Psychoanalysis and marxism

Chris Burford cburford at
Fri Apr 28 06:58:39 MDT 1995

Perhaps as the only psychiatrist reading this list (?), I may be taken to
symbolise what as Guy Yashko indicates, is a recurring theme in 20th
century marxism: what is the link with psychoanalysis, or individual
psychology more widely?

My contribution in reality of course is limited and I would appreciate if
Guy writes a few comments on the book by Joel Whitbrook he mentioned.

3 points briefly however:

1) I am strongly influenced by a psychoanalyst called SH Foulkes who was
almost certainly influenced by the Frankfurt School, and who started
using psychodynamic techniques in a group setting. Whereas some dynamic
group analysts like Bion, in crude summary, will elaborate psychodynamic
issues of an individual group member *in* the group, Foulkes's method is
a psychodynamic one *of* the group. It susses out a group matrix, which
starts as an initial set of shared assumptions and which is remoulded by
the interactions between members of the group who see aspects of
themselves reflected in the others.

Therefore I think I have seen such processes on this list interestingly
even though we are not in face to face contact: perhaps that can make it
more intense. The recent exchanges between Scott and Justin for example
were at one level a warm exploration of their differences which
constructively led to some mutual acceptance of difference and the
opportunity to acknowledge where their interests positively reflected one
another. In Foulkesian group dynamic theory this can be commented on not
just at the level of the individual interchange, but as "speaking for the
group". Justin and Scott enacted something that had a relevance for much
of the whole group. While we watched silently, our mental processes were
engaged. [*especially* engaged were those who are just about to hit
the keyboard to say how totally infuriating it was!]

2. I think with each decade the concepts of projection and introjection
emerge more powerfully as core concepts of human interaction not only at
the individual level but at the social level. We are like chemical
elements with valencies that immediately get almost hopelessly stuck on
one another by some strange unconscious process, until we are disloged by
another element coming along. We powerfully see part objects of ourselves
in others. Whatever his theoretical abilities, Stalin could not have had
the power he did if he had not been *loved* by hundreds of thousands.
Seriously. Seriously. Critiques now that just concentrate on how much he
should be detested, will never be able to analyse concretely all the
dialectical *social* interactions involved in the existence of Stalin.
Indeed they just manifest that he is now to be a major *negative*
political part object for all of us.

I suspect that the imaginary aspect of commodities (remember folks, the
great man said they could fulfil needs of the imagination - you do
remember that don't you?) could usefully be discussed further in terms of
projected psychological part objects.

3. The personal is political. This slogan of the feminists is not just a
way of undermining much needed class solidarity but an insistence that
there is a continuity of fractal levels between the global and the
personal. To deny this is not IMO dialectical or marxist. And to guard
against fanciful toying with psychoanalytic ideas in a disorientating
way, I believe that the discussion of psychoanalysis and marxism is best
located in this context.

Chris Burford, London.

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