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An Overview of the Debate on The Pass in the Journal des Journées
Prepared for the London Society Study Day, 10 January 2010,
Where Do We Stand?
Adrian Price

The most recently published Journal des Journées, dated Friday 8 January, 2010, brings us up to the eightieth in this series which began back on 1 September 2009 to kick start the build-up to the Thirty-eighth Study Days of the ECF. Following the weekend of the Study Days, held over 9-10 November, the Journal, which now numbered fifty-five, maintained its regular circulation. We only had to wait for the following issue to read a first echo, penned by Sophie Gayard, of the question of the Pass in the aftermath of Saturday’s AGM.

Sophie Gayard raises ‘a little something qui ne vas pas’. Something’s not right, something’s not on. She relates that Bernard Seynhaeve, current Analyst of the School, the School of the ECF, then the sole AS member of the ECF, had remarked during the said AGM on the absence of nominations over the past year. Initially the remark went unheard, or in any case sparked no response, but then was taken up by Gil Caroz, and gave rise to a discussion. Without going into the details of the discussion, Sophie Gayard writes that she didn’t entirely agree with what she heard, but held her tongue nevertheless. Her text sets about addressing what she felt was amiss.

She writes, as would others in subsequent issues of the Journal, from the position of a one time passand – one who has gone through the procedure of the Pass – without the experience culminating in a nomination of AS. Gayard writes with delicacy and tact of what she learnt from the experience, and above all of the teaching that may be derived from such an experience. She proposes to centre the debate not on the future of the AS, but rather the place of the Pass in the School. Rather than attribute the fault to the other who does not come forward for the Pass, are we really looking after the Pass in the School? she asks. ‘What do the passers have to say?’ ‘What do the analysts who name them have to say? What do the passands who are not named have to say?’ she wonders.

Anne-Marie Le Mercier continues the discussion in the following issue. Following the example of Sophie Gayard, she begins her text in the guise of an analysis of an affective symptom. For Sophie it was an annoyance, for Anne-Marie a sudden tiredness that came on during the AGM. She goes on to relate that she too went through the experience of the Pass, without this culminating in a nomination. Anne-Marie Le Mercier asks: ‘Beyond the work realised by the Cartel of the Pass, how does the School take into account the libido that has been mobilised in the passands and the experience that has been submitted?’ She argues that ‘this is still cloaked in silence, in a secrecy that might kill off the desire for the School in those who are thinking of asking to enter or to go forward for the Pass.’ She acknowledges that there is a point of no relation between the School and its members, between the School and its passands, which is consonant with the very object of the Pass (in which the solitude of one’s relation to the cause is treated in one’s own way), but if the School allows the desire that has come to life for the Pass to get lost in silence, she continues, mightn’t it lose its soul, the very soul of the School?

It is not the Pass itself that is in question. The Pass is a ‘well-structured system’. But, laments Anne-Marie Le Mercier, ‘it seems to be functioning in isolation in the School, the members of the School, like the members of the School’s satellite groups, echoing back to the School the silence it is keeping up with regard to what is preoccupying it.’ She concludes: ‘Desire alone is not enough to furnish a content that makes for a psychoanalytic teaching. But is one to believe that nothing from the Passes that have been heard and which haven’t culminated in a nomination can constitute a teaching for the School?

By issue 58, it was clear that the floodgates had been opened. Over the ensuing month, we would read no less than one hundred and three authors on the theme of the Pass in the School today, often referring directly to their experience as passand, passer, or member of a cartel of the Pass. From this wealth of detailed, engaging and frequently surprising texts, selecting a mere handful to represent the whole would be a nonsense. Nevertheless, when taken from the angle of the practical considerations for the functioning of the procedure of the Pass, a functioning that necessarily entails a certain malfunctioning, a certain number of principal themes can be seen emerging. The numerous texts we read on 17 November put the following issues on the table:
i. Firstly, the question of the framework or platform provided for the teaching of the AS. Catherine Lazarus-Matet notes that ‘there is a discrepancy between what the School expects of the AS, namely a singular teaching, and the standard mode in which the institution lodges this singularity.’ She goes on to note that in her case, when several years ago now she contemplated doing the Pass, she was reticent because she had little desire, were she named, to teach in the way of the other AS. Hence her expression ‘the AS profile’, which she chose to contribute to the debate (‘with a hint of provocation towards myself’), ‘while paying homage to the former and current AS who found a way to bow to the School, to the requirements of the institution.’ Hélène Bonnaud, in her ‘Letter to Sophie Gayard’, makes a similar point, recalling the signifier ‘disposable AS’ coined by Laure Naveau during the AGM. ‘Isn’t there a hint of disappointment linked to the fact that this enormous work remains nevertheless adrift in the School, as if it had come detached, once the time of the nomination is over.’

ii. The second issue concerns the question of silence in relation to the question of discretion. In the same letter, Hélène Bonnaud speculates that, ‘in hearing less and less about the Pass, one wonders whether it still has a value in the School’. Jean Joucla, the first to answer Sophie Gayard’s appeal from the position of passer, notes that, ‘discretion does not equal silence.’ Rather than simply appearing and disappearing, the passer might contribute to the teaching on the Pass, after all ‘an experience and perhaps a knowledge’ are none the less constituted.

iii. The third issue concerns the passers, their function of ‘filter’ as Jean-Daniel Matet puts it. The passers are necessary to the procedure, but Matet asserts that regardless of the degree of questioning they are put to, their testimony ‘remains bound to the point they have reached in their own analysis’. He compares the moment of Pass as relayed by the passer to ‘a cold fish whose bones have to be hunted out rather than the same fish alive on the line in the water’.

I shall take up these three questions in reverse order:

3. Passers
The question of the role and efficacy of the passers is taken up by Esthela Solano-Suarez in issue 60. She acknowledges that ‘there was a time, it’s true, in the School when we used to speak about the passers, their function, their responsibility as sensing-plates, and as a fundamental piece of the system. I wonder whether, with time, we might not have left the passers out of a conversation that should have taken place, so that they don’t shoulder alone a load whose importance and stakes no one is bringing up any more.’ She recalls that in the first version of Lacan’s ‘Proposition…’, the passer embodies ‘the very essence’ of the Pass, indeed, ‘he is this Pass’. This passer is, in Esthela Solano-Suarez’s terms, one who, far from being a mere echo chamber, ‘hunts out the “divine detail”’, one who ‘shows a spirit of finesse’. In contrast to this passer, she paints a picture of the passers she has met in her recent experience in the cartels of the Pass, whose ‘concern for exactitude can lead them to remain stuck to their notes’, notes which may already amount to little more than ‘a testimony written by the passand and then read out to them.’ Thus the text is presented to the cartel, ‘worn down, closed off, and out of steam’.

In issue 62, Patricia Johansson-Rosen takes issue with Matet’s portrait of the passer, noting, from her own experience as passer sixteen years ago, that the cartel too can be a cold fish, a further filter than can prevent the AS from passing through. In the same issue, where Esthela Solano-Suarez was critical of the written character of the passers testimony, Marie-Hélène Brousse promotes a more positive aspect of the written, which can be associated with a more direct style as the often highly ‘written’ texts of the Study Days showed. She concludes that there are a host of ‘different statuses of the written, faced with the fundamental experience of speech. The question arises as to the difference between the trace and the remainder.’

Issue 63 contains no less than thirteen texts on the passer, which amass a wealth of singular testimonies touching on details of the circumstances of being chosen as a passer, and the experience with the passands and the cartels. While by no means a conclusion to the debate, this document constitutes a weighty quilting point.

Other texts followed in the subsequent issues, equally rich in the details of the experience they relate. One in particular struck me as offering a new perspective on how the passer can go about focussing his work, and that is the text by Marie-Claude Sureau in Issue 68. She reminds us that the passer is an analysand. The experience with the passands may come up in the passer’s sessions, and he may even control/supervise his practice as a passer before going to bear witness before the cartel of the Pass. In any case, for Marie-Claude Sureau, this practice enabled her to ‘better order the transmission’ on each occasion she had recourse to it. This is a practice that surely calls for some discussion. Especially when this disclosure is coupled with the fact that, as Marie-Claude relates, the only two passands she didn’t take to supervision were those who went on to be named AS.

In Issue 65, Rose-Paule Vinciguerra suggests that a word from the AMS on the precise element that leads them to designate one of their analysands as passer might be valuable, without going so far as to make them have to justify their choice. After all, as Philippe La Sagna put it in Issue 64, ‘the passer is the one in whom is present the désêtre, the disbeing, that struck the analyst in the treatment.’

2. Silence
The issue of the silence surrounding the Pass was taken up in a most striking text from Francesca Biagi-Chai in issue 60, where she relates her experience as a passand, and the subsequent encounter with one of the members of the cartel so as to have some clarification on the non-nomination. A non-nomination due, so she relates, to the fact that the cartel was not unanimous, the said member being opposed to her nomination. She concludes her text saying: ‘I’m putting forward this testimony today to participate in the circulation of elements of knowledge, scraps of knowledge, so as to speak about the more or less visible or insidious silence, and to grasp more tightly the nodal points of the Pass’; specifying that the AS remains the horizon and the reality of the Pass. This text would inspire a number of similar or related testimonies, each of them juggling to varying degrees discretion and disclosure, allusion and accusation, grace and regret.

The issue of silence touches on the cartels, the commission, and above all the college of the Pass. This part of the debate which touches the heart of the institutional framework designed to support the Pass is the hardest to offer a penetrating insight into in this short space of time. Suffice it so say that this last decade has seen amendments to the statutes of the College of the Pass which have been widely questioned, and an apparent breakdown in the effective functioning of the College. Leaving the internal wrangling aside, we may note a distinct negative effect at the level of the output of the College, the cartels and the Secretariat.

‘In itself, the Pass is not silent’ writes Yasmine Grasser in Issue 65, ‘but its voice is not talkative. ’Esthela Solano-Suarez, in the same issue, notes that yes, the Pass was designed by Lacan to work at dissipating the ‘dark cloud’ [1] that covers the juncture at which the psychoanalysand passes to becoming a psychoanalyst, and thus there is a certain paucity of details on the Pass, clarity and opacity going hand in hand, but this doesn’t account for the fact that, for example, since 2002, no reports from the Cartels of the Pass have been published in the School’s journal. Natalie Jaudel makes some related points later on, in Issue 74, on the absence of reports from the secretariat over the last years. She laments also the fact that nothing like the brochure from 1996-7 that the then College produced has been seen since. Why no AS Study Days since 2003? Why are none or almost none of the documents on the Pass available in the ECF library? She reminds us that Lacan’s ‘Proposition…’ calls for the transmission of the results of the Pass: ‘this experience cannot be evaded. Its results must be communicated: to the School initially for criticism, and correlatively placed within reach of those societies which, as excluded as we have been by them, remain our concern nevertheless.’ [2]

1. The Framework
The question of the framework in which the AS pursues his work, his analysis of the School, brings the political dimension of the debate to the fore. In issue 65, which bears the title The Politics of the Pass, both Agnès Afalo and Carole Dewambrechies-La Sagna take issue with the notion that there is a libidinal and political distinction between the work of defending psychoanalysis in the public eye, which has necessitated a considerable effort these last years, and the work of the School, of analysing the School, and maintaining the cutting edge of Lacan’s teaching. Carole Dewambrechies-La Sagna closes with the observation that ‘the blockage of the Pass comes from elsewhere than the economy of libido. It stems from a different logic. It predates it, and can be traced back to 2002, i.e., one year before the Accoyer affair.’

Nevertheless, as Éric Laurent underlined at the ECF evening on the Pass, chaired by Bernard Seynhaeve on 8 December, the pre-established format destined for the teaching from each new AS is itself perhaps a hindrance to that teaching. Pierre-Gilles Guéguen gives an echo of this in Issue 70. PGG likens the AS who bends to this format to a kind of Marlene Dietrich, ferried around to the battle lines all over the world to keep up the troops’ morale. But the AS doesn’t always have something interesting to say at each moment during his three-year term. It should thus fall to the AS to choose his moment, to interpret the School following the style of interpretation he has formed in his own analysis, where, whatever it is, it should at the very least be preste, prompt and opportune. ‘A bat of the eye, the famous beat of a butterfly’s wing, a sigh, just one, may suffice when the moment arises’ writes PGG.

In issue 69, dated 9 December, JAM stated that any texts received on the theme of the Pass after 8pm on the following day would not be published. Issue 75, of 18 December, thus marked the close of the first phase of debate, a point of scansion as JAM wrote, beginning a suspension that will go on until the Conference on the Pass to be held at the School next weekend (16-17 January). In his message in Issue 69, JAM pays homage to Sophie Gayard, the instant of seeing she permitted for all that have followed the debate. The Conference on the Pass will inaugurate the time for understanding. Too early therefore to draw any concrete conclusions. Instead I should like to cite a passage from one of the contributions I was most struck by. It captures some of the spirit of the debate, whilst remaining utterly singular and inimitable. It also has the merit of being one of the first contributions. Its author is Agnes Aflalo, it dates from Issue 58, 17 November:

"Regarding the politics of the unconscious, what is a Lacanian politics? It seems to me that it proposes, in act, the treatment of the inhuman partner, not the nasty Other or the nice Other, but the treatment of that accursed part of each subject that never stops producing its own misrecognition. Lacanian politics speculates on nothing other than desire, to make jouissance pass through love – transferential love, always – so that this jouissance may empty out and desire emerge. The question that is then raised is that of the consequences to be drawn for each subject and for Lacan’s School.

"A School of Lacan is not a School worthy of this name without the desire for the Pass. This is why I have decided to present myself to the cartels of the Pass as soon as they are back in function. To stop giving up on the Pass to extract it from its religious shell made up of the addiction to transference and its different hang-ups: to take the absolute risk to move forward into a zone where knowledge is to be extracted and transmitted, above all for an action of Lacanian politics. This is one of the lessons I have learnt from the failed assassination [of psychoanalysis], and to reinvent a dialogue with you."

1. Lacan, J., ‘Proposition on the Analyst of the School’ in Analysis, Issue 6, 1995, p. 8.
2. Ibid., p. 11.

First circulated on the Lacanian-Orientation-US mailing list