Article publié dans l’Humanité in English le 25 mai 2020, traduit par Stephen Chalk
This is a reworking of a text, placing the emphasis on social transference, which was originally published on 22nd April, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Lenin’s birth. It is part of the triptych “Lenin’s Rings and Social Transference”. (1)
I chose a short text by Lenin, a paragraph taken from the article “The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government” published in April 1918, in order to stress Lenin’s contribution to what was given the name of “social transference” by our association APPS (Ateliers Pratiques de Psychanalyse Sociale [“Social Psychoanalysis Practical Workshops”] in 2013.
Lenin’s contribution to social psychoanalysis is far from being confined to this passage, and we are going to elaborate a series of articles at the level of our association, working on this rather little-known aspect of Lenin’s works.
It is therefore an introduction to a more substantial work.
Why the choice of this short text from 1918?
I find this paragraph essential since it concerns the very basis of that which constitutes the specificity of social psychoanalysis: social transference.
Social transference may be simply defined as being that which is transferred, displaced, transported, sometimes without our knowledge, in social relations, in social life. This transference concerns the individual and the collective. As humans we are at once agents, effects and products of social relations in a given society, at a given historical moment.
The work of the practical analysis of social transference concerns that which is transferred, transported from the social to the mental, into thought. It concerns the individual as well as the collective.
This analysis of the transfer of social conflict into the mind is made via two tools which are well-known in classical psychoanalysis: transference and the unconscious.
However, social psychoanalysis works on a different basis from that of Freudian or Lacanian classical psychoanalysis, and has transformed the initial tools. Transference is thus “social transference” and the unconscious is “the unconscious of doing”.
Transference of Values
The basis of social psychoanalysis is social life and the first analyst of social life in capitalist civilisation is unquestionably Marx: the individual is a social being. In the first section of Capital Volume 1, he analyses the relations that individuals enter into in social life, the hidden workings which make it possible to render them intelligible, and it is upon value that he brings his reflection to bear. I summarised Marx’s contribution to social psychoanalysis in a lecture given at Lomonosov University in Moscow in May 2017 for the 150th anniversary of the publication of Capital (2). I take this simple sentence from capital analysing social relations: “When, therefore, Galiani says: value is a relation between two people […] he ought to have added: a relation concealed beneath the material shell of things”.
This function of value in social relations induced me to take the term Wertübertragung, the transference of values, from Marx, in order to explain what is transferred in social relations between human beings, what is transported, what is displaced, what is hidden, what deceives, what attributes an intention and what has consequences.
This analysis of the transference of values is combined with the analysis of what is outside of our awareness, that is to say the unconscious: what one does not want to know, to see, about what is transferred, as human beings at once agents, effects and products of the social relations of production in a given society, at a given historical moment. This unconscious therefore concerns, neither Freud’s innermost unconscious nor Lacan’s structural unconscious, but the unconscious of doing, Lenin’s favourite verb, to do.
Analysis of the text The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government
I above all want to deal with transference, social transference, on the basis of this text by Lenin and I therefore propose to analyse it in stages.
The first stage of the work is to provide the text The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government, which is a practical tool to ensure the Soviets’ success in the October Revolution begun six months before.
I propose to work on the basis of the versions published in the complete works.
In French I shall refer to the Complete Works (œuvres complètes) published in 1961
[In English, the Collected Works published in 1965
C.W., Volume 27, February-July 1918, Progress Publishers, Moscow (1965)]
written in March-April 1918, Published on April 28, in Pravda No. 83
The title of the article is as follows: “The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government” (pp. 235 to 277)
The extract that I am putting to work is part of the chapter “The Development of Soviet Organisation” (pp. 272 à 275)
The short extract is on p. 274.
“It is not enough to be a revolutionary and an adherent of socialism or a Communist in general. You must be able at each particular moment to find the particular link in the chain which you must grasp with all your might in order to hold the whole chain and to prepare firmly for the transition to the next link; the order of the links, their form, the manner in which they are linked together, the way they differ from each other in the historical chain of events, are not as simple and not as meaningless as those in an ordinary chain made by a smith.”
The chosen Russian version is also in the complete works published in Moscow in 1962 by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism.
The title of the article is: очередные задачи советской власти
The extract comes from the chapter: развитие советской органнзации
It is on p. 205.
“недостаточно быть революционером и сторонником социализма или коммунистом вообще. Надо уметь найти в каждый особый момент то особое звено цепи, за которое надо всеми силами ухватиться, чтобы удержать всю цепь, и подготовить прочно переход к следующему звену, причем порядок звеньев, их форма, их сцепление, их отличие друг от друга в исторической цепи событий не так просты и не так глупы, как в обыкновенной кузнецом сделанной цепи.”
The first sentence “It is not enough to be a revolutionary and an adherent of socialism or a Communist in general.” may be interpreted in the following manner. In the immediate tasks to be accomplished in order to implement and establish the social revolution, it is not enough to appeal to a state or a nomination. It is not enough to be or to say one is a communist, or a revolutionary. Calling oneself a name is not enough, calling oneself a revolutionary or a communist is not enough. The name is not enough. What is important, of course, is the end of the sentence “in general”. This relates back to the common impasse of which speculative abstraction is the vehicle. Marx indicated the danger of this particular abstraction which develops with capitalism. It is a matter of placing first importance upon the practice of the concrete, which is for all that complex and should not be confused with empiricism.
This practice of the concrete of doing comes in the following phrase: “You must be able at each particular moment to find the particular link in the chain which you must grasp with all your might in order to hold the whole chain and to prepare firmly for the transition to the next link;” There is the putting in place of political work which has a chain dimension, of something which forms a chain, and which must be firm.
However, a correction should be made to this to this standard reference text. The word звено is translated as “link”. In everyday language it is more accurate to translate it as “ring” and this gives rise to great changes in the consequences and perspectives. Similarly особое is translated as “precise” [“précis”] whereas peculiar [“spécial”] would be appropriate*.
However, I shall insist on introducing the term “particular” in the translation of особое.
In its primary meaning, the word “peculiar” [“spécial”] refers to “particular, specific to a person or to a thing**.” In the context of opposition to “in general”, “particular” seems quite appropriate, with the connotation of “peculiar”.
The issues involved in this linguistic debate are therefore directly relevant to practice. Being a revolutionary in general in not enough but finding the particular, the peculiar in order to do, to act. The function of the peculiar particular is of prime importance in the act to be accomplished with regard both to temporality – the moment – and the elementary tool – the ring.
Similarly the use of the word “ring” does not have the same significance as “link”. “Ring” provides many more openings and possibilities as a tool. “Link” is much more mechanical and limited in its function.
The text becomes “You must be able at each particular moment to find the (peculiar) particular ring in the chain which you must grasp with all your might in order to hold the whole chain and to prepare firmly for the transition to the next ring”.
The word звено indicates something which is attached, which forms a chain: in this context there are always two other rings which are attached, there are always two other parts. A peculiar ring holds the chain together and enables a passage, a transition переход to a next ring. This is thus able to work in a firm manner. This passage is a walk, the ход in переход relates back to the verb ходить, to walk, to put one foot in front of the other.
This functioning in rings as movement corresponds to what we have found in our theorisation of social transference: the transference of values functions in the form of knotting.
The putting in place of rings instead of knots is interesting and full of new potential for a more effective approach to individual and collective logics via social transference. Lenin shows that in practice, you must find the ring which you must hold on to in order to maintain the whole chain, on the one hand, and to prepare for transference to another ring.
In order to translate transference in Russian from a psychoanalytical point of view there exists the word Психоаналитический трансфер which is translated literally from the English academic term psychoanalytic transference.
With this text by Lenin the scholastic academic term no longer holds good and therefore provides an opportunity to make us advance with regard to the real transferential functioning. The fact that stress is laid upon “the order of the rings, their form, the manner in which they are linked together, the way they differ from each other” will orient us towards very precise work on the particular, both individually and collectively. Indeed this defines real transference as a dynamic chain, a dynamic chain of rings.
It is then worth introducing the transference of values taken from Marx in order to comprehend a chain of values, a chain of rings of values.
This value is indeed very much at stake in the first sentence of the text. It is not a matter of being a revolutionary in general. In order to induce revolutionary action the word in general, nomination in general do not give rise to enough value. It is a question of being able to make a revolutionary value function in the social group, in social transference and the chain of values of rings thus glides along. It is necessary to take not the generality but the particular. At each given moment you must find something peculiar (particular), особое and this is decisive.
What do you need to find? A ring, звено.
It is essential, complex and not mechanical, contrary to the role that would be played by a link and by a chain forged by a smith. This sheds light on transferential logic in a new way, in dynamics, in the connection between them historical events are not as simple and stupid as a chain of links.
Fully aware of the introduction of the transference of values, in his work of 1899 “The Development of Capitalism in Russia” (C.W. vol. 3) Lenin emphasised Marx’s fundamental discovery of the effect of the social division of labour. Lenin emphasises the following passage: “The market for these commodities develops through the social division of labour; the division of productive labours mutually transforms their respective products into commodities, into equivalents for each other, making them mutually serve as markets***” (C. W., vol. 3, p. 38).
This exchange takes us back to the transfer of values which gives rise to alienation. In the sentence preceding the chosen extract Lenin points out that commodities are products which become use-values only by their transformation into exchange-values (money), by their alienation.
Speaking of alienation here relates back to Marx’s phrase concerning transference between commodities in Capital: “In a sort of way, it is with man as with commodities.” Alienation is therefore clearly described as an effect of social division.
In this context, the classical Психоаналитический трансфер, psychoanalytic transference, seems somewhat ridiculous, cramped in its buttoned-up soul to use Marx’s metaphor, again in volume 1 of Capital.
Thus, in the text itself the manifestation of Психоаналитический трансфер calls forth переход: passage, transition. Classical psychoanalytic transference, is often concerned with перевод, translation. In Lenin’s text a word is clearly implied which is not written перенос, transport.
These three terms трансфер, переход, перенос are so many concrete constituent elements of social transference, of the transference of values as read by Lenin which we are going to deploy while reworking the logic of rings in the individual and collective problematics of social transference which will be the next two articles of the triptych “Lenin’s Rings and Social Transference”.
( 1 )
* The French and English translations of звено are equivalent: “anneau” and “link” respectively. In the English text особое is translated as “particular”. Cf. Lénine, Œuvres complètes, tome 27, février juillet 1918, Editions sociales, Paris, Editions en langues étrangères, Moscou, 1961, p. 284.
** “Peculiar” is defined as: “1. (…) that belongs or pertains to, or characterizes, an individual person, place or thing, or group of persons or things, as distinct from others. 3. Distinguished in nature, character, or attributes from others; particular, special. 4. Having a character exclusively its own, sui generis, unlike others, singular (…).” (OED, 1971)
*** The French edition here has “making them mutually serve as articles of exchange” (O. C., Tome 3, p. 28).