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Ferkiss, Victor_Ezra Pound and American Fascism

Ferkiss, Victor_Ezra Pound and American Fascism

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EZRAPOUND AND AMERICANFASCISM
VICTOR.FERKISSMontanaStateUniversity
ZRA
POUND,
whotoday is confinedin St.Elizabeth'sHospital
fortheinsaneinWashington, D.C., is withoutdoubt thesinglemostinfluential poet andliterarycritic thatAmerica hasproducedduring the currentcentury. Poundwas also aconvincedfascistwhose broadcastsfromMussolini'sItaly duringWorld War IIre-sultedin hisindictmentfor treason byanAmerican grand jury in1945.1Thethree facets ofEzra Pound'scareer-aspoet, as criticandliterarymidwife, and aspoliticalthinker-have agenericrelation-shiptooneanother.Eventhepublicatlargerecognizes thatarelationshipexists betweenPound,the author ofcomplex,avant-gardepoetry,andPound, the inspirerand counselorof awholeliterarygeneration; eventhespecialist is butlittle aware oftheintimaterelationship whichexistsbetween Pound'saestheticprin-ciples andhispoliticalprinciples.Pound's ideasabout societyareinseparablefromhisideasabout art;they developedtogether,andbotharecorrelatedwithhislargerworld viewand thewholepatternofhislife.AlthoughPound's political views areunsystematicandobscurelystatedandinlateryearstook the form ofpolemics withparanoidovertones,theycannotberegardedprimarilyasacasestudyforpsychiatrists.Notonlydidtheyhaveaprofoundinfluenceonthesubjectmatter andformofhispoetry,but(andmoreimportantforthestudentofpoliticalideas) theyclosely parallelthose ofotherpersons who,togetherwithPound,arecommonlycalledAmericanFascists.Theproblemthus arises ofwhetherthe use of the term"Ameri-canFascist" isintellectually justifiablein this oranyothercase.Iwouldassertthat the use of this term isjustifiableinasmuch asanumberofAmericanpoliticaltheorists anddemagogues
Pound
amongthem
-espouse
sets of beliefswhichhave more incommonwithoneanotherandwithEuropeanfascism thantheydo withany
1Poundwassubsequentlydeclared insane and unfit to standtrial, a judg-ment questionedby at leastoneprominentpsychiatrist.Newsweek,XXXIV,No.26(December26, 1949),35.
(173]
 
174
THE JOURNAL OF POLITICS
[Vol. 17
other broad area of political thought. The principal exponents ofthis creed were, besides Pound, the late Huey Long, Father CharlesE. Coughlin, Gerald L. K. Smith, and, to a limited extent, LawrenceDennis.Americanfascism haditsrootsinAmerican populism; it pur-sued the same ends and even used many of the same slogans. Bothdespaired of achieving a just society under the joined banners ofliberalism and capitalism. The attacks on finance capitalism, thehatred of social democracy and socialism, the belief that represen-tative democracyisa mask for rulebyapredatory economic pluto-cracy, and that a strong executive is essential for the creation andpreservation of a middle-class society composed of small independentlandowners, suspicion of freedom of the press and civil liberties gen-erally as theshieldsandinstrumentalities ofthe plutocracy, ultra- nationalism, anti-Semitism (both latent and active), and, finally, apeculiar interpretationofhistory whichseesinevents a working-outof adialectic which opposes thefinancierandtheproducer thesepopulistbeliefsandattitudesform thecoreof Pound'sphilosophy,justasthey provide thebasisof American fascismgenerally.In de-velopingthese beliefsPound followed apathfrompopulist nostalgiatosupportofworldfascismparallelto that followedbyanumberof other American fascistideologues.Unlikemanyotherpolitical philosophies,fascism inAmerica,aselsewhere, wastheoutgrowthof the accumulation andsynthesisofavarietyof ad hocjudgmentsoccasionedby specific problems.Thusitisuseful toknowsomethingaboutthe circumstancesof Pound'sintellectual career before engagingina systematicexamination ofhispolitical thought.Poundgrew upinthefrontiertownofHailey,Idaho.His fatherwasanactivechampionof the causeof"moneyreform."2"Moneyreform" providedthe lodestone for Pound'spolitical andsocialjudg- mentsthroughouthis life. Afterpursuingadvanced academicstudyinRomancelanguagesinthe United Statesandabroad,Pounden-tereduponacareer asacollegeinstructor at Wabash(Indiana)College,which was cutshortwhen hewas released from hispostfor
2The frontispieceofPound's pamphletSocialCredit:An Impact(London:StanleyNott,Ltd., 1935)isapictureofscrip printedbyhis fatherforlocal-usein placeof specie, whichwasinnotoriouslyshort supplythroughouttheWestduringthePopulistperiod.
 
1955]
POUNDANDAMERICANFASCISM
175being"tooEuropean"and "unconventional."3Followingthis frustratingexperience,Poundwentback toEurope,which thenbecamehis permanenthome.First in England, theninFrance, Poundservedas correspondentandtalent scoutforPoetrymagazine.Inadditiontocarryingonhis ownwriting,Poundsuppliedinspiration,encouragement,andguidancefor many importantliterary careers,includingthat ofT.S.Eliot.Nonetheless,Pound continuedtobe interestedinsocial andparticularlymonetaryreform.As earlyas1912,Poundwas writingregularlyforaGuild Socialistweekly,A.R. Orage'sNewAge,4 andwasan activesupporterof theEnglishSocialCreditmovement.Later,in1927,Poundmovedto ItalyandeventuallyabandonedSocialCreditforFascism5
-
nosharpbreak,asthelaterhistoryoftheSocialCreditmovement wastoprove.6InItalyPoundcarried ona crusade inbehalfof fascismasthebestinstrumentforaccomplishingneededsocial reforms by writingforSir OswaldMosley'sjournalsinBritain7and, later,by broad-castingforRadioRoma.8DuringtheAlliedoccupationofItaly,Poundwas seized byAmericantroops,9returnedtotheUnitedStatesfortrial,andcommittedtoSt.Elizabeth's.Itwas whilehewasconfined inan American prisoncampinItalythatPound wrote thePisanCantos,'0thefinalsectionof hisepicpoem,TheCantos."1TheCantosprovide,bothin their form
'CharlesNorman,The CaseofEzraPound(NewYork:The Bodley Press,1948),p. 18.4PeterRussell(ed.),AnExamination ofEzra Pound: A CollectionofEssaysedited by PeterRussell (Norfolk,Conn.:New Directions,1950),Intro-duction,p.12.'He gives hisreasonsin"ASocialCreditor ServesNotice,"FascistQuarterlyII(1936),492-499.'SeeC.B.Macpherson,"ThePoliticalTheoryofSocialCredit,"TheCanadianJournalof EconomicsandPolitical Science, XIV,No.3(August,1949),378-393,foranalysisofDouglas'development,and DorisFrench,"What'sHappeningtoSocialCredit?"TheCanadianForum, XXVI,No. 312(January,1947),223-224and J.R.Mallory,"The Prophetin Politics,WilliamAberhart,"ibid., XXX,No.362(March,1951), 274-276 forthe laterhistoryof theCanadianmovement.'Poundhadearly expressedreservationsabout thecapacityof theBritishmovementinSocialCredit,op. cit., p.28,buthelater adopted amorefavor-ableattitudetoward themovement.See especially"The'Criterion'Passes,"BritishUnion QuarterlyIII(April-June,1939),60-72.8CurrentBiography,1942(NewYork:H.W.Wilson Co.,1942), p.674.'TheNew YorkTimes,May 6,1945, p.12."(NewYork: NewDirections,1948)."(NewYork:NewDirections,1948).

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