Catherine Bennett seems to have been sent a copy of a letter to me in which Marc Seale makes the elision of Vichy=Nazi. But does Vichy mean Nazi? Not according to the historical record, which a less partisan journalist and a less defensive HPC CEO could easily have discovered.
Then and Now the Vichy Moment
Early in 1940 the French army was being decimated by invading German forces.
Faced with the destruction of their military, the French government made enquiries of the Germans about an Armistice. A General was dispatched to a meeting at which the Germans set out their conditions. These included dividing up France into Occupied and Unoccupied zones.
Discussions of these arrangements never got outside a small group of politicians, and tight censorship ensured that they were never published in the press. Decisions were taken and then announced. The acceptance by the French government of the terms of the Armistice is the ‘Vichy Moment’, the point at which the decision was taken to collaborate with the overwhelming force of the German state. The alternative, for the government to quit, would have meant a national socialist administration being installed by force. What the government achieved was to protect the French from this eventuality. Argument still rages about this choice. But once made, it left France to the French for close on three years.
The German invaders had little understanding of the predominantly rural French, and never reached a settled view about what to do with this nation they had almost inadvertently conquered. They were pleased to have a government that kept the social structure ticking over, and in 194042 made few demands on it. (4)
In July 1940 the French government settled in Vichy because as a spa town, it had lots of hotels. From there an administration, notionally led by figurehead octogenerarian war hero General Petain, managed for around two years to remain in arms-length collaboration with the Germans. They continued the administration of France in a way that they later claimed ‘shielded’ the French people, minimizing the harm that might otherwise have ensued, avoiding anything that would attract unwelcome German attention.
For their part the French population knew nothing of how decisions affecting relations with the invader had been reached; the deep humiliation of the rout by the German army seems to have left many people with a pathological sense of national weakness and acceptance of the need for subservience to, or at least alliance with, the ‘New Order’.
The early years of the Vichy regime seem an example of a ‘least worst’ solution to the dilemma of how to respond to overwhelming force. Its intention of protecting the French public from the worst of the excesses that become commonplace elsewhere in Europe was very effective. Exceptions included Jews, who were almost entirely victims of domestic French anti-Semitism and the politically persecuted communists. In 194042 the German leaders had urgent business elsewhere.
Vichy’s quasi-heroic parental role ran into the ground after 1942. Beginning with the German failure to browbeat the UK, the entry of the Americans into the war, the German setbacks in Russia and Africa and later the Normandy landings, all racked up the level of political tension and deepened personal distress across France.
In 1943 overwhelming German force began to over-rule Vichy’s ‘narrow’ (5) collaboration. The invaders ordered that food be rationed to what Germans had in 1918, and hundreds of thousands of men were conscripted to work in Germany. Thousands more were nominated by the Vichy government to be shot in reprisals for attacks on the German military. Fed by this turmoil and loss, the national socialisms of the French heart and mind began to run riot but they were entirely home-grown. At no time did Vichy France have a Nazi administration.
Then and Now the PLG dilemma
Let’s now zoom back to look at the relevance of this for the regulation of the psychological therapies. The necessary perspective is on power and how it is expressed and received.
In locating the PLG meeting as a ‘Vichy Moment’, eIpnosis’ intuition was at work. (Intuition is an imaginal capacity of the mind that can enable us to jump to correct conclusions without apparently passing through a logical sequence of argument. It can also be wildly wrong.) (6)
As it happens, checking out the historical background in much more detail than seemed necessary at the end of last year (7), (8) has served to deepen and extend the notion of a Vichy Moment. And since the original article was published I have also come across two other people who are on record as having made exactly the same connection: at the March 2008 UKCP AGM, an official is reported to have said that the tanks are rolling in, it’s Vichy. And at the end of 2008, a UKCP lawyer said of his experience of meetings with the HPC that he thought he’d joined the Resistance but found he’d joined Vichy.
The dilemma that led to the psychological therapies raising vociferous objections (9) to regulation via the HPC and then in acknowledgment of defeat, making an abrupt U-turn towards collaboration, echoes very faithfully the piece of history which in France led to the Vichy government. Both are examples of a generic power-relations dilemma; when faced with domination by overwhelming force, a person or a nation or profession is likely to have an ‘either’ ‘or’ decision to make. (10).
‘Armistice’ is a new word in the regulatory domain and it accurately describes and locates the power dynamics involved in the PLG meetings. What is being discussed is an Armistice between the overwhelming force of the state, i.e. the HPC and the defeated mainstream psychological accrediting bodies who previously laid claim to exclusive governance.
Like the French in the late 1930s, the psychological therapies had considerable notice of what was afoot. Those of us at an early psychological therapies Reference Group meeting November 18 2005 heard Ros Meade of the Department of Health telling us in her Next Steps presentation how regulation was going to be done. Not whether, but how. There would of course be ‘consultation’, a word that neatly hid the powerfact that she did not mean negotiation.
Like the French in 1940 and later, the collaboration that is underway via the PLG may be intended to be ‘narrow’, i.e. as little as possible, as in much of the first two years of the Vichy regime, aimed at preserving as much as possible of the present styles of therapy governance and training. But as down the road, as coercion comes to undermine vocation, and the fixity of standards collides with the mutability of ethical choices, will not collaboration be overwhelmingly likely to eventually become ‘broad’, featuring enthusiastic embrace, as in the France of 1943 to the end in 1944?
Now, as then, there is a strong tendency to bet on the outcome. Who will prevail here? Might a non-conformist movement emerge to live alongside the HPC ‘established church’. Will an incoming government derail the New Labour tick-box cultures? Will HPC (more accurately, NHS) regulation mean more or less business?
There are two other echoes of then and now.
In France in 1940 the industrialised North, the occupied zone, was the sector that the Germans understood best, and the unoccupied ‘free’ zone was something of a mystery for them. In a curious parallel, for the PLG Armistice discussions the HPC appointed people from the institutions with industrialised membership arrangements, i.e. who had a database that could be requisitioned. The other scattered non-bureaucratic groupings were left out. HPC regulation has begun with the psychologists, the most rational and scientific of the psy domains, and the easiest to capture, and may yet end with the psychotherapists. The ‘rural’, ‘grass roots’, ‘voluntary’ communities of counsellors could yet prove to be a territory too far for the HPC and, as HPC et al. will have uncomfortably noticed, many of us are trenchantly determined that this will indeed be so.
Secondly, might the understandable passivity of the comprehensively uninformed French population of the Vichy period provide another ‘then and now’ parallel? The populations of psychotherapy and counselling practitioners in the UK have seemed to be curiously passive about a regulated future. Could this trance-like acceptance of the inevitability of a takeover by the state be a similar outcome of the democracy-lite governance of the UK accrediting bodies in recent decades? One that might lead their registrants to accept, or even be pleased with, the New Order of the HPC?
After 194344, as German ambitions collapsed and French collaborators were severely punished, does the usefulness of the Vichy metaphor for our regulation agendas fade? What else might it offer?
One of the more obvious dynamics of the use of overwhelming force is that it demands loyalty, while choosing not to notice that threaded through it is the false compliance needed for daily survival, and it excludes or punishes dissent; each of these are outcomes that can be confidently expected from the HPC’s regimes of truth.
Because domination insists, because it imposes, it is the epitome of duality. The middle is crushed between the need to survive ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers (10). Overwhelming force in the hands of agencies such as the HPC are the antithesis of growth and emergence; and because of this, regulation of the psychological therapies seems likely to be replete with the kinds of unintended consequences that organic growth and evolution would reject, change or incorporate.
The HPC’s PLG member organisations have chosen to sacrifice honour and integrity on the altar of expediency. That has a significant price. Let’s not be surprised if, as in war-torn France, these social actors come to deeply regret the unintended consequences of their embrace of HPC dominance. To paraphrase how some historians rate the value of the Vichy government yes, it preserved the French state, but it destroyed the French nation. Might not the appeasement of the HPC by the training and accrediting bodies, in their present phase of collaboration, protect their vested interests but result in the long-term desertification of the psychological therapies?
Holding this context in mind, I am aware that while the mainstream psychological therapy institutions are understandably, if mistakenly, appeasing the overwhelming force of the HPC, describing it in this way might be seen to cast the HPC itself as a reprise of national socialism. This is not my intention. However, I do intend to continue untiringly to expose the HPC’s pride in an intrinsically coercive institutional style, in which duress is always just off-stage. It interprets its legality in favour of narrowly defined, predetermined, non-negotiable outcomes and the open intention of criminalising dissent. The PLG met not to decide whether state regulation of the psychological therapies was in the interests of the clients and the practitioners, but only how to do it. The substantial body of dissent submitted to the HPC’s ‘Call for Ideas’ was quite deliberately kicked into grass that was so long that it became entirely invisible. Collaboration with a superior force took the form of appeasement of it.
As I have repeatedly said (11), there is a massive incongruence between such archaic, coercive notions of quality control and how ethically sound practitioners actually work. The HPC’s denial of this incongruence seems certain to result in widespread damage to client’s interests.
1 In this and other eIpnosis material of handling oppression I follow the notion of ‘confrontation’. Confrontation means the unsolicited drawing of a person’s attention to behaviour that I experience as oppressive or harmful and asking them to stop, amend, or otherwise take account of my objections. It is rooted in affirmation of the value of the person involved while, in the present context for example, vigorously challenging the role they have adopted or are playing out.
2 I don’t see myself as belonging to a profession. I have worked for over twenty years as a facilitator of personal and professional development. I also don’t represent The Independent Practitioners Network [IPN]. Along with other people I sometimes act as a channel into and out of IPN.
3 The original web page that started all this The Inaugural Meeting of the Health Professions Council Professional Liaison Group for Counselling and Psychotherapy Regulation. December 4 2008 Administering the Kiss of Death a Vichy Moment an eIpnosis report, can be found at: http://ipnosis.postle.net/pages/PLG1stMeetingReport.htm
4 Paul Farmer in Vichy: Political dilemma (details below) writes:
‘the Germans made little attempt to interfere with the routine
of administration In the occupied zone. The German general in charge
of the occupation established his headquarters in Paris, where his staff
exercised a close censorship over the press and the radio. Decrees of the
Vichy government were submitted to his office for approval before
their promulgation in the occupied zone, but ordinarily this approval
was given. From time to time, German regulations affecting the civilian
population were published in a bilingual gazette. These decrees had
the force of law, overriding the ordinances of Vichy or prior French
legislation. In the main, however, the Germans permitted the local
French authorities to handle the routine of administration at their own
discretion, according to established French practices.
5 The Vichy regime was directed by men who favored the reform of French domestic institutions according to conservative principles, but not on the basis of fascism, and who therefore favored "narrow" collaboration. ‘Narrow' collaboration implied cooperation limited, as far as possible, to eco- nomic matters, those favouring the restoration of some kind of normality to French economic life. "Broad" collaboration, implied both economic and political partnership.
6 For an account of this perspective on intuition and the imaginal see Feeling and Personhood - Psychology in Another Key Heron, J., Sage 1992
7 Paul Farmer, Vichy: Political Dilemma COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS New York 1955 available complete online in several formats at: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=77842879
8 Alongside the Paul Farmer book and other references for the history of the Vichy period, I have drawn on Yale Professor John Merriman’s course France Since 1871 especially lecture #18 The Dark Years: Vichy France. Merriman is Charles Seymour Professor of History at Yale, he specializes in French and modern European history. A video of this course segment is available online here:
9 On the British Psychological Society web-site it is still possible to access the following press release from Friday 10 November 2006 vociferously opposing HPC regulation.
100,000 reject government plans
More than 100,000 non-regulated professionals have said ‘No’ to the Government’s proposals for their statutory regulation. As an alternative nine professional bodies are suggesting that a new, independent, regulator is required, that will ensure proper public protection.
The representative organisations have delivered a highly critical reaction to the Department of Health’s moves towards regulation via the Health Professions Council (HPC) in their response to the Foster Review of the regulation of non medical professions, and the Chief Medical Officer’s report Good Doctors, safer patients…
For an eIpnosis page that explores the ethically dubious claims that this press release made see: Recipes for Ethical Bankruptcy? Regulating the 'practitioner psychologist’
10 Drawing on work I did some years back, I have developed a graphical overview of some of the power relations in the psychological therapies: Protecting the Client Experience: A Catastrophe Theory Map of Civic Accountability in the Psychological Therapies.Catastrophe Theory map. Among other things it shows why there would be such high levels of ambivalence in the psychological therapies about these developments
11 The values incongruence between the values of the therapy room and the values of the HPC has been a longstanding theme in eIpnosis. It is a topic is touched on in this eIpnosis conference report: The UKCP and Tick Box Regulation an Arranged Marriage. UKCP Conference: Transforming Times - UKCP at the Heart of the Profession and the Wider World of the 21st Century? November 15 2008
and in more detail here: SHRINK-WRAPPING PSYCHOTHERAPY, Denis Postle; an article based on a talk given at the British Confederation of Psychotherapists Conference 'Statutory Regulation - for or against', June 1999. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 16 (3) Spring 2000
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eIpnosis Editor 'Named and Shamed' -
eIpnosis marks what may be the last meetings of the Health Professions Council's Professional Liaison Group [PLG] May 26/27, with a further account of the parallels between the PLG's role in the capture of the psychological therapies by the state and the WW2 Vichy government of France.