Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Mi casa es su casa, NOT.   For a while in high school I aspired to make my mark as an avant-garde poet.  My first model was the establishment figure T. S. Eliot.  It quickly became apparent that I had no talent for poetry.  Still, the old longings occasionally revived.  In the sixties they settled on Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.”  I was nothing if not eclectic.

In between was the Ezra Pound period.  Pound was then completing--concluding actually in view of the sputtering end--an epic poem of 800 pages known as “The Cantos.” This was a modernist attempt to duplicate the feat of Dante Alighieri.

I paid little attention to Pound’s anti-Semitism and other crackpot views.  Just as we don’t go to political theorists for judgments on literature, we need expect no special insights from writers about politics.

All the same, we are now seeing some stirrings of interest in Pound’s economic ideas.  This modest growth of this activity may reflect the continuing unease about the currently reigning theories, which are held, not unreasonably, to have played a part in the mess that has prevailed since 2008,

In 2006 Meghnad Desai published “The Route of All Evil: The Political Economy of Ezra Pound” (Faber).  Desai is a British academic and stalwart of the Labour Party.  Previously his sympathies seemed to lie more with Karl Marx than with any figure on the right.  Nonetheless, Desai strives mightily to find some kernels of insight in Pound’s scattered economic writings, in part by reconstructing the views adumbrated therein.

The oddest reflection of the new interest in Pound’s economic views comes from Italy, where Pound had lived for much of his life.  The year 2003 saw the emergence of a far-right political party called “CasaPound.”  With offices in several Italian cities, this improbable group even uses a rock band to promote its ideas, some of which seem more anarchist than right-wing.  Certainly one would not expect to find Rupert Murdoch comfortably ensconced in their midst--though Sean Hannity might like it.  There are some, possibly remote affinities with both the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movement. The CasaPoundians claim to be anticapitalist, referencing the excoriation of usury in Canto 45.

Mussolini had begun as a socialist and, utilizing the ideas of Georges Sorel, incorporated some residues of socialism in Fascism.  These mainly took the form of collectivist features of the Corporate State.  For political reasons, Mussolini was hostile to the "plutocracies" of Britain and France.  

As for Pound, in writing his strange book "Jefferson and/or Mussolini" he was seeking to glorify an agrarian, premodern America, untouched by big banks and big business, somehow akin to what Mussolini was seeking in Italy.

We live in a crazy world--and one that is getting crazier.


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