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Everett Lee Lady <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 23 Oct 1999 08:18:58 -1000
text/plain (71 lines)
Although I've changed this subject line, this is more or less a
continuation of my message last night.
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.
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
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 (in particular,
draining the swamps, not to mention running the trains on time!) which
previous governments had never managed to get done.  Furthermore,
living in Italy, Pound was aware that Fascism, especially in the early
days, had a lot of enthusiastic idealistic support from the common
people (just as the Soviet Union had enthusiastic idealistic support
from its masses in the time of Lenin).
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.  By the Forties, though, most people had become quite aware
that the very nice things which Mussolini said were not much in
agreement with the actual deeds of the Fascist government.
Judging by his book HITLER 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.
As to the brutality, Pound certainly could not have been completely
unaware of it.  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 here 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, we say.
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, 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's certainly quite commendable but it also serves
as proof that Pound did in fact know something of the persecution going
on in Germany.
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.