Aestheticism as ideological basis for fascism
CharlesB at SPAMCNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Mon Dec 4 08:28:23 MST 2000
The following, from what I think is a fascist website, speaks to the hypothesis of
aestheticism as a major philosophical basis for fascism. Previously, we saw essays on
the the aestheticism in Nietzsche and Heidegger.
"In Mussolini, Pound saw not only a statesman who had overthrown plutocracy, but
someone who had made politics an art form."
By Kerry Bolton
Ezra Pound was born in a frontier town in Idaho, 1885, the son of an assistant assayer
and the grandson of a Congressman. One could say that both economics and politics
were in his blood. He enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania in 1901. Pound was
an avid reader of Anglo-Saxon, Classical and Medieval literature. In 1906 he gained
his MA and had already started work on his most significant creation, The Cantos. He
continued post-graduate wrk on the Provencal Troubadour poet-musicians, reinforcing
his desire to go to Europe.
In 1908 Pound set sail for Venice. There he paid $8.00 for the printing of the first
volume of his poetry. A Lume Spento (With Tapers Quenched). Pound then traveled to
England to meet W.B. Yeats. He quickly became a literary success in London. The
following year he met Yeats and became the dominant figure at Yeats' Monday evenings.
Pound also came into contact with The English Review which was publishing works by new
talent such as D.H. Lawrence, and the author painter and critic Wyndham Lewis. In
1911 Pound launched his campaign for innovative writing in The New Age, edited by the
monetary reformer AR Orage. To Pound the new poetry of the century would be "austere,
direct, free from emotional slither."
The following year Pound founded the Imagist movement of literature. He was by this
time already helping to launch the careers of William Carlos Williams, T.S. Eliot,
Hemingway and James Joyce. He had also become the mentor of Yeats, 20 years Pound's
senior and already world famed.
In 1914 Pound started another more enduring movement that was to have a lasting
influence on English culture, the Vorticist movement. The impetus came originally
from a young avant garde sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeski. Together with Wyndham Lewis
and others they launched "Blast" as the journal of the movement. Fateful this was
also the year of World War I which took its toll on many Vorticists.
Vorticism was for Pound the first major experience in revolutionary propagandizing,
and the first cause that placed him beyond the pale of orthodoxy. Pound saw Vorticism
as setting "the arts in their rightful place as the acknowledged guide and lamp of
civilization." In this way the arts were welded in a mystical union with politics in
the manner already envisaged by Yeats.
Pound saw commercialism as the force preventing the realization of his
artistic-political ideal. In 1918 he met Maj. C.H. Douglas, the founder of Social
Credit whose theory of monetary reform explained that once money became a commodity
instead of a measure of productivity and creativity then a nation and its culture
would be sacrificed in the pursuit of commercial interests.
Pound embraced the Social Credit theory with enthusiasm. Here was the means by which
the Money Power which corrupted culture, could be overthrown. During the 1930's and
1940's Pound wrote a series of booklets on economics and politics, including his first
"Social Credit: An Impact"(1935), "A Visiting Card" (1942), and in 1944 "Gold and
Work", and "America, Roosevelt, and the Causes of the Present War", the latter three
being published by Fascist Italy.
The way Pound came to his (political and economic doctrines was by the same esoteric
path as Yeats. In 1913 Pound had become Yeats' secretary. Pound had been interested
in Eastern religions, yoga, theosophy, and astrology from at least as far back as
1905. When Pound was introduced to Yeats he joined a small group Yeats was involved
with, which was of a Gnostic nature. Prior to this Pound had written of his belief in
a type of reincarnation of creative souls in terms similar to those expressed in
Pound considered sex to be a sacrament and an esoteric tradition which had been
preserved in the West by the Troubadours. He considered the only true religion to be
"the revelation made in the arts." Rejecting Christianity, he described it as "a
bastard faith designed for the purpose of making good Roman citizens slaves, and which
is thoroughly different form that preached in Palestine. In this sense Christ is
thoroughly dead." Pound found the Churches objectionable for having gained subsidies
which should have gone to artists, philosophers and scientists.
Pound was inspired by the "love cult" of the Troubadours, which had been suppressed by
the Church, and the Classical mystery religions. He considered the teachings of
Confucious which taught a civic religion that assigned everyone a social duty, from
emperor to peasant to be a means of achieving a balanced State. He later saw in
Fascist Italy the attainment of such a State.
Like Yeats, Pound's concepts of esotericism and culture brought him against liveral
and democratic doctrines. Pound saw in Fascism the fulfillment of Social Credit
monetary policy which would bread the power of plutocracy. He considered artists to
form a social elite "born to rule" but not as a part of a democratic mandate.
"Artists are the antennae of the race but the bullet-headed many will never learn to
trust their great artists."
As far back as 1914 Pound had written that the artist "has had sense enough to know
that humanity was unbearably stupid *But he has also tried to lead and persuade it, to
save it from itself." He wrote in 1922 that the masses are malleable and that it is
the arts which set the moulds to cast them.
To Pound Fascism was the culmination of an ancient tradition, continued in the
personalities of Mussolini, Hitler, and the British Fascist Sir Oswald Mosley.
Pound had already studied the doctrines of the ethnologist Frobenius during the 1920's
and gave a mystical interpretation of race. Cultures were the product of races, and
each had its own soul, or "paideuma" of which the artist was the guardian.
In Mussolini, Pound saw not only a statesman who had overthrown plutocracy, but
someone who had made politics an art form. Pound stated, "Mussolini has told his
people that poetry is a necessity of State, and in this displayed a higher state of
civilization in Rome than in London or Washington."
Writing in his 1935 book "Jefferson and/or Mussolini," Pound explained: "I don't
believe any estimate of Mussolini will be valid unless it starts form his passion for
construction. Treat him as ARTIFEX and all the details fall into place . . . The
Fascist revolution was FOR the preservation of certain liberties and FOR the
maintenance of a certain level of culture, certain standards of living . . . "
Pound and his wife Dorothy settled in Italy in 1924. In 1933 he had a meeting with
Mussolini, outlining his ideas for monetary reform.
He also became a regular contributor to the periodicals of Mosley's British Union of
Fascists, met Mosley in 1936 and continued to correspond until 1959.
>From the late 1930's he began to look increasingly toward the economic policies of
>Hitler and regarded the Rome-Berlin Axis as "the first serious attack on the
>usurocracy since the time of Lincoln."
In 1940, after having returned to Italy from a tour of the USA during which he
attempted to oppose the move to war against the Axis, Pound offered his services as a
radio broadcaster. The broadcasts called The American Hour, began in January 1941.
Pound considered himself to be a patriotic American. After the Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbour he attempted to return to the USA, but the American Embassy refused him
entry. With no means of livelihood, Pound resumed his broadcasts, attacking the
Roosevelt administration and usury in a folksy, American style, with a mix of cultural
In 1943 Pound was indicted in the USA for treason. Hemingway, concerned at the fate
of his old mentor after the war, suggested the possibility of an "insanity" plea and
the idea caught on among some of Pound's and Hemingway's literary friends who had
landed jobs in the US Governement. Other interests were pressing for the death
penalty for America's most eminent cultural figure.
Two days after Mussolini's murder Pound was taken at his home by Italian partisians
after he had unsuccessfully attempted to turn himself over to American forces.
Putting a book on Confucious in his pocket he went with the partisans expecting to be
murdered. Instead he ended up at an American camp at Pisa constructed for the most
vicious military prisoners. Pound was confined to a bare, concrete floored iron cage
in the burning heat, lit continuously throughout the night. Pound had a physical
breakdown and was transferred to a medical compound, where he got to work on the
In November he was flown to Washington and jailed. He was declared insane and sent to
a ward for the criminally insane at St. Elizabeth's. Here his literary output
continued, and he translated 300 traditional Chinese poems which were published by
Harvard in 1954.
Among his many visitors he became mentor to John Kasper, a fiery young intellectual
who toured the South agitating on behalf of racial segregation, and causing the
calling out of the National Guard in Tennessee.
By 1953 Pound had still not been formally diagnosed. Enquiries form the Justice Dept.
solicited an admission that at most Pound had a "personality disorder." By the
mid-1950's various influencial figures and magazines were campaigning for Pound's
release. After 13 years confinement, Pound's treason indictment was dismissed on 18
On 30 June he set sail for Italy, giving the Fascist salute to journalists when he
reached Naples, and declaring "all America is an asylum." He continued with the
"Cantos" and stayed in contact with political personalities such as Kasper and Mosley.
He remained defiantly opposed to the American system in magazine interviews despite
complaints from US diplomats. Because of his politics, Pound did not receive the
honours due to him until after his death on 1 November 1972.
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