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Rosenbaum, B. (1985). Ethics, Politics and Psychoanalysis. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 8(2):188-191.

(1985). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 8(2):188-191

Ethics, Politics and Psychoanalysis

Bent Rosenbaum, M.D.

“Silence is the real crime”, Hanna Segal declaired in her opening speech at the first scientific meeting of “International Psychoanalysts against Nuclear Weapons”. The meeting took place in Hamburg during the week of the 34th International Psychoanalytical Congress, but–and this may be of significance–a few blocks away from the congress buildings where all other activities related to the congress took place. Hundreds of psychoanalysts registered for the congress attended the additional anti-nuclear weapons meeting, and emphasized thereby the seriousness of the situation and the neccessity for scientists to take a political stance. But, why was this meeting not scheduled in the prepublished program, and why did it take place away from the other congress activities? Was it out of fear of repressive tolerance, or was it the first signs of the exclusion of the idea that politics and science are at some level inseparable?

Whatever reason we can come up with to explain, or explain away, this separation of sublimated activities, the above event was an indication of the fact that strong trends that are opposed to the idea that there are political implications in the act of interpretation (and hence even in the dynamic of transference and countertransference) operate within the psychoanalytical organizational body. Those who deny it maintain their point of view to such an extent that they almost confirm what they deny. As a leading member of both APA and IPA frankly stated off the record: it would have split the APA if the meeting on Prevention of Nuclear War had taken place within the framework of the congress.

In Hamburg, the paradox of this “apolitical” attitude was evident. Ever since the Jerusalem congress, component societies of the IPS had debated whether or when to return to Germany. The debate had been postponed for such an extended period, that in the meantime, the German Psychoanalytic Society had grown to be the second largest in the IPA. In this debate, the crucial questions were those concerning the necessity to remember, clarify, interpret and work through the attitudes, fantasies and reactions of the psychoanalysts–as individuals and as institutional bodies–of the Nazi period.

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