The following essay explores the construct of the father from a psychoanalytic point of view in two plays by J.F.W. Grosskopf. Legende (1942) and Padbrekers (1947).
The Biographical, Political and Literary Context of Grosskopf
J.F.W. Grosskopf was born in 1885 to a German missionary family in Bloemfontein. Throughout his life he was involved with the Afrikaner struggle in a variety of ways: returning from his studies in Europe he took part in the 1914 rebellion of Boer generals against the government of General Botha. He writes:
When our own Free State hero, Christiaan de Wet, and the Transvaler, Christiaan Beyers, (both of whom I knew personally) came into conflict with government policies, I saw, although without great optimism, it as my duty to stand by them. In this way I also became a “rebel”, together with Jacques Pienaar and Jopie Fourie. After six adventurous weeks being chased and hunted in the bushveld I had nine months to come to my senses in the Pretoria prison (Nienaber 1947:147).
In the 1920s he was on the editorial board of the newspapers Ons Vaderland, and Die Volksblad. In 1932 his report, as member of the Carnegie Commission investigating the “Poor White” problem Plattelandsverarming en Plaasverlating (in English Rural Impoverishment and Rural Exodus), was published. He was professor of Political Science at University of Stellenbosch and the deputy chairman of the National Marketing Board in 1945. He died in 1948.
He saw his writing as part of the nationalist struggle. The very fact that he used Afrikaans as medium brought an element activism to the writing:
Some of the brash (and therefore amusing) younger generation reproach the older Afrikaans authors because of that sermonising tendency. They are right. A touch of pedantry – or to state it more elegantly: didactic aims – accompanied the writing, of its own accord. If you were an advocate of the Afrikaans language, you felt the call to write in it, even if its not because of a creative urge.
Use of Afrikaans itself already amounted to sermonising (Nienaber 1947:147).
The two plays, Legende (1942) and Padbrekers (1947), were published towards the end of Grosskopf’s life and are not as highly regarded as the earlier innovative play As die Tuig Skawe
(1926), considered to be the first successful modern tragedy in Afrikaans focusing on the growing rural poverty.
By the 1940s when Legende (1942) and Padbrekers (1947) first appeared, new authors and a new literary value system had already eclipsed Grosskopf, the emphasis had shifted from texts blatantly propagating nationalist values (especially through historical themes and those promoting the virtues of rural life and the unity of the family) to the more subtle use made of the aesthetics of the individual as an autonomous entity within the nationalist programme. In Afrikaans drama Jan F. E. Celliers initiated this shift with the introduction to his play Reg bo Reg:
Though to achieve what art should achieve, and has achieved elsewhere, we must have a broader outlook, and take man himself more as a subject – man, his character, passions, feelings; and the complications, conflict, and the amusing and sad relations that come to the fore because of this – because man differs so much from man (1922: introductory page).
Grosskopf’ s play As die Tuig Skawe (1926) was one of the first and most successful plays to embody this broader concept of humanity expressed in the social realist style. However the allegorical and historical drama never disappeared, and during the 1938 Voortrekker Centenary a spate of allegorical interpretations of the Voortrekker history appeared for the stage, among them N.P. van Wyk Louw’s Die Dieper Reg of 1938.
Legende (1942) and Padbrekers (1947) moved away from the social realist tradition and were part of the allegorical interpretations of history. These belonged to the Volk or People’s Theatre. In the foreword to Legende (1942) Grosskopf announces:
This is a play for ordinary people; not for literary connoisseurs (5).
Whereas As die Tuig Skawe (1926) was canonised, these two disappeared into relative obscurity. According to the historian J.C. Kannemeyer, Grosskopf did not maintain the standard he set with As die Tuig Skawe (1926) in the later plays of the 1940s. These plays are interesting to explore as manifestations of nationalist ideology, or even as nationalist “psychology” in so far as “psychology” refers to a discourse motivated by drives rooted in infantile imagery.
Legende and Padbrekers: Points of Intersection
The two plays differ in many ways: Legende (1942) is the idyllic portrayal of pioneering life on the frontiers of nineteenth-century South Africa. The main character, Karel Veldcamp, was, according to the foreword, inspired by the former president of Transvaal, Paul Kruger. Although Veldcamp eventually becomes the leader of the frontier community, he should not be seen as an exact replica (“portretgelykenis”) of the president. Padbrekers (1947), on the other hand, is situated in a non-temporal and non-specific space and is
a partly allegorical story of a people, who under the influence of an idealistic leader, rise up against a superior power and choose in this moment of crisis an honourable death above unconditional surrender (Kannemeyer 1978:203).
It is not difficult to recognise in the “idealistic leader” who chooses death, Hitler and the second world war, despite Grosskopf s assertion in the introduction that “The characters and the background of this play are completely fictitious – actually allegorical” (1947:5). The allegorical form itself is typical of late Nazi art. According to Berthold Hinz in his study, Art in the Third Reich (1980), the unreal and non-temporal realm in which much of Nazi art is situated has the purpose of eliminating all “human consciousness about reality” (1980:163).
The cover of Padbrekers (1947) is strongly reminiscent of Nazi art. It depicts a row of identical, stylised figures standing in the same military pose, holding alternately a sword and a spade. In the centre is a figure holding a shield with a dripping heart as emblem. These figures symbolise the worker, farmer and soldier trilogy of Nazi art. The spade evokes the farmer and worker, and the sword the soldier. The worker in the military pose shows the worker-become-soldier. Hinz writes:
As a “soldier”, he has to “serve” without any claim to wages proportional to his contribution. He has lost the freedom to move about at will and to enter into contracts (1980:116).
The same motif appears in Padbrekers (1947). The character Ebba emphasises “Nobody works here for remuneration” (70).
Apart from the Nazi parallels, one also recognises in the “people” rising up against a “superior power”, the Afrikaner people in their struggle against British Imperialism. In Padbrekers (1947), therefore, aspects of the second world war, details from South African life, and different historical periods have been displaced onto the “non-temporal and non-spatial” structure of the play.
In spite of the differences between the two plays they do seem to be continuous at certain points (pointing to a continuous psychology). This intersection, point of continuity, occurs in Padbrekers (1947) where Oom Frederik reminisces about his father’s pioneering activities on the eastern frontier of the country (clearly an allusion to the South African frontier wars of the nineteenth century):
My own father has given his life to break open a road for others. That was when our fathers made the first march to occupy the eastern part of our country. You cannot believe how wild everything was then. Between the shrubby gorges and cliffs, there were wide grassland strips as tough as reedbush far above a man’s head. And the weed patches were-as impenetrable as scrub … you needed a strong fearless man to break open the road for the troop of land seekers. a man with a great heart (1947:18).
The eastern frontier, in South African history, could refer to the Eastern Cape, where colonists settled before they trekked into the interior, or to Natal, the destination of those Trekkers. It overlaps with the type of milieu in which Karel Veldcamp of Legende (1942) struggles against Xhosa thieves. The pioneering activities of Oom Frederik’s father correlate with the taming of wilderness by Karel Veldcamp. Karel Veldcamp, then, resembles the father type described by Oom Frederik. In terms of story time Legende (1942) represents a phase preceding that depicted in Padbrekers (1947): it shows the space and time of the primal father, while Voorganger (meaning “precursor”), the leader of the people in Padbrekers (1947), is the melancholic son who acts (and destroys) in the name of this primal father. Oom Frederik’s account of his father leads to the erection of a monument to honour his father: he becomes the symbolic father of the nation. But this father is also merged with the geographical area that the nation occupies: the fatherland. The infantile emotions towards the father are displaced onto the land, while the death of the primal father and the symbolic “dying” (1947:15) of the fatherland lead to the same “eroticisation” of the dead, the same melancholia in which death becomes the ideal. This book is dedicated to:
all the unnamed ones of history who died for a belief in great thoughts and deeds of sacrifice (1947:9).
The death drive is further elaborated in a passage which contrasts Voorganger’s idealism with the materialism of the capitalist, Simon. The aim is to illustrate that there is in death something more sublime than animal existence. Voorganger quotes the Roman moralist Cato:
“Sweet and honourable the dying for your fatherland!” (1947:41).
The Death of the Father
The following words from Padbrekers (1947) imply what Freud saw as the Original Sin: the killing of the primal father as well as the guilt feelings that accompany the act:
My own father has given his life to break open a road for others (18).
In that time when it first looked as if our fatherland was dying. Through its own inner dissension and decay (15).
In Padbrekers (1947), however, the idea of the contribution of the descendants to the death of the father is repressed and it is displaced onto a rhinoceros instead:
And suddenly a moody rhinoceros came storming from the front through the undergrowth, lightly, as if it was a mere oatfield. It impaled my father with its pointed horn., and, enraged, trampled father’s body. We crawled like mice into the undergrowth. With father’s hunting-spear, which I had to carry. I wanted to attack the rhinoceros but it escaped with ease on the road that my father had made’ (1947:19).
(This passage correlates with Legende (1942) where the father’s servant, Danster, is killed by a rhinoceros, during a hunting trip).
The contribution of the children to the father’s death is unconsciously recognised in that they perceive it not merely as a chance event, but as a sacrifice: he gave his life for “others”. In recognising themselves in these “others” they are obliged to feel guilty. They imagine that they owe their lives to his death and they must in turn be willing to die for the fatherland.
The reluctance to accept “objective” death is linked with the view that Freud took from anthropology concerning the people of earlier times who draw no distinction between murder and natural death: a man who has died a natural death is a man murdered by evil wishes. The father’s accidental death is sacrifice, suicide for their sake, it is murder by them.
Ritual develops around the death of the father: ritual with the purpose of invoking the power of the dead by projecting omnipotence onto the figure of the dead father. By erecting a stone monument they seek to gain the power of influencing the dead father according to their wishes. Therefore the monument has a double function: to protect them against their enemies in war and to evoke the superhuman power of the father.
The rhinoceros and the father become identical in the shape and form of the monument:
And on the grave we will erect a high, rough rock pillar, that will point upward like a stone thumb (1947:19).
In the “rough” surface of the rock and the protruding (phallic?) “thumb”, aspects of the rhinoceros and the father are combined. In this identification of the father with the animal that killed him, and in the implied “stone” quality associated with him, one senses a hostility felt towards the primal father. Because the death of the father demands further sacrifice, he is at the same time the one that kills. The road that the father made, the one on which the rhinoceros escapes, also leads to their destruction:
But the road broke us (1947:116).
Extravagant burial rituals – develop around the death of those who, like the father, gave their lives for the people’s cause. The first “martyr” buried in this way is the activist Rudolf who was killed by opposition groups. He is buried with great ceremony at the foot of a hillock which becomes the heroes’ acre. Thousands of people from the city, the neighbouring towns and farms, “Commando on commando” (1947:34), are organised to take part in the funeral procession, a procession in which the women are also granted the right to participate:
I felt that in this procession to Rudolf s grave the women and the daughters should not be absent. I have organised for a thousand to fifteen hundred of them to attend (1947:47).
A small group of young girls in white costumes are accompanied by “mothers clothed in dark colours” (1947:47) in long rows. The planning of the burial ceremony shows the origin of a typical obsessive action (which Freud described in connection with religious and neurotic people (1985a:31) on a mass scale. A similar phenomenon is the methodical arrangement and “the turning of what is apparently the most trivial matter into something of the utmost importance” (1985a:40). A further example of turning trivia into something important is the great interest Voorganger shows in the arrival of the one man whose horse fell while bringing the message of an election victory:
Bring that man, as soon as he arrives, to me – him alone. I want to shake his hand. His left hand (1947:68).
The image of the dead fathier introduces the important problem of the role of the father and masculinity in nationalist texts. The dead, and therefore transcendent, father is central in the strong patriarchal world portrayed in Padbrekers (1947). Masculinity in this world is all-important. Women play at most a supportive role.
We make warm jackets., knit socks, we fluff out the bandages. We work to free the men to concentrate on their commando duties. I bake ovens full of rusks and prepare the salted meat for our men. Some daughters nurse the wounded as well (1947:89).
They cannot participate in male conversation and are portrayed as intellectually inferior:
You talk… either too learnedly. or too much about the art of stock-farming. But my, life has been such that I am ignorant of both (1947:22).
And Sarie cannot help with the production of propaganda because she is too “ignorant” (1947:32).
The function of the women is to look after domestic affairs and to bring children into the world. As Karel Veldcamp’s son, Koenraad, says to his future wife in Legende:
In this house, in domestic affairs, my mother was always in control. In our house you will be the same. But in matters of state, on the farm, on the yard, my word comes first(1942:64).
When Karel Veldcamp’s wife, Eva, complains:
As your wife I have sometimes been sad because it seemed as if you actually appreciated in me only the mother of your children (1942:39).
An exemplary mother and housewife., – Eva, is there anything better for a man to honour? (1942:39).
It is around the idea of the omnipotent, transcendent father that taboos are to be maintained. The new and alien capitalist social order with the accompanying perception of the world as object – devoid of the all-pervading supernatural presences that the reactionary character perceives in everything – produces helplessness, “a fearful sense of guilt” (Freud 1985a:125) as if the fatherland, their omnipotent, transcendent support is dying. They react through organisation:
Everywhere in the country small groups that wanted to make an end to the disgrace found one another (1947:15).
This helplessness is experienced, not because of economic deprivation, but because of the disintegration of the ideology, the world view. The economic deprivation is interpreted as the consequence of the death of the father, of cultural degeneration, of ideological impoverishment rather than exploitation. The aim then is to heal – not economically by destroying exploitation in the marxist sense, but to heal the people through an anti-materialist programme: they want to deprive the people of pleasure – the “sweets” of capitalism. When the capitalist, Simon, offers his co-operation in the war, Voorganger rejects it by saying:
It is precisely these alms to our people – sweets now and then to keep the children well-behaved – to which we want to make an end. we want to heal the foundation of the people’s life itself, make it possible for our people to be brave, of one mind, and industrious… The joy of mutual dependence (1947:40).
The image in the text of the dying “father”-land – the helplessness experienced in the face of this – and the perception that it will lead to fateful punishment – put a question mark behind Chasseguet-Smirgel’s assumption that Nazism (and by implication other forms of obsessive nationalism) is a consequence of the abandonment of the super-ego and the complete “erasure of the father and the parental universe” (1976:362). The dead father seems to control fate absolutely.
The internalised father which dominates the ego as critical agency forces the subject to renunciation. Voorganger and Ebba, sacrificing their sexuality for the struggle, are prime examples of renunciation in Padbrekers (1947). This renunciation is accompanied by a strong emphasis on honour – honour that becomes more important than life itself. On different occasions Voorganger resists the temptation to capture Leo, the visiting leader of the “Holy League”, the enemy nations, because it does not comply with his concept of ethical behaviour. Voorganger himself later prefers dying in battle to being captured and exhibited:
in a cage, behind bars, everywhere in their countries like a carnival lion to the rabble (1947:113).
and he saves Ebba from being disgraced by “wagon drivers and cooks” (1947: 112) by thrusting a dagger into her heart.
Identification with the Father as Foundation of the Nationalist Conscience
In Padrekers (1947), as a nationalist text, identification with the father (a symbol encompassing the shared language, history, tradition, geography, and fauna and flora) is all-consuming: it denies to all these things autonomy or objective existence. A relationship with the world as object (separate from the self), i.e. as reality is impossible: such a relationship with the world fills the nationalist with aversion: it is the animal relation, the relation of women, capitalists and the masses to the world
The fatherland is perceived as a unity, and the volk, constituting the fatherland, as “one”:
One volk! One! One! One!(1947:25),
Everything different and indifferent to this incestuous “One” is perceived with distrust, fear and hatred, while everything that is considered part of it is overvalued. Even the melodies of the indigenous birds are seen as having national significance and as part of the people’s narcissism (1947:6).
Within this unity nothing is coincidental, everything is interrelated and determined by the dead father’s omnipresence. No object-relationship with the world – relationship which perceives things as existing independently of the father’s will – is tolerated. Everything becomes subject. The attachment of the ego to the collective narcissism is absolute, while the individual libidinal relationship with the world (as object) becomes possible. Through this inability to accept the objective essence of the world (determined by physical laws and not the transcendent father’s will) the drive to incest is manifested: the world is only known as the same and not as difference.
In the discourse of psychoanalysis, incest and sexuality are often confused, as if the repression of incest is identical to the repression of sexuality.
For the nationalist characters incest and sexuality are clearly opposites. Nationalism represses sexuality and encourages incest in its less extreme forms: it promotes marriages between people from the same geographical area, speaking the same language, of the same nationality, and sharing the same values. The discourse is constructed around the incestuous image of the people as one family
The incest motif is manifested in scenes between Willem and Ebba. Ebba, whose main desire is to have a son by Voorganger, says to Willem (who she adopts at the end as spiritual son):
… for me, Willem, it feels as if you are my- big son. (Quickly): Iwill thank God one day if I could raise a son like you (1947:86-87).
Willem prefers to see her as his equal, as a lover. The elision in the following dialogue represents the repressed wish to marry her:
If I was a few years older – and the Voorganger remained so slow I would really like myself to … (1947:87).
Within the incestuous family of the people there is no room for an individual conscience challenging the countless obsessive rituals, ceremonies and customs which are instituted around the image of the transcendent father and which have to be maintained.
The conscience in this context is the product of superstition. This is in conflict with the development of the individual conscience which develops independently and in conflict with the father-determined value system. The individual conscience is based on the experience of the world as an object that is separate from the self.
The individual conscience, historically the product of the enlightenment, is an expression of the civilising activities of Eros:
Civilization is a process in the service of Eros. whose purpose is to combine single human individuals, and after that families, then races, peoples, and nations, into one great unity, the unity, of mankind (Freud 1985b:313).
In contrast, nationalism absolutises the interest of a specific group of people at the expense of others. It represents the lawlessness of a small segment of a population
which behaves like a violent individual towards others, and perhaps more numerous, collections of people (Freud 1985b:284).
The war by Voorganger’s people’s movement against the “Holy League”, the combined countries with their universalised economy, is an attempt to hinder the civilising process. Voorganger prefers the isolation of his country even if it means impoverishment.
The Distorted Image of the Father
Voorganger acts in the name of the transcendent father. But a comparison between Padbrekers (1947) and Legende (1942) illustrates that the image of the father as the object of Voorganger’s guilt is distorted in accordance with Freud’s remark that:
the original severity of the super-ego does not – or does not so much – represent the severity which one has experienced from it (the object), or which one attributes to it; it represents rather one’s own aggressiveness towards it (1985b: 322).
The primal father, Karel Veldcamp, of Legende (1942) represents a relationship with the world which is very different from that of his descendants in Padbrekers (1947). He experiences the world in its immediacy. There is no transcendental world, no renunciation of the instincts, no need for sacrifices or retaining memories of the past.
The reader is prepared by the different tone of Legende (1942) in the introduction to this play:
the author wants to make a humble confession of his sincere hope that the judges of the dialogue will not find one poetic or literary word (1942:6),
The absence of the poetical, the sentimental, and the rhetorical in Legende (1942) denotes the anti-intellectual, anti-metaphysical discourse of power, brute force, will, and the unrenounced instincts. In contrast to Voorganger’s movement in Padbrekers (1947), Karel Veldcamp needs no transcendental legitimisation for imposing his will on the world. In this he is very near to nature itself. There is no effort to reduce nature to intellectual or categories. The bond between him and nature is expressed in his love for the veld:
No., you cannot understand it; you can only feel it. Look: when I sit there in the evenings next to my fire, even if it is without the company of any white people, then my heart feels so calm, then my heart feels so satisfied .
In Padbrekers (1947), on the other hand, Voorganger is completely alienated from nature; nature remains for him an unattainable object of the future; he will know it not by feeling at one with it but by studying it; that is, by maintaining a removed (transcendent) relationship to it.
This alienation from, and narcissistic pride in reducing nature is further emphasised by Willem, who sees man’s potential to renounce the instincts as a peculiarly human characteristic:
Do we fight against a ruthless law of nature? Must we continue to try to exploit and exterminate one another like the animals of the bushveld and plains? (1947:30).
In contrast to the characters in Padbrekers (1947) who overestimate the power of mental activity, Karel Veldcamp represents the omnipotence of the body, of the will and of the unrenounced instincts; he is immune to pain and indifferent to love. He is described as a real man, who
seems to be able to do anything, and everything, better than we other people (1942:9).
He tames wild horses with ease, is dominated by a desire to escape from the confines of society and family. As a pioneer he lives outside any law. He is a law unto himself in a world of unreasoning force in which cold-blooded murder becomes reasonable. The text presents death and murder in an unsentimental way.
Veldcamp’s rejection of the metaphysical is illustrated by his indifference to his wife’s clairvoyant activities;
But I have never concerned myself with Eva’s visions. I prefer things that one can get a grip on. I think one must hold one’s own as well as one can – against whatever might happen. It weakens the will, if you imagine that you know what is awaiting you in the future (1942:44).
In this he is different to the characters in Padbrekers (1947) to whom the metaphysical, the transcendental, and the “soul” were central concerns. In them one discerns the “overestimation of the influence which our mental acts can exercise in altering the external world” (Freud 1985a:360). On the other hand Karel Veldcamp represents “the lower physical activity which had direct perceptions … as its contents” (Freud 1985a:360).
The characters in Padbrekers (1947) relate to the new intellectuality in which ideas, memories, and inferences become decisive (Freud 1985a:360) and in which “Things become less important than ideas of things” (Freud 1985a: 142).
The discrepancy between “things” and the “ideas of things” has already been pointed out in connection with the portrayal of the father in Padbrekers (1947), which is incompatible with the portrayal of the father in Legende (1942). In a similar way the sublime “idea” of the people in Padbrekers (1947) is contradicted by the aversion felt when the actual people are referred to:
People are like sheep… There are those who are wellbred, but then there are those who are not… When I look at my own people – so many of them that cannot think., that blindly worship Mammon (1947:22).
The “people” is an abstract idea which goes beyond the reality denoted by this concept. In consequence confused responses are provoked in reaction to economic crisis and exploitation. Campaigns for the poor idealise sacrifice and material renunciation:
If you can teach a people to make sacrifices for the well-being of the community, then the bond between them is so much stronger than when you give them wealth and prosperity (1947:17).
Voorganger criticises the materialism of the enemy nation when speaking to their leader:
But you have become too timid to raise your children properly; you wanted to live in ease; leave behind rich and lazy children (1947:102).
Voorganger sees this materialism as leading to decay:
Your people! They will perish of decay, like a people ill with leprosy: smelling and rotting away, piece by piece (1947:104).
Although the ideal “people’s state” is anti-capitalist, it does not represent the material interests of the poor. That it is not a struggle of the poor is made clear when Sarie refers to it as “Voorganger’s cause” (1947:70). Its anti-capitalist sentiments 3 are misleading. Not surprisingly it is the urban proletariat who put up the strongest resistance to it. They are described as “the roughest and rowdiest lot from the shanty-town” (1947:11) who broke up the nationalist gathering in the first act. They are described as little skunks” as having offensive physical attributes: “a pimpled, red-headed, spindle-legged store mongrel” (1947:13) and their behaviour is seen as a consequence of employment rather than exploitation: “a group of weak street strollers, and pale, unemployed young girls and boys”(1947:30).
Grosskopf s nationalism typifies an ambivalent attitude towards the people. It is not a people’s movement as such.
The inconsistency between the ideas of things and things themselves is the consequence of an experienced “mental omnipotence” which is divorced from reality. This mental omnipotence is construed as intellectuality and rationality. To Freud it has its historical source in the patriarchal overthrow of matriarchal social structures:
But this turning from the mother to the father points in addition to a victory of intellectuality over sensuality – that is, an advance in civilisation, since maternity is proved by the evidence of the senses while paternity is a hypothesis, based on inference and a premise. Taking sides in this way with a thought-process in preference to a sense perception was proved to be a momentous step.
At some point between the two events that I have mentioned there was another which shows the most affinity to what we are investigating in the history of religion. Human beings found themselves obliged in general to recognise intellectual (geistige) forces – forces, that is, which cannot be grasped by the senses (particularly by sight) but which none the less produce undoubted and indeed extremely powerful effects. If we may rely upon the evidence of language, it was movement of the air that provided the prototype of intellectuality (Geistigkeit), for intellect (Geist) derives its name from a breath of wind – ‘animus’, ‘spiritus’, and the Hebrew rauch (breath). This too led to the discovery of the mind [Seele (soul) as that of the intellectual (geistigen) principle in individual human beings (1985a:361).
This discovery of subjectivity which transcends the senses leads not only to “rationality” – but to the imaginary and illusory “incestous” forms of patriarchal thinking with the inability to experience the world as object, as sensual entity. In opposition to Freud, Reich makes intellectuality the product of the objective and sees the sensual world as the foundation of rationality. Rationality contradicts types of “thought and action” which “are inconsistent with the economic situation” (1978:53), that do not respond to material exploitation and find comfort in a nonexistent world beyond.
Irrational and passive acceptance of exploitation is a product of the dominance of the Freudian patriarchal “soul” concept. With the assumption of the omnipotent “soul”, the body on which hunger and exploitation act becomes secondary and unimportant. Voorganger says: “The soul is more than the body” (1947:42) and: “There is something higher than mere animal
The soul is the product of instinctual renunciation, especially sexual repression. It is thought that is “felt” with intensity (dammed up libidinal energy). The absence of the “soul” in Legende (1942) suggests its absence in pre-social and pre-repressive conditions. The emergence of the “soul” implies the end of unrestrained existence. The “soul” is a necessary category for social existence: within the context of the people’s struggle the deified primal father, Karel Veldcamp, the man without a soul, in reality would not be tolerated. To have social order, individual impulses must be repressed while the state, or the movement, monopolises control over it and channels the aggressive instincts into war. The people must become of “one nund”. The individual omnipotence repressed in this way is transferred to the transcendent primal father who becomes the keeper of the “soul”.
The renunciation of individuality, as well as the concommitant repression of the instincts demanded by nationalists, are depicted in Padbrekers (1947) in the chorus of followers who have sunk to a “position of blind allegiance” (Reich 1978:97):
One people! One. One. One. – honour above wealth, honour above life! Honour with peace. Honour for our past! Noble aim; noble life! One people., one people! One. One. One. Honourable labour for everyone – Unity. Unity. Unity (1947:43).
Voorganger relates to the masses as the hypnotic leader to the primal horde described by Freud in reference to Le Bon. He states:
the condition of an individual in a group as being actually hypnotic (1985b:193).
and emphasises that
the sense of omnipotence, the notion of impossibility disappears for the individual in the group (1985b: 104).
Voorganger becomes the “master” (1947:16 & 115) who, by inspiring (“besiel”) his followers, would lead them to victory against overwhelming forces:
Now we know that—with voorganger’s spirit one man is equal to two of them (1947:86).
Voorganger s voice has the monotonous tone of the hypnotist when he addresses the people. His voice is described as “rhythmic” and “with calm inspiration” (1947:40). When listening to the chorus of followers Voorganger and Ebba stand motionless as if listening to a prayer. The faceless crowds of followers and their adulation evoke images of intense narcissism and omnipotence. After initial victory the crowds fill the streets with torches, at which Sarie exclaims:
it is so overwhelming! Now even our youths realise the importance of the time we are living in (1947:95).
The loss of individuality in the crowd is compensated for by the belief in the people’s soul:
Yes., Willem! I believe in the soul of the people. It is only that which gives me courage and trust in the future’ (1947:21).
This soul has its source in “mystical feelings” (Reich 1978:163): the “Volksgevoel” (1947:21) which must be “activated by soul” (“besiel” 1947:21) in Padbrekers.
This experience of a national soul correlates with the “oceanic feeling” described by Freud (1985b:252), the “sensation of ‘eternity'” (1985b: 251) felt as something “limitless” (1985b:251) and “unbounded” (1985b: 251):
The soul is more than the body. I believe in what looks foolish and unattainable today; and the eternity of aspiring (1947:42)
Ideals are immortal. They, revive, like the phoenix, always again from the fire (1947:101).
The “oceanic feeling is:
a feeling of an indissoluble bond of being one with the external world as a whole (Freud 1985b:252).
In Padbrekers (1947) this bond refers to the experience of the people as “one”. Underlying this experience – as in the case of religious mysticism – is the regression to a phase when the boundary line between the ego and the external world is uncertain. Before the ego is constituted as an autonomous unity, the infant does not distinguish the self from the external world:
He gradually learns to do so, in response to various promptings. He must be very strongly impressed by the fact that some sources of excitation, which he will later recognise as his own bodily organs. can provide him with sensations at any moment, whereas other sources evade him from time to time – and only reappear as a result of his screaming for help (Freud 1985b:254).
The differentiation between internal and external is produced as the difference between experiencing satisfaction and displeasure: the external is associated with a feeling of lack and pain. This lack is an essential part of reality; it is the basis for the perception of reality as something different and separate. Nationalism and people’s movements emerge precisely in situations when this lack is felt intensely, for instance, during periods of economic collapse. But instead of leading to “realism” it regresses to illusion.
The production of a collective illusion, bound up with narcissism and wish-fulfilment, is an important aspect of political manipulation. This is especially true of nationalism where economic deprivation is confused with ideological decay. Feelings of inferiority are manipulated by feeding the mass narcissism with illusions of omnipotence:
The earnestness of life I have known since my youth. From father I learnt the sorrowful humiliation of our people, and the feeling of duty to help heal the decay, especially that fatal and spiritless attitude (1947:24-25).
The pain Ebba gives expression to in this situation is not due to actual material hardship: it is the pain of humiliation. In contrast, Sarie and the capitalist Simon (1947:42) experienced real poverty in their youth. Sarie grew up in a house with an unemployed father (1947:70). Because of their background of poverty, they are far more concerned with the threat of material collapse. To them narcissism is secondary.
The manipulation of narcissistic impulses is of central importance to divert the attention of the suppressed classes:
The narcissistic satisfaction provided by the cultural ideal is also among the forces which are successful in combating the hostility to culture within the cultural unit. This satisfaction can be shared in not only by the favoured classes… but also by the suppressed ones, since the right to despise the people outside it compensates them for the wrongs they suffer within their own (Freud 1985b: 192-193).
Reich formulates it as follows:
The wretchedness of his material and sexual situation is so overshadowed by the exalted idea of belonging to a master race and having a brilliant führer that, as time goes on, he ceases to realise how completely he has sunk to a position of insignificant, blind allegiance (1978:97).
In Padbrekers (1947) the feelings of elevation accompanying the material renunciation, the self-sacrifice, as. well as the experience of omnipotence in inspired crowds and mass processions brings this narcissistic aspect to the fore.
Padbrekers (1947) depicts a guilt reaction to the death of the father and the disintegration of the patriarchal order in the face of materialist and capitalist expansion. It shows how the materialist understanding of the world is experienced as a threat prefiguring an imminent apocalypse.