Let us admit, without prevarication: anyone today who merely wants to understand Freud’s revolutionary discovery, who wants to know what it means as well as just recognizing its existence, has to make a great theoretical and critical effort in order to cross the vast space of ideological prejudice that divides us from Freud. For not only has Freud’s discovery been reduced, as we shall see, to disciplines which are essentially foreign to it (biology, psychology, sociology, philosophy); not only have many psychoanalysts (notably in the American school) become accomplices to this revisionism; but, more important, this revisionism has itself objectively assisted the fantastic ideological exploitation whose object and victim psycho-analysis has been. Not without good reason did French Marxists once (in 1948) denounce this exploitation as a ‘reactionary ideology’ which furnished arguments for the ideological struggle against Marxism, and a practical instrument for the intimidation and mystification of consciousnesses.

But today it must also be said that, in their own way, these same Marxists were directly or indirectly the first victims of the ideology they denounced; for they confused this ideology and Freud’s revolutionary discovery, thereby adopting in practice the enemy’s position, accepting his conditions and recognizing the image he had imposed on them as the supposed reality of psychoanalysis. The whole history of the relations between Marxism and psychoanalysis depends essentially on this confusion, this imposture.

That this was particularly difficult to avoid we can understand from the function of this ideology: the ‘dominant’ ideas, in this case, were playing their ‘dominating’ rôle to perfection, ruling unrecognized over the very minds that were trying to fight them. But it is also explained by the existence of the psychoanalytic revisionism that made this exploitation possible: the fall into ideology began in fact with the fall of psychoanalysis into biologism, psychologism and sociologism.

We can also see that this revisionism could derive its authority from the ambiguity of some of Freud’s concepts, for, like all inventors, Freud was forced to think his discovery in existing theoretical concepts, i.e., concepts designed for other purposes (was not Marx, too, forced to think his discovery in certain Hegelian concepts?). This will come as no surprise to anyone at all familiar with the history of new sciences—and at all careful to discern the irreducible element of a discovery and of its objects in the concepts in which it was expressed at its birth, but which, out-dated by the advance of knowledge, may later mask it.

So a return to Freud today demands:

Without this triple labour of ideological criticism (1,2) and epistemological elucidation (3), which, in France, has been initiated in practice by Lacan, Freud’s discovery in its specificity will remain beyond our reach. And, more serious, we will take as Freud precisely what has been put within our reach, precisely what we aimed to reject (the reactionary ideological exploitation of Freud), or subscribed to more or less unconsciously (the different forms of bio-psycho-sociological revisionism). In either case, we would remain prisoners, at different levels, of the explicit or implicit categories of ideological exploitation and theoretical revisionism. Marxists, who know from their own experience the deformations Marx’s enemies have imposed on his thought, can see why Freud could suffer the same fate, in his own way, and why an authentic ‘return to Freud’ is of such theoretical importance.

They will concede that if such a short article proposes to introduce a problem of this importance without betraying it, it must confine itself to the essential, it must situate the object of psycho-analysis so as to give a first definition of it, in concepts that allow its localization, the indispensable precondition for its elucidation. They will concede therefore that, as far as possible, these concepts should be introduced in a rigorous form, as in any scientific discipline; to vulgarize them in an over-approximate commentary would banalize them, while an analysis that really drew them out would require much more space.