July, 2001: What follows was orignally written about a year and a half ago and never quite finished. In particular, it was written before I read Leon Surette's book Pound in Purgatory, which contains a much more definitive treatment of the issues here. The only defect I find in Surette's book is the fact that he never knew Pound personally. The written documents Surette is dependent on are not really quite adequate in showing Pound's attitudes. In both Pound's correspondance and his published writing, he cultivated a harsh tone of voice which was very different than the way he talked of these matters in person.
More recently, I have been going through Tim Redman's book Ezra Pound and Italian Fascism (1991, Cambridge University Press). Although to a large extent it has been superseded by Surette's book (in my judgement), it has been useful since, having a narrower focus, it provides certain details which I did not find in Surette's book.
As I attempt now to complete and revise this article, I find it still enormously difficult to say what I want to say, and consequently find that I am making the article much too long. It occurs to me now that perhaps I should precede what I wrote before with a short summary.
The common accusations against Pound are that he was a Fascist, anti-semitic, and a traitor. There is a certain degree of truth in all of these accusations, and yet each one of these labels is, as applied to Pound, simplistic and highly misleading.
Pound remained in Italy during the Second World War. At the beginning of the war, he had packed up all his things and planned to return to America, as instructed by the American government, but he got into an angry argument with the American consul, and also found it difficult to arrange safe passage for himself and his family, and so wound up remaining in Italy after all. Humphrey Carpenter's biography seems to have the most detailed account of what happened.
Before and during the war, Pound broadcast over Italian radio. He was not broadcasting Italian propaganda. He was broadcasting his own thoughts on a large variety of subjects and the Italian government exercised no control over the content of his broadcasts. Pound's broadcasts were strongly pro-Italy and often strongly anti-Roosevelt and attacked the policies of the current American government. He believed that American was wrong to be engaged in war with Italy and sometimes strongly attempted to dissuade his fellow Americans from continuing that war. At the same time, Pound very strongly believed that his broadcasts were not anti-American.
Whether Pound's broadcasts made him a traitor or not is a technical legal point. Legally, it is not treason to condemn the policies of the American government, even when a war is at issue. (As we saw during the Vietnam era, however, popular opinion often takes a different point of view.) On the other hand, to actively aid an enemy's war effort is certainly treason.
The line is not that easy to draw. An American can make speeches against a war, write newspaper articles, make radio broadcasts within the United States (assuming that he can find a station that will carry his broadcasts) or hold protest demonstrations. He can even condemn his own country in fairly broad general terms. None of this is legally treason. (It falls under the legal label "mere words.") But if he broadcasts, at the direction of an enemy government, propaganda to the troops designed to weaken their ability to fight, most of us would now agree that this is clearly treason. (At the time of the Second World War, however, even this was not so clear cut. The indictments after the war against eight Americans, including Pound, for allegedly broadcasting enemy propaganda were a breaking of new legal ground. Up till then, the word "treason" had never been interpreted to include comparable activities. See Redman's book, pp. 226-230 for a discussion of the legal technicalities.)
Pound's broadcasts were not directed to American troops. They were on the wrong frequency for that. But they were broadcast over Italian shortwave radio in English. The Italian announcer states that the broadcasts are are part of Radio Italy's program for North America, and they seem clearly intended for the American public.
Whether or not the label "traitor" applied to Pound is legally correct, in my opinion it is at best highly misleading, since Pound did not engage in activities which he had good reason to believe were treasonous or in which his intention was to harm the United States. (Of course we can conclude that the distinctions he made in attempts to justify himself were incredibly foolish. The word "traitor," though, tends to suggest a treasonous intent rather than mere idiocy.)
Pound was not a Fascist in the sense of having been a member of the Fascist party or having been in any way involved in making or carrying out Fascist policy. (He would have liked to influence the policies of the Italian government, however, and certainly made many attempts to. However neither the government nor the Fascist party wanted any part of him, since he had no interest in promoting any ideas except his own. One of the biggest mistakes most people make about Pound is that they don't realize what a fool he was. Almost an idiot savant, really. All the biographies confirm this. He was not the sort of person that any political group would want to have involved in any responsible fashion.)
Pound was naive in his attitude toward Mussolini and the Fascist government in Italy. Most Americans, on the other hand, have an equally distorted view of Italian Fascism. When we think of the Fascist regime, we see only evil. Pound approved of the Fascists not because he supported that evil but because he didn't see it or averted his eyes from it. I refer to Leon Surette's book (and also Tim Redman's book) for a much more thorough discussion of this point, but almost any reputable history of Italian Fascism will confirm that there were many things about it which were admired by many people whose judgement was much better than Pound's. Up until Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, in fact, prevaling world opinion was enthusistic about Mussolini. And in Italy, Mussolini had widespread popular support at least up to the beginning of the war.
Finally, Pound was most definitely an antisemite, and in some ways an antisemite of the worst kind. His antisemitism wasn't on a personal basis but was political. During the time of the Second World War and afterwards, he sincerely and completely believed that Jews were evil and were involved in a conspiracy that had caused much of the evil in the world, including the Depression and the Second World War (and probably most other wars as well). He expressed this antisemitism frequently in his conversation and his correspondance and in his radio broadcasts.
However Pound's sntisemitism was largely expressed on a personal level, especially in his extremely widespread correspondance. (It also permeated, of course, his radio broadcasts.) He was not a propagandist for antisemitism. (For the most part, this is true even of the radio broadcasts, where the antisemitism was largely in the form of name-calling, albeit highly offensive name-calling.) He did not write antisemitic books or (for the most part) articles and was not actively involved in antisemitic political movements. And during the time I knew him at St. Elizabeths, although he frequently expressed his condemnation of Jews, he did not encourage his followers to devote their efforts to antisemitism. He always stressed that economics, and especially monetary policy, was the number one issue that attention should be focused on. (Eustace Mullins, who was to become one of America's leading antisemites, was gone from the scene by the time I started visiting Pound, so I don't don't know anything about the nature of the conversations Pound had with Mullins. I can only speak about the conversations I was present at, which were sometimes political and sometimes literary.)
Furthermore, Pound rarely if ever advocated any particular action against Jews. But certainly some of the views he expressed were the same things that people had said to justify the Holocaust and other persecution of Jews, and even after the war, Pound never spoke out to condemn these horrors, except occasionally in extremely weak statements.
Certainly Pound's antisemitism shows a disastrous lack of good judgement. And his unwillingness to condemn the Holocaust and to reconsider his antisemitism afterwards is an outrage to just plain decency.
But to speak of Pound as if he were someone
who advocated exterminating Jews
is simply not correct.
During the era of Joseph McCarthy in the United States (the 1950s, more or less), the phrase "freedom of thought" became prevalent. The attitude became common that it is wrong to legally (or even morally) condemn intellectuals merely because of their ideas and their expression of those ideas in their writings, books, lectures, and what not. Many of those intellectuals who were persecuted for their ideas during the McCarthy era came to be thought of as heroes, even though their politics, Stalinist or anti-democratic in many cases, are now seen as extremely wrong-headed and pernicious.
In the case of Pound, most people see many of his attitudes as extremely offensive. However if we judge him on the basis of his actual activities rather than merely on his ideas, I think we will find many of the harsh labels often applied to him as unwarranted. (Of course to some extent, one might object that this is an attempt at a defense on grounds of ineptitude. Pound would certainly have liked to have been a major force in world politics, but he was totally incompetent in accomplishing this. Nonetheless, if we judge him on the basis of his actions rather than his wishes and ideas, expressed in statements on a personal level, he cannot reasonably be called a Fascist and it is at best misleading even to refer to him as an antisemite.)
At first I was quite annoyed with Stoneking's play, though. I thought, "This is not anything like the way Pound actually was." But then I realized that the character in the play is not meant to be a re-creation of the real Pound, but instead is intended to be a dramatic representation of Pound based on his writings and the few recordings we have of him. And on that basis, it's pretty good.
The real Pound is pretty much gone for good now, except in the memories of a few old geezers like myself. Instead, Pound has become a mythological figure not unsimilar to those in Homer, and each interested person is free to create his own Pound in line with his own obsessions. And why not? Pound is certainly beyond caring at this point, and the few remaining "disciples" from those days at St. Elizabeths are, as I've said, now a bunch of old geezers who ought by now to have found better things in life to care about.
The matter of labels clearly still matters a lot to many people though. And why not? Labeling things, and people, is what we academics do, after all. The trouble with the anecdote of Agassiz and the fish is, from an academic's point of few, that after the student really looks at the fish for several weeks, all he has gained is understanding, but no journal articles. Nothing he can cite the next time he's applying for tenure or promotion.
Occasionally some really creative person stumbles into the academic world (undoubtedly mistaking it for a smoky bar he's heard of where impassioned intellectual discussions often break out; big mistake!), some Hugh Kenner who is willing to really look at the fish for many years, and to see the world through the fish's eyes, and read all the books which were instrumental in making the fish the sort of fish it was. Such a Kenner person then gradually becomes an important sort of fish himself, subject matter for subsequent ichthyologists to study.
The rest of of us, though, can argue about labels. But in the process of trying to promote our particular labels, we should at least be careful not to misrepresent the facts, which are, after all, not in dispute. I would like to help people actually look at Pound and see the rather confusing person he was in a way that goes beyond merely arguing about labels such as "traitor," "Fascist," or "antisemite."
I need to remind people again that I am no Pound scholar. Furthermore, it is only within the past few months (written circa A.D. 1999) that I have begun looking through Paideuma and the various biographies. What I say below is based on what I know and my memories of the Pound I knew. If any of it is factually in error, I am sure that there are those who will correct me.
As to the label "treason." The argument here will probably never be settled, but I think that there can be little dispute over another label, namely that Pound's broadcasts were an act of conscience. (Treason can be, of course, an act of conscience.) Pound had things to say which he believed (foolishly, probably crazily) were of vital importance to the American public.
According to Tim Redman's book, Pound was originally indicted for treason along with seven other people who had broadcast from Germany, and the indictment didn't really fit Pound's broadcasts very well at all. Realizing this, after Pound had been arrested and returned to the United States the Department of Justic issued a second indictment which begins by accusing Pound
Of accepting employment from the Kingdom of Italy in the capacity of a radio propagandist. [During the war, Italy was still legally a monarchy, although the real power was in the hands of Mussolini.]According to Redman's summary, the indictment continues by accusing Pound of intending to create dissension among the United States and its allies, asserting in substance that the war was an economic war in which the US and its allies were the aggressors, and to attempting to create racial prejudice (i.e. antisemitism) in the United States.
Of counseling and aiding the Kingdom of Italy and advocating...ideas and thoughts, as well as methods by which such ideas and thoughts could be disseminated, which the said defendant believed suitable and useful to the Kingdom of Italy in the prosecution of said war.
That the aforesaid activities...were intended to persuade citizens and residents of the United States to decline to support the United States in the conduct of said war, to weaken or destroy confidence in the Government of the United States, and to further bind together and increase the morale of the subjects of the Kingdom of Italy in support of the prosecution of the said war by the Kingdom of Italy and its military allies.
Some of this (for instance trying to create racial prejudice) seems reprehensible but definitely not treason. And while Pound did in fact attempt to advise Italian government on propaganda, until the end of the war (see below) the government considered his advice absurd and ignored it, and apparently none of the propaganda in question had to do with furthering the war. Other claims are simply not correct. Pound's broadcasts were not intended to increase the morale of the Italians, since they were made in English.
However at the very end of the war, during the period of the Republic of Salò, according to Redman's book Pound did convince the Italian government to implement some of his ideas on propoganda and improving morale. This included the publication of a short booklet by Pound "on the causes of war, Roosevelt, and the incidence of the war in the process of world usury"and an article by Arthur Kitson titled The History of a Crime purporting to explain the war (I am quoting from Redman) as the result of a banker's conspiracy to profit by a return to the gold standard, by preventing national governments from issuing their own paper currency, and by encouraging war to create indebtedness. Pound was also successful in convincing the Italian government that they should print some works of Confucius, which he believed would have great value for improving the morale of soldiers in the trenches, but the difficult situation in the last days of the war prevented this from being completely successful. Pound was unsuccessful in his attempt to get the Italians to print between five hundred and a thousand copies of Stalin's booklet The Bases of Leninism as a model of effective propaganda. (For Pound, the fact that Italy was at war with the Soviet Union was apparently an irrelevant detail.)
There is something so farcical about these efforts, that one can't help but think that at this point the Italians had become as crazy as Pound. (And while one can argue the question of whether or not Pound was actually mentally ill, he certainly seemed, then and later, to be, although rational, seriously out of touch with reality. From what I knew of him at St. Elizabeths, Pound was perfectly capable of explaining his ideas extremely rationally and coherently, and even convincingly. What he seemed to be deficient in was not reason but judgement.)
Of course it is Pound's radio broadcasts which led to the indictment against him. The rest of this stuff is just too silly.
Pound was not broadcasting propaganda which was written by or overseen by the Italian government, but his own views on a crazy diversity of subjects which he passionately believed the world needed to hear about. Far from broadcasting under the direction of the Italian government, he had to pester the government for quite a while before they would finally let him broadcast. Anyone looking at the transcripts of his broadcasts (see Ezra Pound speaking, edited by Leonard W. Doob) can see that his primary concern was to attempt to protect the American republic from what he saw as evil. His primary concern in his broadcasts was not to advance the goals of Italy to the detriment of the United States of America. (The "lost" Italian Cantos are another matter, though.)
On the other hand, many of the things he said are quite obnoxious to most of us, which causes us to judge them more harshly than we would have judged Bertrand Russell, for example, if he had been foolish enough to broadcast a message of pacifism during the war.
During a time of war, a desperate war where the survival of the nation seemed in doubt, Pound bitterly criticized the government of the United States and its leadership, and did so in language that sometimes sounded a whole lot like language often used by our enemies. Some quotes from he radio broadcasts (as taken from Charles Norman's book): In April of 1942, "Had you had the sense to eliminate Roosevelt and his Jews or the Jews and their Roosevelt at the last election, you would not now be at war. That is one point. But to suppose that you will win the war by goin' on bein' mugs in any and every internal conflict, to suppose that you will strengthen the United States abroad by submitting to continued internal bleedin' and swindlin' is just so much hokum or nonsense." And a month later, "Every hour that you go on with this war is an hour lost to you and your children. And every sane act you commit is committed in homage to Mussolini and Hitler. They are your leaders, however much you think you are conducted by Roosevelt or told by Churchill. You follow Mussolini and Hitler in every constructive act of your government."
In July, 1942: "And how much liberty have you got, anyhow? And as to the arsenal --- are you the arsenal of democracy or of judeocracy? And who rules your rulers? Where does the public responsibility end and what race can mix in America without ruin of the public stock, the American brain? Who is organized? What say have you in the choice of your rulers? What control of their policy?" And in May of 1943, "Every day of war is a dead day as well as a death day. More death, more future servitude, less and less of American liberty of any variety."
These passages are fortunately not typical of the bulk of Pound's
broadcasts. But although Pound could legimately claim that he was not
broadcasting Italian propaganda, in the cases of
broadcasts like these, it is difficult for most people to find the
Whether or not one wants to apply the label "treason,"
it's hard to find these broadcasts excusable.
As to the word "Fascist." I don't think that anyone claims that Pound was a member of the Fascist party or marched around in a black shirt. Nor was he among the many notable intellectuals whose ideas played a major part in the formation of Fascism. However he did enthusiastically support the Fascist government in Italy, and we mostly judge him much more harshly for this than we judge those many intellectuals during the Thirties and Forties who supported Stalinism. Pablo Neruda or Berthodl Brecht, for instance.
When we condemn Pound (and rightly so) for supporting Italian Fascism, though, it's important to be clear on whether we're condemning him on moral grounds or simply condemning him for lousy judgement. I think that there's no evidence that Pound supported the brutality of the Black Shirts. Instead, when Pound looked at Fascism he saw a different part of the elephant, as it were, than we did. He saw, rightly, that Fascism had accomplished a number of good things which previous governments had never managed to get done. In particular, draining the swamps which for centuries had been the breeding grounds for mosquitos carrying marlaria (not to mention running the trains on time!) Furthermore, living in Italy, Pound was aware of Fascism's widespread (but certainly not universal) support among the Italian people (just as Leninism had widespread enthusiastic support from the Russian people in the early days of the Revolution.)
Judging by his book Jefferson and/or Mussolini (which for the most part reads like something written at an internet cafe by the sort of person who wanders the streets with their possessions in a shopping cart) and the things I heard him say at St. Elizabeths, these were the things that Pound found admirable about Fascism. He saw nothing whatsoever incompatible between Italian Fascism and the ideals of American democracy.
The one thing I remember him talking about at St. Elizabeths, aside from the passionate enthusiasms for Fascism which he perceived among the Italians, was the Corporate State --- Syndicalism, if I correctly understand that word. The way he explained it, it seemed to make quite a bit a sense: the idea that the Legislature, rather than representing geographic interests should consist of representatives of various economic interests --- industries and trade unions. (In fact, in a lot of ways contemporary American democracy does follow the Syndicalist model. It does so by means of what has become in practice almost a third house of the legislature, namely lobbyists. As almost everyone knows, the real work of legislation in Congress is done not on the floor of the House and Senate, but within the committee system. And within the committees, lobbyists play a major role in the discussions, even though in principle they are only responding to questions from Congressmen. And indeed many bills passed by Congress are actually written by lobbyists. Of course lobbyists have no vote, but their influence is nonetheless very strong. Many people find this very pernicious, but it is difficult to see how Congress could govern effectively without some form of representation by major economic interests.)
A book called The Appeal of Fascism by Alastair Hamilton provides a very useful perspective on these times. During the Twenties and early Thirties, the existing system was simply not working in Germany and Italy, and was not working very well in the rest of Europe. There seemed to be a desperate need to replace it with something else, and large number of intellectuals saw Fascism or Communism as the only workable alternatives. (Often the choice between the two seemed almost a toss-up. Toward the ends of the war, incidentally, Pound came to identify himself as a leftist Fascist. He was not by any means the only leftist Fascist. See Chapter 8 of Tim Redman's book.)
Leon Surette, in an article posted Nov 21, 1999 to the Pound mailing list, has also mentioned the book The Birth of Fascist Ideology by the Israeli scholar Zeev Sternhell, who traces (according to Surette's note, I haven't read the book myself) the origin of fascism to French socialist thought of the late nineteenth century -- Proudhon, and, above all, Sorel. Surette quotes the following passage from Sternhell (249-50) about scholarly attention to Fascism:
"The marginalization of fascism relieves those that deal with it of the necessity of relating to the broad cultural context, which was its true intellectual seedbed. Those who choose the easy path are spared the need to answer many perplexing questions, including that of the intellectual, emotional, or political connection that existed in a given period between broad circles of the intelligentsia and the Fascists or Nazis, or other advocates of a `national revolution.' The apologetic interpretation of events consciously disregards the cultural history of Europe in the last hundred years, the fact that toward the end of the nineteenth century the opposition to optimism, universalism, and humanism developed into a general struggle that affected all areas of intellectual activity. At that time, an alternative political culture came into being; it sought to rescue Europe from the heritage of the Enlightenment, and naturally, when the crisis reached its peak at the beginning of the twentieth century, the attack was directed first against rationalism and humanism."
(Let me also mention that since I wrote this, I have read a book by Leon Surette himself called Pound in Purgatory, 1999, University of Illinois Press, ISBN 0-252-02498-2, which discusses all the issues here in a great deal more detail, and undoubtedly a great deal more accurately, than I have.)
But, most of all, Pound's attitude toward Fascism was based on the fact that Mussolini had an enormous personal charm, as the recent Franco Zefferelli film Tea With Mussolini reminds us. Pound was certainly not alone in being taken in during the Thirties by this tremendous charisma. Until Italy's invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, there was widespread support for Mussolini in the United States as well as in Europe. The Luce magazines (Time, Life, and Fortune) all supported him. Furthermore, support for Mussolini among the Italian people (with the exception of certain intellectuals) was widespread at least until the beginning of World War II.
However by the Forties most people outside Italy had become quite aware that the very nice things which Mussolini said in his speeches were not much in agreement with the actual deeds of the Fascist government. And of course after Italy allied itself with Hitler, and especially after the War began, a concerted effort (quite successful to this day) was made to demonize Mussolini.
Certainly he was not the good guy Pound believed him to be. He was a very ambitious politician whose primary interest was in achieving power and holding on to it by whatever means required. On the other hand, he was not the devil incarnate in the same way that Hitler was.
And Fascist Italy was by no means as harsh as the many dictatorships the United States government has officially supported over the years since that time, such as those in Spain, Taiwan, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Greece, Chile, Argentina, and South Vietnam.
It's hard to believe that Pound could have been completely unaware of the brutality of the Fascist regime. But he looked the other way. We can condemn Pound on moral grounds for looking the other way, but we should not use language that suggests that he actually approved of Fascist brutality. And after all, all too many of us are just as quick to look away from the fascist brutality that goes on in the United States. It doesn't happen in our neighborhoods, after all, and it's directed against groups that most of us consider despicable --- drug dealers, White supremacists, right-wing militias, Branch Davidians and the like. It's an indispensible evil, we think. The means are deplorable, but they're justified by the ends.
I'm certainly not claiming that the United States is at all comparable to Fascist Italy. I'm just making the point that most of us do tend to look away when dreadful things are done by a government we approve of to groups who we do not approve of.
On the other hand, Pound is also on record as having spoken approvingly of Hitler. Certainly he did not know of the death camps, but he certainly had to be aware that dreadful things were going on in Germany. Eustace Mullins, in his biography of Pound (This Difficult Individual: Ezra Pound), claims that Pound helped several Jews who were passing through Italy in their flight from Germany to the West. If this is true --- and it seems entirely in character --- then it serves as proof that Pound did in fact know something of the persecution going on in Germany. (Mullins, who was part of the Pound circle at St. Elizabeths, was and is a notorious anti-semite. I tend to think that his biography is mostly accurate on a factual level, but I know that his language tends to sometimes color the facts. I suspect that the Jews Pound aided were former friends of his from the artistic community in Paris.)
It's hard to see how anyone by the end of the Thirties, even living in Italy, could look at Hitler's Germany and not see that an enormous evil was going on.
Finally, there is the label "anti-Semite." Here again, there is a vagueness in the label, and I think that we need to be more precise about exactly what we criticize Pound for. And in this case, I think that being more specific in our criticism does not work in Pound's favor.
I have to admit that I've only very recently tried to sort this out, because anti-semitism is not something I've thought very much about in the past forty years.
As I've mentioned in previous articles to the mailing list, for the past twenty years I've lived in Hawaii, where ethnic stereotypes and ethnic prejudices are an essential part of life. I think it's foolish to deny that ethnic groups do have various characteristics and that ethnic stereotypes do have some validity. In fact, Chinese or Japanese or Samoans will themselves talk about those aspects of themselves which they see as a product of their ethnicity. (On the other hand, in Hawaii, Jews are not a recognizable ethnic group; they're simply lumped in with the other "f***ing Haoles.")
On the other hand, living in Hawaii one soon learns that ethnic stereotypes do not apply very well to individuals. Very few of the individuals I meet conform very well to the stereotypes of their ethnic group. And yet most everyone will agree, including the individuals in question, that the stereotype has validity.
So to the extent that Jews do form an ethnic group, I think that it is inevitable that some people will dislike some of their ethnic characteristics. (On the other hand --- maybe it's just because I've spent most of my life for the past forty years west of the Mississippi -- my own observations make me question whether Jews really do form an ethnic group in the United States any more. It seems to me that Jews here are incredibly diverse, and it's quite rare that I meet a Jew who has any characteristics that I think of as typically Jewish. But this is something that I think has come about since the time of the Second World War.)
Some of the things I read on the mailing list here suggest that this sort of prejudice is what's at issue when we talk about Pound's anti-semitism. But in fact, we're talking about something very different and far worse. We are talking about things such as the essay Pound wrote titled, "The Jew, Disease Incarnate" (c.f Charles Norman's book, p. 373) and the many statements in his letters, conversations, and radio broadcasts indicating that the Jews were an evil that the world needed a remedy for. (He often stated, though, that the remedy in question should be a legal one, depriving Jews of economic power, and not genocide.)
It seems to me that the label "anti-semitism" fails to distinguish between three very different things, which do however blend into each other. First of all, there are people who simply don't like Jews. And I believe that as long as Jews constitute a recognizable ethnic group, with recognizable traits (something which in my opinion is becoming less and less the case), there will always be such people. Secondly, there are people who believe that Jews are inherently evil, pernicious. And thirdly there are people who believe that Jews should be treated in particular negative ways, whether barred from fraternities and swimming pools or, in the extreme, sent to death camps.
Pound definitely came to belong to the second category. Here's one of the most extreme statements in his radio broadcasts.
[The real danger to the United States comes] not from Japan but from Jewry... The danger is not the you will be invaded but that you have been invaded.He made few, if any, assertions that support taking particular actions against Jews. However there's no doubt that in practice statements like this one did encourage attacks on Jews and were used to justify those attacks.
On the first page of Canto 52, Pound wrote in the early Thirties, "Rothschild sin drawing vengeance, poor yitts paying for Rothschild // paying for a few big jews' vendetta on goyim." Out of concern for libel, he had to change "Rothschild" to "Stinkschuld," and even so the publisher (Faber) blacked the lines out. (More precisely, Faber refused to publish these lines, and Pound insisted that the Canto be published with black bars to indicate the censorship.)
In a way, it's unfortunate that these lines were blanked out, because they seem to show (and the information in Surette's book Pound in Purgatory confirms) that at this time (the early Thirties), Pound's animosity towards the Jews was apparently directed only towards those Jews involved in banking and international financing. Even so, though, I think that his attacks on individual bankers and financiers (including a number of non-Jewish ones) indicates the superficiality of his thinking. I think it is extremely naive to believe that whatever abuses exist in the financial system are due to particular individuals. It seems fairly clear that even if one were able to eliminate all these individuals, other ones would simply take their place. The system fosters opportunities for abuse, and there will always be individuals, whether Jewish or not, who will take advantage of such opportunities.
It's not that Pound's anti-semitism was excusable. Any reasonable person, during the late Thirties and Forties, would have realized that the sorts of things Pound was saying were exactly the sort of things that were being used to justify the persecution of Jews. But on the other hand, the sort of attack that one so often seens on Pound (for instance in William Stoneking's play), saying, "But what about the death camps?" shows a simplistic attitude.
Although Pound's anti-Semitism was glaring and ugly, it's important to note that it was never the core issue in his political thought. For Pound, the crucial issue was always the monetary system. When the Kasper & Horton Press (later renamed the Square Dollar Press after John Kasper became notorious) was established in Washington, D.C. to publish texts that Pound considered of overwhelming importance, none of the included books were devoted to anti-Semitism. Instead, Pound directed that they publish a history of currency by Alexander Del Mar (which Pound continued to recommend as required reading for visitors to St. Elizabeths even after he discovered that Del Mar had apparently been Jewish), Ernest Fenellosa's monograph on the Chinese written character as a medium for poetry, some of the writings of the Nineteenth Century biologist Louis Agassiz, the Analects of Confucius, and Eustace Mullins's book on the Federal Reserve System. Although Mullins was later to become a notorious anti-Semite, in his book on the Federal Reserve the anti-Semitism occurs only in a veiled form, namely in the fact that Mullins always indicates, without overtly commenting on the fact, that all the villains in his history were Jewish.
Ugly as it was, it is important to remember that when we talk about Pound's anti-Semitism, aside from the radio broadcasts we are primarily talking about opinions expressed in private letters and private conversations. Pound did not aggressively promote anti-Semitism by editing anti-Jewish newsletters, establishing anti-Jewish organizations, or writing anti-Semitic books. In the Cantos, there are only a few anti-Semitic references. Apparently some instinct in Pound let him know that although he might use the Cantos to vent his negative opinions of bankers, international financiers and arms dealers, to fill the work with anti-Semitism would destroy its artistic value.
Pound's anti-semitism if especially relevant, in my opinion, because the Cantos claim to present a moral view for the world. If the thinking of Confucius and the other thinkers Pound admire did not prevent him from looking at the world in such a completely misguided manner, one has to question what value this thinking really has.
When one reads Pound's anti-Semitic remarks in the radio broadcasts or his letters to Olivia Rosseti Agresti (I Cease Not to Yowl), I think one inevitably hears them in a strident tone of voice filled with hate. The odd thing is the contrast between this and Pound's actual personality in person. Just about everyone who ever knew him personally liked him, even if some of his friends were often extremely exasperated with him. Everyone seems to have agreed that he was a generous, kind, and gracious individual. In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway, who often strongly criticized Pound's anti-Semitism and vigorously disagreed with the rest of his politics, writes, "His own writing, when he would hit it right, was so perfect, and he was sincere in his mistakes and so enamored of his errors, and so kind to people that I often thought of him as a kind of saint" (p. 108).
I would like to also say a few words about John Kasper. John Kasper and Eustace Mullins were to become the two notorious members of the circle that regularly visited Pound, primarily because of things they did after they ceased to visit E.P. There has been a tendancy to condemn Pound because of the fact that he allowed these two to be among his regular visitors, and to suggest that it was primarily because of Pound's influence that these two did the sorts of things they did after leaving the circle at St Elizabeths. There may be a certain amount of truth to this judgement, but to a large extent it is simply illogical. At the time when they were regular visitors to St. Elizabeths, Kasper and Mullins were simply young men who were interested in poetry (both of them had poetic ambitions of their own) and who definitely shared Pound's political views (certainly including his anti-semitism).
By the time I arrived on the grounds of St. Elizabeths in the winter of 1955-56 (as near as I can figure out the dates at this point), Kasper had already been already arrested and was about to stand trial for having caused riots against school integration in Knoxville and Clinton, Tennessee. (The technical charge was "conspiracy.") My sense of the sort of person Kasper was comes mostly from publically available information. (Charles Norman and Humphrey Carpenter seem to have had at least a little bit more knowledge than most.) I knew Kasper's ex-girlfriend Nora quite well but I met Kasper himself him only once (he was out on bail) and then only briefly one day when he stopped by Nora's house to pick up some books and things he'd stored there. My main impression on that occasion was that he had become very much the politician. (I was at the time actually much more interested in noticing that he clearly no longer considered Nora his girlfriend.)
I guess it's probably understandable that nobody considers it worthwhile to go back and search out the truth about Kasper. Certainly the truth would not vindicate him. He deserved all the condemnations that were directed toward him and all the punishment that fell his way. And yet the judgements that people made at the time, and which many Pound scholars today accept uncritically, were simplistic and missed the point of who he was.
Kasper, in my understanding, was a wannabe intellectual who was enthusiastic about Pound. From the public accounts of the discussion groups he held at his Make It New bookstore in New York, it seems clear that he was attracted (in some general sense, I don't mean sexually) to Negroes, just as many bohemian intellectuals at that time were. (Norman Mailer, of course, later wrote a famous essay called "The White Negro.")
As a person enthusiastic about Pound's ideas and who had read all the right books, Kasper satisfied all the prerequisites for being welcome on the grounds of St. Elizabeths.
In Charles Norman's biography of Pound, he writes of Kasper, "There attached himself to Pound, in his latter days, another young man, who had never, I believe, had any ideas in his head before, and who stepped from the portals of St. Elizabeths Hospital to fill the South with dissension and grief." Although Charles Norman's book is in general a fairly good source of information about Pound, I believe that in this respect he is wrong on several counts. Kasper (according to Humphrey Carpenter's biography of Pound) had a Beachelor's degree from Columbia University, where he had studied literature and philosophy. He was certainly not a blank slate for Pound to write on. From what I can determine, he had grown up in the South and, despite his fascination for the Negroes in New York, had always shared the prevailing southern attitudes in favor of segregation.
When Kasper chose a venue for putting "ideas into action," this venue was the segregationist movement in the South. There's no indication at all that Pound suggested this to him, and there's a little information suggesting that Pound had a lot of doubts about Kasper's choice of a political forum. The "Negro Question" was not Pound's issue of choice And he never had much to say on the topic. I do remember him saying once, when the subject came up, "I don't see why any Negro would want to try and become a White man, because he can never manage to do any better than becoming a second-class White. A Negro ought to be proud of being who he is, not try to become someone who he's not."
Although Kasper was no innocent who was unjustly condemned, yet at the same time, I think that he was a convenient fall guy for the many supporters and opponents of school desegregation who wanted to blame the disturbances in Clinton and Knoxville, TN on an "outside agitator." Mostly what Kasper did, from what I knew, was simply let people know about the plans for desegregation which the governments in question were trying to keep quiet. The public reaction in the local communities to this information was, I believe, predictable.
In the years since then, I have lived through times in which there have been many different sorts of riots, both leftist and rightist, against government policies, and I have never seen any convincing evidence that any of them were actually caused by "outsider agitators," although there are almost always interested parties that want to promote that claim.
Pound did definitely support segregation (primarily of the public school system). But he certainly did not hate Negroes, and in fact had much affection towards them, as shown numerous places in his writings. (Whether he respected them as equals is much less clear. There's certainly some reason to suspect that he did not.) It's hard to understand this now, but I'm pretty sure that Pound actually believed that segregation was actually in the best interest of Negroes. Kasper also preached this point of view on a number of occasions, although there may have been other occasions when he preached a more blatant racial hatred; I don't know one way or another.
Both the White liberals and the segregationists were at the time quite naive about the integration. The conventional wisdom among Northern Whites (certainly the conventional wisdom I grew up with) was that if everyone could simply start ignoring skin color, then race would no longer be an issue and Negroes would simply blend into White society. It never occurred to the Whites of that time that not all Negroes might want to blend into White society, or that Negroes might want to make their own decisions on what their desired role in society would be, rather than having Whites make that decision for them.
In this respect, Pound's attitude, and at least a little of what Kasper was preaching, foreshadowed such later ideas such a Black Power and the "Black Is Beautiful" slogan. But of course Pound had no real interest in helping Blacks find ways of empowering themselves. For practical purposes, his attitudes, and a fortiori the preachings of Kasper, would simply have resulted in keeping Blacks in the position of inferiority which they had at the time. Naive though liberals may have been, they were certainly right in their belief that segregation was wrong and had to be changed. I don't think one can find many people today, even in the South, who would disagree with that.
Pound and Kasper believed that integration was a Jewish conspiracy, and pointed to the fact (referred to obliquely in the Agresti letters) that the chairman of the board of the NAACP was Arthur Spingarn, a Jew. (Pound and his supporters also believed, incidentally, that communism was a Jewish conspiracy.)
From my many visits to St. Elizabeths, I recall Pound referring to Kasper's activities twice. The first time, when someone brought the topic up, I was quite curious to find out what Pound's attitudes were towards his "disciple's" notorious activities. He definitely didn't condemn them, but he also seemed vaguely uncomfortable about the subject (or at least this was my perception). I remember him saying something like, "I hope he's managing to find some time to educate people about economics and the monetary system." It seemed clear to me that Pound was not willing to condemn Kasper, but that he was also not enthusiastic about the path Kasper had taken.
This attitude is echoed in Letter 118 to Agresti, p.243: "Kasper's real ideology is so far above any [illegible deletion] U.S. audience/ and am not sure it is useful to spread it among those who will not understand why Lincoln was shot (i.e. for understanding what Jeff. wrote to Crawford in 1816.) [The editor has a footnote here referring back to letter 70. Without chasing this down, I will simply comment that Pound believed that John Wilkes Booth had been in the pay of the bankers, who thought that Lincoln needed to be killed because he had caused currency to be issued ("greenbacks") which was not backed by precious metal nor by the credit of banks, but simply backed by the credit of the United States government. In my opinion, anyone who needs this explained has no business being a Pound scholar. I am not, however, claiming that there was any merit in Pound's belief.]
Pound certainly kept up with the news and watched television news programs such as Meet the Press. But he rarely talked much about contemporary politics. I do remember his once saying, in response to a question from some visitor, that he thought that John F. Kennedy was among the most promising faces in the Senate.
He also enthusiastically supported Senator Joseph McCarthy, of course. When I read his comments about McCarthy in his letters to Olivia Rossetti Agresti (I Cease Not to Yowl), I realize how pathetically poor Pound's judgement about people could be. By this time, after the time of the Army-McCarthy hearings, almost everyone could see that even if one were not yet convinced that McCarthy was a total liar (as he clearly was), he had become a liability even to those who agreed with his cause.