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Wind in the sails

On October 4, 1918, Ferenczi answered Freud’s letter of thanks sent after the Congress: “I, too, can report only pleasant things to you about my affects in these last days.” And he adds, on an unexpected note: “The ground on which we will certainly always find ourselves, is, of course, science. All fog dissipates in its light, and in that way also the ridiculous little irritations of the summer months.” But the next sentence shows Ferenczi’s joy to be somewhat tempered: “In the summer I was probably only disappointed that the planned collaborative work was left undone.” The Lamarck project they planned together would not be carried out.

On October 8, Ferenczi informed Freud of a promising project:

Tire day before yesterday I was called on the telephone by the chief medical officer of the Budapest Military Command, the general staff physician, who attended the Congress. He informed me that he is finished with his report to the War Ministry, in which he recommends instituting a psychoanalytic ward in Budapest. He asked me for suggestions about this plan.

Ferenczi accepted the planned project immediately: “I said: first we should have a smaller experimental ward for about thirty patients. At his request I then assumed its direction in principle, but I immediately remarked that I definitely needed an assistant who knows the field.” Ferenczi added that he was ready to fight for the nomination of Max Eitington and Istvan Hollos as assistants. Clearly, Ferenczi foresaw that this project could lead to the creation of a polyclinic destined to become an invaluable institution for the training of analysts. On October 11, Freud wrote that he approved of Ferenczi’s tenacity in obtaining his chosen assistants for the “psychoanalytic ward.” On October 25, Ferenczi had more good news for Freud and for psychoanalysis:

A number of medical students have asked me to give lectures about psychoanalysis. I assented, provided they have an appropriate place. In a flash, a movement had started! 180 signatures are being directed to the rector of the university with the request that I be given an opportunity to teach!

On October 27, Freud saw it fit to temper Ferenczi’s enthusiasm, reminding him of the uncertainties of the political situation: “Withdraw your libido from your fatherland in a timely fashion and shelter it in psychoanalysis.” On November 7, Ferenczi acknowledged the worsening of the political situation in Hungary, and feared that his country would be dismembered, and that with the social upheaval to be expected would come a return of antisemitism. But he still hoped to be able to teach psychoanalysis at the university:

The two hundred students who want to learn psychoanalysis from me seem to have included this plan in a larger movement that involves university studies in general. If this government stays, I hope to get to a lecture hall one way or another.

On November 11 the Armistice was signed; the war was over. After the defeat, the dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian Empire led to the creation of new states.

On November 17, 1918, Ferenczi sent the members of the Secret Committee a circular letter. He reiterated his intention of using the interest from the foundation (Freund’s donation) for the creation of two annual prizes for works of exceptional quality. On November 24, he was sounding hopeful after the return to power of progressive Social Democrats. Setting caution aside, he joined the newly formed Social Democratic Physicians’ Union, and participated in the Association of Creative Artists and Scientific Researchers, where he intended to give a lecture on “the central significance of psychoanalysis in the humanities.” His letter went on to say: “At the same time, some psychoanalysis disciples at the university have gathered signatures for a petition (up to now already about 1,000); they are demanding to be given an opportunity to study psychoanalysis.” Ferenczi ended his letter with a reference to the conference he was about to have with Freund about the distribution of the main endowment. The small committee entrusted with administering the funds would receive the support of a political figure: “Minister Garami has accepted membership on the board of trustees.” Ferenczi the activist takes on a leading role in the fight for the undisputed recognition of psychoanalysis. He remains euphoric: “The home of psychoanalysis is indeed Budapest and not Vienna; you should move here!” On November 27, Freud reminded Ferenczi to keep his focus on psychoanalysis: “Your suggestions for awarding the prizes don’t quite square with my intentions. I don’t want to distinguish authors but rather works.” He is more cool-headed than Ferenczi: “Budapest is decidedly more favorable for psychoanalysis, not that I am thinking of moving on account of that.” On December 3, Freud’s questions about the political situation reveal his concern: “How do things look with you under foreign domination? Do you really have censorship of the mails?” And of course, he asks about the upcoming marriage. On December 6, still busy with a number of projects, Ferenczi sounded confident: “The chances for the ‘academic psychoanalysis’ are changing a great deal; the last reports don’t sound unfavorable.” He also reassures Freud that Gizella will soon be officially divorced, and that their long-awaited marriage can then take place immediately.

On December 26, in the aftermath of his analysis, and taking into account the political situation in Hungary and the success of the recent Congress, Ferenczi makes a mixed reassessment of the year which is ending: “Another year gone by -and what a year! I think we still actually have no idea of the emotional effect that the upheaval of the last twelve months will have on us all.” He knows that there is no guarantee that the new government will keep its current promises: “No lesser, however, is the test of strength that we will be subjected to in the near future [...] Truly, no shining prospect.” In these times of uncertainty, Ferenczi holds on to his faith in psychoanalysis:

The only thing that kept me going in these days and still keeps me going is the optimism that I owe to the circumstances that, as a collaborator in psychoanalysis, I feel I belong to an intellectual movement which is without a doubt a part of the future.

He is committed, and does not hide his hope that psychoanalysis could exert a favourable influence on “a still very primitive social organisation contributing thereby to the progress of humanity.” Still hopefill, he tells Freud: “I won’t abandon the idea that you may yet move to Budapest.” But he is lucid and foresees the possibility that “a clerical-reactionary tide will come and also harm the young Hungarian psychoanalysis.” Still, he believes he can count "on a certain sense for freedom of thought, even among our opponents, so that we can still maintain our problem child in this countiy for the future.”

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