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New Left Review I/95, January-February 1976


Sebastiano Timpanaro

Freudian Slips and Slips of the Freudians

If I had to give as concise and accurate a definition as possible of the typical ‘Western Marxist’, I would say: ‘Someone who is firmly convinced that Freud is always right’. No, ‘Freud’ is not a slip of the pen for ‘Marx’. I really mean Freud. Where Marx, and even more where Engels or Lenin, is concerned, the typical Western Marxist has a host of reservations. Some of these are correct (since, obviously, the founders of Marxism were not infallible, they were keenly aware that they had left many problems unresolved, and they were not in a position to foresee many new phenomena which only appeared after they were dead); others are due to ‘revisionism’ in the negative sense of the word, in other words to the influence of bourgeois ideology. Where Freud is concerned, however, there are far fewer reservations, indeed often none at all. If anyone dares to question the peaceful coexistence of Marxism and psychoanalysis, or indeed their perfect compatibility, he may expect nothing but outraged reactions, charges of ‘serious misconceptions’ and vulgar positivism, and so on and so forth. There are still one or two Marxists in the West who, though they recognize Freud’s greatness and reject the stupid, slanderous Stalinist attacks on psychoanalysis, are not Freudians. But there are certainly not many of us. So I am not surprised that the publication in nlr 91 of two chapters from my Il lapsus freudiano [1] Sebastiano Timpanaro, Il lapsus freudiano, Florence 1974. English translation, The Freudian Slip, due nlb, London 1976. has provoked a veritable hail of rejoinders (see nlr 94), expressing not merely disagreement but indignation at the appearance in a serious Marxist journal of such an illogical, ill-informed and reactionary text. At all events, I far prefer the lively polemical frankness of these English comrades to the ‘diplomatic’ silence with which, barring a few exceptions, the Italian left press has greeted my work.

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