriented Cassel Hospital. Only three days before his death, T. Main told me proudly, in a very moving interview, that he could work with thirteen properly trained analysts and that his hospital constituted a model for the whole world. This impact was also due, I think, to the groundbreaking research into groups, which fascinated Lacan, carried out by Rickman and Bion at the Northfield Military Hospital during the war. But I hope that colleagues more informed about these issues than me will expound them in greater depth.
The desire of British psychoanalysis to remain independent from State control is testified by a number of papers attempting to develop a psychoanalytic ideology of autonomy. These were addressed to large audiences. A characteristic example of this trend is supplied by Winnicott's papers and extremely popular radio broadcasts on the privacy of the family (1946), on the insular traits of British democracy etc. (1950). Further evidence is provided by Glover (1944) and others.
I would like to remind you of one further factor. In the Forties, well before the important studies of hospitalised children undertaken by the Robertsons, Winnicott and Bowlby (1946) wrote some interesting letters on this subject which were published in The Lancet and in other medical journals. Winnicott wrote about the horrors of electrotherapy, defending the patient's autonomy (1942) and about the need to keep the child and his/her family independent of the still quasi-totalitarian power of the medical institutions (1946). Even such relatively small details bear witness to the curious mixture of a long tradition of indigenous British values and attempts made by psychoanalysis to reflect and elaborate those values whilst also reaching out towards a wider audience.
Much time could be spent examining the relationship between the Tavistock as such, the periodical Human Relations, where papers by Bion, Jaques and Pearl King (although she was not yet a trained analyst at that time) were first published and our Society in general. There was great enthusiasm and a wish to collaborate with, and spread psychoanalysis into, the social sciences. The same enthusiasm animated many clinical contributions in areas of our Society. However, an important change was taking place in the administrative and power structures of our Society. Dates are always very dangerous ways of describing a phenomenon and it would therefore be suspect to say that our Society's post-war enthusiasm came to an end with the famous Festival of England held in London at the beginning of the Fifties: an event used by many historians as a dividing-line in the recent history of this country. Initiatives like the Standard Edition, which was conceived in the Forties but financially and administratively planned in the early Fifties and completed in the Sixties, and Jones's biography of Freud speak for themselves. But if they represented, in a sense, the culmination of activities through which our Society managed to reach the outside world and to establish a true cultural and ideological hegemony, they also presented a number of problems: the problem of the translation of Freud's work, the problem of English becoming the only orthodox language in which Freud could be quoted, and the problems - with which we are still grappling today - posed by the need to amend some of the rigidities of that translation. Yet the initiatives of which I have spoken, alongside the establishment of Jones's more formal lectures, still seem to reflect the greatness of a particular past and of its pioneering figures.
The late Forties and the Fifties, and also the Sixties - and in some cases, the early Seventies - witnessed both the gradual disappearance of those great pioneers and the new creative activity of the young and not so young generations that had taken over in our Society. You simply need to look at the dates of publication of the most significant work by Balint, Bion, Bowlby, Heimann, Milner, Rosenfeld, Rycroft, Sandler, Segal, Winnicott and others. The immediate impact made by all these writings on the outside world could, of course, be assessed but I am obliged to stop at this point. But just to spend a few words on those results and what they gave rise to in the following years, just to trace some possible lines of continuity and to stress what separates us from those years: think of the resonance of Milner's and Segal's writings - beside Winnicott's - in the literary world and in the arts. Reflect on the attempt to apply the new insights into psychotic disturbances to the treatment of a wide range of patients in mental hospitals. Consider the stimulating influence of previously established structures, such as the Journal and the International Library, on new generations of analysts in trying to expand our influence in the outside world: in spite of the difficulties and problems they started having to face which cannot always easily be managed today. Think of the creation of the APP, again an attempt to foster psychoanalysis in the NHS, and of the antinuclear group in the 1980s wherein Segal, with the help of M. Laufer, seemed to bring back to life the social commitment which had characterised our Society in the Forties and Fifties. Especially interesting, in the Fifties, were Segal's interventions on the death sentence, an issue which she discussed with Money Kyrle, Winnicott and others invited by the Minister of Justice. Think also of the enormous efforts made by Pearl King to build up the Archives, currently consulted by all sorts of scholars from all over the world: not only by psychoanalysts but, in fact, mainly by sociologists, historians and researchers with a general interest in psychoanalysis. And think also about the enormous machinery of public lectures, committees on external relations and so on, the growing membership of our Society and all the potentialities here involved, as well as about the endeavour to spread psychoanalysis outside London: one of the most important and promising social and cultural initiatives of those recent years. And think too of the three groups in our Society - and of the reality and effects of their presence even today - and what all this can mean also for the way we present ourselves today to the outside world. Yet, it would take at least a book to evaluate adequately all these factors which seem to stem mostly from the years I have mentioned.
In concluding my notes, I want to point out that in looking at the past, we must bear in mind that today we have to face a mass society and the mass diffusion of psychoanalysis and that this is bound to pose problems: consider, for instance, the proliferation of psychotherapeutic training across the world since the Sixties and early Seventies whereby psychoanalysis has gradually lost some of its traditional parameters of reference. Think of the impact of Thatcherism on British culture in general between the 1970s and the 1990s and specifically on the medical sciences, and of the momentous impact of the electronic and technological revolutions on the world in its entirety. But consider also what has happened and is happening, politically and socially speaking, to the world at large during the past twenty years. All these factors have had, have and will have profound repercussions, direct and indirect, for our Society and its relations to the outside world. The fact that we seek access to universities in the hope of finding there some guarantee of our scientific standards reflects the new climate and maybe also the illusions of our times. It also bears witness, of course, to pervasive social and ideological pressures produced by the scientific world of today.
We live in difficult times, which differ in significant ways from the past. What this contribution would like to convey is the necessity of understanding this difference without losing touch with both positive and negative aspects of the past. There is something to be learnt from mistakes, too. We all know from our clinical work how even cultural identifications are formed, fostered and stimulated but also destroyed if certain aspects of tradition are not remembered and preserved. Since the dawn of civilisation, myths have always stressed this idea. Remember Aeneas leaving Troy and trying to save the Penates; think of the importance of the transmission - oral and written, not visual - of the Talmudic laws in the Jewish tradition, which is based on internal objects and memory at least since the Diaspora; think also of other foundation myths such as those centred on Christ and his disciples. We are in good company if we endeavour not to forget. Of course it is a question of how one interprets tradition: without being megalomaniac, we should not fall into the trap of an idolatry of the past or of an everlasting attitude of Remembrance Days, for such an attitude can be as damaging as the endeavour to get rid of the past in the name of a naive, reductive and really anti-psychoanalytical here-and-now.
The fact that the times in which we live are different does not inevitably means that they are always worse times. Simply consider the poisoning conflicts which nearly annihilated our Society in the Forties. Believe me, those who had to live or started living in those years know perfectly well the price that even psychoanalysis had to pay in order to survive amidst the horrors of war and of racial and political persecutions. It would be just too dangerous to over-idealise those times. There is no doubt that due to an enormously complex series of variables, some of which I mentioned at the beginning of these reflections, we cannot claim today to be as creative as our predecessors were. Once we have realistically acknowledged the disproportion between our creative heroic self and that of our pioneers, we can still learn from their work, their enthusiasm, their disinterested dedication particularly important to be remembered today; whatever were their personal problems or flaws. What an ancient tradition says about memory may come true even for us: memory is the first form of redemption. Furthermore, we should not forget that it is impossible to predict the future, even in our field. Revolutionary moments in science, in the arts and in social life in general are never followed by utterly static phases; what Kuhn once called established paradigms. In the end, even Kuhn rejected such a rigid compartmentalisation between change and stasis. We are in constant movement, and changes, however minute, are continually taking place and altering our lives. History, if studied on a large scale, shows that even apparently stagnant periods contain continuous change. At the moment, we live in a stage characterised by small changes, by what I would call a progressive accumulation of distonic variables. Sooner or later, they will give rise to more substantial changes in some of the basic parameters of our discipline; otherwise we will be condemned to disappear. When, or how, this is likely to happen, nobody can tell. Those who have interrogated the past, since the earliest compilers of biographies or histories of science and the arts, know these things perfectly well. When or how or whether 'poeta nascitur' or 'poeta facitur' - to use in a metaphorical sense the old Latin expression which summarises the wisdom of ancient Greek biographers and historians - is still the big question.
It is ultimately our responsibility to avoid disappearance and to foster new creative identifications. Our past may, but will not necessarily, help us to find some of the answers we need. This disenchanted realisation should however discourage us from feeling like, or reducing ourselves to, an uncertain cloud of thirsty larks standing anxiously on a mirage: whether of our past or of our future.
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